Wednesday, June 29, 2016

I'm Back From Russia-- With A Couple of Observations


I spent most of June in Russia and Azerbaijan, mostly Moscow and St. Petersburg. It was my first trip to either country. St. Petersburg, was a city founded in 1703 to be Russia's window to the West, and Moscow, founded in around 1150, is less European. Over 12 million people live in Moscow; only 4.8 million live in St Pete. (By contrast, NYC has 8.5 million people and L.A. has around 4 million.) People don't smile much in Moscow and they all seem to have poker faces. St. Petersburg seems more like a European city in every way. But even in St. Pete there's an underlying anti-Western attitude. I met a 20 year old soccer player and spent some time with him. Although he aspires to live in Miami and speaks English well, he seemed offended when he asked me if I like Petersburg better than L.A. and I said no, I like L.A. better. And when I asked him if he likes American music, he immediately dismissed the very idea as absurd-- and then told me he likes rap music.

Simon Shuster offered some hints at Time Magazine about where that antipathy towards America (and the West) comes from. Russia has been encouraging, perhaps subtly, extreme violence, heavily trained and weaponized violence, around football matches in Europe. Putin denies any involvement but a member Parliament, Igor Lebedev, deputy chairman of the Russian soccer foundation "urged the hooligans on Twitter to "keep it up."
The phrase they chanted during the violence-- Russkie Vperyod! (Forward, Russians!)-- happens to be emblematic of the brand of throwback patriotism that emerged from Putin's most recent run for re-election, in 2012.

Ahead of that vote, the Kremlin decided that the only way to galvanize a weary electorate was to play on the old fears and prejudices of the Cold War. It worked: Putin's popularity rose along with animosity toward the West. Ever since, a series of crises in Russia's relations with the West have helped the state's powerful propaganda channels [including high school curricula, I discovered] nurture a national siege mentality, portraying Russia as the victim of a bullying and treacherous West whose primary aim is to bring the country to its knees.
St Petersburg is a gorgeous city, with one incredible public building after another, architecturally far more spectacular than anything in America. You can compare it to Paris, not to any American city. But just below the surface this was a different kind of dynamic-- low wages. Helsinki, capital of Finland, is very close to St Petersburg, just 242 miles-- 3.5 hours by train, 50 minutes by air. But the two cities are very different. In Finland, wages and labor standards are very high. Stuff is expensive but the standard of living is very high. Both cities have airports very close to town. It costs $15 to take a taxi to the airport in St. Pete. It's $55 in Helsinki.

Income inequality is very big in Russia and much less so in Finland. We use something called a Gini coefficient to measure income inequality. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income-- and everyone else has zero income). These are the wealth Gini coefficients comparing not just Finland and Russia, but several countries to offer some context:
Finland- 0.615
Canada- 0.688
U.K.- 0.697
Russia- 0.699
U.S.- 0.801
Zimbabwe- 0.845
So... the U.S. isn't the worst.

I went to visit the Grand Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg. My grandfather left Russia in 1905 after a series of pograms had killed thousands of Jews across Russia including small villages like the one his family lived in. When he got to St Petersburg to board a ship for America, the Grand Choral Synagogue was 12 years old and the second largest synagogue in Europe. My grandfather wasn't any more religious than I am but he had never been in a grand building of any kind before. He prayed at the synagogue before leaving for America.

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Beyond Homelessness, There is "Homefulness"


House keys not handcuffs: Melodie, 57, has been living on the street since 2007. She keeps her belongings attached to her at all times. Photo by Ekevara Kitpowsong, whose solo exhibit, City People, is on view now through July 31 at Modern Times Bookstore Collective in San Francisco. Profits from the sale of the images will be donated to The Gubbio Project.

- by Denise Sullivan

There are at present count over 6,000 people (and likely closer to 10,000) living outdoors, on the streets of San Francisco. They live in tent cities, in Golden Gate Park, in doorways on Market Street, in alleys in the Mission, on cardboard beds in the Haight, on patches of grass at Civic Center, in vehicles, and on benches at the beach. But the unhoused are under siege here as unaffordable housing, lack of services, and police violence continue to surge. The war against the homeless shows little sign of abating given the housing and eviction crisis: The murder of Luis Gongora by SFPD in April continues to shock and horrify with the recent revelations following his autopsy. And yet the city's technocrats and elites cleave to the idea that it's their freedoms which are being impinged upon; the sight of people living on the street is quite simply intolerable to them, though there may be a tiny crack of light in the darkness this week as Bay Area media launches an unprecedented barrage of coverage on all matters of homelessness.

The Beyond Homelessness Project began on Sunday and culminates today with over 70 Bay Area print, online, and radio outlets pledging to coordinate and intensify coverage of our beautiful and prosperous city's longstanding and growing unaffordability and its consequences. It's a baby step toward redirecting the narrative which so far, the organizer of the blitz, The San Francisco Chronicle, has either ignored or gotten terribly wrong. Failing to humanize our neighbors on the street, neglecting to report on a regular basis that around 70 percent of the people living homeless in San Francisco are displaced San Franciscans, and adhering to an editorial policy that reflects the opinions of, well, no one I know, the paper's editor-in-chief, Audrey Cooper, deigned it was time to begin more meaningful coverage on the subject of people living outdoors. Why? Because one day on her way to work she caught sight of a homeless couple having sex in their tent and it was simply too much for her to bear.

Though there has been a reporter charged with reporting on the homeless population, too often his pieces with intent to foster compassion end up doing the opposite, reinforcing ideas that longtime and new San Franciscans already hold. So when the reporter asks what may be a rhetorical question, like just when did San Francisco's streets become an "'open-air mental ward,'" I would argue the answer should be as sharp as the question. More than the result of budget cutting and law and order policies enacted in the Reagan era, the closing of mental health institutions and turning out people with no visible means of support much less the wherewithal to navigate the outside world, was the result of stone cold ticking off points on the far right's agenda. It needs to be said. And said again. So every potential voter gets the memorandum.

Here's a song Peter Case wrote 30 years about that period of time here and one San Franciscan impacted by poor federal, state, and local policy:

Over three and a half decades, San Francisco's mayors have struggled with a situation that veers from intractable to incomprehensible to potentially ripe for reform. Mayor Ed Lee's tepid assertions sound ridiculous on paper, though public outcry and pressure from the Board of Supervisors has resulted in the opening of homeless "navigation centers" and the promise of more. Meanwhile, he continues to order violent sweeps of encampments and tent cities, and police issue citations that the cited simply cannot pay, thereby criminalizing them. These so-called solutions rest uneasily side by side on the Bowery by the Bay.

Faith-based organizations carry a huge burden in caring for the downtrodden and dispossessed and yet they are increasingly marginalized and suspect themselves in secular society. Here in San Francisco the voices of religious leaders have been all but drown out and even their properties are being taken away from them. Nevertheless, the faithful continue to offer needed services like hot meals and shelter beds when the city falls short. This week the Rev. Cecil Williams, founder of Glide, one of the city's biggest providers of services wrote an editorial in which he declared homelessness a man-made disaster, a fault in the social contract. Glide is located in the Tenderloin where there is a longstanding tradition of non-violent street crime and social services, much like LA's Skid Row. The tech sector, though new to the neighborhood, believe its low-income neighbors have got to go, but there are those still working on the compassionate, innovative, and analog side of life, forging solutions that work there.

The Gubbio Project holds space for "sacred sleep" at St. Boniface church during daytime hours, allowing for the kind of rest that can prevent the psychosis-like symptoms caused by just one night of sleep deprivation. The Street Sheet published by the Coalition on Homelessness since 1989 and still publishing, provides news, information, and income to the people who sell it. Lave Mae is a mobile shower and toilet service with regular weekday stops. Based on the food truck model of doing business on wheels, the program is working.

And just to prove technology is not entirely at the root of all evil, there is at least one female-led company using its resources-- venture capital money and technological know how-- to actually do good for those we used to call street people. HandUp is an app that enables non-profits to raise money through online donations which support people in need directly. I learned about the service through one of their clients, a woman I pass with some regularity on the street. We speak from time to time, and eventually I asked if I could quote her for the purpose of this story. She asked me how she could tell if I was going to exploit her and I told her I guess she would just have to trust me on that. We both had a good laugh at my claim as I was making it, then talked further about our mutual missing teeth and left it at that (when I went back to follow-up with her, she had moved on). HandUp is working for her and until somebody tells me reason to believe otherwise, it sounds like it's a good stop gap while programs and services to fully care for the unhoused continue to develop and the digital divide closes. Personally, I liked finding out that the start-up's co-founder had a background that included working with Food Not Bombs, a meal program fairly active and supported by my friends and organizers during the punk rock-era and still holding strong (not coincidentally, the present storm of local media coverage has concerned a number of former punk musicians now in their 50s and 60s who are struggling on the street or who have perished, like Miss Kay from Polkacide did).

And just so you don't think I'm completely hardened to the ways of humankind, there are evermore good people working to make change in whatever ways they can: Earlier this year a public works employee refused to take part in a violent tear down of a make-shift abode. I don't know what happened to the worker, but I hope she retained her job. Sure it was one person, or in the case of HandUp, a few helping other people. But as far as I can tell, this is how functioning society is supposed to work, in lieu of its leaders or institutions doing anything about anything.

I work for a community-minded bookstore located in a neighborhood at the crossroads of gentrification and hard-hit. There is a men's shelter at the end of the block and sometimes the weary take a load off in our establishment. While it's true that the presence of mentally unstable, intoxicated, and unwashed San Franciscans may detract from the store's business, we choose to consciously engage (and disengage when necessary) with our neighbors. It takes time, effort, and admittedly we've had some difficulties but as you might imagine, people treated humanely respond in kind. The store has historically hired and served the activists and artists at the center of the movement for housing, economic and racial justice, many of them authors themselves: We are constantly learning from them how to better work for justice in an unjust town.

Among the city's most tireless advocates for decriminalizing poverty is the writer and spoken word performer Lisa Gray-Garcia, better known as Tiny. The activist, educator, and author combines street protest, poetry, and ancient ritual into a vision that suggests we transform the way we see, hear, and speak of our fellows. Divestment from the language of the oppressor is a tool that's been used by marginalized communities throughout history, and Tiny knows well how to work with words. Her terms like gentrifuckation put a fine point on exactly what's happening here. Her vision employs a complete overhaul of business as usual, the kind of change that moves from the bottom up and the inside out, the kind of work that begins at home. Gray-Garcia, her co-workers, and collaborators have either experienced living unhoused or know someone who has. They've confronted the grind of street survival and police brutality firsthand, and lived to tell the tales, and to help others along the way. Instead of homeless, they see people as "unhoused" but working toward "homefulness."

Though it's nice the Chronicle is finally getting up to speed on the idea that all of us who call San Francisco home are San Franciscans, it won't be until the unhoused become homeful and we can see and hear what those who have been there really have to say that the rest of us can truly say we that we too have moved beyond homelessness.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep on Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop. She writes from San Francisco on gentrification and the arts.

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The House Defective Committee on Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi! upchucks its "report," and Ambassador Chris Stevens's sister isn't impressed


Jeff Danziger [click to enlarge]

"It would be much more useful for Congress to focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world—for increasing personnel, language capabilities, for increasing staff to build relationships, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. I would love to hear they are drastically increasing the budget. . . .

"The only questions that I have are not answerable by anyone investigated or questioned by the committee. My questions are about why the militiamen attacked the compound in the first place. What were their intentions? It’d be interesting to know that. . . ."

-- Dr. Anne Stevens, sister of Ambassador Chris
Stevens, responding to the new House "report"

by Ken

Yes, there's plenty of blame for Democrats in the fine mess our government has devolved into, but the notion that there's anything like equal or equivalent blame with the Republicans -- who did it and they're proud -- seems to me dangerous nonsense, and nonsense that an understandably seething electorate may easily fall for. I doubt, for example, that there's going to be widespread understanding of the the Republican chickens that came home to roost this week.

I want to write about the Supreme Court and the two highly surprising "big" decisions it delivered in the rush to vamoose from this strange odd-man-down term, and the stark relief in which we can see the decades of legal rape and pillage performed by the judicial perverts stuffed onto the federal bench by anti-constitutional Republican presidents and Senate advisers-and-consenters. But that'll have to wait till Friday, so we can present this urgent bulletin regarding the finally disgorged "report" of the House Defective Committiee on Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi!, chaired by that imbecile and thug Trey Gowdy.

For starters, it would be nice if the Republicans on the Defective Committee were to into their pockets and put together some cash to reimburse us taxpayers for the mindless boondoggle they've perpetrated. This "report," after all, could have been written -- in fact, more or less was written without any of the "work" the committee pretended to do at taxpayer expense. It's the same farrago of innuendo and nonsense they were spouting chorally before the "hearings" began, which they tried to stick in the mouths of anyone who'd go along, with singular lack of success. But acknowledging this would have dragged them into the realm of facts and actual knowledge, a realm that makes them extremely uncomfortable, and where they consequently spend as little time as possible.

Second . . . well, what's the point? This is, after all, a Defective Committee that was out for blood for the horrible failure to protect our diplomats but that never troubled to ask the role of these very same Republican America-haters who quite consciously and systematically put those diplomats all over the world at increasing risk by failing to provide funds to protect them. You'd think that some of them, ill-fortuned enough to have a shred of conscience, would be falling on their swords, but if you think that, you don't know much about patriotism of the right-wing variety.

As regards the "work" of the Defective Committee, The New Yorker's Robin Wright found an excellent source in Anne Stevens, sister of the murdered ambassador, Chris Stevens. She notes that Dr. Stevens, who's chief of pediatric rheumatology at Seattle Children's Hospital, "has served as a family spokesperson" since her brother's death. They spoke, Robin writes in a post she put up yesterday ("Chris Stevens's Family: Don't Blame Hillary Clinton for Benghazi"), "twice in the past three days, including shortly after the House Select Committee report was issued."
Dr. Stevens recalled that her brother had been fascinated by the Middle East since childhood, when he dressed up as Lawrence of Arabia, with a towel and a pot atop his head. He served in the Peace Corps, in Morocco, before joining the Foreign Service, and he served twice in Libya before his final posting there, as well as in Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem, and Riyadh.

Chris Stevens's brother Tom and sister Anne at a memorial
for the ambassador in San Francisco in October 2012

It may not come as a great surprise that Dr. Stevens doesn't think much of the committee's inquiry, or of the way cynical politicians have tried to hijack her brother's death.
Whom do you fault for the lack of security that resulted in the death of your brother, in Benghazi?

It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.

I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.

What did you learn from the two new reports by House Republicans and Democrats?

It doesn’t look like anything new. They concluded that the U.S. compound in Benghazi was not secure. We knew that.

What did you think of Secretary Clinton’s conduct on Benghazi?

She has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.

After years of congressional investigations, do you feel that your brother’s death has been politicized in Washington?

Yes! Definitely politicized. Every report I read that mentions him specifically has a political bent, an accusatory bent. One point that seems to be brought up again and again is the accusation that the attack was a response to the video. I could understand why that conclusion would be made, because it was right after the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. But, frankly, it doesn’t matter that that was the thinking, that night, about why the attack occurred. It’s irrelevant to bring that up again and again. It is done purely for political reasons.

It would be much more useful for Congress to focus on providing resources for security for all State Department facilities around the world—for increasing personnel, language capabilities, for increasing staff to build relationships, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East. I would love to hear they are drastically increasing the budget.

Did your brother ever talk about the risks in Libya?

Even before we had an Embassy in Tripoli, he fell in love with the land, the people, and the rich, rich history. He sent pictures. He saw the potential of Libya. When the revolution occurred, he was very optimistic about the future. He was happy to be involved, to be our special envoy in Benghazi for a year. He wanted to be part of this exciting prospect of a free Libya.

He did tell us about the dangers then. He told us about a car bomb that had shaken the hotel where he had offices in Benghazi. But, when he talked about incidents like that, he never showed any fear or reluctance to continue the work. He took danger in stride.

It was so important to have a U.S. presence in Benghazi and to show support for the American center being set up and other programs, such as the Benghazi Medical Center. We were helping them establish their new society. I don’t think we’ll ever know why he made the decision to take the risk of going to Benghazi, knowing there were multiple attacks. It was clearly a bad decision.

Did he ever talk about not having enough security?

He talked about his knowledge of the militias and the huge number of arms loose in Libya. That was one of his concerns and challenges. But he did not talk about that as a worry of his own security, which doesn’t mean he wasn’t concerned.

Are there any questions left in your mind about what happened, why the U.S. didn’t respond faster, why Washington didn’t do more?

The only questions that I have are not answerable by anyone investigated or questioned by the committee. My questions are about why the militiamen attacked the compound in the first place. What were their intentions? It’d be interesting to know that—and to hear what their views are and what they were thinking. It has nothing to do with what the State Department or the Defense Department was supposed to do that night. I think everyone did their very best in response to this event.

Do you think it’s fair to make Benghazi an election issue?

With the many issues in the current election, to use that incident—and to use Chris’s death as a political point—is not appropriate.

How would Chris have felt about this election?

I know he had a lot of respect for Secretary Clinton. He admired her ability to intensely read the issues and understand the whole picture.

[Robin Wright notes that her interview with Dr. Anne Stevens "has been condensed and edited for clarity."]

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Who's All In For Party Unity?


When the PA-07 progressive Mary Ellen Balchunis-- endorsed by every Democratic party organ and institutional ally in southeast Pennsylvania-- smashed the DCCC recruit who they had helped raise money and run a campaign, even adding him to their Red to Blue program, the DCCC responded by abandoning the district to GOP incumbent Pat Meehan and taking the district off the map. Pelosi's bullshit about "when women win..." was shown up to be just more of the hypocrisy her sorry later career has turned into. No Red to Blue help for Mary Ellen Balchunis. That's Pelosi/DCCC "party unity"... it's only for progressives to rally around establishment hacks, never for the establishment to rally around progressives.

The DCCC had added their pack of unimpressive hacks-- Bryan Caforio (CA), Randall Perkins (FL), Salud Carbajal (CA), Val Demings (FL), Monica Vernon (IA), Brad Schneider (IL), Bill Golderer (PA), and Colleen Deacon (NY)-- while all were engaged in active, competitive primaries against more progressive candidates, to the Red to Blue program. When Mary Ellen beat Golderer 52,792 (74%) to 18,509 (26%)-- despite the DCCC guaranteeing that Golderer could spend $239,391 (and raise $375,402) in the race while they prevented Mary Ellen from being able to spend anything but $45,541-- Lujan, Israel and Pelosi didn't add Mary Ellen to Red to Blue. They just continued telling Democratic activists to starve her campaign of contributions-- even after the AFL-CIO unanimously decided to not re-endorse Meehan and give the nod to Balchunis instead. Balchunis, who identifies as "a Warren wing Democrat" didn't endorse Bernie, although she shares his values and issues, because she has a long, friendly relationship with Hillary and endorsed her. But Hillary and her establishment wing of the party did absolutely nothing for Balchunis-- and still haven't.

Tuesday morning Zephyr Teachout, who Bernie had helped raise a great deal money through grassroots contributions, tweeted, "I am running for Congress to break down the doors of power in Washington." That isn't a phrase likely to make party hacks like Pelosi, Hoyer, Lujan, etc feel all warm and comfy.

Early Monday morning DWT got a press release from NRCC chairman Greg Walden: "Congratulations to John Faso on his hard-fought victory this evening. John has spent his career serving his community, and will do a great job representing the Hudson Valley in Congress. John understands the importance of keeping taxes low and getting government out of the way so that the private sector can create jobs. I look forward to working with him after he is elected this November."

Still no word from Lujan and the DCCC. I'm sure some kind of grudging statement of support will arrive eventually. For now, though, Teachout's wonderful volunteers will have to make due with congratulations from the grassroots groups like DFA, Blue America and PCCC who have endorsed her from day one. DFA members were sent an inspiring statement from Jim Dean:
"Zephyr Teachout’s primary victory tonight isn't just an important win for the political revolution behind Bernie Sanders, it's an important win for anyone who believes that our country needs bold leaders in Washington who will stand up to a corrupt political system and work hand-in-hand with the grassroots to deliver on populist progressive priorities.

"Few candidates are better prepared than Zephyr Teachout to run and win the kind of aggressive, people-powered campaign needed to beat back the wealthy hedge funders like Paul Singer who are already pouring millions into SuperPACs designed to aid whichever Trump-enabling Republican she faces in November.

 “Wall Street is scared to death of being held accountable by Zephyr Teachout in the halls of Congress and we couldn’t be more excited to work our hearts out over the next 132 days to make sure they are.

...Just like Bernie, Zephyr Teachout is fighting back with people power. She's been doing it for years. From her memorable leadership on Gov. Howard Dean's online organizing team in 2004, where she helped transform grassroots presidential campaigning, to her 2014 primary fight against corporate Democrat Andrew Cuomo-- holding him accountable on immigration justice, raising wages, and public financing-- Zephyr Teachout has the knowledge and vision needed to win.

...Zephyr Teachout is a leader in the fight to get corporate money out of our politics, overturn Citizens United, and take on Wall Street. She's been a core leader in creating an up-and-down-the-ballot political revolution for more than a decade. Her victory in the primary is a big step in a bold, populist direction for Democrats.

But the biggest battle is still to come. Wall Street has targeted Zephyr for defeat in November-- because they see her as a threat in the mold of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Wealthy hedge funders are already pouring money-- including a whopping $500,000 a few days ago-- into a Super PAC for her Republican opponent in this swing district.

Zephyr Teachout's big win in the primary proves our political revolution can win when people mobilize against the forces of wealth and power. Now she's taking on Wall Street in what will be one of the most important elections of the fall.
In NY-19 Tuesday 30,720 residents had voted, 13,714 Republicans and 17,006 Democrats. John Faso, the GOP winner took 9,126 votes (66.55%) and Zephyr took 12,409 votes (72.97%). She is the front-runner by every conceivable criteria except one-- party support. The GOP has rallied around Faso and is filling his archest. As of the March 31 FEC filing deadline he had raised $1,078,898 (and his GOP opponent Andrew Heaney had raised $1,229,257), Zephyr had raised $530,733. A right-wing SuperPAC spent $915,271 on helping Faso defeat Heaney.

Will Pelosi order his Lujan lackey to get behind Teachout now and help her access institutional Democratic contributors? Or would the corrupt Democratic establishment rather not turn this red swing district blue, too fearful that the outspoken, principled congresswoman that Teachout (like Balchunis) promises to be, would be too disruptive their their foul establishment control?

Bernie sent a strong warning to the Democratic establishment last night in the form of an Op-Ed in the New York Times telling them they need to wake up. Pelosi and her cronies should read it carefully and understand it's being addressed towards them:
Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population-- around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Could this rejection of the current form of the global economy happen in the United States? You bet it could.

During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.

In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

Despite major increases in productivity, the median male worker in America today is making $726 dollars less than he did in 1973, while the median female worker is making $1,154 less than she did in 2007, after adjusting for inflation.

Nearly 47 million Americans live in poverty. An estimated 28 million have no health insurance, while many others are underinsured. Millions of people are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt. For perhaps the first time in modern history, our younger generation will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents. Frighteningly, millions of poorly educated Americans will have a shorter life span than the previous generation as they succumb to despair, drugs and alcohol.

Meanwhile, in our country the top one-tenth of 1 percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Fifty-eight percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. Wall Street and billionaires, through their “super PACs,” are able to buy elections.

On my campaign, I’ve talked to workers unable to make it on $8 or $9 an hour; retirees struggling to purchase the medicine they need on $9,000 a year of Social Security; young people unable to afford college. I also visited the American citizens of Puerto Rico, where some 58 percent of the children live in poverty and only a little more than 40 percent of the adult population has a job or is seeking one.

Let’s be clear. The global economy is not working for the majority of people in our country and the world. This is an economic model developed by the economic elite to benefit the economic elite. We need real change.

But we do not need change based on the demagogy, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment that punctuated so much of the Leave campaign’s rhetoric-- and is central to Donald J. Trump’s message.

We need a president who will vigorously support international cooperation that brings the people of the world closer together, reduces hypernationalism and decreases the possibility of war. We also need a president who respects the democratic rights of the people, and who will fight for an economy that protects the interests of working people, not just Wall Street, the drug companies and other powerful special interests.

We need to fundamentally reject our “free trade” policies and move to fair trade. Americans should not have to compete against workers in low-wage countries who earn pennies an hour. We must defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We must help poor countries develop sustainable economic models.

We need to end the international scandal in which large corporations and the wealthy avoid paying trillions of dollars in taxes to their national governments.

We need to create tens of millions of jobs worldwide by combating global climate change and by transforming the world’s energy system away from fossil fuels.

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, not just a handful of billionaires.

We need international efforts to cut military spending around the globe and address the causes of war: poverty, hatred, hopelessness and ignorance.
We need more couregous leaders like Zephyr Teachout, Pramila Jayapal, Alan Grayson, Tim Canova, Nanette Barragan, Ruben Kihuen... not more of the corrupt establishment garbage the DCCC, the DSCC and the GOP all encourage. America doesn't need a Faso or a Patrick Murphy or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Isadore Hall or Cresent Hardy. The DCCC and the DSCC are no more on the side of ordinary Americans than the Republican Party is. Please consider contributing to the progressives running for the House and Senate... here:
Goal Thermometer

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AFL-CIO Switches Endorsement From Meehan To Balchunis In PA-07-- How Affordable College Played Into The Dynamic


Two progressives who want America to invest in students

The AFL-CIO seems to take some kind of perverse pleasure in backing a handful of faux-moderate Republicans. In 2014 they put $8,740,384 into congressional campaigns and among House Republicans who received top level contributions were Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-NY), Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ), David McKinley (R-WV), Bill Shuster (R-PA), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), David Joyce (R-OH), John Kline (R-MN), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Mike Turner (R-OH), Don Young (R-AK), Paul Cook (R-CA), Pat Meehan (R-PA), and Tim Murphy (R-PA). Most of these Republicans have been anti-union and anti-working family, just slightly less virulent about it than most of their colleagues.

Pennsylvania conservative Pat Meehan, for instance, got $4,000 from the AFL-CIO last cycle (as well as their endorsement). This year, the AFL-CIO had had enough of Meehan's anti-worker votes and they not only refuse dot endorse him, they have endorsed Mary Ellen Balchunis, his progressive opponent. It wasn't just Meehan's pro-TPP stand that motivated the switch. Meehan always seems to get involved with things after they're already a disaster-- like the big SUNOCO layoffs in the district and the VA hospitals mess in the area. Once it was on the front page and already a long-festering disaster, Meehan jumped in, not early on when he could have helped prevent it from turning into a crisis. In 2014, Mary Ellen participated in the Crozier Chester nurses strike and this year she walked with the Verizon strikers. She doesn't just talk the talk they way Meehan does when he's trying to masquerade as mainstream; she actually walks the walk. This month the Pennsylvania's AFL-CIO not only endorsed her, they did it unanimously! One of the issues where she differs drastically with Meehan but that endeared her to Pennsylvania unions was her approach to student loans. We asked her to explain the differences to DWT readers and tio help us understand what she would do about it in Congress. Below is her guest post.

Getting A Handle On Runaway Student Debt
-by Mary Ellen Balchunis,
congressional candidate, PA-07

As a University Professor and mother of a college junior I see the hardship that college students are dealing with every single day. The rising costs of higher education has negatively affected not only our students’ wallets, but also their will to learn as they struggle to deal with everyday expenses while simultaneously being charged exorbitant amounts of money in student loans, ever-­increasing school supply costs, the substantial growth in their cost of living.

While some students either have the benefit of scholarships, or are fortunate to have parents with the means to pay for their education, most do not. Those who take out student loans become indebted for the next thirty years as they attempt to pay back their educational expenses-- expenses that may not have even guaranteed them a job. Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among approximately 43 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.

There has been progress made on this front. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act was passed a few years ago. It did many things to take a bit of the pressure off of future students. It increased the level of Pell Grants and changed the direct administration of loans from private financial institutions to the federal Department of Education. This took money out of the banks' pockets and put some money into federal coffers.

The Act also took years off the final payment period to pay back loans. For new borrowers after 2014, their loans would eligible to be forgiven after making timely payments after 20 years ­ five years earlier than previously. Additionally, those that go into public service will be allowed to have their debt forgiven after ten years, if payments have been made on time. These are important benefits that will help thousands of borrowers in the future.

Finally, and again for post­-2014 borrowers, they can choose an Income Based Repayment plan (IBR) and would pay no more than 10 percent of their income above a basic living allowance ­ reduced from 15 percent. The basic living allowance is set at 150 percent of the poverty line, currently equaling about $16,500 for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four.

All of these positive actions only help new loan recipients. However, no action has been taken to help the hundreds of thousands of people that already have student loans and are crushed under significant debt loads. Elizabeth Warren's The Bank On Student Emergency Loan Refinancing Act is the only piece of legislation that attempts to lighten the load for those currently under financial duress from their student loans. The proposed Act would allow people with student loan debt at fixed percentage interest rates ­ which most are at seven percent or above ­ to be able to re­finance their loans at much lower interest current rates that new applicants now are eligible for. Recent student loans have been disbursed at rates as low as 3.86 percent.

Thousands and thousands of borrowers have unnecessarily paid tens of millions of dollars cumulatively because they are unable to refinance their school loans. Of course, we all know that we can refinance home loans. For the vast majority of us, a home is the largest purchase will if every make. With tuition and other college costs still rising significantly, the cost of college degree, let alone any advanced degrees, will be the biggest expense that people will have. Many won't be able to buy a house because they have to spend so much money on paying back the loans for their education.

This negatively effects our national economy as well as prevents the United States from being intellectually competitive on a global scale, as the rising costs of education deter those who once dreamed of a better life through a college education now looking elsewhere for opportunity. The national debt for a college education places the United States significantly behind countries that either subsidize or have free college education on economic basis.

There is too much money being paid into student debt that could be going into the general consumer economy. Of course, paying money into the housing stock through a home purchase is much worthwhile and sustainable than paying money into a decades-­old student loan.

Further, making this important change would cut down the default rate on federal student loans, which one study recently listed that rate at 43%. This also has a negative effect on our national economy and on thousands of households.

Simultaneously there are many different kinds of student loans and student scholarships that are almost unknown to the average American college student, causing debt without the guidance from universities or other academic bodies to show the opportunities their students are available to students. While there hasn’t been a substantial increase in Professors or administrators there has been a significant increase in adjunct or part­-time professors which forces an increase in college costs which raises the cost of tuition. In fact, the average increase in college tuition at both private and public institutions has been more than covering the cost of inflation from the period of 1975-­2015.

Similarly the cost of out­-of­-state and in-­state tuition at national universities has so drastically increased that there the curve on the chart below is closer to an exponential one than a standard growth rate.

Unfortunately, as we know, the Republicans in Congress stopped this important legislation. It is vital that we elect a U.S. House and Senate that will pass legislation that lightens the burden on our students and the next generation. The next generation of students are equally, if not more, important to our economy and our leadership, so there must be legislation to help everyday Americans who go to school to get ahead.

That is why when I am elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, I will fight to improve student funding policy and to pass legislation that empowers students to earn a quality education, at a cost that won’t leave them paying student loans as expensive as a home mortgage. We need to truly ask ourselves if we are a nation that values education, intelligence, innovation, and creativity enough to make academic education and other training programs a priority, and pass legislation that reflects that.
Mary Ellen won her hard-fought primary against a DCCC corporate shill by a landslide, 74-26%, and the DCCC's response was to remove PA-07 from contention. Pelosi and his cronies have refused to endorse Mary Ellen and have urged Democratic donors to ignore her campaign, which is why it was especially heartening to see the AFL-CIO tell Pelosi, Israel and Lujan to go jump in a lake. The local SEIU and AFSCME locals have also endorsed her campaign and this week the Congressional Progressive Caucus did as well. Blue America is urging our members to chip in for Mary Ellen by tapping the thermometer below.
Goal Thermometer

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Samantha Bee And Glenn Greenwald Look At Why Brexit And Trump Are The Same-- And Different


One thing we can all pretty much agree on: in democracies, political elites, by their very nature, pretty much fail the voters who elect them. We're at a high-water mark of that phenomena right now and the support for Trump-- at least among Republicans-- here and the 17,410,742 votes (51.9) to 16,141,241 votes (48.1%) margin among U.K. voters to leave the E.U. (Brexit) demonstrate that very viscerally. The newest NBC News poll-- released this morning-- shows Trump with 41% support from registered voters, pretty high for a crackpot and sociopath. Only 30% of Republicans want the GOP convention to deny the party's nomination to Trump and among white evangelicals Trump, despite his loud and obvious anti-Christian world view leads Hillary by 53 points-- 72-19%! That's just sick and these voters are probably the same kind of people who enrolled in Trump University and didn't know they were being fleeced.

"Even," said Samantha, "a brain-damaged baboon couldn't miss the parallels between the U.S. and Britain." She also pointed out the parallels between Austerity advocates Paul Ryan and David Cameron, the two out-of-touch ring-wing politicians who's marketing techniques for pushing class warfare against working people is what is fueling this populist revolt. (Big difference is the 87% white-- depending if you count, which U.K. racists don't, Poles as being white-- while America isn't even close... just over 60% white now, Poles included.)

Of course, if Ryan is the bubbling idiot American version of Cameron, no one doubts that Trump and clownish former London mayor Boris Johnson-- a likely successor to Cameron, who is resigning-- are cut from the same cloth. Or, as Samantha put it, "basically, he's Trump with his hair on backwards." And... like Trump, Boris has an affinity for Putin and prefers him over Obama. The biggest applause line of the segment came when she told the audience, "It's not enough for Trump to lose... It has to be a fucking landslide 50 state repudiation of this."

It's worth keeping in mind Glenn Greenwald's Intercept essay about western elites from last week that explains Brexit (and Trump) popularity in terms of "a glaring repudiation of the wisdom and relevance of elite political and media institutions that-- for once-- their failures have become a prominent part of the storyline. Media reaction to the Brexit vote falls into two general categories: (1) earnest, candid attempts to understand what motivated voters to make this choice, even if that means indicting their own establishment circles, and (2) petulant, self-serving, simple-minded attacks on disobedient pro-Leave voters for being primitive, xenophobic bigots (and stupid to boot), all to evade any reckoning with their own responsibility. Virtually every reaction that falls into the former category emphasizes the profound failures of Western establishment factions; these institutions have spawned pervasive misery and inequality, only to spew condescending scorn at their victims when they object."
Corrupt elites always try to persuade people to continue to submit to their dominance in exchange for protection from forces that are even worse. That’s their game. But at some point, they themselves, and their prevailing order, become so destructive, so deceitful, so toxic, that their victims are willing to gamble that the alternatives will not be worse, or at least, they decide to embrace the satisfaction of spitting in the faces of those who have displayed nothing but contempt and condescension for them.

There is no single, unifying explanation for Brexit, Trumpism, or the growing extremism of various stripes throughout the West, but this sense of angry impotence-- an inability to see any option other than smashing those responsible for their plight-- is undoubtedly a major factor. As Bevins put it, supporters of Trump, Brexit, and other anti-establishment movements “are motivated not so much by whether they think the projects will actually work, but more by their desire to say FUCK YOU” to those they believe (with very good reason) have failed them.

Obviously, those who are the target of this anti-establishment rage-- political, economic, and media elites-- are desperate to exonerate themselves, to demonstrate that they bear no responsibility for the suffering masses that are now refusing to be compliant and silent. The easiest course to achieve that goal is simply to demonize those with little power, wealth, or possibility as stupid and racist: This is only happening because they are primitive and ignorant and hateful, not because they have any legitimate grievances or because I or my friends or my elite institutions have done anything wrong.

...Because that reaction is so self-protective and self-glorifying, many U.S. media elites-- including those who knew almost nothing about Brexit until 48 hours ago-- instantly adopted it as their preferred narrative for explaining what happened, just as they’ve done with Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, and any number of other instances where their entitlement to rule has been disregarded. They are so persuaded of their own natural superiority that any factions who refuse to see it and submit to it prove themselves, by definition, to be regressive, stunted, and amoral.

Indeed, media reaction to the Brexit vote-- filled with unreflective rage, condescension, and contempt toward those who voted wrong-- perfectly illustrates the dynamics that caused all of this in the first place. Media elites, by virtue of their position, adore the status quo. It rewards them, vests them with prestige and position, welcomes them into exclusive circles, allows them to be close to (if not wield) great power while traveling their country and the world, provides them with a platform, and fills them with esteem and purpose. The same is true of academic elites, financial elites, and political elites. Elites love the status quo that has given them, and then protected, their elite position.

Because of how generally satisfied they are with their lot, they regard with affection and respect the internationalist institutions that safeguard the West’s prevailing order: the World Bank and IMF, NATO and the West’s military forces, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, the EU. While they express some piecemeal criticisms of each, they literally cannot comprehend how anyone would be fundamentally disillusioned by and angry with these institutions, let alone want to break from them. They are far removed from the suffering that causes those anti-establishment sentiments. So they search and search in vain for some rationale that could explain something like Brexit-- or the establishment-condemning movements on the right and left-- and can find only one way to process it: These people are not motivated by any legitimate grievances or economic suffering, but instead they are just broken, ungrateful, immoral, hateful, racist, and ignorant.

...Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, [western elites] are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to delegitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future.

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Are Republicans Fit To Govern If They Can't Even Pass A Bill To Protect Americans From The Zika Virus?


President Obama started asking congressional Republicans for emergency Zika funding in March. BY May they hadn't done a damn thing. We wrote at the time that instead of cooperation, what the House Republican leaders had given Obama instead of cooperation was more deranged right-wing intransigence and more of their crazy, dangerous anomie. The sociopaths at the Heritage Foundation started threatening to finance primaries against Republicans who moved to help Obama protect the country from a grave health problem unless the money to fight the virus was taken from programs already funded that they don't like (like Medicare and Obamacare). "When, we wondered aloud, is enough enough from these crackpots?"

Another 6-7 weeks have gone by and the Republicans are still playing politics with Zika. This morning even Politico noted that it could come back and bite them in the ass at election time. "Congress," wrote Burgess Everett, "is poised for an epic failure in its efforts to combat Zika before lawmakers leave Washington for a seven-week vacation-- and it could come back to bite Republicans at the ballot box if there’s an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus in the United States this summer." Seven week vacation, while the country faces a truly devastating threat the GOP has let ride while Paul Ryan was busy wringing his hands about Trump, figuring out the most effective timing for the GOP's partisan Benghazi attack against Hillary, and repackaging his old schemes to wreck Medicare and Social Security by calling them "A Better Way?"

The GOP proposal the Senate Democrats rejected today not only stole money from the Affordable Crae Act, but gratuitously threw in some nonsense about allowing Confederate flags to fly at national cemeteries. This is why voters are so sick and tired of Congress-- and particularly so sick and tires of the House Republicans.
The attack ads this time write themselves: Faced with months of dire warnings from health experts, the Republicans who control Congress failed to provide money to stop the spread of Zika to the United States. Bracing for such a message, Republicans began the week spinning the expected defeat of the House-passed bill as politics as usual for Democrats, alleging that the minority party would rather attack Republicans over the issue than pass a funding bill.

...Republicans say there will be no do-over: Once the bill fails on Tuesday, the Senate will not revisit Zika funding, Cornyn said. They say Democrats got what they wanted and won’t take yes for the answer... The stalemate comes in the midst of the summer mosquito season, when the Zika threat is strongest.
In May, 3 Florida Republicans-- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Vern Buchanan and Carlos Curbelo-- worried their constituents might lynch them-- since that is the state were Zika is thought to be the biggest and most immediate threat-- voted with the Democrats against Ryan's bill (as did Justin Amash of Michigan). The chairman of the House Science Committee, Texas goof-ball Lamar Smith, wasn't helpful in the Zika matter. In fact, his only "contribution" to the debate was to demagogue against refugees and warn that refugees might be carrying Zika virus. As for President Obama's request for $1.9 billion last February to prevent a major Zika outbreak, Smith has been opposed. And in May ole Lamar voted for the ridiculously ineffective $622 million bill that isn't going to do anything but ruin the lives of thousands of infants and their families. Marco Rubio (R-FL) didn't agree with the approach Smith and Ryan were taking. "There is no reason why we should not fully fund this. Quite frankly, that’s just not going to cut it."

It's time for Lamar to Smith to move along

The Texas progressive running for the Austin-San Antonio district congressional seat Smith holds, Tom Wakely, sees it the same way Rubio and President Obama do-- and is worried that Smith's ideological obstructionism is getting in the way of safety for people in his state. "While departmental waste is undoubtedly a bipartisan issue that warrants investigation," he told us last month, "it boggles the mind that we're having a pay-for discussion in the midst of a public health crisis. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there have been 36 reported cases of Zika virus in the state of Texas. Five of these cases have occurred in counties that are represented by my district. This is no longer a threat we can view with binoculars. It is no longer an issue that can be evaluated in dollars and cents. One of the Texan cases is already confirmed as being a pregnant woman. How many children have to be born with microcephaly before our Republican-led Congress addresses this as what it is, a public health emergency? Where's the media outrage over the fact that we're treating an emergency of this nature with the fiscal scrutiny typically reserved for corporate tax rates or oil subsidies? Quite frankly, the fact that Congress is willing to treat a public health crisis with the same blasé attitude that they employ in their unconditional rejection of a Supreme Court nominee should be a grave warning to the American people. If they're willing to make a point out of a plague, where does it stop?"

The final House bill passed Thursday 239-171, complete with all the GOP-engineered poison pills. Only 6 right-wing Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP in favor of it-- all the regular suspects, Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE), Scott Peters (New Dem-CA) and Jerry McNerney (CA).

The bill needed 60 votes in the Senate today and only got 52. The 48 NO votes included every Democrat but right-wing Blue Dog Joe Donnelly (IN), as well as Republicans Mike Lee (UT) and Jim Lankford (OK). In blocking the bill this morning, Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a conservative Democrat, noted that "Four months after the request for emergency funding, the House in the dark of the middle of the night, with no opportunity for debate, puts on an otherwise uncontroversial bill, a bill to deal with the virus. It's not serious. Instead, it's another attempt to use an emergency must-pass bill to try to further extremist political agendas. Why can't we grow up and get to the point that we don't want to play partisan politics? We need to stop playing these political games. It's time to treat this as a real emergency and it's time to pass the appropriations bill without all of this political agenda added to it."

Alan Grayson pointed out right after the Senate vote that "Florida's first Zika-related microcephaly birth was confirmed today. So, of course, Marco Rubio and his fellow Senate Republicans respond with a bill that not only fails to fund an adequate response to this unfolding crisis, but is also larded with poison-pills for Planned Parenthood, clean water protections and health programs. It was a craven abdication of their legislative duty. It has to stop. There's no time left to put politics over public health."

If you'd like to help Grayson get into the Senate and Wakely get into the House-- replacing the two buffoons that currently hold the seat-- please tap the thermometer below and contribute what you can:
Goal Thermometer

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Covering For The NRA Shills In The Democratic Party


The DCCC supports Democrats who take bribes from the NRA

The Beltway media covered last week's congressional sit in as a Democrats vs Republicans kind of confrontation, even including a widely reported scene featuring Texas crackpot Louie Gohmert storming the sit in and screaming about radical Islam. (Gun lobbyist bribes to Gohmert: $35,111.)
House Democrats, as a historically small minority opposition party, surprised nearly everyone with their seemingly unplanned protest of Republican intransigency on gun control measures in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Their occupation of the House floor to demand a vote on a host of gun curbing efforts on Wednesday, including the barring of gun sales to suspected terrorists on the “no-fly-list,” was met with fierce Republican disdain.

Hours into the sit-in lead by over 50 House (and a few Senate) Democrats, the chamber finished up several votes forced by Republicans as Democrats continued to yell and demand a gun vote when one Republican became so fed-up with the disobedience and breakdown of order that he angrily confronted his colleagues.

As California Democrat Brad Sherman was delivering his speech advocating for reform, Texas Republican Louie Gohmert stormed onto the floor, pointing and yelling, “Radical Islam killed these people!”

“We are talking about radical Islam!” Gohmert yelled, waving his finger at posters featuring photos of the victims of the recent mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida gay club. “Radical Islam killed these people!”

“It appears the gentleman is afraid to vote and afraid to debate,” Sherman hollered from the podium as his fellow Democrats cheered and chanted, “No bill, no break!

” “And given the weakness of his arguments and his position, his fear is well founded,” Sherman continued, speaking of Gohmert.

Afterward, Orlando-area Congresswoman Corrine Brown and Gohmert nearly came to blows before being quickly pulled away from one another.
Everyone was betting on Corrine to wipe the floor with Gohmert. But not all Democrats were supportive of the sit-in. In fact, there are Democrats-- particularly in Texas-- who would have liked to have helped Gohmert beat up Corrine Brown. The Hill's coverage mentioned that there were Democrats who sat out the sit-in, without once mentioning the coincidence that the sit-in boycotters are all on the NRA/gun lobbyist payroll and all are soaked in their blood money.

Most of the NRA Democrats have been defeated in the last few years. Democratic voters just stopped supporting them and their careers ended one by one. But there are still a handful of Democratic NRA shills left. They did not back the sit-in that 179 of their colleagues participated in. Over the weekend, a gun group contacted me and asked if Blue America would participate in an effort to defeat some of these types in the Senate in 2018, particularly Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester. Of course, I said YES with great enthusiasm but I hope to persuade them to go after some NRA Dems in the House as well.

The Hill's lame coverage mentioned that "the no-shows were absent for a range of reasons, only a handful of which were related to either the protest itself or the legislation it was designed to move. They included illness, family tragedy, travel and legal trouble." And yes, Mark Takai is battling cancer and Chaka Fattah is on his way to prison, but no where in The Hill's piece does it mention anything about gun lobbyist bribes.
Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), a gun-owning Blue Dog Democrat, said that while he thinks firearms should be subject to "reasonable regulation" for sake of public safety, the proposals championed by his fellow Democrats went too far.  "[R]egulation of firearms and individual gun ownership or use must be consistent with civil liberties such as due process, equal protection, freedom from unlawful searches, and privacy," Bishop said in a statement. "Unfortunately, none of the measures [House Democrats were pushing] … would adequately do that."
With fellow Georgian John Barrow defeated, Bishop is now one of the NRA's top Democratic moles in the House. He's taken $50,315 from the gun manufacturers, quite a bit more than Gohmert, although The Hill didn't feel that was germane to their story. Even more bizarre was their assertion that "Rep. Tim Walz (Minn.), another Democrat who almost certainly would have participated, is back in his district tending a family tragedy. Walz's brother, Craig, was killed Sunday by a tree toppled by violent storms that hit the northern Minnesota wilderness area where he was camping with his son." If Walz had participated he would have been hissing the Democrats from the Republican side of the aisle. Apparently no one at The Hill bothered to look up his gun-nut record in Congress or bothered to note that the gun nut groups have given him $20,950 in bribes.

The Hill also made excuses for Blue Dog Loretta Sanchez (CA) without mentioning that she;s taken $1,500 from the gun manufacturers. The closest they got to reporting that there were Democrats on the GOP side of the argument was in discussing 2 of the NRA Democrats from Texas, Filemon Vela and Gene Green, not even mentioning Henry Cuellar, an NRA stalwart. Gun lobbyist bribes to Green have amounted to $49,750, while Cuellar has sucked up $26,450 in blood money. There's no mention in the piece at all of NRA Dem Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) who the NRA has rewarded with $84,500 in bribes for his pro-gun voting record. That's the most they've given to any Democrat still serving in the House.
Rep. Filemon Vela said he backs both of "the Republican-authored bipartisan bills that inspired the sit-in." But the Texas Blue Dog didn't participate, he said, out of concern that unnamed other Democrats were preparing to expand their protest beyond the gun reforms that were the central focus.

"I understand and respect the passion of other members of Congress who did participate in the sit-in, but I wasn't sure that the sit-in was going to be confined to the no fly bill," Vela said in an email.

His office declined to specify what other issues he feared would be broached. Rep. Gene Green, another Texas Democrat who declined to join the protest, was similarly cryptic. Green said he also supports both the gun reforms and "the members right to sit in," and a spokesman sent a list of reforms Green has championed. But he didn't clarify why Green steered clear of the sit-in.
Sunday we mentioned a very different kind of Texas Democrat, populist and progressive Tom Wakely who is running an overtly anti-gun violence campaign against Republican crackpot and NRA darling Lamar Smith ($59,650). Wakely: "As Gandhi so eloquently wrote: 'Nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.' What we are confronted with now is an epidemic of violence that is perpetuated by ignorance and fear. It's time to reverse the cycle. I'm ready to fight for the change that our country needs-- are you?"

The really big gun lobbyist money to House members goes to bribe top Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan ($167,355) and sell-outs with committee positions willing to carry their agenda like Ken Calvert ($127,150), Steve Pearce ($121,081) and Dean Heller ($104,265) but that $84,500 in bribes to Collin Peterson certainly sends a message to rat-fucking Democrats that the NRA is willing to play across the aisle in return for "friendly" behavior.

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