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A few weeks ago the question was What game is Obama playing with the TPP? A bargain? A ruse?. That question is yet to be answered. After all, should the American worker fear a presumably progressive president who has expanded the social safety net for all Americans?

This week, President Obama suffered an initial defeat when all but one Democrat voted to block consideration for giving him fast track authority. Did the corporatist wing of the Democratic Party finally listen to the progressive base for a change? Of course not. It was just a ploy to destabilize the activists.

It took less than three days for the corporatist Democrats to show their true colors. According to the Huffington Post:

The Senate passed a pair of trade protection measures Thursday, and voted shortly afterward to start debate on the fast-track bill that President Barack Obama needs to secure his massive and controversial free-trade initiatives with Asia and Europe.
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Bill Maher discussed Bill de Blasio's liberal Contract with America known as "The Progressive Agenda to Combat Income Inequality." The panel included Heather McGhee, president of Demos, and Charles Murray, author of the controversial racial stereotyping book, The Bell Curve.

Bill Maher pointed out the major points of the progressive agenda:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage so that it reaches $15/hour, while indexing it to inflation.
  • Reform the National Labor Relations Act to enhance workers’ right to organize and rebuild the middle class.
  • Pass comprehensive immigration reform to grow the economy and protect against exploitation of low-wage workers.
  • Oppose trade deals that hand more power to corporations at the expense of American jobs, workers’ rights, and the environment.
  • Pass national paid sick leave.
  • Pass national paid family leave.
  • Make Pre-K, after-school programs and child care universal.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit.
  • Allow students to refinance student loan debt to take advantage of lower interest rates.
  • Close the carried interest loophole.
  • End tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
  • Implement the “Buffett Rule” so millionaires pay their fair share.
  • Close the CEO tax loophole that allows corporations to take advantage of “performance pay” write-offs.

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Bill Maher asks why Americans won't take things seriously unless it is delivered with a British accent. He points out that in many movies where neither the actors nor the subject has anything to do with the British, the accent used is still British and not American. He played a clip of Brad Pitt and other American actors using British accents where it did not apply.

"Here is Brad Pitt as Achilles," Bill Maher said. "He is from the Midwest. And we know the ancient Greeks were not. But neither were they from Notting Hill. So why does he have to say swoerd. Why is swoerd more serious than sword."

Bill went on to make his case. It turns out that merchandising sex toys from a Fifty Shades of Grey site uses a British accent to sell butt plugs. A sexy woman with a British accent promotes Viagra.

"So what is going on here," Bill Maher asks. "I think we know what's going on. Americans, we talk a big game about we are the greatest country in the world, and about American exceptionalism, and the indispensable nation. Yeah, yeah. Whenever I hear someone bragging about themselves like that, I always think they are covering up a massive insecurity. And our reliance on the British accent to convey gravitas is kind of our admitting that we know we are really not a serious people."

Bill Maher then summarily points out our shallowness. He said, "We drink wine out of a box. We invented Mormonism. Our best selling author is Bill O'Reilly. Most Americans don't know that the Big Bang Theory is also a theory. ... Look at all the childish stuff that defines America, superhero movies, climate change denial, Palins, Ferrell's hat. ... Therein lies our special relationship with England," Bill Maher said. "They have the gravitas, we have the swag. It's how we act. It's what we do. It's who we are. We have the aircraft carrier but they have the guy who knows a sentence needs a subject and an object. ... Oh yeah. That war sounded a whole lot better coming out of Tony Blair's mouth. Which is why the British accent is dangerous."

Enough said. Head below the fold to see the snippet.

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Jon Stewart took down Fox News's coverage and stereotyping of the poor by placing a mirror in front of their coverage. It was likely one of Jon Stewart's best excoriations of the network. It would be great if this segment were watched by every single misinformed Fox News viewer. In fact many of those viewers are the same ones being demeaned.

Fox News was taken aback because President Obama called them out at a panel on poverty he participated in at Georgetown University. He called them out for stereotyping the poor. It was a few seconds of an otherwise substantive discussion. He said the following about Fox News:

"The effort to suggest that the poor are sponges, leeches, or don't want to work, or are lazy, if you watch Fox News on a regular basis it is a constant menu they will find folks who make me mad."
Fox News, instead of discussing any substance covered by the panel on poverty, hyperventilated about the president calling them out. They claimed that they do not demonize or stereotype the poor. Instead they are simply the messenger.

Jon Stewart showed Fox News's Stuart Varney attempting to give the impression that their coverage is fair and balanced and that they have nothing against the poor. Stewart summarily destroyed Fox News as an unbiased messenger by showing their "contempt for those in poverty."

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It was early in the morning. The morning blog post was not yet written. Some ideas and even some videos had already been processed on several current issues including presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson. In scanning my Facebook feed, an article a dear friend posted appeared. After reading it the little voice in my head said, "This information must get out to both conservatives and liberals alike."

I am not at all religious. My wife and daughter are Christians and my wife is a deacon. I am a humanist, yes, the only heathen in the house. The one thing we share in common in this household is that we make every attempt not to judge. When we fail or catch ourselves doing so, we make the attempt to atone. Searching for and pointing out facts, truths, and causality isn't judgment. It is enlightenment.

Many conservatives in promoting their ideology tend to be very judgmental. To be sure, some liberals can be judgmental, but by definition "judgementalism" is anathema to liberalism.

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It was refreshing to watch the discussion on extremists on Hardball with Chris Matthews recently. Finally there was a Texan in primetime that was not sounding like a delusional person primed on misinformation and conspiracy theories. Jade Helm 15 notwithstanding, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) proves that there are in fact sensible Texans that the traditional mainstream media can interview.

The discussion on Chris Matthews was about the attempted terrorist event in Garland, Texas, where hatemonger Pam Geller was conducting a $10,000 contest for the best anti-Muslim cartoon drawing of the prophet. Two young men that seemed influenced by ISIS, attempted to attack the event. They were killed by security. In other words, law enforcement worked.

The discussion on Hardball could be paraphrased as free speech vs. responsible speech. But more importantly they morphed the conversation into the necessity to stop stereotyping who is a terrorist.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, while supporting free speech, acknowledged Pam Geller's irresponsibility in being provocative. It is no different than an atheist desecrating the image of Jesus. While most Christians would simply complain about the insensitivity, it is not hard to imagine a devout extremist Evangelical Christian exacting violence on the perpetrator. This is not conjecture. Christians have been killing abortion doctors for a long time. However, the outrage is quickly attenuated after a few days unlike the outrage when violence is committed by Muslims.

That was the point terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann made. He reminded Americans about the attempt by white supremacists to detonate a bomb in Seattle and many other events from domestic terrorism. There is a tendency to treat terrorism by Muslims differently than homegrown terrorism.

The reality is that there is much more homegrown terrorism if one defined terrorism as it should. Minority and poor communities are in fact terrorized by police officers as a method of control. It has been happening for decades. The few incidences that were videoed are just the tip of the iceberg. Most Americans will gasp at that comparison. After all, we are supposed to be some sort of a democracy where freedom and moral values exude from our pores. If one does not allow themselves to be empathetic, then unless they live it they simply cannot know it.

Forceful discussions like the discussion between Sheila Jackson Lee, Evan Kohlmann, and Chris Matthews must continue. It is necessary that the discussion of terrorism be broadened. It is imperative that terrorism is made the law enforcement issue that it is and not the stereotyping of those some falsely believe are predisposed more than others to commit bad acts.

 

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Bill Maher did not pull any punches in his justifiable ridicule of Texans in this week's Real Time. It was his turn as Jon Stewart had his turn earlier this week. He was discussing the Jade Helm 15 military exercise conspiracy theory that has metastasized within the Texas right wing.

"Have you heard of Jade Helm 15?" Bill Maher asked. "It is actually a code name for a routine training exercise the US military is planning to conduct in the Southwest which the tea baggers in Texas are convinced is actually an Obama plot to invade Texas, take their guns, and impose a new world order. Yes, because we hate Lubbock for its freedom."

Bill Maher then went out to state some rather uncomfortable realities about today's Republican Party. "In today's Republican Party you can't call out nutty people for being nutty," Bill Maher said. "Because they are not a small group. In the Republican Party crazy is a constituency."

Maher points out that the governor of Texas has actually called out the Texas Guard to monitor the activities of the United States military. What Maher does not realize is that Greg Abbott cannot allow anyone to get to the right of him. He has Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick eyeing his job. The Republican Party in Texas is in a turmoil where logic is in short supply.

Bill Maher had a rather funny last point he wanted to make. As a Texan it was a piercing but needed jab for my ill-informed Texas brothers and sisters.

"You rural white people who are always saying things like 'Don't mess with Texas'," Bill Maher said. "Let me tell you something. You are among the most left alone, least messed with people on the planet. You can carry an assault rifle into a Chili's. What more do you want. The right to do it shirtless? You are practically your own independent country now. You have outlawed abortion. You have gutted government regulation. You are armed to the teeth. You are the white Somalia. Stop worrying about getting sucked into the new world order. You are barely in the current world order. And the only reason we conduct military exercises in your area is there is no chance of accidentally damaging anything anybody cares about."

Sometimes a little tough love is needed. Then again, ridicule may give panderers a spine.

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Once again Chuck Todd showed how gullible he is to Right Wing manipulation. Luckily, likely Democratic Presidential Candidate Martin O'Malley would have none of it. It started innocently enough.

"I want you to respond to something that Speaker Boehner said to me about blame when it comes to America's inner cities," Chuck Todd said. "Let's take a listen."

He then played a clip from Speaker John Boehner. "Chuck, what we have here," Speaker Boehner said. "is 50 years of liberal policies that have not worked to help the very people that we want to help." That comment is to be expected from any Republican as their Ayn Rand ideology dictates policies lacking in social assistance.

Chuck Todd then referenced the Washington Post article titled "Why couldn’t $130 million transform one of Baltimore’s poorest places?" He must have forgotten that many times editors give stories titles that have very little to do with the conclusions the article would come to. He must not have read the article. "A hundred million dollars was poured into this community over the last 20 years," Todd said. "Are we not spending the money correctly? What are we getting wrong here? Money has been there."

Martin O'Malley would have none of it. "Chuck that's just not true," Martin O'Malley said. "We haven't had an agenda for America's cities for at least two decades."

Chuck Todd snapped back with a simplistically silly statement. "So we've had money but no agenda."

Martin O'Malley went on to state that there has not been an agenda for cities since Democratic President Jimmy Carter. He pointed out that even with limited support because of the dedication and innovation of mayors, cities are actually coming back. He pointed out that the failure to invest in infrastructure, the off-shoring of American jobs, and the basic lack of investment was the problem. Most importantly he pointed out that the $130 million over 20 years Chuck Todd speaks about is a spit in a bucket.

Had Chuck Todd read the article he would have understood the following.

The effort to revive Sandtown was massive. More than 1,000 homes were eventually renovated or built. Schools were bolstered. Education and health services were launched. ...

The most significant problem, according to community organizers and the Enterprise report, was that new businesses and jobs never materialized. And as Baltimore’s decent-paying manufacturing jobs vanished — a problem shared by Detroit, Cleveland and other Rust Belt cities — there were fewer and fewer opportunities for Sandtown residents to find meaningful work.

In the absence of jobs, the drug trade flourished.

In other words the $130 million was invested mostly in real estate capital and not human capital. It was not sustainable and the results are probative.

Chuck Todd once again allowed his program to be used as an Ayn Rand message conduit. Many cities are on the brink of rebellion because of the despair and income inequality. The Right Wing machine needs to convince these people that real investment in both physical and human capital are not the answers lest these 'rebellions' force progressive change.

It is for this reason why a Democratic primary is necessary. It will give America a vision of what it means to have a real progressive agenda. It provides the platform to remind America that it has been living under a conservative biased agenda for north of thirty years. The catastrophic results surround us all.

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Does ‘we the people’ matter anymore? Will it always be pay to play for the foreseeable future? Will we ever get our country back? Not the tea party type ‘get our country back’ but actually have a democracy?

To be clear, America was never a democracy. One man one vote (one person one vote) was never an implicit reality. Any reading of Federalist 10 makes that patently clear. Why? Ultimately the powers then and today’s plutocracy realized that it would change the social and economic order based on a real meritocracy, compromises, and the hard work of selling many ideas. You see an idea that benefits a few would never fly from an enlightened populace.

As Americans were becoming more liberal and enlightened they demanded democracy, social democracy and economic democracy. The plutocracy would have none of that. We are living through an implemented Powell Manifesto that has in effect dumbed down the population by infiltrating news media and schools as it decimates unions and liberal values.

Many organizations believe that this problem will be solved simply by effecting some sort of electoral reform that gets money out of politics. They believe that reversing the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions would somehow set things right. One must remember that pre-Citizens United and pre-McCutcheon, our politics was not much better.

The Move to Amend coalition was formed outside of the Beltway in Marin, California, in 2009 in preparation for the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The coalition, which now boasts nearly 380,000 people and thousands of organizations, has helped to pass over 600 resolutions in municipalities and local governments across the country, calling on the state and federal governments to adopt the amendment below. Interestingly these resolutions passed irrespective of the demographics, ideologies, or party affiliations of the voters.

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Real Time with Bill Maher was worth watching this week. Most of the sparks of consequence occurred in the Overtime segment. Bill Maher's main panel consisted of Fmr. Rep. Jane Harman, Republican neocon Dan Senor, and actor/political commentator/comedian D.L. Hughley.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz appeared to introduce his new book The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them. He described President Obama's inability to fulfill many of his promised middle-class centric policies while fulfilling many for the wealthy as cognitive capture. It is likely that the same phenomenon, cognitive capture, is the reason for his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Chess champion Garry Kasparov pretty much made a one dimensional fool of himself by his continued existence in a Cold War mentality. He may be a great chess player but he is not very smart or intuitive outside that realm.

The best part of Overtime, however, was when D.L. Hughley watched Republican neocon Dan Senor in a most assertive rant. Senor slammed President Obama's new Iran agreement. D.L. Hughley stayed quiet most of the time but was impatient to get something out.

"Isn’t hearing somebody who was so wrong about a war lecture you about what is going on now like Kim Kardashian telling how to be a wife," said D.L. Hughley. "It's kinda like that. I just know that so many mistakes were made, and they were argued just like this, so many points and facts and figures. And it was so wrongheaded that we will suffer for that for decades. And how you all speak with such certainty and if you were right we wouldn't be in the situation we are in right now."

It was obvious that Dan Senor felt deflated at that moment as Hughley broke his rhythm. Bill Maher piled on. "I could ask you the same question I asked Professor Stiglitz out there. I mean, 60 billion was the estimate from Rumsfeld and George Bush and ended up costing over 4 trillion dollars. What else can you be so wrong about? Where else could you even be close to that wrong?"

Dan Senor came back with a lame response. "You could say we won the war against Al Qaeda when we haven't." It was an attack on President Obama's statement that Al Qaeda was on the run. Bill Maher asked if that is really comparable. Dan Senor conceded that he did not know if it was comparable but that it was a big deal. What was Bill Maher's response?  "WOW."

There was a learning moment here. Neocons and those on the right are loud and are good at talking points. When they are challenged with irrefutable realities they crater and where able, they run. It is imperative that one engages them and not allow their fallacies to cauterize.

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Fox News's Shepard Smith earned scores of brownie points for his coverage of the Baltimore riots. It was shocking to say the least. While Smith was covering the Baltimore riots with the hosts of Fox News The Five, he continuously smacked them down for their dog whistle. They attempted to blame prominent civil rights leaders for not being there. They also attempted to indict the parents of the rioters. Smith would have none of it. He told them that they should cover the event and leave recrimination where applicable for another day.

The reality is that while Smith displayed a good journalistic act, his subsequent prose was a display of understanding the reality of the situation that one seldom expects from Fox News. When one of The Five hosts kept on rambling about "where are the civil rights leaders," Smith had had it.

"I also don’t know where we are. We’ve got a major American city that has decades of turmoil within this neighborhood,” Smith said. “Decades! You’ve heard the stories from Doug McKelway a little while ago of people being arrested for nothing, a violent crackdown for years and years, of them feeling powerless and hopeless and nobody listening to what they were saying. One quarter of the youth locked up. Clearly there is a big problem. Then all of a sudden an African-American man is taken into a vehicle and he comes out of it and dies. And you get nothing from authorities except a suspension. And those who would do harm take an opportunity to do harm. And here we are. But it is what has happened between all of that and today that has led to this. There is no escaping that reality."

Did Smith forget he is on Fox News? Is he auditioning for a job at a real news network? One cannot know. Imagine if most Fox News viewers were privy to real journalism. So much more could get done.

(Via)

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President Obama’s personal and post-college history enforces the belief that he has always been a champion of the poor and the middle class. He has displayed a certain pragmatic reality while in office that upset most liberal and progressive purists, evident in his immediate abandonment of single payer in the Affordable Care Act and subsequently the entire scrapping of the public option.

A president is one man that promises. The presidency itself is an amalgamation of special interest, public interest, agencies, compromises, and unspoken realities. President Obama’s leading and defending of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is proof positive of that reality.

On April 15, Elizabeth Warren came out swinging against the TPP. She had the support of the unions and Sen. Bernie Sanders, among other liberals and progressives.

"No more secret trade deals," Warren said. "Are you ready to fight? No more secret deals. No more special deals for multinational corporations. Are you ready to fight? Are you ready to fight any more deals that say we are going to help the rich get richer and leave everyone else behind? Are you ready to fight back?"

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