Monday, February 27, 2017

Guess Who Wants To See Even More Unregulated Dark Money Pouring Into Elections


When I talk with candidates for Congress about why they want to run, about whether motivations are, one constant I hear from virtually every single candidate is about campaign finance reform. And if the number one issue for them is, say, healthcare or national security, the number 2 or 3 issue will always be repairing a broken system that allows Big Money to buy our democracy. This is also an issue that polls well among the voting public. When Bloomberg polled the issue a couple of years ago they found that 78% of Americans-- so not just normal people but even Republicans-- want to see the Citizens United decision overturned. In June of 2016 Ipsos found that "reducing the influence of money in politics is one of the top five most important issues facing the country."
The results suggest there is a disconnect between the public’s priorities and their elected officials’ agenda. Of the top five issues facing the country identified by respondents-- the economy, health care, terrorism, education and money in politics-- money in politics is the only issue elected leaders have not addressed with major legislation in more than a decade. As a result, more than 80 percent of respondents said the influence of money in politics is worse than at any other point in their lifetime, and 70 percent believe our democracy is at risk if we do not take immediate steps to fix the problem... This is one of the top five most important issues for Democrats and independents, and top six for Republicans, ahead of November... An overwhelming majority-- 78 percent of respondents-- say we need sweeping new laws to reduce the influence of money in politics. Eighty-five percent of individuals age 55 and older, who witnessed passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, believe sweeping changes are necessary."
Señor Trumpanzee doesn't agree. According to a report from this morning's Washington Examiner, he intends to replace the entire Federal Election Commission-- one of Washington's most dysfunctional entities-- with the intention of further deregulating campaign finance. Trump is likely to pick corrupted fake-Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- a New Dem or Blue Dog type-- to fill the 3 Democratic seats.

All the commissioners but Democrat Ann Ravel, who recently announced she's resigning "are serving on expired six-year terms and can be replaced at any time by Trump. Typically, commissioner names are suggested by the sitting president and Senate leader on the other political side. By law, the commission is split, three Democrats and three Republicans. But experts said Trump could shake up the process, especially since his top White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, was a commissioner. McGahn pushed several issues that irked Democrats, including, of course, deregulating campaign finance. Trump can't pick a Republican for the Democratic seats, but he can go with an independent or moderate and is sure to look for a change from liberals like Ravel and fellow Commissioner Ellen Weintraub... "It is expected that Don McGahn will have significant input into who the Republican nominees are, and Chuck Schumer will likely have a leading role in picking the Democratic nominees. But because Republican leader Mitch McConnell cares about FEC issues, too, I wouldn't rule his input out," said one election law expert. Trump is expected to focus on potential commissioners with views more in tune with McGahn.

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Americans Can't Get A Do-Over But They Crave A Referendum On Trump


It must have been extraordinarily depressing for sincere conservatives, but on Sunday, Tim Alberta, writing for Politico , noted that the conservative movement is Donald Trump. Trumpists at CPAC wouldn't have been waving Russian flags when Trump took the stage except for the fact that the flags were printed with "TRUMP" on them and "conservatives would ordinarily oppose protectionist, cronyist, big-spending, debt-accumulating policies-- if they weren’t signature stances of the new Republican president." Today, Miss McConnell lisped on leaving a meeting at the White House that the Trump agenda and the Senate Republicans' agenda is identical. I bet that caused some concern for Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV)... maybe ever Ted Cruz (R-TX), all of whom will face serious reelection contests in 2018.
To spend three days at this year’s CPAC, the annual right-wing carnival of politics and culture, was to witness an ideology conforming to an individual rather than the other way around. The president’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, set the tone Thursday morning when asked to assess Trump’s impact on the conservative movement. “Well, I think by tomorrow this will be TPAC,” she said. The moderator laughed and so did the audience members, but it wasn’t a joke: Anyone searching for a brand of conservatism independent of the new president would have walked away sorely disappointed.

After a three-day celebration of Trumpism, the announcement of the straw poll results on Saturday afternoon told the whole story. A full 86 percent of attendees approved of Trump’s job performance so far, compared with just 12 percent who disapproved. More consequentially, on the question of whether Trump is “realigning the conservative movement,” 80 percent agreed and only 15 percent disagreed. Both statistics were met with cheers inside the main ballroom.

“In many ways, Donald Trump is the conservative movement right now,” Jim McLaughlin, the Republican pollster who conducted the survey, told CPAC attendees. “And the conservative movement is Donald Trump.”

To some extent, everyone expected to see Trump remake the Republican Party in his image; he became its leader upon clinching the presidential nomination last July and solidified that status for at least four years on November 8. But Trump was not supposed to bend conservatism to his will-- at least, not this quickly. Certainly, he has thrilled the GOP grassroots with certain decisions, such as signing executive orders aimed at deregulation, beginning a crackdown on illegal immigration and nominating an originalist in Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But he has also done other things--facilitating a deal with Carrier in Indiana that smacked of crony capitalism; bullying private corporations and individual citizens; declaring reporters the enemy of the American public; asserting a moral equivalence between the U.S. government and Vladimir Putin’s-- that would typically put any politician in the crosshairs of the right.

Trump, however, has encountered scant dissent from his party’s ideological base. So he came to CPAC not to pay homage to the traditions of conservatism, but to bask in the supremacy of his own movement, one that he and his allies believe will supplant the outdated orthodoxies peddled for decades by the very people who greeted him like a conquering hero on Friday morning.

...Only a year ago, CPAC attendees-- the majority of whom supported either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio-- threatened a mass boycott of Trump’s scheduled speech. He ultimately cancelled his appearance, and conservatives in attendance roared with approval whenever one of the speakers lambasted the man who, to their great dismay, had emerged as the Republican presidential front-runner.

“Last year we were talking about a walkout if Trump showed up, and this year it’s all Trump all the time. It has completely changed,” said Dominic Moore, a University of North Carolina student who attended CPAC for the first time in 2016 and backed Rubio in the GOP primary. “Last year the Make America Great Again hats were few and far between. Now they’re everywhere. Last year the speakers were attacking him and now everyone’s done a full 180. They’re all on the bandwagon. Everything has changed.”

And that's just fine with Democrats. Saturday a suburban swing district in Delaware-- where the same GOP candidate narrowly lost 51-49% last time he ran-- annihilated the Trumpist candidate, 7,314 votes (58.13%) to 5,127 (40.75%). His campaign slogan was "Make Delaware First Again." That's a big swing in a swing district and it can be attributed to 2 related factors: a doubling of special election turnout and Donald J. Trump. The election was very much a referendum on his first 30 days.

Yesterday NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a poll showing Trump's job approval numbers continuing to slide. No one has ever seen a president become so unpopular with the American people sop fast-- which is even more notable when you understand that Republicans just love him. It's normal Americans who detest him so thoroughly. A large majority ofAmericans find him temperamentally unfit to be president, dishonest and ignorant and untrustworthy. NBC: "Trump's job approval rating stands at just 44 percent-- a record low for a newly inaugurated commander-in-chief-- and half of Americans say that his early challenges suggest unique and systemic problems with his administration... In the poll, conducted February 18-22, 48 percent of Americans said they disapprove of Trump's performance as president and 32 percent said that his first month in office demonstrates that he is not up to the job. Asked about early challenges in the first month of his presidency, 52 percent called the issues 'real problems' that are specific to his administration, while 43 percent of Americans attributed them to typical 'growing pains' for any new president.
Trump begins his tenure in a dramatically less popular position than any of his predecessors. He is the only president in the history of modern polling to begin his first term with a net negative approval rating-- and it's not close. Compared to Trump's net negative rating of -4 percent, Barack Obama began his presidency with a net positive 34 percent; George W. Bush and Bill Clinton enjoyed a similar advantage, and George H.W. Bush's score of popular goodwill pushed even higher to a net positive of 45 percent.

Trump also continues to register particularly dismal ratings when it comes to his temperament, with just 18 percent giving his demeanor a thumbs up compared to 55 percent who rank it as poor.
And the analysis of the poll's results end with a warning to Democrats that most will adamantly refuse to hear:
One sentiment that unites the fractured nation is fury at the establishment in Washington. Fully 86 percent of those surveyed said they believe that a small group in D.C. has "reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost."

That includes 88 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats.

But Trump's election has also buoyed the share of Americans who say that the economic and political systems of the United States are NOT stacked against them.

Before the 2016 election, 48 percent of the public said that they faced significant disadvantages because of the country's economic and political systems. That's down to 43 percent in the latest survey, largely because of a big swing in Republican views. Before the November election, 54 percent of Republicans expressed the view that the system was stacked against people like them. After the election of a president who pledged to lift up "the forgotten man," that share plummeted by 14 points.

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Fake News Channel Fox Also Manufactures Fake "Experts" To Bolster The Lies It Feeds Its Hapless Viewers


Bill O'Reilly just making up his own "facts"

Trump and Putin re working furiously to reshape access to the minds of their followers, primarily by undermining public confidence in the media. Putin actually has media people who step too far out of line murdered. So far Trump has resisted that particular authoritarian impulse. But it's early yet.

While Trump and his regime were intensifying their campaign against the NY Times and the TV networks last week, the Putin regime was accusing The Times, Bloomberg and NBC of spreading false information about Mother Russia. American polls show that, by wide margins, Americans have more faith in the media than in either Trump or Putin, both of whom are widely seen as congenital liars and manipulators.

New PPP survey

Rememeber Hillary's "vast right wing conspiracy?" Trump and Putin are just cogs-- big ones-- in that wheel. But they're not alone. Yesterday the Daily Mail took a closer look at Fox News' attempt to justify Trump's crackpot statements about Sweden by airing an interview by Bill O'Reilly-- a master of fake news-- with a make believe Swedish national security advisor. Fox should lose its license to broadcast because of this incident. Seems harsh? I don't think so. Let's look into who Nils Bildt is.

Sweden may be laughing at Fox and Trump but Americans shouldn't be. Bildt is just a random right-wing nut from Sweden who O'Reilly and Fox tried portraying as a national security official to give credence to his reactionary, xenophobic ravings. The government of Sweden has denounced him as an imposter. Let's hope Trump doesn't appoint him to the National Security Council with all the other crackpots he's "accidentally" put onto that body!
[I]f viewers might have taken the 'advisor' for a government insider, the Swedish Defense Ministry and Foreign Office told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter they knew nothing of him.

In fact Bildt is an 'independent analyst' who moved to the US in 1994. He describes himself as a founding member of Modulus World LLC,  a corporate geopolitical strategy and security consulting business which has offices in Washington, Brussels and Tokyo.

In his bio, Bildt boasted of his expertise on defense and national security issues. He said he had served as a naval officer, worked for Japanese officials and had written books on creating business opportunities in hostile environments.

But security experts in Sweden said he wasn't a familiar figure in their ranks in that country.

'He is in not in any way a known quantity in Sweden and has never been part of the Swedish debate,' Swedish Defence University leadership professor Robert Egnell said by email to The Associated Press on Saturday.

He and Bildt-- also known then as Nils Tolling-- were in a master's degree program in war studies together at King's College London in 2002-2003, and Bildt moved to Japan soon after, he said.

Bildt has since admitted that he is merely an 'independent analyst' and says Fox knew as much when it booked him to appear on the show.

He told the Washington Post he made it 'clear' to producers before going on-air that he did not work in official capacity. In his response to Mediate, he said his job title wasn't the issue.

'Sorry for any confusion caused, but needless to say I think that is not really the issue. The issue is Swedish refusal to discuss their social problems and issues.'

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, who has a brother and son with the same name, said he believed the man was cashing in on his family's political pull.

The executive producer of The O'Reilly Factor said Bildt was recommended by people the show's booker consulted with while making numerous inquiries about potential guests.

'After pre-interviewing him and reviewing his bio, we agreed that he would make a good guest for the topic that evening,' executive producer David Tabacoff said in a statement.

The network said O'Reilly was expected to address the subject further on Monday's show.

Bildt's appearance comes  a week after Donald Trump appeared to refer to a terror attack in Sweden which never happened.

The president cited 'what's happening in Sweden right now' during a speech on terror across Europe, prompting many to deduce he was out of touch with facts.

President Trump later said he was in fact referring to the country's immigration issues that he'd read on Fox News.

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Obama and the Perez Election — Are the Democrats Trying to Fail?


Bernie Sanders: "Are they going to welcome into the Democratic Party the working class in this country and young people, or is it going to be party of the upper middle class and the cocktail crowd and the heavy campaign contributors? Which to a significant degree it is right now."

by Gaius Publius

[Obama] called DNC members himself [on behalf of Tom Perez], and had aides including confidante Valerie Jarrett, former political director David Simas and his White House director of political engagement Paulette Aniskoff working members by phone through the votes on Saturday afternoon.

I recently wrote about the recent race for DNC Chair between Sanders-endorsed and CPC co-chair Keith Ellison on the one hand, and Obama- and Clinton-wing-endorsed Tom Perez on the other (see "Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party"), and concluded the following.
Four points:
  • There's also no question, whatever the organizational merits of any of the DNC Chair candidates, that for medium- to low-information voters this is seen as a proxy battle between the Obama-Clinton wing and the Sanders wing of the Party (search here for the phrase "proxy battle").
  • And there's absolutely no question that one of Sanders' big issues in the primary was (a) the role of money in politics, and (b) the role of money in the way the Party does business. Needless to say, that message resonated with a great many supporters who had no interest in seeing the Party's current leadership continue. That was not only true for all Sanders voters in the primary; it was true for many Sanders supporters who failed to turn out in general election as well.
  • Which means, finally, that if Perez wins this contest, those medium- to low-information voters may well think the Party hasn't changed much after all, and just stay home again in 2018.
After all, don't you think that if every Sanders supporter had pulled the lever for Clinton, she'd have won in a landslide instead of lost in a squeaker?
Whatever the merits of the two leading candidates, Perez and Ellison, with respect to this position, it could not be more obvious that the Party establishment, including and especially its outgoing, still-popular, eight-year president, really really wanted Perez to win.


Control, the Appearance of Control...

For whatever combination of reasons, the need of many long-time Party insiders, from the county level up through the national level, for control of the Party is extremely great. This may be in part due to the nature of humans to protect territory, especially long-held territory. The local clique that has always run Cub Pack 257 our of your local church, for example, may resent like hell the influx of a group of new parents who start thinking, "Why are you running things this way?"

(And imagine their irritation if those parents discovered that much of their Cub Pack money went into the hands of a "preferred supplier" of equipment who happened to be married to the Assistant Pack Leader?)

Of course, organizations don't always end up filled with insiders holding tight to power for its own sake. My local HOA, for example, went in two years from having a self-protective, angry, clique-led insider club to a welcoming, "let's hear from the owners" inclusive leadership group — but only after a series of electoral coups took out the lower-level insiders and finally, the board chair himself (who suddenly discovered a need to move to a penthouse in a different city).

But it happens often enough, and it's certainly — and for those with eyes, obviously — happening inside the modern (post-Reagan) Democratic Party. There may be any number of causes, but the result is the same.

Control of the Party. However it came about — I have a private opinion on the source of this need for dominance — starting with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, when the Democratic Party reshaped itself in response to 12 years of Republican rule, hatred by establishment Democrats directed at those to their left grew fierce. It also became quite noticeable.

For example, Matthew Karp recently wrote at Jacobin:
Two stark facts have defined the 2016 Democratic primary since the campaign began last spring. The first is the remarkable success of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, who appears to be mobilizing far more support from lower-income voters than any other Democratic underdog in a generation.

The second fact, evident since the beginning of the campaign but even more visible in recent weeks, is the fierce determination of the Democratic Party elite to nominate Hillary Clinton.

With both Sanders and Donald Trump surging in the polls, many observers have framed the 2016 race as one that pits insurgent populist campaigns against consolidated party establishments. It’s easy for this kind of insider versus outsider analysis to become sloppy and conspiratorial. In fact, the contours of “the establishment” are often difficult to define, and a closer examination frequently reveals several different elite factions facing off against each other.

Yet there is abundant evidence that the Democratic Party elite has thrown its full weight behind Clinton — and against Sanders — in ways that surpass any other primary campaign in recent history.
I won't comment here about the reasons for this animus, but I will state it as a fact. "Third way," establishment Democrats, by and large, hate "the left." Jesse Jackson and his supporters used to be the incarnation of those "to the left," which explains and accounts perfectly for Bill Clinton's cruel and public Sister Souljah moment.

Today, Sanders and his supporters are the current incarnation. Establishment Democrats' need to keep control of the Party — to keep the rest of the Party in line and under their thumb — is still clearly one of their guiding principles.

The Appearance of Control. Once a leadership elite seeks that degree of control  — as linked just above, Chuck Schumer reportedly preferred to see Republican Pat Toomey re-elected to the Senate than let someone as independent as Democrat Joe Sestak into the insider club he's in charge of — the appearance of control is also critical. (It should be noted that Schumer was an early supporter of Ellison's candidacy.)

Much of the press commentary about this race, in attempting minimize the split between the Sanders wing and the Obama-Clinton wing, saw either of the choices, Perez and Ellison, as good ones for the Party. For example, US News concluded prior to the voting, "Ellison would likely serve the party well, and his Muslim faith would serve as clear symbolic counterpoint to the policies of the Trump administration. However, the party should resist the factionalizing between Sanders and Clinton supporters and focus on the candidate who can build the infrastructure, organization, messaging and fundraising networks to make the party more competitive across the 50 states." Nathan Robinson writes much the same in the piece linked near the end. Neither is alone in this view.

So if these two candidates were presented as roughly equivalent (note the word "presented"), why did winning DNC Chair matter so much that Barack Obama, personally, whipped for Perez? Two of the three answers are obvious — not only did control of the DNC matter to him and his fellow insiders, but the appearance of control matters as well.

Put crudely, a machine boss can't be seen to lose, even when next to nothing is actually lost. To those for whom power matters very very much, they can't even seem to be losing it.

...And Money

Which bring us to the final point, the third reason Obama-insiders wanted Perez to beat Ellison for this position. It's not just about control. There are real dollars at stake if power within the DNC, the smaller than 500-member insiders club, passes into the "wrong hands."

Remember my Cub Scout example above, the one about the "preferred supplier" of equipment being the spouse of a pack leader? What if that "preferred supplier" derived all of his income from dealings with the scouts? How motivated would his pack leader-spouse be to keep complaining parents, all of them, off of her pack committee? The answer is obvious. Very motivated.

Nomiki Konst, investigative reporter for TYT Network, who covered the DNC Chair contest closely (see also here), had this to say via email after the election (my emphasis):
I keep saying to any reporters who plan on writing about Bernie vs Hillary/Obama Wing proxy fight that this was actually a proxy battle between Unity democrats vs. HRC & OFA elitists.

Keith had so many establishment Dems and progressives. Unions and even most state party chairs.

Perez still won because he had elitists Dems -- the biggest bundlers and political operatives, as well as the president and VP, working on his behalf.

Remember, Perez had barely any union endorsements, a couple state Party Chair endorsements, did not have the minority leader of the senate and absolutely NO Sanders supporter endorsements.

And he still won by 35 votes.
"The biggest bundlers and political operatives" means, first, the bag men and women ("bundlers," collectors of the millions that come into Party hands) and, second, those to whom that money goes ("operatives," consultants, pollsters, campaign advisors and very well paid media buyers). "Bundlers and operatives" are, in other words, the suppliers and recipients of what, in a presidential election year, amounts to billions of dollars spent per candidate, and all the political favors big money purchases for its ultimate sources.

Konst highlighted that problem in a striking interview with Perez just a few days before the election (written up here):
Konst: Aren't conflicts of interest a concern? If you're going to change the culture on the ground, how do you change it without banning these conflicts of interest who want to keep the party bloated?

Perez: When you say that someone wants to keep the party bloated, I don't know. The people that I talk to want to build a Democratic Party that works for everyone. ... The folks that are running the Unity Commission, there's going to be a lot of different perspectives that are put to bear — that's what we want!

Konst (incredulous): Including consultants?

Perez: We have a big tent in the Democratic Party....
Keeping the party "bloated" means keeping corporate money, hedge fund money and cash from very high wealth individuals (example, Haim Saban) flowing freely into Party hands so it can just as freely pass out to the hands of its friends — who in turn help Party insiders stay in power.

Few will write the story this way — Konst is one of the exceptions — but following the "flow of funds" explains much of what's behind the fierce determination of Democratic insiders (that is, the 447 women and men who actually vote for DNC Chair) to keep things just as Nancy Pelosi wants — the way they are right now, thank you very much.

The miracle is that Ellison got even 200 votes at all, and lost by only 35. Still, despite the support of "unions and most state party chairs," he lost by a significant margin. Ellison gained zero votes from the crowded first round of voting to the two-person second round, while Perez sprinted to a win.

What's Next for Democrats?

What's next for Democrats deserves an essay by itself. But needless to say, an increase in #DemExit is one of the anticipated options, even by several of the delegates Konst interview on the floor at the DNC meeting.

A worst-case scenario is painted below. First, consider this from NBC News on whether the public views insiders of either party favorably, (my emphasis): "One sentiment that unites the fractured nation is fury at the establishment in Washington. Fully 86 percent of those surveyed said they believe that a small group in D.C. has "reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. That includes 88 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats."

Then consider how that broad unpopularity of insiders may intersect with this DNC election. Of that, Nathan Robinson, editor at Current Affairs, writes, "By failing to appoint Keith Ellison to chair the DNC, Democrats have written their suicide note."

Here's just a taste of the longer piece:
They Must Be Trying to Fail

At this point, one has to conclude that the national Democratic Party has a death wish. ...

[I]t was incredibly important that the Democratic Party take some steps to indicate that it cared about progressives. Since the election, it hadn’t been doing a very good job of this. (Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that nothing needed to change, and her rebuke to a young leftist, demonstrated the prevailing attitude.) Appointing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC was the perfect opportunity. After all, chairing the DNC is a pretty minor role. It would mostly have been a gesture of friendship and unity, showing that even after the catastrophic mistake of ignoring leftist warnings not to run Clinton, the party was capable of valuing its leftmost members.

But no. Instead of granting the tiniest possible concession, the party has decided to affirm precisely what Nancy Pelosi has indicated: democratic socialists and social democrats don’t belong in the party. It’s not for them. What the party does depends on what billionaire donors want it to do.

This is politically suicidal.
As if that wasn't enough, Robinson adds, "Now, progressives in the party are further alienated. Good luck getting them to vote for Democrats. ... The progressives needed to receive some kind of gesture. And they have received one: an enormous middle finger." Indeed.

Your Bottom Line

Consider these facts:

1. It clearly mattered very much, to Obama, to high Party insiders, and to the support ecosystem around them, that no one representing the Sanders camp be allowed real power in the Party. (Sanders himself is in charge of "outreach" and reports in that capacity to Chuck Schumer.) Even when the role is highly visible but "minor." The DNC Chair does have a modicum of control, unlike those who hold "messaging" roles, but even that much control won't be allowed.

2. Yet all you hear from Democrats, correctly in my view, is "Defeating Trump is Job One." The nation, indeed the world, is at a crossroads — on the climate front, a crossroads of world-historical proportions.

3. Yet there's an obvious disconnect between the Party's rhetoric and its actions. Is control of the Party more important than bringing in the groundswell of popular support needed to defeat the Republicans in all branches of government?

4. And people do notice that disconnect, more now than before. Some might even call it, not a disconnect, but a contradiction. Or hypocrisy. Some, those who couldn't pull the lever for Clinton, may even call it that at election time.

5. If so — if the insider-controlled Democratic Party puts its own need for party dominance over the needs of the nation — the nation and indeed the world will suffer greatly. Will insider Democrats suffer to the same degree as the rest of us? If they think they're getting what they want, no.

So a question for those who gaze into the future. None of this dire predicting is certain, but it's certainly possible. Will there be a price, for the Party and the world, attached to adherence to power at any price? If there is, establishment Democrats sure are flirting with it.


Scheduling note: My comments appear regularly here on Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Thursday if Monday is a holiday.


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Bernie Never Wanted A Cult Of Personality


It's easy to look at Republicans, especially Trumpists, and their information sources-- Fox, Hate Talk Radio, Breitbart...-- and dismiss them as ignorant morons incapable of abstract thought. Remember, abstract thought doesn't come easy to folks with IQs of less than 100-- and half the population, by definition, has 2-digit IQs. If you want to be honest, though, not everyone lacing the ability for critical thinking is a Trumpist... or even a Republicans. There are probably as many moron Democrats-- or almost as many-- as there are moron Republicans. A cult of personality is much easier than understanding complex and nuanced issues-- whether for Trump fans or, alas, Bernie fans. The difference, though, is that Trump encourages it every day and in every way. Bernie doesn't.

I don't know what percentage of Democratic politicians sided with Hillary over Bernie during the 2016 cycle. But let me guess: 85%. Just a guess. It could have been 90%. But let's look at it from a different perspective. Ask yourself how many Democratic politicians preferred Bernie's agenda and positions to Hillary's. That's where we see a more even split between the progressives-- the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party-- and the corrupt careerists of the establishment along with the Blue Dogs and New Dems-- the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, the Clinton wing. Now we're talking about a more even split-- 50/50? 60/40?

As you probably know, I dedicate a few hours a day talking with Democratic candidates and perspective candidates. Virtually all of them bring up Bernie's issues. Virtually none of them bring up Hillary's agenda. NONE.

Ted Lieu has probably been the most effective and galvanizing voice in Congress resisting Trump. He was just elected-- not selected-- regional vice chairman of the DCCC for the West Coast. Yesterday afternoon he told us why he's backing Jimmy Gomez for the CA-34 congressional primary. It makes a lot more sense than talking about who supported who in last year's primary election. "During these extraordinarily dangerous times, we need fighters like Jimmy Gomez in Congress. I served with Jimmy in the California Legislature and I know he will always and relentlessly fight for progressive values. More importantly, I need Jimmy with me as soon as possible so that we can keep punching back against the failing Donald Trump."

Bernie was the founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus-- and it's first chairman. Last year his first endorsements came from the current co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison. The only other members who endorsed him were Alan Grayson (FL) and Peter Welch (VT). Since then, Berniecrats Pramila Jayapal (WA) and Ro Khanna (CA) have been elected to Congress ands have joined the caucus. Most of the other caucus members were Hillary backers, although a few, super-progressives, like Barbara Lee and Mark Pocan, stayed neutral and expressed equal admiration for both candidates. Today, the two freshmen with 100% Progressive Punch crucial vote scores are Pramila Jayapal, the Seattle Berniecrat, and Ruben Kihuen, a strong Clinton backer from the Las Vegas area. On policy, though, both are identical in their advocacy of what amounts to the Bernie agenda.

Conservative Democrats Tulsi Gabbard (HI) and Collin Peterson (MN) both endorsed Bernie during the primary, Gabbard in a very big way. Gabbard's Progressive Punch crucial vote score is a dismal 73.90, an "F" in one of the bluest districts in America. Perhaps it helps her get more bookings on Fox and helps enhance her friendship with Bannon, Adelson and the throngs of Islamaphobes and homophobes who recognize her as a kindred soul. Peterson, who hasn't been embraced by most Bernie supporters is even worse than Gabbard. His Progressive Punch crucial vote score for the current session is ZERO and for his whole career 39.75. Don't ask me what makes him a Democrat, but he virtually votes opposite of Bernie on every single important issue to come before Congress. So far this year there are 11 Republicans whose voting records are more supportive of Bernie's positions than Peterson is.

Nice of him to endorse Bernie for the Democratic nomination though. His western Minnesota district voted 61.6% to 38.4% for Bernie and against Hillary in the caucuses last year. Gabbard's district (basically all of Hawaii outside Honolulu) was even stronger for Bernie-- 69.8% to 30.0%. Just sayin'.

So what do you want-- a party that pledges fealty to a personality or a party that pledges fealty to a progressive agenda? Many Democrats who backed Hillary are good solid, sincere progressives who made a bad mistake for whatever reason. And there were many reasons-- from personal relationships to fear of the Clinton Machine to wanting to be with a winner. Terrible but across the country I'm seeing Bernie fans getting behind next-to-worthless candidates who, on some level, backed Bernie over Hillary but have, literally, nothing else to recommend them.

One of the worst examples from last year was contemptible corporate whore Shawn O'Connor in New Hampshire's first congressional district. One day O'Connor was campaigning on "compromising" with the Republicans by cutting Medicare and Social Security and, finally realizing that's a bad message for a Democratic primary, he endorsed Bernie and went around the state with him-- a Bernie low-point in my eyes. (No one's perfect.) Polling showed the million dollar self-funding Wall Street creep O'Connor losing the primary. Furious, he decide dot try to beat progressive Democrat Carol Shea-Porter (a Clinton backer with a solid progressive record) by running as an Independent and throwing the November election to Tea Party incumbent Frank Guinta.

He nearly succeeded. A worthless pile of garbage, O'Connor managed to grab 34,612 votes (9.4%)-- many of them from deluded Bernie fans-- giving Shea-Porter an uncomfortably close call in a district that went for Trump. Shea-Porter won 161,828 votes (44.2%) while Guinta took 157,011 votes (42.9%). Trump won NH-01 48.2% to 46.6%. It was a miracle Shea-Porter won.

When I interview candidates for Congress I ask them where they stood on the Bernie-Hillary primary. But the answer isn't determinative. If they were for Bernie, that starts out as a plus but it's not nearly as important as where the candidate stands on Bernie's issues, how they look on the courageousness scale and what kind of experience they've had. Example: Brianna Wu, one of the women targeted by Milo and the other Gamergate thugs, was an outspoken Hillary supporter. Today she's running for Congress against right-wing Democrat Stephen Lynch. In her official announcement of candidacy, she writes that "the contentious primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton revealed a deep divide that must be reconciled. There is a disconnect between those marginalized and our party leaders who vote too often as moderate Republicans. I personally supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, but today I see the vision of Bernie Sanders for America is one we must bring to pass. I believe today’s Democratic party is ill-equipped to fight the Trump administration’s assault on women, on people of color, on the poor, and on the LGBT community. We do have true progressives, but too often they don’t have the support of the party establishment." Her district is entirely within Suffolk County where primary votes pretty overwhelmingly went for Hillary over Bernie-- 78,083 (57.1%) to 57,872 (41.8%). Wu's statement about Bernie vision for America is similar to candidates I'm hearing from everywhere. Bernie fans would be making a big mistake to write them off as unworthy of support because it took them too long to understand why Bernie would have been a far better candidate than Clinton.

On an average tweet I post, I get around 7-800 impressions. There's a reason why these two from Saturday after the DNC election were so much more.

Sunday afternoon, Keith Ellison reached out to his supporters-- like myself-- with this message of unity in the face of Trumpism:
The Democratic Party finally has a leader-- a leader who has demonstrated time and again that he has what it takes to fight for all Americans. That leader is my good friend, Tom Perez.

I’m immensely proud of everything that our campaign accomplished, of how hard my staff, volunteers, and delegates fought. And now, I ask all those who love our country and believed in our vision to support Tom.

With Trump in the White House, at stake is the very essence of our democracy, and I want us to be able to look back at this moment and tell ourselves that we did the right thing and helped Tom succeed.

We must be united-- because we live in times when the judiciary is under attack, when the press is under attack, and hate groups are desecrating Jewish cemeteries and defacing mosques. Two Indian men were even shot down for looking ‘foreign’ in the eyes of the terrorist who shot them.

I look forward to returning to Congress and continuing to represent the 5th Congressional district of Minnesota. And I look forward to helping the Democratic Party in any way that I can. I urge all to do the same. Working people across this country are depending on us.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Remember When Lionel Richie Was A Rocker? Don't Worry, Almost No One Else Does Either


I was surprised at the outpouring of interest we got from the post last weekend about the new hard rockin' Body Count single, "No Lives Matter" from their upcoming album Bloodlust. Someone asked me if we ran it because of Black History Month. Uh... no; we ran it because Bodycount put out a new single about issues relevant to the DWT mission. But Happy Black History Month too. In fact, I rummaged around the files and found this article I wrote for Creem almost 40 years ago about another rockin' band that has been largely lost to (white) history, The Commodores. I had recently returned from over six years living abroad and I was photographing bands and writing about music to pay the rent while I figured out what I was going to do with my life. Creem assigned me this story on the band, just as they started to transition from a hard sound to a predominantly soft, commercial sound.

When I went to interview them late in 1977 I had Machine Gun in mind and the world was soon inundated with Three Times A Lady. But when I talked with Lionel Richie he still kind of wanted to be like my old pal Jimi Hendrix. So we got along great.

The Commodores: Come Funk With Us! (But Bring Your Led Zep Records)
Howie Klein, Creem, January 1978

"NOW YOU take a group like Fleetwood Mac or the Zep," offered Benny. "It's another thing that the audiences get off into. I don't understand it because I'm not a heavy rock fan, but I respect it and appreciate it in my planning for the group."

Benny is the omnipresent Ben Ashburn, and "the group" is the Commodores, the six-man self-contained funk 'n' roll band that has been delighting in breaking rule after rule in the Music Business Book of Absolutes. Benny-- for the record, the manager and surrogate father-- is the seventh Commodore. He and lead singer Lionel Richie are telling CREEM about their Plan and how they've been implementing it. The plan is easy: to stick around and "become an institution, like the Stones." And the implementation-- well, that's a lot of facts and figures-- things like simultaneous #1 hits on the r'n'b, pop and easy listening charts for their two current singles; three million sales for the new-- the fifth-- album; ten million dollars in gross tour receipts; broken attendance records in stadiums from New Orleans to the Philippines; unprecedented-- for a black group-- advance ticket sell-outs, etc. They planned it all this way. They do their homework. And if Benny's not into the heavy rock sound that dominates today's concert circuit, Lionel sure is.

"See, I'm a rocker," he confided. "When we started out back in '68, if I had my way I'd have said, 'Turn the amp up on 12 and let's go.' But I couldn't do it. I had to realize one thing: this industry divides into two categories-- r'n'b and pop. Before I go and sell out Madison Square Garden with Led Zeppelin and all the rest of the brothers, I've got to first of all start r'n'b-- get myself a market together. We cannot say, 'I wanna be a Beatles.' There's a totally different marketing strategy. Number one, we're black. We've got to sell ourselves on another angle. The angle is energy-- coliseum energy, not nightclub energy. When r'n'b groups played coliseums they used to do seven groups in a night. I wanted to sell out Madison Square Garden as the Commodores. Back in '68 people looked at us as if we were crazy. 'Son, I've been in the Business 25 years...'"

In fact, "Son, I've been in the Business 25 years and here is a list of what you can't do," is the Commodores story. The whole band is from Tuskegee, Alabama, where they went to school at the original "Negro college," Tuskegee Institute, in the late '60s. They went through school listening to what all American students were into then: the Stones, Hendrix, the Beatles, the Temptations, the Airplane. "What I realized walking across campus," recalled Richie, "is that even though the Music Industry has a category of r'n'b and one of pop music... well, I was on a predominantly black campus, but I'll bet you we had as many Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stone and Cream albums as anything."

So when they walked into the Motown offices-- ready to revolutionize the Music Business-- they didn't exactly fit into the company's standard success pattern. In fact, it took them over three years from the time they signed a recording contract until they finally got their first record out. Mo-town's idea of plugging into the "Baby Love, Baby Love" formula for making a hit wasn't exactly what the Commodores had in mind for themselves. "We wanted another kind of sound and we had to fight tooth and nail to sell the idea. You see, in r'n'b you're dealing with an industry that's into 'Clean Sound'-- nuthin' heavy. So we walk in and start talking about feedback and 'gimme some echo and some fuzz and some garbage can sounds.' These are professional people who are into cutting clean tracks. So it took right up to this album here just to get them to understand. They still try to mix it down, though. Maybe it's necessary. I can get so locked into the fuzz sound on the guitar that I loose the perspective of what the total song is all about. But once we get live onstage..."

Yeah, that's the way to get into the Commodores-- live onstage. The name is energy. Their thing is to take a 15,000 seat stadium and turn it into a nightclub. "We get insulted if we don't see people up and dancing. We're into total energy. We're into entertaining. The idea in this business is to back up what you say-- to deliver what you promise."

And deliver is what the Commodores do. Beyond the reach of corporate product evaluators and quality control hacks, the Commodores let the audience know how they feel. They're raw and gutsy-- real-- the way the Stones are. There's no glossy patina onstage to make their act safe and homogenized. Forget that. And if "traditional wisdom" says that that makes a funk group "too black," well, just look at who's comin' to Commodore concerts. The Boston police showed up with mace when they found out that the ticket buyers were half white and half black. It was 50/50 in San Diego, too, and almost that in San Francisco. (They didn't need any mace; the band keeps everybody too busy for anything but the music.) You ain't never seen such a racially mixed audience before. And everybody's up and dancing.

"If they're little kids, I give 'em a kiddie show. But on the Stones tour all we tried to do was blow 'em away with the music, 'cause that's where rockers are at. Rockers are into lyric content. The audiences know every word before the show."

Last fall the Commodores and Donna Summer played themselves in the movie Thank God It's Friday, a kind of black Star is Born. The Commodores were billed throughout as the "World's Greatest Disco Group." Now this band may have started as a disco group, but don't be fooled-- today their music goes far beyond the simple, repetitious bass lines and droning mechanical parameters of disco. Richie felt awkward about that part of the film. "It was kind of strange and we thought about it, but we wound up saying, 'What the heck; they use our name all through the movie.' All I know is that the lights were on me and I said, 'Ham it up.' And remember, we did have our beginning as a disco group. We've branched out a lot now, but if you listen to the Machine Gun album right now, you will not be able to sit down. We started out trying to get a following. Now we've got one and we can take 'em to places we want to go."

And where that is, is-- of course-- to the top. Like the man said, these guys wanna be an institution. They've been working real hard at it, too. You've gotta remember something about the Commodores, something they never forget-- they're not in the r'n'b business; they're in the music business.

"I'm not saying I wanna be a rocker," smiled Richie. "What I'm saying is that rockers take risks in their writing and their shows. That's what makes you number one. But you've got to have a following that will stand behind you and say, 'If my man tears off his clothes onstage, it's alright.' Well, that's what we're trying to do right now. We're stepping off into some areas of our music that are risky. But, like I said, in order to be number one you've got to take some risks. In terms of our writing, 'Easy' was a risk. 'Zoom' was a guarantee-- we knew it would definitely take care of our r'n'b audience. 'Easy' was an experiment. Programmers had said our stuff was too r'n'b to be number one on the pop stations. I said, 'OK, I'm gonna give these people a song that has no r'n'b anything to it. There's your pop song. Pop, pop, pop'."

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Okay, I'll bite -- DOES chocolate improve memory?


"The analysis showed that scores for most aspects of cognitive function rose with the level of chocolate intake, regardless of other dietary habits."
-- from a Health After 50 post (see below)

by Ken

Okay, we're supposed to be finishing up with what Joan Didion saw, on her Gulf Coast road trip in summer 1970 (as seen in the notes she assembled on that trip, now published in the book South and West), that seemed counterintuitive at the time but now casts dark shadows over our body politic, including such unexpected developments as the ABC sitcom The Real O'Neals.

On Friday we got as far, traveling with Nathaniel Rich (in his March 9 New York Review of Books journey through the new Didion book), as this, regarding the "kind of thinking" Didion encountered in the Deep South in 1970, which he says "seemed retrograde in the Seventies." And:
From the vantage of New York, California, even New Orleans, it still seems so today. But this southern frame of mind has annexed territory in the last four decades, expanding across the Mason-Dixon Line into the rest of rural America. It has taken root among people -- or at least registered voters -- nostalgic for a more orderly past.
Maybe Wednesday we can get to the finish of this. For now, once again the crush of breaking news forces our attention elsewhere.
Does Chocolate Improve Memory?

by HealthAfter50

It's well-established that eating chocolate and cocoa is linked to cardiovascular benefits. Now, a study in the May 2016 issue of Appetite suggests that eating chocolate regularly is associated with positive cognitive performance as well.

Study participants, including 968 individuals from 23 to 98 years of age, completed a dietary questionnaire to indicate how often they ate a variety of foods (including chocolate, of course): never, seldom, once a week, two to four times a week, five to six times a week, or once or more each day.

Using a battery of standardized tests, investigators then assessed various aspects of participants’ cognitive function, including visual-spatial memory and organization, abstract verbal reasoning, and overall cognitive functioning.

The analysis showed that scores for most aspects of cognitive function rose with the level of chocolate intake, regardless of other dietary habits. Even after investigators adjusted these findings for demographic and other factors, most of these positive associations remained.

But if you reach for that chocolate bar, keep in mind that though this study did not ascertain what types of chocolate participants ate, earlier research indicates that flavanols -- naturally occurring compounds found in high concentrations in dark varieties of chocolate -- likely account for this food’s beneficial effects.


The way I remember it, the purported health benefits from eating dark chocolate depend on eating a quantity of the stuff that any health professional would be drummed out of the association for recommending. Then again, it could just be my memory playing tricks on me on account of I haven't, you know, eaten enough chocolate lately. I may have to go out and round up a Hershey Bar. The Special Dark variety, of course. Just to be sure I remember what I'm after, I may need to score some chocolate en route.


Putin-Gate Heating Up Rapidly


I can only imagine how the Trumpist regime felt Friday night when someone told them that craven worm Darrell Issa was on Bill Maher's show Friday calling for a Putin-Gate special prosecutor, something that would lead directly to impeachment for Pepe. Watch the Maddow clip above that explains the latest twist in the saga, the twist that should end Reince Priebus' time as Chief of Staff.

Rick Allen and Sushannah Walshe explained it this way for ABC News as Saturday's Big Story:
The Russia affair gets a new twist with the revelation that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked a top FBI official to dispute reports that Trump campaign officials were in frequent contact with Russian intelligence agents prior to the election. There are questions of propriety here: The FBI is supposed to be able to conduct its investigations independently, without any White House involvement. And the bureau isn’t supposed to play politics by commenting on active investigations, as Clinton campaign vets remember too well. There is also irony: Priebus was asking the FBI to comment without names attached, while decrying as “fake news” stories that rely on such sourcing. What’s more, the willingness to employ the FBI for political battle demonstrates when Trump advisers cast the media as the “opposition party,” it’s more than words. “Every day, it’s going to be a fight,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday at CPAC. Added Priebus, sitting slightly uncomfortably to Bannon’s left: “If the party and the conservative movement are together, similar to Steve and I, it can't be stopped.” It appears that in this battle, there’s no resource of the federal government that the White House considers off-limits.
But, as Maddow pointed out, it wasn't just the FBI and intelligence agencies being pressured by the Regime. The heads of the Intelligence committees were pressured and have both now admitted that they made secret calls to journalists telling them there's no proof-- which their committees are supposedly starting to look for-- that Trump's campaign conspired with Putin to steal the election. Senator Burr has 5 years for the stench of this to wash off him before he has to face North Carolina voters again. Devin Nunes, on the other hand, has to count on DCCC incompetence to save him next year.

Only Fresno and Tulare county voters can force Devin Nunes to do his job

Nunes' Central Valley House seat is pretty safely Republican-- but not nearly as safe as it was when he was first elected in 2002. The PVI is still rated a daunting R+10 but the demographics have shifted precipitously. Cook, which assigns the PVIs, is always at least cycle or two behind. Only 41.9% of Nunes' constituents are white now and one day-- who knows?-- the DCCC might decide to target him. They should. Nunes shouldn't be given any more free rides. He seems to think the function of chairman of the is covering up the Trump Regime's malfeasance in their activities regarding Putin. His comment a week or so ago about Michael Flynn being fired for Putin-related activities, likely to include accepting bribes and probably treason as well, was that "Washington, D.C. can be a rough town for honorable people, and Flynn-- who has always been a soldier, not a politician-- deserves America’s gratitude and respect for dedicating so much of his life to strengthening our national security. I thank him for his many years of distinguished service." When pressed, Nunes told reporters that he would not investigate Flynn's discussions with Trump about his calls with Putin's ambassador. He's following the Republican Party line, in a knee-jerk fashion, that the "real story" is how the Trumpist Regime is being undermined by leaks. And he said he wants to investigate that instead.

In 2012 Romney took Nunes' district with 56.6% of the vote. Trump's share in November was just 52.1%, even though he faced a far weaker candidate. Nunes' district, CA-22, is made up of large sections of Fresno and Tulare counties, although it doesn't include any of the city of Fresno itself. Clovis, Visalia and Tulare are the biggest population centers. The DCCC didn't contest the seat-- guaranteeing that Nunes will feel no obligation to worry about accountability in Congress-- and he beat an unknown, under-funded opponent, Louie Campos 143,333 (68.2%) to 66,802 (31.8%). Nunes raised $2,459,235 for the campaign this year while Campos didn't raise the $5,000 that would have triggered an FEC report. Nunes knows that with the way the DCCC works currently-- no multi-cycle efforts ever-- he will never be forced to alter his behavior to appease the voters. We'll soon see if the DCCC empowers their new West Coast regional vice-chair, Ted Lieu, to change that and give Nunes something to think about besides covering up Trump's crimes.

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Nancy Pelosi And Her DCCC Are On Their Regular Bi-Annual Mission To Save Darrell Issa's Career Again


Friday, life-long opportunist Darrell Issa was on Bill Maher's show, Real Time, and declared himself one of the first House Republicans willing to stab Señor Trumpanzee in the back over Putin-Gate. "You cannot have somebody, a friend of mine Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who is an appointee," he told Maher in regard to the question about investigating the Trump campaign. "You're going to need to use the special prosecutor's statute and office to take-- not just to recuse. You can't just give it to your deputy. That's another political appointee."

High school drop out, car thief, arsonist-for-hire and general all-around hustler Darrell Issa got started in politics as an out-of-the-closet racist and then as a self-financed candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1998, losing the GOP nomination to a more mainstream Republican after spending $9.8 million of his own cash. Two years later, though, he managed to buy himself the GOP nomination for a San diego area congressional seat when Ron Packard retired. The Democrat in the race, Peter Kouvelis, gave up in the middle of the campaign complaining about the DCCC refusing to honor promises to help. Issa spent $2,304,833 to Kouvelis' $17,069. It was the beginning of a pattern. In 2002 the Democrats didn't put a candidate up against Issa at all. Two years later the DCCC refused it help Mike Byron, who raised $48,228 against Issa's $871,009 and wound up with 35% of the vote. In 2006, a huge Democratic year, it was Jeeni Criscenzo's turn to be screwed over by the DCCC and in 2008, another huge Democratic year (in which Obama beat McCain in CA-49) Robert Hamilton ran against Issa and was also hung out to dry by the DCCC. In 2010 Howard Katz got the same treatment. In 2012-- with Obama at the top of the ticket-- Jerry Tetalman expected help from the DCCC in his battle against Issa. He raised $131,168 against Issa's $2,478,710 and took 41% of the vote, the highest percentage against Issa ever. But the DCCC once again ignored the district and told the media it was unwinnable. They ignored Dave Peiser in 2014. And in 2016 the DCCC was completely prepared to do the only thing they know how to do in CA-49 (and most of the rest of the country): roll over and play dead.

But something caught the DCCC unprepared-- a progressive retired marine colonel with a Bernie campaign staffer managing his race, Doug Applegate. Ignoring the DCCC entirely, grassroots progressive groups jumped into the race to help Applegate. He was able to spend $1,675,750 in the campaign (forcing Issa to spend a gargantuan $6,275,754). Confused and disoriented as usual, very late in the game the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC sensed Applegate could win and jumped in, ineffectively spending $3,231,961 on TV ads and other commissionable wastes of money. The see-saw Issa/Applegate contest was the last one to be decided in the whole country. In the end Issa won by 2,348 votes, 50.4% to 49.6%. The San Diego Union Tribune explained that "Issa, whose brush with political death came after cruising to re-election in years prior, likewise changed strategies to give more careful attention to his district. He ran a more typical campaign, complete with yard signs, town hall-style events, and a tour bus. He proposed legislation in direct response to complaints..." But Issa was a huge and early Trump supporter and the suburban San Diego/Orange County district wasn't buying Trump's fascist appeal. The district, which had given Romney a 52.4% win, handed Trump a miserable 43.2% loss.

Goal Thermometer Blue America endorsed Applegate in the summer of 2016 and a few days after Issa managed to worm his way back into office we were one of the groups who urged Applegate to run again, explaining how rare it was for someone to win a congressional seat on the first try and that 2018 would be a good year for Democrats because of Trump's and Ryan's expected agenda overreach. He was the first 2018 candidate to declare and the first candidate Bblue America endorsed for 2018. (You can contribute to his campaign by tapping the ActBlue thermometer on the right.)

75% of CA-49 is in San Diego County and Applegate won in those precincts with 53.1% of the vote. It was the very wealthy Orange County suburbs, though, where Issa managed to eke out his victory, winning 60.5% of the vote in areas like La Costa, Vista, Oceanside, San Clemente and Carlsbad. As of Oct. 24, the last day to register to vote, 31.2% of CA-49 voters were Democrats, while 37.8% were Republicans and 25.8% were decline to state voters.

OK, so that's the background. What is the DCCC doing now, early in the game, to defeat Issa in 2018? The more progressive folks in DCCC-world are gung-ho on helping Applegate finish the job he started last year. But "the more progressive folks in DCCC-world" are a distinct minority-- or have been-- and the team that has lost and lost and lost and lost everywhere and have always made certain to screw up CA-49, want to abandon Applegate and throw their support behind a FuelCell energy lobbyist and wealthy lawyer-- an Orange County Hillary operative from 2016, Mike Levin.

Pelosi, now, unfortunately, almost completely senile and a raving idiot, has promised to "push" Applegate out of the race on behalf of Levin. Crazy Nancy doesn't understand that marine colonels backed by an activated grassroots don't get pushed by a discredited and failed establishment. Levin was a regular contributor to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign but hasn't given any money towards defeating Issa. He now sees a path for himself to take advantage of Applegate's work and run against Issa himself. The party's vile corrupted establishment, triumphed yesterday in the DNC race, and is determined to keep pushing their careerist agenda. It's time for progressives to realizer the former progressive champion they once had in Nancy Pelosi is now a very different, very unsupportable, Nancy Pelosi. For the Democratic Party to prosper, she's got to go.

That's Applegate on the left

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Paul Ryan's Idea Of Freedom Will Give All Americans The Liberty To Die Without Healthcare


When it came to health insurance I was very lucky. I was the president of a large company, a division of Time Warner that gave it's top executives platinum-plated best-that-money-could-buy insurance. I was bullet-proof. Then I got even luckier; I turned 65 and got Medicare. Medicare is better. And I was just in time. I was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer requiring a couple of years of experimental treatment, very costly experimental treatment. Medicare paid it and without so much as a hum or a haw. I'm alive today because of... well, Jesus Christ's compassion and mercy, my amazing doctor and the professionals at City of Hope, and Medicare. Had the Republicans reshaped America's health care system the way they're planning to I'd have surely died-- unless Jesus was going to take care of the whole thing on His own.

Instead of offering the American people health care, the Republican Party wants to offer us Paul Ryan's twisted and perverted definition of "freedom," a vision of "freedom" that is tantamount to-- no exaggeration-- death for ourselves and for our loved ones (unless we're very wealthy or have the kind of tax-payer subsidized healthcare that Members of Congress have).

As Scott Lemieux explained last week in the New Republic, Ryan "has always been a complete fraud. He has consistently offered extreme versions of well-worn Republican proposals to take from the poor and give to the very wealthy. He has not even defended these proposals honestly. And nowhere is the gap between myth and reality more evident than when Ryan tries to defend the GOP’s position on health care. Despite Ryan’s supposed interest in policy detail, his party’s plans to replace the Affordable Care Act have been farcical. The website set up for the House plan literally consists of one sentence promising outcomes with no detail, and a video promising to come up with an undefined plan at some later date.
Having the freedom to “buy what you want” sounds good! Only in the context of health care, it’s a disaster for the non-affluent. Many people cannot afford basic health care services, and the vast majority of people cannot afford care for an unexpected major illness. Giving rich and poor people alike the “freedom” to purchase as much health care as they think they need is a cruel joke, not a serious health care policy. And it’s worse than that; people cannot, in fact, reliably predict how much health care they might “need” in the future, which is why insurance is necessary for practical access to health care in the first place.

Ryan is also attacking the regulations that require insurance-- both employer-provided and purchased on exchanges-- to meet minimum coverage requirements. But this is not “freedom” of any value. Regulations that protect customers from junk insurance reduce their “freedom” in the sense that FDA regulations take away people’s “freedom” to buy beef laced with strychnine. It’s true that under the ACA young and healthy people pay more for insurance than they would under a “free market” in health care, but this is how insurance works: You pay more now so you can afford insurance later. Objecting to the ACA because the young and healthy pay more than they otherwise would is like saying its unjust to pay taxes to support the fire department when your house hasn’t burned down.

...Ryan’s arguments are terrible largely because Republican health care policy proposals are terrible. Waiting for the House replacement for Obamacare has been like waiting for Godot, and when unveiled it’s sure to be massively unpopular. Ryan has avoided this backlash by being a member of the opposition, but with Republicans in charge of the legislature and the executive he can no longer hide behind his fictitious reputation for wonkery. This reputation stems in part from his alleged willingness to be a brave truth-teller who tells people what they don’t want to hear—and yet he uses feeble buzzwords to completely evade the concrete tradeoffs contained in any conservative alternative to the ACA.
What Ryan, Trump, Pence, Price and the GOP anti-healthcare zombies have accomplished is engendering a new-found love for the Affordable Care Act in Americans. The new tracking poll from Kaiser shows the approval rating for Obamacare up to 48%, it's highest ever. Here's what PPP found in their own poll released Friday:

Is it any wonder that last week Boehner predicted that a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare is "not going to happen... Republicans never ever agree on health care." As many Republicans are now talking about "repair" as are talking about "repeal and replace." And that's what progressives have wanted since the corrupt corporatists in both parties killed the public option-- as well as single payer.

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