Sunday, August 28, 2016

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


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

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

by Ken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why We Laugh—or Do We?

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

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

Read more »

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Trumpanzee Doesn't Deserve Any Working Class Votes-- But Do The Clintonians Really Even Care?


My interest in the post-Bernie presidential election season is tempered by my dislike of both candidates left standing. Trump as a human being isn't even worth considering and Hillary is too much of a classic Republican to ever be my cup a tea. What does keep me interested however, is the fundamental partisan realignment that is ripping apart FDR's New Deal coalition. It's the premise of Thomas Frank's new book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People? and accounts for Trump's seemingly unlikely inroads among the whole working class.

Friday, the Teamsters Union announced that it's board had unanimously voted to endorse Hillary. The Teamsters are the 4th biggest union in the country with nearly a million and a half members and the union has frequently endorsed Republicans. in presidential contests. So far this cycle Labor has put $41,511,506 into federal campaigns, $34,851,678 of it towards Democrats and $6,486,478 towards Republicans. Among the big GOP winners are, incongruously, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey ($320,750), David McKinley of West Virginia ($237,500), Trumpist maniac Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania ($204,500), Ohio's right-winger David Joyce ($199,000), Paul Cook of California ($161,500), Long Island's Lee Zeldin ($145,500), Staten Island's Dan Donovan ($137,000), John Katko of Syracuse ($135,500), Long Island Trumpist Peter King ($127,300), Rodney Davis of Illinois ($126,700), California' Jeff Denham ($121,500 ). Unions have also given anti-union fanatic Roy Blunt of Missouri ($42,750).

Yeah, labor union bosses can be tools. Most backed Clinton over Bernie and look down at the Florida primary races being decided Tuesday. Union contributions to corrupt, self-serving, TPP-backing Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Wall Street and corporate shill have amounted to $173,000. Progressive champion of working families Tim Canova has gotten a grand total of $12,372 from unions. And in the Florida Senate race, corporate whore Patrick Murphy, Wall Street's top candidate nationally, has gotten $184,896 while Alan Grayson, a proven and effective fighter for unions-- perhaps the best in the entire Congress-- has only gotten from $63,482 unions. $63,482 for Alan Grayson; $320,750 for Frank LoBiondo!

I want to take a quick look at a few of the races Blue America is involved with where a champion of working families is in a contest against an enemy of working families. In each case, the unions have favored their own enemies with funds. In TX-21 unions have given far right fanatic Lamar Smith $12,500 and his progressive opponent Tom Wakely only $5,500. In CA-44, union have given the extraordinarily corrupt establishment candidate, Isadore Hall $164,300 and his progressive opponent Nanette Barragan just $2,575. In PA-07, unions have given Mary Ellen Balchunis $6,750 and her GOP opponent, Pat Meehan, $89,000. As we mentioned above, unions have wasted $127,300 on NY-02 Trumpist Peter King, while his progressive Democratic opponent, DuWayne Gregory, has only gotten $20,750 from unions. And in MI-06 unions have given one of their most dedicated enemies, Fred Upton $34,500 and his progressive Democratic opponent, Paul Clements just $5,000. This is a disgraceful pattern everywhere across the country.

Yesterday, Dave Jamieson had a more interesting report on how organized labor is making itself felt during the election. The AFL-CIO started Working America in 2003 and it has, among other things, campaigned to pass Obamacare, raise the minimum wage and stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Right now, it’s all-in against Señor Trumpanzee. They have 150 paid, full-time canvassers hitting the pavement hard in a handful of swing states, and plan to ramp up to 500 closer to election day. They're canvassing primarily in working-class, mostly white, former industrial strongholds where lots of Democrats have felt abandoned by a Clintionian party establishment that has increasingly left them behind for Wall Street money and for professional and white collar voters.
On a recent evening, [Joshua] Lewis was canvassing in Wickliffe, Ohio, the blue-collar Lake County town where he grew up outside Cleveland. Wickliffe, which went for Obama in 2012, is 93 percent white (Lewis is African-American), and has a median household income of $48,000, according to census data. It’s just the sort of Rust Belt area that pundits point to when they say Trump could potentially redraw the electoral map with his nationalist, anti-trade message, if he can get his campaign in order.

“There are folks who like Trump because his promises are appealing to them,” says Lewis. “A lot of them are concerned with the lack of good-paying jobs, and they think someone from the outside can come in and make those changes. But Trump doesn’t have a plan.”

The canvassing by Working America illustrates one of Clinton’s many advantages in the election. The former secretary of state has vastly outraised Trump throughout the campaign, and she is hammering her opponent with TV ads in battleground states like Ohio. But beyond her own campaign, groups like Working America are already running an ancillary ground game on Clinton’s behalf.

A pillar of the Democratic base, the AFL-CIO and major national unions have uniformly endorsed Clinton-- despite Trump’s proclamations that he is the candidate for union members-- and will run get-out-the-vote operations as the election nears.

Working America is particularly invested in the battleground state of Ohio, which Trump will likely need to win if he’s to prevail in November. As of the latest polling, Clinton probably holds a very slight lead in Ohio. Working America has 80 canvassers based in the state. Though it’s now ramping up, the Trump campaign had just 82 staffers nationwide in the month of July. (Clinton, by contrast, had 705.) Come October, Working America’s hopes to have 200 bodies in Ohio.

...As one would expect from the favorability polling, Lewis’ Wicliffe canvass turns up plenty of distaste for the Democratic nominee, some of it startling: “I don’t care for her.” “I don’t believe in her.” “I think she’s a liar.” “She’s a murderer.” Sometimes his goal is simply to warm someone to the idea of Clinton being president. “It’s tough to start out in a hole where you’re explaining that she wasn’t indicted,” he says.

On his nightly canvass, Lewis is aiming for what he calls pivots. There are two kinds. The half-pivot is when you steer an undecided voter toward Clinton’s side of the line. The full pivot is when you take a Trump supporter and flip him or her to Clinton. Not surprisingly, full pivots are much more elusive. The day before he met Craig, Lewis says he pulled off a rare feat-- half-pivoting a libertarian.

His proudest pivot came in Brunswick, Ohio, south of Cleveland. He was speaking to a single mother who said she had voted for Obama but now supported Trump. Her biggest concern was education. Lewis told her Trump has floated the idea of eliminating the Department of Education (true). By the time he stepped off the front stoop, the woman said she planned on voting for Clinton.

Before he can sway someone, Lewis needs them to explain what’s important to them going into the election.

“We’re holding up a mirror and letting them talk,” he says. “I just try to plant a seed. Give them a chance to verbalize their thoughts on the election and the working class. I want to have a polite talk with the facts, try to have people open up and have a conversation.”

Working America was one of the first groups to document Trump’s potential appeal in the Rust Belt in a general election. Back in the winter-- when most pundits and odds-makers were still writing Trump off in the GOP primary-- canvassers like Lewis were talking with people in Pittsburgh and Cleveland on their front porches, hearing their thoughts and concerns. They called it the “front porch focus group.”

They concluded that, out of the entire cluttered field of Republicans and Democrats, Trump was the single most popular candidate with the hundreds of people they spoke to. The group issued a splashy report essentially sounding the alarm: “Key white working-class voters have not made up their minds yet in the 2016 presidential race, but of those who have, Donald Trump is the strongest choice.” Once Working America endorsed Clinton, the group began actively campaigning against Trump.
Blue America doesn't contribute to Republicans or to the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems-- just to progressives, like these:
Goal Thermometer

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tuesday Is Primary Day In Florida-- Can Progressives Win?


Tuesday is primary day in Florida and-- thanks to ActBlue-- it isn't too late to help progressive champions like Alan Grayson and Tim Canova overcome steep odds and beat the corrupt establishment candidates they're battling. Both Grayson and Canova are in the midst of intense Get Out the Vote efforts right now-- as are Blue America's other candidates in the state-- and any contributions made this weekend will go right into those efforts. Just tap on the handy Florida thermometer at the bottom on this post.

Meanwhile a pro-Wasserman Schultz SuperPAC-- the so-called Patriot Majority-- funded by a crooked hedge-fund criminal and by the Big Sugar interests poisoning Florida's environment, is flooding the district with an endless stream of anti-Canova smears-- $635,793 reported spent so far-- including mailings like this:

Wasserman Schultz garbage clogging up everyone's mail box

About 10% of the voters in the Broward/Miami-Dade district are African Americans and both the community newspapers have endorsed Canova against an absentee congresswoman who never acknowledges their community even exists except during election season.
Leslie Wimes, founder and president of the Democratic African American Women's Caucus, said the newspapers' endorsements prove not all eligible voters in the district are Wasserman Schultz's condo commandos. And she shouldn't count on victory Aug. 30.

"It's unfortunate that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others like her feel that, rather than actually engaging with the black community, all she has to do is present other black people to secure our votes.

"We need representatives who are going to be accessible and present all the time, not just at election time," Wimes said. "That is not Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I'm glad the Westside Gazette and the Miami Times recognize that. I hope the voters will as well and vote for Tim Canova."
This is what the influential Miami Times said when then endorsed Canova:
Newcomer Tim Canova has mounted a strong challenge to unseat incumbent Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Wasserman Schultz is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for a seventh term. A law professor at Nova Southeastern University, Canova has made inroads with voters, saying that he has fresh ideas and would pay more attention to the eastern part of the district. It is an uphill battle for Canova, since Wasserman Schultz has the backing of President Obama and name recognition. He has support from Bernie Sanders, and has more campaign money than Wasserman Schultz. For his campaign, he is putting forth the “New Deal” for this generation. He wants the federal government to subsidize salaries for schoolteachers and he wants to expand the Social Security Income program. Wasserman Schultz, the outgoing Democratic National Committee chair, has held office since 2005, and previously served in the state House. She is supported by the Congressional Black Caucus and numerous other Democratic organizations. But residents in Hollywood, Dania Beach and surrounding areas say that Wasserman Schultz ignores their needs. Because of leaked e-mails by WikiLeaks, it was revealed that Wasserman Schultz favored Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination over Sanders. As chair, she should not take sides. She resigned as chair at the Democratic National Convention. Just as the DNC has new leadership, we believe the district deserves new leadership, too. Canova has been releasing ads that question Wasserman Schultz’s record. Perhaps he should use the airtime to focus on himself and why he is the better choice. But from what we know of him, the Miami Times recommends Tim Canova.
Goal Thermometer

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If Paul LePage Is Impeached Will Señor Trumpanzee Still Offer Him A Cabinet Position In His Alternative Universe?


Remember when Maine's senior senator, Susan Collins, said she wouldn't vote for Señor Trumpanzee? It may see like months ago but it was just a couple weeks. At the time, I noted that she had endorsed, raised money for and campaigned with Maine's erratic far right governor, Paul LePage... twice. The clip from Rachel Maddow's Friday show opening (above) gives the background of the latest LePage outrage, starting with his crackpot and threatening call to state Rep. Drew Gattine's answer machine and his follow-up insane statements on WMTW-TV about dueling him and shooting him between the eyes.

Maine's state Senate president, Michael Thibodeau (R), who is up for re-election in November, begged LePage to apologize, an idea LePaul scoffed at. LePage: "I am enormously angry... I’m not shying away from what I called him (a cocksucker)."

Unlike Thibodeau, Sarah Gideon, the assistant majority leader of Maine’s House, was not calling for LePage to apologize. Like many Mainers, she thinks he should step down as governor-- or be removed. "We strongly and regretfully feel that he is unfit to serve as governor of the state of Maine right now." LePage actually offered to resign if Gattine agrees to do the same. What the hell has happened to Maine?

Let's go back to just before Susan Collins wrote her editorial declaring she wouldn't vote for Señor Trumpanzee-- the short August 4th interview Trumpanzee did with the Press Herald before he stepped onto the stage in Portland and tried to drum up racial animosity against Maine's peaceful Somali population. The reporter asked him if he planned to offer LePage, who will be termed out in 2018, a cabinet position. Trumpanzee: "I’ll tell you what. I don’t know that he would want that but he is a very talented guy, he is also a great person, a tremendous person and if he were available I would certainly find something for Paul because he’s done a great job up here, he’s not only popular, he’s done an unbelievable job so I would certainly say that he would be a candidate."

Saturday morning NYTimes reporter Trip Gabriel tweeted that "Trump has withheld his taxes and medical records. But his tweets are a pretty good X-ray of his mind," which recalled Hillary's Reno speech quoting Maya Angelou, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." One doesn't need to be Sherlock Holmes to see who and what Paul LePage and Donald J. Trumpanzee are. They both come from the same Know Nothing strain of one of the ugliest aspects of American politics, a strain that has been rejected tim and again by the majority of American people and will be rejected again in November. The video below, of LePage speaking to reporters, leaves nothing to the imagination. The man is a racist rabble-rouser who should be run out of town on a rail. "You shoot at the enemy. You try to identify the enemy. And the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin. I can’t help that. I just can’t help it. Those are the facts."

UPDATE: Maine Warns America

Been there, done that is what the Portland Press Herald OpEd barred this morning, predicting the same kind of dysfunction nationally if Trump is elected that their state is going through for having elected right-wing crackpot Paul LePage
People whose hearts are racing over Donald Trump might want to take a close look at Maine. We got caught up in all this politics-as-entertainment stuff with Paul LePage. We had all the “blunt talk” and “tell-it-like-it-is” strutting, too. The loud insults, the fragile control-freak ego and the “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to governing.

It’s turned out to be a disaster. We’re now the slowest-growing state in the country. The governor has somehow managed to attack and enrage everyone, including within his own party.

He hasn’t been able to get anything of importance done for ages. And he’s now reduced to collecting signatures on street corners so he can use citizen referendums-- which are supposed to be for citizens-- to govern.

Maine can provide a great service to the country right now by letting everyone know how this fun-filled adventure of electing loud, insulting, mean-spirited, anti-government guys turns out.

Not that Trump and LePage are identical. Trump is a billionaire with a squirrel on his head, tail forward. LePage is not. But they are eerily similar in other ways.
 They both hate the government they want to run.
They both are convinced that they know everything.
They both employ insults gleefully, carelessly and indiscriminately.
Neither seems to have much understanding of the powers that a chief executive has-- and doesn’t have-- in a democracy and under our state and federal constitutions.
They both regularly confuse opinions and right-wing talk radio chatter with facts.
...All we can say to America is this: Come to Maine. See what happened to us. We’re the slowest-growing state in America. Our government is consumed with melodrama. We’re in gridlock. And we have a governor who can’t govern.

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Without Fred Upton, Manchin's Daughter Would Never Have Even Tried Murdering Patients By Astronomically Raising the Cost Of EpiPens


Fred Upton's Committee will never allow Medicare to negotiate fair prices with drug manufacturers

Joe Manchin's daughter, the Mylan CEO with a pronounced and lifelong penchant for cheating in her personal and business life-- who caused a scandal by bribing a university official to lie and say she got a degree when she didn't-- gets all the blame for the EpiPen scandal. She profited the most from it but she doesn't deserve all the blame. As we pointed out Thursday (in that same link as the one just above), House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), a persistent pawn of Big Pharma, took legalistic bribes from Mylan and helped shepherd their greed-driven agenda though Congress in return.

Paul Clements, the progressive Democrat challenging Upton for the southwest Michigan congressional seat, talked to us when we were researching Upton's connivance with Mylan in the EpiPen scandal:
"What does a 10% cost increase mean to you? For many seniors a 10% increase in the cost of medication can mean the difference between this medicine or that one, between taking the whole pill, or half. Or it can mean the difference between food and medicine. Right now our laws put corporate profit above seniors' needs. A new independent analysis published yesterday says the cost of hundreds of medications in the Medicare Part D program rose by 10% since 2014. Even more, the cost of simply enrolling in Part D rose 13% over last year alone. We need to let the government negotiate drug prices. In Congress I will be a leading proponent for it, and Congressman Upton has led efforts banning such negotiations. That's why I'm running, because simple, practical changes to our laws can make life changing differences to millions of Americans."
Although, as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he's supposed to be protecting the public from Big Pharma predators, Big Pharma has been Upton's second-biggest source of campaign funds since 1989-- $1,332,156. So far, this cycle alone Upton has taken the 4th biggest amount of anyone in Congress in legalistic bribes from drug manufacturers:

Yesterday, Paul Clements was connecting the dots for Michiganders about the Mylan and EpiPen revelations and Fred Upton's legalistic corruption. "Upton," he wrote, "responded to the controversy this week, pointing to a 2013 law Congress passed to ensure schools have access to the medicine, and saying 'We have been concerned about rising costs patients are facing for some prescription drugs. We are taking a hard look at the specifics behind this and have pressed Mylan for concrete answers. [emphasis was Clements', not Upton's.) While you read Paul Clements' more pointed retort, please consider contributing to his grassroots campaign by tapping the thermometer on the right: Goal Thermometer
Unfortunately, Congressman Upton’s response does not address the underlying cause of the controversy-- monopolistic practices by the pharmaceutical industry. As head of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton has played a leading role in blocking a number of measures that could drastically reduce the price of many pharmaceuticals, including negotiating Medicare Part D drug costs, which one study said could save between $15-16 billion annually, and reimporting prescriptions from Canada. Upton voted against those measures in 2007 and 2003 respectively. Bills to do both have been introduced to his committee, while no action has been taken in this Congress. Combined, all of these measures, in addition to a much needed increase in pharmaceutical oversight of price gouging, will reduce pharmaceutical costs to consumers.

..."While making EpiPens more available to schools is important to protecting children, we need to do more to protect everyone. Congressman Upton needs to face facts. Drug company greed is forcing seniors to choose between splitting pills and eating. It’s forcing working mothers to choose between EpiPens to save their own life or putting lunch money in their child’s backpacks. Congress needs to act to make prescription drugs available at a reasonable cost and end the price gouging we have seen repeatedly in recent months. I don’t trust Congressman Upton, who has taken over $1.2 million in campaign funds from pharmaceutical companies, to do that. Fred Upton’s committee has jurisdiction over this issue, why is he only 'looking at' this now? It’s not a new issue."
California voters aren't waiting for the authorities to throw crooked congressmen-- from both parties-- like Upton in prison for taking bribes from Big Pharma. California health care and consumer advocates are championing a ballot initiative, the Drug Price Relief Act (Prop 61) in November which would prevent any state agencies from paying more for a prescription drug than the price paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which, unlike Medicare, is permitted to negotiate with the drug manufacturers (and pays around 40% less). This initiative is being backed by Bernie Sanders and the president of the California Nurses Association, Deborah Burger, said that "Nurses see the patients who are forced to make a choice: 'Do I get treatment or do I leave something behind for my family for after I die?' We see the patients with high blood pressure come to the emergency room with heart attacks because they did not fill their prescriptions. We see diabetics go blind or lose limbs because they chose to pay their rent instead of paying for their medicine. It is immoral for people in this country to go without the medicine they need." Big Pharma is spending big bucks to defeat the measure, so far around $70 million.

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Is There A Trumpist Split Between Ashkenazi And Sephardic Jews?


It's no secret that Señor Trumpanzee isn't charming the socks off any minority groups. He's in single digits among African-Americans and not only doing far worse than any other Republican ever among Hispanics, his hate-filled campaign has inspired tens of thousands of Hispanics to get citizenship so they could vote against him and hundreds of thousands more Hispanics that normal to register to vote for the first time, voting against Trump the main motivation. Asian-Americans have been similarly repulsed by Trump's racism and extremism and by turning the fastest growing American minority off to the GOP, he is putting down-ballot races in California, Nevada, New Jersey and Virginia in jeopardy. Even traditionally Republican-leaning conservative Filipinos have been alienated by Trumpanzee bigotry.

So, what about American Jews? Since 1916, when most Jews voted for Woodrow Wilson, the majority of Jews have been a dependable mainstay of the Democratic coalition. The waves of Ashkenazi Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe were extremely progressive and tended towards assimilation. Jews who prefer separation from non-Jews and who tend towards religious immersion and fanaticism also tend towards conservative politics. Something like 90% of Jews-- a group that has the highest percentage voter turnout of any ethnic group-- backed FDR, the same percentage of Jews that subsequently backed LBJ against Goldwater (who was himself of Jewish ancestry). Popular Republicans-- like Reagan-- have been able to garner around a third of the Jewish vote. George W. Bush was supported by 19% of Jews in 2000 and 24% of Jews in 2004. In 2008, Obama took 83% of Jews but just under 70% in 2012.

The other day Roland and I had a business/social dinner with a 28 year old realtor, our first in-person meeting with the guy. He seemed very much like a hipster and is an enthusiastic world traveler and a dedicated foodie. At dinner it also turned out that he is a dedicated and enthusiastic Trumpist, which came as a bit of a shock to me. He's a Sephardic Jew, his family having come here from Morocco. That reminded me of an old friend of mine I had been talking to earlier in the week, also a Sephardic Jew (from Morocco via Israel) who is not just a Trumpist but who insisted that "the Jews are overwhelmingly going to vote for Trump." Both he and the young realtor are into the outwards appearances of religion--keeping kosher or, at least, kosherish, observing Shabbos, going to Temple occasionally and socializing primarily with other relatively new Sephardic immigrants.

One of my Sephardic friends told me Hillary is "weak" and wouldn't be good for Israel. The other one told me he "heard" Hillary hates Jews. I don't want to ask where they get their misinformation but I hope they hear about the report from a court case yesterday in the New York Daily News on the top fella Trump hired to run his campaign, Steve Bannon. Bannon's ex-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, avowed in a court declaration, under penalty of perjury, "that Bannon didn't want their twin daughters attending the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because many Jewish students were enrolled at the elite institution."
"The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend," Piccard said in her statement signed on June 27, 2007.

"He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," Piccard wrote.

"I told him that there are children who are Jewish at (a competing school), and he asked me what the percentage was. I told him that I didn't know because it wasn't an issue for me as I am not raising the girls to be either anti-Semitic or prejudiced against anyone," she wrote.
Unlike most Jews of European ancestry (Ashkenazi Jews) the Sephardic Jews are not especially progressive or educated or socialistically-oriented and their beliefs are generally lumped in with Orthodox Judaism. Several centuries ago, the Sephardic Jews of Spain and Portugal were considered the aristocrats of Judaism. That's a long time ago and is a very different ballgame from poorly educated Iraqi, Syrian, Yemenite and North African Jews. The Sephardic Jews from the very beginning of the split were more traditionalist and, one might say, socially backward, the split itself having come over polygamy, which the Sephardic Jews refused to give up, while the Ashkenazi Jews quickly jettisoned. The first Jews in America were Sephardic but the Sephardic community was quickly swamped by Ashkenazi Jews coming here from Germany, Poland, Russia. Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. Post-Holocaust Israel was largely an Ashkenazi project as well but today the more conservative and socially backward Sephardic Jews are in the majority there. It's no coincidence that the socialist-oriented, forward-looking, idealistic and successful Israel of the country's first 3 decades is now a bitter, right-wing and increasingly backward apartheid country. And it's no coincidence that blue collar Sephardic Jews in America have tended to gravitate towards "the stupid party" and, lately, towards Hehr Trumpanzee.

This morning the Jewish Insider reported a poll showing that Florida's large and active Jewish voter base has made up it's mind on who it wants to see as president-- and it isn't Señor Trumpanzee. Jewish voters in the Sunshine State are backing Hillary against Trump 66-23%. She's up by 43 points-- and 71% of the state's Jewish voters have an unfavorable view of Trump.
The only group Trump is doing well is among Orthodox Jewish voters (6 percent of the Florida Jewish electorate). According to the poll, Trump leads Clinton 66-22 percent among Orthodox Jews. Among all non-Orthodox voters, Clinton leads Trump 77-22.

The Times of Israel is reporting today that even right-wing sociopath Sheldon Adelson-- who fancies himself the ambassador to the GOP from Israel's Likud Party-- is so irked at Trumpanzee that he hasn't spent a shekel on him yet. The toad-like Adelson is angry Trump hasn't visited Israel like he told him to and angry that Trump picked the neo-Nazi Pence as a running mate, instead of Adelson crony Newt Gingrich. Addison is spending his money on Senate and House races instead.

"Gonif" means thief, if your Yiddish is rusty

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Can The Democrats Actually Screw Up Winning Back The Senate? It Would Be Difficult, But Schumer's The One Who Could Do It


The GOP could never inflict the kind of damage on the Democrats that Schumer does

Thursday night, the NY Times suddenly woke up to something we've been harping on all year-- only the Times referred to what we call DSCC incompetence and corruption as the Democrats weak bench. The reporter, Jennifer Steinhauer, asserted that the DSCC could accomplish the impossible: not win back the Senate.

Because the Democrats have only one-- or at the most two-- weak seats to defend, Nevada and Colorado, and the Republicans have 15 at-risk seats up in November, it would be really difficult for the DSCC to mess up. But accomplishing that kind of really difficult is what Chuck Schumer-- and Montana sock puppet Jon Tester-- are perfect for. There are 8 Democratic seats considered absolutely safe-- open seats in California and Maryland, as well as blue seats in Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The Republicans have 8 senators seeking reelection who could walk back into office blindfolded: Richard Shellby (AL), Mike Crapo (ID), Jerry Moran (KS), John Hoeven (ND), Jim Lankford (OK), Tim Scott (SC), John Thune (SD), and Utah (Mike Lee). The Republicans have 18 seats with some level of vulnerability, from pretty safe Alaska, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky to time-for-the-challenger-to-shop-for-blue-curtains territory: Wisconsin and Illinois. In between are the states that will decide which party runs the Senate for 2017 and '18 (when the tables are reversed and the Republicans will have massive wins and send the Democrats back into the minority (if they do manage to win in November). These are the states that should be most hotly contested (aside from Wisconsin and Illinois):
New Hampshire
North Carolina
An anti-Trumpanzee wave is building in most of these states and it would be a safe bet to assume Hillary wins Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and probably North Carolina and Iowa, with an outside chance of winning in Arizona and Missouri as well. As much as I detest Evan Bayh's politics-- he's the ultimate Blue Dog type and corrupt to his core-- he's what they like in Indiana and he'll probably win the Senate seat (and by a lot) despite Hillary's struggle there. As much as I hate to say so, it was "smart" as part of a short-sighted, short-term policy for the DSCC to recruit him. But it's the other contests that are worth discussing. In Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Schumer and sock-puppet have worked to make sure the nominees would be corporate whores resistant to any kind of populism or progressive agenda.

Steinhauer says the Democrats "find themselves hobbled by less-than-stellar candidates." Find themselves? How did that happen? Sounds very passive but it was anything but passive. At Schumer's direction the DSCC spent millions of dollars driving good candidates out of the races and replacing them with truly miserable ones or, as Steinhauer puts it "by less-than-stellar candidates." It's costing the DSCC and their allies millions of dollars that could have been used against Republicans, to burden the Democrats with, for example, worthless former fracking lobbyist Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, possibly the worst candidate running for any Senate seat anywhere this cycle. And for that Schumer and his allies spent big to destroy the Democrat, Admiral Joe Sestak, who likely would have beaten Toomey. They installed hopeless and pathetic old Ted Strickland in Ohio and are spending millions to make sure talentless "ex"-Republican Patrick Murphy-- who, if he gets the nomination August 30-- will relieve McGinty of the "worst candidate running for any Senate seat anywhere" title. Of course, there's also Patty Judge, who Schumer bulldozed into the Iowa nomination and who has virtually no chance to win anything and the odious New Dem in Arizona, Ann Kirkpatrick, who is likely to be thrashed by John McCain, even if McCain dies before election day.

Steinhauer is only partially correct when she claims that "the Democrats’ problem stems from a depletion of their ranks in state legislatures and governors’ mansions over recent years" but hits it out of the park when she politely notes "a lack of institutional support for grass-roots-level politicians who represent a changing base."

“Democrats cannibalize each other when they lose those seats and don’t have new talent to fill them,” said Daniel A. Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida. “Here and in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and North Carolina are states that should have Democratic state-controlled legislatures, and the fact that they don’t not only marginalizes Democrats, but also makes it increasingly hard to build a farm team.”

Republicans, of course, find themselves in a fundamental conflict between Mr. Trump’s populist insurgents and traditional conservatives. But Democrats are mired in their own struggle, as they try to identify future stars who can appeal to a base increasingly insistent on a progressive agenda.

Florida’s Senate Democratic primary this Tuesday pits a bombastic, populist liberal, Representative Alan Grayson, against the establishment’s pick, Representative Patrick Murphy, in the kind of showdown that analysts expect to see in the party’s future.

“Democrats are going to have their own Tea Party moment in 2018,” said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor and Senate analyst for The Cook Political Report. “I don’t think they are going to put up with the party dictating who their candidates are.”

“The bench is not apparent right now,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaigns. “There are some impressive young leaders, but who among them is the next presidential nominee I can’t answer. A lot of them are not there yet.”

“Democrats have done a poor job, and I take my share of responsibility here, in not being as focused as Republicans have on building at the grass roots,” Mr. Axelrod said. “Look what the G.O.P. and their related agents have done with legislative and City Council and school board races. They are building capacity, and Democrats have paid the cost.”

Many promising young Democrats in the House have been frustrated by the reluctance of Representative Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, and her aging deputies to step aside and let new members ascend to leadership-- one of the few rewards for a minority party in the House. “I was on the recruitment committee, and a lot of candidates decided to take a pass,” said Representative Karen Bass, Democrat of California. She added, “There are people who are new to Congress and have a difficult situation because they are not going to be there for 20 years.”

...Democratic ranks have also been decimated in state governments across the nation, where new leaders tend to plant roots for future higher office.

After the 2008 elections, Democrats controlled 62 of the 99 state legislatures; today, Republicans control 68 chambers, according to Governing magazine. Over the same time period, the number of Democrats in governor’s mansions fell from 28 to 18. In both cases, Republican control is now at or near historic highs.

...Democrats have also complained that the party has not worked hard enough to promote an agenda that is appealing to the party’s growing base of progressive whites, nonwhites and millennials, fearing that such policies could turn off older, more traditional Democratic voters.

Stacey Abrams, the minority leader of the Georgia General Assembly, called that the “fear that is inherent in transitions.” She is considered one of the party’s brightest young stars, in no small part because she has unseated five Republicans in the Georgia legislature.

“This is a party that is comprised of what is being referred to as the new American majority,” she said. “Those are progressive whites, people of color and millennials. We have to focus our politics on turning out those voters.”
Instead, the Senate Democrats were manipulated into picking the absolute worst possible leader, Schumer, who is working to replicate a Democratic senate caucus beholden to Wall Street and resistant to anything the upcoming Democratic Party base is interested in. Schemer's career has been greased by $25,957,041 in legalistic bribes from the Finance Sector, more than any other politicians in the history of American politics who was not a presidential candidate. Schemer's corruption is far worse than even any Republican. By way of comparison, even the most contemptible Wall Street whores across the aisle haven't gotten the kinds of bribes that makes Schumer's clock tick. Not one of Wall Street's favorite Republicans got even half of what Schumer took in! Here are the 10 most bankster-corrupted Republicans and their hauls:
John Boehner (R-OH)- $12,215,498
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)- $11,806,876
Scott Brown (R-MA)- $9,178,994
Rob Portman (R-OH)- $8,722,092
Eric Cantor (R-VA)- $8,659,744
Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $8,380,358
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $8,235,516
Paul Ryan (R-WI)- $8,233,811
Mark Kirk (R-IL)- $8,159,335
Pat Toomey (R-PA)- $7,818,439

Schumer's mentorship of right-wing fake Democrat Patrick Murphy makes all the more sense when you understand that only Speaker Ryan and House Majority Leader McCarthy have taken bigger bankster bribes than Murphy this year and that there is no non-incumbent running for the Senate this year who has gotten as much Finance Sector loot as Murphy. Murphy just spent 2 terms in the House doing absolutely nothing but showing how utterly corrupt he is, but a promise from his wealthy parents and wealthy Saudi backers to help fund Obama's Presidential Library was enough for Obama to show his contempt for Florida's African-American voters by lying to them about what a "progressive" Murphy is in a series of ads that have all but killed Grayson's chance's to win the primary.

Blue America hasn't endorsed many candidates for Senate races this cycle. We only found 3 worth supporting (who are still in the running). You can help them-- and I hope you will-- at the thermometer below:
Goal Thermometer

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Friday, August 26, 2016

If We Don't Stop Billionaires From Buying Up The Political System, We Will All Soon Be Their Slaves


I first ran across Houston hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura when I noticed them spending millions of dollars supporting California fake Democrat Ro Khanna, school privatization and charter school advocacy, of the kind John Oliver discusses in the video above. The vile Arnolds have made their fortune through fracking and charter schools and they happily push their greedy agenda by financing right-wing candidates, some Republicans but primarily Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, like, besides Khanna (their biggest candidate investment), corrupt characters Darren Soto (FL), Josh Gottheimer (NJ), Ami Bera (CA), and repulsive and power-hungry Rahm Emanuel protégée, Illinois Blue Dog Cheri Bustos.

This cycle they teamed up with a Marco Rubio operative, a dip-shit named Thomas Datwyler, to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in FL-09 in order to bolster Darren Soto-- a right-wing NRA-poster boy masquerading as a Democrat and running for Alan Grayson's old congressional seat in the Orlando area. The Common Sense Leadership PAC is running a barrage of independent expenditures against Dena Grayson and in favor of Soto-- over $200,000 so far, but with expenditures accelerating by the day. Ironically, their vicious attacks on Grayson have been augmented by the sleaziest and least trustworthy of all Democratic groups, EMILY's List, which has, over the last decade, become expert at spreading lies and distortions. Hedge fund criminal Donald Sussman has given EMILY's List $2 million to spend against Grayson and Michael Bloomberg gave EMILY's List another million, some of which is being used against Soto and some against Grayson. It's ironic that EMILY's List is spending their donors' money to smear a pro-choice woman doctor in such a way that could well result in the election of a virulently anti-choice, right-wing tool like Soto who has been publicly endorsed by the Wall Street-owned and operated New Dems.

The Arnolds, vampires
Although some of the Arnold's money ($44,917) has gone into pro-Soto efforts, the big money is all being spent tp smear Grayson, smearing being a John and Laura Arnold trademark whenever it comes to progressives. This is how predatory billionaires like the Arnolds seeks to advance their political agenda, by helping elect puppet candidates like Darren Soto who will support their bid to destroy public education, one of the long-term goals of these people. As Jeff Bryant wrote for CommonDreams yesterday, "[John] Oliver focused much of his attention on Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, three states with especially depressing charter track records-- including negligence in the approval process and school executives embezzling funds."
None of Oliver’s critics seriously refuted the crux of his argument that there might be something fundamentally wrong by design, rather than by implementation or intent, with the idea that  a “free market” of privately operated and essentially unregulated schools is a surefire way to improve education opportunities for all students.

Indeed, charter schools are “here to stay” has become a refrain among advocates for these schools, even though there’s no doubt the controversy caused by this new parallel school system is just beginning, and no one can predict what the ongoing conflict will lead to.

The charter industry is currently responsible for educating a small percentage of students-- just 6–7 percent nationally and barely measurable in many communities, especially more well-to-do metropolitan and rural areas. A minority of Americans and relatively few politicians completely understand what charter schools are. And most experts have mixed views on the purpose of the schools.

However, what charter advocates generally won’t admit is that many of the problems these schools cause are reflective of what inevitably seems to happen when an essential public service is privatized.

The charter industry claims its schools are “public” institutions because they get tax dollars, but that’s like saying a defense contractor is a public business because it takes in revenues from the federal government.

Numerous experts point out charter schools blur the line from what it means to be a public institution providing a public good and that, by their very design, they expand opportunities to profiteer from public tax dollars and privatize public assets.

People in communities affected by these schools are just beginning to see the conflicts these institutions cause, and it’s just a matter of time before government officials at all levels are forced to respond to the increasing concerns with these schools.

Just consider recent actions taken by the Department of Justice to curtail the expansion of the private prison industry-- a privatization trend that generally predates the rise of the charter industry.

As Mother Jones reports, after “a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons,” DOJ announced it would stop contracting with these institutions.

Donald Cohen, who leads In the Public Interest, an organization that researches problems posed by privatizing public services, writes for Huffington Post, privately operated prisons are fundamentally flawed because the business model they must follow encourages the companies to “actively seek new prisoners to fill facilities they own.”

As ITPI has previously reported, “in an effort to provide the service with fewer resources while also maximizing profits, [private prison] companies often cut corners, reducing the quality, effectiveness, and accessibility of the service.”

“The more contractors can cut costs on running their facilities, the wider their profit margins,” writes Aman Banerji for the Roosevelt Institute. “No wonder … private prisons contracted by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) contain one or more security deficiencies, health service deficiencies, and a greater number of food grievances.”

This clear and obvious conflict of interest-- between serving the public and rewarding private enterprise-- led to a misalignment with DOJ’s mission to hold an essential function of government to the high standards the public demands.

If the charter school industry believes it can avoid this conflict, it’s kidding itself.

More than one attentive blogger has noticed the striking similarities between charter schools and the private prison industry. In one of these posts, Mitchell Robinson notes that charters, like private prisons, differ from the public counterparts by not being locally managed or controlled, not providing the same level of services and programs, and not answering to the same level or degree of regulation and oversight.

Over the years, the US Department of Education has rewarded charter schools with over $3.3 billion in federal funds, and with passage of the most recent federal education law, the every Student Succeeds Act, USDoE will send $333 million more to these schools before the current fiscal year is over.

Remarking on the actions DOJ took to end tax dollars going to the private prison industry, Banerji concludes, “It offers an opportunity to contest the privatization of state services beyond the prison system.”

Let’s hope reexamining the role of charter schools is the next step.

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