Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Remember When Patrick Murphy Voted With His Republican Pals To Undermine Obamacare?


Patrick Murphy was a lifelong Republican who maxed out in contributions to Mitt Romney and then-Republican Charlie Crist but switched party registration four months before running for Congress as a "Democrat." Predictably-- very predictably-- since getting into Congress, he's amassed one of the most Republican voting records of any Democrat in the House.

Less predictably, the DSCC-- namely Wall Street whore Chuck Schumer-- has recruited him to run for the open Marco Rubio Senate seat, as a way of pacifying banksters who are angry at the DSCC because of efforts by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others to keep them from ripping off consumers. As we've discussed before, the Wall Street banksters have no better friend on the Democratic side of the House than Murphy, and they have helped finance a shabby political career that includes membership on the House Financial Services Committee, where he carries their water shamelessly.

Two years ago Murphy signed on as a co-sponsor of a Republican bill, the so-called Keep Your Health Plan Act, written by Michigan reactionary Fred Upton, the purpose of which was to undermine and wreck the Affordable Care Act. At the time there were over 100 Republican co-sponsors, but only two degenerate Democrats: anti-working family Blue Dogs John Barrow and Mike McIntyre, both subsequently driven from Congress. After Murphy signed on, another pitiful right-wing Blue Dog, Kyrsten Sinema, also signed on as a co-sponsor.

In the end there were 160 anti-healthcare Republicans and four right-wing Democrats: Murphy and his three Blue Dog buddies. Boehner and Cantor delighted in calling the bill to destroy Obamacare "bipartisan," pointing with glee to Murphy, Barrow, McIntyre and Sinema. What good does it do to vote for a Democrat if he or she votes with the Republicans against their own party all the time?

Although the bill never became law, it passed the Republican-controlled House 261-157, with 39 Blue Dogs, New Dems and other treacherous excuses for Democrats voting with the GOP. Many of those "Democrats" were rejected by Democratic voters a one year later, losing their seats-- like Ron Barber (AZ), Pete Gallego (TX), Dan Maffei (NY), John Barrow (GA), Bill Enyart (IL), Brad Schneider (IL) and Joe Garcia (FL). Others, like Murphy, are still in Congress, still voting with the Republicans-- such as Collin Peterson (MN), a Blue Dog who was rescued from oblivion in 2014 with a $3,611,284 cash infusion from the DCCC and another $332,439 from the Pelosi-controlled House Majority PAC. (Today Peterson voted, once again, to defund Planned Parenthood.)

Murphy is too scared to vote with the Republicans and his Blue Dog/New Dem colleagues these days because he's in the tough Senate primary race against Alan Grayson. Uncharacteristically, he's been trying to vote with the Democrats, so as not to freak out Florida primary voters. No one expects that to continue after the primary.

Perhaps you saw the Ashley Parker piece in the NYTimes yesterday, "Big Donors Seek Larger Roles in Presidential Campaigns." Parker reported that the Wall Street creeps who finance the SuperPACs for the candidates "expect their views to be heard quickly and their concerns taken seriously, sometimes creating headaches and potential awkwardness for the campaigns and super PACs, which must tend to the contributors and their seemingly endless suggestions and questions." We did a post on how Murphy tries-- really hard-- denying the million-plus dollars he's taken from the financial sector a week or two ago. (If you missed it, hit the link and give it a quick read.) Back to Parker:
On one hand, the campaigns and their affiliated groups rely on the financial support and appreciate the occasional insights that come from people who have been successful in other fields.

On the other hand, they find themselves devoting more and more time to stroking donors’ egos, weighing their ideas, and soothing supporters whose panicked phone calls can be prompted by anything from an alarming Twitter post to a small stumble on a morning show.
Murphy has also been leaning on Democratic politicians to whom his wealthy-- and crooked-- Republican parents have donated for endorsements. Among the sleazy Florida politicians who took money from the Murphy family and endorsed Patrick in the primary are the execrable GOP-lite loser Alex Sink, who took a nice fat $10,000 check from Murphy's father (a Trump associate); Ted Deutch, to whom Patrick's father gave $4,800 in 2011 and $5,400 this year and his mother the same, for a grand total of $20,400, i.e., 20,400 reasons for Deutch to endorse Patrick; Alcee Hastings, who took $16,800 from the senior Murphys and endorsed Patrick; and Frederica Wilson, who by coincidence got $10,800 from the Murphys this year-- $5,400 from Papa and $5,400 from Mama.

I'm not sure if there's a House Ethics Committee investigation of Murphy for this, but his parents also did illegal donor swaps with the wealthy parents of other conservative Democrats.
In June, Robert Strouse sent $5,200 to the campaign of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL)... Four days later, Murphy’s father, Thomas P. Murphy Jr., sent an identical campaign contribution to Kevin Strouse.

Lance Callis and Bera’s father, Babulal Bera, each gave to the reelection campaign of Murphy, the Florida congressman. Murphy’s mother, Leslie, also sent $5,200 to Ami Bera.”
Murphy, whose grotesque corruption makes him unelectable in Florida, benefited to the tune of at least $22,900 from these swaps.

When Speaker-designate Kevin McCarthy stumbled into admitting publicly what everyone already knew-- that Trey Gowdy's idiotic Benghazi Committee was never meant to be anything more than a platform for beating up on Hillary Clinton-- several things happened. Republicans who don't want to appear to their constituents as hyper-partisan hacks (like Justin Amash, Jason Chaffetz, Tom Price, Lynn Westmoreland and Thomas Massie), tried repudiating their Leader and his claims. The other thing that happened is that Democrats demanded that the now thoroughly discredited Benghazi Committee be disbanded immediately. Barbara Boxer tweeted that "we always knew the Benghazi committee was about turning a tragedy into a political attack on HRC." 186 House Democrats knew that and voted no. But 7 ultra-conservative Democrats who always vote with the GOP on tough issues crossed the aisle to vote with the Republican bandits to authorize the ugly partisan witch hunt. Four of the 7 were basically soon kicked out of Congress by Democrats who refused to vote for them any longer. But there are 3 of these horrors left: Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and, of course, Patrick Murphy. Yes, the Patrick Murphy who Chuck Schumer insists be the next Democratic senator from Florida. No shame! You can support Alan Grayson's campaign for that Senate seat here.

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Oops! How do you suppose all those KrispyKrony meetings disappeared from the Port Authority calendar?


Ah yes, "Fly the friendly skies of United."

"Two current or former federal prosecutors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss this case, said if the entries were deliberately hidden, 'it's evidence of guilt.'

" 'Concealment is inconsistent with an innocent frame of mind,' said one prosecutor."

by Ken

In this presidential season Republicans have become so enamored of the Three "I"s -- ignorance, imbecility, and ignorance -- that they seem to have become half-hearted in their devotion to the Kulcher of Korruption that has become a defining feature of right-wing governance.

Fortunately, the Kulcher of Korruption is still treated with respect in KrispyWorld, the land of the Big Rat Bastard Gummer of NJ, Kris Krispy.

I imagine Gummer Krispy is preparing another of his trademarked "You can't pin nuttin' on me, coppers!" tirades, to bully us into accepting that while everyone the Big Rat Bastard Gummer has ever hired seems to have spent most of his/her time in government service lying, cheating, and stealing, not to mention bullying and mugging, this has got nothing to do with him and nobody can prove otherwise, at least not if they know what's good for them.

The latest embarrassment in KrispyWorld is the revelation that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), which seems to have been a vortex of the corruption and thuggery for which the Big Rat Bastard Gummer's administration has become so famous, has been releasing calendar records scrubbed of a bunch of potentially incriminating entries mysteriously vanished.

The word "redacted" is being used to describe those scrubbed records, but I think that's misleading. When we think of "redacted" records being released, we think of documents with large swaths of type blacked out, and it's at least obvious to any observer that there's something there that has been judged too sensitive or too secret or too something to be viewed by mere mortals. And that doesn't seem to be what we're talking about here. We're talking about "records" that were released which turned out to have had stuff that was simply taken out, making them closer to the phony-baloney heavily edited anti-Planned Parenthood scam-videos.


is one we've already heard a fair amount about: the apparent negotiations that were entered into by United Airlines, the most important user of Newark Airport, and officials connected to the Krispy administration to see what kind of deal United could strike to bring about for substantial reductions in the fees being charged for use of Newark Airport, which is operated by the Port Authority.

How exactly the Krispyites would have been bought off we'll never know, because the apparent negotiations fell victim to the brouhaha of the Big Rat Bastard Gummer's Bridgegate scandal, and the other KrispyKorruptions that started seeping out of the woodwork. It does seem likely, though, that we're talking about reductions in fees that would have amounted to tens of millions of dollars a year.

The one tangible "give" -- and it seems to have been a price of entering into negotiations, not part of the quid pro quo to be negotiated -- is the now-semi-famous "Chairman's Flight" that United restored, a single weekly nonstop flight in each direction, by astonishing coincidence on the very days that PANYNJ Chairman David Samson would have been flying back and forth between Newark and Columbia, SC, some 50 miles from the chairman's vacation home.

It's a route that United had previously abandoned as economically unfeasible, a route that flew at something like half capacity during the period of its resurrection, which was terminated abruptly, by another astonishing coincidence, three days after Chairman Samson was forced by the rising stink to step down from the job.

Veteran WNYC reporter Andrea Bernstein has been on the local transportation beat for some time now, and in that capacity has been watching the charges swirling around the KrispyKrew. Here's the lead of her report on this latest development:
The Port Authority kept secret four meetings between Gov. Chris Christie’s former top staffer at the bi-state agency and representatives of United Airlines when it initially made his calendars public, WNYC has learned.

The hidden meetings were between then-Port Authority Deputy Director Bill Baroni and Jeff Smisek, who at the time was CEO of United Airlines, and Jamie Fox, a former United lobbyist and the current Christie transportation commissioner. They were redacted from documents requested by The New York Times in December 2013 and posted on the Port Authority website.
As I suggested above:
WNYC only learned of the redacted meetings because of a subsequent freedom of information request we filed 14 months later under a new regime at the Port Authority. That request asked specifically for documentation of meetings and communications with United Airlines.
Public officials' calendars are supposed to be public records. However --
Bloomberg News has reported that the first meeting, a dinner at the Manhattan restaurant Novita, was the site of Samson’s initial request for the flight route. Smisek, Samson, Baroni, Fox, and several United executives dined together in September, 2011.  A January 2013 meeting with Smisek and two meetings with Fox in the spring of 2013 were also redacted from Baroni's calendar in the early release.

One meeting with Smisek and one with Fox, concerning the renovation of the Harrison PATH station, remained on those documents.

The other meetings were removed long before federal prosecutors began subpoenaing records of the so-called “chairman’s flight,” to Columbia, S.C., near Samson’s weekend home in Aiken, S.C.
Which leads us to the quotes from those "two current or former federal prosecutors" which I've plunked atop this post, concerning concealment and "evidence of guilt."

Bloomberg News has reported that the first meeting, a dinner at the Manhattan restaurant Novita, was the site of Samson’s initial request for the flight route. Smisek, Samson, Baroni, Fox, and several United executives dined together in September, 2011.  A January 2013 meeting with Smisek and two meetings with Fox in the spring of 2013 were also redacted from Baroni's calendar in the early release.

One meeting with Smisek and one with Fox, concerning the renovation of the Harrison PATH station, remained on those documents.

The other meetings were removed long before federal prosecutors began subpoenaing records of the so-called “chairman’s flight,” to Columbia, S.C., near Samson’s weekend home in Aiken, S.C.


Well, um, nobody knows.
It’s unclear who removed the meetings from the calendars. The Port Authority declined to say, citing the investigations. Four high-level current and former Port Authority employees said that typically, even though Baroni had resigned, his lawyer would have been given the opportunity to review the documents and claim exemptions before public release.  At the time of the document request, Samson, the focus of the United inquiry, was still Chair of the Port Authority.

Baroni’s lawyer at the time no longer represents his former client. Baroni’s new lawyer, Michael Baldassare, did not comment in response to inquiries.
Then too:
Several key meetings were also missing from Samson’s public calendars, including the Italian dinner with Jeff Smisek and the two United Airlines executives who resigned as a result of the investigations. A meeting between Samson, Smisek and Christie in August 2013 is also missing from Samson’s calendar.
There's still no explanation for the discrepancies.
[T]he page with the calendar entry for the Novita dinner is simply blank, and the other meetings — one with Smisek and two with Fox — appear on Baroni's schedule as redactions under “exemption one” of the Port Authority freedom of information code, which at the time included covered court-ordered non-disclosures, invasions of privacy, and material protected because it’s under investigation.

But a source familiar with Fox’s schedule said the two meetings were public business. The meetings, at L’Express, a Lyonnais restaurant, and at the Port Authority, had to do with a different client, Westfield, which runs retail at the World Trade Center, the source said. "We have no idea why they would do that," said Robert Fettweiss, Fox's attorney, in an emailed statement. "They should have disclosed it. But we have no way to explain the inept decisions they made."
It should be noted that the Big Rat Bastard Gummer's paw prints aren't entirely absent from what was going on between United and his people.
The second meeting with Fox took place during the same week as a United Airlines fund raiser for Christie’s re-election campaign, an unprecedented event for the airline. Just two months later, the lobbying to lower the flight fees began in earnest, according to emails, letters and court documents obtained by WNYC.

About two months after the campaign fund raiser, Christie, Smisek and Samson met in Trenton. Then, for the next two months, United senior vice president Nene Foxhall, repeatedly called, met with and wrote Baroni. On Nov. 13, 2013, Foxhall wrote an email thanking the Port Authority for agreeing to lower the flight fees.

The next day, Nov. 14, Baroni, Christie and Smisek all converged on Newark airport to announce United flights to Atlantic City, a top Christie political priority. That event was also missing from Baroni and Samson’s calendars.
Ironically, the Bridgegate scandal, about which Gummer Krispy has been so contemptuously dismissive, may have saved him from actions that could have redounded to the considerable consternation of his carcass.
The deal to lower flight fees was never consummated. Baroni and Samson resigned amid the Bridgegate investigation. With new scrutiny focused on the agency, the deal fell apart.

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The Rebranding Of The Republican Party As A Force For Willfully Destructive Anarchy


This morning the Senate voted to keep the government up and running through December 11 with a huge bipartisan vote, 78-20. All 20 extremists who voted for a shut down were sociopaths determined to prosecute the Republican Party's War On Women. Rubio, a coward who can't decide what he is, was afraid to commit himself and ducked the vote entirely. Of the 20 Republicans voting to shut down the government, the 5 most likely to be significantly hurt in next year's elections are Pat Toomey (R-PA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Burr (R-NC), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO). Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who are running for the GOP presidential nomination, have to work this vote into their electoral calculus, easy for Cruz, more nuanced for Paul. Vitter's vote to shut down the government could also impact his struggling gubernatorial campaign back in Louisiana. The full list of the shut down senators:
Roy Blunt (R-MO)
John Boozman (R-AR)
Richard Burr (R-MC)
Dan Coats (R-IN)
Tom Cotton (R-AR)
Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Ted Cruz (R-TX)
Dean Heller (R-NV)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
James Lankford (R-OK)
Mike Lee (R-UT)
Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Rand Paul (R-KY)
James Risch (R-ID)
Ben Sasse (R-NE)
Tim Scott (R-SC)
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions (KKK-AL)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
Pat Toomey (R-PA)
David Vitter (R-LA)
Boehner plans to ram the same CR (continuing resolution) through the House today with lots of Democratic support and not so much support from his own crackpot conference. The CR, of course, did not include Cruz's poison pill to defund Planned Parenthood, something his allies are expected to try-- and fail, just as Cruz did in the Senate-- to add in the House.

Geoffrey Kabaservice is a good writer and, for a Republican, a smart guy, and I don't mean to disparage him or his work, especially not his book Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party. This week, though, in his op-ed for the NY Times, "Anarchy in the House," he mistakenly categorizes the two sides of the Republican civil war that is currently raging in Congress as a fight between "comparatively moderate and conservative factions." 

There are no moderates in this fight. It is, in reality, a battle between conservatives-- albeit some who could be called "mainstream conservatives"-- and reactionaries and radical extremists. Boehner is a hard-core conservative by every reasonable definition, as are his congressional allies. The enemies within the GOP who brought him down are not conservatives. A conservative and a reactionary are two different species. A conservative, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is someone "believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society." A reactionary, on the other hand, is "someone who favors reaction," as in "a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner." 

In short, a conservative wants to keep things the way they are. A reactionary wants to take things backwards to the way they used to be.

Kabaservice points out that in the early 1960s realism was kicked out of the Republican ideology. "The radicals who coalesced around Senator Barry Goldwater’s insurgent presidential campaign were zealots," he wrote.
They had no interest in developing a governing agenda. Their program consisted mainly of getting rid of the New Deal and every other government effort to promote the general welfare. As Goldwater famously wrote: "My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones."
That strain of reactionary thought-- along with the bigotry and hatred that usually accompany it-- is what is running rampant in today's GOP. That's what Ted Cruz is all about... to a T.
Goldwater’s followers viewed any Republicans who wanted to govern as traitors to be stamped out. They accused their own leadership of conspiring with Democrats to thwart conservatives; the theme of betrayal from within had been the essence of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy’s populist appeal. They had no strategy other than taking over the party and nominating Goldwater. He would win the 1964 election, they believed, because a hidden majority would flock to the polls when presented with a candidate who wasn’t what we would now call “politically correct.”

Years ago, I wrote a history of the Republican civil war between the moderates and radicals of the Goldwater era. I’m sufficiently alarmed, watching history repeat itself, that I now work as a research consultant for the Main Street Partnership, an organization of over 70 members of Congress who represent the moderate-conservative wing of the Republican Party. Their rivals are members of the Freedom Caucus, who would rather close the government than compromise.

Once again, the battle is between Republicans who want to govern and those who don’t. The radicals have no realistic alternative solutions of their own. Even to contemplate the negotiations and compromises such policies entail would sully their ideological purity.

Senator Goldwater, despite his brave talk of repeal, was an isolated, powerless legislator. The extremists who opposed John A. Boehner as speaker are likewise a small faction without the ability to accomplish any positive program. InsideGov, a government watchdog site, recently came up with a list of the least effective members of Congress, as determined by the percentage of bills they sponsored that went on to pass committee. Ideological extremism correlates closely with legislative impotence.

That’s unsurprising, since many members of the Freedom Caucus put a higher priority on scoring purity points than on carrying out the nation’s business. Its chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, is, by this accounting, the second-least effective member of Congress. The only one who’s even less effective is another longtime critic of Mr. Boehner, Representative Steve King of Iowa, not one of whose 94 sponsored bills has passed the committee stage. Most of Mr. Boehner’s harshest critics lurk at the bottom of the Lugar Center’s Bipartisanship Index. Representative Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who triumphantly tweeted “Today the establishment lost” after Mr. Boehner’s resignation, is ranked last.

The Republican Party’s unhappy ideological adventure in the early ’60s ended in disaster. Goldwater not only lost the election in a landslide, but he dragged down the entire Republican ticket. The main result of conservative overreach was to hand President Lyndon B. Johnson the liberal supermajority he needed to pass Medicare and Medicaid.

The present resurgence of anti-governing conservatism is also likely to end badly for Republicans. The extremists have the ability to disrupt the Congress, but not to lead it. Their belief that shutdowns will secure real concessions is magical thinking, not legislative realism. And the more power they gain, the less likely it becomes that a Republican-controlled Congress can pass conservative legislation, or indeed any legislation at all.

It’s true that sometimes no legislation is better than bad legislation. But the United States faces real problems, including stagnant wages, family instability, infrastructure collapse and long-term indebtedness. If Republicans can’t advance their own solutions, they’ll have to deal with what Democrats-- or harsh realities-- impose on them. Paralysis is not a plan.

The rebranding of Republicanism as a force for anarchy has spilled into the presidential contest and threatens the general election chances of the eventual nominee. The Republican establishment, and the party’s governing majority, have the power to quell this insurgency, whether by abandoning the so-called Hastert rule, which requires a majority of the majority to approve of legislation before it can come up for a vote, or by mounting primary challenges of their own. It’s too late for Mr. Boehner to face down the radicals, but his successor will have to if the Republican Party is to have a meaningful future.

As if this weren't painful enough for Republicans, it's being played out in the context of a superfluous battle royale between self-servers with little to no interest in the Republican Party running for the party's presidential nomination: multimillionaire failed business executive Carly Fiorina, former pediatric surgeon and Fox News contributor Ben Carson, and of course Trumpy the Clown.

This week, in a NY Times Magazine profile, Mark Leibovich took the deep dive into the fetid waters of Trumpism and Trump. His first sentence is from Trump himself: "I don't worry about anything." Now Trump is worth $4.5 billion (less than half of what he spuriously claims, according to Forbes), so he probably doesn't worry about the same things normal people worry about. But he worries, all right. Bank on it. For one thing, he seems obsessed with the idea that people will see him as a loser. (We'll come back to that in a moment.)
The Trump campaign may be a win-win for Trump, but it is a monstrous dilemma for a lot of other people. It is a dilemma for the Republican Party and a dilemma for the people Trump is running against. They would love to dismiss him as a sideshow and declare his shark jumped, except he keeps dominating the campaign and the conversation, and they have no clue whether to engage, attack, ignore or suck up in response. It is a dilemma for the elected leaders, campaign strategists, credentialed pundits and assorted parasites of the "establishment." They have a certain set of expectations, unwritten rules and ways of doing things that Trump keeps flouting in the most indelicate of ways. And, of course, it is a dilemma for the media, who fear abetting a circus.

... Getting close to Trump is nothing like the teeth-­pulling exercise that it can be to get any meaningful exposure to a candidate like, say, Hillary Clinton. This is a seductive departure in general for political reporters accustomed to being ignored, patronized and offered sound bites to a point of lobotomy by typical politicians and the human straitjackets that surround them. In general, Trump understands and appreciates that reporters like to be given the time of day. It’s symbiotic in his case because he does in fact pay obsessive attention to what is said and written and tweeted about him. Trump is always saying that so-and-so TV pundit "spoke very nicely" about him on some morning show and that some other writer "who used to kill me" has now come around to "loving me." There is a Truman Show aspect to this, except Trump is the director-- continually selling, narrating and spinning his story while he lives it.

... I asked whether he had ever experienced self-doubt. The question seemed to catch Trump off guard, and he flashed a split second of, if not vulnerability, maybe non­swagger. "Yes, I think more than people would think," he told me. When? "I don’t want to talk about it." He shrug-­smirked. "Because, you know-- probably more than people would think. I understand how life can go. Things can happen." This was a rare moment when Trump’s voice trailed off, even slightly. He then handed me a sheet of new polling data that someone had put on his desk. "Beautiful numbers," he said, inviting me to take them with me.

... Trump makes no attempt to cloak his love of fame and, admirably, will not traffic in that tiresome politicians’ notion that his campaign is "not about me, it’s about you." The ease with which Trump exhibits, and inhabits, his self-­regard is not only central to his "brand" but also highlights a kind of honesty about him. He can even seem hostile to any notion of himself as humble servant-- that example of mod­esty that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln strove for.

The idea of a president as Everyman stands at odds with his glamorized vision for the nation. The president should be a man apart, exceptional and resplendent in every way. "Jimmy Carter used to get off Air Force One carrying his luggage," Trump said. "I used to say, 'I don’t want a president carrying his luggage.'" Carter was a nice man, Trump allowed. "But we want someone who is going to go out and kick ass and win." Which apparently cannot be done by someone "who’s gonna come off carrying a large bag of underwear."

... Resentment of this class has built over several years. It has been expressed on both sides, by the rise of insurgent movements like the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (Trump’s railing against fund-­raiser "blood money," "bloodsucker" lobbyists and Wall Street "paper pushers" would play well across the board). As a reporter in Washington, I, too, have grown exceedingly weary of this world-- the familiar faces, recycled tropes and politics as usual-- and here was none other than Donald J. Trump, the billionaire blowhard whom I had resisted as a cartoonish demagogue, defiling it with resonance. He tacked not to the left or to the right, but against the "losers" and "scumbags" in the various chapters of the club: the pundits who "wear heavy glasses" and "sit around the table," the "political hacks" selling out American interests overseas. Karl Rove "is a totally incompetent jerk," Trump told the crowd in Dallas, referring to the Fox News commentator and chief Republican strategist of the George W. Bush years. The crowd went nuts at the Rove put-down, which in itself is remarkable-- the "architect" of Bush’s political ride being abused by a right-­leaning crowd in Bush’s home state.

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What Sanders Can Accomplish by Not Acting


"The game is rigged." Doesn't sound much like a "market" to me. And "capitalism" isn't the word you're looking for either.

by Gaius Publius

(This is part one of several pieces on what Bernie Sanders can accomplish if elected president. At the end I offer an example of a Sanders-like "What I will never do" speech. Scroll down or click the link to go directly to the speech.)

I recently wrote about British politician Tony Benn's speech, a "ten-minute history of neoliberalism." Near the beginning Benn says, "This country and the world have been run by rich and powerful men from the beginning of time." If the "beginning of time" means the start of humanity's post-Stone Age history, that's a period more than 5,000 years long. A brief window opened in the mid-1800s, with the beginning of trade unionism and, in the U.S., the New Deal, when "rich and powerful men" were no longer as in charge as they have always been. That brief window, the blink of an eye compared to the rest of human history, is now closing.

Then we looked at a recent Noam Chomsky interview and noted as he does that the "economic system" being evolved in that closing window, what I've called "modern capitalism" — "capitalism" as practiced today — isn't capitalism at all, but merely theft, the adult equivalent of bullies taking lunch money, or the Roman ruling class enslaving most of Europe to work the land, which only the ruling class owns.

Nor is "modern capitalism" a market in any sense that matters. Is a monopoly on all essential products a market? Only in the most reduced sense; only in the sense that "0" is a number. Only in the sense that one person, living alone, is a family. Only in the sense that a man in a meadow talking to silent birds is a conversation.

In other words, that closing window brings us back to Tony Benn's original description, a world "run by rich and powerful men." Period. Those pieces are here and here, and they set up the following.

Can Sanders Reopen that Closing Window?

In his speech, Tony Benn said not to despair:
It's very important to keep optimism. ... Progress has always been made by two flames burning in the human heart. The flame of anger at injustice. And the flame of hope you can build a better world.
In his own piece, though, Noam Chomsky is less optimistic, at least when it comes to the "Bernie Sanders" electoral solution (my emphasis in italics):
[Q] Let’s imagine for example that Bernie Sanders won the 2016 presidential elections. What do you think would happen? Could he bring radical change in the structures of power of the capitalist system?

[Chomsky] Suppose that Sanders won, which is pretty unlikely in a system of bought elections. He would be alone: he doesn’t have congressional representatives, he doesn’t have governors, he doesn’t have support in the bureaucracy, he doesn’t have state legislators; and standing alone in this system, he couldn’t do very much. A real political alternative would be across the board, not just a figure in the White House.

It would have to be a broad political movement. In fact, the Sanders campaign I think is valuable — it’s opening up issues, it’s maybe pressing the mainstream Democrats a little bit in a progressive direction, and it is mobilizing a lot of popular forces, and the most positive outcome would be if they remain after the election.

It’s a serious mistake to just to be geared to the quadrennial electoral extravaganza and then go home. That’s not the way changes take place. The mobilization could lead to a continuing popular organization which could maybe have an effect in the long run.
While I agree that a broad movement is needed and helpful, I disagree with Chomsky on these three points:
  • The electoral majority that puts Sanders in the White House, if it does, would represent a mobilizing of popular forces.
  • If Sanders carries through (unlike Barack Obama in 2009) on the opportunity he would have, his election would represent much more than a "quadrennial electoral extravaganza." He could, in fact, lead the ongoing political revolution he says he wants.
  • Bernie Sanders could accomplish an enormous amount without Congress. He wouldn't be acting alone; he'd have control of the whole of the Executive Branch — or most of it (more on that last later).
Let's look at what Sanders could accomplish without Congress. I want to divide these accomplishments into two groups — "What I will never do" and "What I will absolutely do, starting day one." This piece is about the first list, some of the "actions" you will never see from a successful Bernie Sanders. I'll offer the second list, "I'll do this on day one" actions, another time.

A "What I Will Never Do" Presidential Speech

Consider how much time and energy was drained from the progressive community in fighting against Barack Obama's wrong-headed neo-liberal initiatives. Think of the enormous effort to stop Fast Track (which failed). The long effort to stop the Keystone Pipeline (which may succeed, but with a huge expenditure of energy). The effort to constantly, year after year after year, block cuts to Social Security and Medicare (which have so far succeeded, but the fight is far from over).

And on and on, going all the way back to the beginning, 2009, when the progressive community (and progressives in Congress) got stiffed by the Affordable Care Act, first because it turned its back on a single-payer solution, and then by its lack of a public option, which our community fought and fought to retain (a fight that failed).

In fact, the progressive community has been in constant battle with "our" Executive Branch on what I've called Obama's four big "legacy" items, his want-list:
  1. Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
  2. A “grand bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
  3. Plentiful oil & gas (burnable carbon), and passage of the Keystone Pipeline
  4. Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement
Obama has been very good on many things, including peace with Iran, but not on these. Thousands of capable progressives have used hundreds of thousands of uphill hours resisting Obama's constant attempts to roll neo-liberal boulders down the hill at them.

What could be done if we could have those hours back, hours we could use in a different way, use on proactive goals, instead of constantly playing defense against "our" president? This is not a trivial problem. Under a real progressive president — a President Sanders who kept his word, for example — you would never have to fight those things. Would that please you? Would it feel like a gift to be handed that freed-up time? Would if feel like a Sanders accomplishment if he gave it to you?

Here's the first part of my imagined, Sanders-like "what I will accomplish" speech. It's entitled "What I Will Never Do." Keep in mind, this is me and my imagined progressive talking. But also keep in mind how relieved you would feel to hear these words from someone who meant them.
If you elect me president, here's what I will never do

    ▪ You can count on me never to push a plan to cut Social Security and Medicare. Not one person outside of government will have to spend one minute trying to prevent me from privatizing — or cutting in any way — these vital programs. Not one minute. And if Congress proposes these cuts and it reaches my desk, you won't have to spend one minute asking me to veto that proposal. It's vetoed the minute it arrives.

    ▪ I will never negotiate a so-called "trade" deal that sends American jobs across our borders. No one will have to spend one minute asking me to stop a deal that hurts American workers. I will support only trade deals that increase American jobs, that create new workers in this country, that increase our balance of payments, and nothing less.

    ▪ No one will have to spend one minute stopping me from granting coal, oil and gas leases on lands or in waters controlled by the Department of the Interior. Not one minute. Drilling in the Arctic? You won't even have to ask. The answer is already No. New coal leases? Not one. Dangerous and deadly-to-the-climate offshore drilling leases? Those days are over.

    Soon I will tell you what I will do to aggressively bring down carbon emissions. But if I don't start here, with what I won't do, how will you know I'm serious?

    ▪ You will never see me even contemplate extending tax breaks for the very rich, as we saw all too often in our recent past — for example, during the negotiations to extend the Bush tax cuts, or negotiations at the end of the last fiscal year. Any such deal that reaches my desk will go straight back to Congress for renegotiation.

    If Congress wants a bill, they can give me one I can sign. If they want to shut down the government over tax breaks for the very very wealthy, they will shut it down, and I will explain it that way to the American people. If they want me to sign a bill, any bill, they need to understand — tax breaks for the rich can never be a part of it.

In other words, you'll never have to lobby me to not do what I said I would never do. You can spend your precious time, your precious energy, in other ways. There are many things I will do as well. Some I will do alone, using the power of the Executive Branch. And some I will ask your help to do because we need help from others. But the things I listed above, and many more besides, will never be contemplated.

I hope you agree that sparing you the constant effort to stop these wrong acts is indeed an accomplishment, and one you'll be glad, even eager, to have. It's one I'll certainly be glad and eager to give you.

Thank you.
Yes, there's much a president like Sanders, if he really carries through, can refuse to do, acting completely alone. This list shows just a few of the "wrong acts" you would be spared from resisting. I'm sure you can add others of your own. Soon I'll list some of what a president like Sanders can proactively do, deeds that can be done, even acting totally alone.

Stay tuned. Supporting a president like Sanders is by no means a waste of your time. (If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)


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GOP Nomination Fight-- How Do You Keep Track Who The Biggest Freak Or Clown Of The Day Actually Is?


Carly: "Politics is a fact-free zone"

Rand Paul's now infamous rant and meme the other day about Trump being a "clown" who is "unfit" to be president followed a similar screed by Marco Rubio that Trump's campaign was nothing more than a "freak show." Both senators were correct, of course, but either could have been just as easily referring to another self-serving/self-entitled GOP multimillionaire with grand political ambitions: failed business executive and professional victim Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina has rapidly advanced in the polls by presenting herself as someone who will not be bound by anything as mundane as reality or facts in a right-wing jihad against the hated interlopers. People wonder how she could be gaining support when she's obviously a compulsive liar. The problem is that the fact that she's a known to be a compulsive liar is why she's gaining support. That's what Republican primary voters-- raised on the lies and bigotry of Hate Talk Radio and Fox News-- want and expect... and, some would say, deserve.

In the last Republican debate, the topic of secretly recorded Planned Parenthood videos came up, and Fiorina said passionately, “I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'” While it received huge applause, the line was false. The Planned Parenthood videos contain someone describing a similar scene, but not what Fiorina claimed was in them.

Which might not be a big deal-- afterward, Fiorina could have said, “I mixed up something in those videos with things I had seen and heard elsewhere,” and we could still have a reasonable debate about the merits of fetal tissue research. But that’s not what she said. Instead, after practically every single fact-checking enterprise declared her claim false (here’s Politifact; here’s, her campaign released its own cobbled-together video, using footage not from Planned Parenthood of a fetus kicking on a table, in an attempt to claim that Fiorina was actually telling the truth. Even in their phony video, which includes a photo of a stillborn baby being passed off dishonestly as a photo of an aborted fetus, there isn’t anyone saying, “We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.” This is, as Dahlia Lithwick says, “trying to doctor doctored videotapes and still failing to produce an image that corresponds to Fiorina’s narrative. It’s truthiness elevated to almost cosmic levels.”

But most remarkably, Fiorina continues to insist, no matter who asks her, that she never said anything untrue about the original Planned Parenthood videos. When Chris Wallace asked her on Fox News Sunday last week, “Do you acknowledge what every fact checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it?”, she answered, “No, I don’t accept that at all. I’ve seen the footage.” Yesterday she appeared on Meet the Press, and Chuck Todd asked her, “There is no evidence that the scene you described exists. Are you willing now to concede that you exaggerated that scene?” She replied, “No, not at all. That scene absolutely does exist. And that voice saying what I said they were saying, ‘We’re going to keep it alive to harvest its brain’ exists as well.”

There’s no reason why a conservative couldn’t say to her, “Look, I agree with everything you believe about abortion and Planned Parenthood, but you just need to admit you misspoke and move on.” But Fiorina has seemingly decided that the proper strategy is to just keep lying about what is in the end just a detail related to a larger policy issue, no matter how many people point out that she’s lying.

And why not? It’s working. While not long ago her support was too small to measure, she’s now in double-digits in the polls, while other candidates are faltering. The people rallying to support her don’t seem to care. Quite the contrary-- they may be looking at this controversy and concluding that Fiorina is standing up to all those media bullies with their “facts” and their “evidence,” just like Ben Carson is telling it like it is on why the Constitution is for people like us, not people like them.

However this primary race turns out, at the moment more than half the Republican electorate is supporting either 1) a spectacularly xenophobic candidate who wants to round up 11 million people and build a wall around America; 2) a candidate who thinks that we ought to have religious tests for high office; or 3) a candidate who evinces few qualms about lying repeatedly even after her lies have been carefully documented. This is a party with a lot to be proud of.
Brain Beutler also has a problem with Fiorina's compulsive lying and how easily-- eagerly-- right-wing dupes slurp it up. Writing for The New Republic, he compares the loopy Fiorina to C.J. Pearson, the 13-year-old right-wing hoaxer from Georgia whose brazen lies landed him a job as Ted Cruz’s youth-outreach chairman after he was exposed! "[H]ere's what the PR folks are saying: say you lied and apologize to avoid backlash," Pearson wrote in a series of tweets. "But, instead, I choose to stand by my word. While the article will be incriminating, all we have in politics is our word and I stand by it."
Carly Fiorina's mode of deception, and her response to being fact-checked, is nearly identical. The main difference, of course, is that Fiorina is a 61-year-old former corporate executive who’s a top contender to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, while Pearson is still going through puberty. The fact that so many conservatives are lining up to defend her is indicative of the degree to which conservatism has become a movement defined by affective rage and imagined victimization by mainstream forces. This toxic brew contributed to the party's difficulty winning recent national elections. It is already poisoning the party's campaign for the presidency in 2016.

...As more interviewers and moderators interject to debunk Fiorina’s story about a video segment that doesn’t exist, Fiorina’s reputation among conservatives isn’t suffering. Instead, the right’s journalist shit-list is growing longer.

Pearson can be forgiven for expecting the conservative media to rush to his aid, rather than orchestrate his demise. He's coming of age in a movement that often treats reality as subordinate to perception; that will embrace obvious distortions of facts if doing so might move the needle of public opinion, and dissemble and whine, rather than admit error, when the media gets wise. If the stakes were higher-- if Pearson were a 61-year-old presidential candidate instead of a 13-year-old kid-- he would be climbing in the polls today. 
It isn't just Paul Waldman and Brian Beutler noticing this, not by a long shot. That Fiorina is a compulsive liar, perhaps a sociopath, perhaps suffering from severe narcissistic personality disorder, is becoming conventional wisdom, at least outside the circles traveled by low-info Republican primary voters. Gary Legum, at Salon, wrote that her brazen demagoguery puts Trump's to shame and he's sure she's more dangerous than the Trumpy piñata. He seems less concerned with "her strict adherence to right-wing ideology on issues and more concerned with "the affect she’s developing on the campaign trail. Of the top three current candidates-- Fiorina, Trump and Ben Carson-- it is the former HP executive who has emerged with the steely resolve and chest-thumping, unapologetic jingoism so beloved by conservatives."
Her MTP interview was a textbook example of Fiorina’s effectiveness in appealing to the right wing, particularly when she’s in the cross hairs of a mainstream media outlet. (That she was questioned by Chuck Todd, an interviewer so hapless he might as well have been my 2-year-old nephew asking “But why?” after every Fiorina answer, certainly helped.) Asked why she’s sticking to the well-documented fictions she keeps telling about the infamous Planned Parenthood videos, Fiorina smiled like a shark, shook her head, condescended to and talked over Todd, and reiterated with all the assurance of a champion bullshit artist that yes, there is no question that “Planned Parenthood is aborting fetuses alive to harvest their brains and other body parts. That is a fact.”

...[W]here Fiorina’s demagoguery becomes even more dangerous is in its specificity about policy. Compare her talk on foreign policy to those of Trump and Carson. When asked during the debate how she would interact with Vladimir Putin, Fiorina told CNN’s audience,
What I would do, immediately, is begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would conduct regular, aggressive military exercises in the Baltic states. I’d probably send a few thousand more troops into Germany. Vladimir Putin would get the message.
Imagine you are a Russian hard-liner sitting in Moscow watching this debate and hearing the GOP’s third-leading candidate promising a foreign policy aimed at your country that is so muscular, Ronald Reagan’s corpse just got an erection. You’re not thinking that Fiorina sounds more unhinged than General Buck Turgidson or the fact that Barack Obama is also conducting aggressive military exercises in the Baltics and the Sixth Fleet is as big and strong as ever. You’re thinking Comrade Putin will stand strong against this foolishness when Carly Fiorina is in the Oval Office.

And if you are a conservative voter in America, you’re thinking, Carly won’t be a chump like that wimp Obama, who has let Putin walk all over him. That swelling in your chest is a jingoistic pride that you haven’t felt during the long, dark years that the Kenyan Usurper has been destroying America from within.

Compare Fiorina to the boastfulness of Donald Trump, who talks in generalities: I’ll make us great again, I get along with everyone so I’ll get along with the Russians and Chinese, I’m a successful businessman, I’ll make fantastic deals and everyone will be very happy. Trump also promised he would actually talk to Putin instead of ordering the Sixth Fleet into the Turkish Straits practically the moment he takes his hand off the Bible at his Inauguration. Despite all his bluster, Trump at the end of the day wants to be the friendly executive strolling across the construction site and shaking hands with all the hardhat-sporting workers. Fiorina wants to be the one yelling at them to quit staring at her and get back to work.

After all, talking and making friends is also what that community organizer Barack Obama does.
Mild-mannered Eugene Robinson finds Fiorina so filled with anger, rage and theatrically staged righteous indignation that "she can't see straight." She "stands out among the Republican presidential candidates," he wrote yesterday,
not just because she is a woman but also because she has adopted a strategy of breathing fire. She presents herself as mad about everything, and she never gives an inch on anything she says, no matter how demonstrably untrue. Unhappily for our democracy, this approach has vaulted her into the upper tier of the multitudinous GOP field... Is she really, truly so filled with rage? Probably not. When she ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010, she was a moderate, pro-business Republican. That erstwhile profile would get her nowhere in this year’s presidential race, however, when everyone is scrambling to get to the right of everyone else and “moderate” is a dirty word. One has to wonder if the showy posture of ultraconservative anger isn’t the biggest lie of all.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Urban Gadabout: Return to Queens's historic First Calvary Cemetery


Plus: Where was Nancy Reagan born?

In Calvary Cemetery, Long Island City (Queens), with a familiar skyline in the distance. Photo by Mitch Waxman (click to enlarge).

All I need is an angle, an angle, an angle.
And some timing, timing.
All I need is an angle, an angle, an angle.
It's the angles and the timing that count.
-- Hubie Cram, in "Take a Job," from Do-Re-Mi (lyrics by
Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Jule Styne)

Nancy Walker (Kay Cram), Phil Silvers (Hubie Cram); Original Broadway Cast recording, Lehman Engel, cond. RCA, recorded December 1960

by Ken

Forget the angles. Just now my timing is, shall we say, off.

I got all excited last month when my pal Mitch Waxman mentioned, during a walking tour around the Dutch Kills tributary of his beloved Newtown Creek, that he was going to be doing a walk in First Calvary Cemetery, the original section of the now-mammoth Calvary Cemetery, on the northern shore of the Creek, in the Blissville neighborhood of Long Island City, Queens. Mitch had been enthusing mightily about First Calvary on his Newtown Pentacle blog, in a post called "ordinary interpretation" (with subsequent posts: "sepulchral adorations" and "obvious empiricism). As he's written:
It's the largest chunk of 'green infrastructure' found along the Newtown Creek as well as serving as the final resting place of literally millions of Roman Catholic New Yorkers. It's part of the firmament of LIC, and a significant touchstone for the history of 19th century NYC.
So I was gung-ho for the tour. But as soon as I was able to check my calendar, I discovered that I was conflicted out. Rats! But that's old business, which I wrote about (at the above link). Subsequently, even before Mitch announced it himself on the blog, I got excited all over to see that he was doing Calvary again -- this coming Saturday, October 3, at 11am -- for New York Obscura Society (the local arm of Atlas Obscura), with whom he does periodic tours, as he does with Brooklyn Brainery. (It was on account of Mitch, in fact, that I first learned about both outfits. I've now done a bunch of events with both.)

This time I approached my calendar gingerly, and found what I thought would be a tight fit but a perfect match: That same day I was already registered for a Municipal Art Society tour of Transmitter Brewing -- located under the Pulaski Bridge over Newtown Creek, on the Queens side. That's not exactly a stone's throw from Calvary up the creek, but it's about as neat a pairing as you could hope for. The timing might be a little tight getting from one to the other, but it was certainly workable, based on the 2pm start time I had entered on my calendar.

Unfortunately I had entered the Transmitter Brewing time wrong, as I discovered right after I registered for the Calvary tour. It starts at noon, not 2pm. The Obscura Society folks have been kind enough to refund my registration, and I'll have to wait for another opportunity to do Calvary with Mitch. But if you're free Saturday, you don't have to wait:

Flanked by the concrete devastations of western Queens’ industrial zone and backdropped by an omnipresent Manhattan skyline, Calvary Cemetery is a historical smorgasbord and aesthetic wonderland of sculptural monuments.

Founded in 1848 by the Roman Catholic Church, Calvary Cemetery is the resting place of over six million dead, among them Senators, Governors, Businessmen, Mafiosos, most of Tammany Hall in fact - and on a certain hill - an heir to the throne of Ireland. The Roman Catholic Church continues to upkeep and maintain its administration over the cemetery to this day. In addition to its original purpose, Calvary also serves the City of New York as a significant parcel of Green Infrastructure, a green oasis in the middle of the Newtown Creek's industrial zone which drinks up billions of gallons of water during storms.

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman for a walk upon the rolling hills of what was once known to Queens as Laurel Hill. We'll visit the 300 year old headstones of the colonial era Alsop cemetery - which is uniquely a Protestant cemetery encapsulated by a Catholic one - see the memorial to NYC's Civil War soldiers laid down by Boss Tweed and the Tammany elite, and one dedicated to the "fighting 69th."

Meeting Place: North east corner of Greenpoint and Review Avenue, nearby the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in Blissville.

Details: We will be exiting the Cemetery through the main gates at Greenpoint and Gale Avenue, nearby Borden Avenue and the Long Island Expressway. Afterwards, discussion will continue informally over food and drinks at the Botany Bay Publick House, a bar and restaurant at the corner of Greenpoint and Bradley Avenues.

Dress and pack appropriately for hiking and the weather. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the end of the walk.

The price is $30. For information and ticket purchase, go here.


I thought I was going to get to this in tonight's post, but perhaps it's better to deal with it separately (perhaps tomorrow, perhaps not). It's not a trick question, and if you look it up, you'll probably get an answer that's correct as far as it goes but that doesn't go quite as far as one might have reason to expect. It's kind of as if Mrs. R has been hiding something all these years. (Speaking of which, just how many years has it been? This is another Nancy Reagan question that's just a little tricky.)

Stay tuned.

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Rebuilding A Real Democratic Party In Arkansas-- Berniemania In Deep Red Arkansas?


Some districts are just so red, Democrats don't even try anymore. The reddest district in Arkansas, for example, is in the northwest corner of the state, bordering Missouri (not far from Branson) and Oklahoma. The PVI is R+19, and Obama only managed to win 34% in 2008 and 32% in 2012. It's John Boozman's old seat and the district hadn't elected a Democrat since 1967. When Boozman won Blanche Lincoln's Senate seat in 2010, right-wing lunatic and anti-immigrant fanatic Steve Womack ran for the House seat and beat Democrat David Whitaker 72-28%. Whitaker was the last Democrat to run for the seat-- until now.

The Old Guard-controlled  Democratic Party in Arkansas is on its last legs. It still clings to a Republican-lite mentality epitomized by Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor and the Clinton machine. Democrats hold only 36 of the 100 seats in the state House and only 14 of 35 seats in the state Senate. The governor and lieutenant governor are both extreme right-wing Republicans, as are both U.S. senators and all four congressmen. Someone must be doing something wrong, right? They don't think so. They're still all about backing Blue Dogs, New Dems and DINOs who will probably never win another election in the state.

However, there is an awful lot of grassroots enthusiasm in Arkansas in general and in the 3rd CD specifically, for... ready for it?-- Bernie Sanders. Sure, Hillary was the state's First Lady, and the Clinton Library is there and all, but... people with a pulse know.: same ole, same ole.

Robbie Wilson wants to run against Womack, and he comes straight out of the milieu that is exciting people about Bernie's campaign. He does half his campaigning at Bernie campaign events and shares a volunteer base with Bernie's campaign as well. The state party, needless to say, is all in for Hillary. Although there is a Democrat running against Boozman, Conner Eldridge, who worked for Blue Dogs Marion Berry and Blanche Lincoln, as far as I can tell Wilson is the only Democrat running for any of Arkansas's four congressional seats.

This morning Robbie told us he's practically running on a Bernie ticket!

I take great satisfaction in the fact that I align with Senator Sanders on every issue. Most importantly, I agree with the Senator on the subject of overturning Citizens United. There is no greater threat to the survival of the middle class, and no darker bruise on our political structure. Furthermore, this issue goes hand-in-hand with the likelihood that we will need to appoint Supreme Court Justices over the next two presidential terms, and the idea that a Republican President and Congress would steer those appointments is almost too much to bear.

Senator Sanders and I also share the same stance on the issues of women’s rights, foreign policy and economics, among others.  But in a broader sense, we both believe that our government was intended to benefit all Americans, not to hold down the many in order to appease a few. This is a fundamental theme that is woven throughout the fabric of my platform, and I’m proud to say Senator Sanders reflects these same values.

While nothing would please me more than to be part of a Progressive landslide across the country in 2016, and to have the honor of serving the Arkansas 3rd as a Congressman aligned with President Sanders and as a conduit for his policies, I’m not naïve.  Secretary Clinton is running a powerful campaign with powerful support, and may well win our party’s nomination. The importance of either Clinton or Sanders having Democratic support in Congress is not lost on me; in the wake of recent Republican abuses of power and self-serving legislation, I have already come to terms with the fact that my job, whether it be under President Sanders or President Clinton, will be to support legislation that rolls back the damage done, and to work in the interests of my constituency and for the benefit of the American people.

The change we all want may not happen in one single election. But my aim is to be a part of that first step toward reclaiming our government from the few who push their discriminatory policies on us through political puppetry. There will be no prouder campaign supporters than those who support my campaign, because for the first time in a long time in Arkansas, they’ll get what they expect; a compassionate, realistic and clear-headed Representative with their best interests at heart, regardless of which Democrat wins the White House.

Yesterday I heard from Arthur Wohl, a volunteer in Wilson's campaign. He's the communications director and-- like Wilson, of course-- a progressive Democrat. Someone had told him about Blue America, and he reached out to us and asked for our endorsement. I asked if I could share the letter at DWT. It's below, although I did leave out some personal details. If you read it and you'd like to help this grassroots campaign, you can contribute what you can here.

Here's the letter that John, Digby and I are taking into consideration as we do our due diligence about an endorsement:
My name is Arthur Wohl, and I am the President of the Robbie Wilson Congressional Exploratory Committee, as well as Communications Director for the campaign. I am writing to you in a fundraising capacity and requesting your support. Robbie’s Progressive campaign in the Arkansas 3rd Congressional District needs and is deserving of your resources, and I would like to tell you why I think so.

Robbie Wilson is a born-and-bred Arkansan having lived his entire life in the Arkansas 3rd District. A Tax Analyst educated at Arkansas Tech, he is a tireless participant in and supporter of the Democratic Party in this area, and has perceived, like many of us, that the time has come to lift a Progressive voice here again. The Arkansas 3rd is said to be lost to the Republicans, and while that has been true for the last couple of decades, the tide has shifted here since the election of Senator Tom Cotton. Disappointment with his antics has risen with each instance, which has lead to closer scrutiny of all Republicans representing the state. Republican Steve Womack, who currently represents the 3rd, is now well-known for his obstructionist PPACA voting, infamously embarrassing us with a budget amendment to cut funding to President Obama’s Teleprompter, voting No on re-funding the Violence Against Women Act, and for being part of the gang that held up the Homeland Security Budget in a puerile attempt at an end-around to President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration.

In the last year, Progressive thought has also swept the district in more tangible forms, such as schools voting to change their mascots from racist, Confederate symbols to more inclusive imagery, and the city of Fayetteville voting to enact pro-LGBT civil rights legislation to protect them in the workplace. It really is an amazing change, and it’s exciting to be a part of it. Along with measurable, growing support for Senator Sanders and high Progressive traffic on local social media outlets, these examples and others make it obvious that this district is champing at the bit to have its representation taken seriously.

I believe, after researching your political posture and after what’s gone on in recent congressional sessions, that you know all too well the value of a Progressive majority in Congress-- as opposed to a majority built on the “Republican Light” Democratic candidates we’ve seen emerge in other areas of Arkansas and across the country. In a perfect world, the coming General Election would see Senator Sanders swept into the White House, accompanied by a swarm of energetic Progressives in Congress. This is not very likely, but Robbie can be a part of that burgeoning swarm; one early concrete step in that direction. We firmly believe that within the current atmosphere in the 3rd, getting on the ballot across from Womack is half the battle, as we predict that young people, women and Social Security recipients here will be voting Blue down the line in 2016. That is not to say that we would sit on our laurels after filing and bank on this district’s frustrations; Robbie is an avid campaigner, and appears around the district, even out of the district, to raise interest in his campaign and in the Arkansas Progressive cause in general.

I’d bet the Arkansas 3rd was not on your list of potential targeted campaigns, but I truly believe this one is right in your wheelhouse. A Progressive Congressman emerging from a district thought all but lost, a district whose Democrats are perceived to be owned by Hillary Clinton and the old school Arkansas Liberals, would be a coup for a President Sanders, a blessing for the district, and a victory for Progressives across the country. It has been many years since our House seat has been used to construct or support any practical legislation, and the 3rd knows it now more than ever before. The Democrats here who did not vote in 2014 are lamenting their malaise, and need only to hear the starting gun before they bolt out the door to cast their ballots. This district is brimming with progressive idealism, and the time is right to re-task the representation of the Arkansas 3rd toward the needs of its constituents and the country with a rational eye.

Robbie Wilson is the real deal, Mr. Klein. So much so in my view that I work for him on a volunteer basis, and will continue to do so throughout his campaign... When I hear Robbie speak about issues like women’s rights, preserving and expanding Social Security, eradicating institutionalized bigotry, improving education with an actual, feasible plan, and criminal justice reform, I know he means it. I can hear in his voice that he thinks about it all the time. In fact, I recently decided to make a wholesale change as his Communications Director, taking him off-copy during speaking appearances and having him articulate his mind and heart from talking points because he resonates so authentically.

Although our committee does have a growing mandate by way of individual contributions via ActBlue and cash donations at public appearances, the individual contributions are small. This is not a wealthy district, and although the number of contributions is inspiring, they are mostly in 1, 2, 3, 5 and ten dollar amounts, and that won’t get us to the filing fee deadline fast enough. We need to have ten thousand dollars by November 9 to file, and at the current rate, we won’t make it. But we'd rather come up short than accept contributions from establishment Democratic PACs.

This campaign needs you, Mr. Klein. It needs you, it needs Blue America and it needs any of your friends who know that it’s not enough just to vote Blue, and that contribution and canvassing are the foundations of a successful campaign. I hope I’ve done Robbie justice here, but please, if you have any questions about Robbie’s campaign at all, I urge you to visit his Web Page at and his Website at

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

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