Wednesday, April 25, 2018

After Pompeo Is Confirmed We'll Be Hearing Lots About "Bloody Gina"


I'm really looking forward to former Democrat Joe Lieberman's OpEd on why Democrats need to confirm Torture Princess Gina Haspell. He hasn't published it yet, just one called Senate should fulfill constitutional duty, confirm Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has to move on the State before Haspell cn be voted on for his old job at the CIA. Lieberman hectored Democratic senators that the pro-Pompeo and anti-Pompeo votes are "breaking along partisan lines which is contrary to precedent for this important position and bad for our country because it sends a message of internal division to our allies and adversaries around the world." But he doesn't lecture the Republicans about serving the country by rejecting him-- only the Democrats about confirming him. "Pompeo’s academic and professional credentials," he insists, "are stellar. He graduated first in his class from West Point, and served as a U.S. Army cavalry officer. Later, he graduated from Harvard Law School, as an editor at the Harvard Law Review. Afterwards, he was successful in business, co-forming an aerospace company and serving as president of an oilfield equipment company. During Mike Pompeo’s three terms in the House of Representatives, he became known as a thoughtful voice on national security, serving on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Intelligence Subcommittee on the CIA. While in the House, he focused on homeland security and the War on Terror, sponsoring numerous bills to contain Iranian aggression. Nothing that indicates he would be a good Secretary of State.
For the last 15 months, Pompeo has served as director of the CIA. His tenure there has been considered broadly successful, including efforts to pare bureaucracy and squeeze North Korea’s supply routes. Pompeo delivered President Trump’s daily intelligence briefings, giving him insight about emerging security threats and how the president comprehends them. These briefings earned him the trust of the president, crucial to the success of any cabinet member. This president’s confidence in Pompeo is such that he dispatched Pompeo to handle the sensitive portfolio of meeting with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un earlier this month.

Given his strong background, Pompeo is certainly qualified to be secretary of State. His narrow path to confirmation in the Senate isn’t a reflection on his qualifications; instead, it reflects our country’s growing political polarization.
No-one doubts that had Democrats not driven Lieberman out of the Senate, he would be joining DINOs Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp in supporting the nomination. He insists that "the Advise and Consent clause has become increasingly used in these hyper-partisan times as another way for senators to prove their conservative or liberal bona fides to their political bases. This risks turning every nomination into an exercise in ideological posturing. It is time to time to return to the traditional understanding of 'advise and consent,' putting the national interest above partisanship-- and judging simply if the candidate can do the job. Director Pompeo has shown he can. He deserves confirmation."

So what about Gina? Did he read her college record from the University of Kentucky? How about her record as Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency? There must be a reason that more than 100 retired admirals and generals are raising serious concerns about her.

I'd trust former CIA officer and torture whistleblower John Kiriakou, who personally knew her, far more than Lieberman. He told Amy Goodman at Democracy Now! that Haspel "tortured Just for the Sake of Torture." Perfect for Trump and his budding fascist state! And percent for Team Bolton! And Lieberman. What about Manchin and Heitkamp on this one?

He's not a big fan of Pompeo either but feels we could have done worse with that nomination "Gina Haspel, however, is a problem, a big problem. I’ve been talking about Gina Haspel for more than a year. She was a dreadful choice to be the deputy director. She’s a worse choice to be the director. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a possibility of a woman heading the CIA, but there are 50 different women who are qualified to lead the CIA. It shouldn’t be Gina Haspel... We did call her Bloody Gina. Gina was always very quick and very willing to use force. You know, there was a group of officers in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, when I was serving there, who I hate to even make the accusation out loud, but I’m going to say it: who enjoyed using force. Yeah, everybody knew that torture didn’t work. That’s not even the issue. Lots of different things work. Was it moral, and was it ethical, and was it legal? I think the answers to those questions are very clearly no. But Gina and people like Gina did it, I think, because they enjoyed doing it. They tortured just for the sake of torture, not for the sake of gathering information."
[A] black site is a site that’s more or less off the books, meaning it doesn’t officially exist. It exists, but nobody is supposed to know that it exists. And in many cases, that includes the congressional oversight committees. So, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the CIA set up such black sites all around the world, with the idea being that if we captured someone from al-Qaeda or kidnapped someone from al-Qaeda, we could send him to one of these black sites, interrogate him without having to worry about the law, about ethics or morality or the FBI breathing down their backs. They could do whatever they wanted. And that’s how this torture program spiraled out of control. There were people who were murdered in the course of their interrogations.

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Ready To Say Bye-Bye To Scott Pruitt? It's Not The Bad Policies Doing Him In... It's The Graft And Corruption


The White House has been sending signals to Senate allies to not go out on any limbs defending EPA Director Scott Pruitt. On Monday, Bloomberg was already reporting that the Pruitt defenses were starting to crumble. "White House officials are cautioning Republican lawmakers and other conservative allies to temper their defense of Scott Pruitt, according to two people familiar with the discussions, in a sign that administration support for the embattled EPA chief may be waning." There were already some Republicans that didn't need the warnings. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) had already called on Pruitt to resign.

The San Francisco Chronicle published a blistering editorial on Monday demanding Trump replace him.
Scott Pruitt’s only tenuous claim to environmental protection concerns a sort of wetland preservation-- namely, his immense contributions to the ethical swamp President Trump promised to drain.

And yet the notoriously antienvironment Environmental Protection Agency chief remains employed by a president renowned for firing people on and off television (and Twitter). Pruitt’s remarkable longevity amid accumulating scandal sends a clear signal that the Trump administration-- which is, after all, often run from Florida-- is as swampy as they come.

Thanks to Pruitt’s penchant for expensive, extraneous and ethically dubious personal luxuries, official trappings and security measures, his drive to undo decades of hard-won environmental progress threatens to become bogged down in, according to the New York Times’ count, 10 different investigations. Recent reports by the Times and others suggest these habits date to Pruitt’s time as a state legislator and attorney general in Oklahoma, where he also maintained mutually beneficial relationships with industry and lobbyists.

...When he’s not being accommodated by the industries he largely fails to regulate, Pruitt can be found traveling about the country and even the world at inflated expense to taxpayers. Part of the extraordinary cost can be attributed to first-class airfare and accommodations for his sizable retinue, present even on personal trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl. The administrator, who has been roundly criticized by predecessors from both parties, apparently believes his courageous defiance of climate science necessitates an unprecedented 24-hour security detail that has cost taxpayers nearly $3 million.

Perhaps the most enduring and absurd symbol of the Pruitt era is the $43,000 custom soundproof phone booth installed in his office in violation of spending laws to allow the administrator to “make and receive calls to discuss sensitive information.” It would be the ideal place for him to take a call from the White House regarding the sensitive matter of his departure.
Even Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, a staunch and longtime Pruitt ally seems to be finished defending him and now supports hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee looking into the former Oklahoma attorney general's actions. Rubber stamp Trump senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and John Boozman (AR) are also calling for hearings, a sure sign the White House is ready to throw in the towel on Pruitt.

And West Virginia is no longer the #1 coal state. Wyoming is. The committee chairman is far right Wyoming senator John Barrasso who told reporters he expects Pruitt to come over to Capitol Hill and answer questions from the committee. Barrasso has never uttered an independent word in his entire life.
The House Oversight Committee has requested interviews with five senior agency aides and the White House said it would formally investigate Pruitt’s expenses after the Government Accountability Office last week found EPA broke the law by failing to notify Congress about a $43,000 privacy booth Pruitt had built in his office.

Pruitt will go to the Hill on Thursday to testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee in the morning and at a House Appropriations subpanel in the afternoon. Those appearances will mark his first time before Congress since the recent allegations broke.

Both Inhofe and Capito said they thought those House hearings would prove pivotal for Pruitt’s long-term future in the administration.

“It’s really important,” Capito said. “He’s going to have to answer some tough questions. I’m sure they’ll be put to him by both sides and we’ll see what his response is.”

Meanwhile, EPW ranking member Tom Carper (D-DE) said he had a good conversation with House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) regarding Pruitt, but he said there was no formal bipartisan agreement to work together on an investigation.

“I just gave him plenty of encouragement that he’s doing the right thing,” he said.

But the mounting public criticism from Republicans suggests GOP lawmakers' patience in defending the EPA chief's behavior is waning.

"Some of the things that he’s done and that he’s been alleged to do are just indefensible," Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said. "You just can’t put lipstick on those pigs. You can’t."
Goal ThermometerBasically all of the Blue America-endorsed candidates have environmental and climate change planks in their platforms. We don't endorse candidates don't. Sam Jammal, who is running in CA-39 (northeast Orange County) has had some experience, both in the private sector and on Capitol Hill working in these areas. He pointed out that "The EPA is always a challenge under Republican Administrations. But Pruitt is a special breed. Aside from the corruption, he has spent his entire term undermining any action on climate and taking every opportunity to roll back protections on our environment. The Trump Administration is going after every environmental protection most people thought the debate was settled on-- drilling on our beaches, undermining climate science and polluting our water. It sometimes seems like they are undermining our environment with new attacks on a weekly basis, especially for California. While removing Pruitt won't put a stop on everything, it will slow things down and empower career employees to do the right thing for our environment. It also opens the door for a congressional debate on what the EPA is doing with the next nominee since Pruitt and his allies are largely undermining our environmental protections in the dark."

Levi Tillemann is running in a suburban Denver district (CO-06) and he has similarly hard feeling towards Pruitt's and the Trump Regime's anti-environmental aggressiveness. "Pruitt," he told us, "seems to believe that gutting environmental protections will make our economy stronger. (His assault on common sense policies to protect clean air, clean water and reduce carbon pollution has been unrelenting.) The problem is, he's wrong and particularly in the automotive space. The rest of the world is on track for aggressive electrification and increases in fuel economy. If U.S. regulations don't keep pace, our industry will lag behind in a globalized industry worth trillions of dollars. Eliminating the incentives for increased fuel economy is going to make our economy weaker, not stronger."

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Patrick Murphy And David Jolly Want To Insert Third Way Into The Florida Governor's Race


Patrick Murphy's papa bought him a congressional seat in the West Palm area (FL-18) in 2012. It was incredibly close but Murphy had a perfect foil-- lunatic fringe neo-fascist Allen West. Even Murphy looked almost like a lesser of two evils. Murphy's father started a PAC, American Sunrise, and financed his ne'rer-do-well son with $118,578. Sensing thew kind of DINO they love, the DCCC put in another $548,517. The final score was 166,257 (50.3%) to 164,353 (49.7%). Murphy went on to be lazy, incompetent backbencher with no achievements at all except to raise Wall Street cash by backing the banksters (along with Republicans and his fellow corrupt New Dems) on the House Financial Services Committee. In 2016 Schumer and Reid picked him to run for the U.S. Senate and Rubio beat him 52-44%. He drew 4,122,088 votes while Hillary Clinton was getting 4,504,975 votes on the same day. Nearly 400,000 Democratic voters decided to not cast a ballot for Murphy. Maybe his "F" rating by Progressive Punch helps explain why.

There is a lively election to replace Rick Scott as governor now. And Murphy is back, rearing his ugly drunken heard again. Now he's the "bipartisan candidate," offering to run on a ticket with with former Congressman David Jolly, who was ousted in 2016 by flip-floppy conservative Charlie Crist from his Pinellas County seat.

There are already 4 serious Democrats in the race, a female version of Murphy, DINO Gwen Graham, plus two other wretched conservaDems, former Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine and random rich businessman Christopher King, and one progressive, Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum. (There are also a dozen of so Republicans running for their party's nomination, though the top two are mainstream establishment conservative Adam Putnam and neo-fascist Trumpist Ron DeSantis.)

Monday evening Alex Leary broke the news in the Tampa Bay Times that Murphy and Jolly had put together a DINO/RINO ruse to attract attention. Their theory of the race is that a "split ticket idea recognizes growing dissatisfaction with the polarization of both parties and a possible third way."
"Working across the aisle was a hallmark of my two terms in Congress, and the relationships I formed with members of both parties were invaluable," Murphy said at the outset of the town-hall tour last summer. "I look forward to joining my former colleague as we share our perspectives on ways we must work together to improve our broken political system."

Jolly added, "Even in times of great disagreement there are ways of finding common ground, there are opportunities for bipartisan leadership to solve some of our country's toughest issues."
Geoff Burgan, Gillum's communications director, had a riotous response: "We welcome anyone who wants to talk about Florida’s future. The contrast in vision and background between the three millionaires running against Andrew Gillum couldn’t be more clear." Meanwhile, one of Murphy's former congressional colleagues laughed and told me that "it's sad but true: being unprincipled and unscrupulous, zero accomplishments to your name, and standing for nothing except self-promotion, now qualifies as 'bipartisan.'" Another of his former colleagues (from the House Financial Services Committee) referred to him as "a smarmy jerk-boy" and that was really the only think I can repeat about what she had to say about Murphy.

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When Will Beltway Pundits Feel Safe Enough To Predict An 80 Seat Swing?


Trump beat Hillary in Mississippi 700,714 (57.9%) to 485,131 (40.1%). Basically, Hillary won the black belt counties in the western part of the state and Trump won the rest. She won Bennie Thompson's congressional district 64-35% and Trump won the 3 other congressional districts by around the same number, reversed. The statewide PVI is R+9 so those numbers were predictable. A new Mason-Dixon poll of Mississippi released yesterday was anything but predictable. It shows Democrat Jim Hood ahead of Republican Lt. Governor Tate Reeves in the gubernatorial race-- 44-39%. Similar story from today's Tennessee Mason-Dixon poll-- Democrat Phil Bredesen leading GOP extremist Marsha Blackburn, 46-43% in a state with an R+14 that Trump won 1,522,925 (60.7%) to 870,695 (34.7%). That's part of what you hear people talking about when they mention the word "swing." Like they did last night while the votes in New York and Arizona were rolling in.

Yes, the Republicans held onto AZ-08 in the suburbs west and northwest of Phoenix... so why were Republican celebrations this morning ringing a little hollow? The swing away from the GOP was frightening. Trump had won that district by 21 points. The district is so red that the Democrats hadn't bothered running a candidate in 2016-- nor in 2014. The last time a Democrat ran was in 2012 and the result was ugly. Right-wing extremist Trent Franks beat Democrat Gene Scharer 63.3% to 35.1%. Last night Debbie Lasko, a lunatic fringe GOP extremist, who already announced she's joining the neo-fascist Freedom Caucus, beat random Democrat Hiral Tipirneni 91,390 (52.6%) to 82,318 (47.4%). Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight noted that "Lesko’s margin of victory was only 5 percentage points in a district that typically votes Republican by much, much more than that. The outcome represented a 20-point swing toward Democrats relative to the district’s FiveThirtyEight partisan lean, which is derived from how it voted for president in 2016 and 2012 relative to the country... If Republicans are winning by only 5 points in this sort of extremely red district in November, dozens of more competitive seats will flop to Democrats-- more than enough for them to take the House. In fact, Cook's David Wasserman, tweeted, while the last votes were still be counted that "There are 147 GOP-held House seats less Republican than #AZ08. It's time to start rethinking how many of those are truly safe in November."

This morning, Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen painted a dismal picture for the Republican Party as they were taking solace that at least the million dollars they spent shoring up Lesko allowed them to keep the seat. Trump's Election Nightmare brings up how the far-fetched possibility that the Democrats could win both the House and the Senate is turning into a probability. "Republicans," they remind us, "have underperformed in every special election since Trump became president... Even the reddest of districts in a red state can be in play this year."

Steven Law, a top Mitch McConnell ally who runs American Crossroads, the most powerful and well-funded outside group supporting Republican Senate campaigns, said it's "not likely but not out of the question" to lose the Senate.
Law said: "[W]e do have more defensive terrain to hold than when the cycle started... And targeted Democratic incumbents have been over-performing in terms of their early fundraising activity."
A Republican lobbyist who is well-connected in the Senate is becoming increasingly bearish about holding the chamber: “Everyone just universally assumed it would be status quo or Republicans would win a seat or two. And now it feels like Republicans are at a risk of losing one, which would be a 50-50 Senate or two, which would be a Democratic Senate.”
Goal ThermometerGOP Senate candidates are in trouble in Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee... and even Texas, where longshot Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke-- anything but a DSCC Schumer candidate-- is running neck-and-neck with right-wing crackpot Ted Cruz. And we all know that in the House, Democrats need to pick up 2 dozen seats. At the rate things are going, they'll be closer to 80 seats than to 24 seats. Things keep getting worse for the Republicans... and with Trump off his leash, there's no reason they won't get even worse.

If you'd like to help the Democrats win back the Senate-- and not turn it into a conservative hellhole, please consider tapping on the Blue America Senate Thermometer on the right and contributing what you can, especially to Beto O'Rourke and Dianne Feinstein's progressive opponent, Kevin de León. And keep in mind, if Bernie and Elizabeth Warren run as a ticket in 2020, anything they collect in their 2018 Senate campaigns can be transferred to the presidential race.

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Winning In 2020-- Something Bold... Or More Status Quo?


King of Diamonds by Nancy Ohanian

University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz published a study Monday that asserts that "Fear of losing their privileged status in America and the world motivated many 2016 voters, notably whites, men, and Christians. She calls into question the whole theory that it was anger rather than fear that motivatived Trump voters-- that the white working class, having faced job losses and stagnant wages under Obama, voted with their pocketbooks when they chose Señor Trumpanzee.

Mutz's point is "that many Trump voters are feeling left behind, but not for reasons related to personal financial problems or economic anxiety about the future. Based on survey data from a nationally representative panel of the same 1,200 American voters polled in both 2012 and 2016... Mutz found that traditionally high-status Americans, namely whites, feel their status in America and the world is threatened by America's growing racial diversity and a perceived loss of US global dominance. Under threat by these engines of change, America's socially dominant groups increased their support in 2016 for the candidate who most emphasised reestablishing status hierarchies of the past... [She] followed voters over a four-year period to assess their changing views of trade, the threat posed by China, their sense of group threat, and perceptions of their own personal finances, as well as experiences of unemployment and the economic conditions in their local communities. As in previous elections, most voters in 2016 simply supported the candidate of the same party that they voted for in 2012. But the key to understanding the 2016 outcome lies in what changed from 2012 to 2016 that predicted changing vote choice.
Trump's rhetoric during the 2016 election capitalised on the fears of Americans who currently enjoy dominant status in society, most notably those who were white, Christian, male, or some combination of the three. Many of those Americans, Mutz found, switched from voting for the Democrat in 2012 to the Republican in 2016. Particularly those who found societal changes threatening voted for Trump in an effort to maintain their perceived social dominance in the country and the world.

The status threat experienced by many Americans was not only about their place in American society. In contrast to the conventional wisdom in political science that "voting ends at the water's edge"-- that international affairs don't matter to how people vote-- Mutz found that Americans feel increasingly threatened by the interdependence of the United States with other countries.

  Their sense that America is no longer the dominant superpower it once was influenced their vote in 2016.

"Political uprisings are often about downtrodden groups rising up to assert their right to better treatment and more equal life conditions relative to high-status groups," Mutz writes. "The 2016 election, in contrast, was an effort by members of already dominant groups to assure their continued dominance and by those in an already powerful and wealthy country to assure its continued dominance."

Interestingly, Mutz found that Americans' own positions on issues such as trade, China, and immigration did not change dramatically between 2012 and 2016. In fact, Americans on the whole became more open to citizenship for undocumented immigrants than in 2012.

What did shift, however, were their perceptions of where the Republican candidate stood in 2016 relative to 2012, particularly on issues such as free trade and the threat posed by China. The greater the distance voters perceived between their own positions and those of the Democratic candidate on these issues, and the closer they were to the Republican candidate's position, the more likely they were to switch their votes from how they had voted in 2012.

Despite exhaustive data analysis, the study did not show any relationship between financial hardship and voting for Trump. In addition, those whose financial situations declined between 2012 and 2016 relative to others' economic well-being were no more likely to switch to Trump.

..."The 2016 election was a result of anxiety about dominant groups' future status rather than a result of being overlooked in the past," she writes. "In many ways, a sense of group threat is a much tougher opponent than an economic downturn, because it is a psychological mindset rather than an actual event or misfortune. Given current demographic trends within the United States, minority influence will only increase with time, thus heightening this source of perceived status threat."
Her findings help explain the large numbers of white voters nationally where counties didn't just pick Bernie over Hillary but picked Bernie (in the primaries) over Trump. Some examples:

In Boone County, West Virginia, Bernie beat Hillary 52% to 26.8% but he also beat Trump on primary day 24,410 to 1,388. It was very similar in many counties in the state, like Marion Co., where Bernie beat Hillary 52.4% to 35.0% and also beat Trump 5,324 to 4,035; Mingo Co., Bernie 48.3% and Hillary 23.7% and Bernie 2,425 votes to Trump's 1,161; Calhoun County, where Bernie beat Hillary 60.6% to 23.6% and beat Trump 803 to 480; Logan Co.-- Bernie 50.5% to Hillary 23.5% while Bernie took 3,201 votes to Trump's 1,665; Fayette Co., where it was 52.3% Bernie to 33.8% Hillary and 3,585 Bernie to 2,683 Trump; McDowell Co., where it was Bernie 55.5%, Hillary 29.9% and Bernie 1,453 to Trump's 760; and Monongalia Co., Bernie 57.6% to Hillary's 35.3% and Bernie 8,096 to Trump's 5,571. And, of course it wasn't just West Virginia:
Dupage, Illinois- Bernie 52%, Hillary 47%; Bernie beating Trump 65,159 to 45,1313
Kane, IL- Bernie 56%, Hillary 43%; Bernie beating Trump 31,085 to 21,605
Champaign, IL- Bernie 66%, Hillary 34%; Bernie beating Trump 20,581 to 7,645
Jackson, IL- Bernie 62%, Hillary 38%; Bernie beating Trump 4,656 to 2,215
DeKalb, IL- Bernie 66%, Hillary 31%; Bernie beating Trump 8,315 to 5,139
statewide in New Hampshire- Bernie 60%, Hillary 38%; Bernie beating Trump 151,584 to 100,405
Kalamazoo Co., Michigan- Bernie 61%, Hillary 38%; Bernie beating Trump 20,145 to 9,104
Ingham Co., MI- Bernie 55%, Hillary 44%; Bernie beating Trump 22,909 to 8,056
Isabella Co., MI- Bernie 66%, Hillary 33%; Bernie beating Trump 4,024 to 2,180
Kent, Co., MI- Bernie 62.5%, Hillary 37.3%; Bernie beating Trump 43,375 to 22,742
Grand Traverse Co., MI- Bernie 65%, Hillary 33%; Bernie beating Trump 8,091 to 5,891
Dane Co, Wisconsin- Bernie 62.6%, Hillary 37.3%; Bernie beating Trump 102,585 to 20,884
Los Crosse Co, WI- Bernie 63%, Hillary 37%; Bernie beating Trump 15,139 to 8,271
Bayfield, Co., WI- Bernie 63.5%, Hillary 36.2%; Bernie beating Trump 8,315 to 5,139
Rock, WI- Bernie 60%, Hillary 39%; Bernie beating Trump 17,337 to 10,264
Eau Claire Co., WI- Bernie 64%, Hillary 36%; Bernie beating Trump 13,058 to 6,505
Portage Co., WI- Bernie 65%, Hillary 35%; Bernie beating Trump 9,348 to 5,112
Kenosha Co., WI- Bernie 57%, Hillary 42%; Bernie beating Trump 14,612 to 11,139
That was just a sample where voters wanted change-- and preferred the kind of change Bernie was offering over the bullshit Trump was offering. We've been talking a lot here about Job Guarantee, a major plank in the Bernie platform for 2020. This week, Jeff Stein tried fleshing it out a bit for Washington Post readers. "Sanders's jobs guarantee," he wrote, "would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, heath care, the environment, education and other goals. Under the job guarantee, every American would be entitled to a job under one of these projects or receive job training to be able to do so." Bernie's going to unveil his plan-- which, predictably, is opposed by Republicans and by Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- soon.
Job guarantee advocates say their plan would drive up wages by dramatically increasing competition for workers, ensuring corporations have to offer more generous salaries and benefits if they want to keep their employees from working for the government. Supporters say it would also reduce racial inequality, since black workers face unemployment at about twice the rates of white workers, as well as gender inequality, since many iterations of the plan call for the expansion of federal child-care work.

“The goal is to eliminate working poverty and involuntary unemployment altogether,” said Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who has advocated for a jobs guarantee program along with Stony Brook University’s Stephanie Kelton and a group of left-leaning economists at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College. “This is an opportunity for something transformative, beyond the tinkering we’ve been doing for the last 40 years, where all the productivity gains have gone to the elite of society.”

...It’s not clear exactly what would happen to a worker who violated the terms of employment. The plan suggests creating a Division of Progress Investigation to “take disciplinary action if needed,” leaving authority to the head of the Labor Department. Aides to Sanders stress that the policy details remain in their initial stages.

Proponents trace the idea back to the New Deal Era, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pitched a “Second Bill of Rights” to Congress in 1944. First on the list: the “right to a useful and remunerative job.”

“This is not a radical idea,” Hamilton said. “It was well-couched in the Democratic platform that existed during its heyday. I’m glad Democrats are trending back to their roots.”

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah
Whatever it was, I'm innocent"
-Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante
The symbiotic relationship of Donnie and Rudy continues. People sure do find each other, don't they? These two turkeys have been washing each other's hands for decades now, so, it was no surprise that Señor Trumpanzee would reach into the Giuliani family crypt last week and resuscitate his old pal Rudy in his latest effort to save his own festering ass.

No doubt, Señor Trumpanzee would love to have Rudy replace Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. Hell, he'd probably love to have another of NYC's 1980's luminaries, Vinnie "The Chin" Gigante as AG. Many of the media would have you believe that there's no way the $enate would confirm Rudy at this point, but, in light of the $enate's continued belief and support of their Trumpanzee, that's a patently absurd assertion. After all, it was just a few days ago when another dirtbag of extreme proportions, Mitch McConnell, refused to hear of any protections for Robert Mueller. Trump's $enate might as well be the legislature of any 2-bit dictatorship in the world or the old Soviet Union's Politburo.

Meanwhile, the laughter coming from "Modern Russia" can be heard 'round the world.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Jim Clyburn-- What A Swell Fella!


Anyone-- almost-- than Crowley

The other day I was speaking to a top staffer on Capitol Hill. I mentioned that Jim Clyburn, was so drunk no one even understand what he's saying. "It's easier to make a list of members who aren't drunkards," he offered, than members who are. It'll take you half as much time." Maybe he was on his best behavior when David Siders interviewed him for Politico last week. Clyburn, who has some kind of phony baloney title-- assistant to the Leader-- will be 78 in three months. In 1990 the Supreme Court mandated that the 6th district be redrawn as an African-American district (it is now a "packed" district that is 56.5% African-America and just 36.4% white). Clyburn, elected in 1992, is the only congressman to have ever represented the newly configured district. He's been in Congress for two dozen years and, although no one would ever admit this in public, he's "in charge" of the black Democrats in Congress. Not long ago I spoke to an African-American freshman who ran for and won a plum intra party position. I asked him what he plans to do with the job. He said he has "no idea" what the job entails and what it's all about. He asked me if I could tell him. I asked him why he ran and he said Clyburn told him to.

When Siders interviewed Clyburn at his annual fish fry in Columbia on Friday, he said "If we’re still in the minority [after Election Day] all of us [the party's sclerotic leadership] have got to go."

Many Democrats in Congress have finally come to the conclusion that despite their love for Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn, it's time for the 3 of them to go anyway-- win, lose or draw. Clyburn's special guest Friday was Tim Ryan (D-OH), another notorious alcoholic, who Clyburn introduced-- repeatedly-- as a good friend and a favorite drinking partner in Washington.
Clyburn said the party will undertake a “real assessment” of leadership after the November elections, regardless of the outcome.

For his part, Ryan, a longshot potential presidential candidate, lauded Clyburn, pointing to a growing number of young people in the South Carolina Democratic Party.

“Look at what he’s doing here in South Carolina,” Ryan told Politico. “Part of his genius is that he gets the fact that you’ve got to bring up young people.”

Ryan has said he will not challenge Pelosi again. Of his position that the party would be better served if she weren’t speaker, he said, “My view on that has not changed.”
And not a single mention of Joe Crowley, who's part of the leadership but not as old and decrepit as Pelosi-- who repeatedly referred to Conor Lamb as Collin Lamb over the weekend-- Hoyer (even older than Pelosi) and Clyburn. Crowley, far lamer than any of them is "only" 56. He's considered a youngster-- if you compare him to Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn. Progressives who would make far better Democratic Leaders/Speakers are all younger-- and more importantly, have much younger and more vibrant ideas:
Ro Khanna- 41
Ted Lieu- 49
Pramila Jayapal- 52
Mark Pocan- 53
Jamie Raskin- 55
Goal ThermometerBlue America has been trying to start a groundswell in favor of Lieu to run so that-- at the very minimum-- there's a progressive and a non-corrupt candidate in the contest and so that Crowley-- neither progressive nor non-corrupt doesn't just walk into the job without being challenged. See that thermometer on the right? That's for the Progressive Speaker Fund. Lieu isn't going to run against Pelosi-- and Crowley says he won't either-- but she's 400 years old so it won't be much longer before she decides enough is enough. I'm pretty sure we can convince Ted to run if Pelosi doesn't. If you contribute to Blue America's IE PAC, we can collect any amount of money-- the way Republicans do. The Blue Momentum PAC (still listed as the LIEU PAC) is Ted's leadership PAC. You already know that Ted's own fund-raising page doesn't accept anything over $2,700. That helps his own reelection objectives. The LIEU PAC helps him contribute to other candidates (but not himself). So, please take a look at the new ActBlue page, The ProgressiveSpeakerFund by clicking on the brand new thermometer on the right. And please chip in what you can. And... if you know any progressive millionaires send them our way. Meanwhile... please enjoy the art:

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How Many Times Did The Russian Hookers Putin Sent Trump Pee On Him? New Proof


Bloomberg uncovered proof that-- at the very least-- Señor Trumpanzee was lying about the pee-pee tapes. Trump's defense-- that he's a germaphobe make no sense. Urine is not sterile but, as Trump, a long time golden showers aficionado, knows urine is no less sterile than any other part of us.
Microbes are an indelible part of our bodies and the world around us. Not even the uterus and placenta, long thought to enshroud fetuses in sterile envelopes during gestation, are actually germ-free zones. They contain complex, varied microbial colonies-- microbiomes-- that help prepare us for the real world... Okay, so, to recap. Urine: not sterile. But on the other hand, bacteria: not inherently bad. So if you don't have a UTI, is drinking your urine okay?
All golden showers fans, like Trump and his obsessed urine pal Mercer are aware that "drinking your own urine is probably okay for a day or two. Any longer, and you risk over-taxing your kidneys and falling into deeper dehydration troubles."

Trump has always lied about how long he stayed in Moscow and how many hookers he had in the room. Yesterday Bloomberg reporter wrote that he "twice gave James Comey an alibi for why a salacious report about the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow couldn’t be true: He never even spent the night in Russia during that trip, Trump told the former FBI director, according to Comey’s memos about the conversations.
Yet the broad timeline of Trump’s stay, stretching from Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, through the following Sunday morning, has been widely reported. And it’s substantiated by social media posts that show he slept in Moscow the night before the Miss Universe contest.

Now, flight records obtained by Bloomberg provide fresh details. Combined with existing accounts and Trump’s own social-media posts, they capture two days that, nearly five years later, loom large in the controversy engulfing the White House and at the heart of the Comey memos, which the Justice Department turned over last week to Congress.

...According to Comey’s accounts of his 2017 meetings with the president, Trump said the Moscow trip was so quick that his head never hit a pillow-- even for one night. Trump fired Comey on May 9, 2017.

The first denial came over dinner at the White House in late January 2017. “He said he arrived in the morning, did events, then showered and dressed for the pageant at the hotel," and then left for the event, Comey wrote. “Afterwards, he returned only to get his things because they departed for New York by plane that same night."

On the second occasion in February 2017, Trump “explained, as he did at our dinner, that he hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip," Comey wrote.

A reconstruction of events shows the future U.S. president’s journey to Moscow began in North Carolina, where he attended a birthday tribute to evangelist Billy Graham on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. While flight records show Trump’s own Cessna jet headed back to New York that night from Asheville, North Carolina, Trump himself apparently wasn’t aboard.

Instead, Trump flew to Moscow on a Bombardier Global 5000 private jet owned by Phil Ruffin, his partner in the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas, the New York Times reported in January 2017. Trump’s use of Ruffin’s jet is also reported in the newly published book, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn.

The jet-- tail number N443PR-- had flown from Las Vegas to Asheville on Nov. 6, according to the flight records that Bloomberg purchased from FlightAware, an aviation data company. The flight records don’t say who was aboard the jet, which took off from Asheville at 9:15 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, bound for Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport.

The Bombardier jet landed in Moscow on Friday, Nov. 8, at a time unspecified in the records. From Vnukovo airport, it’s less than an hour’s drive to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, where Trump stayed, according to the pageant’s host, developer Aras Agalarov.

Trump surfaced online later that day in a Facebook post by the restaurant Nobu Moscow. That night he attended a birthday party for Agalarov.

The next day, Saturday, Nov. 9, Facebook posts showed Trump at the Ritz during the day, and in the afternoon he tweeted that he’d gotten a tour of Moscow. That evening, he attended the Miss Universe pageant, followed by an after-party whose scheduled start time was 1 a.m.-- by that time, Sunday, Nov. 10. American rock band Panic! at the Disco, which had performed at the pageant, put on a second set for the 1,200 after-party attendees.

At this point, the flight records support a narrow slice of what Trump told Comey: On the night of the pageant itself, the plane Trump was said to be using didn’t fully overnight in Russia. Ruffin’s Bombardier took off from Vnukovo airport at 3:58 a.m. Moscow time, the records show.

When the jet touched down at Newark Liberty International Airport, just outside New York City, it was still Sunday morning-- 4:11 a.m. local time. That evening, Trump tweeted about his return, “I just got back from Russia-learned lots & lots. Moscow is a very interesting and amazing place!"

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Special Elections: AZ-08 Today, TX-27... Sometime


After he was caught in a sex-and-payoff scandal, Blake Farenthold intended to serve out his term and not run for reelection. Instead he was forced to resign from Congress in disgrace.

TX-27 s a very gerrymandered district that took a Hispanic-based Democratic district and made it Republican. In 2004, TX-27 was 68.1% Hispanic and the only congressman it had ever known was Democrat Solomon Ortiz. It included Cameron County (84% Hispanic) and Brownsville way in the south. In the 2003 midterm redisticting, Cameron County was removed and put into the 15th and Republican parts of Kingsville County north of Corpus Christi were added. The district had voted, albeit narrowly, for Gore over Bush. Now the district has an R+13 PVI and Trump beat Hillary 60.1% to 36.5%. The district is still centered on Corpus Christi and Nueces County (where Trump and Hillary were virtually tied, 48.8% to 47.2%, about a thousand votes) but the whole southern part of the district is gone and Republican suburbs up northeast of Austin have been grafted onto it. TX-27 is now rated "safe Republican"-- like PA-18 was.

Yesterday, two things happened. First, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments about overturning a lower court's decision to ungerrymander the state, and, second, political reporter Patrick Svitek broke the news at the Texas Tribune that Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have decided to call a special election to replace Farenthold before November. That's dangerous for the Texas GOP but they said they want to do it because the district is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

What is even more interesting though is that "CD-27 is among several districts that are the focus of a case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. Plaintiffs in the case argue that the districts were created in a way that discriminates against minorities and should be redrawn. A lower court agreed, and the high court is hearing Texas' appeal. It's not immediately clear how a Supreme Court ruling against Texas would affect special election plans."

A week ago Abby Livingston wrote an interesting post for the Tribune, In 2010, Blake Farenthold beat a Texas Democrat who seemed invincible. Will a Republican face the same fate in 2018?. It was the red wave but no one expected Solomon Ortiz, who had represented the 27th since it was created, to be beaten. He spent $1,244,876 (including $103,730 of his own cash) to Farenthold's measly $627,531 (including $152,357 from his own purse). The only significant outside expenditure was from a right-wing group, the 60 Plus Association which put $156,260 in against Ortiz. The DCCC never contested the district again... just wrote it off entirely (a DCCC specialty). Back to 2010:
On Oct. 10, Texas Monthly made public the question that had been floating in the air in South Texas and in Washington, D.C. for days: “Is Solomon Ortiz in trouble?”

"Word on the street in Corpus Christi is that Farenthold has an 8 point lead in the district," longtime political reporter Paul Burka wrote.

Two days later, Ortiz donated $95,000 of his personal money to his campaign and soon began airing television advertisements.

In a week’s time, the incumbent who once skated to re-election had to scramble to pull together a modern campaign. The same scenario was happening elsewhere in the country, as the Republican riptide suddenly appeared poised to pull under powerful Democratic House members in places like Missouri and South Carolina.

“If you haven’t had a race in 10 years, there’s a lot of atrophy that happens,” said [Democratic strategist C.R.] Wooters. “If you’re not careful, it can really get you.”

But there was something else that neither Ortiz nor national Democrats anticipated that would make the scramble that much harder: the newly-invented super PAC. Early in 2010, the Supreme Court made a ruling in the Citizens United v. FEC case that allowed for the creation of political entities that can collect and spend unlimited sums in federal campaigns.

Republican strategists quickly created an infrastructure of such groups. Democrats lagged far behind, and the party's candidates bore the brunt of Republican attack ads that fall.

While Farenthold didn't have gangbusters fundraising in his own right, Republican outside groups spent about $160,000 in a cheap South Texas media market to attack Ortiz.

But there was one last factor that Ortiz's camp and the DCCC assumed would be their last bit of re-election insurance: Farenthold’s pajamas.

Democratic operatives far and wide pushed a photo of Farenthold posing in duck-print pajamas at a charity event next to a scantily-clad young woman. Local and national media outlets ran with it. Surely, the Democrats thought, voters would think twice about a candidate who had appeared in such a photo.

They were dead wrong.

“There didn't seem to be any sort of drop in the engagement of his potential supporters and voters,” an Ortiz staffer told the Tribune.

And that's the point of the wave metaphor. No matter how how weak or strong of a swimmer the contenders are, a powerful enough national sentiment against a party can develop such that even a longtime incumbent can lose control of a race.

The margin on election night was so close that the race went into a recount. But in the end, Farenthold carried the seat by 775 votes. For those who had been closely watching the political map nationally, the outcome was among the most unexpected of the year.

The Republican-controlled state government redrew the state's congressional lines the following year, including a dramatic reframing of Farenthold's 27th District.

Instead of a district that stretched from Farenthold’s base of Corpus Christi down into the Democratic Rio Grande Valley, the district now swung deep into Republican inland counties and reached up to Austin.

Farenthold went on to coast to re-election every two years, even as sexual harassment allegations against his office began to build in late 2014.

But eventually, the situation became politically untenable amid the #MeToo movement last fall. In December, Politico reported that Farenthold had settled a lawsuit from a former staffer with $84,000 in taxpayer money. Faced with a related ethics investigation, he announced his retirement weeks later and then officially resigned from Congress earlier this month. It appears unlikely he will pay that money back.

While he was one of Congress' few experts on software policy, Farenthold never quite shook the duck pajamas image from that first campaign and conceded in his retirement announcement that his political inexperience set the stage for future trouble in his office.

"I'd never served in public office before," Farenthold said in December. "I had no idea how to run a congressional office and, as a result, I allowed a workplace culture to take root in my office that was too permissive and decidedly unprofessional. It accommodated destructive gossip, off-hand comments, off-color jokes and behavior that in general was less than professional."

Democratic activists are downright giddy on social media about the party’s prospects in the fall. The wave emoji has become a common means of conveying the all-but-assumed sweep coming in the fall.

Even among more cold-blooded operatives, the types who have lived through blue waves and red ones, there is indisputable optimism.

Harrison, the GOP operative, remains dubious that a Democratic wave is coming. He argues that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s unpopularity mitigates the struggles President Trump faces in polling.

But he does concede that the influx of Democratic candidates all over the country, even in seemingly safe Republican seats, is unnerving.

“In normal elections, what happens is you don't even have candidates there,” he said.  To exacerbate the problem, Democratic candidates are raising piles of money, even in Texas, where Republicans hold 24 of the state's 36 U.S. House seats. National Democrats are targeting three Republicans representing districts that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won in 2016-- John Culberson of Houston, Will Hurd of Helotes and Sessions.

Hurd in particular has been a top target for Democrats in the past, as his House district is viewed as the only true swing district in the state. That's also why Hurd started preparing for this year's race soon after he won re-election in 2016.

But that's prompted speculation that other, more complacent Republicans representing districts that would be viewed as rock-solid red in normal election years-- the GOP's own Solomon Ortizes — may now be potential Democratic pick-ups. Such thinking has boosted the Democratic bids of the likes of M.J. Hegar, who is in a runoff to take on U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock. Donald Trump won Carter's district by more than 12 points in 2016. Yet Hegar managed to outraise Carter this past quarter.

And so, seven months out from Election Day, Republicans in Washington remain worried, Democrats are optimistic, and Wasserman, the analyst, is displaying a curiosity reminiscent of 2010.

“We just know there's going to be a race like that for Democrats, we just don't know who it's going to be,” he said. “It could be in Texas.”

Today voters in AZ-08, suburbs west and northwest of Phoenix, are going to the polls. Like TX-27, the PVI is R+13. Trump beat Hillary by about the same score by which Trump won in TX-27, 58.1% to 37%. If Democrat Hiral Tipirneni beats Debbie Lesko tonight it gives Eric Holguin or Roy Barrera hope that one of them can beat Republicans Bech Bruun or Michael Cloud-- or whomever winds up running in the specials. Of course if Tipirneni wins tonight, the GOP might as well save their money, pack up and go home.

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Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Trump?


That Ryan-Trump tax cut for the wealthy was meant to save the GOP's ass in the midterms. It isn't working out as planned. The latest-- tax week-- Gallup poll finds just 39% of people approving, while 52% disapprove. When I predict that the Democrats-- despite the most venal, bungling and incompetent DCCC in history-- are going to win over 50, perhaps over 80, seats in the midterms DC types always-- and I mean always-- say, but there's a lot of time between now and election day and things can change. I agree... things will change.And all evidence point to the same thing-- that the change will be worse, even much worse, for the GOP. Have you met Señor Trumpanzee? He's a one-man disaster-making machine. Yesterday, for example, Natasha Geiling reported that a fifth Republican and a Fox News host have called on Pruitt to resign or be fired. The fifth Republican is New Jersey congressman Frank LoBiondo, following Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME). And "on Sunday, former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and L.A.-based Fox News host Steve Hilton called for Trump to fire Pruitt, arguing that the EPA administrator has become a walking example of the kind of 'swampy' mentality that Trump promised to end. 'What we need is for President Trump to take the lead, fire Scott Pruitt, and throw out the lobbyists from his administration,' Hilton said." Although he is the quintessential Trump appointee, the Pruit p.r. war is going badly for Señor T. This kind of blatant boobery begs the question of the infallibility of Trump's connection with the carefully crafted morons known as the Republican base. Limbaugh, Fox, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Neal Boortz, Dr, Laura, Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved and anti-Christ Christianity created this Frankenstein's monster. Does Trump own it lock, stock and barrel? Right-wing pundit Matt Lewis doesn't think so and wonders why Republican grandees are so scared to take him on.

Lewis wrote Monday, in the Daily Beast that conventional wisdom suggests that Trumpanzee’s standing remains incredibly strong among Republicans and that this notion is used to dismiss the possibility that someone (say, a newly disgruntled U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) could muster a serious primary challenge to the president in 2020. It’s also used to absolve congressional Republican enablers of their obsequiousness.  
Take, for example, Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) recent comments about Republicans’ reluctance to push back on Trump’s attacks on Robert Mueller. “The president is, as you know-- you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base-- it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” Corker said. “People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”

Corker seems to be right about how GOP lawmakers generally perceive the president’s strength within the party. But do the numbers actually affirm this perception?

According to Gallup, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is currently at 85 percent. This is certainly respectable, but hardly unique. In April 2002, George W. Bush boasted a 98 percent approval rating among Republicans, according to Gallup. This was seven months after the 9/11 attacks but his approval rating among Republicans had been at 87 percent the day of the attacks.

As someone who lived through the Bush era, I can attest that Bush was able to impose pretty strict party loyalty on the right. But by April 2006, his approval rating among Republicans was hovering around 80 percent-- not too far from where Trump is now. Those midterm elections were a disaster for the GOP. And it went downhill fast from there.

We tend to remember things like Hurricane Katrina and Abu Ghraib—huge scandals that deservedly hurt Bush with the American public. But, on the right, it was the Harriet Miers debacle that created a permission structure for conservatives to finally begin criticizing a Wilsonian foreign policy, the controversy over the transfer of U.S. ports to a Dubai firm, and, ultimately, to derail Bush’s 2007 attempt at a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that included a pathway to citizenship; or amnesty, for its critics.

The point here is that the danger to Trump isn’t merely that he could be “primaried.” A more likely scenario is that Republican politicians will eventually discover that they can stand up to a Republican president without fear of reprisal. Since fealty to Trump has always been premised on a transactional calculation (as opposed to personal affection, shared goals, or mutual respect), the only thing binding them to Trump is the perception that their political base demands it. When that changes-- and history suggests that this happens to even the most popular presidents-- the levee breaks.

...History suggests it is incredibly difficult to wrest the nomination from a sitting president. Trump is significantly more popular within his party than either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford-- two presidents who were able to survive primary challenges only to go on to lose the general. The question is not whether Trump could survive a primary if he had to, but how costly it would be. What is more, it is worth examining whether Trump’s popularity with the GOP base justifies the amount of deference some Republican politicians and elites are paying him.

...Trump’s popularity with Republicans is really just pretty average. There is little doubt that the intensity among his strongest supporters is high, but this asterisk is overwhelmed by another important caveat. As Gallup notes: “Fewer Americans identify as Republicans or say they are Republican-leaning independents than did so in November 2016, the month Donald Trump was elected president.”

It may be that Trump is popular among people who identify as Republicans, simply because the Republicans who don’t like him are… no longer Republicans. In others words: Trump’s approval rating in his party climbs because his party is shrinking. Maybe Bob Corker shouldn’t be quite so afraid.
Usually whenever someone decides to retire, many factors go into it. And Corker isn't the only congressional Republican sick enough of Trump to retire early. Trump-- and the albatross corollary known as impending defeat-- was a major factor for Jeff Flake (AZ), Paul Ryan (WI), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Dave Reichert (WA), Charlie Dent (PA), Darrell Issa (CA), Lamar Smith (TX), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Dave Trott (MI), Ed Royce (CA), Pat Meehan (PA), Ryan Costello (PA), Tom Rooney (FL), Dennis Ross (FL)... that's a lot of careers ending prematurely.

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A NYT Lesson in Horrendous Economic Journalism-- Guest Post By Jonathan Tasini


On Monday, journalist and author Jonathan Tasini wrote a "Dear colleagues" letter about bias in mainstream journalism, especially in the coverage of economics. It impressed me so much that I asked him if I could publish it here at DWT. He graciously agreed.

Mainstream/traditional journalism is replete with examples of bias and utter cluelessness when it comes to economics. You can’t get a better example of that than the absolutely horrendous piece today in the New York Times entitled Public Servants Are Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class-- which purports to explain why public workers can’t pay their bills. The piece is full of what I call “immaculate conception economics.” Or, in plain English, shit just happens, and when we can’t explain how it happens, we just fall back on blind theology. Or, as the immortal Warden Samuel Norton said: “Lord! It's a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!” To wit:
The word “union” does not appear a single time in the article. Not to explain why public workers actually made a decent living-- it wasn’t thanks to the munificence of politicians, Republican or Democrat. It was because of union organizing. Nor to explain why, as politicians and right-wing billionaires have prosecuted a relentless war against public sector unions, wages have declined. This is especially glaring when the two “journalists” describe the wave of uprisings by teachers in “red” states-- teachers who belong to unions, unions that are coordinating the protests of their members.
We read: “Many of the jobs created-- most in service industries-- lack stability and security. They pay little more than the minimum wage and lack predictable hours, insurance, sick days or parental leave. The result is that the foundation of the middle class continues to be gnawed even as help-wanted ads multiply.” Why do you think those jobs lack stability and security? It is because union density has declined dramatically in the past 30 years.
This is telegraphed, by the way, early in the article: “But globalization and automation aren’t the only forces responsible for the loss of those reliable paychecks”. Ah, yes, those anodyne terms of “globalization” and “Automation”-- leaders and CEOs, looking to enrich themselves and enslave labor around the world, driving down wages and cutting benefits (think: the Waltons of Wal-Mart and Jeff Bezos), had nothing to do with that. It’s just the inexorable “globalization” and “automation.”
Later: “Short of money, many states have also privatized services like managing public water systems, road repair, emergency services or prisons, transferring jobs from the public sector to private companies that have reduced salaries and benefits to increase their profits.” It’s a miracle! It has nothing to do with those jobs being transferred to NON-UNION companies who cut wages and benefits because there is no way for workers to collectively bargain.
The article repeats the false pension “crisis” meme, describing“… generous pension and benefit commitments made in fatter years came due.” Pensions are DEFERRED COMPENSATION-- not simply some “generous” handout. I don’t even think the “journalists” are conscious that they are using the false pension “crisis” language that has been carefully inserted into the debate by people ideologically opposed to decent retirement standards. And you didn’t need Russian bots or Facebook to assist—this has been political rhetoric encouraged for many years by politicians spanning the political spectrum, funded by billionaires particularly the much-lauded late Pete Peterson. It’s a lie.
About privatization. You would think that, in describing the privatization of work, the two “journalists” would consider inserting even a sentence or two to make the point that lots of data shows privatization is a failure, costs more to the public in actual dollars and results in poorer service. Not a word.
That is just a small sampling. This is terrible journalism. An embarrassment.

Goal ThermometerAfter speaking with Jonathan, I asked three of the most union-forward congressional candidates I know-- Randy Bryce (WI-01), Jared Golden (ME-02) and Jenny Marshall (NC-05)-- what they thought of his perspective. As you may have guessed, all three are as serious as Tasini about the role unions play. Bryce told me that "unions are the only thing keeping corporate greed’s boot from crushing our throats. Work sites that I have been on are safe thanks to the demands of unions. Those sites are safe whether one pays union dues or not. Don’t complain why we have what we do-- ask why you don’t have it."

And Golden's perspective is as Majority Whip of the Maine legislature, not from a construction site. He said he agrees wholeheartedly with Tasini. "I have proudly voted four years in a row in the Maine Legislature against the GOP’s so called 'Right to Work' proposals that aim to gut Maine’s remaining unions, including our public employee unions. For eight years now" he continued, "under the tea party Governor Paul LePage’s leadership the state has frozen pay raises and left department positions vacant, and made it a priority to go after public employment and unions, all while pursuing plans to privatize government services from bridges to prisons to health and human services. This country needs stronger unions in more sectors and in Congress I’ll do everything I can to strengthen the labor movement because like you rightly pointed out as unions have declined so have middle-class jobs, wages and benefits."

Golden picked up another union endorsement last week, IBEW 2327. They now join the ranks of IAM, IAFF, the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine, IAM Local S7, the Maine State Council of Machinists and the UAW BMDA Local 3999 that have all endorsed his candidacy.

And Jenny is a member of the Teachers union herself. Last night, she told us that "Unions are what built the middle class and created stable communities across this country. It was due to the strength of their numbers that they demanded and won fair wages and benefits for workers. Those union shops then pushed private sector employers to do the same. This was not lost on businesses and government leaders who tried to reduce the union’s power to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions. After years of systematic assault on their ability to organize, unionization is on the decline and we can see the effects in our own backyards. It’s a race to the bottom and unless we start protecting workers’ rights to unionize. I stand with my union brothers and sisters across this country in our fight for fair labor practices and just compensation."

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