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“Turn Off The Money And Turn Up The Pressure”: When Will Corporate America Confront Republican Climate Denial?

Much as the world must hope that the governments assembled in Paris achieve their objectives, at the very least they have provided an occasion for business leaders of all descriptions to announce their commitment to climate sanity. With sponsorships, pledges, and official statements, a long list of major corporations has declared that man-made climate change is real and must be reversed to save the earth — and their profits.

Easy as it is to lampoon the professions of these corporate leaders, there should be little doubt that some and perhaps most are sincere. They’re sentient human beings, after all, whose children and grandchildren will have no choice but to live on this endangered planet. They say that is why they’ve publicly expressed support for successful negotiations in Paris and promised to reduce carbon emissions while using and investing in clean energy.

According to the White House, many of those firms have made still more stringent vows, to cut emissions by 50 percent, to reduce water waste by as much as 80 percent, to send no more solid waste to landfills, to purchase only renewable power, and to stop causing deforestation. All of which sounds marvelous and necessary – but what would American corporations do if they really, truly, seriously wanted to stop climate change?

They would do what they do whenever they want to influence any important policy change, of course: Deny financing to political forces on the other side, and deploy their enormous lobbying clout against those forces.

Today, that would mean giving not another dime to House and Senate Republicans – or to any Republican presidential candidate who denies climate realities and insists on reversing President Obama’s current initiatives.

As a matter of policy, the Republican Party obstructs any serious effort to prevent catastrophic climate change. And because the United States is still the largest carbon polluter per capita in the world — and now the second largest in absolute terms – Republican obstruction has worldwide consequences. Just this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell barked an ominous warning to the world leaders meeting in Paris, saying that the next GOP president could simply “tear up” all of Obama’s efforts to diminish power-plant pollution.

The myopic McConnell (whose home state of Kentucky produces dirty coal), has gone even further, sending his aides to foreign embassies with the message that none of America’s international partners can rely on commitments made by Obama in Paris. Unfortunately, McConnell’s irresponsible conduct is merely typical of his party’s leadership.

But the Republican hostility to climate science is a minority viewpoint in the United States, as polling data has demonstrated clearly for years. Two out of three Americans view climate change as a global menace and support a binding international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. More than half want the United States to lead the world in dealing with that threat. Even a majority of Republican voters understand that an overheating planet is dangerous, and support the power-plant regulations that McConnell and his Senate caucus oppose.

Republican Congressional leaders in both houses know they can continue to lie and deny on climate, so long as the nation’s business leaders fail to demand change. Although they will always collect millions from ExxonMobil, the Koch brothers, and assorted fossil fuel profiteers, they might begin to worry if other economic interests that have traditionally supported them suddenly turned off the money and turned on the pressure.

From Goldman Sachs to General Mills, from Microsoft to Monsanto to McDonalds, scores of major companies have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge. By doing so they affirmed support for “action on climate change and the conclusion of a climate change agreement in Paris that takes a strong step forward toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.”

Companies like these have huge lobbying, political action, public relations, and advertising budgets – and all of them could well afford to spend even more on such a crucial issue.

No doubt they would risk trouble with the Congressional Republicans if they took strong political action on climate. But they claim to believe their future at stake, along with the future of generations to come. So if they wish to accomplish more than green-washing their reputations, then the time is surely coming when the corporate environmentalists will have to confront the Republican Party – or be exposed as frauds.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post; The National Memo, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Climate Change, Corporations, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We’re Ignoring The Real Gun Problem”: Exactly Which Forms Of Gun Violence Do Republicans Support?

Today President Obama spoke briefly to the press about yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, and he began by noting: “So many Americans sometimes feel as if there’s nothing we can do about it.” But what’s the “it” we’re talking about here? Is it just our spectacular and never-ending run of mass shootings?

Because if it is, we’re on the lesser of our gun problems. I’ll explain why in a moment, but here’s a bit more of what Obama had to say:

“It’s going to be important for all of us, including our legislatures, to see what we can do to make sure that when individuals decide that they want to do somebody harm, we’re making it a little harder for them to do it, because right now it’s just too easy. And we’re going to have to, I think, search ourselves as a society to make sure that we can take basic steps that would make it harder — not impossible, but harder — for individuals to get access to weapons.”

His mention of “legislatures” is an implicit acknowledgement that any movement that happens on gun laws will happen at the state and local level, because congressional Republicans are emphatically against any legislation that would even inconvenience, let alone restrict, anyone’s ability to buy as many guns of as many types as they want. But what are those “basic steps” we can take, and would they actually work? And which kinds of gun violence would they stop?

It’s not surprising that we focus on mass shootings, because they’re sudden and dramatic — the very fact that they’re unusual compared to ordinary shootings is why they’re newsworthy. That’s despite the fact that we have them so often that the victim count has to get pretty high before the national news pays attention. But as this blog has noted before, they’re actually the smaller part of our gun violence problem.

Using the now-common definition of a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are injured or killed, there were 351 mass shootings in the United States this year before San Bernardino, or more than one per day. In those shootings, a total of 447 people died and 1,292 people were injured.

Now let’s use a year for which we have complete data on gun violence, 2013. That year, there were 363 mass shootings resulting in 502 deaths. But overall, 33,636 Americans died from gun violence that year. The number of gun homicides was 11,208. That means that victims of mass shootings made up 1.5 percent of all gun victims and 4.5 percent of gun homicide victims.

Democrats advocating for gun restrictions take the opportunity when there’s a mass shooting dominating the news to say: “This is why we need these restrictions.” Which is understandable as far as it goes, but it still keeps attention on the smaller part of the problem.

Republicans and conservatives, on the other hand, see mass shootings as regrettable but say that any government action to restrict access to guns either won’t stop such shootings, or would represent an unacceptable trade-off in terms of surrendering liberty. Some will instead say, “we need to reform the mental health system. ” But nine out of ten GOP congressmen probably couldn’t tell you a single thing they’d do to reform it, let alone how whatever they support would actually reduce the yearly death toll. There are a couple of related bills in Congress that Republicans support to make some reforms to the mental health system, but they could actually wind up making it easier for some people with a history of mental illness to get firearms.

And of course Republicans don’t address this simple fact: the overwhelming majority of gun homicides in America are not committed by people who have been declared mentally ill. They happen when abusive men kill their spouses or partners, when an argument between neighbors gets out of hand, when an angry ex-employee shoots his boss, when cycles of revenge spiral onward.

But if we only try to talk about guns when there are mass shootings, it allows Republicans to say, “It’s not about the guns — this guy was just crazy!” (Never mind that there are people with mental illness everywhere in the world; only here is it so easy for them to arm themselves to the teeth.)

If Republicans (and I’d put special focus on the presidential candidates, since they’re the ones who can get the most attention) are going to argue that the answer to gun violence is mental health reforms, they ought to be forced to get specific. Exactly which forms do they support? How exactly will each of those forms reduce gun violence? Will any of their ideas do anything to help the 95 percent of gun homicide victims who don’t die in mass shootings?

We’re now getting reports that Syed Farook, one of the shooters in San Bernardino, may have been in touch with an international terrorism suspect, and so this shooting may have been politically motivated (even though he chose to target his co-workers). Had that not been the case, Republicans would have said that all that matters is that Farook was crazy — how could anyone who killed 14 people not be? Now they’ll say that all that matters is that he was a terrorist. But if that turns out to be true, it would bring the number of Americans killed at home in jihadist attacks since 9/11 to 45. That’s about the number of Americans murdered with guns in an average day and half.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, December 3, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Congressional Republicans, Domestic Violence, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Can Marco Rubio Even Win A Primary?”: The Rubio Problem No One Is Talking About—Yet

Everybody I know, I mean everybody, thinks Marco Rubio is the strongest Republican candidate. Yes, there’s a debate about how strong. Some say he’d beat Hillary Clinton, some say that what with some of the extreme positions he’s taken so far in this race, he’d be hard-pressed to do much better than Mitt Romney’s 206 electoral votes plus maybe his own Florida. So there’s a debate about that. But there ain’t much debate that he’s the, shall we say, least unelectable of the lot.

But here’s the thing. To win the general, he has to win the primary. And on this count, as things stand, he’s hurting. I mean he’s in big trouble. Ed Kilgore of New York magazine had a post about this earlier this week, but this is worth digging into in more detail.

Start with the first four big races—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Rubio is behind in all of them. In three of them, seemingly way behind.

How often does it happen that a presumed frontrunner can lose the first four contests and stay in the race? On the Republican side, it’s never happened. In 2012, Mitt Romney won New Hampshire, and with respect to Iowa, on the night itself, we all thought he’d won that (the state was called later for Rick Santorum, but Mittens got the mo). Romney also won Nevada. In 2008, John McCain took New Hampshire and walloped the competition in South Carolina. Before that, George W. Bush won early states, and Bob Dole (not New Hampshire, but Iowa), and Bush Sr., and so on.

The opposite—a presumed frontrunner blowing off or losing the first few because he’s going to make a roaring comeback starting in state X—never seems to work out. The obvious example here is Rudy Giuliani in 2008. He skipped the first primaries—even though he’d been running second in New Hampshire as late as early December—and bet everything on Florida. But, largely because he’d been such a zero in the early contests (he ended up a distant fourth in the Granite State), he tanked in Florida and withdrew.

In the modern primary era, which started in 1976, almost no one has won a major-party nomination without winning at least one early contest. The one partial exception here is Bill Clinton. But those were very specific circumstances.

First of all, an Iowan was in the race, Tom Harkin, so Clinton and the other Democrats didn’t even bother to compete there, and Harkin won 77 percent of the vote. Second, Paul Tsongas was almost a favorite son in New Hampshire, since he was from Lowell, Massachusetts, right on the border. Third, Clinton was enduring his Gennifer Flowers-draft dodger baptism of fire at the time of New Hampshire, so when he finished a strong second, that was under the circumstances just about as good as a win and enabled him to carry on, arguing that he’d endured the bad press and came out alive. Fourth, Clinton led in most of the national polls then, so he was more able to absorb an early blow or two than Rubio, who is tied for a pretty distant third  in national polls. And fifth, everyone knew then that the Southern states, where Clinton was going to romp and rack up delegates, were just around the corner.

So there is basically no precedent for losing a bunch of early primaries and carrying on, let alone winning the nomination. Now, let’s look at some of Rubio’s numbers.

In Iowa today, he’s a distant fourth,  with around 12 percent to Donald Trump’s 27 percent. New Hampshire is the one early state where he’s not off the boards completely, but even there he’s not in great shape: He’s second with 12.5 percent to Trump’s 26 percent. In South Carolina, he’s basically tied for third with Cruz,  but again, both have less than half of Trump’s 29 percent. Nevada is less obsessively polled than the first three, but the latest one, from mid-October, has Trump miles ahead with 38 percent. Rubio is at 7.

So that’s the big four. If anything, after that, it gets worse for Rubio. Here is the official GOP primary schedule. Here is the most comprehensive list of polling from every state that I’ve seen. Match them up against each other and see for yourself. But because I’m a nice guy, I’ll give you a little taste for free.

After Nevada comes the big date of March 1, Super Tuesday, when 12 states have primaries or caucuses. Most of the big ones are in the South—Texas, Georgia, Virginia. In Georgia, Rubio is right now a distant fourth. He’s also a distant fourth in Texas, where Trump and Cruz are tied for first. In Virginia, things look better: He’s only a distant third.

As for the other nine March 1 states, Rubio leads in none of them and looks to be better positioned in only two, Massachusetts and Colorado. Vermont Republicans are also voting that day, and I could find no polling of Vermont Republicans at all (but they’re so crucial!). So according to today’s polling, the best—best!—Rubio can hope for coming out of Super Tuesday is three wins in the first 16 contests. And two of those wins would be in Massachusetts and Vermont, two states where he or any Republican is going to lose next November by at least 25 points. If you’re trying to tell conservatives in the South and Midwest that you’re their man, it’s literally better to lose those two states. Colorado would be the one state that Rubio could claim as actually meaning something, but even if he overtook Trump there, he’d be 1-13 (tossing out the deep blue states). In the real red states—Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Idaho—as of now, Trump is the guy who’s killing it.

You might be thinking three things. First, well, how good is that polling? All right—some of it is old. October, September, in a few cases even earlier. Ben Carson is still holding his own in some of these state polls, and presumably he’s slipped. But the thing about Carson’s slippage is that we don’t have any reason to think Carson defectors are transferring to Rubio. They’re probably moving to Trump and Cruz at least as much as to Rubio.

And you might also be thinking, well, what about the delegate count, because it all comes down to delegates? OK then, here is a little info on each state’s delegate allocation process. Most states have proportional allocation according to vote share, or they’re proportional with a complicated trigger, or they’re a hybrid. It’s all complex, but the long and short of it is that you can’t keep finishing fourth with 7 percent and expect to be collecting enough delegates to give you any leverage or juice.

And this leads us into the third thought you might be thinking, which is what about Florida? Here’s where Rubio has a reed of a chance to save his skin. Florida votes on March 15. So does Ohio. Interestingly, both are winner-take-all delegate allocation. If somehow Rubio were to win both of those, that’s 165 delegates in one night (1,237 are needed to win), and a huge dose of momentum.

But but but…26 states vote before those two. That’s an awfully long time to expect to be hanging around if you keep finishing third and fourth. And, oh, here’s the current polling in Florida and Ohio: In Florida, Trump leads Rubio by 36 to 18 percent, and in the most recent Ohio poll, Rubio’s in sixth place at 7 percent.

For such a good general election candidate, Rubio is looking like a pretty lousy primary candidate! How can he survive this? He probably can’t. He needs a couple sugar daddies to keep him alive, who don’t mind underwriting a series of out-of-the-money finishes. And what he really needs is for Trump to collapse. If Trump falls apart, Rubio is in the game. If he doesn’t, it’s very hard to see Rubio’s numbers changing much, and if they don’t, it’s just not in the cards for someone finishing third and fourth repeatedly to hang in for that long.

Should make for an interesting January between those two.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Angrier And More Toxic”: Donald Trump And The Revenge Of The Radical Center

The GOP may soon recover from the Donald Trump scare. Despite his maddeningly persistent lead in the polls, Trump isn’t building the normal campaign operations that are usually needed to win. He won’t get key endorsements. His voters may be the ones least likely to be active. It’s unclear how much, if any, of his fortune he’s willing to spend on advertising himself.

Nonetheless, Trump’s continued presence in the race is a danger to other viable candidates. Trump’s campaign may discredit the party in the eyes of many voters who are disgusted with Trump’s presence in the GOP, or other voters who are disgusted with the treatment of Trump’s supporters by the party apparatus.

And that brings us to the big lesson the GOP should take from the entire Trump affair: There is another side to the Republican Party, one that the GOP has tried to ignore, and can ignore no longer. It’s a side of the party that has learned to distrust its leaders on immigration, to be suspicious of a turbo-charged capitalism that threatens their way of life. And it may be a side of the party that is needed to return the GOP to presidential victories. It is the forgotten part of the Nixon-Reagan coalition. And by being ignored, it has turned angrier and more toxic.

The winning Republican coalition may still be the Nixon and Reagan coalition, old as it is. This is a coalition that includes conservatism, and is “anti-left,” certainly. But it also includes a huge number of people to whom the dogmas of conservatism are as foreign to their experience as Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville. The piece of the Nixon coalition that Trump has activated cares not for the ordered liberty of conservatism, nor the egalitarian project of progressivism. It cares about fairness, and just rewards for work and loyalty. There is nothing moderate about it. This is the radical center. And it explains why when Trump’s support is measured, it is almost always found to be strongest among “moderate” or “liberal” Republicans.

These are the voters who hate modern, tight-suited, Democratic-style liberalism not because it offends God, but because it is “killing” the America they knew. It threatens their jobs with globalization and immigration. They hate tassle-loafered right-wingers who flippantly tell them to get retrained in computers at age 58, and warn that Medicare might be cut. They built their lives around promises that have been broken and revoked over the past two decades. Trump looks like their savior. Someone who can’t be bought by the people who downsized them. Or at least, he is their revenge.

It is frustrating for most conservatives to take Trump seriously as a presidential candidate. He’s a ridiculous troll. He talks about renegotiating the global order with China based on “feel.” He also says he can “feel” terrorism about to strike, perhaps the way an arthritic can feel a storm coming. This is idiotic. But the Republican Party needs to learn a lesson from it. And learn it fast. Few have Trump’s resources, his can’t-look-away persona, or his absurdly high Q-rating among reality TV viewers. But many are watching him divide the GOP in twain, on issues like trade, jobs, and immigration. It would be surprising if no one tried to campaign on his mix of issues again after seeing his success.

This should have been obvious from the politics of the past two decades. Pat Buchanan’s challenge to the GOP in the mid-1990s focused on some of the same issues, though Buchanan was also a tub-thumping social conservative. Buchanan won four states in 1996, while suffering the same taunts about fascism that are now aimed at Trump. His race was premised on finding the “conservatives of the heart.” His 1992 convention speech begged Republicans to get in touch with “our people” who “don’t read Adam Smith or Edmund Burke,” like the “hearty” mill worker of New Hampshire who told Buchanan, “Save our jobs.”

And it is not just populists. Even conservative wonks have been warning for years that the GOP was offering little of economic substance to their base of voters, save for the vain hope of transforming them into an ersatz investor class by privatizing Social Security, and making them manage health savings accounts. In the mid-2000s, there was the plea for a new Sam’s Club Republicanism, a harbinger of the so-called reform conservatism to come later. This was an attempt to connect with the middle American voter, really the Trump voter.

Republicans need to understand this not just to repair their coalition, but to head off Trump in the here and now. Flying banners over his rallies that say, “Trump will raise your taxes” is counterproductive. His supporters correctly perceive the burden of higher taxes will likely fall on those who already have more than they do. Similarly, all the attacks on Trump’s cronyism, or his relationships with Democrats, will fail as well. His supporters are weakly attached to the Republican Party. They won’t blame him for being the same way.

Trump’s candidacy is teaching the GOP that it has to deliver for voters who feel economic insecurity. If they don’t, the radical middle will rise not just to embarrass them, but to wound them as well.


By: Michael Brendan Dougherty; The Week, November 30, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Conservatism, GOP | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Problem Is Unfettered Access To Guns And Ammo”: In America, Dangerous People Find It Very Easy To Get Weapons

Gun sellers can expect a bountiful Christmas.

On Black Friday, the kickoff to the annual holiday shopping frenzy, more than 185,000 background checks were processed for firearms purchases — an all-time record.

This week’s shooting spree in San Bernardino, California — death toll so far: 14 — will be good for business as well. Background checks always spike after mass shootings. Given that the perpetrators appear to have been a married Muslim couple, the hysteria factor will only be magnified.

At this writing, the motives of San Bernardino murderers, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, are still being deciphered. But one aspect of their case fits a pattern: In America, dangerous people find it very easy to get weapons. They even do it legally, as is believed to be the case for two handguns and two assault-style rifles the couple used.

If you hope the San Bernardino deaths will move minds to limit access to guns by those who would cause such carnage, think again. That’s not how fear works in America. We freak out first. Wisdom comes later, if at all.

Congress certainly isn’t helping. A day after the San Bernardino attacks, GOP senators deep-sixed an amendment that would have allowed the attorney general to ban people on the federal terror watch and no-fly lists from purchasing weapons. Senators also nixed an attempt to expand background checks.

So expect that a number of Americans will rush to arm — or, rather, re-arm. According to the General Social Survey released in March, only 22 percent of Americans personally own a gun. What might account for growing arms sales is that those gun owners are increasing their arsenals. The sales volume at Walmart, the nation’s biggest gun and ammunition seller, isn’t being driven by new gun buyers.

Gun ownership statistics tend to undercut widely held preconceptions. If you listen to gun-rights chatter, you might assume that gun ownership rates were far higher. The NRA likes to create that impression. But even if you credit other surveys that find higher rates than the spring General Social Survey, one fact is inescapable: Far more Americas packed heat in the late 1970s and early 1980s than do now. At the high point, about half of Americans either owned or lived with someone who owned a gun.

That’s a sign of hope. Most Americans don’t buy the argument that they will be the “good guy with a gun” that gun advocates pitch as the antidote to mass shootings. Demographics are another factor. Minorities now make up a higher percentage of the population, and they have historically lower rates of gun ownership. And fewer people hunt.

Among gun owners, there’s reason to believe there’s a silent majority — a too silent majority — of safety-conscious people who recognize that their right to own a gun comes with great responsibility.

The voices of this crowd tend to be drowned out by those who can only scream about the Second Amendment and by those who ignore the complicated nature of enacting stronger protections.

The Republican reply to the rising toll of mass shootings has been to call attention to the failures of mental health services. Yes, they need reform; we need to address underfunding and lack of access to care. But that’s half a solution. At the very least, we must go the same distance to ensure that people who are dangerously mentally ill cannot possess a gun. There’s nothing anti-Second Amendment about that approach.

That would require comprehensive background checks, including as a prerequisite for private sales and sales at gun shows.

Certainly, we need databases for gun sales that respect and protect privacy, and that are also accurate and up to date. That’s a tall order to construct. But let’s be serious. Adam Lanza and his mother needed less privacy about his mental health and the arsenal they kept in their home.

The same can be said about the San Bernardino shooters. They had 12 pipe bombs and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition at their home, had more than 1,600 bullets with them when they were killed by police and had shot off at least 75 rounds at the Inland Regional Center.

Time will reveal the shooters’ motives, how they gathered their arsenal and how they planned their attack.

But our silence, our denial that we have a problem and our fecklessness to address it have cost 14 more lives.


By: Mary Sanchez, Opinion-page Columnist for The Kansas City Star; Featured Post, The National Memo, December 4, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Congress, Gun Control, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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