January 7, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 112


Topics: Rep. Steve Scalise, US policy on Cuba and North Korea, Islamophobia in Sweden and Germany. People: Bill, Nate. Produced: January 5th, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Why House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is at least a White supremacist sympathizer, despite his sketchy denials — and what that means for the Republican Party now.
– What does the US policy change on Cuba mean for both countries? Should the US also adjust policies on North Korea?
– Why are Germany and Sweden witnessing a surge of anti-Muslim public actions?

Episode 112 (55 min)
AFD 112

Related links
Segment 1

Cen Lamar: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was reportedly an honored guest at 2002 international white supremacist convention
Washington Post: House Majority Whip Scalise confirms he spoke to white nationalists in 2002
NYT: Much of David Duke’s ’91 Campaign Is Now in Louisiana Mainstream

Segment 2

NYT: Obama Announces U.S. and Cuba Will Resume Relations
AFD: Hip-Hop Invasion! (and other stupid covert Cuba projects)

Segment 3

The Globalist: Political Courage: Merkel Vs. Cameron
BBC: Anti-Islam ‘Pegida’ rally in Dresden sees record turnout
BBC: Three mosque fires in one week (Sweden)
AFD: Sweden’s budget deal is American-style extortion


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The terrible CRomnibus

The White House should be ashamed of itself for supporting the Continuing Resolution omnibus (“CRomnibus”) funding package the House of Representatives passed. This bill includes rollbacks to Dodd-Frank Financial Reform (written by Citigroup!) and campaign finance rules, it would allow cuts to current (not future!) retirees’ pension agreements, it cuts the EPA’s budget and SEC’s budget, and it will give sacred Apache land to a mining company … among a lot of other awful things. Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan, was personally whipping House votes for this “funding bill,” and that alone should tell you everything you need to know.

Is all this really worth it to keep irresponsible Republicans from shutting down the government?


How the South Really Operates | The Globalist

This piece is a research essay, co-authored by Carl Bindenagel and Bill. for The Globalist. It is Part II of The Globalist’s American Mezzogiorno series. Part I, by Stephan Richter and Carl Bindenagel, is The American Mezzogiorno: A Thanksgiving Reflection. Part III (“Take the Money and Run”) can be found here.

The American South’s political power manifests itself in the following four dimensions:

1. Congressional Power
2. Agricultural handouts
3. Defense spending as a welcome stimulus
4. Antiquated thinking

Exhibit 1: Congressional Power

Prior to the 2014 mid-term elections, representatives from the American South chaired or represented a majority of members on important permanent committees and subcommittees in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the state level, Republican governors led unified government in 26 states.

American Mezzogiorno

Part I: A Thanksgiving Reflection

Part II: How The South Really Operates

Part III: Take the Money and Run (Friday)

How have these lawmakers used influential policy-positions to affect the welfare and livelihoods of their constituents? Mainly they enriched themselves, protected the powerful, and deliberately harmed the vulnerable in their jurisdictions and states.

They directed federal funding to themselves and to contractors with powerful lobbies and fought against programs to assist the poor, the abused and common citizens. Often, this included children, who are among the impoverished in America and who lack resources, including access to education.

Lawmakers’ self-serving behavior at the expense of their constituents can most clearly be seen on the defense-spending related committees in the U.S. Congress.

Southerners account for 53% of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and 55% of the House Appropriations Committee on Homeland Security (compared to nationwide population share of 38%).

Most tellingly, the membership of the House Subcommittee on Military Construction/Veterans Affairs is now 63% southern. The Chair of the full House Appropriations Committee is a southern Republican as well.

All of this matters greatly: Under the U.S. Constitution, all spending bills must originate in the House and ultimately from its Appropriations Committee. The Republican-dominated House (and the Southern-dominated House Majority) therefore has great control over how and where federal money will be spent.

Exhibit 2: Agricultural handouts

In addition to the defense sector, in rural communities, farmers are frequently subsidized – even in the event of crop-failure or natural disasters (such as floods or droughts).

Historically, this was crucial to prevent small-family farms from collapsing. But today, with the rise of consolidated agribusiness, the picture looks very different.

Many Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House support this type of subsidy, not only for their constituents, but also to enrich themselves.

In September 2013, several of the same House members who voted to cut almost $40 billion out of food stamps over the next decade personally received hundreds of thousands or even millions of federal dollars in farm subsidies.

Take the case of Rep. Stephen Fincher. He cited a passage from the Bible as justification for his vote against providing food stamps, presuming that a needy person was just lazy.

“He who does not work will not eat,” said Fincher. But from 1999 to 2012, the gentleman himself (not his state) received more than $3.4 million in federal farm subsidies.

Fincher’s is not the only case of faulting needy working people while claiming personal privilege from the government:
Read more

House GOP investigation: No Benghazi coverup. (Duh.)

Seventh investigation is the charm. Oh wait, nope, same result: No improper response and no coverup.

From the Associated Press (with my bolding):

A two-year investigation by the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has found that the CIA and the military acted properly in responding to the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and asserted no wrongdoing by Obama administration appointees.

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, intelligence about who carried it out and why was contradictory, the report found. […] The report did not conclude that Rice or any other government official acted in bad faith or intentionally misled the American people.

The House Intelligence Committee report was released with little fanfare on the Friday before Thanksgiving week. Many of its findings echo those of six previous investigations by various congressional committees and a State Department panel.

Congrats for wasting our time and money ginning up a ridiculous conspiracy theory that everyone (who isn’t a seething moron) already knew was untrue.


The eighth Benghazi investigation is being carried out by a House Select Committee appointed in May.

*Smashes head into desk until senseless.*

Meanwhile, in the land of actual things in real life, the city of Benghazi is on the verge of falling to an unrecognized Islamist-aligned government’s militia, while nearby Derna just became an ISIS exclave in Libya.

But I’m sure they’ll call for years of pointless investigations into that too, after it’s all over, once they’ve finished milking the fictional angles of this tragedy to stir up the base.


Beyond gerrymandering: Other geographic challenges for Democrats nationally

I received some criticism for my suggestion earlier this year that Democrats’ top medium-term priority should be recapturing state legislatures before the next redistricting after the 2020 Census to prevent gerrymandering, on the basis that other factors were causing bigger problems for Democrats’ abilities to win legislative and Congressional districts. I still think gerrymandering plays a large role in current electoral hurdles facing Democrats across the country — and one that is being downplayed by some analyses — but I accept that there are other factors.

To that end, I wanted to pull together some extended passages from two recent articles that I think effectively discuss those political demographic challenges.

The first looks, mathematically, at how Democratic vote share and turnout can be increasing (which helps in presidential and Senate races) but Republicans can hold so many Congressional districts. This focuses on urban versus rural districts. Nate Cohn, NYT/The Upshot, “Why Democrats Can’t Win the House:”

The gap between staggering Democratic margins in cities and the somewhat smaller Republican margins in the rest of the country allows Democrats to win key states in presidential and Senate elections, like Florida and Michigan. But the expanded Democratic margins in metropolitan areas are all but wasted in the House, since most of these urban districts already voted for Democrats. The result is that Democrats have built national and statewide majorities by making Democratic-leaning congressional districts even more Democratic, not by winning new areas that might turn congressional districts from red to blue.
The role of partisan gerrymandering in all of this is hotly debated. It has indeed allowed Republicans to squeeze extra districts out of states like Michigan and Virginia, and strategically reinforce vulnerable incumbents. Those additional districts might make the difference between an insurmountable Republican advantage or a merely significant one. But gerrymandering is not responsible for the entire Republican edge in the House.

The political scientists Jowei Chen, of the University of Michigan, and Jonathan Rodden, of Stanford University, estimate that gerrymandering costs Democrats about six to eight seats in the House. Even so, “by far the most important factor contributing to the Republican advantage,” Mr. Chen says, “is the natural geographic factor of Democrats’ being overwhelmingly concentrated in these urban districts, especially in states like Michigan and Florida.”

To retake the House, Democrats would not just need another great election year, like 2006 or 2008; they would need to build a much broader coalition than the one they currently focus on in presidential elections. They would need to attract the voters that some liberals thought they could abandon: the conservative Democrats of the South and Appalachia, where the vanquished Blue Dogs once reigned.
If Democratic losses in that part of the country are irreversible, Democrats might be forced to wait for demographic and generational change to spread beyond urban centers and suburbs, giving the party a chance to build a more decisive majority. Until that happens, the long-anticipated Democratic majority has little chance of enacting the most ambitious elements of its agenda.

One puzzle not answered there: If districts are being drawn reasonably fairly and reasonably numerically evenly, why are urban voters (a group gaining strongly in size relative to rural voters) not getting more districts drawn in their areas? Are those districts simply voting more heavily than before, without actually gaining more residents? Seems unlikely.

On another note, Cohn repeatedly emphasizes that the Democratic Party focus on presidential politics and urban interests — and the unusual antipathy against President Obama specifically — has hurt downballot conservative Democrats in non-statewide-level races in rural areas.

On the one hand, I’m highly sympathetic to the criticism that the Democratic Party (and to a lesser extent the Republican Party) has become increasingly obsessed over the past half century with short-term, single-candidate-personality-centered presidential campaigns at the expense of strategic, broad-based, long-term party-building activities. (Read James MacGregor Burns’ book Running Alone: Presidential Leadership from JFK to Bush II for a history of how and why this came to be.) This has also made it more complicated than ever to define the party and what it stands for since any candidate can take the label and then run on his or her own personalized platform.

On the other hand, I also think that conservative Democrats have gotten more conservative in recent years, which is making it difficult for Democrats from those urban areas and more liberal-leaning states to get excited about helping them with volunteer effort or contributions. One could debate whether they have become more conservative out of sincere belief or to try to catch up to a general frame shift in what center-right voters consider acceptably conservative (much like Republican primaries endlessly drifting more and more toward the extreme right), but I don’t think those conservative Democrats have simply been left behind by the rest of the party liberalizing. Support for moderate healthcare reform and protection of Social Security and other government programs popular among older voters and Appalachian White voters used to be core planks even among more conservative Democrats. Some still support those positions/policies, but a lot of the remaining or new rural Southern Democrats have been running away from those old touchstones.

Again, the reasons are probably debatable, but as the overall Democratic Party trends more socially liberal and economically liberal and then watches these non-urban candidates not only not catch up but actively move backward on some of these issues, it becomes very difficult to explain how they are even members of the same party or whether they will even vote for the (liberal) rest of the party’s priorities if elected to be part of a majority together.

Obviously there are a lot more advantages to being in the majority than not, especially in the House where the minority gets almost no power even when the margin of seats is very close, but it’s frustrating to expend energy and money electing people who may not just vote against but actively block key priorities for the majority of the majority. And it’s true that’s not entirely a new problem either, given that rural Democrats famously blocked things like civil rights legislation for decades. But the country is also significantly more urban now than previously … yet the rural districts and rural members, who are increasingly out of step and falling behind the party’s internal majority, continue to wield a substantial veto.

The second article examines whether a hypothetical evolution/catching-up of non-urban voting patterns and issue beliefs — cited at the end of that Cohn article passage above — is actually likely to occur and thereby make Democrats nationally a stable majority. This focuses on the role of migration between red and blue states. Harry Enten and Nate Silver, Fivethirtyeight.com, “Migration Isn’t Turning Red States Blue:” Read more

Congressional candidate: My Christian totalitarianism > Muslim totalitarianism

Georgia Congressional candidate, Baptist pastor, and right-wing radio host Jody B. Hice supports total hardline conservative Christianization of the United States society and government, while simultaneously arguing that main problem with Islam is its (purported) totalitarian control of territory and the political system.

“Most people think Islam is a religion,” Hice argued in a 2011 speech. “It’s not. It’s a totalitarian way of life with a religious component.” He expanded in his book: “It is a complete geo-political structure, and as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection.”


In 2012, Hice published It’s Now Or Never: A Call to Reclaim America via WestBow Press, a Christian self-publishing house. In the book, he made the dubious claim that the “Constitutional form of government that is the great American experiment is a distinctly Christian society,” To “reclaim America,” he argues, the nation must end abortion, prevent same-sex marriage, repeal hate-crime protections…

Does anyone have recommendations on a lawyer who can help me sue him for whiplash?

And before anyone clambers onto their high horse about “crazy Republicans,” let’s just remember that irrational U.S. anti-Muslim bigotry like this is virtually boundless, cross-partisan, and intense. Read more

Clay Aiken primary opponent suddenly passes away

clay-aiken-2011-flickr-TimmyGUNZ Unfortunate news out of North Carolina today as a Democratic Congressional candidate passed away unexpectedly after an accident. He was locked in a close primary race with former Idol runner-up Clay Aiken.

North Carolina Democratic congressional candidate Keith Crisco was found dead at his home on Monday, days after his primary race against singer Clay Aiken was declared too close to call. Crisco was 71.

The Asheboro Courier-Tribune reported that, according to employees at his company, Asheboro Elastics, emergency workers found Crisco after he suffered injuries related to a fall in the residence.

Crisco, who served as the state’s Secretary of Commerce from 2008 to 2012, reportedly trailed Aiken by 369 votes following their May 6 primary election.

Here is my analysis on the district and Aiken’s chances in the general election from February:

Clay Aiken, American Idol season 2 runner-up and a very successful singer, of Raleigh, North Carolina is throwing his hat into the political ring as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. A lot of the articles I’ve seen have either failed to provide any context whatsoever or have written him off completely without much detail. So, I aim to remedy that here.
In terms of the big picture for the U.S. House, Democrats would probably love to recapture that district, which — before it was redrawn — had once been historically black and was only lost to Ellmers in 2010 by fewer than 2,000 votes. Barack Obama won the old district in 2008 (but would have lost it heavily to McCain under the new lines).

That being said, the NC 2nd is a district that was drastically redrawn by the Republican legislature after 2010, to be a low-income and heavily white district with a 50-50 urban rural split. It has a 10 point Republican voter lean in the 2013 Cook PVI ratings, though it may be that those Republicans are more solid than the previous version of the district, since it was actually slightly more Republican on paper when it was held by Democratic Bob Rep. Etheridge. In the 2012 presidential election, it voted for Mitt Romney by 18 points.

So, it will be an uphill battle for any Democrat there, even without considering that it would be a midterm race (lower turnout) and that Aiken is openly gay in a state that just voted in 2012 to ban any legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Ellmers, while unpopular nationally as a person (her shutdown comments are the tip of an unpleasant iceberg), is a solid conservative in a new district that voted to re-elect her last time by a margin of over 45,000 votes or 15 points. But it’s probably worth noting that Mitt Romney outperformed her in the same election when her Democratic opponent in 2012 didn’t have much name recognition, which may demonstrate some vulnerability. Even so, it’s still a decisive result that will made it a challenge for any Democrat — even for someone like Aiken who could probably assemble a reasonably credible campaign.