Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dear Dave Brat: Warning: Being Trump's Boy Is Bad For Your Health-- Guest Post By James Newton


Dave Brat and the Donald. "I'll tell ya, this guy."

"Noooo... this guy." Thick as thieves, those two

It seems that standing too close to Donald Trump can have an adverse effect on one's brains. To wit, our man Dave Brat.

Dave Brat was recently interviewed by the Chesterfield (VA) Observer (“Your community newspaper since 1995” ), and a couple things stand out, and they kind of make me worry about him. Seriously.

First, this quote from the incumbent representative of the VA-07th:
It’s one of the extreme ironies of politics-- if you look at my opponent’s website, it’s full of totally ideological attacks against me, none of which are factual. There is no rational discussion of policy issues.
Seriously, Congressman? Here is Eileen Bedell, your opponent, on the issues. You may not like her stances, and that’s ok-- disagreement bears solutions, after all-- but to call what is on her website “irrational” is a real head-scratcher. It’s insulting, in fact, and shows instead, by your reaction, that you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about it. Out of touch, much?

Here, I’ll make this easy for you. Below is a section from Ms. Bedell’s issues page. You think this is irrational? That this is an ideological attack on you? That there aren’t facts here? You sir, are, quite honestly, wrong. And if anyone is making attacks, it’s your clearly ad hominen smear of Ms. Bedell.

[By the way, since hanging with the Donald has clearly made you ... less sharp (and studies show it can because I know these people are smarter than what they show here … and then they started following Donald. Ipso facto, Q.E.D., proximity to Trump makes you dumber.)-- an ad hominem attack is when you attack the person and not their policies, which is what you just did in that quote. If that’s still too hard for you to understand, just look to your buddy in the picture, he’s really good at those kinds of things.

Anyway, back to Ms. Bedell’s website]
Make Congress Work Again

Congress exists to ensure that United States citizens are represented fairly and responsibly in government affairs. For citizens to enjoy the vast benefits of this great nation, Congress must pass laws and approve budgets.

Making government work doesn’t mean always voting “NO” or shutting down the entire government by blocking critical funding bills. For 7th district citizens it is imperative that their representative responds to their concerns and vote in the best interest of the nation. Often, important issues have many sides and Congressional representatives must be prepared to at least understand and listen to well reasoned arguments from opposing parties. For example, economic expansion is demonstrably and intrinsically linked with job creation, job training, and improved education.

Eileen has the proven ability to bring parties with different goals to a mutually agreeable resolution. Eileen is committed to voting in the best interest of all Americans and not allowing her personal interests or the interests of small fringe groups to derail progress.

Eileen is committed to making Congress work for everyone.
Yah, real irrational that.

Wait a second. Are you actually making some veiled reference, some signaling codeword, appealing to sexists in the world, to people who still think women are irrational? Are you seriously that sexist? I mean, hate-mongers are really careful about what language they put in the press these days so maybe you know something we don’t.

Oh, and by the way, in case you didn’t notice, she doesn’t even mention you. Anywhere. So it’s nice that you think everything is about you, but yah, what she is doing is, quite honestly, discussing some things that actually happened (those are called “facts”), and yes, you happened to be there and saying “No,” (as usual) but it’s not just about you, buddy. As Eileen says, she is committed to making Congress work for everyone.

Ah wait, you go on:
It’s like I have to live up to the Sermon on the Mount, but the other side can yell and scream and then say we need to have civility in our politics. It makes you scratch your head.
Let’s let that marinate for a second, because this one needs to be appreciated. You said, and I’m paraphrasing here-- we can go right back to the quote if need be but I’m pretty sure this is fair. Ready?

You said that the OTHER SIDE is yelling and screaming.

THE OTHER SIDE? I am incredulous. I am aghast and agog. I am stupefied. I am stunned.

Are you outside your mind?

Do do you realize who you are supporting, working for, and taking contributions from in terms of the Presidential race? Here let me help you:

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump, who, with your help, has humiliated Americans is a way not seen from a politician ever?

Donald Trump, who, with your help, raised the level of hatefulness in this country?

Donald Trump, who, with your help, has made every single American look like idiots to the world?

Donald Trump, a man who, with your help, has done nothing but yell and scream and lie and belittle and mock and bully us all for over a year now.

Yah, that Trump.

And then you have the temerity to accuse the other side of yelling and screaming?

Oh, sweet irony, thy name is Dave Brat.

Wait a second, it’s not-- it can’t be, can it? Again? Nooo, say it ain’t, Dave-o.

Are you once again implying that women only discuss through yelling and screaming? I ask again: Are you seriously that sexist? Is that an appeal to your base or something? Do you and the Donald sit around and swap locker room stories? Do you really have so little respect for women that everything you hear them say is a yell or a scream? Do you think they are incapable of controlling themselves? Hey-- lookit that, you kind of do think that and you want to make choices for them. How chivalrous.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, why don’t you actually take a look at what Ms. Bedell has said, supra (that means, “above,” in case you get lost), or elsewhere on her website. You call that yelling and screaming? Good grief, as a fellow professor, I feel sorry for your students. What can they even write or talk about without offending your obviously thin-skinned sensibilities? Do you force them all to just regurgitate some loopy Ayn Rand?

Yelling and screaming. Right.

For your information, since you seem to be completely clueless, Ms. Bedell happens to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa and of the Virginia State Bar, not to mention a small-business owner, mother and spouse. What did you do today, Congressman?

Oh, wait, you’re not done yet! I can’t believe it.
Brat, however, said he’s open to having a debate or candidate forum “if we can talk constructively about issues."
So, what is it about Ms. Bedell that says that she doesn’t want to talk constructively on the issues? What evidence do you have? Where do you get that from? Oh, right, we figured this out already-- it’s because you don’t think women can think constructively, period.

Oh wait, we can’t find out, because you won’t show up to talk about issues and policy with Ms. Bedell. Why? Because you are doing things like going to New York to promote and sell your book. Which you wrote during your first two years of Congress. Instead of, y’know, doing that congressional stuff that you were elected to do. You’re a real pip, you know that?

In the meantime, your opponent (and please, say her name with me. She’s not he-who-must-not-be-named, for goodness sake. It’ll make you feel better, I promise:), Eileen Bedell, was at this candidate forum, answering questions. See that empty chair there? That’s where you were supposed to sit. See who was there? Ms. Bedell. And ask anyone there, I guarantee no one will say there was yelling and screaming, and probably constructive talk about the issues, too. But no, you're too busy for your constituents.

It gets better:
I haven’t seen a lot of energy from the other side,” he said. “I’m all over the district, and I haven’t seen her anywhere. There’s a question of whether she’s running a campaign to win or it’s just a ‘Hit Dave’ thing.”
One, sir, maybe you haven’t seen her anywhere because, oh, I don’t know, you’re the one not showing up? Or two, sir, it could be that your memory is going (more of the Trump effect?) because here you and Ms. Bedell are together, at a picnic it would seem.

For the record, that forum you missed was held at Diversity Richmond. Apparently the University of Richmond is holding a forum as well, next week. Oh, right, you can’t go. Again. Seriously, what do you do all day? Oh, right, we covered that, too-- you write books. [For the record, all but one or two other districts in VA have held or will hold forums/debates, and no one yelled or screamed there, either.]

I hope you don’t miss the irony of this, Congressman-- the fact that you are dodging debates during this campaign? Or did you forget what you said two years ago? Here, again, I’ll help you out:
“The people of Virginia have a right to hear from both candidates on the issues,” Brat said in a statement Friday. “Expensive television ads and slick mail pieces are not enough. The people want to hear from the candidates themselves, and a debate is the perfect format to assess the ideas and candidates face to face."
For once, Congressman, we agree. Too bad you're a hypocrite. But at least you'll have Donnie.

On November 8th, Vote for Eileen Bedell, Democrat for VA-7th District.

Vote for Sanity. Vote for progress. Vote for principles.

Lawyer, Small-business owner, mother, spouse.

Let's elect some people who live in the real world for a change.

Eileen Bedell for the Virginia 7th District.

For more information or to contribute to Eileen’s campaign AND to help vote out Dave Brat, just click below:





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Yes, Rubio Is A Dangerous Little Worm, But Supporting Patrick Murphy Is Just As Damaging To The Country-- There Is No Lesser Evil In This Race


Obama was in Miami Thursday, lying to low-info Democratic voters in order to paint Patrick Murphy-- a Republican masquerading as a quasi-Democrat-- as some kind of a progressive. Murphy doesn't have a progressive bone in his body and when he got to Congress, he immediately joined the New Dems and ran up one of the worst voting records of any Democrat in the House, voting with the GOP countless times, even once to remove Obama from the Keystone XL Pipeline decision-making, once to condemn Obama for the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap and once to set up the witch hunt against Hillary Clinton via the so-called Benghazi Committee. But Murphy's slimy financial backers are promising big bucks to Obama's Presidential Library Committee if he can get the hapless and undeserving Murphy into the Senate. Pretty scummy, huh? That's establishment politics.

As you may recall, that last May we started looking into the family of Saudi billionaire Nasser Al-Rashid, one of the most powerful advisors to the Saudi royal family. Nasser gave between a million and 5 million dollars to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library Fund. His 4 sons have been very strategically funding the career of Patrick Murphy and the careers of sleazy congressmembers like Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel, Ami Bera, Joe Garcia, Alcee Hastings and other members with notoriously corrupt reputations, willing to sign on to Team Murphy.

Yesterday Brent Scher, writing for right-wing mouthpiece, the Washington Free Beacon, brought up Murphy's Saudi connections. "Florida Democrat Patrick Murphy’s political coordination," he wrote, "with a wealthy Saudi Arabian who has been accused of orchestrating an illegal straw donor scheme to support Murphy began prior to Murphy’s official entrance into politics." Abraham Al-Rashid went to a private prep school in New Jersey, the Lawrenceville School, and the Saudi family worked hard for years to get the simpleminded and drunken Murphy into Congress and onto the House Intelligence Committee. And the Saudis started before Murphy even ran for office.
Campaign finance records indicate that Murphy and al-Rashid made political donations in tandem as part of an effort to gain favor with prominent Florida Democrats whose support Murphy needed to launch his political career.

The large donations to Florida Democrats occurred early in 2011 after Murphy hired a political consultant to map out a congressional run.

On January 20 and January 21, 2011, Murphy and his father each contributed $2,400 to Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.). Budman, al-Rashid’s wife, made an identical $2,400 contribution to Nelson on January 20, with “homemaker” listed as her occupation on the report.

A week later, on January 27, Murphy and his father each contributed $4,800 to Florida Rep. Ted Deutch (D.). Al-Rashid and Budman made identical $4,800 contributions to Deutch that day.

The following week, on February 2, Murphy contributed $4,800 to Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.). Al-Rashid and Budman also donated the maximum to Wasserman Schultz that day.

Wasserman Schultz benefited from additional $2,400 contributions from al-Rashid’s two brothers, Mohammed al-Rashid [who uses the fake name "Moose" when he makes many contributions] of Los Angeles, California, and Salman al-Rashid of Austin, Texas.

In a single week in February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received $30,000 from Ibraham al-Rashid, $3,500 from Mohammed al-Rashid [Moose], $2,500 from Salmon al-Rashid, and $2,000 from Murphy.

The Senate Leadership Fund, which filed the straw donor complaint that is now being reviewed by the Federal Election Committee, said in a statement to the Free Beacon that the coordinated donations are further evidence that Murphy was aware of al-Rashid’s straw donor operation.

“Patrick Murphy may try and separate himself from the apparent straw donor scheme that helped launch his political career, but this new revelation seems to show he was 100 percent involved with that political money laundering scam,” said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the group.

The complaint laid out evidence that a network of donors was contributing the maximum allowed amount of money to both Murphy and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (D.) on behalf of al-Rashid.

Al-Rashid is the son of a Saudi Arabian billionaire who has donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

The complaint identified a number of donors in Pennsylvania who were related to al-Rashid through Budman who made large contributions to Murphy and Crist on nearly identical dates as al-Rashid himself.

The complaint also pointed out large contributions to Murphy and Crist from a woman who was listed as a “property manager” but has since been identified as Ibrahim al-Rashid’s “cleaning lady.”

Murphy’s spending to law firms that specialize in congressional investigations spiked following the FEC complaint, though the exact reason for the increase remains unclear.

Budman left al-Rashid in February 2014 after she told police that he “grabbed her by the wrist, struck her about the head and face with a closed fist then threw her to the ground” during an altercation at their Miami home.

The Murphy campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the donations. Attempts to reach Budman and members of her family were unsuccessful.

Murphy has attempted to distance himself from al-Rashid since his assault on Budman.

“There is no excuse for domestic violence,” Murphy said earlier this year. “Both Morgan and Ibrahim have been long time friends and supporters of mine. Morgan even worked on my first campaign.”

“This incident is personal for me,” Murphy said. “I was heartbroken when I found out, and I condemn Ibrahim’s inexcusable actions. Over the past year I have prayed for Morgan and her family to find healing.”

Republicans have called on Murphy to donate $100,000 to charities that address domestic violence to offset the money that al-Rashid gave to liberal super PACs that support him.
Nancy Smith did a very similar piece about the Murphy-Saudi connection for Florida's Sunshine State News.
We've reported on al-Rashid's connection to Patrick Murphy before. But this is the first we've seen of the donation scheme that started as long ago as five-plus years to keep Murphy climbing the ladder to candidacy.

   ...Here's how the contributions flowed to prominent Dems:
Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, 2011: Murphy and his father each contributed $2,400 to Democratic Sen. Nelson. Budman, al-Rashid’s wife, made an identical $2,400 contribution to Nelson on Jan. 20, with “homemaker” listed as her occupation on the report.
Jan. 27, one week later: Murphy and his father each contributed $4,800 to Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, D. Al-Rashid and Budman made identical $4,800 contributions to Deutch that same day.
Feb.2, the very next week: Murphy contributed $4,800 to Wasserman Schultz, D. Al-Rashid and Budman also donated the maximum to Wasserman Schultz that day.
Wasserman Schultz benefited from additional $2,400 contributions from al-Rashid’s two brothers, Mohammed al-Rashid of Los Angeles, Calif. and Salman al-Rashid of Austin, Texas.
In a single week in February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said "thank you very much" to $30,000 from Ibraham al-Rashid, $3,500 from Mohammed al-Rashid, $2,500 from Salmon al-Rashid, and $2,000 from Murphy.
Both pieces left out that the al-Rashids illegally provided thousands of dollars to their servants and in-laws to also contribute to Murphy's campaigns and SuperPACs, something that could land them and Murphy in prison. I've taken out formal complaints against Murphy and his financiers with the Department of Justice and we'll let you know as they wend their way slowly through the judicial system.

Moose al-Rashid has never been photographed 

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Goin' Mobile-- A More Progressive Congress For 2017?


A few years ago, Alan Grayson suggested we use a mobile billboard-- a truck with billboards mounted on them like the ones on this page-- in a campaign we were doing to help defeat Buck McKeon. Grayson was right about the efficacy of the mobile billboards compared to far more expensive TV advertising... and Blue America has been doing it ever since. (The powerful and entrenched McKeon was thought to be invincible and the DCCC refused to work against him, but he nearly lost and got so scared that he would the next time that he unexpectedly retired and started a lobbying firm.) We have 4 trucks on the road now-- for Carol Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, Tom Wakely in Texas, DuWayne Gregory on Long Island and for Ruben Kihuen in Nevada. The only candidate the DCCC is helping at all is Ruben... mostly because Harry Reid and the Nevada unions are forcing them to. If you'd like to help us expand our fleet of trucks-- we're dying to get one up to Zephyr Teachout's district and one down to Doug Applegate's district (the guy running against Issa)-- please contribute to our IE Committee here (that Independent Expenditure).

Yesterday, Grayson sent out an alert to everyone on his mailing list about our efforts. "in key races around the country," he wrote, "Blue America PAC is sponsoring 'mobile billboards' (trucks) to help progressives win. Would you like to pay for the gas money?"
In elections, there are only two things that matter:
(1) What the voters see, and,
(2) What the voters hear.
(Until, of course, television is replaced by smellovision, and the candidates can appeal to that all-important third sense. With cinnamon, perhaps, or in the case of Donald Trump, eau de skunk.)

In advertising, each time a member of the audience sees or hears something, that’s called an impression. Political advertising, like all advertising, tries to maximize impressions.

TV advertising spots-- seeing and hearing, for 30 seconds-- have completely dominated political “messaging” for a generation now. In fact, one very successful Florida elected official told me that TV ads are “the only thing that matters.”

That very likely was true 40 years ago, when there was CBS, NBC, ABC and very little else. But today, a lot of people aren’t watching TV at all, except maybe for news and sports. (“57 channels and nothing on.”- The Boss.) And for those who still do watch TV, the audience is completely fragmented. The most-watched TV series last year drew precisely 6% of all Americans.

So how does a candidate “deliver the message”? Where are those eyes and ears?

Well, people still see billboards.

Blue America PAC is reaching voters where they live, in their neighborhoods, with “mobile billboards” delivering progressive messages for progressive candidates. Please help this unique national effort-- every dollar counts.

Political media consultants won’t quote you prices “per impression.” Because if they did, candidates would run screaming into the night. A 30-second TV spot can cost more than $1 per targeted voter. Billboards? Less than a penny.

But . . . a regular billboard is seen only by the people who drive by it. If you want to reach a good chunk of the 700,000+ people in a congressional district, you have to go to them. And that is exactly what Blue America PAC is doing, with its national mobile billboard program, for progressive candidates only.

And no one else is doing it. Not the Super PACs. Not the political parties. Not even the candidates themselves.

Most progressive candidates start their campaigns with roughly the same name recognition that they had at birth-- their families know who they are, and very few others. In many House races where the Democratic nominee is a progressive, the voters don’t even know that he or she is a progressive. In fact, unless the candidate has $1 million to spend, most voters don’t even know the candidate’s name.

Blue America PAC is changing that, with its mobile billboards. Please pitch in $15, $40, $75 or more, and help elect true progressive all around America

Rep. Alan Grayson

“I can pull up by the curb.
I can make it on the road.
Goin' mobile.
I can stop in any street,
And talk with people that we meet.
Goin' mobile.
Keep me movin'.
Out in the woods,
Or in the city,
It's all the same to me.
When I'm drivin' free,
The world's my home.
When I'm mobile."
-The Who, “Goin’ Mobile” (1971).

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GOP Finger-Pointing Has Already Begun In Ernest-- Over Two Weeks Before Their Debacle At The Polls!


Keith Olbermann: "It has long been anticipated that the runaway train quality of the Trump campaign would eventually claim as its collateral damage all or most of the GOP and its leaders... To the Republican leaders I ask again, when will you disavow this anti-democratic demagogue? When will you defund him? When will you deny him? Conway, Sessions, Giuliani, Palin, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone... These people are done in this country's politics. Who's next? Paul Ryan? Mitch McConnell? Who else will this madman Trump take down?"

Do you know what Nikki Haley, Sam Brownback, Mary Fallin, Butch Otter, Rick Snyder, Doug Ducey, Scott Walker, Matt Mead, Nathan Deal, Pete Ricketts and Dennis Daugaard and even Chris Christie all have in common? Well, they are all Republican governors-- respectively of South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota and New Jersey-- who have contradicted Trump's assertions that the presidential election would be rigged. Nikki Haley: "This election is not rigged, and it's irresponsible to say that it is. Faith in the democratic process is one of America's greatest strengths, and it's more important than the outcome of any election." Maryland's, Massachusetts' and Ohio's GOP governors, Larry Hogan, Charlie Baker and John Kasich, have already washed their hands of Trump and Trumpism entirely (as did, Thursday night, former RNC chairman and Maryland ex-Lt. Governor Michael Steele, publicly stating that Trump had "captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that... I was damn near puking during the debates.") There have been reports that even Sheldon Adelson-- who has given Trump SuperPACs $25 million-- is fed up with the bungling incompetence of Trump and his campaign.

Yesterday former GOP congressman and current GOP MSNBC propagandist, Joe Scarborough, told the Washington Post that "The Republican Party must reform or die. Because if it stays on its current course, George W. Bush’s fear may be proven right. He may be the last Republican ever elected to the White House." Ryan, of course, is hoping he'll be the next Republican president-- that he and McConnell will be able to obstruct everything Hillary attempts to do in her first term so that Ryan can offer himself as an alternative in 2020. And although Ryan hasn't withdrawn his endorsement of Trump, Trump and his minions are now constantly accusing Ryan of undermining the campaign. They seem to have settled on him-- as well as the media-- as the excuse for the historic landslide Trump is going to suffer 2 weeks from Tuesday.

There is open speculation that a defeated Trump will work with Ryan haters like Steve Bannon and the other kooks billionaire hedge fund sociopath Robert Mercer embedded in his campaign, to deny Ryan another term as Speaker. Sean Hannity is campaigning for one of the House's craziest members, Louie Gohmert (TX) to replace Ryan. Others would prefer someone superficially saner, like Jim Jordan (OH). Ryan has become a hated figure among Trumpists nationwide.
Only 40 percent of Republicans now hold a positive view of Ryan (R-Wis.), according to the poll, down from 54 percent 10 days ago.

Among Trump supporters, just 28 percent still like Ryan, down from 48 percent. About 6 in 10 Trump supporters disliked the speaker in the latest poll. Four in 10 Republicans disliked him in last week’s poll.

Among all voters, Ryan favorability rating has sunk to negative 20, the lowest rating recorded in a YouGov/Economist poll for the GOP leader since he became speaker of the House one year ago.
Yesterday Judd Legum reported that far right North Carolina extremist Mark Meadows, who Hannity also said would be a good replacement for Ryan, is openly braying about a move to oust Ryan as Speaker.

Meadows revealed that this was more than speculation. There is a real effort underway to replace Ryan, according to Meadows, and it’s “picking up some steam.”

“A lot of the people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House-- they question the loyalty of the speaker,” Meadows said.

He added that there “will be real discussions after November 8 on who our leadership will be and what that will look like going forward.” Meadows said that, since Ryan announced he would no longer defend Trump, he’s been flooded with calls about why Ryan is “not supporting the nominee.”

He also said he was “flattered that Sean Hannity would mention me as a possible speaker replacement.”
Ryan needs 218 votes to win the Speakership election in 3 weeks, right after the election, when the Democrats will either have enough votes to defeat him and replace him with Pelosi in January or, more likely, have 15-20 more seats, making it much tougher for Ryan to win the 218 he needs in the closed GOP conference in 3 weeks. Many of his allies are being targeted for defeat by Democrats, rather than lunatic fringe Republicans like Gohmert and Meadows from blood-red, lunatic fringe constituencies. There is increasing speculation that Ryan is on the verge of resigning as Speaker right after the election.

Ultimate Villager, Charlie Cook, penned a column for the National Review that puts Ryan's woes in the context of the Republican civil war ripping the party to shreds right now. Trump's defeat is a foregone conclusion to him and he points out that Republicans had better "con­tem­plate the con­sequences of hand­ing over their party’s car keys to the tea-party move­ment and watch­ing as the quint­es­sen­tial tea parti­er, Don­ald Trump, drove the car over a cliff." He sees them losing the Senate, and a minimum of 15 House seats, not to mention governorships and state legislative seats. He's not a bold guy but he boldly predicts that "the ques­tion to be decided on Elec­tion Night is how far over 300 elect­or­al votes" Hillary will go. "How many nor­mally Re­pub­lic­an states will turn blue on Nov. 8? Ar­gu­ably Re­pub­lic­ans could have nom­in­ated a pot­ted plant and do bet­ter than they will in 17 days."
And what about the tea party, the Free­dom Caucus in the House, and oth­er Trum­pet­eers with no polit­ic­al philo­sophy ex­cept re­sent­ment? Will they slink off in­to the night and al­low the rest of the GOP to be­gin re­pair­ing the party of Lin­coln and Re­agan, or will they con­tin­ue to sab­ot­age it for an­oth­er two or four years? Nobody knows at this point.

In 2018, Re­pub­lic­ans the­or­et­ic­ally have a chance to put their party back on track. Midterm elec­tions, with 40 per­cent few­er voters, fea­ture an elect­or­ate that is gen­er­ally older, whiter, more con­ser­vat­ive, and more Re­pub­lic­an. We also know that midterm elec­tions are usu­ally un­kind to the party in the White House. In only three midterm elec­tions in the last cen­tury has the party hold­ing the White House not lost seats: in 1934, Frank­lin Roosevelt’s first midterm elec­tion, when Amer­ic­ans were not fin­ished kick­ing the day­lights out of Her­bert Hoover’s party; in 1998, when voters pun­ished the GOP for try­ing to im­peach Pres­id­ent Clin­ton des­pite a strong eco­nomy; and in 2002, when voters were not about to vote against their com­mand­er in chief in the af­ter­math of 9/11. The GOP should have an edge in the Sen­ate in 2018. The seats to be con­tested be­long to law­makers who won in 2012, when Pres­id­ent Obama was reelec­ted; Demo­crats have 25 seats at risk, to just eight for the GOP.

Then there is the eco­nomy. As was aptly poin­ted out in last Fri­day’s Wall Street Journ­al, the cur­rent, al­beit an­em­ic, eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery began 88 months ago in June 2009, mak­ing it the fourth-longest peri­od of growth since 1854. While eco­nom­ic ex­pan­sions are said not to die of old age, something has to kill them, and I sus­pect they grow frail with age, par­tic­u­larly when they’re as slug­gish as this one and the world eco­nomy is in even worse shape. On top of that, in­terest rates are already at rock bot­tom, the Fed­er­al Re­serve Board has few ar­rows in its quiver, and a dys­func­tion­al polit­ic­al pro­cess in Wash­ing­ton is un­likely to re­spond quickly and boldly with stim­u­lus. No mat­ter who wins, the odds of a re­ces­sion over the next four years are pretty good, something ob­vi­ously bad for the coun­try but giv­ing Re­pub­lic­ans an op­por­tun­ity to bounce back-- but only if they right a party ap­par­at­us that is cur­rently list­ing at about 45 de­grees.

When I talk to smart Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers and strategists, they have a very good idea of what their party’s prob­lems are, and they know what needs to be done. But my col­league Amy Wal­ter re­cently re­minded us of a great line by former House Speak­er John Boehner: A lead­er without fol­low­ers is simply a man tak­ing a walk. Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are faced with a party in which about half of its mem­bers be­lieve that com­prom­ise is a four-let­ter word and hold some pretty exot­ic views of what this coun­try is and where it is headed-- views that are very dif­fer­ent from where the coun­try ac­tu­ally is and where it is go­ing.
Meanwhile, Trump signaled his fans in Ohio on Thursday that they shouldn't vote for Republican incumbent Rob Portman. He told a local NBC affiliate there that "We have a couple of cases where people who aren’t supporting me. They are losing and I’m winning states, and you’ve seen that, that’s all over the place. So, you know, I was very disappointed in Rob, but he is free to do whatever he has to do... We are actually up substantially in Ohio. We have tremendous support from the people. We’re doing fantastically well in Ohio." Typical Trumpist delusion. The two most recent polls of Ohio voters (by Suffolk and by Quinnipiac) show Trump and Hillary tied at 45% each, while the two most recent Ohio Senate polls, also by Suffolk and Quinnipiac, show Portman devastating Democratic hack politician Ted Strickland, the former by 15 points and the latter by 13 points. But none of that will mean anything to Trump fans. If he decides to really screw with Portman, he can probably make his race a lot closer. Don't think for one moment that the Republican Party hasn't earned every torment Trump is bringing-- and will bring-- them.

I hope you liked the post above. This video below has virtually nothing to do with it. I just thought you might enjoy it as much as I did; and... what a way to start the day! You know "Weird Al," right? Weird Al Yankovic? He had some fun with Hillary and the execrable Donald. With apologies to Mark Meadows:

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Friday, October 21, 2016

A Devil’s Advocate Rings in a Bad Night for Bankers


-by Skip Kaltenheuser

It was a long hard slog to publish Lucifer's Banker. Had Brad Birkenfeld managed to get his book out say, a year or so earlier, we might not be staring at the political train wreck we are now. It might have changed the political landscape, perhaps the standard bearers. Maybe even elevated different issues for the last lap beyond the cursory checklist now fed us. But I’m glad it’s arrived. This book underscores every lament Bernie Sanders uttered about the gravity of the finance sector's black hole. There's ample material to make Washington insiders lose sleep, plenty to bring out loosely-defined authorities saying move along, nothing to see here. Above it all the central question floats like a banshee-- when a whistleblower revealed the largest systematic American tax fraud to surface, why was the only person to go to prison the whistleblower?

Birkenfeld is that whistleblower, logging long house arrest and thirty-one months of a forty-month sentence to a Federal penitentiary, with the added insult of a thirty-grand fine, never mind his legal expenses. His tale of DOJ's whistleblower smack-down, of its shooting the messenger, makes an entertaining read. But it ought to frighten the hell out of everyone. With dollops of irony, fright is likely the reason behind this whistleblower whacking, a warning to those who might raise curtains on the very rich and very powerful and very, very connected.

Birkenfeld worked for UBS in Switzerland as a private banker serving wealthy American clients. He went to jail on what seems a DOJ engineered Catch-22 that made him vulnerable to a charge of covering for a client, a Russian immigrant in California who hit it big in real estate. After Birkenfeld voluntarily approached the US government in 2007, DOJ sought to replace his whistle with a supersonic one no one could hear. It refused to give him the subpoena he requested that would protect him from prosecution under Swiss bank secrecy laws. Those laws once protected Germans from execution under the Third Reich for slipping money out of Germany. Now they serve darker purpose. Try to imagine the incredible weight of the money and power pushing out of Swiss vaults against DOJ's door.

Birkenfeld went to every other agency he could think of. He got the necessary subpoenas he needed and divulged accordingly, including on that client DOJ claimed he covered for. And he cued in the US Senate in a private hearing. But someone in DOJ couldn't take a joke, and they nabbed him as if what he'd already divulged was done in an alternate universe. Given the profile of the case, Birkenfeld has no doubts the hammer came down from on high.

If you'd like to hear the jaw-droppers from that Senate hearing-- most of which were his answers to Senators’ questions, join the club. The government sealed it and refuses to provide Birkenfeld with a transcript of his testimony.

Plenty of black eyes for plenty of politicians, and in particular for the Department of Justice-- let's just lump DOJ with the politicians. This book shreds that agency's credibility, laying bare once again Eric Holder's real legacy-- smooches to banks. Sadly, it's a legacy he's spreading around, including to his former boss.

I interviewed Birkenfeld awhile back as a component for an essay on the revolving door, (my apologies to the editor for my slow pace). The first thing that rides in on Birkenfeld's earnest, down-home Boston accent is that he isn't someone easily intimidated. He knows the territory, remembers who did what and won't quit shoving his boulders up the hill until credit is given where it's due. Gold stars are not in the offing.

That was underscored at Birkenfeld's book party Tuesday night at the National Press Club. He does have an advantage few of the royally screwed enjoy. After he was released a new law brought him an IRS whistleblower award, $104 million before the tax man's knock. Why not? His revelations enabled the US Treasury to recover $15 billion in back taxes, fines and penalties. They also put in motion international investigations of offshore banking's many misdeeds, and juiced up reformers seeking tougher oversight. Impacts on Swiss private banks-- there are scads of such banks, all shapes and sizes-- include a 2013 tax treaty facilitating the exchange of tax data between countries. This put a hitch in Switzerland's offshore tax haven status that vacuumed money. And plenty of dirt. Alas, though trickier, Birkenfeld says the multitude of nefarious practices requiring secret accounts still have plenty of global options.

Thing is, what the US reaped was a fraction of what could have been garnered had the massive tax evasion been fully brought to heel. That failure only increases the debt load every American carries. Why the lack of DOJ prosecutorial enthusiasm against tax cheats and their enabler bankers?

I don't want to step on too many nuggets, but Secretary of State Clinton stepped in to do the negotiations with UBS. She required UBS to disclose only 4,700 out of 19,000 illegal account holders. Birkenfeld's curious, as we all might be, as to who made the selection and how, and why the names were never made public. Why was the fine so inadequate compared to long-term profits, and why did DOJ so carelessly offer undeclared account holders anonymity and repeated amnesties?

Who are these titans of favoritism? Will the real masters of the universe please stand up?

It brings to mind proposals for excessively reduced corporate taxes for repatriating money sloshing around abroad, but I digress.

In Washington's small world of startling coincidence, before the negotiated deal UBS only contributed sixty grand to the Clinton Foundation. Afterwards, notes Birkenfeld, it went up by a factor of ten. UBS also partnered with the Foundation providing a low-interest thirty-two million dollar loan for a Foundation program. And President Clinton, the First, earned over a million and a half dollars "for a series of fireside chats with the bank's Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann...Bill Clinton's biggest payday since leaving the office of the Presidency."

I’m not a finance guy, but I’m getting better at the smell test. Ah,well, what's to worry? A legion of editorialists, commentators and spinners assures us there's no quid pro quo. The Trump gun at our temple is a curiosity killer.

In Washington, “pay it forward” is a concept not fully embraced.

Birkenfeld reckons Americans are on the hook for a trillion dollars escaping off-shore, so they ought be making demands.

The book balances entertaining asides and stark realities. One notable is how big players like UBS distribute business and retainers to put major law firms on the shelf as they avoid conflicts of interest. And the inescapable revolving door-- lubricated by so-called public servants sugaring up those they're supposed to ride herd on, while anticipating wildly better compensated employment elsewhere. Birkenfeld expresses particular fondness for DOJ prosecutors who shepherded him through his adventure in criminal prosecution. The lead prosecutor negotiated Birkenfeld’s plea and signed off on his motion for a sentence reduction. Then he sat quietly while a judge nailed Birkenfeld with a much longer sentence than Birkenfeld was led to expect.

Later, Birkenfeld discovered his lead prosecutor signed a secret non-prosecution agreement for the UBS kingpin who oversaw the 19,000 US accounts (including all of the North and South American offshore business), the show-runner for approximately $20 billion in assets. That banker was quietly allowed to go back to Switzerland two weeks later while the US Senate committee was on summer recess.

Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor then left DOJ to partner with a law firm that's now defending a Credit Suisse private banker who also handled US accounts (which Birkenfeld told the DOJ prosecutor about in 2007). The Credit Suisse banker is being prosecuted by another prosecutor, still at DOJ, that also dealt with Birkenfeld. Before leaving DOJ, Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor supervised the indictment of the Credit Suisse banker, which was signed by both prosecutors. The former prosecutor now with the law firm isn’t listed as attorney of record on the case. He’s merely a partner in the firm.

In any case, here’s a September 6th letter Birkenfeld sent to the Federal judge hearing the case regarding the Credit Suisse banker.

No word on the future plans of the prosecutor still lingering at DOJ.

Speaking generally, the revolving door is powered by contacts left behind in government.

His book might not be on the White House wish list, but on Oct. 1st Birkenfeld dispatched Lucifer to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of State John Kerry. It went with this letter urging action and answers. All members of Congress can look forward to Lucifer coming their way.

Among the questions posed, why was a key UBS official allowed to return to Switzerland after he agreed to cooperate but instead pleaded the Fifth at a Congressional hearing? Why was what Birkenfeld characterizes as a sham prosecution conducted against another top UBS official, who was acquitted and returned home after DOJ refused to call Birkenfeld to testify?

That’s high contrast with the French, Greeks, Canadians and others now eager for Birkenfeld’s assistance, which he’s giving, in government actions against the bank.

Note that UBS US employees have long poured money throughout America’s political system, including considerable largess to President Obama since he was a US Senator.

There's been press on Birkenfeld before, much of it sympathetic, when he blew the whistle, when he went to the hoosegow in 2010 and on his record IRS whistleblower award. He's since had plenty of time to ponder life. His book weaves together new threads connecting what happened and why. The resulting fabric is a brilliant lesson on how the fix is in. Read more at Birkenfeld's site. Can a movie be far behind?

Back to Washington's small world of coincidence. The first Sunday after Birkenfeld was sentenced, President Obama went golfing at Martha's Vineyard. His golfing partner was Robert Wolf, Chairman of UBS Americas.

Cue the Church Lady.


A quick aside and a disclosure. Not all the levers of power, the finance villains and their aiders and abettors, are on Wall Street or in mega-banks. This writer has regrettable first-hand knowledge of the impacts on individual families from government indifference to, if not complicity with, people who in my view were financial predators on my mom, at the so-called community bank level. In my view, there was even a well-wired US Attorney-- with a conflicted background - running interference against my efforts to get government to focus on what in my view was glaring bad faith and deception. Confronted, that US Attorney refused multiple opportunities to comment.

In my opinion, we were also treated to a self-serving "trustee" in the DOJ administered bankruptcy system. When I spoke with the top supervisor in the region she asked if I was going to the FBI or planned to try and have him disbarred, warned about liability if I went public with what happened, and was basically told resistance is futile. But she refuses to put in writing that everything the trustee did was hunky-dory.

The saga ultimately cost my 99 year old mom her Iowa family farm and much more, most of it avoidable if, in my view, the trustee had not primarily been self-serving his interests at our expense, in my view to keep his gravy train rolling even if it meant destroying asset value. No matter how high I push it, the FBI won't even acknowledge my complaint. Nor will DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, famed as a burnout system. I have a legal background and once served as an asst. AG for the state of Kansas. I can't begin to describe my disillusionment with what has happened to justice, and about what I believe to be happening to people across the country who are theoretically less armored.

After reading Birkenfeld's book, and speaking with an FBI whistleblower at the launch party, I have to laugh at my quaint notion that government waits eager to ride to the rescue of the little guy, to champion even those dwelling far beneath potential headlines with political mileage. Nothing to do now but to try and tell the story. No payouts in cases like mine. But if Birkenfeld's book inspires the aggrieved to find voice, to tell their own stories of injustice at the ground level, they may awake others to the peril slack government places us in. That alone would make the book worth its ink.


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The DCCC Is Tying Republican Incumbents To Trump Even After They've Disowned Him


The above ad from the DCCC just started running in TX-23, the immense South Texas congressional district (almost a quarter of the state in size!) that stretches from Socorro and the outskirts of southwest El Paso, along the Rio Grande border with Chihuahua and Coahuila through Guadalupe, Big Bend, Del Rio, the big smuggling center in Eagle Pass, and up into the western and southern suburbs of San Antonio. Those Bexar County suburbs are the Republican part of the swing district-- won narrowly by Obama in 2008 and narrowly by Romney in 2012. In 2012, Ted Cruz also won the district-- which is 71% Latino-- but so did corrupt conservative Blue Dog Pete Gallego. Gallego was one of the worst members of Congress for his 2-year stint-- voting with the GOP on core issues far more frequently than with the Democrats. So in 2014, Democrats just refused to even bother to come out to vote for him and he lost to ex-CIA agent Will Hurd 57,459 (50%) to 55,037 (48%). His 2012 vote total (96,477) utterly collapsing.

Gallego, operative, dog buscuits
By the summer of 2013, DWT had already rated Gallego among the 10 worst freshmen Democrats-- along with garbage members like Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Patrick Murphy (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Cheri Bustos (IL), Dan Maffei (NY), Joe Garcia (FL)... all Blue Dogs and New Dems from the craven Republican wing of the Democratic Party). That first term, Gallego voted with the Republicans to weaken regulations on Wall Street, with the Republicans on domestic spying (CISPA), with the Republicans to freeze the pay of federal employees, for Ryan's austerity budgets, with the Republicans on several bills written by oil and gas lobbyists and with the GOP to oppose Obama's plans to shut down Guantánamo-- not once, but twice. What an inspiration!

Goal Thermometer The last time I checked-- this week-- the DCCC had already spent $2,651,421 on his race, the second-largest amount on any congressional candidate. He's been endorsed by both the Blue Dogs and the New Dems, so exactly the kind of corrupt, Wall Street-friendly conservative the DCCC favors. As of the June 30 filing deadline Gallego had raised $1,273,280. Last week alone, Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent (wasted) $906,196 on his race-- tragic, as she continues to refuse money to progressives like Mary Ellen Balchunis (PA), Tom Wakely (TX), DuWayne Gregory (NY), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Paul Clements (MI), Mary Hoeft (WI), Alina Valdes (FL), while severely underfunding Zephyr Teachout, who is up against a virtual avalanche of dirty money from GOP hedge fund billionaires and Paul Ryan (over $4 million) with the DCCC kicking in just over $600,000, nothing like the massive $2,651,421 for the Republican-voting Gallego. (Please tap on the thermometer on the right to help the progressive candidates who won their primaries in winnable districts but who the DCCC refuses to assist at all.)

As you can see from the DCCC ad, they have nothing positive to say about Gallego-- what could they say... that he's a bankster amigo or an opponent of everything Democrats expect from a congressman?-- and instead just attack his opponent for not denouncing Trump clearly enough. The DCCC has a similar ad they rolled out yesterday on behalf of New Dem Terri Bonoff (MN), who they've already spent $1,808,005 on. This one attacks Erik Paulsen who didn't disavow Trump until after the "grab-her-by-the-pussy" tape came out.


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Sure, we say it every four years, but isn't THIS the craziest presidential election in memory?


He-e-e-ere's Speaker Louie! DailyKos caption: "Now, doesn't this inspire confidence?" Yeccch! My proposed new Louie Rule: From now on, the only living Louie to be acknowledged publicly will be Louis CK.

"Whoever comes next will have the task of restoring respect for the law and a common adherence to the Constitution -- the heaviest of burdens, even for a candidate prepared by training and disposition to carry it."
-- David Bromwich, in the new (Nov. 10) NYRB

by Ken

I mean, here we are watching the far-right-wing crazies defending -- as only far-right-wing crazies can, viciously and with a strong whiff of impending violence -- their boy the Billion-Dollar Loser, who isn't even a conservative. Unless you count where he sort-of-plays one for totally cynically selfish reasons on the, you know, campaign trail.

Here's Kerry Eleveld at DailyKos:
Step aside Paul Ryan, Hannity has announced your replacement as Speaker: Rep. Louie Gohmert

Fox News host Sean Hannity is all out auditioning to be chief correspondent of the loons once the new Trump-bart debuts. And first on the chopping block after Trump is roundly defeated by overwhelming majorities at the polls: Paul Ryan, whom Hannity called a "saboteur" of Trump's campaign. Allegra Kirkland writes:
Speaking to the Washington Post in the spin room after the final presidential debate, the devoted Donald Trump ally hinted that the intra-party war between far-right conservatives and their more moderate counterparts would continue regardless of who wins the presidential race on November 8.

Hannity told the Post that Ryan, who has offered only tepid support for the Republican nominee during the 2016 race, “needed to be called out and replaced.”
Nice! Ryan, who hasn't even had the guts to disavow Trump, is now responsible for the miserable failure of a campaign Trump has run. Sorry, Paul.

Hannity also had a lot of good ideas about members of the House Crazy Caucus who could unite the party (ahem) upon Ryan’s ouster: Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (chair of the Crazy Caucus), North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (who devised the wildly popular 2013 government shutdown), and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert! LOL. Gohmert! The wackiest of the wack jobs, who has called Hillary Clinton "mentally impaired." Speaker Gohmert! ROFLOL.


I mean, Sean Hannity threatening to take Paul Ryan down for being insufficiently conservative? PAUL RYAN??? Wouldn't you think that if there's one thing Speaker Paul doesn't have to answer for, it's being insufficiently conservative? Has anyone in our public life done more to drag us back to the 16th century? And I include Sean Hannity, who's all mouth, whereas Speaker Paul is the, er, "brains" of the Far Right politicos, providing a steady stream of actual legislative proposals to do the deed.

In fairness to Shifty Sean, what he lacks in brains -- which sure seems to be quite a lot -- he more than makes up for in savagery, uninhibitedness, dishonesty, and naked self-promotingness. Still, to plug some of the evident gap in ideological awareness, here's some of what David Bromwich has to say in a compendium of ten frequent contributors' thoughts "On the Election" running through the new (Nov. 10) issue of the New York Review of Books:
From the first debates of 2015, Donald Trump stood out because he wasn’t one of the usual suspects. He was the to-hell-with-it candidate. If you dislike politics generally, don’t study or understand them but are sure the country has declined and that the future looks worse than the past, Trump is your man. He doesn’t know politics any better than you do, but he says (reassuringly) that it is a mug’s game, and he ought to know. He comes from money, lives for money, and before he entered the race he was in the business of buying favors from the mugs.

Who better to avow that the system is rigged? Everyone admits that the Clinton Foundation has done good works. But anyone with a nose can tell that it uneasily mixes philanthropy and aggrandizement. Trump took his cue and blew it up and—since Hillary Clinton is known to have met with donors while she was secretary of state—he called the foundation itself a pay-to-play scheme. Trump the insider has the best and biggest nose for such things; and in the mood of perpetual disquiet these last two years in America, the undeniable blots on his character have made people strangely trust him more.

Comparisons with Reagan are misleading. Reagan was intimate with politics and political interests as far back as his presidency of the Screen Actor’s Guild. He tricked his opponents into underrating him, right up to the election of 1980, but the reason wasn’t the lack of a consistent ideology or a coherent personality. Reagan was undeviating in his overall views: the people who supported him knew what they were getting. With Trump, they prefer not to know, and he panders to wishful ignorance by saying that whatever he does in his first days as president, he’ll do it good and do it fast. The vagueness, bloat, and feckless reiteration of the promises (the height of the wall with Mexico, the total ban on Muslim immigration, the vow to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”) go against the grain of a representative government based on checks and self-restraint.

Trump the post-political billionaire can seem refreshingly heterodox only if one performs a drastic curtailment of common judgment. The right-wing anti-imperialist Pat Buchanan thinks that Trump has the mind-set and stamina to extricate the US from our half-dozen wars in the Greater Middle East (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia). On the evidence, one would guess that Trump indeed has a less hearty appetite for wars than Hillary Clinton, but his solutions often sound like “Bomb them back to the Stone Age” rather than the reasoned noninterventionism this branch of apologists are looking for.
For the record, the other NYRB "On the Election" contributors are: Russell Baker, G.W. Bowersock, Mark Danner, Andrew Delbanco, Elizabeth Drew, Benjamin M. Friedman, Diane Johnson, Nicholas Lemann, Jessica T. Mathews, Darryl Pinckney, Marilynne Robinson, Garry Wills. (Yes, they're presented alphabetcially!) And to be clear, David Bromwich continues with a powerful takedown of Hillary Clinton, including this:
[H]er stated positions and political history leave her unequipped to repel [Trump's] charges against immigration, the American jobs lost through trade deals, and the scenes of disorder in American cities that followed the killing of black men by police and the killing of police by black men. Hillary Clinton is the reverse of a popular politician—she is more like an ideally dutiful chair of a committee—and it has been an odd feature of the campaign to advertise her as “the most qualified person ever to run for president.”


Which is decidedly mournful:
The domestic state of the nation is so unpropitious in October 2016 that one may pity the winner of this election as much as the loser. We are living in a country under recurrent siege by the actions of crowds. There is the Tea Party crowd with their belief that global climate disruption is a scientific hoax; there is the Black Lives Matter crowd with their ambiguous slogan “No Justice, No Peace”; and there are more ominous developments, such as the acts of serial defiance of the federal government by the Bundy family in Nevada and Oregon. Whoever comes next will have the task of restoring respect for the law and a common adherence to the Constitution—the heaviest of burdens, even for a candidate prepared by training and disposition to carry it.

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