Thursday, March 23, 2017

Will TrumpCare Signal The End Of The Republican Party In California's Federal Politics?


Whip counts change. The most worthless ones-- aside from Steve Scalise's-- come from the clueless Beltway media clods. I laughed when I saw Lou Barletta (R-PA) start turning up on lists of NO votes. There's no one in the House more easily bought-off by a thug like Trump than Barletta. So I wasn't quite as breathlessly in shock as the little children at The Hill when Barletta took his bribe and switched his vote:

Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus, said a few days ago his own whip count shows 40 NO votes in the House. That's the highest I've seen and I wouldn't count on that big a fuck you to Ryan, who has been busy showing Republicans he knows how to get even with expensive TV ads and cheap rob calls in their own districts. As late as yesterday-- after arm-twisting and some pretty massive bribe promises that netted Trump-- besides Barletta-- John Faso (R-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), Martha McSally (R-AZ), paper tiger Steve King (R-IA), Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Meadows said he had firm NOs from 25 Freedom Caucus members alone. They only need 22 to kill TrumpCare so that it never even goes to the Senate at all.

Last night many of our Senate contacts were telling us they expected Ryan to have a heart to heart with Scalise, realize he doesn't have the votes, and postpone today's do-or-die attempt. Yesterday Trump set Mike Pence, Kellyanne Conway and #PresidentBannon loose on a dozen or so Freedom Caucus members he lured over to the White House. A staffer for one member told me that after the meeting, his boss was more sure than every he would be a NO vote. Several members complained that there is no talk about substantive poilicy-- just politics, crude bribes and usually subtle threats.

One firm NO vote is Thomas Massey, a Libertarian-leaning independent thinker from Kentucky. He says he knows over 35 Republicans against it and he feels they can force Ryan to raise the white flag and repeal ObamaCare without replacing it. "This is worse than Obamacare," he told the media, "and we’re going to own it. We’re going to own it lock, stock and barrel." He tweeted jokingly that he had changed his vote late yesterday, sending out this as a tweet:

Ryan and Trump, though, aren't the only ones holding cash under Republicans' noses to get them to vote on TrumpCare. The Kochs want to see it defeated and CNN reported late yesterday that the Koch network is creating a new multimillion dollar fund for Republican candidates in the 2018 reelection races-- but only for the ones who vote against TrumpCare today.
The Koch-aligned networks oppose the bill because they think it does not do enough to scale back former President Barack Obama's health care policies.

"We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact," Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips said. "We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise."
Ted Lieu addressed a statement directly to the California Republicans in Congress: "Today’s revelation by Governor Jerry Brown of a $6 billion a year tax bill for California under President Trump’s health care plan is astounding.  I triple-dog-dare moderate House Republicans from California to vote for TrumpCare." What he's talking about is that any Republican who votes for TrumpCare is voting to deny their own constituents federal support for health insurance for a simple reason: in California state law mandates abortion coverage in health insurance, while Ryan specifically wrote TrumpCare to deny tax credits for any policy that does that. The consequences would be calamitous for the state's insurance markets and probably signal-- if (and it's a BIG if) the DCCC could find good candidates-- the end of the careers of at least half a dozen California Republicans, namely Steve Knight, David Valadao, Darrell Issa-- regardless of which was he flip-flops today-- Jeff Denham, Mimi Walters, Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce maybe even Paul Cook, Ken Calvert and Tom McClintock. The losses of health care under these circumstances go way beyond what was implied by the CBO because they didn't take the abortion inclusion statute into consideration.

If the DCCC is smart they'll nudge their losing import/invention from last cycle, Brian Caforio, aside and get behind local progressive Katie Hill in CA-25 and retire Steve Knight, the right-wing Republican incumbent. Last night, Hill reiterated that she's far from being a fan of TrumpCare while Knight runs around like a chicken without a head trying too decide which position on TrumpCare hurts him more, backing it or opposing it. Katie Hill:
Representative Knight has been non-committal regarding how he will vote on Ryan's repeal bill. At this point, we have no idea if he will vote in favor of a bill that will result in more than 60,000 of his own constituents losing health coverage, and ultimately decimate the entire insurance market here in California. However, given the tremendous pressure he and other Republican members of congress are receiving from GOP leadership and President Trump, it is likely that he will end up voting yes tomorrow.

Health care is a basic human right. If I am elected to congress, I will fight each day to ensure that every single person is able to receive health care that they can afford. It's common sense-- if our people aren't healthy, our society isn't healthy. If anyone gets sick or dies because they can't afford insurance or the care they need, then we are failing as a country and as a community. I won't rest until we know that that won't happen anymore.

Congressman Knight, it's time to put people over party. I know I will.

UPDATE: What Ryan Did To TrumpCare Overnight-- Aromatherapy Is Nice, But Who Will Cover Chemotherapy?

Looks like the GOP Establishment still doesn't have enough votes to pass this Frankenstein's monster of a bill and that it will be postponed 4 or 5 days while they threaten and bribe more Republican members. The changes they made to the bill last night actually turned off even more members! Margot Singer-Katz covered the sausage-making for the NY Times this morning.
There are two main problems with stripping away minimum benefit rules. One is that the meaning of “health insurance” can start to become a little murky. The second is that, in a world in which no one has to offer maternity coverage, no insurance company wants to be the only one that offers it.

Here is the list of Essential Health Benefits that are required under the Affordable Care Act:

Ambulatory patient services (doctor’s visits)
Emergency services
Maternity and newborn care
Mental health and substance abuse disorder services, including behavioral health treatment
Prescription drugs
Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
Laboratory services
Preventive and wellness services, and chronic disease management
Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

The list reflects some lobbying of the members of Congress who wrote it. You may notice that dental services are required for children, but not adults, for example. But over all, the list was developed to make insurance for people who buy their own coverage look, roughly, like the kind of coverage people get through their employer. A plan without prescription drug coverage would probably be cheaper than one that covers it, but most people wouldn’t think of that plan as very good insurance for people who have health care needs.

Under the Republican plan, the government would give people who buy their own insurance money to help them pay for it. A 20-year-old who doesn’t get coverage from work or the government, for example, would get $2,000. If the essential health benefits go away, insurance companies would be allowed to sell health plans that don’t cover, say, hospital care. Federal money would help buy these plans.

But history illustrates a potential problem.

In the 1990s, Congress created a tax credit that helped low-income people buy insurance for their children. Quickly, it became clear that unscrupulous entrepreneurs were creating cheap products that weren’t very useful, and marketing them to people eligible for the credit. Congress quickly repealed the provision after investigations from the Government Accountability Office and the Ways and Means Committee uncovered fraud.

Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who tends to favor market solutions in health care, said that while the Obamacare rules are “paternalistic,” it would be problematic to offer subsidies without standards. “If they’re going to offer a tax credit for people who are buying insurance, well, what is insurance?” he said, noting that you might end up with the government paying for plans that covered aromatherapy but not hospital care. “You have to specify what’s included.”

A proliferation of $1,995 plans that covered mostly aromatherapy could end up costing the federal government a lot more money than the current G.O.P. plan, since far more people would take advantage of tax credits to buy cheap products, even if they weren’t very valuable.

There’s another reason, besides avoiding fraud, that health economists say benefit rules are important. Obamacare requires insurers to offer health insurance to people who have pre-existing illnesses at the same price as they sell them to healthy people, and the Republican bill would keep this rule. But if an insurance company designs a plan that attracts a lot of sick people, it will be very expensive to cover them, and the insurance company will either lose money or end up charging extremely high prices that would drive away any healthy customers.

...Before Obamacare passed, there were few federal standards for health insurance bought by individuals, and it was not uncommon to find plans that didn’t include prescription drug coverage, mental health services or maternity care. But plans tended to cover most of the other benefits. That was in a world where health insurers could discriminate against sick people. In that era, insurers in most states could simply tell the mother of a mentally ill child that she couldn’t buy insurance. That made it less risky for insurers to offer mental health benefits to everyone else.

David Cutler, a professor at Harvard who helped advise the Obama administration on the Affordable Care Act, said he thinks the kind of insurance products that would be offered under the proposed mix of policies could become much more bare-bones than plans before Obamacare. He envisioned an environment in which a typical plan might cover only emergency care and basic preventive services, with everything else as an add-on product, costing almost exactly as much as it would cost to pay for a service out-of-pocket.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In May, Montana Voters Get A Chance To Send Trump A Message-- Either "Slow Down, Crazy Man" Or "Punch Us Again"


I've heard a lot of good stuff about Rob Quist from friends in Montana, where he's the Democratic candidate to replace the state's sole member of the House, Ryan Zinke, recently confirmed by a rubber stamp Senate as the Trump Regime Interior Secretary. His opponent is far, far right extremist Greg Gianforte, who was recently defeated when he ran for Montana governor. Although Trump won Montana that day by nearly 100,000 votes-- 274,120 (56.5%) to 174,521 (36.0%), Gianforte was defeated by the same voters, 250,846 (50.2%) to 232,080 (46.4%). Over 40,000 Trump voters just couldn't bring themselves to cast their ballots for Gianforte. (The ballot initiative to expand medical marijuana passed that day with more votes than either Trump or Gianforte-- 284,531 (57.6%). I sure hope Montana voters will reject him again in the May 25 special election.

That raises two questions: can a Democrat even win in a red state like Montana? And why hasn't Blue America endorsed Rob Quist? Montana is a pretty red state, but the voters elected Democratic governors the last 4 times they had the opportunity to and keep electing Democratic U.S. senators as well. So, yes, Rob can certainly win. So why no endorsement? I'd vote for him if I lived in Montana but Blue America has a pretty intense vetting process and Rob wasn't interested in an out-of-state liberal PAC getting involved with his race. That's understandable. And that's that. Kind of. We'd like to urge everyone to listen to the 20 minute interview up top to get a feel for Quist-- and the campaign song he wrote and sings below.

As we explained a few weeks ago, everybody in Montana knows Rob Quist, a local musician who plays every small town in the state. He's never run for office before. But last year he did have the good sense to endorse Bernie.
Quist said he supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee and was disappointed to see his loss to Hillary Clinton, saying that it had a depressing effect on young people.

“The Democratic National Committee sent him to the sidelines in favor of Hillary Clinton. They tried to control it from top down,” he said, noting that Republicans, through the tea party, had a grassroots network that helped them win elections.

“We know that the pendulum swings both ways and the reason I’m sitting here today is that I decided I wanted to be part of the movement that starts us back on the track to unity and respect for each other. We’ve lost that here in America,” he said.
He's seems good on every issue, even really tough ones for Montana Democrats-- pro-Choice, against religious intolerance towards Muslims, in favor of strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and this is what he said about the gun debate: "You register your car to drive, why not register guns. I know that’s a touchy subject for a lot of people, but I think we definitely have the right to bear arms and as I say I’ve been on many hunts myself where I’ve brought home an elk that fed our family and that’s an important thing for Montanans."

This is what Our Revolution said when the organization endorsed Quist:
Rob Quist won the Democratic nomination to fill the Montana Congressional seat left open by Ryan Zinke’s nomination for Secretary of the Interior. Quist is native of rural Montana, an award winning musician, and an avowed supporter of Bernie Sanders’ political revolution-- it was outspoken locals like him who helped Sanders win 51 percent of the vote in Montana. While Quist’s Montana values of hard work, family, and community inform his robust political platform. Quist is committed to standing up for ranchers and farmers who currently receive the lowest prices for their grain and stock, union workers who continue to fight for the middle class, teachers who continue to be underpaid, Native Peoples who deserve self-determination and sovereign land, small business owners who need streamlined tax codes, and the many Montanans who rely on Social Security and Medicare. Quist has also demonstrated a clear commitment to justice for women, the LGBTQ+ community, and the environment. Our Revolution, alongside Senator Jon Tester and former Governor Schweitzer, is honored to support him for Montana’s At-Large Congressional Seat.
Gianforte supports Paul Ryan's TrumpCare bill and Quist opposes it. If it's signed into law 96,317 Montanans will lose their health insurance. Ryan must be panic-stricken because his SuperPAC has already poured $700,000 into ads attacking Quist, who told Montanans after the CBO report came out delineating how catastrophic TrumpCare will be, especially in largely rural Montana that the report "confirms that the D.C. Republican’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will take away health insurance from hard-working Montanans, to give tax breaks to millionaires like Greg Gianforte. Montanans deserve better." Gianforte, who wasted $5 million of his own money on the failed gubernatorial campaign, is expected to spend heavily on this race as well, but is trying to keep it secret. When questioned, all he would say is that he was faced with an awful lot of out-of-state, special interest money in that Governor’s race. I don’t think that’s what Montanans want." Gianforte and right-wing groups supporting him spent many times what Bullock spent and so far the only big out-of-state money sloshing around Montana is from Paul Ryan's SuperPAC. A friend of mine in Bozeman told me that everyone in the state knows Gianforte is "some crook from New Jersey who lies almost as much as Trump... The Republicans here made a big mistake selling him their nomination. They should be ashamed.

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Foreign Money In U.S. Elections-- One Swamp Trump Has No Intention Of Draining


ProgressivePunch is an imperfect tool for evaluating how candidates perform, but it can be-- if not used as a blunt instrument-- a useful tool in putting together a comprehensive picture. And it's certainly better than any of the other systems I know of that evaluate and score congressional votes. We've mentioned several times that some of the Class of 2016 freshmen have turned out as dreadful as we expected them to. The worst of the lot are routinely voting with the Republicans on crucial issue after crucial issue-- Stephanie Murphy (Blue Dog-FL), Josh Gottheimer (Blue Dog-NJ), Tom O'Halleran (Blue Dog-AZ), Tom Suozzi (NY), Jacky Rosen (NV), Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA), Charlie Crist (FL)...

But it's also worth looking at who is out-performing and already showing leadership potential. There are half a dozen freshmen who went right to the top of the class:
Pramila Jayapal (WA)- 100
Jamie Raskin (MD)- 90.91
Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE)- 90.91
Ro Khanna (CA)- 90.91
Adriano Espaillat (NY)- 90.91
Nanette Barragán (CA)- 90.0
And it takes more than just a good voting record, of course. We've been following closely how Pramila Jayapal and Ro Khanna have distinguished themselves, leading on new trail-blazing agenda items well beyond what Democrats can expect from their own leadership. This week, in the midst of all the tumult over Putin-Gate and Trump's treasonous role in connivance with the Russians, Jamie Raskin approached the problem of foreign interference in American elections from another perspective. Common Cause brought it to my attention:
After foreign entities manipulated our 2016 elections, we must protect ourselves against foreign sources of money that can further erode the integrity of our elections,” said Aaron Scherb, Common Cause’s director of legislative affairs. “With more than $650 million in secret political money, some of which was likely from foreign sources, during the last three federal elections, foreign governments and entities potentially hostile to U.S. interests can continue to infiltrate our elections. Common Cause commends Representative Raskin for introducing the Get Foreign Money Out of U.S. Elections Act so we can restore faith and confidence in our election processes.
Raskin introduced H.R. 1615, the purpose of which is to close the foreign money loophole for corporate spending. Since the bulk of this foreign corporate cash goes right to Republicans, none of them have signed on to Raskin's bill. 26 Democrats did however, including Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) and Beto O'Rourke (D-TX).

Adelson should be in prison

You may be thinking that current law already bars individual foreign nationals from personally contributing to federal campaigns and you'd be right. But foreign political spending can still take place via American-registered corporations that are foreign subsidiaries, foreign-owned, or foreign-controlled and influenced, all thanks to the Citizens United ruling. Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, for example launders immense amounts of foreign money to the Republicans this way. Last year alone, they funneled $10 million to Paul Ryan's Congressional Leadership Fund, $20 million to Future45, a SuperPAC that helped Trump, $7.5 million to McConnell's Senate Leadership Fund, over a million to help McCain's reelection and hundreds of thousands more to right-wing candidates everywhere in the country, as well as to state Republican parties in Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Arkansas, California, Nevada, Wisconsin and New Jersey. And that just two assholes of many-- too many. Raskin, a constitutional law professor. explained what he's trying to accomplish with the bill:
When the Supreme Court invented corporate free speech rights in Citizens United, it created a massive foreign money loophole in our country’s campaign finance system. The problem is that domestically registered corporations can be taken-over, bought-up, controlled, or influenced by foreign corporations and foreign nationals, and this means foreign powers have an easy and perfectly lawful way to funnel foreign money into American elections.

Foreign interests have already spent many millions of dollars on U.S. political campaigns, and we just witnessed unprecedented foreign efforts to undermine our democracy during the 2016 election cycle. We must protect the integrity of American democracy and close this dangerous foreign money loophole. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work with me to build a wall of separation between foreign money and democratic elections.
Ryan and McCarthy sent the bill over to the House Committee on House Administration, where a useless chairman, Gregg Harper of Mississippi will bottle it up. Zoe Lofgren, a committee member, has already signed on as a co-sponsor but if any of these Republicans represents your district, please consider e-mailing him or her and letting them know how you feel about foreign money in U.S. elections:
Robert Brady (D-PA)
Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Barbara Comstock (R-VA)
Mark Walker (R-NC)
Adrian Smith (R-NE)
Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

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Treason Is A Very Serious Crime-- Way Too Serious For Devin Nunes


Yesterday James Fallows wrote that Señor Trumpanzee's credibility crisis is now front-and-center. He worries about the inevitability of the moment a crisis causes Trump to say "Trust me," and no one can and that's why so many veteran officials have warned about his habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies. "If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else? And that anything else could well involve the most bizarre charges ever lodged against an American president. Soon the whole country will want to know who in the Trump Regime is literally guilty of treason-- and has this particular stinking fish rotted from the head.

Did you watch Spicy Spice on TV claiming authoritatively that "General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign" and that Paul Manafort "played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time?" We're talking about, respectively, Trump's now-fired National Security Advisor and his former campaign manager, the one who probably cut the deal with Putin that in all likelihood won him the election. Oh, you thought Bannon was the top guy at the campaign. Well, after Manafort's relationship with Putin started leaking out, the ghastly Mercer clan put their man Bannon in place but Bannon was in charge for just 83 days... Manafort 144 days. Anyway, watch Spicy trying to weasel out from under the importance of two of the Putinistas inside TrumpWorld. Very Ministry of Truth:

How did Trump even come into contact with Paul Manafort? Well longtime Trump crony Roger Stone-- the Julian Assange and Guccifer2 (GRU) contact person-- had been Manafort’s business partner, so it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to figure the introduction came from there. Trump would have taken right to Manafort, a ruthless and corrupt suck-up to power, just like Trump himself. Right now Trump and Manafort are both still claiming that neither of them was behind the only change the Trump campaign made to the GOP platform at the Republican National Convention, namely to let Putin write the position on Ukraine. Manafort, the scumbag who laundered payments from Putin's Ukrainian puppet into offshore accounts. This morning, the Associated Press blew the Manafort-Putin story sky high. Even Republicans are going to find it harder and harder to keep denying this with a straight face. "Manafort," reported AP, "secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics...The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests."
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."

Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.

The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort's ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed.

...Deripaska became one of Russia's wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin's interests. U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis" and "a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin's trips abroad." In response to questions about Manafort's consulting firm, a spokesman for Deripaska in 2008-- at least three years after they began working together-- said Deripaska had never hired the firm. Another Deripaska spokesman in Moscow last week declined to answer AP's questions.

When asked Wednesday about Manafort's work for Deripaska, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "we do not feel it's appropriate to comment on someone who is not an employee at the White House."

Manafort worked as Trump's unpaid campaign chairman last year from March until August. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine's ruling pro-Russian political party.
Unpaid? No. Unpaid by Trump but not unpaid. Putin picked up that tab as surely as Mercer picked up the tab for Bannon and Kellyanne and the rest. AP makes the point that "the newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to Putin's interests" and that "federal criminal prosecutors became interested in Manafort's activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukraine assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014."
Manafort and his associates remain in Trump's orbit. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Trump by telephone. Manafort's former business partner in eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions. Gates has since helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.

Gates, whose name does not appear in the documents, told the AP that he joined Manafort's firm in 2006 and was aware Manafort had a relationship with Deripaska, but he was not aware of the work described in the memos. Gates said his work was focused on domestic U.S. lobbying and political consulting in Ukraine at the time. He said he stopped working for Manafort's firm in March 2016 when he joined Trump's presidential campaign.

Manafort told Deripaska in 2005 that he was pushing policies as part of his work in Ukraine "at the highest levels of the U.S. government-- the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department," according to the documents. He also said he had hired a "leading international law firm with close ties to President Bush to support our client's interests," but he did not identify the firm. Manafort also said he was employing unidentified legal experts for the effort at leading universities and think tanks, including Duke University, New York University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Manafort did not disclose details about the lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period the contract was in place.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the department. Willfully failing to register is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, though the government rarely files criminal charges.

Deripaska owns Basic Element Co., which employs 200,000 people worldwide in the agriculture, aviation, construction, energy, financial services, insurance and manufacturing industries, and he runs one of the world's largest aluminum companies. Forbes estimated his net worth at $5.2 billion. How much Deripaska paid Manafort in total is not clear, but people familiar with the relationship said money transfers to Manafort amounted to tens of millions of dollars and continued through at least 2009. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret payments publicly.

In strategy memos, Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, especially the U.S., to allow oligarchs to keep possession of formerly state-owned assets in Ukraine. He proposed building "long term relationships" with Western journalists and a variety of measures to improve recruitment, communications and financial planning by pro-Russian parties in the region.

Trump was notoriously chummy with his campaign volunteers-- and Putin cutouts

Manafort proposed extending his existing work in eastern Europe to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Georgia, where he pledged to bolster the legitimacy of governments friendly to Putin and undercut anti-Russian figures through political campaigns, nonprofit front groups and media operations.

For the $10 million contract, Manafort did not use his public-facing consulting firm, Davis Manafort. Instead, he used a company, LOAV Ltd., that he had registered in Delaware in 1992. He listed LOAV as having the same address of his lobbying and consulting firms in Alexandria, Virginia. In other records, LOAV's address was listed as Manafort's home, also in Alexandria. Manafort sold the home in July 2015 for $1.4 million. He now owns an apartment in Trump Tower in New York, as well as other properties in Florida and New York.

One strategy memo to Deripaska was written by Manafort and Rick Davis, his business partner at the time. In written responses to the AP, Davis said he did not know that his firm had proposed a plan to covertly promote the interests of the Russian government.

Davis said he believes Manafort used his name without his permission on the strategy memo. "My name was on every piece of stationery used by the company and in every memo prior to 2006. It does not mean I had anything to do with the memo described," Davis said. He took a leave of absence from the firm in late 2006 to work on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Manafort's work with Deripaska continued for years, though they had a falling out laid bare in 2014 in a Cayman Islands bankruptcy court. The billionaire gave Manafort nearly $19 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable, according to legal filings by Deripaska's representatives. It said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska's queries about how the funds had been used.

Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Deripaska's representatives openly accused Manafort of fraud and pledged to recover the money from him. After Trump earned the nomination, Deripaska's representatives said they would no longer discuss the case.
Are members of Congress paying attention? Some are. This morning, Ted Lieu issued a statement that the report about "Manafort's secret work to benefit Vladimir Putin’s government is a new explosive revelation in the increasingly disturbing story of the Trump Campaign’s connections to Russia. The revelation that Manafort was paid $10 million by a Russian oligarch to influence politics, corporate dealings and media coverage to benefit Putin is scary enough. Even more ominous is the fact that the Trump White House keeps lying about its ties to Russia. For the good of our Republic, there must be a full accounting of any and all ties between Russia, President Trump, his administration and his associates.  Russia waged an unprecedented, robust, covert effort to alter the outcome of our nation's 2016 election. The importance of fully understanding if Team Trump colluded with Russia cannot be overstated. That’s why Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and I have introduced a House resolution of inquiry that could compel the Trump Administration to publicly disclose information to Congress and the American people. The American people have an absolute right to know the truth about Trump and his team's ties to Russia now." OK, now listen to Dave Gahan on this:

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There's A Referendum On Trump In The Atlanta Suburbs In 27 Days


Yesterday, Ryan Grim penned a piece for HuffPo, While Nobody's Watching, Paul Ryan Is Taking A Sledgehammer To Medcaid's Promise To Seniors. "While the debate over Obamacare repeal focuses on insurance subsidies," he wrote, "coverage equity and tax cuts, a far more radical attempt is quietly underway to end the Medicaid program as we know it. As currently structured, Medicaid guarantees a set of benefits to everybody who qualifies. Most people associate Medicaid with the poor and working class, but historically the program has spent as much or more money on elderly and disabled people who qualify, and use it to pay for things like nursing-home care that Medicare doesn’t cover. The new version of the program would upend this arrangement. It would devolve Medicaid to the states and reimburse them using a predetermined formula that, as the Congressional Budget Office and other experts have concluded, would not actually keep up with the cost of care. As the federal contribution toward Medicaid eroded over time, states could make up the difference on their own or-- more likely-- they could make cuts in who or what the program covers. The federal guarantee would be over, and with it, the Medicaid program as we know it. That’s not an accident. If House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wanted Medicaid to keep up with the cost of providing coverage to those eligible, there would be an easy way to do it: leave the program as is. But Ryan has been salivating about targeting Medicaid most of his life, he said this week. When he’s speaking with conservative audiences, Ryan is upfront about the goal. 'We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around-- since you and I were drinking at a keg,' he recently told keg-party buddy Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review."

On a meta level, this is obvious to anyone who has followed Ryan's political career. The part that should scare us in Grim's headline is the first part, though: "While Nobody's Watching." Whoever is doing Jon Ossoff's e-mail program should be taken out today-- not tomorrow-- and shot (metaphorically). I've never seen a worse e-mail program in my life-- and for such an outstanding candidate and cause, no less. They send half a dozen message-less annoying e-mails every single day. Like most people, I just gave up a few weeks ago and started deleting them without opening. Ossoff has a compelling message-- I've heard it from him and read it on his website-- but apparently the e-mail consultant is either too thick to have absorbed it or, worse, doesn't want to. Maybe the DCCC is secretly "helping." This does smell a LOT like them. But the people we need to BE watching what Ryan-- as well as Pence, Price, Mulvaney and the Trumpists-- are doing are the voters in the suburbs and small towns in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties due north of Atlanta.

29,329 people in GA-06 are going to lose insurance coverage if TrumpCare is enacted. It's been a very red district ever since Nixon's Southern Strategy kicked in. In 2012 Romney beat Obama in the district 60.8% to 37.5%. Trump did much worse than Romney and Hillary did much better than Obama. He only managed to squeak by with a 48.3-46.8% win. Even Republicans in the district don't like him. In last year's Georgia Republican primary Trump won the state but lost the district. He came in first in Georgia (38.8%), followed by Rubio (24.4%) and Cruz (23.6%). This is how it went in our 3 counties:
Cobb Co.- Rubio- 34.6%, Trump- 31.0%, Cruz- 21.2%
Dekalb Co- Rubio- 41.2%, Trump- 25.2%, Cruz- 15.4%
Fulton Co.- Rubio- 41.6%, Trump- 26.6%,Cruz- 14.6%
GA-06 hasn't become more Trump-friendly in the interim and if Ossoff succeeds in making the special election into a referendum on Trump, he could well win Tom Price's congressional seat. (Round one is April 18 and if Ossoff doesn't win outright, the runoff will be June 20.) So far Ossoff is succeeding. The polls just keep getting better for him. While the multitude of Republicans running for the seat amounts to an incoherent jumble, Ossoff has emerged not just as the top Democrat in the race, but as the top candidate-- by far. This is how the race looks this week:
Jon Ossoff (D)- 40.9%
Karen Handel (R)- 16.1%
Bob Gray (R)- 15.6%
Judson Hill (R)- 9.2%
Dan Moody (R)- 5.1%
Ron Slotin (D)- 2.9%
David Abroms (R)- 1.7%
Bruce LeVell (Trumpist)- 0.6%

And this poll was done by a Republican firm for a right-wing website. Last month the poll showed Ossoff ahead as well, but with 32%. He's making real headway with the voters, while Handel has been trending downward-- drastically so-- as voters have gotten to know her better. In last month's poll she was at 25%. They also polled Trump's job approval in the district:

And they polled the TrumpCare mess. Look who voters in the district are blaming for it:

Goal ThermometerThe Handel and Gray campaigns are now attacking each other on TrumpCare-- savagely. He opposes it from the right-- and has been endorsed by Club for Growth-- while Handel is in lockstep with Paul Ryan, exactly who most GA-06 voters blame for the whole mess. The degree of viciousness between the Handel and Gray camps has increased so precipitously now that it will be hard for the most devoted followers of whomever loses to get behind the Republican who comes in behind Ossoff and has to face him in the June runoff. If you'd like to help Ossoff keep up the momentum and take this race all the way, please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping the ActBlue thermometer at the right. If Ossoff wins this one, dozens of nervous congressional Republicans will head for the hills on the rest of Trump's toxic and destructive legislative agenda. I think we can do this thing.

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I'm Not Ready To Give Up On All The Trump Voters


A group of American students on a Spring Break cruise broke into a chant of "Build the Wall!" off the coast of Cancun. That's not going over real well in the country they're visiting.
This is just one of the many blameworthy behaviors that young spring breakers have shown recently in Cancun and that are described as acts of xenophobia and discrimination against Mexicans within their own country, which is (or should be) totally unacceptable.

...Several Mexican tourists on board the ship expressed their annoyance, but the Americans did not stop at all and continued singing the racist hymn.

This situation is far from being an isolated incident, and it adds to the growing number of complaints from tourism sector workers, who point out that in recent days many Spring Breakers have been offensive, rude and haughty towards Mexican people.
This is what David Leonhardt's OpEd, All the President's Lies, in yesterday's NY Times had to say about their leader, the one who makes this kind of behavior permissible. "The current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about-- among many other things-- Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women."
Trump sets out to deceive people. As he has put it, “I play to people’s fantasies.”

Caveat emptor: When Donald Trump says something happened, it should not change anyone’s estimation of whether the event actually happened. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. His claim doesn’t change the odds.

...Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are.

I want to admit something-- a guilty pleasure. Sometimes I fantasize that in the tuture someone wanting to vote take a lie detector test. "Did you vote for Donald Trump in 2016?" Those who say yes-- or who set off the alarm bells-- can't vote until they complete a basic civics course. I know; it's a horrible thought. It's just a fantasy. That's not who I am. I understand solidarity-- which is why, when when of my oldest friends (the daughter of a communist no less) e-mailed me (from an outdoor cafe in Barcelona) Frank Rich's column , No Sympathy for the Hillbilly. She wrote in her e-mail: "Waste of time for Dems to pursue them... I have been saying no sympathy for them, useless. They should be accountable for their votes." I've known her since 1966 and I'm pretty sure she's of two minds on this, like many of us are. I don't know about solidarity with those spoiled brats on the Cancun cruise chanting "Build the Wall," but... Well, let's look at what Rich had to say first:
Why did white working-class voters reject Hillary Clinton and the Democrats? Why did they fall for a billionaire con man? Why do they hate us?

There were, of course, many other culprits in the election’s outcome. Comey, the Kremlin, the cable-news networks that beamed Trump 24/7, Jill Stein, a Clinton campaign that (among other blunders) ignored frantic on-the-ground pleas for help in Wisconsin and Michigan, and the candidate herself have all come in for deserved public flogging. But the attitude among some liberals toward the actual voters who pulled the trigger on Election Day has been more indulgent, equivocal, and forgiving. Perhaps those white voters without a college degree who preferred Trump by 39 percentage points-- the most lopsided margin in the sector pollsters define as “white working class” since the 1980 Ronald Reagan landslide -- are not “deplorables” who “cling to guns and religion” after all. Perhaps, as Joe Biden enthused, “these are good people, man!” who “aren’t racist” and “aren’t sexist.” Perhaps, as Mark Lilla argued in an influential essay in the New York Times, they were turned off mostly by the Democrats’ identity politics and rightfully felt excluded from Clinton’s stump strategy of name-checking every ethnicity, race, and gender in the party’s coalition except garden-variety whites. Perhaps they should hate us.

While many, if not most, of those in #TheResistance of the Democratic base remain furious at these voters, the party’s political class and the liberal media Establishment are making a concerted effort to convert that rage into empathy. “Democrats Hold Lessons on How to Talk to Real People” was the headline of a Politico account of the postelection retreat of the party’s senators, who had convened in the pointedly un-Brooklyn redoubt of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Democrats must heed the rural white enclaves, repeatedly instructs the former Pennsylvania governor and MSNBC regular Ed Rendell. Nicholas Kristof has pleaded with his readers to understand that “Trump voters are not the enemy,” a theme shared by the anti-Trump conservative David Brooks. “We’re Driving to the Inauguration With a Trump Supporter” was the “Kumbaya”-tinged teaser on the Times' mobile app for a roundup of on-the-ground chronicles of these exotic folk invading Washington. Even before Trump’s victory, commentators were poring through fortuitously timed books like Nancy Isenberg’s sociocultural history White Trash and J. D. Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, seeking to comprehend and perhaps find common ground with the Trumpentariat. As measured by book sales and his appeal to much the same NPR-ish audience, Vance has become his people’s explainer-in-chief, the Ta-Nehisi Coates, if you will, of White Lives Matter.

...[I]t’s one thing for the Democratic Party to drain its own swamp of special interests and another for it to waste time and energy chasing unreachable voters in the base of Trump’s electorate. For all her failings, Clinton received 3 million more votes than Trump and lost the Electoral College by the mere 77,744 votes that cost her the previously blue states of Michigan (which she lost by .2 of a percentage point), Wisconsin (.8 point), and Pennsylvania (.7 point). Of the 208 counties in America that voted for Obama twice and tipped to Trump in 2016, more than three-quarters were in states Clinton won anyway (some by a landslide, like New York) or states that have long been solidly red.

The centrist think tank Third Way is focusing on the Rust Belt in a $20 million campaign that its president, a former Clinton White House aide, says will address the question of how “you restore Democrats as a national party that can win everywhere.” Here is one answer that costs nothing: You can’t, and you don’t. The party is a wreck. Post-Obama-Clinton, its most admired national leaders (Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) are of Social Security age. It rules no branch of federal government, holds only 16 governorships, and controls only 14 state legislatures. The Democrats must set priorities. In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.

That makes it all the more a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving “the poorly educated” who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.

...You need not take a liberal’s word for this. The toughest critics of white blue-collar Trump voters are conservatives. Witness Kevin D. Williamson, who skewered “the white working class’s descent into dysfunction” in National Review as Trump was piling up his victories in the GOP primaries last March. Raised in working-class West Texas, Williamson had no interest in emulating the efforts of coastal liberals to scale empathy walls. Instead, he condemns Trump voters for being “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.” He chastises them for embracing victimhood by blaming their plight on “outside forces” like globalization, the Establishment, China, Washington, immigrants-- and “the Man” who “closed the factories down.” He concludes: “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.”

Though some in Williamson’s ideological camp recoiled from his blunt language, he’s no outlier among conservatives. The popular blogger Erick Erickson tweeted last year that “a lot of Trump voters have failed at life and blame others for their own poor decisions.” His and Williamson’s line of attack echoes the conservative sociologist Charles Murray, most recently famous for being shouted down at Middlebury College in Vermont, where some remembered his co-authorship of The Bell Curve, a Clinton-era slab of spurious science positing that racial genetics play a role in limiting blacks’ performance on I.Q. tests. In a 2012 Obama-era sequel titled Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960–2010, Murray switched his focus to whites and reprimanded those in the lower strata for abandoning family values and civic virtues. (This time, the culprit was not the genetic code but the anything-goes social mores wrought by leftist 1960s counterculture.)

...The conservative contempt for Trump voters-- omnipresent among the party’s Establishment until the Election Day results persuaded all but the most adamant NeverTrumpers to fall into line-- would seem to give the Democrats a big opening to win them over. Bemoaning how his blue native state of West Virginia turned red well before Trump beat Clinton by 42 percentage points, the veteran liberal editor and author Charles Peters was hopeful the tide could be reversed with time and, yes, empathy: “If we don’t listen, how can we persuade?” he implored readers of the Times. Those who want to start that listening now can download an “Escape Your Bubble” browser extension to sweep opposing views into their Facebook feeds; both MSNBC and CNN have stepped up their efforts to expose their audiences to Trumpist voices. But getting out of one’s bubble can’t be a one-way proposition. It won’t make any difference if MSNBC viewers hear from the right while Fox News viewers remain locked in their echo chamber. Nor will it matter if hipsters-- or Democratic politicians-- migrate from the Bay Area and Brooklyn to Louisiana and Iowa to listen to white working-class voters if those voters don’t listen back. There’s zero evidence that they will. The dug-in Trump base shows no signs of varying its exclusive diet of right-wing media telling it that anyone who contradicts Trump, Rush, or Breitbart is peddling “fake news.” When Bernie Sanders visits West Virginia to tell his faithful that they are being raped and pillaged by Trump-administration policies that will make the Trump University scam look like amateur hour, he is being covered by MSNBC, not Fox News, whose passing interest in Sanders during primary season was attributable to his attacks on Clinton.

The most insistent message of right-wing media hasn’t changed since the Barry Goldwater era: Government is inherently worthless, if not evil, and those who preach government activism, i.e., liberals and Democrats, are subverting America. Facts on the ground, as Hochschild saw in Louisiana, do nothing to counter this bias. In his definitive recent book on the Rust Belt drug plague, Dreamland, the journalist Sam Quinones observes that “other than addicts and traffickers,” most of the people he encountered in his reporting were government workers. “They were the only ones I saw fighting this scourge,” he writes. “We’ve seen a demonization of government and the exaltation of the free market in America over the previous 30 years. But here was a story where the battle against the free market’s worst effects was taken on mostly by anonymous public employees.” In that category he includes local police, prosecutors, federal agents, coroners, nurses, Centers for Disease Control scientists, judges, state pharmacists, and epidemiologists. Yet even now, Reagan’s old dictum remains gospel on the right (Vance included): “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” In Portsmouth, Ohio, the epicenter of opiate-pill mills and of Quinones’s book, Trump won by a landslide. As he did in Ohio’s Butler County, where Vance grew up and which now ranks eighth among all American counties in the increase in the rate of drug-related deaths between 2004 (when opioid fatalities first spiked) and 2014.

As polls uniformly indicate, nothing that has happened since November 8 has shaken that support. And what are Trump’s voters getting in exchange for their loyalty? For starters, there’s Ryan-Trumpcare, which, on top of its other indignities, eliminates the requirement that Medicaid offer addiction treatment, which over the past two years has increased exponentially in opioid-decimated communities where it is desperately needed. Meanwhile, Trump’s White House circle of billionaires is busily catering to its own constituency, prioritizing tax cuts for the fabulously wealthy while pushing to eliminate rural-development agencies that aid Trump voters.

The go-to explanation for the steadfastness of Trump’s base was formulated by the conservative pundit Salena Zito during the campaign: The press takes Trump “literally but not seriously” while “his supporters take him seriously but not literally.” If this is true, then presumably his base will remain onboard when he fails to deliver literally on his most alluring promises: “insurance for everybody” providing “great health care for a fraction of the price”; the revival of coal mining; a trillion-dollar infrastructure mobilization producing “millions of new jobs” and accompanied by “massive tax relief” for all; and the wall that will shield America from both illegal immigration and the lethal Mexican heroin that has joined OxyContin as the working-class drugs of choice.

There’s no way liberals can counter these voters’ blind faith in a huckster who’s sold them this snake oil. The notion that they can be won over by some sort of new New Deal-- “domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance),” as Mark Lilla puts it-- is wishful thinking. These voters are so adamantly opposed to government programs that in some cases they refuse to accept the fact that aid they already receive comes from Washington-- witness the “Keep Government Out of My Medicare!” placards at the early tea-party protests.

Perhaps it’s a smarter idea to just let the GOP own these intractable voters. Liberals looking for a way to empathize with conservatives should endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes-- or in some cases failure to vote-- and live with the election’s consequences. If, as polls tell us, many voters who vilify Obamacare haven’t yet figured out that it’s another name for the Affordable Care Act that’s benefiting them-- or if they do know and still want the Trump alternative-- then let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests. That they will sabotage other needy Americans along with them is unavoidable in any case now-- at least until voters stage an intervention in an election to come.

Trump voters should also be reminded that the elite of the party they’ve put in power is as dismissive of them as Democratic elites can be condescending. “Forget your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap,” Kevin Williamson wrote of the white working class in National Review. “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.” He was only saying in public what other Republicans like Mitt Romney say about the “47 percent” in private when they think only well-heeled donors are listening. Besides, if National Review says that their towns deserve to die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?

So hold the empathy and hold on to the anger. If Trump delivers on his promises to the “poorly educated” despite all indications to the contrary, then good for them. Once again, all the Trump naysayers will be proved wrong. But if his administration crashes into an iceberg, leaving his base trapped in America’s steerage with no lifeboats, those who survive may at last be ready to burst out of their own bubble and listen to an alternative. Or not: Maybe, like Hochschild’s new friends in Louisiana’s oil country, they’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.
I'll pass on--like in refrain from participating in-- Rich's orgy of guilty pleasure. Iowa's first congressional district-- Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo-- went for Obama 56.2% to 42.5% in 2012. Last year it flipped to Trump 48.7% to 45.2%. If TrumpCare passes 44,991 people will lose their health insurance in the district, and their far right multimillionaire congressman, Rod Blum is waving the TrumpCare flag-- but only if Ryan makes it even more restrictive and harmful. This is the last kind of district in the country I would want to abandon to the Republicans, let alone the Trumpists. Of the 20 counties in the district, the population base is in 4 and this 4 decide the elections. Here's how they voted in last year's Iowa Caucuses
Black Hawk Co.- Bernie- 3,647 (52.9%), Trump- 1,360 (23.0%)
Dubuque Co.- Bernie- 2,276 (47.4%), Trump- 1,087 (27.3%)
Linn Co.- Bernie- 6,331 (52.3%), Trump- 2,344 (20.2%)
Marshall Co.- Bernie- 960 (53.4%), Trump- 608 (26.1%)
Yep... Bernie would have won. His message would have won. Hillary was the wrong candidate for this district. And to make it worse, the DCCC forced a sack of garbage on the district as the nominee, a rich, clueless "ex"-Republican named Monica Vernon who, of course, EMILY's List was pushing. And Schumer and the DSCC insisted on another crap corporate pile of shit candidate, Patty Judge. There was no reason for any Democrat-- except a blue zombie-- to vote for either one of them. Sure plenty of people went dot vote against Blum and against Grassley, but the DCCC and DSCC lesser of two evils strategy failed and failed miserably. Judge got wiped out completely, losing the bluest counties in the district. In fact, she only won one small county in the entire state. She was the worst Democratic Senate candidate in a plausible race anywhere in the country and Schumer wouldn't hear of anyone else being the candidate but her. Judge got 23.7% of the vote statewide. She did't even break 40% in Dubuque or Marshall counties. She offered absolutely nothing to any voters other than she an unconvincing assertion that she wasn't as bad as Grassely. Vernon got her ass kicked as well. The wretched GOP extremist was reelected 206,273 (53.9%) to 175,447 (46.1%) primarily because Vernon had nothing to offer anyone in this D+5 district but an EMILY's List cookie. No, I'm not giving up on these people; I'd give up on the Democratic Party first.

Besides, there IS the RedNeckRevolt, which we should all be tuned into: "The history of the white working class is one full of resistance, collectively and individually, against the rich elite that hold power over all of our lives. From massive armed uprisings like the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, to the resistance to coal mining in predominately white rural Appalachia today, white working people have been in conflict with those that uphold predatory economic, political, and social systems. The history of the white working class is also one filled with collaboration with those same rich elite power holders. White working people have played the role of foot soldiers for the political and economic elite, participating in genocide and the enslavement of other peoples, and overall protectors of the ruling class. White working class participation in state and paramilitary organizations and formations like the Ku Klux Klan, the Minutemen, the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Council of Conservative Citizens has undermined the struggle for freedom among all people. It is with these conflicting histories in mind that we hope to incite a movement amongst white working people that works toward the total liberation of all working people, regardless of skin color, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, or any other division that bosses and politicians have used to fragment movements for social, political, and economic freedom."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Bet The Senate Never Votes On TrumpCare-- At Least Not This Version The House Takes Up On Thursday


Ted Cruz thought he was going to be president last year-- he really did. And except that he got rolled by a Times Square clown with a jacket filled with fake Rolexes, he nearly won his party's nomination. I guess he came in second. Now he really doesn't want to be the first Texas Republican to lose a reelection bid to a Democrat since James Flanagan may have been beaten by Samuel Maxey, formerly a Confederate Brigadier General, in 1875. So... with El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke breathing down his neck, Cruz has announced he isn't voting for the extremely unpopular Trumpcare bill Paul Ryan, Mike Pence and Tom Price concotted. Sunday he told a Face the Nation audience that he "cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising." He and fellow right-wing anti-healthcare fanatics Rand Paul (KY), who seems offended by the $100 million insurance industry bailout in the bill, Tom Cotton (AR), Steve Daines (MT) and Cruz's only actual Senate friend, Mike Lee (UT) are all committed to voting against the bill because it isn't awful enough for their standards. More mainstream conservatives Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Rob Portman (OH), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Dean Heller (NV) and Bill Cassidy (LA) are saying they're ready to vote against the bill because it takes away coverage from too many Americans by rolling back Medicaid expansion.

If the Democrats stick together in their opposition to TrumpCare-- and the most Republican-like of them, Joe Manchin-- has already already said he's a no vote, McConnell can only afford to lose 3 Republicans. That first paragraph counts 11. That's more than 3. But none of them expect there's even going to be a vote in the Senate. That's because it will never make it out of the House. In Senator Cotton's own words on This Week (March 12): As it’s written today, this bill in the House of Representatives cannot pass the Senate. And I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans and it wouldn’t deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans. So, I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote... I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year... And I don’t want to see the House majority put at risk on a bill that is not going to pass the Senate."

A couple of days later, after the devastating CBO report came out, Cotton told far right radio host, crackpot Hugh Hewitt that "There is no three-phase process. There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk. It’s just politicians engaging in spin."

But Ryan says he's going to force a vote on Thursday. He and Trump have been targeting recalcitrant Republicans with negative TV ads and robocalls and threatening them with primaries. Yesterday they offered some weird, amorphous  $75 billion sweetener that I don't know who's going to like. Ryan's got Pete Sessions (his newly vulnerable House Rules Committee chairman tinkering with the bill to make it more acceptable to extremists figuring they can afford to lose a handful of mainstreamers if they can rope in a couple of handfuls of far right sociopaths). My GOP staff contacts in the House say its probably not going to work.

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows claims his own whip count shows 40 definite no votes. That would kill the bill as long as Ryan doesn't cut a deal with the New Dems and Blue Dogs, which looks unlikely at this point. On public record in opposition as of now:
Justin Amash (MI)
Mark Amodei (NV)
Dave Brat (VA)
Mo Brooks (AL)
Ken Buck (CO)
Warren Davidson (OH)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)
Tom Garrett (VA)
Louie Gohmert (TX)
Paul Gosar (AZ)
Darrell Issa (CA)
Walter Jones (NC)
Jim Jordan (OH)
John Katko (NY)
Steve King (IA)
Raúl Labrador (ID)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Tom MacArthur (NJ)
Thomas Massey (KY)
Mark Meadows (NC)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Mark Sanford (SC)
Daniel Webster (FL)
Rob Wittman (VA)
Ted Yoho (FL)
If they vote for it, as they more or less claim they are going to as of now, these are probably the dozen Republicans most likely to lose their seats in the 2018 midterms just because of this one vote. Most of these Members voted to advance the bill in either the House Ways and Means Committee or the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I expect more than a few of them to panic on Thursday when they stare political mortality in the eyes... and vote against the bill:
Ryan Costello (PA)
Carlos Curbelo (FL)
John Faso (NY)
Bill Johnson (OH)
Jason Lewis (MN)
Patrick Meehan (PA)
David McKinley (WV)
Erik Paulsen (MN)
Tom Reed (NY)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Peter Roskam (IL)
Mimi Walters (CA)
And yes, of course, there is something that could save each and every one of them-- incompetent 2018 DCCC candidate recruitment, something more and more Republican incumbents have come to rely on cycle after cycle. That could, once again, make the lot of them safe no matter what they do. Although not safe from Trump. He was on Capitol Hill today telling Republicans that they'd better vote for TrumpCare or "many of you will lose your seats in 2018." He smilingly threatened Mark Meadows, who he made standup before the whole crowd before dressing him down: "Mark, I'm gonna come after you." Among those who buckled under and raised the white flag today were Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Martha McSally (R-AZ), who polls show will lose her seat if she votes for TrumpCare.

The Undertaker-- GOP Austerity Health Care Act

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