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“Staying In Harmony”: Christie Endorses Trump, And They Sing A Duet Of Contempt For Rubio

Just when it looked like it was Donald Trump against the Republican world — a world for which Marco Rubio was to be the savior — along comes an endorsement that cannot be ignored: Chris Christie, an Establishment candidate before he became the odd man out in New Hampshire, has embraced the Donald. If, like me, you didn’t see that coming, you have to admit it makes sense from a stylistic and geographic perspective. Boisterous is probably the euphemism for the rhetorical qualities the two share, along with a Greater New York orientation. And it is probably a relief for Christie, after he’s spent years sucking up to conservative activists, to join a campaign where it’s okay to admit the public sector has duties other than fighting wars and enforcing contracts. Christie will have to deal with hearing his own words mocking Trump’s Muslim-immigration-ban idea quoted back to him; he will need, and is no doubt formulating, a quick response or just a brush-away reference to coalition politics.

But it’s clear Christie and his new candidate of choice won’t have any trouble staying in harmony on the subject of the day: Marco Rubio as a stone loser, per the New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman:

At Friday’s news conference announcing the endorsement, which was peppered with demeaning insults of Mr. Rubio by the two men, Mr. Christie repeatedly attacked Mr. Rubio, calling his behavior at the debate “desperate” and reflective of a “losing campaign … ”

Mr. Trump heaped praise on Mr. Christie for tenderizing Mr. Rubio during the final debate in New Hampshire, where the Florida senator wilted under blistering criticism from the governor.

“I thought he was gonna die — good going, Chris,” Mr. Trump said.

Nothing like some Marco-bashing to bond two guys together, eh? But Haberman thinks Christie’s move will have more practical benefits than just messing with Rubio’s head:

Mr. Christie’s endorsement augments Mr. Trump’s appeal for working-class voters. But more significantly, Mr. Christie could become a catalyst for other leading Republicans to back him after they have held back from supporting the developer despite his recent string of victories.

We’ll see. I’d say Chris Christie’s endorsement plus 11 or 12 wins on March 1 would be a good one-two combo for Trump. And then, yes, Christie’s example could make it easier for other moderate or “somewhat conservative” pols to gamble their respectability on a front-row seat at that most improbable of events: the nomination of Donald J. Trump.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 26, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Chris Christie, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Death By Privatization In US Prisons”: Maximizing Profits Means Minimizing Medical Staffing And Care

More than 20,000 immigrant prisoners are serving their sentences at 11 privatized, immigrant-only contract prisons run by three companies: the Geo Group, the Corrections Corp. of America and the Management and Training Corp. Many of these prisoners are convicted only of illegal entry.

Private prisons cost less than federal prisons because they provide less. Immigrant prisoners — who are deported after serving time — don’t receive rehabilitation, education or job training, services considered essential for U.S. citizens held in government-operated prisons.

Even worse, these prisons fail to provide minimally adequate health care to inmates, leading to death for some and misery for many. Basic human rights standards require prisons to provide adequate medical care to inmates, regardless of their legal status.

Reports show a pervasive pattern of inadequate medical care at privately run immigrant prisons in the United States. A Jan. 28 report by Seth Freed Wessler, a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, analyzed medical records of 103 immigrant prisoners who died in private prisons from 1998 to 2014. It concluded that in at least 25 of those cases, subpar care “likely contributed to the premature deaths of the prisoners.”

Mexican immigrant Claudio Fagardo-Saucedo was one of the prisoners whose death was investigated by Wessler. Fagardo-Saucedo arrived at a private prison in Texas on Jan. 27, 2009, with a positive tuberculosis screen. Medical protocols call for an HIV test for anyone with a positive TB screen. But he wasn’t tested for HIV. Over the next two years, he went to the prison clinic numerous times in pain, but a doctor never saw him. Instead, the clinic’s licensed vocational nurses, who receive only one year of training, prescribed ibuprofen or Tylenol. Fagardo-Saucedo was hospitalized on New Year’s Day 2011 after he collapsed. He died four days later, shackled to his hospital bed. An autopsy showed an HIV-related infection in his brain.

Martin Acosta, a Salvadoran immigrant who served time at the Texas prison for illegal re-entry at the same time as Fagardo-Saucedo, “began complaining of abdominal pain late in the summer of 2010,” according to Wessler’s report. He went to the prison clinic more than 20 times in less than five months. Despite his complaints of vomiting blood and having blood in his stool, no lab tests were performed. In December 2010 he landed in a hospital, where he was diagnosed with severe metastatic stomach cancer. He died in January 2011.

Nestor Garay had a stroke during the night at another Texas immigrant prison. His cellmates called for help. Prison personnel refused to take him to the emergency room, instead isolating him in another cell. By morning, when he was finally taken to the hospital, it was too late for the clot-busting medication that could have saved his life.

Medical care is dismal across the U.S. prison system. Even in publicly run prisons, health care is frequently privatized, penny pinching and inhumane. The Brennan Center for Justice has characterized prisoner medical care as “atrocious.”

But the lack of medical care at these immigrant-only private prisons receives less scrutiny than any public or other private prisons. Families of immigrant inmates often live outside the United States. This limits their ability to fully advocate for imprisoned family members. They have little access to visit or maintain phone contact with prisoners. They don’t have access to U.S. courts for medical malpractice or wrongful death lawsuits. They cannot vote and are not represented in Congress.

The way forward

All prisoners deserve humane treatment and adequate medical care while incarcerated. It is immoral to intentionally discriminate against noncitizen prisoners and segregate them in private prisons with fewer services and woefully inadequate care. A prison sentence should never be a sentence to a miserable, unattended death. Privatization of medical care is deadly and must be stopped not only in immigrant-only prisons but also in all prisons — state and federal — across the country.

When government takes away people’s liberty and exerts total control over their lives, it needs to be held accountable for what happens to those in its custody. Prisoners are vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment by authorities. Some degree of accountability still exists in publicly run prisons. Voters can demand answers from elected officials and can vote them out of office. Accountability is diluted to the vanishing point when the government delegates the running of prisons to for-profit companies.

The first step toward adequate medical care for immigrant inmates is to end the segregation that isolates them in private prisons. The two Democratic presidential candidates — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — have pledged to end privatization of federal prisons.

A second and crucial step is to end the privatization of prison health care and ensure equitable access to medical care for all prisoners. Privatized prison health care is a multibillion-dollar industry, with more than half the states contracting out part of or all prison medical care. But for-profit companies have failed time after time to provide adequate medical care to inmates. And prisoners, particularly noncitizens, have little recourse and no other options for treatment.

Unsurprisingly, private prison companies and the prison health care industry have well-paid lobbyists in Washington and in state capitals. Since prisoners can’t vote or lobby elected officials, voters must speak out for them. In the 2016 presidential election season, we must raise public awareness about the deadly consequences of privatizing prisons and continue to pressure candidates to honor their campaign pledges to end prison privatization.

 

By: Mary Turck, AlJazeera America, February 24, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Immigrants, Mass Incarceration, Privatized Prison System | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cruz Sugar Daddy Funds A Fake Black GOP Group”: “Black Americans For A Better Future”, Has Just One Member

One of the GOP’s leading billionaire donors is also funding 96 percent of a super PAC named “Black Americans for a Better Future.”

Funny thing is, that donor, eccentric billionaire Robert Mercer, is white.

Two eagle-eyed watchdogs, Derek Willis of ProPublica and Dave Levinthal of Public Integrity, spotted the funding in a recent set of FEC filings, and The Intercept first reported the news. As the filings showed, Mercer has provided $400,000 of the group’s $417,250 donations so far.

Is it odd that an organization that says it’s made up of “Black Americans” is in fact bankrolled by a white billionaire? Sure, but that’s just the beginning.

The organization, “Black Americans for a Better Future,” essentially a one-person shop run by longtime GOP political operative Raynard Jackson.

Jackson is an unusual character. This is clear even on the surface: his slapdash website looks like a bad parody of 1998, and is littered with typos and grammatical mistakes. (“Is homosexual entitlements the new civil rights?” “I am also available for speaking engagements also.”)

But the weirdness goes deeper than that.

So far, the only expenditures for “Black Americans for a Better Future” are Jackson’s own salary of $155,000, travel costs (including, as The Intercept reporting, $5,000 at Morton’s Steakhouse in New York), and the $13,000 cost of its only activity thus far, a November 17 luncheon at the National Press Club.

Jackson himself is a profilic blogger who often takes fellow African Americans to task. His favorite target, unsurprisingly, is President Obama, of whom Jackson says, “He is light skinned, has no connection with the Black community, Ivy League educated, and seems very uncomfortable around Blacks who are not part of the bourgeoisie.”

Jackson is also not fond of Spike Lee, describing Lee’s newest film, Chi-Raq, as a “profanity laced, liberally biased, finger pointing diatribe that blames Republicans and Whites for all the murders taking place in Chicago.”

It’s an odd critique, given that Chi-Raq, a retelling of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, is about black women demanding that black men stop killing each other (and withholding sex until they do), clearly placing responsibility, for the most part, on black men.

Maybe that’s because Jackson’s “review” is actually a pitch for one of his pet projects.

“It is extremely imperative that Republicans have an active surrogates program,” Jackson writes. “Black Republicans are constantly ridiculed in movies, TV sit-coms, and in pop culture. I have constantly expressed to party leaders the necessity of having a vibrant surrogates program where Black Republicans are seen on TV, heard on the radio, and interviewed in newspapers.”

Who does Jackson like? “Black men need more white women like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham,” Jackson wrote in a 2014 post. Even though they are conservative media personalities, they have done more to promote the well-being of black males than many of the very women who stridently complain about the lack of ‘eligible’ black men.”

Wait, what?

Jackson explains that Coulter’s anti-immigration stance helps black people, quoting her statement that “We owe black people something… We have a legacy of slavery. Immigrants haven’t even been in this country.” As for Ingraham, Jackson quotes her statement that Democrats “turn their heads away from the millions upon millions of black babies slaughtered in the womb over 10 years.… Is that racist?”

Jackson concludes, “We black men need more white women like Coulter and Ingraham, not back [sic] women who will give a pass to a failing black president.”

Of course, it’s not just black women; President Obama received 96 percent of the African American vote in 2012. But Jackson says they are deluded by Black leaders who refuse to criticize the president else they “jeopardize their invitations to the White House’s Christmas party.”

So, Jackson continued, “it’s ok to do specific things for the Black bourgeoisie—private invitations to the White House, rides on Air Force One, private movie screenings at the White House, but [Obama] can’t do things specifically to address the high unemployment rate in the Black community?”

(The black unemployment rate when Obama took office was 12.7 percent; as of June, 2015, it was 9.5 percent. Obama also started the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative in 2014 to focus on improving the lives of young African American men.)

In fact, the predominant theme in Jackson’s many online screeds seems to be his own resentment at being excluded from such elite circles. In a 2015 blog post, he complained that GOP chairman Rience Priebus stole his idea of giving out a “Black Republican Trailblazer Award” each February.

Most curiously, he complained in 2012 that “My Republican Party Has Abandoned Me” and rebuffed his efforts to attract more black voters. And yet, he wrote in 2012, “twice this year some of these same people have approached me about funding for some election year tricks that they (White Republicans) have conjured up and simply need a Black face to execute the plan. On these two separate occasions, these funders were willing to spend upwards of $20 million to have me organize a national campaign to identify Blacks who would be critical of President Obama.”

But wait, isn’t that exactly what Robert Mercer is paying him $400,000 to do in 2016?

The funding is not out of character for Mercer, part of a small cadre of .01-percenters who have bankrolled Cruz, upended the Republican Party, and mainstreamed formerly fringe ideas like abolishing the EPA and returning America to the gold standard. Last year, cluster of pro-Cruz super PACs called “Keep the Promise” raised over $38 million, chiefly from four extremely wealthy individuals: $11 million from Mercer, $15 million came from Farris and Dan Wilks, two brothers who made their fortune in the fracking industry, and $10 million from Toby Neugebauer, founder of the private equity firm Quantum Energy Partners.

Even that is just a small piece of the pie. Since 2012, Mercer has given $15 million in support of a wide range of ultra-conservative causes, candidates, and think tanks, including the tobacco-denier-turned-climate-change-denier Heartland institute ($4 million). That’s in addition to $10 million he invested in the far-right news site Breitbart.com back in 2011.

Moreover, as my colleague Mike Daly described last week, and Bloomberg Politics’ Zachary Mider reported in an excellent long-form profile, Mercer is an odd duck. A former computer programmer, Mercer is co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a fabulously successful hedge fund based on sophisticated computer modeling and algorithms. One of its funds earned an astonishing 39 percent average annual return from 1989 to 2006. (Mercer joined the firm in 1993 and became co-CEO in 2009.)

Renaissance has also been investigated by Congress and the IRS for using accounting tricks to dodge $6.8 billion in taxes. The IRS investigation is still underway. (Cruz, of course, has promised to abolish the IRS.)

In his spare time, Mercer has funded quack scientists and fringe political candidates (or both: one Mercer-funded candidate is also stockpiling a huge collection of human urine), played at the world series of poker, and installed a model train set in his mansion at a price tag of $2.7 million.

Now, it’s too much of a stretch to impute Jackson’s quixotic ideas, via Mercer, to Ted Cruz himself. True, both Cruz and Jackson are beneficiaries of the same idiosyncratic billionaire donor. True, they share a certain dislike of the currently sitting president. But Cruz is no more responsible for BAFBF than he is for Mercer’s $2 million dollar train set.

And Jackson gets around: his website features pictures of him with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, Thomas “Hitman” Hearns, and even segregationist fanboy Senator Trent Lott.

But this is the world in which Cruz travels. The same donor who has underwritten nearly one-third of his “independent” super PAC is also funding a wingnut shill to be the black face of faceless white billionaires.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, February 26, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Black Americans for a Better Future, GOP Campaign Donors, Robert Mercer | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What And Why We Celebrate Today”: In Washington, D.C., Reminders Of America’s Dark History Of Segregation

We are in the waning hours of African American History month — the time set aside each year to reflect on black struggles and sacrifices to achieve America’s promise.

My recognition of African American contributions began in the 1940s with annual celebrations of Negro History Week at Stevens Elementary School in my West End/Foggy Bottom community. Our nation’s capital is also where I experienced first-hand America’s shame.

Liberty Baptist Sunday school taught me the Ten Commandments. Civil authority in the city taught me the others.

Among them: Thou shalt not attend Grant Elementary School on G Street NW, which was for white children only. Thou shalt not attempt to enter the Circle Theater at 21st and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, where only whites were allowed. Thou shalt never think about dining downtown.

Thou can purchase sodas and sandwiches at the drugstore at the corner of 25th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. But thou shalt not sit and eat. Thou must stand at the end of the counter and wait patiently to be recognized.

Ah, Washington of my youth — a place and time when skin color determined where you lived, attended school, worshiped and worked, and how much you got paid.

I learned that lesson as a teenager looking for part-time work. Pick up the Jan. 3, 1960, edition of The Post and what do you see?:

“BOYS-WHITE Age 14 to 18. To assist Route manager full or part-time. Must be neat in appearance. Apply 1346 Conn. Ave. NW.”

“DRIVERS (TRUCK) Colored, for trash routes, over 25 years of age; paid vacation, year-around work; must have excellent driving record. Apply . . . 1601 W St., N.E.”

“STUDENTS Boys, white, 14 yrs. and over, jobs immediately available. Apply . . . 724 9th St., N.W.”

Simply stated: If you’re black, git back.

In our anger and humiliation we turned to Negro History Week to celebrate black achievers such as Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Charles R. Drew, Matthew Henson, Ralph Bunche and Joe Louis.

Even as we annually paid homage to our black champions and their victories, we remained in the vise grip of segregation.

From a 1948 “Segregation in Washington” report: “Only 30 percent of the residents of the District of Columbia are Negroes,” the report said. “But Negroes have 70 per cent of the slum residents.”

It was no accident, said Wendell E. Pritchett of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who explained in a 2005 paper how the system functioned.

“This system of segregation was imposed by powerful interests, particularly those in the real estate sector,” he wrote. “The 1948 Washington Real Estate Board Code of Ethics stated that ‘no property in a white section should ever be sold, rented, advertised or offered to colored people.’ ”

“Segregation was maintained by residents’ associations, which had organized into the powerful Federation of Citizens’ Associations that policed the city’s racial borders,” Pritchett noted, adding: “The result was that blacks were forced to pay higher rents in the limited areas to which they had access, and in these areas housing was significantly inferior.”

Pritchett continued: “The damage caused by segregation was exacerbated, the [1948] report concluded, by the on-going urban renewal program that was clearing many formerly poor black areas for middle-class housing restricted to whites. Of the 30,000 new units built during the 1940s, just 200 were available to blacks.”

Today’s millennials are not pioneers. Gentrification of the District got underway decades ago.

Why do some of us celebrate African American History Month with moist eyes?

Return in time to the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 3rd Street NW in the 1830s. See that brick federal building with its hipped roof, dormer windows and stone keystones? It’s called the St. Charles Hotel.

It has a special feature.

In the basement are six 30-foot-long arched cells, with heavy iron doors and iron rings embedded on the walls. It’s a slave pen.

Look down at the sidewalk. See the recessed grills to provide light and ventilation for the confined slaves.

St. Charles is where the Southern planters stayed when they came to Washington to sell their slave property.

A few blocks away, at the southwestern corner of 4th and G streets NW, stands the Washington jail. That’s where runaway slaves were confined. Until emancipation, all slaves were required to obey the curfew law. Getting found on the streets of Washington after sundown without written permission from the master was a one-way ticket to jail. The owner had to be notified to appear before the warden to identify their slaves and pay a fine to reclaim them.

From being chained in the basement to abolition, marches, legal assaults against injustice, the White House, the mayor’s suite, the halls of Congress, the faculty lounge, the judge’s chambers, the corporate boardroom, the pulpit, the Officers Club and the editor’s desk.

That’s what and why we celebrate today.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, February 26, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Black History Month, Segregation, Slavery, Ten Commandments | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Quite Unpopular At Home”: Rubio’s Must-Win State Is His Own — And He’s Losing There

As political observers absorb Thursday night’s tenth Republican-candidate debate and argue over Trump’s untouchability or Marco Rubio’s new fight-club mentality, Nate Cohn of the New York Times takes on the more prosaic chore of examining how, exactly, Rubio might survive a losing streak and still win the GOP nomination.

The good news he offers Rubio and his growing circle of party and conservative-Establishment fans is that he doesn’t have to win a single state on March 1.

[I]t wouldn’t be optimal for Mr. Rubio to lose all 12 contests on March 1, Super Tuesday. His chances of amassing an outright majority of delegates, and becoming the presumptive nominee before the convention, would be quite low. But he would still have a real chance to take a clear delegate lead over Donald Trump, and win the nomination.

Rubio’s key to survival thereafter is to take advantage of proportional award systems by exceeding the 20 percent threshold necessary to win delegates in every (or nearly every) state. If he does that, a more ambitious goal may come into sight: edging out Ted Cruz for second place in enough states — especially in the South — to all but knock him out of the race and set up the long-awaited head-to-head competition with Trump.

On the other hand, says Cohn, excuses for Rubio not actually winning primaries come to an abrupt end on March 15:

Ohio and Florida will award their delegates on a winner-take-all basis. Missouri will award its delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district, and Illinois isn’t much different. North Carolina, on the other hand, awards its delegates proportionally. It figures less prominently in the delegate math and as a result the candidates are unlikely to spend money there on television advertisements or campaign stops.

If Mr. Trump swept the day in the same way he is expected to sweep Super Tuesday, he would net nearly three times as many delegates as he would on Super Tuesday, defeating Mr. Rubio, 282 delegates to 40. For Mr. Rubio, winning Florida would make Mr. Trump’s advantage a more manageable 183 to 139, but his hole would start looking pretty deep.

With that sort of a deficit, Mr. Rubio’s chances of winning a majority of delegates would all but evaporate.

So Rubio really needs to win in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois on March 15 to stay in the game with Trump (assuming Trump doesn’t stumble on March 1). And it goes without saying he must, must, must win his home state of Florida. Getting skunked there would decimate his delegate math, even if his Establishment friends somehow found a way to madly spin a home-court loss into something other than a disaster.

Signs are growing, however, that winning Florida won’t be easy for the state’s own junior senator. For months Rubio languished in third or even fourth place in Florida public-opinion surveys. Only with Jeb Bush’s withdrawal from the race — giving Rubio a boost in both elected official endorsements and favorite-son status points — has he begun to rise; a post-Jeb Quinnipiac poll has him within 16 points of the longtime leader in the state, Donald Trump. What should be more troubling to Team Rubio, however, is that Trump is now rivaling him on his home turf in all the indices of basic popularity.

This is made most evident by the very latest Florida survey, from Public Policy Polling:

[Rubio’s] approval rating as Senator has cratered to a 31/55 spread, compared to a much more evenly divided 41/44 when we last polled the state in September. Only 40% of voters in the state think he should continue with his campaign, compared to a 44% plurality who think it’s time for him to drop out. And he narrowly trails both Hillary Clinton (45/43) and Bernie Sanders (44/42) in head to head general election match ups. Rubio’s become quite unpopular at home over the course of his campaign.

Winning has made Trump more popular. 64% of Republicans in Florida now have a favorable opinion of him to only 27% with a negative one. That actually puts him ahead of Rubio’s 60/28 standing.

Let that sink in for a minute. From the very beginning of the 2016 cycle, Marco Rubio’s ace in the hole has been high and positive favorability ratios all over the country. Nobody much disliked him, and that made him the likely beneficiary of the winnowing of the field. Now Donald Trump’s more popular than he is with Florida Republicans, at least according to this one survey. And PPP has more bad news for those who assume the fading of other candidates on and after March 1 will put Rubio over the top:

The most remarkable thing in this poll though is what happens when you narrow the field down to just Trump and Rubio- Trump still leads by double digits at 52/38. Rubio does win over supporters of Cruz (56/25), Kasich (47/32), and Carson (64/21) in such a scenario. But Trump has such a big lead to begin with and picks up enough of the supporters of the also rans that it gives him the overall 14 point advantage.

Is the PPP survey an outlier? Maybe, though the Quinnipiac poll that offered Rubio relatively good news also found that Trump’s “negative score” — the percentage of Republicans who say they could not support him — is now lower in Florida than Cruz’s and not much higher than Rubio’s. That may be the overriding reason Rubio suddenly went after Trump with a claw hammer in last night’s debate. A scenario where the mogul is as popular as Rubio in Florida is simply catastrophic, to the point that Rubio is willing to risk his own warm-and-fuzzies to undermine acceptance of Trump.

And Rubio can’t entirely count on another strong finish among late-deciders to win Florida for him: Early voting is a very big deal there, with some local election officials estimating a majority of primary votes will be cast by mail or in person before March 15. The option of lying in the weeds and waiting for Trump to self-destruct or for someone else to take him out has vanished for Marco Rubio. He’s potentially two and a half weeks away from watching his candidacy expire where it started.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 26, 2016

February 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Florida, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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