Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Obama's Campaign Guru Calls Bernie Sanders' Campaign A Phenomenon

David Axelrod tweets that Bernie Sanders' appearance at his University of Chicago Institute of Politics alma mater is a phenomenon.
Got a first-hand look at the @BernieSanders phenomenon today @UChiPolitics. 2,000 in hall. 500 in overflow. And 2500 couldn't get in. —  David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 28, 2015
David Axelrod was the Chief Strategist for Barack Obama's presidential campaigns, which created the same kind of phenomenon as Bernie's campaign.

Bernie Sander speaks at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics - YouTube

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Blackmail Caucus, a.k.a. The GOP

Robert Reich, NYTimes OpEd:  John Boehner was a terrible, very bad, no good speaker of the House. Under his leadership, Republicans pursued an unprecedented strategy of scorched-earth obstructionism, which did immense damage to the economy and undermined America’s credibility around the world. Still, things could have been worse. And under his successor they almost surely will be worse. Bad as Mr. Boehner was, he was just a symptom of the underlying malady, the madness that has consumed his party.

Read the full OpEd at NYTimes.com

Sunday, September 27, 2015

After Hearing Pope, Speaker Boehner Says GOP Is Party Of False Prophets

House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a Tea Party drive to oust the nation’s highest-ranking Republican.House Tea Party Republicans unhappy over Boehner's refusal to shut down government over yet another budget-based Tea Party minority power play to force their will on the majority.

House Tea Party Republicans were organizing a formal challenge maneuver against the speaker not used for over 100 years. Boehner's resignation means the long brewing battle for the soul of the party is over: the Republican Party now is the Tea Party.

In his first one-on-one interview since his resignation announcement, Speaker Boehner appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, blasted Tea Party Republicans as “false prophets” who “whip people into a frenzy” to make legislative demands that “are never going to happen.”
Asked if his critics on the right are unrealistic, Boehner exclaimed, “Absolutely they’re unrealistic!”

“The Bible says, beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading, you know, noise about how much can get done,” Boehner said. “We got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things they know — they know! — are never going to happen,” he added.

“Our founders [who wrote our constitution defining our system of government] didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted,” he added. “They wanted this long, slow process. And so change comes slowly. And obviously too slowly for some.”
John Boehner, a devout Catholic, abruptly and unexpectedly stepped down as Speaker of the House one day after he listened to Pope Francis' address to Congress. Boehner broke down in tears as he heard Pope Francis speak of the duty of conscience for those in positions of power and authority to serve the common man and woman.  With Boehner alluding members of his Republican caucus are "false prophets" on CBS’ Face the Nation, one wonders if he had a revelation or crisis of conscience that he could no long serve an immoral political party, upon hearing Pope Francis' words.

The House of Representatives is supposed to be the most direct reflection of the people, all the people, and the driving force of policy change. It’s where the work of the common man and woman is supposed to get done. Looking back at Boehner’s tenure as speaker, we can only conclude that either that mission is no longer possible or he was not the man for the job — and perhaps both. Somewhere inside John Boehner’s conscience there must persist some awareness that the United States Congress is supposed to serve a higher purpose. By all accounts Boehner is a decent guy. Perhaps listening to the Pope, Boehner had a revelation he could no long serve the morally bankrupt Republican ideology.

The Ohio Republican also declared on CBS’ Face the Nation that there won’t be a government shutdown this week, though he’s “sure” it will take Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension. “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there,” he quipped.

Boehner’s difficulties with tea party conservatives — first elected in a huge 83-person freshman class in 2010 and whose ranks grew in 2014—has been a challenge throughout his speakership. Tea party congressmen pushed Washington partisanship to levels unseen in recent decades, shutting down the government and refusing to raise the government’s debt ceiling to advance causes they believe mainstream conservatives had long ignored. They demanded confrontation on shutting down Obamacare, cutting federal spending and most recently ending all federal aid for women’s health services at Planned Parenthood which also provides abortions.

House Speaker John Boehner's sudden resignation Friday "signals that the crazies have taken over the party," New York Republican Peter King said Friday. “I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party, taken over to the party that you can remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job. This has never happened before in our country," King said in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash on Friday afternoon. "He could have stayed on.”

Boehner's decision to resign is "like throwing raw meat" to more extreme factions of the caucus who are trying to "hijack and blackmail the party," King said. "They’re not going to see it as a gesture of peace, they’re going to just look for more."

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke on Friday about the resignation of Republican House Speaker John Boehner and the implications. Sanders said Boehner was “unable to control” the Republican party and that his resignation could leave the GOP in a more chaotic state. “It appears that even a very conservative speaker like John Boehner is unable to control the extreme right-wing drift of Republicans in the House,” said Sanders. “Without Boehner, it may get even worse.”

Whoever ends up being the new Speaker he will likely be a tea party darling. The new tea party Speaker will continue the strategy of 100% obstruction against the Obama agenda, but now it’ll be done with more verbato and brinksmanship. The new Speaker will pull more political stunts, and invoke more extremist rhetoric that turns off everyone but its own far-end base. He’ll also be less political adept, meaning that even as the republican role dissolves into stuntcasting over the next year and a half, Obama will be in a position to muscle even more of his agenda through side doors.

Moderate and undecided voters tend to ignore ideology and instead vote for whichever party has the appearance of propriety or whichever candidate has the appearance of class. The Republican Party about to fall entirely into the hands of tea party extremists who care less about the future of the party than they do about carrying out their faux-revolution in the form of holding office and refusing to govern. Voters undecided who to vote for in 2016 are about have clear preview of what the nation would be like with Tea Party President and Tea Party controlled congress.

Until now, John Boehner was really the only half-sane Republican leader in Congress keeping the GOP out of the controlling hands of Tea Party lawmakers. The angry and misspelled comments from right-wingers who lashed out at him for not pressing the Tea Party agenda hard enough for their liking are an indication of the coming extremist control of the House Boehner struggled to hold back. Speaker John Boehner’s departure will now allow the fringe elements to finally take over, and hasten the demise of the GOP as a national party. It hasn’t been a question of if, but when, and now the Tea Party will hain full control of Congress – they’re already targeting Mitch McConnell in the Senate as their next victim.

John Boehner was: Anti-choice; Anti-environment; Anti-sensible-gun-laws; Anti-gay; Anti-education; Anti-veteran; Anti-first-amendment; and Anti-privacy. The fact that today’s Republican Party doesn’t think he’s conservative enough should scare the hell out of you.

The Dark Truth Of John Boehner's Resignation"
Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Iran Nuclear Deal Ticking Bomb For Republicans

The Iran nuclear deal is a ticking bomb for Republicans on Election Day, November 2016. It's why they are desperate to block it. An election prediction model that has never been wrong forecasts the Democratic presidential nominee will win the 2016 election in a landslide, if Iranian economic sanctions are lifted.

Moody’s Analytics’ election forecaster, which uses oil and gas prices as a key determinant, has accurately predicted the outcome of every presidential election from 1980-2012.   The model forecasts whether or not the incumbent party will maintain control over the White House. Its latest finding shows Democrats winning almost as strongly as President Obama did in 2012:
Our Moody’s Analytics election model now predicts a Democratic electoral landslide in the 2016 presidential vote. A small change in the forecast data in August has swung the outcome from the statistical tie predicted in July, to a razor-edge ballot outcome that nevertheless gives the incumbent party 326 electoral votes to the Republican challenger’s 212.
The Moody’s model also uses housing prices, the state of the economy, and presidential approval, in addition to the key determinate of oil and gas prices, in predicting election outcome.

There's a huge surplus of oil in the world, stemming from both buoyant world production supply and stagnate demand, likely to leave crude oil and gasoline prices at low levels not seen in decades, through election day 2016.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pope Delivers Pointed Address On Greed, Power, And The Climate At UN

Pope Francis spoke before the United Nations General Assembly Friday morning, articulating an urgent call to address the world’s many interconnected problems, especially economic inequality, climate change, and war. Pope Francis’ speech to the General Assembly may have addressed similar themes as his address to Congress on Thursday, but the tone was an indictment of the U.N.’s failure to fulfill its mission.

Read the story at Think Progress

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pope Francis Addresses Congress

Pope Francis is in DC today addressing Congress. Here are his remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Vice-President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in "the land of the free and the home of the brave". I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Real ID Law: Passport Required for US Interstate Travel

Driver’s licenses issued by states not compliant with Real ID will soon not be accepted for people boarding domestic commercial flights, or to get past the front door of your local local Social Security office, or other federal buildings.

Starting in 2016, travelers from the states of New York, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and the American Samoa will not be able to use their driver’s licenses as ID to board domestic flights because those states are “non-compliant” with the security standards outlined in the Real ID Act of 2005, which the U.S. government has been slowly implementing for the past decade.

On May 11, 2005, President Bush signed into law the Emergency Supplemental Appropriation for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005 (H.R. 1268, P.L. 109-13), which included the “Real ID Act of 2005.” The Real ID Act of 2005 mandates that all fifty states must follow specific security, authentication, and issuance regulations, administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in issuing driver's license and personal identification cards. In 2006, DHS estimated the cost of implementation at $23.1 billion over 10 years, of which $14 billion are costs to states.

To be compliant with the Real ID federal law, a state must require applicants for first time driver's license or ID card issuance, and renewal of driver's license and ID issuance for those issued before the state implemented Real ID procedures, to prove five items of fact (full legal name, birth date, citizenship or immigration status, social security number, and proof of permanent residence address of at least 30 days) in person at their state driver's license office. Title II of the Real ID law lists these documents as satisfying the items of fact requirements:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Biden: Run for President May Not Be “Feasible”

In an exclusive interview with Father Matt Malone, S.J., editor in chief of America, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. discusses his thoughts on Pope Francis, as well as his Catholic faith, his upbringing, his public life and private sorrow, and his thinking about a possible presidential campaign.

Although Biden stresses he hasn’t yet made a decision, he acknowledges he “may not get there in time to make it feasible.”
"It's just not there yet and it may not get there in time to make it feasible to be able to run and succeed, because there are certain windows that will close," Biden said. "But if that's it, that's it. It's not like I can rush it."
With the first Democratic presidential debate just a few weeks away, Biden is clearly aware his window of opportunity is closing. It’s not clear what he sees as the deadline, though he could be thinking of the October 13th debate in particular or the pressures of organizing to file to have his name placed on prime ballots in 50 states, plus DC and U.S. territories. Those filing windows start in early November and begin to close in early December.

Joe Biden is polling at around twenty percent among Democratic presidential candidates, despite not being a declared candidate, meaning he has some built in support. Nationally, Biden polls behind Hillary Clinton by roughly a two-to-one margin, and he is even with or trails Bernie Sanders, depending on the poll.  But Biden seems to be a person at peace with the idea the end of his political career serving in elected office may have arrived -- as Biden said, “If that’s it, that’s it.”

The America Media interview was conducted on September 17, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The following video highlights parts of Father Malone's interview with Biden. The full half-hour video can be viewed at here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Taxes, Tests, and Trumpisms

"We need to control the admission of new low-earning workers in order to... help schools and communities falling behind." - Source, Donald J. Trump's Presidential Campaign Website

As I was volunteering at the Collin County Democratic Party booth during this last weekend's Plano Balloon Festival, I was joined in conversation with a fair vendor and Scott Coleman, one of our Democratic candidates for Texas State Representative, District 67.
We discussed a myriad of topics, and at one point touched on public education. We briefly touched on the revolting amount of money ($13 billion) and time (45 days) spent each year on the STAAR test, even though studies have demonstrated its inadequacy as an instructional tool. After that, the vendor mentioned her belief that the failure of our schools is due to the significant number of migrants who do not pay taxes into the system.
Throughout my time as a public education advocate, this idea has been put forth on a normal basis as an "unassailable fact."

But is it really the truth?

To figure that out, it is necessary to understand a few simple facts about public school finance in Texas. First, every district's budget consists of three revenue streams; Federal (via income taxes), State (via sales taxes), and Local (via property taxes). The state and local portion of the budget are approximately 45% each, and the federal portion is 10% or less.

Some immigrants are undocumented and are not currently paying federal income taxes, but all of them pay property taxes (through rent) and sales taxes (on goods and services). Technically, that means they pay about 90% of the same tax as the rest of us.

But what about that other 10%?

As I have stated in prior posts, the STAAR test is an unfunded federal mandate, on which we have wasted upwards of $13 billion per year with no positive results. A simple solution is to eliminate the STAAR test entirely. Yes, the federal government might hold back their measly $6 billion in funding, but we can use the other $7 billion to decrease class sizes. Freeing up 45 days of the school year for actual instruction would sure go a long way to mitigating the effects of the growing poverty on educational attainment.

Without the test, we all pay the same taxes into our school system, eliminating the argument that immigrants are the reason for our schools' failure and refocusing public ire where it belongs, the Texas Legislature. We've allowed them to scapegoat citizens of Hispanic descent for far too long. The fear of migrants is an antiquated tool used most often by charlatans on the right, like Trump, to defund and privatize key social services. The only way to address this fear is through the liberal application of knowledge.

Please join me in calling our representatives in Austin (and any upcoming candidates) to eliminate standardized testing in Texas public schools.

Your friend (and ally),

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Friday, September 18, 2015

JEB!: Bro President Bush Kept Us - Safe?

During the GOP's September presidential debate last week, Jeb Bush said his brother, President George W. Bush, kept us safe:
Jeb said: “You know what? As it relates to my brother, there is one thing I know for sure, he kept us safe.

I don’t know if you remember, Donald. You remember the rubble?

You remember the firefighter with his arms around it? He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong and fight Islamic terrorism and he did keep us safe.”
News flash for Jeb: The worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor occurred on his brother's watch and he is responsible for the pile of rubble that had been the World Trade Towers.  He is also responsible for the rubble at the Pentagon and the deaths of the courageous passengers and crew of United Flight 93 on 9/11.

If Jeb Bush wants to continue using his brother as an example of why he should be president, the American people need to be reminded of exactly what happened during those years and the resulting consequences that we are continuing to deal with, including the fact that 9/11 happened under Bush’s watch, which is the exact opposite of keeping us safe.

Here are some more news flashes for Jeb:
  • The worst Economic Recession Crash since the 1928 Great Depression Crash, stoked by Republican ideology of unregulated banking and financial markets, occurred on his brother's watch in 2008. 
  • The worst flooding disaster of a great American city, New Orleans, occurred on his brother's watch in 2006.
  • Bush-Cheney administration falsely represented intelligence related to Iraq's supposed WMD program and Saddam's alleged links to Al Qaeda as an excuse to start a 10 year long war in Iraq that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 service men and women and sent home over 32,000 wounded soldiers - not counting PTSD wounds. 
  • George Bush sped up climate change with an energy policy written in secret by VP Dick Cheney and representatives of the Oil industry. 
President George W. Bush kept us safe on 9/11?

What I Didn't Know About Bernie...

I'm going to start this post off with an admission of guilt. I was watching friends debate back and forth this morning about the possibility of a Republican win next November and the pros and cons of the two leading candidates on the Democratic side. Inevitably, the conversation devolved into ad hominem attacks and bold statements like "the Old Grumpy Guy" cannot possibly win. When one friend mentioned that Senator Sanders has been highly attractive to young voters, another friend asked the following:
"What has he accomplished while in the senate for our country? What bill of his has passed EVER? Why are you such a supporter with no data?"
Upon reading that, I realized that I had really never researched the long-term legislative efficacy of either Senator Clinton or Sanders. My face flushed red with guilt, and my head hung low in shame. He wasn't directing his ire my way, but his words had struck a chord. After a few moments of silent personal admonishment for ignoring this glaringly important piece of information in my candidate research, I decided now was the time.

It was time for me to find out the truth about Senator Sanders.

(Photo courtesy of Congress.gov)
One of the most common critiques of Senator Sanders as a presidential candidate is that his combative nature would severely hinder any hope of him actually passing any legislation based on his ideas. Supporters of Senator Clinton have often stated that while he was fighting with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, she was busy passing legislation.

(Photo courtesy of Congress.gov)

So I did a little digging in the Congress.gov database to find out more, and what I found was nothing less than astonishing.

Throughout almost a decade in Congress, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton either sponsored or cosponsored over 2,160 bills in policy areas spanning from Health and International Affairs to Housing & Community Development. After a great deal of hard work, negotiation and compromise, 77 of those bills found their way to the president's desk and became law.

Then I looked up Bernie.

As a member of Congress from 1991 all the way through 2014 (over two decades!!!) he only sponsored or cosponsored a measly 5,292 bills. All of that fighting with Democrats and Republicans must have really hurt his efforts, because out of those, only 206 were signed into law.

Wait a second. That can't be right...

If we were to divide the number of bills they successfully turned into laws by the number of years they were in office...

(Mashes Keys on Calculator...)

Senator Clinton                          Senator Sanders
7.7 successful bills/year              8.5 successful bills/year

Well, gee whiz, Wally. Do you mean to tell me that the Independent Senator from Vermont with all of those crazy ideas about income inequality and social justice passed more legislation not only across his entire congressional career but also per year??? Next you'll be telling me that democratic socialism doesn't mean the end of capitalism and that the vast majority of programs that our parents relied on to earn their way into the middle class are quickly being defunded and privatized at the expense of future generations.

Yeah, Beav. That's what we're telling you.

Special thanks today to my friend, George, whose attempt to paint all supporters of Senator Sanders' candidacy as blind supporters led me to finally do the research I should have done so many months ago. I couldn't have done it without you, buddy.

Your friend,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Bernie's Lack of Superdelegates is a Good Thing

Recent articles have touted Secretary Clinton's endorsements from Super-delegates as another indicator of why she is guaranteed to win the Democratic Party nomination next year.

As stated by Jonathan Bernstein in his August 28th op-ed for BloombergView,
"Super-delegates were added in the 1980s for two reasons. One was practical: It was the only way to ensure that those party leaders could get to the convention, at least as delegates. The other was political: Democrats were concerned that their new system didn’t place enough weight on electability, and believed a larger voice for politicians and formal party leaders would tilt the nomination in that direction."
There is at least one reason why Senator Sanders has not received as many Super-delegate endorsements, which I would like to briefly elaborate upon here.

Super-delegates consist of United States Senators, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Governors, and national Democratic Party leaders. When making the decision regarding their endorsement for president, their primary consideration is the amount of money a candidate can raise throughout the campaign. It's been noted as the deciding factor in 91% of Congressional elections, and Bernie Sanders has overtly made it his campaign's policy to reject campaign financing from corporations. Overall, for Super-delegates it's a safe bet.

That said, the reason most Super-delegates have endorsed Hillary is the same reason Bernie is gaining in the polls. It's not that Sanders supporters hate Clinton. In fact, the recent "Des Moines Register poll of Iowa Democrats revealed that 96% of Sen. Sanders’ supporters are not anti-Clinton. Only 2% of Sanders supporters are doing so because they are anti-Clinton." They just want to elect a president who actively calls for the end of unregulated campaign financing which has definitively biased the legislative and budgetary outputs of Congress and state legislatures.

Your Friend & Ally,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrats