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"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis



Last Build Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2017 20:13:08 +0000

 



Are Sessions And Trump Orchestrating A Cover Up? What Caused Nunes To Cancel Sally Yates' Testimony?

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000

People aren't asking me "if" Trump is going to be impeached any longer. They're asking me "when." Chris Christie's disapproval is at 72% now. Trump's disapproval-- historically high-- isn't even in the 60's yet. The political will to impeach him-- especially among Republicans and among careerist conservative Democrats as well-- won't begin 'til he's at least where Christie is. That's what it takes for that kind of wrenching move.Last night I had dinner with one of the most successful big-time, house-hold name attorneys in America and he told me he's working on collecting evidence against Trump, evidence that will eventually be used in cases against him. Those will come even before impeachment proceedings do. The big news about Nunes canceling the Intelligence Committee that would have included former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, broken by the Washington Post this morning, is leading towards the eventual impeachment case. What are Trump and Sessions hiding that caused the White House to have Nunes-- a sad and pathetic little lap dog-- cancel the testimony? The Post's first paragraph was absolutely devastating: The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the Washington Post has learned, a position that is likely to further anger Democrats who have accused Republicans of trying to damage the inquiry.Sessions demanded Yates not testify before Congress but she went ahead and agreed to come before the House Intelligence Committee this week anyway. Nunes "abrupt canceled" the hearing. Intelligence Committee Committee member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) was in Morning Joe today and said "this is what a cover-up to a crime looks like. We are watching it play out right now." Watch: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mXWVamEaxWQ" width="420">An independent commission is an absolute "must" at this point. When Joe Scarborough asked Bill Kristol, "They're going to have to have a Select Committee, right?," Kristen responded matter of factly, "You'd think they'd have to, but in Trump's Washington [i.e.- the swampiest swamp in the history of swamps] things that we think 'have to happen,' don't have to happen." Trump and Bannon and their regime are counting on that attitude of surrender. As acting attorney general, Yates played a key part in the investigation surrounding Michael T. Flynn, a Trump campaign aide who became national security adviser before revelations that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States in late December led to his ouster.Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled.A White House spokesperson called the Post article “entirely false” and said, “The White House has taken no action to prevent Sally Yates from testifying and the Department of Justice specifically told her that it would not stop her and to suggest otherwise is completely irresponsible.”The Justice Department had no immediate comment.Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said the panel was aware that Yates “sought permission to testify from the White House. Whether the White House’s desire to avoid a public claim of executive privilege to keep her from providing the full truth on what happened contributed to the decision to cancel today’s hearing, we do not know. But we would urge that the open hearing be rescheduled without delay and that Ms. Yates be permitted to testify freely and openly."In January, Yates warned[...]



Does Jeff Merkley Have The Magic Key To Break The Partisan Deadlock Over Healthcare Reform?

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

Blue America first met Jeff Merkley almost a decade ago when he was Speaker of Oregon's state House. There seemed so much promise in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and we endorsed him-- and have never regretted it for a moment. At the time, we introduced him as someone who had been an outstanding and accomplished statewide leader who not only had good ideas, but translated this ideas into legislation. Merkley comes from humble rural Oregon origins and was the first in his family to go to college. He led Habitat for Humanity in Oregin and worked to help families work their way into the middle class by purchasing a home, starting a business, or saving for college. One of the reasons Blue America was so enthusiastic about him-- despite his being the choice of Chuck Schumer and the DSCC-- was that he loudly and unambiguously vowed to take on the special interests, like the big insurance companies and big drug companies who underwrite Schumer's power. And that's the kind of Senator he's been since winning that first election in 2008. He was reelected in 2014 and his seat isn't up again until 2020 but he's working as hard as most senators do when they're up for reelection-- but working on the people's business, not his career.Over the weekend, Daniel Marans, writing for Huff Po about Bernie's push for Medicare for All. Progressives-- like Merkley and Bernie-- have always talked about the need to correct some of the Affordable Care Act flaws. In the final stages of passage, there was a big debate among progressive activists whether to back passage or not, the compromises with corporate greed and that flaws that brought being so transparent. The thought was always that the ACA would be a step towards single payer-- in effect, Medicare for All.On Friday Bernie was on Chris Hayes show and explained to the viewers that "We have got to have the guts to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and move forward toward a ‘Medicare for all,’ single-payer program." “The problem is the insurance companies, Big Pharma-- they’re gonna come back and use the chaos to their advantage,” predicted Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson. “If Democrats go with a half-a-loaf policy, Republicans are going to blame them for the failures of Big Pharma. They have to immediately pivot to expanding Medicare.”Notwithstanding the support of the influential groups for the proposal and-- according to a May 2016 Gallup poll-- even a majority of the American people, Medicare-for-all legislation is a non-starter in the current Congress. Single-payer health insurance still lacks support from many, if not most, Democrats, let alone from the Republican lawmakers who control both chambers.But the proactive strategy speaks to increasing confidence among progressives that if they stick to their ideals and build a grassroots movement around them, they will ultimately move the political spectrum in their direction....In the meantime, a potential benefit of this ambitious approach is what’s known as shifting the “Overton Window,” a political science term for the narrow range of acceptable political views at a given moment in time.By adopting a position that is considered extreme by contemporary standards, politicians and activists can make more attainable policy goals start to seem reasonable by comparison.That phenomenon already seems to be working in progressives’ favor.Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the only one of Sanders’ Senate colleagues to endorse his presidential bid, discussed the possibility of lowering the Medicare eligibility age or empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices in his statement on the Republican bill’s collapse.“There are plenty of ideas already on the table that would make health care more affordable for working families, from a public option, to prescription drug negotiations, to offering older Americans the chance to buy into Medicare,” Merkley said on Friday. “I’m happy to work with anyone, from either side of the aisle, to explore these o[...]



Some Republicans Are Trying To Deny They Were Backing The TrumpCare Catastrophe

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000

Sunday, Texas conservative Ted Poe resigned from the Freedom Caucus because of TrumpCare. He was for it. The Caucus was, by and large, against it. Maybe Poe was afraid of Trump's wrath but that is odd in a Houston area district that wasn't especially pro-Trump. Romney won Poe's district with 63%, around the same that McCain won it with. Trump only managed 52.4%. And had Trumpcare been enacted into law-- and Poe never made any bones about voting for it-- 26,054 of his constituents would have found themselves without health insurance. His district includes Montrose, one of the biggest and most vibrant LGBT communities in America, but the DCCC has never once given Poe a serious challenge to reelection. So he knows he can behave like a dirt-bag with alacrity. So far he has no opponent for 2018.Over the weekend, conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan speculated that Trump has-- finally-- had it... or rather the American public has had it with Trump and his vile kakistocracy. "Trump still shows alarming potential as a would-be tyrant, contemptuous of constitutional proprieties, and prone to trashing every last norm of liberal democracy," he warned. "But he is also beginning to appear simultaneously as a rather weak chief executive, uninterested in competent management or follow-through, bedeviled by divisions within his own party, transfixed by cable news, and swiftly discrediting himself by an endless stream of lies, delusions, and conspiracy theories." And with no credibility left, at least not, according to Sullivan, "among sane people." Sullivan also warned the Republicans that the midterms aren't going to be kind to them in 2018. A president hobbled domestically by his own party’s divisions and the opposition’s new energy may be tempted-- Putin-like-- to change the subject in a way that vaults him back to popularity. A foreign altercation from which he will not back down? A trade war? A smidge likelier, I’d say, is an over-the-top response to an inevitable jihadist terror attack in a major American city. A demagogue loses much of his power when he tries to wrestle complicated legislation through various political factions, in the way our gloriously inefficient Constitution requires. He regains it with rank fear, polarization, and a raw show of force. Heaven knows what the Constitution will look like once he’s finished.The other possibility is that Trump really does at some point realize he’s sinking fast and decides on a hard pivot. He wants to win and be loved, and if he keeps losing and becomes more widely loathed with his current strategy, it’s by no means out of character for him to recalibrate. He could use the possible failure of Trumpcare to feed Paul Ryan to the Breitbartians, and reach out to Democrats on a tweaked Obamacare and infrastructure package. He could dump Bannon the way he dumped Manafort and bullshit his way through all the inconsistencies (the one thing he remains rather good at). He could wrest himself like Kong on Skull Island from the giant lizards and become the tribune of the forgotten men and women he wants to be, and combine nationalism and protectionism with, er, socialism, like his heroine Marine Le Pen. He could finally realize the potential he has thrown away so far, and become an American Perón.The only snag with this strategy, of course, is that he could hard-pivot only to find himself a Kong who’s alienated from the GOP and obstructed by the emboldened Dems, a rogue, bleeding president without a party, marooned on his own island of polarized irrelevance.The Times' Alexander Burns reported over the weekend that the ignominious collapse of TrumpCare amidst disastrous polling numbers and internal Republican Party in-fighting is leaving the bill's supporters "in a political jam back home". He mentioned, as examples, two very vulnerable Republicans. "John Faso of New York negotiated a side deal for his state in exchange for backing it. Mike Coffman was the lone Colorado lawmaker to endorse the bill, while his Republican n[...]



Chris Hedges: Putin’s Useful Idiot-- A Guest Post By Dorothy Reik

Tue, 28 Mar 2017 01:00:00 +0000

-by Dorothy ReikI had heard Hedges speak several times before but this time I was on a mission. I wanted to get him to support Bernie Sanders. I even paid extra to get into the reception after his talk. But no go. He sneered. He called Bernie a sellout, said Bernie would endorse Clinton. “ The Democratic Party is a full partner in the corporate state. Yet Sanders, while critical of Hillary Clinton’s exorbitant speaking fees from firms such as Goldman Sachs, refuses to call out the party and-- as Robert Scheer pointed out in a column in October-- the Clintons for their role as handmaidens of Wall Street. For Sanders, it is a lie of omission, which is still a lie. And it is a lie that makes the Vermont senator complicit in the con game being played on the American electorate by the Democratic Party establishment.” He repeated his mantra that both parties were the same. He rages weekly on truthdig, blaming the "elites" as though, as an Ivy Leaguer he is not one of them. Years of being a war correspondent have left him with, I believe, more than a touch of PTSD but being a war correspondent is addictive as many of their profession admit-- the adrenalin, the hypervigilance-- they are like those they cover. Holding a dying baby, as Hedges claims he did, can sear an image in your brain that will never go away. And thus he holds his audience in his hands and with the practiced cadences of a divinity student, which he was, brings them along in his frenzied journey.He sang Jill Stein’s praises-- remember her? It seems a lifetime ago!"The imperative of revolt dramatically reduces the importance of elections. Elections, managed by the elites, mean nothing if radical movements are not powerful enough to disrupt and dismantle corporate power." So he turns to Jill Stein because "she, unlike Bernie Sanders, knows that this movement will never be realized within the Democratic Party." Marsha Gessen’s rules came too late for Hedges. He thought Clinton and Trump were two sides of the same coin but they were not. He should have believed Trump’s promises but he was too busy listening to himself. Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Hedges now channels Gessen who suggested this as Clinton’s concession speech: “Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.”So thanks to Jill Stein, Putin’s other useful idiot, now we have Trump, and Hedges, like the rest of us, is terrified. Maybe now he knows that elections do, in fact, matter. He cries out: "Reality is under assault. Verbal confusion reigns. Truth and illusion have merged. Mental chaos makes it hard to fathom what is happening. We feel trapped in a hall of mirrors. Exposed lies are answered with other lies. The rational is countered with the irrational. Cognitive dissonance prevails. We endure a disquieting shame and even guilt. Tens of millions of Americans, especially women, undocumented workers, Muslims and African-Americans, suffer the acute anxiety of being pursued by a predator. All this is by design. Demagogues always infect the governed with their own psychosis."Yes they do, Chris. And you have infected many with yours. But no worries. You have a nice home now on RT along with a good salary and inter[...]



Lies, Critical Thinking, Conservatives And... Señor Trumpanzee, So-Called Presidente

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Y2Nf0lALFdo" width="420">Let's take a very quick look at 2 random lies, one inconsequential trump bullshit and one a keystone to the conservative policy agenda. First Trump's bullshit: In Renovation of Golf Club, Donald Trump Also Dressed Up History: When Donald J. Trump bought a fixer-upper golf club on Lowes Island here for $13 million in 2009, he poured millions more into reconfiguring its two courses. He angered conservationists by chopping down more than 400 trees to open up views of the Potomac River. And he shocked no one by renaming the club after himself.But that wasn’t enough. Mr. Trump also upgraded its place in history.Between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club’s two courses, Mr. Trump installed a flagpole on a stone pedestal overlooking the Potomac, to which he affixed a plaque purportedly designating “The River of Blood.”“Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot,” the inscription reads. “The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’”The inscription, beneath his family crest and above Mr. Trump’s full name, concludes: “It is my great honor to have preserved this important section of the Potomac River!”Like many of Mr. Trump’s claims, the inscription was evidently not fact-checked.“No. Uh-uh. No way. Nothing like that ever happened there,” said Richard Gillespie, the executive director of the Mosby Heritage Area Association, a historical preservation and education group devoted to an 1,800-square-mile section of the Northern Virginia Piedmont, including the Lowes Island site.“The only thing that was remotely close to that,” Mr. Gillespie said, was 11 miles up the river at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in 1861, a rout of Union forces in which several hundred were killed. “The River of Blood?” he added. “Nope, not there.”...“How would they know that?” Mr. Trump asked when told that local historians had called his plaque a fiction. “Were they there?”Paul Ryan's lie-- repeated buy every Republicans who could grab a microphone in the run-up to the GOP's humiliation over TrumpCare last week-- about the Affordable Care Act being in a "death spiral" was more serious and, potentially, more consequential. PolitiFact dissected Ryan's focus-group tested lie and labeled it False. "A death spiral," they wrote, "is a health industry term for a cycle with three components-- shrinking enrollment, healthy people leaving the system and rising premiums. The latest data shows enrollment is increasing slightly and younger (typically healthier) people are signing up at the same rate as last year. And while premiums are increasing, that isn’t affecting the cost to most consumers due to built-in subsidies. So none of the three criteria are met, much less all three. We rate Ryan’s claim False."The GOP reacts to Science and Facts the way vampires react to crucifixes and garlicDWT readers may know cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist Dan Levitin from his guest posts here or as the best-selling author of This Is Your Brain On Music, but he has a new book out now, A Field Guide To Lies: Critical Thinking In The Information Age and last week the Daily Beast asked him to help it's readers understand the importance of "the F-word," F as in facts, in light of the growing and dangerous problem our political leadership seems to be having with it. Levitin referred to the onset of the Trump Era as "troubling times... to those of us who care about details and facts... We are told by the highest office in the country that facts don’t matter, that those who think they have facts are corrupt, and that 'alternative facts' is a thing (it isn’t). All of these various euphemisms we’ve been hearing, such as alt.truth and fake news, are just obscuring the reality that we are neck deep in lies[...]



Senate Democrats Will Filibuster Gorsuch...Maybe

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="236" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Vn9FVsvYQFg?start=144&rel=0" width="420">Demos President Heather McGhee on Neil Gorsuch and his corporatist policies (cued partway into the presentation)by Gaius PubliusThere a long litany of reasons why Neil Gorsuch is a terrible choice for the Supreme Court, including and especially his strong "corporatist" leanings. Demos President Heather McGhee speaks about that in the brief video above. Needless to say, continuing the Roberts Court pattern of enabling corporate rule over rule by the people will have dangerous consequences for those so ruled, as well as for the Republic, when that rule is overthrown. Make no mistake — when corporate rule finally go too far, takes one step too many, it will be overthrown. When that occurs, the moment will be neither pretty nor comfortable. Another in that litany of reasons, of course, is to deny to the Republicans the fruits of a stolen seat.Yet a third has to do with his relationship with religion, as shown in the Hobby Lobby case. As the invaluable Dahlia Lithwick points out, "Our current religious-liberty jurisprudence, as laid out by the Supreme Court in its Hobby Lobby opinion, is extremely deferential toward religious believers. What believers assert about their faith must not be questioned or even assessed. Religious dissenters who seek to be exempted from neutral and generally applicable laws are given the benefit of the doubt, even when others are harmed. Sometimes those harms are not even taken into account." She adds, "Gorsuch agrees with all of this and then some. His record reflects a pattern of systematically privileging the rights of religious believers over those of religious minorities and nonbelievers."And a fourth, related to the first, is that, as Lithwick has elsewhere pointed out [corrected: it was Eric Segall] that the Supreme Court, unlike the other two branches of government, has no compelling force to guarantee its legitimacy — no army, in other words; no police force. Its legitimacy rests on agreement only. Consider: You may think Executive Branch decisions are illegitimate, but its officers can nevertheless have you arrested or worse. The Executive Branch, in other words, can force, can compel, your submission. The same with Congress, should it decide someday to advance its prerogatives. Congress can pass laws and, if it wishes, compel the Executive Branch to enforce them. The Supreme Court, in contrast, has no way to compel any citizen to obey its decrees. When a court, any court, which by definition should be impartial, is widely considered illegitimate — captured and corrupted by partisan or minority forces — the community governed by that court enters "you can submit or rebel" territory. This is Segall's warning. In my view we are very close to that time when the Supreme Court, in the eyes of most of its citizens, has shed the last of its legitimacy. The process started in earnest with the partisan theft, by the Court, of the 2000 presidential election. The shredding of its cloak of legitimacy continues to this day.This suggest a larger question, of course — what happens when a government loses the "consent of the governed"? — but that's a subject for another day. Nevertheless, with all that's going on around us, can that consideration, something much to be feared by anyone hoping to live in a just and orderly society, ever be far from our minds? A "Deal" on Gorsuch?But I want here to look at one political aspect of the Gorsuch nomination — the fact that the Democrats, one of the abused parties in this saga, seem to have offered Republicans, or are considering offering to them, a "deal" that would allow Gorsuch to be confirmed. Then, when the deal became known, they appear to have reversed themselves. But have they? First, the deal (my emphasis):Democrats weigh deal to let Gorsuch throughLawmakers are mulling an offer[...]



Bannon Makes His Move Against Ryan-- The Move To Boehnerize The Speaker Is On

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

Very specific definition of "comrade"According to NY Times reporter, Glenn Thrush, the very "idea that Trump worked hard to pass health care is a joke. He put in a semi-strenuous week-- spent little time on prep, drafting, per aides." Thrush isn't alone in that analysis. Amanda Carpenter is a professional right-wing nut. She used to write speeches for Jim DeMint and washed up in Ted Cruz's office when DeMint bailed ion the Senate. Sunday she chastised Señor Trumpanzee by tweeting that "President Obama worked for years to get Obamacare. You gave up on repeal after a couple weeks. Too complicated for you? Weak!," following that up with "Donald Trump has officially become Washington. Blaming Democrats, blaming conservatives, blaming everyone for his failure to deliver" and then moved on to "Dear R's in Congress: Ignore Trump in negotiations and send bills to his desk. He'll take those as wins bc he has no other choice." In the process, she laughed at the prospect of Trumpist boob Chris Collins replacing Paul Ryan as Speaker with "his caucus of none to enact the next legislative agenda item." Why is anyone talking about one Congress' silliest jokes, Chris Collins, as Speaker?You are probably aware that on Saturday morning Señor Trumpanzee tweeted his 27 million followers that they had to watch "Judge" Jeanine's Fox at 9pm that night. And when they tuned in, the first thing the "judge" did was launch a vitriolic attack on Speaker Ryan and demand his resignation. The NY Times' Maggie Haberman reported Sunday that Reince Priebus insisted that the Trumpanzee tweet and the "judge" Jeanine diatribe were just coincidental. I bet their are Trump fans stupid enough to buy that, perhaps many of them. No normal people though.Bannon, of course, is behind all this. Remember, it was Bannon-- a longtime Ryan hater-- who was skipping around DC whispering it any Republican who would listen that TrumpCare was such a disastrous bill because Ryan allowed the insurance industry-- which has given him $2,031,705 in bribes-- to write it. Bannon's power-base, Breitbart, started, once again, revving up the drumbeat for Ryan's ouster over the weekend. "Republican officials in Congress and the White House," asserted Matthew Boyle, "are now openly discussing finding a GOP replacement to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House, after Ryan failed to pass the American Health Care Act out of the House and misled the public and President Donald Trump when he promised repeatedly the bill would pass... Many allies of the president and several White House officials over the weeks since have confirmed to Breitbart News that the president is concerned that Ryan may not have his-- or his agenda’s-- best interests at heart. Ryan’s failure to deliver the votes on healthcare cement Trump’s skepticism of Ryan, they say." This is straight out of the Mercer/Bannon playbook. “This is another example of the staff not serving the president well and the weakness of the Paul Ryan speakership,” a source close to President Trump told Breitbart News. “This calls into question once again the speaker’s commitment to supporting Donald Trump and his agenda.”“Speaker Ryan proved today that he does not have the best interests of the President at heart,” said another source close to the president. “He sold out the president and showed his word can be taken with a grain of salt. There is only one course of action that should be taken to move past this catastrophe and that is the swift removal of Paul Ryan from the speakership.”White House sources tell Breitbart News that the president is very frustrated with Ryan and feels that he has saved him multiple times already. After the election in November, it was widely reported that there were enough Republican votes to remove Ryan as Speaker-- and the only reason conservatives kept him is that Trump won the election and embraced Ryan. But now Trump[...]



Real Question On Betting Form-- Odds Offered: What Will Trump Be Impeached For?

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000

The circus has come to townDo you find it at all hard to figure out which outrageous Trump endeavor is supposed to get everyone's focus off some other, earlier Trump hour show? You know what I mean? Was the TrumpCare debacle supposed to get out minds off Putin-Gate? Or is Putin-Gate supposed to get us to stop paying attention to the establishment of a kakistocracy? Or is the kakistocracy just a distraction from the kleptocracy? Can this really go on for 4 years? It's just been like 3 months and he's got more scandal fodder going than everything that's happened since Nixon combined! That would include Ford pardoning Nixon in a possible deal (+ coverup), Bert Lance's resignation as OMB Director, Bush pardoning all the Iran-Contra convicted and unconnected criminals, obviously Iran-Contra itself, Obama's NSA electronically spying on American citizens and, of course, Monica Lewinsky. Señor Trumpanzee is way beyond all that already.But there is some crap going down that's getting swallowed up in all the fuss over all the other stuff that's coming at us at such high velocity. Who remembers Trump's solemn campaign promise to support bipartisan "Buy America" efforts? That sure got flushed down the memory hole fast as some Putin-owned company supplies the steel for the Keystone KX Pipeline Trump has authorized. As David Sirota reported at the International Business Times last week, despite Trump's campaign promises, as soon as he was elected, Ryan and McCarthy-- under pressure from lobbyists for foreign companies-- had killed legislation that would have directed government infrastructure contracts to American manufacturing companies. It was a bold act of defiance against the rhetoric of the newly elected president, and now a top Democrat is attempting to force Trump to put his 'Buy America' promises into action-- against his own party in Congress." That would be Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who reintroduced "legislation requiring billions of dollars of the government’s spending on water infrastructure to go only to projects that use American steel. Baldwin’s move is particularly notable because she hails from a state that proved critical to Trump’s win. It is also the home state of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican whose office helped kill the initiative in December." Amid a presidential campaign focused on trade issues, Baldwin introduced a first version of her Buy America bill last July. It appeared headed for approval when the Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly passed an infrastructure bill that included the language.House Republicans, though, did not include the language in their version of the bill. A senior House Republican on the committee that crafted that bill argued that preferences for domestic firms would ultimately harm Americans.“Quotas in any form and in any sort ultimately hurt the consumer,” South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford told the Wall Street Journal. “They’re a form of protectionism, plain and simple.”During the House-Senate negotiations over the final bill, Ryan was lobbied by representatives of foreign steelmakers to block Baldwin’s provision from being included in the final legislation. At the time, the Wall Street Journal noted that the lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs was representing two major foreign steel producers-- Russia’s NLMK Inc. and California Steel Industries, which is owned by Brazilian and Japanese conglomerates. According to federal disclosures, in 2016 Squire Patton Boggs was paid $520,000 to lobby for the two foreign companies.Federal records show that in 2016, two of Squire Patton Boggs' registered lobbyists for the two foreign-owned companies have ties to Ryan and Republican lawmakers: Natasha Hammond had been Ryan’s assistant for policy and Jack Kingston is a former longtime Republican congressman.Squire Patton Boggs also is th[...]



Did Señor Trumpanzee Inadvertently Help Merkel Win Today's Saarland Election?

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 01:00:00 +0000

Germany will go to the polls September 24 to elect a new parliament (Bundestag). Right now Merkel's right-of-center Christian Democratic Union has a coalition government with the slightly left-of-center Social Democrats (emphasis on "slightly"). Her party holds 311 seats (41.5%) and the Social Dems hold 193 seats (25.7%) of the 598 members. The only other parties with Bundestag seats are The Left (64 seats) and the Greens (63 seats). The AfD, the neo-Nazi Putin-Backed Alternative for Germany Party of Frauke Petry is trying to break into Parliament in the upcoming elections.Today there were state elections in Saarland, the smallest of Germany's states, tucked between Rhineland-Palatinate and France, with a population of just over a million people. The election was the first in a series leading up to the big federal elections in September, with Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia coming in May. The Social Democrats, who have been gaining popularity over the last few months with a new leader, Martin Schultz, were looking to knock Merkel off her stride. They didn't. Early returns showed voters defied polling showing a close call between Merkel's CDU and Schultz's SPD. And Putin's neo-Nazi allies were a mere asterisk. • CDU- 40.7%, up from 35.2%-- 24 seats• SPD- 29.6%, down from 30.6%-- 17 seats• The Left- 12.9%, down from 16.1%-- 7 seats• AfD (neo-Nazis)- 6.2%-- 3 seats• Greens- 4.5%• FDP (right-wing CDU allies)- 3.0%The SPD had been hoping to form a state coalition with themselves as the senior parter with The Left and the Greens (as they've done in Berlin's local legislature), but instead, they are likely to be back as the junior partner with the CDU. The neo-Nazis did go over the 5% mark, making them eligible to have members in the state Parliament. Currently they have members in 10 of German's 16 state parliaments.Why did Merkel's CDU do so much better than polling showed it would? There was some speculation that Saarland voters rallied around her when news broke over the weekend that the universally detested Trump had handed her an invoice for $374 billion (including Señor Trumpanzee's demand for $62 billion in interest) when she visited the White House last week, back payments, he contends, are owed for German participation in NATO. The bill-- handed over during private talks in Washington-- was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.“The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.Trump has criticised a number of NATO countries-- Germany among them-- for insufficient military spending, leaving America to pick up more than its fair share of the tab. He wants them to honour a commitment made in 2014 to invest 2% of their GDP in defence-- a target met at present only by the US, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland.Trump appeared to go one step further during his meeting with Merkel. Taking 2002 as a starting point, his officials calculated the extent to which German defence spending had fallen short of the 2% target each year, added the amount together-- and then put interest on top....A source close to Merkel was dismissive. “The president has a very unorthodox view on Nato defence spending,” the source said. “The alliance is not a club with a membership fee. The commitments relate to countries’ investment in their defence budgets.”Merkel is said to have “ignored the provocation,” but did commit to raise German defence spending gradually, although she asked for spending on international development to be taken into consideration.Ignoring the evil clown Trump seems to have paid off for her-- at least in Saarland. But Trump is so hated around the world-- outside of Russia and other fascist-leaning countries-- that campaigning [...]



If We Had A Real President...

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 21:00:00 +0000

If we had a real president in the White House, instead of a grifter pretending to be a clown, he would have announced that his party has tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and that the next step is to have the Republicans and the Democrats sit down together and figure out-- for the good of the country-- a nonpartisan/non-ideological approach (based on Trump's own campaign promises) for fixing the problems in the ACA. Instead, Trump lamely tried blaming the Democrats for his own party being unable get its huge congressional majority to even take up the bill they had spent 7 years "working" on. So rather than opting for something vaguely presidential, he sent out this mean-spirited and destructive tweet Saturday morning:Ted Lieu (D-CA), one of the most effective and consistent voices of the congressional resistance, responded angrily at the implied threat-- and in kind:People are worried-- rightfully so-- that Trump and Ryan will now go on an orgy of recriminations against people who get medical treatment based on the Affordable Care Act. They are committed to causing it to crash and burn and they can do tremendous damage-- as they already have. In fact, on Wednesday, even before their own TrumpCare bill went down in flames, Thom Hartmann, writing for Alternet, noted that the GOP has been sabotaging the Affordable Care Act even before Trump was sworn in. When the ACA was rolled out, telling insurance companies that they had to insure anybody who signed up, regardless of previous conditions or sickness, everybody realized that the insurance companies would probably lose money in the first decade or so, until previously-uninsured-but-sick people got into the system, got better, and things evened out.To get the insurance companies to go along with this danger of losing money, the ACA promised to make them whole for any losses in any of the first decade’s years.  At the end of each fiscal year, the insurance companies merely had to document their losses, and the government would reimburse them out of ACA funds provided for by the law.The possibility of their losing money was referred to as the “risk corridor,” and the ACA explicitly filled those risk corridors with a guarantee of making the insurance companies, at the very least, whole.And then something happened. As the NY Times noted on December 9, 2015, “A little-noticed health care provision slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of President Obama’s signature health law.”Rubio and a number of other Republicans had succeeded in gutting the risk corridors. The result was that, just in 2015, end-of-fiscal-year risk corridor payments to insurance companies that were supposed to total around $2.9 billion were only reimbursed, according to Rubio himself quoted in the Times, to the tune of around $400 million. Rubio bragged that he’d “saved taxpayers $2.5 billion.”And, indeed, he had. But the insurance companies were thrown into a crisis. And, with Republicans in Congress absolutely refusing to re-fund the risk corridors, that crisis would get worse as time went on, at least over a period of a few years.So the insurance companies did the only things they could. In (mostly red) states with low incomes and thus poorer health, they simply pulled out of the marketplace altogether. This has left some states with only one single insurer left.  In others, they jacked up their prices to make up their losses.As Robert Pear in the Times noted, Rubio’s “plan limiting how much the government can spend to protect insurance companies against financial losses has shown the effectiveness of quiet legislative sabotage.”This is a big problem going forward-[...]



Most Southerners Didn't Own Slaves, So Why...?

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000

When Frank Hyman-- whose essay on racism in the News&Observer I want to discuss below, was in first grade, he got in trouble for calling a classmate the N-word. The classmate was Hispanic. It reminded me of a run-in with racism I once had in San Francisco when I was much younger. I met a farm boy who had run away from home in the Sacramento Delta area and hitch-hiked down to San Francisco. On our way back to my apartment in my old Ford Fairlane we drove through the Fillmore district and we stopped at a light at a corner where there were 4 or 5 black guys hanging put. My young farmer friend started cursing "the fucking Jews." He wasn't joking. I later learned he was raised by a Nazi grandfather who taught him that blacks are... "fucking Jews." A strange world we live in. (Aside: he was a lovely boy and he eventually had his Nazi tattoos removed to facilitate a closer relationship between us.)Anyway, Mr. Hyman grew out of the racism he learned at home in a southern military family and came to understand the ugliness of the Confederate flag and what was behind that ugliness. He wrote that he "learned that for black folks the flutter of that flag felt like a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And for the most prideful flag waivers, clearly that response was the point. I mean, come on. It’s a battle flag. What the flag symbolizes for blacks is enough reason to take it down. But there’s another reason that white southerners shouldn’t fly it. Or sport it on our state-issued license plates as some do here in North Carolina." The Confederacy-- and the slavery that spawned it-- was also one big con job on the Southern, white, working class. A con job funded by some of the ante-bellum one-per-centers, that continues today in a similar form. 
You don’t have to be an economist to see that forcing blacks-- a third of the South’s laborers-- to work without pay drove down wages for everyone else. And not just in agriculture. A quarter of enslaved blacks worked in the construction, manufacturing and lumbering trades; cutting wages even for skilled white workers.Thanks to the profitability of this no-wage/low-wage combination, a majority of American one-per-centers were southerners. Slavery made southern states the richest in the country. The South was richer than any other country except England. But that vast wealth was invisible outside the plantation ballrooms. With low wages and few schools, southern whites suffered a much lower land ownership rate and a far lower literacy rate than northern whites....[M]ost Southerners didn’t own slaves. But they were persuaded to risk their lives and limbs for the right of a few to get rich as Croesus from slavery. For their sacrifices and their votes, they earned two things before and after the Civil War. First, a very skinny slice of the immense Southern pie. And second, the thing that made those slim rations palatable then and now: the shallow satisfaction of knowing that blacks had no slice at all.How did the plantation owners mislead so many Southern whites?They managed this con job partly with a propaganda technique that will be familiar to modern Americans, but hasn’t received the coverage it deserves in our sesquicentennial celebrations. Starting in the 1840s wealthy Southerners supported more than 30 regional pro-slavery magazines, many pamphlets, newspapers and novels that falsely touted slave ownership as having benefits that would-- in today’s lingo-- trickle down to benefit non-slave owning whites and even blacks. The flip side of the coin of this old-is-new trickle-down propaganda is the mistaken notion that any gain by blacks in wages, schools or health care comes at the expense of the white working class.Today’s version of this con job no longer supports slavery, but still works in the Sou[...]



Holding Republicans Who Wanted To Take Away Their Constituents' Health Insurance Accountable

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

Let's go beyond the orgy of recriminations and finger-pointing over the massive and devastating Ryan-Trump-Pence-Price health care loss. This weekend, Wall Street Journal readers are being told to see it as "a major blow to the Trump Presidency, the GOP majority in Congress, and especially to the cause of reforming and limiting government." The damage is all the more acute because it was self-inflicted. President Trump was right to say on Friday that Democrats provided no help, but Democrats were never going to vote to repeal President Obama ’s most important legislation. And that’s no excuse. Republicans have campaigned for more than seven years on repealing and replacing ObamaCare, and they finally have a President ready to sign it. In the clutch they choked.The Journal accused the Freedom Caucus of sabotage: "When one of their demands was met, they dug in and made another until they exceeded what the rest of the GOP conference could concede. You can’t have a good-faith negotiation when one party doesn’t know how to say yes-- or won’t." They suggest that Señor Trumpanzee may be able to recover from this debacle, but as an opening act to a new Presidency the collapse of his first legislative campaign is ominous. In business Señor Trumpanzee "liked to 'get even.' He’s got some scores to settle with the Freedom Caucus." That was an unsigned editorial.The writer wasn't interested in facing the fact that the bill was untenable and indefensible-- and politically suicidal. The Washington Post documented calls coming into Congress over the last day or two before Ryan pulled the bill and finally threw it in the trash. Calls to House members in support of Trumpcare: 1,130. Calls to House members in opposition to Trumpcare: 59,337. And not just to Democratic members. This bill was unpopular among Republican voters, especially among Republican voters in swing districts. In a poll released Thursday by Garin-Hart-Yang for Priorities USA and Patriot Majority USA, it became obvious Ryan shouldn't force Republicans-- in the words of Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton-- to walk the plank by voting for this hated concoction. Forget the frightening enough national 17% approval rating, the poll looked at 20 battleground congressional districts currently held by Republicans-- including 11 carried by Hillary Clinton in November, and nine carried by Donald Trump. These are the Clinton districts polled: • AZ-02- Martha McSally had announced she was voting yes• CA-25- Steve Knight was flip-flopping all over the place• CA-45- Mimi Walters had announced she was voting yes• CA-49- Darrell Issa flip flopped half a dozen times between yes and no• CO-06- Mike Coffman had announced he was a yes vote• IL-06- Peter Roskam was always a big supporter of TrumpCare• MN-03- Erik Paulsen said he was likely to vote yes• NY-24- John Katko wisely read the tea-leaves and came out against the bill at the last minute• PA-07- Pat Meehan was another likely yes vote but said he was undecided to the end.• VA-10- Barbara Comstock got scared at the last minute and said she was opposed.These are the districts polled that went for Trump in November but where buyers' remorse appears to be strong now and which the Democrats may target in 2018: • FL-18- Brain Mast was a strong TrumpCare supporter• IA-01- Rod Blum wanted an even more draconian bill• IA-03- David Young announced he would vote no and Ryan's superPAC cut off his campaign funds• ME-02- Bruce Poliquin was consistent-- as a tap-dancer who never told anyone how he would vote• MN-02- Jason Lewis voted for Trumpcare in the House Budget Committee• NY-01- Lee Zeldin never wavered in his TrumpCare support• NY-19- John Faso was a little flip-floppy but he voted for the bill in[...]



So Will It Be Trumpy-the-Clown, Christie And Schumer Running The Show Together In DC?

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000

This morning Trumpanzee tweeted to his 27 million followers to watch so-called "Judge" Jeanine on Fox tonight at 9pm. At exactly 9pm, she came on and what did she say? "Paul Ryan needs to step down. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill... The one that he had seven years to work on... The one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarrassment of not having enough votes to pass... I want to be clear. This is not on President Trump. No one expected a business man to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process." So... it's on!Let's see... Trump is mad at Kushner-in-law for going away to ski instead of holding his hand in the White House while TrumpCare sank ignominiously. And Bannon seems to have persuaded Señor Trumpanzee to settle on making Priebus-- anyone heard from him lately?-- the scapegoat for the catastrophe... as close to Ryan as he dared get. Do those two factors that lead to the tarnished and seemingly discarded Chris Christie becoming the new chief-of-staff? Gee... and right when Flynn flips and becomes an FBI witness for the prosecution? Or is that still just the hottest rumor in town? Let's start with this afternoon's report from behind the lines in the Republican civil war from Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman at the NY Times. They pose some questions I'll paraphrase-- Like every other Republican leader who has tried to rule a fissured and fractious party, does the crazy and disoriented Señor Trumpanzee go for retrenchment or for realignment? Does he cede power to the anti-establishment wing of his party (the Freedom Caucus)? Or does he seek other pathways to successful governing by throwing away the partisan playbook and courting a coalition with the Democrats he has improbably blamed for his party’s shortcomings? After all, said Tom Cole (R-OK), a Trump and Ryan loyalist, "The president is a deal maker, and Ronald Reagan cut some of his most important deals with Democrats." Trump is not there yet. So far he is operating from the standard-issue Republican playbook. While he is angry and thirsty for revenge, he seems determined to swallow the loss in hopes of marshaling enough Republican support to pass spending bills, an as-yet unformed tax overhaul and a $1 trillion infrastructure package.On Friday evening, a somewhat shellshocked president retreated to the White House residence to grieve and assign blame. He asked his advisers repeatedly: Whose fault was this?Increasingly, that blame has fallen on Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, who coordinated the initial legislative strategy on the health care repeal with Speaker Paul D. Ryan, his close friend and a fellow Wisconsin native, according to three people briefed on the president’s recent discussions.Mr. Trump, an image-obsessed developer with a lifelong indifference toward the mechanics of governance, made a game effort of negotiating with members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, even if it seemed to some members of that group, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, that he did not have the greatest grasp of health care policy or legislative procedure....Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, according to people familiar with White House discussions, described what happened as a flat-out failure that could inflict serious damage on this presidency-- even if Mr. Bannon believes Congress, not Mr. Trump, deserves much of the blame.Mr. Bannon and the president’s more soft-spoken legislative affairs director, Marc Short, pushed Mr. Trump hard to insist on a public vote, as a way to identify, shame and pressure “no” voters who were killing their last, best chance to unravel the health care law.One Hill Rep[...]



Will Duncan Hunter Be Defeated In 2018 If He's Forced To Campaign From A Prison Cell?

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 01:00:00 +0000

Duncan Hunter has been repeatedly implicated in the scandal that sent his close associate Randy "Duke" Cunningham to federal prison for several years. We started covering his role in 2005. A powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, many of whose members were on a years-long gravy train of bribery from defense contractors-- although only Cunningham was charged in the end-- Hunter attempted to evade the noose tightening around his fat neck by-- of all things-- running for president. On March 20, 2007 he announced he would not seek reelection to the House and-- too late for anyone else to mount a credible campaign just over 32 months away-- his alcoholic son, also named Duncan Hunter won the seat without campaigning from voters who overwhelmingly thought they were voting for his father who had been their congressman since 1981.CA-50 is a massive red hellhole, the inland-- mostly desert-- parts of San Diego County. It heads east past El Cajon, from Santee to Lakeside, Ramona, Escondido, up to Temecula and then out into the wilderness. The PVI is R+14 and Obama lost the district badly to McCain (40%) and Romney (38%). Hillary was crushed by Trump 54.6% to 39.6% in this district time has forgotten. This week the scandal surrounding Duncan-the-Younger, which we've been covering all year, finally broke out into the national mainstream. Eric Lichtblau's NY Times headline this week: Duncan Hunter Under Criminal Investigation for Ethics Violations.Hunter is a hapless backbencher who's best known in Congress as someone who likes to vape-- and get drunk. When the Office of Congressional Ethics started getting serious about his criminal activities he tried to have the Office abolished-- and failed. And now the Justice Department has officially opened a criminal investigation into Hunter, who routinely sells legislation to companies willing to write his campaign checks, for spending tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on personal expenses. He already paid back over $60,000 in stolen funds for a wide range of purchases, from oral surgery, a garage door, video games, resort stays and a jewelry he bought in Italy. The defense and transportation companies who have financed his slimy career and whose business is affected by committees upon which he serves, certainly don't care that he uses their contributions to fly his pet rabbit around the country, pay his bills in a nail salon, buy surf boards and groceries and keep his family car topped off with gas. But using campaign funds for personal benefit is prohibited by federal law, since it gives contributors lots of influence over corrupt members like Hunter, who also pays his unqualified wife $3,000 a month from the funds to "run" his home campaign office.Predictably, Hunter was an early and ardent Trump supporter and there were rumors swirling in DC that Trump might give him one of several top national security posts, an idea that was killed when Trump was told that Hunter is an alcoholic who has trouble controlling himself. Trump loved the idea that Hunter told the local media that if Trump appointed him to something, he wanted to restore "a warrior culture, a warrior mentality" to the government. The House Ethics Committee, which has been examining Mr. Hunter’s possible misuse of campaign funds, said in a statement on Thursday that it would put its review on hold at the request of the Justice Department.Typically, the Justice Department asks the ethics committee to hold off on a review because it has opened a criminal investigation of its own. A person with knowledge of the case said prosecutors have notified Mr. Hunter of their criminal investigation....A confidential referral to the ethics committee by the Off[...]



What's Up With The Democratic Party? They Rolling Towards Big Wins?

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/moNHfeBJ81I" width="420">Don't expect the video above to be played at the "left-leaning" (NOT) Democratic Party conference today. "Voters," wrote Will Bunch (more below), "understood that a vote for Bernie was no guarantee they'd actually get single-payer health care or free public tuition the day after inauguration, but that really wasn't the point. The point was that someone understood their problems with seeing a doctor, or getting their 21-year-old son out of the basement. Somebody listened...and understood."If you're unaware of DWT disdain contempt for the DCCC and the DSCC you must be new to the blog. Welcome! With a caveat: if you're a yellow dog Democrat-- much less a Blue Dog or a New Dem-- you may not like what you find here. We've been enthusiastic about helping heal the wounds left over between Hillary and Bernie factions from last year's campaign. We have been urging wary Bernie activists to not act vindictively towards Hillary supporters who have adopted Bernie's platform. In fact, Blue America has been endorsing congressional candidates who backed Hillary in 2016 and are campaigning-- sincerely campaigning-- on Bernie's issues now. We've found examples of candidates who endorsed Hillary in 2016 being much better qualified to run than candidates who backed Bernie. Of course, there are plenty of candidates who endorsed Bernie who are much better than candidates who were the Hillary backers. Examples: in TX-21, Berniecrat Tom Wakely is a million times better than the creeps from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who supported Hillary. Ditto down in CA-49, where Doug Applegate is far and away the better progressive candidate than Hillary bundler and establishment puppet Mike Levin. Here in CA-34, Jimmy Gomez backed Hillary and not only campaigned on Bernie issues, but wrote and passed cutting edge type legislation in the state Assembly that was enacted it into law-- probably why he's been endorsed by so many Bernie delegates over several well-meaning-but unaccomplished Bernie volunteers in the race. In IL-13 and OK-05 we're behind Berniecrats David Gill and Tom Guild and we feel just as strongly about Kim Weaver, who backed Hillary and who is running against Steve King in IA-04 on an aggressively populist and progressive platform. As Brianna Wu said when she jumped into a primary race against conservaDem Stephen Lynch in Boston, "[T]he contentious primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton revealed a deep divide that must be reconciled. There is a disconnect between those marginalized and our party leaders who vote too often as moderate Republicans. I personally supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, but today I see the vision of Bernie Sanders for America is one we must bring to pass. I believe today’s Democratic party is ill-equipped to fight the Trump administration’s assault on women, on people of color, on the poor, and on the LGBT community. We do have true progressives, but too often they don’t have the support of the party establishment."I was surprised this past week at the vitriol on line from the Clinton die-hards towards Bernie. (Or maybe what I'm seeing online are the left-over Putin-bots from Albania and Macedonia.) But when Bernie was in the heart of Hillary country a few days ago (Maddow's MSNBC show) and explained the inability of progressives to effectively take on and defeat reactionaries like Mitch McConnell-- although he could have easily been referring to Devin Nunes-- by saying that "The Democratic Party is feeble and unable to fight back," clueless Hillary supporters exploded into a frenzied rage [...]



Will The Republicans Who Voted For TrumpCare Before Ryan Raised The White Flag, Be Held Accountable? Not If It's Up To The DCCC

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000

Hey, who does the candidate recruiting around here?As everyone knows by now, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy pulled their TrumpCare proposal off the floor of the House for the second-- and final-- time yesterday. Good riddance to a bill that basically no one liked except Ryan himself and some fellow Ayn Rand devotees. This incredibly unpopular bill-- with it's mighty 17% approval rating-- and which Trump chief consiglieri Steve Bannon says was written by the insurance industry, an industry that has given Paul Ryan $2,031,705 in bribes-- will not force Republicans to go on the record voting for a bill that most voters said would incline them to oppose reelection for their congressmember if he or she supported it. Republicans are relieved-- at least most of them are. Some, like Martha McSally (R-AZ), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Kevin Calvert (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Mimi Walters (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Steve King (R-IA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), John Faso (R-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), Jim Renacci (R-OH), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Sean Duffy (R-WI) and David McKinley (R-WV), had already been on record as supporting the bill.But even easier for Democrats to target are Republicans who did vote for it already. True, it didn't get voted on on the floor, but it did get voted on in the House Budget Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These were the Republicans who voted for TrumpCare in the Budget Committee: • Diane Black (TN)• Todd Rotika (IN)• Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)• Tom Cole (OK)• Tom McClintock (CA)• Rob Woodall (GA)• Steve Womack (AR)• Glenn Grothman (WI)• Bruce Westerman (AR)• Jim Renacci (OH)• Bill Johnson (OH)• Jason Smith (MO)• Jason Lewis (MN)• Jack Bergman (MI)• John Faso (NY)• Lloyd Smucker (PA)• Matt Gaetz (FL)• Jodey Arrington (TX)• Drew Ferguson (GA)Mark Sanford (SC), Dave Brat (VA) and Gary Palmer (AL) joined every Democrat on the committee in voting no. It passed 19-17. In the Energy and Commerce Committee the whole Republican membership voted in complete lockstep in favor of TrumpCare in all it's miserable glory. I was happy to see that someone at the DCCC figured out that this is indeed a perfect way to hit the Republicans-- or at least the tiny handful who they are targeting. As you can see below, Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who represents a district Hillary won and who is considered vulnerable if a strong candidate like Ed Potosnak runs, voted for TrumpCare in committee. He later flip-flopped under intense pressure from his constituents and promised to vote no on the floor. But there was no floor vote-- just the record of Lance's vote in committee. Potosnak, in fact, told supporters who have been urging him to run against Lance that he had watched the March 9th MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes when Lance explained his support for TrumpCare and defended the lack of committee hearings and expert testimony by stating "we had a 27-hour marathon session, and I think all of the issues were vetted." Ed's response was straight-forward: "Boy was Lance wrong when he said 'all of the issues were vetted.' If ever there was a time when hindsight was 20/20, for Lance it should be this moment. The problem is he changes his positions on issues with the shifting of the political winds, voting against the interests of New Jerseyans, and siding instead with party extremists... While many of us breathed a sigh of relief knowing our parents and grandparen[...]



The Blame Game

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/V6mQYfrbuDQ" width="420">As Trumpcare started tanking on national TV Friday morning, Pence allies were desperately trying to float their bullshit boat that the vice president advised Trump to keep his distance from the bill and just label it a Ryan proposal. Pence, in fact, worked closely with Ryan and Price-- Price, who he pushed on Trump to name HHS Secretary-- in crafting the proposal to meet their ideological agenda, not Trump's amorphous ego-driven political agenda. Were you surprised when Ryan-- with Trump's acquiescence-- pulled the monstrosity yesterday-- for a second time in two days-- unable to get enough GOP support to even try getting it passed?On his Facebook page Thursday, Dan Rather wrote, "Loser. That's a word that Donald Trump fears being called more than any other. It is a word that he has wielded with relish against his enemies. But if the health care bill goes down in defeat, and at this point that is still a big if, Mr. Trump will be seen as a loser, and so will his new cheerleader Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. A loser president. It's a moniker that every president dreads, but especially President Trump. It strikes at the very essence of his being. It is why he rails away at conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Once you are seen as a loser in Washington your enemies are emboldened and your allies become skittish. Power can evaporate faster than dew in Dalhart... We must remember that Mr. Trump is not a Republican. It is not clear to me that he believes in any governing philosophy other than his own political expediency. He was basically an independent, maverick candidate. But the GOP leadership got behind him for strategic reasons. And now they will have to own that decision. The party base can easily flee with an excuse that Mr. Trump was never one of them. The struggles with the Republicans in Congress to formulate a coherent governing strategy shows how hollow their rhetoric was during the Obama years. They became the Party of No and not the party of ideas. Many of the best conservative thinkers have bemoaned that trend. Their concerns are now bearing bitter fruit." Trump will do whatever it takes to avoid the blame for the failure of the TrumpCare bill. He must have freaked out when Ann Coulter was on Tucker Carlson's show Wednesday iwhining that Trump is following "Paul Ryan's priorities... I will not," she purred, "hold the Emperor God Trump responsible for this Obamacare-lite bill, but for Pete's sake..."And on Twitter yesterday right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro laughed about how convenient it was for Trump to flip "from all-powerful master negotiator to well-intentioned simpleton duped by Snidely Ryan at the drop of a hat." Ouch. But this is all playing right into the nefarious hands of the merciless Mercers. Their man in the White House, Steve Bannon, may or may not care one way or the other about health care, but he does have a dog in this fight: he wants Ryan out of the Speaker's chair. By yesterday he and his allies were hissing that Ryan let the insurance industry write the legislation and that was the fatal flaw. And that brings us to Gabe Sherman's piece yesterday for New York which postulates that Bannon could come out the big winner of this GOP civil war battle. "The failure," he wrote before it had failed, "to repeal and replace Obamacare would be a stinging defeat for Trump. But it would be an even bigger defeat for Paul Ryan, who has all but staked his Speakership on passing this bill. And in the hall of mirrors that is Washington, the big winner to emerge out of the he[...]



Yes, There Was Collusion, But How Far Up The Chain Did It Go? To Trump?

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ftxB-WV58_o" width="420">Adam Schiff is very focused on Putin-Gate and when he was on Meet the Press the other day, he told Chuck Todd that "There is more than circumstantial evidence now... and is very much worthy of investigation." The next day CNN reported that the FBI has information that indicates associates-- is that Roger Stone? Steve Bannon? Flynn? Carter Page? Gorka? Manafort? Tillerson? Ross? -- of Trump "communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign." Remember, when Comey testified Monday he said the FBI has been investigating coordination between the Trumpists and Putin since July and that the Bureau had "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, and Trump's spokesperson, Sean Spicer, both denied everything. CNN's source told them that "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready." One of the obstacles the sources say the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump's associates and Russians have ceased in recent months given the public focus on Russia's alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Some Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, making monitoring more difficult, the officials said.Last July, Russian intelligence agencies began orchestrating the release of hacked emails stolen in a breach of the Democratic National Committee and associated organizations, as well as email accounts belonging to Clinton campaign officials, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.The Russian operation was also in part focused on the publication of so-called "fake news" stories aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign. But FBI investigators say they are less focused on the coordination and publication of those "fake news" stories, in part because those publications are generally protected free speech.The release of the stolen emails, meanwhile, transformed an ordinary cyber-intrusion investigation into a much bigger case handled by the FBI's counterintelligence division.CNN followed up this morning with another report about more evidence of collusion between Trump and Putin, again, coming from Schiff sources. Schiff said it's grand jury level evidence not trial jury evidence (which means "beyond a reasonable doubt." But he said, "we're at the beginning of an investigation, and given the gravity of the subject matter, I think that the evidence certainly warrants us doing a thorough investigation."Manafort bleeds borsht-- will he roll over on Trump though?[...]



Want To Know Why Hawaii Has Such A Weak And Ineffective GOP?

Sat, 25 Mar 2017 01:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/s0t2WSWmQ9I" width="420">A couple of weeks ago I heard a 33 year old Hawaiian state legislator, Beth Fukumoto, being interviewed on NPR. She had a compelling story about criticizing Trump and being stripped of her leadership position in the state House by her fellow Republicans. I thought it might make an interesting story for this blog and then stopped myself with a promise that I would revisit when Beth, a former state party GOP chair and the Minority Leader of the state House, inevitably switched parties and became a Democrat. That happened yesterday, when she made the video up top.Since 2012 she's been representing one of the few Republican areas of Hawaii-- district 36 (the Mililani Mauka area of Honolulu. (There are no Republicans in the state Senate and only 6-- soon to be 5-- in the state House, out of 51 members.) The GOP, statewide and nationally, never lost an opportunity to tout her as their new friendly face-- like in this post in Newsweek, Nine Women Remaking the Right. The House Republicans ousted her as Minority Leader when she spoke at the Women's March on Jan. 21 and referred to Señor Trumpanzee as a bully.Wednesday, in a resignation letter to Republicans she wrote a devastating analysis of what the Hawaii GOP is and why it fails so badly. Since becoming a member eight years ago, I’ve suggested our local party should reflect our uniquely diverse community. And I believed that if I was committed to this cause, I could help attract more people to the party. But, a little more than a year ago, a fellow caucus member told me “We are the party of middle America. I don’t care if the demographics don’t fit.” He declared that Republicans are the national majority and that it is our responsibility to represent “middle American” values here in Hawaii.It was in that moment that I was finally able to identify the colonial mindset I’d unknowingly run up against for years. No ethnic group in our state is a majority, and more than 70 percent of the population isn't white. But our Hawaii Republican Party leaders wanted us to adopt “middle American” values instead of holding on to Republican principles that also reflect our own local values, such as responsible stewardship over things like wealth and power.This election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments towards women. So, when I listened as our now top office holder refused to condemn the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, speaking out didn't seem like a choice.A little over a year ago, I was in Washington, D.C. with a group of Republican friends talking about my concerns with Donald Trump’s candidacy and, more specifically, his suggestion about a Muslim registry. They told me it was just rhetoric. I reminded them that a registry was only one step away from internment camps. Less than an hour later, we saw the breaking news headline, “Trump says he may have supported Japanese Internment.” As a woman and the only Japanese-American in our (then) seven-member caucus, I had something valuable to add about why our party continues to lose.My Japanese-American grandparents owned a small grocery store in Hawaii during World War II with a small house attached to the back where my father's family all lived in cramped space. When word spread through the community that the government was placing Japanese-Americans in internment camps, my grandpa destroyed everything written in Japanese, [...]



Hey, DCCC, Why Does Devin Nunes Get To Run Basically Unopposed Year After Year After Year?

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 21:00:00 +0000

I believe McCain when he stated yesterday that "Congress no longer has the credibility to handle this alone, and I don't say that lightly." He was referring to the investigation into Putin-Gate, which he's come to realize that his own party is approaching as a partisan endeavor meant to impede and perhaps coverup rather than get to the bottom of what happened. And no one has been worse player than California Republican Devin Nunes. Thursday Nunes apologized-- more or less-- to the House Intelligence Committee for betraying Congress and the American people on Wednesday. That's a serious investigation? Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee called for an investigation into Nunes and why he went running to Trump with committee information. "What he did," Cummings told Chris Cuomo on CNN, "was basically to go to the president, who's being investigated, by the FBI and others and by the intelligence committee, to give them information... [which] put a cloud over his own investigation."  Nunes, financed by PhRMA and Big Insurance, was first elected in 2001 in a brand, new deep red Central Valley district, CA-21 (now CA-22). The 2001 primary was his last-- his only-- serious election challenge. The district is made up of much of two counties, Fresno and Tulare, including the northern part of Fresno itself (including Cal State) and it's northern and eastern suburbs, Clovis, Dinuba, Visalia and Tulare.The DCCC has always dismissed it as "too conservative" and has never run a candidate against Nunes-- never. He skates to reelection without serious opposition. Last year his unsupported Democratic opponent, Louie Campos, didn't even raise the $5,000 that would have triggered an FEC report, while Nunes raised $2,459,235, almost entirely from special interests; only about 1% of his contributions ($25,038) coming from small donors. The bulk of his money came in the form of outright bribes from PACs ($1,623,714). He's widely considered one of the most corrupt characters in Congress and today he's sitting on a formidable $3,177,900 war-chest, interesting in a district that the DCCC has never looked at. He beat Campos 143,333 (68.2%) to 66,802 (31.8). Yes, Campos did terribly but he took 66,802 votes spending no money and with no DCCC help. One district west and south-- CA-21-- saw the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC spend $94,400 in 2014 and $1,778,846 in 2016 (primarily on ineffective-- and commissionable-- mass media) and the two Democrats who ran spend $1,690,530 (2014) and $648,918 (2016). Now remember how Campos, with his grassroots field operation turned out 66,802 Democratic voters against Nunes? In CA-21 there were just 33,470 Democratic voters in 2014 and just 49,643 in 2016. Even with money, you only win if you know what you're doing. The DCCC has absolutely no idea and local Democrats are-- at best-- out of practice, everything atrophied from lack of use.The district is minority-white now. Ethnically, it is 45.9% Latino, 41.9% white, 7.0% Asian and 2.5% black. McCain and Romney both beat Obama with just over 56%. Last year Trump beat Hillary 52.1-42.6%. According to the old CBO report, if TrumpCare becomes law, 87,694 Nunes constituents will lose their health insurance. That number, with the changes Ryan put through to placate extremists, is probably closer to 100,000. Now. Remember, Nunes only netted 143,333 votes in 2016, not that many more than the people who are liable tol lose their health care. The DCCC should be working on organizing and registering those voters now. They ar[...]



Loads Of Power Players Don’t Want You To Tune Into A Conference On The Israel Lobby And American Policy, But Ignorance Ain’t Bliss

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000

-by Skip KaltenheuserIn what amounts to bewildering media malpractice, mainstream media always gives massive coverage to the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) policy conference at the end of this month, while basically ignoring a humble but critical counterweight, taking place this year on Friday the 24th. That counterweight may seem a knight-errant’s tilt at a windmill, but it’s the fourth annual conference examining the Israel lobby’s outsized influence on US Foreign policy, and it’s intellectual depth has always proved impressive. No coverage the first two years, despite famed intellectuals, former Congressmen, former diplomats, intelligence agency analysts, military careerists, international journalists, and other knowledgeables who spoke on a wide range of relevant panel topics or delivered keynotes. This is an event held couple blocks from the White House in a packed ballroom at the National Press Club. Last year the Washington Post finally allowed a short article as coverage of the meaty all-day conference, again nothing from the NY Times. A quick shout-out to Salon for practicing journalism with its coverage last year, an exception to the rule of media indifference. But you can view the conference streaming online at its site, and afterwards you can take it in smaller bites reading transcripts and watching videos that will go online. Thus, you can diminish the power of the power-players who’d rather you didn’t take notice.Meanwhile, Vice President Pence and a bipartisan team from Congress, one of them now the Representative to the UN, will be preparing their AIPAC conference group genuflection to Nut’nyahoo, who will appear from the heavens via satellite. Among them are Republicans Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Joni Ernst, and Nikki Haley, now US Permanent Ambassador to the UN. Democrats include Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, Ted Deutch, Kamala Harris, Robert Melendez, Tom Perez and Nancy Pelosi. Nut’nyahoo-- I’ll try not to wear out my term of endearment-- appeared before Congress to diss President Obama and undermine his foreign policy efforts with Iran, but that’s no problem for these Democrats. The conference says two thirds of Congress will attend. Look over the speakers to see how the skeleton of the Israel propaganda machinery is put together. You’ll recognize many of the usual suspects whose talking points saturate media and Sabbath Gasbag shows, not to mention political fundraisers. Now consider that the day before the first Presidential debate both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met with Netanyahu. That still astounds me.In 1999 I had my enlightenment on the machinery of influence while doing an adventure travel feature on Israel for Canadian newspapers. I’ve been reluctant to write on it because I didn’t want to embarrass my hosts and-- my own malpractice-- because I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable blowback. But the mayhem that has ensued since-- from the invasion of Iraq cheer-leaded by Netanyahu and his Bush administration neocon compadres to the horrors of Gaza-- belittle such concerns. Consider the alarm expressed in this letter by five former US Ambassadors to Israel regarding Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, confirmed by the Senate yesterday.I relished the rich adventure travel experiences. Not so much the full-throttle propaganda I encountered, of which many travel writers complain in private. During my trip came a ray of hope for reform. Election results came [...]



Will Ryan Postpone The TrumpCare Vote Again Today?

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:00:00 +0000

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="255" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/56k4TCJvVZQ" width="420">Would it change your negative feelings towards Trump voters-- not the racists, the others-- if you understood the "sea of despair" their lives have become? That's how the Washington Post described their state of mind yesterday, based largely on a new report from the Brookings Institution, Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century. The researchers found that "deaths of despair"-- deaths from suicide, from drug overdose, from alcohol-related liver diseases-- are on the upswing among non-Hispanic whites, the American working class. They make the point that it isn't just an Appalachian problem or a rural problem, but something that is happening across the U.S. Mortality rates are going up everywhere in the country, New York, New Jersey and California being the only exceptions. In the video above, Princeton Professor Anne Case explained that "The people who are really getting hammered are people with less education." While midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s... [M]ortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015.Case and her colleague, Professor Angus Deaton suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort. Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise. They documented an accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites that took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended, and continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.Unable to round up enough votes to pass it, Ryan and McCarthy pulled the TrumpCare vote off the congressional schedule for yesterday and claim there'll be a vote today-- a vote on a bill that, if ever signed into law, will exacerbate every single thing that Case and Deaton are talking about. Of course, when you demonize science and scientists... you become immune to hearing their warnings. As Matt Taibbi emphasized in his new Rolling Stone piece this week, Trump The Destroyer, "One of the brilliant innovations of the Trump phenomenon has been the turning of expertise into a class issue. Formerly, scientists were political liabilities only insofar as their work clashed with the teachings of TV Bible-thumpers. Now, any person who in any way disputes popular misconceptions-- that balancing a budget is just like balancing a checkbook, that two snowfalls in a week prove global warming isn't real, that handguns would have saved Jews from the Holocaust or little kids from the Sandy Hook massacre-- is part of an elitist conspiracy to deny the selfhood of the Google-educated American. The Republicans understand this axiom: No politician in the Trump era is going to dive in a foxhole to save scientific research. Scientists, like reporters, Muslims and the French, are out." Oh, and by the way, Trump announced that if Ryan can't pull this off today, he's [...]



The Republican War On Immigrants Melds Perfectly Into Their War On Science

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 04:00:00 +0000

And a delightful dining companionOne of the brilliant innovations of the Trump phenomenon has been the turning of expertise into a class issue. Formerly, scientists were political liabilities only insofar as their work clashed with the teachings of TV Bible-thumpers. Now, any person who in any way disputes popular misconceptions-- that balancing a budget is just like balancing a checkbook, that two snowfalls in a week prove global warming isn't real, that handguns would have saved Jews from the Holocaust or little kids from the Sandy Hook massacre-- is part of an elitist conspiracy to deny the selfhood of the Google-educated American. The Republicans understand this axiom: No politician in the Trump era is going to dive in a foxhole to save scientific research. Scientists, like reporters, Muslims and the French, are out.That was from Matt Taibbi's essay in Rolling Stone this week, Trump The Destroyer, which we discussed in some depth earlier. When I read it I thought of a guy I only met a couple of times, a medical researcher in the field of molecular microbiology, Samuel Stanley, Jr., who I met a couple years ago, after he had been appointed president of SUNY, Stony Brook, where decades ago I was an undergraduate. In recent posts I've mentioned how pretty recently Stony Brook had decided to honor two donors with a dinner, myself and... a reclusive local man now known throughout the world as the financier behind the Trump Regime curtain, Robert Mercer. It always a cute little story about how I suggested it would be an uncomfortable match and how Stony Brook had decided to have two separate dinners instead. This morning I noticed that Dr. Stanley had penned a guest post for Scientific American, one I'm going to guess isn't going to endear him to the Mercers or any other Trumpists.Anti-Immigration Rhetoric Is a Threat to American Leadership-by Dr. Samuel Stanley, Jr.,President, State University of New York, Stony BrookOur embrace of international students and faculty has given the U.S. a leg up on all other countries in the race to lead in innovation and discovery.Iranian-American engineer and entrepreneur Anousheh Ansari was a co-sponsor of the Ansari X-Prize for private spaceflightAmerica’s universities are the best in the world. The quality of the students, faculty, teaching, infrastructure, the commitment to academic freedom, and the extraordinary research opportunities attract the best and brightest people from around the globe to the United States. And our nation is far better for it.Last year six recipients of the Nobel Prize were working at American universities: the three winners of the prize in physics, the two winners in economics, and one of the three winners in chemistry. All six were foreign born. Bob Dylan was the only Nobel laureate last year born in the United States. And 2016 was no fluke. In all, 42 percent of the Nobel Prizes awarded between 1901 and 2015 went to individuals working/living in the United States, and nearly one third of those recipients were born outside the U.S. Our ability to attract the world’s leading scientists to our universities has helped us maintain global leadership in innovation and discovery, a tremendous component of our economic strength and national security.But it is not just faculty that have come to U.S. universities to pursue their research. We also have been the destination of choice for outstanding graduate and undergraduate students from around the world. At Stony Broo[...]



America’s Political System Thrives on Corruption

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 01:00:00 +0000

-by Bruce BerlinBig Money has a stranglehold on our country’s political system that is destroying our democracy. Today in Washington and in our state capitals too often Big Money calls the shots. Moreover, this problem is not a partisan issue. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as well as presidential administrations of both parties are frequently guilty of unduly favoring the desires of their Big Money donors over the needs of their constituents. The truth is, we have a system that thrives on corruption, and it’s getting worse all the time.While Donald Trump appears to have taken public corruption to a whole new level, by no means did it begin with him. Recent American history is full of examples. For instance, in 2002 Rep. Billy Tauzin, a Republican from Louisiana and then Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, drafted the Medicare prescription drug bill, which created Medicare’s prescription drug benefit. In his final Congressional election for Congress that same year, Tauzin received close to $300,000 in campaign contributions from health professionals, drug makers and other health products companies. The bill Tauzin drafted in 2003 followed the industry’s desires. It steered clear of price controls and forbade our government, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs, from negotiating with drug manufacturers to secure lower prices for Medicare beneficiaries, which is why today we still pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription medicines.But, that’s not all. The year after Tauzin drafted the Medicare drug benefit act, he left Congress and went through the revolving door between government and K Street, where a great many lobbyists work, and was hired by the drug industry. PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying arm, rewarded Tauzin for writing the drug bill to its liking by hiring him as its president with a salary of approximately $2 million a year.Tauzin’s payoff would be unbelievable except for the fact that that is the way Washington actually functions. Retiring from Congress and becoming a lobbyist for a much heftier salary is a fairly common practice. According to one study, 42% of House members and 50% of senators become lobbyists when they leave office. Not only do they make a lot more money when they “retire,” so to speak, but also they automatically have built-in access to members of Congress, having worked with many of them when they themselves were in office. You might say many of our representatives, with the help of corporate America, have made corrupting their public service standard operating procedure.A few years later, the Great Recession of 2008 struck our nation. Millions of innocent people lost their homes and/or jobs when the economy crashed. Though the economic disaster was mostly due to the unscrupulous and fraudulent practices of Wall Street’s big banks, the Obama administration allowed practically all of those bankers to get off scot-free. Could the facts that some of Obama’s biggest donors during his 2008 campaign were Wall Street banks, and that he appointed a number of Goldman Sachs people, like Larry Summers, Gene Sperling and Rahm Emanuel, to important positions in his administration have had something to do with his failure to hold the bankers accountable?In addition, despite the fact that the TARP legislation (Troubled Asset Relief Program) included instructions to use a portion of the funds to pre[...]



Matt Taibbi On The Anatomy Of An American Kakistocracy

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:00:00 +0000

I hope everyone's already read Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece this week, Trump The Destroyer, more a story on the ugliness of the Regime he's assembled around himself-- "Trump managed to stuff the top of his Cabinet with a jaw-dropping collection of perverts, tyrants and imbeciles, the likes of which Washington has never seen"-- than something on the level of Vlad the Impaler, although he did mention that the usual DC GOP gatekeepers had all "abandoned Trump during the 'grab them by the pussy' episode [and that] in a true autocracy, theirs would be the first heads gored on stakes as a warning to the others. Many D.C. bureaucrats had no idea what to expect. They were like shopkeepers awaiting the arrival of a notorious biker gang" has Trump prepared to descend from The Tower to decamp for Washington."The first and most notable consequence of Trump's administration," wrote Taibbi, "is that his ability to generate celebrity has massively increased, his persona now turbocharged by the vast powers of the presidency. Trump has always been a reality star without peer, but now the most powerful man on Earth is prisoner to his talents as an attention-generation machine. Worse, he is leader of a society incapable of discouraging him... On the campaign trail, ballooning celebrity equaled victory. But as the country is finding out, fame and governance have nothing to do with one another. Trump! is bigger than ever. But the Trump presidency is fast withering on the vine in a bizarre, Dorian Gray-style inverse correlation. Which would be a problem for Trump, if he cared."But he doesn't, instead he does his thing: stokes chaos, creates hurricanes of misdirection, ignores rules and dares the system of checks and balances to stop him, "transforming not our laws but our consciousness, one shriveling brain cell at a time."The horrific cabinet that Bannon-- on behalf of his masters in Mercerville-- oversaw Trump and Pence putting in place has one thread tying it together: "deconstruction of the administrative state... a state-smashing revolution disguised as populist political theater." A president like Trump can have an impact even if he never manages to get a single law passed, simply by unleashing stupidity as a revolutionary force. Of course, no one can draw a direct line from Trump to incidents like the one in Kansas, where one of those "normal people" shot two immigrants from India, killing one, after accosting them about their visa status. Nor can anyone say that the Trump effect caused a Sikh man with American citizenship to be shot outside Seattle by a man yelling, "Go back to your own country!"If Trump and his supporters don't want to take credit for this exciting new era of not knowing what a Muslim is, but shooting people for being one anyway, that's OK. But Trump's executive orders were the hallmark of his first days in office, as he signed the travel ban, pledged to overturn the Dodd-Frank financial rules and ordered the construction of the so-called "Great Wall of Trump," among other things.But in most cases these orders only announced the start of long legal battles with highly ambiguous chances for success. Take away the impact they had as symbols of action, and most of what Trump has actually done so far, concretely, is pick a team. He soon enough stopped bothering with that, too....All of Trump's opponents sooner or later fall victim to the same pattern. He is so voluminously[...]