Thursday, April 19, 2018

Is Richard Ojeda, A Democrat Who Voted For Bernie In The Primary And Trump In The General, The Way Forward For Democrats?


Today I heard from a staffer in Richard Ojeda's campaign. Ojeda's a state senator running in an "impossibly red" congressional district-- WV-03, the southern part of the state, "coal country. Republican Evan Jenkins is giving up the seat for the dubious run against U.S. Senator Joe Manchin. The state has a PVI of R+19 but WV-03, the reddest part of the state, has a PVI of R+23. Obama lost with 42.3% in 2008 and with 32.8 in 2012. In 2016 Trump crushed Hillary 72.5% to 23.3%. It was Trump's only West Virginia district where he went over the 70% mark. Interestingly, Manchin won every single county in the district last time he ran. In primary season this was Bernie Country. Bernie didn't just beat Hillary-- and he did, in every county in the district-- but he got more votes than Trump did in many counties, like Fayette and Wayne, two of the biggest counties in the district. Ojeda was a real representative of his constituents in that way. He voted for Bernie in the primary-- and then switched to Trump for the general election. Now he's running for Congress... as a Democratic, perhaps the only candidate nationally who voted for Trump.

The primary is May 8and the campaign staffer was excited because his candidate had outraised his Republican opponents in the first quarter. "I just want to share our recent fundraising haul with you," he wrote. OK, I'll take his word for it, but the overall funding records for the top 4 candidates as of the March 31 FEC reporting deadline read like this:
Carol Miller (R)- $451,618
Conrad Lucas (R)- $238,335
Rupie Phillips, Jr. (R)- $193,851
Richard Ojeda (D)- $157,246
"We’re serious about out path to victory," he wrote, "we just have to do it a certain way in Trump country." Great! And I hope he wins. But there's not much chance he's going to be endorsed by Blue America. Why? Once he's in Congress voting, how many times will we hear "we just have to do it a certain way in Trump country?" A first-term state lawmaker, the NRA gave him an 86% rating. That's "a certain way in Trump country" but not a way I want to ask Blue America members to donate to. A year ago he voted for a bill that requires parent notification for abortions-- but he has a "D" next to his name. Why should I donate money to his campaign?

Last month Michael Kruse, reporting for Politico, made a big fuss about how he was a paratrooper "with 36 tattoos, bulging muscles and a dry-razored buzz cut" who drives a red Jeep. Give me a break. I just want to know two things about perspective members of Congress-- their trustworthiness and how they're going to vote. Another candidate who likes him and trusts him was impressed that he has the names of 13 friends killed in action tattooed on his back. It's tue, though-- Ojeda's been a populist on some issues: medical marijuana and energy companies paying more so striking teachers could get a higher salary. Kruse:
In hard red, Donald Trump-loving West Virginia, Ojeda has become a kind of one-man blue wave, threatening to defy a conventional belief that the only kind of Democrat that can win big races here—or anywhere, for that matter, in Appalachia or the industrial Midwest—is somebody like Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the United States Senate, a pragmatic, pro-business social conservative. Because here is Ojeda, a pro-labor, twang-talking, plainspoken populist, scrambling the state’s recent rightward shift by harkening back to a deeper, more radical vein of its rich political history. In the early 20th century, miners fought and died for higher wages and safer working conditions while wearing red bandanas and carrying Winchester rifles. Now, teachers are the new miners; in fact, in a place all but defined by its coal heritage, there are some 20,000 teachers and fewer than 12,000 miners, making the teachers-- plus the 13,000 staff who walked off the job with them-- by far the largest union in the state.

After I introduced myself, Ojeda uncorked a nearly unbroken, 13-minute tirade in which he called lobbyists “the absolute scum of the earth,” said they should have to wear body cameras in the Capitol, said they shouldn’t even be allowed “in the damn Capitol,” and told me one of the first things he did as a state legislator was give energy industry lobbyists a tongue-lashing. “I threw Big Energy out of my office!” he said. “They said, ‘Well, is there anything we can do to change your mind?’ I said, ‘You can get yo’ ass out of my office.’” He continued by scorching lawmakers for making decisions based on corporate campaign contributions instead of the interests of their constituents.

“Bootlickers!” he screamed into the phone.


...As we raced toward Charleston, Ojeda railing away about lobbyists and “bought-and-paid-for politicians” and Big Pharma and Big Energy while taking the curves in the four-lane highway so fast it felt at times like we were riding on just two wheels, it was hard not to consider his improbable path to this juncture.

...“I think we have a very, very good shot of winning,” David Graham, the truck driver who’s the campaign manager, told me. He cited the recent internal polling that has Ojeda beating potential Republican opponent Conrad Lucas with Republican voters 24.3 percent to 23 percent (with 52.8 percent uncertain) and beating other potential Republican opponent Rupie Phillips with Republican voters 27.1 percent to 16.5 percent (with 56.4 percent uncertain). The overall numbers including all voters aren’t even close. Ojeda’s top foe in the primary, Huntington mayor Steve Williams, much more a Manchin-style Democrat and better-funded, dropped out of the race in January, saying it wasn’t right to run for higher office given the severity of the drug problem in his city. Supporters of Ojeda wonder if the energy around their candidate had something to do with it, too. When I asked Manchin about Ojeda, his answer was brief. “Rich is a populist,” Manchin told me. “He’s a people’s person”-- as restrained an assessment of Ojeda as I’d heard.

“If the election was tomorrow, he’d win in a landslide,” said Belcher, the miner turned videographer. “He’s got the working class with him. If you’ve got the working class in West Virginia, you’re set.”

The implications are compelling. “If Ojeda wins,” said Moffett from People’s House, “it changes the entire conversation about how we run candidates, what type of candidates we run, and where.”

“He’s JFK with tattoos and a bench press,” Randy Jones, his 25-year-old volunteer finance director from Huntington, told me.

“Someone who sounds like you, talks like you, looks like you, struggled like you-- who’s standing up and speaking truth to power,” added Dennis White, 34, an Army veteran from West Virginia’s Boone County who’s a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University and a remote-working jack-of-all-trades aide to Ojeda.

“I hope it’s a lesson for everybody, that these are the kinds of candidates that we need to recruit,” Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan told me. Ryan plans on coming to West Virginia later this month or in early April to campaign with Ojeda. An Ojeda victory in November, he said, “could be a signal to the Republican Party that Democrats-- we’re coming to your territory, we’re not going to play this coastal game anymore. If we get candidates like him and have a strong economic message, there’s not a state we can’t win in.”

In the red Jeep on the way back to Logan, I asked Ojeda about his vote for Trump, a fact that in another state could be seen as disqualifying for a Democrat.

“I voted for him because it was about family and friends,” he said. “Nobody else was saying anything. Hillary Clinton was coming here blowing smoke up everybody’s ass. Hell, I wanted Bernie Sanders”-- and he wasn’t the only one, obviously, as Sanders beat Clinton in the primaries in all 55 counties-- “but once Bernie Sanders was screwed over by Hillary Clinton, by the way, you had no other option.”

He regrets his vote for Trump.

“Sure do,” he said.


“Because he hasn’t done shit,” he said. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year.” Nothing’s changed. So many people in southern West Virginia are still poor and need jobs. The opioid epidemic rages unabated. “All he’s done,” Ojeda said, “is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of.”

And I asked him about 2018.

“We’re kicking ass right now,” he said. “We are winning this race. And we’re winning it by a large margin. We did a scientific poll! And, oh, by the way, you show me one of my opponents that can walk anyplace right now and have 500 people screaming their name. And guess what? It’s not just happening at the Capitol. This has been going on now for the last month. Everywhere I’ve been going for the last month has always had between 250 and 500 people. And when I get there, I’m the one they want to see. We’re kicking ass. The polls? Kickin’ ass!”


“I’m real,” he said. “I’m not polished. I’m sorry, but if you want a daggone, typical polished politician, vote for Conrad Lucas. But people are tired of that bullshit. People are tired of the same ol’ garbage. They want people that are willing to speak out, speak up, be open and honest with them.”

Kind of like … you know who.

“You know, hey, here’s the thing,” Ojeda told me. “Donald Trump, Donald Trump, made everybody excited because he said shit nobody else has ever said. But the difference is, Donald Trump wins, and he ain’t done jack shit to help us. Now let me tell you something about Ojeda. Ojeda won, and I’m telling you right now: I guarantee you there’s not one single freshman damn Democrat, there’s not one freshman friggin’ senator that’s ever made more damn noise than I have and has done more than what I’ve done.

“I get shit done!” he said. “I just started a friggin’ movement!”
I'm guessing he'd like to sound like Randy Bryce, the veteran who was doing outreach statewide in Wisconsin for fellow vets on behalf of the AFL-CIO and scared Paul Ryan off from seeking reelection. Bryce was also a Bernie supporter, but then voted for Clinton-- and has a fully progressive platform.

Not everyone has such an upbeat perspective on Ojeda. Eric London eviscerated him last month on the World Socialist website, asserting he's just "a capitalist politician whose cheap talk about supporting the teachers is aimed at giving Democrats and the union leaders influence over the strike so they can keep it under control and shut it down."
Furthermore, for all Ojeda’s talk about taxing corporations, increasing workplace safety regulations, and funding social programs, he supported the billionaire Donald Trump in the 2016 elections. “If he does twenty percent of what he promises, he’ll be a decent president,” Ojeda told the New Yorker magazine just after Trump’s election win. “And maybe he just will make America great again.”

Trump ran on a platform of gutting regulations, slashing taxes for the corporations and the billionaires, and Senator Ojeda cannot be surprised that Trump has carried these plans out. During Trump’s first year in office, deaths at US coal mines doubled after the president eliminated safety regulations and appointed a former coal executive to head the Mine Health and Safety Administration. The federal government has done nothing to stop the devastating consequences of drug companies pouring opioids into the state. Ojeda bears political responsibility for the impact of Trump’s policies on the working class.

Ojeda’s justification for voting for Trump changes depending on his audience. For example, in a January 2018 appearance on the “progressive” YouTube program Young Turks, he tried to downplay his 2016 vote for Donald Trump, saying “this was about my neighbors” and that he was upset over high unemployment in Logan County, a coal mining area in which he grew up. He explained that he could not vote for Hillary Clinton after supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.

But when he was running for state senate in 2016 in a district that voted heavily for Trump, he struck a different tone, advancing xenophobic and racist sentiments in a cynical effort to win votes. In a language reminiscent of Trump’s fascist current and former advisers Stephen Miller and Steven Bannon, Ojeda told the New Yorker in October 2016:
“When you hear about illegal aliens getting benefits and you have people here starving to death and can’t get nothing, it’s just a slap in the face. When you start talking about bringing in refugees and when they get here they get medical and dental and they get set up with some funds-- what do we get? So when people hear Donald Trump saying we’re going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good.”
No worker can support a politician who calls for “taking benefits away” from the roughly 12 million members of the working class who happen to be in the United States without proper documents. How can any worker trust a politician who claims he supports the poor and working class, but supports forcing immigrant workers to live in total poverty with no public support? By pitting workers against one another based on race and national origin, Ojeda is employing a classic “divide and conquer” tactic of the corporations.

When Ojeda speaks to left-wing audiences like Young Turks, he changes his tune again. In an attempt to build his name recognition and raise money, Ojeda said in the January 2018 interview that his policy regarding immigration is that “open arms is what we should be all about. Let’s show people love regardless of where they’re from.” During this interview, Ojeda made not one criticism of the policies, deregulations, corporate tax cuts, and war policies Trump has initiated.

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Is Jeff Van Drew Really The Lesser Of Two Evils? Ask A Surviver Of Any NRA Gun Massacre


Jeff Van Drew, the personification of a 2018 DCCC recruit

It's hard to say which DCCC recruit will likely be the worst POS if he gets into Congress. But it's impossible to draw up a short list without including New Jersey Blue Dog/New Dem Jeff Van Drew. Van Drew has a record as a state legislature so we already know absolutely what a total turd he's going to be in Congress. And it's the reason why the DCCC selected him. They've been trying to recruit him for years but Van Drew is a notorious political coward and he refused to give up his safe state Senate seat until Frank LoBiondo announced he wasn't running again. NJ-02, which runs from Little Egg Harbor and Eagleswood Townships in the North, across to the Wilmington suburbs down through Atlantic City and all the way down to Cape May, has an R+1 PVI but voted for Obama-- with around 53%-- both times he ran. Trump beat Hillary 50.6% to 46.0%.

Thanks to the DCCC's efforts, he's likely to win the nomination and thanks to the blue wave he's likely to slither into Congress. As Matt Friedman reported in Politico over the weekend, "Van Drew has voted against raising the minimum wage and gay marriage. He often sides with industry on environmental issues and carries an A rating from the NRA... [T]he Democratic Party establishment-- at every level-- is throwing its collective weight behind Van Drew, leaving local progressives baffled, frustrated and more than a little angry." The DCCC is painting a false picture that only a Republican-lite reactionary like Van Drew could win the district. That's a completely false narrative. The wave would sweep any Democrat in. The problem-- backed up by history-- is that in the next midterm, 2022, Van Drew's Republican-lite voting record will turn off so many Democrats that his base won't be there for him and the GOP will capture the seat. 2006/2010 all over again-- a DCCC special.
The race is a showcase for whether the Democratic Party nationally will tolerate politicians like Van Drew, a state senator, in the name of winning the majority in the U.S. House for the first time since 2011. It highlights Democrats’ struggles to blend their stated ideals on issues like diversity and gun control with the political realities of a district, in this case a working-class bastion that voted for President Donald Trump by 4 points after twice voting for President Barack Obama.

Nationally, the Democratic Party has seen a surge of progressive activism in the wake of Trump’s election, and New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District is no exception. So liberal activists, who frequently gathered in front of LoBiondo’s office to demand a town hall meeting that never came, have turned their ire on Democratic leaders.

“It makes me feel a bit insulted and betrayed,” said Alison Arne, an Atlantic County activist who co-chairs the group Actions Together New Jersey Atlantic County.

Two other candidates for the Democratic nomination to replace LoBiondo fit the mold of 2018 Democrats.

Will Cunningham is an openly gay African-American attorney who grew up poor and despite being homeless at one point as a teen, went to an Ivy League university and became an Obama administration official, and an adviser to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Tanzie Youngblood is a retired African-American teacher and military mom. And Nate Kleinman, a farmer who runs a nonprofit and was active in the Occupy movement, was dubbed the first “Occupy candidate” when he sought a House seat in Pennsylvania six years ago.

Democrats spent two decades struggling to recruit viable candidates to run in the district against LoBiondo, who first won the seat in 1994. Now, Van Drew will almost certainly win the primary and is heavily favored to win the seat in November.

“The DCCC needs to take a look at themselves in the mirror and make sure we’re reflective of who we’re sending to D.C.,” Cunningham said of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has all but officially thrown in with Van Drew after trying for at least a decade to recruit him to run there. “We as the Democratic Party, if we’re going to talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk.”

The anger has spilled out into public forums. At one, high school student Emily McGrath confronted Van Drew-- who had one day earlier told her class he did not accept donations from the NRA-- about a $1,000 donation she had discovered. The videotaped confrontation, in which McGrath said “Senator, you lied,” made headlines around the state.

But don’t look for a nail-biter primary like in Illinois, where conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski narrowly survived a primary challenge last month.

The 2nd District, New Jersey’s southernmost and largest geographically, includes Atlantic City’s gleaming casino towers, farmland and the poorest county in the state. It’s more working class than its New Jersey counterparts to the north, with the lowest percentage of college-educated residents in the state. And Van Drew has represented the district’s most Republican portion in the state Senate and Assembly for 16 years, comfortably winning reelection despite several major GOP efforts against him.

To have a Democratic candidate who’s already popular in the most conservative part of the congressional district is like a dream to Democrats more concerned with flipping a Republican House seat than with ideological purity. They point to Conor Lamb, the conservative Democrat who won a deep-red House district in Pennsylvania in March.

“I think it’s a lot of the same criticism you heard about that guy,“ said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman. “Do you want a guy who’s with you 70 percent of the time? Or do you want a Republican who’s with you 0 percent of the time?”

Meanwhile, there are some hints that Van Drew is moving leftward. Earlier this year, conservative websites pointed out that he quietly withdrew his sponsorship of bills to reinstate the death penalty and require parental notification for abortions.

“Candidly, I’m to the left of Jeff,” Suleiman said. “But I also want to win. Because I’ve been around long enough to know if there’s one thing Democrats are good at, it’s screwing up elections.”

Establishment Democrats stress that Van Drew has voted with the party on bread-and-butter priorities like paid sick leave and paid family leave.

While Van Drew doesn’t have the kind of voting record that generally plays well in a Democratic primary, he has some things that his challengers lack: organization and money. He‘s backed by the local Democratic organization in all eight counties in the district, which gives him advantageous placement on the ballot. And the three candidates running to his left threaten to dilute the progressive vote.

Then there’s the issue of money. Before LoBiondo’s retirement announcement, when Youngblood and Sean Thom-- who has since dropped out-- were the only candidates in the race, DCCC staff helped prep Youngblood for her campaign launch, and she attended its candidate week in October.

But national Democrats were left unimpressed with her anemic fundraising in a district that includes the Philadelphia media market-- one of the most expensive in the country. As of the end of last year, Youngblood had raised only about $50,000-- almost half of which came from her own pocket. Van Drew raised only about $80,000, but a campaign source said his next filing will show about $400,000 raised.

Cunningham and Kleinman entered the race after Van Drew.

“Sen. Van Drew has built the strongest Democratic campaign this district has seen in more than two decades,” said DCCC spokeman Evan Lukaske. “In addition to earning the unanimous backing of local Democrats, Van Drew has an unmatched record of service to this community, deep ties to grass-roots supporters and a proven ability to win tough races.“

But Arne, the activist, said she felt Democrats didn’t take the opportunity for a pickup in the district seriously until LoBiondo retired. Once that happened, even before Van Drew formally declared his campaign, all of South Jersey’s Democratic Party leaders rallied around him.

“Last year for the 2017 state legislative races, we really stood up and did a lot of work to get the local communities more engaged,” Arne said. “So when they turned it around like this on us, it’s like they didn’t listen and they don’t really care.”
There are 6 gun-rights bills pending in the New Jersey legislature-- but they won't be voted on until after New Jersey's June primary, making it a lot easier for Van Drew to avoid the topic. Incredibly corrupt and machine-bossed Jersey Senate President, Stephen Sweeney, set it up that way for Van Drew, just as George Norcross instructed him to. Van Drew has a 100% vote score from the NRA-- which is even worse than a 90% or 99%.

UPDATE: A Progressive Candidate Against Van Drew

This is a note I got from Emily McGrath, a high school student in NJ-02, a short time after the post went up:

My name is Emily and I am a senior at Egg Harbor Township High School. After the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, I confronted Senator Jeff Van Drew about his A-rating from the NRA.
I called him out after he lied to me and my classmates as to whether he’d ever accepted money from the NRA.  Our conversation went viral and people are finally realizing that Senator Van Drew is the wrong choice for South Jersey.

Until my peers and I are old enough to run for office, we deserve champions in Congress who will make our lives and well-being a #1 priority.

Will Cunningham will be the champion we deserve. After hearing his riveting speech at the March for Our Lives rally I joined Will’s campaign as a volunteer because I truly believe he’s the fighter our district needs in Congress. We need someone who will stand up to the NRA to pass common sense gun safety measures.

The fact is, we don't elect leaders to offer thoughts and prayers-- we elect them to take action... The Second District is full of both responsible gun owners and parents who fear saying goodbye to their kids each morning. Surely, we can come together to support sensible steps to prevent gun violence.

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50 Republicans Are Willing To Push Ryan Over The Cliff To Solve The DREAMers Problem


When going over the new poll from Muhlenberg College of Pennsylvania voters the other day, I noticed question about DACA. It was the most agreed-upon topic in the entire survey 81% of voters favor DACA. That's especially interesting because 40% of voters identified themselves as Republicans. What about other states? I have a feeling that voters in other states-- maybe not Confederate states, but normal states-- feel the same way as Pennsylvania voters. How do i know? "Queen of the hill" rules rarely pass. When it does it enables the House to consider a specified measure without approval from the majority party's leadership.

This week 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans-- Will Hurd (R-TX), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Pete Aguilar (D-CA) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM)-- have been pushing one through Congress to save the DREAMers from Trump. It would be a slap in the face to the lame duck Speaker, Paul Ryan, and his puppet Rules Committee chair, Pete Sessions. They need 218 votes to override Ryan's opposition and claim they have 240 votes-- 190 Democrats and 50 Republicans. I'd love to see the list of Democrats who have refused to sign on... as well as the Republican who have.

Denham: "We talk a lot about transparency around here and regular order. Well, that’s what we’re doing here today we want to follow regular order and have a debate... [Ryan] can put whatever he wants in the bill. I’m sure with the speaker’s wisdom he will find whatever the president wants and will sign."

Ryan is using Trump as an excuse for opposing a solution. "Our goal," his spokesperson said, "is to get a DACA and border security solution into law, and we certainly don’t want to pursue a strategy that the president won’t sign. Republicans made three good-faith offers during the omnibus negotiations and Democrats declined all of them. We continue to work to find the support for a solution that addresses both border security and DACA."

The next step would be a discharge petition, the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in Ryan, McCarthy and Scalise. The Dallas Morning News reported that something like 124,000 DACA recipients live in Texas. In all, the proposal covers between 800,000 and 1.3 million DACA recipients, all of whom arrived as children before June 15, 2007.
Last September, Trump announced that he would shut the program down as of March 5, arguing that his predecessor didn’t have the authority to grant permanent legal status. He called on Congress to find a permanent solution to protect Dreamers from deportation, but that hasn’t happened.

During budget talks, Trump tried to wrest $25 billion from Congress to build a border wall in exchange for providing DACA recipients a path to citizenship. Few lawmakers supported that idea.

Hurd said he’d likely support one of the four proposals-- a measure by Denham that is expected to include Hurd’s “USA Act.” The bill, which has bipartisan support, would create a permanent solution for DACA recipients and implement border security measures through technology and some “physical barriers.”

...Denham, a Republican, said passing the resolution will allow for “a full debate” of the DACA program, but he noted that Ryan would have the final say in what bills get to the House floor.

“We’re going to continue to show the speaker and the president that the will of the House, the will of people is right here on demanding a vote,” Denham said, adding that he expects the amount of support will catch Trump’s attention.

Ryan pushed aside the possibility of including DACA in February’s budget deal because he said he wouldn’t want “to just risk a veto” from Trump.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court let DACA stay in place as challenges work through lower courts.

Hurd said his constituents want a secure border and a permanent solution for Dreamers. And he is hopeful that Trump would sign a DACA bill into law.

“Let’s have a permanent legislative fix for over a million young men and women who have only known the United States of America as a home,” he said, adding, “I actually believe the president wants to see this get done.”

DuWayne Gregory was speaking for a load of Democratic challenger when he called out Long Island incumbent Peter King yesterday: "Washington DC’s inaction on dreamers is yet another example of King’s ineffectiveness. He serves a sizable immigrant community and that community has gone unrepresented when it comes to their issues and fears. King is a proud supporter of Trump’s border wall and xenophobic policies. King's recent remarks on DACA is more of the same from Republicans in unsafe seats. Pandering to both sides with empty rhetoric is not going to fool any of his voters this time around. This district is ready to flip and he knows it."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

I get all sorts of emails from Trumpanzee and his Repug Party. I'm on their list so that you don't have to be. Lately, I've been getting ones that reflect an increasing paranoia. Imagine that! One, for instance, purports to be from Trump and asks, plaintively, "Noah, are you still with me?" Of course these emails are all about raising money for his re-election or that of some other Republican goon somewhere in America. I'm tempted to just reply something along the lines of "Hey, fuck you asshole. If you're half as rich as you claim to be, just pay your own way. You don't need a dime from me! Not one penny! No way would I insult Honest Abe that way!"

A lot of the emails are full of the self-congratulatory nonsense and self-aggrandizement that you'd expect from any megalomaniac who has a severely limited intelligence. They claim great victories in "making America great again" and are chock full of comments about "Nancy Pelosi," "Crooked Hillary," and "Liberal elites." They reveal the intellectual capacity of a 9 year old, i.e. the Republican base. But, this past weekend, I got the one I'm using as tonight's meme. It's about the birthday of Trump's 3rd and hopefully final wife. Now that I've said that, I suppose we can expect him to divorce Melania so he can marry his daughter like he's some kind of Egyptian Pharaoh or Roman Emperor. We all know he dreams about it. One thing is sure by this point: If Trumpanzee did manage to marry Ivanka, his voters would applaud it and a sizable percentage of them would look at it all as confirmation that "He really understand my family and he really is just like us!"

The striking thing about Trump's Melania birthday email is how it's a pathetic, childish attempt to ingratiate himself with a wife that has to be mighty sick of him and his philandering and cavorting with hookers and porn stars. Apparently, he has evidence that she can be bought off with just a card. Melania got what she signed up for, though. As they say, everyone has their price. As usual, though, if you read the email like I do, you will see that he claims he "wouldn't be the man I am today without her by my side." Sigh, that Trumpanzee! Always blaming others when he should just blame himself.

Anyway, I signed the damn card. I signed it with Stormy Daniels' name and sent it back.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Are Orange County Democrats Selling Congressional Nominations?


This is what a DCCC recruit who wants to buy a congressional seat looks like

Well... we'll see. That's certainly the DCCC's most fervent desire. They scumbags at 430 S. Capitol St SE in Washington prefer that and recruit candidates and on self-funding capacity. So let's look at who's self-funding in the 4 Orange county districts that Hillary won but that have Republican incumbents.

First is CA-39, where really stupid DCCC staffers stumbled and actually recruited two very wealthy candidates, Gil Cisneros and Mai-KhanhTran, neither of whom live sin the district. So here's the self-funding activities as of March 31, the last FEC reporting deadline:
Andy Thorburn- $2,335,900 (91.20%)
Gil Cisneros- $2,504,467 (81.96%)
Mai-KhanhTran- $480,000 (40.56%)
Phil Janowicz- $194,900 (56.68%)
Next up is CA-45, the district that needs to rid itself of Mimi Walters
Ron Varasteh- $250,000 (99.04%)
Brian Forde has a lot of money-- and do do his friends and over 93% of his contributions come from large individual contributions, most from wealthy friends and colleagues. Next is CA-48, the Rohrabacher seat on the coast, home of Cisneros, Tran and several other carpetbaggers.
Omar Siddiqui- $764,856 (81.95%)
Harley Rouda- $730,500 (59.61%)
Hans Keirstead- $430,400 (34.35%)
And now the big one, CA-49, the Orange County/San Diego County seat Doug Applegate drove Darrell Issa out of and, in so doing-- has attracted a pack of grotesque opportunists
Paul Kerr- $1,612,728 (82.75%)
Sara Jacobs- $1,074,151 (77.24%)
Any other gross self-funds among California Democrats, the party working for the interests working families and the down-trodden? Just two:

Sue Zwahlen ($206,181)- CA-10
TJ Cox ($265,500)- CA-10, but now CA-21

At least no one in California is as bad as David Trone in Maryland though, right? Last cycle Trone lost after spending  $13,385,373 of his own money. His personal money amounted to 99.95% of what he raised. As of the December 31 FEC reporting deadline he had raised $2,471,785 in his campaign for the open 6th district seat in Maryland (a different district), of which $2,281,939 came out of his bank account (92.32%). Expect lots more from where that came from!

Goal ThermometerOK, back to Orange County for a moment. There are excellent candidates in 3 of the 4 districts who have a shot at winning and who aren't trying to buy the seats, 2 men and a woman who are endorsed by Blue America and who are actually trying to win based on their ideas, values and intentions towards the working families of the districts. Each of the 3 is financing their campaigns with small donor contributions and each is under tremendous pressure from the self-funders. In CA-39 that candidate is Sam Jammal, In CA-45, it is Katie Porter, and in CA-49 it's Doug Applegate. You can contribute by tapping on the ActBlue congressional thermometer on the right. I might add at this moment that Marianne Williamson will be visiting San Clemente on Saturday afternoon, April 28th, to help raise money for Doug Applegate. I'll be there too and I hope you can come say hello. Our artist, Nancy Ohanian, has contributed some really beautiful art towards Doug's election that I'll have with me.

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Marble And Mud


We got some chemical plants but didn't scratch Assad's marble floor

-by Dorothy Reik

Wars do not hurt the leaders of the battling countries but they do devastate the citizens. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, shop owners, taxi drivers, and especially children, lose everything. Men and women who had homes, cars, lives worth living, are turned into beggars pleading for refuge from strangers in strange lands or are warehoused in refugee camps awaiting their fates in muddy fields at the mercy of the elements in skimpy tents. We bombed Syria to punish Assad for using chemical weapons to kill his citizens instead of using bombs and you can see below how he suffered. His suit is freshly pressed, his tie is nattily tied, his shirt is whiter than white and no hair is out of place as he strides purposefully across his marble floor headed, no doubt, to a meeting to decide which of his citizens to kill next-- and how.

Ordinary Syrians forced from their homes are not doing as well. Of course, mud floors don't scratch

It seems that Assad has used chemical weapons to against the Syrian people at least 50 times since the Russians promised Obama they had all had been removed from Syria. It is passing strange that we knew exactly where they were when we launched our missiles. "The United States accused the Syrian government on Friday of using banned chemical arms at least 50 times since Syria’s civil war began seven years ago-- substantially higher than previous official estimates.” The bombing attack was ostensibly to defend the people of Syria, destroying the chemical weapons so that Assad is limited to barrel bombs and cluster bombs that cause so much damage to the human body that no one will look. Out of sight... Chemical weapons leave whole bodies for us-- and Trump-- to look at. Reconstructing a body blown apart by a bomb is too hard, too gruesome, so those deaths are not displayed for the world to see

Of course if Trump really cared about the Syrians he would let them come here and continue their lives in relative safety, threatened only by our homegrown racists, but so far this year we have only accepted ELEVEN Syrian refugees. Trump is keeping his campaign promise: "I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back," he said in a rally in 2015. Numbers suggest that he has translated that rhetoric into policy.

In the first year of the Trump administration, 2,002 refugees were admitted into the U.S., compared with 16,419 in Barack Obama's final year.

In 2016 there were 13.5 MILLION Syrians in need of assistance. 6.5 million displaced inside their own country and 5 million outside of the country.


Does The Mafia Get Its Own Member Of Congress Again?


If the DCCC gets its way and Blue Dog Max Rose captures the Democratic nomination to run against Michael Grimm in November in the Staten Island/south Brooklyn district (NY-11) that is widely considered the most Mafia-friendly congressional district in America, Rose will have an immediate head start-- a website, The Grimm Reality. The site was put up over the weekend by Grimm's opponent, incumbent Congressman Dan Donovan (R). Donovan doesn't pull any punches, making Grimm sound a lot like Señor Trumpanzee:
Michael Grimm is a serial liar and con man who will do or say anything to get what he wants. He’s even gone so far as to lie under oath, which got him convicted of felony perjury charges. But his lies and excuses go way beyond his criminal convictions.

Since voters can’t trust a word Michael Grimm says, this website will set the record straight about his disturbing record as one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress and the numerous ethics scandals he’s embroiled in. We just can’t trust Michael Grimm.
The NY Post had a good ole time with it on Monday: "'It’s tax day in America, and while everyone has filed their taxes and paid their hard-earned money to the government, Michael Grimm still thinks he’s above the law,' the anti-Grimm website says. 'Even after serving prison time for hiding nearly $1 million in income from the IRS, Michael Grimm still owes approximately $900,000 in back taxes to New York State. 'He owes huge debts to the tax department, his campaign, and the people who paid off his criminal legal bills, but that hasn’t stopped him from driving around in a Lexus sports car. For Michael Grimm, the rules apply to everyone except him.'" Most of the website is devoted to 9 urls putting Grimm in a bad light. A DCCC contact laughed and told me they have "10 times more-- and much more damaging"-- oppo on Grimm than Donovan is using.

The Post was just as happy to publish Grimm's response: "Not surprising that Desperate Dan resorts to slander to distract from his own failed stint in Congress. Everyone knows I hired a few delivery boys off the books and was politically prosecuted by the Obama Justice Department for a violation other business owners get fined for, but that doesn’t change the fact that I was a much more effective member of Congress. I’ll be happy to release my tax returns when Dan has his first substantive bill signed into law or starts supporting our President when it actually matters."

NY-11 was the only New York City congressional district Trump won. Although Obama beat Romney there, Trump thrashed Hillary 53.6% to 43.8%. The PVI is R+3. Staten Island is filled with Italians and the Brooklyn part of the district is filled with Trump-loving Russians. June 25 in primary day. Donovan has been endorsed by the Staten Island GOP, the Staten Island Independence Party, the New York state Conservative Party, the New York state Reform Party and the entire Republican Beltway establishment. Grimm has been endorsed by... Steve Bannon.

Although Grimm-- as well as Donovan-- try painting themselves as a Trump fanatics now, both have virtually identical voting records: mainstream Republican. As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline, Donovan had raised $1,171,589 and had $739,476 cash on hand. Grimm had raised $366,460 and had $359,607 in cash.

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The Government Has A Job To Do-- Creating Full Employment... And It's Been Failing At It


There have been rumors circulating for months that one of the planks of Bernie's 2020 platform will be Job Guarantee. This week the Levy Institute at Bard College published a paper that could well be the intellectual underpining of that plank, Public Service Employment-- A Path To Full Employment by distinguished economists L. Randall Wray, Stephanie A. Kelton, Pavlina R. Tcherneva, Scott Fullwiler, and Flavia Dantas. It's well worth reading the entire report (at the link above). This is the executive summary:
Despite headline-grabbing reports of a healthy US labor market, millions of Americans remain unemployed and underemployed. It is a problem that plagues our economy in good times and in bad-- there are never enough jobs available for all who want to work. The problem is most acute for women, youths, blacks, and Latinos, although research also finds a persistent lack of employment for large numbers of working-age men. This report asks a set of big questions: What if we sought to eliminate involuntary unemployment across all demographic groups and geographic regions, by directly creating jobs in the communities where they are needed through a federally funded Public Service Employment program? How could such a radical transformation of the labor market be implemented? What would it cost, and what would it mean for the US economy?

A number of important implications emerge from this analysis. Joblessness, defined as the inability to secure a job at a living wage ($15 per hour), can be eliminated in every corner of America for every eligible person who desires to work. With a standing job offer-- a “public option”-- available at all times, the US labor market would transition to a permanent state of true full employment. Millions of American families would be lifted out of poverty, and the economy would grow as the benefits of the program spill over into the private sector. Perhaps most astonishingly, this can all be done without the need to raise taxes and without creating an inflation problem.

We propose the creation of a Public Service Employment (PSE) program that would offer a job at a living wage to all who are ready and willing to work. This is a “job guarantee” program that provides employment to all who need work by drawing from the pool of the otherwise unemployed during recessions and shrinking as private sector employment recovers. Federally funded but with a decentralized administration, the PSE program would pay $15 per hour for both full- and part-time positions and offer benefits that include health insurance and childcare. In addition to guaranteeing access to work on projects that serve a public purpose, the PSE program establishes effective minimum standards for wages and benefits.

We have simulated the economic impact over a ten- year period of implementing the PSE program beginning in 2018Q1. Drawing from the unemployed, underemployed, and those who are out of the labor force, the program would attract roughly 15 million people into the PSE workforce, based on our higher- bound estimates of likely program participants. While the report also presents lower-bound estimates, the results highlighted here correspond to this higher- bound scenario:
 Real, inflation-adjusted GDP (2017Q4 dollar values) would be boosted by $560 billion per year on average, once the PSE program is at full strength (from 2020 to 2027).
 The economic stimulus generated by the PSE program would also increase private sector employment by up to an additional 4.2 million private sector jobs relative to the baseline, due to the “multiplier effects” of the program.
 Even though it boosts GDP by over $500 billion per year, adds more than 19 million private and public service jobs, and raises wages nationwide above $15 per hour, the program’s impact on inflation is minor: the boost to inflation peaks at 0.74 percentage points higher than the baseline projection and then progressively falls to a negligible 0.09 percentage points higher than the baseline by the end of the simulation period.
 The program’s net impact on the federal budget averages 1.53 percent of GDP in the first five years of the program (2018–22) and 1.13 percent of GDP in the last five years (2023–27). These net budgetary impacts could be significantly overestimated, since the simulation makes very cautious assumptions about offsetting reductions in Medicaid and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expenditures that would result from higher employment and wages.
 State-level government budgets are improved by a total of $53 billion per year by boosting employment and growth.
 Based on the demographics of estimated PSE participants, the program would disproportionately benefit women and minorities.
 One full-time worker in the PSE program could lift a family of up to five out of poverty. With one full-time and one part-time worker, a family of eight could rise above the poverty line.
 In addition to these measured benefits, the PSE program would lower spending by all levels of government, as well as by businesses and households, on a range of costly problems created by unemployment. It is possible that the program would “pay for itself” in terms of savings due to reduced crime, improved health, greater social and economic stability, and larger reductions in Medicaid and EITC expenditures than those assumed in the simulations.
 The projects undertaken in every community would provide visible benefits, meeting specific local needs through work that involves caring for people, strengthening communities, and protecting and renewing the environment. This report develops a blueprint for the design, jobs, and implementation of the PSE proposal for the United States.

Unemployment, hidden and official, with all of its attendant social harms, is a policy choice. The results in this report lend more weight to the argument that it is a policy choice we need no longer tolerate. True full employment is both achievable and sustainable.
Alan Grayson is running for Congress again. This is right up his alley. Yesterday he told us that "During the worst of the Great Recession, with unemployment in double digits, I pointed out that the Government could hire every single unemployed person, paying them all $15 per hour, and that would cost around half of the military budget. Today, it would cost barely a quarter of the military budget or, alternatively, right around the cost of the Trump tax cuts for the rich. And if we did, then America would no longer be a country of cheap labor and debt slavery."

Goal ThermometerJenny Marshall is the progressive candidate running for the 5th district in North Carolina, currently held by Virginia Foxx-- a big waste of a seat. This morning, Jenny told us that "as she has "traveled around the district what I have found is that people want to work. They want a job that pays the bills. The jobs guarantee would provide work to those who need it in places and spaces where they could have a huge impact in empowering their community and providing much needed labor. I have been talking to people in the recent weeks about this proposal and people are excited about it. They start rattling off places that need help and things that need fixed. With a jobs guarantee, we could tackle those and so much more. A job gives a person autonomy, dignity and builds community. The jobs guarantee is a win-- win situation."

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Joe Crowley-- Not Inevitable... We Can Do Better


Wall Street's dozen biggest bets for 2018

Every progressive in America should be alarmed at this Politico headline from yesterday: Queens party boss angles to succeed Pelosi as speaker. Heather Caygle and John Bresnahan wrote, dispassionately, that "Rep. Joe Crowley is making moves to take over the House Democratic Caucus whether the party wins or loses in November." Yes, he is-- and has been for years.

Crowley is the most corrupt Democrat in Congress-- an inept creature of Wall Street, who serves as the conduit between the banksters and the Democratic conference. Although he's tried to moderate his right-wing votes since deciding to run for leader, he is best known as leader of the right-of-center New Dems. He is the embodiment of what everyone hates about Congress: corruption, self-serving and a being a toadie of the worst of DC's special interests. He doesn't belong in Congress, let alone as the leader of the party that's supposed to represent the legitimate interests of the downtrodden and the working families of this country.

Much of what Caygle and Bresnahan wrote was pure Beltway press release. How about that Crowley is "buoyed by a caucus thirsty for change" and how he has a "rising national profile?" What nonsense! His national profile may be rising among Wall Street banksters, lobbyists and media hacks... but real people? I don't think so-- not even in his own Queens/Bronx district. They describe him as "the affable Queens party boss" without mentioning that he lives in Virginia, not in Queens. Painting Crowley as some kind of a reformer in laughable-- but that didn't stop Caygle and Bresnahan from trying.
[I]n interviews with nearly 30 Democratic lawmakers and aides, almost all said it’s no secret that Crowley-- a 6-foot-5, lifelong New Yorker who towers over many of his colleagues and can often be heard walking through the Capitol singing a tune in his trademark Queens accent-- is doing everything possible to position himself for if and when there’s a shakeup at the top.

For Crowley, this moment has been two decades in the making and could be his best shot to ascend to the top of Democratic leadership ranks.

“I think Pelosi and Hoyer ought to take the message from [Paul] Ryan’s retirement and realize it’s time for this caucus to move on. And I think Crowley fits the bill to be our next leader,” said Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), an outspoken critic of current leadership.

The much-talked about topic is so sensitive that several Democrats would discuss it only on condition of anonymity. Still, nearly 20 lawmakers from various corners of the caucus privately agreed with Vela that Crowley has a strong shot at becoming Democratic leader, though there was less consensus on whether that would happen after this election or in 2020.

Crowley, 56, has said he won’t run against Pelosi, the current House minority leader, for the speakership. And he hasn’t declared any intention of challenging Hoyer, the current whip, or Clyburn, the assistant minority leader, either.

But if the top job opens up-- either because Democrats lose and Pelosi decides to retire, or they win but she doesn’t have the 218 votes to be speaker-- Crowley’s allies say they‘re confident he would pounce. Having to take on his once-close ally Hoyer or someone else wouldn’t inhibit Crowley, they said.

Lawmakers eager for change see Crowley, who is the No.4 leader in the Democratic ranks and at least 20 years younger than the top three, as their best chance to break the decade-plus leadership logjam. But Crowley passed on a chance to shake up the status quo in 2016 after a group of members urged him to run against Pelosi. And there’s no guarantee this time will be any different.

“Is there an undercurrent of people that would like to see change or people grumbling about the fact that the people in leadership are old? Yes,” said Rep. John Larson (D-CT). “But, if push comes to shove, what will be the compelling reason [to oust them] if we win?”

In the meantime, Crowley is embarking on a high-profile travel schedule with appearances in Cleveland, Seattle and Chicago in April, several yet-to-be-announced stops over the summer and a major fall fundraiser for House Democratic hopefuls.

Crowley’s itinerary is exactly the kind of circuit a party leader would work in the run-up to the November midterms. So far Crowley has raised $3 million for Democratic incumbents, candidates and the party’s House campaign arm this cycle, eclipsing the $2.3 million he brought in during the 2016 election.

Crowley declined to be interviewed for this story. But his spokeswoman, Lauren French, dismissed the idea that Crowley’s hectic travel and fundraising schedule is designed to help him become leader.

“Joe Crowley’s sole focus is putting Democrats in majority control of the House,” French said in a statement. “The only way issues like expanding health care, creating good-paying jobs, growing the economy, and enacting gun safety will get addressed is by electing Democrats.”

...After coming to Congress in 1999, Crowley aligned himself with Hoyer, the start of a years-long friendship and mentorship. But that decision-- after Hoyer’s bitter battle for whip against Pelosi in 2001-- likely kept Crowley out of leadership for years, despite several attempts to join the ranks.

Larson defeated Crowley in a race for the vice chairmanship in 2006, a move many believed was heavily influenced by Pelosi. And Crowley was passed over to become chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2010 after the job went to Israel, a Pelosi ally.

But since the 2016 election, the kinship between Hoyer and Crowley has frayed at the same time Crowley’s relationship with Pelosi has noticeably warmed. Crowley even introduced her as the “soon-to-be speaker again” at a recent women’s history event in the Bronx.

“I think there’s a sense of obsequiousness that Joe spent five or six years to get back in her good graces and if he had to jettison a long time commitment and friendship to Steny, so be it,” said one Democratic lawmaker who asked not to be named to speak candidly.

But other lawmakers said the move could work in Crowley’s favor come November. Aligning himself with Pelosi, they said, could curry favor among her core group of supporters in the caucus-- a critical consideration if he wants to succeed her.

But Crowley’s entrance into leadership was never guaranteed, and his ascendance isn’t either.

Some members privately questioned whether Crowley has the policy chops necessary for leading the caucus. He is mostly known as an old-school New York Irish pol, but can claim a handful of key legislative achievements, including his role in a nuclear agreement with India, and House-passed legislation making it easier for low-income workers to claim certain tax credits.

Other lawmakers wondered whether it would be a problem having two white men from New York-- Chuck Schumer is the Senate minority leader-- as the congressional leaders of a party that prides itself on diversity.

But Crowley’s biggest obstacle may be time. There’s an ambitious group of Democratic members who have been in the caucus for six to 10 years and are getting tired of waiting their turn.

Some of those members have jokingly referred to Crowley as Prince Charles, saying if he waits too long to make a move, he risks being passed over completely. Several members from that group said they’re unlikely to make a push this year but want to rise in power come 2020.

“Nobody gives you power; you have to take it,” one younger lawmaker requesting anonymity said of Crowley. “And there’s no clear pathway to doing it, there will always be obstacles.”
No mention that Crowley is the handpicked successor to Pelosi and Hoyer or that he's the personification of the rise of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, the New Dems and the Blue Dogs, and the fall of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Instead of fighting back, the CPC will shill for him and even whip votes for him.

Goal ThermometerThat said, don't we deserve at least a contest between Crowley and someone who isn't corrupt and someone who is motivated by progressive values? I've been asking progressive members of Congress and getting back... well not getting much. So, how about Ted Lieu? Want to help persuade him? He's not going to run against Pelosi. But I'm pretty sure we can convince him to run if Pelosi doesn't. If you contribute to Blue America's IE PAC, we can collect any amount of money-- the way Republicans do. The Blue Momentum PAC (still listed as the LIEU PAC) is Ted's leadership PAC. You already know that Ted's own fund-raising page doesn't accept anything over $2,700. That helps his own reelection objectives. The LIEU PAC helps him contribute to other candidates (but not himself). Take a look at the new ActBlue page, The ProgressiveSpeakerFund by clicking on the brand new thermometer on the right. Please chip in what you can. And... if you know any millionaires...

3 progressive veterans-- Doug Applegate, Ted Lieu, Randy Bryce

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

It's always been obvious that FOX "News" was never meant to be anything but a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party. Even its origins lie in Roger Ailes plans for what he called a "GOP TV" network that he proposed to his then boss, President Nixon, back in the early 1970s. From the start, right down to the hiring of openly racist tools like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, shit-stirring crazies like Glenn Beck and Pam Geller, astounding hypocrites like Mike Huckabee, smarmy, truth-bending psychos like Newt Gingrich, and even downright morons like Sarah Palin, it's been clear that FOX would always be a tool of the far right. Shepard Smith? Well, what about Shepard Smith? He is an actual journalist and he is a token. There's no other reasonable way to put it. People that I have known and met over the years that have worked at FOX have always told me that, within the corridors and bunkers at FOX, Smith and those closest to him were regarded simultaneously as being there to provide a thin veneer of needed credibility, and, alien infiltrators that were to be kept at arms length.

Ironically, on Monday afternoon, it fell to Shep Smith to break the news about Sean Hannity's previously undisclosed relationship with Señor Trumpanzee's consigliere, Michael Cohen to FOX viewers. 'Previously undisclosed' is a key here. Hannity has been jumping through hoops into dimensions rarely heard of or seen in his defense of both Trumpanzee and Cohen, even more so since the FBI, with the OK of Republican judicial officials, including Trump appointees, got their warrants and paid their visits to Cohen and his offices and his residence. At no time, during his nightly spewing of Republican pro-Cohen anti-Robert Mueller bullshit, did Hannity bother to disclose his relationship to Cohen. Hey, maybe he just forgot to mention it? It was bad enough that Hannity frequently dines with Trump to discuss Republican Party propaganda strategy, but this presents another layer. Hannity, working closely with Trump and Cohen, under the polluted auspices of FOX "News," amounts to nothing less than an extremist cabal, the kind you would see in any totalitarian dictatorship, whether it was Russia, Germany, Argentina, Cuba, or North Korea, just to name a few in humankind's sordid political history.

As for the goons with the forced smiles in tonight's meme, well they, no doubt, came from a carny row in deepest Florida or Alabama, or they simply escaped from some backwoods asylum for inbreds or the severely mentally challenged. Their ongoing buffoonery and combined IQ of 120, on a good day, has been shown, time and time again, to be the source of "news" and opinion presented in their false idol's morning misspelled and syntax-challenged tweet storms. It's been quite a game on social media to match up whatever nonsense goes back and forth between the curvy couch of "FOX And Friends" and the golden toilet of the Trump bathroom.

None of this is going to change anytime soon, though. The founders of Russia's Pravda and Josef Goebbels will continue rubbing their hands in perverted glee about it all down in Hell. The viewers of FOX "News" are so brainwashed in their state of nihilistic devotion that any sort of rehabilitation is now impossible. They have the glassy-eyed stares of crackheads in a downward spiral. Roger Ailes may be gone, but for him, Rupert Murdoch, and their corporate sponsors, it is "Mission Accomplished" for real.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The NRA And Two GOP Governor Scotts-- One In Florida And One in Vermont


Vermont's PVI is D+15 and Hillary beat Trump there 178,573 (55.72%) to 95,369 (30.27%). Trump won just one of Vermont's 14 counties (Essex, the least populated). Florida is a more swingy state, although the PVI is R+2. Although Obama won Florida both times he ran, Hillary gave up on the state's crucial 29 electoral votes. Trump beat her (narrowly)-- 4,617,886 (49.0%) to 4,504,975 (47.8%). Of the state's 67 counties, she won 9.

Both states have Republican governors named Scott-- Phil Scott in Verment, who is running for reelection, and Rick Scott in Florida, who is running for the U.S. Senate. And the NRA has turned against each of them. In 2016 the gubernatorial seat was open in Vermont and the Democrats ran a weak EMILY's List nothing candidate, Sue Minter. Scott, the state's lieutenant governor, beat her 166,817 (52.96%) to 139,253 (44.21%).

Rick Scott, a convicted criminal who was caught stealing from Medicare, beat another weak EMILY's List nothing candidate, Alex Sink, in his first run (2010). He was reelected in 2014 against pointless ex-Republican Charlie Crist. In 2010 he beat Sink 2,619,335 (48.9%) to 2,557,785 (47.7%), largely because she allowed EMILY's List run her campaign). In 2014, Scott beat Crist 2,865,343 (48.1%) to 2,801,198 (47.1%) to 2,865,343 (48.1%).

Today the NRA is angry with both governors. How angry? Last week Phil Scott approved a package of gun-related laws passed by the state legislature and the NRA called on gun owners to abandon him. Dana Loesch, a national spokeswoman for the NRA: "This governor in Vermont completely gave a one-finger salute to the Constitution and to gun owners. He is no friend of firearm owners and I hope that all firearm owners remember this betrayal the next time he’s up for re-election." That's in about half a year.
The NRA gave Scott an A rating during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2016, when Scott said he saw no need for new Vermont gun laws. The governor changed his position in February "after deep reflection" after an alleged school shooting plot came to light in Fair Haven, and on Wednesday he signed three gun-related bills into law.

Loesch described Scott's shift as "an attempt to appease the gun-grabbers in his state."

The NRA spokeswoman seemed particularly bothered by S.221, a bill that won support from even the most ardent gun-rights lawmakers and passed both the Vermont House and the Vermont Senate unanimously.

The new law sets up a court process from removing weapons from people deemed to be at "extreme risk" of violence or suicide. State's attorneys or the Attorney General's Office may petition a family court judge to require a person to relinquish their firearms for up to six months. In emergency situations, these orders may be granted without the person's knowledge, and would expire after 14 days.

... Gun-rights advocates have reacted angrily to Scott's decision to sign the bills, and some jeered and shouted during the bill signing ceremony Wednesday.

"I understand I may lose support over the decision to sign these bills today," Scott said, "but those are consequences I am prepared to live with."

Scott will seek re-election for a second term in November. He is facing a challenge from fellow Republican Keith Stern, who has made gun rights a cornerstone of his campaign.
Rick Scott has an uphill battle to displace Bill Nelson-- especially in a blue wave environment. The last thing he needs is his right flank in tatters. And that's what he's got, with gun nuts stepping up their attacks on him for signing gun control legislation after the school shooting in Parkland. First off, the far right Republican Trumpist campaigning to replace him as governor, Ron DeSantis says he would have vetoed the legislation Scott signed. And the gun group to the right of the NRA, the National Organization for Gun Rights, has already attacked him in an e-mail entitled "Gov. Gun Control Running for Senate," for signing a popular bill putting minor restrictions on the sale of assault-style weapons.

One of the most respected Democratic political operatives in Florida, an old friend, Kevin Cate: "The whole guns and NRA situation is very complicated for Rick Scott. This is a guy who sprinted far to the right, who's BFFs with Donald Trump, he signed a gun bill that did have some more moderate positions in it, so he's got to be sprinting back and forth, back and forth, and someone as robotic as Rick Scott, that's tough for him to do. He's got to sprint back and forth to keep that base happy because if they don't turn out, if these Trump folks don't turn out, he doesn't have a chance."

Meanwhile, reflecting one of those back and forth, the Tampa Bay Times reported late last week that mayors of several cities are suing Scott for sticking with the NRA's agenda.
[St. Petersburg] Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Wednesday that he will join 10 other Florida cities and mayors in a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott over the issue of being able to regulate firearms in local jurisdictions.

..."What I see is a collective effort at taking away our home rule authority,'' he said. "I also find it incredibly ironic…the Florida legislature complains about Washington telling them what to do…But they don't seem to have any problem telling us, cities and counties, what to do."

The mayor said he would ban military style weapons, bump stocks, and armor-piercing bullets if he could.

"Governor Scott and legislative leaders decided to overstep their authority and use fear and intimidation as a tactic to preserve the NRA's agenda," Kriseman tweeted before the City Hall announcement.
Alex Leary and Steve Bousquet, writing for the Miami Herald speculate that Scott angering the gun nuts would actually help him in November. Yes, gun nuts are angry. Comments on Scott's campaign Facebook page prove that: "Sorry, Governor Scott. You blew it when you signed the anti-gun legislation into law. Will not be voting for you," one person wrote. Another compared him to Democrat Charlie Crist. A third fumed, "Shouldn’t have gone against Americans with your knee jerk pandering to the gun grabbers." Scott’s embrace of Florida’s first gun restrictions in decades has infuriated the gun lobby and its fiercely loyal lieutenants. What will the NRA do about Scott's A+ rating now? It's a lot more important than their stance on Phil Scott in Vermont.
If Scott escapes attacks after weakening gun rights, other Republicans may feel emboldened in a time of soaring public support for solutions to Parkland and other mass shootings.

“It has always been our practice to hold public officials accountable for their actions that impact law-abiding firearms owners and their Second Amendment rights. Nothing has changed,” said Marion Hammer, the NRA’s Florida lobbyist who, pre-Parkland, had achieved a legendary reputation for her control over the agenda in Tallahassee. 
...“She is very much, 'You’re with us or you die,’ ” said Robert Spitzer, an expert on gun politics and chairman of the political science department at SUNY Cortland in New York. “But Scott’s well positioned. It’s certainly helpful to his campaign because he can say that he’s not completely in the thrall of the NRA.

“It’s a pretty clear message that it’s possible to weave a path that amounts to expressing support for gun rights but also some gun measures, even if they are limited.”

Part of the lesson, Spitzer added, “is that the NRA’s bark is worse than its bite. It’s certainly an influential group. But the idea they can just sort of wiggle their finger and make things happen magically in politics, it really isn’t like that. There are many other candidates who have sided with them then parted ways and lived to tell the story.”

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey was an A+ rated NRA darling during his 2010 campaign, the group spending $1.5 million to help him get elected. But a few years later, after the Sandy Hook tragedy, he sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand background checks. It did not pass and the NRA turned on Toomey, but he still won re-election in 2016.

“You can do the right thing and you’ll be fine,” Toomey said in an interview about the climate Scott now faces. “In his state, like mine, a majority of voters feel very strongly about the Second Amendment, as do I, and these folks voted for me. I commend him for being willing to stand up.”

Despite all the social media noise, the legislation just might help the Republican governor win a seat in the Senate.

The law Scott signed last month raised the age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21 with a three-day waiting period. The NRA filed suit immediately. In public comments, Hammer included Scott among “turncoat Republicans” who “caved to bullying and coercion” by passing the changes in response to the shooting at a high school in Parkland that killed 17 people on Feb. 14.

Four years ago, Hammer praised Scott for his “historic” signing of five pro-gun bills.

Florida has long been at the vanguard of NRA-backed policies, including the controversial “stand your ground” law. But the national movement spurred by Parkland, with massive rallies in Washington and cities coast to coast, led to action from state and local governments and companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods to end some gun sales.

It came just as Scott was preparing to run against Nelson, and Scott’s critics say his change of heart is all about politics. Scott showed no such initiative after the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando or an attack early last year at the Fort Lauderdale airport.

“The fact that Rick Scott in this politically craven way sees opportunity in accommodation with our side is an indication of the weakness of the NRA,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of a gun safety group started by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. “But elections are about choices. Bill Nelson has had the courage throughout his tenure to do the right thing, to vote for gun safety, while Rick Scott was doing the exact opposite, while he was embracing the NRA.”

Nelson, who likes to tell audiences he’s been a lifelong hunter, charges that Scott “will say and do anything to try and get elected. He highlights an NRA-backed provision of the new law that calls for arming school personnel, though it would not apply to many teachers and school districts have largely said they would not participate in the optional program. (Scott opposed arming teachers but said he had to compromise.)

On raising the purchase age and adding the three-day waiting period, the Democrat said they were “steps in the right direction” but stressed that stricter measures are needed, including universal background checks and limiting large-capacity magazine clips. Nelson also wants to ban assault-style weapons.

For Scott, being under attack from the NRA could attract votes from independents and moderate voters who are more inclined to favor gun restrictions. Scott also has the support of some families of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who stood with him at his Capitol office in Tallahassee on March 23 as he signed the legislation. (Others, particularly Douglas students, say the legislation fell well short.)

Scott can avoid the weight of the NRA because he doesn’t face a serious primary challenger, will have no trouble raising money and is not likely to face an exodus of Republican voters over the gun issue.

... [The NRA] is unlikely to mount a full-throated attack on Scott, though it could withhold formal support. A membership drive mailer that reached homes across the state last week mentioned “anti-gun politicians” but did not say anything specific about Florida.

The showdown with Nelson is expected to be wildly expensive and extremely close. Scott won two races for governor by about 1 percentage point in Republican wave elections against underfunded Democratic opponents.

Four years ago, against Charlie Crist, Scott won 54 of 67 counties. Some of Scott’s most lopsided victory margins were in counties such as Bay, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa in the Florida Panhandle. Even there, in the most conservative region of the state, where opposition to gun restrictions could be strongest, Scott is unlikely to face a political backlash.

Rep. Brad Drake, a Walton County Republican and an A+ NRA-rated lawmaker who voted against the gun bill, said: “I’m going to strongly support Rick Scott. I agree with him on almost every issue. Once in a while we disagree, but it’s never personal. He’s very conscientious.”

Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, one of the NRA’s strongest allies in the Legislature, also voted against the gun bill, but said he has no quarrel with Scott.

“I view people based on their overall competence and effectiveness, and he’s A+ in my book. You’re never going to agree 100 percent of the time,” said Baxley, who represents The Villages, home to a vital bloc of Republican voters in statewide elections.

“It may give pause to some people who view the Second Amendment as a litmus test,” Baxley said. “But compared to the record of Sen. Nelson on the issue, the contrast is huge.”

Scott joins a host of other politicians who are finding daylight with the hard line of the NRA-- out west, in states such as Montana, some Democrats are shifting as well-- and it comes as Republicans face a tough midterm election climate.

Dan Eberhart, an energy executive and major conservative donor, recently held up Scott as an example of candidates needing to appeal to suburban voters and doing so by standing up to the NRA.

“Republicans are going to have to move a little to get 51 percent-plus in elections, and the NRA will have to deal with it,” Eberhart told the New York Times. “The NRA is really out of step with suburban GOP voters.”

Scott hasn’t brought up guns on the campaign trail but Nelson will make it an issue, as will a flood of outside groups trying to paint Scott as an opportunist.

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