Sunday, February 10, 2019

Last Call For Another Hat Enters The Ring, Con't

Another 2020 Democratic contender made a big announcement on Sunday, this time it's Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar entering the race and taking aim squarely at Silicon Valley.

Most Democratic contenders have entered the race attempting to outflank one another from the left on big progressive ideals like universal health care and criminal justice reform, but Klobuchar, a third-term senator, is sidestepping that progressive fight to carve out a space on consumer protection.

“We need to put some digital rules into law when it comes to people’s privacy. For too long the big tech companies have been telling you ‘Don’t worry! We’ve got your back!’ while your identities are being stolen and your data is mined,” she said during her launch on Sunday. “Our laws need to be as sophisticated as the people who are breaking them.”

Klobuchar has made the oversight of big tech one of her banner issues in Congress. “The digital revolution isn’t just coming, it’s here,” she said.

She’s scrutinized Facebook, Google, and Twitter as they’ve been forced to explain their policies on privacy and political advertising. She wants to make it harder for big companies to buy or merge with smaller companies. And while other Democrats have worked on these issues, too — including Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker — Klobuchar has introduced or cosponsored nearly twice as many bills on these subjects in the past few years than any other Democrat currently in the race (or likely to get in).

Conversations with more than a dozen members of Congress, current and former agency officials, tech industry insiders, and antitrust experts showed that she’s considered an expert in tech policy and a pragmatist by even her political and policy adversaries, who see her as a pragmatist.

“She not only has a deep background on facts and figures, she’s thought deeply about the issues,” says Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), one of her co-sponsors on a data privacy bill. “She has a unique ability to get down into the weeds but also be able to look at an issue from 30,000 feet.”

Experts in relevant agencies respect her, too. “Among her colleagues, I think she is one of the most impressive measured by her extensive study of these topics,” said Bill Kovacic, the Republican former chair of the Federal Trade Commission, who praised Klobuchar’s positioning on and understanding of antitrust and privacy. “She’s made an investment that really stands out, building a base of knowledge that is formidable.”

And even those in the tech industry grudgingly acknowledge she knows what she’s talking about. “What I would say about her is that it’s the kind of office that you want to deal with,” said one tech industry source. “I don’t mean that in the sense that we always get what we want. You want somebody who’s thorough and fair-minded and deliberate.”

The question is whether her signature issue is one that will capture the attention (and the votes) of Democratic primary-goers. A knock on Klobuchar is that she’s the “senator of small things,” a practical lawmaker who works on consumer issues like toy safety or airline ticket price transparency. But while these are often seen as small potatoes, her latest forays go after some of the biggest corporations in America.

Arguably, Klobuchar’s biggest victory came in the wake of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

She introduced the Honest Ads Act alongside Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), a bill that would force platforms like Facebook to disclose the purchaser of an advertisement, as is required on television for political ads.

Frankly, the Dems are going to have three major balance challenges to overcome, the Israel BDS movement vs the Aipac Lobby, privacy issues vs Big Tech, and campaign finance reform vs. having cash on hand to beat Trump.  They have the third well in hand as they showed in 2018's midterms, but the other two are going to be a major issue.

Klobuchar is definitely leading on the second issue., but she has a serious problem with the first, so far making her the only declared Democratic 2020 candidate to vote with nearly all Senate Republicans (except for Rand Paul!) who want to criminalize boycotting Israel.

We'll see if it's enough, but this is a decidedly mixed start to Klobuchar's already long shot campaign at best.

Shutdown Meltdown, Con't

“The talks are stalled right now,” Republican Senator Richard Shelby told “Fox News Sunday” after a dispute over immigrant detentions. He said he hoped negotiators would return to the table soon.

Efforts to resolve an impasse over border security funding extended into the weekend as a special congressional negotiating panel aimed to reach a deal by Monday, lawmakers and aides said.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester played down any breakdown in talks. “It is a negotiation. Negotiations seldom go smooth all the way through,” he told the Fox program. He said he was hopeful a deal could be reached.

However, no further talks were scheduled, a source told Reuters on Sunday on condition of anonymity.

The group of 17 lawmakers are hoping to reach a deal to allow time for the legislation to pass the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and get to President Donald Trump by Friday, when federal funding is due to expire.

Trump agreed on Jan. 25 to end a 35-day partial U.S. government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a wall along the border with Mexico, handing a political victory to Democrats.

Instead, a three-week spending deal was reached with congressional leaders to give lawmakers time to resolve their disagreements about how to address security along the border.

One sticking point has been Democrats’ demands for funding fewer detention beds for people detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) than the Trump administration seeks. Republicans want to increase the number as part of their drive to speed immigrant deportations.

Shelby said talks were suspended over the issue but he hoped negotiators would come back to the table soon.

“I am hoping we can get off the dime later in the day or the morning,” he said. “We have some problems with the Democrats dealing with ICE detaining criminals ... They want a cap on them. We don’t want a cap on that.”

While a number of Republicans in Congress have made it clear they would not embrace another shutdown, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said he could not rule it out.

“You absolutely cannot,” Mulvaney, who is also Trump’s acting chief of staff, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Is a shutdown entirely off the table? The answer is no.

Of course these jackasses are going to shut down the government.

Sunday Long Read: The Final Words Of A Legend

Something I never can recall doing on Sunday Long Read: a shorter piece, in full, but if anyone deserved it, it was the "Dean of the House".  Legendary Rep. John Dingell, who spent 60 years in Congress, passed away Friday and dictated these final words to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, on his deathbed.

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.

And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Think about it:

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today, the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time, they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.

But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).

In my life and career, I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They holdpower — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).

I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.

As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

This was a man who witnessed the birth of the greatest era of legislation in American history...and saw much of it destroyed by the Roberts Court.  He was there for Medicare and Medicaid, he was there for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, he was there for the Assault Weapons Ban, he was there for the Affordable Care Act.

Much of that is now gutted or in dire trouble.  When the current occupant of the White House and his supporter bleat about making America "great" again, they mean "back to the era before John Dingell was ever in the House."  That's where they want black and Hispanic and Asian and Native people, that's where they want women, that's where they want LGBTQ folk, beneath white men of the 50's.

Dingell fought all his life to make America better.  I'm just sad that he won't get to see Trump get his reckoning.

Somehow, I bet he will.

The Drums Of War, Con't

The Trump Regime's plans for regime change and invasion in Venezuela continue apace, and we're not too far away now from the public relations full-court press to convince the American people that sending thousands of troops to Caracas in order to install a dictator more to our liking is a good thing. Certainly the replacement guy waiting in the wings is on board.

Venezuela’s self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido refused to rule out on Friday the possibility of authorizing United States intervention to help force President Nicolas Maduro from power and alleviate a humanitarian crisis.

National Assembly leader Guaido told AFP he would do “everything that is necessary... to save human lives,” acknowledging that US intervention is “a very controversial subject.”

The opposition leader launched a bid to oust Maduro last month, declaring himself interim president, a move recognized by the US and around 40 other countries, including 20 from the European Union.

Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-rich Venezuela’s economy has collapsed leaving the country wracked by hyperinflation, recession and shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.

“We’re going to do everything that has a lower social cost, that generates governability and stability to deal with the emergency,” said Guaido, 35.

He is trying to bring in food and medicines from the US but the supplies are stuck in warehouses in Colombia because the Venezuelan military has blocked their entry.

Earlier, Maduro vowed not to let in “fake humanitarian aid” and claimed Venezuela’s crisis has been “fabricated by Washington” to justify intervention.

Guaido says 300,000 people could die if desperately-needed aid isn’t brought in.

We'll have to save the Venezuelan people from Maduro's Socialist hellhole, and that of course will need tens, if not hundreds of thousands of US troops to fight and possibly die in South America just to let everybody know that the US still means business.

And with the razor-sharp competence of the Trump regime running this particular shitshow, I'm sure it won't explode into a massive regional proxy conflict.

Or worse.
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