Saturday, April 20, 2019

South Carolina Has A 2020 Role To Play Beyond Just Delivering 9 Electoral College Votes For Fascism


The most recent poll of South Carolina primary voters-- actually a registered voters poll by Emerson-- was about a month and a half ago. South Carolina is different from the states we usually look at. There Trump's approval rating is relatively high-- 50% and just 44% disapproving. And in head to head match-ups, he would beat any Democratic nominee. Trump would beat Biden 52-48%. He'd beat Bernie, Cory Booker or Elizabeth Warren 54-46%, and the other front-runners would lose to him 56-44%.

When only Democrats are polled-- for the primary-- Biden was the clear winner with 37%. Bernie was second with 21% and, surprisingly, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, each of whom is counting on South Carolina for a big boost came in 3rd and 4th, respectively with 9% and 6%. The McKinsey Pete boomlet hadn't broken yet and he was still at 0%.

Why would Democrats care what happens in the South Carolina primary, since the state is a general election lock for Trump? The DNC picked South Carolina as an early state to help winnow the field. It's supposed to show where African-Americans stand-- or at least African-mericans in the Deep South-- and it does... but it also shows where conservative Democrats stand. In fact, all four early states-- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada-- are relatively conservative compared to the big urban states where all the electoral votes are. Conventional wisdom says that these are the kinds of voters who will back establishment, status quo candidates the DNC prefers. This year that candidate will be Joe Biden or, if he falters again in his 7th run for president, McKinsey Pete. ("Biden and his team have eagerly been taking in nearly every public poll that has him in first place, convinced those numbers will only grow, despite many Democratic operatives, on opposing campaigns and beyond, who believe he’ll start leeching support almost as soon as he declares. Biden’s doubters are convinced that he seems better as a theoretical alternative than as someone people would actually support, especially when they start looking at his record closely. Already the scrutiny has started, with attention to his opposition to school busing in the 1970s, as well as his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee during Anita Hill’s testimony in the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991, which many women have never forgiven him for, and which he’s stumbled over in trying to explain since. 'I wish I could have done something,' is how he put it in late March, infuriating people who pointed out that he was in charge of the process.")

Even many of the African-American voters in South Carolina tend to be on the conservative side. Biden's 37% among all Dems goes to 43% among African-Americans only. Bernie's 21% among all Dems, sunk to 15% among African-Americans only. And among African-American voters, neither Harris nor Booker finds any significant increase in support.

Black voters in the state are either unaware that Biden has a long, ugly pre-Obama history of racism or they've forgiven him. Most voters are judging him completely as an Obama stand-in. Tragic!

On Thursday Bernie addressed the South Carolina Legislative Black Caucus after his campaign announced endorsements from seven more African-American members of the legislature (bringing his total to nine-- the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state. The two were backed him in 2016 and announced their endorsements again are state Reps Justin Bamberg (Bamberg) and Terry Alexander (Florence). The seven new endorsers are also state Reps: Wendell Gilliard (Charleston), Cezar McKnight (Clarendon & Williamsburg counties ), Krystle Simmons (Berkeley), Ivory Thigpen (Richland) and Shedron Williams (Beaufort, Hampton & Jasper counties). He was also endorsed by South Carolina AFL-CIO President Emeritus Donna DeWitt.

Krystle Simmons, the first black woman to represent the low country region in the state House, said that Bernie "is a champion for women's rights and has been rocking with middle class and minority communities since before he was popular. What he did back then matters just as much as it does now." Alexander was as effusive: "I believe in his positions that will move this country forward. His openness to change, his progressive stance on issues that impact so many people; this is why I was one of the first legislators in South Carolina to endorse him in 2016 and am doing so this year so that we can finish what he started many years ago."

Thursday Bernie was in Spartanburg, speaking at the event the Legislative Black Caucus set up for him at Mount Moriah Baptist Church. Yesterday he had two events in Greenville, a poverty roundtable at the West End Community Development Center in the afternoon and a major rally at the Peace Center amphitheater in the evening. In Spartanburg, his topics were criminal recidivism rates, racial profiling in law enforcement, generational poverty, teacher salaries and early childhood development. "A nation and a community, which provides quality education for its children that makes certain there are good jobs available to those young people when they leave school is a nation and a community which will have a lower rate of crime where residents will be safer, where human lives are not destroyed because people are rotting away their lives in prisons," he said. "At the same time is a nation and community which will save enormous sums of money by avoiding mass incarceration." The crowd interrupted many times, chanting "Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!"

Bernie also wrote an OpEd for the Greenville News, Here's what has to change in South Carolina and the nation. "This week," he wrote, "I am visiting South Carolina to learn more about the challenges facing Upstate residents, especially in public education, criminal justice and rural issues. I want to find out about how we can work together to address some of the state’s most serious problems, and reach people in communities that have been left behind."
Across this country, teachers have been on strike because they are badly underpaid. They lack basic supplies, work in rundown classrooms, and their professional expertise is undermined by excessive standardized testing that takes the joy out of learning. Far too many are leaving the profession entirely.

These dynamics have reached crisis levels in South Carolina, where public schools lag behind national averages in reading, writing and job preparedness. Many schools are racially segregated, and magnet and charter schools are drawing resources and high-performing students away. Meanwhile, amid cuts in funding for school programs, one in five children in South Carolina is going without meals.

This year, the situation has become an emergency. The start of school saw a 16 percent increase in unfilled teacher vacancies, and teacher pay was well below the national average. Adding insult to injury, under President Trump’s new budget, South Carolina would lose $28 million of grants to help high-poverty schools boost teacher salaries. Overall, South Carolina’s public education system would lose roughly $246 million under the Trump budget, denying 14,000 students access to after-school programs.

This endemic lack of investment in teachers, public schools, and educational opportunity is particularly acute in rural communities. Kids are starting kindergarten without basic skills: Some do not know how to recite the alphabet or spell their own names.

Even after school districts along the Corridor of Shame sued the state and endured decades of legal struggle, Republican leadership is still not giving them what they need to provide adequate education for their students-- most of whom are poor and African American.

Without a strong education early on, South Carolina’s young people will have trouble finding jobs, lose hope, and some will land in jail when they could have been going to college.

What’s truly shameful is that last year, South Carolina spent $11,552 on average per student, while spending $21,756 on average per prison inmate-- nearly twice as much. It makes absolutely no sense that Republican leaders in South Carolina, and other parts of the country, would invest more in keeping people in prison than in keeping them in school.

If I am elected president, I will do everything I can to reverse this absurdity. I will work to rebuild our public school system, especially in communities that need the most attention, and fund jobs and apprenticeship programs to combat the hopelessness of unemployment.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Today is April 20th. To Republicans, 4/20 is Hitler's birthday. To many of the sane among us, today is known as 420 or "Weed Day," a national holiday for cannabis culture culture. While I haven't smoked weed in decades, I support it's legalization and it looks like that might happen in New York where I live. I'm particularly interested in and supportive of marijuana's benefits for us when we are ill and have a few friends who have been able to cope with great pain by using it. Not long ago, my chiropractor applied some cannabis oil to my injured shoulder and the improvement in my comfort level was instantaneous with no side effects. I look forward to a day when the price comes down due to increased production and usage but I realize the Big Pharma will, like any other evil drug cartel, have other plans. Even so, as the late, great Peter Tosh said, legalize it. Don't criticize it.

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Friday, April 19, 2019

The DMV Nightmare: Report And Tips From The (Long) Lines


Tales from a three-hour wait: What you can do to avoid making it even worse.
-by Reese Erlich

Perhaps you’ve heard the horror stories of people waiting five hours to renew their driver licenses at the always friendly California Department of Motor Vehicles? Well, there’s some good news. It’s down to three.

I don’t intend to analyze the myriad ways the state government has screwed up the DMV. Nor will I explain why the agency is seemingly unprepared for the new federal requirements to obtain a Real ID, which will be one form of identification accepted when boarding domestic flights after Oct 1, 2020.

My intention is to walk you through the DMV maze, avoid my mistakes and help you get through with a minimum of homicidal intentions towards the otherwise hard-working employees at the DMV.

Getting to the right window

First, make an advance appointment if you possibly can. And do it many months before your license expires. Mine expired in July, but when I went online, I couldn’t get an appointment until one week before my renewal date!

So I decided to risk showing up at the DMV without an appointment. Reportedly, the best days are Wednesdays and Saturdays. (Hint #1: check to see if your DMV office is open on Saturdays.)

On Saturday I arrived at the Oakland DMV office on Claremont Ave. at 7:45 am, 15 minutes before the office opened. Seventy-five people stood ahead of me in line. A very nice DMV worker with a huge white mustache directed people seeking car registration to a shorter line. Everyone else just waited.

Once inside those with appointments or with disabilities went to the faster line. Those without appointments waited in another. When I finally got to see a clerk, she checked my documents. If you are applying for the Real ID version of the driver’s license, you need a slew of documents. If you don’t need the Real ID, you can just apply for or renew your regular driver’s license.

The clerk directed me to fill out an application on one of their computers. (Hint #2: with an advanced appointment, you can fill out the form at home.) These are the same computers used to take the driver’s license written test. When finished, I got a code number.

Haywire computers

Here’s where things went haywire. I was told to stand in one line when I should have stood in another. I finally found the right line, handed in my application code number and was given a waitlist number.

It’s like taking a number at a deli but without the pastrami sandwich at the end. I was prepared for a long wait. Numbers are constantly called out and posted on an electronic board, but there’s no logical order. “G003, G015, B012, F101.”

I waited and read the New York Times. My number wasn’t called. I read the Wall Street Journal. My number wasn’t called. I started reading my novel. Finally, I asked an employee what was happening. She came back to report that I had missed my number and would need a new one.

I may not be the brightest bulb in the DMV lighting system, but I can hear a number being called and read it on a board. “I003” was never called. I had just wasted over an hour. The clerk gave me another number. (Hint #3: ask how long the wait should be when you get the number, and ask them if it goes much longer than that.)

You’re really just starting

My new number was called, and when I arrived at Window 4, I realized that the process had really just begun. I took the eye test. (I passed with flying eyeballs except for that pesky last letter in line C4.) I presented all my documents. But the DMV bar code machine wouldn’t read any of my bar codes, including those on my passport and current driver’s license. Window 4 lady couldn’t even call up my file using my name.

Luckily, I had brought the notice requiring my license renewal, and it had a bar code that worked. (Hint #4: bring every conceivable document, notice and letter sent you by the DMV.) I paid $36 (Check or cash only. No credit cards or bitcoin.) The very nice Window 4 lady pointed me towards the camera lady.

There was no one at the camera line, and it turns out, the camera line was open further down. I had time to study the walls. The office is filled with signs saying “No cell phones.” But the young man in the hoodie standing in front of me talked on the phone for 15 minutes, providing a friend with a play-by-play account of standing in line at the DMV.

When he got to the camera lady, she suggested that he might want to hang up now, which he did.

I respected the woman’s attitude. She could have made a nasty reference to the no cell phone signs or even called security. Instead, the situation was resolved without rancor. (Hint #5: local police departments, please note that not all laws have to be enforced with a nasty attitude all the time.)

More computer problems

When I got my turn with the camera lady, my file didn’t show up on her computer. She walked over to Window 4 lady to get her to hand carry the missing information to the camera area. She then printed out a document and told me the license would be sent in 2-2 1/2 weeks. Next!

“Only one problem,” I explained, “I have to take the written driver’s license test.” Apparently, there was no mention of that in the cockamamie DMV computer system. I’m not sure what would have happened had I just skipped the test. But I wasn’t going to spend another half day at the DMV finding out.

Besides I had really crammed by taking practice tests at home. I knew about speed limits behind school buses and the legality of running down slow-moving pedestrians. (Hint #6: the practice tests contain some of the actual questions on the test. So take as many practice tests as you can stomach.)

You’re supposed to take the test standing by yourself in front of a computer. It’s like voting by machine, but with less privacy and greater consequences. I saw two people at two different computers answering questions together. Apparently, the DMV really wants you to pass the test.

I passed the test and, without anyone directing otherwise, was about to leave. Luckily the man at Window 29 noticed my confusion and informed me I had to get one final document before departure. It was my temporary license. I now had proof that I had applied. Thank you Window 29 man.

In retrospect, the procedures actually made sense.

DMV workers were mostly patient and helpful. But in my experience the computer glitches doubled the wait time.

In addition, the Claremont Ave DMV in Oakland has one of the fastest response times in the state. The San Francisco office currently estimates a four-hour wait for people without appointments. The DMV has made progress in processing applications but still has a long way to go.

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Beto-- And Joshua Cole


When Beto was running for the Senate he brought the Texas Democratic Party to life. Friends of mine down there told me that wherever he went, a long-moribund Democratic Party was reinvigorated. Local candidates saw their own campaigns catch fire just because of association with Beto. 10th district congressional candidate Mike Siegel always told me that a little of Beto's star power would rub off on all the candidates who got up on the stage with him and that he was always generous with his support. "Beto’s 2018 Senate campaign," said Siegel, "was a gift to the people of Texas, and to every candidate on the ballot. His tireless work, to visit every county, to meet with thousands of people every day, made it possible for Democrats to flip every race in Harris County, to pick up 12 seats in the Texas House, and to flip two congressional districts. I participated in five town halls with Beto in the Texas 10th, which exposed me to crowds of 1000+ each time, and helped me earn votes and volunteers. The legacy of his 2018 campaign includes all those victories across the state, and perhaps more importantly, a renewed optimism and ambition for Democrats in Texas."

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in the district where the Democrats needed it most-- TX-23, which stretches from the Bexar suburbs south and east of San Antonio, down to the Rio Grande south of Eagle Pass then, all the way along the river through Del Rio, Big Bend National Park, and into San Elizario, Socorro and the suburbs south of El Paso-- which is Beto Country. The district, which had gone narrowly for Obama in 2008 and Romney in 2012, gave Hillary a 3.4 point win over Trump but has a Republican congressman, Will Hurd. 71% of the residents are Latino and the district was a top target for a red-to-blue flip. One of the closest races in the country, Hurd beat Jones 103,285 (49.2%) to 102,359 (48.7%). It's now one of only 3 districts won by Hillary that is still represented in Congress by a Republican; the other 22 all fell to Democrats last cycle. Many people blame Beto-- at least in part-- for Jones' loss. None of his star-power went to Jones.

Beto is pals with Hurd-- they did a cross-country road trip in 2017-- and he adamantly refused to help Jones. When asked why he was refusing to help Jones, a moderate like him, he whined to the San Antonio Express-News "I’m going to do the right thing whatever the cost. I’ve almost got 11 months left in this job representing the people of the 16th Congressional District. And I’ve got to get shit done. And so, being able to work with Will Hurd and other Republicans and not have them look at me as the guy who’s trying to get them out of office... All we can do is our best and my best right now is finding ways to work with both Democrats and Republicans." Totally full of shit. (By the way, I recall Beto endorsing Sean Patrick Maloney, an uber-corrupt Wall Street whore from New York who was running for that state's Attorney General. The progressive favorite in that race was Zephyr Teachout.)

On Wednesday, Beto was campaigning in Virginia and one stop was in Fredericksburg, where he campaigned with local Democratic candidate Joshua Cole at the Pimenta restaurant on Caroline Street. According to, "Cole got things started by introducing several other local candidates and emphasizing the importance of this year’s elections in Virginia, where Republicans hold narrow edges in the House and Senate. He reminded the crowd he lost his 2017 bid for the 28th District seat by 73 votes, 'after 147 people were given the wrong ballots.'... His voice hoarse from talking so much this week, O’Rourke started by emphasizing the Virginia elections and lending support to Cole." The 28th is a good pick-up target for Democrats-- Hillary lost by just 1.1% to Trump, Obama won by just 0.09% over Romney and the incumbent, Bob Thomas is a corrupt conservative Republican.

So who's Cole and why was Beto so happy to endorse him? His own literature describes him as "an exciting young preacher running as the Democratic candidate for Delegate for Virginia’s 28th District, in Stafford County and Fredericksburg, Virginia." He describes himself as "charismatic" and "polished" and as the "National Director of Ecumenical Affairs for the Holy Christian Orthodox Church." In 2017 when he first ran, he described himself as a priest in the Holy Christian Orthodox Church, although suddenly he started styling himself as a Baptist minister.

Are you wondering what the Holy Christian Orthodox Church is? Maybe Beto's team should have before he endorsed Cole. The denomination was founded by Timothy Paul Baymon, who is the Patriarch, President of the the World Bishops Council, the denomination's ecumenical body and president of Springfield Christian College and Theological Seminary, a non-accredited school that turns out charlatans. He's probably best known as the opening act on a 51 date tour with crackpot huckster "Rev" Sun Myung Moon. Baymon has been credibly attacked for practicing witchcraft and brainwashing.

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Can The Republican War On Science Actually Kill Us?


Tara Haelle's new book, Vaccination investigation made her a natural for the TED talk above, which focuses on the vaccine hesitancy and vaccine refusal that has been increasingly erupting into unpredictable disease outbreaks that are difficult to contain. her goal was to explain what underlies the irrational fear, that is being adopted by the anti-Science Party (AKA- the Republicans). Trump, for example, likes to carry on in public about crazy and disproven conspiracy theories linking vaccinations to autism.

Can we really blame this new threat on the GOP? You better believe it! Arthur Allen reported for Politico yesterday evening that "most Republicans are rejecting Democrat-led state bills to tighten childhood immunization laws in the midst of the worst measles outbreak in two decades, alarming public health experts who fear the nation could become as divided over vaccines as it is over global warming. Democrats in six states-- Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey, Washington, New York and Maine-- have authored or co-sponsored bills to make it harder for parents to avoid vaccinating their school-age children, and mostly faced GOP opposition. Meanwhile in West Virginia and Mississippi, states with some of the nation’s strictest vaccination laws, Republican lawmakers have introduced measures to expand vaccine exemptions, although it’s not yet clear how much traction they have." A handful of Republican physicians are trying to combat this lunacy-- including Bill Cassidy (LA), Phil Roe (TN) Michael Burgess (TX) and Brad Wenstrup (OH), but they're not getting anywhere.
All states have mandatory vaccination laws, but they vary in how liberally they dispense exemptions on religious or philosophical grounds. That’s getting scrutiny as measles spreads.

Democrats present bills tightening the loopholes as science-based and necessary to fight disease, while sometimes demeaning their foes as misguided or selfish “anti-vaxxers.“ Republicans portray themselves as equally enthusiastic about the life-saving virtues of vaccines, but many are loath to diminish the right of parental control over their children’s bodies, and yield that power to the government.

...Fed by major epidemics in Israel and in Europe, measles has punctured the U.S. barrier of immunity at multiple points of entry in what’s shaping up to be the worst year for the disease since 1993, with 555 cases through early April. Outbreaks in six states include hundreds of cases in ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, N.Y. And the numbers are growing.

“What if God forbid someone dies?” said Jeff Dinowitz, a Bronx assemblyman whose bill to limit religious exemptions has nine Democratic co-sponsors-- but no Republican backers-- in the New York Assembly.

Andrew Raia, ranking Republican on the New York Assembly’s health committee, said he wouldn't support the bill. While not totally convinced by constituents who link their children’s autism on vaccines, and unaware of any real religious injunction against vaccination, he said, “I’m not a religious leader, and I’m not a scientist either, so it’s my job to weigh both sides.”

...Since becoming president, Trump has dropped the subject and scrapped a plan to create a commission led by Kennedy Jr. to investigate a supposed coverup of vaccine’s supposed harms by public health officials.

But officials worry they are “three Trump tweets away” from an even more polarized situation, noted MIT political scientist Adam Berinsky, who has studied communication around politicized public health and scientific issues.

In Texas, the Tea Party and related groups created an anti-vax PAC in 2015. It hasn’t yet gotten its chosen candidates elected, but the very existence of a vaccine-oriented political action committee shows the political salience is growing. Influential voices on the right, including Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson and Alex Jones, have all raised suspicions about vaccines.

“There’s a credulity gap between the parties in regard to science that wasn’t there 25 years ago,” Berinsky said. And Trump could easily inflame the vaccine skepticism, should he weigh in. For a large share of the highly polarized U.S. population, “at the end of the day it’s not the arguments people are making, but who is making them,” Berinksy said.

...A century of vaccination laws has shown that states with the strictest ones have lower burdens of vaccine-preventable disease. Scourges including smallpox, polio and diphtheria have been eliminated.

Rules generally get tighter following big outbreaks of disease, and groups like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have used the measles outbreak to push for an end to state laws that allow people to refuse vaccination of their kids on religious or philosophical grounds.

In 1972, during a measles epidemic in Los Angeles, public health authorities kept 50,000 children out of school until their parents could prove they were vaccinated. The success of that effort led to a nationwide push for stricter laws and more enforcement.

After 89 people, mostly children, died in a 1990 measles epidemic, millions of dollars were poured into expanding vaccine availability for the poor, and in 2000, the disease stopped circulating in the United States. Since then, every case has been linked to visitors from overseas-- although the virus has then spread here among the growing pockets of vaccine shunners.

So obviously the Republican war against Science isn't just about vaccines and medicine. Please watch the incredible animated video above-- a message from the future by Grandma AOC. And... let me add a little random context from this morning's New York Times, written after the redacted Mueller report was finally released: "The White House that emerges from more than 400 pages of Mr. Mueller’s report is a hotbed of conflict infused by a culture of dishonesty-- defined by a president who lies to the public and his own staff, then tries to get his aides to lie for him."

Weaponizing the Presidency by Nancy Ohanian

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Tobacco Doesn't Pay McTurtle Enough Anymore For Him To Keep Turning America Into An Ashtray


Big Tobacco was once a much bigger player in congressional politics than it is now. As recently as 1990, the sector was handing out hefty bribes on a bipartisan basis. That year the tobacco companies gave $1,139,125 to Reoublicans and $1,012,249 to Democrats.That year the two top tobacco bribe takers were Senators Mitch McConnell ($60,650) and Jesse Helms ($57,280). Of the top 120 House members gobbling up money that allowed Big Tobacco to continue causing a cancer epidemic only ONE is still in the House: the stinking of corruption Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ($6,450).

Almost 2 decades later and it's a different picture. Now over half the Tobacco bribes go to Republicans. In 2018, they gave Republican campaigns $1,667,780 and Democrats just $628,839. In the House all their top bribery recipients were Republicans until you got down to the 12th biggest sleaze-ball, Kyrsten Sinema. So for last cycle only, here's the who's who whores of Big Tobacco in the House:
George Holding (R-NC)- $57,755
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $48,350
Tom Cole (R-OK)- $32,565
Mark Walker (R-NC)- $30,100
Robert Anderholt (R-AL)- $30,000
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)- $28,821
Kevin Yoder (R-KS)- $28,773
David Rouzer (R-NC)- $28,100
Steve Scalise (R-LA)- $27,805
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)- $27,500
Pete Sessions (R-TX)- $26,850
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)- $26,800
The only other Democrats willing to inflict cancer-for-cash on their constituents by taking big Tobacco bribes were Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Cedric Richmond (New Dem-LA), James Clyburn (D-SC), Richard Neal (D-MA), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA), Val Demings (New Dem-FL), Don McEachin (New Dem-VA), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS). No other Democrats took over $6,000.

In the Senate, these were the 10 top players tobacco bribees:
Tim Kaine (D-VA)- $63,963
Thom Tillis (R-NC)- $57,850
Mark Warner (R-VA)- $41,650
Mitch McConnell (R-KY)- $34,600
Bill Nelson (D-FL)- $28,705
Marco Rubio (R-FL)- $24,500
Joe Manchin (D-WV)- $23,042
Bob Casey (D-PA)- $20,095
Luther Strange (R-AL)- $19,000
Jon Tester (D-MT)- $16,950
Raise your hand if you notice a correlation between corruption and conservative politicians. In terms of the whole period from 1990 to 2018 the half dozen biggest recipients of Tobacco bribes still in the House today:
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)- $190,850- $190,850
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- $179,800
James Clyburn (D-SC)- $163,700
Hal Rogers (R-KY)- $154,802
George Holding (R-NC)- $153,782
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $143,400
And in the Senate, the big 6:
Richard Burr (R-NC)- $695,185

Mitch McConnell (R-KY)- $640,075

Mark Warner (D-VA)- $270,167
Mitt Romney (R-UT)- $194,766
Lamar Alexander (R-TN)- $157,700
Roy Blunt (R-MO)- $146,257
If you read Alex Pareene's exhaustive piece on McTurtle in the New Republic last month, Nihilist In Chief, you already know that McConnell stands for nothing at all other than money. That's it-- just money. Nothing but money. That's who he is; what he is. Big Tobacco's not as big as it once was. So... time to throw them overboard. Yesterday, Burgess Everett reported for Politico, that McTurtle is running around saying raising the age to 21 for tobacco buyers is now a "top priority." He's even going to introduce the bill himself when they get back from spring break. There's no doubt that this wasn't polled and focus-group-tested back in Kentucky where he will face the voters next year. In fact, his move comes one day after he announced his reelection campaign and shows the changing politics of tobacco. While tobacco has long been a key industry in his home state of Kentucky, McConnell said he wants to change the law to discourage vaping and teenage nicotine addiction and improve Kentucky’s public health."
“Their vaping products … these young people may not know what chemicals they are putting in their bodies,” McConnell said in Louisville, Ky. “Far too often, 18-year-olds in high school can legally buy vaping devices and share them with their classmates.”

The move shows a tack toward pragmatic legislating for McConnell, who as Senate leader has primarily focused on confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees in recent weeks. But he said he will move to fast-track his new proposal, which mimics new state laws across the country that raise the tobacco purchasing age, and said his bill is part of moving the Bluegrass State away from the “tobacco culture” on which it was “so dependent, for so long.”

“I hope and expect this legislation to get strong bipartisan support in the Senate. As you know, I’m in a particularly good position to enact legislation and this will be a top priority,” McConnell said.

The GOP leader also said there will be an exception for members of the military.
That's sweet, but Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Donna Shalala (D-FL) beat him to it on Tuesday with their Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act on Tuesday, which raises the age to purchase tobacco products to 21. Also on Tuesday, PBS did a story on the culpability of Big Tobacco in the ruination of health from a social perspective. "For state Medicaid plans, though, which pay a heavy price for tobacco-related illnesses, [tax day] can be a shot in the arm of sorts," wrote Charles Betley. "April 15 is also the day when the five largest tobacco companies pay $9 billion dollars to state governments, each and every year, forever, because of a 1998 legal settlement meant to compensate states for the costs of tobacco-related illness such as cancer, emphysema and heart disease. Actual payments made by the tobacco companies vary year to year because of adjustment factors written into the settlement; each of the states’ payments varies as well. Payments from tobacco companies, as well as tobacco taxes, help to support health care and other services for low-income people served by state Medicaid programs. Even though the federal government supports each state’s Medicaid program by paying at least half the costs, many states have difficulty finding revenues to pay the remaining share."

Call me crazy, but I always thought that it shouldn't just be tobacco companies' shareholders paying for this. They should pay plenty, of course. But senior management at these companies should be held personally liable as well-- especially since they all knew and covered it up for so many years-- and the politicians, like McConnell, who took so much in bribes to help with the coverup. Call me crazy.

All the Big Tobacco executives lied to Congress, under oath. So why didn't any of them go to prison?

Determining how much tobacco use costs states’ Medicaid programs puts the payments from tobacco companies into perspective. One estimate found 15% of nationwide Medicaid costs were caused by tobacco use. But such estimates based on national surveys may not account for which tobacco-related diseases are most prevalent in a particular state. How many of the state’s Medicaid participants smoke, and how hospitals and doctors are paid, also affect a state’s Medicaid costs.

...[W]e estimated that the cost of tobacco-related illness to Mississippi Medicaid was $388 million in 2016 and $396 million in 2017. This made up about 9% of Mississippi’s annual spending on Medicaid. Our estimates were somewhat lower than the national cost estimates of 15%. We believe this is because Mississippi Medicaid covers large numbers of children and younger adults-- a tobacco-related disease may appear only after many years of smoking.

Many Mississippi Medicaid participants may still be too young to be diagnosed with tobacco-related illnesses. Furthermore, our estimates only included diseases with measures of increased risks because of smoking that are presented in the medical literature or the 2014 surgeon general’s report. So, our estimates are relatively conservative.

We believe our study results will help policymakers in Mississippi assess the benefits of policies affecting tobacco. These could include increasing tobacco cessation services, raising the minimum age for buying tobacco products, raising taxes on tobacco products and requiring smoke-free public places. Our approach to estimating costs could also be used by other states to conduct their own analyses of tobacco-related costs to Medicaid to inform their policy choices.

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McKinsey Pete


McKinsey is a worldwide management consulting firm which conducts qualitative and quantitative analysis to evaluate management decisions across public and private sectors. Their clientele includes 80% of the world's largest corporations. McKinsey's culture has often been compared to a religion or a cult because of the influence, loyalty and zeal of its members. McKinsey's fingerprints can be found at the scene of some of the most spectacular corporate and financial debacles of recent decades, from Enron, the 2008 financial meltdown and ICE to authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Peter Pumpkinhead came to town
Spreading wisdom and cash around
Fed the starving and housed the poor
Showed the Vatican what gold's for
But he made too many enemies
Of the people who would keep us on our knees
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkinhead?
Oh my!
Peter Pumpkinhead pulled them all
Emptied churches and shopping malls
Where he spoke, it would raise the roof
Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth
But he made too many enemies...
Peter Pumpkinhead put to shame
Governments who would slur his name
Plots and sex scandals failed outright
Peter merely said
Any kind of love is alright
But he made too many enemies...
Peter Pumpkinhead was too good
Had him nailed to a chunk of wood
He died grinning on live TV
Hanging there he looked a lot like you
And an awful lot like me!
But he made too many enemies...
Hooray for Peter Pumpkin
Who'll pray for Peter Pumpkin
Hooray for Peter Pumpkinhead
Oh my oh my oh!
Doesn't it make you want to cry oh?

- One of Andy Partridge's crazier songs
Alas, a lot of people I know tell me they like Mayor Pete. I'm not going to called him "Mayor Pete" any longer. I'll stick to Pete Buttigieg, now that I can spell it, or McKinsey, Pete since it describes him better, in my mind, than "Mayor Pete." It was easy to persuade my youngest sister to forget about Pete. I asked her to read this so we could talk about his candidacy apart from the sharp and apparently very effective p.r. initiatives by the magical Lis Smith. My sister, I'm happy to relay, is back on Team Bernie and persuading everyone she knows that McKinsey Pete needs to be as well-investigated as Beto was before everyone she knows dropped him too. But my sister is easy. Next week I'll be speaking to a roomful of evangelical-pastors-for-Pete. That's going to be a much harder not to crack; many are absolutely smitten.

At one time folks who are falling for Pete, were falling for Jim Messina-- not the musician, the other one-- for the same reasons. I think Messina's fallen for Pete too. Just a hunch. Although someone seems to have dug up fellow management consultant Messina to spread a little Bernie-hate around this week. Jonathan Karl wasn't satisfied that every poll shows Bernie beating Trump and he wanted to ask Pete-dopplegänger Messina the burning question on his podcast
Messina: No
Karl: Why?
Messina: "I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy. I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues."
Huh? Obama was lucky Messina managed the re-elect campaign, not the election. Although, notably, the first time through, Obama 69,498,516 won (52.9%) to 59,948,323 (45.7%) with 365 electoral votes, and the Messina time he only won 65,915,795 (51.1%) to 60,933,504 (47.2%), with 332 electoral votes.

I remember Messina when he was Max Baucus' guy, when Baucus was a super-conservative Dem in the Senate, right up there with Joe Lieberman and Joe Biden, fucking up the country from his perch as chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, where he was able to prevent Medicare-for-All, while taking immense bribes from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries-- something he now says he regrets. He also prevented DC from getting statehood, helped get the U.S. into war with Iraq and pass Bush's tax cuts, spread, ironically, his Messina-inspired homophobia, and was able to make sure Biden's anti-working family bankruptcy bill passed. What a legacy! Obama couldn't wait to work with Baucus' guy Messina, aka- "the fixer." After utterly ruining OFA, he opened his own lobbying firm, the Messina Group (although claims he doesn't personally lobby, only consults) and became a consultant to the British Conservative Party, helping them successfully beat the Labour Party in 2015 and then lose the Brexit vote soon after. (He was also a consultant for Spain's far right prime minister, Mariano Rajoy and, later, very unsuccessfully for Theresa May.)

A couple of years ago, Alex Nichols nailed him as a case study in political failure-- How did a Much-Hyped, Highly Paid Political Consultant Amount To Nothing? He exposes him and other "consultants, strategists, and data wonks" like him as "grifters and frauds"
Messina was a favorite of “wonks” until relatively recently. A 2012 Bloomberg profile titled “Obama’s CEO” provides a perfect distillation of Messina’s carefully cultivated image, comparing his storytelling abilities to TED Talks and praising him for learning from the executives at Google, Facebook, and Zynga. The article goes: “Messina is convinced that modern presidential campaigns are more like fast-growing tech companies than anything found in a history book and his own job is like that of the executives who run them.” This may have been the last time anyone was positively compared to Zynga, the mobile gaming giant that lost 85 percent of its value that year, but it was eerily prescient.

While Messina pushed Obama and Congressional Democrats to satisfy the every whim of corporate lobbyists, he took the opposite approach to the grassroots activists who propelled Obama to victory in 2008. Messina convinced Obama to stall his campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for nearly three years before he finally capitulated to increasingly furious progressives in 2010. Messina was designated the liaison to the Common Purpose Project, a coalition of progressive groups like Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress. Members of these groups complained that during meetings, Messina “used his influence to try to stifle any criticism of Baucus or lobbying by progressive groups that was out of sync with the administration’s agenda.” An anonymous Democratic strategist told The Nation in 2011 that “There is not a bone in [Messina’s] body that speaks to or comprehends the idea of a movement and that grassroots energy. To me, that’s bothersome.”

In hindsight, the string of spectacular failures Messina’s career has wrought seems inevitable. His successes were not exactly successes; he rose to prominence as the campaign strategist for a senator who had unlimited corporate funding and no opposition. Obama’s victories with Messina, it would appear, were the result of his remarkable charisma and speaking abilities, which Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton sorely lacked. The grassroots support that Obama garnered in 2008 existed despite Messina’s campaign strategies, not because of them. In 2008, Obama was aided by Bush’s abysmal approval rating, Iraq War fatigue, the worst economic downturn since 1929, and Sarah Palin. In 2012, the GOP made the terrible decision to ignore the surge in grassroots anti-government hysteria and instead run a flip-flopping coward. The candidates in those elections won or lost mostly because of their individual qualities, not because of gifted strategists or lack thereof.

Messina’s disastrous failures are not his alone. The cottage industry of political consultancy is built to swindle campaigns. The expensive strategies recommended by top consultants bring to mind a mechanic selling a series of unnecessary repairs and upgrades to a car-illiterate customer. Everyone gets the premium windshield wipers -- the stock ones snap like a twig. Campaign in Labour strongholds rather than defending your own seats. Working-class voters will turn out if you promise to bring back the ivory trade and legalize fox hunting. But, like any form of embezzlement, this kind of salesmanship works best during an economic bubble, and when the bubble pops, everyone suddenly starts paying closer attention to the budget. Faced with the possibility that they may never win again, establishment politicians have no choice but to clean house. If even a faint shadow of meritocracy still exists in London and D.C., the closest Jim Messina will ever get to politics again is if the Capitol Building hires him as a janitor.
Unless the Establishment is able to make another soulless consultant, the dopplegänger, win. Harry Enten for CNN: "Buttigieg's core support may position him to seem more popular to national media than he actually is... Buttigieg does best among wealthier Democrats. Take a look at recent polling from California (Quinnipiac University), Iowa (Monmouth University) and nationally (Quinnipia). In all three cases, Buttigieg's support more than doubles as one goes from voters making less than $50,000 to greater than $100,000. The jump is rather dramatic in the Iowa poll, which had Buttigieg at 7% among those earning less than $50,000 and at 15% with those earning more than $100,000. The national media tends to live in the wealthiest areas. The New York City and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas are both in the top 3% for per capita incomes among metro or micropolitan areas. Buttigieg also seems to be doing his best among white Democrats. His support among white Democrats in the Quinnipiac poll of California and nationally stood at 8% and 6% respectively. Among the nonwhite crosstab listed in those places (Hispanics in California and African-Americans nationally), it was at 2% and 0% respectively."

But he sure understands the power of branding and marketing. How could you come out of McKinsey and not? I bet he's even better than Trump at it. Just what we need in a president!

Apart from being flavors of the week that no one knew anything about, Beto and Pete have something else in common: two gentrifiers. Reporting from South Bend for BuzzFeedNews, Henry Gomez wrote that Pete's gentrification plan included knocking down hundreds of homes in black and Latino neighborhoods. "Buttigieg, the improbable, suddenly upper-tier Democratic contender, treats the initiative as an unfailing example of his executive leadership and one that shows why the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (population 102,000), deserves a promotion to the White House. Buttigieg gave himself a nice, round-numbered goal and an urgent deadline: 1,000 vacant and abandoned houses bulldozed or repaired within 1,000 days. Then he finished ahead of schedule."
“In some ways, it was a classic example of data-driven management paying off,” Buttigieg writes in his recent political memoir. “But the most important impact of the effort was unquantifiable. Hitting such an ambitious goal made it easier for residents to believe we could do very difficult things as a city, at a time when civic confidence had been in short supply for decades.”

But the story of what happened in between-- of an ambitious white leader literally plowing ahead before addressing concerns in the community of color-- is not the story Buttigieg, 37, tells. You won’t read about that part in his book. You likely won’t hear about it when Buttigieg, who would be the youngest and first openly gay president, preaches “intergenerational justice,” or Sunday, when he's expected to officially launch his campaign from the city's revitalized downtown.

The fallout from his approach to urban redevelopment has relevance in a primary where candidates promote economic and racial equality. The “1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days” program promoted neither, at least not at first, in the minds of critics who spoke to BuzzFeed News.

... The mayor’s data-driven approach, which he nurtured in his twenties as a consultant for the global management firm McKinsey & Co., has impressed the council president. “There’s a lot of concern sometimes to try new things,” Scott said. “Pete was really good about trying new things. He always has data.”

To others, the Buttigieg way is often too rigid, and devoid of the human touch.

“If you’re going to argue with him, you better have some good data,” said one critic, who requested anonymity for fear of political retaliation in a city where Buttigieg easily won reelection in 2015. “But he’ll still tell you he has better data.”

One thing before we get to Type O Negative. When Messina told Jonathan Karl that he feels Bernie can't beat Trump because if you just "look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy [and] Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues," there was virtually no sense at all being made. And Karl didn't challenge him. Did they not watch the Fox News town hall from Bethlehem, PA, Trump-country? Everyone else seems to have been watching it. According to Nielsen it was the most-watched town hall of the 2020 campaign so far (2.5 million viewers), totally beating MSNBC and CNN town halls, for Bernie and for all of the other candidates. It brought in 489,000 viewers between the ages of 25 and 54-- a key demographic for cable-news advertisers-- trouncing CNN’s 281,000 tally and MSNBC’s 208,000. So... McKinsey Pete's handlers are already negotiating with Fox for his own town hall.

Who was in that audience that wound up chanting "Bernie, Bernie, Bernie" by the end, that audience where it looked like everyone was ready to tear up their private insurance card and sign on for Medicare-For-All on the spot?

Looks like someone's gettin' a lane 

Bethlehem is a small city of around 75,000 that spans the border between Leigh and Northampton counties, just east of Allentown. Charlie Dent had represented the area since 2004 but he retired and Democrat Susan Wild beat Republican Marty Nothstein to replace him. In 2016, Hillary beat Bernie in both counties during the primary and then in the general, Hillary beat Trump by just over 4 points in Lehigh County and Trump beat Hillary by around the same margin in Northampton County. There were lots of Trump voters and Hillary voters and they don't seem to have the same problem with Bernie that the consulting class does. OK, you earned it-- Type O Negative, goth from Brooklyn. (Spoiler: they changed Joe to Pete in the song, not because of Buttigieg but because the lead singer is Peter Steele.)

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Said NO innocent person, ever.

Up to you Congress. We expect you'll do nothing. We expect you'll sit on your hands and finish destroying the meaning of law, decency, and ethics once and for all time. We expect you'll set a horrific example for generations to come by letting Trump skate. Steny Hoyer is already trying to be the House's answer to Mitch McConnell. But, hey, we all like happy surprises so go ahead, surprise us by doing the right thing for a change, a change we can actually believe in. What's it gonna be? Which example of behavior will you set for our future and that of future generations? Is it going to be "If the president can do it, so can I?" Do you proudly see yourselves as the Fathers Of Anarchy? The whole world is watching.

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

What I Learned Last Night


In 1879, Fyodor Dostoevsky, gave us "The Grand Inquisitor"-- a poem within The Brothers Karamazov-- widely considered one of the greatest pieces of literature in history. This week, James Inman wrote "If Jesus came back today and saw Notre Dame he'd say, 'Fuck your church. What is this stained glass bullshit? Back in my day we worshipped God out in a field. Oh you saved my crown of thorns? Whoop-de-fucking-do!' Then you'd plot to kill him again for speaking the truth." Same-same-- just a shorter and less ambiguous version.

An out-of-town friend asked me to meet him at Crossroads (on Melrose), my favorite vegan restaurant. There was no traffic so I got there really early. Across the street is a small office building and the pot shop I used when I needed CBD oil after chemo is-- or was-- in that building. But I didn't know about the "was." So I figured I'd stop there and get some CBD balm for my neuropathy. But there'll gone. So how to kill half an hour at 8pm?

Three blocks away my former favorite non-vegan restaurant, Ink, had closed down but was replaced with a lovely-looking shop called Cookies. Hmmm... maybe they have sugar-free cookies, I thought. I decided to walk over there and take a look. But gee, there was a helluva lot of security in from of the store. Maybe it was a grand opening. I'll just make like I belong-- the way Paul Kantner taught me to-- and slide right in. It seemed to work; I got right through the door. It was bright and shiny and modern and kind of nice. "Can I see your ID?" asked the lady inside the front door. I took out my driver's license and she did some kind of high tech picture of it. And then I noticed the smell. It was a nice smell, but very strong. Pot? Was I actually in a pot store? I was. She asked me to wait til as associate could come over and show me around. I said I could show myself around. "Nope," she said. The associate was fantastic. He showed me around a really large cannabis emporium with more products than I could have imagined. I bought some of the balm. They charged a huge tax for this stuff. I was shocked. I complained. They said, "Oh, we have a senior discount." It was 10% and I was happy-- happy to pay less and happy to know that seniors pay less for cannabis in the 21st Century.

Goal ThermometerSo, I can't say who my out-of-town friend was. Because he (or she) told me something in strict confidence. "Please don't put this on your blog." I asked if I could but without his (or her) name on it. A role of the eyes was immediately accepted by me as an OK. Here's what I learned: After the GOP started their jihad against Ilhan Omar, senior Democrats by and large refused to publicly back her. Jerry Nadler was a conspicuous exception. Eventually someone pulled a very half-assed defense out of Pelosi. But... and here it comes... while this was raging in the media-- including death threats against Ilhan-- the #2 Dem in the House, Steny Hoyer was workin' it hard behind the scenes. Workin' what? Oh, yeah... working to get Ilhan kicked off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. After all, no one is supposed to be on there without being pro-Likud anyway. right? By the way, a progressive woman named Mckayla Wilkes is primarying Hoyer. We'll be talking about her more, of course, but meanwhile... please consider giving Ilhan a hand by tapping that thermometer on the right.

And one more thing! The folks at Now This who put this clip together should all get a Pulitzer for something. Remember when we had a real president and when Fox News was the disloyal opposition, instead of the state propaganda arm? Well this clip is meant to show you what Fox would sound like if they were covering Señor Trumpanzee the same way-- the exact same way in fact-- they used to cover President Obama. In their own words:

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Is Impeachment On The Table, Madame Speaker?


Short version: Russia helped Trump and Trump welcomed their help. Whatever Barr and Trump cooked up for Fox and Trump's dumbbell 35% of the country, Mueller's report is a cornucopia of collusion and obstruction-- every damn thing you ever thought he and his treasonous enablers might have done. Mueller's got it all in there-- except for the pee-tape and a confession from Trump and his family of grifters. Soon after he read the report, Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, stated flatly: "Whether these acts are criminal or not, whether the obstruction was criminal or not, or whether these contacts were sufficiently illicit to rise to the level of criminal conspiracy, they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic." He left off one word: impeachable. Next move is Pelosi's.

Mueller certainly found that Putin was gung ho on making sure Trump would become president. He kept in touch and his gang and Trump's gang occasionally worked together to further the same ends, which Trump had Cohen continue with the Trump Tower Moscow project-- while overtly lying about it to the voters. There's no doubt that Mueller believed Kushner-in-law and Junior were both committing criminal acts.

Mueller makes it clear that there was very active coordination in regard to the stolen DNC e-mails and that Trump personally knew what was going on before anything happened. Manafort appears to be a key intermediary and went as far as targeting Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for the Kremlin's attention.

And on top of that-- lot and lots and lots of obstruction of justice-- and really blatantly so. The first thing he did when he heard Mueller had been appointed Special Counsel was to say his "presidency is over." I guess he wasn't counting on a risk-adverse Nancy Pelosi letting him off the hook. Trump dangled pardons in front of every one of his enablers and co-conspirators.

Garrett Graf's take for Wired-- The Mueller Report Is Much Worse For Trump Than Barr Let On-- makes the point that if Trump isn’t guilty of obstruction of justice, who ever could be? Mueller's report outlined spent well over 100 pages outlining how Trump "reacted to and fumed over the Russia probe, seeking to undermine it, curtail it, and even fire the special counsel himself." Barr's behavior since getting his hands on the report has been an integral part of the cover-up and p.r. campaign to give Trump cover. Barr misrepresented Mueller’s reasoning for not making a "traditional prosecutorial decision" on the obstruction half of his investigation... "Moreover, Mueller makes clear that part of the reason he couldn’t find a prosecutable conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia was because he was stymied by lies, obstruction, and evidence deleted by his investigative targets. 'The Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report,' Mueller wrote. In one specific example, Mueller says he was unable to reconcile the purpose of a long-mysterious meeting in the Seychelles because two key figures, campaign chair Paul Manafort and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, had deleted their exchanges about the meeting."

Barr should resign or be impeached

The attorney general has implied that Mueller left that choice to Barr. In truth, the report makes clear that Mueller felt constrained by the Justice Department policy that a sitting president could not be indicted. Don’t mistake lack of prosecution, in other words, for absence of wrongdoing. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president did not obstruct justice, we would so state,” Mueller’s report says. “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Mueller then points to Congress, not the attorney general, as the body appropriate to answer the question of obstruction. As Mueller wrote in what seems to be all but a referral for impeachment proceedings, “The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balanced and the principle that no person is above the law.”

That the contents of the Mueller report diverges so sharply from Barr’s portrayal has long seemed possible, based on his initial summary and subsequent appearance before Congress. Barr was appointed, after all, after writing a memo casting the Mueller investigation as illegitimate. In the hours leading up to the report’s release, that suspicion increased sharply.

Ninety minutes before the public had a chance to read the report, Barr held an odd and at times curt 22-minute press conference in which he re-summarized his views, presenting an argument that made him sound more like the president’s personal defense attorney rather than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. “The special counsel found no collusion,” said Barr. “That’s the bottom line.” Barr went on to stress how frustrating the Russia probe was to the president, asking reporters to consider Donald Trump’s emotions and mental state.

Barr further praised Donald Trump for “fully cooperating,” ignoring the president’s refusal to sit for an interview with Mueller’s investigators, along with the fact that Trump tried at least once to fire the special counsel, consistently attacked the legitimacy of the investigation in public, and openly encouraged witnesses not to cooperate. Barr also never mentioned that a half-dozen of the president’s top campaign aides-- including the former campaign chairman, deputy campaign chairman, national security advisor, and personal lawyer-- have all pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the probe.

The true scope and implications of Mueller’s work didn’t sink in until over an hour later, when the report itself was posted to the Justice Department’s website. It quickly became clear that the report didn’t line up with the rose-colored glasses with which Barr had presented it over the preceding month.

The contrast was especially stark in the matter of obstruction. The 10 episodes the report details include a Trump lawyer’s attempt attempt to keep national security advisor Michael Flynn from implicating the president, and Trump’s attempts to pressure White House counsel to cover up or stall the investigation of national security advisor Michael Flynn in the opening days of the presidency, and Trump instructing White House counsel Don McGahn to deny that Trump had ever ordered him to fire Mueller. Trump also, the report says, complained that McGahn kept notes of their meetings.

There was, Mueller also concludes, good reason for the president to attempt to obstruct the ongoing FBI probe. “The evidence does suggest indicate that a thorough FBI investigation would uncover facts about the campaign and the President personally that the President could have understood to be crimes or that would give rise to personal or political concerns,” Mueller wrote.

After reading through the numerous episodes, it seems almost nothing short of a miracle that Mueller’s probe appears to have wrapped up on his own terms, though not for lack of effort on Trump’s part to derail it. Instead, Mueller paints a picture of a commander-in-chief who fought back in private and public against the probe, but was ultimately saved from his worst instincts by aides like McGahn, who cooperated extensively with Mueller’s probe and testified for some 30 hours before his team. “The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful,” the report reads, “but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
Hoyer was whining immediately afterwards, telling CNN's Dana Bash that "based on what we have seen to date, going forward on impeachment is not worthwhile at this point. Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgement." Even CAP disagrees: their Moscow Project insists that "the Mueller report, like the Watergate roadmap, should be considered an impeachment referral." Pelosi and Hoyer and the timid members of their always timid caucus need to get it through their skulls that "The parallels between the Watergate roadmap and Mueller’s report could not be clearer. Like Jaworski’s report, the story Mueller tells is incredibly damning. His report describes a concerted effort by the Trump campaign to further an unprecedented attack on American democracy, followed by a years-long attempt to cover up their actions." If Pelosi and Hoyer can't do their duty, they should both resign already. 

Individual One by Nancy Ohanian

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