Monday, July 06, 2015

Scott Walker Is Proving Himself Unfit To Govern Wisconsin-- But Iowa GOP Caucus Voters Think He's Swell


In the most recent poll of the GOP contenders in Iowa, Scott Walker, governor of neighboring Wisconsin, is still in the lead. He's polling at 18%, eight points ahead of Trump and Ben Carson, who are at 10% each. Walker also has the best favorability rating, 66% favorable to 8% unfavorable, among likely GOP caucus participants, and he also scores high on personal qualities, as voters say 71% to 8% that he is honest and trustworthy, 75% to 7% that he has strong leadership qualities and 71% to 10% that he cares about the needs and problems of Iowa Republican voters. Strange to someone like me who sees Walker as a sniveling worm.

It's especially difficult to imagine how any self-respecting Tea Party-identified Republican could relate positively to Walker and his authoritarian nature. Saturday at HuffPo Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari from the nonpartisan Center for Media and Democracy wrote about how Walker and his right-wing legislature have been twisting the very nature of democracy itself in their state. "America," they wrote about the meaning of the 4th of July celebrations, "fought a revolution against secret and unaccountable government, but this 4th of July Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP are planning on gutting Wisconsin's open records law, the strongest in the nation."
On the same day that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced his run for president, the Wisconsin GOP has proposed a virtual gutting of Wisconsin's open records law, long considered one of the best in the nation. The drastic changes were proposed in a last-minute, anonymous budget motion, with zero public input on the eve of a holiday weekend. The motion will be rolled into the state's massive budget bill and voted on in the coming weeks.

The unprecedented proposal would give lawmakers broad authority to hide the special interests who are working to influence legislation. It would keep legislative drafting files under wraps,  create a new "deliberative materials" exemption in the open records law that would exempt records at all levels of government, and give the legislature an easy way to hide even more records from disclosure in the future.

The move to gut the open records law appears to come in direct response to a lawsuit that the Center for Media and Democracy filed against Governor Walker in May. State Rep. Gordon Hintz, a democrat from Oshkosh on the Joint Finance Committee, tweeted that GOP budget leaders made it clear to the committee that Walker had signed off on the changes, including the changes to the open records law.

...The sweeping proposal would gut the public records law as it applies to the legislature and governor's office, hiding special interest influence over public policy. The measure would help candidate Walker sidestep public scrutiny as more and more national media outlets file records requests with his office. The Joint Finance Committee chairs, Sen. Alberta Darling (R) and Rep. John Nygren (R), have refused to say who asked for the changes.

Bill Lueders, president of the transparency watchdog Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, called the proposal a "cowardly" and a "shocking assault on the state's long and proud tradition of open government."

  "These radical and sweeping changes represent a full-frontal attack on Wisconsin's history of open government," Lueders said. "They are clearly intended to block the public from discovering what factors drive the official actions of government, especially the Legislature, and will inevitably lead to abuse, malfeasance and corruption."

Ron Sklansky, a former 35-year senior staff attorney at the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Counsel and an experts on open records, told CMD he had never seen a legislative proposal put forward that was as "devastating" to the open records law as this one. The measure is "almost a complete gutting of open records as it applies to the legislative and executive branch. It prevents the public from investigating the undue influence of special interests on the passage of legislation and the development of executive branch proposals and rule making," he said.

Although the proposal passed the Joint Finance Committee along party lines-- with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats against-- the move has prompted outrage across the political spectrum. The president of the right-wing MacIver Institute, Brett Healy, said the proposal "looks to be a huge step backwards for open government." Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General, Brad Schimel, said "Transparency is the cornerstone of democracy and the provisions in the Budget Bill limiting access to public records move Wisconsin in the wrong direction." Hours later, Walker's spokesperson promised vaguely that the governor would work with the legislature to address the issue.

Critically, some legislators are saying they will not vote for the controversial budget with the changes included. "I will not support a budget that includes this assault on democracy," GOP Senator Robert Cowles said. And other GOP Reps. expressed discomfort and surprise with the move.
The tragedy of the 2016 Republican field is that there isn't a single contender who could be expected to hold Walker's feet to the fire for this outrage. I suppose Hillary's speechwriters and consultants could make something of it if they ever had to.

UPDATE: Caught Like A Rat, Walker Backs Off

Over the weekend, Walker and his allies in the legislature-- recognizing the catastrophe of their untenable anti-democracy position going public-- dropped it unceremoniously.
Faced with a swift and fierce backlash, Republicans on Saturday abandoned a plan that would have gutted the state's open records law.

In a joint statement issued Saturday afternoon, Gov. Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders said the provisions relating to any changes to the law would be removed from the state budget.

"After substantive discussion over the last day, we have agreed that the provisions relating to any changes in the state's open records law will be removed from the budget in its entirety. We are steadfastly committed to open and accountable government," the statement read. "The intended policy goal of these changes was to provide a reasonable solution to protect constituents' privacy and to encourage a deliberative process between elected officials and their staff in developing policy. It was never intended to inhibit transparent government in any way."

...The turnaround came less than 48 hours after lawmakers slipped the plan into the budget unannounced in a late-night session heading into a three-day holiday weekend.

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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Food Watch: 23 minutes with legitimately legendary food writer Mimi Sheraton


by Ken

The other day I was making an effort to tame my monstrously swollen e-mail inbox, and came across this podcast from WNYC's "The Sporkful" (which boasts that "it's for eaters, not for foodies"), in which "Sporkful" keeper Dan Pashman interviewed the legendary food critic and writer Mimi Sheraton live onstage at the Food Book Fair in Brooklyn in May. Mimi has always been one of my most trusted and valued food writers, and I knew I wanted to clear the necessary 23 minutes to listen to the interview, and finally I did, and I'm glad I did. It's a treat to hear her still going strong as she close in on 90 -- still so feisty and food-smart, or as Dan puts it, "as wry and fearless as ever."

So I wanted to share the interview, and for those who can't drop everything for 23 minutes, Dan's posted written report as well.
Legendary Food Critic Mimi Sheraton Hasn’t Been Hungry In 60 Years

Posted by Dan Pashman
May 18, 2015

Mimi Sheraton is famous for her strong opinions and her toughness.

She was the first woman to hold the position of restaurant critic at The New York Times, where she was known for her fearless reviews. When a famous French chef [who might or might not be Paul Bocuse -- Ed.] physically accosted her after she gave his restaurant a negative review, she stood her ground.

"I expected him to do something like that," she later told People magazine. "I'm sorry I didn't hit him in the face."

Mimi is pushing 90 now, but she remains as wry and fearless as ever. So I was a little bit nervous when I interviewed her live onstage at Food Book Fair in Brooklyn.

For one thing, Brooklyn is her home turf -- she was raised on Eastern European home cooking and Manhattan clam chowder in South Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay. For another, even though I love eating, I'm no culinary expert. But Mimi has dedicated six decades of her life to researching and writing about food.

It turns out there was no need to worry. Although she was merciless on the topic of kale (her verdict: "Yuck!"), Mimi took it very easy on me -- even when I talked a little smack about one New York chef [hint: it's Wylie Dufresne -- Ed.] chef she admires.

Mimi is really one of us -- a dedicated eater in search of her next delicious meal.

Mimi tells me she once packed 104 different pastrami and corned beef sandwiches into her car while "researching" an article for The New York Times. (Her husband was at the wheel.)

"We were almost overcome by the aroma," she says. "It's crazy."

That kind of attention to detail is evident in Mimi's new book, 1,000 Foods To Eat Before You Die. From schmaltz and dan dan noodles to frozen Milky Way candy bars and caviar, the book is a wide-ranging journey through her life in food.

"Ridiculous detail?" she protests, when I try to liken her methods to The Sporkful's obsessive approach to eating. "I would say complete."

And when I ask her the best way to eat a bagel with cream cheese and lox, she doesn't hold back. (It's a topic that's near and dear to her heart.)

"Well first of all, you have to find a good bagel, and that's very difficult," she says, adding that many bagels today are "only good for cleaning wallpaper."

Listen in to the full episode to hear which type of lox Mimi prefers and get the low down on her bagel construction method, which prevents the cheese and lox from squishing out the sides at first bite. (It's ingenious!)

(And for more on bagels, check out our entire episode dedicated to this classic New York food -- featuring Brooke Gladstone of WNYC's On The Media and former congressman Anthony Weiner.)

Mimi also has a weakness for frozen Milky Way candy bars:

"The textures melt down as you bite in, and you have the experience of the chocolate, the caramel, the solid cream filling," she says. "It’s just a wonderful sensuous feeling on the palate."

Whether she's describing a candy bar or caviar, Mimi knows how to talk about food. That's the mark of a true professional. And, as she explains to me, sometimes food writing is more about professionalism than deliciousness.

“Whether you’re in the mood or not, it’s your work and you have to do it," she says. "It has nothing to do with hungry. I haven’t been hungry in 60 years.”

Eaters, if you liked my conversation with Mimi, you can listen to a bonus clip from the audience Q-and-A on SoundCloud -- where Mimi reveals the one dish she ever refused to eat.


The Cartoonish Rafael "Ted" Cruz Imitates Some Cartoon Characters. How Appropriate!


by Noah

I'm sure that Rafael's handlers thought that the above clip of their boy attempting to imitate Simpsons characters might serve to somehow humanize him to voters. Either that or they secretly hate him.

However, after viewing this clip, my only other thought is the cold truth that repugs don't do the humor thing very well, especially when impersonations are involved. If you doubt that, try to remember the spectacle of Karl Rove doing his pathetic, might as well be black face, rap dance at the press correspondents dinner several years ago.

If that doesn't convince you, there's always Rafael reading Dr. Seuss.

When it comes to republicans, one can laugh at them, I suppose, but laughing with them? Not possible.

In looking at that clip, the only impersonation I can see Rafael Cruz pulling off would be boy-molesting scoutmaster.

Maybe the entertainment angle for Rafael is for Hollywood to write a mocking sitcom around him, but that would be all part of the "Grand Hollywood Liberal Conspiracy," not unlike this post.

I imagine the sitcom would center around Rafael playing a milquetoast-y 50-year-old who lives in a sixth-floor walk-up tenement with his mother and always will. He comes home every morning from his lonely job as a nightwatchman to his overprotective mother and feels that she picks on him way too much. Republicans are naturals when it comes to playing the victim card.

Mom constantly whines that her little boy should get a real job, a day job, a better-paying job, but there's no way our boy is giving up that nightwatchman job. You see, he may look like a scared little mouse of a man, but he's really quite smart and clever when it comes to his surveillance gear and he's born to operate at night. He's a born voyeur. Rafael loves to watch … all sorts of things. And comedy, dark comedy, ensues.

Rafael complains that the big, mean government won't let him get a day job. He grows to imagine a world in which he can film the things he sees and use such things to his advantage to meet Mom's ever-growing demands for more and more money, which she uses on her ever-growing collections of things like snow globes, celebrity bobble-head dolls, and, all too fittingly, Annie memorabilia.

Mom has a disturbing obsessive habit of constantly shaking the snow globes and flicking the heads of the little dolls. It gets to the point where it takes all day for her to get to all of it.

The series ends thusly: One morning Rafael comes home from his voyeur job and snaps. He decides there must be a better way to live his life. Politics!

Rafael decides he needs bigger money to achieve his new goal, and to do that he must, by day, become a bank robber. Alas, he was only cut out to watch things. Active work doesn't suit him much, and he is caught, tried, and put in jail, where his mother, every day, brings him a snow globe and a bobble-head from her collection. She does this for 21 years, until she passes away.

Last we see Rafael, he is alone in his cell, suffocatingly surrounded by thousands of snow globes and bobble-heads. Several fellow inmates lovingly refer to him as Bobble-Head.

Too bad Rafael never knew that all he had to do was tell the banks he was going into politics. They would have gladly sent people to his home to hand him attaché cases full of cash every day. All he would have had to do in return was be their own personal bobble-head.

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Hillary Says She Never Used Pot When She Was Young... And Doesn't Plan To Now


I started using pot when I was very young. And about 5 years later I quit, when I was pretty young too. Overall it was a good experience-- with some drawbacks-- and I have no regrets that it was a big part of my life, especially when I was in college. I've had no regrets since I swore it off on December 1, 1969, on the border between Pakistan and India. 

But about 45 years later I began treatment for cancer. The treatment-- chemotherapy-- is devastating and the side effects are horrific. Many of my friends and neighbors urged me to alleviate those side effects with medical marijuana. I thought medical marijuana was just hype by potheads trying to get the stuff legalized. Was I ever wrong!

My doctor told me she didn't want me using any pot while I was getting chemo. She's the boss. But afterwards, when I was recovering (suffering) she said it would be OK. The ameliorative effects were instant and profound. Suddenly I was able to sleep-- and sleep deeply-- and eat, two things that are essential for recovery. The pot also helped reregulate my digestive system, another godsend, and helped me combat the excruciating pain chemo leaves with so many people. I become a believer.

If you follow DWT with any regularity, you've probably noticed me cheering legalization legislation by Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in the last several months. My concerns, though, are for medical marijuana, not recreational marijuana. I don't particularly care about that one way or the other. The libertarian in me is fine with it. If people want to get high, it should be up to them. But getting high, personally, isn't something I can relate to any longer. It used to be the center of my life. Now it's an unwanted side effect of the medical marijuana I use in my treatment.

But legalization, recreational legalization, seems inevitable. Colorado and Washington have already implemented it. It seems de facto legal in California, and it became legal in Oregon on Wednesday and will become legal in Alaska next year.

All that said, it is still illegal federally, and the clash wreaks havoc on the pot business and on the use of medical marijuana. Example: Medicare, a federal program, still denies essential treatments to patients who they decide are drug users based on urine samples that show traces of marijuana, even if it is prescribed by doctors in states where it is legal. Under federal law it is still a Schedule 1 substance-- as "dangerous," at least in theory, as heroin or meth or other truly dangerous drugs. 

These states have legalized (or decriminalized) medical marijuana:
Mississippi (quasi-decriminalized)
Nebraska (same bizarre, confused system as Mississippi)
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Dakota (on Indian reservations only)
Tennessee (for seizures an epilepsy only)
Puerto Rico
All of the congressional candidates endorsed by Blue America favor medical-marijuana legalization. The only presidential candidate for legalization is Rand Paul, although Bernie Sanders seems open and to be headed in that direction. The more conservative creepy candidates, like Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio, oppose decriminalization and seem to still be living decades in the past, proof they are really not fit to be leaders. Some of them say it should be up to each state, and some, like Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal, want to throw everyone in jail who uses it for any reason at all.

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Saturday, July 04, 2015

At 68 Patti Smith Still Has The Revolutionary Zeal Of A Twenty Year Old. Do You?


A few days ago, writing for The Nation, John Nichols covered Patti Smith's European concert tour, which marks the 40th anniversary of the release of her groundbreaking debut LP, Horses, by marveling at how the veteran rocker is giving Europe a masterclass in focused protest rock that puts younger artists to shame. Her patter between songs sounds something like a cross between Bernie Sanders and Alexis Tsipras. Go Patti!
At 68, Smith remains a vital and provocative artist with a radical message for the 21st century: “We are all being fucked by corporations, by the military! We are free people, and we want the world and we want it now!”

This is protest music. But it is protest with a fierce edge that seamlessly weaves a new politics into a rich legacy of rock-and-roll rebellion. Smith is not preaching to the converted, nor is she mouthing talking points. She’s doing something altogether different, and altogether more important: She is celebrating a connection between music and movements that is swaggering and confident and more than ready to declare-- as Smith does-- that “we’re gonna change the fucking world!”

People Have the Power, with the Greek anti-austerity party Syriza making it a staple of campaign rallies. Smith hails Greece as “the heart of democracy.”

Smith’s tour this summer of major European cities and festivals has been particularly topical-- and pointed in its politics.

Shouting out for the planet and a new wave of activism against climate change, decrying economic injustice and empire, ripping the surveillance state and cheering on “all our friends in WikiLeaks,” Smith’s shows are being hailed as something more than rock concerts. After she delivered what reviewers referred to as “the set of the weekend” at Britain’s Glastonbury Festival, The Guardian’s headline declared that “the New York punk queen provides a masterclass in focused protest rock that puts younger artists to shame.”

...Smith has always been one to speak out. She has written songs cheering on WTO protesters and opposing wars, she has spoken up for Ralph Nader and other candidates, and she has appeared as myriad events for causes ranging from artistic freedom to media reform.

Through it all, Smith has championed a street-level activism that seems ideally suited to this new age of anti-austerity movements and urgent environmentalism. She said it a quarter-century ago with People Have the Power. And she is saying it now, as she urges crowds numbering in the tens of thousands to “Raise your arms! Feel who you are without technology, without governments. Feel your freedom!”
Happy Independence Day, countrymen!

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Republicans don't know what to do about The Donald; Democrats THINK they do


The Donald makes rabbit ears!

by Ken

On Wednesday, as I dared to "dream of a day when we won't have The Donald to kick around anymore," I quoted a couple of chunks from Noah's June 17 post, "Political Groundhog Day: This Time Trump Actually Officially Declares He's Running":
I expect The Donald to do well in these here upcoming Clown Car Debates that everyone is talking about. He is, if nothing else, a crowd-pleasing entertainer. His jingoism, simplistic quarter-baked answers to complex multi-layered problems, and his extensive bigotries play well to the brainwashed pitchfork-and-torch crowd that drives the Republican Party. His substance-lacking one-liners will get cheers and ratings from the single-digit-IQ GOP yahoo base. . . .

Trump says what most republicans think. He speaks for them, and he spoke for them loud and ugly in his announcement. The republican mind comes from Bizarro World, and Trump is a perfect manifestation of its bizarro code. The Trump campaign will be a farce, and let's hope the joke doesn't end up being on all of us.
Since Wednesday, I'm bound to report, an inordinate amount of "inside" campaign chatter has focused on . . . The Donald's poll surge! The Washington Post's Philip Rucker, for example, penned a piece headlined "As Donald Trump surges in polls, Democrats cheer," noting that "the flashy real estate mogul with a big bank account and an even bigger ego has rocketed into second place in recent national polls and in the early nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire."

Later Philip gshares some specifics (links onsite):
In Iowa, Trump is tied with Ben Carson for second place behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday. In New Hampshire, a CNN-WMUR poll last week had Trump in second place behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 11 percent.

Trump also comes in second behind Bush in a new national CNN-ORC poll released Wednesday.

In Iowa, Trump is tied with Ben Carson for second place behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday. In New Hampshire, a CNN-WMUR poll last week had Trump in second place behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 11 percent.

Trump also comes in second behind Bush in a new national CNN-ORC poll released Wednesday.

Matt Davies, Newsday


Yet at the moment the subject seems kind of inescapable, for two reasons.

First, crazy as it sounds, it's not absolutely impossible that this snowflake could actually win, not just the GOP nomination but the whole enchilada. Crazy things happen. As Noah wrote in an e-mail the other day while we were kicking this stuff around:
Personally, I think that if Minnesota elected Jesse Ventura, Texas elected George Bush and Rick Perry, New Jersey elected Chris Christie, etc. we should not take Trump lightly. We live in a society where Kardashians are celebrated for absolutely nothing and even Steve Doocy can get a high-paying job.
Second, and this is a reason-twofer, the kind of appeal The Donald is having -- to the unapologetic haters of the Republican base, just as Noah foresaw -- not only reminds us of some ugly truths about the American electorate but poses serious problems for the Republican Party with regard to the 2016 presidential election and every other election the party wishes to participate in.

Here we need to back up a bit, because in quoting Philip Rucker, I've jumped over his starting points, which have to do with what Philip then refers to as The Donald's "antics," starting with the guns-blazing assault on Mexican immigrants in his announcement speech and proceeding through his hardly less inflamatory responses to the pretty intense backlash.
The comments — and many more since — have prompted an uproar among Latino groups and acrimonious breakups between Trump and various corporate partners. His outlandish rhetoric and skill at occupying the national spotlight are also proving to be dangerously toxic for the GOP brand, which remains in the rehabilitation stage after losing the 2012 presidential race.
And the sentence setting out The Donald's boffo poll results, as quoted above, Philip begins by saying, "Despite -- or perhaps because of -- such antics."

Looking at the lineup of the 50 (or is it closer to 60 now?) 2016 GOP presidential wannabes, one notes several dozen who probably wish it coulda been them, and are chafing at The Donald's mogulistic fearlessness in saying things that are part of their core beliefs and probably as much part of their personal style as of the mogul's. These are, in all likelihood, they say when they're talking strictly among intimates or known political sympathizers.

They also know, however, that you can't say that stuff publicly, at least not without a whole lot of verbal camouflage. The Donald dispensed with the camouflage and gave the base a hard-on, or pehaps what they get instead of ("even better than") a hard-on.

As Philip writes:
Trump, who claims to be worth $9 billion, has staked out populist-sounding ground in the campaign so far, railing against the impact of illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico, on the U.S. economy and vowing to “build a great wall on our southern border” to keep them out. That message, along with promises to restrict Chinese imports and other protectionist measures, could resonate particularly well with some white, blue-collar male voters, angry over the slow economic recovery and suspicious of elite opinion in Washington.

John Darkow, Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune


What's more, it's hard not to wonder whether The Donald is paying a way higher price than he imagined. The only reason I can imagine for him to have gotten involved in all these presidential campaign chat-ups is for the publicity. And while I'm sure there's ego involved here, I think it has more to do with his sense that it's a relatively cheap way to score publicity of a kind you really can't buy anyway, and since he fancies himself as king of the deal-makers, the payoff comes in the form of a growth spurt in his deal-making.

But what he has been experiencing since his campaign announcement is a heap of deal-losing. Philips hits the highlights:
Univision said it would not air his Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants; Trump sued the Spanish-language television network for $500 million. NBC­Universal severed all ties to him this week; he called the network “so weak and so foolish.”

And on Wednesday, the Macy’s department store chain dumped him, saying it would no longer sell his menswear line. Trump said the retail chain had “totally caved.” Later Wednesday, Trump’s luxury hotel chain said it had been alerted to a possible credit-card breach.
Since Philip wrote his piece, Serta has announced that it won't renew its Trump-brand mattress-selling deal. Noah passed along this news with the question "Trumpy to lose sleep?"

Is it possible that it didn't occur to The Donald when he decided to just let his mouth run free that he could make himself, and the Trump "brand," this toxic to present -- not to mention future -- business partners? Univision and NBC-Universal and Macy's and Serta all went into business with Trump because they thought they could make money together. Now they don't seem to think so. And it's not just that Spanish-speaking people are part of NBC's target viewer base and Macy's and Serta's hoped-for customer base, although goodness knows that would be bad enough. You'd expect that all the companies that are fleeing The Donald like the plague are discovering ripples of resistance expanding to wider sections of their customer base.

To put it baldly: Can the base haters who salivate at hearing Latino immigrants ridiculed and reviled buy enough mattresses to offset the ill will attaching to Serta's brand? Again Noah made an intriguing point about our boy: "The same arrogance/foolishness that caused him to declare bankruptcy for various of his enterprises caused him to lose his business deals."


But that's a problem for The Donald, and I don't think many of us will shed tears for him. I'm not sure many DWT readers will shed tears either for Republicans who have to figure out how to respond to The Donald's "antics."

Philip quotes David Axelrod:
Every Republican candidate now has to calculate how they deal with him, particularly in the debates. If he says something outrageous and no one challenges him, that’s bad for them and bad for the Republican Party.
No matter how those other Republicans feel, they have no easy path.

• Many (most?) of those dozens of GOP presidential candidates who have no substantive disagreement with The Donald likely aren't happy about being forced to declare a position.
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told reporters last week that Trump’s comments were “not helpful” to the party’s efforts to reach more diverse voters. But, he added, “we don’t get to pick and choose who runs, who doesn’t.”
• And it's just as big a problem for GOP candidates, presidential and otherwise, who aren't quite that far gone but now face this immense challenge to match The Donald hate-for-hate in the battle for the hears and minds of the GOP base. Think of the candidates who are already accused of "not being conservative enough." How eager are they to make it perfectly clear that they don't share Mr. Trump's views.

Democratic strategist Paul Begala has advice for Republicans who "don’t know what to do about" Trump:
The truth is, it’s very simple. What they say to friends in private is what they ought to say to the country in public, which is, ‘That guy’s out of line.’ ”
At last count, the number of GOP presidential candidates who have made such statements is approximately zero. Of course if those gleeful Democrats think they can ride the Trump Problem to victory, they may be kidding themselves, as long as they're content to present themselves as The Party That's Less Awful Than That Other Party.

John Cole, Times-Tribune (Scranton)

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Noah Sends Out 4th of July Wishes: "Dear People of FOX News . . ."


Plus: Is Pastor Rick Scarborough burning yet?

Uh-oh, Bill-O's mouth is open! Stand back, people! Who knows what might come out of that gaping maw?

by Noah

Here's a wish for today: I wish that I had the technology to jam FOX News. No, not to prevent the twisted, warped programming. We are supposed to be a nation of free speech, aren't we? And if people can believe that they have been abducted by the Saucermen on multiple occasions, I suppose they can believe the endless fear-mongering and dark drivel that FOX offers.

I would simply like to be able to jam FOX in such a way that anyone tuning in to their spew would have to watch it through one of those clear rainbow filters that Facebook offered its users after the Supreme Court's ratification of the right of same sex marriage.

Oh OK, failing that, I would wish that Bill O'Reilly did a whole show in front of a giant, screen-filling rainbow flag backdrop, not knowing it was there until he turned to leave the set at the show's end. Watching the old geezer lose it would be priceless.

Why shouldn't I wish for this? On Monday cranky old Bill-O donned his black heart homophobe colors. Does he ever take them off? He threw one of his patented curmudgeonly snit fits about the White House being lit up in rainbow colors and puked out his tired "traditional Americans" meme, letting the FOX freak flag fly, as he is paid so well to do, even calling it an Obama "in your face" move.

I guess Bill-O took it all personally, but isn't he a fine one to talk about what a traditional marriage might be? One man, one woman and a loofah in the shower with a producer, anyone?

I have another wish: How about a list of all of the politicians and pundits that bellow about a marriage consisting of one man and one woman while they themselves are secretly gay, perhaps even chasing teenage Congressional pages? Can we get that list? Calling Larry Flynt! Is the Senate majority leader at the top -- or, er, at the bottom?

Meanwhile, on the same show we were suddenly treated to the surreal, hard-to-make-this-stuff-up, un-introduced specter of some other republican loon named Huckabee talking about putting up a nativity scene on the White House lawn if he's elected president. Hell, if a republican gets the White House, we should be happy it's just a Christmastime nativity scene and not a nightly burning cross.

Just look how beat this living fossil O'Reilly looks as he quacks about "traditional Americans"! People of FOX, wake up! You have overslept by decades! You are as big of a freakshow as those "People of Walmart" photo collections that circulate on the internet.

Sez Bill:
I was a bit surprised to see the White House doing a victory lap using actual White House property on Friday. The people's house was illuminated in rainbow colors to celebrate the gay marriage decision. What about all the Americans who believe that a redefinition of marriage is not the job of the Supreme Court?
Well, you're right on one little point there, Bill-O. It isn't the job of the Supreme Court to redefine, per se. You see, courts are arbiters, and we have this thing called the Constitution. Their job is to take a look at that and see how the question put before them fits that Constitution. That's what they did. Got it? They acknowledged a right that was already there. Can you get your rapidly shriveling pea brain around that? The Supreme Court decision was as "traditional" as it gets. Traditional as in "American."

Imagine, People of FOX, how it is to be a republican and go around all day long categorizing everyone you see as "traditional" or "nontraditional." Sooner or later you will be so narrow-minded that you will be sitting alone in the park like the village idiots that you are.

Dear People of FOX, it is now the 21st century! "Traditional" Americans are all of us, not just people categorized by your ridiculously narrow bigoted view that sorts people by gender, gender preference, gender identification, skin tone and number of syllables or vowels in a surname. Not only that, but it has always been that way, at least in ideal if not in practice. I know conservatives have always struggled against that ideal, thinking that certain rights apply only to themselves and whatever clique they belong to. But how about, if you are so into conforming, you start conforming to the American Ideal instead of always fighting the spirit of America?

In ten years or less, your little irrationally panicking Pied Piper from FOXWorld will be sitting on that proverbial park bench mumbling about how much better things used to be when only white hetero males were in charge (or so he thought), instead of doing it on TV every night.

If he wasn't so sick and hateful, O'Reilly would almost be laughable. He is practically a walking parody of hate, almost playing it for comic effect. Except he's serious. Some say you need smarts to have a sense of humor.

Come to think of it, FOX is really just a bunch of old wackos sitting on a park bench anyway. Sure you can point to the good-looking cleavage babes and the handsome devils that play journalists on FOX, but if you rip off the masks of any of them, you will find a crotchety, senile 90-year-old example of dementia.


Sez Pastor Rick: "If necessary, we will burn" (emphasis emphatically not added).

A Christian pastor, Rick Scarborough, made noises about playing the ultimate victim card, threatening to set himself on fire if the Supreme Court gave the thumbs-up to same sex marriage. Scarborough hails from Texas. Should we be surprised?

Jeez, all Rev. Franklin Graham did was move his money out of Wells Fargo, saying they "advocate for the gay lifestyle" that "contradicts God's … blah, blah, blah."

It was pretty funny when he then put his money into a bank that is even more supportive of Satan's dastardly plan to ruin America.

All Wells Fargo did was run a TV ad that showed two women adopting a child. How dare they give that child a better future! Now, these fake Christians are trying to top each other by … topping themselves! And I, for one, support their right to do so! In fact, I encourage these kooks to choose the suicide lifestyle. Do it now!

Last Friday was a great day for America as we joined much of the civilized world. It was an even greater day for some individual Americans and the people they have chosen to share their lives with. But the righties have a special talent for looking in the mirror and thinking it's all about themselves.

Dear Pastor Rick, to date you haven't followed through. We're waiting. We're waiting impatiently. Is that mean of us? Need me to send a match? Here's my generous suggestion to you. How about you, Graham, O'Reilly and Huckabee climb into an oil-soaked boat in the Gulf of Mexico and play the good old republican whining-victim card together, Viking-style.

Put some fireworks in the boat too. It's 4th of July, and this is America. Give us a gift! Show us your patriotism!

Yes, Pastor Rick has "explained," sort of, how it happens that he hasn't gone up in flames. It seems that when he said, "If necessary, we will burn," he, uh, didn't actually mean it. It was a song reference, he says. RawStory presented his "explanation":
I made that comment to paraphrase a spiritual song, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego," in which the three were given a choice -- to bow to the image of Nebucahdnezzar or burn in a furnace. "We will burn" means that we will accept any sanction from the government for resisting [Friday’s] Supreme Court decision. We do not support any violence or physical harm.
Well, you can hear for yourself what the good pastor said up above, and while it's possible that this is what he was thinking, it's not what he said, which is all we have to go by. Also, he seems awfully murky on the meaning off "we will burn," which means, you know, we will burn. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego expressed their willingness to burn, what they meant was that they were prepared to burn -- in, you know, that famously fiery furnace.

If they had meant that they would "accept any sanction from the government for resisting" the order to bow to the image of Nebucahdnezzar, they could have said that, just like Pastor Rick could have said that. Probably nobody would have written a song about it, but that's okay, because if what you mean is that you have the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego except for the part about having the courage, there really isn't any need for a song, is there?

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Blue America Endorsed P.G. Sittenfeld For Senate-- Get To Know Who He Is


The DSCC is so sure their candidate in Ohio, Ted Strickland, is going to win the primary to challenge Republican incumbent Rob Portman that they don't even bother attacking Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld-- a departure from the way Tester and Schumer are viciously sabotaging other independent-minded candidates, in Florida (Alan Grayson) and Pennsylvania (Joe Sestak), who will likely beat weak DSCC picks, respectively Patrick Murphy and Ed Pawlowski. They're counting on Strickland's name recognition-- the 73-year-old was Ohio's governor from 2007 through 2010-- to power him through.

Sittenfeld, at 30, is less than half his age and is far more energetic and much more in touch with where the Democratic base has gone since Strickland, always a conservative Democrat, was actively engaged. A few days ago, Andrew Romano penned a piece on Sittenfeld emphasizing the fact that the two of them knew each other in college and that Romano, who has done profiles on dozens of politicians, was eager to get behind the curtain of handlers and press releases to see what makes a politician tick. "Observing these figures at close range," he wrote, "hasn’t really helped. In fact, they tend to seem even more alien-- more exaggerated, calculated and opaque-- in the flesh. After a while, I gave up." Until he realized his old college friend is running for the Senate in Ohio.
Sittenfeld is new to politics; the sum total of his electoral experience consists of serving on the Cincinnati City Council for the last four years. He is only 30 years old. If he wins next November, he would just barely clear the Senate’s Constitutional age requirement. The next youngest senator would be nearly a decade his senior. In fact, he would be one of the youngest senators in U.S. history, as well as the first member of his generation, the so-called millennial generation, elected to such high office.

...To me, Sittenfeld seemed like the same kid I’d met back when he was a freshman and I was senior. The age gap was too big for us to become close friends, but he immediately struck me as gregarious, energetic, enthusiastic and practical. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. A bit messy, perhaps. But mostly a model millennial.

Then Sittenfeld’s iPhone rang again. He looked down. It was Dhani Jones, the former NFL linebacker-turned-Travel Channel host-turned-bow tie entrepreneur who had recently signed on as Sittenfeld’s first celebrity supporter. The candidate cleared his throat four times. A preemptive smile spread across his face.

“DHAAAAAANI,” he said in his clubbiest baritone. “What’s going on, man?”

Jones replied. Sittenfeld listened. He was still smiling.

“Hahahahaha!” laughed Sittenfeld. “I drive a made-in-Ohio Chevy Cruze. My man-of-the-people mobile…”

Jones said something else. Sittenfeld laughed again. Then his laughter tapered off.

“So, I got three quick things for you, and you can say yes or no to them, but it’s my job to ask,” Sittenfeld said. He spoke smoothly, confidently, without a hint of hesitation or apology. “OK, ready? No. 1, we want to do a contest. I don’t know if your preference is like, you know, Dhani will design a bow tie for you or, like, give you a tutorial, but are you game to do one or the other?” Pause. “OK, that would be great. Two, I’m having an event in New York two weeks from today. I don’t know if you’ll be in New York then, or if there are people you could forward the invite to…” Pause. “All right, yeah. That’d be awesome. And then the final thing. This is the almost unsavory part of politics, but man, we’ve gotten off to a good start. You put the wind in my sails. You’ve got the ambassadorship all lined up. Want to see if you might be willing to double down on your early contribution and do one more.” Pause. “Ex-cel-lent. Thank you, Dhani. You’ve been wonderful. And I think people are going to love this contest.”

Whoa, I thought.That’s how the grown-ups do it.

Ohio political consultant Jerry Austin recently said that Sittenfeld displays the kind of “political talent he and other longtime Ohio Democrats [haven’t] seen in close to 40 years.” I was beginning to understand why.

...Sittenfeld and I both went to Princeton. I graduated in 2004. He graduated in 2007. On paper, we must have looked very similar. We both came from half-Jewish, half-Catholic families... The first time I encountered the name P.G. Sittenfeld-- a moment you do not forget-- was when I read in the campus newspaper that he’d been elected freshman class president. The date was Oct. 7, 2003. That means Sittenfeld had been away from home for less than a month when he launched his campaign. It takes a special kind of 17-year-old to jump right in like that.

“The real reason I’m doing this,” Sittenfeld told the paper, “is because I really like meeting new people and I have a lot of energy.”

Sittenfeld could have been grating-- I can see that I’m making him sound like a male Tracy Flick-- but he wasn’t. Everyone liked him. Yes, he was ambitious; he seemed as if he’d been networking from birth. But his ambition never came off as self-aggrandizing; he wasn’t angling for power, or other people’s esteem. It was simply a byproduct of his personality: the self-assurance, the directness, the off-the-charts extroversion.

“As much as P.G. was trying really, really hard,” a mutual friend explains, “he wasn’t trying to be anything other than himself.” He couldn’t help it. He really liked meeting new people. He had a lot of energy. He never stopped moving.

In late 2000, right when I arrived at Princeton, the conservative writer David Brooks came to campus “to see what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.” The result of his field study was an essay in the April 2001 issue of the Atlantic that portrayed my classmates-- and by extension, my generation-- as “extraordinarily bright, morally earnest, and incredibly industrious” meritocrats who had been helicopter-parented, play-dated, and overscheduled to the point where nothing was worth doing if it wasn’t “a means for self-improvement, résumé-building, and enrichment.” According to Brooks and the professors he quoted, my peers and I had “no time to read newspapers, follow national politics, or get involved in crusades.” We were “disconcertingly comfortable with authority.” We were “eager to please, eager to jump through whatever hoops the faculty puts in front of [us], eager to conform.” We were not “disputatious.” We felt “no compelling need to rebel-- not even a hint of one.” We were, in short, “deferential.”

“They’re not trying to buck the system; they’re trying to climb it,” Brooks concluded. “And they are streamlined for ascent.”

Brooks titled his piece “The Organization Kid.” It was, like all pop sociology, a cartoon. But it had some truth to it, too, and for the remainder of my time at Princeton, and Sittenfeld’s time there as well, “The Organization Kid” framed the debate over who we were and weren’t-- and who we would rather be... After Princeton, Sittenfeld attended Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship. Then he went to work for Google. Self-improvement? Check. Résumé-building? Check. Streamlined for ascent.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the top: Sittenfeld decided he wanted to go home instead. Writing microscopic entertainment blurbs at Time felt like “a waste.” Google wasn’t right, either. So in 2009 he returned to Cincinnati to work as the assistant director of the Community Learning Center Institute (CLCI), a nonprofit that helps transform local schools into round-the-clock community centers. His mother, Betsy, had been his teacher and librarian at Cincinnati’s elite Seven Hills School; his father, Paul, a wealth-management consultant, was always joining a new board or embarking on some new philanthropic project. CLCI felt like a natural fit.

“My family wasn’t especially political, but they were very civic-minded,” Sittenfeld told me. “There was very little traditional relaxation or downtime at home. My mom doesn’t shop. My dad doesn’t golf. They’re too busy doing things for other people.”

But unlike his parents and his fellow Organization Kids, Sittenfeld was drawn to politics. By the time he arrived in Cincinnati, he was already thinking about running for office someday. As a freshman, he’d spent his fall break campaigning in New Hampshire for John Edwards. That summer he watched Barack Obama’s 2004 Democratic National Convention speech “on a 12-inch television screen” and “literally stood up” as Obama spoke.

“I really responded to that kind of inspirational call to action,” Sittenfeld recalled. “I thought, ‘I’d like to be able to do that myself when the moment is right.’”

That moment came sooner than Sittenfeld expected. One day, he was testifying before City Council on behalf of CLCI when he noticed that a couple of council members were paying more attention to their iPhones than to what he was saying. He decided-- on the spot-- that he could do better. “I care deeply about my convictions,” he told himself. “I like interacting with people. I want to make an impact. This seems like a good use of my skill set.”

It was. During his city council campaign later that year, Sittenfeld knocked on thousands of doors. He discovered that he loved the visceral, improvisational challenge of trying to persuade people to vote for him. “It’s like Forrest Gump and the box of chocolates,” he told me. “You never know what you’re gonna get.” In Cincinnati, City Council candidates are rarely elected on their first try; Sittenfeld was the second-highest vote-getter in the race. He was only 27 at the time. In 2013, he won reelection with 10,000 more votes than any other candidate-- a record margin.

It’s hard to overstate how unusual Sittenfeld’s choice of career is for someone his age. Over the last dozen years, the Organization Kids’ early apathy toward politics has curdled into outright antipathy. The story of the 2000s was, in many ways, a story of political dysfunction and failure: the misbegotten invasion of Iraq, the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, the devastating financial collapse of 2008, the unprecedented gridlock on Capitol Hill. Deep in debt, weary of war and anxious about their own job prospects, millennials have become Cynic Kids who are “deeply resistant to idealism,” according to one of their own-- who “don’t like the system” and are “dismissive of their ability to actually achieve the desired modifications.”

For their new book, Running From Office, political scientists Jennifer L. Lawless and Richard L. Fox surveyed more than 4,000 high school and college students across the country. Their conclusion? “Black or white, rich or poor, liberal or conservative, Northeastern or Southern, the next generation is turned off to politics.”

Only 1 in 9 millennials has ever given serious thought to elective office, Lawless and Fox report. Only 7 percent plan to run for office later in life, roughly the same percentage of Americans who claim they’ve seen an alien spaceship. “The mean-spirited, broken system that has come to characterize American politics turns young people off to the idea of running for office,” the authors write. “It discourages them from aspiring, one day, to be elected leaders. It prevents them from even thinking about a career in politics.”

Smart young people still want to change the world; they just think they have a better chance of changing it from, say, Silicon Valley than from Washington, D.C. By insisting on working within the political system-- and by insisting on staying in the Ohio Senate race even after his own party leaders, including Sen. Sherrod Brown and former President Bill Clinton, have sided with Strickland-- Sittenfeld isn’t being deferential. He isn’t aiming to please. He isn’t following the crowd.

“Politics often gets a bad rap with my peers,” he told me. “But it’s still a place where leaders can galvanize action that might not otherwise have occurred. Millennials look at the political realm and they don’t see themselves represented. They just see old ways of problem-solving that are out of touch and out of date. I’m hoping my own candidacy-- and my role in the Senate-- can change that.”

The Organization Kid may have been a conformist. The Organization Candidate, it turns out, has to be a bit of a rebel.

...[F]ew voters outside of Cincinnati know who he is yet. According to the polls, Sittenfeld is trailing Portman by 25 percentage points in large part because 85 percent of Ohioans haven’t heard enough about him to form an opinion. (Only 23 percent say the same thing about Strickland.) To win, Sittenfeld needs to boost his name recognition in the rest of the state, which is why he decided to drive three hours on a Wednesday morning to meet with the editorial board of the Toledo Blade.

“If they ask, ‘What do you know about Toledo?’” said Dale Butland, the veteran Ohio Democratic strategist who signed on to Sittenfeld’s campaign in April and who zipped up from Columbus in his red BMW for the day. “You can say the Mud Hens’ Triple-A park is one of the coolest parks in all of baseball-- because it is!”

Sittenfeld took one last look at his talking points-- a lined piece of 8.5-by-11-inch paper on which he’d scrawled “Disagreements with Ted” and “Why is Rob Wrong?” above quadrants labeled “Immigration,” “Iran,” “Middle East,” and “Economy”-- then folded the sheet into eighths and slipped it into his pocket. He unrolled his shirtsleeves, tightened his tie, shimmied into his favorite navy blue suit jacket and buzzed his way into the Blade.

Editor David Kushma ushered Sittenfeld past the sleepy 1970s-era newsroom and opened the door to his office. A subscription receipt from 1837 hung on the wall.

“So,” Kushma said, settling back in his chair. “How’s it going?”

“Things are going well,” Sittenfeld said. “There is a big appetite out there for new leaders to step up with some fresh ideas and perspectives. The main thing for me, which I believe I’m uniquely positioned to do, is to put the focus on the future instead of having this race be a stale argument about the past.”

“Mmm hmm,” Kushma muttered. He sounded a little skeptical. “You seem to be running against your party. How are you dealing with that?”

“If I can tell my story and spread my message across Ohio, I think we win this race-- both primary and general,” Sittenfeld replied. “I’m not running because I’m young. But for the United States Senate not to have a single person from the largest generation in American history, which also happens to be the most technologically savvy generation in American history-- something is clearly missing. There are different ways of engaging with the world that come with being a part of a different generation.”

For the next hour, Sittenfeld told Kushma and his colleagues what exactly he meant by that. Some of it didn’t sound all that different from the usual Democratic spiel. “The future is transitioning to renewable energy.” “Trade is a good thing, but bad trade”-- like the Trans-Pacific Partnership-- “is a bad thing.” “I support common-sense gun-safety measures.”

But a lot of it did. Sittenfeld explained how, at CLCI, he’d helped implement a community-schools model that Mayor Bill di Blasio was now importing to New York City. He declared that America should legalize marijuana (even though he’d never smoked it himself). He insisted that it was “totally obscene and unacceptable” that the federal government makes $135 billion in profit a year on student loans, and touted his proposal to lower federal student loan rates to 2 or 3 percent, allowing the average graduate to save around $12,000 over the arc of their repayment period.

“It’s about taking the gains we’re seeing in the economy,” he said, “and investing them in things that meaningfully support the middle class.”

He added family leave, paid sick days, a federal minimum wage hike and a larger earned-income tax credit to that list. And he argued that his “fluency with technology” could help Washington “harness the innovation economy,” citing three examples from his time in Cincinnati: expanding wireless Internet access to the poorest parts of the city, leading the charge to pass an open-data policy at City Hall and championing direct municipal investment in local startup accelerators and incubators.

How Sittenfeld communicated was different as well. The elements were familiar to me. The agile intelligence. (He answered in complete paragraphs.) The former journalist’s facility with narrative. (His rationale for running was always front and center.) And the contagious optimism-- the sheer delight in the possibilities of politics-- that only a young person who feels like he’s just found his calling can convey. Still, about halfway through, I forgot Sittenfeld was some kid I went to college with, and I could tell that Kushma & Co. had changed their minds about him, too. He wasn’t the longest of long shots anymore-- someone the savviest politicos were supposed to dismiss. He was a real candidate.

When Sittenfeld stood up to leave, one of Kushma’s colleagues pulled him aside. “It’s frustrating,” he sniffed. “The Democrats need to find fresh faces. They can’t keep serving up leftover gruel and saying, ‘You’re going to like it!’ That turns people off.”

...I don’t think you beat Rob Portman by saying, ‘Who’s got a longer résumé in politics?’

“You knock him off with a fresh face and a dynamic new candidate,” Sittenfeld continued. “I’ll be honest. I want to stand next to Rob Portman and have him tell me I’m inexperienced. And I want to say, ‘You’re right, I am inexperienced when it comes to being U.S. trade representative when the trade deficit with China explodes. I am inexperienced when it comes to being George W. Bush’s budget architect before the economy takes a nosedive. I am inexperienced when it comes to telling women what they should do with their bodies. To voting against the minimum wage. And on and on and on. Rob Portman can’t win that argument. We need to make this about the future.”
So far this cycle Blue America has only endorsed 4 progressives running for Senate, 3 already well-known figures-- Russ Feingold (WI), Donna Edwards (MD) and Alan Grayson (FL)-- and Sittenfeld. If you'd like to help Sittenfeld replace Portman in the Senate-- or help any of our other 3 candidates-- here's the ActBlue page for that. Help Rob make history-- and turn America around.

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