Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Little Turmoil For The Far Right Media


FDR was a godsend for this country after 3 consecutive Republican presidents nearly wrecked it. But afterwards when did things start going really drastically wrong in America again? Drastically wrong enough to place a 2-bit hustler from Queens into the Oval Office? After Roosevelt there were some good presidents and some bad presidents and mostly some pretty mediocre presidents but where things really turned to shit was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected. All the anti-New Deal conservatives finally had their antidote to Roosevelt. And then in 1992 the Democratic Party proved it could be almost as bad as the Republicans-- a position it's worked hard to maintain ever since. In 1992, a conservative hustler from Arkansas was elected president and between Reagan and Clinton, America was speeding down the highway to the hell it's now reached.

Some people think it was Clinton's sellout of the working class via NAFTA that was the worst thing he did. And that may be true. But a contender was Clinton's decision to set Australian fascist Rupert Murdoch (and Republican strategist Roger Ailes) loose on America by signing the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Murdoch's media empire has changed America entirely for the worse. And, ironically, the far right it nurtured and mainstreamed, now demands a mass media organ even further right than Fox. Yes, America's newly energized fascists claim Fox isn't right-wing enough and must be supplanted. And there are plenty of dangerous right-wing billionaires-- think Mercers-- eager to Bannonize America. Without Ailes and O'Reilly (and soon perhaps Hannity), what good is Fox to the fascist movement? Rachel Stockman reports that "an alternative conservative network is being actively discussed amongst conservative fat cats."
A well-placed source close to the proposal tells Mediaite that serious discussions are underway to create an alternative conservative cable network on the belief that the Fox News Network is moving too far to the left. The source, who is engaged in the talks, says a meeting is planned for today with two prominent high-powered television executives, some underperforming conservative networks and people who have an interest and the ability to fund a new network.

The potential aim? Putting “the old band” back together. There are certainly plenty of (out-of-work?) conservative powerhouses to pick from that could star on a new network, and perhaps even some executives from within Fox News who might be lured by the new opportunity. Could the new channel include stars like the ousted Bill O’Reilly, who didn’t waste much time hitting the podcast waves after he was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal? Could Tomi Lahren, the conservative mega star, who was recently sidelined at The Blaze also take on a prominent role? The exact “who” won’t be clear until the deal is more defined but the source says the pitch is that the network could immediately reach at least 85 million homes.

This news comes on the heels of a long profile in last weekend’s New York Times which paints a picture of a changing Fox News Network with Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, CEO and co-chairman of parent company 21st Century Fox, at the helm. The piece struck fear into the minds of some Fox News’ hardcore conservatives with talk of the sons wanting to rid the company “of the old-guard culture on which their father built his empire” and bringing “a warmer and fuzzier workplace” that would move away from an “anti-politically correct environment.”

On Thursday, New York Magazine‘s Gabe Sherman, a constant thorn in the side of Fox News, reported that “sweeping management changes” may be coming to the network as well. Sherman’s report cited three anonymous sources that contend that the network’s co-President Bill Shine recently asked the Murdoch sons to release a statement in support of him amid the roiling lawsuits and scandals. Both Fox News and 21 Century Fox have vigorously denied that Shine made such a request but the report by Sherman prompted a rather mysterious tweet about the “total end of the FNC as we know it” by the network’s biggest remaining star, Sean Hannity:

“I just don’t see Fox News and Sean having a long relationship. If Sean becomes available, you have 100 percent turnover in primetime and a huge opportunity,” a television executive, who didn’t want to be identified, but is involved in some of the talks, told Mediaite.

“I’m working on it (the new conservative channel) hot and heavy,” the source said. “It’s live, it’s real.” The new channel could come to fruition within the next 10 to 12 months, the executive said.

It is no surprise that a savvy investor would see the turmoil within Fox News as a major opportunity. As The Times piece noted, analysts estimate that Fox News produced 25 percent of 21st Century Fox’s operating income last year or a whopping $6.6 billion. Conservative news remains a cash cow for investors, but the media landscape is quickly changing with younger viewers “cutting the cord” and turning to alternative over-the-top live streaming platforms like Hulu, Amazon, Roku and YouTube TV. Could a conservative alternative channel with some big names have an edge on the 20-year-old conservative network? Stay tuned. Our source is convinced it can happen.
Why the estate tax should be drastically increased

At least the White House is about to shit-can in-House Nazi Sebastian Gorka but that post-Fox network seems like a lot bigger deal than the silly one that gay neo-Nazi/publicity hound Milo was babbling about in a vanity press release published on his vanity Facebook page Friday.

Media sensation, conservative celebrity and youth culture icon announces details of new organization, book publishing plans, and nationwide tour.

Miami, FL.-- MILO has formed a new media company with $12 million in funding from undisclosed investors. He has hired a seasoned media executive to lead the new 30-person team based in Miami, Florida.

The new company, MILO, Inc., will manage MILO's books, tours, merchandise and radio and TV opportunities.

MILO said: "This isn't some vanity nameplate on a personal blog. This is a fully tooled-up talent factory and management company dedicated to the destruction of political correctness and the progressive left.

"I will spend every waking moment of the rest of my life making the lives of journalists, professors, politicians, feminists, Black Lives Matter activists and other professional victims a living hell.

"Free speech is back-- and it is fabulous."

..."MILO, Inc. will bring laughter and war to every corner of America in dozens of different formats. I will fight harder and look hotter than anyone else on the political right. And I will do more damage to the political left than anyone else in American culture.

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Need Inspiration To Get You Through Another 100 Days Of Trumpism? Try Elizabeth Warren's New Book


I don't usually look for inspiration on TV, but Friday night I found it... on Bill Maher's show, no less. His special guest was Elizabeth Warren, whose new book, This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle To Save America's Middle Class is now available. She puts the rise of Trumpism into the context of increasing economic inequality. As she told Maher's audience Friday, she wrote that productivity has gone up in this country from 1935 to the present. But where America used to invest that capital in the middle class, things started changing-- drastically and for the worse-- once Reagan, and the string of conservative shills who followed him, was elected president. From 1980 on the middle class has taken it on the chin. Trickle-down economics-- AKA, what George H.W. Bush admitted was "voodoo economics"-- with it's tax cuts for those at the top, coupled with less money to invest in education and infrastructure and basic research, while turning the banksters loose to do whatever they could get away with and while the giant corporations in the country were deregulated, has set the table for desperate people turning to populism-- whether Trump's version of fascism or the real kind of progressive populism represented by Bernie and Elizabeth Warren. "And what happened," explained Warren, "was that America's middle class began to shake, began to crumble, and now we're in a place where Donald Trump could deliver the knockout blow."

Paul Krugman reviewed the book for the NY Times two weeks ago. It's since hit their #1 spot. Krugman seems a little competitive sometimes but his review is OK and forgive him for his colossal lapse in judgment during the 2016 election cycle.
Warren lays out a position I’d call enlightened populism. She rails against the growing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a tiny elite; argues that this concentration of economic rewards has also undermined our political system; and links unequal wealth and power to the stagnating incomes, growing insecurity and diminishing opportunities facing ordinary families. She puts a face on these stresses with capsule portraits of middle-class travails: a Walmart worker who needs to visit a food pantry, a DHL worker forced to take a huge pay cut, a millennial crushed by student debt.

She also makes good use of the autobiographical mode, contrasting her stories of modern hard times with the opportunities her (and my) generation had in a more generous, less unequal era. Her own success story, she tells us, depended a lot on the now-vanished availability of high-quality, low-cost public universities, plus a relatively high minimum wage-- “a $50-a-semester tuition changed my life.”

But how can the harshening of life for ordinary Americans be turned around? Warren calls for restored financial regulation, stronger social programs and renewed investment in education, research and infrastructure. Isn’t this the standard Democratic position? Yes and no.

Yes, what Warren is preaching sounds very much like the second coming of the New Deal-- as she herself acknowledges: “We built it once, and we can build it again.” But: Warren brings an edge to her advocacy that many Democrats have shied away from, at least until recently. Even the Obama administration, while doing much more to fight inequality than many realize, balked at making inequality reduction an explicit goal.

Furthermore, Warren comes down forcefully on the left side of an ongoing debate over both the causes of inequality and the ways it can be reduced.

One view, which was dominant even among Democratic-leaning economists in the 1990s, saw rising inequality mainly as a result of ineluctable market forces. Technology, in particular, was seen as the driver of falling wages for manual work, and attempts to fight this trend would, the argument went, do more harm than good-- raising the minimum wage, for example, would lead to job losses and higher unemployment among precisely the people you were trying to help.

Given this view, even liberals generally favored free-market policies. Maybe, they suggested, rising income inequality could be limited by spending more on education and training. But limits on income concentration and support for workers would, they assumed, mainly have to come from progressive taxes and a stronger safety net.

The alternative view, which Warren clearly endorses, is all for taxing the rich and strengthening the safety net, but it also argues that public policy can do a lot to increase workers’ bargaining power-- and that inequality has soared in large part because policy has, in fact, gone the other way.

This view has gained much more prominence over the past couple of decades, mainly because it’s now backed by a lot of evidence (which is why I call Warren’s populism “enlightened”). At the beginning of her book Warren talks about her frustration with politicians refusing to raise the minimum wage even though “study after study shows that there are no large adverse effects on jobs when the minimum wage goes up.” She’s right. Later, she writes about the adverse effects of the decline of unions; that, too, is a view supported by many studies, from such left-wing sources as, um, the International Monetary Fund.

So Warren in effect gives intervention in markets equal billing with taxes and social spending as a way to combat inequality, marking a significant move left in Democratic positioning.

But why has actual policy gone the other way? Here Warren, both in the Senate and now in this book, has been harsher and more explicit than most Democrats have been in the past, condemning the corruption of our system by big money-- and naming names.

A case in point, recounted in “This Fight Is Our Fight”: Back in 2015 there was a congressional hearing on the Labor Department’s proposed “fiduciary rule,” requiring that investment advisers act in the interests of their clients. (No, that wasn’t already the case — and kickbacks for giving bad advice were a regular part of the scene.) When a prominent financial economist associated with the Brookings Institution, Robert Litan, testified against the rule, Warren did what most politicians wouldn’t: She pointed out that his research supposedly making the case against was effectively a piece of paid advocacy on behalf of a big mutual fund manager. (Litan ended up severing his ties with Brookings, which said he had broken the rules.)

...[W]hat Democrats need right now is a reason to keep fighting. And that’s something Warren’s muscular, unapologetic book definitely offers.

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Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Announces Her Retirement-- Too Bad She's Not Taking Wasserman Schultz With Her


It was just a matter of when, but sooner or later everyone knew Ileana Ros-Lehtinen-- first elected to Congress in 1989-- would retire and FL-27 would go to the Democrats. The district has long ago left the realm of purple and has been deep blue for some time now. Only the furious on-going efforts of neighboring congresswoman and crooked crony Debbie Wasserman Schultz have kept Ros-Lehtinen safely ensconced in her seat and without serious Democratic challengers. Although the ridiculous and irrelevant clowns at Cook calculate the current PVI at R+2, Obama beat Romney 53.0% to 46.3% in 2012 and Hillary eviscerated Trumpanzee 58.6% to 38.9% last November. FL-27 was Trump's worst performance in any Republican-held congressional district in America.

So today's Miami Herald exclusive by Patricia Mazzei was huge news. With the loss of Wasserman Schultz's power to protect her, it was probably inevitable but, in Mazzei's words, "Ros-Lehtinen, the dean of the Florida legislative delegation and the first Cuban American elected to Congress, is retiring at the end of her term next year, saying it’s time to move on after 38 years in elected office... Her unexpected retirement marks the end of a storied career in which Ros-Lehtinen repeatedly broke political ground as a Cuban-American woman-- and gives Democrats an opportunity to pick up a South Florida congressional seat in 2018."
Ros-Lehtinen, 64, was elected last November to Florida’s redrawn 27th district, a stretch of Southeast Miami-Dade County that leans so Democratic that Hillary Clinton won it over Donald Trump by 20 percentage points.

Ros-Lehtinen defeated Democratic challenger Scott Fuhrman, a first-time candidate, by 10 points. It was her closest reelection race in years and forced her to deplete her $3.4 million campaign account, but she said Sunday she wasn't worried about 2018.

“There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that I would not only win in this election, but I would win by a greater percentage,” Ros-Lehtinen said, adding that she would have been able to raise at least $2.5 million and win in a midterm election without a Democratic presidential candidate leading the ballot.

But she said the prospect of another two or four or more years in Congress just didn’t appeal to her anymore.

“There was no epiphany. There was no moment, nothing that has happened that I've said, “I've got to move on,’” Ros-Lehtinen said. “It was just a realization that I could keep getting elected-- but it's not about getting elected.”

She also said she’s not leaving Congress because of her differences with President Trump or with House GOP leadership, though Ros-Lehtinen has been one of the most vocal moderate Republican critics of the White House and the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Ros-Lehtinen, who said she didn’t vote for Trump last year, has disagreed with the president on deportations, transgender rights and budget cuts, and with House Republicans on health care.

“I've served under all kinds of different dynamics in all these years that I've been in office here,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who was first elected to Congress in 1989 after seven years in the Florida Legislature. “Though I don't agree with many, if not most, positions of President Trump.”

Having Republicans control the White House, House and Senate “gives me an opportunity to stand out more and have people realize that I'm a moderate,” she said. “I'm not one of those name-callers that think the Democrats don’t have a single good idea. Too many people think that way, and I think that's to the detriment to civility and of good government.”

But, she insisted, “it's not been part of the calculation of retiring.”

“I would be talking to you even if Hillary Clinton were president,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
There were already 3 Democrats running-- the wealthy Patrick Murphy-like conservaDem who she beat last year, Scott Fuhrman; a pretty weak Miami Beach Commissioner, Kristen Rosen Gonzalez; and Berniecrat Michael Hepburn. Mazzei (and everyone else) predicts that with Ros-Lehtinen out of the picture, "others are likely to become interested now." Annette Taddeo, who was very publicly sabotaged by Wasserman Schultz when "Deadly Debbie" was the chair of the DCCC's Red-to-Blue program in 2008, is a probable candidate who could win a primary and the general election, especially if she follows her own progressive instincts and doesn't run as an EMILY's List milquetoast candidate walking on eggshells.

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On Which Garbage Heap Will Jim DeMint Turn Up Next?


Who remembers Jim DeMint? He was an ad guy in Greenville, South Carolina who was elected to the House in 1998 and then the Senate in 2004. He was a Tea Party guy before there was a Tea Party and was the staunchest proponent of ending Social Security and of reactionary politics in general while he served in Congress, often a pariah among establishment Republicans. Reelected to the Senate in 2010, he resigned 2 years later to become president of the Heritage Foundation, then a somewhat staid right-wing think tank. He was fired on Friday for... being the kind of asshole Jim DeMint has always been. 5 years of it was too much for Heritage and the Board of Directiors is behind a move to finally oust him.
DeMint’s short tenure was fraught with controversy as he tried to change Heritage from a research-oriented think tank that had good relations with most Republicans into a hard-edged activist organization that frequently provoked anger from GOP leaders.

According to multiple people familiar with DeMint’s time at Heritage, his confrontational political strategy was initially welcomed by the majority of the non-profit’s board members who had received negative reviews from donors large and small about how Heritage conducted itself during the term of former president George W. Bush. During those years, Feulner and his top aides cultivated close relations with the White House. But when Bush’s political popularity collapsed thanks to Hurricane Katrina and continued violence in Iraq, Feulner’s low-key, policy-centric approach was blamed by Tea Party-aligned conservatives as feckless.

DeMint was eventually promoted as a man who could save Heritage from irrelevance due to his fame among conservatives for angrily opposing Senate Republican leaders. His oft-repeated claim that he could accomplish more with 30 hardcore conservatives than with 60 moderates became a bit of a catchphrase among some activists. Although some Heritage staffers remained suspicious of his politician pedigree, he initially faced few complaints. Soon, however, his fiery style and the inexperienced staffers he brought in began to rankle some of the more scholarly Heritage employees. A number of them began heading for the exits, particularly as DeMint and a newly created lobbying sister organization, Heritage Action, eagerly joined a foolhardy GOP bid to shut down the government in 2013. Republican politicians who had long relied on the Heritage Foundation to make them smarter were incensed that the think tank was promoting stupidity.

DeMint dialed back his flinty style afterwards but his reputation was severely damaged among some employees and donors who had previously reserved judgment. The writing was on the wall for DeMint after that.
The crazy, right-wing Washington Examiner website painted a picture of hysteria at Heritage on Friday with neo-fascist snowflakes weeping and weeping and melting away to nothing-- and referring DeMint's ouster as "a putsch" with staffers "drawing battle lines on an otherwise sunny day."
"It's shameful how all this is being handled," an irate department director said. "I just can't believe Heritage brought DeMint in from the Senate, then stabbed him in the back. I guarantee they purge his people next."

So far, though, Heritage hasn't issued an official statement. Communications staffers have been warned not to speak with media. And after multiple interviews with current and former Heritage employees speaking on condition of anonymity, a prevailing narrative has emerged:

DeMint lost his job, in large part, for crossing Heritage Action CEO, Mike Needham.

Dismissing reports that DeMint was ousted for being too political, the department director argued instead that "basically this is one big Mike Needham power play." According to the source, Needham has been "trying to take over Heritage forever" and will use Feulner "as proxy to control the place."

Needham, who served as Feulner's chief of staff, did not respond to requests for comment.

While both men tend to agree on ideology, they disagree on method. A senior policy expert complained that DeMint wanted to remake Heritage in his own image, pointing to the policy services and outreach department as well as the organization's media arm, the Daily Signal (where I used to work).

"Basically he treated the place like it was his giant Senate office," the policy expert said. "That ended up being a significant departure from the vision set out by the board and Feulner."

While Needham helped bring DeMint to Heritage in 2013, their relationship began to fray during the presidential election. It reached a breaking point, two separate sources confirmed, after DeMint suggested making major changes to Heritage Action or abolishing it altogether.

"That really wasn't a smart move," the policy expert explained, "because Needham is Feulner's guy."

When the board asked DeMint to step down last weekend, the fiery conservative refused and has tried lobbying board members to keep his job. If he doesn't go quietly into the dark, the board can vote him out as soon as Tuesday when they convene in Washington, D.C.
DeMint was making over a million dollars a year and his contract was going to expire at the end of 2017. It was DeMint who got right-wing ideologue Neil Gorsuch, who Trump had never heard of, onto the Supreme Court.

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Medicare For All-- Who's Not On Board?


On January 24th John Conyers introduced H.R. 676, the Medicare for All Act. He had 50 cosponsors on that first day, mostly progressives, but New Dem Eliot Engel signed on and so did a member of the House Democratic leadership, Jim Clyburn. No other members of the leadership signed on that day-- nor since-- no Nancy Pelosi, no Steny Hoyer, no Joe Crowley, no Ben Ray Lujan. But since then more than a few other New Dems and even Blue Dogs signed on as cosponsors: Gregory Meeks (New Dem-NY), Anthony Brown (New Dem-MD), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Jared Polis (New Dem-CO), Ed Perlmutter (New Dem-CO), Vicente Gonzalez (Blue Dog-TX), Adam Smith (New Dem-WA) and, Friday, Blue Dogs Jim Cooper (TN) and Mike Thompson (CA).

I've been vetting a lot of Democratic candidates lately and one question I always ask is about the degree of support they have for single-payer (Medicare For All). I spoke with one guy last week who wanted to be endorsed by Blue America but who said he's unsure about supporting single-payer-- although he's very sure about supporting the NRA and the death penalty. Another candidate-- one who Blue America is endorsing-- is Matt Coffay, the young man running against far right extremist and Freedom Caucus chieftain Mark Meadows in western North Carolina. Yesterday Matt told us that "While a majority of Democrats in Congress now support a single-payer system, there are still a handful of holdouts.This is despite the fact that, according to a recent poll, 60% of Americans want Medicare for All, including 75% of Democratic voters. As a member of Congress, I will proudly support HR 676, a Medicare for All bill introduced by John Conyers. This bill would largely eliminate the health insurance industry, guaranteeing medical coverage for all Americans. The vast majority of the tax revenue needed to fund this single-payer system will come from taxing the wealthiest people in this country, including a tax on the trading of stocks and bonds. It's time the rich started paying their fair share to ensure that all Americans have access to quality health care." You can contribute to Matt's campaign here.

No Republicans have co-sponsored H.R. 676. OK, that's expected. But there are a large number of Democratic incumbents who haven't become co-sponsors of H.R. 676 either. Unfortunately, that's expected too-- part of Pelosi's and Wasserman Schultz's idea of a Big Tent that means nothing much at all. Consider whether you really want to support these men and women as they seek re-election-- especially the ones who have primaries like right-wing Blue Dogs Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Dan Lipinski (IL). Most of these incumbents are part of the infamous Republican wing of the Democratic Party; they're not onboard with single payer, though over three-quarters of Democrats-- and a majority of Americans regardless of party-- are. Part of the problem, not the solution:
Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ)
Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL)
Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ)
Tom Suozzi (NY)
Jacky Rosen (NV)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Charlie Crist (Blue Dog-FL)
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)
Pete Aguilar (New Dem-CA)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Raul Ruiz (CA)
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)
Brad Schneider (Blue Dog-IL)
Dan Lipinski (Blue Dog-IL)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Kathleen Rice (New Dem-NY)
Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)
Julia Brownley (New Dem-CA)
Tom Walz (MN)
John Delaney (New Dem-MD)
Darren Soto (New Dem-FL)
Salud Carbajal (New Dem-CA)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD)
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)
Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH)
Donald Norcross (New Dem-NJ)
Derek Kilmer (New Dem-WA)
David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)
Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM)
Seth Moulton (New Dem-MA)
Suzan DelBene (New Dem-WA)
Gerry Connolly (New Dem-VA)
Jim Himes (New Dem-CT)
Raja Krishnamoorthi (New Dem-IL)
Ruben Kihuen (New Dem-NV)
Val Demings (New Dem-FL)
Elizabeth Esty (New Dem-CT)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Mark Veasey (TX)
Colleen Hanabusa (New Dem-HI)
Don Beyer (New Dem-VA)
Lisa Blunt (New Dem-DE)
Joaquin Castro (New Dem-TX)
Joe Courtney (New Dem-CT)
Susan Davis (New Dem-CA)
Rick Larsen (New Dem-WA)
Mike Quigley (New Dem-IL)
Cedric Richmond (New Dem-LA)
Adam Schiff (New Dem-CA)
Norma Torres (New Dem-CA)
Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)
Demands for a national single-payer health plan dominated town hall meetings during the spring congressional recess, Republican incumbents getting most of the heat. Blue Dogs and New Dems need that heat too. Conyers' bill added 28 new co-sponsors in April and there's still plenty of room for growth among current members.

We also decided to ask some of the Democrats running for Congress. Tom Guild is running in the Oklahoma City district represented by anti-healthcare fanatic Steve Russell (OK-05). Russell is backing TrumpCare, Ryan's bill that kicks 24 million people off their health insurance and makes insurance prohibitive for millions of others with pre-existing conditions. Guild offers an alternative vision. He told us he strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and opposes Republican efforts to undermine the ACA. "However, it has become clear that the GOP won’t give up on their seek and destroy operation to repeal the ACA and replace it with something that would be catastrophic for the American people. HR 676 would provide approximately half a trillion dollars each year in savings on overhead and afford coverage to 26 million Americans who are currently uninsured, providing more coverage, better benefits, and lower costs. It is time to go to a Medicare for all healthcare system and take the undue influence of huge corporations and unconscionable corporate profits out of the equation,  that have been financed by the blood, sweat, and tears of American taxpayers. Insurers and big pharmaceutical companies are making out like children sneaking cookies from the cookie jar while no one is looking. HR 676 would provide better, more widespread, more economical, and more efficient healthcare in America. The time has come to transition from the ACA to universal single payer healthcare for our country. Many countries, like Canada, have successfully developed and implemented single payer healthcare systems. The time has come for the United States to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I will sign on as a co-sponsor of HR 676 when I am elected to Congress."

This was a no brainer for Dr. David Gill the progressive running for the IL-13 seat held by Rodney Davis, a 25 year member of Physicians for a National Health Program. This morning, fresh off a long stint in the Emergency Room, he told us that he passionately "supports H.R. 676 and would proudly sign on to Rep. Conyers' bill when I arrive in Washington in January, 2019. I actually intend to do much more than simply sign on to the bill; as someone who has practiced medicine for nearly 30 years, my experience will afford me a unique opportunity to be a leader in moving H.R. 676 toward passage and into reality. I intend to speak boldly regarding the flaws in American healthcare financing, and about the many myths and lies advanced by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries about single payer."

Goal Thermometer Doug Applegate is the progressive Democrat who nearly beat Issa last year and will likely finished what he started in 2018. He's eager to co-sponsor Medicare for All. "Other industrialized countries of the world have proven single player healthcare systems far more efficient and far more effective," he told us. "Now an American generation faces a future with a shorter life expectancy than their parents and at twice the cost of other industrialized countries. We must fight to put people ahead of insurance and healthcare profits. To that end, I would proudly stand with Congressman Conyers' bill HR 676."

You can contribute directly to the campaigns Matt Coffay, Tom Guild, David Gill and Doug Applegate are waging against anti-healthcare Republicans by tapping on the thermometer on the right.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Putin-Gate... Drip, Drip, Drip


Julian Borger reported in yesterday's Guardian that way back in December, after Putin was already celebrating his victories in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Florida that the British government had already been given the details of how Trump's campaign had been colluding with the Kremlin on stealing the election.

This became part of the explosive dossier by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. The news in Britain wasn't that that the UK intelligence services had also received the dossier but that Steele confirmed in a court filing earlier this month that he handed a memorandum compiled in December to a 'senior UK government national security official acting in his official capacity, on a confidential basis in hard copy form.'" Steele's testimony emphasized that he had decided to pass on the information he had collected because it was "of considerable importance in relation to alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election," that it "had implications for the national security of the US and the UK" and "needed to [be] analysed and further investigated/verified."
The December memo alleged that four Trump representatives travelled to Prague in August or September in 2016 for “secret discussions with Kremlin representatives and associated operators/hackers,” about how to pay hackers secretly for penetrating Democratic party computer systems and “contingency plans for covering up operations.”

Between March and September, the December memo alleges, the hackers used botnets and porn traffic to transmit viruses, plant bugs and steal data online from Democratic party leadership. Two of the hackers had been “recruited under duress by the FSB” the memo said. The hackers were paid by the Trump organisation, but were under the control of Vladimir Putin’s presidential administration.

Trump has rejected the allegations of collusion as a smear campaign. His lawyer, Michael Cohen, one of Trump representatives named in the memo, has described the claims in the memo as “totally fake, totally inaccurate,” and has said he had never been to Prague.

Since the memo became public in January, Steele had not spoken about his role in compiling it but he and his company, Orbis Business Intelligence Limited, have filed a defence in the high court of justice in London, in a defamation case brought by Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian venture capitalist and owner of a global computer technology company, XBT, and a Dallas-based subsidiary Webzilla.

Gubarev, who was named along with his company in the December memo as being involved in hacking operation, has denied any such involvement and is also suing Buzzfeed in the US courts for publishing the December memo alongside Steele’s earlier reports on election hacking.

A statement by Steele’s defence lawyers, endorsed by the former MI6 agent, said Orbis was hired between June and November last year by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research consultancy to look into Trump’s links with Russia.

In that period, Steele produced 16 memoranda citing mostly Russian sources as describing a web of alleged contacts and collusion between Trump aides and Russian intelligence or other Kremlin representatives.

The document said that he passed the memos to Fusion on the understanding that Fusion would not disclose the material to any third parties without the approval of Steele and Orbis. They did agree to Fusion providing a copy to Senator John McCain after the veteran Republican had been told about the existence of Steele’s research by Sir Andrew Wood, a former UK ambassador to Moscow and an Orbis associate, at a conference in Canada on 8 November.

Senator McCain handed a copy of the Steele memos to James Comey, the FBI director, on 9 December.

After delivering these reports, the court papers say Steele and Orbis continued to receive “unsolicited intelligence” on Trump-Russia links, and Steele decided that to draw up another memo with this new information which was dated 13 December.

He handed one copy over to the senior British national security official and sent an encrypted version to Fusion with instructions to deliver a hard copy to Senator McCain.

The essence of this isn't new. Back in February, CNN was reporting that according to the FBI, Trump's closest confidants-- although no one was mentioning Kushner-in-law back then-- "were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence." And President-elect Trumpanzee was briefed by intelligence agencies on what was happening in his own campaign. Two cases most mentioned back then were campaign manager Paul Manafort and foreign policy advisor Michael Flynn.
Trump dismissed the claims that his advisers had close ties to Russia in a tweet Wednesday.

"This Russian connection non-sense is merely an attempt to cover-up the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton's losing campaign," Trump tweeted.

CNN has reached out to Flynn for comment. In an interview, Manafort emphatically denied that he was in contact with Russians known to US intelligence.

"That is 100% not true, at least as far as me," he said. "I cannot believe that they are including me in anything like that. I have not been involved in any of these activities."

Manafort said he did not know where US officials got the idea that he was in contact with suspected Russian operatives during the campaign but said he never spoke with any Russian officials during that time.

"I don't remember talking to any Russian officials, ever. Certainly during the time we're talking about," he said, calling the allegations "boggling."

"I have knowingly never talked to any intelligence official or anyone in Russia regarding anything of what's under investigation," he said. "I have never had any connection to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or the Russian government before, during or after the campaign."

Manafort said the FBI has not contacted him about the allegations and said he was not aware of any other Trump campaign officials or people close to Trump being in touch with Russians known to US intelligence.

Manafort, who has held business ties with Russian and Ukrainian individuals, also emphasized that his work for the Yanukovich government in Ukraine should not be interpreted as closeness to the Russians. He said he worked for Yanukovich during a time when Ukraine was "moving into the European orbit."

The extensive contacts drew concerns of US intelligence and law enforcement officials in part because it came at a time of Russian cyberactivities targeting mostly Democratic Party political organizations.

Post-election intelligence briefings on Russian meddling in the US elections included details of those communications, which included people involved in Trump's businesses.

The communications were gathered as part of routine US intelligence collection and not because people close to Trump were being targeted.

The FBI and US intelligence agencies continue to try to determine what the motive for the communications were.

One concern was whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russian intelligence operatives over the release of damaging information about the Hillary Clinton campaign.

"If that were the case, then that would escalate things," one official briefed on the investigation said.
Well... that's certainly happened in the last couple of months, hasn't it? But now the Putin-Gate scandal is seeping all over the GOP, including onto members of Congress. Nunes' career is finished. Issa, Rohrabacher and Ryan are tainted. Burr will probably have to retire in 2022. And the latest to feel the taint is the GOP candidate in the special election in Montana, crooked multimillionaire Greg Gianforte who has invested almost a quarter million dollars in in shares in two index funds that invest in the Russian economy, including in firms that have been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, like Kremlin-controlled Gazprom and Rosneft.

Devin & Sebastian
And it now looks like National Security advisor H.R. McMaster and Kushner-in-law have finally persuaded Trumpanzee to jettison neo-Nazi sociopath Sebastian Gorka, who Trumpanzee admires as a TV personality but who is widely viewed as a risk to national security and a risk to Trump politically. On Friday the DailyBeast reported that the Regime is trying to figure out how to dump him without causing any problems for itself among its neo-Nazi base. Singapore is already taken. McMaster has excluded him from any and all participation in anything to do with national security and is eager to see him move into a job that doesn't require any security clearance or any access to sensitive materials. "Gorka’s looming departure from the White House," they report, "which one of the sources described as imminent, comes amid mounting controversy over his involvement with a far-right Hungarian group notorious for its collaboration with the Nazi regime during the second world war... Two senior administration officials described Gorka as completely devoid of influence on White House policy, corroborating reports that he 'had not been cleared to sit in any sort of national security meetings, which leaves him without much to do all day,' as one former Obama administration official told BuzzFeed."

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What Has The DCCC Learned From A Decade Of Abject Failure? Absolutely Nothing


This week I've been getting to know/vetting a Democratic congressional candidate running against a GOP arch-villain. I really, really, really wanted to candidate to be good-- or at least as good as Jon Ossoff. Not everyone is going to be as stellar as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie or Grayson or Ted Lieu. It's an unfair standard. But at one point I asked the candidate if there are any current members of Congress he admires. H e didn't hesitate for a moment: Jim Costa, he said. My heart sunk. I had just completed a post that mentioned Costa-- as one of the 7 right-wing Democrats who voted for the Republican attempt to kill the Estate Tax.

Until fake Democrat Lou Correa was elected in November, Costa was easily the worst Democrat in the California congressional delegation. ProgressivePunch's algorithm rates him the 8th worst Democrat in the House, with an "F" and a lifetime crucial vote score of 43.60. He votes significantly more with the GOP than with the Democrats on substantive matters. This cycle, he score is even worse than usual-- 38.46. Blue America ran a mobile billboard campaign against him last year. How could we possibly support someone aspiring to be like him?

Sean Patrick Maloney, also rated "F" by ProgressivePunch, is ranked as the 9th worst Democrat in the House-- one up from Costa with a lifetime crucial vote score of 45.00. He's openly gay and-- surprise, surprise-- he's good on gay issues and other social issues. But he's a complete corporate whore a shill for Wall Street and his agenda seems to be to coddle the very wealthy and impoverish everyone else. So who better for the DCCC to task with figuring out what went wrong in the 2016 congressional races? (Um... almost anyone?) Ben Ray Lujan gave the job to Maloney. And now, according to Politico, his report is Top Secret. "Some Democratic lawmakers and staffers complained that the cloak-and-dagger secrecy was overblown and actually makes the findings look worse than they are. But the DCCC is sticking by its strategy."
After nearly five months, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) presented his investigative report to lawmakers during a members-only gathering at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters Thursday night.

Only about two-dozen lawmakers showed up for the presentation, which sources described as "dense but thorough." But members were not allowed to have copies of the report and may view it only under the watchful eyes of DCCC staff.

The presentation didn't focus on Democratic messaging and instead was heavily skewed towards money-- how much the DCCC brings in, from where and how those funds are spent.

...The report provides recommendations on how the DCCC should modernize its data collection and overhaul its media operation, according to sources who were briefed on it. The document is also said to criticize the organization for the lack of diversity in consultants whom the DCCC employs.

Maloney offered suggestions for how DCCC should regroup ahead of the 2018 midterms, including hiring someone specifically in charge of diversifying the group's consulting ranks.

Lawmakers have privately criticized the way the DCCC operates for years, saying party leaders are too heavy-handed behind the scenes. Finger-pointing reached a fever pitch after the election: Democrats picked up just six House seats despite predicting far higher gains, prompting rank-and-file members to demand immediate changes.

The Maloney report did not criticize specific members of leadership, according to sources.
I guess accountability-- let alone messaging-- is too divisive even for closed door meetings. After all, with members like Costa and Maloney regularly shitting on the Democratic brand, what is there to say anyway? That members should stand for something. Alan Grayson explained what they should stand for-- in the simplest possible terms-- in this video well worth watching again, especially if you're a Democrat hoping to run for office.

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Tired Of Losing Yet?


As we pointed out this morning, the U.S. economy grew just 0.7 percent since Señor Trumpanzee's kleptocracy took over the Oval Office, the weakest showing in 3 years. And when he whined that the job-- of president-- was harder than he had ever imagined, former Mexican President Vicente Fox trolled him on twitter: "Being president ain’t easy... just go back to golfing."

But Trump did accomplish one thing that is sure to tickle the heart and soul of his base-- or at least will on Monday. The clownish new Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue will promulgate a new rule to make sure the kiddies in Trump counties as obese as their parents who voted Trump into the White House. Outsider Southern blackbelts the most obese counties in each state didn't just vote for Trump, they voted for Trump as though their next meal depended on it. I promise to come back to Perdue's "Let's Make America Fat Again" plan in a minute, but let's look at the obese counties full of Trump voters. Florida's most obese county is Calhoun, where 40.7% of the people are clinically obese. 76.6% of the voters there went for Trump. Breathitt is the most obese county in Kentucky (42.9%) and 69.6% of them voted for Trump. 41.4% of the folks in Washita Co., Oklahoma are obese and they went for Trump massively-- 83.2%. Campbell Co., Wyoming is the Trumpiest obese county in America. 33.6% over-do the eating thing and 88.0% voted for Trump. Logan County played a similar role in West Virginia, where 41.2% of the folks are obese and 80.1% voted for Trump. Thurston County, Nebraska has an obesity rate of 40,8% and 60.3% voted for Trump. Caldwell County, Missouri has an obesity rate of 39.2% and 75.0% went Trump. Similar story in Indiana's most obese county, Jackson (39.3%), where 73.3% went Trump You get the picture, right? Let me add Kansas in here. The most obese county is Cherokee County (38.7%), significantly higher than the state's overall obesity level (30.2%). Statewide, Kansas went for Trump 57.2% to 36.2% for Hillary. Cherokee County was far Trumpier-- 71.8% to 23.4%. I'm not sure if that's where Perdue is hooking up with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Monday but the two of them will be announcing another Trump era WIN!

Republicans have long been trying to dial back the standards that became a pillar of former first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the U.S.

Roberts introduced legislation with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) last year to give schools two more years to meet new reductions on sodium, but the bill never passed.

Renewed efforts to ease the federal standards came as disappointing news to some advocates.

The American Heart Association was quick to push back. In a statement, the group’s CEO, Nancy Brown, said the current standards are already working and that 99 percent of schools are in compliance.

“Improving children’s health should be a top priority for the USDA, and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” she said.

“Rather than altering the current path forward, we hope the agency focuses more on providing technical assistance that can help schools get across the finish line, if they haven’t done so already.”
What more could anyone want from their president-- more diabetes and heart disease in their childrens' future-- coupled with less and less healthcare. That's winning in Trump's America!

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Not EVERYONE Is Afraid To Talk About Sanctuary Cities-- Guest Post From TX-07 Candidate Jason Westin


-by Jason Westin

Congressman John Culberson is a career politician, first elected to office nearly 30 years ago. Prior to politics, like many politicians he went to law school, but apparently he has forgotten how the law works. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle in March, Culberson said "I'm the one who's going to make the final decisions, along with the president. No judge can compel me to release the money." In the same article, he called himself the "judge and jury" for these funds. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ruled on April 25th that Mr. Trump’s executive order that linked these federal law enforcement grants, worth billions of dollars, to immigration enforcement was illegal. Perhaps Judge Orrick and "Judge and Jury" Culberson should talk.

This article, full of ridiculous quotes, raises two questions about Mr. Culberson: How did he come to the wrong conclusion about his being above the law, and what money is he refusing to release?

Both of these questions are related to the idea of a "sanctuary city," a catchy phrase but a nebulously defined term. The phrase usually refers to large cities that do not turn over people who come across the police radar and are immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The term gained traction after a tragic event occurred in San Francisco, a criminal who had been deported multiple times murdered a young woman named Kate Steinle. San Francisco is labelled a "sanctuary city" as it bars local police from helping federal authorities kick out immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and critics say this allowed Steinle’s murder.

It seems pretty straightforward: bad guys in the US illegally should not be allowed to stay here and commit crimes. I don’t think you would find many people who would argue with that simple argument. Unfortunately, most things in life are not as simple as they seem.

There is a federal law (Section 1373 of title 8, chapter 12 of the United States Code), signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, that states: a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual. As a lawyer, Congressman Culberson is surely capable of understanding this law.

The law is written in legalese, but is worth reading again-- it requires local governments to not prohibit or restrict information to be exchanged with Immigration and Naturalization Services-- but it does not compel this information to be shared or require keeping someone in jail without a warrant. Local governments can be within compliance of this law even if they don’t turn over people who cannot prove there are citizens. Thus, the strict definition of a "sanctuary city" would be one with a local law prohibiting or restricting information exchange with the federal government-- a rare event that doesn’t sound as sensational as Fox News would like.

Using the looser definition of a "sanctuary city" that doesn’t volunteer information on all its detainees, it turns out that many "sanctuary cities" are not cities at all, they are faith communities who view immigrants as refugees, or local sheriffs or police chiefs uncomfortable with or unable to jail people for up to 48 hours for minor offenses while awaiting the arrival Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Janice Stewart ruled that Clackamas County had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Maria Miranda-Olivares by jailing her for 19 additional hours after a case was settled to give ICE enough time to investigate her immigration status. The ruling stated that the local law enforcement had no right to hold her without a charge, and that it was responsible for paying over $30,000 in her legal bills. Most local governments constantly struggle with their budget, and this case made many of them re-think their relationship with ICE. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, there are now more than 360 counties and 39 cities that won’t cooperate 100% of the time with ICE requests.

Beyond the financial ramifications of detaining immigrants, local law enforcement also worries about the impact on their ability to do their job effectively. If immigrants fear any interaction with police could result in them and their family being detained and/or deported, why would they ever help the police with information about a crime? Why would a woman or a child ever report domestic abuse? Indeed, there are now multiple reports of ICE detaining women who are leaving domestic abuse hearings, and of women who have dropped their domestic abuse cases for fear of repercussion against themselves or their children.

Now that we’ve better defined the difficulties around the challenges around the “sanctuary city” term, let’s talk about the money Congressman Culberson is threatening to hold. These funds, including the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), are given to communities to determine their most pressing needs. These funds can be spent on a variety of needs as long as they fall within seven broad categories including law enforcement, crime prevention and education, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness programs. These are not slush funds and are not used for trivial purposes – these are funds the law enforcement community depend upon to improve public safety. New York requested $9.2 million dollars in Byrne JAG funds in 2016 to:
1. Improve the quality, accuracy, and timeliness of criminal justice records.
2. Improve the capabilities and quality of work of forensic laboratories in DNA identification, ballistic evidence processing, new technologies, and improved quality.
3. Enhance the quality and effectiveness of violent crime and drug prosecution and enforcement, especially as it relates to gangs and to illegal possession and use or sale of guns, and gun violence reduction initiatives.
4. Improve the comprehensive investigation of non-fatal shooting cases.
5. Establish a New York State Criminal Justice Research Consortium to link criminal justice practitioners with academic researchers.
6. Improve the quality and effectiveness of prosecution and defense services.
7. Provide additional support for the State’s Regional Crime Analysis Centers who share information and provide law enforcement with accurate and timely data.
8. Enhance local law enforcement efforts to effectively and efficiently reduce the incidence of crime and violence in their locality through the use of evidence based, proven strategies.
9. Improve procedural justice in law enforcement agencies throughout the State.
All of these areas have the underlying goal of improving public safety, and none of these fund requests are controversial. These funds should not be a political football. Imagine if Clackamas County were forced to decide to whether to risk lawsuits from detained immigrants or risk losing funds to reduce violent crimes.

Back to Congressman Culberson’s inflammatory statement: "I'm the one who's going to make the final decisions, along with the president. No judge can compel me to release the money." Culberson added, "If you want federal money, follow federal law. Particularly if you're dealing with John Culberson and Donald Trump, who will not give you the money unless you follow federal law. You can take that to the bank."

As the chair of the appropriations sub-committee, Culberson does have discretion over the budget of the Department of Justice. But his statement is not a threat to amend the next budgetary plan, it is a threat to deny funds already allocated to these programs by law. It is also a threat that he would defy a direct court order, which I assume he learned in law school is not a good idea. Using the purist definition of a "sanctuary city" as one with a law prohibiting information to be shared with ICE, Congressman Culberson is right that these rare local laws may be in violation of Section 1373. But he seems to be over-interpreting what 1373 actually says – it does not say that local governments have to inform ICE, hold persons of interest, or do anything other than not restrict information by law. The implication that he will withhold JAG and other related funds if “sanctuary cities” don’t comply with the law is that this law will have a big impact on getting “bad guys” out of the United States, and thus cities choose to protect the “bad guys” or receive the funds. This is dichotomization is wrong-- cities can protect their immigrant communities, including allowing women and children to feel safe to speak to the police, by legally complying but not volunteering information or holding people without a warrant, and thus still receive the funds.

In the same Chronicle article, Culberson also called himself the "CFO of Justice." As this case develops over the coming months, with a planned appeal by the Trump administration and Attorney General Sessions, it will be very interesting to see if the courts are impressed with Mr. Culberson’s self-appointed titles. Will the "CFO of Justice" refuse to comply with a court order to release these funds as ordered by the federal budget to the very few cities who have a legal restriction on providing information to ICE? Will local law enforcement agencies interpret the “sanctuary city” term more broadly, like the Fox News definition, change their plans for the upcoming year, not knowing if "Judge and Jury" Culberson will "release" the funds?

As the chairman of the sub-committee, Mr. Culberson has responsibilities outside of solely representing our district, the 7th Congressional District of Texas. But ultimately, he is in Washington to represent his constituents. According to the census, of the 777,640 residents of TX07, 242,199 are Hispanic and 80,182 are Asian. Obviously, people counted in census are nearly all legal residents of the United States, but that does not mean that they are immune to being targeted by ICE or Customs and Border Patrol. In March, a local story from Houston received national attention when two doctors, legally in the US for 10 years, were nearly deported due to an obvious paperwork mistake. These doctors were not accused of any crime, were upstanding members of our community, and respected members of the medical profession with thousands of patients relying on their expertise and care. Despite this being an obvious mistake that would cause terrible harm to these doctors who were in the US legally for years, their US born children, and their American patients, they were only granted a reprieve in the final hours because of their attorney and the media attention to their case (link inserted). Why did this happen? The insidious nature of the Trump and Culberson anti-immigrant crusade is having many consequences, including causing Customs and Border Patrol to turn a blind eye.

The over the top statements of Career Congressman Culberson that "no judge can compel me" make this problem worse. It creates the impression that the "sanctuary city" term is much more broad that in reality, that Culberson has the ability to refuse funds to any city he sees fit, and that Culberson is above the law. It sounds like Mr. Trump’s personality may be contagious, and that Mr. Culberson may have caught a bad case. Luckily, the TX-07 voters will have the cure for our Representative on November 6, 2018.

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