Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Trump?


That Ryan-Trump tax cut for the wealthy was meant to save the GOP's ass in the midterms. It isn't working out as planned. The latest-- tax week-- Gallup poll finds just 39% of people approving, while 52% disapprove. When I predict that the Democrats-- despite the most venal, bungling and incompetent DCCC in history-- are going to win over 50, perhaps over 80, seats in the midterms DC types always-- and I mean always-- say, but there's a lot of time between now and election day and things can change. I agree... things will change.And all evidence point to the same thing-- that the change will be worse, even much worse, for the GOP. Have you met Señor Trumpanzee? He's a one-man disaster-making machine. Yesterday, for example, Natasha Geiling reported that a fifth Republican and a Fox News host have called on Pruitt to resign or be fired. The fifth Republican is New Jersey congressman Frank LoBiondo, following Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME). And "on Sunday, former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and L.A.-based Fox News host Steve Hilton called for Trump to fire Pruitt, arguing that the EPA administrator has become a walking example of the kind of 'swampy' mentality that Trump promised to end. 'What we need is for President Trump to take the lead, fire Scott Pruitt, and throw out the lobbyists from his administration,' Hilton said." Although he is the quintessential Trump appointee, the Pruit p.r. war is going badly for Señor T. This kind of blatant boobery begs the question of the infallibility of Trump's connection with the carefully crafted morons known as the Republican base. Limbaugh, Fox, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Neal Boortz, Dr, Laura, Dennis Miller, Laura Ingraham, Michael Medved and anti-Christ Christianity created this Frankenstein's monster. Does Trump own it lock, stock and barrel? Right-wing pundit Matt Lewis doesn't think so and wonders why Republican grandees are so scared to take him on.

Lewis wrote Monday, in the Daily Beast that conventional wisdom suggests that Trumpanzee’s standing remains incredibly strong among Republicans and that this notion is used to dismiss the possibility that someone (say, a newly disgruntled U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) could muster a serious primary challenge to the president in 2020. It’s also used to absolve congressional Republican enablers of their obsequiousness.  
Take, for example, Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) recent comments about Republicans’ reluctance to push back on Trump’s attacks on Robert Mueller. “The president is, as you know-- you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base-- it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,” Corker said. “People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not.”

Corker seems to be right about how GOP lawmakers generally perceive the president’s strength within the party. But do the numbers actually affirm this perception?

According to Gallup, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is currently at 85 percent. This is certainly respectable, but hardly unique. In April 2002, George W. Bush boasted a 98 percent approval rating among Republicans, according to Gallup. This was seven months after the 9/11 attacks but his approval rating among Republicans had been at 87 percent the day of the attacks.

As someone who lived through the Bush era, I can attest that Bush was able to impose pretty strict party loyalty on the right. But by April 2006, his approval rating among Republicans was hovering around 80 percent-- not too far from where Trump is now. Those midterm elections were a disaster for the GOP. And it went downhill fast from there.

We tend to remember things like Hurricane Katrina and Abu Ghraib—huge scandals that deservedly hurt Bush with the American public. But, on the right, it was the Harriet Miers debacle that created a permission structure for conservatives to finally begin criticizing a Wilsonian foreign policy, the controversy over the transfer of U.S. ports to a Dubai firm, and, ultimately, to derail Bush’s 2007 attempt at a comprehensive immigration reform proposal that included a pathway to citizenship; or amnesty, for its critics.

The point here is that the danger to Trump isn’t merely that he could be “primaried.” A more likely scenario is that Republican politicians will eventually discover that they can stand up to a Republican president without fear of reprisal. Since fealty to Trump has always been premised on a transactional calculation (as opposed to personal affection, shared goals, or mutual respect), the only thing binding them to Trump is the perception that their political base demands it. When that changes-- and history suggests that this happens to even the most popular presidents-- the levee breaks.

...History suggests it is incredibly difficult to wrest the nomination from a sitting president. Trump is significantly more popular within his party than either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford-- two presidents who were able to survive primary challenges only to go on to lose the general. The question is not whether Trump could survive a primary if he had to, but how costly it would be. What is more, it is worth examining whether Trump’s popularity with the GOP base justifies the amount of deference some Republican politicians and elites are paying him.

...Trump’s popularity with Republicans is really just pretty average. There is little doubt that the intensity among his strongest supporters is high, but this asterisk is overwhelmed by another important caveat. As Gallup notes: “Fewer Americans identify as Republicans or say they are Republican-leaning independents than did so in November 2016, the month Donald Trump was elected president.”

It may be that Trump is popular among people who identify as Republicans, simply because the Republicans who don’t like him are… no longer Republicans. In others words: Trump’s approval rating in his party climbs because his party is shrinking. Maybe Bob Corker shouldn’t be quite so afraid.
Usually whenever someone decides to retire, many factors go into it. And Corker isn't the only congressional Republican sick enough of Trump to retire early. Trump-- and the albatross corollary known as impending defeat-- was a major factor for Jeff Flake (AZ), Paul Ryan (WI), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Dave Reichert (WA), Charlie Dent (PA), Darrell Issa (CA), Lamar Smith (TX), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Dave Trott (MI), Ed Royce (CA), Pat Meehan (PA), Ryan Costello (PA), Tom Rooney (FL), Dennis Ross (FL)... that's a lot of careers ending prematurely.

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A NYT Lesson in Horrendous Economic Journalism-- Guest Post By Jonathan Tasini


On Monday, journalist and author Jonathan Tasini wrote a "Dear colleagues" letter about bias in mainstream journalism, especially in the coverage of economics. It impressed me so much that I asked him if I could publish it here at DWT. He graciously agreed.

Mainstream/traditional journalism is replete with examples of bias and utter cluelessness when it comes to economics. You can’t get a better example of that than the absolutely horrendous piece today in the New York Times entitled Public Servants Are Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class-- which purports to explain why public workers can’t pay their bills. The piece is full of what I call “immaculate conception economics.” Or, in plain English, shit just happens, and when we can’t explain how it happens, we just fall back on blind theology. Or, as the immortal Warden Samuel Norton said: “Lord! It's a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!” To wit:
The word “union” does not appear a single time in the article. Not to explain why public workers actually made a decent living-- it wasn’t thanks to the munificence of politicians, Republican or Democrat. It was because of union organizing. Nor to explain why, as politicians and right-wing billionaires have prosecuted a relentless war against public sector unions, wages have declined. This is especially glaring when the two “journalists” describe the wave of uprisings by teachers in “red” states-- teachers who belong to unions, unions that are coordinating the protests of their members.
We read: “Many of the jobs created-- most in service industries-- lack stability and security. They pay little more than the minimum wage and lack predictable hours, insurance, sick days or parental leave. The result is that the foundation of the middle class continues to be gnawed even as help-wanted ads multiply.” Why do you think those jobs lack stability and security? It is because union density has declined dramatically in the past 30 years.
This is telegraphed, by the way, early in the article: “But globalization and automation aren’t the only forces responsible for the loss of those reliable paychecks”. Ah, yes, those anodyne terms of “globalization” and “Automation”-- leaders and CEOs, looking to enrich themselves and enslave labor around the world, driving down wages and cutting benefits (think: the Waltons of Wal-Mart and Jeff Bezos), had nothing to do with that. It’s just the inexorable “globalization” and “automation.”
Later: “Short of money, many states have also privatized services like managing public water systems, road repair, emergency services or prisons, transferring jobs from the public sector to private companies that have reduced salaries and benefits to increase their profits.” It’s a miracle! It has nothing to do with those jobs being transferred to NON-UNION companies who cut wages and benefits because there is no way for workers to collectively bargain.
The article repeats the false pension “crisis” meme, describing“… generous pension and benefit commitments made in fatter years came due.” Pensions are DEFERRED COMPENSATION-- not simply some “generous” handout. I don’t even think the “journalists” are conscious that they are using the false pension “crisis” language that has been carefully inserted into the debate by people ideologically opposed to decent retirement standards. And you didn’t need Russian bots or Facebook to assist—this has been political rhetoric encouraged for many years by politicians spanning the political spectrum, funded by billionaires particularly the much-lauded late Pete Peterson. It’s a lie.
About privatization. You would think that, in describing the privatization of work, the two “journalists” would consider inserting even a sentence or two to make the point that lots of data shows privatization is a failure, costs more to the public in actual dollars and results in poorer service. Not a word.
That is just a small sampling. This is terrible journalism. An embarrassment.

Goal ThermometerAfter speaking with Jonathan, I asked three of the most union-forward congressional candidates I know-- Randy Bryce (WI-01), Jared Golden (ME-02) and Jenny Marshall (NC-05)-- what they thought of his perspective. As you may have guessed, all three are as serious as Tasini about the role unions play. Bryce told me that "unions are the only thing keeping corporate greed’s boot from crushing our throats. Work sites that I have been on are safe thanks to the demands of unions. Those sites are safe whether one pays union dues or not. Don’t complain why we have what we do-- ask why you don’t have it."

And Golden's perspective is as Majority Whip of the Maine legislature, not from a construction site. He said he agrees wholeheartedly with Tasini. "I have proudly voted four years in a row in the Maine Legislature against the GOP’s so called 'Right to Work' proposals that aim to gut Maine’s remaining unions, including our public employee unions. For eight years now" he continued, "under the tea party Governor Paul LePage’s leadership the state has frozen pay raises and left department positions vacant, and made it a priority to go after public employment and unions, all while pursuing plans to privatize government services from bridges to prisons to health and human services. This country needs stronger unions in more sectors and in Congress I’ll do everything I can to strengthen the labor movement because like you rightly pointed out as unions have declined so have middle-class jobs, wages and benefits."

Golden picked up another union endorsement last week, IBEW 2327. They now join the ranks of IAM, IAFF, the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine, IAM Local S7, the Maine State Council of Machinists and the UAW BMDA Local 3999 that have all endorsed his candidacy.

And Jenny is a member of the Teachers union herself. Last night, she told us that "Unions are what built the middle class and created stable communities across this country. It was due to the strength of their numbers that they demanded and won fair wages and benefits for workers. Those union shops then pushed private sector employers to do the same. This was not lost on businesses and government leaders who tried to reduce the union’s power to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions. After years of systematic assault on their ability to organize, unionization is on the decline and we can see the effects in our own backyards. It’s a race to the bottom and unless we start protecting workers’ rights to unionize. I stand with my union brothers and sisters across this country in our fight for fair labor practices and just compensation."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Señor Trumpanzee, the Republican Party's "der Leader," on President Obama's golfing:
          President Obama played golf yesterday??? (Tweet, November 18, 2013)

          Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf. Worse than Carter. (Tweet, October 13, 2014)

          We pay for Obama's travel so he can fundraise for millions so democrats can run on lies. Then we pay for his golf. (Tweet, October 14, 2014)

          Presidents don't have time to take time off. I would rarely leave the White House because there's so much work to be done. (June 23, 2015)

          While our wonderful president was out playing golf all day, the TSA is falling apart, just like out government! Airports a total disaster! (Tweet, May 2016)

          I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to play golf. (On the campaign trail, Summer 2016)
You get the picture. When it came to criticizing President Obama for playing golf, Señor Trumpanzee had no off button; neither did the gross hypocrisy that comes with the man. The tweets above barely scratch the surface. Dozens exist. Hard to believe, you say? Here's a few more!

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Crucial Special Elections In New York Tomorrow For Control Of The State Senate... And Then There's Colorado Springs


The real bad guy in New York politics-- Simcha Felder (fake Democrat)

Conservatives know the gig is up once the big blue wave sweeps dozens of Republicans out of Congress in November. Or is it? As we mentioned yesterday, there are forces on the right, trying-- trying hard-- to put together an effective governing coalition of mainstream conservatives-- from both parties-- to run the show in November with a corrupt conservative Speaker (former New Dem chieftain Joe Crowley) and a motley crew of DCCC candidates from the New Dem and Blue Dog coalitions from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and whichever non-fascist Republicans are left. Perhaps you've noticed, for example, that Alabama Senator Doug Jones and Pennsylvania Blue Dog "Collin" Lamb (as Pelosi fondly calls him) have been voting with the GOP. No? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Lets look at New York state for a recent example. Although New York is a blue state, with a statewide PVI of D+12 (tied with California, Maryland and Massachusetts) and although Hillary beat Trumpanzee 4,556,124 (59%) to 2,819,534 (36.5%) and although there are 103 Democrats in the state Assembly, enough conservative Democrats caucus with the Republicans in the state Senate to give the GOP control of that body. As the New York Times explained over the weekend the intense scrutiny for a seemingly obscure seat is the result of a fragile deal that was recently brokered in which a group of breakaway Democrats who had long shared power with Senate Republicans agreed to return to the Democratic fold. That collaboration had helped give Republicans control of the Senate, despite Democrats holding a numerical majority, until early April, when the so-called Independent Democratic Conference agreed to return to the mainstream fold. The deal gave the Democrats a chance to sweep the Legislature and governor’s office. There was just one hitch: two Senate seats that had previously been occupied by Democrats will be decided on Tuesday in special elections." That's tomorrow.

The Democratic shitheads from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party have kept governing power out of the hands of the Democrats-- with Cuomo's connivance-- for 7 years. A week ago the Democrats "welcomed" back 8 of the shitheads. Senate District 37 in eastern Westchester is the pivotal seat. It was Democrat George Lattimer's old seat when he beat a Trumpist for County Executive and it pits Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer (D) against Julie Killian (R), a former member of the Rye City Council. The 2 to 1 Democratic registration advantage favors Mayer. City&State New York took a solid shot at explaining tomorrow's 2 Seante special elections. "While New York state political observers are captivated by the drama over a deal between state Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein to reunify Democrats in the state Senate, control of the chamber may actually be determined by the outcome of a special election in Westchester.
The suburban Senate seat has been a swing district. Republican Bob Cohen lost narrowly to Democratic incumbent Suzi Oppenheimer in 2010 and to Latimer in 2012. Westchester County was previously led by Republican Rob Astorino, who launched an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2014 and was defeated by Latimer in an upset victory in 2017.

Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College, said that the race between Mayer and Killian is closer than many observers had expected given the advantage Democrats have in enthusiasm. Zaino noted that one of Killian’s strategies has been to tie Mayer to the aura of corruption that permeates Albany. Mayer was chief counsel to state Senate Democrats from 2007 to 2011, during which time the Senate Democratic leaders were Malcolm Smith and John Sampson, who were later convicted of corruption in separate cases.

“Killian is trying to pitch Mayer as the incumbent, if you will, and the insider, and painting herself more as the underdog and the outsider,” Zaino said, noting that dissatisfaction with the political establishment was an important theme in the 2016 presidential election.

Michael Lawler, Killian’s campaign manager, said that corruption in Albany is an important electioni issue, and that voters want to ensure that one party doesn't have full control of the state.

“You have a Democratic governor and a Democratic state Assembly, and so having a Republican majority in the state Senate to provide balance in state government is important,” Lawler said. “I think a lot of people want to ensure that one-party rule in New York state doesn't happen.”

However, the desire to see a balanced government may be outmatched by the strong Democratic headwinds going into the 2018 midterms, both in New York and nationally. President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular in New York state, and recent races-- including in Westchester-- have seen a surge in Democratic enthusiasm.

Zaino said that when she did polling in the 2017 race between Latimer and Astorino, she found that 4 in 10 voters said that Trump would be a factor when making their decision about who to vote for in the county executive race. That dynamic was continuing to play out in the race between Mayer and Killian, she said, as Westchester residents often want to talk about national politics in conjunction with this race.

The interest in national politics has led to an unusual level of voter and activist engagement for a local special election. Doug Forand, a spokesman for Mayer’s campaign, said that the campaign was sending out 100 volunteers each weekend to canvass.

“I've never seen the kind of volunteer effort that is coming through for this race,” he said. Forand conceded that the campaign would have to work to ensure strong turnout, as voter participation is generally low in special elections. However, he remained optimistic that Democrats and independents would vote for Mayer because “they're so upset about what's happening nationally.”

But Lawler argued that voters would be more concerned with district-specific issues than with national politics when voting.

“I think voters are very concerned about what's going on locally and in New York state, and those are the issues that we're focused on, and that Julie's been addressing every day since getting in the race,” he said. “The political climate is certainly against Republicans at the moment, but Julie is defying that.”

Even as Democrats generally emphasize national politics, Mayer has campaigned on the district’s specific issues-- including the opioid epidemic, taxes and gun control-- to woo local voters. Meanwhile, independent expenditure groups have poured money into the race, including charter school and education reform supporters backing Killian. Both candidates have peppered local media with ads.

While Trump has indirectly influenced the race, other major political players have gotten directly involved. Cuomo has endorsed and held a rally and a fundraiser on behalf of Mayer, and former Gov. George Pataki is supporting Killian. Since the race may determine party control in the state, big dollars and big names are flooding the district.

The IDC reunification deal might harm Mayer, as it would take away her argument to turn out Democratic voters that she must win for the IDC to return to the fold. But Democrats still need to hold her seat to gain the majority. Her campaign argues that, thanks to the IDC agreement, she can now point to a greater likelihood of actually being in the majority and having the power to get legislation passed.

“People vote much more on the individual than they do based on the insider, macro political battles that are going on,” Forand said. “I think it's good for what Shelley would be able to achieve as a senator, and I think that's going to be great for her in November.”

Lawler agreed that the reunification announcement will not have an effect on the race’s outcome. “Ultimately, voters in this district are not going to be swayed by the machinations of the Albany power brokers,” Lawler said. “They're going to be swayed by who is best suited to address the issues and concerns of the community here.”

Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, said that how suburban Westchester residents vote could even be an indicator of state or even national headwinds.

“What happens in this district not only may determine control of state government, which is important enough,” Levy said. “The performance of these swing suburban voters could serve as a bellwether for the political direction of the entire country.”

UPDATE: Meanwhile, In Colorado Today...

And something very special happened in Colorado today. The 5th congressional district-- primarily El Paso County-- is the reddest district in the state (R+14). It's an evangelical hellhole centered around Colorado Springs. Obama did poorly both tines he ran and in 2016 Trump, a great ethical and religious figure, crush Hillary 57.2% to 33.2%. Hallelujah! Right-wing crackpot-- and incumbent-- Doug Lamborn, was knocked off the ballot today by the state Supreme Court. There are 4 other Republicans on the ballot, two of whom, state Senator Owen Hill and El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn, have been running serious primary campaigns, and three Democrats are vying to get on the ballot, one of whom, Stephany Rose Spaulding, has relatively serious campaign.

Just hours after the Supreme Court decision, the Denver Post reported that "While the decision-- that Lamborn’s re-election campaign improperly gathered voters’ signatures to land a spot on the ticket-- is unlikely to mean his 5th Congressional District seat leaves GOP hands, it injects the very real prospect that a fresh face will take over after years of unsuccessful challenges to Lamborn’s reign." Lamborn says he'll challenge the decision, presumably in a federal court.

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Mikey Suits Can Win The GOP Primary... But Can He Win The General? Perhaps?


Staten Island is the most Mafia-friendly place in America. And the other portion of NY-11, south Brooklyn-- just happens to be the most Russian Mafia-friendly place in America. Put them together and you have a new poll the DCCC just released showing that Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm, a Mafioso himself, is way ahead of incumbent Republican Dan Donovan in the Republican primary. "Things," wrote New York Daily News reporter Jillian Jorgensen over the weekend, "are looking Grimm for Rep. Daniel Donovan. Ex-congressman-- and ex-con-- Michael Grimm leads Donovan by 10 percentage points in the Republican primary in the district that covers Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, says a new poll." The Mafia wants Grimm back in Congress to protect their interests.

That makes the DCCC very happy. They feel their handpicked-- screw the primary-- Blue Dog candidate, Max Rose, will have a much easier time beating the ex-con than the incumbent.
Grimm is at 49% and Donovan at 39% among GOP voters, according to a poll by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which hopes to flip the seat.

Grimm’s ex-GOP constituents on Staten Island are especially willing to overlook his criminal record-- they favor him over Donovan by 11 points, the Democrats’ poll says.

The poll is “consistent with our own internal analysis,” Grimm said.

Donovan’s camp ripped the results. “Of course the DCCC is desperate for Michael Grimm because they know he has zero shot of winning in November,” said campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud.

Grimm, an ex-FBI agent, cruised to reelection in 2014 even as he faced a 20-count federal indictment for mail, wire and health care fraud, among other charges.

He ended up serving seven months on tax fraud charges related to his operation of a Manhattan health food restaurant.
The Feds let him off easy in return for him not spilling the beans on FBI wrong-doing. Now Grimm, who's mainstream conservtaive voting record, is basically identical with Donovan's mainstream conservative voting record. Both are tacking right and trying to identify with Trump, although Grimm is doing better with attaching himself to Trump core voters. Trump beat Hillary in only one NYC congressional district-- NY-11. He beat Hillary 53.6% to 43.8%. Grimm wants those voters and sought, and received an endorsement from Steve Bannon. Donovan is stuck with an endorsement from unpopular lame duck Paul Ryan. Jorgensen reported that Grimm "rips Donovan as not enough of a conservative or friend to President Trump."
Republican voters like his message, the Democrats’ poll shows. A whopping 67% of voters approve of Grimm’s job performance as congressman, and just 18% disapprove, the poll found.

That’s better than Donovan, of whom 47% of Republican voters approve and 27% disapprove.

The DCCC is pushing candidate Max Rose, who like Grimm is a combat veteran.

Despite Grimm’s popularity with GOP voters, Democrats would rather run against him and his felony record in the November election.

The poll surveyed 404 likely 2018 Republican primary voters from April 9 to April 11. The margin of error is 4.9%.
Remember when the Democratic Establishment really, really, really wanted Hillary to run against Trump rather than Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio? How that worked out for them? And us?

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Iron Vs Steil


For over a decade it's been hard to find anyone "credible" (or at least "establishment") to run against Paul Ryan. For 4 cycles, Pelosi and her team laughed hysterically as the Ryan family orthopedist, Jeffrey Thomas, was the official candidate of the Democratic party against Ryan. Isn't that cute? It wasn't 'til Rob Zerban ran against him in 2012 that Ryan had a real opponent, albeit still one Pelosi's DCCC gang refused to support in any meaningful way. This cycle, a union activist, ironworker, single dad and veteran, Randy "IronStache" Bryce, went after Ryan with a vengeance-- and drove him out of the race, while the DCCC and Pelosi looked on from the sidelines with mouths agape. "How did he do that," asked Ben Ray Lujan, the latest in a series of inept and untalented DCCC chairman Pelosi had appointed. "Can we bottle that?"

Now that Ryan has run off with his tail between his legs, there are suddenly candidates crawling out from under the floorboards. What's left of the Kenosha Mafia, wants to back Peter Barca, the slimy conservative Democrat who held the seat for a few sad months in the early 90s when the district's popular congressman, Les Aspin, was appointed Secretary of Defense by Bill Clinton. More recently, Barca teamed up with Scott Walker and Ryan to burden Wisconsin with the expensive con job known as Foxconn.

But on the Republican side of the ledger, they have to find a candidate so that neither neo-Nazi Paul Nehlen nor another anti-Ryan crackpot, Nick Polce, walkers off with the nomination. Kenosha County Supervisor Jeff Wamboldt jumped right in. Ryan seems to have pushed Bryan Steil, his former driver-- who went to law school and came out a corporate lawyer-- into the race and the establishment has decreed he's now the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. He declared on Sunday and tried branding himself "a problem solver." He's from a prominent Janesville Republican political family and feels he's entitled to the job. (His grandpa was appointed first chairman of the Wisconsin Lottery Board by then-Governor Tommy Thompson.)

Randy Bryce welcomed him to the campaign with a statement reminding that media that it was "hard to think of anyone less in touch with the struggles facing working families than a third-generation corporate attorney from a politically-connected family. A former Ryan staffer and a current Walker appointee, Bryan Steil is part of the institutional Republican swamp that believes we should give tax breaks to the wealthy and pay for it by attacking working people's retirements and healthcare. Reports show that while Steil was the Associate General Counsel for Regal Beloit the company closed a Midwest factory, laid off more than 300 people and moved their jobs to Mexico." They included this report from NBC- 3 KYTV:
"A large Springfield manufacturer will soon be closing its doors. The Regal Beloit plant on east Sunshine has an emptier parking lot than in the past, and it will soon be vacant. 'They have let folks go out in segments, in groups, of people coming out. There will be another group coming out this Friday, tomorrow,' says Cynthia Collins, Missouri Career Center business service representative. When Regal Beloit announced the closing about a year and a half ago, there were about 330 employees. Right now, we believe, from corporate management and an employee, that there are about 100 left. The plant, which makes electric motors, has been in Springfield for decades. 'We've seen employees that had been there for 44 years. I mean Regal was GE before Regal, so you had folks that started on at GE and within 8 or 9 years ago, Regal bought GE, and those employees continued on,' said Collins. The Missouri Career Center says Regal Beloit employees qualify for retraining assistance through the Trade Act, because some of the jobs are leaving the country, going to Mexico." [12/18/14]

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How Democrats Can Win with a Mandate in 2020, and Why They Likely Won't


"With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder," says the headline (source). The headline is false. These Democratic leaders are firmly in charge.

by Gaius Publius

Thomas Frank, author of the widely acclaimed book Listen, Liberal — widely acclaimed at least among the insurgent, anti-corporate wing of the Democratic Party — recently published a long article in Harpers demonstrating that Donald Trump could well be reelected president in 2020. His reasons include the effect of economic prosperity as an offset to moral repugnance (see Bill Clinton in 1996) and Trump's still high (and increasing) popularity among his supporters.

A note about Trump's support: The most recent CNN/SSRS poll, for example, shows Trump's approval among all respondents at a near-term high, 42% approval, vs. 54% disapproval. More importantly, in the same poll his approval among Republicans is 86%. (The most recent Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows Trump's approval among likely voters even higher, at 49%.)

As Howie pointed out recently, "If he's not king of America, he is king of the GOP." The implications of this are huge, as we watch the Mueller take-down operation turn the screws on Trump's money operation. On that, more later.

Democrats Can Elect the Next Fake-Populist Republican

One of the offshoots of Frank's thesis is that Democrats are quite likely to bring about this outcome — Trump's reelection — themselves. Here's the short version of this argument, from a follow-up interview with Thomas Frank by Jon Wiener and published in The Nation:
JW: Okay, what about Mueller saving us?

TF: Every Democrat that I talked to is counting on Mueller to deliver the midterms for them. This has worked for Democrats before. The famous Watergate class in Congress in 1974 was entirely the doing of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, and the Democrats are basically expecting that to happen again. It looks like it will work.

JW: What’s wrong with that?

TF: It breeds a kind of passiveness among Democrats where they never have to think about their own message. 
That's probably enough in itself to make the point clear. Since Trump's election, Democrats have only once concerned themselves with revising their message — their early, ill-fated, short-lived, badly-received PR effort known as the "Better Deal," with "better jobs" and so forth. This was especially rich after spending all of the previous two years laughing off Sanders' actual populism as impractical.

The Better Deal campaign died almost the day it was born, and Democrats today are doing nothing to revisit and learn from the failure of 2016, other than continue to announce in every conceivable way their 2016 theme, "We're not him."

And lest you think the failure of 2016 should be counted successful thanks to the popular vote, consider: The Party turned a blowout into a squeaker, by rejecting a populist candidate who filled football stadiums in favor of an Establishment candidate who couldn't fill a gymnasium — in a change-year election.

Frank continues:
They [Democrats] may succeed in the coming midterms, but that’s a recipe for disaster in the long term. If Trump is not running for reelection three years from now, there’s going to be another Trump. The Republicans are never going to retreat from what this guy showed them in 2016. They now understand how you beat the Democrats. The next Trump is not going to be so vulgar, he’s not going to have affairs with porn stars, he’s not going to pick fights with NFL players. So the Democrats have to be thinking bigger. They can’t think “Oh, he screwed up. Great! Now we get back in.”
Frank believes Republicans now understand how to beat Democrats. The method is to run alongside the crowd that wants to overturn the Establishment — in both parties — and not against it. All they need do is find a candidate who will keep the base of Trump voters intact and attract enough independents who are both left-leaning and hate what the Democratic Party has become. In other words, all they need do is run a pro-change-appearing populist with a toned-down hint of the taint of Trumpian vulgarity — just enough to attract, not enough to repel.

If they offer such a candidate, and the Democrats offer a their own pro-change-appearing candidate (for example, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris), the remaining left-leaning, betrayal-remembering independents will likely stay home. After that, it's anyone's call who wins. And God forbid the Democrats offer a likeable hack like Biden, or anyone else with his history of obvious subservience to money and power. It's over then for sure. 

How Democrats Can Win With a Mandate

So how can the Democratic Party claim victory from the jaws of opportunity in 2020? By offering an actual change candidate of their own to run against the Republican fake. By running alongside the crowd that still wants to overturn the Establishment, and not against it. By offering someone real for change voters to vote for.

By offering, in other words, the 2020 version of Bernie Sanders.

Frank again:
JW: How can we defeat this phenomenon once and for all? Don’t we need a progressive like a Bernie Sanders who would raise the minimum wage, make college tuition-free, bring Medicare for all—and actually make life better for ordinary middle- and working-class people?

TF: Yes. I don’t want to put any proper names on it, like a certain senator from Vermont, but the bottom line is this: If the economy booms and wages go up, it’s going to be hard to beat Trump in three years. The Democrats cannot stick with the Clinton and Obama approach where you identify yourself with what I like to call the ideology of the 1990s, the “catechism of tech, bank, and globe,” as I say in the article. There’s really only one set of successful politics for an age like this one: It’s the politics that we identify with the party of Lyndon Johnson, the party of the New Deal. What Trump has offered is a kind of weird replica of that. But as I have said many times, the real thing would beat the fake.
"The real thing would beat the fake." In 2016 Republicans offered a fake populist, and the Democrats offered a fake Republican. In that contest of fakes, the populist won ... barely. The first party to offer a real populist to the same electorate will sweep into office with a mandate.

Will Democratic Party actually offer such a candidate, offer the "next Sanders" or even the last one, to 2020 voters? Not as currently led.


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DCCC-- Tearing Up The California Democratic Party... With No One To Stop Them


Gil Cisneros-- this is what a DCCC recruit looks like

Alexander Burns decided to tell the story from a primarily DCCC/Washington perspective: Fearing Chaos, National Democrats Plunge Into Midterm Primary Fights. Yes, they fear chaos... but there's more to it than that. He picked CA-39 as the example. But he doesn't know the story and didn't name the main characters in the chaos. Early on the DCCC wanted to get two friendly allies from Dana Rohrabacher's 48th CD along coastal Orange County where they lived and wanted to run. One was very wealthy Vietnamese-American physician Mai Khanh Tran and the other was a very pliable "ex"-Republican who won a couple hundred million dollars in the lottery, Gil Cisneros. Very right-of-center DCCC political operatives, Kyle Layman and Jason Bresler wanted the DCCC candidate against Rohrabacher to be someone else, another wealthy ex-Republican, Harley Rouda, so they persuaded Cisneros and Tran to move their campaigns inland and north to CA-39.

Pelosi and her circle, though, didn't want Rouda as the candidate against Rohrabacher. They wanted someone who looked really good on paper, wealthy medical entrepreneur Hans Keirstead, but who has turned out to be a stiff. Rouda sorted himself out among CA-48 candidates as everyone's second choice after themselves and the one everyone prefers over the DCCC mandated candidate. The DCCC now seems saddled with Keirstead-- plus some guy named Omar Siddiqui calling himself a "Reagan Republican" (in a Democratic primary!) who stuck $764,856 of his own cash into the race. Don't feel sorry for the others though. They're trying to buy a seat for themselves too. As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline:
Rouda- $1,130,500
Siddiqui- $764,856
Keirstead- $430,400
Two candidates in the race, Laura Oatman (the progressive candidate) and Michael Kotick (the millennial candidate) have recently dropped out and endorsed Rouda. The New Dems are backing both Rouda and Keirstead. And another serious Republican, ex-Assemblyman Scott Baugh, has jumped into the contest, with a ton of money from a previous campaign. This contest is a mess-- and because of the DCCC, the mess has spilled all over CA-39. And that brings us to Burns' DCCC perspective, their never ending, failed justification for interference in primaries, not just in Orange County, but around the country.

Burns started with how the DCCC is trying to push former recruit Tran, who is polling very badly, out of the race. She told Burns that she told the DCCC that she was "the only qualified woman, the only immigrant and the only physician in the race. 'I said to them, frankly, let the voters decide,' recalled Ms. Tran."
The national Democratic Party was not chastened: On Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took sides in that House race and backed Gil Cisneros, a Navy veteran and former Republican.

With their forceful intervention in Orange County, national Democrats have lunged into an impatient new phase of the 2018 primary season-- one in which they are clashing more openly with candidates and local political chieftains in their drive to assemble a slate of recruits for the midterms.

In districts from Southern California to Little Rock, Arkansas, and upstate New York, the party has begun interceding to help the Democrats it sees as best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall.
Really? "As best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall?" That's where the lie starts. Their candidates are always conservatives and never independent-minded agents of change. Even in districts that Bernie won in landslides against Hillary, they always seem to come up with Hillary-hacks-- and call them "the best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall." Funny how that works, when the decision-makers are conservatives themselves, like, among others, Kyle Layman and Jason Bresler. Back to Burns, whose instincts start pointing him in the right direction: "The approach," he figured out, "is laced with peril for a party divided over matters of ideology and political strategy, and increasingly dominated by activists who tend to resent what they see as meddling from Washington. A Democratic effort to undercut a liberal insurgent in a Houston-area congressional primary in March stirred an outcry on the left and may have inadvertently helped drive support to that candidate, Laura Moser, who qualified for the runoff election next month." He doesn't say the DCCC are morons, conservative, assholes or, most important, personally corrupt, but... he calls them "Democratic leaders" and concludes they "have concluded it is worth enduring backlash to help a prized recruit or tame a chaotic primary field."
They are moving most aggressively in California, where the state’s nonpartisan primaries present a unique hazard: State law requires all candidates to compete in the same preliminary election, with the top two finishers advancing to November. In a crowded field, if Democrats spread their votes across too many candidates, two Republicans could come out on top and advance together to the general election.

There are at least four races in California where Democrats fear such a lockout, including the 39th Congressional District, where in addition to Mr. Cisneros and Ms. Tran there are two other Democrats running: Sam Jammal, a youthful former congressional aide, and Andy Thorburn, a wealthy health insurance executive who is backed by allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont. The district is among the most coveted for Democrats nationwide-- a seat left open by the retirement of Representative Ed Royce, a popular Republican, in an area Hillary Clinton won by about 8 percentage points.

National Democrats may also intervene in the Southern California districts held by Representatives Dana Rohrabacher and Jeff Denham, where multiple Republicans and Democrats are running, and in the seat held by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican who is retiring. Voters receive mail-in ballots starting in early May, making the next few weeks exceptionally important.

House Majority PAC, a heavily financed Democratic group that spends millions in congressional elections, recently polled all four races and has been conducting digital surveys that simulate the complicated California ballot, according to people briefed on the group’s strategy. The super PAC has run ads in California in the past when Democrats have faced disaster in primary season.

Representative Judy Chu, a Los Angeles-area Democrat, said the open primaries had led Democrats to take unusual steps to prevent Republicans from dominating the first round of voting.

“That would stop our goal of taking the House back,” Ms. Chu said. “We have to have a viable candidate, and I think that if it does turn out to be a Democrat versus a Republican, the Democrat will win.”

Ms. Chu said the campaign committee’s endorsement of Mr. Cisneros was a signal to donors and volunteers that it was time to close ranks.

But picking favorites is not easy for Democrats: Until mid-March, Southern California lawmakers were divided in the 39th District race between Mr. Cisneros, who is backed by Representative Linda T. Sánchez, an influential member of the Democratic leadership team, and Jay Chen, another Democrat who was endorsed by Ms. Chu. It was only after Mr. Chen opted against running, with a call for party unity, that Ms. Chu and other Democrats swung behind Mr. Cisneros.

Ms. Sánchez said the glut of Democratic candidates remained concerning across California, and acknowledged having lobbied the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to back Mr. Cisneros. National leaders, Ms. Sánchez said, had “a role to play in terms of trying to talk to nonviable candidates and urging them to be team players.”

Meredith Kelly, a spokeswoman for the committee, said the group was taking action in California because voters “deserve to have a Democrat on the ballot in November.”

“Any decision to get involved in these races is toward that goal and based on intelligence from the ground in California, extensive data and partnerships with as many local allies as possible,” Ms. Kelly said.
Facts Burns might have included at this point: 1- Meredith Kelly is one of the stupidest people in Democratic politics; 2- California's Democratic Party has been so riven with identity politics that it borders on blatant racism; 3- Jay Chen who was the most qualified candidate for November had been in the race a little over a month when the DCCC persuaded him to drop out to help Cisneros; 4- the DCCC is threatening to smear Thorburn and make it impossible for him to win in November unless he drops out; 5- Cisneros has been bribing Democratic congressmembers and organizations to back him; 6- and, of course, the self-funding:

Andy Thorburn- $2,335,900
Gil Cisneros- $2,052,762
Mai-Khanh Tran- $480,000
Phil Janowicz- $194,900 (pressured out by the DCCC)
In the 39th District, Democrats went beyond prodding underdogs like Ms. Tran, 52, to stand down. Mr. Thorburn said the D.C.C.C. presented him with polling that suggested attacks on his finances and business record would be damaging in the general election-- data Mr. Thorburn dismissed out of hand. He said the committee clearly indicated its preference for Mr. Cisneros.

Mr. Thorburn, 74, is now the most unsettling rival for Mr. Cisneros and national Democrats, pairing a pointed ideological message with a personal fortune to spend on advertising. Deriding Mr. Cisneros as a “wishy-washy” newcomer to the party, Mr. Thorburn said he would strike back hard if the committee were to attack him, as it did Ms. Moser.

“I’m much more of a fighter than the national party,” Mr. Thorburn said, warning: “If they do something like they did in Texas, we would come back guns blazing.”

Mr. Cisneros has won over important state groups, including the muscular California Labor Federation. But his campaign office, at a strip mall in Brea, about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, showcases his national allies: One wall boasts an enormous sign from the gun-control group Giffords, which supports him, while another displays photographs of Mr. Cisneros with Barack and Michelle Obama.

...Some voters sounded unlikely to take their cues from national parties. Outside a Fullerton coffee shop where Mr. Jammal was greeting voters, Adam De Leon said he was suspicious of the candidates using personal wealth to sway the race. Mr. De Leon, 72, said he favored Mr. Jammal, 36, because of his government experience.

“What does it tell you when people spend millions of dollars to get into a position that pays maybe $140,000 a year?” Mr. De Leon said, somewhat underestimating the $174,000 congressional salary. “It’s all about power and connections.”

The Republican field is in flux, too. Young Kim, a longtime aide to Mr. Royce, is the front-runner but has several candidates challenging her from the right. With Republicans in Washington focused on defending beleaguered incumbents, they have been less intent than Democrats on shaping open primaries.

For Democrats, that project extends beyond California: On the same day the D.C.C.C. endorsed Mr. Cisneros, it also boosted candidates in New York and Arkansas who face contested primaries. In New York, the committee enlisted Juanita Perez Williams, a former candidate for mayor of Syracuse, to challenge Representative John Katko this month, though a lower-profile Democrat was already running with the support of local party leaders.

That kind of big-footing may be trickier in California. Mr. Chen, the Democrat who opted out of the 39th District race, said the party still faces a “precarious situation” there. He said he had decided against running after conducting a poll that showed him neck and neck with Mr. Cisneros and Mr. Thorburn-- but with Democratic voters fragmented enough to create an all-Republican general election.

He predicted none of the remaining Democrats would follow his lead and get out.

“If you’ve never been involved in the party before and you just ran because you want to run, then you don’t really have those considerations,” Mr. Chen said. “They are new to this. They don’t have bridges to burn.”
Goal ThermometerThe ideological battle within the Democratic Party is between the Democratic wing of the party (progressives and populists) and the Republican wing of the party (New Dems and Blue Dogs). The DCCC is part of the Republican wing and working hard to elect uber-corrupt former New Dem head, Joe Crowley, to lead the party after Pelosi and Hoyer are gone. DCCC candidates, like Cisneros, will do whatever they're told. A guy like Jammal has a functioning mind, always a great danger for closed hierarchical systems like the House Democrats. You know what that Blue America ActBlue congressional thermometer is on the right? It leads to a contribution page for candidates who aren't in thrall to the DCCC and who are independent minded. And, one thing for sure-- no Blue Dogs and no New Dems... No candidates from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

So, Señor Trumpanzee has reached back to his New York past; back to Rudy Giuliani who once, when a Trump mob connection money-laundering scheme was exposed, made the problem go away shortly before Trump raised a nifty $2 Million for his mayoral campaign. Is this the kind of thing Giuliani meant when he said he would negotiate and end to the Mueller investigation within two weeks? Does Rudy envision a run for mayor or governor for himself? Does Donnie look at Rudy in drag and dream of golden showers?

We hadn't heard from Giuliani in a while. My theory was that that was because he was so obviously in such a state of whacked-out dementia that he wasn't even useful to FOX "News" anymore. Imaging that! Too far gone even for Sean Hannity! Now that Trumpanzee has apparently pulled Rudy out of his crypt, America will once again be seeing him stenching up the airwaves. Rudy's been gone so long, he will be in even worse shape than when we last saw him over a year ago. Revitalizing Rudy will be like trying to get a damaged robot that's been dormant for a century working again. You'll be able to hear the grinding, un-oiled gears and see occasional sparks as Rudy tries to spit out coherent phrases. I count the days until he's there, live on FOX, saliva drooling down his chin, as a couple of his crumbling teeth fall out on the desk in front of Hannity, Ingraham or one of the other goons. It'll make for great television, no?

Meanwhile, what will Mike Pence's reaction be when he sees the above picture of Rudy in drag? Will he run, shaking to "Mother?" Will he demand a course of Gay Conversion Therapy for Rudy? Or, will he just ask him for a date?

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Foster Friess Running For Governor Of Wyoming-- Likely To Change The State's Name To Zoowanatou


The two states that bought into Señor Trumpanzee the most fully were West Virginia and Wyoming-- 68.5% of West Virginia voters and 67.4% of Wyoming voters. Both are big coal mining states. Hillary did the worst in Wyoming-- 21.63%-- than anywhere else. Teton was the only county in the state she won-- and none of the others were close. And Bernie beat her in Teton-- and in every other county in the state. In Niobrara County, Bernie got every vote-- he beat Hillary 100% to 0%. In the general some of those Bernie voters switched to Hillary-- though not many. Trump took Niobrara 86% to 8.9%.

Wyoming's a pretty red state. Only 3 of the 30 state senators are Democrats and only 9 of 60 in the state House are. Liz Cheney is the state's sole member of Congress The last Democratic U.S. senator, Gale McGee, was elected in 1958, reelected in 1964 and 1970 and defeated in 1976. The last Democrat Wyoming sent to Congress was in Teno Roncalio (first elected in 1964; he resigned in 1978).

But it wasn't always that way. In 2002 Dave Freudenthal was elected governor and he was reelected in 2006 (with 69.9% of the vote). This year the Democrat running for the open seat is former state Rep (and House minority leader) Mary Throne. Until Friday there were half a dozen Republican contending for their party's nomination-- state Treasurer Mark Gordon some businessmen, Bill Dahlin, Sam Galeotos and Harriet Hageman and a couple of perennial candidates, Taylor Haynes and Rex Rammell. But on Friday, everything changed when right-wing evangelical and GOP sugar daddy Foster Friess announced he wants to buy the governor's mansion for himself. Friess, who is nearly 80 and known to be pretty senile, is widely seen as a crackpot with oodles of money to spend on fringe far right candidates. He and his super PAC-- the Red, White & Blue Fund-- gave Rick Santorum and Scott Walker millions of dollars and he's been an easy touch for 6-figure donations to all kinds of right-wing extremist groups, from Freedomworks to Let Freedom Ring and Patriot Voices
Friess, who made his fortune in investing and is active in national politics, said he felt called to serve the public by running for office.

“I just think it would be kind of irresponsible or ungrateful for me to brush off all the things God has done for me,” Friess said. “I’m going to have to give up an awful lot to take this position.”

Friess is little known within Wyoming’s statewide political scene but flirted throughout the fall with challenging Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, mostly in comments to national news outlets.

His announcement regarding the governor’s race came following a confusing scene during a convention luncheon that Friess was sponsoring. In a press release late Thursday, Friess said that a “big announcement” would come during his speech at the lunch. But while Friess said that he would not be running for Barrasso’s seat, he added that he was told shortly before he took the stage that it would be inappropriate to announce his candidacy for governor during the lunch, because other candidates did not have the opportunity to speak.

Instead, he delivered a wide-ranging talk largely centered on his current public campaign to return “civility” to political discourse in the United States. Friess also addressed seemingly random issues, including the importance of arming the Kurdish soldiers, who he referred to as ‘my Pershmerga pals’, the poor quality of government health care on Indian reservations and how to improve the Republican political message (say “reallocate” Planned Parenthood’s funding rather “defund” it).

He also went on some decidedly uncivil tangents, including a suggestion that President Barack Obama had funneled money intended to mitigate climate change to relatives in a foreign country that Friess said he did not know how to pronounce.

“Zoowanatou ... it’s some little country I’ve never been,” Friess said. “It probably ended up with the president’s cousins.”

Friess alluded to his plans to enter the governor’s race during a question-and-answer period. He said he could not confirm a Politico article published shortly before he took the stage saying that Friess intended to run, but he did weigh in on what he would do as “CEO of Wyoming.”

“The next governor’s ... number one priority is traveling around the world to bring companies here,” Friess said. He also cited the need to improve returns on Wyoming’s more than $20 billion in investments.

Immediately following the event, Friess held court in the hallway for a group of roughly one dozen convention delegates and reporters to make his announcement official. A former varsity athlete, Friess towered over the crowd wearing a long, tan leather jacket while behind him a young aide with slicked-back hair stood erect and held Friess’s cowboy hat.

“I agonized,” Friess said of his decision to run. “It’s going to be some unpleasantness-- I love my golf.”

Though he is little known within the statewide Wyoming Republican scene, Friess said it “should be very, very easy” to spread his message because only 300,000 people participate in the GOP primary and Gov. Matt Mead won the nomination with just 28,000 votes.

“I plan to do it by traveling around and listening to people,” Friess said.

(Mead won the 2010 primary with 30,272 out of the roughly 120,000 ballots cast.)

Friess said he still needs to learn a lot about the issues facing Wyoming because his hometown Jackson Hole News&Guide has not been an adequate source of news.

“I would say in Jackson Hole the paper is very left-wing so they give a perspective on what some of the issues are-- but we hear about the grizzlies, we hear about the coal issue,” he said.

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America Needs Congressmembers Like Ro Khanna And Kaniela Ing To Watch What Facebook Is Up To


If you watched the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee "grilling" Mark Zuckerberg a few weeks ago... well it wasn't as bad as when Alaska SenatorTed Stevens explaining net neutrality and the internet in terms of a series of tubes and big trucks just over a decade ago. But almost. They're old. And they have staffers who type for them.

Ro Khanna, the progressive congressman who represents Silicon Valley was dismayed-- "less" wrote Alex Nazaryan for Newsweek "because of what the Facebook co-founder and chairman did say-- for the most part, bromides about privacy, security and censorship-- than because of what the lawmakers arrayed before him didn’t." Ro is a calm and composed fella. One can only imagine if Hawaii state Rep-- and congressional candidate-- Kaniela Ing was sitting next to him.
“This was a missed opportunity,” Khanna lamented later that evening in a text message. “The hearing revealed a knowledge gap in Congress about technology.” Many of the men and women questioning Zuckerberg were about twice his age, and some were quite a bit older than that. They knew that adversaries like Russia had weaponized social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, but the particulars of the problem clearly eluded them. The 44 legislators who took turns quizzing Zuckerberg showed only a cursory understanding of data collection and encryption, and the lengthy hearing quickly devolved into the kind of exasperating technology tutorial one dreads having to give aging relatives.

It was an amusing day for the purveyors of humorous internet memes. But anyone anxious about the obviously uneasy marriage between democracy and digital technology would not have been reassured. Zuckerberg left Capitol Hill without having to explain in any appreciable detail the failure that brought him there in the first place: the improper use of data belonging to 87 million Facebook users by data research firm Cambridge Analytica, which was conducting microtargeting work for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He did offer apologies and reassurances, but these were vague enough to not be especially reassuring.

Only eight years older than Zuckerberg, Khanna has been called “Silicon Valley's ambassador to Middle America.” California’s 17th congressional district, which he has represented since 2017, is home to some of the most successful corporations in the world: Apple (market value: $892 billion, as of April 16), Intel ($245 billion), Yahoo (now part of Verizon, whose market capitalization stands at $197 billion) and Tesla ($50 billion). Alphabet ($726 billion), with its Googleplex, is one district over, as is Facebook ($480 billion), with its thumbs-up icon announcing its Menlo Park Headquarters, at 1 Hacker Way.

That address captures the mood of Silicon Valley a decade ago: whimsical, cheeky, maybe even hubristic. This was before anyone had ever heard of the Internet Research Agency, where Vladimir Putin’s minions were waging a new kind of war. Psychographic data, of the kind Cambridge Analytica supposedly collected, was not yet for sale to politicians looking for an edge. Trolls were the stuff of medieval legend. And coding savants could not have expected to be lectured by the likes of Senators Chuck Grassley and Dean Heller, as Zuckerberg was earlier this month. The thumb is still there, at 1 Hacker Way, but the joke is no longer funny.

“I believe representing Silicon Valley is one of the most important jobs in American politics,” Khanna says. To represent Silicon Valley is to speak and account for a techno elite given far more to self-celebration than introspection. Aware of the region’s surpassingly good fortunes, and of its closely related tendency to hubris, Khanna has tried to export the former while arguing that it is necessary to tame the latter. He believes that the success of the tech sector is replicable and could serve as economic balm for other parts of the nation, particularly those where mining or manufacturing can no longer vault blue-collar workers into the middle class. Despite troubling disclosures about Facebook and its peers, he believes that most any community would welcome Zuckerberg, along with his Cambridge Analytica problem.

The same week that Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi selected Khanna to draft an Internet Bill of Rights. It was a significant show of confidence in the House freshman by Pelosi, a veteran of the chamber renowned for her political acumen. Although it is impossible to say what an Internet Bill of Rights will look like, Khanna has long proposed such a measure to give Internet users clarity over the data they share as they click through Facebook photos or shop on Amazon.

The Internet Bill of Rights would, in turn, prove a major test of just how much regulation Silicon Valley is willing to countenance. Big Tech has been a remarkably cagey industry, in part because it knows it gives us what nobody else can. It knows that even as we complain about hegemony, we order diapers on Amazon, instead of walking to the corner store. World leaders spar on Twitter, while chefs who once wanted to impress critics now think about what will look good on Instagram. At the same time, Reddit trolls disseminate fake news, which Google algorithms uncritically promote, while terrorists talk freely on WhatsApp, protected by the messaging service’s encryption. Silicon Valley is becoming a victim of its own explosive growth, like the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks that failed in 2008, plunging the nation into a recession.

Khanna is aware of souring public opinion and has tried to both acknowledge it and reshape it. “You can’t be an island of success,” he says of the district he represents. “We have to answer the nation’s call.” If Silicon Valley can answer that call with “humility,” Khanna says, the tech behemoths can avoid the kind of onerous regulation other liberal legislators are calling for, such as the General Data Protection Regulation that will go into effect in Europe in 2018.

Khanna’s indefatigable optimism has positioned him as a potential leader in a Democratic Party unable to reconcile its progressive and centrist elements and desperate for new faces. As a member of the Progressive Caucus, Khanna has advocated for liberal policies such as expansion of the earned-income tax credit. But his corporate past—- and corporate constituency—- keep him from veering too far into the sort of political fantasy for which Northern California is sometimes known. He may be just what the party needs, a moderate by temperament but by no means a centrist.

“You can have a bold progressive vision coming from Silicon Valley, rooted in patriotism,” Khanna says. “And I guess the case study is they elected me.”

..."This is a huge opportunity for tech leaders to work with Congress,” Khanna says. Otherwise, he warns, the regulatory power will fall to “a bunch of bureaucrats who, frankly, don't know much about tech,” intellectual siblings of the senators who haplessly interrogated Zuckerberg. If regulation is inevitable, better that regulation be informed by the industry in question.

Back to Kaniela for a moment. He's already taken on Zuckerberg... and won. Kate Arnoff, writing for In These Times explained how in 2014, "Zuckerberg purchased 700 acres of beachfront property on land Native Hawaiians have gathering rights to. Then he built a wall around it, and sued local families to keep them out. Ing helped lead the charge from the state legislature for Native Hawaiians to reclaim their rights to that land, and Zuckerberg eventually dropped the lawsuits. Now, Ing, a Native Hawaiian, is running to represent Hawaii’s first congressional district, with a critique of Facebook and other corporations that extends well beyond their CEOs’ real estate investments. In Washington, Ing hopes to curtail corporate power, and regulate Facebook and other major tech firms like utilities." Kaniela:
We know what it’s like to be up against oligarchy in Hawaii. We’ve lived in a feudal society and a really unequal capitalist society throughout history. Now we’re seeing that repeat. We have three men in American who hold more wealth than the bottom half-- than 50 percent of the entire nation. And 82 percent of new wealth generated in 2017 went to the top 1 percent. It’s more stark than ever. Mark Zuckerberg is one of today’s oligarchs, just like on the mainland with Standard Oil and some of the other oligarchs in the past. Except now these guys have control over commerce, like Amazon, and communications, like Facebook. And that’s where it gets really dangerous for a democracy. It’s important that Congress act now and not rely on self-regulation by these monopolists.

Goal Thermometer...Zuckerberg calls Facebook a social utility. And if he’s admitting it’s a utility he should agree that it should be treated like one. The same goes for the internet in general, not just social networks but broadband connection. It’s a necessity now in the modern world, the way electricity was almost a century ago. There was way too much control by a few corporations that actually didn’t benefit the majority of the public. So the government took over lines and-- at the very least-- heavily regulated these monopolies to make sure that everybody had equal access to electricity. We’re going to have to do that for broadband generally, and we’re going to have to do that for social networks. Right now there’s nothing stopping someone like Zuckerberg from adjusting their algorithms to punish people with certain political views or certain companies. Arguably it’s already happening. A lot of independent news sources don’t have the same ability to reach their own followers that more corporate news sources do. That’s unfair.
If you'd like to help Kaniela win his race-- against 3 conservative barely Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- please click on the thermometer above and contribute what you can to his campaign. You want to see real change in Congress? There's no one who's out to do that, and ready to do that, like Kaniela.

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