Sunday, April 22, 2018

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Just a couple of Sunday thoughts from Noah. And, no, unlike so many Republicans, I'm not making a habit of claiming God spoke to me and told me to post these memes, but... maybe he did. Coulda been the neighbor's dog, though.

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

No Coronation For Mitt Romney This Weekend-- Remember "Dishonesty Is Donald Trump's Hallmark"


Going into the Utah Republican convention of Saturday, Romney had already qualified for the GOP primary ballot through signatures, Most political insiders were positive he would get the 60% needed to avoid a primary. Not quite. He didn't even come in first! State Rep Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Alpine who has served in the Legislature since 2013 edged him forcing a June 26 primary.

The Boston Globe, Romney's hometown paper, reported that Romney "has worked to keep the focus on state issues rather than his history of well-documented feuds with Trump, whom he called a 'con-man' and a phony during the 2016 race. Trump fired back that Romney 'choked like a dog' during his own White House run. But the two men have shown fresh signs of burying the hatchet, and Romney has accepted Trump’s endorsement."

Just minutes before he was handed his defeat, CNN reported that Romney was unwilling to commit to supporting the Trumpanzee reelection campaign.
"I will make that decision down the road," Romney, who is running for US Senate, said in an interview with CNN as he waited for his turn to speak at the Utah GOP convention where he was vying for his party's nomination. "As a person of political experience, if I endorse someone, I'll want to know what's in it for Utah and what help would he provide for us on key priorities in Utah."

"So I'm not a cheap date," he said.

Romney said he assumed there would be Republican contenders who will challenge Trump, but underscored, "I also assume that President Trump will be the nominee of our party in 2020."

As he has campaigned across Utah, Romney has pointed out that he largely agrees with Trump on policy but takes issue with some of his harsh rhetoric.

But he was a fierce critic of Trump during the primary phase of the 2016 presidential race, calling him out as an imposter and criticizing his harsh tone on immigrants from Mexico, and criticizing Trump's crude comments about women.
Utah was unfriendly territory for Trump in 2016, although he did win. He took 515,231 votes (45.5%) to Hillary's 310,676 (27.5%) and Evan McMullin's 243,690 (21.5%). Clinton beat Trump substantially in Salt Lake County (42% to 33%, with McMullin pulling 19%).

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Trump On Kasich: "Digusting"


According to Harry Enten Trump is adored by the Republican base and their adoration is increasing. His job approval rating among Republicans is 85%. Trump, in fact, has a higher approval rating among Republicans than Obama did among Democrats just before the 2012 New Hampshire primary. "That's probably "why there aren't any potential challengers being named who really have too much of a future in the Republican Party. The biggest name is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Kasich could potentially make some hay in New Hampshire, though there's no reason right now to think he could actually threaten Trump's chance at the nomination. He only won his home state in 2016 primary season and struggled to win many votes outside of college-educated moderate voters in the northern part of the country."

That said, CNBC reported yesterday that Kasich is reaching out the big GOP donors to see if they'd be open to funding a primary against Trump. CNBC reported that "Republican megadonors have indicated to his top political lieutenants that they are willing to back him over Trump under certain circumstances... In private discussions with Kasich's top political lieutenants, GOP megadonors have said they would support a Kasich presidential campaign depending on whether Republicans can hold congressional majorities this fall and how close federal investigations get to Trump."
[T]he same Kasich allies who have met with some of the most influential donors in the country have suggested to the governor that there are two scenarios in which he should challenge Trump in a primary.

First, would come after a potential 2018 congressional midterm wave that gives Democrats majorities in the House and the Senate. With that, Republican voters could potentially move toward a candidate like Kasich, who is considered more of a centrist in the GOP. Such a loss in the midterms could also signal to GOP donors that there's a need for drastic change at the top.

Trump's approval rating stands at just lower than 42 percent, according to a polling average calculated by nonpartisan website Real Clear Politics.

The other scenario pitched to Kasich would ride on the political implications of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The probe is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election and whether the president obstructed justice in the investigation.

If the investigation makes its way into the Oval Office, Kasich's friends have said, it may be an opportunity for the governor to run as either a Republican or an independent.

This latest development comes as buzz continues to build around another potential Kasich run for the White House. In March, he said "all of my options are on the table" for 2020, according to Politico.

The Ohio governor is also hitting states that are critical to winning presidential primaries. During his visit to New Hampshire earlier this month, he said in an interview with the New York Times that he considers himself a "hybrid" Republican and more people are approaching him since his loss in 2016.

"I have people of all shapes, sizes, philosophies and party preferences that approach me. But what does that mean? I don't know. I'm on television, so all the sudden they want to talk to me. Television moves everybody up, right?" he told the Times.

Charlie Black, a former advisor to Kasich's 2016 presidential campaign, told CNBC that he thinks the scenarios are part of an ongoing discussion and warned that his old boss would not stand a chance against Trump in a primary within the current political climate.

"Trump presently has about an 85 percent job approval among primary voters. Unless that dropped dramatically, no one can compete with him for the nomination," Black said. "He would have to be under 50 before I would advise anyone to run."

For donors, a blue wave in the upcoming elections could be a sign that the leadership of the GOP has to change starting at the top-- particularly after investing millions of dollars in an electoral effort that many political strategists say could be a wash for Republicans.

The House is where the GOP is running into the biggest hurdles, with incumbents struggling to raise money and their districts turning in the favor of Democrats.

...If Kasich, who won only his home state during the 2016 GOP primaries, chooses to run in 2020, he's going to need the cash that he struggled to cobble together the last time he ran for president.

While he had a formidable fundraising operation, Kasich's 2016 presidential campaign committee ended up with $176,000 on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the same time, his campaign raised $18 million, while the pro-Kasich super PAC, New Day for America, brought in $15 million.

The PAC is still active and has $281,000 on hand, according to financial disclosure reports. Even though the group hasn't received many contributions this year, it raked in donations that went up to $100,000 in 2017.
No love lost between these two guys:

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The Truth Behind the Bombardment of Syria


Oops-- might not be a chemical facility after all

-by Reese Erlich

In 1998, al Qaeda killed 224 people when it attacked U.S. embassies in east Africa. In retaliation, President Bill Clinton ordered a missile strike against what he described as an al Qaeda nerve gas factory in Sudan. For years, he insisted that the attack had dealt a tough blow against terrorists.

Turns out the chemical weapons factory was a pharmaceutical plant. Journalists who arrived at the scene in protective clothing expected nerve gas fallout. They found aspirin scattered among the wreckage instead.

Now it looks like history is repeating itself.

In coordination with the United States, Israel bombed the Syrian T-4 airbase on April 9. On April 13, the United States, Britain and France bombed three sites in Syria that were supposedly key to Syria's chemical weapons program.

Western missiles flattened the Barzeh Research Center in Damascus. Washington claimed it was a lab used to make chemical weapons.

Turns out it may have just been a research facility making such products as antidotes for snake bites and children’s medicine. After the missile strike, the Assad government took foreign reporters to the site. The building was still smoldering but no chemical weapons fumes came from the structure.

Said Said, an official at the center, told the international news agency Agence France-Presse, “If there were chemical weapons, we would not be able to stand here. I’ve been here since 5:30 am in full health-- I’m not coughing.” CBS News produced a similar report.

Such contrary evidence didn’t prevent the Pentagon from boasting of success. Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said the attacks are “going to set Syrian chemical weapons program back for years.”

President Donald Trump led the cheerleading, tweeting “Mission Accomplished,” a declaration that immediately reminded everyone of George W. Bush’s premature 2003 pronouncement regarding his failed war in Iraq.

In fact, the attack is unlikely to have an impact on Assad’s war plans.

“I can’t believe that the Pentagon seriously thought that this wimpy missile attack would actually serve as a deterrent,” William Beeman, professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, told me. “This was a cosmetic strike. The Russians were warned, and it didn’t come close to attacking the full range of suspected chemical facilities.”

So what actually happened?

On April 7, the White Helmets and other groups posted videos from the Damascus suburb of Douma showing people dying from what they described as a Syrian Air Force chemical attack. They said the attack was likely chlorine gas or possibly the far deadlier nerve agent, sarin.

Douma is controlled by a rightwing political Islamist group known as the Army of Islam (Jaish al-Islam), which has been accused of using chemical weapons against the Kurds. It has a vested interest in discrediting the Assad regime.

Robert Fisk, a journalist with the British Independent, raised serious questions in his first-hand reporting from Douma. He interviewed a doctor who said people died from a lack of oxygen in underground tunnels, not chemical weapons.

The air attack happened just hours before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was scheduled to inspect the site. Later, the inspectors were blocked by Syrian and Russian authorities.

Inspectors are hoping to gain entrance to Douma and if allowed in should be able to determine if banned weapons were used. The organization does not seek to determine who, if anyone, unleashed the chemicals.

It may be as difficult to determine what happened in Douma as it has been in previous alleged chemical attacks. Both sides have used chemical weapons in the past. Rebel groups such as the al Qaeda affiliated al Nusra Front used sarin to attack Syrian troops in 2013, as I described in my book Inside Syria.

United Nations chemical weapons inspectors have verified cases of the Syrian air force dropping chlorine gas. Assad’s military has been willing to face international condemnation because chemical weapons are a relatively cheap method of killing, wounding, and demoralizing an enemy.

Regardless of what happened in Douma, the United States has no legal or moral right to bomb Syria. The U.N. Security Council did not authorize this or other recent U.S. actions (Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, or previous attacks on Syria). The Trump Administration is also violating the U.S. War Powers Act, which prohibits the President from waging war without Congressional approval.

The most recent missile attacks had less to do with chemical weapons than sending a message to Assad, who has defeated insurgent groups throughout his country with crucial help from Russia and Iran. Top Washington leaders care little about human rights in Syria but very much want to control the country for geopolitical reasons.

Syria does not have significant amounts of oil, but it does occupy a strategic location bordering Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan. British and French empires competed for control of the region before World War II, and modern day imperialists are doing the same.

The United States now has more than 2,000 troops in northern Syria and is allied with a Kurdish group. The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which often represents the views of the ultra-conservative business elite, now advocates intensified bombing and creation of a no-fly zone in northern Syria, which would effectively carve out that region from Syrian government control.

The Journal also reports that Trump is asking Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Muslim countries to send troops to the Kurdish region to replace those of the United States. It’s an absurd proposal. Assad and the Kurds will certainly oppose it. Egypt is consumed with fighting terrorist groups in the Sinai; Saudi Arabia is already losing another war in Yemen.

Russia has its own imperialist interests in Syria. It occupies two large military bases in western Syria with leases that won’t expire for another half century, and that can be renewed for another 50 years. The base agreements give Russian citizens extra-territorial rights; they can’t be tried in Syrian courts for crimes committed in Syria. With Syria as a permanent ally, Russia seeks to block U.S. influence in the region.

Vladimir Putin has “the same goal as Peter the Great,” says Beeman, “a permanent warm-water port, an outpost in the Middle East, [and]... a watch post for U.S. activities in the area.”

The missile attacks on Syria lessen the already remote chances of a political settlement in Syria’s civil war. At the moment, four countries have troops in Syria: United States, Turkey, Iran, and Russia. All foreign powers will need to pull out if the people of Syria are to determine their own future.

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A Way--Albeit A Weak Way-- Of Looking At The Midterms


Inside-the-Beltway, there are just a few people who create the conventional wisdom that the electoral experts in the two parties base their decisions on. One is David Wasserman of the Cook Report. When it comes to House races, his wisdom is an infinite feedback loop with the DCCC and the NRCC. Friday he published his latest analysis of the upcoming wave. Always petrified to go out on any limbs or offending anyone he wrote that "Multiple indicators including generic ballot polls, President Trump's approval ratings and recent special election results, point to midterm danger for Republicans. But without robust race-by-race polling, it's trickier to predict individual races six months out. Are Democrats the favorites to pick up the 23 seats they need for a majority? Yes, but it's still not certain which races will materialize for Democrats and which won't. He's come up with what he calls "seven risk factors to gauge Republican incumbents' political health and readiness for a wave election. In the past, those incumbents with a high number of risk factors have typically been the ripest targets, while those with fewer risk factors could still be vulnerable but may be better able to withstand a hostile political environment."
Our latest ratings point to 56 vulnerable GOP-held seats, versus six vulnerable Democratic seats. Of the 56 GOP seats at risk, 15 are open seats created by retirements. Even if Democrats were to pick up two-thirds of those seats, they would still need to hold all their own seats and defeat 13 Republican incumbents to reach the magic number of 218. Today, there are 18 GOP incumbents in our Toss Up column.

That Toss Up list is likely to grow as the cycle progresses. Out of the 65 GOP incumbents rated as less than "Solid," 49 were first elected in 2010 or after, meaning more than three quarters have never had to face this kind of political climate before. And, Democrats have a donor enthusiasm edge: in the first quarter of 2018, at least 43 sitting Republicans were out-raised by at least one Democratic opponent.

...The seven risk factors are:
1- Sits in a district with a Cook PVI score of R+5 or less Republican.
2- Sits in a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
3- Received 55 percent of the vote or less in the 2016 election (or a 2017 special election).
4- Voted in favor of the American Health Care Act in the May 4 roll call vote.
5- Voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the December 19 roll call vote.
6- Raised less money than at least one Democratic opponent in the first quarter of 2018.
7- Has a Democratic opponent with at least $200,000 in cash on hand as of March 31.
Only one incumbent, Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25), has all seven risk factors. Eight incumbents have six risk factors, 23 incumbents have five, 23 incumbents have four and 32 have three. This is not a hard and fast list, and over the next quarter, many incumbents will add or subtract factors based on their own and their opponents' progress.
In the universe Wasserman has created-- which doesn't take into account anything about how good or terrible challengers and incumbents are beyond ability too raise money, here are the other candidates with 3 rick factors and above:
Six Risk Factors

CA-10- Jeff Denham
FL-26- Carlos Curbelo
IL-12- Mike Bost
IA-01- Rod Blum
KS-03- Kevin Yoder
MN-02- Jason Lewis
PA-01- Brian Fitzpatrick
TX-23- Will Hurd

Five Risk Factors

CA-21-David Valadao
CA-45- Mimi Walters
CA-48- Dana Rohrabacher
CO-06- Mike Coffman
FL-18- Brian Mast
IL-14- Randy Hultgren
IN-09- Trey Hollingsworth
IA-03- David Young
ME-02- Bruce Polquin
MI-01- Jack Bergman
MI-06- Fred Upton
MI-07- Tim Walberg
MI-08- Mike Bishop
MN-03- Erik Paulsen
NE-02- Don Bacon
NJ-03- Tom MacArthur
NJ-07- Leonard Lance
NY-22- Claudia Tenney
OH-01- Steve Chabot
PA-11- Lloyd Smucker
PA-17- Keith Rothfus
TX-32- Pete Sessions
VA-10- Barbara Comstock

Four Risk Factors

AK-AL Don Young
AR-02- French Hill
CA-04- Tom McClintock
CA-08- Paul Cook
GA-07- Rob Woodall
IL-06- Peter Roskam
IL-13- Rodney Davis
IA-04- Steve King
KY-06- Andy Barr
NY-19- John Faso
NC-09- Robert Pittenger
NC-13- Ted Budd
OH-07- Bob Gibbs
OH-14- David Joyce
PA-16- Mike Kelly
SC-01- Mike Sanford
TX-07- John Culberson
UT-04- Mia Love
VA-02- Scott Taylor
VA-05- Tom Garrett
VA-07- Dave Brat
WV-01- David McKinley
WI-06- Glenn Grothman

Three Risk Factors

AL-02- Martha Roby
CA-01- Doug LaMalfa
CA-22- Devin Nunes
CA-50- Duncan Hunter
CO-03- Scott Tipton
FL-16- Vern Buchanan
FL-25- Mario Diaz-Balart
GA-06- Karen Handel
IN-02- Jackie Walorski
IN-03- Jim Banks
KS-04- Jim Estes
MD-01- Andy Harris
MI-02- Bill Huizenga
MO-02- Ann Wagner
MT-AL- Greg Gianforte
NY-01- Lee Zeldin
NY-02- Peter King
NY-11- Daniel Donovan
NY-21- Elise Stefanik
NY-23- Tom Reed
NY-24- John Katko
NC-02- George Holding
OH-10- Mike Turner
OH-15- Steve Stivers
PA-10- Scott Perry
SC-05- Ralph Norman
TN-04- Scott DesJarlais
TX-31- John Carter
TX-36- Brian Babin
WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler
WA-05- Cathy McMorris Rodgers
WV-02- Alex Mooney
What Wasserman isn't looking at-- aside from the talent of individual candidates-- is factors like resignations, (leaving loads of open seats) and of the ungerrynadering of Pennsylvania. For example Pat Meehan's old district went from a R+1 to a D+13. Anyone want to guess which party will hold that seat after January? I don't want to say Wasserman's tables are utterly useless, but if media and the party committee's use it for anything they'll be-- as usual-- lost at sea. Note for example, there's no mention on any of his tables of WI-01, the Randy Bryce seat; what a joke! But conventional wisdom has caught onto that one yet-- and probably won't until the first Wednesday of November.

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Ready For The Trump Version Of NAFTA?


The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was something that Reagan proposed in 1979 and was agreed on by George H.W. Bush with the heads of Mexico and Canada in 1992. Bush was unable to get it ratified by Congress and Bill Clinton promised (Wall Street) he would succeed where Bush failed. He added two bullshit amendments-- one on labor and one of the environment that everyone knew was just hot air. He also added Rahm Emanuel into the mix as a fixer and on November 17, 1993, it passed the House 234–200-- 132 Republicans and 102 Democrats. Three days later it passed in the Senate 61-38-- with 34 Republicans and 27 Democrats. It has hurt workers whose industries who most vulnerable to competition to low wage labor from Mexico, but has worked well for Big Business and Wall Street. Populists on the left (Bernie) and the right (Trumpanzee) have opposed it. Trump is trying to renegotiate it now but it is doubtful it could pass in the middle of an election year.

The Trump Regime thinks it can strong-arm Congress to ratify a new NAFTA, with a "take it, or leave it" approach. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer's plan is to withdraw "from the existing pact even before the new one is ready. The thinking is that Congress will have to approve whatever terms are in the new deal quickly, lest the U.S. is left hanging without an agreement with two of its largest trading partners."
Trade votes have always been fraught affairs, but some legislative experts say such a move could elevate tensions between the president and Congress to a fever pitch. Forcing Congress’ hand on a deal which is likely to contain a number of elements unpopular among the majority of pro-trade Republican lawmakers could rally Congress to exert its Constitutional authority over trade.

“There will be, I really believe, a strong institutional, formal re-grasping of this congressional authority, but it also requires political will,” Brian Pomper, who served as chief international trade counsel on the Senate Finance Committee, said during an event this week.

Some in the Trump administration have strongly opposed the strategy, arguing it could further infuriate defenders of the underlying NAFTA deal. Senior aides have clashed during closed-door briefings about the wisdom of the move, according to a person familiar with the issue.

“As someone who counts votes that would not be a totally shocking scenario,” said one source who has advised Lighthizer on NAFTA. “If you actually want to get the vote done and you want to pass the damn agreement then you need to create the scenario of either nothing or something different.”

...[S]ome of the changes Lighthizer seeks in the new deal could potentially pick up support from Democrats even if it comes at the expense of some Republicans. They include strengthening labor language in NAFTA to force up wages in Mexico and more rules aimed at protecting domestic industries.

Lighthizer’s bipartisan vision for NAFTA, however, is threatening to upend decades of Republican trade orthodoxy with proposals that would jettison special protections for U.S. investors and tighten cross-border supply chains.

GOP trade leaders in Congress have clearly expressed that Lighthizer’s objective of getting rid of NAFTA’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism could jeopardize support for the agreement. The provision allows companies to seek damages through tribunals if a government’s policies or actions violate the pact’s investment rules.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) warned this week that the negotiating objectives Congress had laid out in Trade Promotion Authority legislation “are pretty specific about what needs to be included in an agreement in order for the process to begin.”

...The trade chief has indicated that the same proposals that have raised the ire of Republicans and their corporate constituents could attract the Democratic support he needs to realize his bipartisan vision for trade policy.

But some worry that Lighthizer’s strategy could backfire-- failing to please a large number of Republicans as well as the demands of Democrats.

“I think he actually knows that at the end of the day he’s going to have to rely on overwhelmingly Republican votes to get this done-- votes that will come out of loyalty or fear of Trump,” said one senior trade lobbyist. “He knows that Rosa DeLauro and Elizabeth Warren are not going to form the whip team for NAFTA 2.0.”

So far, the Democrats whom Lighthizer wants to attract say they want a clearer picture of where the administration lands on some issues before committing to voting for the new pact.

“We’ve had some meetings with Mr. Lighthizer and I think there’s some areas that we had some, perhaps, common interest but I haven’t seen it laid out or articulated and that’s a big part of the problem,” Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said this month during a call with reporters. His group has laid out its recommendations for NAFTA in a 10-page document.

Still, progressive House Democrats say they have received positive signals on the direction Lighthizer wants to take a new NAFTA deal. That includes Lighthizer’s proposal to strip the deal’s investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. Lighthizer views the process as government-paid political risk insurance; the left has long viewed the issue as evidence that recent trade policy has generally favored corporate interests.

Democrats would probably also be in support of a final deal that realizes Lighthizer’s goals on autos and labor as well as a more reciprocal-- and probably less open-- market for Canadian and Mexican firms to bid on U.S. government contracts.

“Talking in a positive vein about the Trump administration is sometimes a hard circle to square,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) admitted in the same call with reporters. “We may not go down the same road as the president does, but we can’t brush aside either and lose an opportunity to do what is right by American workers.”

Ultimately, large numbers of Democrats won’t flock to the deal unless labor unions support it.

Crucial to labor support is a commitment by Mexico to press forward with a major overhaul of its labor rights. That includes getting rid of employer-controlled unions and creating an independent labor arbitration process.

U.S. labor unions are also nervously watching the Mexican Senate, which is considering legislation they say could undo any progress on those reforms.

“Enactment of that proposal into law in Mexico would frankly undermine the NAFTA talks,” said Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist with the AFL-CIO.

In recent meetings and conversations with labor leaders, Lighthizer has said he is keenly aware of what’s at stake if Mexican lawmakers move ahead with the legislation, but it’s still uncertain how that issue might play in the negotiations, said sources familiar with those exchanges.

But labor groups haven’t been shy about applauding the Republican administration for lavishing attention on their trade concerns, especially in contrast to the somewhat icy relationship that existed with the Obama administration during Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

Still, even those in the labor movement can’t foresee yet if they would ultimately support a deal given the broader mistrust between Trump and the left.

“Will the left, including labor, at the end of the day prove the [U.S.] Chamber [of Commerce] right that we simply are never gettable and that Lighthizer is wasting his time talking to us and giving us things?” another labor source asked.
Trump allies in House leadership think they could get this done in a lame duck session (the way Clinton did), although Congress could react badly toTrump trying to force them to act-- especially the dozens of Republicans retiring and the scores having just been defeated for reelection. The big new Democratic majority will be feeling its oats and is unlikely to want to give Trump anything without its won imprint.

Tim Canova agrees with one part of this-- that NAFTA needs to be renegotiated. "But," he wrote, "not because Mexicans and Canadians are somehow taking advantage of Americans, but because it allows large multinational corporations to take advantage of the people in all three countries. NAFTA’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system gives these huge corporations the right to sue governments for the cost of complying with regulations to protect public health and safety, the environment, and labor standards. These suits are not brought in any courtroom, but before off-shore arbitral panels with arbitration judges recruited from the ranks of the corporate law firms that regularly represent these companies in ISDS lawsuits. Under NAFTA, these arbitral panels have awarded private investors more than $392 million as compensation for complying with national, state or local regulations-- effectively shifting the cost of compliance from corporations to taxpayers. NAFTA’s ISDS provision has become the model for hundreds of bilateral investment treaties, the stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and many other multilateral agreements. It’s time to strip it from NAFTA. NAFTA also represents a so-called 'race to the bottom' that allows big corporations to move their operations to jurisdictions with weak protections for labor, the environment, and human rights. Instead, we need to harmonize these standards and norms prior to liberalizing trade in goods, services, and hot money capital flows. Political liberalization, social safety nets, and the rule of law must come first. Otherwise, these kinds of bad trade deals will only benefit the large corporate interests that call the tunes in Washington, D.C."

Goal ThermometerBernie beat Hillary in Michigan and when the Democrats served up Hillare, Trump won. trade was a big issue for voters there. Ellen Lipton is a candidate for an open seat in the suburbs north of Detroit. "Michigan's 9th Congressional District has been hit particularly hard by NAFTA," she told us this morning. "From 1994-2016, Michigan lost 182,288 manufacturing jobs. I have heard stories from so many people who remember packing up their manufacturing jobs on flatbeds and watching them drive off into the proverbial sunset, never to return. International trade agreements must support good jobs in this country, protect the rights and interests of working people, and also be pro-environment. We have to stop corporations from outsourcing jobs to take advantage of cheap labor, poverty, and lax environmental standards. Otherwise, so-called free trade becomes extremely costly for working families and the health of our planet."

Paul Clements may be running for a seat in a chillier climate that Canova's south Florida district, be he has an outlook on NAFTA that is similar. "NAFTA," he told us, "has been bad for workers in my home state of Michigan and across the United States. Any new trade deal with Mexico and Canada needs to be evaluated in terms of how it helps workers. At a minimum, to protect the interests of American and Mexican workers and to avoid undermining democratic powers of local jurisdictions, any revised deal must include:
      A major expansion of labor rights in Mexico, getting rid of employer-controlled unions and creating an independent labor arbitration process.

      Getting rid of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that allows companies to seek damages through tribunals if a government’s policies or actions violate the pact’s investment rules.
So far-- no surprise-- the Trump agenda has been all about helping the rich get richer. But with a Democratic majority in the House in January, we can begin to turn the tide. Certainly we will let the Trump administration know we will not accept take-it-or-leave-it approaches or other strong-arm legislative tactics."

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The Predatory Presidency


Forbes made sure to include a caveat under contributor Harry Binswanger's name in their latest issue. Here's how Binswange describes himself-- no joke: "I am a philosopher who was an associate of the late Ayn Rand, and since 1986 I have been a member of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute. I have taught philosophy at Hunter College (CUNY) and the University of Texas at Austin. My forthcoming book, How We Know," is on the theory of knowledge." He's also an heir to the Binswanger Glass Company, founded in 1872 by Samuel Binswanger, and a prominent Climate Change fanatic. But mostly he's just a crazy Randian.

Republicans may secretly agree with his latest Forbes OpEd, put quietly... secretly. No one in their right mind is going to embrace it publicly: Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%. "It's time," he wrote, "to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it's the popular idea that the successful are obliged to 'give back to the community.' That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from 'the community.' And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by 'exploiting' people, not by creating value-- as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence."

As far as I know, Binswanger has never run for office, not even in college, not even in his fraternity. But why should he? He always had Paul Ryan to do that.

I guess he's unaware of who builds the roads and bridges... and public safety-- and public education and general prosperity, just as Ayn Rand (and Paul Ryan) were.
Let's begin by stripping away the collectivism. "The community" never gave anyone anything. The "community," the "society," the "nation" is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person-- a parent, a teacher, a customer-- "gives" something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

It was from love-- not charity-- that your mother fed you, bought clothes for you, paid for your education, gave you presents on your birthday. It was for value received that your teachers worked day in and day out to instruct you. In commercial transactions, customers buy a product not to provide alms to the business, but because they want the product or service-- want it for their own personal benefit and enjoyment. And most of the time they get it, which is why they choose to continue patronizing the same businesses.

All proper human interactions are win-win; that's why the parties decide to engage in them. It's not the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs who exploit people. It's the Al Capones and Bernie Madoffs. Voluntary trade, without force or fraud, is the exchange of value for value, to mutual benefit. In trade, both parties gain.

Each particular individual in the community who contributed to a man's rise to wealth was paid at the time-- either materially or, as in the case of parents and friends, spiritually. There is no debt to discharge. There is nothing to give back, because there was nothing taken away.

Well, maybe there is--in the other direction. The shoe is on the other foot. It is "the community" that should give back to the wealth-creators. It turns out that the 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa. Ayn Rand developed the idea of "the pyramid of ability," which John Galt sets forth in Atlas Shrugged:
When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.

When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making...

In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the 'competition' between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of 'exploitation' for which you have damned the strong.
For their enormous contributions to our standard of living, the high-earners should be thanked and publicly honored. We are in their debt.

Here's a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it's too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year's top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)

Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity." That's for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.

There is indeed a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity: the Internal Revenue Service. And, at a deeper level, it is the monstrous perversion of justice that makes the IRS possible: an envy-ridden moral code that damns success, profit, and earning money in voluntary exchange.

An end must be put to the inhuman practice of draining the productive to subsidize the unproductive. An end must be put to the primordial notion that one's life belongs to the tribe, to "the community," and that the superlative wealth-creators must do penance for the sin of creating value.

And Ayn Rand is just the lady who can do it.
One thing is certain: Señor Trumpanzee is not the lady who can do it. Republican Party man about town, Alex Castellanos, looked into what the new Trumpified GOP will look like once all of Binswange corrosive and sick philosophy is more fully implemented-- the day after the coming GOP catastrophe known as the midterms. "The sun will rise on a political landscape wrecked" by Señor T, and Republicans "will crawl out from the smoking rubble of a 40- to 50-seat pounding to find they have lost their majority." [I just got off the phone with one of the savviest chiefs-of-staff and he said if the election were held Tuesday, the Democrats would win 60-70 seats. But a lot can change between Tuesday and November-- and it's likely Trump will make matters worse for Republicans so let's call it 70-80 seats.] "How," Castellanos asks in despair, "do we renew our party in the Age of Trump?" Then he tried convincing himself it can be done-- even with Trump hanging around the necks of Republicans like a giant albatross.

It is unremarkable, at this point, to note that good Americans turned to Donald Trump, not because of his many flaws, but despite them. Trump’s threat and his appeal are identical: He is the un-distilled reptilian brain.

Trump is all id, the oldest and most primitive part of our brain, concerned only with the evolutionary basics: sex, sustenance, and survival. His brain is not filtered by our social and emotional brain, much less by the rational, pre-frontal cortex. He has no Jeb Bush brain to digest facts and figures, issues and policy. Instead, Donald Trump is a predator. When something enters his world, he either eats it, kills it or mates with it. That is all his predatory instincts can do.

The president’s primitive nature is the root of his narcissism. Trump’s immediate and voracious appetites allow no concern for others or understanding of tomorrow. He reacts instinctively, not emotionally, morally or intellectually. He is insensitive to truth and incapable of discipline or strategy.

Yet Americans elected this predator, this T-Rex President, as their last resort, in a desperate attempt to protect themselves from the horde of smaller, slimier predators in Washington who were on the verge of devouring them.

We can all see that Donald Trump is, at times, a disreputable human specimen. His supporters see it as clearly as his adversaries. In fact, Trump makes sure we see it. Our T-Rex President is proud of his predatory triumphs. Yet this electorate thought that even Donald Trump was a better bet than the status quo both Republicans and Democrats were offering them. Trump’s victory measured our national frustration, our hunger for an alternative to the impoverished offerings of both parties.

Like the Bourbons after Napoleon, however, Republicans and Democrats “have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Since the surprising day Trump was elected, neither party has learned or evolved, despite their humbling defeats at his hands.

The Republicans who make Donald Trump necessary are not the boot-lickers like Corey Lewandowski who blindly follow his parade past Trump Tower, from Fifth Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. His enablers are Bill Kristol, Steve Schmidt and Karl Rove. They are Jeff Flake and John Kasich. They count Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan. They include all of us in the Republican Party who left the vacuum Trump has occupied. Yet today, we still offer more of the same but expect different results. If we do not renew this visionless party, it will never lead again.

...Trump’s presidency is hidden behind the clouds, a storm of controversy of his own making. This president, more than anyone else, has made it impossible to credit him for his accomplishments. By any fair measure, there are many: He has crushed ISIS and increased our paychecks with a tax cut.

He has erased regulations that were growing Washington’s economy at the expense of our economy. He has appointed a respected Supreme Court Justice and transformed the judiciary to call balls and strikes. American manufacturing is growing. He brought China to confront North Korea. He is pressing for free trade that works fairly in all directions. He throws missiles at Putin once a year and he is making our military strong again. His ferociously incorrect talk has ripped away the pretension cloaking Washington’s decline and irrelevance.

When the long arc of history judges Donald Trump, it will likely report he left behind a vicious inflationary spiral. That, alongside devouring the country’s expectations for a president’s personal conduct, may be the greatest cost of his T-Rex presidency. He will be assessed as the bipolar leader he has become, both one of the worst and best Presidents Americans have ever elected, perhaps the greatest president to be removed from the Oval Office in chains.

I doubt any other 2016 GOP candidate could have equaled this President’s accomplishments. He has stopped America’s decline and, in many areas, reversed it. Americans should be grateful he was elected President. If he is not disqualified from the ballot, I plan to vote for him again.

But what Trump has done can be undone. He is a man, not a movement. He is an instinct, not an idea. He crushed a hollow Republican Party, but he has not rebuilt it. The Republicans who come after Donald Trump must do what they have not yet done: decide how to lead after this exasperating and heroic president leaves office.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

The mass walkouts of American students protesting gun violence, particularly in their schools, came and went on Friday. As expected, Congress has done nothing to address the problem, well, nothing but stick more bribes from the NRA cash into their pockets. Their silence is for sale and blood remains on their hands. At least Lady MacBeth was capable of feeling guilt for a murder. I haven't heard of any politicians walking around saying "Out, out damn spot!" That will never happen; not in real life. So, we are left with the simple fact that a person as heinous as Lady MacBeth has more character than just about any congresscretin you care to name, especially those of the Republican persuasion. They still, evilly not just cynically offer "thoughts and prayers," and, as tonight's meme says, tell us that now is not the time.

We all know damn well that if the child of any Republican congresscretin was killed in their classroom by some nut with an AR-15 assault weapon, that congresscretin might, repeat might, have a thought about saying something and actually doing something productive, but only right up until the point some lowlife like Dana Loesch, Wayne LaPierre or some 2-bit lawyer/lobbyist waved a few fresh green bills in their face. How do we know this? Am I being too harsh? Well, no, I'm not being too harsh. We know this because, even when one of their congresscretin brethren was shot and only just barely not killed by a nut with a gun at a congressional softball game, they did nada. It wasn't just any congresscretin either. It was Rep. Steve Scalise who recently came back to the news as a possible Speaker Of The House replacement for Paul Ryan, himself one of the biggest promoters of human misery the country has ever seen.

So, no, I'm not being too harsh. And, just to prove that, I'll be extra fair about the whole thing. You see, the truth is that Congress did do something about guns. What, you may ask? Well, they attached a flimsy little scrap of paper to the most recent spending bill back at the end of March. That little scrap ostensibly provides a teeny, tiny bit of very modest support for some regulations. The catch, of course, is that the regulations in question already existed and the paper scrap provides only for a tiny bit of enforcement of said regulations. Big fucking deal. That flimsy little scrap of paper is nothing but a metaphor for a piece of toilet paper stuck to the heel of a member of congress as they walk out of the congressional bathroom to the floor of Congress to give their next meaningless speech. To them, it means even less.

Last I heard, paper does not stop a hail of lead bullets. Background checks might not stop every mass shooting but they'd be more effective than a piece of paper attached to a spending bill. Same with limiting the amount of bullets in the magazine clips. So would reinstating the ban on assault weapons that we had until George W. Bush and his congressional goon squad got rid of it. Too late for that last idea, though, because since the demise of the assault weapons ban, AR-15s and the like have been selling almost as fast as they are being made and shipped.

None of this is new, of course; not the violence and not the ideas of what to do about it. And, definitely not the bribe induced inaction. The only thing that's new now is that Republican politicians and media goons like the ones on FOX "News" and Alex Jones' Info Wars have dug their heels in even deeper and continued in the wrong direction. They attack those kids who protest the situation from every angle, nd they do so with the great vileness that comes so easily for them. With every new mass shooting, they come up with new pain and misery-inflicting conspiracy theories about the shootings being hoaxes. Even the White House has joined in, and the victims not being victims at all but "crisis actors." That takes a special kind of mind: the mind of a Republican


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Friday, April 20, 2018

Another Slimy "Ex" Republican In California Caught Lying, Pretending To Be A Democrat


Fake Democrat Butner and actual Democrat Campa-Najjar

Under normal circumstances, no one would be looking at as red a district as CA-50 (inland San Diego County) as flippable-- even in a wave election cycle. The PVI is R+11. Obama lost it both times (59-40% and 60-38%) and Trump thumped Hillary 54.6% to 39.6%. But Duncan Hunter is about to be indicted for stealing campaign cash and a Democrat has a chance to beat him. The progressive in the race, Ammar Campa-Najjar, was endorsed by the state Democratic Party. He's raised the most money in the race as well (as of the March31, FEC reporting deadline):
Ammar Campa-Najjar (D)- $707,571
Duncan Hunter (R)- $666,074
Josh Butner (D)- $594,695
Shamus Sayed (R)- $253,179
Campa-Najjar also has the most cash on hand. So why is the DCCC and the establishment leaning towards Butner? Is it because they're racists? That could be part of it. Is it because Butner is conservative, just like DCCC operatives Kyle Layman and Jason Bresler? Partially. But most of all, it's because Butner is an "ex"-Republican. The DCCC loves "ex"-Republicans. (They endorsed another one yesterday, Gil Cisneros in Orange County.)

Ryan Grim was the first to report that Butner was not just a Republican pretending to be a Democrat, but that he lied about it as well. Butner, wrote Grim "certified certified to the California Secretary of State in his election filings that he has been an independent-- known there as 'no party preference'-- since 2008. His filing shows he registered as a Democrat in 2016, four months before he announced his bid for Congress. But state voting records obtained by The Intercept from the Registrar of Voters contradict those filings, showing that he was a registered Republican at least through the 2010 election. Butner did not vote in any elections, either primary or general, between 2010 and 2016, when he ran for the school board. But the records show that at some point between 2010 and 2012, he switched his voter registration status from Republican to 'no party preference.'" And he refused to discuss the revelations with Grim.

He voted in the Republican primary in 2008. He's never voted in a Democratic primary until 2016 when he registered as a Democrat for the first time.
Butner was recruited to run in California’s 50th Congressional District by the Democratic leaders, yet his progressive opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, has won the endorsement of the state Democratic Party and the bulk of the activist groups in the district.

Elsewhere around the country, the Democrat leadership’s zeal for veterans to run for office has led them to back other former Republicans. In Texas’s 21st Congressional District, Joseph Kopser was previously registered as a Republican, having grown up in a conservative family. In Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, the party’s chosen candidate, Elaine Luria, voted for her own Republican opponent not once, but twice. Gil Cisneros, a candidate in California’s 39th District, is a Navy veteran and former Republican who had registered as a Democrat in 2015, after three years as an independent. He was named on Wednesday to the DCCC’s Red-to-Blue program, tantamount to an endorsement. Butner came under fire earlier in the campaign for insisted that military service should be a prerequisite for a run for Congress.

The shifting party loyalties are a mirror image, in some ways, of the debate over the party status of independent Bernie Sanders, who became a Democrat to run in the party’s 2016 presidential primary, and subsequently switching back to independent status after losing the nomination. He has been heavily criticized by Democratic partisans for refusing to wear the party label, but argues that he is able to to bring more people into the broad Democratic fold by appealing to voters disaffected by partisan politics. That may or may not be right, but at least it’s a rationale-- and Sanders has never hidden his lack of affiliation.

Butner has said that “local Democrats” recruited him to run for Congress, and his candidacy has been flogged by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Though the party committee has not explicitly endorsed him, the DCCC’s chair, New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, gave Butner a $1,000 campaign contribution as early as June 2017 through his Turquoise PAC. Butner also cashed early checks from the New Democrat Coalition PAC and Serve America PAC.

New Democrat does not refer to candidates who are new to the Democratic Party, as Butner is, but is rather a coalition of Democrats with close ties to Wall Street. The Serve America PAC is run by Rep. Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat and veteran with national political ambitions. His PAC gave more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2018 to Democratic veterans, many running on business-friendly platforms, including a total of more than $80,000 to Butner, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

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What will The Senate Look Like In January 2019? The Map Predicts A Huge GOP Win-- But Voters Have Other Ideas


Schumer has chosen a handful of especially bad recruits as candidates for November. Keep in mind the DSCC did not recruit Beto O'Rourke and until very recently when they started seeing his eye-popping contributions and his even more eye-popping polling, they completely ignored him. Beto should hope Schumer keeps away; his race to replace Cruz is too close to call now. Cruz would like nothing more than to be able to equate Beto with Schumer.

Schumer's recruits-- Phil Bredensen in Tennessee, Jacky Rosen in Nevada and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona are all very conservative. Bredensen is probably the only Democrat who could win in Tennessee (a state where he is universally known and liked-- and with an R+14 PVI). But Nevada didn't need a wretched conservative like Rosen. Hillary beat Trump there and the statewide PVI is D+1. And Arizona? The PVI is R+5. And Sinema is so far to the right that there's a danger the Democratic base could sit out the midterm rather than vote for her. She's unquestionably Schumer's worse recruit-- ever.

That said, the Republicans have their own Arizona problem. The GOP wants the race to come down to a race between mainstream conservative Martha McSally, who independent voters like, and far right Blue Dog Sinema, who many Democrats hate. But the Republicans might not get what they want. A new poll from the local ABC affiliate asked GOP voters who they prefer in the August primary and Republican strategists are ready to slit their wrists, McSally doesn't appear to be winning-- even though she's up against two far right lunatics who are splitting the far right lunatic vote:
Kelli Ward (far right lunatic)- 36%
Martha McSally (mainstream conservative)- 27%
Joe Arpaio (far right lunatic)- 22%
This is disastrous news for the GOP, since independents are likely to rejected Ward for Sinema in November.
These latest numbers show a huge swing since a January poll, conducted the same day Arpaio announced his Senate run, which had the former Maricopa County sheriff in a dead heat with then-front-runner McSally. In the January 9 results, Ward came in with the lowest percentage of the three candidates.

So how does Sinema stack up against all of the Republican candidates in a head-to-head race in November?

According to the ABC15/OHPI polling data, the Democrat is out in front to fill the seat previously held by Republican Jeff Flake, and is outpacing her GOP rivals in each of their potential races.

In an election facing Ward, Sinema holds a 10% lead, but 10% of likely voters remain undecided. A matchup against McSally is slightly closer, with Sinema ahead by 6% and another 10% of voters still undecided.

When paired up in a race against Arpaio, Sinema takes a huge lead, with 59% to Arpaio's 33%, and only 8% of voters undecided.

In a historically red-leaning state, a Democrat in the lead may seem surprising. But OHPI polling expert Mike Noble says there are a couple factors boosting Sinema's standing.

“The issue we are consistently seeing in the numbers is that Democrats are unified, Republicans are less united, and the all-important Independent voters are trending anti-Republican/Trump” said Noble, managing partner and chief pollster at OHPI.
These polling numbers would be bad enough in any year for the Republicans. But in a wave year? Wrist slitting time! McConnell is ready to dump millions of dollars into the race for McSally, but not for Ward and Arpaio. As of the March 31 FEC reporting deadline Sinema had raised $6,370,867, spent $1,945,831 and is sitting on $6,688,670. McSally had raised $4,155,612, spent $3,893,324 and is sitting on $605,712. Arpaio reported nothing and Ward had raised $1,438,804, spent $1,140,730, and has just $350,002 cash on hand. (Neo-Nazi elements have spent $576,984 on behalf of Ward.)

It's now conceivable that the Democrats will hold onto vulnerable red-state seats (West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri) as well as purple state seats like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania and win red-held Tennessee, Arizona, Nevada and even Texas. That would give the Democrats a bigger majority in the Senate than the Republicans have now. McConnell would be eating crow-- and paying for his authoritarian procedural way of running the Senate as Schumer takes over... looking for vengeance. Conceivable.

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