Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Has The DCCC Learned From A Decade Of Abject Failure? Absolutely Nothing


This week I've been getting to know/vetting a Democratic congressional candidate running against a GOP arch-villain. I really, really, really wanted to candidate to be good-- or at least as good as Jon Ossoff. Not everyone is going to be as stellar as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie or Grayson or Ted Lieu. It's an unfair standard. But at one point I asked the candidate if there are any current members of Congress he admires. H e didn't hesitate for a moment: Jim Costa, he said. My heart sunk. I had just completed a post that mentioned Costa-- as one of the 7 right-wing Democrats who voted for the Republican attempt to kill the Estate Tax.

Until fake Democrat Lou Correa was elected in November, Costa was easily the worst Democrat in the California congressional delegation. ProgressivePunch's algorithm rates him the 8th worst Democrat in the House, with an "F" and a lifetime crucial vote score of 43.60. He votes significantly more with the GOP than with the Democrats on substantive matters. This cycle, he score is even worse than usual-- 38.46. Blue America ran a mobile billboard campaign against him last year. How could we possibly support someone aspiring to be like him?

Sean Patrick Maloney, also rated "F" by ProgressivePunch, is ranked as the 9th worst Democrat in the House-- one up from Costa with a lifetime crucial vote score of 45.00. He's openly gay and-- surprise, surprise-- he's good on gay issues and other social issues. But he's a complete corporate whore a shill for Wall Street and his agenda seems to be to coddle the very wealthy and impoverish everyone else. So who better for the DCCC to task with figuring out what went wrong in the 2016 congressional races? (Um... almost anyone?) Ben Ray Lujan gave the job to Maloney. And now, according to Politico, his report is Top Secret. "Some Democratic lawmakers and staffers complained that the cloak-and-dagger secrecy was overblown and actually makes the findings look worse than they are. But the DCCC is sticking by its strategy."
After nearly five months, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) presented his investigative report to lawmakers during a members-only gathering at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee headquarters Thursday night.

Only about two-dozen lawmakers showed up for the presentation, which sources described as "dense but thorough." But members were not allowed to have copies of the report and may view it only under the watchful eyes of DCCC staff.

The presentation didn't focus on Democratic messaging and instead was heavily skewed towards money-- how much the DCCC brings in, from where and how those funds are spent.

...The report provides recommendations on how the DCCC should modernize its data collection and overhaul its media operation, according to sources who were briefed on it. The document is also said to criticize the organization for the lack of diversity in consultants whom the DCCC employs.

Maloney offered suggestions for how DCCC should regroup ahead of the 2018 midterms, including hiring someone specifically in charge of diversifying the group's consulting ranks.

Lawmakers have privately criticized the way the DCCC operates for years, saying party leaders are too heavy-handed behind the scenes. Finger-pointing reached a fever pitch after the election: Democrats picked up just six House seats despite predicting far higher gains, prompting rank-and-file members to demand immediate changes.

The Maloney report did not criticize specific members of leadership, according to sources.
I guess accountability-- let alone messaging-- is too divisive even for closed door meetings. After all, with members like Costa and Maloney regularly shitting on the Democratic brand, what is there to say anyway? That members should stand for something. Alan Grayson explained what they should stand for-- in the simplest possible terms-- in this video well worth watching again, especially if you're a Democrat hoping to run for office.

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Tired Of Losing Yet?


As we pointed out this morning, the U.S. economy grew just 0.7 percent since Señor Trumpanzee's kleptocracy took over the Oval Office, the weakest showing in 3 years. And when he whined that the job-- of president-- was harder than he had ever imagined, former Mexican President Vicente Fox trolled him on twitter: "Being president ain’t easy... just go back to golfing."

But Trump did accomplish one thing that is sure to tickle the heart and soul of his base-- or at least will on Monday. The clownish new Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue will promulgate a new rule to make sure the kiddies in Trump counties as obese as their parents who voted Trump into the White House. Outsider Southern blackbelts the most obese counties in each state didn't just vote for Trump, they voted for Trump as though their next meal depended on it. I promise to come back to Perdue's "Let's Make America Fat Again" plan in a minute, but let's look at the obese counties full of Trump voters. Florida's most obese county is Calhoun, where 40.7% of the people are clinically obese. 76.6% of the voters there went for Trump. Breathitt is the most obese county in Kentucky (42.9%) and 69.6% of them voted for Trump. 41.4% of the folks in Washita Co., Oklahoma are obese and they went for Trump massively-- 83.2%. Campbell Co., Wyoming is the Trumpiest obese county in America. 33.6% over-do the eating thing and 88.0% voted for Trump. Logan County played a similar role in West Virginia, where 41.2% of the folks are obese and 80.1% voted for Trump. Thurston County, Nebraska has an obesity rate of 40,8% and 60.3% voted for Trump. Caldwell County, Missouri has an obesity rate of 39.2% and 75.0% went Trump. Similar story in Indiana's most obese county, Jackson (39.3%), where 73.3% went Trump You get the picture, right? Let me add Kansas in here. The most obese county is Cherokee County (38.7%), significantly higher than the state's overall obesity level (30.2%). Statewide, Kansas went for Trump 57.2% to 36.2% for Hillary. Cherokee County was far Trumpier-- 71.8% to 23.4%. I'm not sure if that's where Perdue is hooking up with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Monday but the two of them will be announcing another Trump era WIN!

Republicans have long been trying to dial back the standards that became a pillar of former first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the U.S.

Roberts introduced legislation with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) last year to give schools two more years to meet new reductions on sodium, but the bill never passed.

Renewed efforts to ease the federal standards came as disappointing news to some advocates.

The American Heart Association was quick to push back. In a statement, the group’s CEO, Nancy Brown, said the current standards are already working and that 99 percent of schools are in compliance.

“Improving children’s health should be a top priority for the USDA, and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” she said.

“Rather than altering the current path forward, we hope the agency focuses more on providing technical assistance that can help schools get across the finish line, if they haven’t done so already.”
What more could anyone want from their president-- more diabetes and heart disease in their childrens' future-- coupled with less and less healthcare. That's winning in Trump's America!

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Not EVERYONE Is Afraid To Talk About Sanctuary Cities-- Guest Post From TX-07 Candidate Jason Westin


-by Jason Westin

Congressman John Culberson is a career politician, first elected to office nearly 30 years ago. Prior to politics, like many politicians he went to law school, but apparently he has forgotten how the law works. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle in March, Culberson said "I'm the one who's going to make the final decisions, along with the president. No judge can compel me to release the money." In the same article, he called himself the "judge and jury" for these funds. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ruled on April 25th that Mr. Trump’s executive order that linked these federal law enforcement grants, worth billions of dollars, to immigration enforcement was illegal. Perhaps Judge Orrick and "Judge and Jury" Culberson should talk.

This article, full of ridiculous quotes, raises two questions about Mr. Culberson: How did he come to the wrong conclusion about his being above the law, and what money is he refusing to release?

Both of these questions are related to the idea of a "sanctuary city," a catchy phrase but a nebulously defined term. The phrase usually refers to large cities that do not turn over people who come across the police radar and are immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The term gained traction after a tragic event occurred in San Francisco, a criminal who had been deported multiple times murdered a young woman named Kate Steinle. San Francisco is labelled a "sanctuary city" as it bars local police from helping federal authorities kick out immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and critics say this allowed Steinle’s murder.

It seems pretty straightforward: bad guys in the US illegally should not be allowed to stay here and commit crimes. I don’t think you would find many people who would argue with that simple argument. Unfortunately, most things in life are not as simple as they seem.

There is a federal law (Section 1373 of title 8, chapter 12 of the United States Code), signed by Bill Clinton in 1996, that states: a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual. As a lawyer, Congressman Culberson is surely capable of understanding this law.

The law is written in legalese, but is worth reading again-- it requires local governments to not prohibit or restrict information to be exchanged with Immigration and Naturalization Services-- but it does not compel this information to be shared or require keeping someone in jail without a warrant. Local governments can be within compliance of this law even if they don’t turn over people who cannot prove there are citizens. Thus, the strict definition of a "sanctuary city" would be one with a local law prohibiting or restricting information exchange with the federal government-- a rare event that doesn’t sound as sensational as Fox News would like.

Using the looser definition of a "sanctuary city" that doesn’t volunteer information on all its detainees, it turns out that many "sanctuary cities" are not cities at all, they are faith communities who view immigrants as refugees, or local sheriffs or police chiefs uncomfortable with or unable to jail people for up to 48 hours for minor offenses while awaiting the arrival Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Janice Stewart ruled that Clackamas County had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Maria Miranda-Olivares by jailing her for 19 additional hours after a case was settled to give ICE enough time to investigate her immigration status. The ruling stated that the local law enforcement had no right to hold her without a charge, and that it was responsible for paying over $30,000 in her legal bills. Most local governments constantly struggle with their budget, and this case made many of them re-think their relationship with ICE. According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, there are now more than 360 counties and 39 cities that won’t cooperate 100% of the time with ICE requests.

Beyond the financial ramifications of detaining immigrants, local law enforcement also worries about the impact on their ability to do their job effectively. If immigrants fear any interaction with police could result in them and their family being detained and/or deported, why would they ever help the police with information about a crime? Why would a woman or a child ever report domestic abuse? Indeed, there are now multiple reports of ICE detaining women who are leaving domestic abuse hearings, and of women who have dropped their domestic abuse cases for fear of repercussion against themselves or their children.

Now that we’ve better defined the difficulties around the challenges around the “sanctuary city” term, let’s talk about the money Congressman Culberson is threatening to hold. These funds, including the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG), are given to communities to determine their most pressing needs. These funds can be spent on a variety of needs as long as they fall within seven broad categories including law enforcement, crime prevention and education, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness programs. These are not slush funds and are not used for trivial purposes – these are funds the law enforcement community depend upon to improve public safety. New York requested $9.2 million dollars in Byrne JAG funds in 2016 to:
1. Improve the quality, accuracy, and timeliness of criminal justice records.
2. Improve the capabilities and quality of work of forensic laboratories in DNA identification, ballistic evidence processing, new technologies, and improved quality.
3. Enhance the quality and effectiveness of violent crime and drug prosecution and enforcement, especially as it relates to gangs and to illegal possession and use or sale of guns, and gun violence reduction initiatives.
4. Improve the comprehensive investigation of non-fatal shooting cases.
5. Establish a New York State Criminal Justice Research Consortium to link criminal justice practitioners with academic researchers.
6. Improve the quality and effectiveness of prosecution and defense services.
7. Provide additional support for the State’s Regional Crime Analysis Centers who share information and provide law enforcement with accurate and timely data.
8. Enhance local law enforcement efforts to effectively and efficiently reduce the incidence of crime and violence in their locality through the use of evidence based, proven strategies.
9. Improve procedural justice in law enforcement agencies throughout the State.
All of these areas have the underlying goal of improving public safety, and none of these fund requests are controversial. These funds should not be a political football. Imagine if Clackamas County were forced to decide to whether to risk lawsuits from detained immigrants or risk losing funds to reduce violent crimes.

Back to Congressman Culberson’s inflammatory statement: "I'm the one who's going to make the final decisions, along with the president. No judge can compel me to release the money." Culberson added, "If you want federal money, follow federal law. Particularly if you're dealing with John Culberson and Donald Trump, who will not give you the money unless you follow federal law. You can take that to the bank."

As the chair of the appropriations sub-committee, Culberson does have discretion over the budget of the Department of Justice. But his statement is not a threat to amend the next budgetary plan, it is a threat to deny funds already allocated to these programs by law. It is also a threat that he would defy a direct court order, which I assume he learned in law school is not a good idea. Using the purist definition of a "sanctuary city" as one with a law prohibiting information to be shared with ICE, Congressman Culberson is right that these rare local laws may be in violation of Section 1373. But he seems to be over-interpreting what 1373 actually says – it does not say that local governments have to inform ICE, hold persons of interest, or do anything other than not restrict information by law. The implication that he will withhold JAG and other related funds if “sanctuary cities” don’t comply with the law is that this law will have a big impact on getting “bad guys” out of the United States, and thus cities choose to protect the “bad guys” or receive the funds. This is dichotomization is wrong-- cities can protect their immigrant communities, including allowing women and children to feel safe to speak to the police, by legally complying but not volunteering information or holding people without a warrant, and thus still receive the funds.

In the same Chronicle article, Culberson also called himself the "CFO of Justice." As this case develops over the coming months, with a planned appeal by the Trump administration and Attorney General Sessions, it will be very interesting to see if the courts are impressed with Mr. Culberson’s self-appointed titles. Will the "CFO of Justice" refuse to comply with a court order to release these funds as ordered by the federal budget to the very few cities who have a legal restriction on providing information to ICE? Will local law enforcement agencies interpret the “sanctuary city” term more broadly, like the Fox News definition, change their plans for the upcoming year, not knowing if "Judge and Jury" Culberson will "release" the funds?

As the chairman of the sub-committee, Mr. Culberson has responsibilities outside of solely representing our district, the 7th Congressional District of Texas. But ultimately, he is in Washington to represent his constituents. According to the census, of the 777,640 residents of TX07, 242,199 are Hispanic and 80,182 are Asian. Obviously, people counted in census are nearly all legal residents of the United States, but that does not mean that they are immune to being targeted by ICE or Customs and Border Patrol. In March, a local story from Houston received national attention when two doctors, legally in the US for 10 years, were nearly deported due to an obvious paperwork mistake. These doctors were not accused of any crime, were upstanding members of our community, and respected members of the medical profession with thousands of patients relying on their expertise and care. Despite this being an obvious mistake that would cause terrible harm to these doctors who were in the US legally for years, their US born children, and their American patients, they were only granted a reprieve in the final hours because of their attorney and the media attention to their case (link inserted). Why did this happen? The insidious nature of the Trump and Culberson anti-immigrant crusade is having many consequences, including causing Customs and Border Patrol to turn a blind eye.

The over the top statements of Career Congressman Culberson that "no judge can compel me" make this problem worse. It creates the impression that the "sanctuary city" term is much more broad that in reality, that Culberson has the ability to refuse funds to any city he sees fit, and that Culberson is above the law. It sounds like Mr. Trump’s personality may be contagious, and that Mr. Culberson may have caught a bad case. Luckily, the TX-07 voters will have the cure for our Representative on November 6, 2018.

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Pelosi Kept The Democrats United But It Was The House Republicans Who Killed TrumpCare


Ryan, Pence, McCarthy and Price-- with Trumpy-the-Clown in tow-- failed to pass TrumpCare 3.0 or, put another way perhaps more salient for their base, failed to repeal Obamacare for the 3rd time in as many weeks, not just failed to repeal it-- their #1 campaign promise for how many years?-- but failed to even call a vote. That's because the bill is so horrible that, except for Republicans representing the most backward, ignorant districts where everyone is strung out on prescription drugs and incapable of thought, Republicans in normal parts of the country know voting for it is a political death sentence. Yesterday we looked at the Republicans who killed it by stepping forward and publicly defying Ryan and Trump. But there were far more Republicans-- cagey Republicans-- who refused to say. Trump is less likely to attack them-- and so are their Democratic opponents. Trump can't say they betrayed the GOP and the Democrats can't say their betrayed their constituents.

One, Texan Brian Babin, even quit the Freedom Caucus over it. Babin represents one of the worst hellholes in America, a stretch of polluted devastation between Louisiana and the Houston Ship Channel/San Jacinto River. It's where the KKK chained James Byrd, Jr. to a truck and dragged him to his death. Is every single person in the district like that? Not every single one of them but Trump beat Clinton there, 72.0-25.2%. Remember Steve Stockman-- the guy whose corruption trial just got postponed? He was the congresscritter before Babin. The two of them are EXACTLY what this hell-on-earth district wants. Babin was a YES on TrumpCare 1.0. Maybe someone mentioned that 20,645 of his constituents, would be kicked off health insurance if it passed because this time he said he was unsure of he could vote for it or not. That's a district with an R+25 PVI. One of the 9 counties, Hardin, has a per capita income of $17,962 and only 16% of the folks there voted for Obama. 12% voted for Hillary. If the Republicans can't get a YES out of the congressnut representing a district like that, you can forget TrumpCare.

But most of the congressional Republicans afraid to say whether they were voting for it or against it aren't districts like Babin's. They're in more swingy districts where a vote to take away health care from thousands of people and a vote to eliminate the mandate for covering people with pre-existing conditions could be career suicide for congresscritters like John Culberson (TX), David Valadao (CA), Rod Blum (IA), Paul Cook (CA), Ed Royce (CA), Carlos Curbelo (FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Brian Mast (FL), Duncan Hunter (CA), Pete King (NY), Steve Knight (CA), John Faso (NY), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Will Hurd (TX), Fred Upton (MI), Elise Stefanik (NY), David Joyce (OH), Steve Pearce (NM), Bruce Poliquin (ME), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Kevin Yoder (KS), Mike McCaul (TX), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Bill Posey (FL) and the wily coyote himself, Darrell Issa (CA).

In a story updated for Politico yesterday, Jennifer Haberkorn chalks up the GOP loss this round to concerns from mainstream conservatives over preexisting conditions. "Some Republicans," she wrote, "just don’t want to talk about it. Rep. Darrell Issa of California paused to hear a reporter’s question on his vote, then kept walking." Except for the hard-right extremists in the GOP conference-- somewhat over half the members-- everyone else was arguing TrumpCare 3.0 would hurt people with pre-existing conditions. They're arguing that "the latest changes only moved the bill to the right and could put more Americans at risk of losing their health insurance."

“My concern has always been and what a lot of us talked about: people with pre-existing conditions, the elderly,” said Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL). “How this makes the original bill better? Where is the part that is better for the folks I’m concerned about it? I’m not seeing it at this stage.”

Protections for people with pre-existing conditions have only been in effect for seven years, but proven to be one of the most popular and well-known features of the Affordable Care Act. Moderate Republicans are worried about stripping the safeguards without a reliable replacement. If the resistance from moderates holds, it would be enough to block Obamacare repeal in the House-- or send the effort back to square one. And other than cowardly Rodney ther than Frelinghuysen IV, there are no so-called "moderates" who have publicly flipped to support the bill.

Byron York had a piece in the far right Washington Examiner yesterday worth reading. He asked the obvious question: "Why can't House repeal Obamacare?" And answered it: "Because a lot of Republicans don't want to." He reminded his readers that "Republicans have 238 seats in the House. Repealing Obamacare will require 217 votes. Even with unanimous Democratic opposition, Republicans could lose 21 votes and still prevail on repeal. Why haven't they done it?... The Republican-controlled House and Senate both voted to repeal Obamacare in January 2016. In the House, 239 Republicans voted for repeal, while three voted against it and four did not vote. President Obama, of course, vetoed the bill." Now, that it's not a game and it would become law, they can't even get to 217, maybe not even to 200.
By this time, it's becoming increasingly clear that Republicans have not repealed Obamacare because a lot of Republicans do not want to repeal Obamacare.

They don't even want to sorta repeal Obamacare. The bill currently on the table, like the bill pulled in March, falls far short of a full repeal of Obamacare. And yet Republicans still cannot agree on it.

About a week after the first Obamacare repeal failure, a House Republican, speaking privately, said the difficulty in passing the bill was not a parliamentary problem involving the complexities of the Senate and reconciliation. No, the lawmaker said, "It is a problem that we have members in the Republican conference that do not want Obamacare repealed, because of their district. That's the fundamental thing that we're seeing here."

"I thought we campaigned on repealing it," the lawmaker continued. "Now that it's our turn, I'm finding there's about 50 people who really don't want to repeal Obamacare. They want to keep it."

Other conservatives are saying similar things. In an email exchange Thursday afternoon, I asked one member where the latest bill stood. "We absolutely do not have the votes to repeal it," he answered. "The fact that some members are balking at even allowing states to waive out of some of Obamacare regulations is proof positive. We've gone from 'repeal it root-and-branch' to 'Mother-may-I opt out of some of Obamacare'-- and we still are having trouble getting the votes."

In a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, another Republican, Rep. Steve King, quibbled a bit with the number of House Republicans who don't want to repeal Obamacare-- he would put it in the 40s-- but felt certain there are lots of Republicans who don't want to repeal. "If you don't want to get rid of federal mandates to health insurance, then it's pretty clear you don't want to get rid of Obamacare," King said.

"Whatever we come out with, it will say to the American people that a full repeal of Obamacare is no longer in the cards," King added.

Yet another Republican member, in an email exchange, estimated that there are 25 to 30 House Republicans "who don't want to be forced to make the repeal vote." Even that lower number would be enough to sink a repeal measure.

Other GOP lawmakers are openly conceding that whatever the House does-- if it does anything-- it won't actually repeal Obamacare. Large parts of Barack Obama's legacy legislation will remain standing, a fact that more Republicans are admitting as time goes by.

"It's not full repeal. I will be honest, it's not," Rep. Jim Jordan told Fox News on Wednesday. "But it's as good as we think we can get right now."

"We've given up on trying to get this bill repealed, basically," Rep. Louie Gohmert told Fox Business on Tuesday. "But we've been demanding at least let's repeal some of the provisions that we know will bring down rates."

..."A pure repeal would get less than 200 votes," said the second member quoted above. "It really is one of the biggest political shams in history-- many of these members would not have been elected without promising repeal, and now they are wilting. Some are even complaining that [the Rep. Tom MacArthur amendment] pushes the bill too far right-- even though is it far short of a full repeal."

When repeal first failed last month, a number of commentators blamed the conservative House Freedom Caucus. In the days since, caucus members have made the case, convincingly, that they have shown an enormous amount of flexibility in trying to reach agreement with the Tuesday Group, made up of House GOP centrists.

Now, the centrists-- a number of Republicans refer to them as "the mods," for moderates-- appear to be moving the goalposts, even as the conservatives offer concessions. Conservatives suspect the centrists were perfectly happy for conservatives to take the blame for killing the first bill, but now are showing their true colors by rejecting compromise on the second version. Whatever the circumstances, they don't want to vote to repeal Obamacare.

The reason is fear. When the lawmaker said colleagues don't want repeal "because of their district," that was another way of saying the members are all representatives, and the voters they represent don't want repeal. From The Hill on Thursday afternoon: "Many vulnerable Republicans are running scared. One moderate Republican was overheard in a House cafeteria this week telling an aide: 'If I vote for this healthcare bill, it will be the end of my career.'"

Whichever faction inside the Republican Party is to blame, it could well be that the conservatives' numbers are basically right: There are a lot of Republicans, say 40 to 50, who don't want to repeal Obamacare. Given unanimous Democratic opposition, that means that there are somewhere around 190, or maybe 195, House members who actually want to repeal Obamacare. That will never get the job done.
So now the GOP will blame their own "mods," many in targeted swing districts, for the collapse of the repeal? How smart is that when they are the most electorally vulnerable members and without them, the Republican Party goes back to being a minority party?

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Trump's First Hundred Years


This morning-- Day 99 of the Trump Regime-- the Commerce Department released a sour look at what's happened to the economy since Mr. "I thought it would be easier" was installed in the Oval Office. According to the NY Times, "the economy barely grew, expanding at an annual rate of only 0.7 percent. The growth was a sharp decline from the 2.1 percent annual rate recorded in the final quarter of last year. It was the weakest quarterly showing in three years. Consumption, the component reflecting individual spending, rose by only 0.3 percent, well below the 3.5 percent rate in the previous quarter. The first-quarter performance upset expectations for a Trump bump at the start of 2017.

Trump says he thought it would be easier. What a shock! Some 70 year old who inherited a fortune and lied and cheated his way through a corrupt business world watched Fox News and thought being president was just... well, being like Fox News.
He misses driving, feels as if he is in a cocoon, and is surprised how hard his new job is.

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
As we mentioned the other day, while it looks like everything Trump tries to do fails, from his ban of Muslim immigrants and his Great Wall of Trumpiness to his promise to repeal healthcare for millions of American families, he's succeeding to do a lot of damage on many levels. This morning Matthew Yglesias pointed out how Trump has been winning, winning, winning in the on area that means the most to him: self enrichment.
Donald Trump attracted a reputation over the years as a ruthless and unscrupulous businessman. He said on the campaign trail that having been “greedy all my life,” he now wanted to be greedy on behalf of the American people-- but nobody [nobody?] seriously believed him. Marco Rubio warned that Trump was a “con artist,” and Ted Cruz labeled him “completely amoral.” Liberals, needless to say, were not kinder in their judgments.

From the day Trump announced his candidacy until the day he took the Oval Office, the smart take on him was that he was running on a lark, as a publicity stunt, or to lay the groundwork for some business endeavor.

Yet since his ascension to the White House, conventional wisdom has developed an odd tendency to describe his inability to make major legislative changes as an indication that his presidency is failing. It's certainly true that Paul Ryan’s speakership of the House is failing, arguable that Mitch McConnell’s tenure as majority leader of the Senate is failing, and indisputably true that the Koch brothers’ drive to infuse hardcore libertarian ideological zeal into the GOP is failing.

But Trump isn’t failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand over fist. It's a spectacle the likes of which we've never seen in the United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday, for now it shows no real sign of failure.

...Trump... funnels money directly into his own pockets. Like many previous presidents, he golfs. And like all presidents who golf, when he hits the green, he is accompanied by Secret Service agents. The agents use golf carts to get around the courses. And to get their hands on the golf carts, they need to rent them from the golf courses at which the president plays. All of this is fundamentally normal-- except for the fact that Trump golfs at courses he owns. So when the Secret Service spends $35,000 on Mar-a-Lago golf cart rentals, it’s not just a normal security expense-- Trump is personally profiting from his own protection.

The Secret Service has, similarly, paid $64,000 for “elevator services” in Trump Tower. This is a fairly normal kind of expense for the agency, paying a building money to defray the inconvenience of taking elevators offline so they can be inspected for security purposes. But, again, there is nothing normal about the president personally profiting from the security procedure.

When Trump’s sons fly around the world doing business deals, they too are protected by Secret Service agents whose bills the federal government covers-- even if they are staying at Trump properties.

There is something grating about this, especially from a president who is making a big show of donating his salary to charity. Trump is directly pocketing what could easily amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in direct payments from the Treasury, while simultaneously claiming to be serving for free. What’s more troubling, however, is indirect financial entanglements into which we have little real visibility.

Ivanka Trump, for example, was granted five trademarks by the Chinese government on the very same day she had dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Also on that day, Ivanka’s father decided to break his campaign pledge to officially designate China as a currency manipulator. That decision, by all accounts, reflected the growing clout inside the White House of National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and his key ally Jared Kushner, who happens to be Ivanka’s husband and in a position to directly gain or lose from China’s decisions regarding his wife’s trademark applications.

There’s of course no way to demonstrate a quid pro quo there, but the basic dynamics are clear.

Kushner emerged as a “shadow diplomat” smoothing over US-Mexico relations, according to a February 10 Washington Post article, and by April 10, the same journalists were reporting that he has “the freedom to act as a shadow secretary of state, setting up his own channels of communication with world leaders.”

Back in February, Bloomberg reported that “[a]s countries around the world figure out how to influence the new U.S. administration, China is going straight to the top: Trump’s immediate family.” Kushner and Ivanka Trump were guests of honor at a Chinese New Year celebration organized by the Chinese Embassy in Washington, and the trademark applications are just part of the overall package. China is on good terms with Trump’s family, and Trump’s family has helped keep China on good terms with the United States.

Similarly, Ivanka was closing business deals in Japan while simultaneously joining her father in meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

This same trend can easily point in darker directions. The Trump family has business interests in the Persian Gulf, and Trump’s foreign policy is moving the United States into much closer alignment with the Gulf monarchies, including deeper involvement in a disastrous war in Yemen and abandonment of any pretense of caring about human rights in Egypt.

Further from the center of media attention, an eye-opening report by Allan Nairn for the Intercept says that “[a]ssociates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president.” The movement includes current and former army officers looking to evade accountability for past crimes during Indonesia’s period as a military dictatorship, but also “Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta.”

In a normal administration, it would go without saying that American attitudes toward civil strife in Indonesia-- no matter how misguided-- were driven primarily by policy considerations and not by the president’s personal financial interests. With Trump, we have no such assurance.
And his executive orders-- even with lots of terrible ones-- are mostly theater. Funny how for the last 8 years every Republican from the Atlantic to the Pacific was moaning and wailing and rending his or her clothes about the brutal tyranny of Obama signing executive orders. Now Trump is bragging that he's signed more executive orders than any president in history-- and not a peep from the choir.

So tomorrow is the 100th Day of Trump's reign. Is it any surprise that farmers-- many of whom voted for Trump-- can't find workers to harvest their crops this year? Watch Van Jones try to understand why by talking with farmers in California's Central Valley in the video above.

Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) was the first member of Congress to start the boycott of the Trumpanzee Inauguration. This morning he issued a statement with his thoughts on the first 100 days:
Trump has flip-flopped on NATO and he has backed down from labeling China a currency manipulator because he is now best friends with China’s President, but there is one thing he has been 100% consistent on from day 1 of his campaign to day 100 of his Presidency: demonizing and attacking Latinos.

Almost the first words out of his mouth when he descended the golden escalator to announce his candidacy were to call Mexicans rapists and murderers. Now he is tweeting about Puerto Rico and that health care for the Puerto Rican people is not important with regard to budget negotiations. Last week Trump sent out Jeff Sessions to call Latino immigrants “filth” and “cartel henchmen.” Trump returns to bashing Latinos every time he has a setback on some other issue.

We knew that a team of misogynist, climate-change denying, anti-immigration, billionaire civil rights opponents would be bad, but I fear that we have not seen the worst yet.

One of the most important observations on Trump’s 100 Days is that on immigration, on women, on LGBTQ issues, on Muslims, on the environment, on Black Lives Matter and on corporate greed, the American people are more united in their opposition to Trump and the Republican Party than ever. This is a deeply unpopular President. When he attacks something or someone, their support grows, and when he embraces something or someone, their support plummets. He has the reverse Midas touch in politics as in his business career. Unlike Obama, Reagan, Carter or any President I can remember, he has been the biggest liability to his own success and he has done more to make his priorities toxic to the American people in the first 100 days than anyone I can remember.

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Another Trump Property Tarred With His Toxic Name Is Forced To Close-- Maybe Koi Could Reopen In Clay Co, Kentucky


I bet folks in McKee, Kentucky would LOVE a Trump-branded something in their town of 800. This one is available for moving

Just under a year ago I spent some time in Azerbaijan, mostly in Baku, the capital city. I went to see Trump Tower, which had opened and closed in a matter of days, and blogged about it a bit. Trump's Mafia business partners, the Mammadovs (AKA the Coreleones of the Caspian), were stuck holding the bag when the CIA insisted GOP nominee Trump extricate himself and Ivanka from a full-time criminal enterprise that was working as money launderers for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. After it was shuttered, people wondered in Baku wondered if it would be rebranded with a less toxic name-- like Motel 6-- or if the Mammadovs would just wait it out and see if Trump's name became less toxic or even, alluring on some level. It didn't and they tried to burn it down.

Today it's still standing-- empty and forlorn-- in a sketchy Baku neighborhood, sucking money. It's just there, all 33 stories that you can see from almost anywhere in the city. The concierge from a much more luxurious Baku hotel told me Trump's name is so toxic in Azerbaijan that its not likely the hotel will ever open. The Trump Organization has removed it from its website-- disappeared; never happened.

This week another Trump property succumbed to... all things Trump. The high end sushi restaurant at Trump Soho, Koi, shut down because of a lack of business. According to GrubStreet, "his controversial campaign’s harsh rhetoric and administration’s agenda have made many potential customers uneasy about giving their business to Trump’s properties. Residents of Manhattan’s Trump Place successfully changed their property’s name, two celebrity chefs famously backed out of D.C.’s Trump International Hotel and others were unwilling to replace them, and Trump’s new line of hotels won’t bear his name. Then last December, a month after three NBA teams announced they wouldn’t stay at his hotels, members of the Cleveland Cavaliers (including Black Lives Matter supporter LeBron James) refused to stay at the Trump Soho. Now, that hotel’s restaurant operator, Koi, an international chainlet of sushi spots for beautiful people, is shuttering its outpost there. But this isn’t a closing as usual. It’s collateral damage from the rise of Trump." [By the way, folks in Clay County, Kentucky might think of sushi as bait but they only gave Hillary 11% of their vote last year. Sounds like a perfect place for Uday and Kusay to open Trump-branded properties... or Jackson County, where Trump won 88.9% of the vote, but where everyone is a prescription drug zombie.]
“Obviously, the restaurant is closing because business is down. I don’t think anyone would volunteer to close a business if they were making money,” Suzanne Chou, Koi Group’s general counsel, says with a laugh. “Beyond that, I would prefer not to speculate as to why, but obviously since the election it’s gone down.”

A California import, Koi is a familiar style of pan-Asian restaurant: clubby, expensive, and popular with celebrities and professional athletes. It’s not in any food snob’s regular rotation, but the Los Angeles original (branches have opened in Bangkok, Las Vegas, and Dubai) has long been a destination for the rich and famous. When the Soho location opened in 2012, Forbes Travel Guide wrote, “where there’s a Koi dish, there’s a celebrity.” Though Chou declined to delve specifically into how much business had gone down, Koi staffers say that the election has had an impact on the restaurant’s bottom line, and their paychecks.

Now, references to the downtown branch have been scrubbed from both the Koi Trump Soho’s homepages. A limited menu (“30 to 40 percent of what we used to carry,” the reservationist says) will be served until June 18, when Koi and menu items like “She’s So LA” rolls will vacate the building for good. No one other locations will close, and Chou says that the group hopes to reopen somewhere else downtown.

“Before Trump won we were doing great. There were a lot of people we had, our regulars, who’d go to the hotel but are not affiliated with Trump,” says Jonathan Grullon, a busser and host who has worked at the restaurant for a year and a half. “And they were saying if he wins, we are not coming here anymore.”

Ricardo Aca, who worked at the restaurant for four years until this February, concurs, noting twice that “the Kardashians stopped coming.” Following the election, Aca says that business dipped so much that he had to take a second part-time job while he was still working there. As a server in the hotel’s Koi-managed lounge, he saw his hourly earnings fall from about $20 to $15 an hour. And Grullon says he’s making almost $200 dollars less each week and that he, too, has had to get a second job.

According to Grullon, Koi now has just ten service employees, including those in the kitchen. Some staff started walking away once business evaporated, and now that news of the closing is public, more have started to leave. The dining room is often 30 to 40 percent full and never gets past 50 to 60 percent capacity. During lunch, they’ll serve fewer than 30 people in a restaurant that can seat 140.

“We’ve been getting cut all the time. There is no reason for us to be there,” Grullon says. “They say they’re going to close June 18, but I think it’s going to be sooner.”

In the meantime, New York’s other location of Koi, near Bryant Park, is still open. In fact, a reservationist at the Soho location offered to book a table uptown instead, saying “it would be a much better experience for you.”

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Backing Trump's Tax Proposals Will Be Very Costly For Scores Of Republican Incumbents


One deduction that Trump's tax plan seeks to eviscerate just happens to focus primarily on blue states. If his plan passes, deductions of state and local taxes from federal income taxes will be eliminated. There are 7 states with no state income tax-- Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming-- and neither Tennessee nor New Hampshire taxes wages, so those 9 states won't be impacted at all. But states where state and local taxes are high and where the deductions are considerable include California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, Iowa, Wisconsin, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

This one hurts the upper-middle class worst of all, transferring $1.8 trillion in the next decade from their bank accounts into paying for tax cuts for multimillionaires, billionaires and corporations. Organizations representing state and local entities-- the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments-- are up in arms and make the case that the deduction should be preserved because it gives municipalities the flexibility to provide services to residents. "Any alterations to the deduction would upset the carefully balanced fiscal federalism that has existed since the permanent creation of the federal income tax over 100 years ago... We urge Congress to maintain the state and local deduction and the tax exemption for municipal bond interest. We will work with Congress to ensure that states and local governments have the tools we need to foster healthy, safe and vibrant communities."

California taxpayers will be probably hit the hardest. I haven't heard a peep out of California Republicans-- particularly not House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Are California Republicans going to stand up for the state's residents or for Trump? There are 14 Republicans in the 53-member California congressional delegation, 7 in electorally very vulnerable seats. This is the whole GOP state delegation and the percentage in parenthesis was what Trump won in each district:
Doug La Malfa (56.2%)
Tom McClintock (54.0%)
Paul Cook (54.7%)
Jeff Denham (45.5%)
David Valadao (39.7%)
Devin Nunes (52.1%)
Kevin McCarthy (58.1%)
Steve Knight (43.6%)
Ed Royce (42.9%)
Ken Calvert (53.4%)
Mimi Walters (44.4%)
Dana Rohrabacher (46.2%)
Darrell Issa (43.2%)
Duncan Hunter (54.6%)
We asked Wendy Reed, the Berniecrat running against Leader McCarthy in the Trumpiest district in the Golden State. "The desire to tax our taxes displays how clueless Trump and the Republican leadership are about American tax policy," she told us. "Regressive and just plain clueless." Just next door is the most endangered of all the state Republicans: Steve Knight. Katie Hill, who runs a non-profit for homeless vets is taking Knight on. She told us that "Getting rid of the state and local tax deduction will have a huge impact on middle class Californians-- most of the people in the 25th district. The Trump tax plan will also mean a tax increase for nearly 8 million families-- including the majority of single parent households. Surely Steve Knight won't support a tax increase for so many of his own constituents." So far Knight is keeping his opinion to himself.

And as we said, it's not just California where this transfer of wealth from the middle class to the billionaire class is going to cause real pain. Although Trump won with 49.7% in IL-13, a district that goes south from Bloomington and Champaign through Decatur and on into the outer suburbs north and east of St. Louis, GOP incumbent Rodney Davis is being targeted by Dr. David Gill who nearly beat Davis once before, 46.5% to 46.2%, just 1,002 votes. As long as the DCCC doesn't interfere, Gill is likely to beat Davis in 2018. He told us that "The plan proposed yesterday by the president is a huge gift to large corporations and the wealthiest Americans. These groups have already avoided paying their fair share of taxes for the past few decades, and this tax plan will only exacerbate that problem. And ironically, this plan would add trillions of dollars to our deficit, the same deficit which has been of such concern to conservatives. And we would lose the deduction for state and local taxes, resulting in a significant financial hit to many middle-class families. There is truly a need for significant tax reform in this country, but the plan proposed yesterday by the president moves us further in the wrong direction. The resulting loss of revenues will inevitably lead to further cuts in services, and the economic inequality which has brought so much pain to so many Americans over such a long period of time will expand at an even faster pace, resulting in a society with a small number of 'haves' and an overwhelming number of 'have-nots.'"

Another Illinois candidate endorsed by Blue America, Geoff Petzel is running in IL-06, a suburban district west of Chicago that Hillary won in November 50.2% to 43.2%. Ryan ally Peter Roskam represents the district now and Geoff hasn't be reluctant to point out how his and Ryan's agenda fly in the face of middle class families in the district. "The reality is that the 'tax plan,' he told us, "is just smoke and mirrors. It will never get done. If Democrats are even going to consider a compromise here, they should agree to go along with corporate tax rate cuts only in exchange for an increase in the tax rate for top income earners, closing all corporate tax loopholes and establishing a national $15/hour minimum wage. Even then, it may be giving too much away to corporate America. The reality is that the rich and big companies don't need a tax break. Trickle down economics don't work. The Trump plan will just make the rich richer and give big corporations more opportunity to take advantage of the consumers and workers who made them successful."

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Warning To Establishment Democrats-- Working Families Party Triumphs In Connecticut House Race


Something very nice happened in Hartford, Connecticut Tuesday. There was a special election for an open state House seat from which the Democrat, Douglas McCrory, had resigned after winning a state Senate seat. And the winner-- in an overwhelmingly Democratic city-- was not the candidate endorsed by the Democratic Establishment, but a Working Families Party progressive candidate, Joshua Hall, a vice president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers and former treasurer of the state Democratic Party.
The Hartford race had the flavor of a Democratic primary, pitting Hall against Rickey Pinckney Sr., the Democratic-endorsed candidate, and a petitioning candidate, former Rep. Kenneth P. Green, D-Hartford. Hall is only the second candidate to win a Connecticut legislative seat as an WFP candidate, the first in the House.

A registered Democrat, Hall said he will be a member of the House Democratic majority. Edwin A. Gomes of Bridgeport, who won a special election to the Senate on the WFP line in 2015, is a member of the Senate Democratic caucus... Unofficial results showed Hall with 625 votes to 512 for Pinckney and 367 for Green.

“The thing for me is to make sure the state budget isn’t balanced on the backs of working families,” Hall said. “I think that’s the most critical. thing, not compromsing anything with regard to that.”

Hall had a narrow lead until the returns came in at 9 p.m. from the Rawson School in Blue Hills, a middle-class neighborhood in the city’s predominantly black North End, and cheers erupted at the WFP headquarters.

“Joshua Hall’s victory comes at a time when more strong, progressive leaders are sorely needed in Hartford and in our state,” said Lindsay Farrell, the executive director of the WFP. “The city is in fiscal crisis and without state help, Hartford residents will be hurt by deep cuts, the effects of which will resonate across the region.”

The Hartford race exposed tensions between Democrats and the Working Families Party, a labor offshoot that fashions itself as the progressive conscience of Connecticut politics.

Pinckney’s campaign, which had the support of city and state Democratic leaders, hit Hall with a mailer questioning his Democratic bonafides in a city with an all-Democratic legislative delegation.

“Working Families Party? Not on our watch,” said the mailer. “There are only 26 registered Working Families members in our district. Only 26. Don’t let them steal our seat.”
Normally the Working Families Party just endorses Democrats, sometimes really unsavory corrupt conservatives, but has been veering in a far more progressive and proactive direction in the last few years.
The Working Families Party makes little effort to enroll party members. With rare exceptions, it has existed to push and prod Democrats, rewarding allies with cross-endorsements in general elections, backing progressives in Democratic primaries and, as is the case in the Hartford special election, occasionally directly opposing a Democratic nominee it finds wanting.

“Ultimately, we are an independent organization,” said Lindsay Farrell, the executive director of the WFP. “We feel, when the Democratic Party has gotten it wrong, we’ll do our own thing. This is one of those times. I can’t speak to whether or not that’s going to hurt our relationship. It’s up to them whether that hurts our relationship. That’s up to them.”

Questioning the Democratic bonafides of Hall is misleading, she said, given that all three candidates are registered Democrats who would be a member of the House Democratic caucus. Sen. Edwin A. Gomes, D-Bridgeport, won a special election on the WFP line, then resumed life as a Democrat in good standing.

...“Democrats don’t own the seat. The voters own the seat,” Farrell said of the Hartford race. “The voters are allowed to make a choice about issues and the qualifications of the candidates.

Marc DiBella, the city’s Democratic chairman, said the WFP should not be surprised when Democrats defend their nominee as the only Democratic Party-backed candidate in the race. He said the mailer was accurate and reflects some of the frustration Democrats feel toward the Working Families.

They stress their Democratic relationships when it suits them, as it does in solidly Democratic Hartford, he said.

“They want to have their cake and eat it, too. There is that frustration. ‘You get to have it both ways,’ ” DiBella said. “There is some bad blood between the Working Families Party and the Democratic Party in Hartford-- and some other places.”

The WFP and its labor backers opposed the budget deal crafted last year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the legislature’s Democratic majority, who opted for spending cuts, including the elimination of jobs, instead of raising taxes on the wealthy as sought by labor and the WFP.

The Working Families targeted House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, backing a liberal challenger for the Democratic nomination, Joshua Elliott. Sharkey ultimately didn’t seek re-election in 2016, sparing Democrats and the WFP a high-profile battle at a time when fractures are evident in the House Democratic caucus on the topic of taxes and spending.

Last year, Lori Pelletier, the president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, also urged union members to boycott the Democrats’ annual fundraising dinner to protest the budget, and she led a demonstration outside the event. Pelletier later was snubbed when she sought a seat as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

Nick Balletto, the Democratic state chairman, recently acknowledged in an interview with CT Mirror that he refuses to recommend consultants who work on WFP campaigns to be hired by Democratic candidates.

Six years ago, the Working Families played a key role in electing Malloy, who supported the WFP’s call for a paid sick days law. The party organized for Malloy and gave him its cross endorsement.

Without the 26,308 votes cast for Malloy on the WFP line, the Democrat lost by nearly 20,000 votes to Republican Tom Foley. With those votes, Malloy won by 6,404 votes out of 1.1 million cast, the narrowest gubernatorial victory in Connecticut in 56 years.

Malloy delivered on his promise to pass a paid sick days law and also won passage of a $10.10 minimum wage, but he and the WFP have since parted ways over taxes.

To pass a budget this year, Democrats can ill-afford disunity. The Senate is evenly split, meaning Democrats’ only edge is the ability of Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman to break ties as the presiding officer. The new House speaker, Joe Aresimowicz of Berlin, has the smallest working majority in the history of the House.

Democrats have a 78-71 advantage, with two vacancies. After two special elections Tuesday, the margin is likely to return to 79-72, the results of the November election. In a chamber where 76 votes is a majority, Aresimowicz can afford only three defections on the budget.
And this...

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Will Ryan Make His Members Walk The Plank For TrumpCare 3.0 Today? Tomorrow?


Since the Congressional Budget Office announced that they're nowhere near scoring TrumpCare 3.0-- and won't even have it for next week either-- Ryan could surprise everyone today and announce an instant vote. I think if the House Republicans have the votes to pass it-- regardless of how flat on its face it would fall in the Senate-- Ryan and McCarthy could actually succumb to Trump Regime pressure and call for the vote in a few hours. But I doubt it. First off, it looks like for every Freedom Caucus crackpot they gained by eliminating the popular preexisting condition coverage requirement, they lost a more mainstream conservative. (Late last night McCarthy's office said they still didn't have enough votes to pass this pig.)

Mike Coffman, (R-CO) represents a suburban Denver district that was won by Obama over Romney 51.6% to 46.5% and then by Hillary over Trumpanzee 50.2% to 41.3%. He says if Ryan calls the vote today-- before he's finished analyzing it-- he'd vote NO. Very tough district. Adam Kinzinger, represents an Illinois district Trump one substantially but he's shifted from a YES on the original TrumpCare to a "maybe" on this version. Staten Island's Dan Donovan is in a swingy district which is the only district in NYC that went for Trump (53.6% to 43.8%)-- after going for Obama in 2012. He says he was a NO on TrumpCare 1.0 and 2.0 and says 3.0 has made him even more certain he's voting NO. Majority Whip Steve Scalise says he's given up on Donovan. The Ohio GOP-held district which Trump did worst-- OH-10-- is represented by Mike Turner. Yesterday he said he was against the first version and that there's nothing in the new version that's moving him to change his mind.

Texas wing nut Pete Sessions has been counted on to support every far right crackpot scheme that's ever come down the pike-- until now. Hillary won-- shockingly-- his suburban district north of Dallas 48.5% to 46.6%, enough to scare the crap out of Sessions. Yesterday he was quoted saying that he sees "no net advantage" in votes for AHCA with the MacArthur/Meadows changes. "I don't see any impact by it." Other announced NO votes include Mark Amodei (NV), Andy Biggs (AZ), Barbara Comstock (VA), Jeff Denham (CA), Charlie Dent (PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), Walter Jones (NC), John Katko (NY), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Thomas Massie (KY), Patrick Meehan (PA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Chris Smith (NJ), Daniel Webster (FL), David Young (IA). Many more are hiding under their desks and refusing ti take a position-- praying that Ryan doesn't make them vote. In that category we have Darrell Issa (CA), John Culberson (TX), Steve Knight (CA), Will Hurd (TX), John Faso (NY), Paul Cook (CA), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Pete King (NY), Elise Stefanik (NY), Don Young (AK), David Valadao (CA), Ed Royce (CA), Rod Blum (IA), David Joyce (OH), Bruce Poliquin (ME), and Fred Upton (MI).

James Hohmann, writing for the Washington Post reports that the Regime (Bannon) is trying to pressure Ryan with the threat that if repeal collapses, he's getting the blame. "The pressure," he wrote, "is suddenly on the Speaker, not the president, to convince potentially vulnerable members to walk the plank for an unpopular bill that’s still going to be dead on arrival in the Senate. Such a vote which could also cost some their seats next November. It will be the guys in the Tuesday Group, not the Freedom Caucus, who get swept out in a 2018 wave because they tend to come from more purple districts. Many are balking, but still undecided, about the revised proposal. A lot of Ryan allies are exasperated by the Trump push to rush a vote before the week is over. There are even rumors of scheduling one for Saturday-- to coincide with Trump’s 100th day. (This seems unlikely.) But it was a similar fixation on optics over substance that prompted Trump to demand a now-or-never repeal vote last month that would coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law. This is part of an emerging pattern. Trump has repeatedly set up the Speaker to be the fall guy by making unrealistic demands and sticking with infeasible promises. Once again, the burden is falling on Ryan to either make them happen or explain why they didn’t."

Last night another Ryan ally, Ryan Costello, whose Philly suburban district went for Hillary over Trump, announced he's a NO on TrumpCare. The House Leadership can only afford to lose 22 votes-- unless they can lure some shit-eating Blue Dog like Sinema, Lipinski or Peterson-- and Costello brought the count to 19-- with over 50 members on the fence. "On the fence" means they don't want to vote for it. Everybody wants to know which Republican was overheard telling a staffer "If I vote for this healthcare bill, it will be the end of my career." Could be any of a couple dozen.

Orange County Congresswoman Mimi Walters tries to pass herself off as vaguely mainstream. Her district is but she isn't. In November Hillary beat Trump pretty substantially, 49.8% to 44.4%. Trump did more than ten points worse than Romney had! That district is a major target for 2018 and one of the top prospects, consumer advocate Katie Porter, a colleague of Elizabeth Warren's, noticed that the L.A> Times was reporting that Walters, who backed the first versions, is now backing the now and far worse version 3.0-- the hell with pre-existing conditions. Porter: "This is indefensible. OC residents' health shouldn't be used as a political bargaining chit, but that's exactly what Donald Trump and Congresswoman Mimi Walters are doing in Washington." She has reminded voters that that Walters already voted for TrumpCare 1.0 as a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee despite the fact that the CBO estimated that bill would cause 24 million Americans to lose health care coverage, including tens of thousands of her own constituents.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Women's Choice Is Not A Cultural Issue Democrats Are Allowed To Compromise Away


The less bad anti-Choice candidate in Omaha?

Activist Jodi Jacobson, founder of Rewire, was one of the people who rang the alarm bell on many elements within the Democratic Party for seemingly giving anti-Choicers a wink and a nod recently. There's a lot of misinformation floating around about the Democratic candidate for Omaha mayor, Heath Mello, and the circumstances of the hubbub around his relationship to the party. Yesterday Jodi endeavored to straighten it out and make it all clear and understandably. Let me just reiterate what I've already said: Blue America doesn't endorse anti-Choice candidates and we didn't endorse Mello. "Mayoral candidates also don’t normally draw national headlines," wrote Jodi, "but Mello did, because the endorsements also shed a glaring light on his past anti-choice record. Although he is running as a Democrat and lauded for progressive positions on numerous issues, as a Nebraska state senator, Mello co-sponsored and helped pass some of the worst state-level restrictions on abortion care in the country."
Those laws remain in place, and Mello has neither denounced them nor made clear whether he now understands why they are so damaging. His elevation to a national stage has opened old and new wounds, once again raising the issue of whether the Democratic Party, and progressives writ large, truly understands the intrinsic connections between the most fundamental rights of women and the ostensible goals of a progressive agenda. It underscores the persistent but erroneous idea that abortion rights are just a “cultural issue” that can be subject to “beliefs,” rather than facts, medical evidence, and public health goals. It promotes the notion that you can restrict women’s rights and still be a progressive. It has also posed the question of whether the future leaders of the party will not only protect, but promote women’s health and rights by taking responsibility for repealing existing barriers, some of which they themselves have put in place. The initial answer to the last question seems to be no.

...Criticisms of the party’s embrace of Mello by leaders such as NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue led to a cycle of mansplaining (“You’re blocking our agenda with your wedge issues!”), misinformation (“Mello’s record isn’t that bad!”), and defensiveness (“But Bernie is pro-choice!”). And Democratic Party leaders demonstrated that after all this time, they can’t seem to grasp that there is no justice without reproductive justice; that women can’t enjoy full citizenship if they can’t decide whether, when, and with whom to have children; that access to abortion is a public health imperative; and that childbearing and childrearing are fundamentally economic activities no matter what tent you are pitching or where you pitch it.

When women’s rights leaders protested, party leaders very quickly trotted out the most common Democratic Party shibboleths-- with the least basis in fact-- to quell the firestorm. Women were schooled about what it takes to win races in “red” states, never mind that time after time, poll after poll, ballot initiative after ballot initiative shows that no matter how they self-identify, voters in states controlled by right-wing legislatures do not desire to rob people of their fundamental rights and routinely vote against abortion restrictions when given the chance (take Colorado, Mississippi, or South Dakota for example). Never mind, either, that throughout the country women are literally running the resistance and fueling the resurgence of grassroots electoral power at the state level.

The first people to effectively tell women to sit down were Sanders and DNC chair Tom Perez-- both of whom should have known better and who later reversed course to publicly support reproductive rights, because, let’s face it, a great deal of PAC money and organizing power is involved. But some of the loudest pushback to women’s rights advocates came from other self-proclaimed progressives, such as D.D. Guttenplan at The Nation, who, though he is not known as an abortion rights expert, decided that we were all complaining too much and that, by the way, we had our facts wrong.

We do not.

Here are the facts.

Mello’s record on abortion rights is very bad. Full stop. As a state senator in 2010, for example, Mello co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban, one of the first in the nation and the first to rely on the false claims of “fetal pain” cooked up by anti-choice groups to shop this kind of model legislation. In 2011, Mello voted for LB 22, which prohibited insurance coverage of abortion in the state by using a false claim that federal funds in state exchanges were being used to fund abortion. Before passage of the Affordable Care Act, the majority of women with private insurance were covered for abortion care. Thanks in large part to the machinations of former Democratic Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (for whom Mello previously worked) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, millions of women lost insurance coverage of abortion care as the states used Nelson’s amendment to justify eliminating it. Mello helped finish his one-time boss’ work.

In 2011, Mello also voted to effectively kill telemedicine abortion in Nebraska via LB 521, which required the physical presence of a doctor for any abortion. This is another tool in the arsenal of the anti-choice playbook to make abortion so difficult to access that patients are faced with forced pregnancy. Such legislation raises the costs of abortion (by requiring office visits and the presence of a doctor even when not necessary and even for a medication abortion), makes it harder for rural women to access abortion (because they have to travel to clinics, of which there are only three in that very large state), and, ironically, results in many abortions taking place later than they might otherwise. This would seem to defeat the purpose of the bills-- but then, the purpose really is to shame women.

In running for mayor, Mello has said he would “never do anything to restrict reproductive health care.”
We'll get back to Jody in a second. I just want to point out, though, that when I interviewed another fake progressive, anti-Choice Democrat, Tom Perriello in 2008, he used the exact same words to lie to me and manipulate me into recommending him for a Blue America endorsement. He took our donors' money, got elected, showed his true colors by running up a ProgressivePunch "F" and then breaking his specific pledge to "never do anything to restrict reproductive health care." He is now the "progressive" choice for the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia (against an even more conservative Democrat). Jodi handled that pledge from Mello by pointing out two problems: "As mayor, he will need to actively promote access to abortion care by enforcing the FACE Act, ensuring clinics are respected, and taking other steps. More to the point, however, he participated in the substantial and irreparable damage done to abortion rights in his state, and those votes can’t just be excused by votes for child care, Medicaid expansion, education, or other progressive goals. The reason is simple, and it bears repeating: Access to abortion is a public health imperative. It is a medical and individual health imperative. It is a fundamental human right, without which women can’t control their futures or fully participate in societies and communities. Denial of abortion care makes women poorer and less able to achieve their own goals. Access to abortion care improves maternal survival and health and increases infant and child survival."
This is not about “beliefs,” it’s about decades of medical and public health evidence and basic, profound questions of human rights. We’ve all become conditioned to treat abortion as some thing subject to religious dictates at the social level in ways that are not at all dissimilar and only matters of degree different from excuses used to promote female genital mutilation, child marriage, and the sequestering of women as “religious” dictates. We’ve come to treat lies and misinformation about abortion as somehow different than lies and misinformation about climate change. They are no different.

It is true that Mello is running against a Republican who is as bad on abortion rights and far worse on many other issues of concern. It is true that some in Omaha defend Mello based on his broader record and that they are the ones who vote for their representatives. But that does not obviate broader questions. Because it is simultaneously true that others in the state, and throughout the country, are in fact deeply and legitimately concerned about the failure of the party and various leaders to grapple openly and honestly with the implications of sidelining fundamental rights going forward. It is also true that Mello has not, at least publicly, actually come to grips with what his past record suggests and has not, at least publicly, disavowed his actions. Finally, it’s not enough to say that as mayor he won’t do any more bad things, because in a state in which there are three clinics and one-third of the population lives in rural areas, his past actions continue to affect people who need care.

This is not an abstract issue. Under the ACA and with the permission of Democratic leaders we have seen the greatest erosion in abortion rights in this country in over two decades, and that is not just a problem of Republicans. What is at stake here is the future of the party. What is at stake is whether the largely white, largely male-dominated Democratic Party actually means to promote and protect women’s rights from here on after. What is at stake is what it actually means to be “pro-life,” if you are willing to pass legislation that stigmatizes, criminalizes, and makes inaccessible essential reproductive health care.

The question, now, is not only whether Mello understands the damage he is done and is willing to advocate to undo it, but whether the DNC, DCCC, Sanders, and others understand it. The question is what Mello’s supporters will do to push him on these issues as he seeks higher office in the state, because he will. The question is whether the party and leaders like Sanders will dedicate themselves to addressing the harm done to women’s rights by being complicit with the corporate and religiously fundamentalist Republican Party at the national and at the state level under the guise of a so-called big tent that inevitably undermines women’s health and rights, gives cover to the Catholic Bishops and white males, but leaves more than half the population out in the cold.

It can no longer be OK to substitute anti-choice lies and “religious” beliefs for the fundamental rights and health of women. Moreover, anti-choice positions are not necessary to win elections, though that is the least of the issues right now. If the situation with Heath Mello shows anything, it is that this is a conversation that has only just begun.
If Democratic leaders start making it ok for the party's nominees for office to be anti-Choice, how long before it's OK to be anti-LGBT? Xenophobic? Racist? Anti-working family? A Climate Change denier? Where does it end? Really-- where? With the Democratic Party standing for nothing very solid at all other than the careers of the corrupt assholes in elected office? Is that what it's all about? It is for them. Oh, and one more thing, if Mello wins the mayor's race, isn't is better than the Republican winning? Sure-- except the Republican isn't going to wind up tarnishing the Democratic Party brand or one day becoming a Democratic congressman, senator or governor.

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