Truthout Stories http://www.truth-out.org Sat, 06 Feb 2016 06:48:39 -0500 en-gb Sanders and Clinton Spar on 2002 Iraq Vote, Clinton Praises Henry Kissinger http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34723-sanders-and-clinton-spar-on-2002-iraq-vote-clinton-praises-henry-kissinger http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34723-sanders-and-clinton-spar-on-2002-iraq-vote-clinton-praises-henry-kissinger

During Thursday's debate in New Hampshire, while Sen. Bernie Sanders conceded former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has more experience in foreign affairs, he questioned her judgment for voting for the Iraq War. "But experience is not the only point - judgment is," Sanders said. "And once again, back in 2002, when we both looked at the same evidence about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, one of us voted the right way, and one of us didn't." Clinton repeatedly touted her time as secretary of state. "I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better - better than anybody had run it in a long time," she said.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play more of the debate. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders continued to draw distinctions between one another during the debate, they faced off over the issue of the 2002 Iraq War vote.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: We differed on the war in Iraq, which created barbaric organizations like ISIS. Not only did I vote against that war, I helped lead the opposition. And if you go to my website, BernieSanders.com, you will see the statement that I made in 2002. And it gives me no pleasure to tell you that much of what I feared would happen the day after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, in fact, did happen.

CHUCK TODD: All right, Senator, I want to stay, though -

HILLARY CLINTON: If I could -

CHUCK TODD: Go ahead. Thirty seconds -

HILLARY CLINTON: If I could just respectfully add -

CHUCK TODD: - Secretary.

HILLARY CLINTON: Look, we did differ. A vote in 2002 is not a plan to defeat ISIS. We have to look at the threats that we face right now.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I fully, fully concede that Secretary Clinton, who was secretary of state for four years, has more experience - that is not arguable - in foreign affairs. But experience is not the only point - judgment is. And once again, back in 2002, when we both looked at the same evidence about the wisdom of the war in Iraq, one of us voted the right way, and one of us didn't.

AMY GOODMAN: During the debate, Hillary Clinton also boasted she has received support from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

HILLARY CLINTON: I have had the opportunity to run a big agency. I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time. So I have an idea about what it's going to take to make our government work more efficiently.

AMY GOODMAN: The issue of the war vote, Lee Fang? Hillary Clinton, as students were being taken out of her office protesting that night in 2002, she took to the floor, as many other Republicans and some Democrats did, and voted to authorize the war in Iraq. How significant that is, what, 14 years later, Lee Fang, and that comment on Henry Kissinger's support or praise?

LEE FANG: Nothing says anti-establishment like praising Henry Kissinger on stage, right? But seriously, you know, Hillary Clinton did vote for the war in Iraq, and she defended that vote for many, many years. It wasn't until very late in the game that she kind of retracted and said it was the wrong move.

But, you know, I kind of wish that the moderators pressed the candidates on other specific issues. You know, Hillary Clinton has embraced militarism in a lot of different ways. She has been very belligerent on issues, from Libya, you know, joking with Charlie Rose about wanting to take out Iran. The Obama administration, which worked with the State Department to approve just an incredible increase in arms transfers all throughout the Middle East - I mean, this is something that we don't talk about much on broadcast news, but, you know, the Obama administration, in part with Secretary Clinton, approved over $90 billion in weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia alone. We've really flooded the region with weapons, fueled conflicts, whether it's in Iraq, Syria and beyond. So these are tough questions, and I kind of wish that the moderators got more specific here, beyond just the Iraq War vote and what to do in Syria. You know, how are you going to resolve these issues?

You know, my colleague, Zaid, he did a story, I think a year ago - you know, Bernie Sanders, back in 1988, when he was campaigning with Jesse Jackson, the issue of Israel-Palestine came up. And he was asked, you know, "How are we going to use our leverage to really resolve the simmering conflict that's gone on forever?" And Bernie Sanders said, well, you know, we could use our military support, our foreign aid to Israel, and say we were going to withhold that aid unless Israel changes its behavior. I mean, that's a pretty radical move that really could push the Israel-Palestine issue in the right direction, but we haven't seen him speak about that on a stage. We haven't seen Hillary Clinton really address the issue, except in an op-ed that she wrote a few months ago saying that she actually wants to increase military support with Israel and saying that she'll be a very strong ally with Netanyahu.

So, you know, I would love to see the candidates get more specific about how they will deal with military contractors, how they'll deal with foreign policy, and really talking about a whole number of votes that we don't really hear much in public. I mean, Hillary Clinton, when she was in the Senate, voted for - with the Republicans, voted for using cluster bombs in civilian areas. I mean, this is not - the Iraq War vote was not an aberration. There's a huge pattern of votes that really show her position on foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: Last response, Bertha Lewis?

BERTHA LEWIS: Well, I agree with some of what Mr. Fang has said. I'm adamantly opposed to the Iraq War. And again, I keep repeating this, but we're complex animals, at least I am in my political decisions and how I view things. All of the facts that he pointed out are there. I don't like -

AMY GOODMAN: But the deciding point, then, clearly, as you talk about that we're complex people, what has -

BERTHA LEWIS: But the platform -

AMY GOODMAN: - made you cast your lot with Hillary Clinton?

BERTHA LEWIS: For me, the three things that - well, the four things that I cited. With everything put together - like I say, in 2008, I was there, I'm here now, because I really, really believe that when women are in office and this country is behind the rest of the planet, then we have a chance to actually fundamentally move things. We've seen it on the Supreme Court. We've seen it everywhere.

Number two, because of this experience, the mistakes, disagreements and being involved in that arena, we can go right at her, you know, because, again, I disagree with Barack Obama as the deporter-in-chief, but that doesn't stop my support for him.

And number three, you know, like I say, I wish - some people have a perch from which they can be very pure and don't have to engage. For one thing - and I look through a racial lens - I make no bones about that. There's a movie coming out that has a trailer about Jesse Jackson [sic] going to Germany to run in the Olympics. And -

AMY GOODMAN: Jesse Owens.

BERTHA LEWIS: Jesse Owens. Oh, Jesse Jackson, he might have been there, too. There were black people who said, "Don't do it. Don't go," a bunch of white people saying, "Oh, you've got to do it, and ignore everything else." And there's a scene there in which Jesse is saying, "You don't know what it's like for me to have to go through this." And this white man says, "I don't care!" And Jesse says, "Because you don't have to." So, again, for me, you can have all of the mistakes and all of everything, but she's a woman. She's head and shoulders above anyone else. Come on.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there.

BERTHA LEWIS: And she's a great fighter.

AMY GOODMAN: But we will, of course, continue to follow this race very closely. The primary in New Hampshire is Tuesday night. Bertha Lewis with The Black Institute and New York Working Families Party, thanks so much, and Lee Fang, investigative journalist at The Intercept.

LEE FANG: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we go across the pond to see what has happened with this UN committee that has said that Julian Assange should be able to walk free. Stay with us.

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News Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
A Cannonball in the Oil Market http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/34722-a-cannonball-in-the-oil-market http://www.truth-out.org/art/item/34722-a-cannonball-in-the-oil-market ]]> laurenayo@gmail.com (Lauren Walker) Art Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500 Contaminated Water Requires a National Public Health Mobilization http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34721-contaminated-water-requires-a-national-public-health-mobilization http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34721-contaminated-water-requires-a-national-public-health-mobilization

Clean Up The Mines! team at Riley Pass, SD. Charmaine White Face is in the foreground. (Photo: Ellen Davidson)The Clean Up The Mines! team gathers at Riley Pass, South Dakota. Activist Charmaine White Face is in the foreground. (Photo: Ellen Davidson)

As physicians, we are concerned about the future of our water supply. The Flint water crisis should provoke a national public debate about the best ways to protect clean water, including what type of water infrastructure is required and how water is owned and managed.

Clean Up The Mines! team at Riley Pass, SD. Charmaine White Face is in the foreground. (Photo: Ellen Davidson)The Clean Up The Mines! team gathers at Riley Pass, South Dakota. Activist Charmaine White Face is in the foreground. (Photo: Ellen Davidson)

It's hard to miss the water contamination that residents in Flint, Michigan, are experiencing. Television footage shows family members holding bottles of yellow, orange or brown water. They could see and taste the change in their water quality shortly after Gov. Rick Snyder ordered the switch to supply water from the polluted Flint River, rather than Lake Huron, without adding anti-corrosives to prevent leaching from lead pipes in early 2014. Thanks to a few dedicated researchers from Virginia Tech, the elevated lead in Flint's water has been exposed.

Since national attention has turned to Flint, information from other cities is coming to light showing similar problems. Sebring, Ohio, is one city where residents have been warned not to drink the water because of elevated lead levels. And it was recently revealed that there are high levels of lead in water in Jackson, Mississippi, even though the results of the tests were available six months ago.

Water should be tested for radioactivity, as well as for heavy metals such as lead.

In Flint, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not inform the public about the high lead levels in the water when they learned about it, even though the state provided bottled water to public employees. The governor also reconnected General Motors to Lake Huron when they complained, just a few months after the transition in early 2014. The state knew, but continued to allow toxic water - which qualified as "hazardous waste" by EPA standards - for Flint residents without telling them.

Not talked about, perhaps because it is harder to see, is a national water contamination crisis that has been going on for decades. It is invisible and tasteless and the mainstream media won't cover it. This contamination is caused by the United States' secret Fukushima, radioactive and other heavy metals leaking from the more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines, as well as other sources related to energy extraction throughout the United States.

Measuring radiation levels at an elementary school in Ludlow, SD. April, 2014. (Photo: Klee Benally)Measuring radiation levels at an elementary school in Ludlow, South Dakota, April 2014. (Photo: Klee Benally)

We need a national public health mobilization to assess all drinking water sources in a transparent way and a plan to protect the health of residents and the future of our water supply. Water should be tested for radioactivity, as well as for heavy metals such as lead. In addition, the toxic byproducts of our dirty energy system are another of many compelling reasons why we need to transition rapidly to a cleaner, sustainable green energy economy.

The Biggest Nuclear Accident You've Never Heard About

Most people in the United States know about the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in March 1979. Although the official reports stated that an "insignificant" amount of radiation was released (this understatement has since been refuted), it is called "America's worst nuclear accident." Very few people know about the actual worst nuclear accident in the United States, which happened three months later in Church Rock, New Mexico. Perhaps this is because it mostly impacted people of the Navajo (Diné) Nation.

On July 16, 1979, the wall of a tailings pond for a uranium mill broke open and released 93 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Arroyo Pipeline, a tributary to the Puerco River. The waste traveled 80 miles down the Puerco River into Arizona. Not only is it amazing that this spill was not reported in the media, but it is also remarkable that the governor of New Mexico refused to issue a state of emergency. It took days for people who live along the Puerco River to be told about the accident, and though they were warned not to use the water for themselves or their livestock, they were not given access to sufficient clean water.

To this day, people who live downstream from the mill drink water that is polluted by uranium and other radioactive and heavy metals. Tommy Rock, cofounder of Diné No Nukes and a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University, has been testing the water that people around Church Rock, New Mexico, drink. He is finding high levels of uranium in some of the wells - even wells that are regulated and supposed to be tested routinely.

Tommy Rock, of Diné No Nukes, meets with staff of the USDA, January, 2016. (Photo: Klee Benally) Tommy Rock, of Diné No Nukes, meets with US Department of Agriculture staff in January 2016. (Photo: Klee Benally)

One of the wells that showed levels of uranium at twice the maximum limit serves the Sanders Unified School District in northern Arizona, which has a thousand students. The community did not know about the high uranium content until Rock informed them.

"State and federal regulators knew about the contamination for years, and our community is concerned about the long-term chronic exposure to uranium because we have been consuming this contaminated water without being notified," said Sanders resident Tonya Baloo, a member of the Diné people.Now Rock is working with the Sanders community to find clean water.

The solution to the water contamination crisis requires an urgent public health response.

There are roughly 1,000 abandoned uranium mines in and around the Navajo Nation, and very few of them have been cleaned up. None of them have been taken care of adequately. Klee Benally, who lives in Arizona and coordinates the Clean Up The Mines! campaign, calls it "toxic landscaping." Benally adds that the Gold King Mine spill, which polluted the 215-mile segment of the San Juan River that flows through the Navajo Nation last August, further compels the urgent need to clean up abandoned mines before they destroy more rivers with toxic waste.

Uranium is the radioactive metal that is used to power nuclear plants and to make nuclear weapons. When it is mined, 85 percent of the radioactivity is left behind in the waste rock. That waste and exposed ore continue to emit radiation for hundreds of thousands of years. As the uranium breaks down to become lead in its final form, it also releases radon gas, which causes lung cancer. Exposure to uranium and other radioactive metals by drinking contaminated water, breathing contaminated dust or eating food produced in contaminated areas causes cancer, birth defects, kidney disease and autoimmune diseases. Children and the elderly are most affected. These mines are located in the breadbasket of the United States, which provides food to the country and many parts of the world.

When the Clean Up The Mines! campaign was launched nearly two years ago, we toured abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota with Klee Benally and Charmaine White Face of Defenders of the Black Hills. Many of the abandoned mines are open pits. One that we visited was very close to an elementary school in Ludlow, South Dakota. We measured high levels of radiation - over 150 counts per minute in the playground area.

White Face has been working for years to raise awareness of the radioactive contamination in the Great Sioux Nation, which includes North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and parts of Nebraska. She has asked for studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but has been denied because she was told there aren't enough people in the area. However, she is certain that people are being impacted. Communities close to the mines suffer high cancer and miscarriage rates.

Like Tommy Rock, White Face has also been testing drinking water and is finding high levels of uranium as well as thorium, a radioactive metal not regulated by the EPA. The composition of the uranium shows that it is coming from the abandoned mines rather than being naturally occurring. Despite the contamination, communities continue to drink the water because they have no choice. This has been going on for decades.

Klee Benally chants in front of the EPA, January, 2016. (Photo: DC Indymedia)Klee Benally chants in front of the Environmental Protection Agency in January 2016. (Photo: DC Indymedia)

Recently, White Face, Rock and Benally traveled to Washington, DC, with other Indigenous people from the Southwest and Northern Great Plains to sound the alarm about radioactive pollution. They call themselves the "miner's canary" because they are trying to alert the public about the impacts of this national problem. In addition to the 15,000 abandoned uranium mines, there are other sources of radioactive pollution that are not being monitored.

The largest coal mine in the United States, the Black Thunder Mine in Wyoming, provides 40 percent of the nation's coal. Its uranium-laced coal is shipped both to the East and the West, where it is burned in power plants and turned into radioactive coal ash. Fracking is another concern, because the wastewater from fracking wells in the Bakken oil and other shales bring radioactive metals up from deep underground. This wastewater is held in open ponds, is sometimes discharged into waterways and is sprayed on roads during ice and snowstorms.

A National Problem That Needs a National Solution

Charmaine White Face at Red Shirt Village press conference. (Photo: Jill Stein)Charmaine White Face at Red Shirt Village press conference. (Photo: Jill Stein)

The solution to the water contamination crisis requires an urgent public health response. Water must be tested regularly for contaminants, including radioactivity; the public must be notified immediately when there are concerns; and clean drinking water must be provided when public water is not potable, no matter the size of the affected population. Sources of contamination must be cleaned up.

This may sound like a lot to require, but consider the flip side. Governor Snyder in Michigan changed the water source for Flint in order to save money. However, the result of that decision will be much more expensive than doing the right thing from the start. The state has already authorized $28 million to address the problem. Flint's mayor says it will cost up to $1.5 billion to replace the city's aging pipes. Expensive medical care will be required for the 6,000 to 12,000 children who have been exposed to lead poisoning. Altogether, it is estimated that this crisis will cost $10 billion.

As physicians, we are concerned about the future of our water supply.

One of the problems exposed by the Flint water crisis is the inadequacy of water testing and notification systems. Some municipalities meet their clean water requirements by conducting tests that violate EPA guidelines. They only test areas that are known to be clean or flush out the pipes prior to testing. According to the Guardian, "A report published [in 2015], commissioned by the American Water Works Association, found that if the water was tested directly from lead pipes, up to 96 million Americans could be found to be drinking water with unsafe levels of lead."

Another problem is that utilities conduct their own testing without adequate oversight by local EPA regulators. It is a scenario that is seen all too often in the United States: close relationships between regulators and the entities they are supposed to regulate that lead to lax oversight.

An EPA task force issued recommendations in 2015 on lead and copper monitoring in water. Those recommendations have not yet been adopted. That needs to be expedited. And there needs to be a task force that will test water for radioactivity and issue rules to protect the public from radioactive pollution in water.

Tommy Rock reports that the standard for radioactive pollution in water is higher than what was originally recommended because utilities didn't want to have more stringent requirements, and they are pushing to raise the maximum allowable levels for radioactive pollutants to be higher. This must be prevented; as Physicians for Social Responsibility reports, "There is no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources. Period."

Steps must also be taken to stop the leaking of uranium and other radioactive metals into water, and that means cleaning up the thousands of abandoned uranium mines. Legislation is being drafted that would require a single high standard of clean up for the mines. You can learn more about that bill and how to support it at CleanUpTheMines.org.

Access to Water Is a Public Good

Warning at Riley Pass mine. (Photo: Jill Stein)Warning at Riley Pass mine. (Photo: Jill Stein)Clean water is a necessity. People cannot survive without access to water. There are many threats to our water system beyond contamination, such as the climate crisis, overuse and privatization. Water is quickly becoming our most precious resource, one that needs to be managed in a holistic way so that there is enough water to meet everyone's basic needs.

As physicians, we are concerned about the future of our water supply. The Flint water crisis should provoke a public debate at the national level about the best ways to protect clean water, including what type of water infrastructure is required and how water is owned and managed.

With the reality of the climate crisis upon us, corporations view water as a commodity that will increase in value. In 2013, almost 70 percent of water systems in the United States were privately owned. A report by Food & Water Watch shows that private water companies charge higher prices and cut corners, such as using poor construction materials and not hiring sufficient staff. Privatization of water must be prevented and reversed because corporations do not treat water as a public good, but as a profit center for their investors.

The invisible crisis of radioactive metals in our water raises the question of the impacts of fossil fuel and nuclear energy extraction on our water quality and availability. The extractive energy industry is one that consumes tremendous amounts of water and pollutes it with chemicals and radioactive metals. This means that protecting our fragile water future also means transitioning rapidly to a clean and green carbon-free and nuclear-free energy economy.

We need a national plan to manage this precious necessity, clean water. That includes an integrated approach to preserve and protect clean water in a way that involves coordinated but decentralized decision-making, transparency and participation by local communities. We will need to conserve wetlands, manage agricultural use, reduce water demand and reuse water. We can no longer take clean water for granted. These crises are a wake-up call to create a 21st century water policy that treats water as a public good, not a commodity for corporate profit.

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Opinion Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Economy Adds 151,000 Jobs in January http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34720-economy-adds-151-000-jobs-in-january http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34720-economy-adds-151-000-jobs-in-january

The economy added 151,000 jobs in January, in line with some economists' expectations. There were largely offsetting revisions to the prior two months data leaving the average change over the last three months at 231,000. The slowing was sharpest in construction, which added 18,000 jobs after adding an average of 56,500 jobs in the prior two months. The temp sector lost 25,000 jobs in January after a reported gain of the same size in December. The big job gainers were restaurants, which added 46,700 jobs, health care with a gain of 36,800, and retail with a gain of 57,700. Both restaurants and retail were likely helped by unusually good weather. (The storms hit after the survey period.)

On the household side, there was another large increase in labor force participation, with 284,000 entering the labor force, after adjusting for changes in population controls. Employment rose by 409,000 after the adjustment. Other news in the household survey was mixed. The number of involuntary part-time workers fell again and is now down by almost 800,000 over the last year. The number of people who choose to work part-time rose slightly. It is now up by almost 500,000 from its year ago level. This is a predictable effect of the ACA as people no longer need to work full-time to get health care insurance through their jobs.

On the negative side, the unemployment rate for African Americans by rose by 0.5 percentage points and for African American teens by 1.5 percentage points. This indicates the drop in December was a blip. The percentage of unemployment due to voluntary job leavers also dropped in January, indicating a lack of confidence in the labor market.

There was a large 12 cent jump in the average hourly wage in January, but this followed a month in which there was no reported rise at all. Over the last three months the wage has risen at a 2.5 percent annual rate compared to the prior three months, the same as its pace over the last year. There is little basis for believing there is any notable increase in wage wage growth.

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News Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Roosh? http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34718-who-s-afraid-of-the-big-bad-roosh http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34718-who-s-afraid-of-the-big-bad-roosh

Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons; Edited: LW / TO)Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo: Bartek Kucharczyk; Edited: LW / TO)A widely despised blogger and lauded hero within the so-called "Men's Right Movement" grabbed headlines this week as the "pro-rape" website Return of Kings announced a series of international meetups for its hyper-masculine fan base. Daryush Valizadeh, also known by the online moniker Roosh V, or Roosh Valizadeh, said that the meetups were being planned to allow men who view themselves as "pickup artists" and "men's rights activists" to "come out of the shadows" and build deeper relationships with like-minded, straight cis men. The Return of Kings website, which treats women as both "the enemy" and the subject of constant sexual fixation, promised "furious retribution" against anyone who attempted to disrupt the boys-only rendezvous. But amid widespread threats of protest and confrontation, Roosh apparently lost touch with his self-purported ferocity, and announced on Wednesday that all scheduled meetups were cancelled.

By Thursday, Roosh had apparently become so concerned for his safety that he actually summoned police to his mother's home in Silver Spring, Maryland - where he lives in the basement - to discuss threats he's received from around the world.

Much of the outrage directed at Roosh highlighted a piece from last year, in which the blogger argued that rape should be legalized, so long as it occurs on private property. Roosh now claims the post was satirical, but the Return of Kings website has never been known to stray from the contention that the term "rape" is used too broadly to describe the sexual conduct of men, or the notion that manipulating women into sex, or even taking advantage of women who are too intoxicated to consent, is acceptable behavior.

While the blowback against these meetups was wholly understandable, there is a hard truth that will likely be lost in much of the conversation about Roosh and his followers.

In the predictably sensational media coverage of a standoff between feminists and misogynists that never quite played out, there has been virtually no discussion of the fact that a great number of men who feel comfortable denouncing Roosh and his fandom are, in fact, part of the problem.

While George Lawlor, the University student who famously proclaimed, "This is not what a rapist looks like!" was greatly maligned on social media, his sentiments were actually fairly normative. While there was no doubt racism and classism embedded in Lawlor's comments, there was something else at work that also poses an ongoing threat to the safety of women: the idea that men with good intentions - or even "good politics" - are not capable of crossing boundaries of consent, and that such things are not commonplace.

The fact that extremity exists in the world, on the spectrum of every bad "-ism," in no way astonishes me, or even startles me. When I encounter Roosh's vitriol amid my social media scrolling, it neither brings my blood to a boil, nor inspires me to take significant action. To me, he is a mere caricature. And while caricatures can be deeply disturbing, they can also keep us comfortable.

If popular fiction tells us anything, it's that people love battles that come down to good vs. evil. We love the simplicity of obvious targets and the satisfaction of righteous victories. We want a world that offers us heroes and villains, and allows us to feel confident that we are standing on the right side of whatever conflict is at hand. But the real world rarely offers such simplicity, and our aversion to complex matters leaves many issues and manifestations of harm unaddressed.

I am not afraid of Roosh Valizadeh.

Because to me, he is not the face of rape.

I am afraid because most of the women I know who have survived assault have not been abused by blustering creeps like Roosh. They have been harmed by their friends, their neighbors, their partners and others who managed to gain their trust. The situations in which many are harmed are often mundane, or even positive, until someone crosses a line. And in the aftermath of such moments, those responsible rarely believe that they've committed any harm at all. Because rape, to them, is a clear-cut matter. And when they brush aside the possibility of two people experiencing the same events differently, and focus on terms they cannot reconcile with their own identities rather than pondering what it is to feel harmed or violated, in real human terms, they reject all responsibility.

And they will almost always be abetted in doing so, because their friends, coworkers and partners are equally averse to acknowledging the complications of harm and the true bounds of consent, because no one wants to believe that "good guys" are capable of bad things.

So when Roosh says he's coming to their town, these men raise their voices in disgust, and are applauded for doing so. Because they are nothing like Roosh. And really, we shouldn't pretend that they are. Because a person need not be wholly bad or terrifying to do great harm. A person can be decent in many ways, and still hurt someone - even someone they care about. A person living in a culture of rape can mistake violation for passion, and they often do.

Each and every day.

And this is why some of us are so very afraid.

Not because of Roosh or a stranger in the bushes or some other human being that can be reduced to a concept.

But because some of the people reading this have no doubt crossed lines and broken boundaries of consent without ever knowing they'd caused harm.

Just as some of the people reading this will cross those lines tomorrow, or the next day, or some time after that.

And the person they harm won't see it coming.

So rage against the likes of Roosh, if that rage empowers you. Mock them, call them what they are and menace them all you like, as they are no doubt worthy of scorn. But be careful. Because there's a reason that people so readily engage with these moments, rather than the day-to-day realities of rape culture and sexual violence. There's a reason that we sort the world into heroes and villains. There's a reason most rapes are never answered for. And it's not because of the Big Bad Roosh.

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Opinion Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Why Ted Cruz Won Iowa http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34717-why-ted-cruz-won-iowa http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34717-why-ted-cruz-won-iowa

Republican presidential candidates US Senator Ted Cruz and Donald J. Trump clap at CNN republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo via Shutterstock)Presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump clap at the CNN Republican presidential debate on December 15, 2015, in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com)

Election 2016 officially kicked off with the Iowa caucus on Monday, February 1. While the attention of political pundits has already moved on to next week's New Hampshire primary, the outcome in Iowa provides an interesting preview of the road ahead. The Democratic results went down to the wire, with Hillary Clinton not formally declared the winner (which was essentially a tie) until the next day. Yet, Ted Cruz winning the Republican caucus provides a clearer picture of GOP voters and what the eventual Democratic nominee will be up against - and always has been.

In 2008, at a fundraising stop during his initial campaign for president, Barack Obama spoke about the frustration of the small town voter. "They get bitter," he said, "They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." The quote caused a media storm, giving his primary opponent Hillary Clinton ammunition to use in the remaining primaries. The man who would be president eventually apologized for the comment, even though his only mistake was that he spoke the truth.

Eight years later, these are the voters that are keeping Donald Trump at the top of the polls, and the ones that gave Ted Cruz the first primary win of the season.

Both have resonated with the bitter, gun-loving, anti-immigrant, white male, as well as the women that love them. This was made abundantly clear in the interviews with 100 Republican primary voters published last month in New York Magazine. Gabriel Sherman spoke with voters in Iowa and New Hampshire to get sense of what the voters wanted. While they highlighted the issues they were most concerned with when asked, the candidates' positions on them did not influence their support. The voters Sherman spoke with saw America as a crumbling nation, with the foundation of the life they had known crumbling around them.

In short, the Republican voter is scared. Scared of change, scared of non-white people and scared of women - particularly Hillary Clinton. Their desire was to seek someone who could keep them safe and stand up to all the bad things. As one voter interviewed stated, they wanted someone with the "testicular fortitude" to make America great again.

Not surprisingly, the most fearful were Trump and Cruz supporters. The common theme was the desire to have someone willing to stand up to the perceived dangers. The xenophobia was strong, with many "get off my lawn" types wishing for more focus on the nation's needs than those in other countries. They are tired of the "PC" culture and their belief that everyone wants a handout. Ironically, many of them were down on their luck and even on assistance.

Cruz's supporters shared these sentiments, highlighting his anti-Muslim rhetoric and appreciating how he stood up to those that are willing to capitulate. Many of the "undecideds" were weighing their choices of either Cruz and Trump, seeing them as the best options for "decider in chief." For many, it was his promotion of Christianity and a desire for a nation based on biblical laws that propelled him to the top.

In the weeks leading up to Iowa, Cruz's religious surrogates were more visible. All represent the most extreme fringes of the evangelical right. Bob Vander Plaats is the head of Iowa's Family Leader and believes that God's law should outweigh all others. Cruz's "Pro-Lifers for Cruz" is headed by Tony Perkins, the leader of the anti-gay and designated hate group Family Research Council. Other endorsements have come from people who believe abortion doctors should be executed and that America should be a theocracy because that is what the founding fathers envisioned.

While it is common for Republican candidates to claim to have received a calling from God to run for president, Cruz has taken it further by claiming that he is a religious prophet called to lead a religious war. His supporters are called "believers" and they are told they are building an army for the coming attacks. Glenn Beck has said he is convinced he is touched by "the hand of divine providence." Rafael Cruz, father of Ted, has implied that his son is a messiah.

The good news is that Ted Cruz is unlikely to make it to the Oval Office if Iowa's track record of being really, really wrong about the Republican nominee continues. However, it does highlight the desperate desire of the Republican base to return to a time where they - meaning straight, white males (and the women that love them) - were the default when it came to public policy. Furthermore, these voters are also very misinformed on how policy actually works, which will be difficult for a Democratic candidate to overcome.

In our very polarized political climate, the candidates on the right are truly representative of the people that vote for them. They don't want information or the factual details on how a candidate will improve their lives. Platitudes and emotional appeals are what will get them to the polls and what will put people like Ted Cruz into office.

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Opinion Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Drowning the Oil Industry http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34716-drowning-the-oil-industry http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34716-drowning-the-oil-industry

With oil cheaper than bottled water, the average American driver saved $540 at the pump last year.

But oil prices are also battering Alaska's economy, rattling the stock market, and leaving thousands of workers in states like North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas jobless.

Can things get any worse for the oil industry and the folks who rely on it? Sure.

The biggest short-term reason is Iran. Having honored the terms of its landmark nuclear deal, the Middle Eastern nation is now at liberty to export more oil after years of sanctions. That's why the commodity has slid as low as $26.55 a barrel - about half of what it fetched a year ago. And that was following a steep slide from the summer of 2014.

Iran has oodles of oil ready to ship at a time when global producers are already pumping 2 million more barrels daily than consumers need. The market is also bracing for a long-term gusher. Iran, with the world's fourth-largest reserves, could eventually ramp up its exports by another million barrels a day.

"Unless something changes, the oil market could drown in oversupply," warns the International Energy Agency, an independent analysis organization.

A consumption spike would change this equation. But demand for oil is unlikely to grow fast enough, especially with China's economic slowdown.

Alternatively, production could stabilize or fall. The most logical thing would be for all major players to cut output in unison. They'd make more money while selling less oil. Venezuela, an oil-dependent country on the brink of hyperinflation, has urged fellow OPEC members and Russia for more than a year to take this step.

Russia, where the economy is so bad that soup kitchens are a hot trend, is warming to this idea. Yet there's no evidence that a broad synchronized price reduction is brewing.

Mostly, it's up to Saudi Arabia to make a move. It's the world's biggest exporter, and its production costs are among the world's lowest. But the Saudis distrust Russia, dislike Iran, and want to extinguish our nation's fracking-fueled oil boom.

As long as this global glut sticks around, prices will stay low or spiral further down. Many North American oil companies won't extract profits or remain credit-worthy.

More than 40 US-based oil and gas exploration and production firms went bankrupt in 2015. Experts generally expect oil prices to remain low for the rest of this year and probably longer.

So don't be surprised if that bankruptcy wave becomes a tsunami in 2016. Or if US production declines and more oil workers lose their jobs.

Until now, after oil prices have gone down, they've always bounced back up. But no law of physics mandates this gravity-defying pattern.

Sooner or later, better alternatives to powering transportation with oil-derived fuels will become dominant. Will electric vehicles charged with renewable energy, hydrogen fuel cells, or something else prevail?

Whatever technology supplants oil, it surely won't foul land, water, and air to the same degree. It probably won't subject millions of people to the economic hardship that accompanies oil shocks. And it might avert climate chaos.

Restoring prices to the $100-per-barrel range would keep more oil companies in business. But that wouldn't solve the world's real energy problems.

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Opinion Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
Corporate Interests Take Aim at Local Democracy http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34715-corporate-interests-take-aim-at-local-democracy http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34715-corporate-interests-take-aim-at-local-democracy

Corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council have increasingly been turning to state "preemption" measures - some of them unprecedentedly aggressive - to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level.

A demonstrator displays a flag decrying corporate spending in American political elections in front of the Waukesha Convention Center on July, 13, 2015, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. (Photo via Shutterstock)A demonstrator displays a flag decrying corporate spending in US political elections in front of the Waukesha Convention Center on July, 13, 2015, in Waukesha, Wisconsin. (Photo: Juli Hansen / Shutterstock.com)

Across America, corporate interests are taking aim at local government.

With Congress gridlocked and a majority of state legislatures controlled by right-wing interests, cities have become laboratories of democracy for progressive policies like a higher minimum wage, LGBTQ protections, or parental leave.

In response, corporate interests and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have increasingly been turning to state "preemption" measures - some of them unprecedentedly aggressive - to override an array of progressive policy gains at the city or county level.

"2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history," said Mark Pertschuk, director of the watchdog group Preemption Watch.

Last year, state legislatures in at least 29 states introduced bills to block local control over a range of issues, from the minimum wage, to LGBTQ rights, to immigration, according to Preemption Watch. Seventeen states considered more than one preemption bill.

And just a few weeks into 2016 state legislative sessions, it's clear that ending local authority will continue to be the go-to strategy for state legislators and their special interest allies, as a means of blocking earned sick days, minimum wage hikes, tobacco and fracking bans, pro-worker policies, or anti-discrimination laws.

Bills to stop local fracking bans have been already filed this year in Colorado, New Mexico and and Florida. Minimum wage preemption bills have been filed in Washington and Illinois. Legislation has been filed in Indiana, Michigan and New Mexico to stop local action on fair scheduling ordinances. Advocates are tracking preemption bills targeting LGBTQ ordinances in South Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma and Indiana, and expect to see bills in North Carolina, Mississippi and West Virginia. Unions are bracing for bills in a spate of states aimed at limiting municipal labor standard-setting.

In Florida alone, lawmakers have already filed more than 20 bills seeking to preempt local authority on issues including oil and gas regulations, construction standards for abortion clinics and whether a town can declare itself a sanctuary city.

And in Oklahoma, legislators just introduced a wide-ranging bill to effectively undo home rule and local control. Under the proposal, local governments would be prohibited from doing almost anything that isn't specifically authorized by the state legislature.

Troubling Preemption Trends Emerged in 2015

Over time, bills interfering in local democracy have become wider in scope and more hostile to home rule. More industries and special interest groups now consider preemption a legislative imperative, using it not just to stop the advancement of policies they disagree with, but also to undo elections and repeal laws already on the books.

These efforts to consolidate power at the state level and stop local progress are part of a long-term corporate-driven strategy. The Koch-funded ALEC and its local offshoot, the American City County Exchange (ACCE), have been central to this anti-local democracy effort. ALEC has long pushed bills like the "Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act" to block local governments from raising the wage. It has worked to preempt community-run municipal broadband in 19 states - which benefits ALEC funders like AT&T and Comcast - and local anti-GMO policies, which benefits ALEC funders like CropLife America.

A new trend that emerged in 2015 was the introduction of wide-ranging bills prohibiting local control over a broad set of issues, such as Michigan's "Death Star" preemption bill (HB 4052) which bars local governments from regulating everything from paid sick days and minimum wage to scheduling for retail stores and ban the box ordinances. Originally, the bill included language that could have eliminated local protections against LGBTQ discrimination. That section was not contained in the final law, but it did pass in Arkansas. North Carolina also considered a "Death Star" preemption bill last year, but too late in the session to move it.

2015 also saw narrowly-focused bills evolve into comprehensive attacks on local control. These so-called "Christmas Tree" bills start out as say, a ban on local plastic bag regulations, and are then hung with an array of other provisions crafted to override local lawmaking. For example, a law in Missouri enacted last year that blocked local government authority to enact paid sick days or raise the minimum wage started as a plastic bag ban.

Last year also saw the rise of "super-preemption" bills that not only block local governments from enacting regulations, but give corporations and individuals the right to sue cities or counties if they don't comply.

Here is a snapshot of some corporate-backed efforts to override local control in 2015:

Paid Sick Days and Minimum Wage

Bills prohibiting local government from enacting paid sick day guarantees were enacted in Michigan, Oregon, and Missouri in 2015. Republican-controlled legislatures in Montana and Virginia also passed paid sick days preemption, but the state's governors ultimately vetoed the measures. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon's veto, however, was overridden by the Republican-controlled legislature.

The spread of these bills can be tied to ALEC and its funder the National Restaurant Association (NRA), which represents big chain restaurants. At ALEC's August 2011 meeting in New Orleans, an NRA executive shared a paid sick day preemption bill that had recently been signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, as well as an NRA target list and map of state and local paid sick leave policies. In the years following that meeting, similar paid sick day preemption legislation was enacted in sixteen states, in most cases introduced by ALEC members, and with backing from the state NRA affiliates.

Last year - in addition to the five states that passed paid sick day preemption bills - legislation was also introduced in Alabama, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

Regulation of Fracking

In recent years, dozens of cities in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, citing public health concerns about water contamination and earthquakes.

Yet after residents of Denton, Texas voted for an anti-fracking ballot initiative in November 2014, the oil and gas industry began to fight back. The industry quickly sued, and ALEC legislators in the state capitol responded with a deluge of bills to override local authority over public health - even though most Texans support local control over fracking.

ALEC has acknowledged its role in promoting fracking preemption, and at the December meeting, of ALEC's local government-focused spinoff, ACCE, members were warned of the "epidemic" of "draconian" local restrictions against fracking, according to a report from the meeting. Jacki Pick of the Koch-backed National Center for Policy Analysis (and a talk show host on Glenn Beck's "The Blaze" network) warned that "the oil and gas industry will be destroyed unless conservatives act."

Both Texas and Oklahoma adopted laws preempting local governments from regulating the oil and gas industry in 2015. Bills were also introduced in Florida and New Mexico. In Wisconsin, where the fine silica sand used in fracking is mined, the Republican-controlled state legislature also considered bills to override local frac sand mining regulation.

LGBTQ Rights

The religious right has also begun using a preemption strategy to override local protections for LGBTQ rights.

"The push for LGBT nondiscrimination protections - laws that would cover both sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations - have stalled at the statewide level," said Andy Garcia, Program Manager at the Equality Federation. "As a result, efforts have shifted to the city and county level in the form of municipal nondiscrimination ordinances."

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News Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
For the Student Debt Movement, Jubilee Is an Old Idea Made New http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34714-for-the-student-debt-movement-jubilee-is-an-old-idea-made-new http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34714-for-the-student-debt-movement-jubilee-is-an-old-idea-made-new

A growing movement is pressing for relief from this country's oppressive and mounting burden of student debt. Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren addressed a gathering of millennials in Washington, organized by a group called Young Invincibles during a national day of advocacy around this issue. Last November, college students and citizen organizations rallied at more than 115 campuses across the country to protest student debt at the "Million Student March."

Student debt has become a major political issue in this election year. Candidates are peppered by questions about what they will do about this growing crisis. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both put forward college tuition plans.

Students are learning how far we have fallen since the 1960s, when most public universities were almost free. Tuition costs have been rising much faster than inflation for decades, states have cut their higher education budgets, and Pell grants cover an ever-decreasing percentage of tuition costs.

The Burden of Debt

Students are the primary activists behind this movement, because they know that student debt will leave them with a heavy load in the years to come. Most of today's debt holders, however, are older. They are the several generations of people who have already had to mortgage their future to attend college.

There are now more than 42 million people struggling to pay student debt. The total owed is more than $1.3 trillion - roughly three times larger than the total national debt owed by Greece. And that debt is growing with every passing second, as this real-time student debt clock shows.

Eighty-six percent of this debt is held by the federal government. Although the whole society benefits from widespread college education, the burden of paying for this public good has been placed directly on individuals - a burden they carry for much of their working life, and sometime into their Social Security years.

Time for a Student Debt Jubilee

That's why we have proposed a bold but simple solution to the student debt problem - to eliminate it altogether by declaring a "student debt jubilee" on the entire amount. At the same time, we must return to a system of tuition-free public college. This approach would liberate people of all ages to live their lives, get married, buy homes and invest in businesses that they can't afford currently because of their heavy student-debt payments.

This idea may sound extreme, or even shocking, to some people. It shouldn't. The concept of "jubilee" is not new. A quick look back at our history shows that it is a very old, very powerful, and surprisingly familiar idea. It is a key part of our Judeo-Christian heritage, and is woven deep into the fabric of our nation's history.

A "jubilee"-like event takes place when society chooses to forgive debt for a large number of people, or decides to provide something at no cost that otherwise would have forced people into deep debt.

The words inscribed on the Liberty Bell - "Proclaim liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof" - are from the Book of Leviticus and refer to a Biblical "year of jubilee," when the nation's rulers forgave all debts.

Those jubilee years - proclaimed at roughly 49-year intervals for more than 4,000 years - were both moral and practical. It is immoral to place more debt on a people than they can reasonably handle. The jubilees were also economically productive, ensuring that "the 99 percent" of each era could once again manage their personal affairs and participate in commerce.

Scholars have noted that these "jubilee years" preserved social cohesion and prevented large groups of people from falling into poverty or oppression. By forgiving this debt, society was also preserving the production and consumption cycle of the economy. This prevented stagnation and the ultimate economic depression that would otherwise follow.

The principle holds true today, as it did in ancient times. As we have seen, young people are being forced to hold off on buying houses and cars, and even starting families.

Jubilee: An American Tradition

There have been many "jubilee"-like events in American history. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution outlawed both slavery and indentured servitude, forbidding a form of voluntarily contracted debt (indentured servitude) as well as the moral horror of keeping human beings as other people's property.

When American states moved to ban usury, they were declaring that certain levels of interest payment were morally unacceptable. They were also acting according to ethical principles laid down in the Old Testament, Hammurabi's law, the Roman "Code of Justinian," and the rule of Charlemagne.

From almost the beginning of our nation, the bankruptcy laws provided protection and forgiveness from both personal and professional overburdening. In later times, however, exceptions have been carved out of bankruptcy protection, most notably for student debt.

When the federal government created "land grant colleges" under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, many states opted to charge little or no tuition. Public resources were made available to students at no charge.

On a smaller community scale, local libraries often institute their own form of jubilee when they declare amnesty on unpaid fines. State amnesties on traffic tickets, like the one recently enacted in California, also have a jubilee-like quality.

The most powerful jubilee in modern history, we would submit, occurred with the original GI Bill after World War II. In that powerful act, eight million veterans were given the funds for college education and millions more received financing for the purchase of homes. This act, akin to the Industrial Revolution in the breadth of its impact, resulted in the creation of the American middle class and spurred economic growth for decades.

That dedication to growth for all seems to have diminished. Today jubilee only seems to be available to the wealthy and powerful, with broad forms of corporate debt and tax forgiveness and surprisingly large corporate subsidies from the government. In fact, the profit from student debt payment helps the government pay for these large corporate subsidies, in a reverse Robin Hood syndrome that reeks with unfairness.

A Generation's Challenge

No wonder young people are mobilizing around this issue. They know that student debt is harming their economic prospects. They understand that their future has been mortgaged to an indebtedness that was incurred for the sole purpose of receiving a higher education - something which many states in this country used to provide for free, and which is still available at essentially no cost in nations, among others, like Germany, Mexico, Norway and France.

When the "Million Student March" took place in November, the students' demands included:

1.) cancellation of all student debt,
2.) tuition-free public college and
3.) a $15 minimum wage for campus workers.

"The United States is the richest country in the world, yet students have to take on crippling debt in order to get a college education," reads the manifesto on the movement's website: "We need change, and change starts in the streets when the people demand it."

We agree.

Most people know how dire the situation has become. We should also note that, when it comes to student debt forgiveness, history is on their side. For the 42 million Americans who hold this debt, and for the many more who will bear this burden in the future if nothing is done, jubilee is an idea whose time has come … once again.

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News Fri, 05 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500
If You Want to Win, Go Progressive http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34713-if-you-want-to-win-go-progressive http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34713-if-you-want-to-win-go-progressive

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, waves to the crowd after a town hall at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (Photo: Alex Hanson)US Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, waves to the crowd after a town hall at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, on January 25, 2016. (Photo: Alex Hanson)

The big question right now is whether to call Hillary Clinton a progressive, or a "moderate."

And then there's the question of who is more electable in a general election: an unabashedly progressive democrat, like Bernie Sanders, or a "centrist" democrat, like Hillary Clinton.

Jonathan Capehart weighed in on the matter on Thursday morning's edition of MSNBC Live with the claim that it will be important for Democrats to move to the center to win the general election - and he added that it will be easier for Hillary Clinton to do that.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.

It may be conventional wisdom that a candidate has to swing to the center to win in a general election.

And that conventional wisdom has been central to the Democratic platform ever since Al From's 1992  "bloodless coup" transformed the FDR/LBJ Democratic Party into the Clinton party of "centrist" corporatism.

But that conventional wisdom just doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of history.

The truth is, Democrats win when voter turnout is high.

And voter turnout is high when voters have real progressive candidates to support.

Back in 2014, Democrats were devastated by the midterm election results - Republicans easily won control of the Senate and strengthened their majority in the House.

In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton beat Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor by seven points to win a House seat; in Kentucky, Allison Lundergan Grimes lost to Mitch McConnell by more than 15 points.

In West Virginia, Wall Street darling and state GOP legacy Shelley Moore-Capito won the Senate seat that Democrat Jay Rockefeller had held for 30 years.

Moore-Capito easily trounced West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who ran as a so-called "centrist" democrat and campaigned against many of Obama's policies - just like Grimes had run away from Obama on guns.

Perhaps most shockingly to the Democratic establishment in 2014, three-term Louisiana Democratic senator and friend of the oil industry Mary Landrieu lost her bid for re-election by 11 points in a runoff election against Republican Bill Cassidy, because she campaigned as a "centrist" Democrat.

Beyond that, Democrats lost their majorities in state legislatures across nine states, AND they lost 24 of the 36 gubernatorial contests that year.

But while some so-called "centrist" Democratic politicians were losing big on being Republican-lite, the voters were going full-on progressive.   

In 2014, for example, voters easily passed measures to increase the minimum wage - in four Republican-controlled states.

In state and local elections across the country, voters passed measures to guarantee paid sick leave, to protect access to abortions and to implement real criminal legal reforms.

2012 was similar: Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives, but Democratic voters in numerous states voted for solidly progressive policies like raising taxes, protecting unions and moving forward on marriage equality.

So why did voters reject the "centrist" Democratic candidates so thoroughly - but they embraced and passed progressive initiatives across the country?

The truth is, Republicans didn't win majorities in 2012 and 2014 - Democrats lost them.

Why did they lose?

Because, when voters don't turn out, Republicans win.

Republicans know that, and Heritage Foundation and Moral Majority co-founder Paul Weyrich spelled it out more than 35 years ago.

Democrats know it too, but it's only progressive democrats, like Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and, yes, Bernie Sanders who seem to understand what actually brings voters out to vote.

Like Harry Truman once said, "Given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican; the voters will pick the Republican every time!"

After the Democrats got "shellacked" in 2014, Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) cofounder Al From told the New York Times that Democrats were losing because "[The policies] we promote the most are ones that don't speak to the middle class, like raising the minimum wage."

Really??

Never mind the fact that voters passed measures to raise the minimum wage actually passed in four REPUBLICAN-controlled states in 2014.

That's the conventional wisdom from the DLC Democrats, though: They cling to the fantasy that Democratic candidates are losing even as progressive policies are winning, and it's because the candidates aren't centrist enough.

But the reality is: Truly progressive ballot measures passed in 2012 and 2014.

And truly progressive democrats, like Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Al Franken and Bernie Sanders easily won their contests.

Because they ran as progressives with progressive stances on the issues that impact the United States' disappearing middle class.

Like Barack Obama in 2008.

Jonathan Capehart can keep spouting the inside-the-beltway, DLC "conventional wisdom" about how Democrats will need to move to the center to win the general election.

But the truth is, Democrats win when voter turnout is high.

And voter turnout is high when voters have real progressive candidates and a truly progressive platform to support.

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Opinion Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0500