Monday, August 31, 2015

All Demagogues Matter

Glenn Beck reportedly drew 20,000 for his "All Lives Matter" rally in Alabama on Sunday, proving once again that whenever the black community says something, we have to be corrected by a "concerned" white guy.

Led by conservative activist and talk show host Glenn Beck, more than 20,000 people chanting "All Lives Matter" marched the historic civil rights route from Kelly Ingram Park to Birmingham City Hall this morning.

"It's about taking our church out in the streets," Beck said. He said marchers came from as far away as China, Dubai and the Netherlands.

Actor Chuck Norris, a conservative activist known for his martial arts, action movies and TV show "Walker, Texas Ranger," marched about two rows behind Beck. Alveda King, a niece of civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., marched in the front row. Bishop Jim Lowe, pastor of the predominantly black Guiding Light Church in Birmingham, co-organized the march with Beck and marched with him at the front. As a child, Lowe attended Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where the march started, a headquarters church for the civil rights movement in Birmingham. Lowe and his sisters were in the church when a KKK bomb blew up the church and killed four little girls on Sept. 15, 1963.

"Love is the answer," Lowe said as he marched. "God is the answer."

Some Birmingham police officers said the crowd could have been as large as 25,000 to 30,000. It may have been the largest march in Birmingham since the civil rights marches of 1963.

It's a march for white people to tell black people what they are doing wrong, which is apparently not trusting white people enough.  By the way, Glenn Beck really cares about the black community.

The march was part of Beck's "Never Again is Now" campaign to raise awareness and funds to aid persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Not so much us black people being killed in the US.  They're Christian too, but hey, why would Beck raise funds and awareness for us?

Wearing a Yankees cap, Steve Titus of Chicago, 63, and his wife, Terri, 62, wore red, white and blue clothing.

"As chaotic as our country is right now, the history of this city will help us to unify, racially and spiritually," Titus said. "It's really in the spirit and words of Martin Luther King Jr."

"The United States has really become divided," Terri Titus said. "We want life for everybody. How does it feel to have a movement start in your town? It's happened again."

Yay white people co-opting the black civil rights struggle for their own purposes, with Beck replacing King.  I'll tell you what, this is some prime BS right here.

And it's only going to get worse.

A Tale Of Two Cincies

The Urban League of Southwestern Ohio's latest "State of Black Cincinnati" report is out today, and the numbers are very grim.  Twenty years after the Urban League first looked at it, The Queen City remains one of the most shockingly unequal places in the US to live if you're black and economically things have only gotten worse.

The numbers speak for themselves. 
In 1995, 15.8 percent of blacks living in Greater Cincinnati were unemployed. That number is now around 17.1 percent. 
The poverty rate for blacks has also headed in the wrong direction – 34 percent to 35.7 percent today. 
When it comes to median household income in the region, blacks earned 49 cents for every dollar white households earned in 1995. Today that figure is worse: just 42 cents for every dollar
To underscore the impact on the local economy, consider this: If incomes for blacks had just kept pace with inflation, an additional $200 million in earnings would be available for families, an Enquirer analysis shows. If incomes doubled compared to 20 years ago, local black families would have nearly $2 billion in additional income. 
That “missing” money could have been invested or used to buy homes. It could have been spent at stores to support local jobs. It could have helped build the region’s tax base. 
And that’s just looking at one issue covered in a new report that paints a picture of stunning disparities in Greater Cincinnati from outcomes in the criminal justice system to child poverty. 
The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio’s 164-page report, to be released Monday, echoes a State of Black Cincinnati report that the Avondale-based nonprofit organization released 20 years ago. 
There have been two decades of discussions, well-intended programs and energy spent trying to fix the problems. Donna Jones Baker, president and CEO of the local Urban League, wonders “why are we still asking the same questions and why are we getting the same answers?

The Clinton and Bush era economic booms passed Black Cincinnati by.  When the economy crapped out in 2008, it never recovered.  The figures are heartbreaking: three out of four black children under six live in a family below the poverty line.  Three out of four.  This, despite the fact that half of Cincinnati's population is black.  Life expectancy here a full ten years less for black men than white men.  Ten full years.

But of Greater Cincinnati's more than two million residents, only 12% are black.  I know I talk about the streetcar and Mayor Cranley and the recent Sam DuBose shooting case on this blog, but even I was unaware that things were actually considerably worse than 20 years ago, although it's not surprising.  But it sure seems like that Cincinnati's growth and success, part of the reason I moved here, passed a lot of people by.

That's got to change.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Last Call For Lies, Dirty Lies, And Cheney Lies

If there's one person who lacks any and all reliability and credibility on US foreign policy matters, it's former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is desperately trying to remain relevant by directly attacking President Obama's nuclear deal on Iran.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney launched a broad attack against President Barack Obama's foreign policy in an excerpt of a forthcoming book that was published in The Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Both Cheneys accused Obama of lying about the Iran nuclear deal and said that the agreement would lead to the first use of a nuclear weapon since 1945.

"Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false. He has said it will prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, but it will actually facilitate and legitimize an Iranian nuclear arsenal," they wrote. "The Obama agreement will lead to a nuclear-armed Iran, a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East and, more than likely, the first use of a nuclear weapon since Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

The Obama administration has aggressively defended the deal, saying that it cuts off all pathways to a nuclear bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that a better deal simply does not exist.

The Cheneys also blamed the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS on the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011 -- a talking point that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bushhas also used.

"He has abandoned Iraq, leaving a vacuum that is being tragically and ominously filled by our enemies. He is on course to forsake Afghanistan as well," the Cheneys wrote.

This would be laughable if this wasn't the same line of "mushroom cloud" garbage that was fed to the American people about Iraq, which caused us to invade and cost trillions of dollars, tens of thousands of civilian lives, and thousands of American soldiers.  Now he's saying the same thing about Iran.  The guy should be laughed out of the room.

Instead he's in the Wall Street Journal and on a book tour.

Amazing.  Even with the hindsight of the Iraq disaster, he's still out there pitching the same outright lies and of all things, accusing the President of misleading the American people.  This guy.

Why isn't he in prison?

I know, I know, Obama said we need to look forward.  But this is one time I wish the guy would have been vindictive as hell and put him and his boss in the slammer.

It's A Movement, Alright

Donald Trump is winning the Mad As Hell White Guy vote by pretty large margins.  Things went pretty well for middle-class white guys eight years ago, and an America where the rest of us are starting the catch up scares the hell out of them.

No wonder they're flocking to the GOP id.

Campaigning in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump on Saturday paid homage to his supporters — claiming they are a part of “a movement” and using colorful language to beg for their support.

“This is a movement,” said Trump, who often speaks about himself in campaign appearances. “I don’t want it to be about me. This is about common sense. It’s about doing the right thing.”

Trump also paid tribute to his setting, a country music hotbed and insisted there needed to be a greater emphasis on "law and order." And, as has become customary, he took shots at Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who is a rival for the Republican nomination.

Beyond the bragging, Trump’s appearance represented something more tangible: evidence of a campaign that has grown more tactically serious as it wears on.

His speech — full, as ever, with a mix of taunts and asides — was in front of the Presidential Presence Convention of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies. The group that describes itself as “a grassroots movement of Republicans that seeks to restore the conservative principles of the Goldwater / Reagan Republicans.”

And those tactics are as old as time.  Blame those people for everything.

Mixed in with Trump’s talk of a “silent majority” was a call for “law and order.” He decried the rioting that took place in Baltimore in April in response to the death of a young black man in police custody.

“The police were not allowed to protect people,” said Trump. “We have to be tough. We have to be smart … I know cities where police are afraid to even talk to people.”

Trump said he has seen policing-related incidents that are “disgusting” and “horrible,” an apparent reference to the deaths of unarmed black Americans at the hands of police officers that have received significant attention over the last year. 
But he said that “99.9 percent” of what police do is good. “The problem is the good work doesn’t get shown on television,” he said.

And blame the media for giving those people a voice.

No Trump campaign stop is complete without a few shots at the media. At one point, as Trump was criticizing CNN’s coverage of a fundraiser he held on Friday — “We had this incredible event and they destroyed it,” he said — a supporter got his attention by shouting about “the criminal media.”

Trump used it as an opportunity to again emphasize the importance of his supporters. He attributed his continued lead in Republican primary polls to the intelligence of his supporters.

The reason is people in this country are smart. They don’t believe a lot of what they see in the media.”

Everybody's your enemy except for you and me friends, so what are you going to help me do to them in the elections, so we can put those people in their place?

Who do you trust?  Those people or the billionaire that you so desperately want to be?

He's the perfect Republican candidate for 2015 and his path to win is pretty clear.  Romney got 59% of the white vote in 2012 and lost.  At 61% he would have been a lot more competitive.  At 63% he would have won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. At 65% he would have been president, and that margin only was necessary because of record turnout among black voters.

The odds of Trump getting that percentage overall is extremely low.

But if he gets it, he wins.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Needs To Go

Yesterday I asked how Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz remained in charge of the DNC after making it pretty clear her loyalties were to Hillary Clinton and losing House seats stupidly.  Today I'm convinced more than ever that it's time for her to resign as chair of the DNC if this is true.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz prevented consideration of a resolution at the party’s summer meeting here that praised President Obama and offered backing for the nuclear agreement with Iran, according to knowledgeable Democrats.

The resolution was drafted with the intention of putting the national committee on record in support of the agreement as Congress prepares to take up the issue when members return from their August recess.

As a fallback, James Zogby, the co-chair of the Resolutions Committee, led a move to prepare a letter of support for the president and the Iran agreement that eventually gained signatures from a sizable majority of the members of the national committee. Zogby said Saturday that, in the end, this produced a satisfactory outcome.

“We wanted to show support for the president,” he said. “We found that the best way to show support was a letter that members would sign on to, and the overwhelming majority of DNC members signed onto the letter. This is the President Obama we elected in 2008 who said, ‘I choose diplomacy over conflict,’ and he did it.”

A party spokeswoman and said procedural issues prevented the proposed resolution from being considered. She did not directly address Wasserman Schultz’s role in the decision-making. Other Democrats said that it was congresswoman’s direct opposition that blocked its consideration.

Schultz has been an unmitigated disaster as DNC chair, with the Democrats losing the House and Senate under her tenure and giving Republicans that largest margin in the House in three generations. Now she sandbags the President on Iran?

Unacceptable.  She's clearly more afraid of AIPAC than Democrats, and that alone is a serious problem.  But when that turns into direct action against the President of her own party and his signature foreign policy achievment, she can't be shown the door quickly enough.

I'm tired of her losing.  I'm tired of her running against Barack Obama and losing to Tea Party Republicans.  I'm tired of her idiocy.

She needs to go.

Sunday Long Read: Structured To Deceive

Just in case you still had belief in humanity, Washington Post reporter Terrence McCoy brings us this story of how the structured settlement industry has been ripping off inner-city Baltimore black families over lead poisoning insurance payments.

The letter arrived in April last year, a mishmash of strange numbers and words. This at first did not alarm Rose. Most letters are that way for her — frustrating puzzles she can’t solve. Rose, who can scarcely read or write, calls herself a “lead kid.” Her childhood home, where lead paint chips blanketed her bedsheets like snowflakes, “affected me really bad,” she says. “In everything I do.” 
She says she can’t work a professional job. She can’t live alone. And, she says, she surely couldn’t understand this letter. 
So on that April day, the 20-year-old says she asked her mom to give it a look. Her mother glanced at the words, then back at her daughter. “What does this mean all of your payments were sold to a third party?” her mother recalls saying. 
The distraught woman said the letter, written by her insurance company, referred to Rose’s lead checks. The family had settled a lead-paint lawsuit against one Baltimore slumlord in 2007, granting Rose a monthly check of nearly $1,000, with yearly increases. Those payments were guaranteed for 35 years. 
“It’s been sold?” Rose asked, memories soon flashing. 
She remembered a nice, white man. He had called her one day on the telephone months after she’d squeaked through high school with a “one-point something” grade-point average. His name was Brendan, though she said he never mentioned his last name. He told her she could make some fast money. He told her he worked for a local company named Access Funding. He talked to her as a friend. 
Rose, who court records say suffers from “irreversible brain damage,” didn’t have a lot of friends. She didn’t trust many people. Growing up off North Avenue in West Baltimore, she said she’s seen people killed. 
But Brendan was different. He bought her a fancy meal at Longhorn Steakhouse, she said, and guaranteed a vacation for the family. He seemed like a gentleman, someone she said she could trust . 
One day soon after, a notary arrived at her house and slid her a 12-page “purchase” agreement. Rose was alone. But she wasn’t worried. She said she spoke to a lawyer named Charles E. Smith on the phone about the contract. She felt confident in what it stated. She was selling some checks in the distant future for some quick money, right? 
The reality, however, was substantially different. Rose sold everything to Access Funding — 420 monthly lead checks between 2017 and 2052. They amounted to a total of nearly $574,000 and had a present value of roughly $338,000. 
In return, Access Funding paid her less than $63,000.

It's bad enough that a generation of poor black kids grew up in the Baltimore projects with lead paint and brain damage.  It's bad enough that these were the poorest parts of a city crushed by crime and poverty.  No, we have people whose job it is to talk people like Rose out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution in order to profit off of such horrendous misery, and the fact is it's all perfectly legal.

Because you can't be just poor and black and screwed for the rest of your life because of lead paint chips, you have to be preyed upon as well.

America is beyond awful sometimes.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Last Call For Bushwhacked On The Campaign Trail

There's another sign — if you needed one — that Jeb Bush is sucking wind in the Republican primary: Three top fundraisers from Bush's home base of Florida have left the campaign.

The particulars of the split are up for debate, according to Politico's Alex Isenstadt and Marc Caputo, who broke the news. But regardless of the proximate cause, it's a big deal because it suggests two larger issues for Bush's campaign: He's dug a big hole and there's concern in his own camp that he won't be able to dig his way out.

It also comes less than three months after Bush shook up his staff and installed Danny Diaz, a veteran Washington operative, as campaign manager.

In the last public national poll, conducted by Quinnipiac, Bush was tied for third place, behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson, at 7 percent. Ironically, fundraising prowess has been Bush's calling card in a campaign that was supposed to blow his rivals out of the water. Even Mitt Romney, who had to fend off a rotating set of ill-fated front-runners like Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, enjoyed a pretty steady rise in polling. Not Bush.

The three fundraising aides left after clashing with national campaign staff, Politico reported, and it's not clear whether they will continue to have a role with Bush's Right to Rise super PAC. But what is clear is this: It's rare for three high-profile staffers to bolt a campaign they see as likely to land the candidate in the White House, and it's equally rare for a winning campaign to shed three high-profile aides.

Especially since Jeb!'s super power is superior fundraising and a war chest that dominates his foes, to see three fundraisers leave the campaign is a massive (one might even say "yooooge") admission that money isn't going to save him.

And if money can't save him, then he's got...what, exactly?

Trump continues to roll and roil over his opponents.  He's the monster unleashed and the normal rules simply don't apply anymore.

The person that hurts the most of course is Jebby.

I don't think Bush is going anywhere and will stay in the race, that's something his money does afford him.  But he's polling in single digits. like a giant loser.  And nobody likes a loser.

From The Delta To The DNC

Both Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley are furious at DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, accusing her of rigging the limited number of Democratic party primaries in order to give non-Clinton candidates as little national exposure as possible.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) believes the Democratic Party is using its limited primary debate schedule to rig the nomination process.

“I do,” Sanders reportedly responded when asked Friday whether he agrees with former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s assertion that the debate system is “rigged.”

The two Democratic presidential candidates were speaking at the summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in Minneapolis on Friday.

“This sort of rigged process has never been attempted before,” O’Malley said in his speech earlier Friday.

The DNC has drawn criticism for scheduling only four debates before the early-primary states cast their votes, and six total throughout the election cycle.

DNC spokeswoman Holly Shulman defended the schedule, saying it will “give plenty of opportunity for the candidates to be seen side-by-side.”

“I’m sure there will be lots of other forums for the candidates to make their case to voters, and that they will make the most out of every opportunity,” Shulman said in a statement, according to The Washington Post.

On one hand, Sanders and O'Malley have a point.  The DNC is certainly doing everything it can to hold a grand coronation for Hillary.  On the other hand, Democrats have already started tuning out politics even more (2014 turnout, anyone?) and the infighting is already tiresome even 15 months before the election.

No real good answer here, frankly.  The Democrats do need a solid debate about issues and carrying on President Obama's legacy (the overwhelmingly positive parts, not so much the lousy ones) but I don't think "more debates" is automatically the answer.

We'll see.

PS, how the hell is DWS still in charge of the DNC?

Wild, Wasted West Virginia

A bit of a Sunday Long Read on Saturday, but an excellent story nonetheless from HuffPo's Mariah Blake on what DuPont has done to the town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, and it isn't a pretty sight. People like Joe and Darlene Kiger have been fighting the chemical plant giant for decades over health issues and birth defects that DuPont's factory in Parkersburg created, and despite winning a lawsuit against the company, the cleanup may never actually happen.

When I met Joe and Darlene Kiger this summer, Joe was carrying the bulging satchel of C8 papers that he refers to as his “Bible.” He takes it everywhere, even on family vacations. Because, despite winning a historic lawsuit against formidable odds, the fight is far from over. These days, Joe is pouring his energies into a new organization, Keep Your Promises, which aims to ensure that DuPont fulfills its obligations to the local community. It is proving to be a daunting mission.

Under the class-action settlement, DuPont was required to pay for a medical monitoring program to regularly screen locals for the conditions that the science panel linked to C8. The plaintiff’s attorneys wanted Brookmar to administer this program. Instead, DuPont maneuvered to have it run by Michael Rozen, then a partner at the New York law firm Feinberg Rozen, which administered the fund to settle claims arising from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Multiple Gulf Coast residents have sued Feinberg Rozen, accusing it of delaying payment for as long as possible and then offering financially desperate claimants a fraction of the money they were entitled to. 
Kiger and others believe that Rozen is deploying a similar strategy in his work for DuPont. Rozen kicked off the monitoring program with two town hall meetings at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. on a Friday, when many people in this blue-collar community were working. Residents also say that enrollment packets are unnecessarily complicated, and that people who do manage to enroll are sometimes billed for testing that DuPont is supposed to cover. So far, few people have taken part. As of January 2015, DuPont had paid Feinberg Rozen about $9 million to administer the program, but only $50,000 had been spent on medical claims. 
Brooks believes DuPont wants the program to fail. “They poisoned the world,” he says. “A successful medical monitoring program would give us much better data on the links between this chemical and various diseases, and DuPont would have so much liability that it couldn’t possibly compensate everyone.” 
Rozen bristles at these allegations, and says that he has done his best to encourage participation. He also stresses that some of the plaintiffs have died or moved away in the decade since the settlement was reached. “The benefit that is being provided to the class is exactly what was prescribed and then some, by the parties themselves in their negotiated settlement,” he told me. 
Meanwhile, this past July, DuPont spun off its specialty chemicals division into a separate company called Chemours. The new enterprise will assume the liability for DuPont’s most polluted sites, including Washington Works—but it will only have one-quarter of DuPont’s revenue. Many people with cases pending against DuPont worry that it will use this arrangement to avoid paying damages or, at the very least, stall any resulting payouts. “I’m sure part of their theory is the longer they delay, the more people will die,” said Deitzler, the Parkersburg-based lawyer. “It’s already worked. Before we could even file cases, many of the people who’ve been affected passed on.”

And DuPont is basically going to get away with it.  Parkersburg is still a toxic mess.  And the people whose lives were ruined will almost certainly never see justice.

What Actual Judicial Activism Looks Like

Republicans have no problem with "judicial activism" when they go to federal court to try to block every Obama-era federal regulation that they don't like (which is all of them).  This week's injunction comes on the Clean Water Act.

A federal judge in North Dakota acted late Thursday to block the Obama administration’s controversial water pollution rule, hours before it was due to take effect. 
Judge Ralph Erickson of the District Court for the District of North Dakota found that the 13 states suing to block the rule met the conditions necessary for a preliminary injunction, including that they would likely be harmed if courts didn't act and that they are likely to succeed when their underlying lawsuit against the rule is decided.

The decision is a major roadblock for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers, who were planning Friday to begin enforcing the Waters of the United States rule, expanding federal jurisdiction over small waterways like streams and wetlands. 
But the Obama administration says it will largely enforce the regulation as planned, arguing that the Thursday decision only applies to the 13 states that requested the injunction. 
“Once the rule takes effect, the states will lose their sovereignty over intrastate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act,” Erickson wrote in his order. 
“While the exact amount of land that would be subject to the increase is hotly disputed, the agencies admit to an increase in control over those traditional state-regulated waters of between 2.84 to 4.65 percent. Immediately upon the rule taking effect, the rule will irreparably diminish the states’ power over their waters,” he continued, calling the Obama administration's interpretation of its jurisdiction "exceptionally expansive." 
The states and the federal government argued over how to judge the likelihood opponents of the rule would win their case. But Erickson decided that the regulation is not “likely” to stand up to full court consideration. 
In a statement shortly after the ruling, the EPA was defiant and said that the injunction only applies in the thirteen states that filed for it: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Pretty easy to find at least one federal judge that hates Obama to block the rule from ever taking effect and run out the clock until the next administration.  They've done it before on ozone and power plant emissions and mercury emission regulations got all the way to the Supreme Court earlier this summer before those were struck down over cost benefit analysis, so yeah, it's no surprise that enforcing Clean Water Act rules are being blocked too.

This is what real "judicial activism" and "legislation from the bench" looks like:  Corporate controlled Republicans constantly using the courts to block executive branch enforcement of laws that Congress passed to give the executive branch the power to enforce.

But only against Obama.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Last Call For Brownie Points

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans (and the Bush administration) former Bush FEMA Director Michael "Heckuva Job Brownie" Brown is still trying to pin the blame for FEMA's ridiculous response to the storm on everyone but himself.

I’m often asked, as the person who was running FEMA when Hurricane Katrina hit, why I didn’t evacuate New Orleans. My response is simple—FEMA had no authority to do that under the Constitution, which clearly establishes a system of federalism in which state and local governments are autonomous governmental entities. We call first responders “first” for a reason. When you dial 9-1-1 your call isn’t answered by an operator at 500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C., 20472. Your call is answered by a local government entity that has first and primary responsibility for a disaster. 
Could FEMA have ordered the evacuation of New Orleans? Yes, had it waived posse comitatus and invoked the Insurrection Act, which Congress ultimately amended in 2006 to permit deployment of troops in response to natural disasters. That unprecedented action was actually contemplated days after landfall aboard Air Force One—and I advocated for it. After I advised the president to federalize the response, he sat with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Air Force One and outlined his plan. We immediately started drafting the federalization documents for the president’s signature, but Governor Blanco requested time to think it over and the president acquiesced. While the governor considered her options, the city became more and more dysfunctional. Blanco ultimately rejected the president’s plan, and political considerations eventually pushed the idea aside.

So again, FEMA could have evacuated the Ninth Ward but didn't because The Decider passed the buck.  So it's really Bush's fault.  Or Kathleen Blanco's fault.  But there's more!

Prior to Katrina making landfall, I asked then-National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield to forcefully explain on a secure video conference call with Blanco and Nagin the catastrophe they were potentially facing if they failed to evacuate at least two or three days prior to landfall. When that didn’t work, I called President Bush at the ranch and implored him to call Mayor Nagin and encourage him to evacuate his city. The president called; the mayor dallied. 
Nagin finally asked people to evacuate on Sunday morning for a storm that hit his city sometime after midnight that night. By that point, Amtrak had left the city with rail cars sans passengers. Airlines had evacuated Louis Armstrong International Airport with planes sans travelers. And school buses sat in their lots, soon to be flooded and ruined. The mayor’s incompetence cost lives.

So now it's Max Mayfield's fault for not convincing Ray Nagin to evacuate when FEMA could have done it but chose not to.  Two more people to add to the blameless Brownie's list.

The press was now on the hunt. Who is Michael Brown? Why does he have a nickname? Why is the president so uninformed about what’s really going on in Louisiana? 
As the media scrutiny increased, I faced another problem—chain of command. FEMA was part of the alphabet soup of agencies folded into the new Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Tom Ridge. But under the Stafford Act, which created FEMA and governed federal responses to disasters, FEMA’s director is to act “on behalf of the President of the United States.”

So now it's the press's fault.  Or Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's fault.  Brownie goes on and on for thousands of words in his screed, not taking a single ounce of responsibility for his massive screwup.  Of course, the real secret is everyone Brownie names is partially responsible for the deaths in New Orleans too: Bush, Nagin, Blanco, Mayfield, and more.

But Brown's attempt to absolve himself is comical to the point of being vulgar and repulsive.  He's just the man who was so utterly incompetent, he actually ended up being the one to take the blame.

Bitter Home Alabama

Republicans in Alabama are showing the rest of Red State America exactly how to go about keeping those undesirable black, Hispanic, poor, and elderly voters from ever being able to cast a ballot: simply pass one of the nation's toughest voter ID laws and require state-issued drivers licenses or ID cards to vote, and then close 90% of the state's drivers' license offices.

Alabama's chief law enforcement officer said Monday he will close all but the state's four largest drivers' license offices next year if state lawmakers don't provide more funding than they are proposing. 
Secretary of Law Enforcement Spencer Collier told a press conference in Scottsboro that budgets proposed in the Legislature's regular session are "unacceptable" and "unworkable." Lawmakers must do better in the upcoming second special session on the 2016 budget, he said. 
Collier heads the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), which was created in 2013 to merge the Department of Public Safety and 11 smaller policing agencies. His press conference was to rally support for Gov. Robert Bentley's proposed tax package as a second special session nears on Alabama's 2016 General Fund budget. State parks officials have scheduled their own press conference Tuesday near Joe Wheeler State Park. 
Collier said his agency received $55 million in state funding this year. Lawmakers have proposed $40 million for next year, and he wants level funding of $55 million. 
Without it, 33 part-time rural drivers' license offices will close Oct. 1, Collier said. More closures Jan. 1, 2016 will leave 12 offices statewide, and that number will drop to four on March 1 – one each in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile. 
That means an estimated 40,000 people a year will funnel to four offices for new drivers licenses and examinations, Alabama licenses for new residents moving from other states, and renewal of licenses after suspensions, department leaders said
Regular license renewal can now be done on line. Collier said that is one of several improvements the state has made to the process, including online examination scheduling, self-serve kiosks, and digital licenses for cell phones. But first licenses and examinations must be done in person, and properly licensing drivers who will be on Alabama roads is a public safety issue, he said. Public safety, he said, is the state's No. 1 responsibility.

Ahh, but let's recall that this means Alabama citizens who want to get a drivers' license or state issue ID ahead of the 2016 election will only be able to go to four offices in the entire state to get one starting in March.

And of course, this is the plan.  If you need a renewal, you can do it online.  But if you're new to the state or getting a voter ID, good luck.  These closings will end up disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.

The Iran Deal Looks Like A Done Deal

It's looking more and more like President Obama's nuclear agreement with Iran and other global partners is a done deal, and that there are now enough Democratic votes to kill the Republican plan to scrap it, but will there be enough to prevent the President from having to veto it at all?

President Barack Obama’s almost certain to get the Iran nuclear deal through Congress — but whether he gets there by filibuster or sustained veto could make all the difference. 
A Democratic filibuster in the Senate would be a clear victory for the president, allowing Obama to say that for all the political noise there wasn’t enough actual opposition to the nuclear agreement with the Islamic republic to even get to a final vote. 
Having to save the deal with a veto (just the fifth of his presidency) and relying on liberals in the House and Senate to sustain it would be much more trouble: a procedural pull across the finish line that sows more doubts in a public already skeptical of the deal, leaves international partners worried about America’s long-term commitment and adds weeks of added time and tangles. 
The White House very much prefers option A. And even before he came out publicly for the deal on Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had been in frequent contact with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to try to make that happen.

The numbers are tight: They’ll need 12 of the remaining 15 undecided Senate Democrats to go Obama’s way, along with the 29 already there. 
Obama, White House aides and Senate minority whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) — who’s been running the unofficial Iran vote-counting operation — have been scrambling to lock down the remaining votes to get 41 Democrats to stick with the president. 
Those who are students of the process know that the president has the last word,” Durbin said. “I’d like to win it earlier.”

We'll see where undecided Democrats like Cory Booker, Barb Mikulski, Ben Cardin, Mark Warner and Chris Coons go with this.  Getting 12 of the 15 will be an issue, especially Warner, Cardin, and Coons.

We'll see where this goes, but considering the sheer number of times Senate Dems have screwed President Obama over, my money is on him having to take the veto option in the end.


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