mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Longstanding Framework”: What The Republican Party’s New, Unspeakably Racist Attack Ad Is Really About

The National Republican Congressional Committee wants you to believe that Nebraska state Sen. Brad Ashford, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), unleashed a very scary looking black man on the people of Nebraska to commit multiple murders. That’s the message conveyed by an ad they posted on their YouTube page on Friday, which focuses on a series of high profile murders committed by a man who had recently been released from prison on unrelated charges:

The reality, however, is far more nuanced than the narrative presented by this ad. And the events that led up to these murders have very little to do with Ashford.

Nikko Jenkins is a severely mentally ill man who was previously incarcerated on robbery and assault charges. A prison psychiatrist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, and labeled him “one of the most dangerous people I have ever evaluated.” While he was incarcerated, Jenkins repeatedly told prison officials that he “planned a violent, murderous rampage upon his release.” Less than a month after he was released from prison in 2013, Jenkins carried out his threats, killing four people in Omaha.

Jenkins believes that he was ordered to kill by Apophis, an evil, ancient Egyptian serpent god. A report by the Nebraska State Ombudsman’s Office criticized state prison officials for not attempting to have Jenkins committed due to his mental illness once it became clear that it was not safe to release him from prison.

The NRCC’s ad, however, tells a very different story. In the GOP’s narrative, “Nikko Jenkins was released from prison early, after serving only half his sentence” thanks to a law that Ashford supports.

The law at issue is the state’s “good time” law, which has existed in various forms for nearly half a century. Under the good time law’s framework, prisoners earn “good time” for the time that they spend in prison, and this good time is counted against the time that they need to serve behind bars. Meanwhile, prisoners who commit various offenses can lose their good time — Jenkins for example, lost 18 months of good time for offenses that included an assault upon a prison guard. Thus, the law gives prison officials some flexibility to release inmates who behave well while incarcerated, while requiring other prisoners to serve more time.

Under a 1992 amendment to the good time law that overwhelmingly passed the state legislature, prisoners earn one day of good time for each day they spend in prison — that’s the likely basis for the GOP’s claim that Jenkins served “only half his sentence” (Ashford was a member of the state legislature when this amendment was enacted, but he was not present for the vote). In 2011, the state’s Republican Gov. Dave Heineman successfully lobbied the legislature to increase the amount of good time earned by inmates even further. This 2011 amendment was proposed by Heineman’s own Corrections Department. Ashford cosponsored this bill.

In the wake of the Jenkins incident, Heineman has reversed course, and he now wants to make it harder for inmates to earn good time. He’s also attacked the Ombudman’s report which suggested that the Corrections Department was at fault for freeing Jenkins. Ashford, by contrast, has defended the report — though he also endorsed Gov. Heineman’s decision to increase the amount of good time corrections officials can take away from inmates who commit serious offenses.

So the reality is that Nebraska has a longstanding framework of relatively long prison sentences that are moderated by the good time law. Ashford has only played a minor role in shaping this framework, and the 2011 amendment that Ashford co-sponsored enjoyed the enthusiastic support of the state’s GOP governor. There is now an important debate going on in Nebraska about whether the state’s good time law should be amended once again, as Heineman argues, or whether the errors which led to Jenkins being released are best addressed within the Corrections Department, as Ashford appears to believe.

But it is absurd to suggest, as the GOP ad does, that Ashford is responsible for Jenkins’ release and the tragedy that soon followed. If his support for the state’s good time law makes Ashford responsible for Jenkins’ crimes, then Heineman and numerous other state lawmakers share that blame.

 

By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, October 17, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | NRCC, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Purposefully Discriminatory Law”: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Pens Scathing Dissent On Texas Voter ID Law

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent early Saturday morning, blasting the court’s decision to allow Texas to use its new voter ID law in the November elections. She was joined in the dissent by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“The greatest threat to public confidence in elections in this case is the prospect of enforcing a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,” Ginsburg wrote.

Ginsburg disputed the Fifth Circuit court of appeals’ argument that is was too close to the November election to stop the law. Early voting begins on Monday in Texas.

“In any event, there is little risk that the District Court’s injunction will in fact disrupt Texas’ electoral process,” she wrote. “Texas need only reinstate the voter identification procedures it employed for ten years (from 2003 to 2013) and in five federal general elections.”

Ginsburg argued that the Fifth Circuit was remiss to ignore the findings of a full trial in district court, which found that the law was “enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose and would yield a prohibited disriminatory result.”

District Court Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos struck down the law earlier this month on the grounds that it would serve as a deterrent to a large number of registered voters, most of them black or Hispanic. “Based on the testimony and numerous statistical analyses provided at trial, this Court finds that approximately 608,470 registered voters in Texas, representing approximately 4.5% of all registered voters, lack qualified SB 14 ID and of these, 534,512 voters do not qualify for a disability exemption,” Gonzalez Ramos wrote.

Ginsburg echoed these findings in her dissent, though Texas officials dispute these figures. “The potential magnitude of racially discriminatory voter disenfranchisement counseled hesitation before disturbing the District Court’s findings and final judgment,” Ginsburg wrote. “Senate Bill 14 may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5% of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification. A sharply disproportionate percentage of those voters are African-American or Hispanic.”

Ginsburg pointedly added that “racial discrimination in elections in Texas is no mere historical artifact. To the contrary, Texas has been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act in every redistricting cycle from and after 1970.”

 

By: Braden Goyette, The Huffington Post Blog, October 18, 2014

 

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Voter ID | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rand Paul’s Appeal To White Moderates”: The Return Of The “Different Kind Of Republican”

There’s always a market, particularly in the media, for the politician who can surprise by running counter to the stereotypes of his or her party. As the two parties become more ideologically unified, that figure becomes even more compelling. The trick is to do it without making your party’s loyal supporters angry at you. Which brings us to Rand Paul, who has a plan to become 2016’s “Different kind of Republican,” the label that was placed on George W. Bush back in 2000:

Sen. Rand Paul tells POLITICO that the Republican presidential candidate in 2016 could capture one-third or more of the African-American vote by pushing criminal-justice reform, school choice and economic empowerment.

“If Republicans have a clue and do this and go out and ask every African-American for their vote, I think we can transform an election in one cycle,” the Kentucky Republican said in a phone interview Thursday as he was driven through New Hampshire in a rental car.

Paul — on the cover of the new issue of Time as “The Most Interesting Man in Politics” — met with black leaders in Ferguson, Missouri, last week; opened a “GOP engagement office” in an African-American area of Louisville in June; and spoke the next month to a National Urban League convention in Cincinnati.

“That doesn’t mean that we get to a majority of African-American votes in one cycle,” Paul continued, speaking between campaign stops in Plymouth and Salem. “But I think there is fully a third of the African-American vote that is open to much of the message, because much of what the Democrats has offered hasn’t worked.”

Paul is probably taking inspiration from Bush’s experience with Latino voters. Bush made a very visible effort to reach out to them, not because he thought he could actually win the Latino vote, but because he thought he could make some inroads, and even more importantly, because it would be a signal to moderate voters that he wasn’t like all those other mean Republicans who had contempt for poor people, people of color, and anyone who wasn’t firmly in the GOP’s camp. That’s what “compassionate conservatism” was about—not a set of policies but an attempt to be more welcoming, aimed ostensibly at minorities but actually at moderate whites.

And it did make a difference among Hispanics—according to exit polls Bush got 35 percent of the Latino vote in 2000 and 44 percent in 2004. Compare that to the 31 percent John McCain got in 2008 and the 27 percent Mitt Romney got in 2012.

Paul seems to understand that “reaching out” to a group your party has in the past either ignored or been openly antagonistic toward has two components. You have to pay attention to them, going to events where they’re gathering and making sure you listen to what they have to say. And you also have to offer them something in the policy realm, to show that it isn’t just about symbolism. That’s what Republicans aren’t doing now when it comes to Latinos—they say they want their votes, but if anything they’ve moved to the right on immigration reform.

Paul’s positions on the drug war and mass incarceration allow him to say to African-Americans that he has something substantive to offer them. But there’s no way he (or any other Republican) could get a third of their votes in a presidential campaign.

That’s partly because Paul is only one person, and no matter how much he reaches out, other people in his party are going to keep doing things like air this latter-day Willie Horton ad. Then there’s the comprehensive Republican project to restrict voting rights, which African-Americans rightly interpret as an effort to keep them from voting. Then there’s the fact that for the last six years, Barack Obama has been subject to an endless torrent of racist invective, not only from your uncle at Thanksgiving but from people with nationally syndicated radio shows. On his listening tour, Paul might ask a few black people how they feel about the fact that America’s first black president had to show his birth certificate to prove he’s a real American. Their answers would probably be instructive.

The final reason that Republicans will struggle to win the votes of all but a tiny number of blacks is that on an individual, organizational, and institutional level, the African-American community is woven deeply into the Democratic party. That interdependence has been built over the last 50 years, and undoing it even partially would take a long time even if the Republican party was completely committed to trying, which it won’t be.

I have trouble believing that Rand Paul actually thinks he can get a third of the African-American vote. And maybe this is all about appealing to white moderates. Even so, he deserves some credit for making the effort. Given the fact that we’re talking about a guy who first got national attention for his opposition to the public accommodation provisions of the Civil Rights Act, it’s pretty remarkable.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 17, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ebola Politics”: Let Obama — And Frieden — Do Their Jobs

If the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind, then even the possibility of infection with Ebola should do the same — for all of us. Instead we seem easily distracted by attempts to blame President Obama and scapegoat the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Republican politicians and media loudmouths demand the resignation of Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director, evidently because he refused to endorse a West African travel ban.

They’re all dead wrong.

First, Obama is following precisely the correct approach in addressing the outbreak with his order to dispatch American troops to Liberia. At this stage, no force except the U.S. military is capable of getting the situation in West Africa under control. The men and women of the medical corps can swiftly set up emergency tented facilities in every Liberian county, while security personnel begin to restore order and prevent panicked destruction.

The president didn’t foresee this outbreak, but neither did anyone else, principally because every earlier Ebola outbreak had been contained within a few rural villages. While his order to send troops isn’t popular – and nobody likes the idea of sending our troops into danger – he made a difficult but wise choice. (Our British and French allies have agreed to do the same in Sierra Leone and Guinea, respectively.)

Why are the unique characteristics and large scale of the U.S. military so vital now? Simply because no other force can adequately handle the logistical and safety requirements of this chaotic, perilous undertaking. To take just one example: Both our troops and the local health care workers will need an enormous supply of protective gear known as Personal Protective Equipment – each of which must be not just discarded, but carefully destroyed after a single use.

More broadly, the effort to contain Ebola needs very well-trained, well-organized, and well-disciplined people on the ground – which is to say, an army. Our military personnel are the best in the world, and will be able to provide leadership and guidance to the Liberians, organizing local health workers to restore order amid chaos and fear.

No organization except the U.S. military possesses the capacity to deal with such problems.

Second, the calls for Dr. Frieden to resign by Republican members of Congress more resemble cheap midterm campaigning than intelligent policymaking. Although the CDC has not functioned perfectly in the current crisis, its director is certainly the most qualified and experienced figure to stem a threatened outbreak of infectious disease. His expertise is not merely on paper, either.

During four of the worst years of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York, when multi-drug resistant tuberculosis was taking a terrible toll, Dr. Frieden oversaw the program that eventually controlled TB and reduced cases by 80 pecent. For five years he worked in India, dispatched by the CDC to work with the World Health Organization to control TB in that country – where his efforts helped to provide treatment for at least 10 million patients and saved as many as 3 million lives. Those are among the reasons that President Obama appointed him in the first place – and why he still deserves far more confidence than the partisan screamers in Congress and on cable television now attacking him.

Now is the wrong time for politicians and pundits to harass the Pentagon and the CDC, as they address the difficult task at hand — which will require many weeks of intensive struggle. There will be plenty of opportunity for recriminations later, if that still seems necessary.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the country faced what felt like an existential crisis, many public figures, especially Republicans, urged everyone to put national unity and cooperation ahead of partisan bickering. It would be good if, just this once, they would follow their own advice.

What we will need in the months to come is a fresh assessment of our foreign aid programs. We need to understand why our traditional stinginess does both our country and our children a terrible disservice. Our best hope for survival, in the long term, is to notice how small our world has become – and to recognize that protecting our fellow human beings everywhere is the only way to protect ourselves.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, October 17, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Complicated Lies?”: The Amazingly Two-Faced Mitch McConnell

Alison Lundergan Grimes has been getting a lot of grief lately, not least from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which pulled the plug on her campaign yesterday. Her team quickly sent out a press release noting that she has $4.4 million in cash on hand, which the release said was “more than any Democrat in a competitive U.S. Senate race.” So she probably has enough to see her through to the end, but obviously, the DSCC move isn’t exactly a vote of confidence.

Even so, I’d like to pay her a compliment: I can’t conceive of how she managed to sit there next to Mitch McConnell at that debate Monday night and hear him say some of the things he said without her head exploding. That took admirable self-control.

I’m not sure which suffix to add to “shame” to better describe McConnell’s performance: Was it –less, or was it –ful? Remember Mitt Romney during the first debate of 2012, how he routinely said “my position is X” (invariably a more centrist posture) when for the preceding umpteen months his position had been the much more right-wing Not X? Well, McConnell made Romney look like an ironman of forthright constancy. So this is how, with a 30-year Senate record that you’d think you might be able to boast about, you win reelection: By completely misrepresenting who you’ve been for the last six years, and by saying “Obama” every 45 seconds.

Misrepresentations were numerous, but let’s just zero in on student loans. Grimes raised the issue and noted the rising costs of the loans, which Congress hasn’t addressed. McConnell responded that the Senate had taken care of the issue in a bipartisan fashion. But it didn’t. The Elizabeth Warren-sponsored bill failed in the Senate by four votes, getting only 56 yeas but needing 60 to end debate and make it to the floor. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, but McConnell wasn’t one of them. And McConnell said publicly at the time that he was against Warren’s plan because it was “designed to fail” since it would raise taxes on rich people.

McConnell similarly talked out of both sides of his mouth on the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other issues. And he, too, dodged a question, and it was one that’s rather more important than the one Grimes dodged about whether she had voted for President Obama. McConnell wouldn’t say whether climate change is real and whether humans contribute to it, so if he wins, Kentuckians will have the pleasure of knowing who their senator voted for in 2012 while he spends the next six years positioning himself to the right of Exxon-Mobil (which at least supports a carbon tax) and blocking any attempt to do anything about global warming.

McConnell’s real howler, of course, had to do with Obamacare. As you may know by now, he said yes, sure, keep Kynect, the state’s roaringly successful health-insurance exchange set up under the health-care law. After all, it’s “just a website.”

This was the moment when I was wondering how Grimes’s head could possibly stay in one piece. As McConnell well knows, Kynect is not just a website. It’s a state health-care program that citizens happen to be able to access through a website. Kentuckians go on to the Kynect website to see what types of insurance coverage are available to them under the Kynect program, which exists solely because of Obamacare. So if you repeal Obamacare “root and branch,” which is still McConnell’s position, you can leave the Kynect website up, but those coverage options people find via the site will no longer exist. Saying keep the website but kill the program is like saying that someone can keep that nice-looking home page that says “Google,” but it just won’t perform searches anymore.

It’s amazing, the audacity of it. If what Grimes did on the Obama-vote question is “disqualifying,” as Chuck Todd put it, then what is an incumbent senator telling a whopper like this? Given that half a million Kentuckians have signed up for insurance through Kynect, isn’t this just a little more important? What’s worse is that he knows he can get away with saying something like that because he is well aware that the explanation of why he’s lying is a little complicated for the average voter to take in. The media just aren’t set up to correct the record very well on things like this. I read a handful of write-ups of the debate from within Kentucky yesterday, and none among the few I read actually burrowed into an explanation of McConnell’s lie. It just gets summarized as a “testy exchange” or some such.

There was one event during this campaign season when McConnell did tell his audience the truth. But that didn’t happen in Kentucky in front of voters. It happened over the summer in California, at the St. Regis Monarch Bay Resort, where rooms run upwards of $500 a night, at a gathering put together by the Koch brothers. McConnell has been saying on the trail that if he wins and the GOP takes the Senate, he’ll open up the amendment process, implying that he’d permit votes on issues Democrats wanted to push—notably, of course, raising the minimum wage.

But behind closed doors at the Koch event, McConnell said the opposite, promising the 1 percenters that, should they win, his Republicans  are “not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage [inaudible]—cost the country 500,000 new jobs; extending unemployment—that’s a great message for retirees; uh, the student-loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse, uh.”

That was—speaking of comparisons to Mitt Romney—McConnell’s 47 percent moment. The sentiment is not as clearly put, so it wasn’t as usable for the opposition. But that was the probable (let’s face it) future majority leader saying to his real base: Don’t worry, boys, I got you covered.

That is how he will operate if he becomes majority leader. An inspiring campaign, all right.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 15, 2014

October 19, 2014 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: