Ted Kennedy and Al Sharpton: no excuses

(Addendum: Al Sharpton is at it again. The New York Times reported on Nov. 19, 2014,  that Sharpton “has regularly sidestepped the sorts of obligations most people see as inevitable, like taxes, rent and other bills. Records reviewed by The New York Times show more than $4.5 million in current state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses.”

“Sidestepped” is too polite a word for how Sharpton has behaved. And this is a man President Obama turns to for guidance?)

Reading all about Al Sharpton’s emergence as a respectable political leader and go-to guy for President Obama, I’m reminded of Ted Kennedy.

Liberal Democrats loved Ted Kennedy.

He was the standard-bearer for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He was their beloved champion for his work on health care, education, immigration reform, civil rights, voting rights, workers’ rights and other causes.

TeddyKennedyMaryJo

So what did Democrats do when faced with the news that Kennedy’s actions had caused the death of 28–year-old Mary Jo Kopechne when he drove an Oldsmobile 88 into a tidal channel on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969? They stuck with him.

What did they do when it was learned he had left the scene of the accident, consulted with a high-powered group of political and legal advisors, and didn’t notify the police for 10 hours after the accident. They stuck with him.

What did they do when State police detective-lieutenant George Killen said, “Senator Kennedy killed that girl the same as if he put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger?” They stuck with him.
They looked on without reproof when Kennedy’s only punishment was losing his driving license for a year and receiving a suspended two-month jail sentence.

All was forgiven. The liberal special interest groups that depended on his support in the contentious political arena, even the usually outspoken Liberal women’s rights groups, either stayed silent or defended him then and in the years to come. After all, he was one of them, a supporter of their agendas.

And Massachusetts voters continued sending Kennedy back to the Senate until his death on August 25, 2009, after which liberals eulogized him as a great American and a great senator.

“I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle,” said President Obama in 2009 remarks on Kennedy’s death.

“I just hope we remember how he treated other people…,” said Vice President Biden, ignoring Kennedy’s reputation on the Hill as a “the rules don’t apply to me” boor whose appalling behavior was well documented.

Joyce Carol Oates suggested that even if Kennedy had caused the death of a young woman, he had redeemed himself by accomplishing so much good work thereafter, by his “…tireless advocacy of civil rights, rights for disabled Americans, health care, voting reform, his courageous vote against the Iraq war.”

Liberal’s willingness to excuse Ted Kennedy, even in the face of his clear guilt in the death of a young woman, reminds me of their tolerance for, and even promotion of, Al Sharpton’s ascension to political prominence.

Sharpton’s infamous rise in public notoriety has been well documented.

A 1987-1988 case that drew national attention revolved around Sharpton’s involvement with 15-year-old Tawana Brawley, a black woman from New York who accused six white men of raping her and leaving her in a garbage bag smeared with and covered with racist words written in charcoal.

Sharpton, who accused government officials of trying to cover up for the rapists because they were white, led the way in spurring a national uproar over the case.

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He was later rebuked and fined after a grand jury concluded that Brawley had not been the victim of a forcible sexual assault and that she may herself have created the appearance of an attack.

In 1991, Sharpton stirred up black fury in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn when a Jewish driver hit and killed a black boy, Gavin Cato, with his car.

At the boy’s funeral, Sharpton vilified Jewish “diamond merchants” who killed black children in Brooklyn.

Days of anti-Semitic riots culminated in the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian Jew who had nothing to do with the incident, being stabbed to death in the midst of a mob of about 30.

The New York Post reported that after the driver of the car was cleared of charges and left for Israel, Sharpton flew to Tel Aviv to slap the driver with a civil suit. When a passer-by at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport recognized Sharpton, she shouted, “Go to hell!”
“I am in hell already,” Sharpton replied. “I am in Israel.”

In December 1995, during a Harlem protest stirred up by Sharpton, a black man entered Freddy’s Fashion Mart, a Jewish-owned clothing store, took out a gun, ordered the black customers to leave and set a fire that killed himself and eight other people.

Sharpton was accused of having spurred the devastation by delivering and facilitating incendiary racist and anti-Semitic comments on black radio stations and at the protest.

In Sept. 2013, the New York Post reported that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. had written in a previously secret diary, “Al Sharpton has done more damage to the black cause than [segregationist Alabama Gov.] George Wallace. He has suffocated the decent black leaders in New York. His transparent venal blackmail and extortion schemes taint all black leadership.”

Sharpton, pitching himself as America’s leading advocate of social justice, shows up everywhere there’s a TV camera and a potential racial dispute to be exploited. Most recently, he made himself visible in Ferguson, Missouri.

Now Obama, the Democratic Party and other liberals are legitimizing Sharpton and giving him a highly visible chair at the table.

It’s an appalling comment on their willingness to embrace one of their own regardless of his contemptible actions.

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Things fall apart

I was enjoying a coffee and pastry at a Starbucks this morning when a man sitting next to me checking his smartphone and reading the paper turned and said, “It looks like the rebels or the Russians might have shot down a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 300 people. Do you get the feeling everything is just unraveling?”

Yes.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

A plan to transport three busloads of Central American families through San Diego for processing at the Murrieta Border Patrol station took an unexpected turn when scores of protesters blocked the buses from entering.

Tens of thousands of children of all ages, most unaccompanied by adults, are flowing across the U.S. Southwest border. Frustration and anger is bubbling up all over the country. Some people are arguing that President Obama has encouraged the stream of immigrants and that strong steps need to be taken to control the U.S. border and send the immigrants home. Others argue the immigrants need to be treated with compassion and welcomed to America with open arms in the spirit of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

Whichever side you are on, and just about everybody seems to have taken sides, just 28% of the public approves of the way President Obama is handling the surge of children from Central America, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center or the People & the Press.

Meanwhile, violence is spreading in Gaza and Israel after the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank set off a new cycle of violence in the region.

While Hamas militants and Israel exchange rocket fire, stories multiply of civilian deaths, including a story today reporting that four boys, ages 9 to 11, were killed on a beach west of Gaza City.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

A boy on a Gaza beach killed in an Israeli attack is carried away.

Of course, the only reason similar horrifying stories of civilian killings by the Hamas militants haven’t surfaced in Israel is because of its effective anti-rocket defenses.

In Ukraine, tension continues as Russia threatens the country, pro-Russian militants fight the government’s forces and, as noted earlier, rumors swirl that a Malaysian Airlines plane with 295 on board, including some Americans, that crashed in Ukraine near the Russian border was deliberately shot down. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in Kiev asserted that the “the airplane was shot down by the Russian Buk missile system.”

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

wreckage of Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine

In Egypt, after a popular uprising resulted in the first democratically-elected Islamic president in Egypt’s history, forces led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi overthrew the fledgling president and instigated an unforgiving campaign of retaliation against the Muslim Brotherhood and regime critics that continues to this day.

In Syria, after Obama insisted that use of chemical weapons by the the Assad regime would be “a red line for us,” Obama dithered and the civil war escalated, creating a country scarred with destruction and pushing out hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring counries.

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In Afghanistan, scene of what Obama called “the good war” that needed to be fought, chaos has ensued since the U.S. precipitously withdrew its troops.

In Iraq, after thousands of American soldiers gave their lives in an effort to create a sustainable peace, the U.S.-backed Shia-led government under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki initiated a cleansing of the Sunni minority. Now we have a violent struggle going on in Iraq with mostly Sunni militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

A file image uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province (AFP Photo / HO)

Meanwhile, despite a roaring stock market, economic insecurity reigns. Just 19% of those surveyed by Pew say economic conditions in the U.S. are excellent or good while 81% rate conditions as only fair or poor. About six-in-ten (62%) still say jobs are difficult to find locally.

Detroit Area Economy Worsens As Big Three Automakers Face Dire Crisis

Obama’s rating for handling the economy also has stayed negative, with 56% disapproving of the way Obama is handling the economy, according to the Pew survey. In fact, Obama’s job rating on the economy has been around 40% for most of the past five years.

Meanwhile, Obama, “a restless president weary of the obligations of the White House,” as the New York Times puts it, jets around the world for fundraisers and dinners with celebrities and wealthy supporters, taking as many breaks as he can for golf.

Barack Obama

Unravelling? You bet.

Merkley’s money: what a difference a term makes

HandsOut

Things are different now.

When Democrat Jeff Merkley first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008, he raised a total of $6,512,231.

Now that he’s a Senator, he’s already reported raising $6,286,013 for his reelection and the 2014 race, in theory, hasn’t even begun. The Republicans haven’t even chosen who will run against him.

That means Merkley’s total haul is likely to go much higher as individuals, special interests and Democratic Party funds ramp up their donations to keep him in office.

The two parties are in a no-holds-barred struggle for control of the Senate, where pollsters and analysts think the Republicans have a shot at taking control with a good showing in the November 2014 elections. Merkley isn’t often mentioned as being in a high-risk race, but then former Senator Gordon Smith wasn’t thought to be vulnerable early on either.

With 5 years as a U.S. Senator now behind him, the sources of Merkley’s donations are shifting. A smaller share is coming from individual contributors and twice as much from political action committees (PACs). Also, more unions are stepping up as big contributors, his big donors have less of an Oregon focus and Merkley isn’t having to dig into his own pocket.

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According to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2008 campaign and for his 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013 break down as follows:

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For his 2008 Senate race, Merkley’s largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to his campaign committee were:

JStreetPAC $78,180
Council for a Livable World $55,889
State of Oregon employees $35,050
Oregon Health & Science University $33,964
Moveon.org $26,731
Stoel, Rives et al $23,323
League of Conservation Voters $21,500
Intel Corporation $17,920
Newmark Knight Frank $17,300
Intl. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $17,200

The largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Washington, D.C-based JStreetPAC, makes contributions to candidates who support a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine and robust American military aid to Israel. “I am and will continue to be a staunch supporter of the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel,” Merkley said during his 2008 campaign.“I will always seek to ensure its strength and foster its growth.”

The second largest contributor to his 2008 campaign, Council for a Livable World, is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the danger of nuclear weapons. Merkley subsequently voted in 2010 for a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and in February 2014, Merkley and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation that would cut $100 billion over the next decade from the U.S. nuclear weapons budget.

The bill, S. 2070, would shut down all U.S. missile defense activities, reduce from 12 to eight the number of SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines that are set to replace the retiring Ohio-class fleet and limit to eight the number of Ohio-class submarines that can currently be fielded. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Armed Services where its languishing.

The largest 10 contributors (individuals and PACs) to Merkley’s campaign committee for his 2014 race as of the end of 2013 are significantly different, with much less of an Oregon focus:

Votesane PAC $31,250
Thornton & Naumes $25,000
Intel Corporation $22,050
Honeywell Intl. $20,000
Operating Engineers Union $20,000
Intl. Association of Firefighters $18,500
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $17,100
League of Conservation Voters $15,314
American Crystal Sugar $15,000
Communications Workers of America $15,000

Votesane PAC, a non-partisan channel for political donations, has funneled $1.6 million to candidates in the 2014 election cycle, with almost all of it going to Democrats.

The only union showing up in Merkley’s list of top 10 contributors for his 2008 race was the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at $17,200. Three unions show up as his biggest contributors for the 2014 race so far with a total of $53,500.

Also making their debut as major Merkley contributors are individuals from Thornton & Naumes, a Boston, Mass. law firm with class action expertise that has represented people claiming they were victims of asbestos and toxic exposure, defective products, financial fraud, and personal injury accidents.. Law firms and lawyers have been the top contributors to Merkley’s 2014 campaign as of Dec. 31, 2013, donating a total of $296,363.

This only reveals, of course, donations up the end of 2013. Expect a lot of shifts as the campaign progresses.

Merkley has already spent $3,045,241, or almost half, of the funds he’s raised since 2008. Recently, the largest single amount has gone to Mandate Media,a Portland-based internet strategy,services,and advertising firm specializing in progressive political candidates and advocacy organizations. Mandate is also associated with BlueOregon, a widely distributed progressive e-newsletter.

The top 5 recipients of the campaign’s recent expenditures were:

Mandate Media $200,485
CHS Mailing $141,305
Kauffman Group $125,163
Linemark Printing $ 71,639
Benenson Strategy Group $ 47,000

It’s important to recognize that much of the money now being spent on campaigns is so-called independent expenditures, spending by groups and individuals who claim they are not coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign committee.

In Merkley’s 2008 race, for example, according to FindTheBest, the following outside groups spent about $675,000 in support of his candidacy:

Committee Amount

Service Employees International
Union Committee on Political Education
(SEIU Cope) $430,238
League of Conservation Voters Inc. $145,317
Democratic Senatorial Committee $ 47,746
League of Conservation Voters
Action Fund $ 40,862
Moveon.org Political Action $ 7,026

It’s likely that similarly large amounts of independent expenditures will occur in the 2014 race.

Data sources: The Center for Responsive Politics (http://www.opensecrets.org), a non-profit, non-partisan research group based in Washington, D.C.; FindTheBest (www.findthebest.com; http://bit.ly/1nYKKSA),a network of for-profit websites connected to help consumers and businesses make informed decisions.

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