• DE-Gov: It's still anyone's guess if former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, will run for governor next year. Biden, a Democrat, took a job at the law firm Grant & Eisenhofer in January and is now expanding his work there, which is usually not something you do in preparation for a gubernatorial bid.
The firm's co-founder says that Biden's move "doesn't change anything for him politically. He will make an excellent governor," but Biden's camp has said little about his political aspirations in months. Biden himself kept a very low profile even before leaving office early this year, and he doesn't appear to be taking any steps to prepare for a campaign. There has also been speculation that Biden's health hasn't been good, and his silence isn't exactly putting these rumors to rest.
One potential Democratic gubernatorial candidate is sounding impatient. New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon won't run against Biden, but he's likely to take a look if he sits the contest out. Gordon says that he spoke with Biden last month and told him that he needed "to get out and let people know you're still running." Gordon says that he's also talked to the people who are expected to run the Biden campaign "and they say they're getting ready for him to run," but Gordon notes that Biden needs to make an announcement at some point. Rep. John Carney has also talked about seeking the governorship if Biden doesn't, something he probably wouldn't be discussing if he thought the ex-attorney general was all-in.
If Biden knows he's going to run, there's no reason he can't just say so now and clear up any confusion. It sounds like he's genuinely unsure what to do, but he doesn't want to look publicly indecisive or feed rumors about his health.
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Capitol GunFAIL! Greg Dworkin rounds up Bridgegate, Sanders, Republican demands for work requirements for Medicaid expansion, Rick Scott's continuing contortions, and Jeb's Charles Murray fandom. The invasion of Texas is underway, where conservatives prepare their gay marriage freak-out. A near "perfect storm" of GunFAIL as a school cop shoots himself with a derringer in his pocket while at Walmart. Armando calls in on the Vermont GMO labeling law decision & the TPP, and John Dickerson's thoughts on Bernie Sanders. Wrapping up on yesterday's topics: how ShotSpotter monitors for gunfire, and what kind of issues that raises; Samsung's TV that listens to you; the surveillance we "volunteer" for, and; how Motel 6 reportedly started faxing all its guests' names to the cops!
Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.
Molly Redden at Mother Jones writes Want an Abortion This Year? Get Ready to Wait:
For women seeking an abortion, 2015 is shaping up to be the year of the long wait.E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes A senator’s faith -- and humility:
Since the beginning of the year, six states have proposed or passed laws that would require a woman to wait days before she has an abortion—laws that critics say place an especially harsh burden on poor and rural women.
Conservative lawmakers in Arkansas and Tennessee have passed bills forcing women seeking abortions to attend an initial appointment and then wait 48 hours before the actual procedure. The Florida Legislature has passed a measure, which GOP Gov. Rick Scott promises to sign, creating a 24-hour waiting period between two appointments. A bill that died in Kentucky, which already requires women to receive counseling 24 hours before an abortion, would have forced women to receive that counseling in person.
There are few moments of grace in our politics these days, especially where conflicts over religion are concerned. Last week, I witnessed one. Perhaps it was a mere drop in an ocean of suspicion and mistrust, but it was instructive and even encouraging.More pundits can be found below the fold.
The venue, in a small meeting room at a Holiday Inn not far from the U.S. Capitol, was a gathering of members of the Secular Coalition for America whose mission is “to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community in the United States.” One cause of the contentiousness of our politics is that both secular and very religious Americans feel misunderstood and under assault.
Enter Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).
The secular coalition invited Coons to speak because, as he said of himself last Thursday night, he is “dedicated to the separation of church and state and to the equal protection under the Constitution, which I swore to uphold, whether you are religious or secular.”
As progressives, we have a huge job in front of us in the fight for economic justice. But our leaders are trying to do their work with one hand tied behind their backs. The better ones may often do quite well fighting with one hand; many cannot. The problem and solution are more obvious than they think: People become active in social-change movements because these movements speak to deep longings for meaning, recognition, relationship, and agency, as well as for economic survival and justice.
The civil rights movement demanded basic economic and political equality. But it also spoke to a hunger to be connected to something bigger than the self. The institution that provided the base of this movement, the black church, grew and thrived on its power to provide meaning and recognition in dozens of way to its members. It provided meaning, in part, through the intense spirituality of its congregations, but also because it was wedded to a vision of social justice; recognition was afforded through the extensive social life in and around church life. The four girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 were on their way to give a performance, one of the many public ways that the church honored and recognized people in its community. [...]The power of human needs that go beyond the material would seem obvious. But progressive organizations instinctively and implicitly operate according to a “common sense” notion—one supported by researchers like Abraham Maslow, famous for his hierarchy or pyramid of human needs—that physical survival precedes those nonmaterial needs. This logic is simple: Without satisfying the basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter, people can't effectively address and gratify “higher” emotional, social, and spiritual needs. The strategic result is that we count on economic grievances and bread-and-butter issues like wages and benefits alone to move people to action.
But the compelling noneconomic needs for recognition, meaning, relationships, and agency can be sources of motivation every bit as powerful as survival needs. We see evidence of this every day. A terrorist commits suicide for the sake of Allah. An Indian demonstrator at a salt mine walks directly into the violent batons of the British Army in nonviolent resistance for the cause of independence; an African-American marcher sits down in front of Bull Connor’s dogs. A marine risks his life for his buddy; a parent does the same for a child.
Everyone wants to earn money. But a great deal of research shows that people value meaning, connection, recognition, and agency as much as a bigger paycheck, and sometimes more. Many activists we’ve worked with in progressive organizations routinely give up higher-paying jobs in the private sector to work for social change. Even a lot of money can’t always cure the deficit of other unmet needs. Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is currently worth $13 billion. Yet his autobiography prominently features his bitterness about being exploited by co-founder Bill Gates. Thirteen billion dollars did not make him feel good enough about the emotional conditions of his work. [...]
Blindness to these obvious needs is an important reason why the progressive movement is struggling today. So while the Left decries economic injustice and tries to organize campaigns against it, the response from the victims of injustice can be tepid. The Left helplessly watches as conservative megachurches, the evangelical movement, and the Tea Party draw people to communities that support a political and economic system that we see as inimical to their needs for material security. The reasons, though, have little to do with anyone’s economic bottom line: These organizations and movements appear to address multiple levels of suffering and multiple needs. [...]
1. People become active in social-change movements because these movements speak to deep longings for meaning, recognition, relationship, and agency.
2. The common-sense notion that we need to satisfy people’s material needs before we can speak to their psychological, social, and spiritual needs is wrong.
3. Both the private sector and the Right are better than progressives in speaking to people’s noneconomic needs.
4. Feelings matter more than facts.
Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—How Freedom Was Lost:
On Halloween night, 1948, a fog rolled in to blanket the town of Donora, Pennsylvania. What came from that cloud wasn't the ghosts of vengeful pirates, or horror movie zombies. It was worse.
This wasn't the first time the industrial town of 13,000 had been socked in by a brown, pollution tinged smog. But this time the air had a peculiar, acrid smell. Those who breathed the fog felt as if they were breathing fire. It scorched their eyes, their throat, their lungs. Still, Donora was a mill town. Workers squinted against the bitter air and went on to their jobs. That night, as people were walking back to their houses, some of them began to die.
Soon doctors' offices were overrun and the hospital was filled with the sick and the dying. The fog held on the next day. And the next. A local hotel was pressed into service as an extension to the hospital, with volunteers serving as nurses. As bodies piled up at local funeral homes, the ground floor of that hotel became a makeshift morgue. Within five days, twenty people had died. Hundreds more were seriously injured with damage that would shorten their lives or affect their ability to work. A decade later, local papers still told the story of lives cut short.
The villain in Donora was the a toxic stew spit out by a local zinc refinery. It wasn't the first time the plant's fumes had turned the air around the town toxic, but this time a temperature inversion capped the smog. In the midst of the crisis, suspicion about the cause brought town officials to the zinc works, where they asked that the plant's operations be reduced until the weather changed. The plant operators refused. After five days, the inversion layer broke and the brown fog blew away. Eleven of those who died did so on that final day. A local doctor estimated that if the weather had held another day, the death toll would have been in the hundreds, rather than the tens.
That Sunday, as the sky broke and rains came, the zinc works finally agreed to reduce operations. They went back to normal the next day.
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U.S. presidents enjoy special powers in the domain of foreign policy. These powers are not unlimited or absolute, but as commander-in-chief and head of an executive branch containing the apparatus and instruments of foreign policy, presidents set principles of doctrine that guide policy and action, and largely pre-determine policy and treaties put forward to Congress.
They also exercise personal judgment taking executive actions that have expanded since 9/11, now including such controversial powers as authorizing increased electronic surveillance at home and abroad and the use of drones to execute people on foreign soil without due process, arguably, acts of war.
In these roles, presidents have great powers to do good or harm, setting wheels in motion not easy to brake, and often taking actions with unforeseen or unintended consequences for the nation and the world. To call it a grave responsibility is understatement.
Why then is the public so often careless and disengaged from foreign policy debates until events poke us in the eye to remind us how these complex policies, actions and events directly affect our lives, sometimes profoundly? And why do we so often put blind trust in leaders we assume to share our interests and possess the knowledge and judgment to make wise decisions absent evidence of either? Should we not be more critical?
After the fold, let's consider the positions and credentials of Hillary Rodham Clinton, declared candidate and presumed Democratic front-runner in the 2016 presidential election.
At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of theoretical physics in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The "holographic principle" asserts that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems. What we perceive as three dimensional may just be the image of two dimensional processes on a huge cosmic horizon.That's a mind-being principle and the math behind it is a fearsome thing, pulling together rigorous work on everything from event horizons to string theory to the quantum information paradox. It's not easy to describe some of the ramifications that emerge in general terms.
But if you drift below the fold, thanks to no small amount of help from Jennifer Ouellette, one of the best hard-science writers in the world today, we'll at least try. And we'll do that without bringing up hyper-advanced mathematics!
Over the course of the last decade or so, more and more Americans are feeling as if they hold no value in the corporate world. We hold onto jobs we hate because we have nowhere else to go. Employers cut our wages, lengthen our hours, and we just take it—a job is too valuable to lose in this economy.
Robert Reich echoed those same comments in his April 26 column when he said:
The companies we work for, the businesses we buy from, and the political system we participate in all seem to have grown less accountable. I hear it over and over: They don’t care; our voices don’t count.There was a time in this country when one could graduate from high school, find a good blue collar union job, and make enough money to raise a family, buy a house, and even save enough money to send the kids to college.
Companies are treating workers as disposable cogs because most working people have no choice. They need work and must take what they can get.
Jump below the fold for more.
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There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city. Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea.
And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.
The study, Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality, has just been published in PLOS ONE and has mapped out the most racist areas in the United States. As illustrated above, they are mostly located in the rural Northeast and down along the Appalachian Mountains into the South. How they did it and what it may mean are below the fold.
To be clear, America was never a democracy. One man one vote (one person one vote) was never an implicit reality. Any reading of Federalist 10 makes that patently clear. Why? Ultimately the powers then and today’s plutocracy realized that it would change the social and economic order based on a real meritocracy, compromises, and the hard work of selling many ideas. You see an idea that benefits a few would never fly from an enlightened populace.
As Americans were becoming more liberal and enlightened they demanded democracy, social democracy and economic democracy. The plutocracy would have none of that. We are living through an implemented Powell Manifesto that has in effect dumbed down the population by infiltrating news media and schools as it decimates unions and liberal values.
Many organizations believe that this problem will be solved simply by effecting some sort of electoral reform that gets money out of politics. They believe that reversing the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions would somehow set things right. One must remember that pre-Citizens United and pre-McCutcheon, our politics was not much better.
The Move to Amend coalition was formed outside of the Beltway in Marin, California, in 2009 in preparation for the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The coalition, which now boasts nearly 380,000 people and thousands of organizations, has helped to pass over 600 resolutions in municipalities and local governments across the country, calling on the state and federal governments to adopt the amendment below. Interestingly these resolutions passed irrespective of the demographics, ideologies, or party affiliations of the voters.
Head below the fold for more.
In short, it was an annual, highly anticipated party where for one day, the people who had to keep themselves in check the most got to say whatever they actually wanted to say, all in the guise of humor and a good time. And when the festival was over, all of society would wake up the next morning, revert back to traditional structure and decorum, and pretend the previous evening's events simply never took place.
American political society has an annual spring festival very similar to this: It's called the White House Correspondents' Dinner. More below the fold.
Republican Maryland state legislator and radio talk show host Patrick McDonough, in discussing the events that took place in Baltimore, emphasized "a lack of parenting." He also praised a proposal to take food stamps away from families whose children participated in the protests. I'll let those statements speak for themselves. Among national figures, one of the more popular themes was—try not to be shocked—to blame President Obama. Donald Trump (I know, I know) offered this gem:
Our great African American president hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are happily and openly destroying Baltimore.Then there's Ben Shapiro, columnist, editor-at-large for Breitbart News, and author of The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration (Count 1 in Shapiro's list of charges is—wait for it—"Espionage"). Shapiro opined that Baltimore demonstrates the President's "legacy of racial polarization." Fox News' Lou Dobbs attributed this week's events in Baltimore to the Obama administration's having "corroborated if not condoned ... a war on law enforcement."
These guys too fringy for you? How about Ted Cruz, a United States senator elected from one of the most populous states in our union and a serious, if not likely to be victorious, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In his musings on Baltimore, Cruz accused the president of having "made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions—that have divided us rather than bring us together." When probed by Dana Bash of CNN, and asked for examples, Cruz repeated the charge, but offered no specifics other than mentioning "the beer summit," and complaining that Obama "vilif[ied] and caricature[d]" those who opposed him politically on matters such as health care and the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.
I'm sorry, Mr. Cruz. You aren't Donald Trump, or at least you'd like to think you aren't. But you need to be more prepared than that if you want to level such a serious charge at the president of the United States. As I've written elsewhere, the idea that Obama is a divider is ridiculous. Ask yourself whether a divider would say something like this:
Whether your ancestors came here on the Mayflower or a slave ship; whether they signed in at Ellis Island or they crossed the Rio Grande — we are one people. We need one another. Our patriotism is not rooted in ethnicity, but in a shared belief of the enduring and permanent promise of this country.Please follow me beyond the fold for a discussion of what and whom is really to blame for what happened in Baltimore.