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ISIS Is a Cult That Uses Terrorism: A Fresh New Strategy

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:29
Who is drawn to join violent terrorist groups and why? Could it be the violence itself? Last week The New York Times suggested that the group calling itself Islamic State has adopted a 'cult of sadism' -- using its brutal images of rapes, crucifixions and beheadings to attract throngs of willing followers. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott called the group, also known as ISIS, 'an apocalyptic death cult.' John Kerry, among the first to use the term, called it simply a 'death cult.'

The good news, and I speak here as a former member of a totalistic group, is that the 'cult' word has finally leapt into the conversation about ISIS. But it does so in a way that barely scratches the surface of what makes ISIS a cult; what draws people to it; and how to stop them. Yes, some cults worship demons, UFOs, voodoo or Satan. Others believe we are possessed by intergalactic beings. But to equate a destructive group with its beliefs -- and some cults purport to venerate angels, a beneficent god, world peace or universal love -- is to misunderstand the nature of a cult and could undermine the Obama administration's goal of stopping the flow of American converts.

Cults can be evaluated on a continuum from benign to extremely destructive. The cults I have dealt with for some forty years are totalistic groups which assume a kind of pyramid structure: a charismatic leader sits at the top supported by a small tier of trusted followers who seek to control all aspects of their members, who lie at the base. They do this by manipulating a person's behavior -- the way they dress, what they eat, when they sleep; their access to information -- news, phone calls and texts, the internet while supplying propaganda; their thoughts through such techniques as thought-stopping, hypnosis, loaded language and finally their emotions, by making members feel elite agents, using guilt and installing phobias. Using this approach, what I call the BITE model, they systematically strip a person of their true or 'authentic' self and remake the member into a dependent and obedient follower, creating a 'cult' self that is often cast in the image of the leader.

Abu Bakr al-Baghadi, the current head of ISIS, is a shadowy figure, which makes his edicts -- and his pronouncement that he speaks for Allah -- even more compelling and dangerous. In fact, he is known to be a ruthless tactician, motivated by power, greed and vengeance more than theology. That he would recruit sadistic men and women does not make tactical sense -- what is to stop them from turning on one another? If he were playing by the destructive cult rule book, he and his advisors would seek bright, idealistic people who happen to be at a vulnerable period in their lives -- disaffected and disenchanted by the loss of a relationship, a death or divorce in the family or in some way have a hard time fitting into society. The key is to target them at a time when they are looking for something different, something greater, which is exactly the appeal of the slick propaganda film Flames of War, which depicts ISIS as heroically fighting all 'infidels' to right injustices against Muslims.

Disaffected is a term that could apply to a whole swathe of young Americans living in post 9/11, post recession and now post ISIS America, where a simple trip to the grocery store can mean running a gauntlet of suspicious looks if you happen to be of Muslim heritage. Certainly, it describes Mohammed Hamzah Kahn, the young American who was recently apprehended at O'Hare airport boarding a plane to Turkey. Troubled by what he called a loss of morality in the west, he told the FBI agents who questioned him that he met someone online who had given him the phone number of a person who he was supposed to contact when he arrived in Istanbul. Once in Syria or Iraq, he expected to be involved in "some type of public service, a police force, humanitarian work or combat role."

Had he not been stopped, had he boarded that plane, what might have happened to young Kahn? My guess, based on my own experience in a cult and that of thousands of ex-cult members, is that he would have been taken to an isolated location, given a new name, new clothes, taught cult language, fed a new diet. He would have been deprived of sleep, which would have made him especially susceptible to the group's relentless indoctrination, propaganda, hypnotic suggestions and exhausting boot camp training.

Would he have been sent off to work in a refugee camp or some other humanitarian organization? Unlikely. Could he have been trained to rape, maim and behead? Possibly. Text books on social psychology -- the study of how people behave in groups -- are filled with experiments like those of Solomon Asch, Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo and showing how easily and quickly we can be influenced by authority figures and by the power of the group to carry out violent acts. Robert Cialdini's book, Influence, describes six universal techniques of social influence.

The human mind is extremely adaptive and learns quickly. We are all malleable and cults know how to play on this neuroplasticity. No one is more painfully aware of this than the family and friends of those who have been deceptively drawn into a destructive cult. They are a valuable early warning system for terrorist recruitment yet they lack support. They watch their loved ones undergo a radical personality change and struggle to stop it. Their impulse may be to confront their loved one, or rationally try to attack the group, leader or policies but that often drives the loved one in even deeper. They may refrain from seeking help for fear that their loved one will be detained or thrown in jail.

They need support. I have spent the past 35 years helping families with loved ones in destructive cults and relationships and have discovered an important fact: what is difficult to see in ourselves, we may readily see in others. Telling my own story of deceptive recruitment and indoctrination to the loved one, and inviting other former members to tell theirs, opens a window onto the whole phenomenon of cults and their influence. Showing videos of these social psychology experiments, as well as videos about 'other' cults groups: Aum Shinrikyo; Heaven's Gate; People's Temple; Moonies sets an even wider frame -- one that even people born into cults can climb through to personal freedom.

Many of these videos are shown in college social psychology courses. Philip Zimbardo's Heroic Imagination Project is a curriculum which could easily be expanded to inoculate people from destructive cults and their undue influence. The focus currently missing in the effort to combat destructive terrorist cults is the specialized knowledge of helping cult victims. Former cult members, esepcially former jihadists educated about brainwashing and undue influence are the ideal method to connect, especially with young people. Invite us into mosques, churches and synagogues; police stations and politicians' offices; schools, libraries and town meetings. Community leaders are already talking about how terrorism prevention should be put on a par with anti-bullying, substance abuse and suicide prevention in our schools. They are looking for counternarratives to Flames of War and other ISIS propaganda and some have even suggested that the Department of Homeland Security offer a prize for the best counter message. This counter-narrative approach needs to be combined with the knowledge of cults, the social science of influence, theology and counter-terrorism expertise.

Lastly, the legal policies currently in place of vigorously prosecuting young people like Mohammed Hamzah Kahn, jailing him and throwing away the key is a big mistake. We need individuals like him to speak out about how he was recruited. We need to stop treating cult victims like they are merely criminals or bad people.

Personal accounts have a way of touching the mind and heart. They may be among the most powerful counter narratives we can offer. Their message is as grand and compelling as an any that ISIS has to offer: Muslim, Christian, Hindi or Jew -- we are all human beings, with human minds. That is our strength and our vulnerability.

Jeanne Shaheen Says She's 'Absolutely' Proud Of Obamacare

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:28
WASHINGTON -- Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen refused to shy away from Obamacare on Tuesday in the first televised debate of the New Hampshire Senate race.

Shaheen, one of several vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in November, forcefully defended the health care law moments after Scott Brown, her Republican opponent, said he would fight to repeal it. When specifically asked if Obamacare was a proud achievement, Shaheen responded, "Absolutely."

"I think making sure that almost 100,000 people in New Hampshire have access to health care is real progress for people in this state," Shaheen said.

Brown's approach, Shaheen added, would strip people in New Hampshire of health insurance and void some of the law's most popular provisions, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing individuals to stay on their parents' health care plans until age 26.

"If you listen to my opponent and me, this is a fundamental difference, because I believe people in New Hampshire should be able to get access to health care," Shaheen said. "If you listen to what he is proposing, he would throw tens of thousands of people off of their health care without any plan to [replace] it. I don't think most people want to go back to a time when they didn't have health care."

Shaheen in the past criticized the implementation of the health care law and called on the Obama administration to extend the open enrollment period amid the flawed rollout of the Healthcare.gov website last year. Although she has not run away from the law, Republicans have attacked Shaheen throughout her re-election campaign for casting the "deciding vote" when Obamacare was passed in 2010.

That claim, disputed by fact-checkers, was reiterated by Brown during Tuesday night's debate.

For his part, Brown maintained that he would like to see the health care law repealed. But when quizzed on a GOP replacement plan, Brown expressed support for a proposal that would keep intact central Obamacare tenets -- including coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their parents' plans.

Outside of the health care discussion, President Barack Obama appeared to be an obstacle for Shaheen throughout the debate. Several questions, specifically on the administration's response to the threat from the Islamic State and its handling of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, put the incumbent on the defensive.

When asked about Brown's charge that she voted with Obama 99 percent of the time, Shaheen pivoted to a federal prison for which she was able to secure funding. She declined to give a yes or no answer on whether she approved of the president's job performance, saying she sometimes agrees with Obama and other times does not.

The crowd was nonetheless more supportive of Shaheen than Brown, who drew laughter on more than one occasion. Audience members jeered Brown when he sought to position himself as a New Hampshire resident in response to a question over why he chose not to run in Massachusetts, where he served as senator before losing his seat to Elizabeth Warren in 2012.

Shaheen came equipped with a response of her own to Brown's foray into the Granite State. ”I don’t think New Hampshire is a consolation prize," she said.

HuffPost's Pollster average, which combines all publicly available polling, shows Shaheen leading Brown by just under 3 percentage points.



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John Kasich Goes His Own Way In His Bid For Re-Election In Ohio

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:26
COLDWATER, Ohio (AP) — John Kasich is waiting for his second cup of chili.

He's in the middle of another day on the campaign trail, but as he's way up in the polls, Ohio's Republican governor isn't about to pass up a second helping.

"Politics bore me," he said, reflecting on his unorthodox speech at Coldwater Machine Co. earlier in the day.

At an event designed to energize Republicans, Kasich told dozens of voters from the farmlands of western Ohio that they should respect President Barack Obama, even if they don't agree with him. He praised the "big role" government plays in helping those who can't help themselves.

And later, he defended the "flesh and blood" benefits provided to low-income people through the expansion of Medicaid, which came about as part of Obama's health care law.

Now, waiting for his lunch in a bowling alley, Kasich dismisses concerns expressed by aides that his remarks didn't have enough "red meat" for the conservative crowd, which was largely silent for his 28-minute address. He said he's less interested in political attacks than doing good things for Ohio.

"This is what they need to hear," he said. He later added, "I have a right to define what conservatism is."

In an era of carefully scripted politics, Kasich is a man who does things his own way. He appears to be succeeding. Polls suggest he has a large advantage over his Democratic challenger, a county executive named Ed Fitzgerald, and some outside groups and high-profile surrogates are bypassing Ohio in favor of states with more competitive races.

Kasich's strength, and his place as top elected official in one of the nation's most important swing states, is fueling renewed talk he may again seek the presidency more than a decade after his first flirtation with the White House.

"Let's lay our cards on the table here. He's got the governor's race sewn up. We're here to talk about the presidency," said Fred Hemmelgarn, a self-described loyal Republican and 15-year-veteran at Coldwater Machine Co.

Few would have guessed a year ago that Kasich would be in a decidedly stronger position than other Republican governors from the Midwest facing re-election this fall who also figure into the 2016 discussion: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

With Congress' popularity near an all-time low, many donors and top strategists expect a governor to emerge as the ultimate nominee. All eyes are on Republican heavyweights such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but the leaders from the Midwest are quietly weighing their options as well.

It's clear Kasich is paying close attention to his national profile.

He personally reached out to reporters in New York and Washington this week to dispute an Associated Press story that quoted him talking about the chances a Republican Congress would repeal Obama's health care law. Kasich later told the AP he was speaking specifically about a repeal of the law's Medicaid expansion and not of the entire Affordable Care Act — although the law's opponents in Washington don't usually draw that distinction.

The issue is critical for conservatives who hold outsize influence in presidential primaries, and Kasich told the AP and the others he wants the entire law repealed.

But health care controversies aside, Kasich's popularity in Ohio is driven by his economic focus.

Like much of the country, Ohio's economy has improved slowly since its unemployment rate peaked at 10.6 percent a year before Kasich took office. The state's unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent this August, better than the 6.1 percent national average. There are still fewer manufacturing jobs in Ohio than there were before the recession, but Kasich can boast that manufacturing employment has grown each year he's been in office.

He's also been away from Washington long enough to distance himself from his 18 years in Congress, where he served as chairman of the House Budget Committee before deciding not to seek reelection in 2001. If asked, he's happy to dismiss the place where he once plied his politics.

"In Washington, they're out to lunch," he said. "They have no clue."

Jobs are the foundation of his re-election campaign. A huge "Kasich Works" banner hung next to the American flag at the Coldwater rally, a theme also highlighted in his television ads. But in contrast to some of his Republican colleagues elsewhere, Kasich's policies and his message include some focus on the poor.

He successfully pushed to double a tax benefit designed to help low-income Ohioans who are working and earning enough to pay income taxes. He was one of the few GOP governors to support an expansion of Medicaid under Obama's health care law.

It's a record that angers some conservatives, but one that could have widespread appeal among the swing-state independents who ultimately decide presidential contests.

"He's a governor who's willing to lead. Frankly, we need somebody like that in D.C.," said Keith Faber, president of Ohio's state Senate.

Kasich is reluctant to talk about 2016. He wouldn't rule anything out when pressed, but said he hasn't had key conversations — with his wife, Karen Waldbillig Kasich, and close friends — that would be necessary before taking a step into the 2016 contest.

But Kasich opened up about his first presidential bid in 2000, when he was approaching the end of his congressional career. While it isn't widely known, Kasich said he devoted roughly three years to a presidential bid before backing out. It's not an experience he remembers fondly.

"It was just really hard. You're just go, go, go all the time. You're just dead tired," he says as his chili arrives at the Coldwater's Pla-More Lanes. "I don't know about 18-hour days. I think that's a stupid way to go about it. I think that being tired and worn out — what does that gain you?"

Ebola Is a True Systems Crisis: It Must Be Managed Systemically or It Cannot Be Managed At All

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 22:16
As most know by now, the response in the U.S. to Ebola has been mixed at best. On the one hand, the infectious disease has not spread uncontrollably. Despite serious snafus, the health system is learning how to manage the disease. On the other hand, the health system should have known from the very beginning that it was dealing with a disease and a situation that demanded a true systems understanding and appropriate response. The appointment of an "Ebola Tsar" is a belated acknowledgement of the fact that Ebola must be managed systemically or it cannot be managed at all.

Let me address briefly some of the many systems factors.

First, of all, without exception, all crises are due in large part to the fact that a series of key assumptions that we have been taking as fundamentally true prove to be completely invalid, if not outright false. But more than this, virtually all of the key assumptions on which we depend collapse all at once and in their entirety. Most of us can live with the collapse of one or two of our basic assumptions, but few can still function when our entire belief systems collapse. This is precisely why crises are so devastating.

Thus, a basic taken-for-granted assumption was given that hospitals essentially know how to contain infectious disease that originate within their immediate boundaries, they would be equally good at containing severe infectious diseases that not only originate from outside, but from afar. Obviously this was not the case.

Another key assumption was that encasing humans in state-of-the-art astronaut-like protective gear from head to toe was more than adequate in protecting aid workers from catching and spreading the disease. That is, current protective gear and procedures were more than satisfactory. As we now know, protection has had to be revised so that it has become even more stringent. Even more parts of the human body have had to be encased.

Next, there was the assumption that government agencies were not only sufficiently well-coordinated and would thus work together, but that they knew how to present the message that Ebola was a serious health threat, but that there were no reasons to panic. In other words, how do we "scare people enough to get their attention, but not enough to cause wide-spread disruption and panic?" The international airline industry has seen the result in lost revenues as people are afraid to fly.

The international transportation system is of course a big part of the problem, and as such, the disease. How indeed are passengers to be monitored and induced to report that they may have been exposed to dangerous viruses? Threatening to embargo all flights from West African countries is not only simple-minded, but actually is counterproductive. It just induces people to enter the U.S. by other less monitored means, and by doing so, just adds to the danger. But then, fear is never wholly rational.

A truly systemic approach to Ebola and the next inevitable animal to human transmitted disease would start by listing as much as is humanly possible the key assumptions upon which we are basing our recognition of the disease and our efforts at controlling, better yet coping, with it. But even more, a truly systemic approach would recognize that the various assumptions are interdependent, not independent. They affect one another in ways that we are struggling to understand.

Ian I. Mitroff is Professor Emeritus from USC and a Senior Investigator in The Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at UC Berkeley. He is working on his latest book: Dumb, Deranged, and Dangerous: A Smart Guide to Combatting Dumb Arguments.

Make a shake flashlight out of a cardboard tube

TreeHugger Science-Tech - Tue, 2014-10-21 07:00
This quick project makes a useful emergency flashlight while recycling your leftover cardboard.

<i>Obola: Visual Attacks on Obama Pick Up Right Where Kenya/Muslim Slurs Left Off</i>

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 05:08


It's hard to tell how much the far right, in its enduring hate for Obama, is seeing an opportunity in the Ebola hysteria, or the Ebola anxiety is feeding and re-igniting those racist and religious attacks on Obama from their heyday in '07-'10 when he was so unknown. Either way, Twitter and social media is serving as its own source of incubation and a visual breeding ground for rallying the base.

Since the most effective treatment for noxious political memes is inoculation, it's instructive to examine a few of these specimens to see what they consist of. This combo features the most common signature of the visual hate paranoia, the Ebola virus itself -- this one with a little Barack head atop it. What better way to unnerve people -- and to gloss over the near absence of domestic cases of the illness or the difficulty of transmission than with Mr. Squiqqly under a microscope? Notice in the companion frame how out of it Obama looks. Obviously, the inference (because he's African, right?) is that he's infected.
Nigeria expected to be declared Ebola-free: President #Obola and the CDC are a Global embarrassment! http://t.co/G7XsbDLl9z via @YahooNews -- Gary Gnu (@NEWSNET9) October 19, 2014
This last one is pretty terrifying. If the photo features a random Nigerian, the caption by association draws a link to Obama. And, to the extent that the diagnostic device and the infrared dot (remember this?) suggests a shooting, well you know where that's leading.


IT'S MUTATING: Leading U.S. Scientist Warns That Ebola Is Already Changing To Become More Contagious ... http://t.co/1X8VtC18Ql #Obola -- Issei Takeru (@Rugure89) October 19, 2014




Here's Mr. Squiggly with the warning it could be mutating.



Then there are all kinds of variations on the Obama logo (and the Shepard Fairey poster).
Ebola is spreading because jackasses like this one act like this. #Obola #ObolaVirus #Obongaloid pic.twitter.com/3AhuQmsW4x -- Jon Burrows (@JonJBurrows) August 3, 2014
Finally, this is pretty self-explanatory. If Obama is typically the model of propriety, again we've got the allusion that he's not only got the virus but he's "undomesticated."


Okay...This might be a worthwhile hashtag from Mooch #Obola pic.twitter.com/OQzl4j6tLA -- Feisty☀️Floridian (@peddoc63) October 9, 2014


It's actually worth taking a moment to talk about this one because it happens to be pretty clever. This somebody has really been following her Obama visuals because this plays a deck of race cards. What we have, by the way, are two images from much different times that have been combined together, and then the sign, of course, has also been photoshopped. As I wrote in December 2007:
With forty-six years of pain, thought and effort behind it, today's Barack Obama seems fairly secure and unconflicted in his own identity as an African-American. ...Too bad nobody informed the MSM.

The image above -- taken while Obama was waiting to be introduced at a campaign event in South Carolina -- was the "Barack entry" in TIME's just released Images of the Year. Employing the shadow, the implication is that the meditative Obama is somehow personally split between dark and light.
The reuse of the ambiguous Barack campaign photo, from before we knew him, intends to call his race into question again, except the context here pulls for shame or withholding. The altering of the photo on the right, taken seven years later, is particularly slanderous because of its original source. If you remember, Michelle Obama lent her image to the hashtag activism calling for the return of the missing Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Both sick and clever in subverting the First Lady standing up for a (previous) humanitarian issue in Africa, the sign also plays on "the two-tone" Obama as if the difference in tone means he's showing symptoms.

Almost seven years down the road from the election of the first black American president, in many respects it seems we're back where we started.

----------BagNewsNotes: Today's media images analyzed. Topping LIFE.com's Best Photo Blogs, follow us at BAG Twitter, BAG Facebook and BAG via email.

Bill O'Reilly Makes Fun Of Karl Rove's Prediction Skills

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 00:37
Bill O'Reilly had a little fun at Karl Rove's expense on Monday night.

While appearing on "The O'Reilly Factor" from Las Vegas, Rove whipped out his whiteboard to drive home some points about the upcoming midterm election.

When the political strategist finished, O'Reilly warned him not to bring the whiteboard into the casinos.

"I don't gamble," Rove said.

"With your prediction record, that's a wise move," O'Reilly cracked.

"Y'know that was personal and petty," Rove said. "That was personal and petty."

"That's me," said O'Reilly. "P and P."

Back in 2012, after predicting a Mitt Romney win in the presidential election, Rove threw a fit on live television when Fox News called Ohio for President Barack Obama.

Fox was right and Rove was wrong, and the following spring he was still bristling over it.

It's not clear whether Rove was joking with O'Reilly or genuinely stung by the re-opened wound. But between the two of them, only one was laughing... and it wasn't Rove.

Jamilah Nasheed, Missouri State Senator, Arrested During Ferguson Protests

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 00:34

Oct 20 (Reuters) - A Missouri state senator was arrested on Monday night outside the police department of the embroiled city of Ferguson, authorities said, in another night of protests following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in August.

State Senator Jamilah Nasheed was taken into custody by Ferguson police officers, said St. Louis County Police spokesman Brian Schellman.

Further details were not immediately available.

CNN footage broadcast by television station KSDK showed the politician shouting "No Justice," with replies of "No peace," from several protesters, as she was handcuffed along with another man.

KDSK reported that Nasheed was arrested after standing in the street and blocking traffic, then failing to move despite repeated warnings from police.

Demonstrations have gripped the St. Louis area almost daily since the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed black teenager, 18-year-old Michael Brown, by white police officer Darren Wilson.

A grand jury is considering charges against Wilson, who has not spoken publicly about the matter. Protesters want Wilson arrested immediately and have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Robert Birsel)

David Perdue Has Up To $1 Million Managed By Swiss Private Bank Fund

Huffingon Post Politics - Tue, 2014-10-21 00:11
WASHINGTON -- Republican David Perdue, the Georgia businessman running for U.S. Senate, has as much as $1 million invested in an exclusive fund managed by a Swiss private bank -- a rarefied investment strategy that has earned him between $100,000 and $1 million since 2012.

The fund, Vontobel Non-U.S. Equity LLC, is managed by a subsidiary of the Zurich-based private bank Vontobel to invest in companies that operate primarily outside the United States. Registered as a Delaware corporation, the fund includes shares of mortgage companies in India, global tobacco corporations, and European consumer goods manufacturers.

The fund's manager is a sister company of family-owned Bank Vontobel based in Zurich. Its slogan: "Vontobel: Your Swiss Private Bank." Nevertheless, Perdue's investment is not the same as a Swiss bank account, and his fund, managed out of New York, cannot be used to hide taxable assets from the Internal Revenue Service.

Rather, it is a pooled investment fund, designed to make money for investors. By limiting the investor pool to high-net worth individuals and well-funded organizations, the Vontobel fund is exempt from the typical requirement that, as a Delaware corporation, it register with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Perdue's estimated net worth of between $27 million and $82 million easily qualifies him to invest in the restricted fund. As of September, Perdue was one of 769 investors who together had given Vontobel's asset managers more than $1.25 billion to invest in the Vontobel Non-US Equity LLC fund.



As Perdue crisscrosses Georgia, promising to use his extensive business experience to benefit the millions of voters hard hit by the Great Recession, his participation in the Vontobel fund may expose him to charges he's out of touch with the blue-collar voters he needs to win next month's election. Perdue is facing Democrat Michelle Nunn for the seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R).

Perdue's vulnerability was hammered home in recent weeks, as scrutiny intensified into his business record of outsourcing American jobs, to be filled by cheaper laborers in what he called the "Third World."

"I spent most of my career" outsourcing jobs, Perdue said in a 2005 deposition, released to the media this month. Since then, Perdue has repeatedly claimed that he is "proud" of this part of his record, and has rebuffed critics who point out that he has overseen hundreds of layoffs during his decades as CEO of companies like Reebok, Sara Lee and Dollar General.

Yet Perdue's pride in his work history seems tempered by reports that his campaign deleted a paragraph from its website that described Perdue's stint as a consultant for a startup in India, from 2007 to 2009.

In response to questions from The Huffington Post, Perdue's campaign refused to say when Perdue first invested in the Vontobel fund, or how much he Perdue ventured. The campaign also declined to say how much Perdue has earned from his Vontobel investment, beyond the range offered in his personal financial disclosure form, or how much he has paid to Vontobel in management fees.

The campaign did note that Nunn lists four non-U.S. investment funds on her Senate financial disclosure forms. These include an Emerging Markets Core Equity Fund, an International Small Cap Value Fund, an International Core Equity fund, and an International Small Company fund -- all through Dimensional Fund Advisors, for a total value of between $4,004 and $60,000. Nunn reported combined two-year income from all four investments of between $201 and $1,600.

In a statement to The Huffington Post, Perdue spokeswoman Megan Whittemore said, "Overall, David has more invested in Henry County school bonds than in this fund. Investing a portion of your portfolio in international companies is standard diversification for most investors, including Michelle Nunn, "

Unlike Perdue's restricted Vontobel fund, Nunn's holdings are in publicly traded funds -- and significantly smaller than Perdue's investment.



Little is known about the Vontobel fund, which was created in July 2007, the same month that Perdue exited his job as CEO of Dollar General. The executive's departure netted him more than $42 million.

The Vontobel fund appears to be among a series of funds Vontobel established in 2007 to help shield U.S. investors from the looming financial crisis. For wealthy Americans, the prospect of placing money in the hands of Vontobel's star asset manager, Rajiv Jain, was a welcome alternative to the bad news shaking Wall Street.

In response to questions from HuffPost, the Perdue campaign released the top 10 holdings for the Vontobel fund, which mirror those for other Jain-managed Vontobel funds. They include British American Tobacco (U.K.), Philip Morris International (U.S.), Unilever (Netherlands), Nestle (Swiss), Housing Development Finance Corp. (India), Roche Holding (Swiss), HDFC Bank (India), SABMiller (U.K.), Novo Nordisk (Denmark), and Reckitt Benckiser (U.K.).

A spokeswoman for Vontobel Asset Management, a U.S. subsidiary of the Swiss bank, declined to answer questions about the Vontobel Non-US Equity LLC fund's structure and management.

Rick Weiland vs. Mike Rounds vs. Larry Pressler Nonpartisan Candidate Guide For South Dakota Senate Race 2014

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 22:42


Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Rick Weiland vs. Mike Rounds vs. Larry Pressler Senate race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Rick Weiland, Mike Rounds and Larry Pressler, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper.
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Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: Yes

Budget: Do you support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment?
Weiland: Probable no--focuses on how deficit was caused by unfunded wars and tax cuts for wealthy
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: No

Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No. Supports disclosing contributions but not expenditures.
Pressler: Yes

Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions?
Weiland: No. Actively supports legislation to reverse Citizens United (Campaign finance reform is the cornerstone of his campaign. Wants Constitutional amendment giving Congress the power to limit the raising and spending of money for federal elections.)
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: No

Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No (Did support a 2008 increase)
Pressler: Yes

Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: Unknown
Pressler: Unknown

Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Yes

Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: No

Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Unknown

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: Yes

Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Yes

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Weiland: Yes--Also developed international green commercial construction code
Rounds: On a limited basis (Main goal is to remove government involvement of any sort, but supports time-limited government energy credits for all energy development, with highest percentage to traditional sources. See Rapid City Journal article for more detail.)
Pressler: No

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No, Supports legal contract but not marriage
Pressler: Yes

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Weiland: Supports required background checks
Rounds: No
Pressler: No

Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Weiland: No. Would also work to allow people to buy into Medicare at a earlier age.
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: No

Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013?
Weiland: No
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: No

Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they've graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Unknown

Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security?
Weiland: Yes. Border security and a pathway to citizenship can proceed at the same time.
Rounds: No. Border security must come first; then limited path to citizenship with multiple preconditions and limitations.
Pressler: Yes

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Unknown

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Weiland: No
Rounds: Yes (In 2006, signed legislation (later repealed by voters) banning all abortions in the state except those necessary to save a woman's life. )
Pressler: No

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Weiland: No
Rounds: Yes
Pressler: Unknown

Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Unknown

Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security?
Weiland: No. Would raise payroll tax cap to draw more revenue from high earners.
Rounds: Contested--Has praised Paul Ryan budget, which includes private "premium support" system for Medicare, but Medicare stance is ambiguous (For a better understanding of the ambiguity of Rounds' stance, see Round's quote praising Paul Ryan's budget, Round's campaign statements saying he doesn't support Ryan's Medicare proposals, and Politifact.com analysis of premium supports in Ryan budget.)
Pressler: No

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Weiland: No
Rounds: No
Pressler: No

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Weiland: Yes
Rounds: No
Pressler: Yes

Learn more about the candidates:
Weiland: Rick Weiland Vote Smart pages and Rick Weiland On the Issues pages
Rounds: Mike Rounds Vote Smart pages and Mike Rounds On the Issues pages
Pressler: Larry Pressler Vote Smart pages and Larry Pressler On the Issues pages
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Other senate candidates include Gordon Howie (Independent). Due to limited space, we can't include his positions, but invite you to check out his website.

Ebola vs. AIDS, Obama vs. Reagan

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 22:41



Compare and contrast: Ebola vs. AIDS, Obama vs. Reagan. Anyone who continues to defend President Reagan's response to AIDS is ignoring a history of gross negligence compared with the response to other disease outbreaks in the U.S.

Here's the first time President Obama's press secretary was asked about Ebola, on July 30, 2014. Ebola had yet to reach U.S. shores, but two Christian aid workers from America had become infected in Liberia.

Q: Is the President being briefed on the Ebola outbreak in Africa? And will it be addressed at the Africa summit and/or alter the Africa summit in any way?

MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, we continue -- well, no, it will not alter the summit, but we do continue to monitor the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea, in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria closely. The President is indeed receiving regular updates, including speaking with his Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco as early as yesterday before departing Washington.

The U.S. government, including the Departments of State, Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, USAID and the Department of Defense, continue to provide a range of support and assistance to those countries and multinational organizations responding to the outbreak.

This includes the provision of personal protective equipment and other essential supplies, public health messaging and technical expertise. We've actually been engaged in this outbreak since March.



The press waited until Oct. 15 , 1982 -- 17 months after the first reported AIDS cases -- to ask President Reagan's press secretary about the "gay plague." By that time, there had been 593 reported cases in the U.S., and 243 deaths.

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement -- the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?

MR. SPEAKES: What's AIDS?

Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague." (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don't.

MR. SPEAKES: You didn't answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President --

MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I don't know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't think so. I don't think there's been any --

Q: Nobody knows?

MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping --

MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he's had no -- (laughter) -- no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn't have gay plague, is that what you're saying or what?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn't say that.

Q: Didn't say that?

MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn't you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you, Larry, that's why. (Laughter.)

MR. SPEAKES: Oh, I see. Just don't put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It's too late.



(Crying.)

Finding a Middle Ground Between Psychiatry and Anti-Psychiatry

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 22:14
There will never be any compromise acceptable to the die-hard defenders of psychiatry or to its most fanatic critics.

Some inflexible psychiatrists are blind biological reductionists who assume that genes are destiny and that there is a pill for every problem.

Some inflexible anti-psychiatrists are blind ideologues who see only the limits and harms of mental-health treatment, not its necessity or any of its benefits.

I have spent a good deal of frustrating time trying to open the minds of extremists at both ends -- rarely making much headway.

Fortunately, though, there are many reasonable people in both camps who may differ markedly in their overall assessment of psychiatry but still can agree that it is certainly not all good or all bad. With open-mindedness as a starting point, common ground can usually be found; seemingly divergent abstract opinions are not so divergent when you discuss how to deal with practical problems.

And finding common ground has never been more important. We simply can't afford a civil war among the various advocates of the mentally ill at a time when strong and united advocacy is so desperately needed.

Mental-health services in the U.S. are a failed mess: underfunded, disorganized, inaccessible, misallocated, dispirited, and driven by commercial interest. The current nonsystem is a shameful disgrace that won't change unless the various voices who care about the mentally ill can achieve greater harmony.

Here is the cruel paradox: Those who need help can't get it. We have half a million severely ill patients in prison for nuisance crimes that easily could have been avoided had they received adequate treatment and housing. Sleeping on a stoop, stealing a Coke, or shouting on a street can get the person arrested. Once arrested, not being able to make bail and/or not fitting in well with jail routine leads to prolonged incarceration and, too frequently, crazy-making solitary confinement. The U.S. today is probably the worst place and worst time ever to suffer from a severe mental illness.

Meanwhile, those who don't need psychiatric medicine get far too much: We spend $50 billion a year on often-unnecessary and potentially dangerous pills peddled by Big Pharma drug pushers, prescribed by careless doctors, and sought by patients brainwashed by advertising. There are now more deaths in the U.S. from drug overdoses than from car accidents, and most of these come from prescription pills, not street drugs.

The mess is deeply entrenched because 1) there are few and fairly powerless advocates for the most disadvantaged; 2) the commercial interests are rich and powerful, control the airwaves and the politicians, and profit from the status quo; and 3) the mental-health community is riven by a longstanding civil war that distracts from a unified advocacy for the severely ill.

The first two factors won't change easily. Leverage in this David-vs.-Goliath struggle is possible only if we can find a middle ground for unified advocacy.

I think reasonable people can readily agree on four fairly obvious common goals:

  1. We need to work for the freedom of those who have been inappropriately imprisoned.


  2. We need to provide adequate housing to reduce the risks and indignities of homelessness.


  3. We need to provide medication for those who really need it and avoid medicating those who don't.


  4. We need to provide adequate and easily accessible psychosocial support and treatment in the community.


The arguments occur over the extent to which medication and coercion are necessary, and over who should get how much funding to provide what type of psychosocial support to which people.

We can all agree that too much medicine is being prescribed by the wrong people to the wrong people and for the wrong indications. Eighty percent of all psychiatric medicine is prescribed by primary-care doctors after very brief visits that are primed for overprescribing by misleading drug-company advertising. Many psychiatrists also tend to err by being too quick to write prescriptions. Anti-psychiatrists err in the other direction, thinking that because they have personally done better without meds, no one needs them.

I think reasonable people can agree that we need to reeducate doctors and the public that medications have harms, not just benefits, and should be reserved only for narrow indications when they are really necessary. It is ludicrous that 20 percent of our population takes a psychoactive pill every day, and it is equally ludicrous that anyone should be sent to jail for symptoms that would have responded to medication if the waiting time for an appointment had been one day, not two months.

Coercion is an even more contentious topic, but one that also has a common-sense common ground. When, more than 50 years ago, Tom Szasz began to fight for patient empowerment, freedom, and dignity, the main threat to these was a snake-pit state hospital system that warehoused more than 600,000 patients, usually involuntarily and often inappropriately. That system no longer exists. There are now only about 65,000 psychiatric beds in the entire country, and the problem is finding a way into the hospital, not finding a way out.

Anti-psychiatrists are fighting the last war. Psychiatric coercion has become largely a paper tiger: rare, short-term, and usually a well-meaning attempt to help the person avoid the real modern-day coercive threat of imprisonment. Decriminalizing mental illness and deprisoning the mentally ill should be an appealing common banner. And when you discuss specific situations, there is much more common-sense, common-ground agreement about when psychiatric coercion makes sense than when you discuss this hot-button issue in the abstract.

Finally, there is the inevitable competition for scarce resources that causes conflict between professionally run mental-health programs and those based on recovery. The fight for slices of the pie gets particularly fierce when the pie is far too small to start with and is forever shrinking.

The common ground here is recognition of the fact that one size does not fit all. We need all sorts of different psychosocial support systems, because different people have different needs and tastes. We should be joining together to grow a bigger pie, not fighting for slightly bigger slices of a shrinking one.

Rome is burning, and no one seems to be doing much about it. The ivory-tower institutions (like the professional associations and the National Institute of Mental Health) and the more grassroots organizations need to put aside differences and focus common advocacy on two goals that all can share: helping our most disadvantaged regain freedom and dignity, and taming the rampant and careless overuse of medication.

Allen Frances is a professor emeritus at Duke University and was the chairman of the DSM-IV task force.

'Kurdish Peace Process': Erdoğan's Gamble for Absolute Power?

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 21:26
The civilian Kurdish unrest, enveloping tens of Kurdish cities and town in Turkey, leaving 35 people dead and mass destruction of property behind, had the plight of small Syrian Kurdish enclave Kobani as the triggering element.

But the core of mass fury had to with the question Turkey's Kurds ask constantly these days: Can we trust that President Erdoğan is sincere about the peace talks with the PKK or, are we all being jerked around, duped?

Reports and interviews with the local Kurdish protesters have always come back to this crucial point.

Indeed, the four-week-long siege of the Kurdish town of Kobani of Syria at the Turkish border by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants exposed, how open Turkey is to the spillover effects of the regional crisis and how fragile and explosive its so-called "Kurdish Peace Process" is.

Turkey's equivocating stance vis a vis ISIL, which has cemented the international perception that it still is the weakest link in the coalition formed to combat its barbarous attacks, and its refusal to open a corridor to supply logistical support for the YPG fighters defending Kobani developed last week into a showdown spreading over 10 predominantly Kurdish provinces and Istanbul, leaving 35 people dead and massive destruction of property.

Turkey's refusal to take part, albeit indirectly, to save Kobani from falling, definitely was the spark. But according to the figures affiliated with the "Kurdish Political Movement" and the PKK, the triggering effect were President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's policy choices on Turley's Kurdish issue in general.

One of them, Hatip Dicle, told my colleague Hasan Cemal, that what infuriated Turkey's Kurds en masse were several reasons.

As Kobani crisis erupted, Erdoğan said that "whatever ISIL is, so is the PKK," namely equating them. In the wording of the resolution passed by Turkish Parliament handing powers of intervention into Syria whenever needed, PKK was also mentioned along with ISIL.

Another "spark" for Kurds' fury was Erdoğan's phrase, which to Kurdish ears sounded like schadenfreude: "Look, Kobani is now about to fall!"

Also, Dicle pointed out, the refusal of Erdoğan's close circle to link Kobani with the peace process in Turkey led to the tipping point.

"If Kobani falls, so will the process" is a very common phrase these days in Turkey, repeated as the warning signal for even wider social unrest and, as many pundits point out, to a civil war.



The anxiety is built upon two elements: AKP's stance on Kobani did, as many expected, how deeply mistrustful Turkey's Kurds to Erdoğan have remained, and how their minor-scale uprising peppered with destruction helped surface the enmity to Kurds among other social segments of Turkish society.

For both, certainly, the main responsibility lies with what many Kurds see as "the delaying tactics" of Erdoğan as well as his densely secretive way of conducting the process; keeping society in general out of the loop of what its timing and aims are.

There are no signs for a change of mind in Ankara on the plight of Kobani. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said on Wednesday that Turkey is absolutely not responsible for fighting in Kobani and that his country's borders are open for "humanitarian crossing," lashing out at those who he said wanted to portray Turkey as a "cause" or a part of the problem, and claiming that they themselves are part of "another agenda."

Davutoğlu pledged that the "open-border policy" won't be applied for Turkish citizens, a measure directed to prevent Turkey's Kurdish rebels, affiliated with the PKK, from crossing into Kobani.

From a vantage point, the severe challenges Turkey faces in ISIL crisis enveloping Syria and Iraq, can be understood. The official figures talk about 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. Lately, thousands of Yezidis sought shelter across the Iraqi border, and Kobani crisis led to approximately 200,000 mainly Kurds fleeing into neighboring Turkish provinces. This is an immense burden on the country, and it has already raised the social tensions within.

Erdoğan knows also the cost of unleashing Turkish boots on the Syrian ground, though he does not lower the decibels of his anti Assad rhetoric. Such a go-it-alone choice would bring Turkey to a confrontation with not only Assad's army, but also Syria's Kurds and perhaps even the Shia militia fighting ISIL.

Ankara has relevant arguments against the USA and the EU as well, for years of inaction against Damascus, and uses these as the basis for its own non-interventionism, unless the operations also target Assad.

Yet, falling short of meeting the minimum requirements as a NATO member, such as opening the bases for the missiles and aircraft, will certainly cause further rifts with its allies. Ankara certainly designs a pattern, based on delaying its decisions by hard negotiations with them, as long as possible, as its statements suggest.

The urgency, for Erdoğan, however, is with the domestic Kurdish dimension. What if Kobani falls? Will it mean an end to the peace process? There seems to be a general agreement in the assessments that it may bring Turkey closer to a civil war.



What is in Erdoğan's mind?

His utterly foxy policy drive so far has proven the cynics right.

Having chosen a spectator role for Turkey, and with a threatful rhetoric vis a vis the PKK, Erdoğan might be calculating that even if Kobani falls, the PKK can neither counter the will of Abdullah Öcalan, its jailed leader, nor can it enforce an end to the ceasefire, because the PKK may not have enough force to fight on two fronts.

In short, Erdoğan wants to see whether or not the PKK "command" in Iraq loses its prestige by the eventual fall of Kobani -- which it sees as its "liberated bastion" and, also, whether more frictions with Öcalan develop.

An AKP deputy, who spoke to BBC correspondent Paul Moss in Istanbul on condition of anonymity, said: "President Erdoğan is focused on increasing his votes, not to solve the Kurdish problem. I believe that the peace process may soon collapse and this would drive the country into chaos."

If Erdoğan is intent on gambling, he counts certainly on the anti-Kurdish sentiments on the domestic political front: Kurdish riots showed that large, nationalist segments of the society would again approve of hard security measures against the Kurds.

Erdoğan the pragmatist may be reasoning, that if repeated, such destructive unrest may pave the way for him to re-embrace the nationalist masses, and help keep him in the power.

Indeed, many Kurds also voice fears that the rolling of the military troops in the civilian areas of unrest along with the police may signal a new alliance between Erdoğan and the top command.

The recent legal package that envisages severe curbing of basic rights and freedoms mean that as he did before, Erdoğan successfully meets all the challenges -- regardless of its methods -- from the opposition, simply to boost his authoritarianism.

Some key figures of the PKK's military wing have recently been louder, questioning openly whether Erdoğan's real intention is to push for a new war, rather than work for peace.

"There is no president in Turkey at the moment," said Cemil Bayık, leader of the KCK, PKK's armed local network. "Erdoğan speaks like a party chairman. He sees himself still as the AKP's leader. He does not represent the people (of Turkey). Let alone representing the Kurds, he is conducting enmity towards them. Driven by a hegemonic mindset he acts as if he is superior to the other parties, and exposes his authoritarian personality. But when it comes to the Kurds, he tries to eradicate and nullify them."

"One can therefore neither expect ceasefire, nor peace under this mindset. As a matter fact there has never been a settlement process... While only giving lip service to peace process AKP tries to cover his unwillingness, pursuing a line instead to stall Turkish people and the Kurds off. Erdoğan's current fury stems from his realisation that he can no longer do this for neither of us."

What are, then, Kurds' options? Profound Kurdish mistrust for the peace process has to do with the perception that Erdoğan's strategy is to use the ongoing, fragile ceasefire as a leverage to consolidate one-man power, election after election.

Majority of the Kurds, the electoral base of the HDP, the political wing of the PKK, translate the process as the release of Öcalan, all its other aspects being secondary.

In a sense, cynics might argue, Öcalan is a "hostage" used to keep the Kurdish masses in control; helping Erdoğan to drag his feet until he secures absolute power.

The recent 'road map' presented to the HDP by the government, rather vague in content, sets a deadline for disarmament for February next year, and mentions only partial, not general, amnesty.

The next elections in Turkey is set for June, but there are already rumors in Ankara of early elections in March or April.

This adds to the Kurdish suspicions of "being played."

If this strategy proves to be true, it will have consequences.

The AKP is in a difficult position, but, realistically, so is the PKK.

And as ever before, Turkey still stands between reviving its democratization or a drifting further towards instability and nationalism-branded authoritarian rule.

Marco Rubio To Propose Ebola Travel Ban Legislation

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 21:09
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced on Monday that he plans to introduce legislation that would temporarily ban U.S. visas for nationals from African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Rubio said in a statement that he plans to offer the legislation when the Senate returns to work in November. The temporary ban would apply to nationals from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, and would extend to other countries where the virus has spread. The ban would remain in place until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines that the outbreak has been contained.

“We must take any and all necessary precautions to contain this virus -- and common sense restrictions on travel from countries now confronting this epidemic is an important step,” Rubio said in a statement. “The most effective way to combat this deadly virus is to address it at its source.”

Rubio’s plan comes as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have called on President Barack Obama to impose a ban on travelers from countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. The Obama administration has said that such a ban would prevent aid workers from getting resources to affected countries. Experts have said it may make tracking the spread of the disease more difficult.

Mary Landrieu vs. Bill Cassidy Nonpartisan Candidate Guide for Louisiana Senate Race 2014

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:54


Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Mary Landrieu vs. Bill Cassidy Senate race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Mary Landrieu and Bill Cassidy, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper.
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Budget: Did you support raising the Federal debt ceiling with no strings attached?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Campaign Finance: Do you support the DISCLOSE Act, which would require key funders of political ads to put their names on those ads?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Campaign Finance: Do you support the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited independent political expenditures by corporations and unions?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Unknown

Economy: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support extending unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support the Dodd-Frank Act, which established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and sought to increase regulation of Wall Street corporations and other financial institutions?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Economy: Do you support federal spending as a means of promoting economic growth?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Yes

Education: Do you support refinancing of student loans at lower rates, paid for by increasing taxes on income over a million dollars?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Unknown

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Environment: Do you support government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: Yes

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Healthcare: Do you support repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes. Also authored bill permitting people to keep insurance policies that didn't meet the coverage standards of the law.

Healthcare: Did you support shutting down the federal government in order to defund Obamacare in 2013?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Immigration: Do you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which would allow children brought into the country illegally to achieve legal status if they've graduated from high school, have a clean legal record, and attend college or serve in the military?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Immigration: Do you support the comprehensive immigration plan passed by the Senate in 2013, which includes a pathway to citizenship and increased funding for border security?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Landrieu: No, although supports ban on late-term abortions
Cassidy: Yes

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Social Issues: Should Planned Parenthood receive public funds for non-abortion health services?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No

Social Security: Do you support partial privatization of Social Security?
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Landrieu: No
Cassidy: Yes

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Landrieu: Yes
Cassidy: No. See above

Learn more about the candidates:
Landrieu: Mary Landrieu Vote Smart pages and Mary Landrieu On the Issues pages
Cassidy: Bill Cassidy Vote Smart pages and Bill Cassidy On the Issues pages

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Other senate candidates include Wayne Ables (D), Raymond Brown (D), Thomas Clements (R), Rob Maness (R), Brannon McMorris (Libertarian), Vallian Senegal (D), and William Waymire Jr. (D). Due to limited space, we can't include their positions, but invite you to check out their websites or biographical information

Seamus McCaffery, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, Suspended Over Porn Scandal

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:52
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended one of its members over his participation in a state government pornographic email scandal that involved employees of the attorney general's office.

The court justices issued an order saying Justice Seamus McCaffery may not perform any judicial or administrative duties while the matter is reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Board, which investigates allegations of judicial misconduct. The main order also noted allegations about McCaffery's actions related to a traffic citation received by his wife, who is a lawyer, and referral fees she obtained while working for him as an administrative assistant. It also noted he "may have attempted to exert influence over a judicial assignment" in Philadelphia.

The Judicial Conduct Board was given a month to determine whether there is probable cause to file a misconduct charge against McCaffery, a Philadelphia Democrat elected to the seven-member bench in 2007.

McCaffery's lawyer, Dion Rassias, said they were confident he will be cleared and will soon return to the bench.

The court's action followed disclosures last week by Chief Justice Ronald Castille, a Republican, that McCaffery had sent or received 234 emails with sexually explicit content or pornography from late 2008 to May 2012. McCaffery apologized, calling it a lapse in judgment, but blasted Castille for "a vindictive pattern of attacks" against him.

A third justice, Michael Eakin, also a Republican, on Friday went public with a claim McCaffery had threatened to leak "inappropriate" emails Eakin had received if he didn't side with McCaffery against Castille.

McCaffery denied threatening Eakin, who reported the matter to the Judicial Conduct Board. Neither Eakin nor McCaffery participated in the court's decision.

Castille was among the four justices voting to suspend McCaffery with pay, along with Max Baer, Corry Stevens and Thomas Saylor. Justice Debra Todd dissented, saying she would have referred the matter, including the question of suspension, to the Judicial Conduct Board.

An internal review of how state prosecutors handled a child molestation case involving former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky turned up the email exchanges of pornographic images and videos. Four former employees of the prosecutors' office have left their government jobs as a result.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who promised the Sandusky review during her 2012 campaign, has said current employees of the attorney general's office also sent or received the emails and could face discipline.

Castille, responding to news reports that judges were involved, demanded any information Kane had concerning the participation of any justice, judge or district judge. Kane, a Democrat, turned over the emails linked to McCaffery, and Castille disclosed the results last Wednesday, saying no other justices were involved.

Castille said McCaffery sent most of the emails to an agent in the attorney general's office, who then forwarded them to others.

McCaffery said "coarse language and crude jokes" were simply a part of his life as a Philadelphia policeman and a Marine.

Colorado Health Officials Walk Back Proposed Weed-Edibles Ban, Hours After It Goes Public

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:47
Colorado health officials on Monday backtracked on their call to ban almost all recreational marijuana edibles in the state, just hours after their recommendation for such a prohibition surfaced publicly.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment backed away from its recommendation for a ban after outraged marijuana industry representatives argued that state voters made all forms of marijuana legal in 2012. The Associated Press's Kristen Wyatt reported that a Health Department official said a ban "was not our intent."

Talk of an edibles ban came as lawmakers, industry representatives and state officials on Monday discussed what should be included in a Colorado House bill that would add restrictions to the sale of edible marijuana products. Marijuana edibles -- food and beverage products infused with compounds derived from marijuana, such as THC or CBD -- have been under fire following two high-profile deaths that may have been linked to the treats.

The Health Department's recommendation "is just that, a recommendation," said Dr. Larry Wolk, the department's executive director and chief medical officer, in a statement following Monday's working group meeting. “Our recommendation does not represent the view of the governor’s office, nor was it reviewed by the governor. It was put together only in consideration of the public health challenges of underage marijuana ingestion."

The department's written suggestion, obtained by The Huffington Post, was one of several discussed during the meeting of legislators, state officials and industry representatives. But it was the only one calling for what amounted to a ban of almost all edible marijuana products. State lawmakers have proposed reducing serving sizes to 10 milligrams of THC -- about the amount in a medium-sized joint -- from 100 milligrams, requiring clearer labeling, and creating new safeguards to ensure children can't get their hands on cannabis-infused foods.

"Prohibit the production of retail edible marijuana products other than a simple lozenge/hard candy or tinctures that are plainly labeled using universal symbol(s) and that users can add to their products at home," the Health Department recommended. "Hard candy/lozenges would be manufactured in single 10 mg doses/lozenges and tinctures would be produced and labeled with dosing instructions, such as two drops equals 10 mg."

The bill requires that a working group be assembled before passage to discuss concerns, recommendations and requests regarding marijuana edibles. The working group will not draft rules. Instead, it will produce a report that includes recommendations so lawmakers can best understand the issues and the suggestions.

The Colorado Department of Revenue's Marijuana Enforcement Division, which oversees the state's marijuana industry, including edibles, would make the final rules based on recommendations from the working group and state lawmakers after the 2015 legislative session.

"It is important to note that we will be collecting both supportive and dissenting opinions for each recommendation during the working group process and these opinions will be included in the Division's report to the general assembly," Natriece Bryant, communications specialist at Colorado's Department of Revenue, told HuffPost. "The Division views its primary role as a facilitator to the working group process and as drafter of the final report, it is our role, at this juncture, to ensure that all of the underlying issues and potential recommendations are identified, considered and included in the report."

"Unfortunately, this debate is often driven by a small faction of people whose goal is to reinstate the failed policy of prohibition," Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project, told HuffPost. "It’s unfortunate that so much time is being spent discussing proposed bans, when it could be spent discussing realistic approaches that could actually have the intended effect of preventing accidental and over-consumption."

Contemplating a Republican Senate

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:45

As frightening a prospect as it is for progressives and liberals and other assorted Democrats, it is now impossible not to contemplate what two years of a Republican-led Senate would be like. While Democrats are still putting on a brave face about their chances in the 2014 midterms ("Our ground game is going to win the day!"), the possibility of Republicans picking up the six Senate seats they now need to gain control of the chamber is very real and even (according to many election forecasters) probable. But what would this mean for President Obama's last two years in office?


What it would mean for Democrats in the Senate would be becoming the minority party. Harry Reid would either become the Minority Leader, or perhaps the Democratic reins would be turned over to someone else in a leadership change (Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are the two names most often mentioned in this scenario). But this is merely the most obvious change in the way the Senate works. The big question is what rule changes and tactical changes Mitch McConnell would do once he takes over. Some of these might actually be beneficial to Democrats (McConnell has said he'd open up the "filling the tree" amendment process, for instance, which might mean even in the minority Democrats could get floor votes on their own proposals), but most of course will favor Republicans and their political agenda.


The two biggest changes in the way the Senate operates would be on presidential appointment confirmations and the legislative filibuster. The first of these would come as a result of the seething resentment Republicans still feel about Harry Reid "dropping the nuke" earlier this year (when Reid pushed through a rules change that eliminated the filibuster for all presidential appointees below Supreme Court justices). With one vote, Reid was able to deny Republicans the ability to stop nominations by filibustering all nominees (which they had been doing up to that point). It was a monumental change, and it has allowed many stalled nominees to be confirmed ever since. It will also allow a lame-duck Senate under Reid to hustle through all the nominees they possibly can, before the new Republican Senate takes office in January.


The question is what Mitch McConnell will do about this rule. Republicans hated the change, but are they really -- once gaining the majority -- going to immediately hand power back to the minority party? It would obviously be against their interests to do so, especially considering how favorable the playing field will be in 2016 for Democratic Senate candidates (in other words, McConnell will know for the next two years that a Republican Senate majority may be a very temporary situation). What is much more likely to happen is that McConnell will keep the "no filibuster" rule in place for nominees, and perhaps if Democrats do reclaim power in 2016, change the rule back in the lame-duck session as a protest (Democrats would immediately change it back again when they took power in 2017, of course).


McConnell won't have to worry about filibustering nominees, though, because Republicans will be in the majority and will thus already be able to reject any nominee they don't like. "Any nominee they don't like" is likely to quickly become "all of them," in fact. We could see two years without any new federal judges being confirmed, as well as any executive branch appointees. McConnell could easily do this -- with or without any rule change. Stalling nominees at the end of a president's term is a tactic that has been used by both parties in the past, but McConnell will likely use the tactic to the absolute extreme, by not letting anyone even get to the floor for a vote. Obama will complain loudly, but the public largely doesn't pay attention to this sort of inside-baseball thing in Washington, so McConnell will likely not even pay any sort of political price for doing so.


The other big change will be one of tactics, rather than modifying the Senate's rules. McConnell could "drop his own nuke" and change the rules for legislative filibusters -- jettisoning all filibusters for just about everything (with the only exception remaining for Supreme Court nominees). A simple majority vote would pass all legislation, if McConnell did go nuclear in this fashion. This might seem tempting indeed for Republicans with a very thin majority -- especially since it would be seen as "payback" for Reid's rule change on confirmations. But, again, McConnell knows there is a very good chance Democrats will retake the Senate in 2016, and then Republicans would have to live with not being able to filibuster bills after that point, as a direct result of their own action.


What is much more likely is that everything will magically become a budget issue. Every piece of far-out Republican legislation will be tied -- no matter how tenuously -- to the budget. This will allow the most contentious votes to be "reconciliation" votes, which cannot (by current rules) be filibustered. Remember reconciliation? Democrats used it to pass Obamacare. Republicans certainly have not forgotten this. They'll delight in adding all their pet social issues to the budget, just so they can all be voted on without the pesky Democrats being able to filibuster any of them.


Democrats, since 2010, have been rather timid in the filibuster wars. Reid knew by then that pushing through legislation by reconciliation would, in the end, not achieve much of anything -- since the new Republican House would not agree to any of it. Republicans have filibustered pretty much every piece of legislation more controversial than naming post offices ever since, and Reid has largely allowed them to get away with it. Mitch McConnell is not going to do the same thing, though. For one, he'll have a House run by his own party to work with. For another, Republicans have never been shy about abusing a parliamentary tactic and then, when the political tables are turned, using another parliamentary tactic to not allow Democrats to do the same against them. So look for the effective death of the legislative filibuster, leaving Democrats to cry in their minority wilderness.


One other background change worth mentioning is that Republicans would get control of all the Senate committees. So look for a whole lot more "oversight" hearings (think: what Darrell Issa's been doing in the House -- on steroids). But in the more immediate future, Republicans can be counted on to move quickly on a whole host of their agenda, and the first 100 days of a Republican Senate and House would likely produce all sorts of bills, as the Tea Partiers are given free rein to indulge in some pent-up frustrations. All of these bills will be in the "veto bait" category, however, since President Obama is not going to sign Tea Party fantasies into law. Once the initial wave of silly legislation abates, however, things will get much more serious for both sides.


Mitch McConnell is then going to face the same problem that John Boehner has been struggling with for the last four years: corralling members of his own party to get much of anything done. Think about it -- Boehner's House has not been able to agree on any bills on a long list of conservative issues: a Republican health care reform bill (to replace the hated Obamacare), immigration reform of any type (even just: "Seal the borders!"), and tax reform and/or entitlement reform (this list should in no way be seen as complete, as there are many other items on it). And that's just on their own issues -- the Republican House has also refused to move on any progressive issues, such as increasing the minimum wage; but this is due to ideological reasons and not due to the impossibility of Boehner herding the Tea Party cats. Pretty much every Republican agrees (for instance) that we should beef up the Mexican border, but no bill has made it through the House to do so -- even though Republicans have maintained for years that "a piecemeal approach" is the way to go (in other words: "Secure the border first, pass any other immigration reform later"). Tax reform -- lowering corporate taxes -- has also been a longtime campaign issue for Republicans, and yet Boehner's House has not managed to come up with any sort of plan that could pass even among Republicans. Mitch McConnell is going to have the same problem in the Senate, and it'll be even more acute because his majority is going to be an awfully thin one.


If Republicans wind up with 51 Senate seats next year (just for the sake of argument), then what this means is that every single Republican senator can hold the entire legislative process hostage on any bill. Remember Joe Lieberman and Max Baucus during the Obamacare debate? That's what it'd be like for Republicans. Since McConnell will need every vote to pass a Republican-only bill, even one defection will torpedo the bill's chances. This will leave McConnell at the complete whim of senators such as Ted Cruz. All the time -- on every contentious bill. Even if Republicans get more than 51 seats, it's not going to take many of them to sink a bill's chances. And there are plenty of other "does not play well with other Republicans" type of senators than just Ted Cruz. Senate Tea Partiers may end up wagging the McConnell dog in the same fashion as House Tea Partiers confound Boehner on a regular basis. This is going to make it very hard to get anything done that isn't straight out of the Tea Party playbook.


But, occasionally, things do need to get done in Congress. A Republican Senate is pretty much an iron-clad guarantee of the return of "fiscal cliffs" and "government shutdowns" and "hostage-taking" and all the rest of the budgetary games Republicans are known for playing. Some crucial piece of legislation -- a continuing resolution to keep the government afloat, or raising the debt ceiling -- will approach a deadline. The Tea Partiers will be given an opportunity for grandstanding. President Obama will stand firm. But then, eventually, a deal has to be struck.


What happens at this point is the great unknown when contemplating a Republican Senate for the next two years. The only thing that is virtually assured is that everybody who pays attention to politics is going to be massively disappointed at the end of the day. Such is the nature of compromise. The hard right is going to be apoplectic that they can't force their agenda on the president, and they have shown no tolerance for any incremental gains Republicans might make in such a situation. They'll be convinced that they could get the whole ball of wax by just holding firm enough, and they will not even be impressed with winning 80 or 90 percent of what they're demanding.


Progressives, on the other hand, are likely going to be just as disappointed. Because President Obama is going to be forced to return to how he operated at the beginning of his term -- reaching a hand out to Republicans in the hopes that some sort of middle ground can be reached. The last two years of Obama's term may wind up resembling the final years of Bill Clinton's term, when such things as welfare reform were signed by a Democratic president. Obama will be thinking about "his legacy," and will likely be mindful that "...and then for the next two years, the president vetoed everything and Washington ground to an absolute halt" is not going to be what he wants written about the end of his term by future historians. Like Clinton, Obama may get on board with some ideas that horrify progressives in his own party. One possible example of this might be entitlement reform.


There will indeed be a lot of fallout from Republicans capturing control of the Senate, if it comes to pass two weeks from now. Most of this will not be foreseen, as Republicans will be popping champagne corks without considering the fact that they are now going to be forced to govern, and Democrats will be licking their wounds and putting all their faith in Obama's veto pen -- a faith that may wind up being tragically misplaced. One way or another, two years with a Republican Senate would result in a political wild ride, that's for sure.


 


Chris Weigant blogs at:


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‘Klinghoffer’ Protesters Flock To Met Opera House - NYTimes.com

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:35
As the Metropolitan Opera began its first performance of John Adams’s “The Death of Klinghoffer" on Monday night, police officers were posted inside the opera house, protesters in wheelchairs lined Columbus Avenue, and opera had become the subject of a charged debate about art and Middle East politics that reverberated from City Hall to a large rally, several hundred strong, at Lincoln Center.

Throw the Bums Out! (2.0)

Huffingon Post Politics - Mon, 2014-10-20 20:01
I bet I know something about you. You're sick and tired of the idiots who run our government. How'd I know that? Because everyone is sick and tired of the idiots who run our government.

So why do we keep electing them?

That's easy: Because every election, we get the same two choices -- Idiot Republican and Idiot Democrat. And guess what? The idiot always wins!

Why do we even bother voting? Well, when you go vote, you probably don't even know anything about these idiots who are running. Neither do I. (I just got up and polled my local coffee shop to tests this assumption, and out of about 25 people, only one person, a poli-sci undergrad, knew the name of our member of Congress. Try it where you live.) But we at least know something about these idiots' idiotic parties.

So we choose the party that, sort of, maybe, best represents our values. Because voting for these parties at least lets us make a tiny political statement on certain social and cultural issues that most of us care about.

Pulling the party lever is a way of asserting our values. It's like saying, "Hey! There are people like me out here!"

But when it comes to issues, like jobs, that we all care and feel the same way about -- we all want more and better jobs! -- here, we are really left with no choice at all. On that issue, both the idiot parties seem totally committed to screwing the rest of us -- or at least letting us be screwed by the special interests they represent.

For example, both parties voted for NAFTA -- the free trade bill that stuck it to all North American workers. Both parties voted in exactly the same proportion. It's true, and incredible: A full 75 percent of each party voted to pass it.

More recently, when the big banks nuked the economy, both parties had exactly the same solution: Give those same big banks trillions of dollars. Not just idiotic. TOTALLY INSANE.

So how sick of this are you? I'm guessing very sick -- but I'm guessing you're also resigned to it, because you know it will never change.

But what if I told you that, because of a technical change to our political system, it is now possible to throw all the bums out in one fell swoop?

Probably you'd say, "Zack, you're a crackpot!" Right?

Fair enough. But on this topic, I'm not just any crackpot. I am a crackpot who was an insider at the creation of this fundamental change that will let us throw all of Congress out at once.

Here's the change I'm talking about: It is now possible for insurgent, anti-establishment candidates to raise a ton of money from small donors online, and to use that money, plus the Internet, plus old-fashioned organizing, to build nationwide, strong volunteer organizations -- all without any help from either of the idiot parties.

This change started way back in Jerry Brown's insurgent 1992 presidential campaign, when Brown asked America to make credit card donations through his 1-800 number. Picking up the phone was such a bother, though, so that really didn't work. In 2000, the maverick John McCain had this brief moment when it looked like he just might be able to beat the mega-corporate-funded Bush -- and so he asked his supporters to make a donation to his "Website." Most people were like, "Website?" Nevertheless, $2 million flooded in. Unfortunately it was too little too late.

In the 2004 election cycle -- the one I worked on -- Ron Paul, Howard Dean and then John Kerry defined this model. Ron Paul punched way above his weight in fundraising, but still got out-fundraised by the establishment. The insurgent Dean, however, raised tens of millions dollars, leaving the big money establishment candidates in the dust. Nothing like that had never happened before and it totally turned politics on its head.

Unfortunately, Dean's campaign forgot that, back in real life, volunteers needed to be trained how to actually win the Iowa caucuses. And then, there was that scream.

But then, John Kerry, who was an insurgent in the context of the 2004 general election, doubled his budget using Internet fundraising, raising about as much as the Mega-Corporate-Funded Bush. He also mobilized hundreds of thousands of volunteers to knock on doors. I ran online fundraising and organizing for Kerry. We raised about $125 million for Kerry. For John Frickin' Kerry! OK?

But then Obama finally took this thing all the way to victory -- raising hundreds of millions and recruiting tons of volunteers using the Internet -- as the ultimate insurgent candidate, even if, as it turned out, it was in name only. And his campaign didn't forget about the old-fashioned things like getting out the vote... and acting normal on TV.

Even though most Obama supporters are disappointed by who he turned out to be, there's no denying that he campaigned as a radical, anti-establishment outsider, with tons of biases against him, and he won with one of the strongest mandates in a long time.

So how can we use this new power to throw out all the idiots in the Congress and the White House and replace them with normal, honest smart people?

I believe we can use these same proven tactics while thinking far beyond the White House. We can recruit a great candidate for every single congressional district, for every open Senate seat -- and for the White House.

Then we can run them in a unified campaign, with all the same focused excitement that goes with an insurgent presidential campaign -- except that this will be even more exciting because we'll be campaigning to replace not one, but all of the idiots who run the government.

I realize that this idea sounds wacky the first time you hear it. Please just bear with me as I walk you through how this will work.

The first step is of course to recruit good, honest leaders for every seat in Congress plus one stately candidate for the White House. I'll admit, that's going to be a huge job -- and that this is the one part of this plan that's never been done before. But in the age of Internet organizing, it has become common for many teams in different places to work in a coordinated way on a shared project using Internet tools. I'm talking about common tools such as Google docs and discussion forums, but also custom tools made specially for doing this kind of work.

I've seen projects as big as this recruitment task carried out successfully with just those tools and some willing volunteers. I really believe we can do this.

I'm going to put the specifics of the plan to recruit the candidates in a separate article, so for now, just take a leap of faith with me that it might be possible... and sign up to help right here.

We just need one volunteer in every congressional district to start. And the first step is easy: Just get together a handful of interested people for an informational meeting that will be tied in, through your computer, to a nationally facilitated meeting. A ton of you have already done this kind of thing at a political or campaign house party. Slow and steady wins the race, so we'll give ourselves a few months to complete this first task.

If you're dreaming of an end to idiocracy, please sign up now!