Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bill Maher Had Beto O'Rourke On Real Time This Week


Texas' primary was March 6. Incumbent Ted Cruz coasted to victory in the Republican contest-- 1,315,146 votes (85.35%) and El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke coasted to victory in the Democratic race, 640,769 votes (61.82%). 1,036,467 people voted in the Democratic primary and 1,540,890 voted in the Republican primary. As of the February 14 FEC reporting date Cruz had raised $17,452,363 and spent $11,906,543 to Beto's $8,708,746 (and $4,168,970 spent). Cruz's war chest, as of that date, has $6,025,231 and Beto's has $4,938,475. Media is expensive in Texas for statewide races. You have to advertise in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso and you still have over 30 other cities, like Laredo, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Killeen, Odessa, Plano, Waco, Abilene, Brownsville, etc with over 100,000 people.

Goal ThermometerCan a Democrat win statewide in Texas? The last time Texas elected a freshman Democratic senator was in 1970 (Lloyd Bentsen and the last time he was reelected, in 1988, was the last time Texas elected a Democrat to the Senate.) Cruz was first elected in 2012, beating Paul Sadler by over a million votes, 56.4% to 40.6%. Democrats like to point out that Texas is a no-vote state, that millions of Texans don't vote, which is true, and that if they could just get them out to vote... That may be true, but in 2016, Trump beat Hillary statewide 4,685,047 (52.2%) to 3,877,868 (43.2%). There's a lot of ground to make up. Will the Blue Wave sweep Texas in November and rid us of Cruz. The DSCC isn't betting on it. Beto O'Rourke might as well be running as an independent. The Bill Maher audience sure liked him. Watch-- and see if you want to support him by clicking on the Blue America Senate thermometer on the right.

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How Many More GOP Seats Did Trump Lose With His Vile Tweet About Andy McCabe?


Neither my old friend Cynthia in L.A. nor my even older friend Helen in Westchester is a rambunctious kid, at least not any more. Helen is pushing 70 and Cynthia passed that goal post some time ago. Every day, Cynthia says things about Señor Trumpanzee that I hope and pray the Secret Service isn't hearing. And Helen... she hates Trump even more than Cynthia does. I've been worrying about Helen because she tells me she stays up nights tossing and turning and fretting about what he's doing to the country. I know these two gracious ladies aren't the only Americans in this exact frame of mind-- from from it.

Take legal scholar Jeffrey Tubin, for example. "If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night. Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds."
In his statement, McCabe spoke with bracing directness. “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” he said. In other words, McCabe was fired because he is a crucial witness in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. The firing of Comey is the central pillar of a possible obstruction-of-justice case against the President, either in a criminal prosecution or in an impeachment proceeding. By firing McCabe, Trump (through Sessions) has attempted to neuter an important witness; if and when McCabe testifies against Trump, he will now be dismissed by the President’s supporters as an ex-employee embittered by his firing. How this kind of attack on McCabe plays out in a courtroom, or just in the court of public opinion, remains to be seen.

What’s clear, though, is the depth of the President’s determination to prevent Mueller from taking his inquiries to their conclusion, as his personal attorney, John Dowd, made clear. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Dowd said, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.” Of course, notwithstanding Dowd’s caveat that he was speaking only for himself, Rosenstein is on notice that his failure to fire Mueller might lead to his own departure. And Sessions, too, must know that his craven act in firing McCabe will guarantee him nothing. Trump believes that loyalty goes only one way; the Attorney General may still be fired at any moment.
Former CIA Director John Brennan tried to send his message in the language Trumpanzee understand: Tweetese: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America... America will triumph over you."

Barry McCaffrey is one of the most highly decorated 4-star generals in America. Trump isn't fit to wipe his ass. I suspect it wasn't easy for him to tweet Friday "Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr Putin."

Unlike most sane Americans, former FBI Director Jim Comey never refers to Trumpanzee as a pile of dung or something along those lines, and he still addresses him with the inappropriate monicker "Mr. President," as in "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

Sen. Mark Warner is a very conservative Democrat from Virginia. I rarely find myself agreeing with him on much--but this tweet is important: "Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now." Unfortunately, the Republicans are utterly devoid of any semblance of moral leadership. The only Republicans who are speaking up are the ones who have already announced their voluntary retirements-- like Charlie Dent (R-PA), who went on CNN Saturday morning and "harshly criticized the Trump administration’s decision to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, adding that he doesn’t think it bodes well for his party. 'Candidly, it looks like retribution and a bit vindictive,' Dent said. 'And I think it’s unfortunate. The man said he’s resigning, and on a Friday night before his 50th birthday, he’s fired to take away his pension? I don’t like the optics of this. I really don’t.' Dent said he thinks the attorney general made the decision under pressure from President Trump. Trump has repeatedly publicly demanded that Sessions fire McCabe, who is potentially a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president for possible obstruction of justice."

Goal ThermometerThe best realistic outcome we can hope for at this point is that something like 100 House Republicans-- some of the ones not speaking up (especially Paul Ryan)-- lose their seats in November. Sounds far-fetched? Not nearly as far-fetched as a candidate as mediocre as Conor Lamb in a district as red as PA-18 (R+11) could have beat Trump, Pence and Ryan's $10 million. Now, that's far-fetched! Don't listen to the media. They have no clue what's going on with electoral politics until the day after the election-- if then. Instead, be proactive: speak to friends-- persuade someone who wouldn't otherwise vote that his or her country needs them-- or volunteer on a campaign or contribute to a solid progressive candidate who is going to be vigilant against Trumpist tyranny and kakistocracy in general. (If you want to contribute... that's what that thermometer on the right is for. Click on it and give what you can-- even if you've never done so before.)

Friday night, by the way, I tweeted as well... in response to NBC host Andrea Mitchell:

By early Saturday morning congressmen Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) + Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) had already offered to hire Andrew McCabe in their congressional offices. We need more like them in Congress... and fewer like Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy. Joe Walsh is a hate talk radio host and a former far right-- far, far right-- congressman from Chicagoland. The way his former colleagues are enabling Trump is even too much for him! Today he fulminated that "Republicans have no freaking clue about what is going to hit them in November. They're in denial."

NY Daily News sports commentator Mike Lupica, hit the nail on the head for a lot of us yesterday: "People keep saying that Trump will never fire Mueller, because that would touch off a constitutional crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre in the heat of Watergate, when Nixon fired independent prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of his own attorney general and deputy attorney general. But every time you read or hear that, you have the same thought: What, we’re not having a constitutional crisis already?" And mainstream conservatives are losing their shit-- like Nicolle Wallace, former Communications Director for the George W. Bush White House and then a senior strategist for McCain.

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Republicans On The Wrong Side Of History... On The NRA And On Putin-Gate


Teachers with Guns by Nancy Ohanian

On the extreme right, the Freedom Caucus has decided they can replace Ryan with neo-fascist Mark Meadows (R-NC) as Speaker and they are doing everything they can to undermine Ryan and bolster Meadows. Mainstream conservatives have their own problems with the incompetent and ineffectual Ryan and are also eager for him to announce his retirement and move on. (Ryan is widely rumored to be waiting 'til after Easter to announce he isn't running, saving himself the career-tarnishing embarrassment of being beaten-- possibly heavily beaten-- by a construction worker in November.)

On Friday Elaina Plott, reporting for The Atlantic, noted that growing numbers of congressional Republicans are pressing for action on guns... pressing on Ryan. Needless to say, Meadows and the Freedom caucus aren't among them. And she noted that it's a month since the Parkland NRA/GOP massacre and a month since Señor Trumpanzee "told lawmakers he didn’t want to wait 'two weeks, three weeks, four weeks' to address gun violence in America, when 'people sort of forget and we go on.'...[S]students have helped keep the issue alive. And as Trump has backtracked on proposals he supported one month ago, including universal background checks and some kind of assault-weapons ban, reporters are continuing to ask questions."
As many Americans call for tighter gun laws after a mass shooting, Republicans are usually silent. According to the Republican lawmakers I spoke to for this story, there are several reasons why this is the case, from fears of primary challengers to the gun lobby. But, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, an increasing number of Republicans appear ready to abandon these concerns in favor of a more proactive response to gun violence. Now, they’re eager for their leadership to do the same, meaning an issue that has long united the party could suddenly expose even more rifts in an already fractured conference.

“There is a genuine lack of serious discussion on these issues,” Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who chairs the Second Amendment Caucus, told me. “Our leadership seems like the sheriff deputies at the Florida shooting: They don’t want to go in and take fire, and instead just hope the issue will burn itself out.”
Since 1990, the NRA and other so-called "gun rights" groups have given members of Congress and candidates for Congress $37,225,077 of which $32,287,496 went to Republicans and $4,257,394 went to Democrats, almost exclusively to Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. (Note: the DCCC is still actively-- very actively-- recruiting NRA-backed candidates for Congress, examples this cycle being Anthony Brindisi in New York, Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona, Elaine Luria in Virginia and, perhaps worst of all, Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey.) Below are the dozen worst House members in terms of how much blood money they've taken-- but not including the millions of dollars the NRA spends helping their favorite candidates with independent expenditures-- from the NRA and other gun groups (since 1990).

So far this cycle the dozen biggest bribe takers from the gun groups are listed here... but remember, the really big spending will come in the next seven and a half months, as we close in on the midterm elections, when the NRA will be fighting to defend their top congressional allies-- at least in part with illegal Russian money.

As the progressive winner of the TX-23 primary Rick Trevino is in the late May runoff to determine which Democrat will go up against Republican gun-extremist Will Hurd. This morning he told us that "Since I've been running for US Congress 3 of the top 10 worst mass shootings in US history have taken place. As long as we have NRA backed candidates like Will Hurd in the House and Senate, nothing will change. If the American people want gun reform they need to look at who takes money from the NRA and vote them out. Also, this is not just a GOP problem. In my home town of Laredo, Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX-28) has an A+ rating from the NRA. Any NRA backed candidate is garbage and needs to go and Democrats have to call out not just the GOP but NRA Dems within their ranks." That's why we love Rick-- outspoken and courageous. Please support his campaign here.

Brent Welder is running in an even redder district, and against an NRA favorite, Kevin Yoder in Kansas. "It is shameful," he told us, "that Rep. Kevin Yoder has decided that kowtowing to the corporate gun lobby and the NRA is more important than the lives of our children. We need leaders now more than ever on this issue and I will lead the efforts of reform and call out all gun lobby bootlickers like Rep. Kevin Yoder."

Levi Tillemann, the newest candidate Blue America is supporting, is running for the suburban Denver seat NRA ally Mike Coffman occupies. "It is becoming more and more evident," he told us, "that Republicans like Mike Coffman really have no empathy or real concern for the victims of gun violence.  The only thing that matters to GOP members is the continuing flow of green cash from the NRA spigot.  I call on Mike Coffman to return every penny he has accepted from the NRA and to stand up to the NRA and protect our children by passing safe gun laws."

On Friday, the editorial board of the Washington Post declared flatly that History Won't Be Kind, Republicans. The Republicans who care enough to have bothered to read it would have found out the board is furious at them for enabling Trump, Nunes and Putin. They blame the same guy who is getting all the pushback on a dysfunctional gun policy: Paul Ryan. "The nation's intelligence community," they wrote, "concluded long ago that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to hurt the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. In the face of this unprecedented attack on U.S. democracy, House Republicans have produced a report that casts doubt on the work of U.S. intelligence professionals whose conclusions were politically damaging to the White House. This was a new low for the Republican majority and their leader, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI)."
On Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Republicans officially stopped pretending to investigate Russian election meddling, handing over a draft report to their Democratic colleagues. They did not deny what is plainly impossible to refute, that the Russians aggressively interfered in the race to sow discord and undermine U.S. political institutions. But they disputed the intelligence community’s finding that the Russians engaged in these activities to help Mr. Trump. In fact, House Republicans are trying to draw connections between the Kremlin’s influence campaign and Ms. Clinton, always a convenient GOP punching bag, deflecting awkward questions about Russia’s clear affinity for Mr. Trump in 2016.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (CA), the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, and former intelligence officials decried the attempt to cast doubt on Russian intentions. “The four intelligence chiefs all agreed with the assessment, which was based on highly classified intelligence,” former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. told CNN. “This is a case of people living in their own reality bubbles when we can’t agree on basic facts.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III recently indicted 13 Russians for, among other things, “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump... and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” It is already on the record that the Russians selectively released damaging information on Democrats but not Republicans.

Perhaps sensing that their position was untenable, Republican Intelligence Committee members admitted to reporters later on Tuesday that the Russians had, indeed, attempted to harm Ms. Clinton, if not to help Mr. Trump, as though doing the former does not imply the latter.

If they’re unclear about Russian intentions, leaders won’t draw the right lessons, or even ask the right questions. Why did the Kremlin dislike Ms. Clinton and favor Mr. Trump? What kinds of candidates will the Russians attack, or help? How should voters assess the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

House Intelligence Committee Republicans also insisted that they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, just evidence of “bad judgment” in a few circumstances. It’s easy not to find evidence when you don’t look. Many potentially relevant witnesses went un-interviewed, and witnesses who refused to answer questions were let off the hook. Fortunately, while House lawmakers have decided that their work is done, the Senate Intelligence Committee continues investigating, as does Mr. Mueller. History will not judge kindly these legislators who abased themselves and their institution.
Anyone think it's just a coincidence that Putin laundered many millions of dollars into the Trump campaign through the NRA? And Paul Ryan... and the Republican Party-- on the wrong side of history? Yes, on everything.

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Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm Shits On Andrew McCabe For Trump


In case you missed Chris Hayes' jaw-dropping interview with double (or triple) agent Felix Sater Friday night, MSNBC has actually posted it in embeddable form. That's it above. Sater is the kind of instinctual career criminal who will work for the Mob one day, the FBI or CIA the next day and the Russians the day after-- at the time, of course-- working for no one but Felix Sater. They don't come lower. But they do come as low. Remember Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm? Like Sater, he likes to immunize himself from criticism by screaming how he served in the military. But, like Sater, Grimm has flitted from one thuggish outfit after another, betraying each in turn and always looking out for Number One.

And, like Sater, Grimm is currently out of prison and trying to rehabilitate his image-- except he's going about it by running for his old Staten Island/South Brooklyn congressional seat-- the most Mafia-oriented House seat in the country. Staten Island is the last redoubt of the Italian Mafia and south Brooklyn is America's top Russian Mafia territory. Both areas voted for Trump in 2016. The district as a whole gave Trump 53.6% of the vote to Hillary's 43.8%. The current congressman, Dan Donovan is a conventional mainstream conservative, a Republican whose voting record is pretty much identical to what Grimm's was like before he got hauled away to prison. He's a former district attorney, fighting for his political life in a district that is evenly split between the cops and robbers.

Grimm was Steve Bannon's first House recruit, just before Bannon was unceremoniously banished from Trumpville-- his project to destroy the Republican Party establishment shelved. Grimm, who spent a couple months with his head up Bannon's ass, now routinely denounces him. Long before Grimm ever imagined he would run for Congress, he was an undercover agent for the FBI. And an undercover agent for the Mafia-- a double agent. I started following Mikey Suits before he got into politics, when he was just the lowlife bag man who took the Duke Cunningham long-disappeared and unaccounted for $400,000 bribe from Thomas Kontogiannis to George W. Bush. Funny how Grimm, Cunningham and Kontogiannis all went to prison but the "missing" $400K has never been recovered. So much water under the bridge in the last decade and a half!

And last night, while many of us were watching slime bucket Felix Sater spinning his lies on MSNBC, Grimm-- remember, an ex-FBI agent-- released a statement about Andrew McCabe's firing.
"The firing of Andrew McCabe is the first time I've seen true justice on the federal level since the corrupt witch hunt I personally endured. Don't be shocked when Peter Strzok, Loretta Lynch and James Comey are the next to be revealed for the corrupt partisans that they are. As a former FBI agent that was investigated and fully exonerated by Office of Professional Responsibility and the Office of the Inspector General, I can attest to the integrity of that team of watchdogs. The FBI and DOJ's highest echelon of political appointees needs to be cleaned out and this was a necessary step in preserving the faith we all have in the nation's premier law enforcement agency and its brave rank and file."
Interesting perspective from the former Gambino Crime family operative! During the Romney campaign, when Grimm was already in Congress, enough Mikey Suits dirty laundry started leaking out that Romney staffers made the Staten Island congressman a persona non-grata and removed him from his campaign position and took his name off the official Romney website. The specific impetus was when Grimm snuck off from the the GOP frat party at the Sea of Galilee to visit some organized crime connections in Cyprus. The FBI was in hot pursuit and one of Grimm's Cyprus connections, Panayiotis "Peter" Papanicolaou, currently in prison. At the time, both the NY Times and the NY Post ran stories they'd been working on for a very long time... about Grimm's connection to the Mafia here at home, specifically he Gambino connection. Ironically, Grimm's first conversation with then Speaker John Boehner was to demand that Members of Congress be allowed to pack heat on the House floor. Instead Boehner had him banned from his office. The Post got excited about Grimm's Gambino connection.
Staten Island Rep. Michael Grimm investigated the Gambino crime family as an FBI agent-- before opening a restaurant with a business partner so close to one of the mob clan’s capos, he considers him an “uncle,” according to sources and court documents.

The first-term Republican’s ex-business partner, Bennett Orfaly, regularly travels to the federal lockup in Fort Dix, NJ, to visit his pal Anthony "Fat Tony" Morelli, Brooklyn federal prosecutors said.

Morelli’s mob assignments included overseeing the family’s investments in pornography, labor racketeering and illegal dumping, law-enforcement sources said.

Late Gambino boss John Gotti put him in charge of the family’s Florida rackets, one source said.

Morelli, who is serving time on several convictions, is “like an uncle” to Orfaly, another source said.

Asked about his Gambino connections, Orfaly declined to comment. Grimm is under investigation for alleged fund-raising irregularities in his 2010 campaign.

As an FBI agent, Grimm was responsible for keeping tabs on John Gotti’s brother Peter. He also worked undercover on a case that resulted in the arrest of Gambino soldier Greg DePalma.

...An Israeli named Ofer Biton, who until recently was jailed on an a charge of immigration fraud.

He was released to house arrest on a $1.5 million bond after Orfaly posted his stake in several restaurants co-owned with Biton, according to court papers.

Biton’s lawyer, John Meringolo, says the feds are threatening his client with more serious charges unless he testifies against Grimm in the fund-raising probe.

...Before his election to Congress in 2010, Grimm and Orfaly had been partners in an Upper East Side eatery, Healthalicious.

McGinley [Grimm's lawyer] says that prior to making his run, Grimm sold his share of that business to Orfaly.

But three sources familiar with the ongoing probe, told The Post the purchaser was Biton. Either way, Biton now owns Healthalicious outright, sources said-- and he is partners with Orfaly in several Manhattan pita restaurants.

As far as Biton goes, prosecutors claim that a decade ago, he was a member of an ecstasy ring in California and was wiretapped talking to a senior Israeli organized-crime associate. Biton was never charged with any drug crime.

In addition to his problems with the feds, Grimm also faces a civil lawsuit by Healthalicious workers, alleging wage violations when he was part-owner.

A lawyer for the workers, Michael Faillace, said they settled with Orfaly, but Grimm asked that an agreement with him be postponed until after the election.
Now keep in mind that before Grimm ran for Congress, he had been kicked out of the FBI, mostly for taking payoffs from Kontogiannis. Kontogiannis' story would be the biggest political blockbuster of our lifetimes. He's been told he'd be found dead in his cell if he ever tries to tell it though-- and it involves Saudis, Greeks, a $400,000 cash bribe to George Bush and... Grimm. In August, 2013, Grimm's fundraiser Ofer Biton plead guilty in a sweet deal that saved Grimm a lot of trouble.
A former fund-raiser for Representative Michael G. Grimm, whose campaign finances are under investigation by federal prosecutors, pleaded guilty on Friday to visa fraud.

The former fund-raiser, Ofer Biton, an Israeli immigrant who helped direct hundreds of thousands of dollars from supporters of a revered rabbi to Mr. Grimm’s campaign before his election to Congress in 2010, was arrested last August and charged with lying on his visa application.

Followers of the rabbi, Yoshiyahu Pinto, have said in interviews that Mr. Grimm or Mr. Biton told them that the campaign would find a way to accept donations that were over the legal limit, were given in cash or were given by foreigners who did not have permanent resident status.
Is it any wonder Grimm hates the FBI today. Too bad they don't talk about what he was up to when he was a double agent. It would make the Bureau look too bad.

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MI-06: One Candidate Has a 41% Favorability And One Has A 13% Favorability. Guess Which One The DCCC Backs


The ultimate establishment polling firm Democrats use for unbiased polling is Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Last week they did a poll of the MI-06 primary to see who the likeliest candidate against Fred Upton will be. So just likely Democratic primary voters. The most progressive in the 6-person race, Paul Clemens led the field-- "braced by impressive favorability ratings, a solid regional base and superior name recognition." Their finding were pretty straight forward:
Clements is the best known, most popular candidate. At this point in the race, Paul Clements holds at least a 27 point advantage in name recognition compared to every other Democrat running. He also posts an exceptional 4:1 positive-to-negative ratio in favorability.

Clements holds a lead in the trial heat. Buoyed by a strong regional base in Kalamazoo (26 percent Clements), Paul Clements leads the field with 21 percent of the vote share. Only one other candidate breaks 10 percent: 12 percent Eponine Garrod, 6 percent Matt Longjohn, 5 percent Rich Eichholz, 5 percent George Franklin, 4 percent David Benac. A 48 percent plurality of are undecided.

Sixth District Democrats are looking for change and looking to send a signal to Donald Trump. By far, voters identify “standing up to Trump” as the leading priority for a candidate for Congress this area. They are finding that candidate in Paul Clements.
Right after the polling was completed a second woman joined the list of candidates, Aida Gray from Galesburg. Tuesday night she'll be joining Clements, David Benac, Eponine Garrod, George Franklin, Matt Longjohn, and Rich Eichholz at the Greater Niles Senior Center for a candidates forum. Michigan primary day isn't until August 7th.

I asked a friend at the DCCC who the DCCC is backing in this primary. After the usual bullshit about how they don't support anyone in primaries, he admitted they have two horses in the race. Both are right-of-center establishment guys, physician Mark Longjohn, who claims they recruited him, and lobbyist George Franklin. Franklin is the bizarre candidate in the race-- he also has a bizarre $100,000 "contribution" in his war-chest that doesn't seem to have come from anywhere. Franklin is a conservative Democrat, a corrupt lobbyist, who has been helping to finance the career of the Republican incumbent, Fred Upton, who they're all running against. He doesn't make a persuasive argument that anyone should back him now. Sure the DC Dems like him, but he comes in dead last in local favorability (typical of candidates the DCCC likes).

Goal ThermometerBlue America has endorsed Paul Clements. Maybe his favorability rating is so much higher than any of his competitors is because his agenda is the clearest and most well-thought out. His opponents speak in cliches. Clements lays out actual plans. He wrote that "In southwest Michigan and across America people are working longer hours for less pay than at the end of the 20th century. This is not right. We have the strongest entrepreneurial spirit in the world, but to release its power we need to fix the things that are holding us back: a health care system that costs twice as much but delivers worse health outcomes than those in other countries; education that is failing to prepare many Americans for the 21st century; laws that reward moving American assets overseas; crumbling infrastructure; and the the largest prison population in the world-- which is incredibly costly and keeps many people from being contributing members of the community. Tax cuts will not bring more jobs and better pay to southwest Michigan, but fixing our health, education, infrastructure, and criminal justice systems will." And then he explains what he wants to do about it in Congress. I'm going to give some examples of how he wants to tackle the problems he's identified. If you like them, please consider contributing to his campaign by clicking on the Blue America thermometer on the right.
We spend over $10,000 per person on health care in 2016, compared with Canada, which spends less than US$5,000 per person. In addition, Canada, which has a universal health care system, had longer life expectancy and lower infant mortality. With Medicare for All we can reduce paperwork administrative costs, advertising, and insurance company profits-- and move to zero co-pays for essential services, including dental, vision, and mental health services-- while covering all Americans. We can strengthen prevention and empower patients.

In Congress, I will vote for Medicare for All such as through H.R. 676, the United States National Health Care Act, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers.

I will also support legislation to lower prescription drug costs and to improve women’s access to reproductive healthcare.

Our tax system should encourage investment in the United States, not overseas:

1- No more corporate inversions – you can’t escape American taxes by moving your headquarters overseas
2- End tax havens and tax breaks for corporations that send jobs and profits offshore.

Strengthen leadership in leading technologies for 21st-century economies

1- Promote solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies; end subsidies for carbon pollution
2- Global warming, a growing world population, and harm to the environment mean the world could once again face chronic food shortages, but federal funding for agricultural research has fallen. In 2009 we fell behind China. Strengthen agricultural research and development so America can continue to feed the world.

People know our infrastructure is collapsing. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives America’s infrastructure a grade of D+. This raises costs for all of us and weakens our global competitiveness.

Investment Program

We need a trillion-dollar infrastructure program paid for by ending tax loopholes for corporations. This will bring good jobs across the country that pay for themselves in higher productivity.We cannot have another crime like the Flint water crisis

Mass Transit

1- High-speed trains
2- Less time stuck in traffic and waiting at airports

Unions brought us the 40 hour work week, the end of child labor, and paid vacations. In recent years all the gains from increased productivity have gone to owners and management – none to workers. The median wage is below where it was two decades ago, while the stock market has more than doubled. To restore fairness to workers we need stronger unions. Workers have a right to participate in decisions about the workplace, and workers’ input is needed to build American competitiveness in the 21st century global market.

Global warming and climate change threaten human civilization. We need American leadership now to keep global warming below 2° Celsius, the target from the Paris Climate Agreement, and to help communities around the world to adapt to the effects of climate change and to care for its victims. There are also great economic opportunities from climate change, for southwest Michigan and for America, particularly in worldwide transitions to renewable energy. In Congress, I will work for American leadership in international organizations that address challenges from climate change. I will promote a rapid transition to energy that does not produce carbon pollution, to increased energy efficiency, and for American leadership in the clean energy global economy.

In Michigan, we are blessed with many gifts of nature, particularly the Great Lakes. It is our responsibility to be good stewards of these blessings, so our children and grandchildren can enjoy them as we have. We need to consistently apply the lessons of science to maintain their ecological integrity and to minimize threats from economic activities.

Oil pipelines under the Great Lakes present an undue risk. We have seen too many burst pipelines, and the companies that own and profit from these pipelines have not been reliable in assessing their risks. In particular, it is time to close the Line 5 pipelines, built in 1953 in the Mackinac Straits, where an oil spill would have devastating consequences for people, fish and wildlife, and the economy.

Money in politics is the main reason government is not working for the people. For democracy to succeed, politicians need to be accountable to voters-- not to big donors, or to billionaires who can fund advertising campaigns.

Candidates for certain offices should get free airtime on television and radio so voters can learn what they stand for.

We need public funding for elections. Perhaps each eligible voter could allocate $5 in public funds to the candidate of his or her choice.

Corporations are not people. I support overturning or working around Citizen’s United. Elected officials should be responsible to the voters in their districts, not to corporations.

Politicians should not be able to choose their voters. After each census, new district boundaries should be drawn by non-partisan commissions based on transparent principles, not by the party in power. I support Michigan’s Voters, not Politicians ballot initiative.

We owe our seniors a dignified retirement. Social Security is not in crisis, but to protect it for the long term we should remove the cap on income subject to Social Security tax. This would also permit larger Social Security payments to seniors living in poverty. We must continue to increase Social Security payments in line with inflation.

Americans are more burdened by student loan debt than ever. At $1.45 trillion, student loan debt is almost twice as high as total US credit card debt. Many graduates from my university and across the county are living with their parents; many can’t buy homes or cars or start a business; some even delay marriage due to debt.

For the 21st Century, a high school diploma is not enough. But while global competition demands a better educated workforce, funding for public colleges and universities has declined. While the Federal Reserve lends to banks at less than 2% interest, many students pay 8-9%. The federal government should not profit from student loans-- it should refinance loans at today’s low rates.

As a Democrat, I am ashamed that my party has failed to maintain the fairness that we stand for in society. The Democratic National Committee’s bias in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders before the conclusion of the primaries was unworthy of our party. Also, to restore the practice on one person—one vote, we should end the “superdelegate” system at our party conventions. Democratic Party practices should demonstrate the democratic equality we promote.
That's a sample of what Paul Clements hopes accomplish in Congress. He makes a good case for why voters in Kalamazoo, Niles, Sturgis, Benton Harbor, South Haven, Allegan and Three Rivers should vote for him. It helps explain the lopsided favorability in the new polls.

Obama won this district in 2008 (53-45%) and lost it narrowly in 2012 (50-49%), But in 2016 Trump crushed Hillary-- 51.3% to 42.9%. People in southwest Michigan wanted change, not the status quo. Bernie beat Hillary by a wide margin. Take Kalamazoo County, the biggest in the district. Not only did Bernie beat Hillary 60.6%, his 20,146 vote total was significantly moire than Trump's 8,655 total. This district is ready to come back to home to Democrats... but not with a Republican-lite status quo candidate. MI-06 is the wrong district for an establishment corporate Democrat.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

An open letter to Melania:

Dear Melania,

We've been going over various statistics relating to your husband's failure of a life and failure of a career (if one can call it that). After this examination, it appears that you are, to use, a precise, scientific term, slacking off. You have not, yet, reached the standards of your set by your husband's other business ventures. To do that, you would have to join his other wives and whatevers and walk out of the "relationship." If nothing else, ask yourself if that thing you call a husband is a good role model for Baron. Do you really want him to turn out hideously, almost freakishly, like Don Jr., Eric, or Ivanka? It's not too late, and we'd like to point out that there are plenty of children being well-raised in single parent households.

I know you probably think that you are trapped in some sort of ironclad prenup or other contract, but, as Stormy Daniels has shown, sometimes an agreement is not an agreement. I'm sure that there are plenty of lawyers that are ready willing and very able to be of assistance to you and Baron. From what we've seen, you can certainly find a lawyer that is better than any who will work for your husband at this point.

So, Melania, why not trade in your humiliation for some redemption? In fact, if you want to go the extra mile, you could lead the entire White House staff right out the door with you. Now, that's the kind of parade that your husband deserves!



PS. No, I am not a Russian Bot.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Marijuana Legalization And The 2018 Congressional Elections


Goal ThermometerAs you may know, Blue America has been working with the Greenwave PAC to help candidates campaigning on marijuana legalization with ads like the one above-- and the one below. Progressive candidates campaigning on legalization can be found-- and supported-- by clicking on the Blue America Green Wave thermometer on the right. NORML is also working hard for candidates including legalization in their platforms. This week they released an awesome Marijuana Law Reform Candidate Packet. The packet encourages candidates to consider adding the issue to their platforms by providing them with important scientific research and statistics related to the legalization of marijuana for both adult and medicinal use and deals with these 7 points:

●  Sixty-four percent of Americans support legalization; including outright majorities of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans (Gallup, 2017).

●  Seventy-six percent of Americans oppose federal intervention in state-lawful marijuana programs (Survey USA, 2017).

●  Ninety-four percent of Americans support the legalization of medical marijuana (Quinnipiac, 2017).

●  Twenty-two percent of Veterans consume marijuana to alleviate symptoms of a physical or mental ailment (American Legion, 2017).
Sample text for policy platform
The ongoing enforcement of cannabis prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant's medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color. It is time for federal lawmakers to acknowledge this reality. As your voice in Congress, I will support the descheduling of marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Once marijuana is federally descheduled similarly to alcohol, states will possess the autonomy to set their own cannabis regulatory policies, free from federal interference.
Suggested stump speech paragraph
A crucial component to reforming our nation’s criminal justice system is the reform of America’s marijuana laws. Over 600,000 Americans are arrested every year for minor marijuana possession offenses. These individuals, overwhelmingly young people and individuals of color, are often saddled with a lifelong criminal record as well as the stigma and lost opportunities associated with it-- such as the loss of student financial aid or employment. We should not be squandering precious law enforcement and judicial resources to target these otherwise law-abiding citizens.

By continuing to criminally prohibit the use, production, and sale of marijuana, we are ceding control to the black market. Doing so denies states’ crucial tax revenue that could fund important social services, and leaves marijuana production and distribution in the control of unregulated dealers who have no incentive to keep it out of the hands of our youth. If our 13-year experiment with alcohol prohibition in this country is deemed a failure, then how else can anyone define the 80-year long prohibition on marijuana? It is time to end this failed and morally bankrupt policy, remove marijuana from the federal Controlled Substances Act where it is currently considered on par with dangerous substances such as heroin, and allow states to set their own policies on this issue.

The majority of the American people agree that it is time to legalize and regulate marijuana, and it is time our state and federal laws reflect that reality.
Key points on the benefits of marijuana legalization

●  The legal market for adult and medical use of marijuana accounted for 149,304 jobs in 2017, a 22 percent increase since 2016. Equating to 26,490 new jobs added over a 12 month period.

●  In 2016, Colorado alone generated over $1.4 billion in combined recreational and medical marijuana sales. This accounted for nearly $200 million in tax and fees revenue, which was mostly designated for new school construction projects in the state. The state is expected to exceed $225 million in tax and fees revenue for 2017.
●  Oregon collected a total of $108.6 million in state and local taxes between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. That revenue was divided between multiple agencies and programs: the state school fund receives 40 percent, or $34 million; mental health, alcoholism and drug services receive 20 percent, or $17 million; Oregon State Police receive 15 percent, or $12.75 million, and the Oregon Health Authority receives five percent, or $4.25 million.
●  Nevada generated $3.8 million in tax and fee revenue in just the first month of legal recreational marijuana sales.

●  Legal cannabis markets are estimated to reach sales of $24.5 billion by 2021.

Social and Racial Justice

 ●  Even with a growing number of states reforming their marijuana laws, over 650,000 individuals nationwide were charged for marijuana related offenses in 2016.

 ●  Despite similar use rates to their white counterparts, African Americans are more 
than four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses nationwide.

 ●  After legalization, Colorado experienced nearly a 50 percent decline in the number of traffic searches of black drivers and Washington State experienced a 33 percent decline.
Key points on the benefits of medical marijuana
Marijuana has been part of humanity's medicine cabinet for almost as long as history has been recorded.
Of all the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, few are as tragic as the denial of medicinal cannabis to the tens of thousands of patients who could benefit from its therapeutic use.
Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have implemented a medical cannabis program and an additional 16 states have enacted more limited medical cannabis laws for access to CBD to treat qualifying conditions such as intractable epilepsy.

Modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in the treatment of a wide range of clinical applications. These include pain relief-- particularly of neuropathic pain (pain from nerve damage)-- nausea, spasticity, and movement disorders. Marijuana is also a powerful appetite stimulant, specifically for patients suffering from HIV, the AIDS wasting syndrome, or dementia. Emerging research suggests that marijuana's medicinal properties are neuroprotective and may protect the body against some types of malignant tumors.

Changes in the legal status of marijuana at the state level have not negatively impacted workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that the legalization of medical marijuana access is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.

Currently, more than sixty U.S. and international health organizations support granting patients immediate legal access to medicinal marijuana under a physician's supervision.
Data dispelling the common myths around cannabis
Despite what opponents of marijuana legalization claim, the legalization and regulation of marijuana for medical or recreational use is NOT associated with an increase in automobile accidents, traffic fatalities, youth use rates, crime, or workplace injuries.

Drugged Driving

●  Fatal traffic accident rates in legal marijuana states are no different than those in states where cannabis remains illegal.

●  "We (the state of Colorado) have not experienced any significant issue as a 
result of legalization. ... We have actually seen an overall decrease in DUI's since legalization. So, the short answer is: There has been no increase since the legalization of marijuana here."

Youth Use

●  "For adults and adolescents [in Colorado], past-month marijuana use has not 
changed since legalization either in terms of the number of people using or the 
frequency of use among users. Based on the most comprehensive data 
available, past month marijuana use among Colorado adolescents is nearly 
identical to the national average."


 ●  "There is evidence in this table that the legalization of recreational cannabis enacted in Washington caused a decrease in crime rates. The point estimates for rape, assault, robbery, burglary and theft are all negative. This conclusion is reinforced by the statistical significance of the drop in rapes and thefts. ... Our estimates reveal that the legalization decreased... both ordinary alcohol and binge alcohol... These effects on consumption suggest that one of the mechanisms underlying the reduction in crime may be a substitution away from other drugs ... such as alcohol, which makes consumers more aggressive than if consuming cannabis."

●  "[T]he introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) leads to a decrease in violent crime in states that border Mexico. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties close to the border (less than 350 kilometres) and for crimes that relate to drug trafficking. In addition, we find that MMLs in inland states lead to a reduction in crime in the nearest border state. Our results are consistent with the theory that decriminalization of the production and distribution of marijuana leads to a reduction in violent crime in markets that are traditionally controlled by Mexican drug trafficking organizations."

Impact on the Workplace

●  "There is no or insufficient evidence to support ... a statistical association between cannabis use and ... occupational accidents or injuries."
●  Employees who test positive for marijuana in workplace drug tests are no more likely to be involved in occupational accidents as compared to those who test negative. "This study fell short of finding an association between marijuana use and involvement of workplace accidents... This study cannot be taken as 
definitive evidence of absence of an association between marijuana and work 
related accidents but the findings are compelling."

●  "Utilizing the Current Population Survey, the study identifies that absences due to sickness decline following the legalization of medical marijuana... The results of this paper therefore suggest that medical marijuana legalization would decrease costs for employers as it has reduced self-reported absence from work due to illness/medical issues."
●  The enactment of medical marijuana laws is associated with a "9.4 percent increase in the probability of employment and a 4.6 percent to 4.9 percent increase in hours worked per week" among those over the age of 50. "Medical marijuana law implementation leads to increases in labor supply among older 
adult men and women."
●  Marijuana decriminalization is associated with increased probability of employment, particularly for young males, and an average increase of 4.5 percent in weekly earnings. African American males experienced the greatest average wage increase. "This data provides suggestive evidence that marijuana decriminalization laws improve extrinsic labor market outcomes... This result is consistent with existing literature that suggests black adults, especially men, stand to benefit the most from removing these penalties."
How marijuana can be used to combat the opioid crisis
With our nation in the midst of a serious opioid crisis, recent research has revealed that access to marijuana is one proven strategy for helping curb the harms caused by opioid abuse.

Cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid- related hospitalizations, opioid-related traffic fatalities, opioid-related drug treatment admissions, and opioid-related overdose deaths.

Below are excerpts of important medical research highlighting these effects:
● “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

● “We used an interrupted time-series design (2000-2015) to compare changes in level and slope of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado stores began selling recreational cannabis. ... Colorado's legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado."

● Compared to non-users, medical cannabis enrollees "were more likely either to reduce daily opioid prescription dosages between the beginning and end of the sample period (83.8 percent versus 44.8 percent) or to cease filling opioid prescriptions altogether (40.5 percent versus 3.4 percent)." Enrollees were also more likely to report an improved quality of life. "The clinically and statistically significant evidence of an association between MCP enrollment and opioid prescription cessation and reductions and improved quality of life warrants further investigations on cannabis as a potential alternative to prescription opioids for treating chronic pain."

● "Medical marijuana policies were significantly associated with reduced opioid pain reliever-related hospitalizations but had no associations with marijuana-related hospitalizations. ... Medical marijuana legalization was associated with 23% (p=0.008) and 13% (p=0.025) reductions in hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse and OPR overdose, respectively; lagged effects were observed after policy implementation."

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Senators-- Democratic Senators-- Who Vote To Confirm Trump's New Cabinet Garbage Are Voting For Torture As A Legitimate Policy


Revolving Door by Nancy Ohanian

The Trump White Mad House is still a chaotic mess, in complete turmoil orchestrated my the fool Putin placed there. Supposedly, at least according to the Wall Street Journal John Kelly is staying on-- for now-- as chief of staff. H.R. McMaster, on the other hand, will be replaced as soon as Trump can persuade someone to take the job. This week a West Wing staffer in Señor Trumpanzee's White House was widely quoted saying that "This is the most toxic working environment on the planet... There's no leadership, no trust, no direction and at this point there's very little hope." Other heads on the chopping block-- reputations ruined because of their collaboration with the fascist clown-- include Ben Carson, David Shulkin, Steven Mnuchin, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Ryan Zinke and Vanessa Trump, estranged wife of Trumpanzee Jr., and others who have been using taxpayer dollars to live like royalty.
At least a half-dozen current or former Trump Cabinet officials have been mired in federal investigations over everything from high-end travel and spending on items such as a soundproof phone booth to the role of family members weighing in on official business. On Wednesday alone, newly disclosed documents revealed fresh details about spending scandals at both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

...The controversies surrounding members of Trump’s Cabinet have caused upheaval within the administration, prompting White House officials to scramble in an effort to avert any further political fallout and to summon agency leaders for face-to-face ethics meetings.
Meanwhile, Señor Trumpanzee is using Ivanka as a substitute for fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. CNN and Politico are both reporteing that Trump could have trouble getting new appointments confirmed. CNN was mild, reporting that Trumpanzee's "appetite for an ambitious shake-up of his Cabinet and other key advisers is already facing headwinds from inside his own administration and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. Trump's nominee to run the CIA, Gina Haspel, is causing heartburn among Senate Republicans because of her role in overseeing an interrogation and detention program. Meanwhile, at least one Republican and a handful of Democrats in the narrowly divided Senate are already planning to oppose Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee to succeed Rex Tillerson, who the President fired Tuesday from his post as secretary of state. There is also some trepidation among the national security establishment about the potential of hardliner John Bolton replacing H.R. McMaster, whose fate as national security adviser is in doubt, according to several sources. And some top Senate Republicans are warning the White House of overburdening lawmakers with too many nominations. 'With everything else we have to do around here, having the prospect of two additional confirmation fights perhaps is going to be a challenge,' said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican." Politico went much further with the idea of the Democrats actually being able to block the worst of the dreck Trump wants to bring into government.
The White House was hoping for a smooth 2018 on Capitol Hill. Instead, President Donald Trump is staring at two bitter confirmation fights-- and the possibility emboldened Democrats could block his new Cabinet nominees.

Trump’s decision to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson at the State Department-- and to elevate Pompeo’s controversial deputy Gina Haspel, who hasn’t previously been confirmed-- has created a pair of high-stakes battles in the Senate, where the GOP enjoys a threadbare 51-49 advantage.

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) opposing both nominees and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) absent while he undergoes treatment for brain cancer, Trump will need Democrats to support his picks.

The looming struggle to get Cabinet replacements through underscores just how much the political calculus has changed for Trump since the early days of his administration, as Democrats look ahead to the midterms and throw off any semblance of cooperation with the White House.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), for example, supported Pompeo to be CIA director, as did 14 of his colleagues in the minority. Democrats say Pompeo will fall far short of that-- if he gets any Democratic support at all.

“Both of them have serious questions to answer and neither confirmation is a sure thing,” Schumer told Politico in a statement.

Republicans agree that failed confirmation votes are a real possibility.

...Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Z), who serves on the Foreign Relations panel, has been privately cited by Democrats as a potential flip vote on both Pompeo and Haspel. A vocal Trump critic, he said he’s “looking into” Haspel’s record and wants to hear willingness from Pompeo to break with Trump on Russia.

“We need people who will stand up to the president, frankly, on some of these issues. I want to make sure he’s willing to do that,” Flake said in an interview.

...Trump’s demonstrated preference for unorthodox figures could leave some Democrats inclined to accept the pair, who few would label unqualified even if they disagree with them on policy.

Republicans also have the advantage of a cadre of Democratic senators facing reelection in 2018 in states Trump easily won: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All four voted to confirm Pompeo at the CIA.

...Short of blocking the picks altogether, Democrats could still cause serious headaches for the White House throughout the process.

“The biggest danger for the White House is that both of these people are coming from inside the administration and are going to be asked to talk about what’s happened inside the administration during their confirmation hearings,” said Matthew Miller, who helped shepherd former Attorney General Eric Holder through his confirmation hearings and joined him at DOJ as a spokesman.

He pointed as an example to a Washington Post report from June 2017 that Trump complained to Pompeo and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats early in his presidency about then-FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Russia probe.

If Pompeo refuses to address that conversation, Democrats could use that as justification for voting against him, Miller said, since such questions go to how Pompeo reacted to presidential pressure while leading the CIA.

“If you invoke executive privilege at your oversight hearing, there’s nothing the senators can do to you,” Miller said. “In a confirmation hearing, you can lose votes over it.”
Is it a "purity test" to support and vote for Democrats who are not going to help block garbage nominees like Haspel and Bolton to influential posts? Fake Democrats like Heitkamp, McCaskill and Manchin are going to make the difference whether or not the U.S. goes back to torturing people.

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Australia Solved The Gun Problem. We Can Too


-by Reese Erlich

Progressives aren’t supposed to say this. But none of the major gun control proposals now being debated in Washington would actually stop mass shootings. I know that sounds heretical, or even worse, like an echo of the National Rifle Association line. But it’s true.

An AR-15 assault rifle

Let’s take a look:

Ban sales of AR-15 and other assault rifles. Assault rifles are deadly. But other semi-automatic weapons, which would not be banned, are just as dangerous. And even if all semi-automatic rifles were banned, Americans still have access to plenty of deadly ordinance. In 1966 a shooter at the University of Texas used a bolt action and pump action rifles to murder 14 and wound 31.

Better background checks will stop the shooters. Such checks might stop a random shooter or two, but almost all the recent mass killers would have passed background checks. Proposed stricter background checks would not stop gun sales to the severely mentally ill.

Require gun purchasers to be 21. Ask any teens who have had an adult buy them bottles of alcohol how well that works. In a number of recent shootings, young teens stole guns from their parents’ gun cabinets.

There’s a fundamental flaw in gun reform laws currently under consideration. America is flooded with firearms. Potential mass murderers have access to tens of millions of legal and illegal guns. The spousal abuser or the psychopath can find a very deadly weapon with relative ease. So even the most positive, partial reforms won’t solve the problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I support significant reform measures-- but for political reasons-- not because they will have much immediate impact. The NRA’s stranglehold on US politics must be broken. Oregon took a good step recently by prohibiting domestic abusers and those subject to restraining orders from owning guns. Banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines would definitely weaken the gun lobby’s power.

And I think it’s time Americans seriously consider gun reform that would actually stop mass killings. Australians did it and so can we.

The US and Australia share some common history. The British sent settlers to occupy colonial land, although the Australians had to get out of prison first. Both countries encouraged gun ownership by white settlers, Rebecca Peters, a representative of Australia’s International Action Network on Small Arms, told me. “Early settlers depended on killing animals and the indigenous people who lived there before.”

And in modern times both countries had strong gun lobbies paid for by firearm manufacturers. The Australian gun lobby had blocked effective gun control at both the federal and state levels.

For Australians, everything changed on April 28, 1996. That day a young curly haired, blond man brought an AR-15 and another semi–automatic rifle to the popular tourist town of Pt. Arthur in southeastern Tasmania. He fired randomly, killing 35 people and wounding 18. The massacre of men, women and children shocked Australians much like the Parkland, Florida impacted Americans.

But the Aussies did something about it.

Just 12 days after the shooting, conservative Prime Minister John Howard brought together legislators to pass comprehensive, national gun control laws. But what appeared to be a legislative miracle was actually the culmination of years of grass-roots efforts.

Local activists and public health professionals had been educating the public since the late 1980s, said Peters. They found a sympathetic audience among trade unionists and some Labor Party politicians. “We built a solid grassroots movement,” she said. “We didn’t just leap into tragedy mode after a shooting.”

Activists called for universal gun registration, and it was just as controversial in Australia as in the US. The gun lobby argued that the government would confiscate everyone’s guns.

Simon Chapman, emeritus professor in public health at the University of Sydney, remembers the most effective argument gun reform campaigners made on that topic.

“We register cars,” he would say. “We register boats. We even register dogs. So what’s the problem in registering guns?”

So in the spring of 1996, the federal parliament passed a comprehensive measures that included:
All semi-automatic rifles and pump action shotguns were banned, as were high capacity magazines.

The government purchased existing firearms that had been banned, paying retail plus 10 percent.

All firearms were registered and new buyers were required to prove a “genuine reason” for gun ownership such as hunting or target practice at a shooter’s club.

New gun owners must wait 28 days to take delivery, be subject to a comprehensive background check, and take a gun safety course.
The results were striking. There have been no mass shootings. Gun murders and suicides have dropped precipitously. There are 200 fewer deaths every year as a result of gun control, according to Peters.

And, oh yes, hunters continue to hunt, and target shooters continue to plink. No armies of jack booted police have stormed private residences to seize weapons.

Australia’s stringent gun control laws aren’t likely to be adopted in the U.S. anytime soon. But we can learn something from their political organizing.

Today, the NRA stops even the smallest gun reforms from passing the U.S Congress. But other, seemingly undefeatable lobbies nave been weakened. Look at Big Tobacco and the right-wing Cuba Lobby. The NRA could be next.

Today the NRA faces a formidable enemy. The Parkland high school students have sparked grass-roots efforts among other students and their parents. They’ve sat in at the Florida state house and in the U.S. Senate.

Peters said grass roots organizing defeated the gun lobby in Australia and it can be done in the US as well. “The NRA uses power of intimidation,” she said. “And they often win the public relations war. But they can be defeated.”

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