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Flag-draped caskets en route to Dover, Delaware.
Flag-draped caskets on their way back from Iraq to the United States.
Ray McGovern writes—Remember This on Memorial Day: They Didn't Fall, They Were Pushed. "Of all the world’s holidays commemorating wars, Memorial Day should be one of sober reflection on war’s horrible costs, surely not a moment to glorify warfare or lust for more wars":
 How best to show respect for the U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and for their families on Memorial Day? Simple: Avoid euphemisms like “the fallen” and expose the lies about what a great idea it was to start those wars and then to “surge” tens of thousands of more troops into those fools’ errands.

First, let’s be clear on at least this much: the 4,500 U.S. troops killed in Iraq—so far—and the 2,350 killed in Afghanistan—so far—did not “fall.” They were wasted on no-win battlefields by politicians and generals—cheered on by neocon pundits and mainstream “journalists”— almost none of whom gave a rat’s patootie about the real-life-and-death troops. They were throwaway soldiers.

And, as for the “successful surges,” they were just P.R. devices to buy some “decent intervals” for the architects of these wars and their boosters to get space between themselves and the disastrous endings while pretending that those defeats were really “victories squandered” – all at the “acceptable” price of about 1,000 dead U.S. soldiers each and many times that in dead Iraqis and Afghans.

Memorial Day should be a time for honesty about what enabled the killing and maiming of so many U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and the senior military brass simply took full advantage of a poverty draft that gives upper-class sons and daughters the equivalent of exemptions, vaccinating them against the disease of war.

What drives me up the wall is the oft-heard, dismissive comment about troop casualties from well-heeled Americans: “Well, they volunteered, didn’t they?” Under the universal draft in effect during Vietnam, far fewer were immune from service, even though the well-connected could still game the system to avoid serving. Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joe Biden, for example, each managed to pile up five exemptions. This means, of course, that they brought zero military experience to the job; and this, in turn, may explain a whole lot—particularly given their bosses’ own lack of military experience. [...]

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2005FBI: Newsweek was right:

Turns out Newsweek was wrong about its source, right about the story.

The American Civil Liberties Union released the memo and a series of other FBI documents it obtained from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

"Personally, he has nothing against the United States. The guards in the detention facility do not treat him well. Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet," the FBI agent wrote.

"The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray. The guards still do these things," the FBI agent wrote.

Darn it. Now who can the wingers blame for setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq?

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Americans in past year killed by...
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Ebola: 2
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On today's "encore performance" Kagro in the Morning show, it's our 5/27/14 show. Greg Dworkin joined us to discuss the #YesAllWomen global phenomenon, open carry blowback in TX, the VA issue narrative vs. reality & how Burr stepped in it. Even as the tide turns on marriage equality, we're reminded that some think they can turn it on a dime, because "tradition." And the oldest House Member ever looks to win his primary. Dark money at work in AR-SEN. Twitter's buzzing about corporate social media. Boston's "fusion center" tracked Occupy while missing the marathon bombing. Boing Boing notes  Baquet spiked the biggest pre-Snowden NSA story. The prescience of Justice Brandeis.

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Less power for government, more power for guys like them, and the corporations they control.
Liberty. Power. Government. The way one frames the equation that connects these three words is at the heart of any political philosophy. The passage of a law in Wyoming got me thinking again about them. Wyoming just made it a criminal act to gather and submit to the government any kind of data—including photos—derived from privately owned land. In other words, if one documents pollution on private property and informs the authorities, one is breaking the law. This ridiculous statute is almost certainly unconstitutional, so rather than discuss it in detail I want to use it as a jumping off point to explore the anti-government philosophy—and in particular the motivations for it—that underlay the law.

Supporters of laws like this one love to talk broadly about liberty, property rights, and protecting the freedom of individuals from government overreach. All of these things are fine in the abstract. I also want to be free, to have liberty, to be protected from a tyrannical government taking my stuff. Who wouldn't?

However, this a simplistic, one-sided way of looking at things. Libertarianism—an ideology also embedded within its far more potent cousin, anti-government conservatism—is incredibly simplistic. Ayn Rand—whose fictional works strongly appeal to the anti-government right—is such a perfect example of this simplicity that we have this bit of wisdom from John Rogers:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Please follow me across the darkest depths of Mordor, i.e., beyond the fold.
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Lady with Cane - Reggio Emilia, Italy - 1991  Scan of an old slide turned to B&W. After 20 years the colors are almost gone anyway.
The Grand Old Party has a problem: It's old and it's getting older by the minute. Time, quite literally, is not on the GOP's side when it comes to its 2016 base voters. Daniel J. McGraw assessed the implications:
There’s been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there’s been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: Hundreds of thousands of their traditional core supporters won’t be able to turn out to vote at all.

The party’s core is dying off by the day.

Since the average Republican is significantly older than the average Democrat, far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. To make matters worse, the GOP is attracting fewer first-time voters. Unless the party is able to make inroads with new voters, or discover a fountain of youth, the GOP’s slow demographic slide will continue election to election. Actuarial tables make that part clear, but just how much of a problem for the GOP is this?

After comparing 2012 election polls with census mortality rates, McGraw concluded that about 2.75 million people who voted for Romney will have died by 2016, while closer to 2.3 million Obama voters will pass, putting Democrats at a 453,000-person advantage. That gap only widens when he adds in new millennial voters, assuming they vote approximately the way they have in the last couple election cycles.
In 2012, there were about 13 million in the 15-to-17 year-old demo who will be eligible to vote in 2016. The previous few presidential election cycles indicate that about 45 percent of these youngsters will actually vote, meaning that there will about 6 million new voters total. Exit polling indicates that age bracket has split about 65-35 in favor of the Dems in the past two elections. If that split holds true in 2016, Democrats will have picked up a two million vote advantage among first-time voters. These numbers combined with the voter death data puts Republicans at an almost 2.5 million voter disadvantage going into 2016.
Clearly, these are some rough guesstimates, but you get the gist.
Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
A majority of poor people who can work (ie are not disabled, elderly, or students), do: 37 percent of those eligible for work are not working.
The contrast between hardworking Americans and shiftless, lazy, poor people is a favorite of Republicans as they try to cut safety net programs like food stamps or housing assistance. But—even if you believe that people who don't work should starve—it's a contrast based on a lie. In reality, a majority of people living in poverty who can work, do work:
The top bar shows that 35.2 percent of the poor between the ages of 18 and 64 in 2013 were considered not currently eligible to work because they are retired, going to school, or disabled. The other 64.8 percent of working-age poor are currently eligible to work. The second bar shows us that among these currently-eligible workers, 62.6 percent are working and 44.3 percent are working full-time. Of the working-age poor eligible for employment, 37.4 percent are not working—a share that includes the 3.3 million unemployed poor people currently seeking a job.
It's not a convenient story for Republicans, but it's reality. And it's a reality reinforced by Republican refusal to raise the minimum wage and pass other laws that would make work pay.
Misspelled sign at Tea Party rally
Loud, but not representative
This bears repeating. We've heard before that lawmakers tend to presume their own districts are much more conservative than they are, but it's the degree to which they're off that's amazing, and important.
The typical conservative legislator overestimates his or her district’s conservatism by a whopping 20 percentage points. Indeed, he or she believes the district is even more conservative than the most right-leaning district in the entire country.

Liberals also think their constituents’ views are more conservative than they really are, but are typically only off by about five percentage points.

So when Republican lawmakers get to Washington, they are operating under the presumption that their districts are full of insane people who are more conservative than any of the sorry bastards in anyone else's district. And thus a hundred Ted Cruzes get their wings. (On the Democratic side, they are still convinced their constituents are more conservative than they, which likely accounts for the depressing tendency of lawmakers to agree to conservative demands even when the actual polling of the district shows their voters don't want anything of the sort.)

Why does this happen? There's probably a few reasons, and they're probably testable. First, the far-right is unequivocally better at rallying their members to contact Congress and yell at them for not doing the most conservative possible thing. Our side has been trying to get better at that—hence the calls to sign petitions or call your congresscritters that popup on our site on a regular basis, as reminders that all of the grumbling in the world won't strengthen the congressional spine unless they hear it—but as anyone who has ever listened to CSPAN call-in segments can attest, conservatives are much louder than liberals and seem to have a lot more free time on their hands.

The second and probably equally significant reason is the steadfast conservatism of the pundit corps. The papers of record are filled with certified-important people demanding objectively far-right things, including in the unsigned op-eds of the papers of record themselves. For every "liberal" like Krugman there is a Krauthammer, a Kristol, a Brooks, and six others besides all demanding neoconservative interventionism, or conservative "austerity" focused almost entirely on the lower classes, or that we recognize that black Americans don't have it all that bad, they just lack character, and so on and so forth. This extends to the Sunday shows, and to cable news interviews; the same voices rotate in and out of the same chairs espousing the same positions, and that those positions are largely the voices of a wealthy, privileged and very-right-of-center American minority does not matter; it is declared to be what America thinks, even when the actual polls frequently show actual America doesn't think anything of the sort.

That's a thornier problem to deal with, because it's cooked into the current system. Our political class, our punditry class and our wider political media establishments operate by currying favor and fame within their own social sphere. That sphere does not include "constituents." At very best, it might include the thoughts of a cab driver here and there, but only when the important people find themselves needing to go somewhere and bereft of other story ideas at the exact same time.

First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a speech at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., Feb. 9, 2011. Mrs. Obama highlighted the impact parents and other supporters have had on fundamentally shifting the conversation on childhood obesity this year
It appears First Lady Michelle Obama acknowledging racism in a commencement speech is in fact one of the most harrowing things Michelle Obama has ever done. It was so wounding to National Review editor Rich Lowry that it took to the pages of Politico to write roughly a thousand words on her "whining." The short version is that Michelle Obama is successful, isn't she, so why is she even bringing these things up?
Yet, the first lady often strikes an aggrieved note when talking about her experience in America (her notorious comment in 2008 was that “for the first time in my adult lifetime I’m really proud of my country.”). Her gloss on the famous Wallis Simpson line is apparently that you can never be too rich, too thin or too easily offended.
These seems an odd mantra for any conservative pundit to take, given that Fox News journalism would not exist without the sure conviction that every curious happening anywhere in the nation is evidence of deeper plots against conservative white American men. In a world where mop sinks are interrogated for sharia ties and strip mall florists have been elevated to positions of the highest religious importance, having Michelle Obama relate a brief few times she felt uncomfortable by race-based slights or things that she felt to be race-base slights seems like it would, if anything, serve to endear her to her ever-fragile foes.

No such luck, of course, because nothing sets off the alarm bells of a distinguished editor of the National Review quite like somebody, somewhere suggesting racism still exists. The National Review was founded on the premise that racism never did exist, it's just that the black people need to be barred from our schools and restaurants because reasons, and to this day no member of the magazine has ever had the good sense to Shut The Hell Up when it comes to telling black Americans how good they have it nowadays. And so we have this, a thousandish words in Politico explaining once again that black Americans have things great and are far too thin-skinned, because the real victims these days are the buttery white men who read Rich Lowry columns.

Even though Michelle Obama didn’t mention the word, what she was discussing was “microaggressions.” It is the trendy term on college campuses for often inadvertent offensiveness, such as Barack Obama, once upon a time, being mistaken for a waiter when he wore a tuxedo at an event.

The idiocy of the concept of the microaggression is its underlying premise that only people who belong to certain select groups ever suffer indignities or humiliations, when they are, of course, endemic to the human condition.

Head below the fold for more on Lowry's outrage.
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'For $1 million Scott Walker's super PAC will give you an "exclusive" pin. Some special access, too.
The best thing about Scott Walker's three-star super PAC price guide is that they've made it look like a menu, making it crystal clear that you're buying something. Would you prefer one private dinner with an unnamed VIP Special Guest, wink wink, or two? Would you care for Members Only briefings, or are you in more of a conference call mood? And, of course, your pin. It goes without saying that purchasers of the $1,000,000 Scott Walker package will get a considerably better commemorative pin.

Thank goodness none of this smacks of corruption or the appearance of corruption.

Speaker of the House John Boehner takes his oath during the first day of the 113th Congress at the Capitol in Washington January 3, 2013.  Despite a rocky few weeks during the
Raise your hand if you found someone else's gun in your bathroom.
After incidents in which various members of the Capitol Police left their loaded guns in public bathrooms (one in House Speaker John Boehner's offices, but don't worry—a visiting kindergartner soon found it and thus staff was able to return it to the offending officer), the protectors of America's most important shouty people will be getting a refresher course on how to use the loo.
"We're now providing additional training for what to do when you have to go to the bathroom," Dine said Wednesday during a hearing about recent security lapses from the Capitol Police.
There's nothing unique about the Capitol Police here, as the heroes of GunFAIL can attest; armed officers leaving their weapons in bathrooms is endemic among all the various places we put guards these days. Guns and pooping are, for various physical reasons, incompatible.

For all the instances of this happening, though, you'd think there'd be more initial training on what to do. I'm not suggesting a weeklong how-to-bathroom lecture series, but there's got to be an internet course on this or something.

 “An Economic Agenda for America: A Conversation with Bernie Sanders” event in DC.
The senator speaks at “An Economic Agenda for America: A Conversation with Bernie Sanders”
 event in D.C. in February this year..
We're all used to Sen. Bernie Sanders telling the truth whether people—including top-level Democrats—like it or not.

He's done it again. Here's Ali Elkin:

“In terms of campaign coverage, there is more coverage about the political gossip of the campaign, about raising money, about polling, about somebody saying something dumb, or some kid works for a campaign and sends out something stupid on Facebook, right?” the Vermont senator said in an appearance Sunday on CNN's Reliable Sources, a program about media. “We can expect that to be a major story. But what your job is, what the media's job is, is to say, 'Look, these are the major issues facing the country.' We're a democracy. People have different points of view. Let's argue it.” [...]

“I think that instead of coming up with the next news of the moment, 'Breaking news! There was an automobile accident and a cat got run over,' here's breaking news: For 40 years the American middle class has been disappearing and the rich have been getting richer. Why?” Sanders said.

Sanders knows the answer to that question. He's expressed it many times.  

But will the media spread his answer? Or stick to the polls and the horserace?

Here's a synopsis of Sanders's economic recovery proposal. Nothing radical here. Nothing socialist, just a commonsense social democratic program. Sanders himself has pointed out that the list is incomplete. Personally, I'd like to see a federal infrastructure bank and a state bank in the 49 states that don't have one the way North Dakota does. I'd like to see an emphasis on government encouragement of alternatives to corporate structure, worker cooperatives and a much bigger proportion of municipally owned utilities instead of the 15 percent now existing. But there's plenty worthwhile in Sanders's approach:

• Invest in our crumbling infrastructure with a major program to create jobs by rebuilding roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools.

• Transform energy systems away from fossil fuels to create jobs while beginning to reverse global warming and make the planet habitable for future generations.

• Develop new economic models to support workers in the United States instead of giving tax breaks to corporations which ship jobs to low-wage countries overseas.

• Make it easier for workers to join unions and bargain for higher wages and benefits.

• Raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour so no one who works 40 hours a week will live in poverty.

• Provide equal pay for women workers who now make 78 percent of what male counterparts make.

• Reform trade policies that have shuttered more than 60,000 factories and cost more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs.

• Make college affordable and provide affordable child care to restore America’s competitive edge compared to other nations.

• Break up big banks. The six largest banks now have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product, over $9.8 trillion. They underwrite more than half the mortgages in the country and issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards.

• Join the rest of the industrialized world with a Medicare-for-all health care system that provides better care at less cost.

• Expand Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs.

• Reform the tax code based on wage earners’ ability to pay and eliminate loopholes that let profitable corporations stash profits overseas and pay no U.S. federal income taxes.

A pipedream? It doesn't have to be.

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Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
President Obama walks with 2016 teacher of the year Shanna Peeples.
President Obama with 2015 teacher of the year Shanna Peeples.
Every year, each state chooses its teacher of the year. This year, the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic surveyed those outstanding teachers about their jobs, and it's worth paying attention to what they have to say about the barriers their students face and where they'd direct education funding.

Asked what barriers to learning their students face that affect academic success the most, 76 percent of the teachers said family stress, 63 percent said poverty, and 52 percent said learning and psychological problems.

“Those three factors in many ways are the white elephant in the living room for us in education,” said Jennifer Dorman, Maine’s 2015 Teacher of the Year who teaches special-education classes for seventh- and eighth-graders. “As teachers, we know those factors present huge barriers to our students’ success. Helping students cope with those three factors is probably the most important part of my job. But on a national level, those problems are not being recognized as the primary obstacles.”
In line with the 63 percent who said poverty was a top barrier to student success, anti-poverty initiatives were the top answer the teachers gave when asked to choose three areas where they'd focus school funding to have the greatest impact on student learning—48 percent chose anti-poverty initiatives, while 37 percent chose early learning and 35 percent chose reducing barriers to learning (which would include poverty, obviously).

Nearly all of the teachers said that higher standards would have a positive effect on student learning. But "accountability/assessments"—the buzzwords for standardized testing—ranked dead last on the list of ways teachers would focus school funding.


Reposted from Daily Kos Labor by Laura Clawson
Amtrak train
House Speaker John Boehner may think it's "stupid" to suggest that the recent fatal Amtrak crash had anything to do with lack of funding, but the evidence keeps piling up that Boehner's the stupid one here. The United States spends far less than its peers on rail, and:
As a consequence, industry experts say, despite having some of the least-extensive passenger rail networks in the developed world, the United States today has among the worst safety records. Fatality rates are almost twice as high as in the European Union and countries like South Korea, and roughly triple the rate in Australia.

Analysts say the impressive safety record in Europe and Asia is the result of steady government spending of billions of dollars on development and maintenance of railroad infrastructure — including sophisticated electronic monitoring and automated braking systems developed over the past 20 years.

As a percentage of gross domestic product, the American investment in rail networks is just a quarter of that in Britain and one-sixth that in France and Australia, while Japan spends nearly three times as much per person as the U.S. does.
Over the past decade, even developing countries including India, Russia and Turkey have consistently invested far greater shares of their G.D.P. on rail.
Not exactly grounds for a "We're number one" chant, there.

We're looking at a consequence of Republican refusal to invest in American infrastructure. It's played out not just in less safe trains but in slower trains and fewer trains. If Republicans hadn't stood in the way all these years, we could have had a speedy, energy-efficient, safe rail network and thousands of jobs creating and maintaining it. Instead, we have a desperately underfunded, inadequate rail system and John Boehner saying it's stupid to see the facts for what they are.

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