Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lay Down With Trump-- Get Up With Cooties... A Less Fancy Way Of Explaining Reputational Risk


Friday evening, Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions tight end, tweeted a question: "Does anyone tell Trump to stick to politics, like they tell us to stick to sports?" Trump had been busy attacking Stephen Curry and Colin Kaepernick and the NFL. NFL Players Association’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith responded that "This union will never back down when it comes to protecting the constitutional rights of our players as well as their safety as men who compete in a game that exposes them to great risks" and this morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement that rebuked Señor Trumpanzee: "The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities." Trump petulantly cancelled an invitation to the White House for Stephen Curry who had already said he didn't want to go. Trump's assertion that it was a great honor to be invited to the White House was true-- until he moved in.

Who cares? Probably a lot of sports fans. But also a lot of White House staffers. That picture up top-- from The Onion-- depicts Sebastian Gorka being welcomed to the halfway house for fired Trump Regime members. But what about the left-behinds? A report this morning from Politico's Nancy Cook reports that staffers are looking for the exits and that "after a wave of high-profile White House departures this summer, staffers who remained are reaching out to headhunters to discuss their next move." She wrote it's "a fast-growing number" and it's "aides up and down the chain" who are currently "reaching out to headhunters, lobbyists, and GOP operatives for help finding their next job."
Staffers from the National Economic Council-- where director Gary Cohn is expected to be on his way out altogether after tax reform or onto a different role-- as well as the communications shop and beyond are quietly exploring their next moves. They’re talking to headhunters about positions as in-house government affairs experts at major companies, or as executives at trade associations, universities, or consulting firms-- ironically, jobs that run counter to Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra.

Political appointees want to leave for myriad reasons, according to recruiters, Republican operatives and White House officials. Morale is low, the Russia investigations seem only to grow in scope and constant churn at the top has left some staffers without patrons in a workplace known for backbiting and a tribal-like attitude.

“There will be an exodus from this administration in January,” said one Republican lobbyist, who alone has heard from five officials looking for new gigs. “Everyone says, ‘I just need to stay for one year.’ If you leave before a year, it looks like you are acknowledging that you made a mistake.”

Staffers are already laying the groundwork through networking, lunches, and résumés sent to D.C.-based executive recruiters, so that they can a land new job by the start of 2018. Two headhunters confirmed that they had heard from multiple White House staffers.

“There is no joy in Trumpworld right now,” said one adviser in frequent contact with several staffers. “Working in the White House is supposed to be the peak of your career, but everyone is unhappy, and everyone is fighting everyone else.”

...Roughly 23 White House staffers have also resigned or been fired since January including high-profile departures such Priebus, , Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to lesser-known appointees such as Michael Short of the communications shop, Derek Harvey of the National Security Council, or former deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh.

This constant departures and changes in leadership could make it difficult for the administration to woo Republicans or top policy experts for new openings, said one executive recruiter-- a problem compounded by the fact that the administration is still trying to fill vacant political positions in both the West Wing and federal agencies.

So far, the Trump White House has nominated roughly 345 appointees for Senate-confirmed positions. By Sept. 22 in past administrations, Obama had nominated 459 people while President George W. Bush had nominated 588 and Clinton 407, according to historical data kept by the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service.

“The question ultimately is whether people face a reputational risk by serving in this administration. Will it hurt people?” added the recruiter, who hires for trade associations, companies, and firms, looking for a D.C. presence.

But, this recruiter said, interest is always high in people coming out of the White House: “Our clients are always looking for people who have insights and perspectives from inside the administration, whether it is on tax reform or health care.”

...It’s not clear whether controversy over Trump’s policy positions will make it harder for people to find work. Former press secretary Sean Spicer has struggled to land a role as a paid network or cable news contributor because of concerns about his credibility.

The Last Supper by Nancy Ohanian

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How The Politics Of Healthcare Have Made Dean Heller Unelectable In Nevada


Dean Heller is a squishy mainstreamish Republican senator from Nevada. He was appointed to the seat by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval in 2011 when corrupt Republican John Ensign was forced to resign. Before getting into politics, Heller was a stock broker. In 2012 he was challenged by a corrupt New Dem, Shelley Berkley and managed to beat her 457,656 (45.87%) to 446,080 (44.71%)-- an 11,576 vote margin (against an incredibly weak and unattractive candidate who many Democrats just couldn't persuade themselves to vote for).

This cycle, Heller is a dead dog. He has a Trumpist opponent, Danny Tarkanian and another crappy DSCC-backed conservaDem just like Berkley (totally unqualified Jacky Rosen) and a Berniecrat the DSCC is trying to derail, Jesse Sbaih. Sarah Palin has already endorsed Tarkanian and the most recent poll of Republican voters shows Heller losing the primary to Tarkanian 39-31%. There is no doubt that Bannon's whole Roy Moore neo-fascist support team will be showing up in Nevada to destroy Heller as soon as they've finished destroying Luther Strange in Alabama-- and teaching Trump a lesson about where he gets his marching orders.

Unlike Heller, Rand Paul stood up to Trump's bullying and bribes

You know the TrumpCare bill that John McCain just torpedoed, commonly known as Graham-Cassidy? That was actually short for Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. And that's weird for someone who made such a big deal about sticking with the very popular Governor who originally appointed him to the Senate, Brian Sandoval. Sandoval has denounced the bill as detrimental to Nevadans. This week the Nevada Independent report on this sounded like an early Dean Heller political obituary.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said Thursday that the flexibility fellow Republican Sen. Dean Heller promised will be good for Nevada in a health-care bill he’s sponsoring is a “false choice” because the legislation will also slash funding.

Sandoval, in a statement to the Nevada Independent, said he would not “pit seniors, children, families, the mentally ill, the critically ill, hospitals, care providers or any other Nevadan against each other” because of the steep cuts to federal funding the state would face if the Heller-sponsored measure were to pass. A state analysis, also obtained by the Nevada Independent, agrees with independent calculations from various health-care organizations estimating Nevada will lose between $600 million and $2 billion in federal funding by 2026 if the legislation passes.

As tensions mounted this week with Senate Republicans renewing a health-care debate thought to be laid to rest, Heller publicly touted the “flexibility” the measure would create by dividing up the federal dollars currently spent on the Affordable Care Act among the states in the form of a block grant. Where Sandoval only gently rebuffed Heller on Tuesday, saying he appreciated the “intended flexibility” of the bill, the careful, deliberative Sandoval-- not one to rush to the presses with a strongly worded statement-- didn’t mince words on Thursday.

“Flexibility with reduced funding is a false choice,” Sandoval said in the statement. “I will not pit seniors, children, families, the mentally ill, the critically ill, hospitals, care providers, or any other Nevadan against each other because of cuts to Nevada’s health-care delivery system proposed by the Graham-Cassidy amendment.”

Sandoval’s statement stands in sharp relief against one issued just two days earlier, in which the even-keeled governor attempted to soften the blow to Heller after authoring a letter with a group of nine other bipartisan governors urging Senate leadership not to consider the proposal. In the earlier statement, Sandoval said that Heller is “working in the best interest of the state” while gently, but firmly reiterating that he favors a bipartisan fix to the nation’s health-care system.

The recent rift between the two Republicans is also a sharp turn of events from June, when Sandoval and Heller stood side by side to harshly condemn Senate Republicans’ last repeal-and-replace plan, saying that it would strip health care away from millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans. Sandoval remained mum for weeks on the measure, initially drafted by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy and signed onto by Heller amid a week of heated health-care negotiations in the Senate in July.

Heller publicly touted that “Nevada wins” under the measure, which would divvy up the block grant annually based on states’ numbers of poor or near-poor residents as well as create a per capita cap on the half-century old Medicaid program. The Republican senator, who is up for re-election in 2018, has had to walk a fine line amid discussions in the Senate over the past couple of months about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, facing a challenge from the more conservative Danny Tarkanian.

...[W]hile the bill sponsors compare the amount of money Nevada will receive in 2026 under Graham-Cassidy when the block grant ends to how much it will receive in 2020 when the block grant begins, the correct analysis would be to compare the projected funding Nevada will receive in 2026 under the Affordable Care Act under the status quo compared to what it would receive in 2026 under Graham-Cassidy. When that comparison is done, Nevada loses between $600 million to $2 billion by most organizations’ calculations, the state analysis says.

Over months of discussions about repealing the Affordable Care Act, Sandoval has repeatedly argued against touching the extra dollars the federal health-care law made available to states that chose to opt in to an expansion of Medicaid, a point he reiterated in the Thursday statement. Sandoval was the first Republican governor to opt in to Medicaid expansion, and the state has since entirely restructured the way it provides services, such as mental health care, to rely on those new federal Medicaid dollars.

“As Governor, I made a commitment to use all the tools available to ensure Nevadans had access to affordable and quality health care. I made the decision to expand Medicaid to never before covered populations, including childless adults and pregnant women,” Sandoval said. “I made the decision to leverage all the federal funding possible through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and to work to improve the health-care system for those with mental illness, addictions and disabilities.”

Before the state expanded Medicaid, the uninsurance rate was 20.7 percent, 27 percent for adults under 65 and 14.8 percent for children; after, the uninsured rate dropped by 9.3 percentage points, down to 11.4 percent in 2016. Between Medicaid expansion and the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, nearly 400,000 Nevadans have gained access to health care, including more than 300,000 in Medicaid and nearly 90,000 on the exchange, Sandoval said.

According to the state’s analysis, more than 200,000 people currently receiving Medicaid will lose coverage when the block grant goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and need to be moved to other coverage with unknown costs. An additional 90,000 Nevadans who purchase insurance on the exchange would also be left without access to subsidized coverage.

The per capita cap that Graham-Cassidy places on Medicaid funding, which organizations who have analyzed the bill do not believe will keep pace with the costs of providing health care, will “fundamentally” change the federal Medicaid program without analyzing the cost of long-term impacts to the state, the state analysis says.

The legislation will also reduce the ability for states to levy provider taxes from 6 percent to 4 percent over time, which will limit Nevada’s ability to help finance increased Medicaid payments to nursing homes. The reduction will result in a $10 million per year reduction in payments to nursing homes by 2025, according to the state’s analysis.

The state analysis says Graham-Cassidy will also reduce the $8 million in prevention and public health funding Nevada receives annually to pay for immunizations and conduct disease investigations to protect public health, as well as reduce Nevada’s hospitals from accessing Medicaid funds in retroactive months of eligibility in many cases, resulting in more uncompensated care and cost burdens being shifted to other parts of the health-care system.

“I have said many times before that I will not support legislation that may result in a cost shift to the State or result in Nevadans losing insurance coverage,” Sandoval said. “I cannot in good faith support the Graham-Cassidy amendment.”

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The DCCC Fully Embraced A More Conservative Democratic Party-- Partners With The Blue Dogs


Earlier today we compared the worst of the Republicans to the worst of the Democrats-- and came to the conclusion that the worst Republicans are worse than the worst Democrats. But that doesn't make the worst Democrats-- the New Dems and Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- any less repellent than there records show them to be.

A couple of words before about the Republican wing of the Democratic Party first. The Blue Dogs and the New Dems are actual organizations, with members dues, admission processes, charters, officers, etc. They are not some words to use to describe non-members. And although Beltway goofballs tare always saying that the New Dems aren't as bad-- as in extreme right-- as the Blue Dogs, the fact of the matter is that almost every Blue Dog is also a New Dem. The worst Blue Dogs-- no matter how you define "worst"-- from Kirsten Sinema (AZ), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Jim Costa (CA), and Stephanie Murphy (FL) to Jim Cooper (TN), Kurt Schrader (OR), Charlie Crist (FL) and Lou Correa (CA)-- are also New Dems. Generally speaking the new Dems are first and foremost a pack of corrupt conservatives who use the organization to launder special interest money into their careers. The New Dem leadership includes money-hungry crooks Jim Times (CT), Derek Kilmer (WA), Terri Sewell (AL), Kathleen Rice (NY), Ron Kind (WI), Scott Peters (CA) and Suzan DelBene (WA). Wassermann Schultz is also a member. And the former New Dem chairman, Joe Crowley, the most corrupt Democrat in the House, is now in line to tale over the Democratic congressional leadership.

Since Rahm, a major New Dem, was head of the DCCC, New Dems have always been favored in recruitment and campaign funding. Now, under "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel protégé, Ben Ray Lujan, the DCCC is openly recruiting and funding Blue Dogs. They always did it, but now they're publicly celebrating that they're doing it. Keep in mind that inside the Beltway politicians and their media shills refer to the right-wing Blue Dogs as "moderates," implying the mainstream Democrats are not moderate (i.e.- radicals) a patently absurd Beltway convention. The Blue Dogs endorsed a slate of corrupt conservatives this week and they're "working hand-in-glove with the DCCC." The first 8 candidates presages "dozens more."
Former Rep. Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) is included in the first round of endorsements. Ashford, a former Blue Dog who lost his seat in 2016, wants a rematch against Rep. Don Bacon (R) after losing to him by just 1 percentage point.

Only one candidate, former House Intelligence Committee staffer turned federal prosecutor Jay Hulings, is from a district that Clinton won in November. Hulings is looking to unseat Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) in the Texas border district Clinton won by almost 4 points.

The remaining six candidates on the first slate are all running uphill battles in Republican-leaning districts, some in areas Trump won by a double-digit margin.

The list includes Anthony Brindisi (D), a New York State assemblyman looking to run against Rep. Claudia Tenney (R); Paul Davis, the former Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Kansas hoping to win an open seat; and Gretchen Driskell, a former Michigan state House member running for a rematch against Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

The Blue Dogs are also endorsing Roger Dean Huffstetler (D-VA), a Marine Corps veteran running against Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA); Brendan Kelly (D-IL), a state’s attorney and Navy veteran who wants to defeat Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL); and Dan McCready (D-NC), a Marine Corps veteran running to take on Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC).

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who is working with Schrader on Blue Dog recruitment, said she’s “delighted” by the relationship with the DCCC this cycle. Sinema and others said this is the relations between the two groups haven’t been this good since 2006, when DCCC head Rahm Emanuel made a concerted effort to recruit conservative Democrats in swing districts as part of an effort that eventually won the party a House majority.

Blue Dogs meet with the DCCC weekly to talk about recruitment and strategy, members and their staff have been interviewing prospective candidates over the past few months, and former Blue Dog staffers offered their support and effort to Blue Dog candidates.

Blue Dogs also expect to have more resources than normal to support their candidates-- one aide told The Hill that they are seeing a “surge” in donations to their political action committee.

The initial endorsements suggests the crossover appeal approach the Blue Dogs are taking to candidate recruitment for Republican-leaning or swing districts.

Brindisi, for example, earned high marks from the National Rifle Association during his time in the state assembly. Davis has pledged not to vote for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to lead the party in the House, while Ashford was a Republican until he switched parties in 2014.

Normal mainstream Democrats are not thrilled that the DCCC is spending money on so many right-wingers from the Republican wing of the party, some of who are homophobic, anti-Choice and have far more in common with the GOP than with progressives. One of the right-wing Democrats in Congress, Oregon Blue Dog Kurt Schrader says he expects progressives to fall in line after the primaries. "I’d like to think that the progressives will be fired up for any Democratic district, because no progressive policy gets done unless we are in the majority. None of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders’ stuff has even a remote chance of happening unless Democrats are in the majority. We may not end up with their particular brand, but we’re going to be a hell of a lot closer." What he neglected to mention is that most of the Blue Dogs vote against the reform policies espoused by Warren and Sanders... consistently.
Gretchen Driskell (MI-07)
Brad Ashford (NE-02)*
Jay Hulings (TX-23)*
Anthony Brindisi (NY-22)
Roger Huffstetler (VA-05)*
Brendan Kelly (IL-12)*
Dan McCready (NC-09)*
Paul Davis (KS-02)
The bolded districts are the ones that were won by Bernie in the primary. The southern districts in North Carolina, Texas and Virginia were the Hillary districts. Maybe the DCCC is making a catastrophic mistake giving the Bernie districts to Blue Dogs to run-- and lose-- in. Asterisks (*) indicate there is also a normal, mainstream Democrat contesting the primary against the DCCC Blue Dog.

Pelosi & Lujan consider a morgue as the new DCCC headquarters

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Wisconsin-- The Center Of The Political Universe For 2018?


I had the impression that even before Randy Bryce realized he could do the "impossible" and actually beat Paul Ryan in Wisconsin's southeast congressional district, he was willing to run and rally the base and turn out the vote in the district so that Democrats would go to the polls and vote in other elections, especially Tammy Baldwin's tough reelection campaign for U.S. Senate. One basic lesson the DCCC and DNC have steadfastly refused to learn-- or even understand-- is that when there are candidates down-ballot generating local enthusiasm and excitement, it helps candidates running hop-ballot (like for governor and senator). Bryce is a strategic thinker. The DCCC isn't; the people running it are just clueless money-grubbing careerists.

Yesterday, Randy Bryce was a featured speaker at the International Association of Machinists' annual statewide convention at the Manitowoc Holiday Inn, 2 counties up Lake Michigan from WI-01. Frank Schaeffer, who's beginning a new project to help flip Congress from reactionary red to progressive blue, was with Bryce filming and interviewing. The DCCC literally had no plans for contesting any seats in Wisconsin in the 2018 cycle (because their only lame metric for targeting was to look to see where Clinton beat Trump and contest those districts, something they will regret on November 7, 2018.) I'm not saying they shouldn't use that metric at all, but that they should also use another-- one that would have them contesting seats in districts-- like WI-01 and other Wisconsin districts-- where Hillary was the wrong candidate and lost to Trump but where primary day saw Bernie not just outpolling Hillary but also outpolling Trump. Example: if you want to win WI-01, you have to win the 4 key counties that contribute most of the votes: Racine, where Trump beat Hillary 49.8% to 45.4%, Kenosha, where Trump beat Hillary 47.5% to 47.2%, Walworth, where Trump beat Hilary 57.0% to 37.0% and Rock, where Hillary managed to eke out a 52.4% to 42.0% win. But this is what happened on primary day:
Kenosha Co.- Bernie- 14,612; Hillary- 10,871; Trumpanzee- 11,139
Racine Co.- Bernie- 14,651; Hillary- 14,086; Trumpanzee- 11,756
Rock Co.- Bernie- 17,337; Hillary- 11,248; Trumpanzee- 10,264
Walworth Co.- Bernie-8,405 ; Hillary- 5,174; Trumpanzee- 7,534
Bernie country-- and yes, he certainly would have beat Trump in WI-01, where Bryce was one of his surrogates. But those are inconvenient facts the DCCC refuses to consider when they make preliminary plans for allocating resources for 2018 races. They removed Wisconsin from their maps. Now, however, by dint of Bryce's own talents as a natural leader-- and the local and national enthusiasm for his appeal-- Wisconsin is front-and-center for 2018... despite Pelosi's wishes to continue the long and sordid DCCC policy of protecting Paul Ryan's reelection efforts.

And the excitement in Wisconsin isn't just centered on the David and Goliath Bryce vs Ryan contest. The Republicans are struggling to even find a candidate to go up against Baldwin in the Senate race. Although every Democrat's favorite GOP candidate, lunatic for Sheriff David Clarke, hasn't declared yet, two third tier candidates have: state Senate Assistant Majority Leader, Leah Vukmir, and Kevin Nicholson, a rich businessman. (Also some guy named John Schiess.) Some Republicans are holding out for possible runs by one of 2 unaccomplished congressional backbenchers, Mike Gallagher or Glenn Grothman (who has now, finally, moved out of his parents' basement) or by Eric Hovde, a rich businessman who ran and lost for the Senate in 2012. The lunatic fringe of the party is giving up on Clarke and starting to coalesce around Nicholson-- he's been endorsed by psycho-warmonger John Bolton and by the Club for Growth. Friday Politico featured the little-known Nicholson on it's front cover. Most important, explained Politico, is the support Nicholson won before entering the race: far right Wisconsin money-bags Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, "titans in the conservative donor universe. The two extremist lunatics "parked $3.5 million in a super PAC for him, baffling rivals in both parties and lending the little-known, first-time candidate instant viability."

Not many voters in Wisconsin know who Nicholson is but, like Paul Ryan 2 decades ago, he appears to be a readymade, prefab candidate invented to carry a right-wing message: "With his Hollywood looks, military pedigree, Ivy League smarts and private-sector proficiency, Nicholson could have been built in a GOP laboratory." The same GOP laboratory that turned out Ryan. Never mind that he's never won a vote for anything before (other than when he ran for president of the College Democrats of America), with Ryan's sheen irrepairably tarnished, the Uihleins and other behind-the-cutain Republicans see Nicholson as an eventual presidential contender. "He is, for comparison’s sake, a wealthier, better-looking and more charming version of Senator Tom Cotton. 'Kevin is even more impressive in person than he is on paper,' gushes David McIntosh, the former [very, very, very far right] congressman and Club for Growth president."

Nicholson was a DNC hack and spoke, boringly, at the Democratic Convention-- touting his commitment to abortion and Al Gore. He was a typically clueless, anti-progressive conservaDem in the mold of garbage like Joe Lieberman. He "felt fundamentally betrayed by modern liberalism and went searching for something else," emerging in the GOP as a right-wing nut. Plenty of offal-eating Blue Dogs have done the same thing over the years.
The spell Nicholson has cast over a number of influential Republicans is a source of wonder in Wisconsin these days. Yet people who know him say the explanation isn’t terribly complicated. “He’s a McKinsey consultant. His job is to walk in a room of powerful, wealthy people, blow them away, and get their money,” says one state official who is friendly with Nicholson but obligated to remain neutral in the race. “And he’s very, very good at it.” Another person who spoke on condition of anonymity-- a longtime friend of Nicholson’s who is a Democrat, and therefore loath to either hurt or help him with an on-record statement-- says none of Nicholson’s early success is surprising. “I’m guessing once he managed somehow to get in front of Dick Uihlein, he just impressed the shit out of him. I’m sure he laid out the case and convinced them he could make it happen,” the friend says. “I’ve seen it-- the guy’s fucking incredible. Nobody knows him, and he’s arguably the front-runner for the nomination for U.S. Senate.”

But there’s a glaring flaw in his otherwise immaculate résumé: Kevin Nicholson hasn’t always been a Republican. He was once an aspiring politician and rising star-- in the Democratic Party.
He'd tries claiming his experience as a former Democrat-- he was never really a rising star except in his own mind and he's been dreaming about running for the White House since he was a teenager and even joined the Marines to burnish a future résumé-- is what made him a conservative, just the way it did with Reagan. That's what they all say. It probably won't hurt him much with in the context of such a lackluster field.
Months of gossip percolating through Wisconsin’s political class have produced two distinct and diverging judgments of Nicholson, revolving around the sincerity of his conversion and the scope of his ambition. The generous view holds, more or less, that Nicholson quit politics because he felt abandoned by the Democratic Party, discovered his inner conservatism and re-emerged serendipitously back home just as Wisconsin’s GOP bench was growing a bit stale. The cynical view is essentially that Nicholson has wanted to be president since he was a teenager and has few core convictions; that he saw the demographic winds shift during his time in D.C. and decided the clearest path to public office as a straight, white man in Wisconsin would be as a Republican.

...It’s risky to start poking holes in a decorated veteran’s backstory, and Nicholson’s GOP adversaries have no need to get overly personal-- at least, not yet. They believe, in a state where Republicans have radically transformed government through seven years of brutal party-line warfare, that Nicholson’s new-to-the-team routine won’t fly with voters. Wisconsin is one state where there is little daylight between the grass roots and establishment; outsider rhetoric can be ineffective bordering on counterproductive. Against that backdrop, Nicholson’s early traction has some Republicans concerned, if a bit annoyed.

When Vukmir learns that I’m here to write about Nicholson, she rolls her eyes. “What do you know about him?” I ask. She shakes her head. “What you’ve heard him say. That’s about all I know.” Vukmir, who sits on the powerful Joint Finance Committee, was waiting for the state’s budget to pass before officially announcing her Senate campaign, but couldn’t afford to wait any longer and wound up launching in the first week of September. But I know, speaking to her in Greenville weeks earlier, she’s here for the same reason as Nicholson... “I don’t know what Kevin’s conservative record is, other than him saying he’s a conservative,” Vukmir says. “So he’ll have to get people to believe that.”

The story of Nicholson's transformation starts with Jessie Roos. They met at the University of Minnesota, and according to mutual friends, forged a relationship owing to equal parts romance, intellectual admiration and political drive. They were inseparable, with Roos pulling double-duty as Nicholson’s girlfriend and most trusted adviser. This arrangement caused uneasiness in College Democrat circles as Nicholson campaigned to lead the national organization. The reason: Roos was among the most prominent conservatives on campus. In 1998, she and four other students were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the university; they objected, the Associated Press reported at the time, “to sending $1.04 per quarter in mandatory student fees to the Queer Student Cultural Center, La Raza Student Cultural Center and University-YW (Young Women), groups they say promote homosexuality, communism and abortion.”

Despite their diverging politics, Roos was Nicholson’s “north star,” a phrase used by two separate college friends to describe her influence over him. The couple broke up and reconciled repeatedly, in part because Roos feared Nicholson might never acknowledge the truth about himself: that deep down, he was a conservative. The relationship nearly ended, permanently, when Nicholson advocated “a woman’s right to choose” in his convention speech. Reviewing the text with him by phone from Minnesota, Roos went ballistic when she heard the line and demanded Nicholson remove it. He refused. “We got in a fight. I knew at the time it was not something he had thought extensively about,” she recalls to me. “And that definitely was a piece of the conversation in terms of courtship and leading toward marriage, because that was a no-go zone for me.”

Today they can claim a happy ending: Nicholson ultimately turned anti-abortion, the couple got married, had three children and are now simpatico in their worldviews. Jessie Roos is now Jessie Nicholson, herself a political pro with a communications background: She was a George W. Bush political appointee at the Department of Agriculture and previously worked for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as well as Republicans in the Statehouse. It takes five minutes around the Nicholsons to realize that Jessie, who led her husband's conversion, will be guiding his Senate campaign more than any consultant or strategist. “We are partners, and we both have different roles to play,” she says, smiling. “I know how I think things should go.”

She’ll have to help her husband craft sharper answers to questions about his background, including that convention speech. Before heading to Wisconsin, I heard Nicholson say on multiple radio shows that someone “put a piece of paper in front of me” containing the abortion rights language. As we ride together, I ask a simple question: Did you write that line, or was it written for you? “Um, let’s start with the most important thing,” he replies. “I’m responsible because I said it. So don’t think that I’m equivocating on this.” Sure, I say, but it’s important to nail down: Did you write it? “Yeah-- so, no. The bottom line is ... ” Nicholson stops and swallows hard. His face is flushed. “Cognizant of the fact you’re going to write this out, I want to be clear: I own it, ‘cause I was a young person but I was an adult, and I should have known better. Period.” He continues: “I wrote a speech which was pretty innocuous. It was about generational differences. ... That was sent to the DNC, it was recut, and that particular phrase was inserted.” So, I ask him, you didn’t write that phrase about abortion? “Nope. Well it-- don’t get me as a bullshitter here. I own it. I said it.”

Unless the DNC is hanging on to 17-year-old emails containing Nicholson’s original draft, nobody can prove who wrote that line. But Nicholson’s convoluted story only invites further scrutiny of his record on abortion. Already, Democrats have released the EMILY’s List letter, as well as the College Democrats’ abortion rights platform that was adopted on Nicholson’s watch. I found something else, having heard from friends about his frequent appearances on MSNBC during the 2000 campaign: a transcript of “Equal Time,” on July 14, 2000, in which Nicholson debated Scott Stewart, then the chairman of the College Republicans. Discussing the Supreme Court, 22-year-old Nicholson said, “Obviously, the next president is going to have a huge impact on the court. And I personally believe, and the people in my organization, the College Democrats of America, believe that Al Gore needs to be elected in order to ensure that the simple issues, base issues like a woman’s right to choose, must be protected.”

...His closest ally was Mike Tate, who led the Wisconsin College Democrats and later served as chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party during Baldwin’s victorious Senate run in 2012. Nicholson enlisted Tate’s support when running in college and the two became fast friends, having grown up 12 miles apart in suburban Milwaukee. They roomed together at the 2000 convention and Tate often crashed at Nicholson’s place in D.C. “He had his whole life planned out. He was going to serve in the military, come back to Wisconsin and run for office,” Tate says. “My biggest disappointment is that he’s doing it as a Republican.” He tells me Nicholson “gets up every day with a mission” and “should absolutely be taken seriously” by Democrats, even if Tate still doesn’t understand why his friend switched parties. He recalls one late-night college conversation that he can’t shake. “I was once foolish enough to think I wanted to run for office, and he talked to me about how Humphrey and Mondale were partners in Minnesota politics for decades,” Tate says. “And he said, ‘Mike, that could be you and me in Wisconsin.’”

Nicholson today is embarrassed by his former self, telling me three times that he was a “punk kid.” This is precisely how some fellow College Democrats remember him: as the cold, cocky, unpopular leader of their organization. “I did not like Kevin, and he would be the first person to tell you that,” says Alexandra Acker-Lyons, who was Nicholson’s vice president and is today a Democratic consultant. “Kevin is that guy-- D.C. is crawling with them, summer interns and Hill staffers-- who you know wants to run for office, and you know isn’t doing it for the right reasons.”

...When he returned stateside in November 2007, Nicholson says, he and his wife went all-in for John McCain. They put up yard signs and made multiple donations to his campaign totaling $500; Nicholson attended a McCain rally and was photographed sitting behind the Republican candidate. As with so much else in Nicholson’s past, however, there is nothing simple about his official switch to Republicanism. He says he voted for Bush in 2004; yet he registered as a Democrat when he moved to North Carolina in 2005. This caused an even bigger headache: When he went to vote for McCain in the May 2008 presidential primary, state law disallowed same-day registration switching. So he says he voted “no preference” in the Democratic primary. The problem: records from Nicholson’s precinct that day suggest nobody voted “no preference.” This doesn’t mean he’s lying about backing McCain, and Nicholson can be excused for rolling his eyes at questions about “paper ballots in North Carolina 10 years ago.” But it’s another example of biographical vulnerability, even as his version of events is pretty convincing. “I would ask people to use common sense,” Nicholson tells me. “I was a Marine, and I was giving my vote, my money, my support and my time to... the person who was going to be commanding me in a short period of time in combat.”

...If financial might is fueling much of the hype surrounding Nicholson, there are reasons to suspect he won’t live up to it. His name identification in Wisconsin is all but nonexistent. Vukmir has her own deep-pocketed supporters, starting with Diane Hendricks, the richest Republican donor in the state. Eric Hovde, a self-funding businessman who finished a close second in the 2012 primary, is weighing another run. The pivotal endorsements in Wisconsin come not from national groups such as the Club for Growth (whose endorsed candidate in 2012 finished third in the GOP primary), but from conservative talk-radio in the southeast corner of the state, which is Vukmir’s territory. His biographical vulnerabilities aside, Nicholson is raw as a retail campaigner and can come across as programmed and mistake-averse. If he wins the nomination and squares off against Baldwin-- who is certainly beatable, having run behind Obama in 2012-- Nicholson will have to spend next fall tap-dancing around Trump (about whom he’s been advised not to utter a negative word). He’ll also have to show a better command of the issues: Nicholson is playing to a perceived strength by attacking Baldwin’s poor handling of a Veterans Affairs scandal in Wisconsin, but when I ask him about the VA accountability bill that Trump signed into law this summer, Nicholson admits to not knowing the details.

All of that said, and given his manifest upside as a candidate, I was stunned at the degree to which the most prominent Wisconsin Republicans I spoke with-- in particular, close allies of Speaker Paul Ryan, Governor Scott Walker and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus-- were dismissive of Nicholson’s chances. Some of this skepticism, in both Madison and Washington, speaks to the pack mentality of veteran politicians trusting only one of their own. There’s also an element of jealousy: Out-of-nowhere phenoms like Nicholson aren’t often well received by members of the party who have spent years paying their dues. But above all, the rookie candidate must overcome a fundamental deficit of trust: In countless conversations, people who have met with Nicholson tell me they aren’t convinced he is truly a conservative.

“I’m not buying it,” Scott Fitzgerald, the state Senate majority leader, tells me. Fitzgerald, who has announced his support of Vukmir, says Nicholson reached out to him earlier this year after Rep. Sean Duffy, a presumed challenger to Baldwin, opted not to run. They had a cup of coffee, and Fitzgerald saw the upside others are investing in. But it wasn’t enough. “I’ve met those types of candidates-- sometimes they’re successful, but other times they turn out to be show horses instead of workhorses,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s a roll of the dice with Kevin, because you just don’t know enough about him. You don’t know who he really is.”

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Repellent Republicans Are Way More Repellent Than Repellent Democrats-- And There Are Plenty Of Repellent Democrats


Our Revolution is asking Democrats to cosponsor 8 specific bills that mae up the progressive legislative agenda. Their pitch is good: "Resisting the Trump administration and Republican Congressional agenda is only part of how we can move our country forward. Now is the time for Democrats to campaign on a bold agenda and fight to create an America that works for everyone. If Democrats want to win in 2018 and take our country back from the billionaire class and Republicans, they need to start by supporting legislation that speaks to the real concerns facing the American people. We're fighting for a Congress that will put people before profits to create an America where everyone, regardless of the age, race, gender or economic status has access to health care, free college tuition, a livable planet, and a job that pays a living wage. The Democratic Party Platform makes it clear that Democrats must fight for these issues as a party. We’re asking all House Democrats to commit to supporting our #PeoplesPlatform bills by signing on as a co-sponsor when Congress comes back in session in September."

Some of the worse excuses for Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- Blue Dogs like Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Stephanie Murphy (FL), Sanford Bishop (GA), Lou Correa (CA), Brad Schneider (IL), Vicente Gonzalez (TX) and New Dems like Ami Bera (CA), Jim Himes (CT), Ann Kuster (NH), Ron Kind (WI), as well as a few unaffiliated conservaDems Like Raul Ruiz (CA) and Jacky Rosen, have signed on to just one bill. But there are only 8 ultra-conservative fake Democrats-- generally the worst of the worst-- who have refused to sign on to any:
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Stephen Lynch (MA)

They all have the worst ProgressivePunch scores and high rankings on the Trump adhesion scorecard. When Paul Ryan wants to be able to say one of his toxic, anti-humanity bills is "bipartisan," he calls Kevin McConnell and tells him to dig up Sinema or Peterson or "ex"-Republican O'Halleran or any of the crooked monkeys on that list and get them to cross the aisle. They do it all the time-- with impunity. They know Pelosi will never discipline them in any way-- and neither will the voters. This cycle only two-- Lipinski and Lynch-- have a primary opponent trying to hold them accountable. (You can help Lipinski's primary opponent, Marie Newman, here, at a special ActBlue page.)

That all said, as the headline indicates, the repellent Republicans are even more repellent. And yesterday Republican Party strategist Katie Packer, explained why in an OpEd for US News, A Repellent Brand of Republican. She focused on Bannon's Alabama Senate candidate, neo-fascist sociopath Roy Moore. "My impression of Moore," she wrote, "is that of a candidate who, based on his public statements, longs for the America we see on shows like Leave it to Beaver. That show depicts a time when men were the heads of the house, women knew their place and children didn't question, they just obeyed. A time when homosexuality was whispered about but never displayed publicly. A time when women didn't pursue careers but stayed home, kept the house clean and had dinner on the table for their man. All with perfect hair, high heels on her feet and a string of pearls around her neck. My impression is that the preacher dad of Ariel in the movie Footloose could have been based on Roy Moore. And I don't think I'm alone. I think a lot of younger voters and female voters will share that view when they get to know Mr. Moore."
This is a problem for the Republican Party. For the last 5 years, I have been sounding a warning bell for Republicans. That if we as a party don't do more to reach women, minorities and millennials then we will find it hard to win national elections. I don't believe that being the party of old, white, cranky, rich men is a long-term recipe for success.

...The Republican coalition is getting older and whiter just as the general electorate is getting a lot more vibrant and colorful. Many Republican voters, and even Democratic voters, were adamantly and angrily opposed to gay marriage 10 years ago. But today their views have softened. They may still oppose it or feel uncomfortable with it, but most of them have a family member or close friend who is openly gay, maybe even married to their partner. They might still vote for a candidate who opposes gay marriage but probably don't appreciate their friend or family member being disparaged or belittled in the public square. Sadly, this rhetoric about fake marriage was not disavowed by candidate Moore.

In fact, Moore seems to embrace a 1950s Baptist Sunday School view of America and demands that everyone subscribe to that vision or keep quiet. But this vision of America doesn't make room for minorities, career minded independent women, gay people or others who were outside of the 1950 mainstream. I know a lot of Republicans and even some independents who voted for Trump in 2016 because they believed he would "shake things up" and that he was "better than Hillary." And Trump did himself a favor in the general election by not engaging in a culture war with Clinton that might have forced those on the moderate to liberal side of abortion rights and gay rights to reject him as a candidate. A Republican Party that is already carrying significant baggage brought on by the president, cannot afford to reignite the culture wars with hateful, divisive rhetoric directed at those who disagree with them.

Moore may win the primary, in spite of the fact that even Trump has rejected his candidacy. And if he does, he will likely win the general election too. If so, he will become another face of the Republican Party that repels many voters nationally. Not insignificantly, this will embolden Steve Bannon and his Breitbart cronies who are willing to take on the president who gave them their power and their stage, and continue their takedown of the Republican Party. All of those things are bad for the GOP in the long term.

So, on behalf of those who still identify as Republicans, who care about the Grand Old Party and what it stands for, but aren't sure how much more they can take, I'm begging the Republican primary voters of Alabama to reject this brand of Republican.
Reading her piece, you might come to the conclusion that the only other Republican in the "brand" she's discussing is Bannon. Not a word about her party's former vice presidential nominee who was in Alabama this week-- along with Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert-- campaigning for Moore. And Moore's erstwhile primary opponent, Rep. Mo Brooks, who finished 3rd, has now endorsed Moore. Nor are they the only ones going in a Bannon direction instead of a McConnell/Trump direction. Perhaps Katie's discussion of the repellent brand could have mentioned that Republican members of Congress on the Moore bandwagon include Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, and right-wing loons like Steve King (IA), Thomas Massie (KY), Ted Yoho (FL), Jim Jordan (OH) and Jody Hice (GA). On top of that, a whole constellation of Republican Party superstars have come out for Moore: Roger Stone, Richard Viguerie, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Brent Bozell, Erick Erickson, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee, James Dobson, Alan Keyes, Phil Robertson from Duck Dynasty, Chuck Norris, even Trump's own Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, as well as nearly all the crackpot GOP outside groups, from the violently homophobic National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council, and the Senate Conservatives Fund to the radical Gun Owners of America. That's some brand! Meanwhile-- and worth noting and connecting the dots-- Germany votes tomorrow and there is little doubt that the Bundestag will have actual Nazi members again, perhaps has many as 50-- first time since the 1940s.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

It's almost too bad, almost tragic, that the English found Trump so offensive that, earlier in the year, they told him they didn't want him to visit their country. Think about that. The country that practically ruined the world with their empire over 100 years ago, and spends most of its time drinking now, finds Trump offensive. And, they are right!

A splendid group that goes by the name of Wankers of the World was fully prepared for a Trump visit. Expecting a summer visit, they had even started to put up posters around London. This meme is one of them. Oh well, there's always another day.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Gay Couple Has Taken To Fake News Like Ducks To Water-- Alas, Trumpanzee Has Gays Too


What's your identity group? If you're Jewish and a Jew does something heinous or embarrassing, does that irk you even more than it would if someone whose identity group you're not part of did it? I love it that Mark Pocan, a gay man, has the best voting record in Congress and I'm embarrassed that a Kyrsten Sinema and Sean Patrick Maloney, both also gay, have two of the worst voting records of any congressional Democrats. I remember a Chinese friend of mine in San Francisco telling me his whole community felt a collective sense of... almost guilt because a Chinese immigrant shot someone. Well, there are a lot of gays in Los Angeles and overwhelmingly they're a good bunch when it comes to politics-- aware of what happens when you let solidarity slip and how vulnerable groups can be. Every single neighborhood with big gay populations-- from Manhattan, Key West, Wilton Manors in Fort Lauderdale, Provincetown and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on the East Coast thru Boystown in Chicago, Pleasant Ridge near Detroit, Oak Lawn, Dallas and Montrose in Houston to the Castro and Noe Valley in San Francisco, West Hollywood and Silverlake in L.A. and Palm Springs-- voted overwhelmingly against Trump. Gays knew. According to NYTimes exit polling Mitt Romney got nearly half the gay vote in 2012. Señor Trumpanzee didn't do quite so well. 14% of LGBT voters pulled the lever for Señor... very, very, very sick people, who were not just voting for Trump, but for the most psychotically obsessed homophobe in American politics, Mike Pence and his who murderous posse of mentally deranged misfits.

24 year old Sinclair Treadway lives in the faded-but-once-ritzy El Royale in L.A.'s Hancock Park with his husband Sean Adl-Tabatabai, 36. Sinclair says he was a Bernie primary voter. But he and Sean have gone down a very dark path since then. They have a fake news site, Your News Wire, whose credo is something like this quote from Sean: "Reality is how you perceive it. You can change that perception of reality-- dictate it." And today they are dictating it on behalf of the neo-fascist movement behind Trumpanzee. The "3-year old website of murky fact and slippery spin, has in the past year helped usher Donna Brazile out of her CNN gig and foment the Pizzagate frenzy with a key early post (which has generated 28,000 Facebook shares), all from an unlikely HQ for an alt-media operation: the couple's live/work apartment at the historic El Royale (sometime home to the likes of Katie Holmes, Josh Brolin and Cameron Diaz) in L.A.'s Hancock Park."
Now YNW is emerging alongside the more high-profile Breitbart as an integral player in the Trump era's L.A. alt-media axis. Despite Google's decision to cut off YNW's ad revenue and fact-checking site Snopes' relentless efforts to debunk its incendiary reports, its founders are more energized than ever, as Treadway puts it, "to focus on what people aren't focusing on-- the information that the public isn't already being told."

Like fellow outsider outlets (most notably Infowars, with which it periodically trades tips), YNW, whose output has been labeled fake news and Trumpist propaganda by critics, is fueled by populist politics and social media shares. Those in Hollywood retweeting its links include EL James (a story speculating on the origins of unknown "sky trumpet" sounds heard across Europe), Elijah Wood (an article concerning GMOs and cancer) and James Woods (a report that a former Haitian government official due to testify about alleged Clinton Foundation misdeeds was found dead in Miami).

Snopes debunked Your News Wire’s story in May about U.K. authorities allowing the Manchester terror bombing to happen.

The outlet's most devoted celebrity reader, however, is likely Roseanne Barr, who has repeatedly shared with her social media followers YNW's coverage of everything from Benghazi to Pizzagate. "We've communicated a couple of times-- I have the emails," says Adl-Tabatabai, who notes that the "kooky" Barr also has written to him to "slam" stories. "She's frank, opinionated-- our perfect audience." (Barr didn't respond to a request for comment.)

While YNW fields plenty of tips, most of which Adl-Tabatabai deletes ("I'll get quite a lot of, 'Kanye West is being readmitted to the hospital due to MKUltra,' that he's being mind-controlled"), the editorial approach of its tiny, work-from-home staff is chiefly to identify and highlight overlooked nuggets published elsewhere, then recirculate them with provocative new angles. They pull material from disparate outlets, whether Iranian state-backed TV or right-leaning Circa (owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group), usually pinpointing details tucked far down in articles or hidden away in obscure government reports.

Alienated liberals, the two share a suspicion of established stories and presumed facts that borders on the radical. Adl-Tabatabai's views are informed by what he sees as British media's failures during his formative years-- cheerleading the Iraq War, ignoring rumors of BBC host Jimmy Savile's sexual abuse of children-- while Treadway's are forged by a conviction that Bernie Sanders, whom he ardently supported during the Democratic primary, wasn't given legitimate consideration by the press.

They are critical of Donald Trump on some policy points (including his transgender military ban) but view him as a salutary influence in politics. "He may be a buffoon, and he may make some really bad mistakes during his presidency, but he's still an anti-establishment figure," reasons Adl-Tabatabai. "A vote for him was a vote to smash the system."

...In the months after Trump's election, several British papers published accounts criticizing YNW as a purveyor of fake news, with one reporting that a European Union task force set up to combat Russian propaganda had classified the outlet as a proxy. While the couple acknowledges that state-sponsored Russia Today is a favored source ("They have angles," notes Adl-Tabatabai, "and sometimes their angles vaguely match our angles"), they deny any links to the Kremlin. Such a claim, contends Adl-Tabatabai, is "part of an overall political game that's being played by big corporate media outlets to purge independents."

The negative attention has had a bottom-line impact. Google AdSense dropped YNW from its network, resulting in what Adl-Tabatabai notes was a 60 percent drop in revenue (he declines to reveal dollar figures). He says he learned from a "brutally honest" discussion with an AdSense rep that there are internal divisions at Google over whether to work with publishers like YNW. "The thing that infuriated me most is that Google itself admitted to me that they didn't view us as a 'fake news' website," he says.

Just a couple of Mike Pence enablers
In a statement provided to THR, Google writes, "We don't comment on specific sites, but if a site violates our policies, whether intentionally or not, we take quick action and stop serving ads to that site." The couple's site briefly appeared under another banner, NewsPunch, in early September-- Adl-Tabatabai says "the decision to rebrand [had been] brewing for a while"-- and was an AdSense site again. Google wouldn't reveal whether it was aware that NewsPunch was simply YNW with a new logo and tagline. At any rate, the site within days reverted to Your News Wire-- because of technical difficulties, says Adl-Tabatabai, who adds it's still "moving toward a rebrand."

He and Treadway regularly find themselves in the sights of Snopes, the web's best-regarded fact-checker, which wrote in May of YNW's "track record of promoting false information." (It attempted to debunk the publication's false-flag conspiracy reporting the British government knew in advance that Ariana Grande's May 22 concert in Manchester would be bombed but "'allowed' this attack to happen in order to justify cracking down on the innocent population even further.") Snopes head David Mikkelson observes that the couple also has a history of publishing what he considers defamatory claims about his own operation, and Snopes' legal counsel has sent cease-and-desist notices.

Given Snopes' role as one of Facebook's official partners in efforts to address the spread of misinformation, Adl-Tabatabai says he has been weighing his options for a campaign against what he sees as a competitor with an unfair stranglehold on dictating reality-- a move right out of Trump's anti-press playbook. "We're all now questioning reality as it's being handed down, how it's interpreted, how it's portrayed," reasons Adl-Tabatabai on the rooftop of the El Royale as Treadway nods. "The audience itself is already questioning the facts."
The other night-- in a brief post about the new Tom of Finland film-- we looked (admiringly) at the idea of gays as outlaws and rebels, a theme I've explored here at DWT before. Damn, I hate thinking of Treadway and Adl-Tabatabai in that context! I think I'd rather see them as nothing really more than just contrarian idiots steeped in ignorance, ambition and a deep-seated need to be-- at least in each other's eyes-- as fabulous as Cher when she sang "Believe." What do you think, are Treadway and Adl-Tabatabai as fabulous as Cher? John Rechy they'll never be-- let alone Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, Oscar Wilde, William Burroughs, James Baldwin or Touko Laaksonen.

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Foreign Tourists Are Avoiding Trump Country


The NAACP issued it's first-ever travel advisory last month-- for the state of Missouri. Missouri has become a real police state-- with the most violent and unaccountable law enforcement systems in America, a virtual occupying force. The NAACP pointed out that African-Americans are 75% more likely to be stopped by the police than whites." Nor were they thrilled by a new state law that makes it harder to sue businesses for racial discrimination.
The advisory, the first of its kind for the organization, stated that visitors and state residents should “pay special attention and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the state given the series of questionable, race-based incidents occurring statewide recently.” It was reviewed and renewed on Aug. 28.

Missouri might be worst-- but the other day, we mentioned that hate crimes in the U.S. have been climbing since Trump managed to slip into the White House.

That makes foreign tourists nervous and on Tuesday, the NY Times reported that international tourism has been declining since Señor Trumpanzee took over.
Fewer international travelers came to the United States during the first few months of this year than over the same period last year, confirming concerns of some in the travel industry.

New figures released by the U.S. Department of Commerce show a drop in international visitors to the United States by close to 700,000 in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the previous year. European countries were down 10.1 percent, and Mexico was off 7.1 percent in the quarter. The largest drops were from the Middle East and Africa, though they represent a much smaller percentage of overall travel to the United States.

Overall, 697,791 fewer foreigners visited the United States in the first three months of the year, down 4.2 percent to 15.8 million. According to Tourism Economics, a branch of Oxford Economics based in Wayne, Pa., that analyzes travel data, the drop represents a loss of nearly $2.7 billion in spending.

As points of comparison, the first quarter of 2013, after the reelection of Barack Obama, international tourism was up 6.4 percent, and the first quarter of 2009, after President Obama’s first election (and during global recession that began at the end of 2008), it was down 14.3 percent.

The question of whether the results prove a ripple effect from President Trump’s proposed travel ban on visitors from six majority-Muslim countries, an expanded wall along the Mexican border and anti-immigrant statements remains unanswered. But the data tracks with a decline in United States favorability abroad: In June, the Pew Research Center found that 49 percent of those surveyed in 37 nations had a positive view of the United States, versus 64 percent at the end of President Obama’s term in office.

Last week, Pew reported that nearly two-thirds of Mexicans held a negative opinion of the United States, more than double the figure of two years ago, which stood at 29 percent.

“It’s not a reach to say the rhetoric and policies of this administration are affecting sentiment around the world, creating antipathy toward the U.S. and affecting travel behavior,” said Adam Sacks, the president of Tourism Economics.

In response to a Facebook post by the New York Times, European readers overwhelmingly cited the Trump administration and its policies as reasons for avoiding or canceling trips to the United States.

“We are British Muslims and live in London,” Sabaa Farrukh wrote. “We wanted to visit N.Y.C. this summer but decided against it simply because we felt we wouldn’t be welcome there and didn’t want to waste precious holiday time in case there was a problem at passport control at the airport.”

Others cited violence and safety. Marika Treichel, who lives in Denmark, wrote, “I have always dreamed of visiting the US. But the rise of gun violence and political chaos has made me want to cancel all future travels to the U.S. until I can feel safe as a tourist.”

This has been a strong year for the U.S. dollar, which makes travel more expensive for other currencies-- though exceptions make that an unsatisfying explanation for the tourism drop. The Canadian dollar, for example, is weaker than it has been in previous years (despite a summer surge), yet Canadian tourism to the United States was up 14.8 percent January through April.

Within Europe, the tourism declines were largest in Switzerland at nearly 28 percent, Belgium at 20 percent and Britain at 15.5 percent. Britain accounts for the largest share by country of European arrivals in the United States, with 4.5 million tourists last year, making its slowdown significant. (Asian tourism was about the same as last year-- up .6 percent-- mainly due to a surge of South Korean travelers, up over 15 percent in the first quarter.)

“The international travel market is ultracompetitive, and the U.S. is falling behind,” said Roger Dow, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Association, a nonprofit that promotes travel to and within the United States, in a statement.

A report released in April by the World Economic Forum showed the United States falling two spots in its rankings of the top 10 most popular countries for tourism in the world. The United States fell to number six, passed by both Japan and Britain.

...Factoring in the April figures brings the loss to the U.S. economy to $1.7 billion, according to Tourism Economics.

Some tour operators have already felt the freeze. Intrepid Travel reported a 24 percent decrease in bookings to the United States this year to date compared to the same period last year, while trips to Canada are up 40 percent.

“Given the current political and social climate, now is an especially important time for the travel industry to stand for open borders, inclusivity and the celebration of diversity,” wrote Leigh Barnes, the regional director for Intrepid Travel, in an email.

Security concerns may be another factor. Through government travel advisories, countries including New Zealand and Britain have warned their citizens that travel within the United States represents some risk based on the threat of terrorist attacks.

Lucy Taylor, an Australian who is spending several weeks this summer and fall visiting the United States with her husband, altered the couple’s itinerary based on anticipated xenophobia.

“We decided not to do a road trip across the U.S. and just to stick to blue states,” she said. “We weren’t sure what kind of reception we would have.”
It's gotten worse under Trump, but it didn't start with him, did it? Still, there are stories like this way too frequently in the U.S. now that Trump has implicitly and explicitly given police departments permission and encouragement to let their authoritarian freak flags fly. Oklahoma City cops shot a 35 year old deaf man with no criminal history, Magdiel Sanchez, in front of his home yesterday because he didn't obey their commands. Neighbors were yelling "he can't hear you" before the cops opened up on him.

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