Friday, October 31, 2014

It's not as if Democrats have lacked for strong, articulate guidance as to what they could and should be telling the American public


The most intellectually rigorous of the progressive messaging theorists, George Lakoff, has brought out a new-for-2014 version of his classic Don't Think of an Elephant!

by Ken

I've plunked the new edition of George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant! atop this post because my copy arrived in the mail today. It came from Democracy for America, in return for a contribution, which I didn't mind making, since as far as I know DFA is one progressive group that hasn't backtracked on its principles and still actually stands for something I can subscribe to.

With the days and hours counting down to Election Day, I'm feeling bad for having mostly sat this campaign out. After trying -- partly humorously and partly not -- to wash my hands of it ("Throwing in the towel on the 2014 campaign, and while we're at it the 2016 campaign as well"), I backtracked ("Sure I kid about this infernal election, but of course there's a lot at stake"), but still focused on the rage-filling descent of the Right into a world of unbroken lies, delusions, and obfuscations.

I'm not sure, though, that I really got to the depth of my frustration, which has to do with this famous polarization we hear so much about now. It's pretty much the defining characteristic of U.S. electoral politics at the moment: polarization. It's reflected in most of the down-to-the-wire coverage of the campaign, with so many races looking to be determined by close margins. The conventional wisdom is that in so many states and congressional districts those polarized voters know, have known for ages, who they want to win, the only question now being who'll actually be moved to vote. It's a turnout election, we're told -- who does a better job of getting out their vote.

And I suppose this is all true. But the polarization is based on lies. Sure, there's a far from negligible portion of the electorate that really and truly favors having government serve as the agent of the oligarchical elites -- consisting not just of the actual predators (and predator wannabes) but the people who see themselves as hangers-on of the predators. Similarly, there are people who sincerely believe the craziest ideological inanity pouring forth from the mouth of the Religious Rightists and whoring sociopaths like Sen. Rafael "Ted from Alberta" Cruz.

But an awful lot of those right-leaning votes having been manipulated by a decades-long campaign of stupidifying, fear-mongering, and general thuggery. They aren't really represented by the right-wing hoodlums many of them will be voting for. If people were voting their true interests, we shouldn't be anywhere near political gridlock.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, which might have taken the lead in pushing back against the lies of the Right. A lot of Democrats can't, and a lot of others wouldn't if they could, because what they believe isn't all that different from their Republican opponents.

The disastrous last midterm election is on the minds of a lot of political types, and for good reason. And the precedent isn't encouraging. With that in mind, I've been looking back at a post I put up on September 1, 2010, "Can 2010 electoral disaster be averted? Drew Westen and Mike Lux weigh in." It all has a creepily familiar ring, the principal difference being that we're now four years further along in the Obama presidency, and much of what Drew Westen and Mike Lux were warning that the president need to either strongly disown or wind up owning is now presidential baggage.

At the top of the post I put this brief quote from a then-new Alternet post by Drew Westen, "What Created the Populist Explosion and How Democrats Can Avoid the Shrapnel in November."

I wished I could have quoted the whole piece, but here's some of what I did offer. Drew wrote:
[T]here were red flags already by the end of Obama's first week in office that led me to offer the following advice to the new administration: Tell the story of how we got in this mess or you'll own it. Tell a coherent story about deficit spending. Re-brand government because there's only one story out there now (Reagan's), and it's not one that supports a progressive agenda. Never let attacks go unanswered, because doing so only emboldens your opposition and leads the public to believe that you have no answers to them. And if you throw a bipartisan party and no one comes, don't throw another one. All of what followed has been as predictable as it has been unfortunate.
I continued:
"The question today," Drew writes, "is whether Democrats can channel the populist anger we are seeing around the country this late in the game. The answer is that we'd better try." And he insists, based on message-testing he's done recently, that
there is little question that if Democrats and progressives from center to left simply say what they believe in ways that are evocative, values-driven, and speak to people's worries and anger, many stand a good chance of surviving November, particularly when their opponents have nothing to say other than warmed-over rhetoric about cutting taxes to millionaires and multinationals and fiscal restraint except where it cuts into profits of their campaign contributors.
He's just as insistent, though, that "actions speak louder than words, and Americans want to see action," and it isn't too late for Democrats to go on the offensive against obstructionist Republicans on a whole series of issues, on each of which "a strong populist message trounces anything the other side can say."
But Democrats need to play offense. They need to take up-or-down votes on bill after bill, including those they expect the other side to block, knowing that every one of those votes has the leverage of a campaign ad behind it. They need to change the narrative from what sounds to the average American like a whiny and impotent one -- "the Republicans won't let us do it" -- to a narrative of strength in numbers shared with their constituents. And they need to make every election a choice between two well-articulated approaches to governance -- and to offer their articulation of both sides' positions and values.
Which, he says, leads to a final point:
What Democrats have needed to offer the American people is a clear narrative about what and who led our country to the mess in which we find ourselves today and a clear vision of what and who will lead us out. That narrative would have laid a roadmap for our elected officials and voters alike, rather than making each legislative issue a seemingly discrete turn onto a dirt road. That narrative might have included -- and should include today -- some key elements: that if the economy is tumbling, it's the role of leadership and government to stop the free-fall; that if Wall Street is gambling with our financial security, our homes, and our jobs, true leaders do not sit back helplessly and wax eloquent about the free market, they take away the dice; that if the private sector can't create jobs for people who want to work, then we'll put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and schools; that if Big Oil is preventing us from competing with China's wind and solar energy programs, then we'll eliminate the tax breaks that lead to dysfunctional investments in 19th century fuels and have a public-private partnership with companies that will create the clean, safe fuels of the 21st century and the millions of good American jobs that will follow.
In my September 2010 post I also looked at a piece Mike Lux had written for OpenLeft, "Weirdest political cycle ever?, in which, I wrote, he staked out this position: "This has been a pretty weird political cycle, and I'm starting to wonder whether it is the strangest ever. . . . The weirdness I am referring to is this odd sense I have that both parties are trying so hard to lose."

I continued:
"What's a Democrat to do," he asks, "in this weird and awful political environment?" Allowing that every race is individual, he offers four overall prescriptions, for which you should really read the explanations in his post:
1. Get out every last Democratic base voter you can.
2. Show independence from Obama, but not in a way that undermines the Democratic brand and turns off base voters.
3. Show your anger at the special interests, but also have a substitute plan for improving things.
4. Be specific in going after waste in government.
And he sums up the situation thusly:
In spite of the Republican extremists being nominated, this is going to be an incredibly tough year to be a Democrat on the ballot. We are going to lose a lot of seats in both houses of Congress and downballot as well. But if Democrats turn out their base voters, take on the big banks and insurers and oil companies, and show they are focused on fighting for the middle class, they can hold their losses to a minimum.
And as I've noted at the top of this post, George Lakoff has given us a new version of his classic book Don't Think of an Elephant!. As I mentioned, I just got my copy today. Reading George has never been easy for me, but I have to think he once again has indispensable messages for us. The problem is, a lot of the people who should have been reading it haven't been -- and a lot of them don't really believe in the messages he would like to help them articulate.

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What is there not to hate about Halloween?


About a Boy's Fiona (Minnie Driver), Marcus
(Benjamin Stockham), and Will (David Walton)

by Ken

You're probably thinking this is going to be one of those spoilsport anti-Halloween diatribes. And it's true that when a friend mentioned on the phone this afternoon that he might be venturing out this evening for the parade (meaning, of course, the world-famous Greenwich Village Halloween Parade), I didn't know what to say. However, with all those people so passionately devoted to the parade, there must be something there, right? I can't say I'm okay with it, exactly, but really, it's none of my beeswax.

No, I just want to point out the horribly debilitating effect this cursèd day has on our culture, as reflected -- where else? -- on television. I mean, if you were to string together all the Halloween episodes of as good a show as Roseanne and force an interrogation suspect to watch them all, you'd be hauled in front of whatever court enforces the Geneva conventions on torture. (Oh, no court does? Never mind.) But again, a lot of somebodies must have liked 'em, 'cause they kept on making 'em.

Now here's this week's Halloween episode of About a Boy, a show that, as I think I've mentioned, I'm trying hard to like, because it comes from Friday Night Lights and Parenthood TV creator Jason Katims. And there's something there. Anyway, here's our hero Will (David Walton), who might just as well have been named Peter, as in Pan, with his eccentric British next-door neighbor Fiona (Minnie Driver), who somehow manages to be both a hippie throwback and a stuffed shirt, but who is nevertheless enthralling because she's the enthralling Minnie Driver, and Fiona's 12-year-old son Marcus (Benjamin Stockman). Will has just abandoned his life-changing move to New York to be with his suddenly kindled flame Dr. Sam (Adrianne Palicki, our old friend Tyra from Friday Night Lights), and is planning for his Halloween blowout. Naturally, Fiona doesn't have any Halloween spirit, and seems to have confused the holiday with Thanksgiving.
FIONA: How many holidays do you people have?
WILL: None as important as Halloween. I myself throw an annual party that is legendary, Will-o-ween.
FIONA: Will-o-ween?
WILL: Uh-huh. Anyway, the point is, I am going to the Halloween store to get even more of this wonderment, and you are coming with me, because you need to make your side of the porch less suicide-inducing. We're going to be loaded it to the gills with trick-or-treaters, and we need to be ready.
FIONA: Yes, no, we don't give out treats.
WILL: What?
FIONA: It is a made-up American holiday invented to encourage obesity and diabetes.
MARCUS: Mom hasn't had sugar in 12 years.
WILL: That's not all your mother hasn't had in 12 years, Marcus.
FRANKIE: He-e-ey! Un-hear that.
I get that the show seems to want us to think that if Will would just grow up a little, he'd be totally awesome, and if Fiona would just unstick a little bit, she'd be, well, a less stuck Fiona. But it does seem to be telling us that Will is pretty awesome already, when the evidence indicates that he's kind of a jerk. And this episode seemed to be pushing a little hard on Fiona's stuckitude, having her meet up with, of all things, a tall, good-looking, and -- yes == English architect and have herself some fun.

On the other hand, Halloween-wise --


Ghost of a Heck Halloween past -- from Season 3, we have Frankie (Patricia Heaton) with the male Hecks, sons Axl (Charlie McDermott), Brick (Atticus Shaffer), and Mike (Neil Flynn).

Parents Frankie and Mike Heck (Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn) are in the kitchen on Halloween eve with younger son Brick (Atticus Shaffer).
FRANKIE: Hey, have you figured out what you're going to be yet? It's almost here, and I don't wanna be scramblin' around at the last minute lookin' for a costume for you. You can't be Paper Towel Man for a third time.
BRICK: Aah, actually, I've decided I'm not gonna go trick-or-treating this year.
BRICK: I don't know, I think I'm getting a little old for that.
FRANKIE: Aww, you're not going trick-or-treating? Ohh! Mike, he's not going trick-or-treating.
MIKE: Good! You hate trick-or-treating.
FRANKIE: Yeah, but if I'd know last year it was gonna be the last time, I would have made sure to enjoy it.
MIKE: You didn't even take him out last year. And the year before that, didn't Nancy Donohue take him?
FRANKIE: Whatever time I took him, whenever it was, I wish I'd known that was gonna be it. Okay?
It was quite a nice episode, actually, with each of the three Heck kids having a sort-of-transformative Halloween.

Axl (Charlie McDermott), stranded overnight in (of all places) his college library (there's a phone there which could connect him to campus security, but the antique phone has no buttons, just "this wheelie thing"), and for the first time, at least the first time that we're aware of, he's facing the future with a fair amount of terror, having no idea what he's going to be. He imagines a couple of possibilities, which have to do mostly with how he's dressed, and speculates, "I just think maybe if I knew what I'd be wearing, I could work backwards from there, 'cause no one's telling me what I should do." Most alarmingly, he ventures, "I'm not sure my awesomeness is going to translate into the real world."
And as Frankie notes in her voice-over, while Axl is spending the night with books, Brick is spending the evening with a girl -- he actually has a female school friend coming over to the house!

Meanwhile undauntable Sue (Eden Sher), undaunted by her family's inability to pay for pretty much any college she might get into, is launching her own fund-raising crusade with a Halloween do -- an screening, with all the fixings of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in a pumpkin patch, for which no one shows up. She's even abandoned by her gay best friend Brad (Brock Ciarlelli -- okay, Brad doesn't know he's gay, but I think most everyone else has this one figured out) for the rival graveyard spookie-movie shindig hastily organized by Sue's old cheerleading nemeses, who after making fun of her idea have stolen and improved on it. But behold, one quaint geezer finally turns up (played by our old Rockford Files and X-Files friend Jerry Hardin), about as close to a Halloween miracle as the Hecks are likely to get.

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If Steve Israel Can't Even Beat A Thuggish Republican With 20 Criminal Indictments....


The Staten Island Advance is a lot like Staten Island-- and far more conservative and parochial than NY-11 as a whole, which also includes some relatively enlightened parts of Brooklyn (as well as some equally backward Mafia-oriented neighborhoods, particularly in Bay Ridge). And the district as a whole has been changing demographically as more immigrants move in. In 2008 McCain beat Obama in NY-11, 51-48%. Four years later, NY-11 went the other way, giving Obama a 52-47% win over Romney-- an identical margin the district gave their Mafia congressman, Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm, over a pathetic Democratic opponent, Mark Murphy, son of a former congressman who was sent to prison for 3 years in the Abscam scandal, after being taped taking a $50,000 bribe. This cycle, Steve Israel managed to find an even worse candidate, Domenic Recchia, thinking it wouldn't matter because of Grimm's myriad legal problems-- like 20 felony indictments.

Recchia is such a terrible canddiate-- another wretched mini-me of Israel-- that he's actually losing against a serial criminal likely to go to prison during the next term. Yesterday the Advance actually endorsed Grimm! They admit Grimm is a horrible choice-- but say Recchia is even worse!
There are, on occasion, electoral races in which both candidates are of high quality and high integrity and conduct a tough but fair campaign about the issues.

Fair-minded voters have a difficult choice, but they can know that, no matter who is elected, they'll be well represented by someone who won't embarrass their community.

The election for the House of Representatives seat in the 11th New York Congressional District is nothing like that.

A difficult choice

On one side is the sometimes hot-headed Republican incumbent who is facing a 20-count federal indictment. On the other is a career Brooklyn Democratic pol, who, term-limited out of his high-ranking post in the City Council, thought about other city offices before he settled on the idea of the job representing in Congress a borough he knows  little about, his claims of deep ties here notwithstanding.

That's the choice voters have. And that's the choice we have in making an endorsement in a race that could not be much uglier.

That choice for us is Michael Grimm. Surprisingly, if a choice is to be made, Mr. Grimm should be that choice, even under these circumstances.

Command of the issues

For one thing, he has command of the issues affecting the district, as well as those concerning foreign policy and national affairs.

Most people could do without his incessant parroting of lurid GOP attacks on the administration, but no one can say he doesn't know what he's talking about.

The same cannot be said for Mr. Recchia, whose campaign has consisted almost entirely of attacks on Mr. Grimm.

That's undoubtedly because he doesn't bring much else to the table. His campaign strength, it would seem, is to say he's not Michael Grimm.

When asked specific questions, Mr. Recchia offers canned catch-phrases on which he does not elaborate. He says merely that he believes in "working together" with other officials to "get things done," but never explains how.

Apologists say he is "down to earth," "not as slick as Mr. Grimm" but a "fierce negotiator passionate about who he represents."

At some point, however, it's fair to ask if these claims of his supposed "simplicity" are not just a cover. No one's asking for slick, just knowledgeable.

Exclusive focus on Grimm's troubles

We're not alone in suspecting that his grasp of the issues is uncertain, at best, which is why his campaign handlers have focused almost entirely on Mr. Grimm's legal troubles.

That's good enough for Democratic partisans, some still seething that Mr. Grimm "stole" the House seat from the party's rising star, Michael McMahon, in 2010. But it's not enough for most Staten Islanders. Mr. Grimm may not be as genial as the challenger, but his record in terms of constituent service-- most notably after Hurricane Sandy but in other respects as well-- has been good.

In tune with Staten Island voters

What's more, there's no question that he is in tune with the needs of his district, and while we may not always agree with his positions, especially the kind that light up the cable news networks, his mostly moderate conservative views well represent those of a majority of Staten Islanders.

Witness his forthright statement that the Republican presidential primaries produce nominees who come out of the process too much in political debt to far-right forces to be electable.

We are not overlooking Mr. Grimm's considerable legal woes, of course. To have Staten Island's congressman under federal indictment has been a black mark on this borough and has made it the laughingstock of the nation. Unfortunately, his opponent's astonishing incoherence in public statements only adds to the ridiculousness.

Mr. Grimm has indeed been indicted, but contrary to the definitive condemnations of partisan critics, he has not been convicted of anything; in this country, that matters.

Indicted five years later?

In addition, rumors had it that Mr. Grimm's fundraising tactics were under investigation. But his indictment is for counts including tax evasion, obstruction and perjury, all in connection with his operation of a Manhattan health-food restaurant, before he ran for Congress.

Frankly, the long lag time between the alleged commission of these crimes and the indictment for them makes the indictment suspect in our eyes, especially given the highly charged political atmosphere and the degree to which his seat is coveted by the Democrats.

That said, however, Mr. Grimm has been far too cute about what will happen if he is convicted, saying only, "If I wasn't able to serve, of course I'll step down."

If Mr. Grimm is convicted, he must step down.

But who decides if he is "able to serve"? Mr. Grimm himself?

He has to go one better. If Mr. Grimm is reelected, and then convicted of any crime, even if he's not sentenced to prison as his detractors insist he will be, he must step down. And the people of Staten Island must hold him to that.

Stories about Mr. Grimm's extra-curricaular activities are numerous.

We learned that he spent considerable time in the ladies' room of a Brooklyn tavern with a female friend, who he claimed to be counseling.  We heard he pulled a gun during a melee in a dance club in Manhattan. We heard him threaten to throw a reporter off a balcony because he didn't like a question posed.

We know a female friend, said to have had a relationship with Mr. Grimm, pleaded guilty of channeling illegal campaign contributions to Mr. Grimm's campaign-- something Mr. Grimm denies all knowledge of.

We have said several times in this space that Staten deserves better than this.

As distasteful as this contest may be on a number of levels, we have a choice to make, as do the voters.

On Tuesday, Mr. Grimm is still the best practical choice for Staten Island.

Our system of justice calls for us to wait until February, when he faces trial, to discover the rightness or wrongness of that decision.
Unlike the crackpot editors of The Advance, even the national Republican Party is too embarrassed to back Grimm, a Gambino crime family stalwart. The NRCC has spent exactly zero in this race. The DCCC and the House Majority PAC put in another $1,961,599 just this week, bringing their total for the cycle to an astronomical $3,641,465. And for what? Another corrupt sack of shit who will be too scared to vote with Democrats most of the time and will probably lose his seat in 2016 anyway. Have we mentioned that Steve Israel is the worst DCCC chairman since 1866?

UPDATE: Grimm Will Beat Recchia-- By A Lot

As anyone could have predicted-- and many Outside the Beltway did-- Israel's pathetic recruit, Domenic Recchia is falling flat on his face. A few minutes ago, Siena posted their last poll of the district and it shows Grimm with a stupendous 19-point lead over Recchia! Only SteveIsrael could have ever come up with this kind of a scenario. It's beyond belief.
Incumbent Republican Representative Michael Grimm has opened a wide, 19-point lead over Democratic challenger Domenic Recchia. Grimm leads Recchia 53-34 percent, up significantly from a narrow 44-40 percent lead seven weeks ago, according to a NY 1 News/Capital New York/Siena College Research Institute poll of likely 11th C.D. voters. Green Party candidate Henry Bardel has the support of five percent of voters. Grimm has gained this lead by solidifying his Republican base and turning a 14-point lead with independents into a 37-point lead.

“Early on, this race looked like it was going to be one of the closest in the state-- a former Democratic City Council member taking on an embattled incumbent Republican under Federal indictment in a district that is-- at least by enrollment-- dominated by Democrats,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “That no longer seems to be the case, as Grimm has taken a commanding 19-point lead into the final days of the campaign.

“Recchia’s seven-point September lead in Brooklyn has been cut to a narrow three-point lead, while Grimm has extended his lead in Staten Island, which accounts for more than two-thirds of voters, from nine to 28 points. Grimm has the support of 83 percent of Republicans, up from 73 percent. He also has the support of 31 percent of Democrats and has a better than five-to-two lead with independents,” Greenberg said.

“Last month, Grimm led by 11 points with men, even as the candidates were virtually tied with women,” Greenberg said. “Today, Grimm leads by 19 points with men and women.”

“In mid-September, Grimm had a negative 39-49 percent favorability rating. In a complete reversal, today he had a positive 48-43 percent favorability rating. Recchia has gone in the opposite direction, as the percentage of voters viewing him unfavorably has doubled.  He now has a negative 31-46 percent favorability rating,” Greenberg said.

“Grimm’s favorability rating is essentially unchanged with Democrats, however, his positive rating from Republicans has jumped from two-to-one to better than three-to-one.  And independents, who had previously viewed Grimm unfavorably by an 11-point margin, now view him favorably by a 13-point margin,” Greenberg said. “Recchia’s favorability rating tanked with Republicans and independents.”

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Michael Mann On Climate: There's Very Little "Burnable Carbon" In Our "Budget"; Emissions Ramp-down Must Start Now


-by Gaius Publius

One of my hats is as a climate interpreter to the interested lay person. I have something of a science background and can read the papers "in the original." Another hat is as an occasional interviewer for Virtually Speaking. This month the two hats merged on the same head, and I got to interview the "Hockey Stick graph" climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann.

For this interview I focused on the basics:

Can humans burn more carbon, create more emissions, and still stay below the IPCC's "safe" +2°C warming target?

Is the IPCC's +2°C warming target truly "safe" at all?

We're already experiencing warming of about +1°C above the pre-industrial level. Even if we stop now, how much more is "in the pipeline," guaranteed and unavoidable?

How do we defeat the Big Money ogre that stands in our way?

And my personal favorite:

Will the answer to global warming come from the "free market"?

The always-defended, sacred "free market" — as close to a religion as you'll find in modern thought. I'll have more about the nonexistent "free market" (you read that right) shortly. For now I want to present what Dr. Mann has to say. He was surprisingly plain-spoken, understands the urgency, and says so. I found the interview fascinating, and I hope you do as well.

Two general points:

1. There are a number of very strong climate candidates running in the coming election. Among them are Ted Lieu, Paul Clements and Shenna Bellows. Each is worthy of your support. Click the link on their names to contribute. Here's Ted Lieu on the subject of climate:
"Climate change is the single greatest threat to California, our nation's future and our environment.  As a member of Congress, I will champion legislation to reduce carbon pollution in the U.S."
That's blunt enough for me, and he has a record to back it up. Paul Clements is "running against the worst enemy of the planet in the whole U.S. Congress, Boehner's Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton". Not to put too fine a point on it, Upton deserves to go down and Clement is the climate champion to send him there. And despite the fact that "progressive" environmental group NRDC is supporting Republican Susan Collins — you read that right — Shenna Bellows is a confirmed and endorsed Climate Hawk. Here she is proving it.

There's not a ton of time, but the game's not over yet. You can support all of these worthies, and they are worthy. Again, to contribute to Lieu or Clements, click here. To contribute to Bellows, click here.

2. Virtually Speaking is broadcast with a studio audience in Second Life. A number of questions came in during the broadcast, some of which are worth repeating. All answers are mine. I hope you find these helpful. Again, I just want to put the basics in your brain — no reason to learn more than needed. Once you master the main ideas, the subject is not hard at all to follow.
[QUESTION] What level of CO2 is reasonable?

[ANSWER] Most still think that 350 ppm (parts per million) CO2 is what's needed to keep us at the upper end of Holocene (era of civilized human culture) temperatures. For contrast, the ice ages averaged about 180 ppm CO2 at the bottom, and pre-industrial (pre-1750) concentrations were about 280 ppm CO2. Pre-industrial temperatures were at the bottom of the Holocene (post–ice age) temperature range, so there's some headroom above that 280 ppm number. How much exactly? No one knows.

It looks like we're headed for a IPCC-"safe" 450 ppm CO2 unless we stop. Not safe, IMO; nor in Dr. Mann's. For starters, this "450 ppm" measures CO2 only, not other GHGs like methane and nitrous oxide. The effective ppm in "CO2 equivalent" with those other added GHGs is higher if only CO2 is at 450.

It's roughly thought that the original ice sheet formations of 35 million years ago, which gave us modern Antarctic, Greenland and Arctic ice, occurred in a cooling environment that crossed below CO2 concentrations in the range of 550-400 ppm or so.

First, that's a wide range. Second, that's no indication of what will happen going the other direction, where the warming tipping points are. Hansen writes, correctly IMO, that real climate sensitivity depends on (a) the starting point (i.e., how near we are to tipping points), and (b) the direction (effect of warming of X amount is not necessarily correlated to the effect of cooling of that same amount).

Nevertheless, the massive uncertainty, plus the world-historical consequences, gives most of us pause. Me, I think 450 ppm CO2 is ultimately a death sentence for civilized humans. Back to life as hunter-gatherers for our third- or fourth-generation descendants. And if worldwide social chaos takes over before we stop, the process could run to conclusion, which, the old IPCC A1FI scenario says, tops out at +7°C warming.

[Q] (What's the ppm) for a 90% chance (of staying below 2°C warming)?

Dr. Mann says 405 ppm CO2 (just above where we are now), assuming we start removing, or failing to add, cooling coal-generated air particles. In other words, we have no carbon headroom for a 90% chance of "success" as defined by the IPCC, say a number of studies. (IPCC is silent, at least in the material I read, on the 90% chance itself. Their Working Group 1 Summary for Policymakers of 2013 discusses only the 33%, 50% and 66% chances. The underlying chapters may be more detailed, but I'm not sure of that.)

[Q] Why are we asking him political questions? ... I like him, and I more-or-less agree with him, but his opinions on politics and economics are not educated opinions. (And this also applies to Hansen, who I am fairly sure is just wrong on important political matters.)

First, he's actually good on the politics, better than most. But second, I wanted to get his thoughts regarding next steps. For me the key, core messages are — Stop Now... Zero Carbon "Budget" ... Free Market Solutions Won't Work. He surprised me in agreeing with the third point, and I hope he carries that message to the public going forward. He was already mainly on board on the first two, but I wanted to hear him say so for the record, since I hadn't encountered his public comment on this.

My suspicion is that, in interviews, most people of Dr. Mann's stature and skill aren't often asked real bottom-line questions. I tried to stay with core issues for that reason.

[Q] But, look, you don't consult a political scientist on the physics of climate change, the reverse ought also be true.

But these things aren't rocket science. I have a good physics background (two years in a top-end Physics program), but not a degree in it. Yet I'm perfectly "consultable" on the physics. No reason that Michael Mann and James Hansen wouldn't be consultable on the politics. People like these can be very reliable sources (and voices) on political solutions. In fact, we really need them to address the politics, since that's where the action is. His voice and Hansen's, giving strong accurate advice, are worth a thousand of mine.

For another example of political writing by a scientist, look at the work of Dr. Naomi Oreskes, another frequent visitor to Virtually Speaking broadcasts. If I recall correctly, her background is in geology, yet her book comparing the tobacco denial war with the climate denial war is as good as there is — Merchants of Doubt.

[Q] The political system also has to change to reinstate progressive tax on income and add one on capital. ... we're fucked, we're so fucked.

Not yet. Popular middle-class rebellion hasn't kicked in, and it will. We have one more shot, unless the public is too apathetic for too long a time. But once property values — or water tables in the Colorado River basin, or insurance and development rates in South Florida, or ... you name it — collapse, a whole lot of people could turn Depression-era urgent and "Government, save us" angry. Even so-called Tea Party voters will beg for government intervention. At that point, things get interesting.

That wake-up moment, still in the future, represents real opportunity, if it happens soon enough. Our job is to teach into it, teach ahead of it — show what a real solution looks like before that moment is co-opted by the carbon-captured media and lost.

[Q] Interesting and informative.

Thanks. That was the goal!
All of the initial questions come from Randolph Azarof, someone very interested in the climate question. A sample of his climate thoughts is here.

For more of my own climate writing, go here. As I said, I'll have more on climate and the "free market" soon. Also, on climate and the NRDC. They and their first cousin, the EDF, badly need a comeuppance. I'm hearing that between them, these two well-funded groups are why Democrats are so hugely methane-fueled these days. Guess who else is hugely methane-fueled? Exxon. Interesting confluence of interests, yes?


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DCCC In New Hampshire-- More Help For The Conservative Kuster And Less For The Progressive Shea-Porter


I got another email from "Nancy Pelosi" (read: the DCCC) this morning on behalf of New Hampshire conservative New Dem Ann Kuster. She's in the D+3 district that Obama won with 54% in 2012, not in the district next door that has a PVI of R+1 and which Obama only won with 50%. That's the district Carol Shea-Porter has. Kuster, who ran as a grassroots populist, sold out to Big Business the second she got to Congress, quitting the Congressional Progressive Caucus and joining the Wall Street owned and operated New Dems. Shea-Porter, on the other hand, is a portrait of integrity and a rare example of genuine virtue in Congress. So, of course the DCCC is putting their resources behind Kuster instead of Shea-Porter. "One of the most competitive races in the country is happening in New Hampshire's 2nd congressional district, right now," wrote "Pelosi." That's the Kuster district.

The latest polling shows both Democrats leading their crazy Republican opponents-- Shea-Porter narrowly, Kuster handily, reflections of the partisan makeup of the two districts. The WMUR poll released Wednesday shows that when leaners are included, Kuster is ahead 53 to 30%.
The unpopularity of both candidates make the race for the 2nd District seat a volatile one. Currently, 46% of likely voters in the 2nd District say they would vote for Kuster if the election were held today, 28% would vote for Garcia, 1% would vote for someone else and 24% are undecided. However, when undecided voters are asked which candidate they lean toward supporting, 53% say they would vote for Kuster, 30% say they would vote for Garcia, 1% would vote for someone else, and 16% remain undecided.
They released a poll for NH-01 that same day and it is much tighter, Carol Shea-Porter ahead of Tea Party extremist and former Congressman Frank Guinta, 44 to 40% (including leaners).
Guinta and Shea-Porter will face each other for the third straight time. Guinta defeated then incumbent Shea-Porter in 2010 while Shea-Porter won the seat back from Guinta in 2012. If the congressional election were held today, 39% of likely 1st District likely voters would vote for Shea-Porter, 36% would vote for Guinta, 1% would vote for someone else and 24% are undecided. When undecided voters are asked which candidate they lean toward supporting, 44% would vote for Shea-Porter, 40% would vote for Guinta, 1% would vote for someone else, and 15% remain undecided. While both candidates receive most support from members of their party (Shea-Porter leads 88%-4% among Democrats and Guinta leads 72%-10% among Republicans), they are deadlocked among Independents with 37% favoring Shea-Porter and 36% favoring Guinta.
Kuster, with typically sleazy New Dem backing, has raised $3,314,902 compared to $954,720 for Garcia. Going into the final days, Kuster had $846,487 and Garcia had $200,001 (as of October 15). The DCCC spent $704,662 on Kuster this week, bringing the total to $3,438,937 and their allied House Majority PAC spent another $303,868 this week, bringing their total to $605,668.

Meanwhile, the grassroots oriented Shea-Porter raised $1,491,761 in total and has $120,872 for the final sprint, while Guinta raised $1,007,751 and has $381,535 cash-on-hand. This week the DCCC spent $509,961 on Shea-Porter, bringing their total to $2,263,009 and the House Majority PAC spent $102,376 this week, bringing their total to $219,039. By every measurement, Steve Israel has favored the more conservative, less needy Kuster against the progressive Shea-Porter who is in far more need of help.

Yesterday the Concord Monitor endorsed Shea-Porter and Kuster, writing that they "have proven themselves to be voices of reason and diplomacy in a House too often dominated by extreme positions and an unwillingness to compromise. Their challengers, Frank Guinta and Marilinda Garcia, respectively, would only add to the tone of negativity and obstruction that already consumes Washington."
Guinta has taken a page from the Scott Brown playbook and hammered Shea-Porter as being a rubber stamp who’s voted with party leadership “95 percent of the time.” A recent TV spot labels him as a New Hampshire independent voice, even though PolitiFact determined Guinta’s congressional voting record is even more along party lines than that of Shea-Porter.

Shea-Porter has indeed shown an independent streak, and it hasn’t always been when the cameras were rolling. She was among the first Democrats to call for resignations following the bungled health care rollout. Shea-Porter showed her willingness to stand apart from her party during that February White House meeting, which was reported in the Wall Street Journal. She’s also been a vocal member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, one of the few places where bipartisan legislation can actually get accomplished in the current environment.

Shea-Porter, along with Kuster, worked with the White House, federal officials and the state government to ensure New Hampshire residents had options beyond Anthem in the 2015 health care exchange. In just a couple of weeks, New Hampshire residents can begin to search through 50-plus plans from five carriers. In addition to increased options, it’s looking like some New Hampshire residents may actually be able to save on their health coverage next year, a point both Guinta and Garcia refuse to acknowledge as they continue to push for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why Does The FBI Still Refuse To Release Their Investigation Of David Joyce's Cocaine Abuse?


Andrew Rayburn (r) bought some sports teams, a jet and a crooked congressman (l)

Some people say Ohio Congressman David Joyce has kicked his cocaine addiction and is no longer a substance abuser. But not everyone who knows Joyce agrees. Joyce became so obsessed with 2 Live Crew when he was on a jihad against their music that started... living the life. He's become a notorious corporate whore in Washington and everyone on K Street-- which is salivating at the prospect that Republican congressional gains next week will bring them more David Joyces-- knows he'll roll over if the price is right.

But Joyce doesn't just take bribes Inside the Beltway. It's no secret in northeast Ohio that Joyce has been right up Chagrin Falls multimillionaire Andrew Rayburn's ass. Rayburn, who owns his own jet and is a part owner of the Cavs, takes Joyce to games at his expense-- which Joyce doesn't report-- and paid for a very fancy 4-day trip for Joyce and his family to go down to Anguilla-- a tax shelter and den of iniquity for rich crooks-- for Rayburn's daughter's wedding. Joyce filed an inadequate report on the trip and purposely covered up the "contributions," a clear ethics violation-- and probably a criminal one as well, especially if cocaine was involved in the festivities.

Aside from whatever illegal "contributions" Rayburn has given Joyce in the way of unreported or partially-reported gifts, he has contributed thousands of dollars to Joyce's shady political career and helped strong-arm other business associates on Joyce's behalf. In fact Rayburn spends a great deal of money on right-wing political candidates-- but Joyce is his biggest "investment." Rayburn owned Flexalloy all through the eighties and nineties and then sold it and started Big Game Capital in August, 2000, a private investment firm. The FBI is still sitting on their investigation of Joyce's cocaine use and adamantly refuses to release FOIA requests for the report. The latest polling shows Joyce, who was not challenged by the DCCC at Steve Israel's orders, despite poor reelect numbers, will probably be reelected Tuesday. Thanks for another grotesquely corrupt GOP coke head in Congress, Steve Israel!

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It's when we Americans are put to the test that we show what we're really made of -- say howdy to ebola lawyers


Yes, the tireless David Sipress is still manning The New Yorker's "Daily Cartoon" beat. (You can click on today's offering to enlarge it.)

by Ken

I know I'm taking a certain liberty in tacking David Sipress's New Yorker "Daily Cartoon" for today onto a post that's actually concerned with getting tough on ebola. But really, terrorism, ebola, it's all the same thing, isn't it? It's all those things that present tough Americans with a need and an opportunity to, you know, be tough, to be the loud-mouthing, fist-packing, gut-toting blowhards God put us on this earth to be.

Actually, I suppose ebola is a little different. Unlike all those other depredations like Islamic extremism which sneak into God's Country principally via our shockingly underdefended Mexican border, ebola is headed for us even as we speak via an airport near you.

But we're Americans, and we fight back. And remember, we've got guns. So I say you can keep the image of David Sipress's debate combatants in mind as you read this Washington Post "In the Loop" report (which sure sounds like it was written by our pal Al Kamen) about the counter-attack against invading hordes of ebola, "Got Ebola? Call a doctor. Or maybe a lawyer."
There’s one known active case of Ebola in the United States, and President Obama was quick to remind the nation Tuesday that “only two people so far have contracted Ebola on America soil.”

But fears abound, and one Washington law firm is making itself available for all your Ebola-related legal needs.

Arent Fox is organizing a live panel discussion at its New York office on Nov. 12 to help businesses and employees with pressing concerns about the spread of Ebola — which “places caregivers in a situation where a minor error can be lethal,” Arent Fox warns ominously in a news release.

Lawyers are prepared to address any number of Ebola-related legal quandaries. Not sure what those would be? The firm has prepped a list of questions you might want to ask. Such as: How do you handle an employee who has been quarantined by the government? Can an employee who has been exposed to Ebola be ordered to stay home? Do your insurance policies have an exemption for biological or contagious diseases?

The lawyers, representing the firm’s labor, health-care and insurance practices, can also provide some historical perspective on Ebola, specifically whether “significant events” such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy provide any guidance for Ebola response.

Darrell Gay, a partner at Arent Fox, said that the firm contacted some clients to raise some of the above questions, and that those clients realized they had no idea how they would or should handle these worst-case Ebola scenarios.

“The issue is we don’t know how far it’s going to go,” Gay said. “The objective is to have the company thinking about it rather than shooting from the hip.”

Just in case.


Hey, I hear you. I can try to work with you. Here's what I suggest: Simply reimagine today's Sipress cartoon as a pair of cartoons. Something like this:

"Now we'll turn to the issue of who will be tougher on terrorism."

"Now we'll turn to the issue of who will be tougher on ebola."

This works just fine, doesn't it? Actually, it's better, I think.

And would be better still if we kept looping the drawing substituting other things right-wing crackpots have their racing hearts set on being tough against, including but by no means limited to: godless vote frauders, godless taxers-and-spenders, godless climate-changists, godless baby-killers, godless takers-not-makers, godless Frenchies (and all things French), godless warriors against Christmas, godless aliens (of both the extra-territorial and extra-terrestrial kind), godless "other" people (including all those of of all colors unapproved by God).

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Jeb Bush Could Never Defeat Ted Cruz In A Primary


I'm on record: the crazy extremist base of the Republican Party will not be denied again-- no more McCains or Romneys, not in 2016. They will settle for nothing less than an unapologetic, loud'n'proud fascist. And the folks who set their agendas have decided: Ted Cruz, the senator further right than Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Hideki Tojo, Augusto Pinochet, Vidkun Quisling, Pat Robertson or anyone else I might have left out. They will not be denied. Ted Cruz will be the Republican nominee for president and he will lose-- and lose very, very big, dragging down as many as 10 U.S. Senators-- Mark Kirk (R-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Rand Paul (R-KY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO)-- and double the number of GOP House Members (especially if Steve Israel has been excised from the DCCC).

While the fascists prepare for their apocalypse, though, the mainstream conservative McCain/Romney/Chamber of Commerce wing of the GOP, would rather lose in a more gentlemanly fashion with another Bush. Jeb would;'t bring on the kind of GOP donnybrook Cruz will and with him at the top of the ticket, the Republicans would probably lose less than half the senators they'll lose with Cruz's reverse coattails. But Jeb can't make it through a Republican primary, not after all the cultivation of the Tea Party sociopaths in recent years. Jill Bond, writing for Blue Nation Review, listed 5 specific stumbling blocks that will defeat Bush in the 2016 Republican primary sweepstakes.

We have Jeb Bush to thank for working with the NRA to push the license-to-hunt-and-kill-people law in the state of Florida known as Stand Your Ground-- whose victims include 26 children, and an education program that has proved to be weak and questionable.

He didn’t know what the Paycheck Fairness Act was (a bill that ensures women are paid equally for equal work), and doesn’t support it once he’s told.

Within a year of leaving the governorship of Florida, Bush became a consultant for Lehman Brothers-- the Wall Street giant whose bankruptcy sealed this nation’s financial meltdown-- and tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal called "Project Verde" in Mexico with a billionaire telecom mogul.

He’s been wishy-washy on immigration, trying to balance kissing Republican right-wing extremist leader’s butts while not scaring off Hispanic voters, calling for undocumented immigrants to be handled with "compassion" as he seeks to toughen regulations against them.

In efforts to expand his wealth after being Florida’s governor, Bush was hired by InnoVida, a manufacturer of cheap building materials, as a consultant and to sit on the board of directors. The company faked documents, lied about the health of the business and misappropriated $40 million in company funds, according to the New York Times. The company went bankrupt in 2011. Bush didn’t have any better luck sitting on the board of Swisher Hygiene, a soap maker, whose financial statements were unreliable and accounting practices were sketchy, causing stock prices to plunge and shareholders to sue.

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What Did Pelosi See In Steve Israel? The DCCC Chairman Shows What He's Worth


In the final week of the midterm election cycle, House Republicans are on the offensive and an abysmally-led DCCC is retreating almost everywhere. Boehner is on the attack against Democratic incumbents while the DCCC-- which bragged all cycle about they have out raised the Republicans-- now says it doesn't have the resources to spend on its recruits and has abandoned almost all of them to their fates and the hands of surging Republicans.

The DCCC has been reduced to spending millions in districts that were "in the bag," like NY-11, where Michael Grimm was indicted on 20 criminal counts but will probably beat Israel's pathetic recruit, Domenic Recchia, or CA-31, where another execrable DCCC recruit, worthless bank lobbyist Pete Aguilar is making history by losing an overwhelmingly blue (D+5) district, despite out raising his GOP opponent $1,957,871 to $415,375. The GOP hasn't spent a nickel on behalf of Paul Chabot and the DCCC and their House Majority PAC have spent $1,297,759. Aguilar was also bolstered by the corrupt, right-wing Credit Union National Association PAC which took time out from their efforts on behalf of reactionaries Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Steve Southerland (R-FL) and Tony Strickland (R-CA) to pump $346,841 into Aguilar's campaign. All that said, an internal Aguilar poll shows him down 2-- and down 9 among high-propensity voters. As the DCCC should have learned in 2012, Aguilar's sleazy corrupt demeanor may make him fit in amazingly well among Beltway New Dems and the Steve Israel circle but ordinary working families in the Inland Empire want nothing to do with him. Had Steve Israel not interfered in the primary, Eloise Reyes would be up by double digits going into next week's vote.

Another Israel recruitment disaster has come home to roost in NY-19, a blue (D+1) district in Upstate New York, where Obama beat both McCain and Romney. The DCCC recruited a self-funding multimillionaire, turned him into a mystery-meat nothing and who now looks like he might not even get 40% of the vote. Last night the Siena Poll showed unimpressive GOP incumbent Chris Gibson leading Sean Eldridge by 23 points. This is a blue district... in New York. If Steve Israel, the most incompetent DCCC chairman since 1866, doesn't even know how to win those, why does anyone think he can win anything anywhere? Eldridge has outspent Gibson $4,659,027 to $1,798,884-- most of which, $2,840,000, came from his own personal bank account.
A week before Election Day, Republican Representative Chris Gibson continues to hold a commanding lead over Democrat Sean Eldridge. Gibson holds a 58-35 percent lead, virtually unchanged from his 57-33 percent lead seven weeks ago, according to a new Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll of likely 19th C.D. voters released today.  By a 60-25 percent margin, voters have a favorable view of Gibson, whereas Eldridge divides voters, with 33 percent viewing him favorably and 35 percent unfavorably.

“Gibson heads into the final week of the campaign largely unscathed and with a commanding 23-point lead over Eldridge,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “Over the last seven weeks, the Eldridge campaign has gained little or no traction with practically any constituency.

“Gibson has overwhelming support from 86 percent of Republicans, strong support from 60 percent of independents, and even has the support of more than one-quarter of Democrats, all virtually the same as the previous Time Warner Cable News/Siena poll,” Greenberg said. “He maintains a 13-point lead in the Ulster/Dutchess portion of the district and better than two-to-one leads in the other regions. He has a dominating 42-pont lead with men and leads among women by nine points. He leads by more than 20 points with voters 55 and older and has an even larger lead with voters younger than 55,” Greenberg said.
And the only really good news coming back from the pollsters-- from MI-06, the Paul Clements race against Fred Upton-- is a race Steve Israel not only refused to let the DCCC get involved with but one in which he worked actively against the Democrat to help the Republican! Despite Israel's treachery and despite him having wasted millions of dollars on races in Michigan he's now abandoned as hopeless, the MI-06 race is now within the margin of error. An entirely grassroots effort, it could well be the only glimmer of hope for House Democrats next Tuesday!
The race in Michigan Congressional District 6 has narrowed significantly in recent weeks, as voters have learned more about the negative aspects of Fred Upton’s tenure in Congress, and have been introduced to a viable alternative in Democrat Paul Clements. Additionally, political gaffes by Upton have brought scrutiny to this long-term incumbent who has never faced a credible challenger in a district that Barack Obama won in 2008 and trailed Mitt Romney by only 1.4 percentage points in 2012. Paul Clements has momentum in the closing days of the campaign, in what has turned out to be the most competitive congressional race in Michigan, for a seat that many thought was safe for Republicans.

Paul Clements has momentum on his side, and a top-ticket Democrat leading the way. The race for Congress has narrowed significantly since our last survey only three weeks ago (43% Clements – 47% Upton – 10% undecided). At the top of the ticket, Democrat Gary Peters has a strong lead in the U.S. Senate race in this district (48% Peters – 39% Terri Lynn Land – 12% undecided)... Clements’ path to victory comes by converting Democrats and Independents who are already supporting Democrat Gary Peters in the U.S. Senate race to his side.

...With persistent outside pressure focused on how Fred Upton has changed in the 27 years he has spent in Washington, it is possible for Paul Clements to defeat a long-time Republican incumbent. It is the job of the Clements campaign to finish with powerful positive communications in the closing week of the race, to continue to introduce Clements to Democrats and Independents who are inclined to split their ticket, but have growing reservations about supporting Fred Upton. With a strong fundraising week to finish the campaign, we can make this the “race to watch” in Michigan next Tuesday.
As recently as last week, Israel was working the phones, demanding Democratic groups not help Clements beat Upton. If Clements wins next week, it will be a resounding victory for the grassroots over the corrupt, transpartisan Beltway Establishment of which both Upton and Israel are so emblematic.

Tuesday Alex Isenstadt wrote that House Democrats are fretting over the prospect of debilitating losses Tuesday. They should have fretted when Pelosi reappointed Israel after his disastrous 2012 cycle. Israel is trying too blame progressive donors and President Obama's unpopularity to take the spotlight away from his own corruption, his deals with the GOP leadership, and, most of all, his breathtaking incompetence.
Looking to contain the damage, Democrats are pumping money into liberal congressional districts that were long thought to be safely in their column. Over the last several days, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has directed resources to maintain seats in Hawaii and Nevada, both of which broke sharply for the president in 2012-- an indication of just how much the terrain has shifted against the party over the past two years.

Other unexpected races are suddenly in play. Some Democrats, for example, have begun to worry about the prospects of California Rep. Lois Capps, an eight-term congresswoman who is typically a lock for reelection but who now finds herself in a competitive race against Republican Chris Mitchum, a perennial candidate and the son of the late actor Robert Mitchum. In a sign of how seriously national Democrats are taking the threat, the DCCC is making a last-minute purchase of $99,000 worth of radio advertising in the Santa Barbara area to boost Capps, according to a committee aide.

...Capps isn’t the only incumbent Democratic officials are scrambling at the last minute to defend. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) recently coordinated a fundraising event for Rep. Dave Loebsack, a fourth-term Iowa incumbent who has recently come under barrage from GOP groups, and reached out to donors on his behalf.

On Tuesday afternoon, Israel and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will hold a hastily-planned conference call for members to provide them with an update on the political terrain and to press them to contribute to the party’s coffers.

...In many instances, Republicans are spending money to put races in play that had long been considered safe for Democrats. American Action Network, a national group with ties to House Speaker John Boehner, has begun airing TV commercials in blue districts in Hawaii and eastern Iowa.

The maneuvering has prompted Democratic groups to yank money from districts they’re trying to seize from Republicans in order to protect seats they already control. Over the past several weeks, the DCCC has pulled funds from top recruits in Colorado and Virginia and begun running TV ads in two eastern Iowa districts, both of which Obama won in 2012.
The Wall Street Journal had a similar report yesterday-- Republicans advancing, Israel leading Democrats into retreat after retreat. "The last-minute maneuvering has the potential, if races break their way, to bring Republicans closer to the 12-seat gain needed to match the party’s post-World War II record of holding 246 House seats. Democrats, aware of the headwind against them, have withdrawn money recently from some GOP-held districts and redirected it largely to endangered incumbents in an effort to limit GOP gains."
The Republican entrance into additional districts-- in Iowa, Nevada and elsewhere-- adds to evidence that voters are making a late turn away from the Democratic party. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey released Sunday found Republicans with a four-point lead among registered voters on which party should control Congress, with 46% favoring the GOP and 42% preferring Democratic control.
Had Pelosi chosen a more competent, less corrupt DCCC chair after Israel wrecked the Democrats' hopes to win back the House in 2012, would the situation be different today? Undoubtably... and we'll be exploring the specifics of that, race by race, over the next two weeks.

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John Kline-- Congress' Worst Enemy Of Public Education


Earlier this month we looked into the astounding legalistic bribes John Kline takes from the for-profit college industry, far more than any other Member of Congress. So far this cycle the for-profit education business has spent $1,488,432 in congressional races. Kline got $179,849 by himself. He wasn't just the biggest recipient of their bribes, he took in quite a bit more than the next two biggest recipients combined, Virginia Foxx ($88,380) and Senator Lamar Alexander ($51,500). Kline has been the industry's henchman on Capitol Hill.

This week, Kline's progressive opponent, Mike Obermueller, proposed cracking down on crooked for-profit college predators that have been targeting veterans and playing fast and loose-- thanks to Kline's efforts-- with taxpayer dollars. Obermueller's proposed legislation is geared to ensure schools are as invested in their students' education as their own bottom line. Obermueller went right to the point. According to the federal Department of Education students at for-profit colleges represent only about 13% of the total higher education population, but about 31% of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults.

Worse yet, most students at for-profit gainful employment programs who graduated with an associate degree were also left with federal student loan debt, which averaged $23,590, while the majority of students at community colleges did not borrow, earning the same degree. And of the for-profit gainful employment programs the Department of Education could analyze, the majority-- 72%-- produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts.

"It's been made clear that the for-profit industry is simply not doing an acceptable job of producing a high quality education," said Obermueller. "Worse, these schools have been abusively targeting prospective students, using various lies and distortions of the truth to recruit them."

Recently the for-profit industry has come under increased scrutiny on both the state and federal level, with multiple schools being investigated on charges of fraud. Obermueller's proposed legislation seeks to put an end to the industry's ability to offer substandard programs and still profit.

The proposal will protect veterans, prevent abuses of federal dollars, increase transparency, and promote good performance.

One of the most egregious practices of these predatory actors is the targeting of veterans for access to their federal tuition benefits. Currently at least 10% of a school's revenue must come from non-Title IV federal dollars, which include Pell Grants and federal loans.

Because veterans' benefits are not Title IV dollars, veterans have become an attractive target for for-profit schools. One simple change-- counting all federally supplied dollars as federal dollars under this law-- would end the predatory targeting of veterans by for-profit schools.

"To these bad actors, veterans are walking dollar signs," said Obermueller. "It's disgusting to think that these schools have been targeting our veterans' tuition benefits without any intention of providing them with a real education. But unfortunately, current regulation is set up in a way that incentivizes these schools to go after veterans. This is an easy thing to change, and I would expect to find broad bipartisan support for this measure."

Our education dollars should be funding one thing: education. Taxpayers deserve to know their hard-earned tax dollars are going to actually fund what they're meant to fund. Marketing and recruitment makes up an average of 23% in many large for-profit budgets.

"It's surprising that these regulations don't already exist," said Obermueller. "Making sure our education funding is actually used to fund education seems like it should be an obvious requirement for these schools. Unfortunately, as sensible as it is, these for-profits are using large amounts of federal money for only one purpose-- getting more federal money."

The bad actors in the for-profit world will do everything they can to obscure the truth about their disgraceful practices. Much of their marketing and advertising plays on the heartstrings of those people who want to better themselves.

"The people going to these schools are trying to get ahead," said Obermueller. "In many cases, these folks have families that they're trying to provide for at the same time. We owe it to them to make sure they're armed with the best information possible, so they can make an informed choice about the school and program that's best for them."

Requiring schools to provide information both to the federal government and to prospective students would ensure that everyone has the information necessary to find the best fit for them, and to know when schools are acting maliciously. Simple facts, like graduation and job placement rates, as well as median income and debt upon graduation, would give students a fairer look at what these schools can offer them.

"Too often these schools are intentionally blinding prospective students from the truth about their programs, enticing them with promises that have no basis in reality," said Obermueller. "This is abuse we can prevent."

The most direct way to incentivize these bad actors to reform is by using federal money, the money these schools depend on, to leverage schools to adopt a more outcome-focused approach.

"Too many of these schools are focused solely on making money,"  said Obermueller. "As inconvenient as it might be for them, they're in the business of educating our nation's students, and our students have a right to expect a meaningful return on their investment.

"These schools need to share in the responsibility for their students' outcomes. To do anything less is to do nothing more than defraud our students, and that's completely unacceptable.

Tying outcomes, such as default rates and income to debt ratios, to federal money is a focused approach to getting these schools to clean up their act."

One of the most disappointing aspects of this situation is that many of these reforms could already have been enacted if it weren't for Congressman John Kline. As chair of the Education and Workforce Committee in the House, Kline has repeatedly refused to regulate the for-profit college industry. While advocating for the protection of veterans' benefits or transparency in school choice to constituents, Kline has been protecting the way these predatory colleges have been acting when he's in Washington.

"John Kline has been one of the largest single obstructions on the path to ensuring for-profit colleges offer a high quality education," said Obermueller. "Between his refusal to regulate this industry responsibly and his votes to increase student loan interest rates, it's clear he's comfortable with students being nothing more than a profit center.

"When education becomes about profits instead of producing high caliber students, we've failed. Unless we do something to counteract the status quo, that's the path we're heading down.

"We can turn this around. We can enact these pieces of legislation to help ensure high quality education is the priority in the for-profit industry. But it starts with removing the obstacles to these goals, and that means removing John Kline from office."
The highly respected Rochester Post-Bulletin sat down with all three candidates running for the congressional seat Kline is sitting in. Yesterday they announced their endorsement: Mike Obermueller. "Sending Kline back to Washington," wrote the editors, who had endorsed Kline in 2012 and are willing to admit they made a terrible error, "would be rewarding him for failure."
Obermueller's economic strategy focuses on college affordability, improving the Affordable Care Act and equalizing women's economic security. "We need to have working-class families with money in their pockets," he said. "You'll get more demand by having a stronger, bigger middle class. They are the real job creators."

Kline cites his work on the House Education Committee as evidence he can work in a bipartisan manner, pointing to the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a measure that streamlined 47 federal job-training programs to 32.

He also pointed to legislation that tied student loan rates to 10-year Treasury notes, stabilizing Stafford Subsidized Student Loans that had doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The loans are now at 4.6 percent.

Obermueller disagrees with Kline's approach, saying a better solution would allow people to refinance student loans. "You can refinance your home loan, you can refinance your car loan, but you can't refinance your student debt? And there's absolutely no reason for it," Obermueller said.

Not surprisingly, they differ on the Affordable Care Act, with Obermueller seeing it as "certainly not perfect, but it is having a big impact in terms of coverage." Obermueller predicted it will grow in popularity with both parties eventually taking credit for it. "Right now, it's a political hot potato," he said. "I don't think it should be. I think we should work to improve it, but repealing it is not an option."

As a preface to his position on health-care reform, Kline said: "By far the best way to approach it was to repeal whole Affordable Care Act before it was implemented and replace it with some other reforms." Kline listed some of the frequent Republican talking points, such as increasing competition among private insurers across state lines, creating coverage pools for people with pre-existing conditions and providing incentives for health savings accounts.

"Now that it's being implemented, it gets a lot trickier to do," Kline said. "It doesn't mean that we have to accept it just as it is. It means we have to go in and change much of the Affordable Care Act."

The Post-Bulletin's Editorial Board found the statement disingenuous. To "change much of the Affordable Care Act" is a euphemism for repealing the four-year law. Even if the Republicans control the House and the Senate, they won't have strong enough majorities to override a presidential veto. President Barack Obama, who has vetoed just two bills during his nearly six years in office, will not allow his signature legislation to be dismantled like a game of Jenga.

Two years ago, we endorsed Kline, believing his seniority and leadership would help Congress avoid the "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and sequestration that would impose mandatory, across-the-board budget cuts.

So what happened? Congress passed a series of temporary measures to postpone a decision on the debt limit. Finally, the federal government partially shut down for the first 16 days of October 2013, largely because of the Republican-controlled House tried to derail the Affordable Care Act and demand concessions on the budget.

"They shut the government down for 16 days as a political stunt to show them how much they don't like it," Obermueller said.

As much as Kline wants to point to the obstinacy of the Senate Democrats, the House Republicans are just as much to blame. Sending Kline back to Washington would be rewarding him for failure.

That's why the Post-Bulletin Editorial Board is endorsing Mike Obermueller for the 2nd Congressional District. When Obermueller served in the Minnesota Legislature, he was chosen to carry the omnibus state economic development bill, a rare honor for a freshman representative. Obermueller credits his moderate reputation for helping recruit Republican co-authors on that bill and for helping him win a state House seat once held by Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who later became Minnesota's governor.

"Most people are most enthused for a fight out there as opposed to the end game and the solution," Obermueller said. "We have to have people who can actually move forward on these important topics, so laying out actual plans, having vigorous debate and building coalitions around it is really the most important thing."

We agree with Mike Obermueller, and we recommend him to be the next representative for the 2nd Congressional District.
Steve Israel refuses to allow the DCCC, which he chairs, take on any senior Republican leaders or committee chairmen and has given Kline a free pass to reelection, despite all the damage he is doing to American education and to American students. Bill Maher and Blue America are trying to help call attention to the nature of Kline's tenure in Congress. If you have it in you for one last contribution today, you can give directly to Mike's campaign here.

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