Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PA-13 Primary Is Less Than A Month Away-- What Happens To The Money We Contribute?


Pennsylvania state Seantor Daylin Leach was one of the first congressional candidates Blue America endorsed this election cycle. He's right up our alley: thoroughly progressive-- and aggressively so-- compassionate, smart, persuasive… and with a record of accomplishment in the legislature that goes beyond promises. So far this cycle 943 Blue America members have contributed $22,462.68 to Daylin's grassroots campaign-- an average of $23.72. And he needs that kind of support to compete with the candidate of the Philly Machine, anti-Choice/anti-education fanatic Brendan Boyle, and against the ethically-challenged Beltway Establishment candidate Bill Clinton and Steny "K Street" Hoyer are raising boatloads of cash for, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky.

The end of the quarter FEC filing shows that Daylin has $654,202 on hand for the May 20 primary. Although most of that money is committed to Daylin's Get Out The Vote effort, his campaign has reserved $272,000 in cable and broadcast buys in the two-week run-up to the primary. The video above is the first of a series of ads and almost one in ten of those ads are being paid for by Blue America contributors. (Thanks and please keep that coming!) In PA-13, the Democratic primary will determine who goes to Congress. And what progressives want to hear is messaging like Daylin's:
"I've never been afraid to take on bullies like Governor Corbett and the NRA. In Congress I'll protect Social Security and a woman's right to choose. I'll fight for good schools and great jobs and to put Wall Street crooks in jail."
So, aside from reminding voters that he's been an unwavering champion for Choice and for women's rights in the legislator, he is also subtly reminding voters that Boyle has been fanatically opposed to Choice. And, by bringing up Social Security, he's not only reminding voters that he wants to expand Social Security and protect cost of living adjustments for retired people, he's also reminding voters that Marjorie Margolies not only lost her seat in 1994 because she tried raising the retirement age and cutting back on cost of living adjustments, but that it was Bill Clinton himself who slapped her down in no uncertain terms for trying that typical GOP trick.

If you go to you come upon a Phildadelphia Inquirer story from June, 1994, "Social Security Curbs Proposed Marjorie Margolies-mezvinsky Is Touting Major Changes. Her GOP Foe, Jon Fox, Opposes The Plan." Voters in PA-13 should read it carefully because Margolies is a candidate who remains eager to cut Social Security and other benefits for working families. She sounds like a garden variety Republican, although the Republican that beat her in 1994 was more a defender of Social Security than she was-- and the way she disappointed the Democratic base and kept voters away from the polls is why she was really defeated that year. Her proposal to cut back on Social Security for retired Americans was even too conservative for Bill Clinton, who pointedly told her that "we do not deal with a problem like the deficit by (creating) income stagnation among the elderly."
Calling it the first fruit of last year's conference on entitlement spending, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky announced legislation yesterday that would raise the retirement age for Social Security recipients and limit their cost-of-living adjustments.

Margolies-Mezvinsky, who is seeking re-election, said the proposals would ensure Social Security's solvency and keep her pledge to control the costs of politically sensitive entitlement programs.

Social Security officials predicted in April that the trust fund would go broke in 35 years because of demographic shifts that would leave fewer workers supporting more retirees.

Margolies-Mezvinsky's proposal is a political gamble for the freshman Democrat, who is already in the doghouse with many constituents because of her 11th-hour switch last year in favor of President Clinton's budget bill and tax increases.

The current legislation, which Margolies-Mezvinsky is sponsoring with Minnesota Democrat Timothy J. Penny, would raise the retirement age to 70 by the year 2013-- beginning in 1999 and increasing the age by four months annually.

The retirement age currently ranges from 65 for those born before 1938 to 67 for those born after 1959. Those who retire earlier get reduced benefits.

The proposal would give only the bottom 20 percent of Social Security recipients the full cost-of-living adjustment, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index. Other recipients would receive a flat cost-of-living adjustment equal to that for recipients at the 20th percentile.

Margolies-Mezvinsky had made Clinton's attendance at December's entitlement conference at Bryn Mawr College a condition for her support of his budget. The budget increased taxes for affluent workers and for single Social Security recipients with incomes over $34,000 and couples with incomes over $44,000.

Although Clinton attended the conference, he said there should be only minor unspecified changes in Social Security. "We do not want to deal with a problem like the deficit by (creating) income stagnation among the elderly," Clinton said.

White House officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Social Security is among the touchiest issues for Congress, due in part to the lobbying strength of the American Association of Retired Persons, which claims 33 million members.

"They're not opposed to this," Margolies-Mezvinsky said. "We've been working with them so that we get their input."

But Martin Corry, AARP's director of federal affairs, said he was unaware of any contact between his group and Margolies-Mezvinsky since December.

He said AARP would oppose any form of "means testing" such as Margolies-Mezvinsky's proposal on cost-of-living adjustments.

"Changing the retirement age to age 70 is really premature," he added. ''There may well be changes in the retirement age, and they can be done gradually. I've seen nothing to suggest it needs to go to 70."

Republican Jon D. Fox, who will face Margolies-Mezvinsky in November, said he opposed her proposal, as well as another Democratic plan to increase payroll taxes.

Fox said he would have to study the issue further before making a proposal of his own.

"I'm going to be coming out in this campaign with proposals dealing with the protection of Social Security," Fox said in a telephone interview. "I'll be getting back to you on them."

Margolies-Mezvinsky said she did not know how the proposals would play in her largely Republican Montgomery County district.

"My feeling is it's the right thing to do. I think that what happens when you get to Washington is you see people saying to their constituents what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear."
In 1994 Democratic voters had no choice but to protect Social Security by sitting on their hands and letting a Republican defeat Margolies. This year, that won't be a problem because Daylin Leach is going to beat her in a primary less than a month away. "When we started this campaign, a little over a year ago," he told us "it was always my intention to tell my story, to let people know who I am and where I came from, and how that affects everything I have done in the state Legislature. I needed help once, and I fight for those who need help now… We have all seen what the far right is doing to working families across America. I've led the fight against these measures designed to create a greater rift between the rich and everyone else, to keep working families down, and to maximize corporate profits at the expense of the very fabric of our democracy. That is why elections like mine are so important. We need leaders in Congress who are not afraid to take on the tough fights, to take on the extremists and the corporate interests that fund them, and have a proven record doing just that."

Contributing here will help make sure that TV stays on the air between now and May 20. Canddiates like Daylin Leach don't come along everyday; candidates like Brendan Boyle and Marjorie Margolies-Mezkinsky, unfortunately, do.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"For Incisive Commentary On The Struggle For Economic Justice In The U.S., We Honor… Digby!"


This afternoon, the Sidney Hillman Foundation announced that the winner of their coveted 2014 prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism is Digby, a close friend and part of the trio-- along with John Amato and myself-- behind Blue America. In their own words, "The influential progressive blogger known as Digby has won the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism for her 'incisive commentary on the struggle for economic justice in the U.S.' The award will be presented by the Sidney Hillman Foundation at the annual Hillman Prizes ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at the Times Center in New York.
Digby writes constantly, engages readers, quotes generously, and exists inside today's 24-hour news cycle with both her fearlessness and her point of view intact. She has been filing daily updates to her Hullabaloo blog since 2002, creating one of the last independent sources for progressive commentary, incisive political analysis and media criticism. She is a daily blogger who is a must-read in the halls of power, among activists and organizers, and by the national media she sometimes criticizes with acerbic accuracy.

In many ways, Heather “Digby” Parton is the blogging godmother to a generation of new voices who grew up over the last decade to prominence at major journals, news sites, and on public affairs television. Just say "Digby" to any of hundreds journalists and commentators, and you'll get an appreciative smile.

Her blogging name stands for commitment and a consistent point of view. It also stands for both independence (she writes mainly for her own simply-designed blog) and generosity (she links frequently and credits others freely). Together with co-bloggers tristero and David Atkins, she has made Hullabaloo an influential daily read among the political technorati. Yet you will never see her on cable television, and she rarely does conferences. From her perch in a beach cottage in Santa Monica, she writes eloquently on a daily basis about feminism, race, labor, immigration, firearms, the environment, privacy, national security, and criminal justice reform.

Digby’s 2013 commentary on economic inequality and the ongoing battle inside Washington on cutting social spending was stoic in defense of both the powerless and the American middle class. She took official Washington to task on behalf of those too often left out of the American Dream. She criticized the political brinksmanship over the Federal budget and examined its real-world victims. She took on both welfare reformers on the left and budget slicers on the right, providing context for a steadily decreasing middle class and more Americans living in poverty, particularly children. Digby chided deficit hawks for ignoring the growing poverty picture, pushed back on Democrats seeking a “grand bargain,” and analyzed how voters sometimes ignore their own economic self-interest.

A few years ago, Paul Krugman described Digby as “one of the best writers you’ll ever encounter, on or off the Internet." It’s her sharp rhetorical blade that influences so many other voices, creates a real network of thought, and urges people to action. She has taken on politicians - both Democrats and Republicans - for abandoning the underpinnings of our national promise. And she has turned her often-withering gaze on the Beltway media-- or in Digbyspeak, "the Villagers"-- with razor-sharp media criticism.
The Lithuanian-born Hillman was a revered labor leader, head of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, who had been forced to flee the Russian Empire for standing up for workers rights when he was just 20 years old. In Chicago, he helped lead a revolt against the conservative suck-up United Garment Workers and helped start the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America as a pro-worker alternative. Later, Hillman was one of the founders of the American Labor Party, an independent party that served as a kind of halfway house for progressives who wanted to support FDR's reelection but couldn't stomach the Democratic Party, which was as corrupt then as it is today and was still allied with the most reactionary and oppressive white elites in the South. The foundation named for him has been giving annual awards for over 60 years to journalists and writers for work that supports social justice and progressive public policy. It was almost inevitable that they would find Digby. You can check her blog out here.


Just when you think right-wing intelligence can't be any lower, it is -- they don't know the meaning of "choice"


Dint ol' Ronnie Reagan hisself promis us we dint hafta beleeve in no stuff we dint wanna like no Big Bongs which anyways is just a big bell or somethin' in Inglund?

by Ken

Do you know what the word "choice" means? What it means to choose between options? Yes, you say? You do? Then I'm sorry to have to tell you that apparently you have just been disqualified from being a right-winger.

We'll come back to this in a moment. Meanwhile I want to commiserate with Daily Kos blogger LaFeminista, who yesterday found herself banging her head up against the limits of right-wing intelligence, in a poignant post called "Breaking: Americans Find Something Else Not To Effing Believe In."
Evolution is so absurd but the idea of humans walking with dinosaurs is quite interesting.

Climate change is a liberal commie Nazi plot

Now we have the Big Bang
WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- In a new national poll on America's scientific acumen, more than half of respondents said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that "the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang."
The UPI "Science News" post in question, by the way, is headed "Majority of Americans doubt the Big Bang theory."

This leads our author to wonder, "What is the basis of their opinion/lack of confidence?"
Oh right.

The same as everything else when faced with complicated theories.
suggesting more respondents are aware of the science than originally suggested -- they just don't believe the science.
I don't believe. WTF?

It has come to the point where all debate is reduced to belief, that is all well and good when debating about fairies at the bottom of the garden.

What annoys the crap out of me is that it has become the lazy way of getting around having to study and think.

I don't believe the science, yada, yada plus vacuous anecdotal evidence; fairy dust.

Well fuck you then

Show me some bloody data or just admit that you don't know.
Yes indeed, "it has come to the point where all debate is reduced to belief," and as I note frequently, to my mind this is the most enduring and profound (measuring in at a tiny fraction of a micron deep) of America's folksiest sage, Ronald Reagan. Professor Reagan taught Americans that they didn't have to fear or even entertain doubt in the face of unpleasant reality. In reality, he told them, reality is only what you want to believe. (The corollary, which wasn't actually part of the Reagan doctrine but has since been intuited, is that if anyone tries to force you to believe stuff you don't wanna, well, isn't that why God gave us guns?)


Why on earth shouldn't Chelsea and Marc be happy?

It's a piece by Tara Culp-Ressler called "Why Chelsea Clinton’s Pregnancy Is So Baffling To Abortion Opponents." The post begins (links onsite):
Last week, the news that Chelsea Clinton is expecting her first child inspired its fair share of headlines — even fueling suggestions that it was somehow carefully timed to benefit her mother’s potential presidential run. The announcement also made the rounds in the right-wing blogosphere, inspiring several op-eds attempting to highlight the apparent contrast between the Clintons’ stance on reproductive rights and their daughter’s decision to have a child.
Now this too kind of floored me when I belatedly heard about it. This goes beyond the usual category of "You can't make this stuff up" to "Why would anybody try to make this up?" There is supposed to be some conflict between being "pro-choice" and choosing to have a baby? Huh? What am I missing here?
Abortion opponents expressed confusion that the Clintons would refer to Chelsea’s unborn child as a “baby” and not a “fetus,” suggesting that’s wholly incompatible with their support for legal abortion. “When it’s their own grandchild, it appears the Clintons see things differently, with their words most definitely betraying their true feelings on the matter. No talk of a non-person fetus, only of a child,” a Christian Post editorial noted, declaring that the Clintons must actually believe that life begins at conception.

The insinuation, of course, is that the people who support abortion rights must always opt for abortion over pregnancy. But that’s an incredibly black-and-white view of reproductive rights that doesn’t actually reflect the reality of Americans’ experiences — including the women who have chosen to end a pregnancy at some point in their lives.

Although the issue of reproductive rights typically separates people into two camps, either “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” there’s increasing evidence that those labels don’t accurately capture Americans’ complex relationships to abortion. Many people identify as both, and say their attitude about the procedure depends on the situation. Some people who tell pollsters they’re “pro-life” don’t actually support overturning Roe v. Wade. It’s possible to believe you are carrying a baby and choose to end the pregnancy anyway. Many times, personal experiences with abortion fall into what’s known as a “grey area” between the two political camps.
Tara goes on to make some excellent and interesting points about the actual attitudes of actual people on the subjects of pregnancy and abortion. It's a fine piece, and I encourage you to read it.

But I found myself still stuck back at ground zero, this supposed incompatibility between being pro-choice and choosing to have a baby. Until it finally hit me that the supposed pro-lifers, who as we know are only in favor of a few very narrowly defined forms of life, and are in fact enormously hostile to most others, literally do not know the meaning of the word choice. And possibly, it occurred to me, they have no concept of the mental process of choosing, of arriving at the best possible set of alternatives in any given situation and then, using all your developed mental faculties, making the most informed possible choice among those alternatives.

It is, in other words, the basic, essential process by which everything that can be accomplished by these minds -- with which we were endowed by some sort of creator -- is accomplished. And of course the process includes accepting responsibliity for our choices.

Which takes me straight back to "what annoys the crap out of" LaFeminista: that this business of reducing all debate to belief "has become the lazy way of getting around having to study and think."

Yes, it has. It's not only the groupthink mentality's way of protecting its Borg-like nonthinking collective from any necessity or even impulse to think. It's the groupthink mentality's front line of protection against the danger of anyone outside or inside the collective who may be infected with such an impulse.

Ladies and germs, I give you, on a platter, the Right-Wing War Against Science. Just because people were once able to get along with dinosaurs doesn't mean we have to subject ourselves to scientific silliness like evolution and climate change and now these damn big bongs.

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Oklahoma: Here Comes The Sun-- Now Pay Up


Monday, Oklahoma's Republican governor, Mary Fallin, a lock-step right-wing ideologue and pawn of the Koch brothers, signed a bill fining or taxing Oklahomans who want to use solar power. It had passed both Houses of the Oklahoma legislature, and, in fact the House passed it 83-5. (Now this is a very, very red state but there are still 29 Democrats in the state House--72 Republicans-- and 12 Democrats in the state Senate--36 Republicans). Many of those Democrats, however, aren't Democrats that actual Democrats would recognize as Democrats. Many of them, for example, went right along with voting to tax the sun for the Koch brothers, a bill that reversed a 1977 Oklahoma law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users.

Americans overwhelmingly support green, renewable energy, even if the Koch brothers have ordered the GOP-- and conservative Democrats-- to oppose it. The most recent Gallup polling on the subject is crystal clear: "No fewer than two in three Americans want the U.S. to put more emphasis on producing domestic energy using solar power (76%), wind (71%), and natural gas (65%). Far fewer want to emphasize the production of oil (46%) and the use of nuclear power (37%). Least favored is coal, with about one in three Americans wanting to prioritize its domestic production." Although those numbers are so high because normal people-- 87% of Democrats and 74% of Independents-- favor solar energy, even among grassroots Republicans, if not GOP legislators, 68% favor solar power.

Last week, before Fallin signed the bill, Paul Moines, an energy reporter for the The Oklahoman wrote that "it’s the prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar that worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry’s research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar."
“When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened,” the report said. “As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.”

The report urged regulated utilities to move quickly to change their rate tariffs to recover fixed costs from distributed generation… [W]ith the prices of solar panels declining each year, installation costs are looking more attractive for many homeowners.

Chris Gary, owner of Sun City Solar Energy in Oklahoma City, said a 10-panel setup with a mirco-inverter now costs about $15,000, not including installation charges. A similar system cost almost twice that six years ago, he said.

Gary said the effects of SB 1456 won’t be known until the new tariffs get approved by the Corporation Commission. But news of the bill has sparked interest from potential customers.

“It may affect our business, but we don’t know yet,” Gary said. “Is it a killer for solar in Oklahoma? I don’t believe so, but when you open the door to a charge, that means it can always be increased. A speedbump could turn into a roadblock.”
So where were Democrats? Voting with Republicans… or ducking the bill altogether and hiding in the men's room while the vote was taken… apparently a common tactic for political cowards unwilling to stand up for Democratic values, even when they're overwhelmingly popular like solar energy. We've run into Democratic state Senator Al McAffrey before. He's the corporate shill running against progressive Tom Guild for the OK-05 congressional nomination. This is standard operating procedure for him.

You would think that the furious push back when McAffrey was MIA on the bill-- now law-- that went through the state senate to outlaw raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma, would have caused him to trim his MIA behavior. He didn’t vote against the bill that suspends the right of Oklahomans to petition the government for redress of grievances by adopting a higher minimum wage at the local level. The state senator decided to run against the progressive candidate Tom Guild, for the Democratic Party nomination for Congress in the Oklahoma City area, after James Lankford decided to follow his political social climbing instincts and run for the U.S. Senate instead of running for re-election to the house. Tom Guild is solid as a rock on the minimum wage issue both in word and in deed. He and his campaign helped gather over 60,000 signatures nationally to raise the minimum wage, Tom has carried the local petition and gathered signatures to raise the wage in Oklahoma City, and his campaign has gathered petition signatures at Guild for Congress events. McAffrey, refused to sign the local minimum wage petition when presented with an opportunity a few weeks back.

Well, disgracefully, he was at it again with the sun tax!  Does he ever oppose bills being pushed by ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)? McAffrey was again missing in action and didn’t vote against the bill-- again, now law-- in a déjà vu all over again repeat non-performance. He once again didn’t do his main legislative duty and vote at all on the legislation when it came before the state senate. Senate Bill 1456 levies extra charges against homeowners who use solar panels or wind turbines. As Rachel Maddow asked last night, “Did warming yourself with the sun instead of coal just become a punishable offense in Oklahoma because it’s Oklahoma?”  Well, yes Rachel, that is just what happened, and McAffrey offered no resistance and didn’t bother to vote against this clunker of an uncommonly silly idea. The Koch group Americans for Prosperity must be giddy with celebration. Do we need to follow the money and see who in the fossil fuels branch of the energy industry has contributed to the various Oklahoma congressional candidates?

As we've been showing for the last couple of months, being an openly gay candidate (such as McAffrey)-- or an openly gay legislator (New York's Sean Patrick Maloney is the worst example)-- does not necessarily a progressive make. The choice is clear as a bell for Democratic voters in Oklahoma City. If they want the minimum wage and competitive renewable energy sources, the only dependable option is Tom Guild in the June 24 Democratic primary. If you'd like to help him get the message out, you can do that here.

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When Wealth Controls The Agenda… Opportunity For Economic And Social Advancement Dries Up


This weekend's "must read" was Trip Gabriel's NY Times piece, 50 Years Into The War On Poverty, Hardship Hits Back. He writes that "much of McDowell County looks like a rural Detroit, with broken windows on shuttered businesses and homes crumbling from neglect." Ironically, "beginning in the 19th century, the rugged region produced more coal than any other county in West Virginia, but it got almost none of the wealth back as local investment." Today "nearly 47 percent of personal income in the county is from Social Security, disability insurance, food stamps and other federal programs… The poverty rate, 50 percent in 1960, declined-- partly as a result of federal benefits-- to 36 percent in 1970 and to 23.5 percent in 1980. But it soared to nearly 38 percent in 1990. For families with children, it now nears 41 percent."
McDowell County, the poorest in West Virginia, has been emblematic of entrenched American poverty for more than a half-century. John F. Kennedy campaigned here in 1960 and was so appalled that he promised to send help if elected president. His first executive order created the modern food stamp program, whose first recipients were McDowell County residents. When President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in 1964, it was the squalor of Appalachia he had in mind. The federal programs that followed-- Medicare, Medicaid, free school lunches and others-- lifted tens of thousands above a subsistence standard of living.

But a half-century later, with the poverty rate again on the rise, hardship seems merely to have taken on a new face in McDowell County. The economy is declining along with the coal industry, towns are hollowed out as people flee, and communities are scarred by family dissolution, prescription drug abuse and a high rate of imprisonment.

Fifty years after the war on poverty began, its anniversary is being observed with academic conferences and ideological sparring-- often focused, explicitly or implicitly, on the “culture” of poor urban residents. Almost forgotten is how many ways poverty plays out in America, and how much long-term poverty is a rural problem.

Of the 353 most persistently poor counties in the United States-- defined by Washington as having had a poverty rate above 20 percent in each of the past three decades-- 85 percent are rural. They are clustered in distinct regions: Indian reservations in the West; Hispanic communities in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas; a band across the Deep South and along the Mississippi Delta with a majority black population; and Appalachia, largely white, which has supplied some of America’s iconic imagery of rural poverty since the Depression-era photos of Walker Evans.
Friends of Democracy wasn't focusing just on McDowell County or on West Virginia or on the rural counties that account for so much of America's poverty when they issued a report on how progressives can run against Big Money in politics and win. "Washington," they wrote, "is broken. Faith and trust in Congress is at a historic low. Issues that matter to the American people are falling to the wayside. You’re not running for office to perpetuate the status quo, you’re running to change it. To improve your community, strengthen your state and fix our country. The good news is running on fixing our broken campaign finance system is good for you as a candidate as much as it is good for the country. 7 out of 8 congressional candidates who ran on this issue in 2012 won-- we’re looking to double that number in 2014."
Just 11 percent of voters think that they are the priority of members of Congress. Too many voters have little faith that their needs factor into decisions that politicians make, believing that politicians instead cater to big donors and special interests instead.

Voters view Washington’s inability to address major issues of the day, like getting the economy back on track and solving our national energy policy, as the result of a broken political system that rewards the best fundraisers rather than those who can move ideas forward. The issue of money in politics is, in most voters’ minds, inextricably linked to addressing the major challenges confronting all of us, rather than a separate policy area on which to make yet another set of promises.

…Two bills in Congress are gaining great traction. In February 2014, two bills were introduced-- the Government By the People Act (H.R. 20), introduced by Leader Pelosi and Rep. Sarbanes (D-MD) with 130 original co-sponsors and the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 2023), introduced by Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin with 16 original co-sponsors. Both bills have unprecedented support from Democrats in Congress, political campaign donors, the traditional reform community as well as the larger progressive movement.
Polling shows that almost two-thirds of voters support passing an election law that would couple small donations with matching funds in exchange for taking no large campaign checks and an even bigger number of independent voters say that a candidate's position of campaign finance reform will be an important factor in their choice on election day. Voters don't like the idea of feeling disempowered by Big Money buying up democracy. Even voters in the reddest areas of the country. You may have read that Kansas-- which hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1930s-- has a radical right governor, Sam Brownback, who just signed a bill guaranteeing that there will be no Medicaid Expansion in his state this year. Brownback is also the most hated governor in America and is very likely to lose his reelection bid-- to a Democrat-- in November. This month a poll showed Paul Davis beating Brownback 45-41%-- and by 48-35% among Independents. (Point of reference: Romney beat Obama in Kansas 60-38%, the Republican winning all but two of Kansas' 105 counties.)

Wisconsin is a much wealthier state than West Virginia. The medium household income is $50,395 as opposed to West Virginia's $38,482. But WI-07, the northwestern part of the state, has had a tougher time that most of the rest of the state. The medium household income is $45,868 and voters there see the connection between distorted wealth inequality and political power. The progressive Democrat running for Congress in the district this year is Kelly Westlund, who has been endorsed by Blue America. This morning she explained the connection:

"I knew our political process was broken when I decided to run for Congress, but I underestimated just how bad it really is. In a representative government, citizen voices ought to speak louder than campaign contributions, but as wealth consolidates at the very top, so does political power. The fact is, organizations on both sides of the aisle have embraced the money-driven approach to campaigning, and that means that the wealthy few can buy access to candidates and elected officials that regular people just can't afford. Equating money with free speech leaves the vast majority of middle- and working-class people at a serious disadvantage when it comes to engaging effectively in our shared democracy. I think that's wrong, and it's time we change it."
And speaking of disempowered voters, lets go back to West Virginia for a moment. In 2012 McDowell County also went for Romney and by an even greater margin than West Virginia as a whole-- 64-34%, two points better for the Republican than his statewide landslide. However, on the same day, Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin took 66% of the county's vote for governor and Democrat Joe Manchin took a startling 72% for the U.S. Senate seat. Democrat Nick Rahall was reelected to the House against Republican Rick Snuffer 65-35%. Short of kicking mass drug addiction, will getting Big Money out of politics turn things around for McDowell County? It's worth trying.

As Adam Liptak reported for the NY Times yesterday, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says "the court had made a disastrous wrong turn in its recent string of campaign finance rulings. "The voter is less important than the man who provides money to the candidate," he said. "It’s really wrong."
He talked about what he called a telling flaw in the opening sentence of last month’s big campaign finance ruling. He filled in some new details about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to the Citizens United decision. And he called for a constitutional amendment to address what he said was the grave threat to American democracy caused by the torrent of money in politics.

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Barbara Lee's First Endorsement


Barbara Lee made history-- captured on the video above-- when she displayed the guts to stand up and say "NO" to Bush/Cheney's rush to war against Afghanistan in the wake of the 9-11 attack that embarrassed them and exposed their incompetence. She was the only Member of Congress to do so. The war in Afghanistan has the distinction of being the longest-lasting war in American history. Usually forgotten by the media, it's still in progress. Last week Rep. Lee penned an OpEd for USA Today, Bring All Our Troops Home:
After nearly 13 years of war in Afghanistan, it is past time for all of our troops to return. It is also time to heed one of the war's most important lessons: Some problems cannot be solved at the point of a gun.

…We can and should play a supportive role along with others in the international community, but not by making the longest war in U.S. history even longer. Our troops have done more than enough; it is time for them to come home.

A future of hope and opportunity for Afghanistan begins with the full withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Today Rep. Lee announced that her Barbara Lee Progressive PAC's top 8 priorities for congressional action starts with "Bringing an end to perpetual war, saving trillions of dollars and millions of lives." And in conjunction with that announcement comes another-- her first endorsement of a challenger for the 2014 cycle, fellow Californian and fellow peace advocate, Lee Rogers. "Lee," she said, "is a doctor, a thinker, a progressive Democrat-- and, he can win. He’s running in California’s 25th Congressional District (Simi Valley-Santa Clarita area). It’s an open seat. And, the Nate Silver number crunchers say that it’s a district where Democrats can win. So help us put a progressive like Lee Rogers in it. She send this message out to her own followers today:
Want to know just how much of an ally Lee Rogers will be in Congress? Consider his philosophical approach from his website:

"Congressional insiders and K Street power brokers sold the well-being of our country in exchange for special deals and political favors.

"All this must stop. It must stop NOW! No more deals, no more special favors, no more double talk and political speak. It’s time to level with the voters, tell them the truth and get to the job of fixing the problems and restoring the promise of America."

This is the kind of fighting Democrat I need working beside progressives like Keith Ellison, Raul Grijalva, Alan Grayson and me in the House. I’m contributing to Lee. And, I hope you will too.
For his part, Dr. Rogers said he is proud of the backing his campaign is getting from the California powerhouse. "I'm honored to be endorsed by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, someone who is always on the right side of the moral issues of the day. As a doctor, I must use the highest standard of ethics when treating patients. I'll make sure to bring those same ethics to Washington. I look forward to working with Congresswoman Lee to improve the lives of those in my district and our country."

This week Blue America is encouraging progressives to contribute to Barbara Lee's and Lee Rogers' campaigns by offering one randomly selected donor who gives on this page (any amount) a rare, signed Beatles portrait by the band's favorite photographer, Robert Freeman, who shot 5 album covers for them starting in 1963. The iconic image on the cover of With The Beatles, personally signed by Freeman, is the one we are giving away this week. The image is 32" x 24" and perfect for framing.

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Monday, April 21, 2014

TimeWarner Cable-- Not Just Bad For Consumers… Bad For America


Last week Robert Reich penned a column about the Comcast acquisition of TimeWarner for his blog that I've been meaning to pass along, Antitrust in the New Guilded Age. I was a senior executive at TimeWarner when the horrific AOL merger happened. It's what led to me deciding to retire. Earlier this year, when the new merger was first announced, I suggested it would be an even worse disaster for consumers than the ill-fated AOL merger was. What Reich dealt with last week was how bad this merger is likely to be not just for consumers, but for the country and the fabric of our society-- yes, that bad.
We’re in a new gilded age of wealth and power similar to the first gilded age when the nation’s antitrust laws were enacted. Those laws should prevent or bust up concentrations of economic power that not only harm consumers but also undermine our democracy-- such as the pending Comcast acquisition of Time-Warner.

In 1890, when Republican Senator John Sherman of Ohio urged his congressional colleagues to act against the centralized industrial powers that threatened America, he did not distinguish between economic and political power because they were one and the same. The field of economics was then called “political economy,” and inordinate power could undermine both. “If we will not endure a king as a political power,” Sherman thundered, “we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”

Shortly thereafter, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed by the Senate 52 to 1, and moved quickly through the House without dissent. President Harrison signed it into law July 2, 1890.

In many respects America is back to the same giant concentrations of wealth and economic power that endangered democracy a century ago. The floodgates of big money have been opened even wider in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizen’s United vs. FEC and its recent McCutcheon decision.

Seen in this light, Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time-Warner for $45 billion is especially troublesome-- and not just because it may be bad for consumers. Comcast is the nation’s biggest provider of cable television and high-speed Internet service; Time Warner is the second biggest.

Last week, Comcast’s executives descended on Washington to persuade regulators and elected officials that the combination will be good for consumers. They say it will allow Comcast to increase its investments in cable and high-speed Internet, and encourage rivals to do so as well.

Opponents argue the combination will give consumers fewer choices, resulting in higher cable and Internet bills. And any company relying on Comcast’s pipes to get its content to consumers (think Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, or any distributor competing with Comcast’s own television network, NBCUniversal) also will have to pay more-- charges that will also be passed on to consumers.

I think the opponents have the better argument. Internet service providers in America are already too concentrated, which is why Americans pay more for Internet access than the citizens of almost any other advanced nation.

Some argue that the broadband market already has been carved up into a cartel, so blocking the acquisition would do little to bring down prices. One response would be for the Federal Communications Commission to declare broadband service a public utility and regulate prices.

But Washington should also examine a larger question beyond whether the deal is good or bad for consumers: Is it good for our democracy?

We haven’t needed to ask this question for more than a century because America hasn’t experienced the present concentration of economic wealth and power in more than a century.

But were Senator John Sherman were alive today he’d note that Comcast is already is a huge political player, contributing $1,822,395 so far in the 2013-2014 election cycle, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics-- ranking it 18th of all 13,457 corporations and organizations that have donated to campaigns since the cycle began.

Of that total, $1,346,410 has gone individual candidates, including John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid; $323,000 to Leadership PACs; $278,235 to party organizations; and $261,250 to super PACs.

Last year, Comcast also spent $18,810,000 on lobbying, the seventh highest amount of any corporation or organization reporting lobbying expenditures, as required by law.

Comcast is also one of the nation’s biggest revolving doors. Of its 107 lobbyists, 86 worked in government before lobbying for Comcast. Its in-house lobbyists include several former chiefs of staff  to Senate and House Democrats and Republicans as well as a former commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.

Nor is Time-Warner a slouch when it comes to political donations, lobbyists, and revolving doors. It also ranks near the top.

When any large corporation wields this degree of political influence it drowns out the voices of the rest of us, including small businesses. The danger is greater when such power is wielded by media giants because they can potentially control the marketplace of ideas on which a democracy is based.

When two such media giants merge, the threat is extreme. If film-makers, television producers, directors, and news organizations have to rely on Comcast to get their content to the public, Comcast is able to exercise a stranglehold on what Americans see and hear.

Remember, this is occurring in America’s new gilded age-- similar to the first one in which a young Teddy Roosevelt castigated the “malefactors of great wealth, who were “equally careless of the working men, whom they oppress, and of the State, whose existence they imperil.”

It’s that same equal carelessness toward average Americans and toward our democracy that ought to be of primary concern to us now. Big money that engulfs government makes government incapable of protecting the rest of us against the further depredations of big money.

After becoming President in 1901, Roosevelt used the Sherman Act against forty-five giant companies, including the giant Northern Securities Company that threatened to dominate transportation in the Northwest. William Howard Taft continued to use it, busting up the Standard Oil Trust in 1911.

In this new gilded age, we should remind ourselves of a central guiding purpose of America’s original antitrust law, and use it no less boldly. 

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Planning to have a big blow-out with the significant other? First wolf down a big, gooey sundae


This is Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman showing the sort of voodoo doll used by test subjects to stick pins in to reflect anger levels at their spouses. Apparently no option was offered to stick pins in Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman. Tell the truth now -- you'd like to, wouldn't you?

by Ken

Non-confrontational people who normally shy away from knock-down, drag-out battles with their spouses or significant others may want to rethink that habit as a result of a new study showing that the best time for couples to mix it up is when they're on sugar highs, meaning that pre-confrontation prep can include carbing up to your heart's content, with a real focus on dumping as much sugar as you can into your system. I'm thinking like a three-scoop hot-fudge sundae with nuts, whipped cream, and maybe two or three cherries. This used to be called "pigging out." Now it's science.

This was all worked out in a study at the Ohio State University (notice how I know that you're supposed to say "the" Ohio State University; the anonymous writer of the Bloomberg news report I'm working from doesn't seem to know this) whose findings were published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That's the lead author, Brad Bushman, seen up above holding a voodoo doll of the sort that was used by the couples in the study to register their spousal anger levels.

The folks at Bloomberg News seem pretty excited about this. Here's how they start their report, headlined in the Washington Post "Here’s a reason not to get into a serious discussion when you’re hungry":
Serious discussions between spouses shouldn’t take place on an empty stomach, a study suggests.

Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to findings published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

Sugar, or glucose, is used as fuel by the brain to help regulate self-control. Without the fuel, it is more difficult for people to control such emotions as anger and aggression, researchers said. The findings are among the first to show how low blood sugar levels may play a part in marital arguments, confrontations and even domestic violence, said the study’s lead author, Brad Bushman of Ohio State University,

In the study, 107 married couples tested their blood-sugar levels before breakfast and before bed. They were also given voodoo dolls representing their spouses and told to insert as many as 51 pins daily depending on how angry they were with their partner.

Those with the lowest nighttime blood-sugar levels inserted the most pins, the study found. Women tended to stick more pins into their voodoo dolls than men did, but the difference wasn’t significant.
Okay, there's nothing about hot-fudge sundaes here. I'm just trying to take it the extra step to show how practical seemingly peculiar scientific research can be. In this case, for example, I'm not entirely sure that this business of sticking pins in the little voodoo dolls correlates all that precisely with degrees of felt anger. I'm inclined to think that it may overrecord the anger level of particularly tactile or crafts-oriented spouses who get a kick out of playing with pins and pin cushions, while underrecording the feelings of a spouse who really wants to give his/her partner a good belt in the gut and nothing else will do. I also worry a little about encouraging this pin-sticking-in mode of sublimation and wonder if any follow-up was done to see whether post-test couples showed any tendency to start sticking pins in each other.

Note that the study was conducted entirely via pin-sticking.
After 21 days, the couples went into a laboratory, where they were told they would compete with their spouse to see who could press a button the fastest to test aggressive behavior. The winners could blast their spouse with a loud noise through headphones. In reality, the spouses were playing against a computer. Those with the lowest average nighttime blood-sugar levels sent louder and longer noises to their spouse.

“If couples have a sensitive topic to discuss, it would be really smart to do it over dinner or, better yet, after dinner,” Bushman said. “They should definitely not do it on an empty stomach.” Low blood sugar can trigger hormones that cause people to become more aggressive, anxious and irritable, said Timothy Graham, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Utah, who wasn’t involved with the study.
I'm not sure exactly why this Timothy Graham fellow from Utah is horning in, seeing as how he wasn't involved with the study. Apparently he felt the need to get his two cents' worth in about low blood sugar and hormones and becoming more aggressive. It sounds to me like he has issues eh should be working out on his own time.

To return briefly to my Hot-Fudge Sundae Theory, the idea (as I've worked it out so far) is that by getting your glucose levels up, the big fight either won't be so big or maybe will just be more fun.

Hey, it's not pigging out, it's science.


After Steve Israel's Coming Washout, Who Will Take Over The DCCC?


If the Democrats were to win back the House in November-- and a herd of golden unicorns parading down Pennsylvania Avenue in honor of Earth Day tomorrow is more likely-- Steve Israel would be a hero and be asked to remain on as chairman for another cycle. There's no chance, not even a small one, that that will happen. Israel is the least competent DCCC chairman in history and Pelosi's unwillingness to fire him after his catastrophic performance in the 2012 cycle, is dooming America to another two years of a dysfunctional GOP-led House. Inside the Beltway, people are already openly speculating who the next DCCC chair will be.

Last week Alex Isenstadt, writing for Politico, emphasized the DCCC's sad defensive crouch leading up to November, at which time Republicans are likely to increase their majority, thanks almost entirely to Israel's inability to mater his job. "House Democrats," asserts Isenstadt, "battered by Koch brothers ads and facing a grim outlook for the midterms, are providing the clearest indication yet of how they plan to respond: By shoring up imperiled incumbents and only the most promising challengers, but most likely leaving some of the party’s upstart hopefuls to fend for themselves… The focus on protecting incumbents is fueling anxiety among Democratic challengers that they won’t receive campaign resources from the national party… Some Democrats say the party is adopting a “hold the line” approach: focus on helping incumbents get reelected, limit losses and look toward 2016, which could be a much more favorable year for Democrats." What a leader Pelosi and Hoyer saddled the DCCC with!

"Ex"-Blue Dog Israel used the DCCC to recruit and finance a mangy array of fellow Blue Dogs, all of whom failed and managed to waste millions and millions of dollars. He's trying to same thing this year-- both for Blue Dogs, all of whom are already failing-- and New Dems. The New Dems-- along with the Blue Dogs, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- are determined to keep control of the committee and their candidate to take over from Israel is one of the Democrats' top Wall Street whores, Connecticul bankster shill Jim Himes. These were Wall Street's biggest "political investments" in the 2012 cycle. You'll note all but two were Republicans and one of those Democrats, Himes, may soon be working for Wall Street as DCCC chair:

House progressives would like to wrest control of the DCCC from the Republican-wing of the party. The failed underlying precept that Democrats can win seats by acting like Republicans has been a disaster that progressives want to eliminate as DCCC doctrine. The Alan Grayson video at the top of the page doesn't go over well with Blue Dogs and New Dems. Donna Edwards (D-MD), who has labored tirelessly at the DCCC trying to restore a sense of balance and fairness is the progressive frontrunner in the race. And, Jared Polis, a bit of an odd duck, is also a frontrunner. Polis, the wealthiest Democrat in the House, is one of the only Members who is both a New Dem and a Member of the Progressive Caucus. He's socially liberal and generally stands with the conservative on economic issues.
Running the DCCC presents a tall order for the next chairman-- Democrats lost the House majority in 2010 and gained eight seats in the 2012 cycle. Because of redistricting, and political and historical factors, Democrats are also expected to lose seats in 2014. So retaking the majority-- the top priority of the DCCC chair-- appears a better bet in the long term.

Some believe 2016 will be kinder to Democrats than recent cycles, especially if Hillary Clinton tops the ticket, driving fundraising and turnout to higher levels for the party up and down the ticket.

There is also the money business. The DCCC has consistently outraised its Republican equivalent, the National Republican Congressional Committee. Last year, Democrats brought in $75.8 million year compared with the NRCC’s $60.6 million.

Ultimately, the head of the campaign committee will be handpicked by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), or her successor-- likely Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)-- if she were to step aside. So far, Pelosi has been resolute about her plans to stay through 2016.

Himes and Polis both said it would be “an honor” to be considered as chair-- a sentiment echoed by a senior aide for Edwards.

“I have been focused on being part of the team. I’m honored to play whatever role the leader chooses for me,” Polis said.

And even though Israel says he isn’t interested, he can’t yet be counted out. If as expected Pelosi remains leader, there will be little wiggle room in Democratic leadership as Hoyer and Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) will most likely remain in their posts.

That would mean if Israel left the DCCC, he would rejoin the rank and file.

“If Steve Israel wants to do it again, it’s his. You never say never. He’s a name that you don’t automatically take off the board,” said a former DCCC staffer.

Seven months out, there isn’t yet a front-runner among the three current contenders.

Multiple former DCCC staffers and leadership aides described the selection as a fluid process. Fundraising and recruiting top-tier candidates plays a role, but the choice ultimately comes down to personality. Israel was a close friend of Pelosi’s before getting the nod.

“It’s going to be who leader Pelosi is most comfortable with. It’s an intangible thing,” said a former leadership aide. “There isn’t a point system like the NFL draft.”

For now, Pelosi is staying out of the debate. A person close to Pelosi said she is laser-focused on 2014 and hasn’t given much thought to the next chairperson.

Polis is the only candidate actively campaigning. His camp is pushing the Colorado Democrat’s prolific fundraising as proof that Polis would be up to the challenge of raising hundreds of millions for House Democrats.

He’s given more than $512,000 this cycle to the Democrats’ attempts to turn out Republican incumbents and another $740,000 in general funds to the DCCC, according to caucus reports obtained by Politico.

Since 2010, Polis has exceeded his fundraising goals each cycle and senior aides stress that Polis would be well-placed to tap into money in the Rocky Mountain corridor if selected.

“There are a bunch of things he brings to the table. He is independently wealthy, he’s a strong fundraiser and he’s in a safe seat in a battleground state,” the former DCCC staffer said.

As a former Goldman Sachs vice president, Himes is able to tap into Wall Street for fundraising, Democrat strategists say, potentially bringing back into the fold a group of donors who have been put off by President Barack Obama’s political bashing of the wealthy.

…If Edwards got the nod, it would be a historic choice. An African-American has never led the DCCC, and it’s been more than a decade since a woman was in the top role. She also has had success recruiting women to run through the committee’s Red to Blue program, which targets districts that generally trend toward Republicans in hopes of electing Democrats there.

Edwards doesn’t have the fundraising chops of Polis and Himes, but she has proven an ability to recruit a broad group of candidates-- she’s credited with bringing in record-high numbers of women to run during the 2012 cycle, and she’s the current chair of the DCCC’s recruitment committee. It’s a skill the former senior leadership aide said shouldn’t be counted out.

“As long as Pelosi remains leader, she will always be the chief fundraiser for the party and that means fundraising will always be second to the chairperson’s ability to recruit candidates and navigate the politics of the caucus,” said the former aide.

Edwards has given just $86,000 to the DCCC so far this cycle and an additional $147,000 to its Red to Blue program.
Edwards has demonstrated an ability to do something neither of the two Big Money candidates has: activate the Democratic base. Edwards first won her seat by beating an Establishment favorite-- both Hoyer and Pelosi campaigned against her-- who was a corrupt, conservative corporate shill, Al Wynn (currently a lobbyist, of course). Her two-cycle campaign was a classic example of how to run a grassroots insurgency, something the DCCC is in desperate need of. If Pelosi, who admires Edwards, gives her the job, there is little doubt that the Democrats will again take over the House-- giving Pelosi the opportunity to be Speaker again before she retires. Edwards, an activist at heart, is a strategic thinker who is not wedded to failed old strategies. She's tough and relentless-- and will never give Republican chairmen and senior policy makers a free pass the way Israel does. Prediction: if Edwards becomes DCCC Chair, Fred Upton's career-- for one example-- will be over. If Himes becomes chair, he and Upton will... become closer friends.

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Jennifer Garrison-- A Portrait In DCCC/Blue Dog Failure… A Stepford Candidate


More dysfunction at the DCCC

Usually when Steve Israel recruit Jennifer Garrison makes the news it's about her anti-LGBT mania, her anti-Choice advocacy or her work on behalf of frackers in Ohio. But a few days ago she made a different kind of news-- her utter failure to raise the minimal amounts to stay on the DCCC Red to Blue Emerging Races list, not that the smitten Israel would ever really throw her off. Despite all the help she's getting from Blue Dogs, corrupt lobbyists, Steny Hoyer and Steve Israel, the wealthy oil and gas industry attorney had no choice but to write her campaign a big check.
Of the $199,683 raised by Jennifer Garrison, a Democrat in the 6th Congressional District race, during the first quarter of the year, $107,000 came from a loan she gave the campaign with $3,666 more in in-kind contributions.

Garrison’s financial contributions to her campaign represent 55.4 percent of the total amount of money she raised between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Garrison, of Marietta, an attorney and former three-term Ohio House member, loaned the campaign the $107,000 on March 24, according to a financial report filed with the Federal Election Commission. The in-kind money went primarily toward running her campaign office in Marietta for expenses such as rent, utilities and email service.

Less than a month ago, Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call, a nonpartisan group that handicaps congressional elections, changed the status of the 6th District from “leans Republican” to “Republican favored.” The reason cited was “some of [Garrison’s] stances on social issues have put her at odds with liberal Democrats across the state, and that could make fundraising difficult for her.”
The progressive in the race, Democratic activist and organic farmer Greg Howard, entered too late to have an FEC report this quarter, but his grassroots campaign ins't about lining the pockets of predatory Beltway consultants the way Garrison's is. He's prioritizing voter contact rather than donor ass-kissing. [Blue America has endorsed him and you can contribute to his campaign here.] This was the most recent Rothenberg analysis of the OH-06 race. Short, less diplomatic version: Steve Israel is wasting his time and DCCC resources:
Ohio Republican Bill Johnson is an unassuming House Member who was elected in the GOP wave of 2010. His 53 percent re-election total has Democrats believing that a conservative Democrat would have a fighting chance against Johnson in the Republican-leaning 6th District.

While Jennifer Garrison’s profile as a moderate Democrat might be a good fit for the district, some of her stances on social issues have put her at odds with liberal Democrats across the state, and that could make fundraising more difficult for her.

Garrison is caught in a very tough political position. She must demonstrate a level of independence from President Barack Obama and the national Democratic Party in order to win a majority in the district while needing to raise money from traditional Democratic groups to communicate her message effectively.

Plenty of eyes will be on Garrison’s next fundraising report in mid-April. She has the opportunity to climb back into the conversation of competitive races but also risks falling further down the list of Democratic opportunities.

We are changing our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race to Republican Favored from Leans Republican.
Early this morning, Marianne Williamson, the progressive Independent running way across the country in CA-33, e-mailed me that she thought something she had written would be right up the alley of DWT readers. I agree… and it's what separates hacks like Garrison from stimulating and inspiring candidates like Williamson. Every district should be so lucky as to have a candidate like this running for Congress, asking voters not to be Stepford Citizens:
There’s a certain je ne sais quoi that Americans have in spades: a we-can-do-anything spirit that makes so many things possible for all of us. We’re rugged individualists, aspirational in nature, and we like to think for ourselves.

Who we are as individuals, however, is often quite different than who we are as a group.

Whether it’s because of television or the Internet or whatever other factor, we seem to have a Groupthink mentality these days. And that Groupthink is so easily manipulated by media images, those images seem to overwhelm the nonsense detector otherwise working for us in our private lives.

As individuals, for instance, we’re very clear that we don’t like to be controlled, or manipulated, lied to, or treated unfairly. As a group, however, we’re acting as though we don’t mind.

National Defense Authorization Act, giving the government the ability to indefinitely detain US citizens?

Nah, we don’t mind.

Drones on their way, with the technological capacity to track everything from our sex lives to our log-in information?

Nah, we don’t mind.

Multi-national industries having more influence over our government than we do?

Nah, we don’t mind.

The highest mass incarceration rate in the world, with huge numbers of inmates either non-violent drug offenders or mentally ill?

Nah, we don’t mind.

A permanent war machine, with the President handed year after year the authorization to do whatever he wants wherever he wants, as long as it even vaguely fits the “fighting terrorism” label?

Nah, we don’t mind.

And the list goes on. As individuals, we’re as spunky as ever. But as members of a larger society, we’ve become “Stepford citizens.” We're allowing things we wouldn’t in a million years allow to happen in our personal lives. Being lied to, manipulated and ripped off isn’t okay if you’re doing it to me personally, but if you’re doing it to me as a member of a group then I’ll just magically figure it won’t have consequences in my life.

And there’s the rub. When it comes to politics today, the devils’ not in the details; the devil’s in the big picture. More often than not, he's hiding in plain sight. His minions are wearing a business suit and a smiley face. He is selling us ruin and calling it progress. He is selling us destruction and calling it security. He is dismantling our democracy and saying it's just the way things are.

And the only real problem is that we’re buying it.

We seem to think it’s not so bad, we don’t have to worry, it’s paranoia to be concerned, it’s just negative to mention anything unpleasant after all. But that is not the spirit of who are as individuals, and it isn’t the spirit of who we should be as a group. A threat to our freedom is a threat to our freedom, whether from a terrorist or from a trade deal. I suggest we become as a nation who we are as individuals: not so easily fooled, alert to danger if danger appears, and ready to do the job necessary to respond to it and ward it off.
Also in California, Lee Rogers is not running in some safe Democratic seat. Since first coming into being, CA-25 has been in Republican hands. The PVI is R+3. In 2012, Rogers came close enough to beating 11-term incumbent Buck McKeon so that McKeon chose to avoid a rematch and "retire" to K Street. But Rogers, who has been endorsed by progressive icons like Florida Democrat Alan Grayson, fellow Californian Barbara Lee, Congressional Progressice Caucus Chairman Raul Grijalva, and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders, isn't running some kind of Israel-mandated "mystery meat" campaign. Watch his closing statement at the debate he had with the two right-wing extremists the GOP is fielding, Tony Strickland and Steve Knight. You walk away from this knowing exactly where Rogers' stands and that he is there for working families, not for wealthy campaign donors. Yes, he's a collegial, bipartisan guy by nature but listen carefully to how he presents himself to independent Santa Clarita voters, the ones who will determine who wins in November:
"No party has a monopoly on good ideas. But when one party is shameless-- as we're seeing now with the current Ryan budget-- the other party cannot afford to be spineless. I'm proud to be a Democrat. I'm proud to be a part of the party that brought you Medicare and Social Security. I think that if Tony Strickland or Steve Knight were elected, they would do everything to work with Paul Ryan and the Koch brothers to dismantle those two programs. I'm proud to be part of the party that brought you the 40 hour work week and the Family Medical Leave Act and I want to see us go even further. I want to see paid maternity leave and I want to see paid vacation. I'll stand up for the middle class working families. I don't think Steve Knight and Tony Strickland will stand up for you. I think they will stand on you to further their own political agendas.

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How Would You Like Two More Like Elizabeth Warren?


Do conservative voting records by vulnerable Democrats like Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Pryor (AR), and John Walsh (MT) make it hard for you to get worked up about Democrats whining that they could lose the Senate? Are Steve Israel's reactionary Blue Dog and New Dem recruits, like Jennifer Garrison (OH), John Lewis (MT), Gwen Graham (FL), Pete Aguilar (CA), Jerry Cannon (MI), Ann Callis (IL), James Lee Witt (AR), Bill Hughes (NJ) and Suzanne Patrick (VA), demotivating you from even caring how badly the Democrats will lose the House again in November? Do you miss 2012 when at least we had the inspiration of Elizabeth Warren to focus on?

I have good news-- despite the DSCC, there isn't just one potential Elizabeth Warren to get excited about this cycle; there are two, Shenna Bellows in Maine and Rick Weiland in South Dakota, two races the Beltway Democrats have studiously ignored but who, much to the chagrin of laughable would-be power brokers like Guy Cecil, are breaking through the clutter anyway. Bellows, a civil liberties dynamo and former Executive Director of the Maine ACLU, and Weiland, a folksy; prairie populist inspired by George McGovern, Paul Wellstone and Warren herself, have steep paths to victory. But where you would once hear only, "you're crazy; that's impossible," now you sense people are taking a second look, paying attention. Most of the Democrats in the Senate, including all of the good ones, from Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Brian Schatz, Mazie Hirono, Tom Harkin and Jeff Merkley to Elizabeth Warren, Barbara Boxer and Ed Markey have already endorsed and donated to Weiland. It is nothing but the pigheadedness of Guy Cecil that is keeping Rick from being endorsed by the DSCC. Cecil already gave up trying to hold back Bellows and allowed the DSCC to endorse her last month. Her problem is that she's running against fake "moderate" Susan Collins, who Democrats count on to help out once in a while, usually when Republican leaders don't really care that much.

Friday, writing for The Nation, John Nichols, moved the narrative along for Bellows, who has yet to be endorsed by even one U.S. Senator, but is piling up an impressive array of national grassroots organizations behind her. His first sentence should get anyone to pay attention: "The woman who could be the future of progressive politics in America is sitting at the back table of an Indian restaurant in Portland, Maine." 
Bellows knows she can’t match the millions her opponent, three-term Senator Susan Collins, has banked-- or the millions that wealthy donors are ready to spend in Maine and other states to make Mitch McConnell the Senate’s next majority leader. The Democrat is satisfied if the Mainers she calls give $5. That’s because Bellows isn’t really dialing for dollars. She’s dialing for activists. “We had over 200 volunteers gathering signatures in Maine to put me on the ballot. They were talking to friends and family members about who I am and what our campaign represents,” she explains. “We then invited the signature-gatherers to speak on my behalf at Democratic caucuses. So we had 100 volunteers speak at 150 different caucuses across the state. This is the movement that we are building: a movement for social justice, environmental justice and economic justice. And it’s working.”

Bellows began her run against Collins-- who despite her “moderate” label has drifted with her party to the right on economic and social issues-- as an off-the-radar challenger. The 39-year-old former head of the Maine ACLU had no money, little name recognition, and a set of principles and positions that sometimes put her at odds with top Democrats. Bellows runs left on healthcare (she’s for single-payer) and climate change (don’t get her started on the Keystone pipeline), yet she makes common cause with libertarians on marijuana legalization and privacy rights. She speaks comfortably of building coalitions with independent-minded Tea Party activists against cronyism and corruption. Bellows believes in pushing political boundaries, and in Maine-- with its history of electing independent governors and senators-- it seems to be working. The challenger turned heads when, with those $5 donations from working-class Mainers, she outraised Collins in the last quarter of 2013. Even skeptics have begun to note the ease with which this first-time candidate-- the daughter of a carpenter and a nurse, whose home had no electricity during much of her childhood-- makes connections with disenfranchised and disengaged voters. Bellows has gained endorsements from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (which calls her “the Elizabeth Warren of civil liberties”), Democracy for America, MoveOn and, belatedly, at the end of March, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

This year’s fierce competition for control of the Senate is generally framed in terms that make sense to Washington operatives: cash on hand, famous names, carefully crafted talking points. By those measures, Republicans are thought to have the upper hand in most of the thirty-six contests that will be decided in an off-year election where turnout is down and the Koch brothers’ spending is up. If Democrats are going to upset this calculus, they’ll need unexpected wins in unlikely states. That means they’d better start considering contenders who have tossed aside lame messaging memos in favor of grassroots organizing. Like South Dakota Democrat Rick Weiland, who is well on his way to visiting every one of that state’s 311 towns, Bellows is focusing not just on Maine’s Democratic-leaning cities but on rural areas. She’s already identified supporters in 366 small towns, and the numbers are rising.

Bellows is determined to organize her way to the Senate. With the ACLU, she got Maine Democrats and Republicans working together to pass legislation requiring warrants for access to cellphone records. When Maine Republicans eliminated same-day voter registration, she co-chaired the 2011 Protect Maine Votes coalition, which put it on the ballot and secured a landslide vote to restore it. A year later, with Mainers United for Marriage, she helped organize the referendum campaign that overturned a 2009 ban on same-sex marriage. “No one thought we could win. Outside political observers said, ‘It’s too soon-- you just lost in 2009,’” Bellows recalls. “We said, ‘We know we have the right message, we’re on the right side of history, and we have a highly organized field plan to win.’ And we did. This is a very similar campaign. It’s a David and Goliath race, but we know we have the right message. Most Mainers think we should raise the minimum wage. Most Mainers are concerned about climate change. Most Mainers think we should restore civil liberties.”

As she talks through her organizing strategy, Bellows reminds me of a former farm organizer who ran an impossible campaign for a Minnesota Senate seat in 1990. When I mention this, Bellows doesn’t miss a beat. “Yes,” she says. “And Paul Wellstone won.”
Nichols was incorrect about one thing. He described Rick Weiland as "well on his way to visiting every one of that state’s 311 towns." He completed the last town, tiny Hudson (pop. 296) on Tuesday. If you don't live in one of those 311 towns and you want to check out what Weiland is all about, you could go to his campaign website. There, the first thing you will see on the very top of the page is a this statement:
The first bill Rick will introduce in the Senate os a Constitutional Amendment that reads: So that the votes of all, rather than the wealth of the few, shall direct the course of this Republic, Congress shall have the power to limit the raising and spending of money with respect to federal elections.
Rick grounds his populist message in a clear call to get Big Money out of politics. It's a popular message with ordinary voters, if not with the Beltway Establishment.

Elizabeth Warren isn't going to transform America alone. Susan Collins and Mike Rounds are impediments to what she's trying to do to move the ball down the field. There is no doubt which team Rick Weiland and Shenna Bellows will be playing for-- the team that supports the ordinary working families in their states and this country. You can help both win these two uplifting battles here on the Blue America ActBlue Senate page. Taking our country back is a theme that can be used on both sides of the aisle, but among progressives, it means stopping the plutocrats and oligarchs from further eroding American democracy.

Elizabeth Warren has endorsed Rick Weiland-- while the DSCC fiddles

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