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Journal Archives

Centrism is for "LOSERS" -- what Thomas Frank says about Carter/Obama is a MUST READ

Actually, Frank is taking off from Rick Perlstein's "The Invisible Bridge" which is a deep dive into the Carter/Reagan years, but the thesis is just as bright coming from either writer: when we unburden ourselves of values we lose.

It's really simple, and yet we make the same mistakes again and again. It has nothing to do with the left not being action-oriented, or "achievement-minded." It has to do with how you losing your soul translates directly into losing votes. It's instant karma, yo.

But don't take my word for it -- look at where the unions, advocacy groups and (gasp!) party members are flocking now: paid sick days, raise the wage, and equal pay for women. These have been long-standing progressive values…and we WIN ELECTIONS WITH THEM.


Thomas Frank: “We are such losers”
Liberals yearn to believe in post-ideological blank slates -- and get disappointed every time. Will we ever learn?

(snip to the chase)

The job required much more than that, however. Carter could work out solutions on paper, Fallows acknowledged, but he failed “to project a vision larger than the problem he is tackling at the moment.” More bluntly: “Carter cannot explain what he is doing.” Narrative is always a problem for post-ideological Democrats, of course, but it has been a notable obstacle for Barack Obama, who (unlike Carter) is one of the great orators of our time and yet who is convinced, according to Jonathan Alter’s book “The Center Holds,” that presidential oratory doesn’t really matter.

The final ironic lesson of the Carter presidency should be a cautionary tale for any centrist Democrat who dreams of striking a “grand bargain” with the right: No matter what conservative deeds Democrats undertake, as Rick Perlstein told me in conversation a few days ago, they will never win respect for it. It was Jimmy Carter, not the Republicans, who enacted the sweeping deregulation of transportation. It was Carter, not Reagan, who recommitted America to the Cold War and who slapped a grain embargo on the Soviet Union after that country invaded Afghanistan. (Reagan is the guy who lifted it.) And yet, in the mind of the public, Carter will stand forever as a symbol of liberalism’s fecklessness.

Barack Obama survived his re-election, but he is suffering a form of Jimmy Carter’s fate nevertheless. The ambiguous idealism of Carter’s first run for the presidency was precisely what set the table for his downfall later on. Being a “blank screen” or the personal object of the enthusiasm of millions—these may play well when a candidate is unknown, but they are postures impossible to maintain as president. In both cases, they led inevitably to disappointment and disillusionment.

The moral of this story is not directed at Democratic politicians; it is meant for us, the liberal rank and file. We still “yearn to believe,” as Perlstein says. There is something about the Carter / Obama personality that appeals to us in a deep, unspoken way, and that has led Democrats to fall for a whole string of passionless centrists: John Kerry, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart and Bill Clinton. Each time, Democratic voters are enchanted by a kind of intellectual idealism that (we are told) is unmoored from ideology. We persuade ourselves that the answer to the savagery of the right—the way to trump the naked class aggression of the One Percent—is to say farewell to our own tradition and get past politics and ideology altogether. And so we focus on the person of the well-meaning, hyper-intelligent leader. We are so high-minded, we think. We are so scientific.

We are such losers.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Oct 26, 2014, 01:11 PM (194 replies)

Dickensian US Working Conditions Almost Guarantee Ebola Catastrophe

Why is the US freaking out about Ebola while the rest of the world seems to be taking it stride? Damn good question.

Dickensian US Working Conditions Almost Guarantee Ebola Catastrophe



One reason Europeans are not in a state of hysteria about Ebola the way the US public is, besides the confidence Europeans have in their universal health care systems, is that they know that waiters, maids and housekeepers have a right to paid sick leave, so they are not going to be on the job infecting others if they get the disease. They'll be availing themselves of free or next-to-free healthcare and getting tested and if necessary, treated.

Europeans also know that low-income workers are not going to send sick children off to day care or school. Unlike in the US, where many poor working parents have to choose between leaving small children home alone when they’re sick, or sending them to school anyway, so that their parents can keep their jobs, European parents in countries like Finland, where I spent some time last summer, and most other parts of the EU, have the right to paid leave so they can stay home and care for a sick child. Their schools also have nurses, unlike in the US, where impoverished school districts like Philadlephia have cut their school nurses from the payroll.

These programs are humane and just and have been won through years of labor movement struggle in Europe, but they are also beneficial to all the other people in a country -- the middle and upper classes for whom things like health insurance and paid sick days are simply expected.

Not so in the US, where a Darwinian philosophy prevails that argues that the poor do not deserve “handouts” like sick pay or health benefits.


Posted by nashville_brook | Mon Oct 13, 2014, 11:15 AM (116 replies)

Did US policy on kidnappings create the pretense for war?

The day after Obama's prime time statement on going (not going) to war in the Middle East, here's what I said on Facebook...

"I'm absolutely torn about this. (it) puts us on the side of Syria's leaders which a year ago we were wanting to bomb. seems to me there's no good partners in the region and we risk making a bad situation worse. on the other hand I want revenge for the beheadings of the journos…"

But two new pieces of information have me reconsidering this morning after "what the hell let's go to war" feeling. One is that we now know that Foley's family was threatened by US military representatives not to pay ransom.

And the other is that European journalists have been rescued by ransom in amounts ranging from 1-5 million. Spain and Germany paid to avoid television beheadings of THEIR people, but we'll gladly embark on an open-ended military campaign costing trillions on the pretense that if we don't they'll behead more Americans. Why is that?

Something we've known for a long time is that we allow corporations to spring American executives kidnapped in the Middle East as well as Africa and Central and South America. It's done secretly and there's even insurance for it called K & R -- K & R is actually a thing, and not just on DU. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnap_and_ransom_insurance

Young freelancers aren't likely to be paid fairly, much less have K & R policies.

But this isn't the only problem facing families of kidnapped American journalists. The US and Britain are out of step with European countries who do rescue their journalists. According to this article by Steve Coll in the New Yorker, negotiating consultants believe it's imperative to move ideological kidnappings to being economically motivated b/c that's how you take the political gain off the table for the kidnappers.

It makes me wonder, was our policy on kidnappings to blame for creating the pretense for war?

I'll leave you with David Rohde, an investigative reporter for Reuters and contributing editor for The Atlantic who back in 2008 was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and held for more than seven months before escaping.

In a piece that ran on August 20 on Reuters, Rohde asks:

Did America’s policy on ransom contribute to James Foley’s killing?


...Foley’s execution is also a chilling wake-up call for American and European policymakers, as well as U.S. news outlets and aid organizations. It is the clearest evidence yet of how vastly different responses to kidnappings by U.S. and European governments save European hostages but can doom the Americans. Hostages and their families realize this fully — even if the public does not.

“I wish I could have the hope of freedom and seeing my family once again, but that ship has sailed,” Foley said moments before he was killed in a craven video released by the militant group on Tuesday. “I guess, all in all, I wish I wasn’t American.” Foley clearly spoke under duress. But his regret at being an American captive, real or not, reflected grim fact.

This spring, four French and two Spanish journalists held hostage by the Islamic State extremists were freed — after the French and Spanish governments paid ransoms through intermediaries. The U.S. government refused to negotiate or pay a ransom in Foley’s case or for any other American captives — including my own abduction by the Taliban five years ago.


Foley believed that his government would help him, according to his family. In a message that was not made public, Foley said that he believed so strongly that Washington would help that he refused to allow his fellow American captives to not believe in their government.

A consistent response to kidnapping by the U.S. and Europe is desperately needed. The current haphazard approach is failing.

James Foley must not die in vain.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sat Sep 13, 2014, 01:43 PM (104 replies)

"How the left took over the Democratic Party" -- sez beltway hack

(h/t scarletwoman for improved subject line!)

BLUE CRUSH: How the left took over the Democratic Party.

This is an interesting piece from former Clinton political director Doug Sosnik wherein he says our party is more united than ever before, but: "simmering beneath the surface of this united front is an ascendant progressive and populist movement that is on the verge of taking over the party."

And I'm not sure if he's thinks this is a good thing or a bad thing.

"The lead-in to the 2016 presidential campaign could force a tipping point as early as next year if Hillary Clinton declines to run and a broad field emerges. If that happens, candidates will feel a great deal of pressure to appeal to the highly engaged, energized and well-funded activists who have been clamoring for a robust progressive agenda. Even if Clinton runs, her candidacy won’t preempt the party’s eventual takeover by the activist forces. It will only slow it down."

There are a lot of charts and framing up the claim that progressives have taken over the party, and then Sosnik lays down the problem as he sees it:

While progressive activists are ascendent in the party, there's a countervailing force sure to dash hopes for change, and that's the desire of the American public is to shrink government."

Since Obama became president, the number of Americans who want to expand the role of the federal government has decreased sharply...The botched launch of Obamacare last October only reinforced those perceptions.

I'm here to tell you this is a small hurdle. First of all, the ACA has saved lives and kept families afloat. Dems who run away from this (like Alex Sink in FL's D-13 loss) pay the price. Running from anti-government rhetoric doesn't win elections for Dems. We need to OWN THIS.

This is true, especially in the face of epic real-life "small government" disasters such as Brownbeckistan and Detroit, and the refusal of Republican-run states to expand Medicaid resulting in dystopian "donut hole deaths."

Sosnik nevertheless claims that this one tiny piece of public perception is strong enough to put the kibosh on progressive action going forward. I say he's dead wrong.

Big government vs small government is a disingenuous semantic game that disguises the fact that EVERYONE wants government to work for them. "Small government" is a bullshit administrative definition that means nothing to working families, or the Tea Party conservatives who use it. Corporate conservatives love "big government" in the form of corporate welfare. Social conservatives want government in everyone's bedrooms and women's health clinics. Mid-level business conservatives never miss a chance to socialize risk while privatizing rewards.

Meanwhile, there's impassioned calls for an Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders presidential run. Do you see anyone knocking down Chuck Schumer's or Diane Feinstein's door? Warren and Sanders know that "big government vs small government" is easily exposed as an excuse to steal from the poor and give to the rich, and they speak the truth that it's a core Democratic value to reverse this.

This "public desire" for a thing called "small government" might register on opinion polls, but not around the dinner table. We want better schools, 21st Century public transportation, and a fair deal for workers in which full-time work results in being able to afford a damn apartment. You want to change "public desire"? Keep talking about minimum wage, sick days for working families, and affordable child care. Refuse conservative talking points, already.

And when it comes to our "public desire" let's not forget where we were just 25 years ago with regard to another "insurmountable" public perception: LGBT issues and the AIDS crisis.

In the late 80s I attended a meeting of southern college progressive groups in Chapel Hill. The goal of the meeting was to form a "powerful new coalition for change." We'd hoped to build on the success of the so-called red/green alliance of environmental and social justice groups.

The conference literally blew up in the face of a proposal to embrace LGBT human rights and mobilize to end the AIDS crisis. I remember that hot auditorium like it was yesterday. "Gay rights, are you crazy?" It's "too difficult," and "a losing battle." Some said it wasn't pragmatic. Now isn't the time…the usual. And this from our country's brightest young progressive leaders. Sure, I was intimidated by the proposal, but knew deep down that we had to go through that fight because it was the right thing to do.

"What the heck were we thinking" we ask now. Our insecurity on the "public desire" regarding gay rights actually demonstrated that this was exactly where the pressure needed to be applied. Now it seems unimaginable that LGBT support required debate. It's boilerplate.


At the end of the article the author states: "democratic activists will need to reconcile the public’s desire for smaller government with their own progressive impulses."

Sure, but we've already reconciled it the same way we reconciled LGBT support in the 80s and early 90s. It's not "big vs small." That's disingenuous bullshit. The real tension is between government that's on the side of working families, vs government on the side of big business. This battle may seem "impractical" today, but I guarantee you it's tomorrow's "what the heck were we thinking."

He says as much here:
"There is an overriding belief that our political and economic systems are either broken or corrupt and that they’re out to favor the few at the expense of the many. These beliefs transcend partisanship or philosophical orientation…"

Activists change public perception; we don't chase it. Progressives are on the front lines and poised to lead, while Clinton and the ever-shrinking Blue Dog Coalition are tee'd up to fight the last war.

Looking back on my experience of the 80s, it's clear that the impossible task of changing the "public's desire" on LGBT issues wasn't as impossible as we thought. As a matter of fact, it was absolutely necessary, and right and moral to take those positions, and THAT'S WHY we won in the end. We must take that lesson forward with regard to the pressures we face today such as reigning in Wall Street, curbing global warming and supporting economic security for working families.

Now is the time to apply pressure precisely where our political and economic systems are broken. To refuse to do so -- because of "public desire" for "smaller government" -- would be political malpractice.
Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Jul 27, 2014, 05:56 PM (136 replies)

RWNJs spitting on soldier returning from Afghanistan. They're drunk and we need to go home.

Spent hours in a medical waiting room where I couldn't escape FOX News with their wall-to-wall Bergdahl-is-a-commie coverage. then came home and checked out the DemocracyNow piece on Bergdahl found here: http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2014/6/5/veteran_politicians_using_freed_pow_bowe

In this piece former solder, Brock McIntosh, Veterans For Peace spox-person talks about being lied into this war, and the horror of having to shoot at people in a context that doesn't make any sense historically, politically or strategically. If Bergdahl was disenchanted with the war, he had good reason to be. It only took 10 years to fight the fucking French Revolution -- this should have more like a "clean up on aisle 5." WHY ARE WE STILL THERE?

I think the RWNJs and "sneer-casters" on FOX News want people to think that Bergdahl is not worthy of being rescued b/c he questioned the war. Period. Full-stop. They don't like people who think and they don't like his dad's beard. They're trying to SHAME them. It's disgusting. They've got no coherent narrative except a dirty whisper campaign, and they're flapping hysterically that he might have studied languages, or islam, or cared about the kids being killed over there. Holy cow. What's next? Jailing people for having peace stickers?

And I think they also don't realize that this a discussion we're dying to have. It's time to talk about Afghanistan itself. Who is not sick to death of sending our troops and tax money into an ill-defined, unstrategic, badly managed fiasco?

We're 10 years in with no end in sight, and these nut jobs think the most important thing to do is attack a rescued prisoner of war. This is madness, and they can easily be made to pay for it. It's so anti-American it turns your stomach.

Do not let these fuckers get away with it.

Posted by nashville_brook | Thu Jun 5, 2014, 08:58 PM (5 replies)

UPDATE: Charlene Dill story HITS MSN (mother murdered by Rick Scott's Medicaid Gap)

You might remember the thread a couple of weeks ago on the death of a young Florida mother of three with a heart condition who couldn't receive healthcare b/c she fell into the state's enormous Medicaid Gap created by Republicans refusing to take federal monies to expand the program. Thom Hartmann picked up the story from that post and then Truth-Out did a piece.

After a cover story in the Orlando Weekly, the story has caught fire, being featured on Al Sharpton's show, Alex Wagner's show and on Huffington Post Live.

Tomorrow night Lawrence O'Donnell will have it on, and The Maddow Show producers have also reached out to primary contacts for the story.

While the story threatens to go national, I hope everyone remembers that the politics in play are state and local. And it couldn't be any more clear to someone paying attention to what's going on in Tallahassee.

ALEC-led Republicans are leaving dead Americans on their ideological battlefield. They are being helped along by ALEC-led "think tanks" and publications and lobbyists with lots and lots of money. Now they're moving into local government:


Conservative group Alec trains sights on city and local government
• American Legislative Exchange Council forms new initiative
• Offshoot will target ‘villages, towns, cities and counties’

Now the council is looking to take its blueprint for influence over statewide lawmaking and drill it down to the local level. It has already quietly set up, and is making plans for the public launch of, an offshoot called the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.

We need to get mad about Charlene Dill, and we need to direct that energy where it can do some good: state and local legislative bodies that have created two sets of rules -- one for us and one for them. Now, they're creating two sets of outcomes -- one for us and one for them. And we can't go on like this. It's no wonder the most talked about economics book of the year is a warning us that the gap between the rich and poor threatens to destroy society. I'm feeling it, Mr. Piketty.

State and local government holds the power here, which I suppose is predictable since they've spent so much time and money in buying our corrupt political system here in Florida. We need to understand how that turns up the heat. It's our own neighbors who think it's just fine for young mothers to die if they have the "wrong kind" of job -- the kind that doesn't pay or offer benefits. This exploitable labor exists, in fact, because of policies set by our state and local politicians. In Florida, that' means ALEC.

If you live in Orange County or want to know more about this, visit http://www.votelocal2014.org

Here's the story from the Orlando Weekly:


The perils of Florida’s refusal to expand Medicaid
Charlene Dill is one of an estimated 2,000 people who expected to face dire health issues due to lack of access to care

Charlene Dill didn’t have to die.

On March 21, Dill was supposed to bring her three children over to the South Orlando home of her best friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich. The two had cultivated a close friendship since 2008; they shared all the resources that they had, from debit-card PINs to transportation to baby-sitting and house keys. They helped one another out, forming a safety net where there wasn’t one already. They “hustled,” as Woolrich describes it, picking up short-term work, going out to any event they could get free tickets to, living the high life on the low-down, cleaning houses for friends to afford tampons and shampoo. They were the working poor, and they existed in the shadows of the economic recovery that has yet to reach many average people.


Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone. In the ensuing two years, 23 states have refused to expand Medicaid, including Florida, which rejected $51 billion from the federal government over the period of a decade to overhaul its Medicaid program to include people like Dill and Woolrich – people who work, but do not make enough money to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies. They, like many, are victims of a political war – one that puts the lives and health of up to 17,000 U.S. residents and 2,000 Floridians annually in jeopardy, all in the name of rebelling against President Barack Obama’s health care plan.


These are the people in the coverage gap – the unknowns, the single mothers, the not-quite-retired – the unnamed 750,000 Floridians who are suffering while legislators in Tallahassee refuse to address the issue in this year’s legislative session, which ends on May 2. The working poor – who used to be the middle class – are on a crash course with disaster for no logical reason. Charlene Dill, at the age of 32, didn’t have to die.

In the Sunshine State, 440,000 people signed up on the health care exchange, while 125,000 were judged to be eligible for Medicaid. Florida, with its retirees and low-wage workers, is on the demand side of health care.

“We are No. 2, plus we have a federal exchange,” SEIU state council president Monica Russo says. “I find that quite a statement. Floridians need health care. I think [Republicans] can campaign all they want against health care, but at the end of the day, what are they going to do? Rip health care out of their hands?”

snip -- much more at link: http://orlandoweekly.com/news/the-perils-of-florida-s-refusal-to-expand-medicaid-1.1665144?pgno=1
Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Apr 13, 2014, 03:53 PM (59 replies)

Charlene Dill was murdered by Rick Scott, FL republicans RE Medicaid funding ("donut hole" death)

This was written by a friend of mine (news of the death came this weekend). Posted with permission.

I was aware of Charlene's predicament with not being able to get meds or see a doc with her heart condition -- Kathleen (the writer) did a fundraiser to get her meds a while back. Now she's doing a GoFundMe for her funeral.

This is so horrific, and predictable. And preventable. And the result of Republicans in their insane crusade against Obama using the people of Florida as sacrificial lambs. And I just can't even begin to imagine all the other millions of people in Florida who aren't covered, and how many will also die or suffer permanent disability or lose their homes… the list just goes on and on.

Kathleen Voss Woolrich: A Loss Of Life, Caused By Partisan Politics – The Denial Of Obamacare

An unedited story told by a fellow Floridian. The consequences of Florida’s modern day partisan politics. A call to vote for change.

March 24, 2014

By: Kathleen Voss Woolrich

“Born in Pennsylvania to a warm family, Charlene moved to Florida when she was 18 years old. She worked at fast food joints and Disney, cleaned houses and babysat, but through the years found herself as a single mother with 3 kids. She had heart issues that needed to be managed. Her teeth needed to be fixed and constantly had infections, but Charlene never complained. She made $11,000 dollars last year – babysitting other peoples’ children and cleaning other peoples’ houses. She proudly paid her property taxes in February and took care of her little trailer, which she owned and took all three kids to school.

But, Charlene had no health insurance. Charlene was unable to get Obamacare, because she made too little to get the subsidies to purchase health insurance. She had no dental insurance. Her teeth hurt her at night and had so many cavities, but could not find a way to get the decay in her teeth fixed. She was denied medicaid and when she went to get Obamcare she was told she could not get subsidies.

So she went to the emergency room 2012. She had heart issues and was told to get on medicine and be monitored. But, had no health insurance to do so. 2012 Obama won and we all were so sure… NOW Charlene would have health insurance. But the Republican Party of Florida and Rick Scott turned down medicaid expansion. In December Charlene went to the emergency room with abcesses in her legs. Her teeth hurt her constantly. Charlene never complained. She took her two older kids to school each day and reported for work at her various jobs. Recently she began selling vaccuum cleaners in addition to the babysitting and house cleaning. She took antibiotics. She got her healthcare at Florida hospital emergency rooms.

On March 21st, she was supposed to come see me – on my first day off, in a while. She was excited about seeing my daughter who she had raised since she was 3. The kids were all going to play together. She had only 2 short appointments in Osceola County, to show the vaccum to customers. At about 4 pm, that afternoon, I got a message from her niece that she had died at the customers house. They rushed her to Poinciana Medical Center and worked on her. They could not bring my best friend back. She died. She was 32.

You see, the main argument Republicans use is that its some lazy person who needs medicaid expansion. That, those of us living without healthcare or dental care are lazy. But my friend, a single beautiful mother, worked 3 jobs. She paid taxes. She paid her house taxes. And now she’s dead.

Please think of Charlene when you decide who you are going to vote for in August and December. Please vote democrat. Please vote for people who want people like Charlene and me to have healthcare – to have a fighting chance.

I am burying my best friend soon, because of Rick Scott and Will Weatherford. I am buring my best friend, because of the policies of the Republican Party. I am burying my best friend, because had medicaid expansion passed her needs would have been met. She is one of the 7 people who will die each day, because the Florida House of Represenatives Republicans and Tea Party decided that we are not worth living. We are not worth healthcare. We were not worth medicaid expansion.

Please vote for Charlene.

Please help get the Republicans out and expand medicaid. I’ll never have her back. I’ll never see my friend again. I’ll never have another day with her, because of the Republican House of Representatives. Please, for Charlene and for me, register to vote and promise to vote against Rick Scott and any Florida Republican who runs. They need to know we know. We know who they hurt and we see what they are doing to the poor of Florida.”

– Charlene Dill 1981 to 2014

if you want to help the family:

Here's some information and an info graphic on the Medicaid Gap:


Posted by nashville_brook | Mon Mar 24, 2014, 07:25 PM (113 replies)
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