Monday, February 20, 2017

Massachusetts ConservaDem Stephen Lynch Draws A Primary Opponent

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Safely behind it's paywall last week, Roll Call ran a post by Colin Diersing about Tulsi Gabbard's cloudy political future. DWT readers are already aware that the conservative Fox Democrat masquerading as a progressive can't be trusted, despite having noisily endorsed Bernie-- in a state where he won the 2016 caucuses 70-30% against Clinton. Digressing wrote that she's "gained prominence by her willingness to buck leadership, whether by challenging better-known candidates in her early races, criticizing President Obama’s approach to ISIS, or backing Bernie Sanders and resigning a national party post during the primaries." He forgot to mention that she also led the anti-LGBT campaign in Hawaii's state legislature.
[I]n recent weeks, strategists said speculation that Gabbard could join the Trump administration and a trip in which she met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have raised questions about her political future and aspirations. Hawaii Democrats said voters back home are paying attention.

“Out of all of the issues that have gotten her in the news so far, this is the most coverage she’s ever gotten on any single issue or incident,” said state Sen. Stanley Chang, who like Gabbard was elected to the Honolulu City Council in 2010.

Hawaii news sources echoed the tone of several Democrats who privately discussed the trip with National Journal: confusion and frustration. The Maui News editorial board wrote that it was “baffled” by Gabbard’s actions, and the Honolulu Civil Beat wrote that she had “crossed the line with a secret trip to Syria.” And on Sunday, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist criticized Gabbard for comparing her trip with the late Rep. Patsy Mink’s meetings at the Paris Peace Talks during the Vietnam War. “Things like that can come back and haunt her next year,” said one Hawaii Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Chang, whose comments aligned with those of Democratic strategists in the state, said that the unusual circumstances surrounding the trip coincided with Trump’s election and the rise of a progressive activist corps in Hawaii to “create a lot of interest in the community” about the trip.

Even if the controversy over the trip dies down, observers said it raised an important question about Gabbard’s future: Can her go-it-alone approach to politics translate in an era when Democrats around the country seem increasingly united behind an anti-Trump movement?

Though she has remained popular at home while splitting with Obama and national Democrats over a variety of issues, some argued that the fervent anti-Trump energy within the Democratic Party could make it increasingly difficult for Gabbard to continue on her current course without backlash from a deep-blue Hawaii electorate.

“People have a lot less patience for Democrats who are not going to present a united front, particularly people who style themselves as progressive Democrats,” said Colin Moore, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii and director of the school’s public policy center. “This resonates back home. The cost there is she won’t be considered a trustworthy ally for the national Democratic Party.”
OK now let's skip way across the country to Massachusetts, where another Democrat very much like Gabbard-- conservative Stephen Lynch (both have career-long grades of "F" from ProgressivePunch; Lynch's score is 78.69 and Gabbard's is 73.90)-- is being also being challenged from the left. This one is even more complex than the sordid Gabbard saga.

Do you know about Gamergate? (I'm not talking about the sexually active ant.) I didn't follow it at the time-- but it's become relevant to the 2018 congressional primary in blue collar MA-08. The district includes Boston's North End and West End, as well as Beacon Hill and the Financial District, goes down to South Boston, Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Weymouth and Brockton before swinging west to Walpole, Norwood and Dedham. Obama beat Romney there 58-41% and Hillary beat Trump 60.4-34.4%.


The challenge Lynch faces next year is from, Brianna Wu, who become something of an online celebrity because of the Gamergate controversy, which wikipedia defined as concerning "issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture, stemming from a harassment campaign conducted primarily through the use of the Twitter hashtag #GamerGate... Beginning in August 2014, Gamergate targeted several women in the video game industry, including game developers Zoë Quinn and Brianna Wu, as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian. After a former boyfriend of Quinn wrote a lengthy disparaging blog post about her, other people falsely accused her of entering a relationship with a journalist in exchange for positive coverage and threatened her with assault and murder. Those endorsing the blog post and spreading such accusations against Quinn organized themselves under the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate, as well as on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels and websites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan. Harassment campaigns against Quinn and others were coordinated through these forums and included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats. Many of those organizing under the Gamergate hashtag argue that they are campaigning against political correctness and poor journalistic ethics in the video game industry, while numerous commentators have dismissed Gamergate's purported concerns with ethics and condemned its misogynistic behavior... Many supporters of Gamergate oppose what they view as the increasing influence of feminism on video game culture. As a result, Gamergate is often viewed as a right-wing backlash against progressivism."

And here's how Wu comes into the story-- again, according to wikipedia: "In mid-October Brianna Wu, another independent game developer and co-founder of video game studio Giant Spacekat, saw her home address and other identifying information posted on 8chan as retaliation for mocking Gamergate. Wu then became the target of rape and death threats on Twitter and elsewhere. After contacting police, Wu fled her home with her husband, saying she would not allow the threats to intimidate her into silence. Wu later announced an US$11,000 reward for any information leading to a conviction for those involved in her harassment, and set up a legal fund to help other game developers who have been harassed online. As of April 2016, Wu was still receiving threats in such volume that she employed full-time staff to document them... Wu has expressed her frustration over how law enforcement agencies have responded to the threats that she and other women in the game industry have received. On public release of the FBI's case files on Gamergate, Wu said she was "livid," and that "Only a fraction of information we gave the FBI was looked into. They failed on all levels."

It probably won't surprise you to know that Bill Maher's friend Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as Breitbart of course, jumped right into the controversy-- of course taking the side of the sexists in a typically Republican War Against Women stance. The Alt Right and the shockingly ignorant (and vicious) Gamergate crew has already gone wildly insane over Wu's candidacy. Dozens of crackpot Alt right videos savaging Wu have flooded YouTube since her annoucement in late January.

Her announcement statement interested me before I knew much about Gamergate, primarily because she is another among many progressives who backed Hillary and has since come to understand that Bernie was the right choice. Although there are definitely hard core Bernie supporters who are suspicious and unenthusiastic about people who came later to Bernie than they did, Bernie isn't one of them. He enthusiastically endorsed Hillary backer Nanette Barragan and it was the money he raised for her that paid for her to run a field operation that allowed her to beat a highly-favored, corrupt conservative, establishment Democrat and become a Member of Congress. "On election night," wrote Wu, "I was at Hillary Clinton headquarters, standing not 30 feet from where I expected her to accept the presidency. The next day, I expected to travel back to Boston and return to my work leading my game studio and creating jobs. But then, our worst fears came true and Donald Trump was elected president. If this were just another Republican president, someone like Mitt Romney or John McCain-- I’d take the loss in stride. But we all know the truth, Donald Trump represents a unique threat to the American system. Not only is he temperamentally unfit to be president, but there are unanswered questions about his ties to Russia and business conflicts of interest."

It's statements like that that have driven her Alt Right detractors into a frenzied rage.
I have respect for so many of our leaders in our great Democratic party. But, 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.

I’m announcing my candidacy today for the House of Representatives in Massachusetts district 8 to change that. It’s time for a bolder Democratic party.

I’ll be the first person to tell you, I’m not a politician. I am a software engineer and an entrepreneur. I launched my first startup with a quarter million dollars when I was only 19 years old. I believe my experience in the tech industry is a desperately needed perspective in government. In the startup world, we don’t form a committee to solve a problem. We don’t shake our heads and say that it can’t be done-- we roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s a deeply American approach to problem solving.

My campaign for district 8 will have two primary objectives-- our national priorities and our local priorities. Let’s start by telling you what I’ll do for the local economy in Massachusetts.

We spend a substantial amount of money on education in Massachusetts, which I very strongly support. I am proud that we lead the nation in educating people for the tech industry and biotech industry. But the truth is, all too often our investment is taken from the taxpayers of Massachusetts and used in San Francisco and Austin. Every day, students with the solutions for climate change and renewable energy are forced to build those businesses in other states.

I want to make Boston the third great city in the United States to build tech and biotech jobs. I want you and your children to be able to proudly work in these high-paying fields. Our current leadership in district 8 doesn’t understand these industries, but I do.

My second mission objective is national. As a software engineer, I am uniquely qualified to help improve our nation’s cybersecurity. There’s no polite way to say this, but our tech policy in the United States leaves us woefully unprepared for a cyberattack.

The wars of tomorrow will not be fought with tanks and submarines, but with electronic warfare against our financial systems and infrastructure. Last year, the Mirai botnet attack showed that we are completely vulnerable-- and our congress did not act strongly. The special interests have a say in our tech policy, it’s time for technology experts to have their say as well.

My campaign is greater than these two issues. We have a bold vision for America that includes repairing our rigged economy, ensuring justice for our most vulnerable citizens and an omnibus privacy bill that I believe will have broad bipartisan support. I look forward to making my case to the people of district 8 one at a time.

Now, I have to say a word about my opponent, Stephen Lynch. This man has been on the wrong side of every fight for over a decade. He voted for the Iraq war, and never really answered for it. He voted against the Affordable Care Act. He’s crusaded against women’s reproductive health care for his entire career. He once introduced an amendment that would give people that committed hate crimes against the LGBT community a “get out of jail free card.” When I think about people that do not represent the Democratic party, I think of Stephen Lynch.

It’s time for Stephen Lynch to answer to the people of district 8 for his incredibly poor record on progressive issues. He’s never had a real primary fight for district 8, but I’m about to give him one.

I know I’ve got a lot of work to do to make the case to the people of district 8. I’ll spend every single day for the next two years shaking your hands, listening to your ideas, and earning your trust. And no matter what, the people of Massachusetts will be better off with a real discussion about our future.

With Donald Trump in the White House, there’s no room in our party for people that don’t stand with the poor, the marginalized and the unheard. I look forward to earning your trust and proving that I will stand for you.


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The Crazy Republican Party War Against Health Care

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Yesterday CNN interviewed John Kasich, who was in Munich for a security conference. Among other things, they asked him about Paul Ryan's and the House Republicans' plans to take away health care from millions of Americans by "phasing out" the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. You can listen to Kasich's response in the short video above. In short, he's appalled. "That is a very, very bad idea," he said, "because we cannot turn our back on the most vulnerable." But that's exactly what Ryan's plan, timidly and partially presented last Thursday, does, by forcing the already hard-pressed states to pay more of what the feds were paying towards the health costs. 31 states-- where most Americans live-- would be impacted by the GOP power play. Ryan's plan pits the extremist Republican House against more mainstream Republican senators and governors.

The plan was sent to Republican House members to take home to study it over the break-- and several of them, for a variety of reasons, promptly leaked it to the press. The far right is fuming because they oppose the tax credits that aren't offset in the budget and more mainstream Republicans are unhappy because it will leave poor people out in the cold. The new plan also repeals the mandate, which, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would almost immediately raise insurance premiums by around 20%, something most Republican congressmen don't want to see happen before the 2018 midterm elections, when increases like that would likely cost the GOP at least 35 seats-- and control of the House.

On Saturday, The Atlantic's Vann Newkirk took a stab at explaining what the House Republican leadership is doing. Remember the vast majority of Medicaid recipients are either disabled or low-income seniors, many with serious (i.e., expensive) health care needs. Those costs have been split between the states and the feds. Ryan (and Trump's new Secretary of Health, Tom Price) want to change that now, not just in regard to their Obamacare obsession but also as a as a way to destroy Medicaid entirely. "The plan," he wrote, "is short on specifics, including the mechanics of its implementation, and looks like a watered-down combination of some existing Republican repeal plans, including Ryan’s and Price’s. It would repeal Obamacare’s taxes and mandates, and replace the tax subsidies for purchasing insurance on the exchanges with tax credits and incentives for health-savings accounts. The details of those tax credits are not provided, save that they would be age-rated and refundable but not adjusted by income."

The proposal appears "likely to sharply reduce the number of people covered, since it rolls back funding for the Medicaid expansion, ends subsidies, and eliminates the mandate to purchase insurance. Their tax-credit policy would invert Obamacare’s progressive financing scheme. Under current law, subsidies increase as income decreases, but the Republican plan would flatten that tax advantage, thus no longer proportionally increasing affordability for low-income people. It would age-rate the credits, granting more affordable coverage to older people, who tend to be sicker than younger Americans, but would not control for costs among poorer individuals, who also tend to be sicker and more prone to disability than their middle- and upper-class counterparts."



And it establishes "a per capita cap on federal Medicaid funding for individuals based on state economic and health factors, as well as the category of beneficiary (whether they are aged, blind and disabled, children, or otherwise able adults). That reform erases the open-ended funding of Medicaid and essentially replaces it with a set annual allotment of federal funds to each state. The brief would allow states to receive that funding as a block grant, provided that they 'transition' people covered under the Obamacare Medicaid expansion to other programs. That block grant appears to come with rather significant relaxation on states’ requirements to meet eligibility standards and provide comprehensive services for Medicaid enrollees."
The per capita cap and block-granting scheme would certainly save the federal government money. The main appeal of universal spending caps is not only that they promote thrift among states, but that pegging them to economic factors, at the start of a prescribed “base year,” basically underfunds them in the future. But this scheme might also work against the ability of Medicaid to effectively cover people. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that such a policy could “lock in” funding to states based on their position in the base year, and would create long-term “winners” and “losers” in states. States would no longer be able to react in real time to crises like drug epidemics, disasters, or job crunches, and funding would not respond to demographic changes. In essence, people might be blocked from receiving care simply based on where they live. That this problem recreates the geographic incoherence of the current Obamacare Medicaid expansion-- where people covered under the expansion in some states will lose coverage if they move to non-expansion states-- is no small irony.

The logic behind block grants and per capita caps on federal funding is that they force states to be efficient with Medicaid dollars since they’re on the hook after that money is gone. But there are no guarantees that states wouldn’t simply create that “efficiency” by dropping people from coverage, diminishing the services covered, or reducing payments to providers. In fact, the House plan appears to encourage just that, as it only specifies coverage of mandatory services for disabled and elderly people in its requirements for block grants. The ensuing system, then, would no longer be a safety-net entitlement for all people who need care, but one where many of the riskiest patients with the most pressing issues might simply be forced to do without. That’s a strong departure from the underlying logic of the program, outlined when President Lyndon Johnson railed against “the injustice which denies the miracle of healing to the old and to the poor” when he signed the amendment to the Social Security Act, which gave the country Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

DWT has heard that Lee Rogers, the progressive doctor who previously ran for Congress in Los Angeles, is being recruited by district supporters to run again in 2018. And we think thats good news because Dr. Rogers knows how to give Republicans a taste of their own bad medicine. Dr. Rogers offered the following diagnosis and prescription on Paul Ryan's plan:

"Republicans are fixated on their belief the healthcare is a privilege. But they use confusing language to hide this unpopular fact. They state that they want everyone to have 'access to healthcare.' We all know that having access to care is in not the same as having care. As Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out, you currently have access to one of Donald Trump's mansions, but without 5 million dollars, you can't afford it. I believe healthcare is a right. There is nothing more precious than your life. Medicaid expansion has helped low-income patients get the care they need and it has also been an economic stimulant for the states. We can't put greedy insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry back in charge of healthcare."

Hopefully demonstrators at Ryan's house Wednesday will remind the rogue-Catholic of this

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Peter Roskam Draws An Opponent-- Meet Geoff Petzel (IL-06)

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IL-06- Peter Roskam (Trumpist) vs Geoff Petzel (progressive)

Illinois' very gerrymandered 6th congressional district-- Peter Roskam's base-- was designed by the Democratic state legislature to be a safe Republican seat in order to suck Republican voters out of neighboring districts, turning IL-10, IL-08 and IL-11 safer for Democrats. It stretches from north of Lake Zurich down to Palatine, avoiiding Carpentersville and Elgin to hit Carol Steam, West Chicago, Wheaton, the east side of Naperville and over to Westmont and Darien. It's an 80% white district that went for Romney 53.3% to 45.1% and the PVI is R+4. Last week ProgressivePunch changed it's own rating to "Leans Democrat." That's because voters in DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties (as well as in suburban Cook County) puked on Trump and gave the district to Hillary 50.2% to 43.2%-- a 10 point drop for Señor Trumpanzee from Romney's 2012 vote.

Roskam retained his seat 205,746 (59.5%) to 140,023 (40.5%), at least in part because the clueless DCCC couldn't imagine 2016 wasn't going too be a good year for Republicans in suburban districts like IL-06. They refused to support the Democratic candidate running against Roskam, Amanda Howland, a middle-of-the-road Democrat who only managed to spend $98,179. Interestingly, Roskam sensed the trouble even if morons like Steve Israel, Ben Ray Lujan, Nancy Pelosi and Kelly Ward didn't. He raised $2,988,266 and then spent far more than that: $3,331,980. A couple of right-wing SuperPACs also spent some money for him. No one spent anything to help Howland.

Looking out of the rearview mirror, as usual, the DCCC is all worked up over IL-06 now, ready to target it. A progressive candidate, Geoffrey Petzel, has already jumped in. He's a single-payer advocate, has been an outspoken opponent of neoliberal trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP and is also outspoken on campaign finance reform and comprehensive immigration reform and, most of all, on the environment and Climate Change issues. He also supported Bernie for president. (Aside: In the primaries IL-06 was Bernie country and he won DuPage, Kane and McHenry counties handily.)

Saturday I spoke at length with Geoff about his campaign-- which he launched Wednesday-- and about the issues that re motivating his decision to run. One, of course, was healthcare. He had just been to the twonhall meeting of a very conservative Democrat, New Dem Brad Schneider who represents an adjoining district. Geoff told me Schneider is a nice person but wasn't comfortable with his responses to the overflowing audiences questions about healthcare. People are concerned because of Republicans-- including, of course Peter Roskam-- intentions to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Schneider basically told his constituents that he wants to "keep it in place; next question."

Like Bernie, Geoff has much more ambitious and detailed plans for healthcare. He's happy with the Affordable Care Act's accomplishments-- 20 million more of is covered by health insurance; no more denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions; the ability of young people to stay on their parents' insurance until the age of 26; and the elimination of lifetime spending caps on insurance policies, to name a few standouts. He acknowledged, though that there are still many problems that need to be addressed from a serious perspective, including rising premiums and the fact that many hospitals and doctors aren't part of the system. He says he'll fight to preserve and improve the the Affordable Care Act but he believes this country needs "a single payer health care system that guarantees health insurance to all Americans. Access to health care should be a right, not a privilege." He outlined a comprehensive health care plan that includes major reforms aimed at:

 1. Controlling the cost of health care for individuals, families and business,

 2. Providing quality care to every American,

 3. Controlling the cost of health care within our state and federal budgets.
1. We will control cost for families and businesses. The average employer pays 14% of its payroll towards health benefits and the average person pays 13% of their pay to cover health insurance premiums. Under this plan, the government would institute a payroll tax of 8.25%. This would actually reduce the amount of money spent by employers and employees.

My plan maintains the existing level of federal spending on Medicare and Medicaid. This current level of spending combined with the new payroll tax revenue would generate enough revenue to cover 100% of the medical costs for every American. Such a plan provides for certainty of cost for businesses and employees, prevents massive increases in future government spending, and provides quality health care to every American. Under my plan, every American would have health insurance.

2. A universal, single payer health care system must include coverage for EVERY HOSPITAL and EVERY DOCTOR. When someone needs medical care they shouldn't need to worry which hospital or doctor is "in-network."

3. We must give the federal government the right to negotiate drug prices for our new healthcare system. Large pharmaceutical companies should not be able to initiate uncontrolled price increases or limit access to life saving drugs for financial gain. We will also need to limit annual cost increases for services to ensure that the revenues collected can cover high quality care for all Americans.
Goal Thermometer The DCCC doesn't encourage-- quite the opposite-- candidates to go into this kind of detail about what they plan to do once they're serving in Congress. The DCCC is what you would call controversy-adverse. But Geoff isn't anyone's cardboard cutout of a candidate. He's an extremely independent minded, grassroots, activist-oriented guy, not a career-politician. You probably heard me the first time-- he was a Bernie-supporter in the presidential primary. Blue America endorsed him this week and we'll have more about his campaign tomorrow. Meanwhile, if you'd like to contribute to his campaign, please tap the ActBlue thermometer on the right and donate what you feel comfortable giving. The sooner Congress is rid of Peter Roskam the better, but, even more important, the sooner we have more men and women serving in that body like Geoff Petzel, the sooner we'll be able to put a stop to all this crackpot Trumpery and get the country moving in the right direction again.

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Republican Congressmembers Are Meeting Their Angry Constituents-- Or Hiding From Them

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Friday, the editorial board of the NY Times asserted that "What America has seen so far is an inept White House led by a celebrity apprentice", pointing out that Señor Trumpanzee "did not inherit 'a mess' from Barack Obama, as he likes to say, but a nation recovered from recession and with strong alliances abroad. Mr. Trump is well on his way to creating a mess of his own, weakening national security and even risking the delivery of basic government services. Most of the top thousand jobs in the administration remain vacant. Career public servants are clashing with inexperienced 'beachhead' teams appointed by the White House to run federal agencies until permanent staff members arrive."

That same night, filmmaker Jon Favreau tweeted that he doesn't get angry at Trump when he sees these tweets; "I get angry at Republicans in Congress. Their cowardice is why we're dealing with this." I think there are a lot of people-- an increasing number of people-- feeling that way across the country. Trump isn't up for reelection until 2020-- if he makes it that long-- but Paul Ryan and every single member of the House will face the voters in 2018. Right now there are 5 special elections for open House seats coming up-- starting in about 2 months-- in Los Angeles, Montana, South Carolina, Kansas and the suburbs north of Atlanta. These will be opportunities for American voters to send a message. Trump did worse than Romney in 3 and slightly better than Romney in two.
CA-34- Romney- 14.1%, Trump- 10.7%
GA-06- Romney- 60.8%, Trump- 48.3%
KS-04- Romney- 61.6%, Trump- 60.2%
MT-AL- Romney- 55.4%, Trump- 56.5%
SC-05- Romney- 55.1%, Trump- 57.3%
The potential for the biggest headlines would come from the race in GA-06-- to replace the new Medicare slashing Health Secretary, Tom Price-- a district which Trump barely managed to keep red and where Democrat Jon Ossoff could well displace whichever Republican manages to make it into the June 20th runoff after the April 18th jungle primary. The GOP establishment is praying for ex-state Sen Judson Hill but may get stuck with anti-Choice kook and controversial ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel or one of the two unhinged Trumpists, businessman Bruce LeVell or Johns Creek ex-Councilman Bob Gray. (Price's wife, state Rep. Betty Price, dropped out at the last minute.)

Or, perhaps, Trump and his cohorts in Congress haven't gone far enough yet, haven't convinced enough voters-- including Republican votes, who, after all, dominate 4 of the 5 districts-- that a loud, ringing message is necessary or even desirable. (Polls indicate most Americans are ready though, Trump's approval rating sinking by the day.




Yesterday Lisa Mascaro, in an article picked up by NationalMemo, noted that the relationship between Trump and GOP leaders in Congress started as a marriage of convenience, "thrown together by necessity and sustained on the promise of pushing a Republican agenda into law." Ryan and McConnell "tolerated Trump's turbulent debut because they agreed with the direction the White House was heading-- or were confident they could nudge it in the desired one... But the newfound partnership is showing signs of serious strain. Growing discomfort about the Trump team's ties to Russia, daily dramas at the White House and the increasing unrest at town hall meetings with constituents back home have prompted many in Congress to express second thoughts about the alliance." Mark Sanford (R-SC) went out of his way to savage Trump and separate himself from the White House sociopath the day before and the day after he visited Sanford's district in Charleston, a city (and county) Trump lost in both the primary and against Hillary.
As the first 100 days tick away, and rank-and-file Republicans head home for a weeklong recess, there is a growing worry that Congress will face a drip-drip-drip of new revelations about the Trump White House that will overshadow the rest of the Republican agenda, such as repealing Obamacare, enacting tax reform and cutting government spending.

"That's what the fear is," said one Republican senator, granted anonymity to frankly discuss the outlook. "It's not a good situation. You can't let this go and not look at it."

...One former GOP leadership aide said "there's not a single Republican anywhere" who's not stunned by some of Trump's comments. But they focus instead on the GOP priorities they see taking shape, he said.

"In the end, we're still talking about tax reform, Supreme Court-- all the stuff is getting done," the aide said. "Most of the stuff is sort of within the lines of what Republicans want anyway. People by and large think progress has been made."

Trump has already started signing into law bills sent by Congress to roll back President Barack Obama's regulatory clampdown on coal pollution and overseas corporate bribes. More are on the way to his desk.

Republicans have put their trust in Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet secretaries and a legislative team culled from the halls of Congress-- even though it is unclear how much sway those voices ultimately have with the occupant of the Oval Office.

And areas of significant disagreement with Trump lie ahead, such as his $1-trillion infrastructure plan, having Congress pony up funds for the border wall with Mexico, and a massive military buildup.

But the questions about Russia are threatening to overshadow Republican goals. Emboldened Democrats are calling for independent inquiries into alleged contacts between Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence officials, and demanding the release of a transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and a Russian diplomat.

The Republican leadership has tried to contain the congressional investigations to the House and Senate intelligence committees, where hearings are often conducted in secret because of the classified nature.

...But a growing number of top Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are calling for a deeper and more transparent dive into Russia's role in the November election. That could take weeks, or more likely months.

"What the hell went on? That's what's on my mind," McCain said. "We know they tried to affect the outcome of the election... Now we've got all these other issues."

And, with lack of cohesive-- let alone coherent-- leadership from the White House, naturally-fractious House Republicans from the party's various wings have been fighting each other. One top-ranking Republican staffer told me that "the only thing everyone agrees on is dismantling Dodd-Frank... The rest is completely up in the air and the parameters shift with every one of his early morning tweet storms." Sail Kapur, reporting this week for Bloomberg, pointed out that "some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan."
The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP.

Some conservatives say they oppose the idea because it could amount to a new government subsidy by allowing people to receive a larger credit than they pay in taxes. They prefer a mechanism that would preclude people from getting any more money than they paid in taxes.

"I don’t like the refundable tax credit," says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. "I don’t want people getting money back."

"This is Obamacare light," Yoho said, adding that he told Brady about his views.

Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said tax credits "should be predicated on those taxes paid in, not a refundable tax credit, because it can so easily become a major and unstoppable entitlement."

The dispute over tax credits is one of many issues facing Republican leaders as they seek agreement on how to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Also discussed Thursday were a proposal to cap the tax break for employer-provided health insurance, and efforts to restructure Medicaid. Republicans are set to face their constituents during a week-long congressional recess next week.
Saturday, Tom Reed's town halls in Ashville and Cherry Creek, New York-- he was way too scared to accept an invitation from Mayor Svante Myrick to hold one in Ithaca, the biggest city in NY-23-- drew large raucous crowds. When Reed tried selling the crowds on Ryan's health care replacement (bogus health savings accounts) people were furious and started yelling "We want your health care! We want your health care!" Reed was also peppered with uncomfortable questions about Trump's embrace of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and about Trump's failure to pay income taxes-- Reed was sounded boo-ed for voting in committee against a proposal that would have forced Trump to release his tax returns-- and the crowd wound up chanting "What are you covering up?"

When Reed tried to avoid fighting about Putin, he pivoted back to Medicare, that had his constituents yelling at him that they like it the way it is and weren't going to accept Ryan's tax credits and voucher bullshit instead of actual health care. People in Cherry Creek, where he held his second town hall of the day, were shouting that rather than repeal Obamacare, Congress should turn it into a single-payer system (as Bernie Sanders has been advocating).

In 2012, the DCCC viciously sabotaged progressive Democrat Nate Shinagawa when he ran against Reed. Because of DCCC hostility Reed managed to eke out a 52-48% win and never faced a serious competitor again. In the 2018 cycle it will be the responsibility of Joe Kennedy III, the new DCCC vice-chair for the region to make sure a progressive like Shinagawa is the recruit and that he gets support, not shade.

Next door in Syracuse-based NY-24, where, once again DCCC incompetence and a craving for an inoffensive, unelectable Republican-lite crap-candidate-- and fear and loathing for the Berniecrat-- resulted in the inevitable, reelection of John Katko in a solidly blue district Obama won with 57% and even Hillary managed to win against Trump 48.9% to 45.3%. Katko announced Friday that he won’t attend any town hall meetings with his constituents and won’t let outside groups "hijack service to my district or disrupt meaningful engagement with my constituents." If Joe Kennedy recruits a real Democrat and not another vapid New Dem or Blue Dog, Katko will be wiped off the face of the political map in 2018, along with Reed.

The NY Times also noted how angry grassroots constituents are at Republican members of Congress right now. Regardless of what fools like Katko try to say "national organizers concede they are playing catch-up to a 'dam-bursting level' of grass-roots activism that has bubbled up from street protests and the small groups that have swelled into crowds outside local congressional offices."
Several Republicans, including Mr. Trump, have dismissed the pro-health care act crowds as “paid protesters,” not constituents. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, without offering evidence, called the protests a “very paid, AstroTurf-type movement,” unlike the Tea Party demonstrations against the drafting of the health care law in 2009, which he characterized as “very organic.”

In fact, some of the most formidable and well-established organizing groups on the left have found themselves scrambling to track all of the local groups sprouting up through social media channels like Facebook and Slack, or in local “huddles” that grew out of the women’s marches across the country the day after the inauguration.

...The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is keeping track of Republican lawmakers who do not hold town-hall-style meetings. Some events have been canceled, and Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey said he had done so because the meetings have been “hijacked” by groups hostile to Mr. Trump. The committee plans to run internet ads trying to shame lawmakers for not facing their constituents in public since voting last month on a procedural motion aimed at repealing the health law.

Some of the most creative activity is coming from people who are new to political activism. In Plymouth, Minn., Kelly Guncheon, a financial planner who described himself as an independent, has organized a “With Him or Without Him” meeting for Representative Erik Paulsen, a Republican who has not scheduled any of his own. A volunteer offered to make 400 cupcakes decorated with a “Where’s Waldo?” picture of Mr. Paulsen’s face, and Mr. Guncheon said he planned to project onto screens legislation that Mr. Paulsen had supported. Participants will be asked to write down questions, which will be delivered, along with a recording of the event, to Mr. Paulsen’s congressional office after the recess.

Mr. Guncheon, like other new activists, said he was not looking to traditional political groups for guidance.

“In this new culture, this new era, we have to figure out new ways to do things,” he said. “There’s certainly no leadership at the head of the Democratic Party, or the state party. Not that I’m a Democrat anyway, but that seems to be the opposition party.”

Other new groups organizing on Facebook have arranged similar events, calling them “no-show” or “empty-chair” meetings, for Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, as well as for Republican lawmakers from California, New Jersey and New York.

In response to Mr. Gardner’s complaints that the people showing up at his office to request town-hall-style meetings were paid protesters from other states, one group showed up at his office with a banner on which members had written their Colorado ZIP codes.
Crackpot wing nut Dana Rohrabacher-- whose Orange County district Trump lost to Hillary-- claimed that constituents asking for town hall meetings are "enemies" of democracy and political "thugs." He's literally talking about the voters in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo. He's one of scores of aloof, unaccountable Republican congressmembers hiding from their own voters (unlike less dishonest Members like Justin Amash and Jim Sensenbrenner who have scheduled and gone to numerous town halls). Among the shadiest and most dismissive congressmembers have been Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chris Collins (R-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ed Royce (R-CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Roger Williams (R-TX), Paul Cook (R-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Steve Knight (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).

Nick Kristoff Times column this weekend dealt with how to get rid of Trump and his Nazi regime before they do some existential damage to America. "[F]or now," he wrote, "it’s hard to imagine a majority of the House voting to impeach, and even less conceivable that two-thirds of the Senate would vote to convict so that Trump would be removed. Moreover, impeachment and trial in the Senate would drag on for months, paralyzing America and leaving Trump in office with his finger on the nuclear trigger... [I]t’ll be up to Republicans to decide whether to force Trump out. And that won’t happen unless they see him as ruining their party as well as the nation."
“The only incentive for Republicans to act-- with or without the cabinet-- is the same incentive Republicans had in 1974 to insist on Nixon’s resignation,” Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told me. “The incentive is survival.”

Trump does have one weakness, and it’s parallel to Nixon’s. Republicans in Congress were willing to oust Nixon partly because they vastly preferred his vice president, Gerald Ford-- just as congressional Republicans prefer Mike Pence today.

If I were betting, I’d say we’re stuck with Trump for four years. But as Sabato says: “Lots of things about Donald Trump’s election and early presidency have been shocking. Why should it stop now?”

And what does it say about a presidency that, just one month into it, we’re already discussing whether it can be ended early?
Wednesday there'll be a big rally in front of Paul Ryan's house in Janesville, Wisconsin, since he adamantly refuses to meet with his constituents. They'll meet at Parker Park at the corner of Harrison Street and East Court Street (53545) at 10:30 AM.



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"If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy" (George Packer)

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by Ken

The question of President Trump's mental fitness for the office dates back at least to some of his wilder ravings during the campaign, and less than a month into his tenure is being discussed more widely. As noted, the above graphic, for example, is filched from a January 28 post of that title by Gregory Johnson on the Resources for Life blog.

Now, in a "Comment" piece in the February 27 New Yorker, "Holding Trump Accountable," George Packer offers a stark portrait of our moment in time, proceeding from the proposition that, a month into his tenure,
Donald Trump has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. The disability isn’t laziness or inattention. It expresses itself in paranoid rants, non-stop feuds carried out in public, and impulsive acts that can only damage his government and himself. Last week, at a White House press conference, the President behaved like the unhinged leader of an unstable and barely democratic republic.
George gives a graphic portrayal of a White House "isolate[d] in power struggles" and an administration "in nearly open revolt," and foreign leaders looking on either:

• "with disbelieving alarm":
Allies such as Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau, of Canada, and Shinzo Abe, of Japan, flatter the President in order to avoid the fate of Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull, whom Trump first berated and then hung up on during their get-to-know-you phone call."
• or "with calculating interest":
Vladimir Putin is already testing Trump, by sending Russian fighter jets to buzz a U.S. Navy ship. Xi Jinping is positioning China to fill the void in the Pacific Rim which will be left by Trump’s policy of America First. Pragmatists in Iran are trying to judge whether the new American government can be counted on to act rationally—exactly what U.S. officials always wondered about the fractured leadership of the Islamic Republic.

GEORGE BEGAN HIS PIECE OUTLINING A KNOWN
REMEDY: SECTION 4 OF THE 25TH AMENDMENT


As George explains, Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which has still never been used (though he notes that the new team appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1987, on the advice of the outgoing team, checked it out), "empowers the Vice-President, along with 'a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide,' to declare the President unfit and to install the Vice-President as Acting President."

The blurb atop George's piece reads: "After a month in office, [President Trump] has already proved himself unable to discharge his duties. But the only people with real leverage over him won’t use it." And after setting forth the current situation, George says starkly: "It won’t get better."
The notion that, at some point, Trump would start behaving “Presidential” was always a fantasy that has the truth backward: the pressure of the Presidency is making him worse. He’s insulated by sycophants and by family members, and he can still ride a long way on his popular following. Though the surge of civic opposition, the independence of the courts, and the reinvigoration of the press are heartening, the only real leverage over Trump lies in the hands of Republicans. But Section 4 won’t be invoked. Vice-President Mike Pence is not going to face the truth in the private back room of a Washington restaurant with Secretaries Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Wilbur Ross, or in the offices of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republican leaders have opted instead for unconstrained power.

They need Trump to pass their agenda of rewriting the tax code in favor of the rich and of gutting regulations that protect the public and the planet—an agenda that a majority of Americans never supported—so they are looking the other way. Even the prospect of Russian influence over our elections and our government leaves these American patriots unmoved. Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, the Republican whip, made it plain: Trump can go on being Trump “as long as we’re able to get things done.” Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky, explained, “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.”

The growing Russian scandal will challenge the willingness of the Party to hold the President accountable. So far, the situation is not encouraging. The heads of the key House and Senate committees are partisans who are doing as little as possible to expose corruption and possible treason in the White House. The few critical Republican voices—Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins, and Representative Mark Sanford—are ineffective. Perhaps Party leaders are privately searching their souls; perhaps, as with the old Bolshevik Rubashov, in Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon,” ideology and power have rendered them incapable of independent moral judgment. Whatever the case, history won’t be kind to them.

An authoritarian and erratic leader, a chaotic Presidency, a supine legislature, a resistant permanent bureaucracy, street demonstrations, fear abroad: this is what illiberal regimes look like. If Trump were more rational and more competent, he might have a chance of destroying our democracy.
Obviously if those Republicans George accuses of delinquency were to rouse themselves to action, we would be left in the hardly more attractive clutches of a President Pence. Eventually it may come to that, but at least for now, as George points out, "they need Trump to pass their agenda" -- in their present situation of "unconstrained power." So pick your poison -- heads they win, tails the country loses.
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Looking Back-- Moving Forward... A Guest Post From TX-21 Progressive Democratic House Candidate Tom Wakely

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I was a 2016 Democratic Party candidate for Congress. I ran against thirty-year Republican incumbent, Lamar Smith who is the climate change-denying chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Even though I am an independent voter (by that I mean I have voted for Greens, Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats) Bernie Sanders drew me into filing to run as a Democrat. I figured if he could do it, so could I. Big mistake-- more on that later.

When I spoke to Howie a few weeks ago to thank him and Blue America for their support of our campaign against Lamar, I told him people were urging me to run against Smith again, in 2018. I told him when I made a decision to run or not to run another congressional race I would let him know. Well, I made my decision this past week and I am a 2018 candidate for Congress. When I told Howie this, he asked if I would mind writing a guest post for his blog on why I am running again and why I think I can build on last cycle to win this cycle.

First off, let me talk a little about my experience running a congressional campaign here in Texas. As I have already mentioned I decided to run because I finally saw a candidate running for President who lived and breathed a progressive agenda-- Senator Bernie Sanders. Not only did I want to be a part of a Sanders Presidency I knew he would need women and men like myself in Congress who would support and fight for progressive values.

The first step was to file with the Texas Democratic Party to run in the 2016 primary. I had my choice, either collect 500 signatures (which I did) or pay a filing fee of $3,500 dollars. I was told by the State Party that if I wanted access to the Texas VAN (Voter Activation Network), the online database that would allow me to organize information about voters and volunteers to ensure that I was targeting the right voters and turning them out to vote, it would cost me $4,000 dollars. However, if I paid the filing fee instead of submitting signatures, the VAN would only cost me $500. I chose the later option.

When I went up to Austin to pay my filing fee the State Party official who took my cashiers check just started laughing as he walked off, saying something to the effect that I was a fool for deciding to run against Lamar Smith. I yelled something back at him. He turned around and we would have gotten into a physical fight if my buddy who was there with me hadn’t stepped in-between us. Not only was this dip-shit who took my check a State Party official he was also a former State Representative. Such began my journey with the Texas Democratic Party.

Over the course of the next several months, I traveled throughout Texas Congressional District 21, which is larger than the State of Connecticut. I spoke to Democratic Party Clubs in San Antonio, in Austin, in Kerrville, in Fredericksburg, in New Braunfels, in San Marcos. Everywhere I went I was very clear to everyone I met that I supported Sanders for President. My primary opponent was equally as clear-- he supported Clinton. I was pumped and looking forward to riding Bernie’s coattails all the way to Washington. I followed Sanders campaign staff around the district as they organized voters. It was an exciting time. Adrenalin kept me going day and night.

Half-dozen primary debates later, Election Day was finally here. I won my Texas primary campaign, Bernie lost his. However, there was still hope that Senator Sanders could pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the Democratic Party nomination for President but as the weeks/months past, that hope faded.  Today, we all are paying the price for the Democratic Party’s failure to nominate Sanders and we will continue to pay dearly as long as Trump is President.

Anyway, now that the primary was over, it was time for me to get down to putting together a campaign. First up, was hiring staff, problem was we did not have any money. In addition, because I am a strong believer in the public financing of political campaigns, I refused to spend time raising money. My position then as it is today is this-- I am who I am and this is what I stand for. If you like what I am saying you can go to our campaign website (or to the (Blue America page for progressive House candidates) and donate but I will not call people to ask for money.

Much to my surprise five people, all Bernie supporters, signed up to work as campaign staff. From the beginning, they all knew money was going to be an issue and that I could not, would not promise to be able to pay them but if and when money came into the campaign, they would be first on the list to be paid. For the next nine months, this small core group worked their asses off with little or no pay. It was a hell of ride for all of us.

Next, I needed to gain access to the Texas VAN. Unfortunately, the person I needed to talk to was the very same dip-shit who took my check for the filing fee. I swallowed my pride and called him. He was never in the office and when he finally did get back to me he told me I was mistaken, the $3,500 filing fee could not be used to offset the $4,000 price for access to the VAN. I was livid, to say the least but what could I do?

What I did do was reach out to my primary opponent to see if he could help. Turned out he had purchased access to Texas VAN for the primary and offered to give us his log-in ID and password so our campaign could use it and use it we did. For the next 90 days we used the VAN, compiled voter lists, contacts; it was great tool for a struggling campaign. Then in mid-July, we lost access to the VAN. Seems the Texas Democratic Party discovered we were using another candidate’s access and they then unceremoniously cut us off. Ouch!

For close to a month we were left without access to any voter files. Fortunately, for us though we were to raise a little money in the meantime and we subsequently purchased the voter files through NationBuilder.  Which by the way is a much better campaign vendor than NPG VAN-- remember them, the same folks who cut the Sanders campaign off from his voter files. Well, our campaign finally got back up and running; next on our agenda was preparing for the Texas State Democratic Party convention. However, it was a waste of time and money for us. Not only did the State Party not let me on stage to speak to the delegates, they did not let us speak at any of the official events.

Anyone see a pattern here?

In the end, we did the best we could with the amount of money we had. On reflection, I guess we accomplished a few things. We promoted a progressive agenda. We received more votes than any other candidate who has every run against Smith and we did that by spending less than fifty cents per vote. Which brings me back to the question Howie asked, why I am running again and why do I think I can build on last cycle to win this cycle?

First off, of the 10 counties that make up District 21, the majority of them are rural and that’s where Smith really beat us. The Republicans have done a hell of a job with messaging as far as these rural communities are concerned. They’ve convinced rural voters to vote against their own economic self-interest time and time again and for that I grudgingly congratulate the Elephant in the room. Now whether the Democratic Party can ever win back these folks is still an unanswered question. I know Bernie can but I don’t see anything on the horizon that tells me the Democratic Party nationally or the Texas State Party can. I guess we will have to wait and see who is going to be elected Chair of the DNC.

Secondly, we have already put together a strong campaign of volunteers. We have met people from here to there. Building on what we have already accomplished puts us within striking distance of Lamar. A swing of 35,000 voters is all that it will take to win this Congressional seat.

A thousand years ago, when I was a young man, I remember playing pool inside the Crystal Pistol, a bar here in San Antonio. The fellow I was playing against was a political organizer from New York. He told me that things would only change if things got so bad that people would finally get up off the couch and do something about it. A Trump Presidency might just be the catalyst that I and so many of us have been waiting so long for and for that I grudgingly congratulate the Donkey in the room.


Almost everyday now Lamar Smith makes the news. Whether it is his telling us all that if we want the truth, we should get it from President Trump as he is the only one telling us the unvarnished truth. The earth is dying and Smith continues to deny the reality of climate change-- as a Christian Scientist I’m sure he believes we can just pray it away because it is just an illusion like the illusion of cancer or Hepatitis C that racks so many of our bodies. However, Smith is neither a Christian nor a Scientist. Rather he is a Vietnam War draft-dodging hypocrite; a homophobic, xenophobic, islamophobic, taco-truckophobic, conservative who has lived off other people’s taxes his entire adult life.

Thousands are organizing in District 21 to unseat not just Smith but Trump. Mom’s Clean Air Force is working tirelessly to recruit organizers in every zip code in District 21. Indivisible 21 is growing it’s membership base daily. Populism is once again on the rise here in Texas and we believe we can tap into this anger, this frustration. The days of centrist politics is over, Hillary’s defeat proves that. As the old saying goes, the only thing in the middle-of-the road is a dead armadillo and it is stinking to high heavens.

-Tom Wakely

Goal Thermometer Blue America has endorsed Tom again and there are strong rumors that Lamar Smith doesn't want the headache of having to campaign against him again. There's also a Replublican extremist, Matt McCall, who doesn't think Lamar Smith is far right enough and he's eager to mount another primary challenge against him. With all the anger Trump, Ryan and Lamar Smith are arousing, 2018 is likely to be a good year for Democrats. And with a new and improved crew at the DCCC-- Steve Israel and Kelly Ward are finally gone-- there's even a chance of some institutional help for Tom. A chance. Meanwhile, please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping on the ActBlue thermometer on the right, which will take you to the page with all the House candidates Blue America has endorsed for 2017 and 2018-- a list that's more about quality than quantity at this point.

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DNC Chair Vote: Keith Ellison Has Already Won Much-- Sing Along To Help Him Win More!

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Who would have thought so much drama, and fun music, could be catalyzed by the Democratic National Committee’s vote for a new chair (due on February 25)?

Even before the vote, Bernie-endorsed candidate Congressman Keith Ellison has accomplished much, including:
Goal Thermometer Keith drawing public attention to the generally backroom selection process.
Keith collecting enough support to force opponents to run a relatively high profile ‘non-Ellison’, which they found in Tom Perez, Obama’s ex-Secretary of Labor who was being groomed for higher office (such as by being floated in 2016 as a potential Vice Presidential running mate for Hillary).
Keith creating enough competitive pressure to provoke Perez into publicly admitting the Hillary-Bernie primary “was rigged,” after which he retracted the admission, by claiming that he had “misspoke.” This has highlighted Perez’s lack of experience in message discipline under the pressure of public scrutiny, and is a reminder of Perez’s track record of ‘only following orders,’ notably on Obama’s big push for mainly Republican lame-duck passage of the labor-opposed Trans Pacific Partnership.
Keith announcing major labor union endorsements as pushback to Perez’s recent attempt to replicate Hillary’s usage of friendly press mouthpieces to create ‘inevitability’ by adding up anonymous private voting commitments.
Keith making it obvious that a Perez win would constitute DNC defiance of demands for major changes in business as usual, despite the catastrophic electoral failures of the DNC, and of its favored candidates from Hillary on down.
Keith making himself a lightning rod to attract the kinds of underhanded attacks that any progressive candidate would face, and giving himself opportunities for creative compromise. For example, if Keith’s being too ‘Muslim’ is the main problem for pearl-clutching (and Haim Saban-clutching) voters, then Keith could propose a compromise candidate like anti-corruption legal expert Zephyr Teachout, who would probably horrify friendly lobbyists so much that voters would be relieved to accept a compromise candidate like Bernie-supporting Congressman Raul Grijalva. The identity-flaunting Perez anointers could even claim Grijalva’s election as a win for them, by announcing: "We got a non-Muslim Latino just like we wanted!"
DNC members voting to elect the new chair are mainly office-holders, candidates, operatives, lobbyists and/or donors who have benefited from the inside game’s domination by fundraising. So they will only vote against Perez if they fear they will lose more from electing him than from loosening establishment control of the DNC.

What’s their main fear now (other than their never-ending fear of losing donor funds)? They probably don’t believe that Bernie could win the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2020 (partly because the establishment would hit a 2020 Bernie candidacy earlier and harder than they did in 2016), but they do understand that Democratic nominees will be weak unless they can retain support from most of Bernie’s supporters and sympathizers.

One way to increase their fear of angering Bernie supporters is to show them that we too can start the 2020 nomination contest earlier and more effectively than we did in 2016. The earlier and bigger we can make a ‘campaign-in-waiting’ (or a People’s-Party-in-waiting) for Bernie, the more establishment Democrats will fear to publicly show disrespect towards Bernie’s allies (like Keith) and visibly dismiss our concerns about donor-driven nominations and policy positions.

In other words, the more we #FeelTheBern, the more they will pretend to #FeelTheBern, out of fear that we will make their well-covered posteriors truly #FeelTheBern. We face years of effort to make the DNC and other insiders responsive to reality, so let’s take full advantage of Bernie’s and Keith’s hard-earned visibility and seat at the table by strengthening their hands. And let’s have some fun while doing it. In this spirit, and to highlight the importance of the ‘trench-warrior’s-eye-view,’ we are publishing the above music video “The Fine & The Mighty”, with apologies to Pete Seeger and Lead Belly, who sang for their era's veterans who survived military and social wars abroad and at home.

Readers can help by singing along, by creating more lyrics of Bernie-themed criticism of politics as usual, and posting them in our comments section. Even better, we encourage readers to make videos of groups singing their own lyrics, or our lyrics, and to post them online. Or send us a copy and we’ll post it alongside our music video here:



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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Black Lives Matter? Ice-T And Body Count Have Something To Say About That

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Body Count's new album, Bloodlust, will be out March 31 but yesterday, the band's new single was released. You can hear it-- and watch the provocative new video-- above; please do. It's special for me, mostly because Bodycount is a band I worked with when I was general manger of Sire Records. Seymour Stein had signed Ice-T to the label and he was a star-- a successful star who sold a lot of albums. In 1990 Ice asked me to come see his metal band, Body Count, play. Their music and stage show were right up my alley and they were a big hit at Lollapalooza in 1991. It's nice when you work at a record company and actually like the music you have to work.

In early 1992, we released the eponymous album and I was thrilled that Ice had decided to give me credit as executive producer. What an honor! Commercially-speaking, he album was modestly successful-- not on an Ice-T level-- but big for a debut by a new rock band. I don't remember the exact figure but we had sold a solid 100,000 albums when the record was "over." Returns started trickling back from the retail accounts and it was time to start thinking about the next Ice-T album. Then something incredible happened.

We hadn't got a lot of airplay or effective promotion for the Body Count album. But then the Dallas Police force got involved and started complaining about the song "Cop Killer." Complaining really loudly... and really effectively. DC politicians suddenly saw an opportunity to jump on a slightly, subtly racist "law and order" bandwagon. And it wasn't just Republicans. Suddenly we had Dan Quayle and then George H.W. Bush denouncing our artist and their song by name-- on national TV. The trickle of returns stopped and the orders for more album started coming in-- bigly! The album went gold quickly, quickly enough for me to make a gold album for Dan Quayle for helping get the massive sales rush going. (My boss asked me not to send it to him.)

Soon Tipper Gore and Joe Lieberman jumped in and started denouncing us. (Anyone remember the PMRC?) It turned into a real mess. The police would claim several times a week that they had a bomb threat for our building and kept evacuating us so they could search the building. It was pure harassment and it went on and on and on. In the end, the corporate bosses in New York were concerned about Time Warner's stock price. They demanded we drop Ice-T. We refused. They demanded louder. Eventually, the chairman of the company asked me if I wanted to go to New York and argue the case. I said sure. He asked me if I owned a suit. I said, "Of course... I had a bar mitzvah." He looked at me strangely and wished me luck. When the meeting was done-- they walked out cursing under their collective breath-- I was sure my career at Warner Bros was over.

The next time I saw these corporate overseers was about a year later at a company meeting. By then I was the president of Reprise Records, one of their crown jewels. They looked at me and I could see then thinking, "Oh my God, it's him again! Where are the aspirins!" In the interim, though, Ice decided to leave Warner Bros, amicably. I was sad too see him go but it worked out really well for him-- and Warner Bros was basically out of the Black Music business for years.

Among the guest musicians on the album-- not on this song though-- are Megadeth's Dave Mustaine )n the song "Civil War"), Randy Blyth from Lamb of God (on the song "Walk With Me") and Soulfly's Max Cavalera (on the song "All Love is Lost"). There's also a cover Slayer's "Raining Blood" and "Postmortem."

Here are the "No Lives Matter" lyrics:
It’s unfortunate that we even have
To say Black Lives Matter
I mean if you go through history
Nobody ever gave a fuck
I mean you can kill Black People in the street
Nobody goes to jail nobody goes to prison,
But when I say Black Lives Matter
And you say All Lives Matter
That’s like if I was to say Gay Lives Matter
And you say All Lives Matter
If I said Women’s Lives Matter
and you say All Lives Matter
You dilutin’ what i’m sayin’
You dilutin’ the issue the issue isn’t about everybody
It’s about Black Lives at the moment,
But the truth of the matter is they don’t really give a fuck about anybody
if you break the shit all the way down to the low fuckin’ dirty ass truth.

We say that Black Lives Matter
But truthfully they really never have
No one really ever gave a fuck just
Read your bullshit history books
But honestly it ain’t just Black
It’s Yellow, it’s Brown, it’s Red,
It’s anyone who ain’t got cash
Poor Whites that they call trash

They can’t fuck with us
Once we realize we’re all on the same side
They can’t split us up,
And let ‘em prosper off the divide
They can’t fuck with us
Once we realize we’re all on the same side
They can’t split us up and let ‘em
Prosper off the divide

Don't fall for the bait and switch
Racisim is real but not it,
They fuck whoever can’t fight back
But now we got to change all that
The people  have had enough
Right now it’s them against us
This shit is ugly to the core
When it comes to the poor  - NO LIVES MATTER

America’s always been
A place that’s judged by skin,
And racisim is real as fuck
Ain’t no way to play that off,
And in the eyes of the law
Black skin has always stood for poor
This is basic shit - They know who they’re fuckin’ with

They can’t fuck with us
Once we realize we’re all on the same side
They can’t split us up,
And let ‘em prosper off the divide
They can’t fuck with us
Once we realize we’re all on the same side
They can’t split us up and let ‘em
Prosper off the divide

Don't fall for the bait and switch
Racisim is real but not it,
They fuck whoever can’t fight back
But now we got to change all that
The people  have had enough
Right now it’s them against us
This shit is ugly to the core
When it comes to the poor  - NO LIVES MATTER

You never see ‘em pullin’ rich people
Out of they cars in their neighborhood
Because they know they got lawyers
They know they’ll sue their ass
They can tell who to fuck with
Unfortunately Black or Brown skin
Has always meant poor
They’re profiling you kid they know
You can’t fight back, but we about  to
In an interview with Paul Gargano last month, Ice said that he "may have an acting job to fall back on, but my core still looks out there and says that people are a bunch of pussies. What the fuck!?! I never had a hard time putting myself on the line, now I want people to stand up and open their eyes. People are dumb, they don’t know. The cops shoot kids and they say it’s white people-- it ain’t white people, it’s the cops! Racism is real, but that’s not all that’s happening here. I’m singing to my white audience and letting them know that I see them as an ally, and I’m singing to my black audience and telling them to judge a devil by their deeds. I’m trying to lose that picture of the one-dimensional gangster. Mother fuckers that act hard are the fakest mother fuckers in the world-- us right now, this is how human beings really are. We can joke and talk shit, we can hit a political note and be adamant and angry as shit, then on the next note you can be watching cartoons and bouncing your kid on your knee. I’m not worried about people misinterpreting me anymore-- the dummies misinterpret, and the real fans will assassinate them for that. The intention here was to make some great music, open some eyes, and offer people some entertainment. People should rock to this-- I didn’t want to make a mix tape, I wanted to make a BODY COUNT album."

I have a feeling the cops aren't going to be any happier about this one than they were about "Cop Killer," since the implication is clear-- that cops kill innocent people. I wonder if Trump's going to help it go platinum. Listen again.



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