Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Clinton Insider Neera Tanden: Sanders Did "Significant Damage"


Top Clinton insider Neera Tanden at a Google- and Elle-sponsored DC function (source)

by Gaius Publius

Short and bitter-sweet. The primary election is mainly over (but not quite; there's still a black swan or two hovering overhead). Clinton and her camp have vanquished the challenge from the left wing of her own voting base. We've listened to call after call for "party unity."

And yet we see this — Neera Tanden, a major Clinton insider, current head of the prominent (and Clintonist) thinktank Center for American Progress, someone in line for a significant job in a new Clinton administration, someone currently on Clinton's transition team, takes an unprovoked backhand swipe at Sanders and the left he represented during the primary, a punch in the gut for an offense long past.

The offense? Not surrendering to Clinton early enough.


Tanden, as quoted in The Hill:
Clinton confidante: Sanders did 'significant damage'

Longtime Hillary Clinton confidante Neera Tanden in a new podcast commends Bernie Sanders for the issues he raised during his campaign but notes his attacks on the Democratic presidential nominee were harmful.

“I actually have to say, I think he brought a lot of really important issues to the floor, but Senator Sanders was prosecuting a much tougher character attack” than Barack Obama did in 2008, Tanden said during Politico’s “Off Message” podcast.

“He did do significant damage to Hillary's negatives."

During the primary season, the Vermont senator often attacked the eventual Democratic nominee on the campaign trail — at points, questioning her judgment.

“I mean, he drove a lot of those negatives, and the truth of it, I mean, just to be candid — or honest about it, I think getting those kinds of attacks from another Democrat or another liberal or another progressive is much tougher for Hillary," said Tanden, who is the president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.

"If you look at her trust numbers the last six months of that primary ... those numbers took a much sharper dive and [were] hard to recover from.”
On the same story, Politico adds this:
[Tanden is] Clinton’s edgy public alter ego, whose stiletto-elbowed Twitter presence is said to closely echo the candidate’s own caustic private musings. And while Tanden respects Sanders and his staff (she helped negotiate the joint Clinton-Sanders college and health proposals and says “they were great”), she echoes Clinton’s own opinion that Sanders let the primary go on too long, too noisily and too nastily. [my emphasis]

“This primary was much tougher [than 2008]. There were many more open attacks on being 'bought and paid for' and all that stuff,” said Tanden, who didn’t like it, not one little bit.
Tanden's "stiletto-elbowed Twitter presence" — about that, more here. If you have a minute, do click. It makes a fascinating side story.

"Echoing the candidate's own caustic musings" — we'll have to take Politico's word for that, since there are no cited sources.

Clinton's opinion that "Sanders let the primary go on too long, too noisily and too nastily" — that's not hard to believe. Though it has a note of entitlement about it, I think — a note of complaining that your opponent should have quit earlier — and entitled is exactly what you don't want to be perceived as, no matter how far ahead of Donald Trump you are. So, on that score, bad move.

Which brings us back to Neera Tanden, and the question, why this slap at Sanders now? It apparently comes from nowhere, or from pique, a winner's swipe at a loser who's laying on the mat.

About that, two points. First, Tanden's comment adds credence to the perception of Clinton-camp entitlement that most Democrats think both Clinton and her team should avoid. Second, this incident has to give pause to that aforementioned Sanders-supporting base, that if this candidate and her new team can't resist unprovoked hippie-punching now, what will they do once they have real power?

Again, bad move, as I see it. This looks like an unforced error to me.


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An Advance In Grassroots Campaign Phone Banking


Phone banking is one crucial way for grassroots candidates to reach out to voters but I've been hearing from savvy candidates for several years that the commonly available phone banking software for small grassroots campaigns is subpar. One of the sharpest and most agile of the 2016 Blue America primary candidates, Alex Law, worked on creating a phone banking application called Partic, which is extremely simple on the front end for unpaid volunteers. Candidates can have their volunteers make calls from anywhere in a simple system with the best scripting function out there. It has all the features any campaign needs and none it doesn't. Blue America would like to contribute the system to some of the campaigns we felt would make the best use of it.

Can you let us know which campaigns you would like us to donate the system to? We'll pick 2 campaigns this weekend based on the number of contributions our candidates get on this ActBlue page, not the amount of money, just the number of contributions. So if you want to help a candidate, please contribute any amount you can afford to his or her campaign. Meanwhile, I asked Alex to explain the system in a guest post.

Why Partic? Why Now?
-by Alex Law

Many of you may remember my race in New Jersey's 1st Congressional District against corrupt Donald Norcross. I appreciate everything the Blue America family has done for me. This was the first organization to believe it me. While we ultimately didn't win the race, we did run one of the most efficient campaigns in 25 years and become the first campaign ever to be endorsed by a major East Coast newspaper against an incumbent in a primary without any major scandal. I know this is just the beginning for me, and I will certainly keep the Blue America family posted with what I do next in politics.

With that said, I know our work isn't done now. You may have read my letter fundraising for my friends Tim Canova, Alan Grayson, and Zephyr Teachout. That was successful, but I want to do more for the progressive community. Even though I am not in a position to be able to significantly contribute financially , I do have a lot of knowledge about campaigns. To this end, my partner and I built a phone banking application called Partic.

When I looked for a phone banking application during my campaign, I really didn't like the options. Everything was geared towards robo-dialing. The user experience for actual live callers (our volunteers) was terrible on most applications. This is because the major phone banking services are primarily geared to larger volume enterprises that pay their phone callers. When you pay your callers, you can instruct them to deal with what ever the system is. To those of us who have volunteered on progressive campaigns, we know that just isn't how it works. If the program isn't simple and easy to use, volunteers simply won't use it. This is why so many campaigns, especially small progressive campaigns are forced to rely on incredibly inefficient and expensive solutions to phone banking (usually paper, pen, and landlines).

Partic changes that. We built our application with the volunteers in mind. Everything on the front end is incredibly simple. There is no syncing with your cell phone-- volunteers can make calls with a push of a button on the computer. The scripting function allows campaigns to create incredibly detailed scripts, but the volunteers will only see one piece at a time to make communication as easy as possible. All of the data is automatically tracked and available in analyzed reports at any time. Soon, pre-recorded voicemails will be able to be dropped in by the volunteer if no one picks up. This application drives efficiency with great tools but also with great simplicity.

I want progressive campaigns to use this tool. Not to make money, but because better organizing is key to our progress as a movement. As such, I told the leadership at Blue America that I would make our system available at cost to any Blue America campaigns. The better organized we all are, the more seats we can win together.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

The Election Isn't Over Yet-- But It's Probably Too Late For Trumpanzee To Recover


Trumpanzee is looking at a John W. Davis-sized landslide

The Public Religion Research Institute released a poll over the weekend that isn't just bad news for Señor Trumpanzee, but looks like band news for the Republican Party going forward. If America was a country where only white people could vote-- a goal the GOP still works towards whenever they get a chance-- Trump would be OK and the Republican Party would be rocking from coast to coast. But it's 2016 and the U.S. is a far richer and more diverse country today that it was in the 19th Century. And that's why Trumpanzee and the bigoted message the Republicans are helping him to disseminate are losing.

The PRRI poll showed Hillary with a nation-wide 13 point lead over Trumpanzee among registered voters. That's huge. Just 35% of registered voters say they will cast a ballot for Trumpy-the-Clown. The dozen most recent losers haven't done as badly as Trump is polling:
Romney- 47.15%
McCain- 45.6%
Kerry- 48.26%
Gore- 48.38%
Dole- 40.72%
Bush I- 37.45%
Dukakis- 45.65%
Mondale- 40.56%
Jimmy Carter- 41.01%
Jerry Ford- 48.01%
McGovern- 37.52%
Humphrey- 42.72%
Even Goldwater's drubbing in 1964 gave him 38.47% of the popular vote. You have to go all the way back to 1924, a three-way race between Calvin Coolidge (R), John Davis (D) and Robert LaFollette (Progressive) to find a major party candidate doing as badly as Trumpanzee.

Among independents, Clinton leads Trumpanzee by seven points (40-33%). She also leads him among Hispanic voters (67-18%), among black voters (85-4%) and among whites with college educations (51-33%). Trumpanzee leads among whites without college degrees (50-32%). Candidate preference also varies significantly by age, though notably, Clinton is leading Trump in every single age bracket. Six in ten (60%) young adult voters (age 18 to 29) prefer Clinton, compared to only one-quarter (25%) who support Trump. Senior voters (age 65 and older) are more divided, with 45% supporting Clinton and 38% supporting Trump.

But what makes the PRRI poll interesting and distinct from the other polling organization's work is the religion aspect.
Religious groups are divided by race and ethnicity, with white non-Hispanic Protestants leaning toward Donald Trump and all other religious groups leaning toward Hillary Clinton. A majority of white evangelical Protestant voters (62% Trump vs. 23% Clinton) and a plurality of white mainline Protestant voters (47% Trump vs. 37% Clinton) support Trump over Clinton.

Catholic voters are divided along racial and ethnic lines. White Catholic voters are closely divided but lean toward Clinton (44% Clinton vs. 41% Trump), while non-white Catholic voters overwhelmingly support Clinton over Trump (76% vs. 13%, respectively).

Majorities of every other major religious group support Clinton over Trump: religiously unaffiliated voters (55% vs. 24%, respectively) and black Protestant voters (89% vs. 2%, respectively).
This morning the NY Times published a page headlined At Least 110 Republican Leaders Won’t Vote for Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point. The give Club for Growth the credit for being the first GOP operation to break with Trump, announcing an ad campaign to discredit him on September 15, 2015, 3 months after he and the mail-order bribe came down the escalator in Trumpanzee Tower to call Mexican immigrants rapists and two months after he made the gratuitous crack about McCain not being a war hero. But it was Reid Ribble (R-WI) who was the first GOP elected official to say he wouldn't vote for Señor Trumpanzee if he won the nomination. He had already announced his intention of retiring from Congress but on December 11, 2015 Ribble broke with Trump. The following day the former Governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman, did the same, comparing Trump to Hitler.

Florida Congressman Carlos Curbelo became the first member of Congress not retiring to say he wouldn't vote for Trumpanzee (Feb. 23, 2016) and 5 days later Ben Sasse (R-NE) became,e the first senator to do the same. Curbelo is in a 90%+ Hispanic district in Miami and will probably lose his seat in November and Sasse isn't up for reelection this cycle.

March 1 of this year saw retiring Virginia Congressman Scott Rigell just say no and the next day the current governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, did the same, as did former Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ)-- and over 100 Republican national security experts. Next day: Mitt Romney and Norm Coleman (who was in my class at James Madison High School before he became the mayor of St. Paul and a then a Minnesota senator). One week later, March 9, Richard Hanna (R-NY) weighed in and became the first Republican member of Congress to say that he'd not only not vote for Señor Trumpanzee, but that he'd vote for Hillary. By the end of March, the second sitting Republican governor, Larry Hogan of Maryland, announced he wouldn't vote for Trump.

April was quiet and the May 6 came announcements from current congressmembers Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Robert Dold (R-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)... as well as from Jeb Bush. In June Señor Trumpanzee made his insane statement about Judge Curiel and the floodgates started to open. Two days later Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) called Trumpanzee un-American and Connecticut ex-congressman Chris Shays endorsed Hillary Clinton. June saw more Republicans endorsing Hillary, including former Montana Governor Marc Racicot and former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson-- as well as several high level Bush cabinet members.

By August Republican congressmen who are not retiring and not in electoral trouble started giving Trumpanzee the thumbs down. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) led the way. And August has seen a steady drip stream of Republicans saying they won't vote for him-- from Susan Collins (R-ME), William Howard Taft IV and more and more former congressmen and senators (Connie Morella of Maryland, David Durenberger of Minnesota, Tom Campbell of California and Tom Coleman of Missouri).

Capitol Hill insiders are whispering that "most" Republican senators are going to actually vote for Hillary but just won't say so publicly. One super-high ranking House staffer told me that by November I'd be able to write a short post about which Republican congressman are actively backing Trump. "The only one who gave him any money," he told me, not knowing that DWT broke this news last week, "is Lamar Smith and he could be in trouble with his voters back in Bexar County."

Trumpist jokester Rudy Giuliani was on Fox News this morning explaining, among other things, Obama's border policies that Señor Trumpanzee is trying to expropriate as his own  (and how, as mayor, he saved more black lives than Beyoncé or any of her dancers at the VMAs last night):

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Attention Nancy Pelosi-- You Can Win Back The House... But Not With This DCCC From Loserville


Yesterday the NY Times published another DCCC-hawked article about how an anti-Trumpanzee tsunami could help sweep Paul Ryan's odious majority out of control in the House. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin know better. It came out just as Blue America launched an effort to direct contributions on Tumblr and Facebook to DuWayne Gregory, the stellar progressive candidate on Long Island who's going up against loudmouthed Trumpist Peter King. DuWayne, however, is taking on King by himself, Pelosi and the DCCC refusing to get involved-- even though Obama won the district twice and both Hillary and Schumer will sweep it in November, basically because Steve Israel, an inveterate racist who doesn't think blacks should represent white districts, is pals with King and has always protected him from Democrats.

No mention of any of that in the article by Burns and Martin... of course. In fact, the page we were asking readers and activists to go to to contribute to DuWayne's campaign, also includes 5 other Democrats-- all primary winners-- who are being either ignored or actively sabotaged by Pelsoi's dysfunctional and disastrously failed DCCC: Mary Ellen Balchunis in the Philly suburbs, Alina Valdes in south Florida, Tom Wakely is an irban/suburban Texas district that includes parts of San Antonio, Austin and San Marcos, Mary Hoeft in Wausau and northwest Wisconsin and Peter Jacob in suburban New Jersey, primarily Somerset and Union counties. "Emboldened by Donald J. Trump’s struggles in the presidential race," they wrote, "Democrats in Congress are laying the groundwork to expand the list of House Republicans they will target for defeat as part of an effort to slash the Republicans’ 30-seat majority and even reclaim control if Mr. Trump falls further. Mr. Trump’s unpopularity, which has already undermined the party’s grip on the Senate, now threatens to imperil Republican lawmakers even in traditionally conservative districts, according to strategists and officials in both parties involved in the fight for control of the House."

Mary Ellen Balchunis
Sure, sure... we've heard it all before. The DCCC and DNC use it to trick low-info Democrats into sending them money. The DCCC has told them that they are targeting suburban districts near Kansas City, Kansas-- a district Obama lost with 44% to Romney and Republican Kevin Yoder won in 2014 with 60%-- Minneapolis, Orlando, and San Diego, none of which are "easier" districts than DuWayne Gregory's or, for example, Mary Ellen Balchunis'. They point out that Señor Trumpanzee "is so disliked among college-educated voters, especially white women, that he is at risk of losing by double digits in several districts that the 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, carried comfortably." Sounds like Nassau and Suffolk counties in New York, Bexar, Travis and Hays counties in Texas, Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania, Miami-Dade, Collier and Hendry counties in Florida, Somerset, Union, Morris and maybe even Hunterdon in New Jersey and Douglas, St. Croix, Marathon, Oneida and Barron counties in Wisconsin-- the counties our candidates are competing in against Trump-backing GOP incumbents (without any assistance from Pelosi and her gang).

Without calling out either the incompetence or corruption of the DCCC leadership and staff, that makes a knockout all but impossible, Burns subtly makes it clear the hype is just hype and parrots Steve Israel's always-ready excuse for his career of catastrophic failure: "Few Democrats say they believe their party is positioned, at this point, to take control of the House, where Republicans hold their largest majority in 87 years. Because of the way congressional districts are drawn, Republicans have a powerful structural advantage even in a punishing political environment."

The DCCC is bragging that it raised $12 million to the NRCC's measly $4.6 million in July, "a remarkable disparity given that the party in control usually dominates fund-raising," but instead of using it in winnable districts like DuWayne Gregory's and Mary Ellen Balchunis' they're wasting it entirely in impossible districts, protecting worthless right-wing Democrats who always vote with the GOP and can't raise money like Ami Bera (New Dem-CA) and Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-MN) and in extremely red districts where they are trying to elect more Blue Dogs and New Dems, like UT-04 (PVI is R+16), AZ-01 (PVI is R+4), IN-09 (PVI Is R+9), KS-03 (PVI is R+6), SC-05 (PVI is R+9)and the at large districts in Alaska and Montana where the PVIs are, respectively R+12 and R+7 and the incumbents won last time, again respectively, 51-41% and 55-40%.

Enough (Dayenu) of Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s misdeeds! Tomorrow vote Tim Canova: Pass-over Dot Matrix to the Progressive Promised Land, in footsteps of Moses, Fritz Lang, George Lucas, Mel Brooks and Joan Rivers, who all knew how to laugh through their tears after "enough is enough." Florida’s August 30 primary election poses again this age-old question: every generation of slaves must decide when masters’ actions are enough to rebel against.

Attention Nancy Pelosi, fire the whole useless staff, send Ben Ray Lujan, Denny Heck, Cheri Bustos and Steve Israel back home, jettison that list of no-win districts and their candidates from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and spend your money on these men and women instead:

Goal Thermometer

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Mr. Trumpanzee And Steve Israel Should Debate-- On Long Island-- Who's Been The Worst Racist


Hillary, her campaign and her surrogates, backed by the media and by prominent African Americans played the race card against Mr. Trumpanzee last week. It was an effective attack. Hillary's speech was one of the best I've ever heard her give. (Listen to it on the video above.) The NY Times went into more depth about Trumpanzee family racism going all the way back to when his father was a street-brawling KKK thug and Donald was a snot-nosed, spoiled teenager discriminating against would-be African American renters (the theme of a new, rediscovered Woody Guthrie song you can listen to here). Trumpanzee, Sr. was grooming his 17 year old heir who "would soon enroll at Fordham University in the Bronx, living at his parents’ home in Queens and spending much of his free time touring construction sites in his father’s Cadillac, driven by a black chauffeur."
Over the next decade, as Donald J. Trump assumed an increasingly prominent role in the business, the company’s practice of turning away potential black tenants was painstakingly documented by activists and organizations that viewed equal housing as the next frontier in the civil rights struggle.

The Justice Department undertook its own investigation and, in 1973, sued Trump Management for discriminating against blacks. Both Fred Trump, the company’s chairman, and Donald Trump, its president, were named as defendants. It was front-page news, and for Donald, amounted to his debut in the public eye.

“Absolutely ridiculous,” he was quoted as saying of the government’s allegations.

Looking back, Mr. Trump’s response to the lawsuit can be seen as presaging his handling of subsequent challenges, in business and in politics. Rather than quietly trying to settle-- as another New York developer had done a couple of years earlier-- he turned the lawsuit into a protracted battle, complete with angry denials, character assassination, charges that the government was trying to force him to rent to “welfare recipients” and a $100 million countersuit accusing the Justice Department of defamation.

When it was over, Mr. Trump declared victory, emphasizing that the consent decree he ultimately signed did not include an admission of guilt.

But an investigation by the New York Times-- drawing on decades-old files from the New York City Commission on Human Rights, internal Justice Department records, court documents and interviews with tenants, civil rights activists and prosecutors-- uncovered a long history of racial bias at his family’s properties, in New York and beyond.
The Times successfully lays out the case proving the Trumpanzees-- Fred and Donald-- were vicious racists and acted on that racism again and again over the course of decades, basically telling qualified black and Hispanic families that there were no vacancies in their buildings and then renting them to white families instead. Horrible and intolerable. AND, the Democratic Party hypocrites who are self-righteously denouncing Trump could look a little closer to home if they want to denounce a vile and disgusting racist.

I don't know for sure whether Pelosi knew Steve Israel is a virulent racist when she appointed him DCCC chair. I'm told the appointment was just about 3 things: Israel could raise a lot of dirty Wall Street money without any feelings of guilt; Israel's only rival for the job was Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who Pelosi detests and doesn't trust; and Pelosi knew Israel would be loyal. Why should she have suspected Israel was a racist at the time? He was one of the only Democrats in the northeast to join the largely Southern, totally racist Blue Dogs. And as a low-end political hack back on Long Island, he always catered to the same kind of bigots the Trumpanzee family was catering to with their racist housing policies.

As DCCC chair Israel didn't cotton to the idea of black politicians running in non-black majority districts. We started looking into that after Israel's and the DCCC's disastrous performance during the 2014 midterms. One unexpected loss for the Democrats came in Cliven Bundy country-- NV-04, a blue district that includes the Vegas suburbs with a PVI of D+4 and where Obama beat McCain 56-41% and beat Romney 54-44%. GOP nut-case Cresent Hardy beat freshman Steven Horsford 63,435 (48.5%) to 59,800 (45.8%). Horsford spent $1,251,106 to Hardy's $266,412. But it was a massive and unanswered $1,072,596 smear campaign by Rove's Crossroads GPS that did Horsford in. (All in the DCCC and its House Majority PAC was too busy wasting tens of millions of dollars on hopeless Blue Dogs like Barrow and Rahall to help Horsford; they only spent an inadequate $478,691 on his race.) The Crew of 42, which blogs about the Congressional Black Caucus, posted an interesting twist on how Steve Israel and the DCCC pushed Horsford into a loss.
Several sources close to the situation reveal that Rep. Horsford was asked to match a DCCC contribution of $80,000 to assist his campaign in closing weeks before November 4th. Horsford’s fellow Black Caucus members were particularly incensed by this tidbit of information because they say Horsford was asked to match while other Dems were being funded by DCCC in a big way.

As a freshman member in a swing district, many believe Horsford should have been selected for the “frontline” list as so many other freshman in challenging districts are. Now that members find Horsford was asked to match funds in late October-- the outrage has swung into a new phase.

A dozen members and staffers with decades of experience who were asked if they ever heard of a member having to match funds with DCCC in late October say they’ve never heard of such a thing happening before. That, mixed with Horsford not being included on a list of “frontline candidates” announced by DCCC Chair Steve Israel in March 2013 has members mad. The anger is connected to the fact that Horsford, the former Majority Leader or the Nevada Senate, is viewed as exactly the type of young member House Democrats should fiercely protect. Horsford’s district is majority white and his rise to Congress represents a winning moment over the new demographics that is rarely seen in the House: A Black member winning in a non-majority white district in a red state. Horsford has been seen at meetings this week and his colleague are confident they will see him again in 2017. But to be sure, he’s taking the loss way better than they are.

The "frontline" candidate list for 2014 included several freshman Democrats in swing districts including Reps. Ron Barber, Ami Bera, Elizabeth Esty, Cheri Bustos, Ann Kuster and Bill Enyart. Being part of the DCCC’s frontline effort is a way of “protecting nearly every vulnerable incumbent who was not affected by redistricting,” according to the DCCC. Those candidates were very well funded by DCCC this cycle.

...One of the more interesting late October money drops from DCCC went to Domenic Recchia, who lost to Rep. Michael Grimm 55-42%-- even though Grimm was indicted on 2o counts by federal prosecutors for fraud, obstruction and perjury in April 2014.

After two candidates declined to take Grimm on, DCCC Chair Steve Israel’s third recruiting choice was Recchia. Though he proved to be less than an inspiring candidate, DCCC spent $1,570,059 to assist his campaign. On October 16, the DCCC spent $127,000 on opposition ads on Grimm. On October 23, the DCCC spent $129,000 on another media buy to assist Recchia. House Majority PAC also dropped $1.1 million to assist Recchia on October 29.

The sanctimonious Israel defended himself in-- of course-- Politico, telling them that "I will accept full responsibility for not doing all we should have, or for doing things we shouldn’t have, [but-- finishing the sentence by rejecting any sense of responsibility whatsoever] this criticism is misplaced. We had been talking to Steve for a very long time, knowing how tough that district was. I am not going to get into private conversations, but there was a consensus with his team and our team that he should not have Frontline status." The CBC-- and chairwoman Marcia Fudge in particular, could barely contain their rage at Israel's racism. And Israel's role in letting Horsford lose the seat wasn't the first time he pulled that kind of a stunt. Two years earlier, Pelosi should have been alerted to what he was up to in regard to a House seat in Omaha. The same folks at Crew of 42 who told us about the Horsford news, went back into history and saw the DCCC doing the same thing in 2012 to an African-American candidate in Omaha, Nebraska. This cycle, the DCCC spent $1,432,187 on white Blue Dog Brad Ashford and managed to defeat GOP incumbent Lee Terry, one of only two Republican incumbents defeated this cycle. In 2012, when John Ewing ran, the DCCC spent nothing, although Pelosi's own House Majority PAC threw in an ineffective $164,736... and Ewing lost by less than 6,000 votes-- 127,119 (51%) to 121,165 (49%). It's "one of the many reasons why there is a continuing schism between the Black Caucus and the DCCC. The simple fact is that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has shown little interest in recruiting and funding Black candidates for Congress-- even at a time when African Americans are winning in congressional districts that are not even close to being majority Black (see: Reps. Waters, Rangel, Cleaver, Bass, Green, Ellison, Lee, Carson, Horsford, Hurd, Coleman, Veasey, Moore, Love…)." Steve Israel's resignation from the DCCC may help fix this problem-- but not this cycle.

As we explained earlier, Long Island's 2nd congressional district-- the South Shore, stretching from Levittown, Seaford and Massapequa in Nassau through Lindenhurst and Babylon deep into some of the bluest parts of Suffolk County like Islip, Brentwood and Ronkonkoma to the outskirts of Patchogue-- has it's best candidate in living memory against Trumpist Peter King. That candidate is DuWayne Gregory, a military vet and the well-respected presiding officer of the Suffolk County legislature. With Trump tanking in the Long Island suburbs and Hillary (and Schumer) expected to run up massive wins in Nassau and Suffolk, the Democrats have never had such a great opportunity to win NY-02. Unfortunately, in Israel's eyes, Gregory is African-American and shouldn't be running in a white district. He's persuaded the DCCC to ignore the election and just let King walk away with it again without a fight. That's Steve Israel-- and that'sNancy Pelosi and, I'm afraid, that's the Democratic Party-- denouncing Trump's racism out of one side of it's mouth, while enabling a racist pig like Steve Israel to destroy the careers of promising African-American politicians.

Despite Steve Israel and Nancy Pelosi, DuWayne Gregory can still win the seat, but he'll need some grassroots help. So... if you can, please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping on the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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Some Bridge Fuel — Energy Emissions from Methane Surpass Coal, But Oil Emissions Still Rising


Emissions from methane (natural gas) are replacing emissions from coal, but not petroleum (source; click to enlarge).

by Gaius Publius

Methane ("America's clean natural gas") is being touted and sold as the "bridge fuel" from carbon emissions from all sources, including oil. In fact, methane is turning out to be a bridge fuel away from coal only. See the charts at the top and note the rise of emissions from petroleum as methane emissions replace coal emissions.

In the meantime total CO2 emission in the U.S from all sources is essentially flat:

Total U.S. CO2 emissions, 1990–2014 (source; click to enlarge)

Methane may be a bridge fuel from coal, but it's not a bridge to fewer overall emissions, not by a long shot.

This news comes from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (which is touting methane, by the way):
Energy-related CO2 emissions from natural gas surpass coal as fuel use patterns change

Energy-associated carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from natural gas are expected to surpass those from coal for the first time since 1972. Even though natural gas is less carbon-intensive than coal, increases in natural gas consumption and decreases in coal consumption in the past decade have resulted in natural gas-related CO2 emissions surpassing those from coal. EIA's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook projects energy-related CO2 emissions from natural gas to be 10% greater than those from coal in 2016....

In 2015, natural gas consumption was 81% higher than coal consumption, and their emissions were nearly equal. Both fuels were associated with about 1.5 billion metric tons of energy-related CO2 emissions in the United States in 2015.
Three points about this announcement.

First, it's good that coal is being used less and less, but coal still has a large emissions footprint, as this 2006 chart shows.

Second, reducing the use of coal is a mixed blessing. Coal emissions (poisonously) contain particulate matter (various kinds of soot, or as scientists say, "aerosols") that in part act to reduce global warming because they tend to reflect some of the sun's energy back into space before it hits the earth and becomes heat. Dr. Michael Mann has a fuller explanation here.

Bottom line, if we don't reduce coal use, Mann estimates we "lock in" +2°C global warming likely in the early 2030s, as atmospheric CO2 reaches 450 ppm. If we (somehow, miraculously) do eliminate coal use, we lock in +2°C global warming as soon as atmospheric CO2 reaches 405 ppm, a level we've already crossed on the monthly chart (source and discussion here). Climate people call the use of coal a "Faustian bargain."

Third, look again at the total emissions chart above. People, especially in government and the energy industry (like the EIA), like to tout the CO2 emissions reduction "since 2005." That reduction was (a) caused almost completely by the global slowdown in economic activity due to the financial crisis that followed, and (b) not much of a reduction, unless you eliminate most of the bottom of the chart to exaggerate the change (as here).

Is It an Emergency Yet?

Yes. For one thing, methane is not a bridge fuel. I'm willing to bet money that no prospective investor in a methane-burning energy facility is being told that the facility will be torn down in 10 years and replaced with something else, like a zero-carbon power plant. On the contrary, I think investors are being told that putting money into new methane (natural gas) infrastructure is a long-term profit-maker. No bridge fuel for us; just the words.

And it probably doesn't hurt the industry's future that Exxon is the "largest natural gas producer in the U.S."

But more to the point, we just don't have the time, even if methane were used as a true bridge fuel. Atmospheric CO2 is accelerating, with 2014 and 2015 being named, successively, "the hottest year on record." Also, the 10 warmest years in the historical record all occurred since 1998. If we don't put the brakes on now — the real brakes, not just the rhetorical ones — it won't matter who's president for the next eight years, Sanders, Trump or Genghis Khan. They'll all be powerless to stop what everyone can see coming and is panicked about.

For more on why a "WWII-style mobilization" is both possible and necessary, see the section "The Zero Carbon Economy, a Rationing Regime that Works" here. To work to build a Mobilize Now awareness, you might start here.


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DuWayne Gregory-- Ready To Turn Long Island Blue Again


Republican Peter King has been in Congress since 1993 and his Democratic neighbor and crony, Blue Dog Steve Israel, has seen to it that he would have no serious challenges from the DCCC. With Israel himself finally retiring, there were hopes that the DCCC would finally take on King, an outspoken and belligerent Trump supporter. The Democrats have their best candidate for the seat in living memory, DuWayne Gregory, the respected and well-liked presiding officer of the Suffolk County legislature.

The Long Island South Shore district has moved significantly east into bright blue Suffolk County and is no longer primarily in Republican-safe Nassau territory. In fact, two-thirds of the voters now live in Suffolk-- and many of them don't know very much about Peter King. There was every expectation that once DuWayne Gregory became the official Democratic Party's candidate, the DCCC would come in and help him get the message out about who King is. After all, Obama won the district twice, 51-48% against McCain and 52-47% against Romney. And the district, the most Hispanic on Long Island, is bluer now than it was then.

In 2014 Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand won both counties with gigantic landslide margins and this cycle Chuck Schumer's reelection campaign is expected to do just as well. It looks like Hillary will beat Trump very substantially in the New York suburbs, Nassau and Suffolk counties included. More Democrats than Republicans voted in the presidential primaries in NY-02 and polling shows enthusiasm for Trump since the primaries has all but evaporated. But Steve Israel has persuaded the DCCC to once again take a hands-off posture towards his old pal Peter King.

Needless to say, he hasn't persuaded Blue America and we've endorsed DuWayne Gregory with great enthusiasm and urge all of our members to consider contributing to his strong grassroots campaign.

Friday we spent some time talking with DuWayne and I want to share some of his unvarnished thoughts with you:
"Ever since I announced my run for Congress people have asked me why do you want to run and why do you think you can beat Peter King? The answer for me was simple for two reasons. First, I strongly believe we need new leadership in Washington. Secondly, the decision to run, specifically, against Peter King was a personal decision for me. I take the responsibility of holding public office seriously. It is an awesome responsibility to have the ability to have a positive impact on people's lives. I also believe because of the oath of office we take we represent all residents of our district and not just the ones who voted for us or who we personally agree with. Peter King has violated this rule, in my opinion. I don't begrudge anyone with a more conservative set of principles than myself, but I do begrudge abhorrent values.

"My decision to run was due in large part because of my son Julian, who is gay. When district lines changed I took it upon myself to research my Congressman's voting record on LGBT issues and was astonished at how narrowed minded his voting history has been: he voted against gay couples adopting children in Washington DC; supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a woman and a man; voted against expanding hate crimes to cover LGBT victims; voted against protecting LGBT members from being discriminated at work etc. As a LGBT parent Peter King does not understand the fear that a parent has, because of the same bigotry that is displayed with a voting record like his. I will never forget the day my son Julian came out to me while we were going to get ice cream. He was 12 years old! I immediately told him that I loved him and want him to be happy, but in my mind I was worried about how less accepting people will respond. People like Peter King who wrongly think gays make a choice regarding their sexual orientation. People like the shooter in the Orlando club massacre where my son was just two weeks prior.

"So I made a choice that our country and my Congressional district needs new leadership and one less voice against equality in America. We deserve to have a representative that will work to protect my son just as fervently as all other children without bigotry or hate. It is Peter King's job to work to protect all people from harm and discrimination regardless of religious or personal beliefs. As an African-American I know hate all to well and to think my protection and safety would be sacrificed by an elected official because that person didn't approve I find appalling and dereliction of duty. The oath that public officials take does not ask them to protect only certain segments of the country, the one's they agree with, but all citizens of our country."
All the candidates on the page that comes up when you tap the Blue America thermometer below are, like DuWayne Gregory, the official candidates of the Democratic Party. And they all have something else in common-- the DCCC refuses to assist any of them, even though all of them are in districts that are good red-to-blue targets, especially in a year where Señor Trumpanzee is at the top of the Republican ticket. Please take a look and please consider helping out:
Goal Thermometer

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Could A Battle Over The Carried Interest Loophole Determine Sean Duffy's Political Fate In Northwest Wisconsin?


Duffy reports a $1,222,995 war chest against Mary Hoeft

You've heard about carried interest right? Do you understand what it is and why the carried interest tax loophole has to be shut down? After reading this OpEd from venture capitalist Alan Patricof in the NY Times over the weekend, I wish the loophole could be shut down retroactively and the billions of unpaid taxes by crooked Republicans like Robert Mercer, Steven Cohen, John Paulson and Paul Singer and crooked Democrats like John Arnold and Donald Sussman could be collected-- with penalties. As Patricof explains, "carried interest" is not an investment or a risk that needs to be rewarded. It's basically another form of a management fee that gets taxed at a much lower rate. It's the performance fee money managers charge to manage other people’s money. "Carried interest is the fund manager’s share of the earnings from a profitable investment, normally paid on top of a much smaller management fee." Almost all the candidates this year followed Bernie in denouncing it and pledging to close the loophole, from Jeb and Señor Trumpanzee to Hillary herself. In fact, Hillary "has vowed that if Congress does not close the loophole, as president she would ask the Treasury Department to use its regulatory authority to do so."
Ultimately, the controversy has to do with tax fairness, or the lack thereof. Instead of being taxed as wages or commissions earned, carried interest is currently taxed as if it were a personal investment, or capital gains. This gives us a significant tax advantage since the capital gains tax rate is about 50 percent lower than the top rate on ordinary income.

When I started my first fund, Alan Patricof Associates, in 1970, I vividly remember my accountant telling me about my first sale of an investment: “We’re going to treat this as capital gain, but sooner or later, it will be characterized as ordinary income.”

That was 46 years ago-- and virtually nothing has changed.

Other countries have taken action: Britain recently recognized the wisdom of doing away with the special tax treatment of carried interest by maintaining a much higher tax rate on such income. But not the United States.

It is past time for that to change, and for fund managers like myself to accept the reality: We should not be receiving a tax break meant for investors when our work does not involve the risk of our own investment of capital.

As the former Treasury secretary Larry Summers once said of carried interest, “Rarely has a policy existed so long with such weak arguments in its favor.”

The capital gains tax benefit was originally created for people who invested with their own capital at risk. It was established as an incentive for investors to take greater risk than they would with their ordinary income. But because of the nature of our work, carried interest does not merit that incentive.

...According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, carried interest costs the American people nearly $2 billion in tax receipts every year. While eliminating the carried interest advantage would make only a small dent in the national debt, it would send a meaningful message to the American people.

Most important, it comes back to a question of fairness. Our current political and cultural environment is marred by a toxic belief that the country’s economic order is rigged against ordinary Americans-- that the world of high finance unjustly supersedes their rights, needs and wants.

A new report by Gallup found that 86 percent of Americans agreed that members of Congress paid too much attention to what their major financial contributors wanted them to do. It feeds the cynicism that is fraying our democracy.

“Congress’s harshest critics,” Gallup reported, “feel more strongly about the undue influence that donors and lobbyists have on Congress than they do about any other major criticism of the institution.”

For that reason alone, my fellow venture capitalists and private equity investors should support the closing of the carried interest loophole: It would carry great symbolic weight.

There needs to be a more realistic attitude from those of us who have benefited from the carried interest loophole for too many years.

We need to demonstrate a little more patriotism, and a greater sense of fairness, even if it affects our pocketbooks.
Goal ThermometerSean Duffy (R-WI) is an especially heinous member of Congress when it comes to serving the interests of the Wall Street banksters who pay him off rather than his own middle class constituents in Wausau, Superior, Marshfield, Rhinelander and Iron Mountain. We asked his progressive Democratic challenger, Mary Hoeft if we were missing something. "My opponent," she told us, "is Wall Street's best friend. He chairs a banking oversight committee and yet, found no ethical problem in accepting $300,000 in political contributions from bankers. In payback for that generous contribution, he authored legislation intended to cripple the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency shaped by Elizabeth Warren and others to make sure that Big Banks are never able to bring our economy to its knees again. More than 7 million Americans lost their homes to bankruptcy. Does Sean Duffy care? No. Does he care if taxation is soft on the wealthy and hard on ordinary middle class working families in Wisconsin? No. Wall Street has a fulltime lobbyist working for them, whose name is Congressman Sean Duffy. It's time for a change! The people of the 7th Congressional District deserve a representative who will work for them."

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The Republican Party Stares Demographic Trumpocyde In The Face


Many Republican elders and strategists aren't worrying about Trump losing badly in November. They know that's going to happen and they know he's doing to pull down a number of Republican elected officials with him. Even before Trump won the nomination, everyone knew that the careers of, for example, Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Frank Guinta (R-NH) and Cresent Hardy (R-NV) were probably toast. But now Republicans once viewed as safe-- from Richard Burr (NC) and Roy Blunt (MO) in the Senate to House members like Pat Meehan (PA), Fred Upton (MI), Peter King (NY) and even Science Committee chairman Lamar Smith (TX)-- are no longer quite as safe. All 6 of those and a dozen more Republicans representing big suburban constituencies see Trump turning off their voters. And despite the ineptitude of the DCCC, there are going to be lost careers in November that no one was expecting when Señor Trumpanzee and his latest mail-order came down the escalator at an enthusiastic crowd of paid extras on the ground floor of Trumpanzee Tower. But not even that is the biggest worry that I'm referring to.

There is some chance that Trump is so alienating college educated moderate Republican suburban voters-- a normal mainstay of the Republican electoral coalition-- than many will not necessarily come back to the GOP when Trump is annihilated. And with President Hillary essentially-- all but in name-- "a college educated moderate Republican suburbanite" herself, her presidency could wind up being very attractive to them, particularly if congressional Republicans carry through with their plans to obstruct everything the new president-- America's first woman president-- tries to accomplish.

Writing for the NY Times on Friday, Jeremy Peters noted that the GOP in the more populated-- and electoral vote-rich-- western states is on the verge of a quasi-extinction event, at least on a statewide basis. "Republicans in Western states," he wrote, "fear that Donald J. Trump[anzee] could imperil their party for years to come in the country’s fastest-growing region as he repels a generation of Hispanics, Asians and younger voters who have been altering the electoral map."
Trump, with his insult-laden, culturally insensitive style of campaigning, is providing fuel for the demographic trends that are already reshaping the political composition of this once-heavily Republican territory. And now many Republicans are contemplating the possibility that states like Colorado or Nevada could soon become the next California: once competitive but now unwinnable in presidential contests.

In few places are the party’s woes over their nominee more immediate than here in Arizona, a state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate only once in the last 68 years.

Recent polls show Hillary Clinton is close to tying Mr. Trump here. And her campaign has responded by teaming up with local Democrats on a statewide get-out-the-vote operation, which has grown to 160 staff members across 20 offices.

While flipping Arizona has been a Democratic fantasy for years-- and one that Clinton supporters acknowledge remains quite difficult-- their efforts to register and recruit voters are part of a longer-term plan to capitalize on the Republican Party’s vulnerabilities with younger and minority voters.

Nonwhites are growing as a share of the electorate faster in the West than they are elsewhere. For the first time, minorities in 2012 accounted for at least 30 percent of the eligible voting population in Arizona, Nevada and Alaska-- all states where Republicans currently hold top statewide offices. Colorado, where Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is so confident of a victory now that it has has no plans to buy advertising time through Election Day, is also approaching 30 percent.

The demographics were already daunting. But many Republicans now say Mr. Trump is only accelerating the flight of minority voters to the Democratic Party, like dry underbrush feeds an Arizona wildfire.

Asked how fellow Republicans could win election to statewide office in the West, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona offered some blunt advice: “Distance yourself from Donald Trump.”

“That’s difficult,” he added, “but I think we’ve got to do it if we’re concerned not just about this election but elections to come.”

Otherwise, Mr. Flake said, “this will last decades.”

Most demographers did not believe Arizona could be truly competitive for Democrats in a presidential election until 2020 at the earliest. But Mr. Trump’s unpopularity has spawned a demographic double threat that has implications in Arizona and beyond: He is not just weak among Hispanics, but also with with educated white professionals who have moved to places like Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix in search of better jobs and a lower cost of living.

The trouble signs for the November election have been building. In Colorado, the percentage of registered Republicans as a share of the electorate has dropped by four percentage points compared with 2012. Democrats, who now have about the same share of registered voters, carried the state in 2008 and 2012.

In Utah, Mr. Trump’s lack of support with Mormons has allowed Mrs. Clinton to come close to catching him in some polls.

And in Arizona, new voter registration numbers show Democrats have been registering people at a faster rate than Republicans this year. Registered Republicans, however, still outnumber Democrats over all.

“Arizona is on the cusp,” said Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, who studies the political implications of population shifts. “And if it is on the cusp this fast, I think that means these other states become even farther out of reach.”

The entire West Coast is already a wasteland for Republicans. The last time one of the coastal states-- with the exception of Alaska-- went to a Republican nominee was California in 1988. Moreover, losses in Arizona and possibly Utah would leave Republicans safe in just Wyoming, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The peril for Republicans is evident looking at the Electoral College: Those states only have a combined 13 of the total 538 electoral votes. And even in the likely event that Republicans continue to carry Utah, a win in November would yield only six more electoral votes.

And even Alaska might not be safe for very long. Because of growth in the Asian, Hispanic and Alaska Native populations, the state’s eligible voting population is projected to be more than 40 percent minority by 2032, according to a report from the Center for American Progress, the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute.

Every month for the next two decades, 50,000 Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote, according to Resurgent Republic, a Republican research group. But low rates of registration have kept Hispanics from becoming as potent a political force as they could be.

Recognizing that the participation gap is part of what has kept states like Texas from becoming more Democratic-- despite a voting age population that is 28 percent Hispanic-- Democrats in Arizona have undertaken an aggressive registration drive.

“Phoenix is already a majority-minority city, but our voting numbers don’t really reflect that,” said Seth Scott, the Clinton campaign’s Arizona director.

Democrats are putting more resources behind their efforts than they did in 2012 when there were telegraphing similar-- though ultimately misplaced-- optimism about Arizona.

The Clinton campaign said it invested hundreds of thousands of dollars this month in a coordinated program with the Arizona Democratic Party to win races up and down the ballot, a commitment the Obama campaign decided not to make in 2012. Together they are targeting 450,000 people they have identified as likely Democratic voters whom they hope to place on the state’s early voting list.

...Democrats insist that even if their efforts do not pay off now, they will in the long term as the voting population becomes more Hispanic. But the Trump campaign says it is not leaving anything to chance. Mr. Trump’s staff members were scouting locations in Arizona this week for a speech he is expected to give on immigration.

And campaign officials said they have begun a phone bank program called “Trump Tuesdays.” They said they made more than 18,000 calls this week to rally support for his candidacy.

Still, even his supporters acknowledge what they are up against in Arizona and across the West. “I am concerned about my party going forward,” said Sean D. Reyes, Utah’s attorney general. Mr. Reyes is a Republican and backs Mr. Trump. He is also part Hispanic, Japanese and Filipino, and a Mormon.

So he was naturally taken aback when he heard Mr. Trump insult Filipinos this month. Mr. Trump told a crowd in Maine that the United States had to stop letting in “animals” from “terrorist nations,” among them the Philippines. Mr. Reyes said he called the campaign to register his displeasure.

“I talked to the Trump campaign and said, ‘Look, if I’m going to support Donald Trump, we’ve got to fix that,’” Mr. Reyes said. To the campaign’s credit, Mr. Reyes added, Trump staff members agreed.
Peters was just writing about the West. But with Both Carolinas, Georgia and Florida all within Clinton's grasp-- and with Virginia pretty much in the bag-- the entire East Coast from Key West to Van Buren, a tiny town on the Saint John River in Aroostook County, Maine, is looking at a time very soon when it will be solidly blue.

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Comedy Tonight: "Why We Laugh -- or Do We?": Another "Benchley Tonight" resurrection


Benchley attempts to introduce a man "who needs no introduction," in The Sky's the Limit.

"Incidentally, by the time you have the 'humor' analyzed, it will be found that the necessity for laughing has been relieved."
-- Robert Benchley, in "Why We Laugh -- or Do We?"

by Ken

Somehow the idea has gotten around that we're living in a Golden Age of Comedy -- sometimes known, I gather, as the Age of Apatow, not just in movies but on TV (cf. the abominable Grrlz). As far as I can tell, the overriding principle of comedy in this golden age is that it's never funny. It never seems to obligate, or even prompt, the audience to laugh, or even smile just a little. Take a shower, perhaps, but laugh, not so much.

Okay, you got me, I watched three or four episodes of Vice Principals before shaking loose. But I really don't want to write about that experience, at least not just now. It's bound to lead to the hurling around of words like "abomination," and that's no more fun for me than it would be for you. Maybe it would be therapeutic to note that actual comedy, of the time-honored funny sort, hasn't entirely disappeared. In fact, as I've rewatched selected episodes of CBS's Life in Pieces, I've been appreciating them more fully because funny as a lot of it always seemed, a lot of it becomes that much funnier the better you know the characters. (Imagine, a comedy that's character-driven! In a DVD commentary for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, co-creator Allan Burns explained that in the creation and running of the show, this was a major sticking point with the network people, who couldn't grasp the idea of a show that instead of jokes relied on comedy that developed out of the characters and the situations they were put in.)

Not long ago I found myself dialoguing after a fashion with quite a well-known writer who was advancing the proposition that "farts are funny." Not, mind you, as I would be happy to agree, that under certain circumstances it's possible that a fart could be funny. No, the announced principle was, simply: Farts are funny. In the same online, er, discussion, another theorist of comedy announced that it's about shock, which would explain once and for all why we so often use the word "shocking" as a synonym for "funny."

And that leads me straight to the Robert Benchley piece I'm resurrecting today, 'Why We Laugh -- or Do We?" A couple of months ago I did another resurrection from my long-running "Comedy Tonight" series, which began, reflecting my personal comedic pantheon, as "Thurber Tonight," and came to include, listed alphabetically, Woody Allen, Bob and Ray, Will Cuppy, Wolcott Gibbs, Ring Lardner, S. J. Perelman, Jean Shepherd, and E. B. White and that too was a Benchley piece, the sublime "How to Get Things Done" ("Having trouble getting things done? Learn from the master, the great Robert Benchley") I would note, by the way, that among these worthies, the laff-riot subject of farting rarely came up, the possible exception being Jean Shepherd, who however would certainly have insisted on the, um, situationality of the laugh, since Jean's comic genius was compulsively situational -- anyone who listened to any of his radio programs knows how fanatically -- and hilariously -- he worked to set up the situations he proceeded to uncork.

It's probably just a coincidence that it's Benchley who's once again calling out to me amid the raging of the non-comedy wars, but there we have it. It's impossible to dabble in theories of comedy without acknowledging that Benchley's been there, done that. And so, without further preamble, I re-offer this "Benchley Tonight" post from Jan. 23, 2011.

Again, the master listing for "THURBER TONIGHT (now including BENCHLEY TONIGHT)" can be found here.

"Why We Laugh -- or Do We?" (1937) is another Benchley piece I've quoted from and/or tried to paraphrase about a million times, especially the "five cardinal rules" we have to "check up on" before "giving in" to a joke, like "(3) It must be about something. You can't just say, 'Here's a good joke' and let it go at that. (You can, but don't wait for the laugh.)." Note: Max Eastman's 1936 book Enjoyment of Laughter was the proximate "inspiration" for this piece. -- Ken

Why We Laugh—or Do We?

(Let's Get This Thing Settled, Mr. Eastman)

IN ORDER TO LAUGH at something, it is necessary (1) to know what you are laughing at, (2) to know why you are laughing, (3) to ask some people why they think you are laughing, (4) to jot down a few notes, (5) to laugh. Even then, the thing may not be cleared up for days.

Read more »

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Can Ted Lieu Round Up Enough Congressmembers To Stop The Carnage In Yemen?


I've never been to Yemen and, as much as I'd like to see the ancient mudbrick skyscrapers of Shibam in northwest Yemen and other sites in that off-the-beaten path country between Saudi Arabia and Sonalia, I'm more cognizant these days of how dangerous it is to travel to a place like that than I was when I was running around places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar in my younger days. There's no survey of the world's most dangerous p;laces to visit that doesn't include Yemen. And more so now than ever. Two month ago, the U.S. State Department had a curt warning on its website: "We urge U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and for those U.S. citizens currently living in or visiting Yemen to depart." The State Department warned "U.S. citizens against all travel to Yemen because of the high security threat level posed by ongoing conflict and terrorist activities" and noted that the Embassy had closed down in February of 2015.
The level of instability and ongoing threats, including the threat of kidnapping, in Yemen is severe. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition initiated an air campaign in support of the exiled Yemeni government. While a nationwide cessation of hostilities has largely held since April 10, pockets of violence persist and the country remains deeply insecure.  Periodic armed conflict and shelling continues in certain areas across the country. There are reports of land mines being placed in areas vacated by withdrawing forces. The military conflict has also significantly damaged infrastructure, limiting the availability of electricity, clean water, and medical care, and causing travel by internal roads to be dangerous. This instability often hampers the ability of humanitarian organizations to deliver critically needed food, medicine, and water.
Thursday, reporting for the NY Times from DC, not Yemen, Mark Mazzetti. wrote about a Saudi jet-- Saudi now, American-made though-- bombing a hospital in remote northern Yemen, killing 19 and wounding "dozens" more.
Doctors Without Borders announced in the days after the Aug. 15 strike that it was pulling out of six medical facilities in northern Yemen, the latest turn in a war that has further devastated one of the Arab world’s poorest countries and has bogged down a Saudi military ill-prepared for the conflict.

For the Obama administration, it was another public reminder of the spiraling violence of a war in which it has played a direct role. American officials have publicly condemned the hospital bombing-- and the bombing of a school two days earlier-- but the Pentagon has given steady support to the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with targeting intelligence and fuel for the Saudi planes involved in the air campaign.

Anger over the Saudi-led campaign and the United States role in the war is growing in Congress. On Wednesday, it prompted a group of lawmakers to circulate a letter that asks President Obama to withdraw his request for Congressional approval for a $1.15 billion sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, until Congress can have a broader debate about American military support for the Saudis.

The past three weeks have seen an escalation in the conflict in Yemen-- and in reports of civilian casualties-- after peace talks among the warring sides broke down and Saudi Arabia resumed a blistering air assault in areas surrounding Yemen’s capital, Sana. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday with the aim of brokering a new peace deal, although there is little optimism about a lasting cease-fire in the near future.

...This month, a Saudi-led investigation into eight separate episodes in Yemen that had killed hundreds of civilians-- including previous strikes that hit Doctors Without Borders facilities-- largely absolved the coalition of the deaths.

The investigation concluded that faulty intelligence was to blame in only one of the eight episodes, and said that aid groups, such as Doctors Without Borders, should not station medical facilities near Houthi encampments.

But a spokesman for the investigation, Mansour bin Ahmed Mansour, said in an interview that investigators did not travel to Yemen and had no personnel on the ground there to collect evidence. “The circumstances do not allow the team to go on the ground,” he said.

Speaking of an episode late last year, when a coalition airstrike bombed a Doctors Without Borders clinic near the Yemeni city of Taiz, Mr. Mansour said that the coalition had hit a “legitimate military target,” and that the aid group “should keep these tents away from the locations where there are militias.”

According to United States Central Command, American military tankers have flown nearly 1,200 sorties since the war began and refueled more than 5,600 coalition aircraft-- support that is drawing increasing protest from Congress.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the Obama administration’s support for the campaign in Yemen had caused anger to be directed at the United States from inside the war-racked country.

“We try to maintain some distance from this, but that doesn’t sell inside Yemen,” he said. “I’m petrified about the long-term prospects of a Yemeni population that is radicalized against the United States.”

The Saudi-led bombing campaign resumed this month after a monthslong pause for the unsuccessful attempt to draft a peace agreement. On Aug. 7, more than a dozen civilians were killed in an airstrike that hit a small marketplace near the village of Al Madeed, approximately 35 miles northeast of Sana.

Sada al-Othari, a witness who owns a drugstore in the village, said that two of his customers were killed in the bombing and that there was no military target in the area.

He gave a graphic account of victims burned beyond recognition and panicked locals who were reluctant to provide help, fearing a second airstrike would hit the rescuers-- a tactic that the coalition has used during the campaign.

On Aug. 13 an airstrike in Hayden District hit a religious school, killing 10 students and wounding dozens. A representative of Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, in Yemen decried the bombing. Wounded children were brought to another medical facility run by Doctors Without Borders.

The day after that attack, a Saudi military spokesman denied that the airstrike had hit a school, saying the target was a Houthi training camp. The spokesman, Gen. Ahmed Asiri, said in a statement to Agence France-Presse that the dead children were just evidence that the Houthis were recruiting children as guards and fighters.

“We would have hoped,” General Asiri said, that Doctors Without Borders “would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media.”
The State Department approved the $1.15 billion arms sale August 9 and Congress has just 30 days to clock the sale. But Congress is on vacation and there is nothing-- not Zika outbreaks in Florida and Texas nor dead children in remote Yemen-- that's going to get Paul Ryan to bring the House back from holiday.

Ted Lieu, L.A. area congressman and full Air Force Reserves colonel, is leading the uphill bipartisan battle to block the arms sale. "I taught the law of war when I was on active duty," he told The Intercept. "You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients-- those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians. So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition... Many in Congress have been hesitant to criticize the Saudis’ operational conduct in Yemen... [The bombing is] actually creating more terrorists by killing all these civilians." Lieu introduced a Joint Resolution expressing "the sense of Congress that no transfer to Saudi Arabia of U.S. air-to-ground munitions should occur until the President certifies that Saudi Arabia: (1) demonstrates an ongoing effort to combat the mutual threat our nations face from foreign terrorist organizations, and (2) takes all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of civilian harm in the course of military actions," in late April but Ryan has it rotting away in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That committee is chaired by bloodthirsty Republican warmonger and small-minded partisan hack Ed Royce, whose district is just a few miles east of Lieu's, and who the DCCC has adamantly refused to target.

Lieu penned a letter to President Obama, along with Ted Yoho (R-FL), John Conyers (D-MI) and Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), urging him to postpone the sale:
Dear President Obama,

On August 8, your administration notified Congress of intent to sell $1.15 billion of weapons to Saudi Arabia, including tanks which would replace tanks destroyed in Saudi Arabia's war against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

We respectfully urge you to postpone this plan and withdraw the notification for the following reasons.

Past Congressional concerns about Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen have not been addressed. In October, Members of Congress wrote to you urging greater efforts to avoid civilian casualties in Yemen and achieve a diplomatic solution to the conflict. In June, 204 Members of the House, including 40 Republicans and all but 16 Democrats, voted to block the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia after reports of their use in civilian areas in Yemen. Yet, just in the last several days, a Saudi airstrike on a school in Yemen killed 10 children-- some as young as 6-years-old-- and a Saudi airstrike on an MSF hospital in Yemen killed 11 people.

Indeed, Amnesty International has documented at least 33 unlawful airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition across Yemen that appear to have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian facilities, such as hospitals, schools, markets, and places of worship. These attacks may amount to war crimes.

This military campaign has had a deeply troubling impact on civilians. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 3,704 civilians, including 1,121 children have been killed during the conflict. 2.8 million Yemenis have been internally displaced by the fighting, with 83 percent of the population now dependent on humanitarian assistance for survival. Any decision to sell more arms to  Saudi Arabia should be given adequate time for full deliberation by Congress.

We are concerned, however, that the timing of this notification during the August Congressional recess could be interpreted to mean that Congress has little time to consider the arms deal when it returns from recess within the 30 day window established by law. We are not aware of any compelling reason why Congressional approval of the sale could not be postponed to allow for meaningful Congressional debate on this issue that has major implications for both civilians in Yemen as well as our national security.

In announcing your decision to seek Congressional authorization for the use of force against the Syrian government in 2013, you stated that: "I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people." We strongly agree. We urge you to delay this proposed arms deal so that the people's representatives in Congress can give these issues the full deliberation that they deserve.

Thank you kindly for your attention to this matter.
As of today there were 50 signers: Justin Amash (R-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Beyer (D-VA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), John Conyers (D-MI), Danny Davis (D-IL), Pete DeFazio (D-OR), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Sam Farr (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Alan Grayson (D-FL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Walter Jones (D-NC), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Eleanor Norton-Holmes (D-DC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Frank Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chelli Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Ted Yoho (R-FL).

   By the way, don't look for Patrick Murphy's name on that list. His career has been largely financed by one of the most powerful Saudi families, the al-Rashids. Nasser al-Rashid is one of the king's top advisors and he's funneled immense sums into Murphy's career, much of it surreptitiously and illegally, having his sons give money to their girl friend's random relatives in Pennsylvania to max-out to Murphy and to their housekeeper to max-out to Murphy, even giving Harry Reid a $100,000 bribe for his SuperPAC to use against Grayson. (After one of the al-Rashids was publicly exposed for beating his wife (an employee of Murphy's) within an inch of her life-- a tradition in that family-- Reid was forced to return the money.) But al-Rashid's 4 sons, Ibrahim (the wife beater), Ramzi, Salman and Mohammed (who contributes money to Murphy and his cronies under the name "Moose al-Rashid" to throw off investigators) have funneled a non-stop flow of Saudi money into Murphy's campaign committees and SuperPACs. And what do they get? It's not just about Murphy not signing a letter like this. Murphy is on the House Intelligence Committee where the joke was that he is the only person dumber than Michele Bachmann to serve on the committee. But at least she wasn't feeding top secret information to any foreign governments.

A week ago, the NY Times editorial board wrote that the U.S. is complicit in the carnage in Yemen. They should have said war crimes. The U.S. "has enabled the coalition in many ways, including selling arms to the Saudis to mollify them after the nuclear deal with Iran. Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace."
Obama agreed to support the Yemen intervention-- without formal authorization from Congress-- and sell the Saudis even more weapons in part to appease Riyadh’s anger over the Iran nuclear deal. All told, since taking office, Mr. Obama has sold the Saudis $110 billion in arms, including Apache helicopters and missiles.

Mr. Obama has also supplied the coalition such indispensable assistance as intelligence, in-flight refueling of aircraft and help in identifying appropriate targets. Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support. Instead, the State Department last week approved the potential sale of $1.15 billion more in tanks and other equipment to Saudi Arabia to replace items destroyed in the war. Congress has the power to block this sale; Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, says he is discussing that possibility with other lawmakers. But the chances are slim, in part because of the politics.

Given the civilian casualties, further American support for this war is indefensible. As Mr. Murphy told CNN on Tuesday: “There’s an American imprint on every civilian life lost in Yemen.”

UPDATE: More Congressmembers Sign On

There are over 60 Members now who have signed Ted' letter to President Obama. The latest members to sign are Karen Bass (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Mike Capuano (D-MA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Bill Keating (D-MA), Dave Loebsack (D-IA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Jared Polis (D-CO), David Price (D-NC), Niki Tsongas (D-MA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL). Still no Patrick Murphy of course, who would never go against his Saudi financiers.

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