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“The Agony Of The Pioneers”: Even Those Who Have Voted For A Bush Or Two Have Ambivalent Feelings About Jeb

It’s often hard to empathize with people whose backgrounds and life experiences are so very different from one’s own. So it is with the small but important cadre of wealthy and successful people for whom the Bush presidencies were a golden age, the focus of a strangely fascinating piece by Michael Barbaro and Nick Confessore in the New York Times today. Having united to save Mitt Romney’s bacon in 2012, these quintessential “Republican Establishment” donors were all lined up to force Chris Christie on surly and rebellious conservative activists in 2016. But now Christie’s problems and renewed talk of a Jeb Bush candidacy are agonizing them, according to this account.

At risk for Mr. Christie is not just the electoral affections of Bush loyalists, but also the backing of a still-potent national network of wealthy Republican donors and bundlers who propelled three Bushes to high office and who provided Mitt Romney with an overwhelming fund-raising advantage in 2012.

While many have retired from active politics, those who remain constitute a hyper-loyal and energetic band of brothers (and sisters). Many of them served as so-called Rangers and Pioneers within the vaunted hierarchy of Bush fund-raising, and went on to plum appointments and ambassadorships in George W. Bush’s two administrations.

Even a decade later, former Rangers and Pioneers heavily populate the ranks of the party’s elite bundlers, a group that the party’s 2016 aspirants began courting almost before President Obama was inaugurated for his second term. Several said they would continue to evaluate the field — unless, that is, Mr. Bush steps in.

“I have great affection for Christie,” said Mel Sembler, a Florida real estate developer and Bush donor who is among the top Republican fund-raisers. “He’s done an amazing job as a Republican governor in a Democratic state. But I have great loyalty to that family because they brought me into the political arena, and I’ll be supporting Jeb Bush if he decides to run.”

Indeed, Christie himself is part of the Bush Family Camelot saga:

Mr. Christie is intimately acquainted with the Bush Brigade, as its members call themselves: It gave him his start in national politics. Mr. Christie; his brother, Todd; and [top Christie advisor William] Palatucci were prodigious fund-raisers for George W. Bush. Mr. Bush went on to appoint Mr. Christie — a Bush Pioneer in 2000 — as the United States attorney for New Jersey, transforming him from a relatively obscure lawyer and failed local candidate into a high-profile corruption-fighting prosecutor.

Mr. Palatucci was among the Bush alumni who traveled to College Station, Tex., last month to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Bush presidency, a gathering where some attendees slyly addressed Jeb Bush as Mr. President.

In reading about these people, I’m reminded of the Clinton-era reminiscences of White House retainers Linda Tripp and Gary Aldrich, who looked back on the Poppy White House as an era of good taste and gracefulness (and in the FBI agent Aldrich’s mind, “body-conscious” athleticism) that was being ruined by the slobs brought into power by Bubba. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

But while Tripp and Aldrich were confined to vengeful attacks on Clinton, many of their contemporaries rose to great power and wealth, and they are the ones tempted to essay a second Restoration of the glory days:

“They feel good about Jeb,” said Barry Wynn, a fund-raiser for George W. Bush and a former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina. “They don’t have any questions about his integrity.”

The family name, he said, remains a powerful draw. “They love the Bush family,” Mr. Wynn said. “They love the whole package, and they feel Jeb is just a part of the package.”

I’d say a majority of Americans, even those who have voted for a Bush or two, have somewhat more ambivalent feelings about “the whole package.” But then they aren’t members of a tight-knit donor community that feels a responsibility to name the Next President of the United States.


By; Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 2, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Bush Family, Election 2016 | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Oklahoma Is Like Turning It Up To 11”: If Oklahoma Gets Any Redder It’s Going To Start Blistering And Peeling

Rachel recently told viewers, “What we are actually seeing now in terms of the options for governance is not just blue states and red states, but rather blue states and then red states – and then Oklahoma. Oklahoma is like turning it up to 11…. If Oklahoma gets any redder it’s going to start blistering and peeling.”

That was 11 days ago, before this week’s gut-wrenching, botched execution.

And the public official whose leadership has made Oklahoma’s shift to the hard right possible is Gov. Mary Fallin (R). Her administration’s approach to lethal injections has suddenly generated international attention, but as Irin Carmon noted, the Republican governor has cultivated a striking reputation on a variety of fronts.

An execution this week that went terribly wrong has catapulted Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, to the national stage. But there’s more to Fallin than her zeal for capital punishment. The first female governor of Oklahoma has also quashed broader criminal justice reform, refused Medicaid expansion that would cover 150,000 Oklahoma residents, signed 10 new restrictions on abortion and contraception, blocked local minimum wage increases, and slashed education funding.

Chris Hayes joked the other day, “I used to say [Pennsylvania’s] Tom Corbett was my dark horse candidate for worst governor in the country, but Mary Fallin has now taken the lead.”

Carmon’s piece reads like an indictment of sorts: Fallin has pushed a regressive economic agenda, waging a “war against income taxes” while blocking minimum- wage increases; she’s cut investments in education; she’s blocked health care coverage for 150,000 low-income Oklahomans; and she’s waged a far-right culture war, imposing new restrictions on reproductive rights and making it tougher for National Guard in Oklahoma to receive equal benefits if they’re in same-sex marriages.

But it’s Fallin’s approach to the death penalty that appears to have made her famous. Remember, it was her administration that said it was prepared to defy a state Supreme Court ruling in order to execute two Oklahomans, using a combination of chemicals state officials did not want to disclose, from a drug manufacturer the state did not want to identify.

The governor has called for a review of this week’s fiasco, but David Firestone reported yesterday that Fallin’s order is itself dubious.

Did anyone really believe that Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma would allow a truly independent review of the “execution” –  death by torture is more like it – that shocked the conscience of the nation and the world on Tuesday night? […]

Any serious investigation of the fiasco would have to closely examine the governor’s conduct leading up to it. But she doesn’t have to worry. To lead the “independent” review, she appointed her own employee, the state commissioner of public safety, Michael Thompson. And he won’t be considering her actions. The review, she said, would be limited to three items: the cause of Mr. Lockett’s death, whether the Corrections Department followed the correct protocol and how that department can improve its procedures in the future.

In other words, she asked one of her commissioners to investigate another one, which doesn’t exactly instill confidence that the review will be “deliberate and thorough,” as she described it.

With a record like this, can scuttlebutt about Fallin’s prospects as a national candidate be far behind?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Death Penalty, Mary Fallin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Get You Coming And Going”: In America, Being Poor Can Be An Expensive Proposition

Today I came across this very interesting, albeit depressing, bit of data. It’s an analysis by a travel site called Hopper that shows that it costs more to fly in states that have the lowest median incomes.

For example, the study found that in Mississippi, the poorest state, a “good deal” round-trip flight costs about $400, while in Maryland, the state with the highest income, an equivalent ticket costs around $300. The researchers also found that “typical round-trip airfare declines by $2.30 for every additional $1000 in median household income.” The reasons for the increased prices in the poorer states include “average distance traveled, demand density, and airline competition.” Presumably, there’s less demand and less airline competition in poor areas of the country because people there have less money for leisure travel, and also because those locales have less economic development and thus less business travel.

The higher price of air travel for low-income folks is yet another data point that paints a bigger picture: in America, being poor can be an expensive proposition. There are countless, painful examples of this. Food and other basic items tend to cost more in poor neighborhoods. The poor lack access to credit and so are easy prey for payday lenders charging exorbitant interest rates. Poor people are more apt to bounce checks; hello, fees for insufficient funds! There are also late fees for credit card payments — you know, the kind of thing listed in print so fine you need a magnifying glass to be capable of reading about it. But my personal favorites are those extra charges they tack on for restoring utilities they shut off because you couldn’t pay your bill on time in the first place. “They get you coming and going,” as my old man used to say.

In her classic book, Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich described a host of other expensive indignities that plague the working poor. For example, many of her low-wage co-workers were living in hotel rooms, which actually were far costlier, on a monthly basis, than local apartments. But the workers couldn’t move into the apartments because they lacked the month’s rent plus security deposit the landlord required. Many low-wage jobs also require uniforms, the cost of which comes out of the worker’s paycheck, or cars, which the workers are expected to maintain themselves.

There are even darker examples. I wonder how many Americans have put off going to the doctor because they lacked health insurance, sought treatment only when their symptoms were advanced, and ended up being bankrupted by medical bills as a result.

Many of the examples I’ve cited in this post could be greatly improved by some well-targeted regulatory fixes. The rights of workers and consumers against employers, the banks, and the credit card companies need to be vigorously championed, and in some cases, re-invented for our new digital era. There’s no earthly justification other than greed for the $35 bank overdraft ripoff, or the cell phone company gouging you to restore your service because your payment is late. It’s also long past time we bring re-regulation to the airlines. A more regulated airline industry might help bring down fares in certain overpriced markets. Our 30-year old experiment with airline deregulation has hardly been a rousing success — read the excellent 2012 Washington Monthly magazine article by Phillip Longman and Lina Khan for more information on this score.

In addition to more consumer regulation, we also need a much higher minimum wage and a far more generous safety net for poor people in this country. If poor people had more economic resources to begin with — if they simply had enough money to pay their bills on time, and to save a little money for a rainy day — they would never be forced to pay such an outrageously high price for being poor.


By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 3, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poor and Low Income, Poverty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s Not About Them, It’s About Us”: Guillotine Revival Movement Gains Momentum

When things began to go terribly wrong with Clayton Lockett’s execution in Oklahoma the other day—when instead of drifting gently off into unconsciousness and death, Lockett began to moan and buck on the gurney—one of the first things the officials did was lower the blinds over the window through which observers peered into the death chamber. Because after all, people shouldn’t have to witness a man suffer as the state is killing him, right?

Lockett’s execution was hardly the first botched one we’ve had, particularly with lethal injection, a process prison officials seem extraordinarily incompetent at implementing properly. But for whatever reason, it has brought about a more substantial debate about the death penalty than we’ve had in some time. And as part of that, it looks like my semi-serious advocacy for the return of the guillotine is finally gaining momentum. It already has endorsements from Conor Friedersdorf and Sonny Bunch, with more sure to follow.

Frankly, I’ve never bought the argument that the death penalty violates the Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Unusual, maybe—it has become not just unusual but unheard of in democratic countries (the nations with the highest number of executions last year were, in order, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. of A.). But cruel? It seems that spending your life in prison is far worse than being executed. Though Lockett was in obvious pain for three-quarters of an hour before he finally expired, that pain couldn’t possibly match the extended agony endured by the tens of thousands of people we put in solitary confinement, where the lack of human contact literally drives them insane.

But back to our execution methods. It does seem that as the killing techniques have evolved, what we’ve called more “humane” methods are not about minimizing the suffering of the condemned, but about minimizing the gruesomeness of the spectacle, so that we can perform the execution without feeling like barbarians. It’s not about them, it’s about us. We did away with the firing squad in favor of the electric chair, even though the latter involves a lot more suffering, and why? Well, it involves just pulling a switch instead of actually pulling a trigger and sending a bullet hurtling toward a man’s heart. And there’s no blood splatter on the walls.

But the electric chair is pretty awful to watch—the body convulsing in obvious torment and all that—so we went to lethal injection. And despite the fact that we’re perfectly capable of knocking people out before surgery and gently putting a beloved pet to sleep, the geniuses who run our prisons can’t seem to do it without putting the condemned through substantial pain.

So if you recoil from the idea of the guillotine, ask yourself why. It’s fast, foolproof, and essentially painless. If you were going to be executed, wouldn’t it be near the top of your list for ways to go? You can’t argue that Clayton Lockett would have met a crueler end had his head been lopped off than what he actually went through. We could even come up with a more contemporary version, like a fast-moving saw blade that separates your brain from your body in a fraction of a second.

The visceral objection you have to that thought is not about the suffering of the one being executed, it’s about how you’d feel watching it. The guillotine, with its blood and severed head, would make us feel uncomfortable about what we’re doing when the state executes someone in our name. It would make us feel barbaric. As well it should.

If we’re going to keep the death penalty, we should be honest about what it’s for. It isn’t for deterrence, and it isn’t for justice. It’s for vengeance. We can try to make it “humane,” and we can draw the blinds when the truth of it comes uncomfortably close the surface. But that won’t change what it is.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, May 2, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Capital Punishment, Death Penalty | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why Wisconsin’s Voter ID Decision Is A Very Big Deal”: Put Simply, Voter Impersonation Is A Fake Problem That Doesn’t Need A Solution

Some precautions are necessary—wearing a helmet when you ride a bike, using a seatbelt when you’re in a car—and others seem optional, like grabbing an umbrella on a cloudy day or wearing an apron when you make dinner. Others are dumb. You wouldn’t get snow tires if you lived in Miami, and there’s never a need for volcano insurance (unless you live in the shadow of Mount Etna, or something).

You can add one more item to the list of useless precautions: voter identification laws. In an opinion striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law—signed in March by Gov. Scott Walker—Judge Lynn Adelman looks at the supposed menace of in-person voter fraud—the GOP’s reason for ID requirements—and finds nothing.

The state’s argument is straightforward: The voter ID law will “deter or prevent fraud by making it harder to impersonate a voter and cast a ballot in his or her name without detection.” To that end, it requires Wisconsin voters to produce an accepted, nonexpired form of state-issued ID to cast a ballot. If a voter lacks an ID, she can apply for one at the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles, provided she has the right documents. And if she lacks a proper ID at the polls, she can cast a provisional ballot, and confirm her identity in-person on the Friday after the election.

Opponents say this unfairly burdens older and low-income people, and minorities in particular. It’s not that nonwhites can’t get identification, but that they are most likely to face circumstances—poverty, geographic isolation, etc.—that make it hard to obtain one. Further, they argue, voter identification isn’t necessary and harms more than it helps. It’s for that reason that the plaintiffs—the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin—say the law is an unjustified burden on the right to vote.

Judge Adelman agrees, and supports his stance with a treasure trove of evidence. Citing research on the incidence of in-person voter fraud in American elections, Adelman notes that, in eight years of Wisconsin elections—2004, 2008, 2010, and 2012—researchers could identify only “one case of voter-impersonation fraud.” And in that case, it was a man who “applied for and cast his recently deceased wife’s absentee ballot.” Likewise, after “comparing a database of deceased registered voters to a database of persons who had cast ballots in a recent election,” in Georgia, another researcher found “no evidence of ballots being illegally cast in the name of deceased voters.”

Adelman even notes the sheer difficulty of committing in-person voter fraud, throwing water on the claim that this could ever be common. “To commit voter-impersonation fraud,” he says, “a person would need to know the name of another person who is registered at a particular polling place, know the address of that person, know that the person has not yet voted, and also know that no one at the polls will realize that the impersonator is not the individual being impersonated.” He ends with a note that sounds like sarcasm, “Given that a person would have to be insane to commit voter-impersonation fraud, [the law] cannot be deemed a reasonable response to a potential problem.”

He also makes a key point about public perception: Insofar that anyone believes that in-person voter fraud is a problem, it’s because elected officials—almost all of them Republican—treat it as such, as they push for these laws. Put simply, voter impersonation is a fake problem that doesn’t need a solution.

As for the burdens of voter identification? Adelman makes two important points. First, that a substantial number of registered Wisconsin voters—300,000, or 9 percent of the total—lack a qualifying ID. Of these voters, a substantial portion live at or below the poverty line. In practical terms, what this is means is that they lack the time or resources needed to get a valid ID. If you work a low-wage job, odds are good that you can’t take time off to go to the DMV, and even if you could, you would need the cash to obtain the documents you need to prove your identity, like a birth certificate or a passport.

It’s at this point that, in my experience, voter ID proponents scoff at the idea that someone would lack these documents. But it’s more common than you think. According to a 2006 survey from the Brennan Center for Justice, as many as 13 million Americans lack ready access to citizenship documents, which overlaps with the 21 million who lack photo identification. Moreover, millions have inconsistent documents—a passport that doesn’t reflect their current name (a problem for many married women) or a photo ID that doesn’t have their current address. Under the Wisconsin law, both groups would be barred from casting a normal ballot if they went to the polls.

Adelman’s second point elaborates on the burden. If you drive, you receive a daily benefit from the act of gathering one’s documents and getting a license. If the voter ID requirement does anything, it offers the benefit of voting at “no additional cost.” By contrast, he notes, a “person whose daily life did not require possession of a photo ID prior to the imposition of the photo ID requirement is unlikely to derive any benefit” from owning one. At most, they can keep voting. Or, put another way, they have to pay the same costs without the same benefits. It’s unfair.

By the end of Adelman’s opinion, there are no pieces to pick up, and there is no legislative recourse for defenders of voter ID. Adelman ethered the rationale for voter identification, and struck down the law. Now, Republicans and Democrats will fight the upcoming elections on more even ground.

This ruling is significant for more than what it means for Wisconsin. As Ari Berman notes for The Nation, it’s part of a larger trend of courts striking down voter identification laws. In the last year, four other states—Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Texas—have had their requirements reversed by federal courts.

What’s more, the Wisconsin decision marks the first time a voter ID law has been invalidated under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, as opposed to a state constitution. In turn, this gives fuel to the Justice Department’s present suits against voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas—also filed under Section 2.

The real question looking forward is whether Section 2 will survive. The Supreme Court has already destroyed the “pre-clearance” section of the Voting Rights Act, and conservatives are gunning for Section 2 in their drive to end race-conscious policymaking. If successful, they would end the government’s ability to fight voting discrimination, and leave us with a country where states—like Wisconsin—are free to burden the fundamental rights of our most vulnerable citizens.


By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, April 30, 2014

May 4, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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