For too long our leaders have used politics as the art of the possible. And the challenge now is to practice politics as the art of making what appears to be impossible, possible.
-- Hillary Rodham, Wellesley commencement speech (1969)This week's featured post is: "The 2016 Stump Speeches: Hillary Clinton".
This week everybody was talking about Sandra BlandUnsurprisingly, Larry Wilmore has it right: We don't know why Bland wound up dead -- so far the evidence seems to back the original story of suicide, which raises the next question of what happened to her in jail -- but we have the dashcam video of the arrest, and it's messed up.
The video validates a lot of what the black community has believed about the recent series of high-profile black deaths at-the-hands-of or in-the-custody-of police: While Sandra isn't as meek and mild as she might be, it is the officer who consistently escalates the situation, until he is waving a taser in the face of a woman who is doing nothing more threatening than sitting in her car, smoking a cigarette, and asking why she's being detained. As Wilmore points out: It is the officer who is supposed to be the professional. He is the one who sees this situation every day, and whose behavior should be judged by a higher standard.
The question everyone ought to be asking is: How typical is this behavior among police in general, and particularly among police dealing with black people? Salon's Brittney Cooper writes:
On three occasions I have given “attitude” to police, asked questions about unfair harassment and citations, and let the officers know that I didn’t agree with how they were doing their jobs. I have never threatened an officer or refused an order. But I have vigorously exercised my right to ask questions and to challenge improper shows of force.
I have had the police threaten to billyclub me, write unfair tickets, and otherwise make public spaces less safe, rather than more safe, for me to inhabit, all out of a clear lust for power. On the wrong day, I could have been Sandra Bland.
... Black people, of every station, live everyday just one police encounter from the grave. Looking back over my encounters with police, it’s truly a wonder that I’m still in the land of the living.
Am I supposed to be grateful for that? Are we supposed to be grateful each and every time the police don’t kill us?
There is a way that white people in particular treat Black people, as though we should be grateful to them — grateful for jobs in their institutions, grateful to live in their neighborhoods, grateful that they aren’t as racist as their parents and grandparents, grateful that they pay us any attention, grateful that they acknowledge our humanity (on the rare occasions when they do), grateful that they don’t use their formidable power to take our lives.Everyone melted at the quick forgiveness that relatives of his victims offered to Dylan Roof. But Sandra's mom reacted with the kind of anger I think most of us would feel: "Once I put this baby in the ground, I'm ready. This means war."
When violence broke out in Ferguson and Baltimore, many whites were mystified. They could get a clue from the season opener of AMC's Hell on Wheels, particularly the scene where ex-slave-owner Cullen Bohannon warns his bosses on the railroad that the abuse of the Chinese workers will lead to trouble. "Sooner or later," he says, "a beat dog's gonna bite."
and Clinton's emailsWhat initially looked like a smoking gun now looks gross journalistic incompetence on the part of The New York Times. This is kind of typical. For decades, opposition research has generated a continual haze of mistrust around Hillary, but when you look back at the accusations after they've been investigated, there's nothing there.
a Louisiana shooting and new details in the Chattanooga shootingThese days you can't tell the mass shootings without a scorecard. The Chattanooga shooting is confusing the media, because the shooter is a Muslim, but he fits the disturbed-young-man frame more than the ISIS-inspired-terrorist frame.
Thursday we had another theater shooting, this one in Lafayette, Louisiana. Governor Jindal said that "now is not the time" to discuss gun control, and Donald Trump assured the public that "this has nothing to do with guns".
and MedicareJeb Bush has his brother's knack for mis-turning a phrase, so he drew a lot of attention when he called for "phasing out" Medicare. He walked that back a little, but Paul Waldman pulls the context together on WaPo's Plum Line blog.
Bush's choice of words made headlines, but his likely position is in the Republican mainstream: Medicare's costs are going out of control, so it will eventually be bankrupt. So it needs to be replaced with a cost-controlled voucher plan like the one Paul Ryan proposed a few years ago.
Waldman makes two important points: First, that while Republicans use cost as an argument to do away with Medicare as we know it, they oppose any attempt to control costs within Medicare.
For instance, they’re adamantly opposed to comparative effectiveness research, which involves looking at competing treatments and seeing which ones actually work better.Also, private insurance has far higher overhead costs than Medicare, so privatization would push costs up, not down. Government could save money for itself by limiting the size of the voucher, but that would just shift the higher costs to the individual.
Kevin Drum points out that under the most recent projections, it wouldn't really be that hard to maintain both Social Security and Medicare as they currently exist.
So this is what Jeb is saying: Right now the federal government spends about 20 percent of GDP. We can't afford to increase that to 23 percent of GDP over the next 30 years.
That would—what? I don't even know what the story is here. Turn us into Greece? Require us to tax millionaires so highly they all give up and go Galt? Deprive Wall Street of lots of pension income they can use to blow up the world again?
Beats me. This whole thing is ridiculous. Over the next 30 years, we need to increase spending by 1 percent of GDP per decade. That's it.Jeb is absolutely right that liberals won't "join the conversation" about gutting Medicare. Because it's just not necessary.
and Planned ParenthoodYou may have missed this if you restrict your attention to legitimate news sources, but it's been echoing all over Fox News and the rest of the conservative bubble: Not just one, but two (!) highly-edited hidden-camera videos supposedly show Planned Parenthood officials haggling to sell organs from aborted fetuses. In response, Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail are calling for investigations and cutting off any federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood. (It's already true that none of those funds pay for abortions. Vox details where the money goes.)
In short, it's the James O'Keefe ACORN sting all over again. In those more innocent days, O'Keefe's video steamrolled Congress into defunding the community-organizing group ACORN, effectively destroying it. Only later did anybody ask "What are we really seeing here?", examine the unedited footage, and figure out that it was all a con. (O'Keefe wound up paying a $100K settlement to an ACORN employee he smeared.)
Observing the effectiveness of the tactic, Rachel Maddow wondered: "Who do you think is next on their list?" Well, now we know: Planned Parenthood.
Background: A woman who has an abortion can decide to donate the fetus to science, and the scientific groups that study those fetuses can reimburse the costs involved in preserving and delivering the fetuses to their labs. That's all legal and well understood in the medical research community.
So anti-choice activists created a front group, the Center for Medical Progress, which registered with the IRS as something they aren't: a "biomedicine charity". In that guise, they talked to Planned Parenthood about obtaining tissue from aborted fetuses. The conversations were secretly video-taped -- which also appears to be illegal -- and the CMP actor manipulated the conversation into areas that could be re-edited to look like the Planned Parenthood officials were trying to make a profit by selling body parts. (One part that got edited out was the Planned Parenthood official saying, "nobody should be 'selling' tissue. That's just not the goal here.")
Meanwhile, the reason Republicans in Congress were able to jump on the video so quickly is that some of them had seen it weeks in advance. But none of them alerted the appropriate authorities or called for an investigation until the first video was made public. In other words, their behavior was consistent with people participating in a propaganda exercise, not an investigation of any actual law-breaking. When questioned, Rep. Tim Murphy responded like this:
Asked afterward why he and others waited until this week to take action, Murphy struggled for an answer before abruptly ending the interview with CQ Roll Call, saying he should not be quoted and remarking, “This interview didn’t happen.”
and Trump vs. McCainIt's very tacky to disparage somebody's military service, particularly when it involved physical suffering and loss. But let's put this in context.
The NYT's Timothy Egan has the GOP's overall hypocrisy nailed:
Trump is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so — from birtherism to race-based hatred of immigrants, from nihilists who shut down government to elected officials who shout “You lie!” at their commander in chief. It was fine when all this crossing-of-the-line was directed at President Obama or other Democrats. But now that the ugliness is intramural, Trump has forced party leaders to decry something they have not only tolerated, but encouraged.Trump is not some aberration, he represents the current moral state of the Republican Party. They have no cause for complaint.
and you also might be interested in ...You'll never guess what's happening as the EPA's new rules to reduce the carbon emissions of power plants get closer to implementation: The disaster predicted by Republicans is nowhere on the horizon, not even in Mitch McConnell's Kentucky. The WaPo reports:
But despite dire warnings and harsh political rhetoric, many states are already on track to meet their targets, even before the EPA formally announces them, interviews and independent studies show.And Kevin Drum draws the lesson:
Whenever a new environmental regulation gets proposed, there's one thing you can count on: the affected industry will start cranking out research showing that the cost of compliance is so astronomical that it will put them out of business. It happens every time. Then, when the new regs take effect anyway, guess what? It turns out they aren't really all that expensive after all. The country gets cleaner and the economy keeps humming along normally. Hard to believe, no?The point of regulation is to reduce what economists call externalities: real costs that the market economy ignores because they aren't borne by either the buyer or the seller. Carbon emissions are a classic example: If burning coal in Kentucky causes a hurricane in New Jersey, the market doesn't care. So the apparent "cheapness" of that coal-fired electricity doesn't reflect reality; it's an illusion of the market economy. That's why talk about the "cost" of regulation is usually off-base. When you look at the whole picture, good regulations don't cost money, they save money.
It turns out there's a downside to the computerization of cars. In Wired, Andy Greenberg reports on an experiment "Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on the Highway -- With Me in It".
John Kasich and Jeb Bush represent the "moderate" Republican view of climate change: It's happening, but we shouldn't do anything about it. The rhetoric softens, but the plan remains the same.