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“Sheldon Adelson Will Not Be Ignored”: He May Have Built A Lot Of Casinos, But He Doesn’t Understand Much About Politics

Sheldon Adelson has never struck me as a brilliant guy, but I admit I don’t have much to go on in making that judgment. Maybe it’s the spectacularly ridiculous dyed-red combover that makes him seem like such a comical figure, but who knows. What we do know is that all—or almost all—Republican presidential candidates desperately want his money.

But it seems that Sheldon is seriously ticked off at Jeb Bush. Eliana Johnson of the National Review reports:

The bad blood between Bush and Adelson is relatively recent, and it deepened with the news that former secretary of state James Baker, a member of Bush’s foreign-policy advisory team, was set to address J Street, a left-wing pro-Israel organization founded to serve as the antithesis to the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

J Street has routinely staked out liberal views anathema to those held by Adelson and his allies. Adelson sent word to Bush’s camp in Miami: Bush, he said, should tell Baker to cancel the speech. When Bush refused, a source describes Adelson as “rips***”; another says Adelson sent word that the move cost the Florida governor “a lot of money.”

Let’s keep in mind that there’s no question that any of the the Republican candidates will be anything less than fully supportive of the Likud vision for Israel’s future, which is Adelson’s top priority. You’d think that Adelson would be able to live with the fact that former secretary of state and longtime Republican macher James Baker spoke to a liberal group and also is one of what I presume are a dozen or more informal foreign policy advisers to Jeb Bush. But apparently not.

Jeb can live without Adelson’s money; he’s not having any trouble raising funds, and if he becomes the GOP nominee, Adelson will come around. But what’s unusual about this story is the fact that Adelson thinks he can tell presidential candidates whom their advisors can and can’t give a speech to.

That brings things down to an unusually specific level that we don’t ordinarily see. In this relationship, both the billionaire and the politician tell themselves a story in which everyone has the noblest of motives. The donor tells himself that his contributions are motivated solely by his concern for the country, and he only wants to help those who share his philosophy (and defeat those who don’t.) He doesn’t tell the politician what to think and do; he’s just there to offer his wise counsel as a successful businessman and concerned American. The politician might listen to him, or he might not, and when he usually does, that’s just evidence of how wise the billionaire is. The politician tells himself that his integrity is unsullied by money, since he makes his own decisions and is not swayed by the billionaire, even if he just happens to support all the things the billionaire wants.

Had Jeb actually told Baker not to go to J Street solely to make Adelson happy, it would have been hard for him to stay convinced that he was still pure. It’s because the question is so trivial that it necessitated standing up to Adelson.

Adelson may have built a lot of casinos, but I don’t think he understands much about politics, not only what works but which fights are worth having (this is, after all, a man who thought putting $20 million behind Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign was a wise investment). Say what you will about Charles and David Koch, but I couldn’t see them making the same mistake.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | GOP Campaign Donors, Jeb Bush, Sheldon Adelson | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why So Many Americans Feel So Powerless”: Most Working People Have No Choice; It’s Now Take It Or Leave It

A security guard recently told me he didn’t know how much he’d be earning from week to week because his firm kept changing his schedule and his pay. “They just don’t care,” he said.

A traveler I met in the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport last week said she’d been there eight hours but the airline responsible for her trip wouldn’t help her find another flight leaving that evening. “They don’t give a hoot,” she said.

Someone I met in North Carolina a few weeks ago told me he had stopped voting because elected officials don’t respond to what average people like him think or want. “They don’t listen,” he said.

What connects these dots? As I travel around America, I’m struck by how utterly powerless most people feel.

The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.

A large part of the reason is we have fewer choices than we used to have. In almost every area of our lives, it’s now take it or leave it.

Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.

Although jobs are coming back from the depths of the Great Recession, the portion of the labor force actually working remains lower than it’s been in over thirty years – before vast numbers of middle-class wives and mothers entered paid work.

Which is why corporations can get away with firing workers without warning, replacing full-time jobs with part-time and contract work, and cutting wages. Most working people have no alternative.

Consumers, meanwhile, are feeling mistreated and taken for granted because they, too, have less choice.

U.S. airlines, for example, have consolidated into a handful of giant carriers that divide up routes and collude on fares. In 2005 the U.S. had nine major airlines. Now we have just four.

It’s much the same across the economy. Eighty percent of Americans are served by just one Internet Service Provider – usually Comcast, AT&T, or Time-Warner.

The biggest banks have become far bigger. In 1990, the five biggest held just 10 percent of all banking assets. Now they hold almost 45 percent.

Giant health insurers are larger; the giant hospital chains, far bigger; the most powerful digital platforms (Amazon, Facebook, Google), gigantic.

All this means less consumer choice, which translates into less power.

Our complaints go nowhere. Often we can’t even find a real person to complain to. Automated telephone menus go on interminably.

Finally, as voters we feel no one is listening because politicians, too, face less and less competition. Over 85 percent of congressional districts are considered “safe” for their incumbents in the upcoming 2016 election; only 3 percent are toss-ups.

In presidential elections, only a handful of states are now considered “battlegrounds” that could go either Democratic or Republican.

So, naturally, that’s where the candidates campaign. Voters in most states won’t see much of them. These voters’ votes are literally taken for granted.

Even in toss-up districts and battle-ground states, so much big money is flowing in that average voters feel disenfranchised.

In all these respects, powerlessness comes from a lack of meaningful choice. Big institutions don’t have to be responsive to us because we can’t penalize them by going to a competitor.

And we have no loud countervailing voice forcing them to listen.

Fifty years ago, a third of private-sector workers belonged to labor unions. This gave workers bargaining power to get a significant share of the economy’s gains along with better working conditions – and a voice. Now, fewer than 7 percent of private sector workers are unionized.

In the 1960s, a vocal consumer movement demanded safe products, low prices, and antitrust actions against monopolies and business collusion. Now, the consumer movement has become muted.

Decades ago, political parties had strong local and state roots that gave politically-active citizens a voice in party platforms and nominees. Now, the two major political parties have morphed into giant national fund-raising machines.

Our economy and society depend on most people feeling the system is working for them.

But a growing sense of powerlessness in all aspects of our lives – as workers, consumers, and voters – is convincing most people the system is working only for those at the top.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, April 26, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Corporations, Wages, Workers | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Fact That I Don’t Like Her Is Irrelevant”: Don’t Be Blinded By The Hillary Clinton Hologram

I argued last week that left-of-center pundits who are demanding someone in the Democratic Party pose a challenge to Hillary Clinton are not offering arguments. Instead, they are expressing anxiety. Fears, not reasons. They worry that Clinton won’t earn the party’s nomination, but instead seize it as a birthright, which runs afoul of liberal commitments to merit, competition, and fair play.

Because the Republicans have no such concern (despite Jeb Bush’s urging to the contrary), I argued that the stakes are too high for restarting debate over first principles. Unlike 2008, Hillary Clinton now stands alone with no significant opposition in sight. That may change, of course, but for now, she is the best choice for maintaining Barack Obama’s broad voting coalition and for protecting the hard-won progressive gains of the president’s administration.

It was a cold-blooded analysis, perhaps made colder by the fact that I wasn’t writing from the heart. I was instead writing as a voter, and voters must, I contend, try to pierce, as much as possible, through the “hologram” of American politics, as the late great populist Joe Bageant put it. So I’m getting in line behind the Democratic frontrunner even though I personally prefer a dialectic over values, issues, and ideals; even though I personally believe that ideological duels among like-minded partisans is healthy and good; and even though I personally dislike Hillary Clinton.

I realized this dislike in 1991 when I was 17 years old. Arkansas governor Bill Clinton was running for the nomination against Jerry Brown (who had been, and is once again, governor of California). Brown had accused Clinton of “funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business.” Pressed to respond, his wife said: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.”

This comment is usually seen as an artifact of the “culture wars” and the “debate” over the legacy of second-wave feminism. But there’s more to it than that. At the heart of Clinton’s “cookies-and-tea” comment was a kind of rank classism that drove a wedge between voters who would otherwise find common ground in advancing mutually beneficial agendas. Labor is labor, whether done in public or in private, but the Ivy League-educated wife of a presidential up-and-comer was too elitist to see the truth of the matter. The result was stay-at-home mothers — like my own housekeeping mom — splitting from the Democrats and running into the waiting arms of GOP conservatives.

Even so, I believe Hillary Clinton would make a decent president, maybe even a good one, despite her elitism leaving a memorably bad taste in my mouth. People are usually surprised to hear that. They are surprised, I suspect, because the parties and the media, consciously and unconsciously, encourage voters to view candidates as if they were products — as a brand whose image embodies a vast web of psychological phenomena. This despite the fact that familiar candidates like Hillary Clinton are mere mortals whose views and policy positions have long been known. Even so, if you buy a product, the assumption is that you like it. And indeed, candidates have been “sold” to voters for decades. In The Selling of the President, a classic of the 1968 presidential election, the late journalist Joe McGinnis wrote that once politicians and ad men “recognized that the citizen does not so much vote for a candidate as make a psychological purchase of him, [it wasn’t] surprising that they began to work together.”

Since 1968, that profitable alliance has grown in size and sophistication. Anyone can see that. What we can’t see is our political blindness. As Joe Bageant put it, we don’t see the candidates; we see their “hologram.” “All things are purchasable, and indeed, access to anything of value is through purchase. Even mood and consciousness, through psychopharmacology, to suppress our anxiety or enhance sexual performance, or cyberspace linkups to porn, palaver, and purchasing opportunities. But most of all, the hologram generates and guides us to purchasing opportunities.”

The hologram draws much of its power from the fantastical desire for the perfect candidate. Case in point: Barack Obama. He was going to bring change to Washington. How wonderful! Though he did try, the president soon learned he could not transform politics as usual. No way. Indeed, the man who promised to overcome partisanship became, thanks to total Republican obstruction, a pure partisan.

Democratic voters must try to pierce through the Hillary Clinton Hologram, as much as they can, to see the person. The mere mortal. The flawed, maybe tragic, human being. The woman who once thought herself too good to bake cookies at home. She has baggage and can be found ideologically wanting. But none of that matters. What matters is that she’s a Democrat who will protect social-insurance programs, defend higher taxes on the wealthy, and continue peace talks with Cuba and Iran. And what matters is that her campaign has become a juggernaut that has the potential to roll over her Republican opponent.

In comparison, the fact that I don’t like her is irrelevant.

 

By: John Stoehr, The National Memo, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Election 2016, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Walmart Is In On It”: The Perils Of Political Paranoia In Texas

In too many parts of the country, what’s true is far less important than what far-right paranoia tells people might be true. Take the latest out of Texas, for example, where the Dallas Morning News published this strange report yesterday.

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Guard to monitor federal military exercises in Texas after some citizens have lit up the Internet saying the maneuvers are actually the prelude to martial law. […]

Radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been sending out warnings for weeks regarding the exercise, saying it is the U.S. military positioning itself to take over the states and declare martial law. Abbott apparently has heard the concern and ordered the Guard to monitor the training and U.S. military personnel.

At issue is a military exercise called “Jade Helm 15,” which will reportedly include about 1,200 special operations personnel, including Green Berets and Navy SEALs, conducting training drills throughout the Southwest, from Texas to California.

According to right-wing conspiracy theorists, however, the exercise is a secret scheme to impose martial law. According to the Houston Chronicle, the unhinged activists believe “Walmart is in on it,” and “secret underground tunnels” are somehow involved.

The uproar from the fringe grew loud enough to generate an official response from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, trying to set the public’s mind at ease. It didn’t work – the conspiracy theorists, of course, believe Special Operations Command is on the scheme.

Indeed, every time officials try to explain to the public this is only a training exercise, the right-wing fringe perceives a smokescreen.

On Monday, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria attended a Bastrop County Commissioners Court meeting to answer community questions and was met with hostile fire. Lastoria, in response to some of the questions from the 150 who attended, sought to dispel fears that foreign fighters from the Islamic State were being brought in or that Texans’ guns would be confiscated, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman. […]

“You may have issues with the administration. So be it. But this institution right here has been with you for over 200 years,” he was quoted as saying. “I’ve worn this uniform across five different administrations for 27 years.”

But the conspiracy theorists remain unconvinced, choosing to believe fringe online personalities instead.

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise, then, that Texas’ governor directed state forces to “monitor” the operation, in part to “address concerns of Texas citizens.”

What’s especially interesting to me is the frequency with which the line blurs between elected officials’ concerns and fringe crackpots’ conspiracy theories. Indeed, it was just a couple of months ago that Texas state lawmakers held a hearing about the non-existent threat of the United Nations taking control of the Alamo.

Soon after, legislation was introduced in Tennessee to prohibit “no-go zones” in the Volunteer State, not because they’re real, but because “some people” said they’re afraid of them.

We’ve seen official efforts to combat Sharia law for no reason. We’ve seen repeated policies blocking funding for ACORN, despite the fact that the group doesn’t exist. A few years ago, Texas lawmakers took the possibility of a “NAFTA Superhighway” very seriously, despite the fact that the project existed only in the overactive imaginations of right-wing activists.

There are real policy challenges out there. Public officials would be wise to focus on them and ignore the made-up stuff.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Texas, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“We Will Not Obey”: Taking The Law Into Their Own Hands

It’s going to take me a while to absorb this document, and remember (probably with Sarah Posner’s help) the backgrounds of some of the signatories. But the newly released “Pledge of Solidarity in Defense of Marriage”, drafted by Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, semi-retired culture-war maven James Dobson, and Liberty University law school dean Matt Staver, represents the boldest effort yet of Christian Right types to claim a revolutionary right of resistance to marriage equality. Without question, the “pledge” asserts that marriage discrimination is part of the warp and weave of the universe, via divine fiat and natural law, and that no Court has the power to overturn it. Thus, the signatories announce their intention not to obey any such decision, as explained by Todd Starnes at townhall:

“We will not obey.”

That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage.

“We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” read a document titled, Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.”

“While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” the pledge states….

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver said. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.”

That’s quite a shocking statement. So I asked Mr. Staver to clarify his remarks.

“I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law,” he told me. “They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

Yes, of course, the Pledge of Solidarity is loaded with references to the civil rights movement (they predictably secured the signature of Aveda King, the niece of MLK who has long been a committed right-wing culture warrior) and comparisons of any SCOTUS decision upholding same-sex marriage as illegitimate, just like Dred Scott. So what grievous harm do they claim for themselves that makes them and their largely well-fed suburban flocks qualified to stand with protesters like King and Gandhi fighting for the most basic rights?

[Scarborough] referenced the “outrageous penalties” being assessed against people of faith simply because they don’t want to participate in a same-sex union.

An Oregon bakery is facing a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian wedding and a Washington State florist faces fines for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.

Yep, it’s still the bakers and florists of conscience on whose behalf these birds are calling for an overturning of the Rule of Law and the shattering of a constitutional order that’s worked reasonably well in the past. Almost to a man or woman, of course, they’d call themselves “constitutional conservatives,” a term that means pretty much the opposite of both words, insofar as they claim “higher laws” like fetal rights, absolute property rights, and yes, a heterosexual monopoly on marriage, have to be imposed on the Constitution. No wonder David Barton, the author of so much historical fiction on the theocratic designs of the Founders, is a signatory of the Pledge, along with a rogue’s gallery of Christian Nation radicals he helped inspire.

So, too, are two candidates for the presidency, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. You kinda get the impression they would really love to find a way to get themselves arrested for their brave defense of “traditional marriage,” so they could campaign from a jail cell like Eugene Debs in 1920. Maybe they could take up baking or flower arranging.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 29, 2015

April 30, 2015 Posted by | Christian Right, Conservatives, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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