Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Blue America Endorses An Inspiring New Candidate-- Meet Matt Haggman (FL-27)


I want to introduce Blue America's newest endorsed candidate, Matt Haggman in Miami-Dade, the 27th district, from which Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. The only reason this very blue seat has remained in Republican hands for so long is because Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done everything in her once- considerable power to undermine and sabotage any Democrat who has gone up against Ros-Lehtinen, an old crony of hers from when they both served in the Florida state legislature and worked together to gerrymander the state in a way that helped the GOP and, of course, Wasserman Schultz. She's now a largely reviled and powerless character and Ros-Lehtinen realized without Debbie working for her behind the scenes-- Debbie's no longer even allowed behind the scenes-- she'd better retire with grace. The district has a PVI of R+5 and Hillary beat Trump there 58.5% to 38.9%, the biggest, bluest margin in any Republican-held district in the entire country.

Goal ThermometerThis cycle, predictably, a boatload of Democrats jumped into the race. Since then many of them dropped out, leaving it a contest basically between progressive Matt Haggman and two garden variety Democrats, Clinton-era throwback Donna Shalala and moderate state legislator David Richardson. All have raised approximately the same out of money. Shalala and Richardson, though, are both self-funders who each dropped over half a million dollars of their own money into their campaigns. Yep... seat buyers. Clearly the best of the three candidates, I asked Matt to introduce himself to DWT readers with a guest post. If you like what he has to say, please consider contributing to his campaign-- by clicking on the Blue America 2018 congressional thermometer on the right.

Why We Must Change In Big Ways, Not Small
by Matt Haggman

I’ve never run for elected office before. But last year I decided to quit my job and run for Congress.

Before the last presidential election I believed America would never elect a person who said and did the things that Donald Trump said and did. I believed America today would never elect a bully, a liar, someone who preyed upon our worst fears and sought to divide us to win. We might come close to electing such a demagogue as president, but at this stage in our country’s history we would never actually do it. We had come too far to take such a clear and destructive step backward. America today was, I thought, different. I was obviously wrong.

Eight years after the most hopeful moment in our politics in my lifetime, we now were at the very bleakest moment. The better angels of our nature had given way to the most base sensibilities. A presidency built on hope had been followed by one built on our worst fears.

How we respond is, of course, critical. Years from now we will each be asked, what did you do when a president was elected who declared the press the enemy of the state, instituted a Muslim ban, ripped immigrant children away from their parents? Each of us is answering that question in our own way. For me, I’m answering by running.

But I would argue even more is at stake than standing up against a rogue and duplicitous president.

To me, what is required in Congress today is dramatic overhaul. Not incremental tweaks but deep and widespread change. This needs to be more than simply retaking the House but a moment of renewal in our politics in which we chart an entirely new path, and practice our politics in entirely new ways.

Even as Donald Trump’s election was a call to action and even as we must ensure that Trump’s America doesn’t become the new normal, Trump’s election revealed something else. Namely, it revealed that our political system is badly broken.

For years our politics have been stuck. Friends intent on driving social change have long given up on politics as the place to do it. They’ve focused their efforts in community activism, entrepreneurship, arts, education (my brother has worked as an 8th grade public school teacher the past decade), rather than try to make a dent in the messy and ineffective world of politics. Trump’s election served notice that the rupture is complete. Something is deeply wrong with our entire political system. Indeed, the sad truth is that while Trump is a cause of our political dysfunction, he is also a symptom of it.

At the time of Trump’s election I was Miami Program Director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Before that I was a journalist for almost a decade, most of that time at the Miami Herald.

During my nearly six years at Knight Foundation I launched an effort focused on propelling Miami’s entrepreneurs and civic innovators as a way to expand opportunity and drive community engagement. The effort resulted in thousands of jobs, spawned myriad new leaders and, most important to me, created a new sense of possibility in Miami.

We aimed to lift up the entire community, supporting the launch of dozens of programs ranging from The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, supporting student entrepreneurs at the largest and most diverse college in the U.S., to the creation of the Black Tech Week and Women Innovating Now LAB Miami, supporting black and women founders.

I loved the work, and it’s hardly finished in Miami. But, for me, the presidential election interrupted all of that. Instead, I submitted my resignation, packed up my office at Knight Foundation, and drove home. There, sitting on my couch in my living room, I started calling friends. “I have a crazy idea,” I told them, “I’m running for Congress.”

As I’ve set out on my first campaign-- building a plane while flying it, I’ve often described it-- much has shaped my thinking. From growing up in Cambridge, Mass. in Speaker Tip O’Neill’s district, being a product of public schools, attending college in New Orleans at Tulane University, working as a journalist at the Miami Herald. But what I want to focus on here is the work at Knight Foundation helping propel entrepreneurs, small business owners and community leaders in neighborhoods across Miami.

At its core, that work focused on investing in and empowering people, helping entrepreneurs honestly assess challenges and think in new ways to solve them, while building trust and establishing core values across the community. And, most of all, the work thrived on an ethos of helping people disrupt-- in big, transformative ways-- the normal way of doing things.

To me, all of this is required in our politics today. We need wrenching, system-wide change. And we, as candidates, can’t just aspire to it, but have the courage to live it.

Change must really mean change

It’s for that reason that my campaign is refusing to accept any donations from political action committees, federal lobbyists or special interests that often play an outsized role in Florida politics like the sugar and energy industry. Instead, our mantra is people, not PACs.

My belief is that if we can get people elected who are funded purely by individuals, then it’s one step closer to getting a Congress that is working in the public interest rather than the corporate or special interest.

Consider that polls show that more than 80 percent of Americans-- more than 8 in 10-- want universal background checks for gun sales. Yet, there is zero movement on legislation in Congress to establish universal background checks. To me, there is one explanation: how congressional campaigns are funded.

Once in Congress, I would support legislation banning contributions from PACs and lobbyists. Furthermore, support legislation that increases transparency on political contributions of all kinds and begin the process of passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

But, to me, the key is not to wait. For too long we have seen well-meaning candidates who say we must have campaign finance reform but become beholden to the very system they pledge to change.

Meanwhile, this needs to be a moment when we not only change the way we fund elections, but have the courage to let new leaders emerge from the bottom ranks of Congress to the very top. Now, more than ever, we need new leaders and fresh voices. But solely electing a host of fresh-faced members to Congress this Fall is not nearly enough.

That’s why when I was asked in May by a Miami Herald reporter, if elected to Congress, would I support House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to continue leading the party, I responded, “No, it’s time for a new day.”

My response was not meant to detract from the years of great service Leader Pelosi has given to the party. She is a trailblazer who is responsible for some of the biggest successes of the Democratic Party in the past fifteen years.

Experience and institutional knowledge are, of course, important. But if the Democratic party doesn’t see voters’ frustration with both its current leadership and our politics today, we will have missed an historic opportunity to chart a new path at a pivotal moment.

If elected, I would also push for reforms that allow members of Congress to move up the ranks quicker. For instance, establish term limits for committee leadership posts. With this change, members will be able to move into leadership roles faster and groom future speakers.

In sum, the “Blue Wave” must not only result in a Democratic majority in Congress, but new leaders at all levels too. If it doesn’t, my hunch is that this surge could ultimately resemble the last Democratic wave in Congress, which was short-lived and unsustainable.

Throwing out the playbook

Yet, this is just the start of the broad change that is needed. We need to move away from the campaign formula that candidates are told to follow. Namely, focusing on a specific set of Democratic voters, sticking to selected Democratic poll-tested issues, and then spending most of our waking hours raising money.

Back in 2012, when my Knight Foundation colleague Ben Wirz and I first sketched out our plan to help build Miami’s startup and entrepreneurial community, we established principles to guide us.
Build networks from the bottom up
Diversity as a core strength
Entrepreneurs over institutions
Fund experiments first, then scale
Don’t reinvent if we can import
Learn as we go
This was built on a model of constant community engagement. Every other week we held a coffee open to the entire community. Anyone could come (we didn’t extend invitations or decide who could attend) and conversations were purposefully open-ended with nothing off limits for discussion. The result was a regular platform for people to share ideas, aspirations, complaints, fears-- whatever.

Our thinking was that we didn’t have the best ideas, the community did. Furthermore, the best solutions are reached when you listen and have the courage to embrace good ideas no matter where they arise. And that the greatest impact is achieved when the most diverse range of people are included-- after all, innovation is built on a diverse range of people and ideas connecting and colliding.

Thinking back on it now, I see how different it is from how we are told to run for political office. Rather than opening ourselves up to as many people possible, we choose to connect with a select few who regularly vote. Rather than being open to myriad ideas and solutions, we read from poll-tested position papers. Rather than seeing diversity and inclusion as a critical value, it’s viewed as a nice thing.

For our campaign, our approach is to start with the voter and work backwards. We’ve built a campaign fellows program powered by more than 60 people who, along with me, are visiting voters in all 245 precincts across Florida’s District 27. Currently, we have hit 220. We’ve hosted meetups and coffees open to all. We also have tried an online site called UpVote where we ask people to identify what solutions they prefer. This is only a start.

I know that listening, or even changing one’s mind after hearing a better idea, rather than presenting one’s self as having bold ideas and clear convictions isn’t typically rewarded in today’s politics. But we should start to try. Change occurs from the bottom up. Washington has not been able to find the solutions to our most pressing problems, listening more closely and more widely across our neighborhoods may prove better.

Investing in people and thinking different

My approach at Knight in supporting entrepreneurs wasn’t to make direct investment in businesses. Instead, it was to create an ecosystem of resources across the community that people could choose from to better build the ideas and solve the problem most important to them. This included programs that provided mentorship, connection, learning, access to funding, and fostered a greater sense of community.

Examples include Endeavor, a non-profit which provides mentorship and support to help entrepreneurs scale ventures. eMerge Americas, an annual conference in Miami uniting entrepreneurs across the Americas. LaunchCode and Girls Who Code, each making learning to code more accessible and, in the case of Girls Who Code, taking aim at the yawning gender gap in technology. Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp and programs, which I mentioned earlier, like The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Black Tech Week, Women Innovating Now LAB, with a particular focus on black, Hispanic and women entrepreneurs.

Our mantra was that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not-- and that must be changed. Creating a network of resources that invest in people across the community from the bottom up was our way to try.

It’s time our politics took the same approach. And, while at it, it’s time to start matching the scale of the challenges we face with the size of the solutions. For too long, we’ve operated under the assumption there are things we cannot do. That needs to end.

Matt and his wife at the Women's March-- the day he decided to run for Congress

I mentioned earlier that years from now we will each be asked what we did in response to a destructive and irresponsible Trump presidency. But an equally important question is, what did you at a time when the opportunity and income gap is wider than it’s been since the great depression; when getting an education resulted in so many going deeply into crippling debt; when we seemed helpless to confront gun violence; when quality, affordable healthcare remains a challenge for way too many families and prescription drugs remain artificially and cruelly high; when the planet continues to warm and sea levels rise; when entrepreneurship and business creation remain at decade lows; when the era of mass incarceration continues unabated; when public transportation remains abysmal for too many here in South Florida who lose hours each day commuting to work or school; and when there is such deep-seated mistrust in our politics.

It's a long list. But that’s why we need a new approach which is both honest about what is required and unafraid to embrace solutions that actually have a shot at solving the problem.

That’s why I am for Medicare for All, importation of prescription drugs and allowing Medicare to negotiate reasonable drug prices, universal pre-K, refocusing on improving public education, free tuition in community colleges and public universities, high-speed internet into every home, revamping our criminal justice system, raising the minimum wage to $15, increasing federal funding for public transportation, piloting a federal jobs guarantee. Taken together, this would begin to address the searing the opportunity gap in our country, while expanding opportunity and stirring job creation.

Not only that, hastening the transition to an economy powered renewable energy. Indeed, my moonshot goal is for South Florida-- a region threatened by sea level rise-- is to be the first metropolitan area to do it. We are a long, long way from there today. But if we can muster the resolve, this is a change that will not only safeguard the environment and make us more resilient, but increase jobs and drive our economy.

Meanwhile, we must get back to celebrating that we are-- and always will be-- a nation of immigrants. My wife’s family came to this country in 1966 from Cuba. They found a country that welcomed them with open arms and gave them a shot. We need to get back to being that America. Comprehensive immigration reform includes a pathway citizenship for the undocumented, fighting for Dreamers and those with Temporary Protect Status, cleaning up a cumbersome visa process, and abolishing ICE.

Lastly, no one will believe Congress is really serious about change until we pass gun safety reform. This includes universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and a ban on high capacity magazines, among other changes.

This is a tall order. But the truth is that we are at a crossroads. We need a new direction in our politics focused on solving problems with an open mind that is grounded in common sense, champions our diversity and engages the entire community. The response must allow for experimentation and cannot be top down. But it also can’t be incremental. To do it, in my view, we will need many new leaders in our politics.

We can’t expect the same approach and the same people to deliver a different result.

In President Obama’s farewell address he warned that we can’t take democracy for granted. It “falls on each of us to be anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy,” he said. What the speech said to me is that, yes, America is a special place-- but it is special because generation after generation have continually stepped up and engaged in making it so even as there are setbacks, sometimes dramatic setbacks, along the way.

Now is that time for us.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

What Trump did in Helsinki yesterday was not just display his incredible weakness and treachery. Monday's act of collusion was not just an example of his contempt for the rule of law and contempt for our national security. It is more than a Neville Chamberlain moment. It is as if FDR had sided with the Emperor of Japan after Pearl Harbor. Trump's whole party and those in Washington who do nothing are complicit.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Even Folks In Russia Hate Trump And Realize What A Worthless Untrustworthy Liar He Is


I was in Russia for a few weeks in 2016. With the exception of a couple of towns around Moscow, we only saw Moscow and St Petersburg. I found Moscovites generally cold, closed and unfriendly, in the same way tourists sometimes describe New Yorkers. I didn't like it much. St. Petersburg was the opposite: friendly, warm, open... good restaurants... So much better than Moscow to visit. But I can't say I'm a Russian expert because of my short trip to the two biggest cities in the country-- and one brief love affair. But I did go to some great museums, not just the Hermitage, but to less well-known museums, including the Museum of Political History in an off-the-beaten track part of St Petersburg. When I got back I wrote about the museum and started with a little quip about that museum:
I was really impressed that a still somewhat paranoid country barely emerging-- slowly-- from unbroken centuries of routine authoritarianism would permit such an unbiased and objective presentation of history right up to the present day. That said, no one crosses Putin in Russia and gets away with it. That painting up top of him and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in lingerie by Konstantin Altunin was seized by security personnel in 2013 and the artist was forced to flee and seek political asylum in France. The city of Moscow appeared to me to be particularly uptight about anything that could be interpreted as disparaging of President Putin and people there do not joke around about him. People in St. Petersburg are considerably more open and expressive and the Political History Museum included an exhibit-- neutral enough, but not fawning or complicit in his cult of personality-- on him. I very spontaneously cracked a joke in front of it tying Putin to Trump. The whole room-- primarily filled with Russians, the museum being off the beaten tourist track-- cracked up. Everyone got the joke. And, even if Putin isn't, Trump is very much a joke... at least among people in St. Petersburg who are conversant in English.
So I wasn't all that surprised when a Russian polling firm released a poll last week showing that Trump is a very unpopular figure in that country.
When asked how much they liked Donald Trump, 10 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion as opposed to 71 percent who had an unfavorable one. Nearly 1 in 5 had no opinion of the American president.

Russians were also asked what they thought of Donald Trump. Large percentages of Russians view Donald Trump as “self-centered” (77 percent) and “dangerous” (58 percent). About half would characterize him as “charismatic” (49 percent). A minority of Russians believe Trump is “strong” (34 percent) and very few would describe him as “trustworthy” (16 percent).

In comparison to Trump, Russians have a more favorable opinion of Americans, though it is still overall negative. About one-third (30 percent) of Russians view Americans favorably, 44 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Americans, and 27 percent have no opinion. The large percentage of Russians who expressed no opinion indicates a great deal of ambivalence toward Americans as a people (as opposed to the government).

However, when asked about the image of the United States, the picture that exists in the minds of most Russians is not pretty. Russians overwhelmingly describe the United States as “interfering with other countries” (86 percent) and “aggressive” (76 percent). Few Russians believe the United States is “trustworthy” (13 percent), “open to the world” (26 percent) and “democratic” (37 percent).

On the positive side, large percentages of respondents do describe the United States as having “advanced science and technology” (73 percent), being “influential” (66 percent) and having a “high standard of living” (57 percent).

Even the guy I mentioned I had an affair with, a soccer player who had just graduated from college-- I think; I can't remember exactly, just his name, Igor and meeting him on a tram-- was very anti-American. He seems to have learned it in school. Very anti-American but in bed with one. Very anti-American but a big fan of hip-hop music, very anti-American but proud he spoke English and smoked American cigarettes, very anti-American but with the aspiration of living in Miami. People I met there had a schizophrenic attitude towards the U.S., as do people all over the world these days. I've found more recently that as soon and you make it clear you hate Trump, people open up-- except in Moscow, where everyone has a poker face and never open up to strangers.

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Very Bad Idea: Rightists With Weapons


The Best People by Chip Proser

I'm old-- and for all my life I've heard the corporate media (and the Republican Party) pushing this equivalence between the extreme right and some mythical "extreme left." With a couple of short-lived exceptions, there's never been any "extreme left,"-- and certainly not in Congress. Which Democrats are as far left as, for example, the Freedom Caucus? I would call Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee, Judy Chu, Jamie Raskin, Pramila Jayapal, Keith Ellison, Yvette Clarke, Jim McGovern, Ted Lieu, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Raul Grijalva, Alan Lowenthal and Jerry Nadler, a baker's dozen of the most progressive members of Congress, left-of-center moderates. The corporate media would rather refer to far right Democrats who vote most of the time with the GOP, like Kyrsten Sinema, Collin Peterson, Tom O'Halleran, Jim Costa, Josh Gottheimer and Henry Cuellar moderates, even though they are significantly to the right on the issues American care about. As for the Republican Party, find me some congressional Democrats as far left as Jim Jordan, Steve King, Ted Yoho, Glenn Grothman, Louie Gohmert, Marsha Blackburn, Karen Handel, Dana Rohrabacher, Rod Blum, Mo Brooks, Jody Hice, Dan Webster, Ron DeSantis, Ron Estes, Scott DesJarlais, Virginia Foxx, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Wilson, Diane Black...

The last radicals I can recall getting into Congress were Vito Marcantonio, from East Harlem, who first in 1934 (as a Republican), Leo Isacson, who represented NY-24 (the same part of the Bronx that just nominated Alexandria Ocasio for Congress) and William Meyer, elected from Vermont in 1958. Marcantonio entered congress as a Republican, switched to the Socialist Party ands defeated by a Democrat in 1950 for opposing the Korean War. Isacson was also defeated by a Democrat (1948) and Meyer lost his seat to a Republican in 1960.

Many people are hoping that Alexandria won't be the only Democratic Socialist in the House come January. The best bet is Kaniela Ing in Hawaii, although there are a number of superb candidates with primaries coming up running on basically Bernie platforms, and who have good chances to win in November, like James Thompson (KS), Tom Guild (OK), Rashida (MI), Randy Bryce (WI).

So I got a little off the track. And the track leads to American neo-fascist and Trumpite, Steve Bannon. On Sunday, another neo-fascist, Britain's Nigel Farage, interviewed Bannon for his right-wing website, LBC. Farage was joined by some other fascists for the interview. Bannon starts the monkey-business: "If I was in middle England, and said this wasn't what i voted for, I would rise up and make sure the guys in parliament knew it. You're going to have to fight to take your country back, every day. Whether it's Italy, France, England, or the United States. If we quit, they're going to be in control."

Theo Usherwood, LBC's political editor: "That sounds like a call to arms."

Bannon: "Absolutely. This is war."
Nigel Farage asked the former strategist whether he saw everything "in terms of this great sort of military style battle."

Mr Bannon's response: "It is.

"It's war.

"This is this.

"War is politics by other means, well politics is war by other means.

"This is a war.

"This is a war for control, this a war for the little guy."

Speaking about the President, Mr Bannon said: Trump is in your grill from the beginning, he's not going to back off and that's what you... if you're going to back off, they're going to win.

"The problem is, the conservatives and people in the United States and England have been too nice."
Several of the folks who Sacha Baron Cohen interviewed are serving in Congress right now and will, in all likelihood, be voting to impeach Rod Rosenstein very soon. Of course Trent Lott no long does serve in the Senate, but he was the Republican Senate Majority Leader in the recent past. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) should both be eschewed by the GOP and sent for some serious psychiatric help. And Joe Walsh... a rudimentary knowledge of mortars? In kindergarten. "In less than a month, less than a month, a first grader can become a first grenader." And this NRA guy, Larry Pratt? You tell me there are crazier people locked up in insane asylums that Larry Pratt. You want to trust this guy walking around with assault rifles?

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Trump's Horribly Failed Trip To Europe


Here in the U.S., Trump is the least popular American "president" at this point in his term. It's much worse in the rest of the world. Except for outright fascist countries like Hungary and dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, Trump is almost universally hated. Even before he went to the U.K. and made an ass out of himself, YouGov polling showed him with an 11% approval rating. 67% of Britons say he's either a "poor" or "terrible" leader.

Scotland hates him even more than the rest of the U.K. and they're pissed off that his vacation/advertisement for his failed Turnberry golf resort, a money laundering machine, is costing them $6 million.

Before he flew up to Scotland, he did a 30 minute interview with right-winger Piers Morgan aboard Air Force One. Morgan wrote a long article about it for the Daily Mail but I'm just excerpting a tiny bit:
Trump spectacularly blew up his trip this week with an incendiary interview in The Sun that attacked Theresa May for watering down her Brexit plan to such an extent that it might kill off hopes of a trade deal with America.

It was the political equivalent of going to someone’s house for dinner and telling them their food is inedible.

He tried to rein back on his criticism when they appeared for a joint press conference on Friday, but a lot of the damage was already done with May’s critics leaping on the belief that her new Chequers plan which caused David Davis and Boris Johnson to resign, doesn’t allow Britain to do a bi-lateral deal with America.

I was curious if Mrs May had managed to change his mind during their series of private meetings.

‘No, no, I think my position is the same-- I just think it’s really their choice. And if you speak to the Prime Minister, she’s really saying: “No, it is Brexit, it is what it was, but we’re leaving certain things.”

‘Do you believe that?’

‘Well honestly it’s not for me to say.’

‘Most people don’t believe it.’

‘Well yeah, I know, but…’

‘They think it doesn’t allow for America to actually trade.’

‘Well that would be bad, I mean look, I think it’s worse for UK than it is for us because we’re doing very well, and we’re doing very well at trade, and we’re doing incredibly well overall, and we’re having the best numbers we’ve ever had as a country-- best employment numbers, best GDP numbers.’

‘If we were free, Britain, to do a genuine free trade deal...’

‘We would make a tremendously big deal.’

‘People say: “Come on. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, he wants to put America first, we’re not going to get a great deal.”

‘That’s true. Sure, but you’re going to put UK first, and we’re going to, you know, we’re going to argue, we’re going to fight, and we’re going to end up making a deal.’

‘Is it in your interests?’

‘We are putting America first but you have to put your country first, and other people have to put their country first.’

‘The sceptic in me would say: ‘What is the incentive for America to do a great deal with the United Kingdom?”

‘We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names-- you can say “England,” you can say “UK,” you can say “United Kingdom” so many different-- you know you have, you have so many different names-- Great Britain. I always say: “Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?’

‘You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?’

‘Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that. But you have lots of different names. The fact is you make great product, you make great things. Even your farm product is so fantastic.’

Trump revealed at the press conference he had privately suggested Mrs May activate a ‘brutal option’ to bring the EU to heel.

I asked what it was.

‘Well I recommended her something, I gave her an option, I’d rather not tell you what that option is, but I think she might. I think it would’ve been great, but it’s not too late for her to do that necessarily.’
One more thing from Morgan's interview that was kind of hilarious-- and a little sad: When the ass-kissing Piers asked him about the hundreds of thousands of protesters, Trump told him that "Some of them are protesting in my favour, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favour." Among the imaginary pro-Trump protesters were not members of the royal family which largely boycotted Trump, although, poor Queen Elizabeth couldn't. Her husband, Prince Philip found something else to do and so did their son and grandsons, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, who are all friends with the Obamas and who are still fuming that Trump threatened England if the Obamas were invited to Prince Harry's wedding.

Now, back to Piers' unanswered question on Air Force One, the one about the "brutal option" he had given Theresa May. Because he shot off his fat mouth and because Morgan wrote about it, the Prime Minister had no choice but to reveal it when Andrew Marr asked her about it on the BBC the next day.
The prime minister was asked on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show what the “brutal” Brexit negotiating advice was that Trump had talked about in their joint press conference outside the prime minister’s Chequers country retreat.

Revealing it for the first time, May said: “He told me I should sue the EU.” After being prompted by a surprised Marr, May repeated: “Sue the EU, not go into negotiations with them, sue them.

The prime minister smiled, and indicated she had disregarded the advice, saying “actually we’re going into negotiations with them”, in remarks that will be interpreted as a put-down of the president.
At least in Finland, not all the protests, scorn and hatred were directed at Trumpanzee. That was all shared between him and his buddy Putin-- and the weather, the hottest day (86 degrees) in years. Even before Trump arrived, Helsinki police were reporting that at least 10 16 demonstrations were planned to protest the two of them, primarily in support of human rights and democracy. During the Sunday rally, Heidi Hautala, a popular Finnish member of the European Parliament told the crowd of several thousand that "The current world order... has been challenged by admiration of force and an attitude of 'every man for himself.' And this is what these two men, Trump and Putin, have in common-- contempt for democracy, contempt for international agreements, contempt for human rights." The Finnish neo-Nazi party also organized a Welcome Trump event at Narinkkatori, a pedestrian plaza across from the train and bus station which also includes the Chapel of Silence, a church dedicated to the absence of sound, an odd place to hold a pro-Trump demonstration.

Before the meeting, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted that they agree with Trump that the bad relations with our country are the fault of... our country-- "U.S. foolishness" and the "witch hunt"-- a word for word interpretation of Señor Trumpanzee's morning tweet. America First?

Trump kept Putin waiting 20 minutes before the summit started, it lasted 90 minutes. That was some weird press conference! David Frum summed it up like this: "We still do not know what hold Vladimir Putin has upon President Trump, but the whole world has now witnessed the power of its grip. Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating the Russian intervention in the U.S. election-- and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees. This is an unprecedented situation, but not an uncontemplated one. At the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, the authors of the Constitution worried a great deal about foreign potentates corrupting the American presidency... The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior-- whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else-- remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process-- and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process-- is video-recorded fact."

Senator John McCain, watching from home in Arizona, issued a statement that one could only hope some of his colleagues in DC will pay attention to: "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake."
Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.

It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout-- as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.

Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.
I wondered if any congressional candidates would have the courage to call it like it is. Kara Eastman (D-NE) sure did-- and fast! "Today, we all watched as Trump committed treason on live television. He sided with Russia over his own appointed staff, despite evidence of Russian meddling in our past election. He has continued to alienate our allies and ignore the advice of our intelligence community, while catering to dictators. This is not how our government is supposed to operate. We have a system of checks and balances, and right now, Republicans in Congress are not doing anything to stop the reckless and dangerous behavior of the president. Despite Trump’s actions, Don Bacon has promised to be a “firewall against impeachment” and has stood by Trump regardless of how far he debases the presidency and our democracy. We need principled leadership in this district-- a leader who will condemn this behavior and ensure the investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia continues."

I want to leave you with one thought. Most people I know probably agree with the sentiment Karoli from Crooks and Liars told me after watching the shocking circus in Helsinki today: "I have never seen a press conference that made me cry, but that one did. It was absolutely treason and he should be arrested when his feet hit American soil."

Traitor! by Chip Proser

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Facebook Launches TV News Feed; Fox News Prominently Featured


 The Cult of the High Tech Billionaire

by Gaius Publius

The very rich aren't like the rest of us, but they're a whole lot like each other. That puts people like Rupert Murdoch, David Koch (who is ailing, by the way), Donald Trump, Russian gangsters and oligarchs, Jamie Dimon and Mark Zuckerberg in a much more shared world than most of us care to think about.

For example, recent reports show how money from Russian oligarchs, $21 billion between 2010 and 2014 alone, and laundered through places like Moldava and Latvia, ends up at places like HSBC and Citibank. It makes sense: banks are in the business of acquiring money, and global criminal-political activity is where great big piles of it are found. Banks go where the customers are.

The money-laundering bank BCCI, now defunct, didn't set that pattern, but they were the most prominent to get caught at it. Not too long ago, Jamie Dimon's bank JP Morgan Chase was also caught with its hand in the money-laundering till, but no one thinks of Dimon and his operation as a money-launderer. The BCCI scandal was back in the 1990s, when banks could be accused of crimes. Starting in 2009, that flaw's been fixed.

I suspect at this point that the whole of Donald Trump's operation, or at least the major part of it, involves money-laundering, and that this will be seen by historians as his actual crime. It's also the reason he could be blackmailed out of office, if his enemies would want to go that route. ("Planning to return to that nice little business you have? Want it to exist when you're done here? I think we can work something out; consider this an exit interview.")

The Koch political machine, of course, is a massive money laundering operation, since its donors are invisible and there's so much money involved. Whose money is being hidden? Who knows? Can any source be excluded? None, not even foreign money from who-knows-where.

(There's an obvious side story here, but no one with real power wants to tell it. The global big-money network is also a bad-money network that encompasses almost every one in it. Not just Trump; everyone who floats on money floats on dirty money to some degree or another. Why aren't they all prosecuted? Maybe they're all in the game, including owners of the media that might do the reporting.)

Mark Zuckerberg's News Shows

This brings us to Mark Zuckerberg and Rupert Murdoch.

You wouldn't think these fellow billionaires would have much else in common. After all, Murdoch is in charge of the massive right-wing propaganda machine known as Fox News, Trump's favorite network and a fortress of evil and destruction to many observers, while Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is a Silicon Valley billionaire, one of the brightest lights in a culture with a largely left following.

Like Steve Jobs, high tech billionaires supposedly see the better future first and will lead us there. As the poster at the top makes clear, they're seen by many as the better angels of our aspirations.

Thomas Middleditch, actor and star of the hit series Silicon Valley, taking "sellout money" (his phrase) and shilling for Verizon, the company most strongly associated with killing net neutrality

The Cult of the High Tech Billionaire is remarkably similar to the "cult of the airman" from the early 1900s, airmen and women being the supposed far-seeing, kindly futurists of a previous era. For more on that earlier cult, see the introduction to this piece: "Google Scores a Pro-Monopoly Seat on Trump Transition Team."

If you thought, though, that Murdoch and Zuckerberg had little in common but their money, you'd be wrong. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are launching a TV news feed called Facebook Watch.
Facebook’s First Wave of Funded News Shows Will Debut July 16, With More on the Way

The first fruits of Facebook’s multimillion-dollar investment in news programming from brand-name TV networks and digital media companies will go live next week — and the social giant has announced another half-dozen news shows that it’s funding.

Starting on Monday, July 16, programming from CNN, Fox News Channel, Univision, ABC News and others will be featured in a dedicated news section in Facebook Watch, its recently launched video platform for episodic programming. The Watch news section will feature news videos from national and local news orgs, and users will see a personalized feed based on the publishers they follow and what their friends are watching. (Facebook users also can access the shows directly from their show pages.)

The first lineup of previously announced shows from news publishers include those from ABC News, Advance Local, ATTN:, CNN, Fox News, Mic, Quartz, and Univision. Over the course of the next few months, Facebook will bring out additional news shows from ABC-owned stations, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed News, McClatchy, Group Nine Media’s NowThis and Tegna.
And guess whose programming is prominently featured? The above report, from Variety, might lead you to believe the mix of shows would be fair and balanced. That's true, but only in the most ironic sense. Here's their schedule:

Facebook Watch's initial programming schedule (click to enlarge)

The very rich aren't like the rest of us. But they're a whole lot like each other.


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When Will There Be Real GOP Opposition To Trump And The "Permanent Damage" He's Doing To America?


Two very different visions for Wisconsin by Nancy Ohanian

Want to get into the time machine for a moment? Not ancient Egypt or a chance to hear Socrates or even a look at the French declaring human rights while chopping off the heads of their oppressors . Glorious moments in the history of man, but our trip is just two years ago-- to July, 2006. John Harwood had interviewed the very right-wing senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, who he dubbed "a leading Republican voice on foreign policy and potential future presidential candidate." Neither Harwood nor Cotton knew at the time, of course, but a few months after the interview, Trump went on to win Arkansas' 6 electoral votes by defeating Hillary in the state where she was once First Lady, 684,872 (60.6%) to 380,494 (33.7%).

Harwood's first question-- and Cotton's response-- probably didn't sound as important then as it does now. "One of the questions that has been raised about Donald Trump is, "Is he more friendly with Russia than it is in America's best interests to be?"

Republican foreign policy wonk Cotton glibly responded that "Putin was a KGB spy and he never got over that. He does not have America's best interests at heart and he does not have any American interests at heart. I suspect, after this week, when Donald Trump is the nominee and he begins to receive classified briefings, similar briefings to what I receive as a member of the Intelligence Committee, he may have a different perspective on Vladimir Putin and what Russia is doing to America's interests and allies in Europe and the Middle East and Asia."

Is Cotton living in a dazed and confused Republican world today, where he is now part of the Grand Enablement Brigade? Cotton's Trump affinity score is a hearty 92%. When the media speculates about who among Republican senators might stand up for the American people against Trump's insane rush towards fascism, Cotton's name is never mentioned, never. Susan Collins (R-ME), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Corker (R-TN), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Corey Gardner (R-CO), James Lankford (R-OK) all have lower affinity scores than Cotton and all are denounced by hard core Trumpists on the fringes as being traitors to the Great Leader, and all are occasionally mentioned as possibly bulwarks against Trumpist extremism-- but the most any of them ever does is grumble and grouse.

The Harvard-educated and closeted Cotton is still laying low., still hoping his party will come to him one day (perhaps in 2024) with a presidential nomination. This guy:
HARWOOD: His criticism of John McCain. You asked him to retract and apologize. He said that President George W. Bush lied to get us into war in Iraq and didn't protect us because 9/11 actually happened?

COTTON: Well, I disagree with those statements and I said them at the time. But I think that Donald Trump and a Republican Congress will have an agenda that's better for the American people. And, you know, Hillary Clinton has a lot of things to answer for as well, to include direct lies to the American people and the FBI director has now corroborated that.

HARWOOD: but you're willing to live with those things that are distasteful to you because of Hillary Clinton?

COTTON: Well, I mean, the Clintons have set some of their own standards for low conduct in office.

HARWOOD: Right, but what do you think of his standards?

COTTON: Well, again, I've said that I disagree with those statements you cited, at the time, and I still disagree with them. I don't think they're helpful to the campaign. You know, the Republican Party is bigger than any one man. It's bigger than Donald Trump. It's bigger than me. I think that Donald Trump, like all Republicans, should be focused on the issues that matter to the American people.
Oops. Luckily, Senator Cotton only wants to be a post-thump presidential nominee, not a tea leaf reader.

If anything, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is even further right than Cotton, a real kook with a crazy extremist ideology. Yesterday he went on-air with conservative radio host John Catsimatidis on New York's AM 970. Johnson, considered even less likely to utter any anti-Trump syllable than Cotton said that right for Harley-Davidson to respond to Trump's trade war by moving production to other countries. "Because of the beginning of the trade war... our state has been particularly targeted. Harley-Davidson has been targeted, our cranberry industry, our ginseng industry... We're a big steel-using state. Steel tariffs are hitting us pretty bad, pretty hard. That raises the costs of American-manufactured products, of Wisconsin-manufactured products... What happened with Harley basically is the trade war. They were paying 6% tariffs [to get] into Europe, now it's 31%! If they manufacture in another country they can enjoy the lower steel prices and remain competitive... So they really don't have a choice."

The media takeaway will be Johnson saying that Trump's trade policies are doing "permanent damage." Permanent damage is a big deal. It feeds right into Randy Bryce's campaign down in the southeast part of the state, where he's already chased Paul Ryan out of Congress and is now running against a hand-picked Ryan clone, Bryan Steil.

Randy heard the same Catsimatidis radio broadcast that I did, after he  addressed the AFT convention in Pittsburgh yesterday. I asked him what he thought about it and how it might impact his own race in southeast Wisconsin. This is what he told me:
Ron Johnson admits Donald Trump is responsible for permanent damage yet he seems to be just fine with that. I’m guessing it would be a different tune if the plastics company that he married into would be affected-- but why would it? He uses prison labor to help him make a profit. Also, a decent percentage of his workers depend on BadgerCare due to the fact that he doesn’t care about their health. Ron Johnson has never been accused of being brilliant. He’s also never been accused of looking out for others.

Reminds me of another guy in Wisconsin who is running around trying to convince people he’s a “problem solving manufacturer.” We’re talking about Paul Ryan former staffer Bryan Steil who is committed to carrying on for the fleeing Paul Ryan. Steil actually is responsible for helping a manufacturer outsource hundreds of jobs to Mexico. That’s how he solves problems. As for manufacturing, he is good at fabricating BS. We won’t get fooled again. What we’ve built is a Movement in southeast Wisconsin. 
I think we're still a long way off from Republicans in Congress standing up to Trump. It's going to take an ass-whipping in November before that happens. But that's coming. Trump beat Hillary in Ryan's district by just over 10 points, 52.6% to 42.3%. That could well be the margin by by Bryce beats Steil in November. And Bryce isn't running some kind of Republican-lite DCCC campaign. He's a full-on progressive, campaigning with Bernie and on Bernie's populist issues.

Meanwhile, more muttering:

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

As the photographer tells the NATO leaders to look to their left, Traitor Don gets distracted by dreams of his master and their very private Monday meeting in Helsinki. Maybe he should take advantage of the opportunity to ask his Big Daddy Vladdy for asylum.

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

My Visit To A Right-Wing Insane Asylum-- And Foreign Policy In The Age Of The Monkey-President


We all live in the same country but we have different news sources-- and it's increasingly divided by party. Here's a good example. A recent YouGov poll from The Economist reported that 16% of Democrats and 21% of Independents thought Trump got what he wanted out of the summit with Kim Jong Un, but 45% of Republicans thought he did!

Respondants were also asked if they rated various counties and foreign leaders friends or enemies of the U.S. Hoe about Canada? 82% of Democrats and 71% of Independents think Canada is either an ally or a friend, but only 68% of Republicans think the same. In fact, 14% of Republicans see Canada as unfriendly or an enemy. (Only 4% of Democrats and 7% of Independents feel that way). Mexico is seen as unfriendly or an enemy by 17% of Democrats, 30% of Independents and 45% of Republicans. Israel is seen as friendly or an ally by 58% of Democrats, 52% of Independents and a whopping 86% of Republicans.

And Russia? I know that's what you're waiting for. 9% of Democrats, 10% of Independents and 18% of Republicans consider Russia friendly. Also 25% of Republicans have a favorable view of Putin, but 7% of Democrats and 12% of Independents do. 9% of Democrats, 26% of Independents and-- what for it-- 72% of Republicans say they think has handled Russia well.(Maybe this is because 78% of Republicans but only 9% of Democrats and 28% of Independents think Trump has skill at negotiating.) I know it's not Russia but 81% of Republicans but only 13% of Democrats and 31% of Independents think Trump has handled North Korea well. 53% of Republicans, 23% of Independents and 11% of Democrats rate the Kim Jong Un summit meeting successful.

Now NATO. 9% of Democrats and 26% of Independents have an unfavorable view of NATO, but so do 37% of Republicans. In fact 9% of Democrats, 14% of Independents and 38% of Republicans want to withdraw from NATO.

And, like Trump, many Republicans think the U.S. is being ripped off by other countries. Here's a list of countries with how Democrats and Republicans view how unfair trade is with each:

Republicans- 47%
Democrats- 15%


Republicans- 72%
Democrat- 42%

European Union

Republicans- 45%
Democrats- 14%


Republicans- 58%
Democrats- 21%

OK, and now to that trip to the insane asylum for Republicans. Actually it's a website I've never been to before, but follow on Twitter to keep track of what's going on on the far fringes of loony-land. It's something like the tip of the spear that is turning the Republican Party for a conservative party to a fascist party. It is very, very, very Trumpist, to say the least. And unless you are prepared to be barraged with both an avalanche of ads and a stark view of what has driven your right-wing, drooling brother-in-law off the deep end, don't go near it. This-- and other information sources like it, is exactly why Republicans have so many views at 180 degree variance with objective reality... and why their twisted, dark little lives are plagued with laughable conspiracy theories and raging paranoia. Señor Trumpanzee, one of them wrote, "has caught two Republican senators who were baited into exposing their anti-Trump pro-Deep State sympathies on a trip to Moscow, Russia on the Fourth of July." While you absorb what this psycho just said, I'll go right to the spoiler: John Hoeven, a faceless backbencher from North Dakota who sometimes gets mistaken for Angus King (I-ME) by other Republican senators, and, John Thune, the 3rd highest-ranking Republican in the Senate leadership. OK, now back to the specifics of the lunacy:
Trump handpicked seven untested Republican lawmakers including six senators for a trip to Moscow with pro-Trump members of the intelligence and military community. The trip was modeled after similar trips to Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Antarctica that Republican caucus members and governors attend to test their Deep State potential.

Why Russia? It has become completely clear to all national security insiders that Democrats including Obama and Hillary Clinton have actually been colluding with Russia-- as evidenced by the Uranium One sale of 20 percent of uranium to the Russians, by the Obama Democrats’ crusade to hand control of Port Canaveral and the Port of Wilmington over to a Middle East company that exports Vladimir Putin’s missile launchers, and also by the fact that the Russians completely hacked all of the personal identifying information (facial recognition and fingerprints) that Obama and James Comey secretly compiled from all American citizens in 14 different states.

The “Russia” collusion case against Trump was a psy-op to deflect attention away from the Democrats, and to use the mainstream media to cover it up just long enough for Robert Mueller to get whatever he needed to go after Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort.

So of course the Deep State would meet with potential anti-Trump recruits in Russia.

But this time, President Trump was putting together his own personal episode of “Undercover Boss.” Read the bombshell report by Tore Lindeman that had pro-Trumpers in the State Department clogging up the phone lines! [Spoiler Alert: Basically the exact same story by the exact same psychopath.]

A high-level national security source tells Big League Politics that President Donald Trump picked seven Republican lawmakers to travel to Moscow over their Fourth of July recess to attend top secret meetings. Why? Because Trump is testing to see if they are Deep State “sleeper” agents to resist Trump. The Deep State routinely takes Republican senators on these kinds of trips to indoctrinate them into the globalist intelligence community. But on this trip to Moscow they were walking right into a trap set up by President Trump.

The meeting included Republican Sens. John Thune, Richard Shelby, Steve Daines, John Kennedy, John Hoeven, and Jerry Moran, and the congresswoman Kay Granger.

Two of the senators FAILED the test, according to Trump’s inner circle: Senators Hoeven and Thune.

“The President at this moment must surround himself with people that he can TRUST because these individuals are only a handful of sleepers” the source said.
The story then further degenerates into made-up nonsense about Kazakhstan, Afghanistan and Antarctica with plenty of Hillary craziness and lines like "the other individuals are all intelligence operatives" and "The Major and Lt. Col. were the spooks of spooks." And like the closing paragraph:
Sen. Hoeven when interviewed waffled and obviously from his responses looked incompetent to actually formulate any intelligible response indicating he had foreign policy experience. He just kept saying “We told the Russians we know you meddled with the elections and that is a problem.” It’s important to note that most of these Senators that accompanied Bolton were fish out of water and were simply there for “decorative” purposes. I guess its important we all take a look at our Senators and House candidates on ballots and see which of them have frequent ODD trips to places no one talks about, especially Pakistan.
Poor Limbaugh... he used to have this space all to himself.

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