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“Democrats And Black Voters”: To Win The Support Of People Of Color, You Have To Incorporate Their Concerns

It has been pretty well established by now that a Democratic candidate can’t win the presidential nomination (much less a general election) without the support of African Americans. Due to that fact, it is interesting to take a look at how Charles Blow is summing up the challenge that faces Bernie Sanders in that regard.

Blow interviewed Sanders and then attended his rally at Benedict College in South Carolina. His column about that summarizes both some of his potential as well as missteps.

There is an earnest, if snappy, aura to Sanders that is laudable and refreshing. One doesn’t sense the stench of ambition or the revolting unctuousness of incessant calculation.

There is an idealistic crusader in the man, possibly to the point of being quixotic, but at least it doesn’t come off as having been corrupted by money or power or the God complex that so often attends those in pursuit of the seat behind the Resolute Desk.

Sanders’s message of revolutionary change to save a flailing middle class and challenge the sprawling influence of what he calls “the billionaire class” has struck a nerve with a fervid following.

When it comes to that Sanders message, I was struck by something that Blow tweeted, but left out of his column.

In his interview with Blow, Sanders stressed that his campaign recognizes that it is important to “aggressively reach out and bring the African-American community and the Latino community into our campaign.” And yet it appears as though Sanders is making the same mistake a lot of white people do when they realize the importance of garnering support from the African American community…they tweak their own message rather than listen and incorporate what they hear.

For example, Blow points out the tone-deafness of assuming that a Black man like Cornell West helps in that regard.

But Sanders’s ability to win Obama’s supporters may have been made difficult by his associations. On Saturday, Sanders campaigned with Dr. Cornel West, who recently issued an endorsement of Sanders.

West’s critique of the president has been so blistering and unyielding — he has called Obama “counterfeit,” the “black face of the American empire,” a verb-ed neologism of the n-word — that it has bordered on petulance and self-parody.

I would also suggest that one of the reasons Sander’s message fails to connect with African Americans is that – even in the midst of economic conditions that were much worse than today – Ellis Cose pointed out in 2011 that African Americans are the country’s “new optimists.”

As the United States struggles through its worst economic crisis in generations, gloom has seized much of the heartland. The optimism that came so easily to many Americans as the new century dawned is significantly harder to summon these days. There is, however, a conspicuous exception: African-Americans, long accustomed to frustration in their pursuit of opportunity and respect, are amazingly upbeat, consistently astounding pollsters with their hopefulness.

To the extent that optimism has dimmed more recently – it is in response to the shootings of unarmed Black men (often by police officers) and the lack of a “just response” from our justice system. No matter how hard Sanders tries to tie that one to his message about income inequality and economics, it will fall short of connecting to the souls of African Americans.

There is a lesson in all that for Democrats: to win the support of people of color, you have to incorporate their concerns…not simply tweak your own agenda and expect them to climb on your bandwagon.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 13, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Bernie Sanders, Democrats | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Little Noticed Brief”: Justice Department; Clinton’s Email Practices Were Permissible

In the spring, Republicans, a variety of reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was convinced: there was a real “scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation’s international donors. In time, the allegations crumbled, the controversy evaporated, and the political world lost interest in the story that didn’t stand up to scrutiny. There just was no there there.

Over the summer, the same Republicans, many of the same reporters, and much of the Beltway establishment was once again convinced: there was a real “scandal” surrounding Hillary Clinton and her email server management. Given the latest revelations, it’s starting to look like deja vu all over again.

The Obama administration told a federal court Wednesday that former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was within her legal rights to use of her own email account, to take the messages with her when she left office and to be the one deciding which of those messages are government records that should be returned.

In the most complete legal defense of Mrs. Clinton, Justice Department lawyers insisted they not only have no obligation, but no power, to go back and demand the former top diplomat turn over any documents she hasn’t already given – and neither, they said, can the court order that.

The Associated Press, BuzzFeed, and the New York Times had similar reports on this “little noticed brief.”

So, let me get this straight. Clinton used a private email server. The State Department said this was allowed. The Justice Department came to the same conclusion. The FBI isn’t investigating her.

I know we’re supposed to think this is a “scandal,” and the coverage has successfully convinced plenty of voters that this “controversy” is evidence of some unnamed nefarious misdeeds, but the rationale for taking this story seriously is looking pretty thin.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post published a lengthy, front-page piece over the weekend that reported Clinton’s personal, deleted emails may yet be recoverable by technicians. I’m not sure why these personal, deleted emails should be an area of interest in a presidential campaign; in fact I’m not sure why any candidate’s personal, deleted emails should be scrutinized.

And yet, over the weekend, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairmen of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees, respectively, said “they would push for the deleted e-mails to be reviewed if they can be recovered.”

Of course they would.

Why, exactly, should Hillary Clinton’s personal emails receive scrutiny that no candidate, in either party, has ever had to face? I have no idea, but congressional Republicans seem serious anyway.

Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum added, sarcastically, “I’m sure the nation’s security hinges on this. And if Hillary’s personal emails are successfully recovered, I’m equally sure that a few of the most embarrassing ones will somehow get leaked to friendly reporters.”

Count on it.

In the meantime, if someone can explain why this is literally a front-page story for months, while Jeb Bush’s identical email issue is considered a non-story, I’m eager to hear the explanation.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 14, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton, Justice Department | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Badly Misleading And Dangerous”: About Those Rising Murder Rates: Not So Fast

Are the increases in murders in major cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and New York City indicative of a broader trend in American cities? That’s the conclusion encouraged by a front-page New York Times article, Murder Rates Rising Sharply in Many U.S. Cities. It’s a scary story, conjuring images of the high-crime 1990s and fueling speculation about an ostensible “Ferguson Effect” — the unsubstantiated notion that, as The Times put it, “less aggressive policing has emboldened criminals.” This is badly misleading and, at a time when criminal justice reform is making notable bipartisan advances, it’s also dangerous.

Of course, The Times isn’t an academic journal, and its story wasn’t meant to be a rigorous analysis of a big database; it was a glimpse into a current conversation with some new numbers. Still, it’s worth taking a closer look at those numbers.

My own analysis of publically available homicide statistics for a broader selection of cities yields conclusions that are rather different from those stated or implied in the Times article. The differences are related to how cities were selected and the way the data were interpreted.

City Selection

It is not clear how the cities examined by the Times were chosen. The article included ten cities with populations ranging from over 8 million (New York) to just over 317,000 (St. Louis). But there are 60 U.S. cities with estimated 2014 populations in that range. The Times included only four of the 20 most populous U.S. cities. The authors do not explain how those cities were chosen, leaving readers to assume that the findings presented are representative of a broader increase in homicides across U.S. cities. That does not appear to be the case.

In just a few hours, I was able to locate publically available data to support similar analyses for 16 of the 20 most populous cities, and the results, summarized below, suggest a much less pervasive increase than one might infer from the Times analysis.

Interpretation of Statistics

First, not all of the increases cited by the Times are statistically reliable; that is, some of them are small increases, or are based on small numbers of cases, such that the observed increases could have occurred by chance alone. Among the 16 top-20 cities for which I found publically available data, only three experienced statistically reliable increases. Only one of the top-20 cities included in the Times’ sample, Chicago, experienced an increase that was statistically significant. Five of the smaller cities included by the Times did experience statistically reliable increases, but what of the other 35 cities with populations in that range?

Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced, a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend. Often, such changes fall within the range of normal year-to-year fluctuations. For example, I was able to obtain historical data on year-to-year changes in homicide counts for Chicago, the only top-20 city in the Times analysis that had a statistically significant increase from 2014 to 2015. From 2009 to 2010, homicides increased 5.1 percent. The next year, however, there was a 13.1 percent decrease. The year after that, a 28.5 percent increase, and then decreases of 16.4 and 3.4 percent in 2013 and 2014, before homicides climbed back up 11.3 percent in 2015. Looked at over a longer time period, the numbers do not demonstrate a stable trend.

Thus, neither the Times analysis nor my own yields compelling evidence that there has been a pervasive increase in homicides that is substantively meaningful. It seems premature to be discussing broad explanations and long-term solutions for what may not be a broad or long-term phenomenon. And yet the spike in a few cities has already prompted speculation that the numbers reflect the increased availability of guns, or the demoralization of police.

Of course, the lack of compelling evidence of a broad-based increase does not prove that no such increase is occurring. Trends in homicide rates (and crime rates generally) are extremely important topics that warrant further investigation. But before we begin to speculate about causes and potential remedies, we need a more comprehensive understanding of the prevalence and location of increases in homicide rates that actually depart from normal fluctuations. This suggests a need for analyses that span several years, for as many medium- and large-sized jurisdictions as possible. It would also be useful to undertake such analyses for related crimes, such as non-fatal shootings, non-fatal stabbings, and aggravated assaults, since the difference between those and homicides may often be a matter of random luck, the type of weapon readily available, or the distance to the nearest emergency room.

Only then will we be in a position to undertake rigorous efforts to explain the problem and explore potential remedies.

 

By: Bruce Frederick, Senior Research Fellow at the Vera Institute of Justice, The Marshall Project, Brennan Center for Justice, September 4, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Crime Rates, Homocide, Law Enforcement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Quiet, Uneventful End Of ‘Jade Helm 15′”: Conservative Hysteria Sounded Ridiculous Because It Was Ridiculous

Congratulations, America, you managed to avoid a military takeover of the United States and the dictatorial imposition of martial law.

The military exercise Jade Helm 15 generated enough conspiracy theories this year that it garnered mockery on late-night television, commentary from presidential candidates and reaction from the Texas governor. The basic thrust of the concerns: The military was laying the groundwork for martial law – if not now, then sometime in the future.

The exercise will end quietly Tuesday, however. Carried out in parts of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, it will conclude after two months of operations, said Suzanne Nagl, a spokeswoman for Army Special Operations Command, which oversaw it.

The Washington Post’s report added that Nagl does not yet have details on the lessons of the training exercise, but she added that officials at the Army Special Operations Command “believe the exercise overall was a success.”

Remarkably, “success” in this case did not mean the confiscation of Americans’ guns, as part of some kind of military takeover.

If you were away over the summer, you may not know what I’m talking about, so let’s recap. From July 15 to today, the military organized some training exercises for about 1,200 people in areas spanning from Texas to California. Somehow, right-wing activists got it in their heads that the exercises, labeled “Jade Helm 15,” were part of an elaborate conspiracy theory involving the Obama administration, the U.S. military, Walmart, and some “secret underground tunnels.”

It sounded ridiculous because it was ridiculous.

Nevertheless, as far-right hysteria grew louder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) felt the need to order the Texas Guard to “monitor” the military exercises – just in case. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stoked the same fires, and even Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) arranged a meeting with Pentagon officials and a three-star Air Force general, just to make sure American officials weren’t planning a takeover of America, or something.

As recently as mid-May – just four months ago – Public Policy Polling found that one-third of Republicans believed the conspiracy theory that “the government is trying to take over Texas.”

I suppose technically, the Jade Helm 15 exercises won’t end until later today, so far-right activists still have a few more hours to worry about the end of American freedom as we know it, but I’m reasonably optimistic that their hysteria was misplaced.

Postscript: As we talked about in July, it’s tempting to think the conspiracy theorists are going to look pretty foolish now that Jade Helm is wrapping up without incident, but right-wing politics usually doesn’t work this way. On the contrary, we’re likely to hear that Obama administration would have hatched its dastardly scheme, but conservatives prevented the crisis by raising a fuss.

 

By: Steve Benen, The maddow Blog, September 15, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, Jade Helm 15, U. S. Military | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Scott Walker’s Race To The Bottom”: His Plan Is As Pure An Expression Of Supply-Side, Trickle-Down Economics As You’ll Find

Scott Walker wants to take his fight against organized labor national. Today he released a plan for a new war not just on union representation, but on worker rights in general.

It’s quite a document, one we might call Scott Walker’s Race to the Bottom.

I have no doubt that Walker is sincere in his desire to see every labor union crushed and every vestige of workers’ power banished — or, in his lingo, “flexibility.” I’d also be surprised if any of the other candidates objected to any part of it. So the plan is worth understanding if you want to grasp what today’s GOP is offering today’s workers.

While he doesn’t say so explicitly, what Walker seems to hope for is really a world without any labor unions at all, or at the very least a world where unions are so weakened that they are unable to advocate for anyone. Here are the major parts of his plan:

Eliminate the National Labor Relations Board. Walker says the NLRB is “a one-sided advocate for big-labor special interests,” but the truth is that Democrats appoint pro-labor members to the board, while Republicans appoint anti-labor members to the board. Transferring the NLRB’s authority to adjudicate labor disputes to the courts would probably be a mixed bag in terms of worker rights.

“Eliminate big-government unions.” This is pretty straightforward. You don’t like unions? Get rid of ’em. Today there are around seven million Americans represented by a public sector union, and around one million of those are employed by the federal government (including the Postal Service). If Walker got his way, the latter group could kiss their representation goodbye — and given his record, it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t mind getting rid of the state and local public-sector unions as well.

Institute a national “right to work” law. The phrase “right to work” is a triumph of conservative PR, because how could anyone object to a right to work? What it means in practice, however, is that in places where unions negotiate salaries and benefits for workers, those workers can’t be required to contribute to the union that got them those salaries and benefits (no one can be required to join a union, but where there are no right to work laws, you can be required to contribute when the union negotiates on your behalf). Whenever a right to work law is being debated in a particular state, Republicans argue that because the law would weaken unions, it will draw employers who don’t want to have to bother with the high wages and good benefits those unions can negotiate.

Which, the evidence suggests, is probably true. But such laws have another effect: they pull down wages and benefits. So that’s the bargain a state makes when it passes a right to work law:  more jobs, but worse jobs.

Think about what would happen if you took this policy national. On a state level, it’s possible for a right to work law to draw a factory from one state to another. But if every state was a right to work state, then that incentive to move is eliminated. The decrease in union representation would spread, which drives down wages and benefits for everyone. Whether you think that’s a good thing depends on whether you are concerned with the interests of large business owners or the interests of workers.

There are a number of smaller ideas in Walker’s plan, like eliminating the requirement that federal contractors pay the “prevailing wage” (i.e. union wage) for construction projects, further reinforcing what seems to be Walker’s belief that the problem with unions is that they let workers earn too much money. And I have to highlight this bit:

“The Obama administration’s government-knows-best proposed rules will require employers to pay overtime rates to greater numbers of salaried works and require federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. Unfortunately, these rules will only reduce wages and deprive workers of the flexibility to balance work and life commitments.

“On Day One of my administration, I will repeal any regulation that reduces employee flexibility, as well as work for changes to federal law to allow time off for overtime hours worked. My changes will protect workplace flexibility by ensuring that misguided big-government mandates do not stand in the way of individuals and families.”

So Walker will roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to make more workers eligible for overtime pay and sick leave, because that would mean more “employee flexibility.” Indeed, just imagine the worker making $7.50 an hour saying to herself, “Boy, now that I have the flu I sure am glad I have to choose between dragging myself into work or staying home and losing my pay. Thanks for the flexibility, President Walker!”

Though Walker’s plan is couched in all kinds of pro-worker rhetoric like that (and endless repetition of the phrase “union bosses”), in truth it’s about as pure an expression of supply-side, trickle-down economics as you’ll find. Its basic principle is that once we eliminate workers’ ability to bargain collectively, everything will turn out great for everyone.

But here’s what we know: union membership has been declining for decades, while incomes have been stagnant and Americans have felt increasingly at the mercy of employers who treat them like interchangeable cogs who can be manipulated, surveilled, and tossed aside at the employer’s whim. There’s no question that Scott Walker succeeded in creating a politically beneficial showdown with public sector unions in Wisconsin. But how many Americans think that the problem with our economy is that too much power in the workplace lies in the hands of workers?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 14, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Organized Labor, Scott Walker, Workers Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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