Sunday, August 19, 2018

Do The Republicans Have An Ace Up Their Sleeves For November?


Last week, Señor Trumpanzee schlepped his fat ass to upstate New York to campaign for Congresswomen Elise Stefanik (NY-21) and Claudia Tenney (NY-22). Stepfanik didn't want one of his raucus, hate-filled. red-meat rallies so they orchestrated a bill signing ceremony at Fort Drum. Trump managed to make a spectacle of himself anyway, signing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act without mentioning John McCain's name.

Later he went down to Utica, to hold a high-dough fundraiser at the Doubletree Hotel for Tenney. He called her wing-wing Blue Dog opponent, Anthony Brindisi, "a puppet of Nancy Pelosi" and babbled one of his inauthentic, one-size-fits-all lines about how Tenney won't have a problem beating him. Outside the event there were about 100 racist Trump supporters screaming about illegals. They were out-numbers by protesters. Two days later Inside Elections changed the rating for Tenney from Tilt Republican to Toss Up. Nathan Gonzales also changed ratings for Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Pete Roskam (R-IL), and John Faso (R-NY). He also changed the ratings for the open CA-49 race (Issa's seat) and for Barbara Comstock's race to Tilt Democratic from Toss Up. In all. he shifted 30 races away from Republicans and towards Democrats. He said the Republicans aren't facing a wave as much as raging fires. "Whether it’s GOP Members in Hillary Clinton districts, extraordinary Democratic challengers and fundraising, competitive open seats, or lazy incumbents," wrote Gonzales, "Republicans have dozens of fires around the country, and the party might not have enough resources to put them all out."

I'm not so sure about that "might not have enough resources to put them all out" resources. Conservative billionaires are ready to spend more money than on any midterm in history. According to a NY Times report yesterday, the GOP tax scam that is so unpopular with ordinary Americans is a big hit with corporations multimillionaires and billionairesand they ponying up, "unlocking tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations from the wealthy conservatives and corporate interests that benefited handsomely from it... Billionaires and corporations that reaped millions of dollars in tax cuts are pumping some of that windfall into the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC closely aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan that is flooding the airwaves and front porches of swing congressional districts with increasingly sharp attacks on the Democratic candidates vying to wrest control of the House."

Is in enough to thwart the massive anti-red wave that has been forming up ever since Trump started tweeting from the White House? If the polling, special elections and primaries we've seen so far are an indication, it doesn't matter how much the millionaires and billionaires flush down Ryan's toilet to save the compliant Republican majority in the House. At this point, it would be a safe bet to assume the Republicans are going to lose not the 23 seats that will put them in the minority, but as many as 70 seats that will put them in the history books.

Is there anything that could save them? Absolutely-- the same thing that saved Trump in 2016: the Kremlin. Ken Dilanian, reporting for NBC News, noted that Bill Nelson wasn't making things up when he said Russians hacked Florida's election system.. At this point Florida appears to be the most likely state to miss the anti-red wave. That's odd considering the wretched GOP candidates, from Rick Scott to Ron DeSantis-- until you factor in Russian hacking. The GOP enablers of the Russian efforts are losing their shit over Nelson blowing the whistle on Kremlin penetration of the state's voting system-- especially Rick Scott, the most crooked and corrupt governor in America, who "blasted his claim as irresponsible. The top Florida elections official, also a Republican, said he had seen no indication it's true." And the Washington Post, that bastion of Beltway status quo, agreed and "all but accused Nelson-- without evidence-- of making it up."
However, three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson's assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security.

The episode illustrates the extent to which secrecy, politics and state-federal rivalries can stand in the way of a unified response to the threat from Russian attacks on a diffuse U.S. election system run by state and local officials. Through a spokesman, Nelson declined to comment.

At a, Aug. 7 campaign event in Florida's capital, Nelson said Intelligence Committee leaders asked that he "let supervisors of elections in Florida know that Russians are inside our records." He added that Russian hackers "have already penetrated certain counties in the state and they now have free rein to move about."

"Either Bill Nelson knows of crucial information the federal government is withholding from Florida election officials, or he is simply making things up," said Scott, who is seeking to take Nelson's Senate seat, which the senator has held since 2001.

But Scott, who as governor has a security clearance, has not actually disputed Nelson's assertion. His spokesman said the governor had not personally called anyone at the Department of Homeland Security to seek a classified briefing to get to the bottom of the matter. The governor's appointee to supervise elections in Florida, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, was reaching out to federal officials for clarity, spokesman McKinley Lewis told NBC News.

Detzner faced criticism this year for delaying an application for federal funds to improve Florida election security, only to be overruled by the governor.

A February report by the left-leaning Center for American Progress gave Florida an "F" grade for election security, one of only five states that received a failing grade. Florida was one of 21 states notified by DHS that it had been targeted by hackers in the 2016 election.

NBC's sources declined to provide the exact details of what Nelson was attempting to describe, because they remain classified. They said Nelson was talking about intelligence related to ongoing repercussions stemming from a 2016 hack of a Florida elections vendor, VR Systems, based in Tallahassee. They said the intelligence had been described to Nelson by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, and Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat.

A Top Secret National Security Agency document leaked last year to The Intercept website said that VR Systems had been penetrated in August 2016 by hackers working for Russian military intelligence, and that the hackers "likely used data obtained from that operation to... launch a voter registration-themed spear-phishing campaign targeting U.S. local government organizations."

The NSA report didn't name the company but it described some of its products, making clear which company was being referenced, the Intercept reported. VR Systems Chief Operating Officer Ben Martin did not respond to a request for comment.

The report described a scheme in which Russian hackers tricked local government voter systems officials into clicking on bogus links that would allow the hackers to access credentials for voting systems.

The report said it was unknown to what extent the campaign had been successful, and what data on "election-related hardware and software applications" may have been obtained.

"The threat from that breach seems to be ongoing," a cybersecurity expert briefed on the matter told NBC News. In addition to Florida, VR Systems has contracts in California, Illinois and Indiana, its website says.

The sources say Nelson was not supposed to speak publicly about the matter, and he erred by suggesting that the information was new. Still, Nelson and Florida's other senator, Republican Marco Rubio, were asked to warn local officials about the ongoing threat to election systems by Russian state-sponsored hackers, two sources told NBC News. Rubio alluded to the matter with county officials in private, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which cited two sources who were in the room.

None of the senators on the intelligence committee would confirm Nelson's assertions. Nor would they deny it.

"While I understand your questions regarding Senator Nelson's recent public comments, I respectfully advise you to continue engaging directly with those federal agencies responsible for notifying you of and mitigating any potential intrusions," Burr said in a letter to Florida's top election official.

The Department of Homeland Security also declined to confirm or deny Nelson's comments.

Sara Sendek, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement: "While we are aware of Senator Nelson's recent statements, we have not seen any new compromises by Russian actors of election infrastructure. That said, we don't need to wait for a specific threat to be ready."

Nelson's remarks came after he and Rubio sent a letter to Florida officials urging them to take seriously the threat of Russian election intervention.

"We encourage you in the strongest terms to take advantage" of help from federal officials, the letter said.

Warner said in a statement that "Russian activities continue to pose a threat to the security of our elections, as Senators Nelson and Rubio rightly pointed out in their letter… I hope all state and local elections officials, including Florida's, will take this issue seriously."

Rubio, who serves on the intelligence committee and has frequently expressed concerns about discussing classified information, declined to address Nelson's assertion directly.

"Given the importance of Florida in our national politics, our state's election systems have been and will remain a potentially attractive target for attacks by foreign actors," the Republican senator said in a statement.

Nelson, who had served in the past on the intelligence committee, has been unable to fully respond to the criticism of his comments, presumably because he spoke out of turn about classified information.

When he made the remarks Aug. 7, he was asked, "Do you know which records the Russians are accessing?"

He replied, "That's classified."
Yeah, that's literally the only way the Republicans can save themselves from electoral catastrophe in November. Selling out our democracy-- our country-- to the Russian kleptocrat. Easy enough too see Trump doing that... but Ryan, McConnell... the whole party? Has it gone that far down the road?

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Valerie Plame knows treachery and treason. She experienced it first hand at the grubby little paws of Scooter Libby and his boss Dick Cheney (and other Bush staff) when they deliberately betrayed her cover as one of our agents. Libby took the fall. Cheney still roams free, unpunished for this and other crimes. We will probably never know how many or Plame's pro-American contacts and informants died because of the betrayal. It's the stuff of spy novels, except that it happened in the real world.

To top it off, Fake President Trump pardoned Scooter Libby almost as soon as he could. Perhaps in his mind he thought he was setting a precedent of pardoning people for treason. Perhaps he thought putting the idea of pardons for treason out there would come in handy at some rapidly approaching future date. Maybe he wants to sell hats that say "Pardons For Treason" or the pardons themselves. He could open up a Trump Pardon Booth in the Rose Garden. Looks like there could be quite a line, a line that would, if we had a real justice system, extend at least all the way to the Capitol Building.

Valerie Plame has seen a lot. She knows Nixon and Reagan never faced trial for their treason, blatant screaming treason performed just in the service of getting elected in the first place. So, it's unlikely that Trump needed a treason pardon precedent for himself, although in his obviously demented brain, who knows what he was thinking, if thinking is even a concept in the mind of Trump at this point. As evidenced by his tweets and other public statements, it's more of a reptilian just react kind of thing with him.

I like tonight's meme. It's good to hear from people who have been there. I do have one minor issue with Valerie Plame though. You see, I think she has insulted the maggot community. Maggots can actually perform useful services for humanity. For instance, if you were marooned in some remote location, far from any medical help, and, you were afflicted with a case of gangrene, a handful of carefully placed maggots will eat up the infection quite quickly. Good to know, eh? Funny, maybe maggots and those who use them are smarter than us. We're just letting America's infection turn into a great festering inland sea of steaming puss and, eventually, kill us.

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Franklin And Eleanor Roosevelt Wing vs The Joe Lieberman And Blanche Lincoln Wing


No, not just another pretty face

Democrats from the Democratic wing of the party-- people in the tradition of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt rather than Joe Lieberman and Blanche Lincoln-- had some nice strong wins Tuesday. It was very healthy for the Democratic Party in general that Chamber of Commerce Democrat Mary Glassman was defeated by Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes in Connecticut, that progressives with powerful personal brands like Randy Bryce WI-01) and Ilhan Omar (MN-05) were nominated for congressional races they should win and that Vermont Democratic voters overwhelmingly picked Christine Hallquist, a transgender women, as their nominee for governor. In fact, not only did Hallquist outpoll popular Republican incumbent Phil Scott Democratic turnout was 57,102 compared to Republican turnout of just 35,840, despite a barn-burner primary on the GOP side. Actually significantly more Democrats voted than Republicans-- both statewide and in every contested congressional race-- in all 4 states that had primaries. Even in midwestern districts that Trump won in 2016, Democrats showed up in greater numbers than did Republicans. All good.

Yesterday, Reid Wison, a tepid status quo pundit type, writing for The Hill sounded almost like yours truly did a year ago-- throwing at the possibility that the GOP could be facing a 70-seat wipeout. You rarely-- really rarely-- hear that kind of talk inside the Beltway. He points to "Democratic enthusiasm and a GOP malaise surrounding" Señor Trumpanzee and the table being set for "a potentially devastating midterm election for the House Republican majority." He talked about Democrats over performing Hillary and Republicans underperforming Trumpanzee in the special elections. "If that pattern holds in November," he offers, "the worst-case scenario for the GOP is a truly historic wipeout of as many as 72 House seats." I've been hearing others say "as many as 80."

Wilson's a hack though and he immediately launched into all his buts-- like this classic foolishness: "Turnout in November is likely to be higher, which could help the GOP." Or it could help the Democrats-- as it probably will-- but that depends on where that higher turnout comes from. There's no reason to think that it will come from, even what he himself referred to voters suffering from "a GOP malaise" brought on by the monstrosity in the White House. Judging from trends and Trump's increasing psychosis, that malaise is far more likely to grow than subside-- and Democrats are revving up by the day. Even someone like myself, who has talked for years about not voting for the lesser of two evils, is now urging everyone to just hold their noses and vote for even the worst Democrats just to get the House majority to but Trump in check.

A far sharper observer than Wilson could ever hope to be is Katrina vandal Heuvel, editor of The Nation who pointed out that something as important as Democrats winning is that progressive ideas are winning. Beyond Wilson's ken, she points out that "There is clearly a powerful reform movement building on the left. It is spearheaded by activists inspired by the Sanders campaign, but also by movements like Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, #MeToo, and growing environmental activism. What is surprising-- and what should be exciting to Democrats-- is that much of the energy is focused on electoral politics, on remaking the Democratic Party rather than leaving it."
This upheaval is a long-overdue response to the failure of the Democratic establishment. The policy failure is expressed in stagnant wages, rising insecurity and inequality, widespread corruption, and unchecked climate change, to name a few calamities. The political failure is undeniable, with the loss of the White House to the most unpopular candidate in modern times, control of Congress to a remarkably reactionary Republican Party, and a thousand seats in state legislatures across the country.

To date, the reform movement has made its greatest gains in the war of ideas. This shouldn’t be surprising. The reforms that the activists are championing are bold, striking, and address real needs: Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a $15 minimum wage, universal pre-K, a federal jobs guarantee, a commitment to rebuild America, a challenge to big-money politics, police and prison reforms, and a fierce commitment to liberty and justice for all.

These ideas aren’t “radical.” They enjoy broad popular support-- even the Koch brothers’ own polling demonstrates that. Not surprisingly, these ideas are increasingly championed not just by progressives like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but by more mainstream liberals like Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker as they gear up for the 2020 presidential race.

...The insurgent candidates have fared remarkably well, given the odds. They are, almost by definition, fresh and inexperienced. They face opponents who start with more money, more experienced operatives, and greater name recognition. Deep-pocketed outside groups line up against them. Many are seeking to build small-donor and volunteer-driven campaigns from the ground up.

Goal ThermometerThe victories in the various House primaries-- Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, Katie Porter in California-- are impressive. But less well-known is the remarkable surge of insurgent candidates in down-ballot state and local races. One that did get attention was the upset victory of Wesley Bell for St. Louis County prosecutor, ousting a 27-year incumbent who had failed to even charge the officer involved in the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

...The media need to focus less on the horse races and more on what’s being built and what’s being discarded. The insurgency is neither on its deathbed nor about to sweep out the old. Indeed, Democrats are still in the early stages of a huge debate on the party’s direction. Insurgent candidates are only starting to build the capacity to run serious challengers. But there is new energy in the party and a new generation demanding change. This reality is forcing more established Democrats to adjust. In the face of Trump’s venom, Republican reaction, and the failure of the party leadership, that is surely a good thing. And that thermometer above-- that's so you can lend a hand to the progressives who won their primaries but which the DCCC-- still firmly controlled by the Lieberman/Lincoln wing of the party-- refuses to support against their Republican opponents!

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The Trump-Media Logrolling


-by Sam Husseini

A couple of days ago, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of the Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump's rhetoric.

Today also marks exactly one month since I was dragged out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night.

As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the "land of free press."

So, I've grown an especially high sensitivity to both goonish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions-- and to those professing they are defending a free press when they are actually engaging in a marketing exercise.

As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on Trump's.

Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.

They are at worst frenemies. More likely, at times, Trump and the establishment media log roll with each other. The major media built up Trump. Trump's attacks effectively elevate a select few media celebrities.

My case is a small but telling one. Major media outlets were more likely to disinform about the manhandling I received in my attempt to ask about U.S., Russian and Israeli nuclear threats to humanity-- I'll soon give a detailed rebuttal to the torrent of falsehoods, some of which I've already noted on social media-- than to crusade against it.

Other obvious cases: None of the newspaper editorials I've seen published today mention the likely prosecution of Wikileaks. If there were solidarity among media, the prospect of Julian Assange being imprisoned for publishing U.S. government documents should be front and center today.

Neither did I see a mention of RT or, as of this week, Al Jazeera, being compelled to register as foreign agents. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert has openly refused to take questions from reporters working for Russian outlets. Virtual silence-- in part because Russia is widely depicted as the great enemy, letting U.S. government policy around the world off the hook.

The above are actual policies that the Trump administration has pursued targeting media-- not rhetoric that dominates so much establishment coverage of Trump.

Then there's the threat of social media.

My day job is with the Institute for Public Accuracy. Yesterday, I put out a news release titled "Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content." Tech giants can decide-- possibly in coordination with the U.S. government-- to pull the plug on content at a time and manner of their choosing.

You would think newspaper people might be keen to highlight the threat that such massive corporations thus pose, not least of all because they have eaten up their ad revenue.

The sad truth is that this is what much of the media have long done: Counter to the lofty rhetoric of many of today's editorials, the promise of an independent and truth-seeking press has frequently been subservient to propaganda, pushing for war or narrow economic and other interests.

The other major story of the day-- quite related to this-- is that of Trump pulling former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance. NPR tells me this is an attempt to "silence a critic." But Brennan has an op-ed in today's New York Times and is frequently on major media. He oversaw criminal policies during the Obama administration, including drone assassinations. If anything, this has elevated Brennan's major media status.

Those who have been truly silenced in the "Trump era" are those who were critical of the seemingly perpetual U.S. government war machine since the invasion of Iraq.

Trump attacks on the establishment media-- like many media attacks on him-- are frequently devoid of substance. But recently one of his rhetorically tweets stated that media "cause wars." I would say "push for war," but that's quibbling.

Trump is technically right on that point, but it's totally disingenuous coming from him. He's actually been the beneficiary of the media compulsion he claims to deride. When he exalts U.S. bombing strikes in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, CNN calls him "presidential."

Many consider "Russiagate" critical to scrutinizing the Trump administration, but the two reporters, apparently picked by the White House, during the Helsinki news conference focused on "Russiagate"-- which eventually led to Brennan and others attacking Trump as "treasonous." Meanwhile, much more meaningful collusion that can be termed Israelgate is being ignored as the U.S. and Israeli governments attempt to further mold the Mideast.

The need for genuinely free sources of information is greater than ever. It is unclear to me if traditional newspapers can be part of the equation. Quite likely, the institutions desperately needed to carry out that critical mission are yet to be born.

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Susan Wild's Lucky Break In Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley: Another GOP Sex Scandal


The board complained Nothstein had "ego" problems but didn't fire him until after the sex scandal

When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court oversaw the redrawing of the state's gerrymandered congressional districts, Charlie Dent's 15th district got somewhat friendlier for Democrats. Dent had already decided he couldn't stand working in a Trumpified Washington and had announced his premature retirement. The new 7th district is 71.6% from Dent's 15th CD, 24.8% from Matt Cartwright's old 17th district and a tiny bit from Tom Marino's old 10th district. The 15th was an R+2 district. The new 7th is a D+1. In this Trumped-up political environment, it's nearly unimaginable that a Republican could win it this year. Under the new boundaries, Hillary beat Trump 48.7% to 47.6%.

6 Democrats ran in the primary May 15. There was tremendous apprehension because among the top three candidates there were 2 progressives-- Greg Edwards and Susan Wild-- and one Republican-lite candidate, John Morganelli. Morganelli was financed by GOP billionaires through a network of shady SuperPACs controlled by No Labels-- a right-wing group that works to elect conservative Democrats. In the end, though Wild won:
Susan Wild- 15,262 (33.45%)
John Morganelli- 13,754 (30.15%)
Greg Edwards- 11,602 (25.43%)
The GOP primary was very close and now we're getting to Wild's good luck.
Marty Nothstein- 16,241 (50.49%)
Dean Browning- 15,923 (49.51%)
First note that 45,622 voters participated in the Democratic primary, while only 32,164 participated in the Republican primary, a great sign for November. But, even better, at least from a partisan perspective is that the local media this week is filled with a Nothstein scandal. Nothstein, a cyclist, has been working as executive director of the Lehigh Valley velodrome (an arena for track cycling) for a decade. The velodrome board put him on unpaid leave in February, something he's tried to hide from voters, after it came to their attention that he has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct. Since then, they fired him. Nothstein, like every single Republican politician accused of sexual impropriety in history, denies everything and claims it was a "political hit job." Nothstein has been able to hide the scandal for 6 months and flipped out when the Morning Call, after a 3-month investigation blew the whistle. The other Republican in the primary, Dean Browning, who lost by just 318 votes, says he was unaware of the scandal and had no idea Nothstein had been put on leave (and then fired) because of it. When the Lehigh County GOP, asked Nothstein if he had any skeletons in his closet he lied and said he didn't, according to Browning, who added "If I was in his situation if an allegation came up, I would take it upon myself to explain to voters whether any of it is true or not."
A source with direct knowledge said Nothstein’s being placed on leave came within days of the board receiving the email indicating he was under investigation for alleged misconduct by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent wing of the congressionally sanctioned U.S. Olympic Committee.

SafeSport has “exclusive authority” to conduct internal investigations of “actual or suspected sexual misconduct” and underlying problems related to sexual misconduct at 47 Olympic-sanctioned sports programs no matter how old the claim may be. It was created in 2014 following mounting abuse complaints and public pressure.

...Jonathan Whiteman, a USA Cycling risk protection manager who fields abuse claims, said his office received the complaint about Nothstein on Oct. 30. That was 11 days after Nothstein publicly announced his bid for Congress.

Whiteman forwarded it to SafeSport on Nov. 1. Before referring it, Whiteman said he gathered “enough specificity to allege a policy has been violated,” as is required.

“What I can confirm is USA Cycling received an allegation involving Marty Nothstein that included sexual misconduct,” Whiteman said in a May phone interview. “When USA Cycling receives an allegation of sexual misconduct, we are not making any determination of validity before reporting it to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.”

...The February timing of the decision matches a big drop in the salary Nothstein listed on his most recent congressional candidate filing. The May 15 filing shows Valley Preferred paid Nothstein $23,781 this year-- which equaled two months of his gross $148,688 salary.

Neither the nonprofit’s board nor Nothstein publicly announced his departure from the velodrome or the reasons behind it even as the nonprofit labored to get the track ready for its opening season.

...Two weeks before the May 15 primary election, Nothstein would only say he was campaigning full time when repeatedly questioned by a reporter about his employment status at the velodrome. Board members declined to comment or did not return requests for a comment this spring.

...Nothstein and velodrome officials publicly ended their relationship this month. That’s when the velodrome started to advertise on its website a job listing for executive director. Nothstein said Thursday he received no financial settlement from the velodrome.
Paul Ryan's shady SuperPAC has been funding Nothstein's race but is refusing to comment on the scandal and a spokesman won't say whether or not they will continue their activities on his behalf.

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Democratic Women Who Served In The Military And Now Want To Serve In Congress


Unless this is the first time you've landed at DWT, you probably know I hate identity group politics. Women belong in electoral office! OK, we need more women in Congress-- excellent ones, like the House's single best member, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)-- but not crap ones-- like the House's single worst Democratic member, Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ). Congress needs more Hispanics, right? Absolutely-- great Hispanics like Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), but not right-wing shitheads like Henry Cuellar. (Blue Dog-TX) How about some more LGBTQ congressmembers? Yeah! But solid progressives like Mark Pocan (D-WI), not nightmares like Sinema and Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY). You name an identity group and I'll tell you an outstanding member of Congress from that group... and a POS from that group. Identity group politics is no way to pick candidates, but people use it all the time.

And the newest subgroup is... women from the military. The DCCC invented the category is strategy sessions before the cycle began. They thought recruiting a bunch of centrist female corporate lawyers who had once served in the military would be a good idea. They went out and looked for them and came back with some absolutely mediocre candidates to reinvent as heroines of the Republic, like Mikie Sherrill from New Jersey and Chrissy Houlahan from Pennsylvania.

But the idea took on a life of it's own, and women who had served in the military were encouraged by that idea and decided they could run too. Two campaign intro ads this cycle were from that identity group. First we had the electrifying ad from Amy McGrath of Kentucky (up top), an ad, made by a skilled ad-maker, that was better than the novice candidate. The DCCC may have been committed to centrist women who had serviced in the military but they already were committed to recruiting another candidate from KY-06 from their very favorite identity group: multimillionaires and they through their weight behind very rich Lexington mayor (who is also an extremely conservative Blue Dog-- always a plus for the DCCC-- and they endorsed him during the primary and urged donors to not fund McGrath). Over the course of the primary, McGrath, the novice candidate, got better and better and in the end, she shoved the DCCC's Blue Dog multimillionaire up their ass. In a 6-person race, she made the DCCC sad:
Amy McGrath- 48,860 (48.7%)
Jim Gray- 40,684 (40.5%)
Reggie Thomas- 7,226 (7.2%)
Mayor Gray spent $1,437,206 on the primary (including $250,000 out of his own bank account) but it is Amy McGrath who is now duking it out-- a much better candidate than she was when she started-- with Republican Andy Barr, in Kentucky's only swing district. After the primary, the DCCC took another look at her and seeing she isn't too progressive for them, endorsed her and added her to their Red-to-Blue page. Though the district went to Trump 54.7% to 39.4% and has a PVI of R+9, the race is neck-and-neck and if the anti-red wave holds, McGrath has an good chance to win.

The second wildly inspiring video (below)-- that seemingly came out of nowhere-- was from MJ (Mary Jennings) Hegar in a Texas backwater that no one was considering flippable, TX-31. She's running against right-wing Trump-enabler John Carter in a district north of Austin that stretches through Williamson and Bell counties, from Round Rock to Killeen and Temple. Bell County includes Fort Hood, the largest military base in the world. The district PVI is R+10 and Trump beat Hillary there 53.5% to 40.8%. Her policy platform looks decent. As of the June 30 filing deadline she had outraised Carter significantly-- $1,612,439 to $996,707 and had about $300,000 more than he did on hand. If the wave is big enough...

Yesterday, AP ran a story by Laurie Kellman and Bill Barrow, Next mission for women with military service: Run for office, as though the election cycle had just started and someone just came up with the idea. "Hegar," they wrote, "is part of a crop of female veterans running for Congress in this year’s midterm elections. Almost all Democrats and many of them mothers, they are shaped by the Sept. 11 attacks and overseas wars, including the longest war in American history. Many are retiring from the military and looking for another way to serve the country. They’re part of a record number of women running for seats in Congress, but in certain ways, they are a class apart. The female veterans claim expertise in national security and veterans issues, with a track record of thriving in institutions dominated by men. Regardless of party, they cast themselves as the antidote to bitterly partisan politics-- describing themselves as 'mission-driven' and trained by the military to work toward a common goal." Most are right of center within the Democratic Party and are being pushed by right-of-center Democrats with ambitious personal agendas for higher office, like Seth Moulton (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Joe Biden and Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL).
The increase in candidates with military experience is no accident, and the hopefuls are expected to be propelled by Democratic luminaries. Former Vice President Joe Biden, for example, is expected to campaign for McGrath, among others, according to officials close to them who spoke on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not set.

Two Democrats-- Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a retired Marine Corps captain and Bronze Star recipient, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs and partial use of an arm when her helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq-- have been instrumental in recruiting veterans to run for office.

Moulton said female veterans in his party carry a particular authority when talking to voters concerned about President Donald Trump’s leadership.

“It’s the year of the woman, but it’s also the year of yearning for bringing integrity and honor back to politics,” Moulton said. “We need Democrats with the credibility to tell people what’s really going on.”

The women are hardly the first to use their military service to their political advantage-- men have been doing it for decades.

One of the traditional knocks against female candidates is “they aren’t tough enough, they aren’t strong enough, and they might not have the leadership skills,” said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

Not female candidates who are veterans, particularly of combat.

“They kind of automatically get that kind of respect as leaders; it’s well-earned,” Walsh said. “It’s such a logical next step for people who are committed to this country and are committed to service.”

But their campaigns highlight a set of political concerns specific to female veterans.

The candidates acknowledge that their extraordinary stories of trailblazing military careers could make it difficult for some voters to relate to them. Will they come off as too tough or hawkish? Is it possible for any candidate, male or female, to overemphasize his or her military background in the post-9/11 era?

McGrath, who retired as a lieutenant colonel, opened her campaign with an online video in which she wears a bomber jacket, a fighter jet in the background.

McGrath sees herself as a bridge to male voters who “sort of see women as being weaker,” she said in a telephone interview. “But yeah, I have to make an effort to reach out to women and make sure that they’re not scared, or think that I’m too militant.”

Out came a 30-second spot that mentioned the 89 combat missions-- but focused on McGrath taking her three children to the pediatrician.

“I’m Amy McGrath and I approved this ad,” she says, as her young son takes off down a hallway with his pants down. “Because I’d like to see the other guys running deal with this.”

She upset popular Lexington Mayor Jim Gray in the Democratic primary and will take on Republican Rep. Andy Barr in November, a closely watched race considered competitive in a district Barr won by 22 points in 2016. Poised for the different calculus of the general election, Barr last week released an ad quoting McGrath saying of herself, “Hell yeah, I’m a feminist” and calling herself “a progressive.”

“Seriously? Is that all you got?” McGrath retorted in a video response, sharing the screen once again with a fighter jet. But this time, she traded her bomber jacket for a denim one.

Much of Hegar’s story was already public by the time she decided to challenge Republican Rep. John Carter in the Austin-area district, so she went for the full reveal-- tattoos and all.

Her video, “Doors,” features the door of the helicopter in which she was shot down on her third tour of Afghanistan as a combat search and rescue pilot. Her medals, including a Purple Heart, play a role, as does Hegar’s 2012 lawsuit against the federal government that forced it to repeal the ban on women in combat.

The spot also features an intimate detail: One of Hegar’s first memories was of her father throwing her mother through a glass door.

“That’s been one of the most difficult transitions for me, is talking about myself more,” Hegar said. “I hope that they take away that we have to start putting our faith in people who have a history of putting other people first, fighting against intimidation and bullying, and trying to do the right thing.”

Air Force veteran Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democratic nominee for a House seat in West Texas, hopes her active military duty and intelligence work will “neutralize this perceived strength” of Republicans as strong on security issues.

That could be important in the race for the San Antonio-area seat, currently held by Republican Rep. Will Hurd, a former CIA operative. Ortiz Jones supports single-payer health insurance, a position that could be considered too liberal for the district.

“‘Liberal’ isn’t a word that is normally used to describe my work in national security,” she said.
Trump is an existential danger to America-- if not the world. I'd vote for any of these candidates if I lived in their districts, but we might as well do it with our eyes open and our expectations realistic. And I can say with confidence that none of them are going to be on par with women like Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, Alexandria Cortez of NYC, Pramila Jayapal of Seattle, Judy Chu of Los Angeles, Katherine Clark of suburban Boston, Jan Schakowsky of Chicagoland, Kara Eastman of Omaha or Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, the women I expect to be the tip of the spear when it comes to pushing a strong progressive policy agenda in 2019. I hope some of these miltary women get on board. We'll see.

Not military-- but a fighter and a leader for working families

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Slippery Slopes-- Freedom Of Speech And Facebook And Trumpanzee


No jail for the incendiary crap Alex Jones puts on social media. In fact, free speech purists are freaking out that his garbage has been banned by Facebook, YouTube, Apple, Spotify, etc. Friday, Roy Gutterman, a professor and free speech advocate wrote that kicking Alex Jones off Facebook "may have opened a new, potentially dangerous door in the digital world where free speech conflicts with good taste, legitimate information and even downright human decency. Jones shot to notoriety through his far-right wing website, InfoWars, which touted outrageous conspiracy theories, misinformation and vitriolic material that many have interpreted as hateful. Though hate speech is neither illegal nor well-defined in the United States, Jones' outrageous and offensive postings have found him removed from Facebook's community of 2.2 billion users."
It is not easy to defend Jones' brand of vitriol and conspiracy theories. In the ever-evolving debate over "fake news," misinformation and hate speech, Jones contributes to all three. Some argue that this sort of content adds nothing to the discussion of important public issues and should not have a place in the marketplace of ideas. Elements of that argument may be valid, but it also diminishes the role of such material in the marketplace. It fuels debate, forces us to confront varying and sometimes ugly viewpoints and counter them with more speech.

...Even with the Facebook ban, Jones will not be without an audience or devoted followers. He still has his website, app and radio platforms and a legion of fans. But Facebook's ban raises concerns, regardless of how civil society may view Jones. By trying to make Facebook a safe space, devoid of offensive or hateful speech, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is almost single-handedly deciding to silence unpopular speech.

In another era, it might not have been so unusual to freeze out a host of speakers and ignore some hot-button, controversial or political issues by not covering them in the newspaper or on television, or closing down editorial pages sympathetic to their causes. This was a dominant tactic in the South during the fight for civil rights, where speakers were both censored and punished for their political views.

The internet, however, has equalized the media landscape, providing speakers, writers and consumers with innumerable platforms for expression and communication. Social media is an integral part of the equation.

But when a social media behemoth like Facebook decides to ban certain players, no matter how offensive, we are treading precariously close to the slippery slope. Once these platforms start excluding some speakers today, the question is, who will be excluded tomorrow?
He concludes that "If we truly believe in free speech, the marketplace of ideas must be open to even the most offensive speakers." I was awarded a defender of free speech award by the ACLU once. And this week I was happy when I saw that the moron fake president declassified self-serving Nunes memos on the Steele dossier that now make it incumbent on the FBI to declassify to declassify the reality-based memos. Josh Gerstein wrote that "the FBI has lost its authority to rebuff Freedom of Information Act requests about the bureau’s efforts to verify the report’s intelligence linking Trump to Russia during the 2016 campaign, a federal judge ruled on Thursday."
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta previously blessed the FBI’s decision to refuse such FOIA requests by declining to confirm whether any records exist about aspects of its handling of the hotly contested dossier, prepared by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The judge ruled in January that Trump’s tweets about the dossier did not require the FBI and other intelligence agencies to be more responsive to public records requests on the issue.

However, Mehta said Trump’s actions in February to greenlight the release of one memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and a separate memo from the panel’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, left untenable the FBI’s position of resisting disclosure.

“It remains no longer logical nor plausible for the FBI to maintain that it cannot confirm nor deny the existence of documents” related to attempts to verify information in the dossier, Mehta wrote in a 13-page opinion.
This is the kind of free speech the Founding fathers were talking about when they drafted the constitution's first amendment (which guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.) I have to admit I don't grok Facebook. I get annoyed when people try to contact me on it and ask them to e-mail me, text me or call me on the phone. I just find Facebook annoying, random and filled with unreliable information-- largely by fools for fools. That said, I was shocked to learn that people go the jail-- real jail, not virtual jail-- for things they write on Facebook.

Business Insider gave 7 examples of young Facebook users who went to prison for stuff they wrote on Facebook. I can even understand a couple of them-- one guy who claimed-- albeit sarcastically-- that he was going to shoot up a kindergarten. Two other guys were sentenced to 4 years each for trying to encourage a riot. "Many people exercise poor judgement on Facebook," wrote Alyson Shontell, "a site where Freedom of Speech may no longer apply. Recently, young Facebook users who have posted controversial status messages have ended up in jail. Sometimes the messages they typed were actually offensive. Other times they were jokes gone terribly wrong. One teen was even arrested for posting violent rap lyrics. Most of the time, the Facebook offenders are impulsive. They type before they think, and lately they've had to pay serious consequences."

This one seems really silly though:
Cameron D'Ambrosio, 18, is a high school student who is also an aspiring rapper. The Massachusettes native posted some of his lyrics on Facebook and was initially arrested without bail. He was told what he posted was a "terroristic threat." The lyrics read: "F--- a boston bombinb [sic] wait til u see the sh-- I do, I'ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me."
When the prosector took him before a grand jury for an indictment, they refused and threw out the "case." That really is government trying to interfere with free speech and expression.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Guess which man Republicans would happily vote for, even now.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Trump Loves A Parade


Trump already had his parade

Trump, who apparently never bothered reading the Constitution, wants Mr. Magoo to arrest Omarosa and lock her up. Gee, what a sore loser! So far the idiot has fallen into every Trumpian trap she's et for him and he knows exactly what's coming, just not the order it's coming in. All his advisors and relatives and advisor/relatives told him to ignore Unhinged and her self-serving provocations. He didn't have the self-control and he's managed to create a best-seller for her and make her a household name, exactly the opposite of what he hoped to do. What would Mr. Magoo arrest her for? Lèse-majesté?

I bet that kook Supreme Court nominee of his, Kavanaugh, would uphold that.

He's not getting any work done-- and preventing people in the White House who actually do work-- because the only thing on his mind is his death struggle with Omarosa.

Trump's Parade by Nancy Ohanian

Oh, wait! There is one thing the grifter-in-chief still manages to working: his parade-- and how, of course, to steal money by staging it. Remember when he claimed it would "only" cost $12 million to put it on (November 10, a couple days after either the Democrats regain control of Congress or everyone is talking how the Russians did it again). In any case, the new estimate for the cost is... $92 million. That's 80 million more than the original price-- a typical used car/condo/time-share salesman trick, which is what Trump excels at. [UPDATE: The Pentagon put Trump's parade off 'til "next year," apparently hoping he'll be too busy being impeached by them to keep bothering them about a parade.] [UPDATE on the UPDATE: Trumpanzee cancelled the parade altogether this morning, blaming the local DC elected officials, who just happen to be African Americans, always his favorite target for attacks.]
The official also said that experts put to rest concerns about whether the Abrams tank, which weighs just shy of 70 tons, would ruin infrastructure in Washington. Their analysis found that, because of the vehicle's distributed weight and track pads, the streets of the nation's capital would not be compromised.

The parade is also expected to include helicopter, fighter jet, transport aircraft as well as historical military plane flyovers. Troops in period uniforms representing the past, present and future forces will march in the parade, as well.

The ceremony is said to be largely inspired by Trump's front-row seat at France's Bastille Day military parade in Paris.

Trump's Parade II by Nancy Ohanian

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I Guess "Trump Blunders In Arizona" Isn't Much Of A Headline


But he did-- in the Arizona Senate race. Polling consistently shows that quasi-Democrat Kyrsten Sinema would beat any of the Republican Senate candidates. As you see from the graphic below, the only Republican who even gets close to Sinema in a head-to-head match-up is the one mainstream candidate, Martha McSally. McSally is also the choice of the NRSC and the DC and Phoenix establishments. They feel strongly nominating her is the only chance they have to hold onto the seat.

McConnell and NRSC chair, Cory Gardner (R-CO), have been begging Trump to endorse McSally. So far he hasn't. His base prefers the two extremist crackpots in the race, Kelli Ward or Joe Arpaio. All 3 candidates pretend that they have Trump's endorsement. Trump hasn't endorsed but he's said nice things about each one that each one is exploiting. Alex Isenstadt reported in Politico that Trumpanzee' refusal to explicitly endorse any of them for the August 28 primary "has led to a total muddle, prolonging the GOP slugfest in one of the most important Senate races in the country and allowing the presumed Democratic nominee, Kyrsten Sinema, to get a free pass... [E]stablishment Republicans have grown increasingly anxious that they’re squandering a critical window of time to define Sinema, who faces a nominal primary opponent. She’s spent millions of dollars running positive TV ads to boost her image and set the terms of the general election, while no Republican groups have countered."

The keys to controlling the Senate next year rests with Republican-held Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Tennessee and Democratic-held North Dakota and Florida.
People close to the president say not to expect any firm endorsement in the contest.

“President Trump has not endorsed anyone in the GOP Senate primary in Arizona and any photos or other general expressions of support shouldn’t be read as such,” said someone familiar with the operations of the Trump campaign. “He likes all of the candidates in the race very much and looks forward to supporting our nominee in the fall campaign to replace Jeff Flake in the Senate.”

Two senior Republicans in the state say they expect Trump to hold a post-primary "unity" rally, though the White House hasn’t yet announced any plans for an Arizona trip.

In a statement to Politico, Arpaio said he was not bothered by the efforts by Republican leaders to secure a Trump endorsement for McSally.

“At this time my only comment is my relationship with the President speaks for itself. It is no secret that Mitch McConnell and the Establishment do not want me in the US Senate,” he said.

Ward, in an interview in Washington last month, said much the same.

“I know that the Mitch McConnell faction and the establishment pushes [McSally] out as much as they can because that's their insider advantage that I don't have,” she said.

While Republicans continue to slug it out, Sinema’s campaign has run free on the airwaves. She’s spent more than $4 million on TV, running six different ads on health care, her work with veterans and her “record of independence.” Her first ad, launched in April, featured her brother, who is a veteran and police officer.

One-third of Arizona voters don’t identify with either party, and Sinema’s ads have been aimed squarely at those voters-- none of them mention the word “Trump” or “Democrat.” The ad campaign has been so sustained that going "negative against her is going to be extremely difficult,” said veteran Arizona Democratic strategist Andy Barr.

Travis Smith, a consultant for McSally’s campaign, brushed aside concern about Sinema owning the airwaves all summer. He said internal polling between April and July showed only a small uptick in Sinema’s favorability rating, while her negative ratings also rose by a slightly higher amount.

National Democrats haven’t had to spend to boost Sinema. Instead, a super PAC, Red and Gold, which was formed this month and hasn’t filed any information on its donors, has spent $1.6 million airing anti-McSally ads.

Defend Arizona, a pro-McSally super PAC, launched an ad Wednesday pushing back on the Democratic primary meddling. The group has also been running multiple attack ads against Ward.

“We are focused first on the primary,” said Barrett Marson, a spokesman for Defend Arizona, "and then we will focus on Kyrsten Sinema's liberal record.”
Sinema's liberal record? The chair of the Blue Dogs, Sinema has the least  liberal, most conservative voting record of any Democrat in Congress. And she's a total, corrupt Wall Street pawn. ProgressivePunch rates her record "F" which is especially heinous because she's in a strong, safe Democratic district. Her lifetime voting record is 36.17, the lowest of any Democrat in the House. This cycle, her record is even worse, with a 34.35 score, further right than the voting records of 3 Republicans-- Walter Jones (R-NC), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). It's worth noting that Trump did poorly in her district-- just 38.4%-- while winning Amash's district with 51.6% and Jones' district with 60.5%. Fitzpatrick's newly redrawn Pennsylvania district was very close: Hillary 49.1% and Trumpanzee 47.1%. But in the district as it was drawn at the time, Trump won, albeit narrowly. Sinema has one of the most pro-Trump scores of any Democrat on FiveThirtyEight's Trump Affinity Scale. Based on the district itself, Sinema would be predicted to back Trump 35.3% of the time. Instead she's backed him 60.9%. The only Democrat who votes more frequently with Trump is Henry Cuellar (68.9%), a conservative Texas Republican who, inexplicably, calls himself a Democrat.

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The American Zombie


In service of the almighty dollar, the corporate class has hollowed out America and created a permanent underclass. Real wages have not grown in 40 years and the average American's discretionary income is subject to the vagaries of the price of gas. Meanwhile, the money these hard working Americans earn and then put back into the community is circulated amongst the corporations that dominate the landscape of middle market America-- McDonalds, Walmart, and the like. That money leaves the community and is not reinvested. It ends up in the offshore tax haven of a Walmart scion.

This is the Trump base. That mythical base that the New York Times pursues with its fawning unending series, now almost a comedy routine, on the typical Trump voter.

The base that believes in Q-Anon. The base that Trump says loves him. This is the base that Koch Brothers service in order to get their destructive agenda passed.

The base that is slowly disappearing amidst a toxic miasma of opiod addiction and dwindling opportunities. The base that rose up during the Tea Party. And is now being led by the nose to believe in Q-Anon-- an hilarious scheme designed to sell t-shirts and generate Youtube views according to the fake news at NBC.

Now the that base has served their purpose and the corporations have squeezed everything they can out of them-- there is only one profit center left to exploit them-- private prisons. This is the base the wealthy campaign donors behind conservatism has created. They're addicted to opiates, cheap goods from China and the Church of Trump.

On Thursday, The Guardian noted that here in the U.S. CEOs now earn 312 times the average worker's wage. That's pretty unprecedented in modern history. And the number jumped right after the Republican tax scam when the CEOs got an average pay increase of 17.6%, "while their employees’ wages stalled." CEOs are making an average of $18.9 million. Workers' pay rose an average of 0.3%, less than inflation. "In 1965 the ratio of CEO to worker pay was 20-to-one; that figure had risen to 58-to-one by in 1989... Between 1978 and 2017 CEO compensation has increased by 979%."
The astronomical gap between the remuneration of workers and bosses has been brought into sharper focus by a new financial disclosure rule that forces companies to publish the ratio of CEO to worker pay. Last year McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook earned $21.7m while the McDonald’s workers earned a median wage of just $7,017-- a CEO to worker pay ratio of 3,101-to-one. The average Walmart worker earned $19,177 in 2017 while CEO Doug McMillon took home $22.8m-- a ratio of 1,188-to-one.

...“Over time I think there has been a loosening of norms.” said Mishel. “Everyone wants to believe their CEO is one of the best, so they look around and see what everyone else is being paid and then they pay them a lot more. They think everyone is better than average.”

The outsize pay packets have had a direct impact on people down the corporate ladder, Mishel claims. “The redistribution of wages to the top 5%, but particularly the top 1%, affected the wage growth of the bottom 90%. As a mathematical matter, had there not been the redistribution upward-- to the top 5%, but which is mostly about to the top 1%-- the wages of the bottom 90% could have grown twice as fast as it actually did.”

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