When it comes to the 2016 field of Republican presidential candidates, the rule of thumb this time around is obviously going to be "the more, the merrier!" The number of officially-announced Republican candidates actually doubled this week (from three to six), as Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee all tossed their hats into the ring.
Perhaps we should hold a contest to see who can guess closest to the total number of official Republican presidential candidates there will be on the 2016 primary ballot? Hmmm... I'd have to go pretty big on that, and guess somewhere in the range of 14-to-16, personally. Whatever the final number, the first debates will doubtless be pretty crowded (hope they can find enough podiums!).
Of course, there was a hilarious reaction to Fiorina's announcement online, since she had apparently forgotten to buy up all the internet domains containing her own name. So head on over to carlyfiorina.org to see how many people she laid off during her term as the head of Hewlett-Packard! So much for being some sort of tech genius, eh?
In other amusing news of online shenanigans, the anti-drug organization DARE got taken in by a fake news site, and credulously posted an article warning of the horrors of marijuana. Among other shocking (but completely fictional) "facts" in the article was the claim that "for every one joint of marijuana, four teenagers become burdened with pregnancy." Wow, I mean that's just... wow. One joint equals four pregnant teenagers? Dang, sounds like those kids of today are just completely out of control! I mean, even on prom night, that's a pretty unbelievable statistic -- to anyone with an ounce of common sense. Which, of course, was why DARE jumped on board and posted it on their site. That's the funny part -- the unfunny part is that even though study after study shows that DARE is completely ineffectual and does "little or nothing to combat drug use," we still fund it with our federal tax dollars.
At the state level, an important reform seems to be gathering momentum, as Montana becomes the latest state to reform their asset forfeiture laws. These are programs where the cops basically legally commit highway robbery, and then you have to sue them to get your money or property back. Think that's hyperbole? You decide -- here's the explanation from the article:
Civil asset forfeiture is a controversial legal tool that allows police to seize property they suspect of being related to criminal activity, without first obtaining a conviction or even charging its owner with a crime. Property -- including cash, jewelry, cars and houses -- is then turned for a profit, part of which flows back to the department that made the seizure. This process often forces owners to wage costly court battles to prove their property was obtained legally. Critics also claim it has created a system of "policing for profit" that leads officers to prioritize seizures so they can use the resulting funds to pad their budgets.
Montana is changing their laws so that the person involved has to be convicted of a crime before their assets can be seized. What a radical idea! However, the real change that needs to come is at the federal level, since the D.E.A. still thinks asset seizure is a dandy idea. Here's just one case in point, that of a 22-year-old who had saved up enough money to produce a music video in Hollywood, and was traveling to California to realize his dream:
[Joseph] Rivers changed trains at the Amtrak station in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 15, with bags containing his clothes, other possessions and an envelope filled with the $16,000 in cash he had raised with the help of his family, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration got on after him and began looking for people who might be trafficking drugs.
Rivers said the agents questioned passengers at random, asking for their destination and reason for travel. When one of the agents got to Rivers, who was the only black person in his car, according to witnesses, the agent took the interrogation further, asking to search his bags. Rivers complied. The agent found the cash -- still in a bank envelope -- and decided to seize it on suspicion that it may be tied to narcotics. River pleaded with the agents, explaining his situation and even putting his mother on the phone to verify the story.
"These officers took everything that I had worked so hard to save and even money that was given to me by family that believed in me," Rivers told the Journal. "I told (the D.E.A. agents) I had no money and no means to survive in Los Angeles if they took my money. They informed me that it was my responsibility to figure out how I was going to do that."
In other words, they've taken the program to new lows -- now they're not just committing blatant highway robbery, they have moved on to train robbery as well. Welcome to the wild, wild West.
In other news of epic fleecing, we have the Iowa straw poll. This is a quadrennial contest where Republican presidential candidates vie with each other to see who is best at the outright purchasing of votes. The entire thing is a scam, designed to redistribute cash from the candidates' campaigns into the coffers of the Iowa Republican Party, and always has been. But they seem to be worried now that nobody's going to take them seriously any more, so they have decided to change some of their money-grubbing ways. Of course, this has nothing to do (perish the thought!) with the fact that the entire thing is a pointless and meaningless waste of time, effort, and money for all the candidates concerned. Need proof? Last time around, the winner of the straw poll was Michele Bachmann. 'Nuff said.
Which is a good segue (as good as any) into discussing corruption in high places. The Republican leader in the New York state senate, Dean Skelos, is about to be arrested (with his son) on federal corruption charges, which are expected to include conspiracy, extortion, and solicitation of bribes. Democrats, however, shouldn't be even the tiniest bit smug about hearing this news, since it was precluded by New York state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver being arrested in January on similar charges. The U.S. Attorney digging out all this calls New York's "one of the most corrupt governments in the nation." Will more indictments follow? Is Governor Andrew Cuomo getting nervous yet?
This is a dandy occasion, once again, to plug a very deserving project, the push to create an Albany Museum of Political Corruption. What better place than Albany, after all, to open the first political corruption museum in the country?
From the "you can't make this stuff up, folks" file, we find the story this week of Giggles the Pig, who is running for mayor of Flint, Michigan. The owner of the pig, Michael Ewing, is running Giggles as a protest about the quality of the other candidates on the ballot, which include not only a convicted murderer but also someone convicted of driving drunk "with three flat tires -- while driving the wrong direction on the highway." Ewing made a statement for his pig:
So, yes, I am running Giggles the Pig for Mayor of Flint. I hope that you will vote for her as a mayoral candidate who has never murdered a human. She has never placed citizens in harm by driving drunk on the highway, and has never interrupted public business and public meetings. She is a sweet and intelligent animal -- which is more than can be said for some candidates.
Now, porky candidates are nothing new in American politics. The most famous pig candidate (ham-didate?) of all time was, of course, Pigasus, whom the Yippie Party nominated for president in 1968. But Giggles seems to have a better chance of actually winning than any previous candidate from the porcine-American community. The article amusingly ends with: "due to a recent ballot slip-up, all candidates must run as write-ins. Meaning, Giggles could conceivably win."
More power to Giggles the Pig. Run, piggy, run! Heh.
But finally, we have to end on a somber note. We know it's not political, but recently there was some sad news from the world of science fiction. Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who portrayed Yeoman Janice Rand on the original Star Trek television series, passed away this week. To anyone who grew up watching Star Trek reruns, this is indeed a loss. An astounding piece of trivia: Yeoman Rand only appeared in seven episodes (out of a total of over 70) of the original series, which has to be seen as a measure of her outsized impact. Live long and prosper, Yeoman Rand!
If we knew who was behind it, we would gladly award an Honorable Mention to the creators of carlyfiorina.org, for ruining her announcement that she's running for president. The only rationale for nominating Carly Fiorina (other than her gender) is that she knows the business world and knows the tech world. The inability to see the need to purchase all the correct domain names for her candidacy has to be seen as an epic failure on both counts. Indeed, we hope the site will be up for the entire election season, as a reminder of this failure.
But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week goes out to a Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton. One of the fears from some Democrats about Hillary is that she would be "too timid" and too centered on focus groups and triangulation rather than standing up for what is right. An immediate criticism (from the media) over Clinton was that she hadn't laid out her entire campaign platform on Day One of her run. Since then, Clinton has given two major policy speeches, on sentencing reform and (this week) on immigration reform. In both of them, she clearly laid out what she believes and staked out a position that went farther than many had predicted. In both cases, she is painting a clear contrast between herself and virtually the entire Republican field. That's a pretty impressive beginning, we have to say.
To be scrupulously fair, just as we didn't jump on board the conventional wisdom of "Hillary should lay out all her positions right now!" we're not going to likewise jump on board the "Republicans have no reaction to Hillary's new immigration position!" bandwagon either. The presidential race is just beginning, folks. There'll be time for all candidates to flesh out their positions, never fear. However, there was one interesting reaction to report, from a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party: "Republicans' intransigence has created an obvious opportunity for Hillary to rip off our arms and beat us with the bloody ends. She's expertly exploiting our party's internal problems." That is exactly right, and exactly what she's going to continue to do.
Hillary is now on record with a position on immigration reform that is even more sweeping than what Obama has already announced. The only Republicans even close to her position would be Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, but both of them are terrified to call for any sort of "path to citizenship" because they know what all the other GOP candidates in the race are going to be saying about such an idea. So while the rest of the Republican field will be screaming "amnesty!' at the top of their lungs, Clinton has increased the pressure on both Bush and Rubio to clarify their own positions. Rubio, especially, wants to have it both ways on the subject. Clinton has signaled she won't let him get away with such waffling.
That's pretty impressive, for only her second major speech. Clinton notoriously waffled on the issue herself (specifically: driver's licenses for illegal immigrants) in 2008, but she's now put that behind her. For her strong stance on immigration reform and citizenship, and for forcefully stating her position in her speech, Hillary Clinton is this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.
[Our standing policy is to not provide links to any official campaign websites, so you'll have to search out Hillary Clinton's contact info yourself, sorry.]
For the second week in a row, we really don't have any candidate who qualifies for the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. We only even came up with two possibilities, neither of which merited the full MDDOTW award.
Kamala Harris, California's attorney general who is now running for U.S. Senate, was in the news in a bizarre way after an aide was arrested for "impersonating a police officer after he claimed that he belonged to a secret police force that has existed for over 3,000 years and has jurisdiction over 33 states and Mexico City." Um, OK.
We also considered Michael Moore (famously from Flint, Michigan), since he has yet to throw his full support behind Giggles the Pig's candidacy, but we decided that that was too cheap a shot.
So, unless anyone's got any suggestions in the comments, for the second straight week we're left with no candidates for this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. Feel free to nominate whomever you think is worthy.
Volume 345 (5/8/15)
Before we begin, we thought we'd highlight an opinion piece written for the Washington Post by Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. It is well worth a read for any Democrat interested in the future of the party.
They provide a laundry list of issues that Democrats should be concentrating upon in the upcoming campaign season. In fact, we would go further and suggest that this should be the core framework for the official 2016 platform of the Democratic Party.
They're not exactly talking points, but the article is definitely worth reading in full, to see the scope of their ideas. In fact, even though we didn't mention it previously, we'd like to award an Honorable Mention to both Warren and de Blasio.
With that out of the way, let's get right to this week's talking points.
Second-class status is unacceptable
This first one is specifically designed to reinforce Hillary Clinton's bold stand on immigration reform. One phrase, in particular.
"Hillary Clinton is right. Even the most moderate Republicans can only bring themselves to supporting some sort of watered down 'legal status' for undocumented immigrants, at best. There are two real differences between a green card holder and a citizen: eligibility to serve on juries, and the right to vote. Guess which one Republicans are afraid of? They're terrified of more Latinos becoming citizens (even though it would take them over a decade under the Senate bill), and the best they can manage is mealy-mouthed support for second-class status. I think that's wrong, and I'm glad to agree with Clinton. Second-class status is not good enough. Immigration reform has to offer a path to citizenship or else it is not true reform. I refuse to accept that second-class status is the best we can do."
Unemployment down, again
If you don't point it out, people don't pay attention.
"I see that the unemployment rate continues to go down, and now stands at 5.4 percent. This is approaching the milestone of being half what it was at the depths of the Great Recession. As President Obama took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs per month and the unemployment rate hit 10.0 percent. We just added over 220,000 jobs last month and the rate should be around 5.0 percent within a few months. That's a pretty impressive turnaround, even if it did take longer than expected. Barack Obama is on track to creating more than 10 million private-sector jobs during his term in office. So much for all that 'job-killer' nonsense from Republicans, eh?"
Snowden was right
This was a big story, and since Congress is considering what to do right now (the USA PATRIOT Act expires soon, and will turn into a pumpkin if Congress doesn't act), it's a point well-worth making.
"Edward Snowden was right, as an appellate court just unanimously ruled that the National Security Agency is illegally collecting massive amounts of phone data. Without any legal justification for the program, it should be allowed to expire. For all the detractors of Snowden, if he hadn't leaked what he leaked, we never would have gotten to the point where federal appeals judges are striking down the mass retention of data on American citizens' phone usage in such a fashion. At the risk of repeating myself: Edward Snowden was right. This unconstitutional program needs to end, and civil rights need to be restored to all Americans."
McConnell follows Reid's playbook
The Republicans in the Senate showed some hypocrisy this week, so it'd be helpful to point it out.
"Republicans have been complaining for years about how Harry Reid didn't allow them to vote on their poison-pill amendments to vital bills, in an effort to kill them. Which makes it notable how this week Mitch McConnell used exactly the same tactic as Harry Reid to quash all kinds of amendments from his own party. By doing so, he got a near-unanimous vote on the deal worked out to let Congress have a say in the Iran nuclear agreement. But it certainly was amusing to see McConnell channel his inner Reid this week. It'll be interesting to see if John Boehner has to do the same thing over in the House, won't it?"
Not supporting the troops
Over in the House, we have some more Republican hypocrisy to expose.
"Republican House members all love to swear that they 'support the troops' out on the campaign trail, but when it comes down to actually supporting the troops, they are much happier to support the right of predatory lenders to rip the troops off. Instead of 'listening to the generals' (as they also love to swear to always do), the House Republicans tried this week to delay new rules from the Department of Defense to protect American servicemen and servicewomen from payday lenders who charge rates that would make a loan shark blush. Democrats voted to implement these protections, because they actually mean it when they say they support the troops. Republicans -- shamefully -- voted to gut the new rules for another year, so that extortionate leeches can make millions in profits off our brave men and women in uniform. This is an absolute disgrace, and any Republican who voted for it should never again be allowed to get away with uttering the words 'support our troops,' because they should be exposed for the flaming hypocrites they truly are."
This one is just ridiculous.
"A bunch of paranoid conspiracy theorists are quaking in their boots because they think the United States military is somehow going to invade Texas. Or declare martial law. Or something. The truth of the matter is the military is performing a training exercise called Jade Helm, with no nefarious intent whatsoever. But it sure seems to be bringing out the whack jobs down in Texas. I call upon every Texas Republican to repeat after me: 'The military is not invading Texas. It just ain't happening. To believe otherwise is sheer lunacy.' There -- that wasn't so hard, was it?"
So how, exactly, would he know?
Freudian slip? You decide....
"For some, Obama Derangement Syndrome just keeps getting worse. After President Obama made a joke at the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year at the expense of Michele Bachmann, a Christian radio host proclaimed his readiness to take the president to task, while using a rather unusual phrase. Rick Wiles said, and I quote: 'I realize most American pastors and evangelists are afraid to denounce the uncircumcised philistine in the White House, but I'm not afraid of him.' Um... OK. This begs the question, of course. How, exactly, does Wiles know the circumcision status of President Obama's penis?"
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