October 9, 2015

Today in history

1940 -- Future Beatle John Lennon is born

1967 -- US: First edition of Rolling Stone magazine appears.

Daily Bleed


Oddest political claim of the week

History News Network - For over three decades, Carly Fiorina’s bachelor’s degree from Stanford University in medieval history and philosophy has had little real-world application.

But as she mounts a presidential bid, the Republican candidate says her degree is finally of use as she considers how she would deal with ISIS as commander-in-chief.

“Finally my degree in medieval history and philosophy has come in handy,” Fiorina said Sunday night, “because what ISIS wants to do is drive us back to the Middle Ages, literally.”

HRC has long record of double talk on trade agreements

Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post - [Hillary Clinton has] a long record of verbally criticizing free-trade agreements, but then supporting them when in office.

For example, during the 2008 campaign, she announced that she'd "renegotiate" NAFTA to fix its defects.... Both Clinton and Obama promised to do something about NAFTA if elected. Barack Obama hasn't exactly covered himself with glory here: he certainly hasn't renegotiated NAFTA, despite the fact that he was elected. But Clinton, as his Secretary of State, has failed just as egregiously. She went in the opposite direction, helping to negotiate the NAFTA-esque Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Clinton's record on free trade agreements is, in fact, a long saga of rhetorical bobbing and weaving to handle changing political expediencies, while on actual policy she does what the free traders want. 

You could be Speaker of the House

Until now, the Progressive Review has been a rare place where you could have learned that you don't have to be en elected representative to be Speaker of the House. Now the Washington Post, in typical snotty fashion, admits it

Janell Ross, Washington Post - Whenever there is chatter about the next speaker, some helpful souls inevitably remind us all that the rules technically allow a non-member to serve. It's never actually happened, mind you, but it could. Desperate times might call for desperate measures, right? And it's fun to speculate!

To that end, we submit the following list, which culls some names mentioned Thursday and some of our own ideas and goes on to offer some genuine analysis of why they might make sense.

Please be advised that we are aware that none of the following are ever actually going to hold (or, in one case, regain) the speaker's gavel. But like those non-binding resolutions accompanied by extended floor speeches, we're going extend our moment thanks to a quirk of the House rules.

The possibilities Ross discusses:

Dick Cheney
Newt Gingrich
Colin Powell
Mitt Romney
Donald Trump
Kayne West

Cold (or Hot) War revivalist Brzezinski strikes again

, Activist Post - When the dark lord of the Anglo-American empire, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated that the United States should retaliate against Russia as a result of the latter ruining the former’s credibility in the Middle East (which the U.S. needed no help in doing), the world got a glimpse into just how far the ruling elite is willing to take the world’s population in its quest for total hegemony.

After all, Brzezinski is no mere talking head or media mouthpiece. He is the architect of al-Qaeda and controller of much of the American geopolitical strategy. When he states that retaliation must be part of U.S. strategy, there is a very real possibility that it will be.

Indeed, in order to understand much of the U.S. geopolitical strategy at work today, it might serve us well to consult the work Brzezinski in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.

The book, written in 1997, seemed to lament the fact that the public would not support such blatant imperialism unless they truly viewed the crusade to be in their own immediate self-interest. Only fours year later, the public would receive such a “sudden threat or challenge” to their “sense of domestic well-being” in the form of the 9/11 attacks.

However, the Grand Chessboard discusses so much more than the lack of desire to wage war by the general public absent a perceived external threat. The book discusses in detail the various major players in the geopolitical game and the methods they may use to achieve their goals of hegemony.

In regards to Russia, Brzezinski clearly laid out his desire to see a fractured Russia, a nation that was drastically smaller in size and much weaker in terms of its governmental structure. In other words, a Russia incapable of opposing Anglo-American hegemony.

Brzezinski wrote,
Given the enormous size and diversity of the country, a decentralized political system, based on the free market, would be more likely to unleash the creative potential of both the Russian people and the country’s vast natural resources. In turn, such a more decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.
Brzezinski makes it clear that the strategy towards Russia is one that involves the breakup of the country into three parts, loosely confederated, partially beholden to NATO-dominated Europe, and blended with the other powers of Asia.


Is this why McCarthy dropped out?

, Hufington Post - In the hours before House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) abruptly withdrew his candidacy to be the next speaker of the House, he was sent an email from a conservative activist threatening to expose an alleged affair with a colleague. The subject line: “Kevin, why not resign like Bob Livingston?”

The email, sent just after 8 a.m. on Thursday, came from Steve Baer, a Chicago-based GOP donor known for mass-emailing conservative figures and Republican lawmakers. It was addressed to McCarthy and numerous others, including the personal account of Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who conservative media sites have suggested is tied romantically to McCarthy.

McCarthy has brushed off the affair allegation. After announcing that he would not seek the speaker's post on Thursday, he was asked about Wednesday's cryptic letter from Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), which asked that "any candidate for speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public."

"No. No. Come on," said McCarthy. His decision to withdraw, he said, was to ensure that fellow GOP members didn't have a tough vote. "For us to unite, we probably need a fresh face," he said.

October 8, 2015

Another Clinton story comes back to life

Daily Beast - One name the Clintons cannot be happy to see back in the news is Ng Lap Seng. Ng being the mega-rich Chinese national who used a proxy to pour more than $1 million into the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton-Gore campaign back in 1996. Scandal was joined by embarrassment when it turned out that Ng had been favored with 10 visits to the White House, including an elevator ride with Hillary Clinton.
His proxy went to prison, but Ng escaped criminal charges. He continued the life of a billionaire real estate developer in Macau with ties to the upper levels of the Chinese government and possibly its intelligence services.
… Maybe Ng figured all that stateside fuss about the Clintons was forgotten when he made a series of brief trips to New York with suitcases of cash on a total of 10 occasions between July 12, 2013, and July 5 of this year. The amounts ranged from $200,000 to $900,000, for a total in excess of $4.5 million.Ng may also have assumed that the feds could not prove otherwise when he told them the money was variously intended for gambling, acquiring real estate, and purchasing art and antiques. The FBI set to work.
“In truth and in fact the more than $4.5 million in cash was not principally used for or intended to be used for these purposes,” the FBI concluded in the resulting criminal complaint filed last month.
Ng was arrested when he was about to board one of a $30 million fleet of private planes for a flight home. He was sporting a gold and diamond watch said to be worth $200,000. He had three cellphones and 20 credit cards.

Washington Post, 1997 - Former Little Rock, Arkansas, restaurateur Yah Lin ``Charlie'' Trie and Macau-based businessman Ng Lap Seng collaborated in a scheme to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds to the DNC. Ng wired over one million dollars from accounts he maintains in Macau and Hong Kong to accounts maintained by or accessible to Trie in Little Rock and Washington, D.C. Although Trie held himself out as an international trader (and, in fact, actively sought to develop an international trading business he called Daihatsu International Trading Corporation), he was never successful. Trie's bank records and tax returns reveal that he received little or no income from sources other than Ng Lap Seng.

Although he failed to establish a successful, income- generating international trading business, Trie, his wife and his businesses managed to contribute a total of $220,000 to the DNC between 1994 and 1996. Trie and Ng also reimbursed the contributions made by a number of other DNC contributors who were recruited by Trie in order to further disguise the ultimate source of the contributions.
An angry Sen. Fred Thompson, chairman of the Senate panel investigating campaign finance abuses, announced today that White House documents turned over to Congress say the mysterious Chinese businessman Ng Lap Seng, also known as "Mr. Wu," visited the White House 10 times between June 1994 and October 1996. - Federation of American Scientists
Worldnet Daily, 2000- Ng Lapseng, according to Asia expert Bill Triplett, is part owner of "Ang-Du International," reported to be one of several firms that acquire women for Ng to employ at his Macau brothels.

Progressive Review, 1994 - Webster Hubbell is convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud involving the theft of nearly a half million dollars from his partners at the Rose firm and failing to pay nearly $150,000 in taxes. After quitting the Justice Department and before going to jail, Hubbell is a busy man. He meets with Hillary Clinton, and follows up by getting together with major scandal figures John Huang, James Riady, and Ng Lapseng. Riady and Huang go to the White House every day from June 21 to June 25, 1994 according to White House records. Hubbell had breakfast and lunch with Riady on June 23. Four days later -- and one week after Hubbell's meeting with Hillary -- the Hong Kong Chinese Bank, jointly owed by Lippo and the Chinese intelligence services, sends $100,000 to Hubbell. Huang, incidentally, formerly worked for the Hong Kong Chinese Bank. Hubbell also receives $400,000 from other sources.
Macao businessman Ng Lap Seng, closely linked to a couple of major Chinese-owned enterprises, is regularly bringing in large sums of money to the US, according to customs records. On June 20 he arrives with $175,000 and then two days later meets with Charlie Trie and Mark Middleton at the White House. That evening Ng sits at Clinton's table at a DNC fundraiser. Middleton, incidentally, has a 24-hour pass that allowed him to visit Trie's apartment at the Watergate at any time. The apartment is paid for by Ng.

Increase in percent of films that depict killing

Race to the Bottom: Governors

  • Scott Walker
  • Paul LePage
  • Bobby Jindal
  • Sam Brownback

The GOP war on veterans

Forty one GOP senators voted against a bill to improve the provision of medical services and benefits to veterans

Republicans vote against jobs program for vets


Yes, it's hard to write but it's harder not to.- Carl Van Doren

Eight cities do away with "Columbus Day" name for holiday

US Uncut - Following a growing trend, the city council of Albuquerque, New Mexico has voted six to three to recognize October 12th – typically known to most as “Columbus Day” within the USA– as Indigenous Peoples’ day in a new proclamation. Albuquerque has the highest concentration of Indigenous people in New Mexico.
In the past two months, eight cities got rid of Columbus Day in favor of adopting Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Three of those cities adopted Indigenous Peoples’ Day this week.

Madison WI city council rejects its once progressive mayor's move against homeless

WPR, Madison, WI - The chants of protestors outside the City County Building carried upstairs into the Madison Common Council meeting Tuesday night as members voted down a controversial ordinance affecting the city's homeless.

Mayor Paul Soglin unveiled the Downtown Pedestrian Protection Ordinance in late July. It would have banned sitting on downtown sidewalks from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and using public benches to store property for more than an hour. First time violators would have received a $100 ticket. Strike two would be $250.

The council voted down the proposed ordinance 15-1.

"This ordinance targets individuals experiencing homelessness who are limited to be indoors in certain times of the day and year due to our basic shelter inadequacies," said Karen Andrew of the First United Methodist Church in Madison. "We need not punish those who have nothing by decision makers who have a home and a place to be."

Many of the voices against the ordinance at the meeting stressed the need for more shelter space and affordable housing in Madison.

A simple reform for court justice


The judge who assigns essays explains why

List of America civilian bombing targets in past decade and a half


Trump not only wants the White House, he may want your house too

Daily Beast - “I think eminent domain is wonderful,” Donald Trump told Fox News’s Bret Baier, without hesitation, during a Tuesday evening interview. The Republican frontrunner thinks eminent domain is ‘wonderful,’ and it’s no wonder—he’s tried to take plenty of people’s private property over the years.

Of course he does. He’s spent decades attempting to use the power of government to take people’s private property for his casinos, amusement parks, and parking lots.
....In the early ’90s, Trump sought the help of the state of Connecticut to condemn five private Bridgeport-area businesses so that he could build a $350 million complex that included an amusement park (with the “world’s biggest roller coaster,” of course), a shipping terminal, a seaport village, and an office complex.

Around the same time, Trump attempted to force elderly widow Vera Coking out of her Atlantic City rooming house to make way for a Trump Plaza Hotel parking lot and limo waiting area. She refused to sell, even when the magnate offered her $1 million, and Trump spent several years working with local government to pry away the property. In 1998, he lost when a court threw out the case. Sixteen years later, the hotel permanently closed its doors.


October 7, 2015

Gender wage gap persists

Feminist  - Data compiled by the US Census Bureau  once again demonstrates a gender wage gap, showing that American women who work full-time, year-round jobs on average earn 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. This loss in wages amounts to an average of $10,762 annually for white women, and is significantly greater for women of color.

Word: Social Security

TPP: The most disloyal government action of modern times

Eco Watch - One of the more controversial aspects of the deal is the Investor State Dispute Settlement provision, which permits multinational companies to sue governments over allegations that profits were lost due to local regulations.
“Two fifths of the global economy will be covered by corporate courts, meaning a huge rise in governments being sued for protecting the public interest from corporate greed,” [Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now] explained. Then highlighting some of the other alarming provisions of the deal, he continued: “Medicine prices will rise as Big Pharma gets more power to monopolize markets. Small farmers will suffer from unfair competition with industrial scale agribusiness. No wonder this has been agreed in secret.”

Washington Post - ISDS is a legal system that has been included in investment treaties and trade agreements over several decades, including under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under these rules, foreign investors can legally challenge host state regulations outside that country’s courts. A wide range of policies can be challenged: Argentina has had its macroeconomic policies challenged, Australia its anti-smoking efforts, Costa Rica its environmental preservation laws. While the United States has never lost a case, U.S. corporations have won many of their complaints against foreign governments.

The system is unusual in international law. Most international courts only allow disputes between states. ISDS, in contrast, creates one-way rights: Corporations can sue governments, but not vice versa.

It’s also ad hoc: The legal challenges are decided by arbitrators hired for that case only. The typical set-up is that the foreign investor appoints an arbitrator, the host state appoints a second, and the two parties or arbitrators appoint a third to chair the case. After their decision, they are paid by the parties, and the tribunal is dissolved.

Finally, it’s also unusually powerful for international law. Arbitrators can order governments to pay cash to the investor, who can then enforce arbitrators’ decisions with the full force of domestic courts. As the U.S. Supreme Court determined last year, domestic courts must defer to their decisions and not review their merits.

Huffington Post:  Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune: "The Trans-Pacific Partnership would empower big polluters to challenge climate and environmental safeguards in private trade courts and would expand trade in dangerous fossil fuels that would increase fracking and imperil our climate. The TPP's environment chapter might look nice on the surface but will be hollow on the inside, and history gives us no reason to believe that TPP rules on conservation challenges such as the illegal timber or wildlife trade will ever be enforced."

350.org executive director May Boeve: "TPP makes climate change worse. By handing even more power to Big Oil, letting massive corporations throw tantrum lawsuits at governments who dare to scale back emissions, and spreading fracking further around the world, there's no question that TPP is an absolute disaster for our climate."

Washington's Blog -In the year before NAFTA was approved, the United States actually had a trade surplus with Mexico and our trade deficit with Canada was only 29.6 billion dollars. But now things are very different.  In one recent year, the U.S. had a combined trade deficit with Mexico and Canada of 177 billion dollars.

And these trade deficits are not just numbers.  They represent real jobs that are being lost.  It has been estimated that the U.S. economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every 1 billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas, and one professor has estimated that cutting our trade deficit in half would create 5 million more jobs in the United States.

Market Watch - The TPP would manage trade in pharmaceuticals through a variety of seemingly arcane rule changes on issues such as “patent linkage,” “data exclusivity,” and “biologics.” The upshot is that pharmaceutical companies would effectively be allowed to extend — sometimes almost indefinitely — their monopolies on patented medicines, keep cheaper generics off the market, and block “biosimilar” competitors from introducing new medicines for years. That is how the TPP will manage trade for the pharmaceutical industry if the U.S. gets its way. 


Saudis threaten death penalty for saying the wrong thing on Twitter

Common Dreams - The Saudi Arabian Government has warned that people could face execution for tweeting “rumours,” according to the state-backed Makkah Newspaper.

In an article published online on October 3rd, the paper said that a “judicial source” at the country’s Ministry of Justice had “confirmed to Makkah Online that the death penalty is the harshest of the penalties that can be enacted upon those who spread rumours which create civil discord, via social media platforms like Twitter.”

The report, translated by human rights charity Reprieve, appears to be the first time that the Saudi authorities have specifically threatened to use the death penalty for ‘offences’ committed on social media such as Twitter.

Now even art has haters on the prowl

Artnet - A group of haters of Pierre-Auguste Renoir gatheredoutside the gates of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to declare publicly their utter contempt for the work of the renowned Impressionist master. According to the Boston Globe, the group of protesters, which included a Harvard academic, sported signs that read "God Hates Renoir" and "Re-NO-ir," and chanted derisive slogans, such as "Put some fingers on those hands!," "Give us work by Paul Gauguin!," and "Other art is worth your while! Renoir paints a steaming pile!"

Flint has drinking water crisis

Eco Watch - After a public health emergency was declared due to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, the state is now distributing free water filters and bottled water to the city’s residents, according to Reuters. Recent tests from a local children’s hospital showed that children had elevated levels of lead in their blood a year after the city began using water from a local river instead of buying Lake Huron water through Detroit in order cut costs.

The tests “found the number of Flint kids under the age of 5 years old with above average lead levels nearly doubled city-wide and in some cases, tripled,” reported FOX 2’s Randy Wimbley.

It appears that the toxic metal had been entering drinking water through corroded pipes and plumbing materials, according to Flintwaterinfo.com.

Feds releasing 6,000 minor drug offenders

Washington Post - The Justice Department is set to release about 6,000 inmates early from prison — the largest one-time release of federal prisoners — in an effort to reduce overcrowding and provide relief to drug offenders who received harsh sentences over the past three decades, according to U.S. officials ... The early release follows action by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — an independent agency that sets sentencing policies for federal crimes — that reduced the potential punishment for future drug offenders last year and then made that change retroactive.

How humanities majors really do afterwards

From a recent study reported by Inside Higher Ed 
  • In 2013, the median annual salary for humanities majors in the workforce was about $50,000 for those who held only a bachelor’s degree, and $71,000 for those who went on to earn an advanced degree in any field.
  • The median salary levels for humanities majors (with and without graduate degrees) was about $7,000 lower than those with similar degree attainment, but well above the $42,000 average for all American workers.
  • The salary differential between humanities majors and others of similar degree attainment narrows with age (and presumably workplace experience). When the median salaries of younger workers (ages 24 to 34) are compared to those with those who are older (ages 35 to 54), the gap in median salaries between the humanities and graduates from all fields narrowed by about two percentage points for those who hold only a bachelor’s degree (declining from 11.1 percent to 9.1 percent). For those who earned advanced degrees, the gap fell from 12.3 percent to 10.5 percent).
  • Humanities majors are more likely to be unemployed than are others with similar degree attainment, but the differences are slight. For those with only bachelor’s degree, humanities majors’ unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, versus 4.6 percent for others. For those with advanced degrees, the figures are 3.1 percent vs. 3.4 percent.
  • Some of the gap in salaries for terminal bachelor’s degrees in humanities vs. other fields is due to humanities majors entering professions that are more important to society than they are lucrative. Humanities majors are second only to education majors in having careers in teaching, for example.

NIMBY update

Five South Carolina Republican congress members and Senator Lindsey Graham voted against disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy

Maine high school declares war on dancing

Press Herald - In a move that has disappointed students, Gorham High School has done away with school dances other than the prom because of concerns over sexually suggestive dancing... A year ago, Gorham High students walked out of the homecoming dance because a controversial dance style called grinding was prohibited. Dances were canceled for the rest of the year and none was scheduled for this year, aside from the prom, where students tend to be better behaved because it’s a more formal event, said Principal Chris Record.

October 6, 2015

Morning Line: Biden does best

Based on our moving average of polls, Joe Biden is the only Democratic candidate who would clearly defeat most leading Republicans, although he is only two points ahead of Ben Carson. Hillary Clinton is in a statistical tie with all the leading Republicans and Sanders is likewise except against Carson who would beat him by 8 points.

What is somewhat astounding is that in the most recent Public Policy Poll in which Clinton and Sanders do not do so well, respondents said they had voted for Obama over Romney by seven points. And while only 18% identify themselves as members of the Tea Party, 45% describe themselves as evangelical Christians. 

In the GOP primary Trump is at 23, leading Carson by 4 points. Rubio is in third place with 13, followed by Fiorona and Bush with 8 and Cruz with 7. Clinton has 22 point lead over Sanders. Biden is 23 points behind.

Among Republicans, Trump leads in 14 states, Carson, Huckabee and Bush in 2 states. Among Democrats Clinton leads in 17 states, Sanders in 2.

A look at the polling in two states the Dems won in 2012, Ohio and Pennsylvania, several trends are noticable:
  • Clinton is quite weak
  • Biden is the strongest 
  • Carson is strong, suggesting the importance of the evangelical vote.

Gun notes

There is no worse time to make gun control a major issue than during a presidential campaign.  One third of American households own guns. The liberal attack on guns alienates a huge portion of voters. How does this change things? Well, an anti-bear baiting referendum pushed by Maine liberals last year was a major cause of the reelection of the state's right-wing governor, Paul LePage. It brought out  angry but normally politically passive hunters. A study of that vote found, "Every four votes against Question 1 predicted an increase of 1 vote in support of Gov. LePage,” Good politics involves finding things that will turn people your way, not making them angry.

There were 389 people killed in mass shootings in 2014. That same year, police killed 1107 people.

Although many anti-gun activists deny they're going after the constitutional right to own a gun, there is a movement that lends support to gun owners' fears. For example, Vox stated recently. "Realistically, a gun control plan that has any hope of getting us down to European levels of violence is going to mean taking a huge number of guns away from a huge number of gun owners. Other countries have done exactly that. Australia enacted a mandatory gun buyback that achieved that goal." The Washington Post made a similar argument.

The states with the ten lowest gun murder rates had in 2010 41% gun ownership. The states with the ten highest gun murder rates had a 34% gun ownership.

Non-suicide gun deaths have declined on a per capita basis since the 1990s even as gun ownership has increased.


Over half of gun shot victims have been convicted of a crime.

Hyper regulation or prohibition hasn't worked for drugs or alcohol and probably won't for guns either.

One sign of this: Foillowing  Hillary Clinton's demand for new gun control laws, the stock of one major gun manufacturer went up 7%. As one investment adviser put it, "The best thing for firearms demand is to have the constant threat of legislation without ever actually having the legislation.”

Our gun culture is part of a growing American culture of violence. Some other examples:
  • Violent video games
  • Violent television shows and films
  • The dominance of military experts on news shows and near complete absence of peace experts.
  • Over a decade of failed policies in the Mid East that have depended on violence rather than alternative factors.
  •  A president who decries the Oregon school mass shooting and two days later has a military that kills more innocent civilians as it attacks an Afghan hospital.
  • America's favorite sport having shifted from baseball to football.
  • Over half of a  federal budget that goes to the support of violence through military spending. 
Because liberals have been unwilling to work out reform with rational gun owners and hunters, big opportunities have been missed. For example, Huffington Post reports that "According to Pew Research, 85 percent of people with guns in their home support universal background checks. Another more recent poll puts that number at 92 percent. A third poll found that 74 percent of NRA members supported mandatory background checks." But because liberals imply that gun ownership itself is evil they miss out on making some reforms.

And speaking of liberals. . .