Sunday, September 30, 2018

Bad Combination: Rising Housing Prices + Stagnant Wages


A little over a week ago, Taylor White penned an article for MarketWatch that alarmed me, This is why Americans are losing confidence in the housing market. Basically a combination of rising house prices, salary stagnation, generational trends and higher interest rates have hurt consumer confidence in the housing market. Today Ben Casselman narrowed in one one factor: rising prices outpacing wages.

With unemployment below 3% and construction everywhere, Denver is booming. "Yet," wrote Casselman, "Denver’s once-soaring housing market has run into turbulence. Sales and construction activity have slowed in recent months. Houses that would once have drawn a frenzy of offers are sitting on the market for days or weeks. Selling prices are rising more slowly, and asking prices are being slashed to attract buyers. Similar slowdowns have hit New York, Seattle and even San Francisco, cities that until recently ranked among the nation’s hottest housing markets. The specifics vary, but economists, real estate agents and home builders say the core issue is the same: Home buyers are reaching a breaking point after years of breakneck price increases that far exceeded income gains." The problem is clear: wages are not keeping pace with increased prices and would-be buyers are being pushed out of the market.
Nationwide, sales of previously owned homes fell 1.5 percent in August from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors. Residential building permits were down 5.5 percent over the past year, according to the Department of Commerce. Many economists say the housing market may have turned into a drag on the gross domestic product.

...Introductory economics textbooks suggest that high prices should attract more supply or suppress demand-- or both. Inventories of unsold homes have risen in Denver and other markets in recent months, and the real estate site Zillow found that price cuts have become more common.

Over all, however, the housing market is not behaving as the textbooks say it should. Inventories remain low despite the recent increases, and new construction is slowing, not picking up.

Part of the problem, local real estate agents say, is that the furious pace of price growth has essentially gummed up the market, making homeowners reluctant to sell for fear of being unable to find a new home.

Rising interest rates are compounding the problem because would-be sellers do not want to give up their low interest rates, a phenomenon economists call the lock-in effect.

...Ultimately, the key to breaking the logjam is to build more homes. Downtown Denver is crawling with cranes, many of them erecting amenity-filled apartment complexes aimed at young professionals. A drive in almost any direction from downtown reveals freshly built subdivisions with names like Tallgrass, The Enclave and Green Gables Reserve.

Most of those new homes, however, will list for more than $400,000. And hardly any builders are selling properties for under $300,000 without government subsidies. Even many home builders worry they are pricing themselves out of the market.

“I see the biggest threat to our business as the affordability challenge, that we are building houses that people can’t afford,” said Gene Myers, chief executive of Thrive Home Builders.

The problem, Mr. Myers and other local builders say, is cost. The price of land, building permits and other fees can run close to $150,000 for a single-family lot-- before construction.

Some of the challenges are specific to Colorado. Quirks in state law, for example, make it easy for condominium buyers to collectively sue builders over construction defects, making developers reluctant to build condos.

But other issues are common to many cities. Building materials have become more expensive, in part because of tariffs on lumber and other products that President Trump imposed this year. Labor costs are rising, too, especially for skilled trade workers. Restrictive zoning makes it hard to build denser developments that make cheaper homes profitable for builders.

“They’re producing what they can produce,” said Sam Khater, chief economist for Freddie Mac, the government housing-finance company. “The problem is, it’s uneconomic for them to produce affordable.”

This big-city conundrum is spreading. People priced out of San Francisco moved to Seattle and Portland, driving up prices and displacing people who moved to Denver and Austin. Next on the list: Boise, Nashville and other cities offering some of the same attractions at lower prices.

Sure enough, the online real estate site Redfin this spring found that Denver had joined Seattle and San Francisco as cities with a “net outflow” of users-- that is, there were more people on the site looking to leave Denver than to move there.

“City after city is going to face this,” said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s chief executive. “At some point, the buyers step back and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

More people are moving to Denver than leaving it, but migration has tapered off in recent years. J. J. Ament, chief executive of Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, said he had seen no sign that rising home prices were making the region less attractive. Last month, VF Corporation, an apparel maker that owns brands like The North Face and Vans, announced it would move its headquarters to Denver from North Carolina, partly because of the area’s reputation for outdoor activities. The state also offered $27 million in incentives.

“I wouldn’t use the word ‘crisis,’” Mr. Ament said. “The work force is still willing to move here.”

Plenty of people in Denver do use the word “crisis,” however. A January report from Shift Research Lab, a local research group, concluded that years of under-building have left the region with a shortfall of tens of thousands of housing units.

That shortfall could threaten Denver’s growth, said Phyllis Resnick, a Colorado State University economist and one of the report’s authors. The skilled workers moving to the area, who have been so important to attracting companies and jobs, want to be able to eat out at restaurants, drop off their dry cleaning and send their children to school, all of which require lower and middle income workers. If they cannot afford to live in the area, Ms. Resnick said, Denver will not retain its allure-- and the economy will not keep growing.

“My concern is, at some point it sort of breaks because we can’t house the folks that we need to fill out all the economic activity in the region,” she said. “I’m not convinced that in the near term it will correct itself just through market forces, unless that’s through people moving out.”
Unmentioned is that in some of the most desirable markets-- particularly New York, San Francisco/San Jose, Los Angeles/Orange County, Seattle, San Diego, the DC area... huge amounts of money from Asia and Russia have flooded into housing as a safe investment or a place to launder and park shady money. [Trump's entire business model was based on this.] Condos and houses in all these markets sit unoccupied while housing prices rise so high that American workers can't buy them. Back in June, the Wall Street Journal reported the western cities want to slow the flood of home buying by Chinese nationals-- but can't. The flood of capital "washing over cities" is distorting home prices and irritating locals who are squeezed out of the market.

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Is Kavanaugh Still A Coke Freak? Will The FBI Tell Us?


Playin' the long game

People who looked at Kavanaugh's calendar and thought that the July 1, 1982 reference to "heading over for 'Skis' was about 'Brewskis,' are unaware that in '80s prep schools for rich white kids, 'skis' was cocaine, not beer. Just sayin'. Pelosi didn't mention that in her masterful Kavanaugh put down during an interview with the Texas Tribune in Austin yesterday. Her point was that Kavanaugh lacks the temperament to serve on the Supreme Court. "It’s not time, shall we say, for a hysterical, biased person to go to the court and expect us to say, 'Isn’t that wonderful.' ... I couldn't help but think that if a woman had ever performed that way, they would say 'hysterical.' I think that he disqualifies himself with those statements and the manner in which he went after the Clintons and the Democrats... I will say this-- if he is not telling the truth to Congress or to the FBI, then he's not fit not only to be on the Supreme Court, but to be on the court he's on right now."

Jim VanderHei approached the Kavanaugh debacle from a different perspective-- an opportunity lost. "Imagine," he wrote, "if Brett Kavanaugh had offered his emotional, tearful, you-ruined-my-life opening speech to the Judiciary Committee-- and then called for a quick FBI probe to clear his name and perhaps find the true assailant. He would have looked confident, humble, even a tad heroic, given the president who nominated him opposed the FBI probe. Well, he and Republicans had an epic failure of imagination: Instead, they were forced reluctantly and publicly into what should have been a fairly easy-to-anticipate moderate compromise: agree to a vote after a quick FBI probe. Instead of looking hungry for truth, Kavanaugh heads into the week looking fearful of findings."
There's a reason for this miscalculation:
Republicans, from the earliest days of the allegations, were overly confident they could just jam this through, several people involved the process tell us.
They thought he would be better defending himself-- and that Dr. Ford would seem less credible.
Republicans treated this like a bare-knuckles political fight. They calculated a Fox News appearance, a Trump endorsement, a headstrong Mitch McConnell, a fired-up base, a fast vote would hold the party together.
In the GOP’s defense, the strategy might have worked had Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) not changed his mind at the very last minute. 
In an interview posted this morning, Flake tells The Atlantic's McCay Coppins that his dramatic call for further FBI review came because he felt the Senate was "coming apart at the seams... I’m a conservative. He’s a conservative. I plan to support him unless they turn up something-- and they might."

That self-righteous freak, clearly, does not belong on any court of law, Supreme or otherwise-- and whether he still snorts coke or not. He gives new meaning to the phrase "sober as a judge." And he lies with a vile, repulsive sense of entitlement. This is the most unabashedly partisan Supreme Court candidate I've ever seen nominated. During the hearing on Thursday, Kavanaugh struggled to give a single straight answer, straining credulity "when he argued before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the 'Devil’s Triangle'-- a phrase that appeared on his high school yearbook page-- referred to a drinking game, a definition which, before Thursday, you’d have a hard time finding anywhere. (It actually refers to a sex act involving two men and a woman). He also unabashedly claimed that the term 'boof' is a reference to 'flatulence,' rather than other butt stuff, and that 'ralph,' which means to vomit-- implicitly from the overconsumption of alcohol-- was a reference to Kavanaugh’s weak stomach."
Kavanaugh’s choice to lie about things that are easily disproved speaks to a kind of hubris, or entitlement, that befits someone of his pedigree. He insinuated that he was of drinking age during the summer of 1982 because, back then, in Maryland, 18 year olds could legally imbibe. With artful wording, he testified that drinking was “legal for seniors,” even though it was decidedly illegal for him-- a rising senior who wouldn’t turn 18 until the following year. At other moments, he claimed ignorance about the consequence of plainly relevant evidence-- railing against the suggestion that his high school yearbook, a totem to debauchery and sexual frustration, could be relevant to the issue of whether he committed blacked-out sexual assault in high school. “Have at it, if you want to go through my yearbook,” he told Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) with disdain. As though the inquiry itself was made in bad faith.

In fact, Kavanaugh dissembled about whether he ever drank to excess at all-- an incredible claim given the contents of his yearbook; his friend Mark Judge’s damning memoir, which is titled “Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk;” and the sheer number of  times Kavanaugh mentioned “beer” during Thursday’s hearing. Although he admitted in his opening statement that “sometimes I had too many beers,” when pressed on how much was too much, he was evasive again: “I don’t know. You know, we-- whatever the chart says, a blood-alcohol chart.”... No lie, it seems, is too small for Kavanaugh.

... Kavanugh's apparent willingness to perjure himself over accusations of underage drinking or sexual innuendo-- which, alone, don’t necessarily bear on his suitability for the bench-- is troubling both because of what it implies about his integrity, and because of what it suggests about his reasoning as an adjudicator.

How should we judge someone who, during his testimony, repeatedly misrepresented facts and dissembled when pressed for detail? Should we understand these moments as lies, or as misinterpretations rooted in substandard analytical rigor? And given the importance of the position at hand, which is worse?

Some of this may seem like parsing hairs, but the law, in large part, is parsing hairs. Easy questions don’t make it to the Supreme Court. Slam dunk cases settle out. Outside of constitutional issues, the Supreme Court only agrees to hear cases that are so subject to interpretation, they’ve been inconsistently decided between states or federal circuits. Analytical precision, therefore, is a big part of the job.

That being the case, it was concerning to hear a federal judge clamor for “due process” as he sidestepped an opportunity to call witnesses, hear evidence, or have his name cleared by a federal investigation. How should we view a federal judge who seems not to understand, or who for political reasons ignores, that he is not, in fact, on trial, but at a job interview? Who, either due to a lack of understanding or a surfeit of political ambition, emotes as though the stakes were that of a criminal proceeding where the high burden of proof would militate in his favor? Do we want a justice who artfully aims for what’s “technically” true (and misses often), or one whose integrity is, well, unimpeachable?

...What matters, then, is whether Kavanaugh is of sufficiently fit character to fairly and ethically interpret the law. Thursday’s hearing, perhaps as much as the allegations against him, has thrown that into serious doubt.

A primary question here, and one that has largely been skipped over by the general public, is why, precisely, Kavanaugh’s past behavior, up to and including Thursday’s hearing, has any bearing on his ability to serve on the Supreme Court. What behavior would we consider disqualifying as a matter of principle? What qualities are non-negotiable in the nation’s top jurists-- women and men whose decisions directly affect the lives of over 300 million citizens, and billions across the world who are often beholden to the toxic effects of domestic policy?

We would argue that honesty is key to administering justice.

A Supreme Court judgeship is a lifetime appointment. And as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently pointed out, members of the Supreme Court are asked to make dozens of decisions every year directly relating to the life, liberty, and happiness of Americans-- half of whom are women, and all of whom deserve jurists who possess a baseline level of integrity.

As Blumenthal, the Connecticut senator, said at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Friday meeting, Kavanaugh’s character and fitness give ample reason to vote “no.”

UPDATE: What Are Susan Collins Constituents Seeing This Weekend?

The Portland newspaper in Susan Collins' state, the Press Herald ran a blistering editorial: Brett Kavanaugh has shown he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. "Based on what he demonstrated in his own testimony, Kavanaugh lacks the character and judgment to serve on the Supreme Court."
In his widely watched appearance, Kavanaugh revealed that he has an explosive temper and resorts to bullying when he feels threatened. He was understandably under stress and fighting a high-stakes battle for his reputation, but his temperament was tested during the hearing, and he failed the test.

Kavanaugh also showed himself to be impermissibly political for a job that is supposed to be above politics. We’re not naive. We understand that federal judges are nominated by presidents and confirmed by senators, and that electoral politics influences their decisions about who gets to serve.

But we have never had a Supreme Court nominee who ripped off the nonpartisan mask the way Kavanaugh did Thursday and identified himself as an enemy of a political party that represents the policy preferences of millions of Americans. He blamed his predicament on bizarre conspiracy theories, claiming that his troubles stemmed from “pent-up anger about President Trump” and opponents seeking “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” and were not the result of allegations that emerged while he was being evaluated for an important job. After his partisan rant, Kavanaugh will never be able to judge a case without the animus he expressed being considered a factor in his decision. This is not the road we want to take.

And when he was talking about his high school years, he said things that, frankly, could not be believed. The self-proclaimed treasurer of the “100 Kegs or Bust” club says he was not much of a drinker.

His comment about “ralphing” was an innocent reference to his sensitive stomach and not related to heavy drinking. And, most incredibly, a group of football players posing for a picture calling themselves “the Renate Alumni”-- a stunt that reeked of sexual boasting about a girl named Renate-- were “clumsily” trying “to show affection” for a friend. The attempt was so clumsy that they never shared it with their friend, who learned about the joke only recently. She told the New York Times: “The insinuation is horrible, hurtful and simply untrue. I pray their daughters are never treated this way.”

These are small things, but they matter. Many adults are embarrassed about what they did when they were young, and it is human nature to minimize some of the details. But when you have taken an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it’s not time to fudge the facts. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would bring this same lack of credibility with him to the place in the country where credibility matters more than anything.

If there were nothing else on his record, the Senate would have solid grounds not to confirm Kavanaugh. But it’s not the only thing. Not by a long shot.

Kavanaugh is the subject of credible allegations of sexual misconduct. It is incredible that any senator would want to vote to confirm him until the allegations have been thoroughly investigated.

...After Ford’s testimony, it would be a mistake to confirm Kavanaugh without a full investigation into her charges. But senators don’t even need to consider these explosive allegations. They can use their own eyes and ears and apply their own common sense.

The man who appeared before the Judiciary Committee on Thursday can’t control his temper, he is overtly partisan and he doesn’t always tell the truth. Based on his own testimony, Kavanaugh has shown that he does not belong on the Supreme Court.
Blood on Their Hands by Nancy Ohanian

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Sure Vote For Sinema, But Do So With Eyes Wide Open


An old friend just reached out to me and asked me if it was ok to contribute through the DSCC because he wanted to help Beto and Kyrsten O'Rourke. My advice was to contribute directly to Beto here because giving anything to the DSCC means helping them line the pockets of corrupt, inept consultants and because they don't like Beto anyway. As for Sinema... you can imagine-- or if you can't, take a gander at some of these. If you live in Arizona, hold your nose and vote for her if you must, but as I told my friend, if you have Senate money to contribute, it would be wiser to spend it helping Tammy Baldwin defend her seat from relentless attack from the GOP, who are aiming to defeat her in a state Trump won.

As for Sinema... you know what? I'm not going to repeat myself about her record and her insanity. Instead, let's look at her penchant for lying that has been exposed as journalists looked more closely at her fabricated heroic biography. When she first told it to me, long before she was first elected to Congress, I realized she was a liar and an insane person. Josh Voorhees covered the bio-lies for Slate last week, The Details of Kyrsten Sinema’s Homeless Story That Matter—and the Ones That Don’t.

I guess Schumer didn't vet her when he handed her the party nomination. Meanwhile Arizona voters are trying to decide how seriously to take serial embellishment in light of an exposé by the NY Times that included her parents' divorce case court records that contradict her decades of bullshit. First of all, was she really homeless living in an abandoned gas station with no electricity or water? Here's her latest iteration of the carefully woven deception she's been telling voters for over a decade and "continues to offer it up on the stump and in interviews. It’s all the more compelling because of how well it lines up with her political argument. A former progressive flamethrower who has recast herself as a Blue Dog Democrat, Sinema offers voters a modern retelling of the myth of the self-made American man or woman, designed to thread the needle in a red state: Pull on those bootstraps, by all means, but they can pull you up only so far. 'See, my parents taught me if you work really hard you can make it,' Sinema said in that ad, which mentioned her family’s reliance on food stamps and the Pell Grant she used to go to college. 'I worked really hard-- but I still needed a little help.'"

The problem now, though, is that her recollection of time spent without electricity doesn’t line up with what the New York Times found when it dug a little deeper. The paper discovered that during her mother’s divorce proceedings, she and Sinema’s stepfather told a judge that they were paying monthly bills for electricity, phone, and gas. Sinema was unable to explain to the paper why her parents would have an electricity bill at a time she says they didn’t have electricity. “Oh gosh, I don’t have an answer for that,” Sinema said. “That’s not something a little kid would hear about from her parents.”

As the paper notes, Sinema’s taken a tough line on truthfulness in the past, writing in her 2009 book, for example, that it’s “wrong to tell half-truths and be sneaky about the truth-- no doubt about it.” And this also isn’t the first time questions have come up about Sinema’s childhood living conditions. Speaking to the Washington Post for a profile published last month, her step-aunt took issue with Sinema’s description of the structure in which her family lived, which was owned by her stepfather’s parents, who lived nearby. “I realize this tugs at people’s heartstrings and that was what she was going for, but, you know, it’s not the truth,” said Susie Fleming, who said she believed the structure-- which she called a remodeled country store-- had at least some utilities when Sinema lived there as a child.

Republicans, naturally, were quick to tout the Times report:

In many ways, this is familiar territory. Sinema is far from the first politician to run on her biography, and when you do that, the details of your biography become fair game. But as a candidate’s lived experience-- as someone of a certain gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc., or any combination thereof-- grows in importance, particularly on the left, it’s a good bet that we’ll see more of this type of litigation of those lived experiences. In 2008, one popular question was how black is “black enough?” In 2018 in Arizona, it’s how homeless is homeless enough?

It’s telling, though, that so far the GOP attacks against Sinema have been either overly specific (“in direct contradiction to court documents,”) or overly broad (“exaggerating her story of growing up ‘homeless’ ”). Despite what those scare-quotes suggest, Sinema has been clear from the beginning that she wasn’t living on the streets.

Given how frequently she has mentioned a specific lack of utilities like water and electricity, it’s fair to question whether that was the case. And if she did intentionally embellish the details, that matters. But it’s also worth remembering what’s not up for debate: Sinema and her family spent years living in conditions far more dire than your typical future senator did, and through hard work and some government aid, she was able to find remarkable success. She was the valedictorian of her high school at 16, and earned a prestigious scholarship to Brigham Young University, where she graduated in just two years. Whether her parents had electricity is relevant to that story, yes, but voters can decide for themselves whether it changes the moral of it.
And this is quite the Trump adhesion score for a so-called Democrat-- even for a damned Blue Dog!

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Kavanaugh And A Different Kind Of New Order


Yesterday we featured a tweet by Frank Schaeffer on a class of elite, entitled, white males represented by Brett Kavanaugh: "They were the tears," he wrote, "of an entitled bully unused to getting caught. Brett Kavanaugh was as mad as a privileged white man can be at the prospect of losing a coveted seat on the US Supreme Court to a mere girl who wasn't part of his Georgetown Prep social circle." As soon as I saw the Tom Williams photo above, Frank's tweet popped right back into my mind.

And then Matt Stoller's powerful tweet storm early Saturday morning on American artistocracy! WOW! "Kavanaugh's clearly on display anger and pain was quite confusing to millions of Americans," he began. "Many saw authenticity in his voice and thus in some way believed he is telling the truth. It is time for us to wake up to what aristocracy is. Aristocracy is a moral system. Most Westerners have a hard time imagining aristocracy. The enlightenment kind of pushed the end of feudalism as a moral frame. The idea of divinely ordained social hierarchies doesn't make any sense to us. We think of aristocracy as a bunch of men in whigs and women in petticoats and corsets, a sort of black and white before color TV world. That is not what aristocracy is. Aristocracy is a belief in the moral right of elites to rule and abuse everyone else for their own good.

"There are clear moral codes," continued Stoller, "owed by aristocrats to everyone else. Military service, for instance. Stewardship. Noblesse oblige. Sometimes people are nostalgic for these, like our elites don't even have a sense of social obligation. That's nonsense. Aristocrats were monsters. Before 1775, Americans lived in an aristocracy. It wasn't just a set of states with slaves and women without rights. Almost no one had political rights. Children learned social hierarchies of rank before they learned the difference between their left and right hands. It's easy to see abuse today and just sort of say see there's always been abuse. But the aristocracy of the pre-revolutionary world was different. Because people didn't think of it as abuse, they thought of it as enforcement of moral rights. Kavanaugh was sincerely angry. But he wasn't angry that he was caught lying. He was angry that people were attacking his moral system of aristocracy. It isn't just a white male thing. It's a super-rich powerful village thing. He was angry people were criticizing Versailles."

Stoller: "I went to a boarding school similar in some ways to Georgetown Prep. A culture of brutal hazing. Noblesse oblige. Servant leadership. Massive wealth, unspoken. Sexual assault. Anorexia. Connections to insane power. It's normal in some ways, but massively unusual in others. I was sort of a weird student, a gawky Jewish kid from Miami with a group of beautiful and athletic WASP-y kids mostly from New York and New England. We went to chapel four times a week. This is a very strange world. You get trained to be comfortable with power and hypocrisy. Kavanaugh grew up in that world. He doesn't know any different. He can't imagine any different. To him all of us are just peasants and he doesn't owe any of us the truth. It is beneath contempt for us to make moral demands on him. His whole career, from being one of the most sleazy and dishonest operatives in the Kenneth Starr investigation to lying about torture, stolen emails, and wiretapping, is about manipulating the peasants. He's an aristocrat."

Matt wasn't stopping there, don't worry. "But it goes far beyond Kavanaugh to how DC has been for 40 years. This is my favorite quote from the whole insane Clinton impeachment saga. '[Clinton] came in here and he trashed the place,' says WaPost columnist David Broder, 'and it's not his place.' The total contempt for normal people has been a hallmark of Western politics for four decades. Kavanaugh is just the most obvious signpost. We are now beyond aristocrats pretending to live in a democracy. He just demands what is his. And Trump loved it. Across our culture, from Tim Geithner to Bill Clinton to Brett Kavanaugh to Mark Zuckerberg, we tolerate aristocratic abuse. This was obvious in the financial crisis. Tens of millions of people kicked out of their homes, and yet they were the ones who carried shame. My favorite Kavanaugh quote is his regret at not going to work for Facebook in its early days. 'You know,' Kavanaugh said, 'I am committed to public service, as I said, but I do spend some time reading Robert Frost, The road not taken.' It reveals how becoming a massively wealthy Silicon Valley exec and being a right-wing Federal judge are basically both legitimate positional objectives. It's such a great window into this aristocratic culture."

Why the tweet storm? Matt explained: "Anyway, I guess I'm putting this out there because we have to start understanding the genuinely privileged position of people like Kavanaugh, which is a function of elite upbringing. He was a super rich coddled DC kid. What Kavanaugh is displaying looks like the pain of an abusive white male. And all those GOP Senators look like out of touch white men. And they are. More than that they are aristocrats. This is about the morality of power. Kavanaugh is an aristocrat and disdains democracy. This may be some sort of turning point. If we want a democracy, we are going to have to take back power, starting with our own sense of self. I am inspired by all of the people talking about how they were abused and saying that was wrong. This is how we regain our society. We must end aristocracy. Aristocracy in the Obama WH was about bailouts for bankers and debts for peasants. The aristocratic pretensions of the Trump administration were on display this week. 'We must disenthrall ourselves,' said Lincoln, 'and then we shall save our country.'"

I just want to add one thing. I want to ask you to watch how the DCCC and Pelosi's SuperPAC spends its I.E. funds from now 'til Nov. 6. How much will they spend on the genuine working class candidates like Randy Bryce, Kara Eastman, Ammar Campa-Najjar, Jess King, Nate McMurray, J.D. Scholten, Jahana Hayes, Jared Golden... and how much will they spend on the faux "aristocrats" the DCCC recruited, from Kathy Manning, Dan Kohl, Joseph Kopser and Susie Lee to a clown like lottery winner Gil Cisneros who they recruited because he's a multimillionaire and have still reserved $3,000,000 in broadcast media time for. They fear and they loath working class invaders into their elite little DC world. Bryce wore work boots to a DCCC function and they're still looking down their noses at him for it. Paul Ryan's SuperPAC has already spent $1.8 running a smear campaign against Bryce. The DCCC has responded with... ZERO. They would rather have a corporate lawyer in that seat-- one of their own (albeit a Republican) than see a man who works with his hands to provide for his family join them in Congress. Yes, that's the Democrap Party today. We need to take it back from them. As Lincoln said, "We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."

UPDATE: But Will They Remember In 2020?

A new national poll indicates that a majority of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Kavanaugh, 53-44% (slightly better than Trump's 55-45%). When the question was asked "if your senator voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would that make you:
Much more likely to re-elect- 30%
Somewhat more likely to reelect- 7%
Wouldn't make a difference- 13%
Somewhat less likely to re-elect- 7%
Much less likely to re-elect- 44%
Up for reelection this cycle are just three senators who, realistically, could be impacted-- Ted Cruz (R-TX), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). But in 2020-- if voters have long enough memories-- senators most likely to be impacted are Susan Collins (R-ME), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Doug Jones (D-AL). Did you watch Matt Damon nail Kavanaugh last night?

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More Sad; More Triage


Paul Ryan's corporately-funded SuperPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund has poured $1.8 million into WI-01 to defeat Randy Bryce with a campaign of vicious personal smears-- please help us respond here at IronStache Fund-- but because they are so obsessed with @IronStache and a handful of other progressives they want to keep out of Congress-- they no longer have the funds to help some of their own most vulnerable incumbents. As we pointed out in recent weeks, they've been practicing the art of triage on walking dead incumbents Keith Rothfus (PA), Chris Collins (NY), Barbara Comstock (VA), Erik Paulsen (MN), Jason Lewis (MN), and Rod Blum (IA), among others.

Late Friday, Alex Isenstadt added two more to the growing list of GOP incumbents Ryan is writing off as goners: Mike Coffman (CO) and Mike Bishop (MI). Bishop was a bit of a surprise, since Trump beat Hillary in his district 50.6% to 43.9% and the PVI is a fairly comfortable R+4. Bishop has been a loyal Trump rubber-stamp and the 538 forecaster still shows a 49.3-47.6% race.

Coffman is a different story, of course. He's in a blue district (PVI D+2) that Trump lost by 9 points. Coffman's only hope is that the Democratic nominee, Jason Crow is so terrible that Coffman could weather the wave. As bad a candidate as Crow is, polling shows him being swept into Congress by the wave anyway. Coffman is forecasted to have just a 1 in 5 shot to win. Maybe he shouldn't have been a devoted Trump ass-kisser.

Istenstadt reported that Ryan's PAC "will cancel its planned TV advertising for both members, a move that comes as the party refocuses its funds on races that leaders feel confident they can win-- and away from those it sees as out of reach. The organization had $1 million in TV advertising reserved for Coffman and $2.1 million for Bishop, dollars that will now be redistributed elsewhere. Party officials say both incumbents are trailing Democratic challengers ahead of the midterm elections, and both are expected to be significantly outspent during the final weeks of their campaigns."
Among the seats that the party feels increasingly pessimistic about are those held by Minnesota Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis, Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum.

Party officials say additional incumbents will likely need to be cut off in the weeks to come.

The decision to cut off Bishop in particular, however, caught some by surprise. The second-term lawmaker represents an exurban Detroit-area district that was carried by Donald Trump in 2016 and Mitt Romney four years earlier. Bishop, a former leader in the Michigan state legislature, won reelection in 2016 by 17 percentage points. This year, he is running against Democrat Elissa Slotkin, who was a defense official in the Obama administration.

Bishop aides pushed back on the notion their race was lost. On Friday afternoon, following the super PAC’s announcement that it was withdrawing, Bishop’s campaign released a memo claiming that recent polling showed the incumbent with a small lead over his Democratic opponent. The internal poll conducted last week showed Bishop with a slim 2-point edge over Slotkin, 45 percent to 43 percent.

“Our internals show us leading and we feel confident Mike Bishop will be re-elected," said Stu Sandler, a Bishop adviser.

A poll conducted for Slotkin's campaign the same week showed her with a 4-point advantage over Bishop, 47 percent to 43 percent.

Democrats appear especially confident in their prospects of defeating Coffman, a fifth-term political survivor who represents a Denver-area swing district. Earlier this week, the Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC canceled nearly $800,000 in planned TV advertising in the district.

CLF's move is the latest Republican move to pull money out of districts that are starting to look unwinnable. Last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee canceled all of its ad reservations in Rep. Keith Rothfus' (R-Pa.) district, as he faces an uphill battle for reelection against Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb.
The Ryan's PAC and the NRCC have also started going back on promises which were made when luring Republicans into House races. They recently wrote off Diane Harkey (CA-49), Janice Arnold-Jones (NM), Jay Webber (NJ), Pearl Kim (PA), Greg McCauley (PA), Marty Nothstein (PA), Lena Epstein (MI), Steve Watkins (KS) and Lea Marquez-Peterson (AZ) for dead. Trump had promised support, for example, to Danny Tarkanian in a Las Vegas-metro district but the GOP has now jettisoned him and left him to die out in the desert... alone.

Incumbents on the next round triage watch-list include Drunken Hunter (CA), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Jeff Denham (CA), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Claudia Tenney (NY) and Leonard Lance (NJ).

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Sunday Thoughts:

We shouldn't be at all surprised now that the Republican Party has so loudly and proudly come out, in unison, as a party that thinks rape and any kind of sexual assault is really no big deal. It's not like we didn't already know. Misogyny, like racism, and a love or authoritarianism, have been qualifications for joining the Republican Party for the last 50 years. The Brett Kavanaugh hearings presented an opportunity for republicans to demonstrate their inner rapist on the biggest public stage, and they have seized that opportunity with every molecule of evil that lies in the dark heart of any of them.

Sure there are democrats that behave horridly when it comes to these things but, the Republican Party has, as with everything else, become the party of horrific extremism. They endorse such behavior daily. In Brett Kavanaugh, they seek to codify extreme misogyny.

To Republicans, overturning Roe v. Wade isn't enough of an expression of their need to fear, control, and hate women. Last night (as I write this), Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that his party had hired "a female" who would serve as an "assistant" to ask the questions of Kavanaugh accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford; the questions that the Republican men on the Senate Judiciary Committee were afraid to ask because they knew they couldn't hide their contempt for women for even five minutes.

The woman the committee hired to question her is an attorney, woman of professional accomplishment in the field of sex crimes. She has a name, a name that McConnell couldn't even bring himself to speak. Her name is Rachel Mitchell. She has achievements. But, to McConnell she is just a "female" and she is no more than an "assistant", you know, like some lower level secretary, as if, in his fetid maggot-filled mind, earning a living by being a secretary isn't noble work. It's sad that, since several of the all male republican contingent on the Senate Judiciary Committee are experienced prosecutors themselves, who could have asked the same questions that Rachel Mitchell asked, it just showed that to Senate republicans, Attorney Rachel Mitchell really was just a cynically used prop.

Republicans, led by their dear leader Trumpanzee, are demonstrating that, to them, actual physical abuse is even better than just abuse by policy, and they have chosen to celebrate that agenda in the person of Brett Kavanaugh. Alabama Judge Roy Moore wasn't enough. They had to take it to a bigger national stage. Once they rallied around a sicko creep like Donald Trump and continued to do so, even with the specter of high crimes, misdemeanors and treason hovering, anything became possible; as if it wasn't already when 62 Million supporters of this kind of thing eagerly went to the polls to vote their choice. What's next for Republicans? A continued devolution that ends in something akin to tribal human sacrifice of women into a pit of fire? All approved by their Republican Jesus as if he's a modern day island volcano god?

Happy Sunday everyone.

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Trump Sees McCarthy As The Most Easy Potential Minority Leader To Manipulate


With Paul Ryan going into retirement-- thank you, Randy Bryce!-- three ambitious, careerist Republicans are running to be House GOP top dog, likely Minority Leader:
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA)
Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA)
Crackpot Freedom Caucus Molestation Enabler Jim Jordan (OH)
All three are extremely right wing and all three are devoted Trump rubber-stamps. According to the 538 Trump Adhesion barometer, Scalise is one of the very few members of Congress who have voted with Trump 100% of the time, McCarthy has voted 98.9% of the time with Trump and Jordan-- who often votes to the right of Trump and everyone else-- has voted with Trump 85.7% of the time.

Trump, who doesn't like people who been shot and doesn't like people who only voted with him 85.7% of the time, gave an unofficial nod to McCarthy Thursday night. Trumpanzee was hosting a fat-cat fundraiser to benefit the Protect the House SuperPAC at the hotel he owns down the street from the White House. There were dozens of right-wing congressmembers at the high-dollar event and they pretty much all interpreted his remarks wishing Ryan farewell and then turning to McCarthy and saying "I look forward to working with you," as an endorsement. Fuck-Up, Jr and his girlfriend, ex-Gavin Newsom wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle, agreed.

Goal ThermometerThe event raised 15 million dollars. Please help offset that by contributing to progressive Democratic candidates by tapping on the thermometer on the right. Saclise must have been very disappointed after endorsing a whole weekend hunting alligators with Fuck-Up, Jr and Guilfoyle a couple of weeks ago. We're still checking out the rumors that a video exists of Guilfoyle skinning alligators.

According to the right-wing blog called the Washington Examiner, "Many people have doubts about McCarthy, worrying that he is too flexible and holds few core beliefs or principles other than that its a good idea to form political relationships. He's no policy wonk. But even his critics recognize that he is the party’s preeminent political animal in the House. He is king in the back-slapping world of grip-and-grin. He has been hyperactive. On the final months running up to the midterm elections, he is racking up frequent flier miles to campaign with beleaguered Republicans, even though few people give the GOP much chance of retaining control of the House. In the week before traveling to Pittsburgh, McCarthy’s schedule took him to Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Ohio, Maine and New York."
[Q]uestions remain about McCarthy's second effort to grab the speaker's gavel.

McCarthy says, "I'm willing to take a risk. I'm willing to fail at things, because I think I learn from them at the same time, and I’ve always believed in constant improvement and education… I think that combination has all worked. I've always said timing was the most important part of politics. It may be on a personal level the right timing for me, but it may not be the opportunity. Am I ok with that? Yeah.”

Supporters say McCarthy was humbled by his failure in 2015 and has worked on what were weaknesses, including messaging and speaking ability. His most damaging gaffe three years ago was a comment to Sean Hannity that the special investigation of the fiasco in Benghazi that left four Americans dead was an attempt to damage Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.

...[People see H]is most visible quality, personality and relationships with members, as a main driver of his support within the conference. Friends and colleagues say McCarthy is uniquely able to recall moments and dates that are important to his 23 congressional colleagues... “He remembers members’ anniversaries better than the members remember their anniversaries. If you’re a member of Congress, your spouse is just as likely to get a ‘Happy Anniversary’ text from Kevin McCarthy as they are from their spouse,” said Gowdy, who, along with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), another close friend McCarthy, dined with him to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.

“His wife wasn’t here, my wife wasn’t here, and Tim Scott doesn’t have a wife,” Gowdy said with a laugh.

But have GOP conference dynamics changed enough over the past three years for McCarthy to win?

“He’s everybody’s friend, and when you’re everybody’s friend, you’re nobody’s friend. You can’t be everybody’s friend. You can’t be. I think he’s going to have some problems,” said one GOP House member, pointing to missed opportunities to get members floor time for local needs. McCarthy's team took issue with the critique, noting each GOP freshmen has had a legislative priority pass on the floor in each of the past two Congresses.

McCarthy will face opposition from the Freedom Caucus. Despite an improved relationship with Rep. Mark Meadows (NC), the group’s chairman, there are still questions and doubts about what kind of deal McCarthy would have to strike a deal with the right-wing group, which is expected to have about 40 members if Republicans retain their majority.

According to another House Republican, McCarthy has had “general discussions” with various factions to broker a deal, but McCarthy himself demurs, saying his talks, including those with Meadows, range across many topics.

“Not from a point where you need this or that," said McCarthy, describing his haggling with Meadows, "We’ve had conversations and we’ve had that prior to the scenario of [Ryan] departing. How do we work more as one? Meadows and I get along well and we work well together. Now can we get everybody to work well together?”

Rep. Jim Jordan, who says he is running for speaker to win the job, not as a ploy to increase the influence of the Freedom Caucus, is especially concerned about about the concentration of power in the Steering Committee, a source close to Jordan said.

Trust by Chip Proser

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Bacchae In America


-by Dorothy Reik

Last night I went to see Euripides’ tragedy The Bacchae.  As is almost always the case you can take Greek tragedy, written around 200 BC, and apply it directly to today.

As Euripides tells it, Dionysus returns to his hometown of Thebes to get revenge for the disrespect shown him by its young king, Pentheus, who denies that Dionysus is the son of the god Zeus. Sound familiar already?  He leads the women of the town into the surrounding hills and lures them into drunkenness, debauchery and madness. Hmmm-- these women seem a bit like the Republicans following their seductive leader.

Pentheus, sensing the danger, orders Dionysus captured and executed but the wily Dionysus talks his way out of trouble and persuades him to go with him into the woods to witness on the madness. Pentheus agrees to go and even allows Dionysus to dress him as a woman!

He is soon discovered by the Bacchae who drive him from his hiding place and dismember him with their bare hands, led by Pentheus’ own mother, Agave, who winds up with his head as a trophy. So if Pentheus represents the state… But on with our story.

Dionysus is nowhere to be seen as Pentheus’ mother shows off her trophy, which in her madness she thinks is the head of a lion, but which, in reality, is the head of her son. His grandfather, Cadmus, goes into the hills and returns with the rest of Pentheus’ bloody body parts which have been scattered over the mountains side much as the parts of our government have been torn apart and bloodied by our own Dionysus and his acolytes. As they realize what has happened there is much wailing and lamenting but it is too late.

Dionysus returns to the scene in triumph, dressed as a garbage man and pulling a trolley with trash cans and garbage bags. He banishes Pentheus’ mother, Agave, and turns Cadmus into a snake. Then he gathers up the garbage that was once the state of Thebes, puts it all in his garbage bags and dumps them into the cans, laughing as he works. Meanwhile in the Greek countryside the worship of the cult of Dionysus spreads far and wide as other city states learn of the fate of Thebes.

The Greek moral is never to disrespect the gods.  What is the moral for us?  Maybe to choose the gods we worship very carefully!

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Dig Coal, Sell Dope, Or Join The Army


WV-03-- the southern third of West Virginia-- had two populist landslides in 2016. First Bernie beat Hillary by over 20 points and, in many counties, Bernie got more votes than Trump did on the same day in the GOP primary. Then, in the general, the 3rd was Trump's biggest district in the state. He beat Hillary by a shocking 72.5% to 23.3%. The PVI of West Virginia is R+19. The PVI of WV-03 is R+23. But this cycle a Democratic state senator, Richard Ojeda, is leading in many polls. Huh? Yeah. He picked the presidential candidate voters there backed both times-- Bernie in the primary and Trump in the general. And he's been very tight with arch-conservative U.S. Senator Joe Manchin who won every single county in the district last time he ran. I have very mixed feelings about this race.

The latest poll of West Virginia from Emerson shows Manchin strongly ahead of Republican Patrick Morrisey, 45-33% with 16% undecided. And it shows Ojeda ahead of Republican Carol Miller 36% to 31%-- but with a monstrous 33% undecided. Other polls show Miller gaining on or leading Ojeda. The DCCC just announced they're going to spend significant money in the district, easily the reddest district they're contesting this cycle. Odd that the DCCC should jump in since this is from the forecaster:

1 in 10? That's daunting. But 538 has it wrong on this one and Ojeda is undaunted anyway. He may not win, but this is going to be a very close race.

TV news bureaus have been covering the race with interest. This week Fox reported that West Virginia 'Trump Democrat' congressional hopeful 'threatened' Republican delegate on Facebook messenger. For Fox fans is that even negative? Probably more confusing. "A Democrat seeking a U.S. House seat in deep-red West Virginia," reported Lukas Mikelionis, "made an apparent physical threat to a state delegate, saying 'when I’m done with you, you will beg me to ease up.' Richard Ojeda, an Army veteran and state senator who’s been branded as a 'JFK with tattoos and a bench press' and a so-called 'Trump Democrat' for voting for the president during the 2016 election, has been accused of physically threatening Rupie Phillips, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates since 2013.

Phillips is a Democrat-turned-Republican who ran for the party’s nomination for U.S. Congress but lost to Republican Carol Miller-- Ojeda’s opponent in the upcoming midterm election in November. He shared the threatening message in a Facebook post on Sunday. Ojeda initially blocked Phillips on Facebook after sending the message but unblocked him after the messages were posted by Phillips.

In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, he said the threat from Ojeda was prompted after Miller attended an annual craft beer tasting and a chili cook off festival in his area where he introduced her to the local crowd.

“What boils down to, [Ojeda] had some family members at the cookout and they’re talking about me taking Miller around to his hometown and introduce her to people. I guess he thought he could scare me and I guess I hurt his feelings,” Phillips said of what could have prompted Ojeda to send him the message.

The Ojeda campaign did not deny the message was sent by the candidate, but pushed back against its meaning.

“This is absurd and obviously not a threat of physical violence,” the campaign’s spokeswoman told Fox News. “Richard was speaking about exposing Del. Phillips for his corruption in the West Virginia legislature.

“Richard has stood against corruption in government from the beginning of his political career and that will never change. It’s truly sad that families in our communities are being ripped apart my opioids and devastated by poverty and Delegate Rupie Phillips has chosen to focus his attention on this. It’s obvious where his priorities are and it is not with the people of West Virginia."

Phillips claims this isn't the first time Ojeda has targeted him. In August, the Democratic candidate suggested he was a bootlicker by sending him a cartoon of a character licking a boot.

“Ever since 2014 when I wasn’t supporting him when he ran against [Democrat Rep.] Nick Rahall for U.S. Congress, he’s been against me,” Phillips said, noting that he’s never engaged with him.

“He has verbally attacked me many times on his social media over the past four years and I just bit my tongue, being a bigger person and going down the road,” he added.

The local lawmaker said he read the message as a threat of physical violence and called Ojeda a “school yard bully” who doesn’t “know what to do when someone stands up to him.”

Ojeda is running in a district that Trump won by 50 points. Despite the deep-red district, Ojeda has been making gains, with the latest poll claiming he’s leading his Republican opponent by five points. An earlier poll, meanwhile, said Miller is leading by eight points.

His campaign carries a populist theme, including his support for the coal industry and hopes of seeing Trump succeed as the president. But despite such comments, he also made numerous anti-Trump remarks.

“He hasn’t done shit,” Ojeda told Politico about Trump, expressing regret at having supported the Republican presidential nominee. “It’s been a friggin’ circus for a solid year,” he continued, claiming that Trump hadn’t changed anything for the people.

“All he’s done is shown that he’s taking care of the daggone people he’s supposed to be getting rid of,” Ojeda added.
As of the June 30 FEC reporting deadline, Miller had raised $743,092 to Ojeda's $514,796, although she's very wealthy-- and wrote her campaign a check or $220,400 out of her personal bank account-- and he's a working class guy. Last week Bloomberg News ran a piece by Albert Hunt, How to Be a Democrat in Trump Country. "Southern West Virginia is the heart of coal country and cultural conservatism, with gun shops, Assemblies of God churches and American flags dotting the landscape," he wrote. "The region's congressional district is dominated by white, non-college-educated voters. President Donald Trump carried it by 50 percentage points in 2016. Yet Richard Ojeda, a grandson of an illegal Mexican immigrant, has an even chance this November to take over the area's Republican-held seat in the House of Representatives. The one-term state senator is a tough-talking, decorated military veteran espousing the economic populism that enabled Democrats to dominate the state's politics during the second half of the 20th century."

UPDATE: Trump Brings West Virginia Worse Poverty

CBS News reported today-- just as Trump and Fox were headed off to Wheeling-- that West Virginia has a growing poverty problem, and experts there who study the issue say Americans in every state should pay attention. Trump will be touting his economic accomplishment even as "West Virginia's poverty rate climbed to 19.1 percent last year from 17.9 percent, making it just one of four states with a poverty rate above 18 percent." Señor Trumpanzee has said he's "very proud" of the state and claimed that he "turned West Virginia around." His administration has focused on reviving jobs in the coal industry, which has added about 2,000 jobs across the U.S. since Mr. Trump's inauguration." 
West Virginia's dismal trends point to an economic issue that's impacting states across the country: Workers at the bottom of the pay scale aren't benefiting from the growing economy. Their issues range from low pay to unstable and scanty work hours, which makes it difficult to earn a living wage. Almost one in four West Virginians is employed in a low-wage job, the WVCBP found.

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