Saturday, February 24, 2018

The U.S. Is A Corrupt Country-- Now More Than Ever... Is That The Swamp?


The House Ethics Committee still hasn't taken up the very serious charges against ex-Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) and current Congressman Chris Collins (R-NY), who have both engaged in flagrant insider trading while serving on committees that were able to influence the value of sticks they were trading. It's been over a year. A 29-page report from the Office of Congressional Ethics strongly suggests that there was insider trading by both Collins and Price and on July 14, 2017 recommended that the House Ethics Committee pursue a formal investigation. It hasn't.

The report reads that there's "a substantial reason to believe that … Collins shared material nonpublic information in the purchase of Innate stock, in violation of House rules, standards of conduct and federal law.” Collins is on the board of directors of Innate Immunotherapeutics Limited as well as in Congress. Price also traded extensively in Innate stock while serving in Congress, reportedly on Collins' suggestion that he could make a killing.

This is another reason why people hate Congress so much. Nor do Americans trust government. And most of the time, we shouldn't. This week MarketWatch reported that Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio is seeing a growing chance iff a recession as the U.S. enters a "pre-bubble stage." What's Congress doing to protect us? Nothing to protect anyone but themselves-- as Collins and Price have done-- but everything to accerbate the underlying problems. Which brings us to the much-shared essay by Juan Cole Thursday at Truthdig! Top 10 Signs the U.S. Is the Most Corrupt Nation in the World. I spent years in Asia and corruption is woven into the fabric of life. It's as bad here-- just not as visible. I was shocked when I was forced to negotiate at a post office in New Delhi for the price of sending a postcard to America.
Those ratings that castigate Afghanistan and some other poor countries as hopelessly “corrupt” always imply that the United States is not corrupt. This year’s report from Transparency International puts the US on a par with Austria, which is ridiculous. All kinds of people from politicians to businessmen would go to jail in Austria today if they engaged in practices that are quite common in the US.

While it is true that you don’t typically have to bribe your postman to deliver the mail in the US, in many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects. After all, the US economy is worth over $18 trillion a year, so in our corruption a lot more money changes hands.

1. A sure sign of corruption is an electoral outcome like 2016. An addled nonentity like Donald Trump got filthy rich via tax loopholes a predatory behavior in his casinos and other businesses, and then was permitted to buy the presidency with his own money. He was given billions of dollars in free campaign time every evening on CNN, MSNBC, Fox and other channels that should have been more even-handed, because they were in search of advertising dollars and Trump was a good draw. Then, too, the way the Supreme Court got rid of campaign finance reform and allowed open, unlimited secret buying of elections is the height of corruption. The permitting of massive black money in our elections was taken advantage of by the Russian Federation, which, having hopelessly corrupted its own presidential elections, managed to further corrupt the American ones, as well. Once ensconced in power, Trump Inc. has taken advantage of the power of White House to engage in a wide range of corrupt practices, including an attempt to sell visas to wealthy Chinese and the promotion of the Trump brand as part of diplomacy.

2. The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich. The Koch brothers and other mega-rich troglodytes explicitly told Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in 2017 that if the Republican Party, controlling all three branches of government, could not lower taxes on its main sponsors, there would be no billionaire backing of the party in the 2018 midterms. This threat of an electoral firing squad made the hundreds of bribe-takers in Congress sit up and take notice, and they duly gave away to the billionaire class $1.5 trillion in government services (that’s what Federal taxes are, folks, services–roads, schools, health inspections, implementation of anti-pollution laws–things that everyone benefits from and which won’t be there any more. To the extent that the government will try to continue to provide those slashed services despite assessing no taxes on the people with the money to pay for them, it will run up an enormous budget deficit and weaken the dollar, which is a form of inflation in the imported goods sector. Inflation hits the poor the worst. As it stands, 3 American billionaires are worth, as much as the bottom 150 million Americans. That kind of wealth inequality hasn’t been seen in the US since the age of the robber barons in the nineteenth century. Both eras are marked by extreme corruption.

One sign of American corruption is the rapidity with which American society has become more unequal since the 1980s Reagan destruction of the progressive income tax. The wealthier the top 1 percent is, the more politicians it can buy to gather up even more of the country’s wealth. In my lifetime the top one percent has gone from holding 25% of the privately held wealth under Eisenhower to 38% today.

3. Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the US has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. All American politicians are basically on the take, though many are honorable people. They are forced into it by the system. The campaign season should be shortened to 3 months (did we really need 2 years to get an outcome in which a fool like Trump is president?), and Congress should pass a law that winners of primaries don’t have to pay for political ads on tv and radio.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, soon thereafter French police actually went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress. I thought to myself, seriously? $50,000 in a presidential campaign? Our presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each! $50,000 is a rounding error, not a basis for police action. Why, George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then ginned up a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his house.

American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the the 1%. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.

4. Money and corruption have seeped so far into our media system that people can with a straight face assert that scientists aren’t sure human carbon emissions are causing global warming. Fox Cable News is among the more corrupt institutions in American society, purveying outright lies for the benefit of the fossil fuels billionaire class. The US is so corrupt that it is resisting the obvious urgency to slash carbon production. Virtually the entire Republican Party resists the firm consensus of all respected scientists in the world and the firm consensus of everybody else in the world save for a few denialists in English-speaking countries. This resistance to an urgent and dangerous reality comes about because they are bribed to take this stance. Even Qatar, its economy based on natural gas, freely admits the challenge of human-induced climate change. American politicians like Jim Inhofe are openly ridiculed when they travel to Europe for their know-nothingism on climate.

5. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Scott Pruitt, a Manchurian candidate from Big Oil, has single-handedly demolished the Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of polluting industry. This assault on the health of American citizens on behalf of vampirical corporations is the height of corruption.

6. The US military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major states. What isn’t usually realized is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale. I’ve seen with my own eyes how officers in the military get out and then form companies to sell things to their former colleagues still on the inside. Precisely because it is a cesspool of large-scale corruption, Trump’s budget will throw over $100 billion extra taxpayer dollars at it.

7. The US has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatized, and this tendency is corrupting the system. It is wrong for people to profit from putting and keeping human beings behind bars. This troubling trend is made all the more troubling by the move to give extra-long sentences for minor crimes, to deny parole and to imprison people for life for e,g, three small thefts.

8. The National Security Agency’s domestic spying was a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly unlikely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are not being committed. If you knew who Warren Buffett and George Soros were calling every day, that alone could make you a killing. The American political class wouldn’t have defended this indefensible invasion of citizens’ privacy so vigorously if someone somewhere weren’t making money on it.

9. As for insider trading, it turns out Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, to engage in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy). That this practice only became an issue recently is another sign of how corrupt the system is.

10. Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary. Although some state legislatures are dialing this corrupt practice back, it is widespread and a danger to the constitution.

So don’t tell the global South how corrupt they are for taking a few petty bribes. Americans are not seen as corrupt because we only deal in the big denominations. Steal $2 trillion and you aren’t corrupt, you’re respectable.

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Pennsylvania Looking Even Better For Most Democratic Candidates


Republicans worry they can't win when there are fair sensible boundaries

Corrupt gerrymandrerers, Republican Senate President Joe Scarnati and state House Speaker Mike Turzai, are not taking the new ungerrymandered congressional map of Pennsylvania laying down. They're asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in-- and step on-- the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
But experts have said Republicans face an uphill battle. Several noted that Mr. Scarnati and Mr. Turzai have fought the court’s ruling for weeks in an increasingly nasty political and legal battle but have been unsuccessful.

Just days after the state Supreme Court overturned the congressional district map, the top Republican lawmakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to step in and stay the order, arguing that the state court was usurping the legislature’s power. That request was denied by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who did not refer the matter to the full court, as is often done, noted Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

“If you’re a Republican defending a map and you can’t even get Justice Alito to refer the thing to the whole court, that’s a pretty weak challenge,” he said Monday, saying he could not think of one that would be successful.
The Republican advantage in 13 of the state's unfairly carefully-drawn 18 districts will now yield far more competitive seats where Democratic voters have a chance to elect candidates who represent them. The Republican advantage disappears entirely in 3 districts. Democrats will now have an even-- or better than even-- chance to win seats that are currently held by Republicans Pat Meehan, Brian Fitzpatrick, Charlie Dent, Ryan Costello and Keith Rothfus. This morning Tom Prigg, the progressive candidate who decide to take on Rothfus when it looked like an impossible climb, is very happy with the new district lines. "The new district map has made my district far more competitive. The previous District 12 was 200 miles long and could take 3 hours to drive from end to end. The Partisan Voter Index gave the Republicans an 11 point advantage. Now it's far more compact, an hours drive with only a 3 point Republican advantage. This is a significantly improved district. Not all Pennsylvania districts were so lucky, but mine gives me a much better chance to beat an undesirable incumbent."

Scarnati and Turzai, not to mention Señor Trumpanzee and congressional Republicans and their big money allies, are screaming like stuck pigs. How dare anyone try to keep them from cheating? What's this world coming to? Their whining is likely to fail. Elena Schneider for Politico: "most operatives and experts see little hope in a legal challenge to the new districts... [B]ehind the scenes, Republican consultants are already urging their clients to get ready for these new districts in 2018... 'The likelihood that [Republicans] will get a response from the [U.S.] Supreme Court is near zero,' said Justin Levitt, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles."

And, of course, the Republican version of the DCCC-- the NRCC-- is already in court demanding the right to cheat. Naturally, their statement didn't call it cheating: "state and federal GOP officials will sue in federal court as soon as tomorrow to prevent the new partisan map from taking effect. The suit will highlight the state Supreme Court’s rushed decision that created chaos, confusion, and unnecessary expense in the 2018 election cycle."
For Republicans, it’s not clear yet what legal avenue they plan to proceed with first, or what relief they will seek. But if they return to the U.S. Supreme Court, experts said it’s unlikely the court will change its position from earlier this month, when it rejected a request for a stay.

“The one thing they have going for them now is that the state Supreme Court has now acted, as opposed to threatening to act, but the big factor against that is [Justice Samuel] Alito already turned them down,” said Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California-Irvine. “They’re playing a weak hand.”

“Republicans have no real option left,” said Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who’s worked on several redistricting cases. “It’s the same argument that the U.S. Supreme Court failed to entertain last time, and I don’t expect them to entertain it this time.”

“The map you see is the map we’re going to have [in 2018],” Elias added.

That map opens up opportunities for Democrats-- who currently hold only five of the 18 House seats in the battleground state-- particularly in the greater Philadelphia area.

The Pennsylvania case isn’t the only partisan gerrymandering case working its way through the federal courts. Similar suits in North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin are also currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, and the court did intervene in North Carolina, setting aside a ruling that threw out that state’s congressional map. But unlike the Pennsylvania case, the other cases involve questions of federal, not state, law.

...Dan Meuser-- a Republican running to replace Rep. Lou Barletta, who is running for Senate-- exemplified that tension with a post on Facebook on Monday.

“We will note, the court-drawn 9th Congressional District overlaps many areas in the 11th District where we have been campaigning hard for the past five months,” Meuser wrote. “At this time, we are going to continue to campaign in what was the original 11th Congressional District and will comment further once all legal challenges are resolved and district lines become definitive.”
Meuser is an imbecile who, unfortunately, has little to worry about. Barletta's hellhole of a red district, the 11th, went for Trump by 24 points. The new hellhole's boundaries wound have seen Trump winning by an even greater margin-- +34. What was once an R+10 district will be completely untouchable for a Democrat. The Blue Dogs have a hopeless candidate of their own running, Denny Wolff and he's raised $208,775, but two Republicans-- Meuser and Stephen Bloom has each outraised him, with Meuser way out ahead-- $530,293. In 2016 Barletta beat Democrat Mike Marsicano 194,889 (63.7%) to 111,025 (36.3%).

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Will There Be Races Where A GOP Candidate Is More Progressive On Guns Than A DCCC Candidate?


The video up top is from 2010 and if you didn't know better you might think Ann Kirkpatrick is a Republican, especially when she starts repeating racist GOP talking points about immigration and criticizing Obama. Just before the 4 minute mark she starts her oft-repeated schpiel about the NRA. The DCCC is crushing the campaigns of local progressives Matt Heinz and Mary Matiela for this carpetbagging blood-soaked murderess who bragged about her longtime love affair with the NRA: Like protecting our rights, like our right to bear and keep arms. And that's why I have an A rating with the NRA." After decades of puplicly licking the NRA's ass she's now trying to pretend she isn't responsible for all the children who have been slaughtered in the schools when she could have walked up to each one of them and shot them in the head for how she has voted on gun legislation. Brian Robinson, Matt Heinz' Campaign Manager spoke out yesterday on the DCCC gun nut: "Ann is what everybody hates and distrusts about career politicians. When she ran for Congress in Flagstaff, she bragged about her NRA A rating, vocally opposed reinstating the Assault Weapons ban, and even praised the NRA as 'one of the country's oldest continuously operating civil liberties organizations.' Make no mistake, the gun crisis is a problem of her making... Maybe if she had spent more time living down here, she would know that Southern Arizonans can spot a fraud from a mile away."

Along with Kirkpatrick (AZ), Jeff Van Drew (NJ) and Anthony Brindisi (NY) are two more of the many right-of-center Republican-lite Democrats who generally see as eye-to-eye with the NRA as your garden variety Republican does. But these three were aggressively recruited by Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Lujan of the DCCC. And yes, Nancy and Ben were very much aware that Kirkpatrick, Van Drew and Brindisi are all gun nut fanatics with long, bloody records of supporting the NRA and of support from the NRA. All three are on the DCCC "Red to Blue Page" and all three have been endorsed by the Blue Dogs and/or the New Dems, together the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party. There are only 24 candidates on the Red to Blue page, representing the exact number of seats the Democrats have to flip to win back control of the House. Most of them are garbage candidates but few are as overtly conservative as Kirkpatrick, Van Drew and Brindisi. The only one I can confirm being a bona fide progressive in the whole lot of them is Lisa Brown (WA), although we're still trying to figure out Andy Kim in New Jersey.

Most of the DCCC candidates are keeping purposefully mum about on guns. Read through their skimpy campaign websites are you'll be hard-pressed to know if they will or won't support a bill to prevent the sale of assault rifles. There are Republicans with better positions on guns than many of the DCCC candidates! Take Brian Mast (R-FL). Generally speaking, Mast is a hopeless and clueless Republican, as awful as the rest of them. Yesterday, however, he penned an OpEd for the New York Times considerably more progressive than what most of the DCCC have done (or would do): I'm Republican. I Appreciate Assault Weapons. And I Support a Ban. He wrote that he supports a ban on the sales of assault or tactical firearms, including the AR-15. Like putative Democrats Kirkpatrick, Van Drew and Brindisi, Mast was elected with the support of the NRA. Unlike the DCCC-Dems, he's breaking with them in a very major way. A decorated and grievously wounded vet from the Afghanistan War, he wrote, "I have fired tens of thousands of rounds through that rifle, many in combat. We used it because it was the most lethal-- the best for killing our enemies. And I know that my community, our schools and public gathering places are not made safer by any person having access to the best killing tool the Army could put in my hands. I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend."

The NRA gave him $4,950 when he ran in 2016 and spent another $26,569 on his behalf to help flip his district from blue to red. He wrote that he doesn't "fear becoming a political casualty" and that although he supports the 2nd Amendment it "does not guarantee that every civilian can bear any and all arms." Many of his positions are sure to drive the NRA folks wild with rage. He wrote that he backs expanding background checks, raising the minimum age for gun purchasers, outlawing bump stocks and that he opposes allowing people barred from flying because of terrorism concerns from purchasing guns. He also backs lifting the ban on federal research into gun violence as a public health threat. Don't be surprised if the NRA seeks revenge by backing New Dem Lauren Baer, whose website says she has a dog named Biscuit but doesn't say how she stands on banning assault weapons, just that she wants to create "a bright future" which includes "enacting common sense gun safety measures that protect our families," something that says nothing and could be a position that any Republican or any Democrat takes.

Last night I reached out to the candidates Blue America has endorsed and asked them if they will vote for an assault weapons ban. Some people have actual lives and it was Friday night so I couldn't reach everyone but everyone I reached seemed quite enthusiastic about an assault weapons ban. The very first response came from Alan Grayson (D-FL) who reminded me that when he was in the House he had already worked on a bill to ban assault weapons. "I introduced a one-sentence bill to accomplish that. I called it the Freedom From Fear Act, HR 5615. The wording was very clear and Grayson's co-sponsor was Barbara Lee (D-CA): "To reinstate the ban on semiautomatic assault weapons." Boom! That's it. Paul Ryan buried it in the House Judiciary Committee and refused to ever allow a vote on it.

Goal ThermometerThe next response was from state Rep. Kaniela Ing from Hawaii. I already knew what his response would be, but of course he'd vote for a ban. "It worked in 1994, and should be reinstated." I love these clear answers with no "ifs," "ands" or "buts." Here are the rest of the responses in the order they came in:

Randy Bryce (WI)- "I would back it. The .223 round is designed to ricochet once it penetrates the body. I'll never forget being taught that in basic training."

Ellen Lipton (MI)- "I back an assault weapons ban. I grew up in Alabama, and i understand hunters. Assault weapons are not for hunting."

Tim Canova (FL)- "Yes, I would back an assault weapons ban. Here’s my two minute statement on the gun crisis and mass shooting."

Paul Clements (MI)- "Yes certainly."

DuWayne Gregory (NY)- "I would definitely support a ban on assault weapons!"

Dan Canon (IN)- "Yeah, I'm not convinced it's the best approach and it's certainly not a panacea, but I'd back anything that had the slightest chance of saving even one kid's life. Anything is better than nothing."

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (NM)- "Yes, I unequivocally support an assault weapons ban.  Military weapons have no place on our streets."

Lillian Salerno (TX)- "Yes, I will back an assault weapons ban."

Kara Eastman (NE)- "I favor a ban on assault weapon sales. Loudly."

Tom Guild (OK)- "Yes, I will support and vote for a ban on the sale of assault weapons. Thanks for asking."

Wouldn't it be great if the DCCC was on this list with their name crossed out too? (Don't hold your breath)

UPDATE: Democratic Incumbents Who Also Suck

There are plenty of Democratic incumbents in the NRA's pockets and I didn't address that in this post at all. But Darren Soto in the nice blue district (PVI D+5) Alan Grayson used to represent is a good example. After the Orlando massacre Soto tried painting himself as a leader on gun control. "In fact," wrote Peter Schorsch, "the opposite is true. Throughout his 10-year-career in the Florida Legislature, Soto has consistently sided with the gun lobby-- on everything from “Stand Your Ground” to 'Docs vs. Glocks' and more. Soto even received an 'A' rating from the National Rifle Association as a state representative and as a senator.
[In 2015] Soto voted to strengthen Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” gun law (SB 344), making it harder for prosecutors to try gun cases. Lucy McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, a black teenager killed in Jacksonville in a 2012 dispute over loud music, urged the Senate Criminal Justice Committee to vote down SB 344. Soto sided with the gun lobby rather than grieving mothers when he voted for the bill, which the NRA deemed a “must-pass priority.”

In 2014, he voted to extend “immunity” to gun owners who brandish their firearms under the “Stand Your Ground” Law (HB 89).

In 2008, Soto voted for a bill to allow employees to bring their guns to work-- even if those employees worked at daycare centers (HB 503). The bill was backed by the gun lobby, including the NRA. Soto also voted to rescind all local gun laws-- including rules against bringing guns into public buildings or city parks. In 2011, he voted for HB 45, a law that prohibits local governments from regulating firearms and ammunition in their communities.

Soto’s pro-gun record is so extreme, he even voted to prohibit doctors from talking to patients about gun safety (HB 155 in 2011). The Florida Pediatric Association opposed the bill (referred to as the “Docs vs. Glocks” bill)-- for asking a patient a question that could save his or her child’s life, a doctor in Florida could lose her medical license or be fined $10,000.

Soto has voted for a number of other bills backed by the gun lobby, including an NRA-backed bailout of gun clubs-- costing taxpayers $1.2 million (HB 33-A) and a 2015 bill (SB 290) that would allow unlicensed gun holders to carry a firearm in an emergency evacuation. His loyalty to the NRA extends even beyond state lines-- he was one of only four Florida Democrats who signed onto a 2009 Supreme Court Amicus Brief opposing a Chicago handgun ban.

Make no mistake-- politicians like Soto have helped create a toxic environment in which the gun lobby reigns supreme in our state.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

A simple question for us all: Can you imagine yourself needing crib notes when you encounter someone who has lost a dear friend or loved one in a hail of bullets? Even their child! I doubt that you are that devoid of empathy for others. Only the worst examples of humanity are. Clearly, Donald J. Trump is one of those.

On Wednesday, Trump, held a little pretend-you-care get together in the oval office. His staff, or at least someone on his staff, knows what they have for a boss. However, the horrific circumstances in Parkland Florida and the national reaction to them forced the White House to do more than what their boss had done over the weekend (a quick, obviously reluctant visit with some of the kids, a now infamous joking, thumbs up smily face, photo op with some local police, and then a night of champaign guzzling and happy disco dancing at his Mar-a-lago resort, followed by some golfing during the funerals after saying he would honor the victims by not doing so). Hence, the need for the White House get together. Trump took some time off from blaming the victims and the Mueller investigation to hold the meeting, but someone who works for him knew he'd better have some handy little empathy buzz phrases ready. I call it Empathy For Dummies.

Trump needed some of that "empathy thing" just like George H.W. Bush once asked how he could get some of that "vision thing." The difference, though, was that Bush was self-aware whereas Trump has no sense of humanity. So, Trump's handlers gave him a piece of paper, a cue card, and they held their breath while they hoped that he wouldn't say anything insane. "Stick to this script, Mr. President. This isn't tweeting. These people are victims, real victims, right in front of you. Just refer to your notes here." So, there he sat, looking uncomfortable and unpresidential. He looked like a man who couldn't wait to get the meeting over with. Stupidly, he held the piece of paper for all the world to see, not that it revealed anything we didn't already know. We already know that Trump is incapable of empathy. Being incapable of empathy for others is at the top of the list for being a psychopath. It's not at the top of the list for being a president, even though presidents often have to make decisions that will cause their fellow humans to die. Having empathy helps a president make difficult decisions. Being a psychopath enables senseless tragedies.

Perhaps, one of the attendees at the oval office meeting had the best comment of all. When Stoneman Douglas student shooting survivor Sam Zeif was asked if he felt he was heard at the White House, he replied:
"I know I was heard because I saw it on Trump's little card."

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Billy Graham Died


Ever watch the Last Kingdom? There's a dramatic scene towards the end of the second episode of the second season where Alexander Dreymon's character, Uhtred, the dashing heathen protagonist, dares the evil Abbot Eadred to "say it one more time and go meet the devil." She he does... and he does. Big deal that he killed a man of God, with big consequences, despite it being the arch-villain of the first couple of episodes of Season Two. I'm guessing that thou shalt not kill abbots was a big megillah back in the 9th Century.

Yesterday Billy Graham, who's been hectoring America for as long as I can recall-- not in the 9th Century, but definitely throughout the 20th-- died. No one killed Graham. Like Eadred, Graham was on the wrong side of history. His legacy is that evangelicals stand by while racial tensions and our planet get hot. "The world’s most famous evangelist let his apocalyptic anticipation of the coming kingdom of God blind him to the realities of living in this world." But my old friend in Asheville, Cecil Bothwell, wrote the obit for us:

Billy Graham And The Gospel Of Fear
by Cecil Bothwell

“We are selling the greatest product on earth. Why shouldn’t we promote it as effectively as we promote a bar of soap?”
- Billy Graham, Saturday Evening Post, 1963
Billy Graham was a preacher man equally intent on saving souls and soliciting financial support for his ministry. His success at the former is not subject to proof and his success at the latter is unrivaled. He preached to millions on every ice-free continent and led many to his chosen messiah.

When Graham succumbed to various ailments this week at the age of 99 he left behind an organization that is said to have touched more people than any other Christian ministry in history, with property, assets and a name-brand worth hundreds of millions. The address lists of contributors alone comprise a mother lode for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, now headed by his son and namesake, William Franklin Graham, III.

Graham also left behind a United States government in which religion plays a far greater role than before he intruded into politics in the 1950s. The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s feet.

Graham’s message was principally one of fear: fear of a wrathful god; fear of temptation; fear of communists and socialists; fear of unions; fear of Catholics; fear of homosexuals; fear of racial integration and above all, fear of death. But as a balm for such fears, he promised listeners eternal life, which he said was readily claimed through acceptance of Jesus Christ as one’s savior.

Furthermore, he assured listeners that God loved us so much that He created governments, the most blessed form being Western capitalist democracy. To make this point, he frequently quoted Romans 13, particularly the first two verses. In the New American Standard Version of the Bible, they read, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

The question of whether this was actually the recorded word of God or a rider inserted into the bill by Roman senators with rather more worldly aims never dimmed Graham’s insistence that all governments are the work of the Almighty. Almost perversely, he even endorsed the arrest of a woman who lofted a Christian banner during his Reagan-era visit to Moscow, opting for the crack-down of “divine” authority over the civil disobedience of a believer.

Governments, he reminded his Moscow listeners, do God’s work.

Based on that Biblical mandate for all governments, Graham stood in solid opposition to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, all but addressed to Graham, King noted, “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ … If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”

Fear is the stock in trade of most evangelists, of course, comprising the necessary setup before the pitch. As historian William Martin explained in his 1991 account of Graham’s early sermons, “… even those whose personal lives seemed rich and fulfilling must live in a world filled with terror and threat. As a direct result of sinful humanity’s rebellion against God, our streets have become jungles of terror, mugging, rape, and death. Confusion reigns on campuses as never before. Political leaders live in constant fear of the assassin’s bullet. Racial tension seems certain to unleash titanic forces of hatred and violence. Communism threatens to eradicate freedom from the face of the earth. Small nations are getting the bomb, so that global war seems inevitable. High-speed objects, apparently guided by an unknown intelligence, are coming into our atmosphere for reasons no one understands. Clearly, all signs point to the end of the present world order.
“… Graham’s basic mode of preaching in these early years was assault. … Then, when he had his listeners mentally crouching in terror, aware that all the attractively labeled escape routes-- alcohol, sexual indulgence, riches, psychiatry, education, social-welfare programs, increased military might, the United Nations-- led ultimately to dead ends, he held out the only compass that pointed reliably to the straight and narrow path that leads to personal happiness and lasting peace.”
Columnist and former priest James Carroll had much the same take, noting that “Graham had his finger on the pulse of American fear, and in subsequent years, anti communism occupied the nation’s soul as an avowedly religious obsession. The Red scare at home, unabashed moves toward empire abroad, the phrase ‘under God’ inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance, the scapegoating of homosexuals as ‘security risks,’ an insane accumulation of nuclear weapons, suicidal wars against postcolonial insurgencies in Asia—a set of desperate choices indeed. Through it all, Billy Graham was the high priest of the American crusade, which is why U.S. presidents uniformly sought his blessing.”

While Carroll had most of that right, the record suggests that, over and over again, it was Graham who sought presidential blessing, rather than the other way around. Letters enshrined in the presidential and Graham libraries reveal a preacher endlessly seeking official audience. As Truman said, years after his presidency, “Well, I hadn’t ought to say this, but he’s one of those counterfeits I was telling you about. He claims he’s a friend of all the presidents, but he was never a friend of mine when I was president.”

Of course, politicians have often brandished fear as well, and the twin streams of fear-based politics and fear-based religion couldn’t have been more confluent. Communist infiltrators, missile gaps and the domino effect each took their turn, as did the Evil Empire and, more recently, Saddam, Osama bin Laden and an amorphous threat of global terrorism.

In light of the Biblical endorsement of rulers, Graham supported police repression of Vietnam war protesters and civil rights marchers, opposed Martin Luther King’s tactic of civil disobedience, supported South American despots, and publicly supported every war or intervention waged by the United States from Korea forward.

Born on a prosperous dairy farm and educated at Wheaton College, Graham first gained national attention in 1949 when the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, searching for a spiritual icon to spread his anti-communist sentiments, discovered the young preacher holding forth at a Los Angeles tent meeting. Hearst wired his editors across the nation, “puff Graham,” and he was an instant sensation.

Hearst next contacted his friend and fellow publisher Henry Luce. Their Wall Street ally, Bernard Baruch, arranged a meeting between Luce and Graham while the preacher was staying with the segregationist Governor Strom Thurmond in the official mansion in Columbia, S.Car. Luce concurred with Hearst about Graham’s marketability and Time and Life were enlisted in the job of selling the soap of salvation to the world. Time, alone, has run more than 600 stories about Graham.

The man who would become known as “the minister to presidents” offered his first military advice in 1950. On June 25, North Korean troops invaded South Korea and Graham sent Truman a telegram. “MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS PRAYING GOD GIVE YOU WISDOM IN THIS CRISIS. STRONGLY URGE SHOWDOWN WITH COMMUNISM NOW. MORE CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN KOREA PER CAPITA THAN ANY PART OF WORLD. WE CANNOT LET THEM DOWN.”

It was the first time Graham encouraged a president to go to war, and with characteristic hyperbole: Korea has never topped the list of Christian-leaning nations. Subsequently, Graham gave his blessing to every conflict under every president from Truman to the second Bush, and most of the presidents, pleased to enjoy public assurance of God’s approval, made him welcome in the White House. Graham excoriated Truman for firing General Douglas MacArthur and supported the general’s plan to invade China. He went so far as to urge Nixon to bomb dikes in Vietnam-- knowing that it would kill upward of a million civilians-- and he claimed to have sat on the sofa next to G.H.W. Bush as the bombs began falling in the first Gulf War (though Bush’s diary version of the evening somehow excludes Graham, as does a White House video of Bush during the attack).

According to Bush’s account, in a phone call the preceding week, Graham quoted poetry that compared the President to a messiah destined to save the world, and in the next breath called Saddam the Antichrist. Bush wrote that Graham suggested it was his historical mission to destroy Saddam.

Through the years, Graham’s politics earned him some strange bedfellows. He praised Senator Joseph McCarthy and supported his assault on Constitutional rights, then scolded the Senate for censuring McCarthy for his excesses. He befriended oil men and arms manufacturers. He defended Nixon after Watergate, right up to the disgraced president’s resignation, and faced public scorn when tapes were aired that exposed the foul-mouthed President as a schemer and plotter. Nixon’s chief of staff, Bob Haldeman, reported on Graham’s denigration of Jews in his posthumously published diary-- a claim Graham vehemently denied until released tapes undid him in 2002. Caught with his prejudicial pants down, Graham claimed ignorance of the hour-and-a-half long conversation in which he led the antisemite attack.

As reported by the Associated Press on March 2, 2002:
“Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon . . . some 30 years ago,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”“Although I have no memory of the occasion, I deeply regret comments I apparently made in an Oval Office conversation with President Nixon . . . some 30 years ago,” Graham said in a statement released by his Texas public relations firm. “They do not reflect my views, and I sincerely apologize for any offense caused by the remarks.”
Whether or not the comments reflect Graham’s views at the time or thirty years later, it is his defense that bears much closer scrutiny. What were we to make of a preacher who insisted that his words didn’t reflect his beliefs? Were we to believe him then or later, on other matters?

Graham was a political operative, reporting to Kennedy on purported communist insurgencies in Latin America, turning over lists of activist Christians to the Republican party, conferring regularly with J. Edgar Hoover and networking with the CIA in South America and Vietnam. He was even assigned by Nixon’s operatives to talk George Wallace out of a second run for the White House.

To accomplish the latter, he phoned Wallace as he was coming out of an anesthetic stupor after one of his numerous post-assassination-attempt surgeries. While the long suffering gunshot victim asked the minister to pray for him, the minister asked him not to make a third-party bid for the presidency. “I won’t do anything to help McGovern,” Wallace replied.

There are many who would argue that the good that Graham did outweighs whatever political intrigue he embraced, and even the several wars he enthusiastically endorsed. To the extent that bringing people to Christ is of benefit to them, an untestable hypothesis, he was successful with his calls to come forward. He accrued hundreds of millions of dollars which were used to extend his ministry and thereby bring more people to “be saved,” which is self-justifying but fails as evidence of goodness.

If Christian beliefs about the hereafter prove correct, we will all presumably discover what good he accomplished, or what chance for salvation we missed, in the sweet by and by.

In talking to one of his biographers, Graham recalled his mood during his fire and brimstone declamations, “I would feel as though I had a sword, a rapier, in my hand, and I would be slashing deeper and deeper into the consciences of the people before me, cutting away straight to their very souls.”

In that regard, Graham’s largest and most lasting monument is a highway cut through Beaucatcher Mountain, blasted through a majestic land form that once bisected Asheville, N.Car. He helped convince recalcitrant landowners to permit the excavation and construction through the cut of the short stretch of Interstate highway subsequently named the Billy Graham Freeway.

Downwind residents report that the weather has permanently shifted due to the gaping mountain maw and the future of the highway that transects the city continues to be one of the most divisive issues in that southern metropolis.

“Straight to their very souls,” indeed.

In every way, Graham was the spiritual father of today’s right-wing religious leaders who so inhabit the national conversation. If he cloaked his suasion in public neutrality it was the hallmark of an era in which such intrusion was deemed unseemly. If today’s practitioners are less abashed, it is in many ways reflective of the secure foundation Graham built within Republican and conservative circles.

Graham endorsed and courted Eisenhower and compared a militaristic State of the Union speech to the Sermon on the Mount, fanned anti-Catholic flames in the Nixon-Kennedy contest, backed Johnson and then Nixon in Vietnam, lobbied for arms sales to Saudi Arabia during the Reagan years, conveyed foreign threats and entreaties for Clinton and lent his imprimateur to G.W. Bush as he declared war on terrorism from the pulpit of the National Cathedral.

Billy Graham approved of warriors and war, weapons of mass destruction (in white, Christian hands) and covert operations. He publicly declaimed the righteousness of battle with enemies of American capitalism, abetted genocide in oil-rich Ecuador and surrounds and endorsed castration as punishment for rapists. A terrible swift sword for certain, and effective no doubt, but not much there in the way of turning the other cheek.

Graham will be cordially remembered by those who found solace in his golden promises and happy homilies, but the worldly blowback from his ministry is playing out in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chechnya and Korea, the Phillipines and Colombia-- everywhere governments threaten human rights and pie in the sky is offered in lieu of daily bread.

In the words of  Graham’s ministerial and secular adversary, Dr. King, “I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”

Farewell Reverend Graham. Let justice roll.

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Anti-Choice Democrats? Yep... That's A Thing


In the last few days we've been pointing out Democrats who back Wall Street's bid to help the GOP chip away at Dodd Frank protections and DCCC 2016 recruits who are NRA allies. Yesterday The Hill ran an op-ed on Anti-Choice Democrats, although the author, Kristen Day, the executive director of Democrats For Life of America, was savvy enough to not name the Democrats they back. Most of them know being anti-Choice is a disadvantage in Democratic primaries, as slimy Chicagoland Blue Dog Dan Lipinski has been learning in recent months. The only anti-Choice Democrats featured prominently on the anti-Choice Democrats website are reactionary Blue Dogs Lipinski and Colin Peterson and an Arkansas candidate named Paul Spencer who we've already covered and who they crow "has a track record of fighting for ethics in government, for transparency, and fighting for life. Paul has publically [sic] stated that he will decline DNC money rather than change his pro-life stance. This and other stands against influence-buying have led to the slogan "Can't Buy Paul." The DNC doesn't give congressional candidates money.

Anyway, the op-ed says there's an anti-Choice March coming up and claims between a quarter and a third of Democrats are anti-Choice. She puts a Democrats sheen on it: "We are Pro-life Democrats because we are committed to protecting both the lives of unborn children and the lives of those who have already been born-- and not merely through charity. We believe in the dignity and worth of all, especially the poor, the vulnerable, the persecuted, and the abandoned. And we believe in an active government that safeguards that dignity and protects human rights. We are pro-life because we believe in the defense of all innocent human life, and we are Democrats because they are the party that, since the New Deal, has best stood up for the well-being of working-class and middle-class Americans."
[W]e are not going anywhere. Every March for Life, we are there marching-- and that’s not going to change. Every year, people come up to us-- Democrats, Republicans, Independents-- and tell us to keep fighting the good fight and that they, too, believe in both defending life and social justice for all.

And many pro-lifers recognize an obvious fact: The pro-life movement cannot possibly succeed without bipartisan support. A more bipartisan pro-life movement is the key to passing critical pro-life legislation and locking in support for these measures long-term. It is encouraging to see that the current leadership of the March for Life recognizes this need for a bipartisan pro-life movement.

So, yes, pro-life Democrats are different from the many conservatives who populate the pro-life movement and shape its image. And we will continue to be different. We will work together with all other pro-lifers to protect unborn life whenever possible.

But we will also be the ones constantly pushing for more assistance for pregnant women, stronger efforts to reduce poverty, and greater economic security for all Americans. We will push our fellow pro-lifers to be consistently pro-life-- to follow through on the common values we profess.

We will do this because we are pro-life Democrats: pro-life, Democrats, and unwilling to abandon our most cherished principles.
Goal ThermometerBlue America supports pro-Choice candidates, not anti-Choice candidates. When Tom Perriello first ran for Congress in 2008 he fed me a line of bullshit about how he would never vote to take away the right to choice for any woman and Blue America ignored warnings from others who told me he's a liar-- and we supported him. Were we in for a shockeroo when the issue came up in Congress and he voted anti-Choice. Maybe he thought it would help him with conservatives in his district. It didn't and it turned off enough real Democrats that they didn't turn out for him in the 2010 midterm. So: single termer. Every single candidate you'll find by clicking on the ActBlue thermometer on the right is pro-Choice. None of them are anti-Choice. We learned from our horrible Perriello experience into figuring out who's lying to us to get our endorsement the way he did.

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Hot Rumor: The Federal Trade Commission May Be Coming Back To Life


This week, the Open Markets Institute reported some good news, namely that the Federal Trade Commission may be about to "waken from it's anti-trust slumber." Hard to imagine.
For the last few years, the Federal Trade Commission all but vanished as a major player in anti-monopoly enforcement. In part, this was due to a lack of staff. For much of the last year, the FTC had only two sitting commissioners. Mainly, however, it was due to ideology.

Two of the most influential recent commissioners-- Maureen Ohlhausen and Josh Wright-- were strong proponents of libertarian competition philosophy, with its strong pro-monopoly bent. Further, even many recent Democratic appointments tended to take a highly permissive approach to economic power.

But a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on February 14 provided strong signals that the FTC may soon be back in the business of promoting competition in the United States. All five FTC commissioners are being replaced more or less at the same time, which means the character of the agency has the potential to change dramatically. And among both senators and nominees, the libertarian thinking that has long held sway in the Commission appeared to be decidedly out of fashion.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a former director of policy planning at the FTC, has in the past largely opposed government regulations, including net neutrality. But at the hearing last week, Sen. Cruz expressed deep concern about the immense power wielded by Google and Facebook, citing a cover story in Esquire that calls for the break-up of big tech. Sen. Cruz appeared especially concerned about the anti-competitive implications of Facebook and Google's dominance, saying that their "market power, size, and control of public discourse is unprecedented."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) urged the nominees to use the "new populism…sweeping the country" as a mandate to invigorate enforcement and advocacy. "Going beyond the FTC being a resource, I'd also like you to be a champion," he said. "You have the bully pulpit. You can bring zeal and passion to consumer issues that no one else will do at the federal level." Sen. Blumenthal also submitted a statement from the Congressional Antitrust Committee into the hearing record.

Joe Simons, nominated by President Trump to chair the agency, said he wants to scrutinize dominant firms that wield market power and review the Commission's enforcement record. “At a high level, I don’t believe that big is necessarily bad,” he said. But he added, “Companies that are already big and influential can sometimes use inappropriate means, anti-competitive means, to get big or to stay big.” In particular, Simons said he was "very concerned" about drug pricing and would explore convening a drug pricing monitoring task force to track anti-competitive price spikes and enable prompt investigations and enforcement actions.

In discussing extreme consolidation in agriculture with Sen. John Tester (D-MT), Simons further explained that even when bad mergers cannot be easily unscrambled, the agency can investigate dominant industry players for anti-competitive conduct and target their power through injunctions. Coupled with his written comments, Simons’ remarks suggest he intends to target abusive actions by dominant companies.

The only Democratic nominee at the hearing, Rohit Chopra, expressed interest in reviewing barriers to entry in monopolized markets. In particular, he noted that consolidated control over data creates hazards both for consumers and independent businesses. He said, "Data breaches impose great deals of costs on small enterprises. The Equifax data breach led to significant losses for community banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions."

A fifth slot on the Commission, reserved for a Democrat, still lacks an official nominee. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has recommended to the White House that it nominate his chief counsel, Rebecca Slaughter, for the position.
The founding members of the House AntiTrust Caucus are some of the House's most progressive members: Ro Khanna (CA), Mark Pocan (WI), Rick Nolan (MN), David Cicciline (RI), Keith Ellison (MN) and Pramila Jayapal (WA).

Austin Frerick has made fighting monopolies a key part of his platform, so it was no surprise when he told us that the Antitrust Caucus will be the "first caucus I will join. Also as an Iowa congressman, I plan to make antitrust a central requirement for my endorsement in the 2020 caucuses."

Derrick Crowe, the progressive running for the open seat in the Austin/San Antonio corridor told us he "would absolutely join the Congressional Anti-Trust Caucus. The rise of monopoly power threatens our bank accounts, worsens inequality, and undermines our political liberties. Busting trusts is defending democracy."

Goal ThermometerLisa Brown, the economist who served as Chancellor of Washington State University, Spokane and is currently busy campaigning to replace Paul Ryan lieutenant Cathy McMorris Rodgers that us "it’s a basic tenet of Econ-101 that concentrated economic power in a market, in which only a few producers  dominate, has adverse outcomes for consumers. Higher prices and less consumer satisfaction generally result from oligopoly and monopoly power. Effective federal regulation can counter these results. It’s encouraging that some members of Congress are getting  more active in this arena and I would welcome the opportunity to join them."

And we'll leave the last word for Lillian Salerno, former Obama deputy secretary of Agriculture, who is running a vigorous campaign in north Dallas that takes on monopolization head on: "Concentrated corporate power is out of control," she often says, "and it's time for Congress to step up with a renewed focus on anti-monopoly rules and investigations. That's what I'll do when I get there."

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DCCC Comes Out Of The Closet As The Progressive-Hating Attack Machine It's Been For Over A Decade


Jason Westin: Above the ugly DCCC fray in Houston
It isn't hard to figure out why I'd be attracted to Jonathan Tilove's headline in the Austin American-Statesman a few days ago... Nancy Pelosi’s 'cold-blooded' warning to Democratic primary voters: 'If the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore.'. That's old DCCC standard operating procedure: if their corrupt conservative candidate doesn't win the primary, the DCCC abandons the district to the Republicans. Ever since Pelosi took control of the DCCC, that's how it's been run. She never admits it though. So why did she in Texas? Senility?

Tilove didn't understand what she was even doing in his office sitting around for an interminable interview. "She had done public events in Houston over the weekend, and had another, later in the day Monday, in San Antonio. In Austin," he wrote, "it was just private meetings, and this interview. They talked about TX-21, the open Austin/San Antonio district where a wealthy Republican, Joseph Kopser, is pretending-- a little-- to be a Democrat during the primary so that he can beat progressive stalwart Derrick Crowe. The establishment-- par for the corse-- favors Kopser. Tilove had written that story a couple weeks ago. At the time, he had written that "The race for the party’s nomination in the 21st Congressional District has emerged as a microcosm of the sharp division among Democrats across the nation in how to respond to Trump-- do they nominate a candidate like Joseph Kopser, a former Army Ranger turned tech entrepreneur who the smart party money says can appeal to folks in the middle who rarely if ever vote Democratic but are offended by Trump, or go with a candidate who taps the outraged passions on the left, like Derrick Crowe, Elliott McFadden or Mary Wilson?"

Pelosi explained the DCCC theory of the battle for control of the House:
[I]f you’re an incumbent and you’re a chairman, and your votes have been terrible this last year you go home and masquerade as some kind of a moderate but you’ve been up here enabling nothing to come up on guns, nothing to come up on immigration, all these terrible things, well you’re thinking, “I’ve had a nice career, I’m respected in my community, nobody knows how I’ve voted, but they’re going to tell them in this election and I’m going to have to spend a lot of money to win, and I’m probably going to be in the minority, I think I’ll teach in the university.

So they get the retirements. We get the A-plus recruits. And so 36 of them, I think, maybe it’s changed since this morning, around 36 of them have said they are not running, 7 or 8 of them are committee chairman who are not running. So they see the handwriting on the wall.

... [I]t’s not even a recruitment because so many of these people self-recruited-- veterans, academics elected officials, private sector people, so many people coming forward. Forty-five happens to be one of our best recruiters. I have never in my whole political life seen anything like the energy at he grassroots level. You saw that at the march and that was organic, it wasn’t political, they did it and now they’re showing how they want to participate And this past year, all of those people helped us fend off the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, we couldn’t defeat the tax bill, but we won the argument so far.

So we have something like a hundred races, a hundred races, far too many, that are better than any of those special elections, because those special elections were in Republican districts, where hates those Cabinet officers, or Murphy had to resign, right away, your computers turned off, get out of the building kind of resign.

...So, out of that hundred, we have to reduce that down about two-thirds of that to get down to the 24 we need, perhaps 30, 35, you know I’d like to have more than the 24. Right now, today  we could do that. But 100 is too much. In other words, we’d rather double down and win than spread too thinly and lose by a little.

The value of that is, say you’re a slacker, you’re not the candidate we need you to be, you say, “Sunday’s I always play golf.”

“Oh really, not on our time.”

And then we say, we have other places we can go.

So many women candidates.

So candidates know, this is almost like a competition. They have to do their share. This isn’t an entitlement program. We need people to run, oh you’re good, you look good for the district here’s the money, No, they have to work. How do you connect with your constituents. That’s the most important thing. First of all, it’s you would win, but even before that, chronologically, show you are going to represent them. How are you going know them, how are they going to know you.

We have  a great (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) chairman, Ben Ray Luján, who is from New Mexico, very talented, very respected by the members.
She's completely delusional... living in her own fantasy world. She got one thing right: Luján is from New Mexico. But he is not "very talented"-- he's the opposite of that-- and he is not "very respected by the members." Many of them think he's an idiot.

Back to her endless babbling to the poor reporter in Austin: "Forgive me for using this word,  you have to be very cold-blooded about how you make these decisions about the races because everybody’s so great, but one in five children lives in poverty in America and we have to have our best fighters go out there to win.So today we would win. Texas is really  important to us. We have always invested in Texas because Texas will make the difference as to what the future of our country is. Imagine Texas just turning purple even. Wow. We’re one of the few national committees that actually does invest in Texas because we have prospects, and we believe in turning Texas blue, purple, whatever the color."

She's crazy as a loon. The House Democrats elected Jared Polis DCCC Regional Vice Chair for the area that includes Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. He ignored his duties 100% and then decided to run for governor of Colorado. He resigned as regional vice chair. Luján, Pelosi and Hoyer decided to ignore pleas to replace him immediately from people who really did think Texas is key to the 2018 midterms. They refused. It's been over a year and it's the only region without a vice chair. It allows the notoriously corrupt DCCC staff to run wild. And it allowed Luján, Pelosi and Hoyer to handle the area directly. Here's what that means to Hoyer, for example.
PELOSI: We have five races.

(The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted five seats in Texas, now held by Republicans, that it would like to flip. In addition to Smith’s seat in the 21st, they are John Culberson’s seat in the 7th CD, Will Hurd’s seat in the 23rd, Pete Sessions’ seat in the 32nd, and, most recently, John Carter’s seat in the 31st.)

I’ll talk to you  after the primary or the runoff. We think we have a couple of prospects in the Houston area, one in  Dallas, in the Valley. I have a little broader list than the cold-blooded list of the committee, so I’m still hopeful of a little more.

Pelosi is handed a binder by Aguilar, the aide, who executive director of Nancy Pelosi for Congress, with a list of the races and the Democratic candidates competing in each.

So they’re all multi-candidates. So we’ll see. this is about the choice of the people in those districts about who they want.

Could she identify the preferred candidates?

PELOSI: I wouldn’t think of doing that.

There are candidates who match the districts.

...How can I say this in a nice way? We have to be cold-blooded in what we do. In other words, if the wrong person wins-- well nobody’s wrong-- but if the person who can’t win, wins, it’s not a priority race for us anymore, because we’ve got 100 races.

For the Democratic aspirants in the Texas 7, 21, 23, 24, 31 and 32, the March 6 primary is the time to show and prove.

...Show us your strength or your weakness in a race.

Now people have their own enthusiasm, their own enthusiasm that they bring to it and they might be able to created something.

I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave. You make your wave.

Since it’s the Olympics, this is what I tell them. In one second, you’re gold, silver, bronze or nothing. These races are tough. They are tight, you win by 300 votes, 1,000 votes, this isn’t like, I’m riding a wave here and it’s just a question of hail fellow well met, combed hair. You have to go door to door to door to door, over and over again so people see what’s in your heart your sincerity, Authenticity is bigger than any amount of intellectual prowess, because people think you can buy that anyway. You can hire that. But conviction, courage, that’s who you are.

It’s always that way but even mores this year because of our friend in the White House, the great organizer.
Her theory behind the races exploded yesterday in Houston when the DCCC did something publicly that it usually only-- and always-- does behind the scenes where no one can watch. It viciously attacked a progressive candidate, Laura Moser, to benefit an establishment corporate shill in the primary. And DCCC appendage, EMILY's List, joined, albeit to benefit it's own establishment corporate shill. [Note: Blue America isn't backing any of these candidates. Our candidate is the other progressive, award-winning cancer researcher and doctor, Jason Westin.] But what the DCCC and EMILY's List are doing to Laura is a story that must be told.

Let's start by going right to the source, Ben Ray Luján, who the delusional Pelosi says is "from New Mexico, very talented, very respected by the members." She forgot to mention "very bloodthirsty" when it comes to progressives. Right on the DCCC website... ammo for the Republicans if TX-07 voters decide to nominate Moser:
Democratic voters need to hear that Laura Moser is not going to change Washington. She is a Washington insider, who begrudgingly moved to Houston to run for Congress. In fact, she wrote in the Washingtonian magazine, “I’d rather have my teeth pulled out without anesthesia” than live in Texas. As of January 2018, she claimed Washington, DC to be her primary residence in order to get a tax break. And she has paid her husband’s Washington, DC political consulting firm over $50,000 from campaign contributions; meaning 1 of every 6 dollars raised has gone to her husband’s DC company.


Moser just moved to Texas from Washington, DC. (BACKUP)

In a November 2014 article, Moser said she’d rather have her “teeth pulled without anesthesia” than live in Texas. (BACKUP)

As of January 2018, Moser was still receiving the DC Homestead Exemption on her property in Washington, DC. (BACKUP)

In 2017, Moser paid over $50,000 in campaign money to her husband’s DC consulting firm. More than 1 of every 6 dollars spent by her campaign went straight into her husband’s DC company’s bank account. (BACKUP)
No one has ever seen the DCCC go after a legitimate Democratic primary candidate so viciously in such a public way before. And Ryan Grim pointed out how the despicable EMILY's List piled on immediately.
EMILY's List is dumping big money into an upcoming Democratic primary in Texas’s 7th Congressional District, pitting the women’s group against a pro-choice woman who was, in the months after the election of Donald Trump, a face of the resistance.

Laura Moser, as creator of the popular text-messaging program Daily Action, gave hundreds of thousands of despondent progressives a single political action to take each day. Her project was emblematic of the new energy forming around the movement against Trump, led primarily by women and often by moms. (Moser is both.)

It was those types of activists EMILY’s List spent 2017 encouraging to make first-time bids for office. But that doesn’t mean EMILY’s List will get behind them. Also running is Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a corporate lawyer who is backed by Houston mega-donor Sherry Merfish. EMILY’s List endorsed her in November.

The 7th District includes parts of Houston and its wealthy western suburbs, and Merfish and her husband, Gerald Merfish, are among the city’s leading philanthropists. Gerald Merfish owns and runs a steel pipe company in the oil-rich region and Sherry Merfish, who worked for decades for EMILY’s List, is a major donor to the Democratic Party and to EMILY’s List.

...The Houston district is one of scores where crosscurrents of the Democratic Party are colliding. Democrats, who in the past have had difficulty fielding a single credible candidate even in winnable districts, have at least four serious contenders in the race to replace Republican John Culberson. Moser, who has more than 10,000 donors — more than 90 percent of whom are small givers — and cancer researcher Jason Westin make up the progressive flank, while Fletcher and Alex Triantaphyllis are running more moderate campaigns. Triantaphyllis, a former Goldman Sachs analyst who doesn’t live in the district, has the backing of some establishment elements of the party.

“Alex T has been open about being the chosen candidate of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee],” said Daniel Cohen, president of Indivisible Houston, who is not endorsing any particular candidate. (The DCCC has not officially endorsed a candidate in the primary, though its support can come in less public ways.)

...With both Fletcher and Moser battling for a spot in the two-person runoff, and Westin surging in the race, EMILY’s List’s endorsement of Fletcher could end up having the paradoxical effect of producing a runoff between the two men. EMILY’s List, while expending resources in several competitive primaries between women, has also stayed out of other races that pit a pro-choice woman against an anti-choice man. Despite significant pressure, the group held out on endorsing Marie Newman against Democratic incumbent Daniel Lipinski, only shifting course when it became clear the SEIU would be breaking with Lipinski.

The group has also declined to endorse the pro-choice Kara Eastman running against anti-choice Democrat Brad Ashford; the same is true for Lupe Valdez running against Andrew White for Texas governor. (White says that he believes Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and that his religious beliefs would not influence how he approached the issue, but he is far from a champion of reproductive rights.)

The support of first Merfish and then EMILY’s List for Fletcher raises questions about whether the endorsement was made at the behest of a major donor or because the organization truly believed Fletcher is the stronger candidate.
Abby Livingston, political reporter for the widely read Texas Tribune is covering this disgraceful attack by the establishment against Moser. "The campaign arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives set its sights on a surprising target Thursday: Democratic congressional hopeful Laura Moser. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted negative research on Moser, a Houston journalist vying among six other Democrats in the March 6 primary to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. John Culberson. Democrats locally and nationally have worried that Moser is too liberal to carry a race that has emerged in recent months as one of the most competitive races in the country."
DCCC spokeswoman Meredith Kelly went even further in a statement to the Texas Tribune.

"Voters in Houston have organized for over a year to hold Rep. Culberson accountable and win this Clinton district," Kelly said.

Then, referring to a 2014 Washingtonian magazine piece in which Moser wrote that she would rather have a tooth pulled without anesthesia than move to Paris, Texas, Kelly added:"Unfortunately, Laura Moser’s outright disgust for life in Texas disqualifies her as a general election candidate, and would rob voters of their opportunity to flip Texas’ 7th in November.”

Later Thursday evening, Moser obliquely responded to the allegations on Twitter, quoting former First Lady Michelle Obama: "When they go low, we go high."

Later in the evening, she expanded her comments in a statement.

"We're used to tough talk here in Texas, but it's disappointing to hear it from Washington operatives trying to tell Texans what to do. These kind of tactics are why people hate politics," she said. "The days where party bosses picked the candidates in their smoke filled rooms are over. DC needs to let Houston vote."

"This is a landmark year in Texas and in states all across the country," she added. "We have a real chance to not only flip District 7, but bring some sanity back to Congress and resist the erratic extremism holding our White House hostage."

"It's a lot to ask, and we can't do any of it by throwing mud and tearing each other down. This is not the time to be a house divided."

Until this point, the DCCC so far this cycle has gone to great lengths to avoid the impression it was taking sides in primaries across the country. A Democratic source did point out to the Tribune that the campaign committee made a similar effort in a 2014 California House race.

A former Democratic operative emailed the Tribune suggesting that the posting was intended to signal to allied groups where and how to make paid attacks.

UPDATE: Note From A Progressive Congressmember

Dear Howie:

This is shocking to me. Apart from the unfairness of it, what if she wins anyway? They’ve kneecapped her. Didn’t they notice what happened when McConnell spent $7 million against Roy Moore, and then he became the nominee?

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