More than three-quarters of Democrats say Bernie Sanders should have a “major role” in shaping the party’s positions, while nearly two thirds say Hillary Clinton should pick him as her vice-presidential running mate, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted 6/7-10 — right after Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee. Sanders himself dismissed that idea as “very unlikely” in an interview on Sunday (6/12), Deirdre Fulton noted at CommonDreams.org (6/13).

Sanders has said he intends to push for a bold progressive agenda ahead of and during the Democratic National Convention in July.

On 6/12, after an “exciting and productive” meeting with a handful of his closest supporters, Sanders said, “We are taking this campaign and our ideas for a strong platform to transform the Democratic Party away from a party that spends far too much time raising money for wealthy people into a party which represents the grassroots of this country.”

He reminded reporters that “election days come and go but political revolutions are not dependent on election days,” and expressed pride that “in primary after primary and state after state, we have received by significant margins the support of young people, which tells me that our vision is in fact that vision of the United States.”

To that end, Sanders said, “What we need is a 50-state strategy, which engages people, young people, working people to stand up and run for school board, to run for city council, to run for state legislature, to revitalize American democracy at the local, state and federal level. Demand that government starts listening to ordinary people rather than campaign contributors.”

COAL & GAS TO BEGIN ‘TERMINAL DECLINE’ IN LESS THAN DECADE. A new forecast on “peak fossil fuels for electricity” by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) concludes that “coal and gas will begin their terminal decline in less than a decade.”

It’s been clear for a while that coal demand is plateauing, if it hasn’t already peaked, Joe Romm of ThinkProgress noted (6/13). But BNEF explains that of the “eight massive shifts coming soon to power markets,” #1 is “There Will Be No Golden Age of Gas.”

The core finding of BNEF’s “annual long-term view of how the world’s power markets will evolve in the future,” in their New Energy Outlook (NEO):

“Cheaper coal and cheaper gas will not derail the transformation and decarbonisation of the world’s power systems. By 2040, zero-emission energy sources will make up 60% of installed capacity. Wind and solar will account for 64% of the 8.6TW [1 Terawatt = 1,000 Gigawatts] of new power generating capacity added worldwide over the next 25 years, and for almost 60% of the $11.4 trillion invested.”

These conclusions may come as a surprise to the vast majority of US policy- and opinion-makers, but all the way back in November the International Energy Agency came to a similar conclusion: “Driven by continued policy support, renewables account for half of additional global generation, overtaking coal around 2030 to become the largest power source.”

BNEF reports that module costs of solar power have dropped 99% since 1976, and 80% since 2008. Every time the world’s solar power doubles, the cost of panels falls 26%.

“Wind-power prices are also falling fast — 19% for every doubling,” explains BNEF. They project that over the next quarter-century, dropping prices and improving performance ... will drive the world to a stunning $3.4 tln investment in solar, and $3.1 tln for wind — and both of those exceed the cumulative investment of $2.1 tln projected for all fossil fuels through 2040. BNEF expects an investment in new hydropower of some $900 bln through 2040, and an investment of about $1.1 tln in new nuclear.

The result of these investments and the continued improvements in solar and wind means make “these two technologies the cheapest ways of producing electricity in many countries during the 2020s and in most of the world in the 2030s.”

Significantly, the $7.8 tln investment in renewables and ongoing price drops are all just what BNEF expects to happen on our current path. It’s “business as usual.” It does not assume the world embraces the policies needed to drive the investments necessary to stabilize below the 2°C (3.6°F), as the nations of the world have unanimously agreed to do in Paris last December. In the below-2 degrees Celsius scenario, “the world would need to invest another $5.3 tln in zero-carbon power by 2040.”

Also, given how increasingly cost competitive solar and wind are on their own over the next decade or two, the trend to put a price on carbon in a growing number of countries around the world means that, for those nations, renewables will be competitive even sooner, Romm noted.

BNEF’s jaw-dropping conclusion: “As natural gas and coal plants are increasingly idled in favor of renewables, their capacity factors will take a big hit, and lifetime cost of those plants goes up. Think of them as the expensive back-up power for cheap renewables.”

VULNERABLE GOP SENS ENDORSE TRUMP, VOTERS NOT HAPPY. Polling released by Public Policy Polling (6/13) provides perhaps the strongest evidence yet that embattled Republican senators’ reelection chances are being hurt by Donald Trump’s presence at the top of the ticket, Aaron Rupar noted at ThinkProgress (6/13).

In five races where Republicans face tough reelection contests — Arizona (John McCain), New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), Wisconsin (Ron Johnson), Ohio (Rob Portman), and Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey) — the survey indicates incumbents have been hurt by their endorsement of Trump. In fact, in each state with the exception of Pennsylvania, more than twice as many voters said their senator’s support for Trump made them less likely to vote for their reelection as opposed to more likely. (In Pennsylvania, 40% of respondents said Toomey’s support for Trump made them less likely to vote for him, compared to 22% who said the opposite.)

Trump’s racist attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel didn’t help matters any. In four states (with the exception of Arizona), a plurality of voters responded affirmatively when asked if their senator should follow the lead of embattled Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and un-endorse Trump in light of his comments about Curiel’s Mexican heritage. (In Arizona, 41% said McCain should unendorse Trump, compared to 42% who think he shouldn’t).

Polling was conducted on 6/8-9. On 6/7, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called Trump’s comments about Curiel “sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Later in the day, Kirk became the first Republican member of Congress to rescind his endorsement of Trump, saying his Curiel comments “in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”

Here’s PPP’s synopsis of their polling, which includes details about how poorly McCain’s refusal to distance himself from Trump is playing with the state’s large block of Latino voters.

New Public Policy Polling surveys of five major US Senate races find that wide swaths of voters say that incumbent Republican Senators support for Donald Trump makes them less likely to vote to re-elect them, and that the Senators should take steps to un-endorse the presumptive Republican nominee. Key findings from the survey include: -

• Pluralities or majorities of voters in each of the five states say that the Senator’s support of Trump makes them less likely to vote for them – including 44% of voters in Arizona, 47% in New Hampshire, 43% in Ohio, 40% in Pennsylvania and 45% in Wisconsin. -

• Among independent voters 57% say they’re less likely to vote for John McCain in Arizona because of his support of Trump, 51% are less likely to vote for Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, 36% are less likely to vote for Rob Portman in Ohio, 42% are less likely to vote for Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and 46% are less likely to vote for Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Also in Arizona, fully 61% of Hispanics say they’re less likely to vote for John McCain due to his support for Trump. -

• Voters widely believe that the Republican Senators should un-endorse Donald Trump, including 41% of all voters in Arizona, 48% in New Hampshire, 45% in Ohio, 42% in Pennsylvania and 51% in Wisconsin.

While the polling was commissioned by the liberal MoveOn.org Political Action group, it was conducted by PPP, which has established a reputation for accuracy. FiveThirtyEight’s Pollster Ratings gives PPP a B+ grade, which puts the firm on par with CBS News/New York Times, Pew Research Centers, and CNN/Opinion Research Corp. Gallup, for instance, ranks below PPP with a B mark.

Republicans currently hold 54 seats in the Senate. Democrats hold 44, and independents hold two. But of the 34 seats up for election this year, 24 are currently held by Republicans, and, as the Washington Post notes, seven of those 24 are in states that supported Barack Obama both in 2008 and 2012.

TRUMP CLAIMS ORLANDO SHOOTER WAS FOREIGN BORN (FROM THE SAME BOROUGH AS TRUMP). During a counterterrorism speech the day after the Orlando shooting, Donald Trump claimed that the shooting suspect Omar Mateen was born in someplace called “Afghan.” He then transitioned to discussing how his proposed ban on Muslim immigration would help prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.

But there’s a big problem with Trump’s linkage of the Orlando shooting suspect’s origins and his Muslim ban, Aaron Rupar noted at ThinkProgress (6/13). Mateen wasn’t actually foreign-born. In fact, he was born in the same borough of New York City (Queens) as Trump. (Mateen’s parents were born in Afghanistan.)

Trump’s “Afghan” comment may have been a slip of the tongue, but he’s recently made the same sort of error while attacking the judge presiding over a Trump University fraud case. He’s repeatedly referred to federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel as “Mexican” despite the fact Curiel was actually born in Indiana. (Curiel’s parents were born in Mexico.)

During the 6/13 speech, Trump later turned his focus to the alleged dangers of letting Syrian refugees into the country. His fear-mongering about refugees is belied by the fact that not a single one has been found to be involved in planning a credible terrorist attack against the US. In fact, a recent analysis found that Americans are seven times more likely to be killed by a right-wing extremist than they are to be killed by a Muslim terrorist.

In an unrelated incident, police stopped a 20-year-old man in Santa Monica, Calif., who had a cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives in his car and apparent plans to attend the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood (6/12). Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks initially tweeted that the 20-year-old man told one of her officers that he wanted “to harm the Gay Pride event,” but Lt. Saul Rodriguez later said the tweet was a misstatement. He said the suspect, James Wesley Howell of Indiana, told investigators he was going to the Pride festival but said he did not make additional statements about his intentions.

According to Indiana court records, reported by the Los Angeles Times (6/12) Howell was charged in October 2015 with intimidation and felony pointing a firearm at another person. On 4/19, Howell pleaded guilty to misdemeanor intimidation, and prosecutors dropped the charge of pointing a firearm. Court records show he was sentenced to a year in state prison and placed on probation. Under the deal, Howell agreed to forfeit all weapons during his term of probation.

AR-15 BECOMES WEAPON OF CHOICE FOR MASS MURDERERS. The powerful AR-15 is becoming the weapon of choice for mass murderers.

An AR-15-style assault rifle was used at Sandy Hook Elementary, where Adam Lanza killed 27 people, including 20 first graders. Similar rifles were used in San Bernardino, where Syed Farook killed 14 people, and in Orlando, where Omar Mateen killed 49.

The weapon, originally intended for military use, is capable of firing “as fast and as often as they can pull the trigger”

It is not a particularly useful gun for hunting or home defense, Judd Legum noted at ThinkProgress (6/13). Experienced hunters say using a semi-automatic rifle essentially takes all the skill away from the activity. For home defense, a long gun like the AR-15 is less useful than a handgun in tight quarters and more likely to shoot through your wall and into a neighbor’s house.

But AR-15s are extremely popular and profitable for the gun industry.

In 2011, Smith & Wesson estimated that “modern sporting rifles” like the AR-15 were a $489 mln dollar industry — and demand has skyrocketed since. (Sales tend to skyrocket after each mass shooting.) There are about 9 mln in circulation in the United States.

One group driving up the demand is the NRA, which repeatedly glorifies and promotes the weapon on its social media platforms.

REPUBS ACCUSED OF LEAKING INFO ON FETAL TISSUE RESEARCHERS. Democrats are calling out Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) for her “reckless disregard” for the privacy and safety of medical professionals who are involved in fetal tissue research and whose names were subpoenaed in March — following the public, unredacted release of the some of their names.

“This Panel has shown a reckless disregard for protecting private information and now a troubling possibility has come to light,” Ranking Member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said in a press statement. “Inexplicably, anti-abortion activists have learned of confidential information provided to the Panel — raising the specter that the Republicans may be funneling confidential information back to those individuals and groups.”

Democrats on the committee have long warned that the investigation was ignoring important rules around privacy and putting doctors and researchers at risk — or, in the words of Rep. Jarrod Nadler (D-NY), “effectively painting targets on the backs of scientists and researchers for no particular reason other than the Republicans’ desire for a culture war.”

Now it appears that risk has become a reality, Laurel Raymond wrote at ThinkProgress (6/8).

Blackburn sent two public letters to the Obama administration that contained the unredacted names and contact information of researchers at the biomedical company StemExpress, university and hospital researchers, and Planned Parenthood staffers. The unredacted letters were also posted on the select panel’s website. In an interview with Rewire, a representative for Blackburn said that the release was staff error.

In a letter sent to Blackburn, House Democrats raise concerns that Republicans on the panel may be feeding sensitive information back to anti-abortion groups who wish to do harm to members of the reproductive rights community. They point to the public release of the name of a doctor who has previously been threatened by anti-abortion groups, along with the specific information about when he will be required to appear before the panel.

“Assurances that you take seriously individual privacy and security concerns are insufficient,” the letter reads. “You reneged on promises to protect the individual privacy and security of a deposition witness. Just last week, Panel Republicans leaked letters to FOX News and posted documents on your website that contained names, contact information, and other personally identifiable information of doctors and researchers. You publicly advertised the date, location, and time that a doctor who lives in fear for his life would be compelled to appear before the Panel.”

CLINTON AND SANDERS ADS REMAINED POSITIVE. There may have been a a fair amount of acrimony between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a contentious Democratic presidential primary. As the race wore on, the candidates grew more aggressive in speeches, in debates, and on Twitter. Sanders in particular criticized Clinton’s hawkishness and sympathy toward Wall Street, attacks amplified by the media.

But when it comes to campaign ads, Mark Sumner noted at DailyKos.com (6/9) something happened that was pretty amazing.

According to Kantar Media, Clinton and Sanders aired 206,528 spots between them this past year—and not one was deemed “negative” by the analysts in Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), as reported by Bloomberg News.

It wasn’t that way on the Republican side. Sumner noted. Attack ads were the rule, with Jeb! Bush, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio and several more taking part in the attacks. More than $62 mln of attack ads were directed against Trump alone. And in case you were thinking Democrats always played this nice?

Bloomberg News noted that the absence of negative ads is a marked shift from 2008, when Obama spent $58 mln on primary ads, while Clinton spent $33 mln. Although CMAG didn’t measure sentiment that year, both candidates aired negative spots.

Sumner concluded, “While this news is satisfying for members of the grown-up party, over on the Republican side, they’re rubbing their hands. If only Hillary will stick with unilateral disarmament through the fall, they’ll be free to batter her without concern for return fire! They shouldn’t count on it.”

BLUE CROSS SEEKS 60% RATE HIKE IN TEXAS. The largest health insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60%, a new sign that private insurers cannot make a profit if they are required to actually provide benefits for sick people.

Texas isn’t alone. Citing financial losses under the health care law, many insurers around the country are requesting bigger premium increases for 2017. That’s to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government’s financial backstop for insurance markets, the Associated Press reported (6/1).

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has about 603,000 individual policyholders and, unlike other insurers in the state, offers coverage in every county. In a recent filing with federal regulators, the company said it is seeking increases averaging from 57.3% to 59.4% across its individual market plans.

The proposed rate increases might cause Congress to reconsider allowing individuals under age 65 to buy into Medicare if private insurance becomes too expensive. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in May said she would like to give people the public option.

NEW GOP HEALTH PLAN WOULD GUT HEALTH REFORM. The new health plan from House Rules Committee Chair Pete Sessions (R-Texas) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee member Bill Cassidy (R-La.) would end or undermine all major elements of health reform, including its consumer protections, marketplaces, Medicaid expansion, and individual and employer mandates — likely making millions more people uninsured and underinsured, particularly those with low incomes and pre-existing health conditions, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities said. These facts contradict claims that the plan is a “compromise” that “breaks with conventional GOP orthodoxy” simply because it wouldn’t repeal health reform outright.

The bill would repeal most of the Affordable Care Act’s market reforms and consumer protections. Insurers in the individual and small-group markets could again charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing health conditions, drop or limit coverage of essential health benefits such as maternity care and prescription drugs, and charge unlimited deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments. And insurers could offer “limited benefit plans” with annual dollar limits on benefits.

The bill would let states retain the health reform protections but require them to take action to do so. States, of course, could have imposed those requirements on insurers before health reform and the vast majority didn’t.

The bill also would repeal the ACA’s individual and employer mandates, likely leaving many fewer people with health insurance, relative to current law. The individual mandate leads many more people to enroll in job-based coverage, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, individual-market coverage (such as through the marketplaces), or other coverage sources. Similarly, the employer mandate encourages employers to newly offer (or keep offering) their workers affordable coverage. (The bill substitutes other, less effective policies to encourage people to have coverage, such as a state option to automatically enroll people who were uninsured in high-deductible health insurance, and allowing insurers to charge higher “late enrollment” premiums.)

TRUMP PEE-PEES ON FAIR TRADE PROMISE. In a June 7 speech to supporters in New York, Donald Trump was running his typical bloviation when he said, “On trade, America First means the American worker will have his or her job protected from unfair foreign competition. What’s happening there is absolutely a disgrace.” But when a man yelled “no TPP,” Trump replied, “No PPP, you’re right about that. So, and you mean no peepee.”

Then someone on Trump’s earpiece apparently alerted him to the gaffe, as he added, “We are only going to have great trade deals. We are not going to approve, as somebody just said, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a disaster for our country.” 

TEXAS INMATE FREED AFTER 22 YEARS ON DEATH ROW. For almost 39 years, prosecutors in the Smith County District Attorney’s office have done their best to either send Kerry Max Cook to death row, keep him there, or—after he was freed on bond in 1997—prevent him from ever being able to walk the streets with absolute impunity. [See “Breaking the Frame in East Texas” by Carol Countryman, 11/1/15 TPP.] On 6/6, in the 114th District Court of Smith County, District Attorney Matt Bingham agreed to not contest Cook’s writ of habeas corpus—and to join with Cook’s attorneys in recommending that his murder conviction be overturned. Cook, who has sworn his innocence since he was arrested in August 1977 for the murder of Linda Jo Edwards, has finally been legally exonerated.

The state agreed with Cook’s lawyers that the court should grant the writ because “Mr. Cook’s due process rights were violated by the presentation of false testimony from James Mayfield,” Michael Hall reported at TexasMonthly.com (6/6).

From 1977 to 1992, Mayfield—the boyfriend of Edwards, whom Cook was convicted of killing, had claimed that he and Edwards last had sex three weeks before her murder, and the prosecution used this to back up their assertion that the couple were just friends in that time; thus he had no motive to kill her. But in an April interview, Mayfield admitted that, in fact, the couple had had sex on the day before she was murdered. Mayfield also testified that he was not with Edwards in her apartment on the night of her murder—but a 1991 police report uncovered by Cook’s lawyers Gary Udashen and Bruce Anton found that Edwards’s roommate had told prosecutors that in fact she had seen Mayfield in the room with Edwards not long before she was murdered. This police report was not turned over to Cook’s lawyers before his trials in 1992 or 1994.

Visiting Judge Jack Carter, from Texarkana, did not rule on Cook’s actual innocence claim, but set aside another hearing for 6/29. The state is still contesting Cook’s innocence claim, which could lead to him getting a compensation package from the state in excess of $1.6 mln.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2016


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