Saturday, October 31, 2015

Yes, Rubio's A Two-Bit Grifter But I Hope He Doesn't Resign


The Orlando Sentinel is a pretty conservative newspaper. They endorsed Rubio when he ran for the Senate and they endorsed Romney when he tried preventing Obama from being reelected in 2012. And last year they backed right-wing GOP incumbents John Mica, Bill Posey and Daniel "Taliban Dan" Webster, as well as a right-wing Tea Party challenger to Alan Grayson, Carol Platt (who Grayson went on to beat 54-43%). But, as you know by now, the Sentinel called on Rubio to either start doing his job in the Senate or to resign.
Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intelligence briefings. He says he's MIA from his J-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.

"I'm not missing votes because I'm on vacation," he told CNN on Sunday. "I'm running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again."

Sorry, senator, but Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. We've got serious problems with clogged highways, eroding beaches, flat Social Security checks and people who want to shut down the government.

If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it.

...You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy-- declined by some in the Senate-- to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare.

You are ripping us off, senator.

...Either do your job, Sen. Rubio, or resign it.

Instead, he launched into a blistering attack against the Sentinel at the CNBC debate in Boulder on Wednesday. Watch his well-prepared, memorized little speech that went over so well with a dumb-as-shit audience reacting as if the Sentinel was the Berkeley Barb:

The Sentinel decided to not let Rubio's dishonest response go unanswered. So they kicked his ass again:
For a guy who keeps talking about a new kind of politics, Marco Rubio is falling back on the oldest dodge in the political playbook.

Blame the media.

The public deserved better from Florida's senator at Wednesday's Republican debate.

Instead, Rubio dodged the concern-- expressed by this editorial board-- about his poor Senate attendance record, the worst of anybody's. Neither did he address our call for him to resign rather than continue to leave one of Florida's two Senate seats mostly vacant as he campaigns for the presidency over the next year.

Instead, he smiled and said: "I read that editorial today with great amusement. It's actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media."

As proof, Rubio noted that the Sun Sentinel hadn't called for then-Sens. Barack Obama and John Kerry to resign when they chalked up even worse attendance records while running for president.

While surprised to hear Rubio put himself in the same league as Obama and Kerry, we'd point out that Obama and Kerry were not our senators, and we don't recall them saying they hated their jobs in the Senate.

Rubio, on the other hand, is our senator. And as such, he is accountable to Florida voters.

...[E]ever since he got to Washington, it seems Rubio has been running for higher office. Almost immediately, he authored a book to introduce himself to the nation. And after demonstrating the courage to sponsor a bill that would comprehensively reform our nation's immigration law-- his lone signature piece of legislation-- he backed off, because of politics.

Now, Rubio says he finds the Senate frustrating, that our nation's greatest deliberative chamber moves too slowly and that he wants out. Instead, he says he wants to be president because he could make change happen faster.

But here's a question to consider: If Rubio found his Senate job so frustrating that he almost immediately backed off his promises, what's to say history won't repeat itself if he were to win the White House?

Look, we're all frustrated by the dysfunction in Washington. But on the night he won a three-way race for the Senate, Rubio promised Floridians it was "a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be."

Rubio said he was going to fight for us and heaven knows, we've got big issues that need attention. But because he is off and running for the presidency, we find it incredibly hard to get Rubio's ear. The people of Florida, who know him best, deserve better.

If Rubio wants to be president, he should go for it, give it all he's got, full steam ahead. But the demands of the presidential campaign have proven too great for him to do his day job.

Given that, Rubio should resign his Senate and let our governor appoint someone who has the time and desire to not only serve constituents, but to attend the committee hearings, the intelligence briefings, and yes, the floor votes on the big challenges facing our nation.
On second thought... America is better off with Rubio not working than having a crooked extremist like Rick Scott appoint some far right lunatic who would be voting. Don't let the Orlando Sentinel push you around, Marco! This morning, writing for Salon, Elias Isquith went where the mass media never treads: Marco Rubio being as much an intellectual fraud as Paul Ryan has always been. He laughed in the face of David Brooks' assertion that Ryan & Rubio are not "celebrity candidates" but rather "wonks."
[I]t’s Rubio’s block grant idea that really gives the game away, signaling how superficial is his concern for America’s downtrodden and how thin is his knowledge of public policy intended to combat poverty. Block-granting the welfare state is an old, old idea and one of the reasons it hasn’t been able to catch on as much as conservatives would like is because, well, it doesn’t work. States don’t use their no-strings-attached funding to innovate, it turns out. Often, they just spend it on someone else (ideally, someone who might vote for them during the next election).

So Rubio’s wonk résumé is about as paltry as Ryan’s. Both men are essentially pushing the same policies that have dominated the GOP since the Reaganite ’80s and both men are mostly able to obscure this by relying on the press’s ingrained desire to find a wonky conservative for “balance.” Both men are also good talkers-- better than even most politicians-- who know that a largely innumerate political press is easily impressed by a confident-sounding sale featuring charts and graphs (which they usually don’t understand).

Yet, crucially, neither man is patently embarrassing. And, to Brooks, appearances ultimately matter more than anything else. “Voters don’t have to know the details of their nominee’s agenda,” he writes, “but they have to know that the candidate is capable of having an agenda.” Rubio and Ryan seem like they’re capable of speaking at length in coherent and connected sentences. For the Times pundit who rocketed to fame in part by celebrating George W. Bush, that is, evidently, more than enough.

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Trick Or Treat


Thursday night we tried figuring out who had been the biggest liar at the GOP debate. It wasn't easy, not even with so much help from Politifact, which fact-checked 58 Trump statements and did not find even ONE to be True, although 5 were "mostly tue" and 10 were "half true." 6 were mostly false, 27 were just plain false and 10-- the most of the night-- were rated "pants-on-fire." The debate inspired Krugman's Friday NY Times column, Springtime for Grifters.
At one point during Wednesday’s Republican debate, Ben Carson was asked about his involvement with Mannatech, a nutritional supplements company that makes outlandish claims about its products and has been forced to pay $7 million to settle a deceptive-practices lawsuit. The audience booed, and Mr. Carson denied being involved with the company. Both reactions tell you a lot about the driving forces behind modern American politics.

As it happens, Mr. Carson lied. He has indeed been deeply involved with Mannatech, and has done a lot to help promote its merchandise. PolitiFact quickly rated his claim false, without qualification. But the Republican base doesn’t want to hear about it, and the candidate apparently believes, probably correctly, that he can simply brazen it out. These days, in his party, being an obvious grifter isn’t a liability, and may even be an asset.

And this doesn’t just go for outsider candidates like Mr. Carson and Donald Trump. Insider politicians like Marco Rubio are simply engaged in a different, classier kind of scam-- and they are empowered in part by the way the grifters have defined respectability down.

About the grifters: Start with the lowest level, in which marketers use political affinity to sell get-rich-quick schemes, miracle cures, and suchlike. That’s the Carson phenomenon, and it’s just the latest example of a long tradition. As the historian Rick Perlstein documents, a “strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers” goes back half a century. Direct-mail marketing using addresses culled from political campaigns has given way to email, but the game remains the same.

At a somewhat higher level are marketing campaigns more or less tied to what purports to be policy analysis. Right-wing warnings of imminent hyperinflation, coupled with demands that we return to the gold standard, were fanned by media figures like Glenn Beck, who used his show to promote Goldline, a firm selling gold coins and bars at, um, inflated prices. Sure enough, Mr. Beck has been a vocal backer of Ted Cruz, who has made a return to gold one of his signature policy positions.

Oh, and former Congressman Ron Paul, who has spent decades warning of runaway inflation and is undaunted by its failure to materialize, is very much in the business of selling books and videos showing how you, too, can protect yourself from the coming financial disaster.

At a higher level still are operations that are in principle engaging in political activity, but mainly seem to be generating income for their organizers. Last week The Times published an investigative report on some political action committees raising money in the name of anti-establishment conservative causes. The report found that the bulk of the money these PACs raise ends up going to cover administrative costs and consultants’ fees, very little to their ostensible purpose. For example, only 14 percent of what the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends is “candidate focused.”

You might think that such revelations would be politically devastating. But the targets of such schemes know, just know, that the liberal mainstream media can’t be trusted, that when it reports negative stories about conservative heroes it’s just out to suppress people who are telling the real truth. It’s a closed information loop, and can’t be broken.

And a lot of people live inside that closed loop. Current estimates say that Mr. Carson, Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz together have the support of around 60 percent of Republican voters.

Furthermore, the success of the grifters has a profound effect on the whole party. As I said, it defines respectability down.

Consider Mr. Rubio, who has emerged as the leading conventional candidate thanks to Jeb Bush’s utter haplessness. There was a time when Mr. Rubio’s insistence that $6 trillion in tax cuts would somehow pay for themselves would have marked him as deeply unserious, especially given the way his party has been harping on the evils of budget deficits. Even George W. Bush, during the 2000 campaign, at least pretended to be engaged in conventional budgeting, handing back part of a projected budget surplus.

But the Republican base doesn’t care what the mainstream media says. Indeed, after Wednesday’s debate the Internet was full of claims that John Harwood, one of the moderators, lied about Mr. Rubio’s tax plan. (He didn’t.) And in any case, Mr. Rubio sounds sensible compared to the likes of Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump. So there’s no penalty for his fiscal fantasies.

The point is that we shouldn’t ask whether the G.O.P. will eventually nominate someone in the habit of saying things that are demonstrably untrue, and counting on political loyalists not to notice. The only question is what kind of scam it will be.
OK, that's how Krugman sees Rubio. We agree. But Friday, greed-obsessed New York billionaire Paul Singer decided to throw his immense wealth behind Rubio and he sent a letter to some of his rich cronies lauding the ethically-challenged Rubio as the only candidate who can "navigate this complex primary process, and still be in a position to defeat" Hillary in the general. Still Krugman's column is spot-on, regardless of what a bunch of anti-social billionaires are up to. And now it's getting close to the time to get ready to go out trick-or-treating. No costume yet? Try one of these easy-peasy ones:

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Will Paul Ryan Save The GOP? Are You Kidding?


Inside the Republican conference, when the GOP had their secret vote to see who the party nominee would nominate for Speaker, 45 Republicans couldn't bring themselves to vote for Ryan, many of them crackpots he had cultivated for years by giving them fat checks from his personal ProsperityAction PAC, funded by the Wall Street interests who have nurtured him for many, many years. He got 200 votes, not enough to win the Speakership the next day. But it was clear that most of the opponents would switch their votes on the floor and help elect Ryan Speaker. And they did; 236 Republicans voted for Ryan and only 9 crackpot extremists went for Daniel "Taliban Dan" Webster:
David Brat (R-VA)
Curt Clawson (R-FL)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
Walter Jones (R-NC)
Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Bill Posey (R-FL)
Randy Weber (R-TX)
Ted Yoho (R-FL)
I'll mention that Pelosi got 184 votes, only three very right-wing Blue Dogs-- Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Gwen Graham (FL) and Jim Cooper (TN)-- voting against her. The vote for Ryan puts a far right extremist in the 3rd most powerful political position in America, one who is completely beholden to what Bernie refers to as "the billionaire class," which has nurtured his career ever since he was a trainer in a gym. The video up top gives a hint of what's scary about Speaker Ryan, who has been the loudest-- albeit craftiest-- advocate for eviscerating Medicare of anyone in Congress. The Beltway media has very much bought into his carefully designed persona as a somewhat mainstream, non-ideological intellectual. Nothing could be further from the truth... unless being obsessed with Ayn Rand's adolescent inanities make you an intellectual and unless smiling sweetly while presenting a budget plan to turn Medicare into an inadequate and deadly voucher system in order to lower taxes on the rich is "non-ideological."

But in their relentless and spectacularly successful crusade to move the political center further right, the Republican media has ostensibly abandoned Ryan as a squish. Eric Boehlert saw through the ruse immediately:
When newly-elected Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was picked by Mitt Romney to be his running mate in 2012, right-wing media were ecstatic. Cheered by Ryan's sterling conservative credentials, far right commentators celebrated that one of their own has been added to the ticket.

Rush Limbaugh: "I don't remember a vice presidential pick that has so energized a campaign as this choice of Paul Ryan."

Glenn Beck: "Mitt Romney has picked a solid, smart conservative for his vice-presidential running mate."

Laura Ingraham: "More than anything today, we need a man with courage and clear-thinking. Ryan has both."

Mark Levin: "Paul Ryan is an excellent VP choice."

Fast forward just three years and those same commentators are now raising doubts about Ryan, when not outright trashing him in public. Ryan's sudden sin?  Not being sufficiently conservative; not passing the purity test.

Limbaugh: "This whole Ryan thing hasn't made any sense to me from the first moment I heard about it."

Beck: "The 'fix' the republic needs is Paul Ryan? The man who never met a bailout he didn't like? A man who asked to be made king? 100% support and you can't vote him out? Your solution is MORE POWER FOR THE SPEAKER?!?!?!?"

Levin: "NOT SO FAST! Paul Ryan an amnesty advocate"

Ingraham: "From misrepresenting the outrageous Fast Track &TPP to amnesty & foreign workers, list of demands, Ryan's possibly the worst Spkr choice."

Ryan's amazing free-fall from grace seems to be part of a larger race to the radical right, not only among powerful forces with the Republican Party, which now seem to be fundamentally opposed to governing and legislating, but also within key portions of the right-wing media. There seems to be a mini-stampede underway towards an extremist destination rarely seen in mainstream American politics. And for parts of the conservative media that means now demonizing former heroes like Paul Ryan.

"Conservative talk show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, have already denounced him as a dangerous moderate," according to Doyle McManus at the Los Angeles Times. "Tea party organizations are already raising money from supporters with appeals to stop any more Ryanesque budget deals."

... "He is the wrong man at the wrong time."  [American Thinker]
"Paul Ryan represents one of the absolute worst outcomes for conservatives. " [Conservative Review]
"Despite his portrayal by the media as being conservative, most actual conservatives in the House know that Ryan isn't a conservative." [Breitbart]
And, yet, policy-wise, nothing has changed. The right-wing purity test is more toxic than it has ever been in American history. Even their greatest hero, Reagan, would be on his way back to the Democratic Party if this crew of grifters, profiteers and lunatic fringe sociopaths ever got their hands on him. Ryan wants to privatize Social Security and phase out Medicare. He wants their super-rich donors to pay laughable tax rates and he's all for shrinking the size of government so that it can be drown in a bathtub. That isn't enough for them? Nope, not as crazy and self-referential as they've become today.

It's going to take a Goldwater-sized thrashing to wake up the GOP-- and that's probably coming courtesy of Ted Cruz. I wasn't that interested in the horse-race aspects of the new Reuters-Ipsos poll released yesterday but I found the chart just above interesting. Depending on what priorities issies-voters put on various issues, it looks like there could be a giant Democratic Party tsunami headed this way next year. Among voters whose top issues are Israel, Iran, Syria, the war on terror, the deficit and foreign policy, the GOP has a slight advantage. Like, of the several hundred voters who will turn out at the polls in 2016, 53% of them will vote for the GOP and 47% for the Democrats (all things being equal). On the other hand, if a voter is motivated by women's rights, marriage equality, the environment, education, Medicare, healthcare, Social Security, energy policy, small business, and jobs... advantage Democrats. How much advantage? Well voters for whom women's issues are the top priority-- probably a few more than for whom Syria is-- will give the Democrats 75% of their vote and... let's see... what's left over for the GOP? Oh yeah, 25%. Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, any Bushs, Romneys, Kochs... YES!

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"Train, Advise And Assist"... In Syria? Very Bad Idea For America


And there are flesh-eating parasites

Ted Lieu (D-CA) was one of the first Members of Congress to react to President Obama's announcement yesterday that he's starting to send ground forces into Syria (in the midst of a multi-sided civil war and without an invitation from the country's government). Lieu told us that he "opposes the introduction of U.S. ground troops into Syria. I have also repeatedly called for the U.S. to end airstrikes in Syria. The Administration has not put forward a comprehensive strategy for Syria. The U.S. should use our limited resources to address the worst refugee crisis in a generation rather than risk American lives and waste taxpayer funds by intervening in a complicated civil war halfway around the world."

"I was disappointed to learn today," progressive Democrat Alex Law told us just as the news was breaking, "that the United States was officially entangling ourselves in another conflict in the Middle East. Although ISIS is a terrible evil, I believe our presence in the region has not only created more terrorism than we've ended, but also armed the terrorists with the bulk of supplies we left behind or had seized. The bright spot is that the troops being deployed do not have a combat mission."

That's right, the "few dozen" special operations forces being deployed now do not have a combat mission. On the other hand, they're not being sent over there to resuscitate the raqqa ceramic pottery industry that ceased production in 1265 when the Mongols sacked ar-Raqqah. Yesterday Obama, who was elected president in 2008 because voters perceived him as not-John McCalin-- a psychotic warmonger who never ceases to demand we invade every country on earth-- ordered U.S. troops to "assist local fighters battling ISIS. Peter Baker wrote in the NY Times that U.S. troops "would only train and advise the local forces, not play a direct combat role against the Islamic State." McCain has already called it "grudging incrementalism" and said it's bot going to solve the problem. I was a teenager when that was the story in Vietnam as well. The White House has already called this mission "open ended." Baker wrote that even "administration officials acknowledged that Americans operating closer to the front lines could find themselves in firefights, and they left open the possibility of sending more such Special Operations troops into Syria in the future." Yeah, that's how it happens. Raul Grijalva (R-AZ) told us late yesterday that "President Obama repeatedly committed to the American people that we would not put boots on the ground in Syria. Breaking that promise doesn’t make us safe-- it exposes 50 special forces officers to unnecessary risks and opens the door for further escalation, further devastation to American families and more mounting costs associated with foreign policy quagmires."

Or perhaps our "allies," with whom the U.S. troops will be hunkered down, will sell them to ISIS as hostages. This is so the wrong thing for Obama to be doing-- as well as a thing that's probably illegal. Did Congress acquiesce to this? Last time he tried troops into Syria, Congress was opposed. You'll notice that leaders of congressional opposition to this kind of thing, Alan Grayson for the Democrats, and Justin Amash for the Republicans, are already looking for answers. More warmongery Republicans, like the aforementioned McCain, are already screeching that "the deployment was too little and too late to make a meaningful difference."

And has anyone thought about Russians bombing the area or lobbing missiles into it? The White House said the Russians know where are troops will be? Is that supposed to reassure anyone of anything?
The deployment again raised the question of the president’s legal authority to order such a mission. While Iraq’s government has invited American forces into their country, Syria’s government has not. Mr. Obama has demanded, without success, that Mr. Assad step down from waging war against his own civilians. But the White House said Mr. Obama had the power under 2001 legislation passed by Congress to authorize war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates and that he was acting in defense of an ally, Iraq, which the Islamic State has attacked from Syrian territory... [S]ince Mr. Obama’s initial deployments of several hundred troops to Iraq to help local forces, the number has grown to about 3,500, and the roles have grown as well. An American soldier died last week in a joint commando raid to free prisoners held by the Islamic State. American commandos have also mounted raids into Syria for quick strikes.

The team now being sent into Syria will aid local forces with smoother and quicker access to equipment and logistical help, according to American officials, who discussed delicate details on the condition of anonymity. In addition, Mr. Obama authorized deploying A-10 Warthog planes and F-15 fighter jets to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and instructed his advisers to consult with the Iraqi government about establishing a Special Operations task force to further efforts to target Islamic State leaders there. He also ordered more military assistance to Jordan and Lebanon.

...While Mr. Obama and his administration have maintained publicly that they are not putting American combat boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria, the definition of combat has changed several times since the United States began airstrikes against the Islamic State in August 2014.

The president’s decision drew a scornful response from some prominent Democrats. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, an Obama ally who served as the party’s chairman, quickly issued a statement noting that a year ago Mr. Obama had “stated that American combat troops would not be returning to the fight in Iraq,” but that now there were more than 3,500 American troops in Iraq.

Mr. Kaine said he supported Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts in Vienna to find a solution to the Syrian war, but noted “the incongruity to pursuing political discussions while at the same time ramping up our U.S. military presence in Syria to address half the problem-- ISIL, but not Assad.”

While calling on Congress to take up the question of authorizing the war, Mr. Kaine said, “It is also time for the administration to propose a unified strategy to address the intertwined challenges posed by ISIL and President Assad.”

Republicans called the latest move insufficient given Russia’s intervention in Syria and the failure to change the overall dynamics in the years leading up to it.

“Putting small numbers of troops in Syria is yet another tactical move in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East that does nothing more than create the appearance of serious action,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican majority leader from California.
This is going to make the Republican primary even more of a pig-sty than it already is. A couple of weeks ago, Rubio was already screaming that the U.S. should start shooting down Russian jets on Syrian bombing missions. Jeb Bush attacked Rubio for not being aggressive enough in Syria. Cruz was smarter than either-- enough so to recognize this as a civil war the U.S. should stay out of, a position also held by Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders though not Hillary Clinton. Though a spokesperson Hillary said she "sees merit in the targeted use of special operations personnel to support our partners in the fight against ISIS, including in Syria." Wanting to not offend peaceniks among the Democratic base she mindlessly babbled something opposing U.S. involvement in a ground war in the region. What a mess-- on every level.

UPDATE: DuWayne Gregory, The Democrat Who Can Finally Beat Peter King

DuWayne is the Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer and he's running for New York's second congressional district on Long Island, a seat currently held by Peter King. "Fighting ISIS is a priority, but we can't do it alone," he told us today. "We must form a coalition with our partners in the region so as to avoid engaging in yet another costly and devastating war. As a veteran and as a parent of a son who is currently serving, I strongly oppose the commitment of ground troops before we have a solid plan." If you'd like to help him replace King, you can contribute to his campaign here.


Friday, October 30, 2015

New Peter Case Album-- Released Today


37 years ago today, New York early punk band Blondie released Hanging on the Telephone, a catchy 1976 song by L.A. underground trio, the Nerves. Today one of the founding members of the Nerves, Peter Case, progenitor of the Americana movement, released his newest CD,Hwy 62. It's his 13th solo effort, although it's funny to call an album that features incredible musicians like Ben Harper and DJ Bonebrake a solo effort.

Peter plays his songs, mostly in clubs, for a living. You may have seen him in the last year playing at Alan Grayson (D-FL) rallies. I have a feeling there'll be more of those over the next year. Neither Case nor Grayson told me so; I'm just judging by the powerful lyrics about some of the same social justice issues that Grayson works on in Congress. If you watch MSNBC's Lock Up Raw you already know about Pelican Bay, the title of the compelling first track on the album, a powerful indictment of the inhuman treatment convicts are subjected to in solitary confinement, suddenly an issue of concern on both sides of the aisle. Criminal justice legislation-- pushed forward in the Senate by liberals like Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and by conservatives like Mike Lee (R-UT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA)-- will, on passage, ban solitary confinement for juveniles in nearly all cases, and allow those sentenced as juveniles to seek a reduction in sentencing after 20 years. One of my favorite songs on the album, All Dressed Up (For Trial), gets in on the argument even earlier in the criminal (in)justice system.

Peter's a musical storyteller, writing and performing songs about life and survival in our country-- "from both ends of the highway, both sides of the road, from the wide open urbanscape to deep inside a solitary cell." He says that "Everybody says I’m a troubadour, since I perform alone and bring the tales. The challenge was to make a 'troubadour album' that rocks with electric energy... HWY 62 connects east with west, north and south. I’m connecting three-chord rock ’n’ roll, to all kinds of American music, bringing together stories I’ve lived and found along the way, music about now.

Sometimes eviction comes even before trial and before prison, before prison, before going crazy and this last song, "Evicted," is another one I instantly fell for. Hard to resist:


Will Rubio And Jeb Destroy Each Other? Or Is This Just A One-Way Street To End The Bush Political Dynasty?


Thursday night the Senate stayed up uncharacteristicly late-- no French working week this time-- to debate and vote on the budget. Although, with Senate GOP leadership and 18 Republicans committed to passage, it was a forgone conclusion that there would not be another GOP government shutdown, most of the southern extremists followed presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio-- yes, he showed up, not to work but for an opportunity to grandstand-- and Rand Paul in a pitiful narcissistic charade to elevate nihilism and wreck the economic in pursuit of their own narrow career dreams. The legislation passed 64-35 at 2:43 AM this morning.

And, yes, Marco Rubio had shown up at the Senate-- although it can be effectively argued that he wasn't off the campaign trail but that he, Cruz and Paul had dragged the campaign trail with them back to Washington. The 4th senator running-- kiddie table closet case Lindsay Graham-- voted as well, but unlike the other candidates, he thought his path to the White House was through reasonable compromise; he was one of the 64, as were most senators in contested reelection bids: Ayotte (R-NH), Bennet (D-CO), Kirk (R-IL), McCain (R-AZ), and Murkowski (R-AK). Surprisingly, the exception was Rob Portman (R-OH), who is struggling in the polls but who decided to vote with the extremists. Right after the vote the Democrat with the best chance to beat him, P.G. Sittenfeld told us "This is typical of Rob Portman, who cultivates a moderate image while voting like Ted Cruz and all the other GOP extremists. By opposing this bi-partisan compromise to fulfill Congress' most basic function-- passing a budget-- Portman has shown that he's willing to risk the chaos of fiscal default and government shutdown. If we're serious about fixing Washington, we need to elect a new generation of leaders who won't put politics above principle or self-interest ahead of the national interest."

Forget Rubio's Commerce Committee work (as he has), where he chairs the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard-- that has had exactly 2 meetings since he was appointed chairman in January, the last being in May. The subcommittee, through which all Climate Change legislation passes, has been a dead zone since Rubio decided to abandon his Senate work for a presidential run. You probably watched-- or read about-- the inept attempt Jeb Bush made to call Rubio out on it at the debate Wednesday. As a reminder, take a good look at Rubio's big moment... and Jeb's pathetic downfall:

That worked out badly-- for Jeb-- and very well for a better prepared Rubio, or as Marty Kaplan put it, "After Jeb criticized Rubio's attendance record, and Rubio broke his legs, you could just see it in his eyes," said the billionaire super PAC contributor, who did not want to be named because he never is named. "Poor Jeb's like a thoroughbred begging to be put out of his misery." Immediately afterwards Jeb's campaign "leaked" a 112 page campaign book he shared with the big donors in Houston this week who have kept him afloat while Republican primary voters have overwhelmingly rejected him. You can read all 112 mostly delusional pages at this link but I just wanted to point out some the pages that are so obsessed with Rubio as the relatively Establishment candidate-- compared to Trump, Carson and Cruz-- the Team Jeb feels is blocking their path to victory.

The "Marco Is A Risky Bet" slide, above, is instructive. This isn't the one about how everyone loves Jeb or about how inexperienced and untested Rubio is. This is the oppo-research hit that Jeb is letting his backers know that Hillary will be pounding Rubio with if he gets the nomination.
[I]t bullet-points Rubio's "misuse of state party credit cards, taxpayer funds and ties to scandal-tarred former Congressman David Rivera."

When Rubio was a state lawmaker, he used the state party credit card for personal expenses, a decision he later called a mistake. In 2005, he and Rivera jointly purchased a home that later faced foreclosure.

Another bullet point says Rubio's "closeness with Norman Braman, who doubles as personal benefactor[,] raises major ethical questions."

Braman, a billionaire auto dealer, is expected to pour $10 million into Rubio's White House endeavor, the New York Times reports. He's also paid Rubio's wife to oversee his charitable work.

The Bush team also mocks Rubio's "tomorrow versus yesterday" argument as one that would be "widely ridiculed by media" should he run against the first potential female president.

The most cryptic slight is left for last: "Those who have looked into Marco's background in the past have been concerned with what they have found."

A Bush aide says that line refers to concerns Mitt Romney's team unearthed when they vetted Rubio for vice president in 2012.
This morning Politico casually mentioned that "Democratic opposition researchers are increasing the hours that are being spent on Rubio, going into broader lines of inquiry about who he is and what skeletons they can find in his closet. Using FOIAs and document searches, they’re closely examining his time in Miami government as city commissioner, the Florida state house and his time in the Senate to look for instances where he did things for donors that he shouldn’t have like in his requests to federal agencies. It’s a massive project: Info is scattered across his time in various governments, and researchers are cross-referencing the data." That "cryptic" last line in the Jeb briefing slide (above), the substance of which we touched on briefly last night, refers to Marco's wild days in Tallahassee where the cocaine, lobbyist cash and loose women were features in the Rubio-Rivera party house that has never been adequately reported on by the media... one of those things that "everyone" knows about but never gets into print-- like all those decades Denny Hastert was raping underage boys. Sssshhhhhhhhh...

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Is Hillary Going To Embrace Third Way, The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party?


Establishment Democrats seem upset that Bernie has turned out to be more than just a nuisance vanity candidate, quite a lot more. His popularity and rising poll numbers have certainly been forcing their candidate to take stands on issues she would have rather not talked about-- from Keystone XL Pipeline to the disastrous trade agreement she was complicit in negotiating, the TPP, and which she has now been forced to disown. Progressives are holding her to a higher standard because of Bernie and she finds herself coming out for progressive policy she's never been particularly comfortable with. She did dig her heals in on Glass-Steagall, but she's been doing a lot of tap-dancing around her relationship to Wall Street and the policies progressives are demanding, another reason why it may have been unhelpful for Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member of the Senate Banking Committee, to endorse her so early.

Wednesday, during a campaign stop in Bernie Country, she was questioned by a New Hampshire AARP volunteer spokesperson about what she means by "enhancing Social Security," rather than using the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders term of expanding Social Security. she began her response be assuring the audience (Democrats) that she will "defend Social Security from the continuing efforts by some to privatize it... we are not going to privatize Social Security." She went on to talk about those recipients "who are most vulnerable in terms of what their monthly payout is... primarily divorced, widowed, single women who either never worked themselves or worked only a little" and the need to "get the monthly payment for the poorest Social Security recipients up." She also said "I want to look at raising the cap, I think that’s something we should look at how we do it, because I don’t want it to be an extra burden on middle class families and in some parts of the country, you know, there’s a different level of income that defines middle class. So what do we skip and what level do we start at?" OK, fine... but here's the tricky part:
[W]e do have to consider ways to make sure that the funding of Social Security does maintain the system. I think we have a number of options-- this would be something that I would look at. I do not favor raising the retirement age and I don’t favor it because it might be fine for somebody like me, but the vast majority of working people who have worked hard and have had a difficult, maybe last couple of decades trying to continue to work, it would be very challenging for them. If there were a way to do it that would not penalize or punish laborers and factory workers and long distance truck drivers and people who really are ready for retirement at a much earlier age, I would consider it. But I have yet to find any recommendation that I would think would be suitable.
Progressives were immediately alarmed by the non-definitiveness of her statement. CREDO sent out a note to its members: "Democratic primary voters deserve to know exactly where Secretary Clinton stands on Social Security... Sec. Clinton needs to draw a line in the sand and make it clear that she will veto any bill that cuts Social Security benefits or raises the retirement age." This is non-negotiable for progressives-- and she knows it very well, which is why she's treading so softly. Without explicitly stating that she is against all cuts, her targeted "enhancements: might well be just one half of the discredited Bowles-Simpson plan (discredited by progressives but still beloved by the conservatives and New Dems she's surrounded herself with). Sanders is 100% clear and unambiguous about where he stands: expansion, a position he shares with 43 Democratic senators and 116 of the Democratic House Members.

Writing at HuffPo yesterday, Sam Stein made the point that the centrists and right-leaning folks in the Democratic Party-- the Establishment, the Clinton wing, the Republican wing, the New Dems, the Blue Dogs... however you want to phrase it-- are still spooked by the level of grassroots support for Bernie. "On Wednesday morning," he wrote, "the think tank Third Way held a briefing in which it warned candidates that they risked personal and broadly shared electoral harm if they echoed Sanders' populist message." Third Way is as far right as you can go without crossing over to the GOP. They're not in favor of the candidates on the Blue America page who have already endorsed Bernie and are running on a generally similar platform. Outside of most social issues, the careerists and shills at Third Way have far more in common with Republicans than they do with progressives.
"You would be back to 1972 [if Bernie were nominated]," warned Bill Daley, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff and a Third Way board member, referencing the blowout Richard Nixon win that year. "It was not a happy time for Democrats. The guy has been a socialist his whole life and now decides he is a Democrat and therefore the Democratic Party has got to move to that extreme? I think it is a recipe for disaster."

The rise of Sanders, though unanticipated, has exposed familiar ideological fissures within the Democratic Party. Virtually every modern presidential election has pitted an insurgent candidate with populist appeal against a more centrist-minded or establishment alternative.

Bill Clinton's win in 1992 ushered in a generation of modern, more moderate [he means "conservative" but that's like cursing someone and Sam's such a polite boy] New Democrats. And when Clinton left office, several of his former staffers started up Third Way to discourage the party from reverting to its leftward ways. During the Obama era, the group issued similar warnings about the rise of Democratic populism and played consequential policy roles-- most memorably encouraging lawmakers to abandon the pursuit of a public option during the crafting of health care reform in 2010.

On the eve of a post-Obama America, Third Way's role appears more defensive or, at least, complicated by the few candidates running for the White House. Far from cheerleading Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, it warned her not to mimic her nearest competitor.

"They are really going to beat her up to move further and further and further [to the left] because they assume she is going to get it and they want their piece of flesh," said Daley.

The attack on Sanders, meanwhile, was one of the more overtly aggressive yet to come from within Democratic ranks.

"I think the Third Way message was great in '92 but out of date for a 2016 electorate… I have no doubt that if we can get through the nominating process against such a formidable opponent he will be very strong in the general," said Tad Devine, Sanders' top strategist, in response. "Bernie has the potential to change the composition of the electorate, and getting young people and lower income voters back into it on the side of the Democrats because his message is so powerful and believable coming from him."

...Third Way argued that a focus on issues like a $15 minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits and advocating for single-payer health care all create the political dynamics that make Democrats electorally vulnerable. But few Democrats have made their campaigns squarely about these three issues in past races.
Third Way is extremely popular in corporate boardrooms and with the banksters who fund it. It has virtually no support from real people though, which helps explain why these people are no longer in Congress:

Artur Davis (AL)
Melissa Bean (IL)
Dan Boren (OK)
Dennis Cardoza (CA)
Joe Baca (CA)
Leonard Boswell (IA)
Harold Ford (TN)
Travis Childers (MS)
Gene Taylor (MS)
Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Baron Hill (IN)
Walt Minnick (ID)
Mike Ross (AR)
Charlie Melancon (LA)
Frank Kratovil (MD)
Bobby Bright (AL)
Dan Maffei (NY)
Jim Marshall (GA)
John Barrow (GA)
Bart Stupak (MI)
Allen Boyd (FL)
Bart Gordon (TN)
Shelley Berkley (NV)
Kathy Dahlkemper (PA)
Debbie Halvorson (IL)
John Salazar (CO)
Steve Dreihaus (OH)
John Boccieri (OH)
Harry Mitchell (AZ)
John Tanner (TN)
Brian Baird (WA)
Paul Kanjorski (PA)
Lincoln Davis (TN)
Tom Periello (VA)
Glenn Nye (VA)
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD)
Parker Griffith (AL)
Mike Arcuri (NY)
Earl Pomeroy (ND)
Scott Murphy (NY)
Ike Skelton (MO)
Chris Carney (PA)
Betsy Markey (CO)
Harry Teague (NM)
Zack Space (OH)
Pete Gallego (TX)
Nick Lampson (TX)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI)
Tim Holden (PA)
Nick Rahall (WV)
Suzanne Kosmas (FL)
Mike McMahon (NY)
Bob Etheridge (NC)
Mike McIntyre (NC)
Heath Shuler (NC)
Ben Chandler (KY)
Mark Critz (PA)
Kathy Hochul (NY)
Larry Kissell (NC)
Joe Garcia (FL)
Jim Matheson (UT)
Ron Barber (AZ)
Brad Schneider (IL)

That's 63 who followed The Third Way who were forced to leave Congress. Here are not-Third Way candidates, real good ones. And here's some non-Third Way news very much worth watching and thinking about:

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Hillary Clinton Declares Support for the Death Penalty


Still tough on crime? Credit: Associated Press (source)

by Gaius Publius

The headline says it all, though there's detail below. One by one, Hillary Clinton, to her credit, is taking positions on issues. She now supports the death penalty.

I have to ask: Is there support for the death penalty in the Democratic Party, enough to carry her past Sanders, who with O'Malley opposes it? Or more narrowly, is there enough support among Democrats for the death penalty in the Super Tuesday states, especially states like Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina? I'll look at that below.

Cristian Farias in the Huffington Post:
Hillary Clinton Comes Out Against Abolishing The Death Penalty

This is the Democratic front-runner's first mention of the contentious issue on the 2016 campaign trail.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Wednesday [October 28], Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came out against abolishing the death penalty -- the first time she has addressed the issue during the current presidential campaign.

"I do not favor abolishing" the death penalty, she said, qualifying her position by adding that its use should be "very limited and rare," according to press reports.

Clinton has previously acknowledged how the plight of mass incarceration and police brutality affect communities of color disproportionately, and on Wednesday she conceded the death penalty is often administered in a discriminatory way, according to a reporter who attended.

Her view on state-sanctioned executions has remained consistent over the years. During her Senate campaign in 2000, she offered support for the death penalty -- in a seeming attempt to appear moderate on some social issues.
Farias notes, as you see, that her view on state-sanctioned execution has remained consistent — in one sense a plus, in another, not so much. And from the final link above, we find this, from her 2000 Senate race (my emphasis):
In her first extended interview devoted to her Senate candidacy, timed to coincide with her official announcement this afternoon, Mrs. Clinton took pains to present herself as a moderate Democrat. She went out of her way to note her support for the death penalty, welfare restrictions and a balanced budget.
"Death penalty, welfare restrictions and a balanced budget." A "moderate Democrat" indeed.

The Death Penalty and Super Tuesday

In the same HuffPost article, Martin O'Malley says that the death penalty is racially biased:
In a statement responding to Clinton's position, O'Malley said the death penalty "is [a] racially-biased, ineffective deterrent to crime, and we must abolish it."

"Our nation should not be in the company of Iran, Iraq, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen in carrying out the majority of public executions," he said. "That's why I abolished it in Maryland, because it is fundamentally at odds with our values. As President, I would work to build consensus to end it nationally."
He's right, of course. So how will her death penalty support play in the March 1 Super Tuesday contests, Clinton's supposed "firewall"? Here are the 12 Democratic events:

Colorado caucuses
Minnesota caucuses
North Carolina

Without looking at polling, I see three states where Sanders ought to do well if he does well in New Hampshire — Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont. I see at least four states with large Democratic-voting minority populations — Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas. Seven wins on Super Tuesday would force Ms. Clinton to seek another firewall elsewhere.

Can Sanders (or O'Malley) make the case to minority voters that opposition to the death penalty is closer to their interest than loyalty to an existing party structure and its let's-not-hurt-the-wealthy "mainstream" candidates? Makes an interesting test for those voters, who certainly support the issues represented by "Black Lives Matter." I guess this is why we choose people by elections and not by polling.

(If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)


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Do Politician-To-Politician Endorsements Mean Anything?


Yesterday we ran a post about how usually-progressive Sherrod Brown endorsed Hillary instead of Bernie as well as other conservative shitheads (Patrick Murphy and Ted Strickland for example). And by now you've probably read how progressive poseur Bill de Blasio finished the serpentine negotiations that finally, this morning, led to a Hillary endorsement as well (on, of all places, anti-Hillary headquarters, MSNBC's Morning Joe).

At the same time 5 other senators-- Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT)-- two of whom, like Brown, have progressive records-- Schatz and Whitehouse endorsed Patrick Murphy for the open Rubio seat in Florida. None of these guys served with Murphy in the House and I doubt any of them did any due diligence at all or know anything about him-- "ex"-Republican, New Dem, 100% Wall Street-pawn, atrocious anti-working family voting record, anti-environment, etc.-- other than the line of malarkey Schumer and Tester fed them. Disappointing, especially from the most progressive of the lot, Brian Schatz who just got finished with a bitter primary with one of Murphy's New Dem colleagues, the detestable Colleen Hanabusa, who is terrible, but not nearly as terrible as Murphy. In his endorsement statement, Schatz proclaimed that "In Congress, Patrick has demonstrated his commitment to the middle class by consistently advocating for Medicare and Social Security and fights for sound policies that will grow the middle class. Floridians are lucky to have a candidate for Senate as hardworking as Patrick, and I look forward to having another Murphy in the Senate in 2017."

I sent Schatz this video, a demonstration about Murphy advocating for Medicare and Social Security-- or at least for cutting back on them:

Structural changes to programs like Medicare and Social Security-- the same language Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell use, is Republic-Speak for gutting the two most popular government programs in history, something that rich Republicans-- like Murphy-- have always hated. Probably just as important to Schatz-- a committed climate change hawk (like Heinrich)-- would have been Murphy's persistent support for the Keystone XL Pipeline. He joined the Republicans to vote for it 7 times.

Bear with me while I repeat some smart advice I got from Pennsylvania Congressman Matt Cartwright about politician-to-politician endorsements. "What matters is your message, and making sure you have the means to get it out there. Those kinds of endorsements worked 40 or 50 or 100 years ago; I think we are at a point now where a candidate's collecting endorsements of other politicians at best is a waste of time, and at worst is actually counterproductive. It's definitely a waste of time, because nowadays in high-profile races information on candidates is so readily and directly available that voters don't depend on party bosses and ward-heelers to tell them who to vote for. It can even be counterproductive, because the politicians bestowing their endorsements may in fact be individually or collectively despised. In my own experience with a hotly contested primary contest, I was a complete political neophyte in my first election; my opponent was a 20-year incumbent congressman. You could count my endorsements from elected officials and local party committees on one hand; my opponent's list of endorsements was gargantuan. I just focused on raising enough money to get my message out. Since I was able to do that, I did get my message out. Since the voters liked my message more than the other guy's, nobody paid any attention to all those other politicians' endorsements, and I won... by a lot."

That said, the reason I even started writing about endorsements today-- before I knew about Schatz and the others backing Murphy-- was because of a new column by Seth Masket in Pacific Standard, What's in an endorsement?, that a friend in Sacramento sent me after he read my post about California Assembly Speaker-designate Anthony Rendon, an environmental champion, endorsing Isadore Hall, a corrupt and hackish pawn of Big Oil, over fellow environmental champion Nanette Barragán. What Masket is asking in his column is if an endorsement actually moves votes. He concludes that-- at least in California's dysfunctional jungle primary system-- it does.
There actually isn't a lot of agreement on just what endorsements do for a candidate. The most influential book on this topic, the Party Decides, notably doesn't make the argument that endorsements necessarily cause primary voters to vote a certain way. Rather, it treats endorsements as the most visible indicator of the way party insiders are leaning.

If party insiders-- defined broadly as officeholders, major donors, activists, interest groups, and others-- want a particular candidate to become its presidential nominee, there's a lot they can do to make that happen. They can provide money and expertise, defend the candidate when she is criticized, bend rules to provide ballot and debate access, etc. More importantly, they can spread the word among active primary voters and caucus goers that this is our candidate. This is why the insiders' choice tends to win. But a lot of this activity doesn't occur in the open and is very hard to measure. Endorsements provide a pretty clear image of which way the insiders are leaning, even if it misses some activity.

Yet there's evidence from other scholarship that endorsements by themselves actually do move votes. In some recent research I did with Thad Kousser, Eric McGhee, and Scott Lucas, we looked at recent statehouse and congressional elections in California under the state's new "top-two" primary system. The state parties have become very active in recent elections by issuing endorsements in primaries, as they are rightly worried about the prospects of losing control of their nominations. Those formal party endorsements are printed in the state ballot booklet that goes out to voters before the primary.

We found that the Democratic Party's endorsement actually moved votes in the primary election. The party's imprimatur seemed to provide a candidate with a boost of around 10 percentage points. The size of the boost varied importantly with context. As we found in an experiment, the Democratic endorsement worked better for traditional liberal Democratic candidates than it did for more moderate, business-oriented ones. So there are limits to what a voter will accept from an endorsement-- you can't necessarily convince a voter to support a candidate who is antithetical to her party's longstanding goals.

...In the real world, of course, endorsements rarely operate in isolation. The preponderance of party endorsements leaning one way tends to re-assure donors, who give more to that candidate. Good campaign consultants notice those signals, too, and provide their expertise to the candidate. You may never bother to find out which state legislative candidate has the bulk of party endorsements behind her. But if you see her name on hundreds of billboards during your drive to and from work, if you hear her name frequently on the radio, if you get mailers with her name on them talking about an issue you care about, chances are that will have some kind of effect on you, even if it's a pretty subtle or even unconscious one. And endorsements could have made that all happen.
And speaking of transactional hacks, there are many observers of Florida politics who are certain ethically-challenged Congressman Alcee Hastings sold his endorsement to Patrick Murphy's parents, as many people do. The third candidate in the race, Pam Keith, has publicly accused Alcee of doing just that. The Sunshine State News published this letter Hastings sent Keith early this month:

click on the letter for some mildly interesting reading

Yesterday Schumer was able to orchestrate 5 uninformed senators to all endorse his Wall Street lackey candidate at the same time. There are probably as many people in Florida-- perhaps more-- who resent Schumer's interference as who are swayed by it. As for donors being swayed... Grayson, like Bernie Sanders, gets most of his campaign funding from small donors who agree with his politics. Murphy, like Schumer, gets almost all of his campaign funds from wealthy special interests who are investing in a corrupt, transactional conservative. If you'd like to help the corrupt, transactional conservative out of the Senate, please consider contributing to Grayson here.

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