Saturday, January 18, 2020

Last Call For Pete's Sake

With the Iowa caucuses just two weeks and change away, Pete Buttigieg is making his stand in the Hawkeye State and the biggest question on the mind of his supporters isn't "How does he beat Trump in the general" but "Why don't black Democratic primary voters love him?"

The white voters who come to Pete Buttigieg's rallies just don't understand.

Many of them fell for the 37-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, the first time they heard him speak: his calm demeanor, his intelligence, the way he seemed to appeal to progressives and moderates alike.

But his support among Democratic-leaning black voters nationally is stuck in the abysmally low single digits.

“I don’t understand that,” said Bill Koeneig, a physician in Des Moines who said Buttigieg is one of his top choices in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

“I don’t understand it,” said Julie Walstrom, a retired teacher in Perry, Iowa, who is deciding between Buttigieg, former vice president Joe Biden, and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

“I don’t understand what that issue could possibly be,” said Doug Gardner, a retired sales worker in Urbandale.

In nearly two dozen interviews across Iowa this month, white voters struggled to reconcile their affection for Buttigieg with how black voters see the candidate. Some said it simply didn’t matter to them. Many more had been grappling with how to think about the disconnect and Buttigieg’s challenges: Some were worried, others frustrated.

But not a single person considering Buttigieg said it would affect their vote in the caucuses, which are nearly two weeks away.

“That’s not my battle to fight,” said Gardner.

Buttigieg is among the frontrunners in Iowa and New Hampshire, the two mostly white states that play an outsize role in deciding the presidential nomination as the first two states to vote. But his standing is lower nationally. In South Carolina, a key early-voting state because of its large black population, Buttigieg has frequently pulled 0% among black voters.

The vast majority of white Iowa voters said they’d heard about Buttigieg’s difficulties with voters of color. Many had heard, particularly, of his record in South Bend, where he was criticized for his handling of police relations and housing issues in communities of color.

“I think it’s partly because of the incident that happened in South Bend,” said Sue Seidenfeld, a retired physician assistant in Waukee who said she was undecided in the race and had come to see Buttigieg in Winterset. She did not specify the incident.

“I think that maybe that black voters feel like he wasn’t as empathetic as he could have been, and as on top of the situation as he should have been,” she said. “Which is kind of a shame — because he has to be impartial, and he has to take some time to see what really the facts were, and I think people are too quick to judge sometimes.”

She paused and added: “But maybe not, you know. There may be something to it.”
Still, Seidenfeld said, it wasn’t an issue that was going to affect her vote either way. She thought Buttigieg was “more empathetic to minorities than a lot of people. I also think, for what it’s worth, that it’s a shame that people think that Iowa shouldn’t be the first [caucus] in the nation. Because after all, we were the first to go for Barack Obama.” 

Let me answer the question for the folks in Iowa.  Three answers, actually.

1) The number one priority for black voters like myself is getting rid of Trump.  It's not just a matter of politics, it's a matter of survival.  He hurts us daily.  Trump and his base are doing everything they can to erase Barack Obama's legacy and memory from this country, and along with it all the executive decisions and government agency programs and departmental memos that Obama issued to help us.  All those are going away and his base cheers that on.  White voters in Iowa will survive a second Trump term.  Black voters will continue to suffer grievous harm from it.

So when we ask Pete "Hey, are you going to bring back the Obama-era policies that we need, are you going to get rid of the federal government's systemic hostility towards black and brown folk" he responds with "That's on the list" like great, like he doesn't want to upset the white people voting for him, especially the ones that say "Well, frankly, all lives matter!"  because he knows Clinton's support for Black Lives Matter hurt her in the Midwest.  Clinton at least had the courage to go down swinging and not assume we would support her.

2) There are some real issues with the South Bend PD and Pete's relationship with it and black residents in the city.  The story of how Pete badly handled examples of overt racism in the city government when he was Mayor doesn't fill anyone with confidence.  This story has dogged him for eight months now and he has yet to actually respond to it in any meaningful way, in fact over and over again in interviews and in his own book, he's responded with "I didn't know".

Again, he's had months to respond to the criticism of this (and not all of it is fair criticism against him) and he's chosen to ignore it or to profess ignorance.  It doesn't make black folk willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because we've all dealt with white folk in positions of power like this who say they are our friends, but act like we don't matter. 

3) Iowa has a four percent black population.  It's nowhere near representative of the country. questions of why a state with a small fraction of black voters is the most important state in the nation when it comes to deciding a Democratic presidential candidate aside, Pete has sunk all of his resources into the state and is ignoring the most more representative SC.  You know who thinks SC matters?  Joe Biden.  Obama's VP.  The guy who stood by Obama for eight years.

Biden has earned the loyalty of black voters because he was there for us and still is.  Yes, he made some terrible calls 40 years ago in his Senate career.  He made some terrible calls when he was running in 2008.  But Barack Obama trusted him, and it was a great choice, and I trust him too.  Iowa is not representative of America and Iowa voters acting insulted that somebody wouldn't pick their candidate i not the way to get people to pick your candidate.

Pete has a long, long way to go, frankly.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

Monday's pro-firearms rally at Virginia's state capitol is shaping up to be as bad as Charlottesville or worse, and police have already arrested domestic terrorists ahead of the planned armed demonstrations.

Three men linked to a violent white supremacist group known as The Base were charged with conspiring to kill members of a militant anti-fascist group
, police in Georgia announced Friday, a day after three other members were arrested on federal charges in Maryland and Delaware.

A senior FBI national security official said police and federal agents intentionally moved to arrest the men ahead of Monday’s rally because they believed some of them intended to commit violence there. It was unknown if the men arrested in Georgia planned to attend the rally in Richmond.

The Base, a collective of hardcore neo-Nazis that operate as a paramilitary organization, has proclaimed war against minority communities within the United States and abroad, the FBI has said. Unlike other extremist groups, it’s not focused on promulgating propaganda — instead the group aims to bring together highly skilled members to train them for acts of violence.

There’s an intensified focus on The Base after the three members were arrested Thursday in Maryland and Delaware on federal felony charges. A criminal complaint included details of how some of the men built an assault rifle using parts, purchased thousands of rounds of ammunition and traded vests that could carry body armor.

“A big reason why we disrupted it now was based on the timing of the rally on Monday and the intent of some of the individuals to potentially conduct violent acts down in Richmond,” said Jay Tabb, the executive assistant director for national security at the FBI.

Speaking at a homeland security event in Washington, he said the FBI has “got a fair sense of worry” because agents “can’t account for everybody and everything.”

“We have a degree of interest of some individuals that we know are at least saying that they will be there and we have no way to predict where rhetoric turns to violence,” Tabb said.

Organizers of The Base recruit fellow white supremacists online — particularly seeking out veterans because of their military training — use encrypted chat rooms and train members in military-style camps in the woods, according to experts who track extremist groups.

The group, which has the motto “learn, train, fight,” brings together white supremacists with varying ideologies.

The arrests show an intensified focus on the group from law enforcement officials who are concerned that the supremacists may go beyond plotting to violent acts, a threat made more urgent ahead of a pro-gun rally Monday in Richmond, Va.

The arrests only added to rising fears that Monday’s rally could quickly devolve into violence, with thousands of protesters planning to descend on Virginia’s capital, and become a repeat of the 2017 white nationalist rally when a man drove his car into counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning guns from the state Capitol grounds for Monday’s rally, but pro-gun groups filed an appeal seeking to overturn the ban. The Virginia Supreme Court upheld the ban Friday.

The people planning to show up in Richmond aren't just tiki torch carrying internet troll assholes, these are hardcore neo-Nazi domestic terrorists trained to fight and kill non-white folkThe worst of these scumbags are The Base, a group of white supremacist skinheads who have risen in the wake of Charlottesville and the Trump era.

Members of The Base allegedly spray-painted at least one synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, with swastikas and anti-Semitic language, officials said. Authorities suspect the case is linked to the one in Michigan.

"We welcome the arrests," Holden said Friday. "As a first-hand witness to their mischief-making, I can easily believe law enforcement has good reason to be concerned."

But experts who track hate groups say the vandalism in Michigan is merely a tamer example of the larger, apocalyptic vision that members harbor: Their ideology supports a race war against minorities and the establishing of white ethno-states. The group's name is the English translation of al Qaeda, according to The Soufan Group, a nonprofit security intelligence firm.

"Just like al Qeada, The Base does not believe in any political solution to what they see as a threat to the white race," said Mollie Saltskog, an intelligence analyst with the firm. "Violence is the only option."

Saltskog said that while the ideologies of a white supremacist group such as The Base and a jihadist organization such as al Qaeda appear disparate, their shared desire for bloodshed only incites their followers.

"They feed off each other in a pretty sick way," she added.

The Base, which began about two years ago, maintains it is not a political organization and denies being a paramilitary group or militia with no formal membership or official leadership.

Its membership numbers are unclear, but Saltskog said The Base's chapters extend beyond the United States and Canada, with support in Europe and Australia.

One of those arrested in the U.S. this week is Canadian national Patrik Mathews, 27, who was allegedly a main recruiter for the group in Winnipeg.

These guys are straight up terrorists in every sense of the word.  The have risen in the shadow of Trump's racism and in response to his rhetoric.  Charlottesville was only the beginning.  Richmond, on the federal MLK Jr. day holiday, could become deadly.

I pray that cooler heads prevail and the storm passes, but it won't.  Trump will make sure of that.

If anyone is hurt on Monday, remember Trump did this.

SCOTUS Motion: Integrity And Faithlessness

The US Supreme Court is taking up the question of "faithless electors", and whether or not a elector empaneled by a state in the electoral college in a presidential contest must vote based on the state's popular vote.

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to take up an issue that could change a key element of the system America uses to elect its president, with a decision likely in the spring just as the campaign heats up.

The answer to the question could be a decisive one: Are the electors who cast the actual Electoral College ballots for president and vice president required to follow the results of the popular vote in their states? Or are they free to vote as they wish?

A decision that they are free agents could give a single elector, or a small group of them, the power to decide the outcome of a presidential election if the popular vote results in an apparent Electoral College tie or is close.

"It's not hard to imagine how a single 'faithless elector,' voting differently than his or her state did, could swing a close presidential election," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor.

America has never chosen its president by direct popular vote. Instead, when voters go to the polls in November, they actually vote for a slate of electors chosen by the political parties of the presidential candidates. Those electors then meet in December, after the November election, to cast their ballots, which are counted before a joint session of Congress in January.

More than half the states have laws requiring electors to obey the results of the popular vote in their states and cast their ballots accordingly. The problem of what are known as "faithless electors" has not been much of an issue in American political history, because when an elector refuses to follow the results of a state's popular vote, the state usually simply throws the ballot away.

The cases before the Supreme Court involve faithless electors during the 2016 presidential election. Instead of voting for Hillary Clinton, who won the popular vote in Colorado, Michael Baca cast his vote for John Kasich, the former Republican governor of Ohio. And in Washington state, where Clinton also won the popular vote, three of the state's 12 electors voted for Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, instead of Clinton.

Colorado threw Baca's vote out and found another elector to vote for Clinton. Washington accepted the votes of its rebel electors but fined them for violating state law. The electors challenged the fines, but the Washington state Supreme Court upheld the state law requiring them to conform to the popular vote.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reached a different conclusion, however. It said electors can vote for any legitimate candidate.

It's not really hard to imagine a scenario where the Supreme Court throws out state laws that require electors to cast their ballots for the popular vote-getter in June, and then the Democratic candidate in 2020 wins a state like Arizona, North Carolina, or Florida, and then a few electors are shaved off to vote for Trump, which could throw him a win in a close race.

We'll see where this ends up, I would think that SCOTUS would decide that this is another election matter to leave to the states, but the electoral college is also the only real national election process mapped out specifically in the Constitution as well.  It's not out of the realm of possibility that we get a sweeping ruling that declares all states follow a winner-take-all format, in order to force federal uniformity for a federal election.

The right-wing noise machine is portraying the case as an effort to get rid of the electoral college completely, which won't happen, so I have no idea what Republicans actually think about this case. other than yelling "states' rights!" and walking off.

Oral arguments will be in March.

Taking Your Lunch Money

One of the major goals of the Trump regime is to remove all traces of the Obama administration, by destroying and then taking credit for recreating what worked (NAFTA vs. USMCA, VA Choice program vs. VA MISSION Act, etc) and just flat-out destroying whatever he and the base dislike, especially environment and health stuff such as light bulb regulations, toilet flow rules, and in this case, Michelle Obama's healthy school lunch guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken another whack at former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement: Establishing stricter nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches. And on her birthday.

On Friday, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps proposed new rules for the Food and Nutrition Service that would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them license to sell more pizza, burgers and fries to students. The agency is responsible for administering nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools.

Lipps said the changes will help address what he described as unintended consequences of the regulations put in place during the Obama administration. For example, when schools were trying to implement innovative solutions such as grab-and-go breakfast off a cart or meals in the classroom, they were forced to give kids two bananas to meet minimum federal requirements.

But Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for Center for Science in the Public Interest, says that the proposed rules, if finalized, “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day.”

He says that limiting the variety of vegetables could make french fries even more central to students’ diets. He says the potato lobby has been pushing for this change, and that the potato industry was behind a change that happened quietly last March making it easier to substitute potatoes for some fruit in weekly breakfast menus.

Kam Quarles, the chief executive of the National Potato Council, said, “Potatoes are a nutrient dense vegetable, which contain more potassium than a banana and 30 percent of the daily value of vitamin C along with 3 grams of protein, fiber and carbohydrates that school children need to perform their best at school.”

This was an easy three-fer in the Trump book: a direct insult to another part of the Obama legacy by erasing it, pleasing red state constituent farmers in places like Idaho, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Maine, and taking cash from yet another industry lobby group.

Don't be surprised if Melania Trump offers "new" lunch guidelines to help kids in school, either.  It was always her idea, of course, and red state Trumpists will love it.

Michelle who?  Never heard of her.
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