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Bernie Won All the Focus Groups & Online Polls, So Why Is the Media Saying Hillary Won the Debate?

October 14, 2015 in Blogs

By Adam Johnson, AlterNet

What the public wants out of a candidate and what the beltway press wants appear to be two entirely different things.

Who “won” a debate is inherently subjective. The idea of winning a debate necessarily entails a goal to be achieved. What this goal is, therefore, says as much about the person judging its achievement as the goal itself. Pundits are ostensibly supposed to judge whether or not a candidate said what “the voters” want to hear. But what ends up happening, invariably, is they end up judging whether or not the candidate said what they think voters wanted to hear. This, after all, is why pundits exist, to act as a clergy class charged with interpreting people’s own inscrutable opinions for them. The chasm between what the pundits saw and what the public saw was even bigger than usual last night. 

Bernie Sanders by all objective measures “won” the debate. Hands down. I don’t say this as a personal analysis of the debate; the very idea of “winning” a debate is silly to me. I say this because based on the only relatively objective metric we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win. And it’s not even close.

Sanders won the CNN focus group, the Fusion focus group, and the Fox News focus group; in the latter, he even converted several Hillary supporters. He won the Slate online pollCNN/Time online poll9News ColoradoThe Street online pollFox5 poll, the conservative Drudge online poll and the liberal Daily Kos online poll. There wasn’t, to this writer's knowledge, a poll he didn’t win by at least an 18-point margin. But you wouldn’t know this from reading the establishment press. The New York Times, the New YorkerCNNPoliticoSlateNew York Magazine, and Vox all unanimously say Hillary Clinton cleaned house. What gives?

Firstly, it’s important to point out that online polls, and to a lesser extent focus groups, are obviously not scientific. But it’s also important to point out that the echo chamber musings of establishment liberal pundits is far, far less scientific. It wasn’t that the …read more


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It's Too Late to Save Over 400 U.S. Cities From Rising Seas, Scientists Say

October 14, 2015 in Blogs

By Reynard Loki, AlterNet

Thanks to the carbon dioxide that we have already emitted, millions of Americans will eventually have to find a new place to live.

An alarming new study has found that, no matter what we do to fight climate change, it is already too late for more than 400 U.S. cities — including Miami and New Orleans — which will be overcome by rising sea levels caused by anthropogenic climate change. Under a worst-case scenario, New York could be unlivable by the year 2085. Most of the population in those cities live within five feet of the current high tide line.

“Some of this could happen as early as next century,” said lead author Ben Strauss, vice president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central, a nonprofit climate news organization with offices in New York and Princeton, New Jersey. “But it might also take many centuries,” he added. “Just think of a pile of ice in a warm room. You know it is going to melt, but it is harder to say how quickly.”

The reason that current efforts to combat climate change won't save many of these cities is because of what mankind has done in the past, as carbon pollution that humans have already emitted will continue to affect planetary surface temperature for centuries to come. “Historic carbon emissions have already locked in enough future sea level rise to submerge most of the homes in each of several hundred American towns and cities,” according to Climate Central.

The researchers warned that, under a “business-as-usual” scenario in which greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked through the end of the century, then the total number of “locked-in” cities could grow to more than 1,500. However, if society somehow manages to achieve extreme carbon reductions, many cities could be saved, such as Jacksonville, Florida; Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach in Virginia; and Sacramento and Stockton in California.

“In our analysis, a lot of cities have futures that depend on our carbon choices but some appear to be already lost … and it is hard to imagine how we could …read more


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The GOP Candidates' Absurd Responses to Dem Debate

October 14, 2015 in Blogs

By Laura Clawson, Daily Kos

Mike Huckabee stole the night with his creepy dog joke.

The Republican presidential candidates trotted out their predictable talking points and attack lines in response to Tuesday night's Democratic debate … although Donald Trump, of all people, was relatively restrained. Live-tweeting the debate, Trump said of the candidates that “two (at least) should not be on the stage,” but many Democrats said the same. Of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he later said:

“In all fairness, like her or not, she did her job and they were very, very kind,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wednesday. “All of these people, including [Bernie] Sanders should have been hitting Hillary hard.”

Jeb! Bush, meanwhile, thought maybe he could score the points on the Democratic debate that he failed to score at the Republican debates, trying to turn the subject back to Clinton's email:

“I would have taken her to task for that, and if she wins the nomination and if I win the nomination, trust me, this is not going to end,” Bush added.

I'm sure she's quaking in her boots over the prospect of being taken to task by Jeb! if he wins the nomination. Similarly, Marco Rubio's attack on the Democrats' ideas as being “outdated ideas,” “stuff from the ’80s” and “basically a liberal vs. liberal debate about who was going to give away the most free stuff” was weak tea—itself outdated and, seriously, he's attacking the Democrats for having a liberal vs. liberal debate? Whereas the Republicans displayed such massive ideological diversity as they competed to see who could be the most lavishly anti-abortion. But most of all, the “free stuff” Democrats are proposing includes stuff Americans want done.

Mike Huckabee, though, may have made the biggest Republican splash of the night.

Huckabee then followed up with the claim that “Poor liberals think it's racist to deplore a brutal dictatorship.” No, Mike, I think people were mostly shocked that someone with your family history was making dog jokes.

…read more


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VIDEO: Cop Spits in Innocent Handcuffed Man’s Face, Then Arrests Him for the Assault

October 14, 2015 in Blogs

By Andrew Emett, The Free Thought Project

With the man restrained on his stomach, the officer turns him on his side and spits in his face.

Baltimore, MD — A police sergeant was suspended Tuesday after cellphone videos captured him spitting in the face of a handcuffed man. Although the man was restrained on the ground and not fighting back, police charged him with assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Monday, Sgt. Robert Mesner and several other Baltimore police officers approached a group of people sitting on the steps of a building and ordered them to move. Although upset that they were told to leave, the group complied while voicing their frustration at the officers. As 31-year-old Alfred Evan kept talking trash while walking away from the cops, Sgt. Mesner escalated the situation by following Evan across the street.

Caught on cellphone video, Mesner orders Evan to sit and threatens to fire his Taser at him. After Evan immediately complies, the cameraman steps behind a parked car for a moment, and Mesner appears to attack Evan before placing him in handcuffs. With Evan restrained on his stomach, Mesner turns him on his side and spits in his face.

“You spit on him,” a woman can be heard shouting off-camera. “He just spit on him!”

Another officer aims his Taser at the angry crowd and orders them to cross the street. As Evan is taken into custody, he can be heard saying, “He just spit on me!”

While police put Evan inside the back of a transport van in another video, a woman tells the Baltimore cops, “You won’t Freddie Gray that one!”

According to court records, Evan was charged with second-degree assault of a law enforcement officer, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct even though the video clearly shows Mesner spitting on him. On Tuesday, internal affairs officers began a criminal investigation into the 34-year police veteran after interviewing multiple witnesses and reviewing cellphone videos. On Tuesday evening, Mesner was suspended from the force.

“The video appears to depict the police sergeant spitting on the arrestee,” …read more


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Why Mahatma Gandhi Was Right to Oppose a Ban on Cow Slaughter

October 14, 2015 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

The BJP is trying to appropriate Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy. In many speeches, including the Madison Square Garden jamboree last year, Narendra Modi praised Gandhi and his ideals. The Swachh Bharat campaign is inspired by Gandhi’s emphasis on sanitation.

So, in the current beef controversy, Modi should ask, what did Gandhi say on cow slaughter? My friend Suman Dubey says the answer is available in Gandhi’s prayer discourse of July 25, 1947, from the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 88, published online by the Gandhi Heritage Portal.

In this discourse, Gandhi mentions that Rajendra Prasad, future president of India, has received tens of thousands of letters demanding a ban on cow slaughter, and his own response is unambiguous. “In India, no law can be made to ban cow slaughter. I do not doubt that Hindus are forbidden the slaughter of cows. I have been long pledged to serve the cow. But how can my religion also be the religion of the rest of the Indians? It will mean coercion against those Indians who are not Hindus.

Holding on to their beliefs: Madan Mohan Malviya with Gandhi

“We have been shouting from the housetops that there will be no coercion in the matter of religion. We have been reciting verses from the Koran at the prayer (meetings). But if anyone were to force me to recite the verses I would not like it. How can I force anyone not to slaughter cows unless he is himself so disposed? It is not as if there are only Hindus in the Indian Union. There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here. The assumption of the Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous. India belongs to all who live here.”

Gandhi gets to very heart of the matter. India is not a Hindu nation. What makes India unique is its vast diversity, multiplicity of peoples and tolerance. I have personally received hate mail from Hindu fanatics asking how I can advocate beef-eating when Saudi Arabia bans pork. My reply is that I take the greatest pride in asserting that we are far superior to Saudi Arabia, and must not go down the Saudi path by banning beef.

Break Laws, Not Skulls

To drive home the enormity of Hindus imposing their practices on non-Hindus, Gandhi asks, “If we stop cow slaughter by law here, and the very reverse happens in Pakistan, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Will Tobacco Kill the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

October 14, 2015 in Economics

By Simon Lester

Simon Lester

The TPP will liberalize trade in thousands of products by reducing tariffs, quotas, and other trade barriers. Increased trade in many of these products, particularly in the agriculture sector, will be controversial as protected domestic industries face new competitors. But one product in particular may play an outsized role in the U.S. political debate over TPP: Tobacco.

Reports indicate that tobacco has been “carved out” of standard rules on foreign investment. This is sure to cause concern for members of Congress, including Senate majority leader Mitch Connell, who represents the tobacco-producing state of Kentucky.

So, what kind of carve-out exactly did tobacco get? For decades now, governments have used treaties and trade agreements to offer special protections to foreign investors. Perhaps based on an assumption that foreign investors are treated worse than domestic investors by domestic regulators and courts, these extra protections have proliferated through thousands of treaties worldwide.

Critics allege that these international investment rules are tools of intimidation and litigation, rather than a means of encouraging investment (as supporters claim). The critics seem right on this point. Evidence that these rules promote investment is weak at best. And there are many examples of multinational corporations challenging sensitive domestic laws and regulations.

Reports indicate that tobacco has been ‘carved out’ of standard rules on foreign investment.”

Enter into this contentious debate, tobacco, already a much-demonized product in U.S. politics. Of the hundreds of investment claims that have been filed, only two relate to tobacco, but they are particularly notorious ones. One case involves Phillip Morris challenging Australia’s plain packaging regulations for cigarettes, designed to undermine the use of branding on cigarette products. Another involves a claim by Phillip Morris against Uruguay’s cigarette packaging regulations, including the use of graphic images on the packaging.

These cases have led to accusations that the tobacco industry is abusing the system. On their face, the regulations at issue do not treat foreign companies any differently than domestic companies, so how could the rules possibly have been violated by these regulations? Aren’t the Phillip Morris claims frivolous?

Actually, they are not, due to the broad scope of the investment rules. Companies can bring lawsuits against regulations that discriminate against foreigners (the traditional focus of trade law), but they can also challenge government behavior that falls below a so-called “minimum standard.” One way this obligation is expressed is that government actions must be “fair and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Abandoned by the Pope, Will Cuba's Political Prisoners Abandon All Hope?

October 14, 2015 in Economics

By Nat Hentoff

Nat Hentoff

In my last column, I reported on the suffering of Cuba’s dissidents and political prisoners, which has only increased since President Obama normalized relations.

The reconciliation between Cuba and the United States was facilitated by Pope Francis and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Cuba. On Oct. 1, 2014, I wrote a column titled “Pope Francis’ Admirable War on Poverty.”

It is with regret that I must now write that by abandoning Cuba’s political prisoners, Pope Francis bears some responsibility for their increased suffering.

The PanAm Post, an online magazine covering the Americas, reported that prior to the Pope’s visit to Cuba, a list of political prisoners was sent to the Vatican by Nelis Rojas de Morales — secretary of the International Coordinator of Former Cuban Political Prisoners. Cuban human rights groups were therefore stunned when Cardinal Ortega, the architect of the Pope’s visit, denied the very existence of political prisoners in Cuba during two interviews with Spanish language media.

In an interview held in Rome, and published on March 30 in the Spanish language Catholic magazine Nueva Vida (New Life), Cardinal Ortega denied that there were any political prisoners in Cuba. Two months later, on June 5, Cardinal Ortega told Spain’s Cadena Ser radio that “there are no political prisoners on the island; just common criminals.”

“The dissidents, those that are called dissidents, are more present in the foreign press, in south Florida, and in blogs,” he said

Elizardo Sanchez, leader of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), contested Cardinal Ortega’s claim that there were no political prisoners left in Cuba. According to the PanAm Post, the CCDHRN identified at least two dozen prisoners serving long sentences for peaceful political activities, 13 of whom were members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Cuba’s largest dissident organization.

The Catholic Register reported that Jose Daniel Ferrer — general coordinator of Cuba’s Patriotic Union (UNPACU) — “wrote an open letter to Pope Francis Sept. 3 asking him to ‘intercede and take up the defense of the rights of the oppressed in Cuba.’”

Damas de Blanco (“Ladies in White”) leader Berta Soler told Reuters that she would like to “discuss with the Pope the need to stop police violence against those who exercise their freedom to demonstrate in public.”

Earlier this summer, she reiterated to the PanAm Post that “the Catholic Church … should protect and shelter every suffering, defenseless person.”

Although the Cuban government released over …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Will the Next Speaker Enforce Sequestration?

October 14, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Whoever emerges from the current chaos to become the next House speaker, one of the first issues he or she will have to deal with is funding the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. It won’t be easy, but the choices made will tell us a great deal about the new speaker’s priorities and whether the revolt against the GOP leadership has actually changed anything in Washington.

As usual, Congress has been unable to pass the required appropriations bills that would fund the government until October 2016. Therefore, in what has become an annual ritual, Congress passed a stop-gap continuing resolution funding the government through December 11.

Passing another funding bill will not be a simple task. The media are fixated on threats by some Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, a poison pill that will provoke a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and, if it gets that far, a presidential veto. But a much bigger question is whether Congress will abandon one of its few recent successes, the discretionary spending levels imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and sequestration.

If Republicans give in to the president’s demands, it will mean the end of sequestration and a return to spending as usual.”

To date BCA and sequestration have reduced federal spending by at least $200 billion from what it would have been under pre-sequester baselines. That’s a substantial savings for taxpayers and a major factor in helping to reduce our budget deficit to just (just!) $435 billion in FY 2015. That’s not to say that federal spending is under control. Sequestration does not apply to the entitlement programs that are the big drivers of the federal budget. Total federal spending continues to rise.

But without sequestration and the budget caps it would have been much worse. As Michael Barone has written in the Washington Examiner, “The hold-down of federal spending was accomplished by the sequester procedure which has stayed in place now for four years. It’s not the optimal way to form a budget. But if your goal is holding down spending … the sequester has been very effective.”

Last week, however, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, the Pentagon’s funding bill. It circumvented the established caps by allocating an extra $89.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (which is not subject to the caps), $38 billion above the president’s request. In …read more

Source: OP-EDS