Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's Up With The Democratic Party? They Rolling Towards Big Wins?


Don't expect the video above to be played at the "left-leaning" (NOT) Democratic Party conference today. "Voters," wrote Will Bunch (more below), "understood that a vote for Bernie was no guarantee they'd actually get single-payer health care or free public tuition the day after inauguration, but that really wasn't the point. The point was that someone understood their problems with seeing a doctor, or getting their 21-year-old son out of the basement. Somebody listened...and understood."

If you're unaware of DWT disdain contempt for the DCCC and the DSCC you must be new to the blog. Welcome! With a caveat: if you're a yellow dog Democrat-- much less a Blue Dog or a New Dem-- you may not like what you find here. We've been enthusiastic about helping heal the wounds left over between Hillary and Bernie factions from last year's campaign. We have been urging wary Bernie activists to not act vindictively towards Hillary supporters who have adopted Bernie's platform. In fact, Blue America has been endorsing congressional candidates who backed Hillary in 2016 and are campaigning-- sincerely campaigning-- on Bernie's issues now. We've found examples of candidates who endorsed Hillary in 2016 being much better qualified to run than candidates who backed Bernie. Of course, there are plenty of candidates who endorsed Bernie who are much better than candidates who were the Hillary backers. Examples: in TX-21, Berniecrat Tom Wakely is a million times better than the creeps from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who supported Hillary. Ditto down in CA-49, where Doug Applegate is far and away the better progressive candidate than Hillary bundler and establishment puppet Mike Levin. Here in CA-34, Jimmy Gomez backed Hillary and not only campaigned on Bernie issues, but wrote and passed cutting edge type legislation in the state Assembly that was enacted it into law-- probably why he's been endorsed by so many Bernie delegates over several well-meaning-but unaccomplished Bernie volunteers in the race. In IL-13 and OK-05 we're behind Berniecrats David Gill and Tom Guild and we feel just as strongly about Kim Weaver, who backed Hillary and who is running against Steve King in IA-04 on an aggressively populist and progressive platform. As Brianna Wu said when she jumped into a primary race against conservaDem Stephen Lynch in Boston, "[T]he contentious primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton revealed a deep divide that must be reconciled. There is a disconnect between those marginalized and our party leaders who vote too often as moderate Republicans. I personally supported Hillary Clinton in the primary, but today I see the vision of Bernie Sanders for America is one we must bring to pass. I believe today’s Democratic party is ill-equipped to fight the Trump administration’s assault on women, on people of color, on the poor, and on the LGBT community. We do have true progressives, but too often they don’t have the support of the party establishment."

I was surprised this past week at the vitriol on line from the Clinton die-hards towards Bernie. (Or maybe what I'm seeing online are the left-over Putin-bots from Albania and Macedonia.) But when Bernie was in the heart of Hillary country a few days ago (Maddow's MSNBC show) and explained the inability of progressives to effectively take on and defeat reactionaries like Mitch McConnell-- although he could have easily been referring to Devin Nunes-- by saying that "The Democratic Party is feeble and unable to fight back," clueless Hillary supporters exploded into a frenzied rage on twitter.

Goal Thermometer The context to see this in is a report from Newsweek's Lachlan Markay that Democratic donors are gathering in DC this week to plot their version of the Resistance, a version, it's safe to assume, is shared with the Clinton Machine, with Schumer and with Pelosi (all of whom worship at their alter).He reports that the heads of the DNC, DCCC and DSCC "will huddle with activists, operatives, and deep-pocketed Democratic financiers at a biannual conference hosted by the Democracy Alliance, a leading left-wing donor collaborative at Washington’s ritzy Mandarin Oriental hotel." You know how the media refers to arch-conservatives as "moderates?" They call actual moderates "left-wing." One of the things they will discuss-- and excuse me if I doubt that many "activists" will be among the throng of scumbag lobbyists and fat-cats-- is "laying the groundwork for Democratic campaigns in next year’s midterm elections." That could-- as it has over the past decade-- spell DOOM. Let me give you an example. One of the worst and slimiest of the fat cats is a rich slob from Virginia, now living in San Diego, Ira Lechner. He's a huge donor and Pelosi basically lives up his ass. Lechner decided that the only candidate who ever took on Darrell Issa and nearly won-- Doug Applegate-- should be "pushed" out of the race by Pelosi to make room for a Hillary fundraiser and crony of Lechner's, some Orange County attorney named Mike Levin. Pelosi's response was, "leave it to me; I'll push him out of the race." Sure...
The Alliance brings together high-dollar liberal donors—individuals, labor unions, and charitable foundations—that pledge to give at least $200,000 annually to a suite of left-wing organizations. Through its “partners,” as the donors are known internally, the Alliance in 2015 raised $75 million for its supported organizations, an annual record for the group.

...On Wednesday, conference attendees will mingle at a welcome reception with Rep. Keith Ellison, the new vice-chairman of the DNC, and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

At a reception the following day, attendees will hear from former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the DNC’s new chairman.

And on Friday, the Alliance will host what it describes as “the first in a regular series of off-the-record dialogues between progressive political donors and Democratic Party officials about the future.”

That event will feature the chairs of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, respectively—and the executive directors of both groups.

Those officials will be on hand to answer donors’ “questions about the Democratic Party’s plans for winning in 2018 and beyond,” according to the conference agenda.

Donors in attendance will include Michael Vachon, a top aide to billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros; health care technology mogul Paul Egerman; Dallas philanthropist Naomi Aberly; Susan Sandler, the daughter of subprime mortgage pioneer Herb Sandler; and Ian Simmons, the husband of Hyatt hotel fortune heiress Liesel Pritzker Simmons.
Just what the Democratic Party needs to appear even worse than Trump-- more children of subprime mortgage pioneers and more Pritzkers! Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch offered a good antidote to the DC shillery this week in a column entitled He's America's most popular politician. Why won't they listen? "While the grand poobahs of a Democratic Party that Sanders has circled but never joined during his long unconventional life in America," he wrote, "were back in Washington, still clucking about Hillary's loss, headless chickens in a topless organization-- the Vermont senator ventured into the belly of the political beast for a remarkable town hall that was broadcast that evening on MSNBC."
The setting was McDowell County, West Virginia-- a remote part of the Mountaineer State that's been particularly hard hit by the slow death of the American coal industry. It's a county with an iconoclastic tradition that-- defying stereotypes about white Appalachia-- went for Barack Obama when he was elected the first black president in 2008. But in 2016, McDowell fell hard for Trump-- a bombastic billionaire xenophobe who promised to bring coal back by denying climate change. There are certainly a few similarities between the 45th president and the Vermonter-- rejection of trade deals, a pitch tailored to the "forgotten" men and women-- but their differences on most major issues are quite profound.

Yet by the end of the hour, Sanders had most of the audience in Trump Country eating out of his red democratic-socialist hands, and he did it not by pandering but by simply stating what he believes-- that all American citizens have a right to health care, to education and political and economic fairness.

The much-maligned Trumpcare/Ryancare legislation certainly gave Sanders an opening for political truth-telling. "At a time when we have a massive level of income and wealth inequality, this legislation would provide, over a 10-year period, $275 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent," Sanders told them. "So when people tell you we don't have enough money to invest in McDowell County or rebuild our infrastructure, nationally... don't believe them."

A retired miner thanked Sanders for supporting a bill to restore health care benefits for coal miners that Republicans would allow to lapse. "I never dreamt that I'd get to thank you personally for the bill that you are co-sponsoring," he said. "I'm one of those miners that will lose his health care at the end of April if they don't pass that law. I think it's kind of ironic that a senator from the Northeast takes care of my benefits better than someone like Mitch McConnell." Another woman hugged Sanders, because he supports fighting the big polluters in Coal Country.

Since November, we're heard so much angst from Democratic leaders wondering how the party can connect with its lost voters in the Rust Belt and in Appalachia and win back those states-- including Pennsylvania-- that gave Trump his narrow Electoral College victory. And we're going to hear so much more clueless angst from them between now and 2020-- even as Bernie Sanders goes to blood-red places like McDowell County and Canton, Mississippi, and makes it look easy.

How easy? A poll taken the other day, even before all the shouting from five months ago has fully died down, made the case that Bernie Sanders is right now the most popular politician in the United States. Sanders-- who as a younger man was getting 2 percent of the vote as a 3rd-party candidate in a tiny rural state and sleeping on his friends' sofas-- now has a 61 percent national approval rating, according to the latest poll by (wait for it...) Fox News. He's more popular than Planned Parenthood (57 percent), Obamacare (50 percent), Donald Trump (48 percent, a lot better than the president has done in other recent surveys), and the lowly GOP (29 percent). Ho-ho-ho, but then Sanders is also nearly twice as popular as the Democratic Party (32 percent).

Remember, this dude is a kind of a socialist, and the word on the streets was that-- if Sanders had defeated Clinton for the Democratic nomination-- Karl Rove and company were going to destroy him with ads about all the hippy-dippy things Bernie said back in his more radical youth. In reality, the current meme is almost certainly right: Bernie would have won.

...The national Democratic Party-- most of them, anyway-- doesn't understand. They don't see how the dumpster fire that is the Trump presidency gives them the chance of a lifetime to sell real alternatives for the middle class like single-payer health care or a massive infrastructure jobs program that could boost wages. They can't even get it together to fight the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, who doesn't even try to hide his judicial contempt for the little people who live in places like West Virginia or Mississippi. Sanders is America's most popular politician because he stands for something. The Democratic Party-- afraid that truly connecting with the party's base will alienate its millionaire donor class-- stands for nothing.

This weekend, Paul Heideman, writing for the far-left Jacobin, published what I thought was one of the best political essays of 2017, arguing that Democrats will never get anywhere without a coherent platform for the working class and by merely offering themselves as Not Trump. It starts with a stunning quote from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, that, "We don’t have a party orthodoxy-- they [the Republicans] are ideological.” Heideman argues that an orthodoxy is just what the Democrats need:
And despite the resulting disaster, this desire to have a politics without politics-- this strategy to build a coalition bereft of any clear values or principles-- has continued to animate liberals’ opposition to Trump. Democrats really believe, it seems, that they can subdue the reactionary right without articulating any alternative political vision beyond prudent governance.

The irony here is twofold. First, in clinging to an obviously failing strategy, elite liberalism reveals itself to be an ideology every bit as impervious to contradictory evidence as the reactionary Republicans it defines itself against. And second, for all of the Democrats’ paeans to pragmatism, they are just as committed to their own version of neoliberal capitalism as the Republicans, and just as unwilling to brook dissent with it. In fact, only a few days before declaring the Democrats free of orthodoxy, Pelosi responded to a student’s question about socialism by effusing, “We’re capitalists. That’s just the way it is.”

When attacking the Right, the Democrats are non-ideological and pragmatic. As soon as a challenge from the Left is sighted, however, the party suddenly stops being coy, and declares itself forthrightly in favor of capitalism. The result is an ever-rightward-moving political landscape that ends up abetting the very forces and figures that Democrats oppose-- including Trump.
The author makes a strong case that leading Democrats and the progressive media-- what's left of that, anyway-- are so convinced that Trump can be destroyed over a scandal or hypocrisy, or over his frequent lies, or not releasing his income taxes, that they're shunning the hard work of pitching a real alternative vision to middle-class voters.

I could not agree with this critique more-- maybe because I lived through Watergate, the scandal that's back in vogue these days (including a joint appearance last night on CNN by Carl Bernstein AND John Dean, thrilling this one-time teenage Watergate geek.) And yes, Watergate took down Richard Nixon, and there's definitely a chance that Russiagate could be every bit as bad for Trump. But Watergate only briefly slowed the broader, backward forces of reaction that claimed victory, with destructive long-term effects, with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. And will the factors that gave us Trumpism in McDowell County, Youngstown and Erie-- the working-class anger and the despair-- won't disappear even if Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn go to jail and Trump himself gets impeached.

And stop framing this as about 2020-- that's light years away. My sense is that Bernie has barely thought about the next presidential election (when he'll be 79, if you're curious). He's out there listening to people and thinking about what can he do to sell people on a more progressive vision for America, right now. Today. If the national Democratic Party doesn't jump on this train, and quickly, they could be standing on the platform, dazed and dumbfounded, for a long, long time. The only thing that's worse than Trumpism is Trumpism without a real alternative.

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Will The Republicans Who Voted For TrumpCare Before Ryan Raised The White Flag, Be Held Accountable? Not If It's Up To The DCCC


Hey, who does the candidate recruiting around here?

As everyone knows by now, Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy pulled their TrumpCare proposal off the floor of the House for the second-- and final-- time yesterday. Good riddance to a bill that basically no one liked except Ryan himself and some fellow Ayn Rand devotees. This incredibly unpopular bill-- with it's mighty 17% approval rating-- and which Trump chief consiglieri Steve Bannon says was written by the insurance industry, an industry that has given Paul Ryan $2,031,705 in bribes-- will not force Republicans to go on the record voting for a bill that most voters said would incline them to oppose reelection for their congressmember if he or she supported it. Republicans are relieved-- at least most of them are. Some, like Martha McSally (R-AZ), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Kevin Calvert (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Mimi Walters (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Mike Coffman (R-CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Steve King (R-IA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), John Faso (R-NY), Tom Reed (R-NY), Jim Renacci (R-OH), Lou Barletta (R-PA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Sean Duffy (R-WI) and David McKinley (R-WV), had already been on record as supporting the bill.

But even easier for Democrats to target are Republicans who did vote for it already. True, it didn't get voted on on the floor, but it did get voted on in the House Budget Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. These were the Republicans who voted for TrumpCare in the Budget Committee:
Diane Black (TN)
Todd Rotika (IN)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)
Tom Cole (OK)
Tom McClintock (CA)
Rob Woodall (GA)
Steve Womack (AR)
Glenn Grothman (WI)
Bruce Westerman (AR)
Jim Renacci (OH)
Bill Johnson (OH)
Jason Smith (MO)
Jason Lewis (MN)
Jack Bergman (MI)
John Faso (NY)
Lloyd Smucker (PA)
Matt Gaetz (FL)
Jodey Arrington (TX)
Drew Ferguson (GA)
Mark Sanford (SC), Dave Brat (VA) and Gary Palmer (AL) joined every Democrat on the committee in voting no. It passed 19-17. In the Energy and Commerce Committee the whole Republican membership voted in complete lockstep in favor of TrumpCare in all it's miserable glory. I was happy to see that someone at the DCCC figured out that this is indeed a perfect way to hit the Republicans-- or at least the tiny handful who they are targeting. As you can see below, Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who represents a district Hillary won and who is considered vulnerable if a strong candidate like Ed Potosnak runs, voted for TrumpCare in committee. He later flip-flopped under intense pressure from his constituents and promised to vote no on the floor. But there was no floor vote-- just the record of Lance's vote in committee.

Potosnak, in fact, told supporters who have been urging him to run against Lance that he had watched the March 9th MSNBC interview with Chris Hayes when Lance explained his support for TrumpCare and defended the lack of committee hearings and expert testimony by stating "we had a 27-hour marathon session, and I think all of the issues were vetted." Ed's response was straight-forward: "Boy was Lance wrong when he said 'all of the issues were vetted.' If ever there was a time when hindsight was 20/20, for Lance it should be this moment. The problem is he changes his positions on issues with the shifting of the political winds, voting against the interests of New Jerseyans, and siding instead with party extremists... While many of us breathed a sigh of relief knowing our parents and grandparents weren’t going to be priced out of health insurance and lifesaving emergency room visits would remain covered for the 'foreseeable future,' I couldn't stop thinking back to what really happened down in Washington in past few weeks. Not long before Lance was against AHCA in his frequent TV appearances, his March 9th vote in favor of the AHCA aimed to throw 24 million Americans off health insurance and raise the uninsured rate in his own congressional district by 65% kicking 24,231 of his constituents off medical insurance. He commented he voted yes on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act saying 'we have gone to the American people with Paul Ryan’s better way. And we campaigned on the fact that we were going to improve the system. And I think that’s what we`ve done.' But as pressure mounted here at home and from many groups like AARP and hospitals, he flip-flopped and set out to erase his early crucial support of AHCA vote from people’s memories." The DCCC ad, if they put some bucks behind it, will remind voters in Somerset, Union and Hunterdon counties what Leonard Lance was really doing down in DC, which wasn't always what he was saying to folks in Mount Olive, Montgomery, Hillsborough and... yes, Bedminster.

This is a good ad and the DCCC should make one like for everyone on the list. It starts running Monday and I hear there are ads like it for 13 other Republicans who voted for TRumpCare in their committees including Carlos Curbelo (FL), Ryan Costello (PA), John Faso (NY), Mimi Walters (CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Pete Roskam (IL), Erik Paulsen (MN), Pat Meehan (PA), Tim Walberg (MI) and Ryan Costello (PA).

Greg Walden (OR)
Joe Barton (TX)
John Shimkus (IL)
Tim Murphy (PA)
Mike Burgess (TX)
Marsha Blackburn (TN)
Steve Scalise (LA)
Robert Latta (OH)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA)
Gregg Harper (MS)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Brett Guthrie (KY)
Pete Olson (TX)
David McKinley (WV)
Adam Kinzinger (IL)
Morgan Griffith (VA)
Gus Billirakis (FL)
Bill Johnson (OH)
Billy Long (MO)
Larry Bucshon (IN)
Bill Flores (TX)
Susan Brooks (IN)
Markwayne Mullin (OK)
Richard Hudson (NC)
Chris Collins (NY)
Kevin Cramer (ND)
Tim Walberg (MI)
Mimi Walters (CA)
Ryan Costello (PA)
Buddy Carter (GA)
Goal Thermometer How could they be so stupid? Well, that would be a logical question except for one little grouping of 4 letters: D-C-C-C. Take the Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee. The DCCC is thinking about targeting maybe 6 of them-- Lance, McKinley, Brooks, Walberg, Walters and Costello. The ads for 5 of them are a great step in the right direction but maybe one or two will actually get a real full scale challenge; maybe. The rest will walk free and clear regardless of having voted to kick millions of people off healthcare. Hard to believe, huh? Same in the Budget committee. Maybe 4-- maybe zero-- may get challenges from the DCCC. 4 from that committee are included in the ad campaign. The rest are home free with no worries about having enabled and supported the unpopular and destructive TrumpCare. That's the DCCC. I would strongly recommend never, under any circumstances, supporting their efforts no matter how good they make them sound. Instead, contribute directly to candidates you want to help-- like the ones at the thermometer on the right.

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The Blame Game


As Trumpcare started tanking on national TV Friday morning, Pence allies were desperately trying to float their bullshit boat that the vice president advised Trump to keep his distance from the bill and just label it a Ryan proposal. Pence, in fact, worked closely with Ryan and Price-- Price, who he pushed on Trump to name HHS Secretary-- in crafting the proposal to meet their ideological agenda, not Trump's amorphous ego-driven political agenda. Were you surprised when Ryan-- with Trump's acquiescence-- pulled the monstrosity yesterday-- for a second time in two days-- unable to get enough GOP support to even try getting it passed?

On his Facebook page Thursday, Dan Rather wrote, "Loser. That's a word that Donald Trump fears being called more than any other. It is a word that he has wielded with relish against his enemies. But if the health care bill goes down in defeat, and at this point that is still a big if, Mr. Trump will be seen as a loser, and so will his new cheerleader Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. A loser president. It's a moniker that every president dreads, but especially President Trump. It strikes at the very essence of his being. It is why he rails away at conspiracy theories about voter fraud. Once you are seen as a loser in Washington your enemies are emboldened and your allies become skittish. Power can evaporate faster than dew in Dalhart... We must remember that Mr. Trump is not a Republican. It is not clear to me that he believes in any governing philosophy other than his own political expediency. He was basically an independent, maverick candidate. But the GOP leadership got behind him for strategic reasons. And now they will have to own that decision. The party base can easily flee with an excuse that Mr. Trump was never one of them. The struggles with the Republicans in Congress to formulate a coherent governing strategy shows how hollow their rhetoric was during the Obama years. They became the Party of No and not the party of ideas. Many of the best conservative thinkers have bemoaned that trend. Their concerns are now bearing bitter fruit."

Trump will do whatever it takes to avoid the blame for the failure of the TrumpCare bill. He must have freaked out when Ann Coulter was on Tucker Carlson's show Wednesday iwhining that Trump is following "Paul Ryan's priorities... I will not," she purred, "hold the Emperor God Trump responsible for this Obamacare-lite bill, but for Pete's sake..."

And on Twitter yesterday right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro laughed about how convenient it was for Trump to flip "from all-powerful master negotiator to well-intentioned simpleton duped by Snidely Ryan at the drop of a hat." Ouch. But this is all playing right into the nefarious hands of the merciless Mercers. Their man in the White House, Steve Bannon, may or may not care one way or the other about health care, but he does have a dog in this fight: he wants Ryan out of the Speaker's chair. By yesterday he and his allies were hissing that Ryan let the insurance industry write the legislation and that was the fatal flaw. And that brings us to Gabe Sherman's piece yesterday for New York which postulates that Bannon could come out the big winner of this GOP civil war battle. "The failure," he wrote before it had failed, "to repeal and replace Obamacare would be a stinging defeat for Trump. But it would be an even bigger defeat for Paul Ryan, who has all but staked his Speakership on passing this bill. And in the hall of mirrors that is Washington, the big winner to emerge out of the health-care debacle could be Steve Bannon. That’s because Bannon has been waging war against Ryan for years. For Bannon, Ryan is the embodiment of the 'globalist-corporatist' Republican elite. A failed bill would be Bannon’s best chance yet to topple Ryan and advance his nationalist-populist economic agenda."
Publicly, Bannon has been working to help the bill pass. But privately he’s talked it down in recent days. According to a source close to the White House, Bannon said that he’s unhappy with the Ryan bill because it 'doesn’t drive down costs' and was 'written by the insurance industry.' While the bill strips away many of Obamacare’s provisions, it does not go as far as Bannon would wish to 'deconstruct the administrative state' in the realm of health care. Furthermore, Bannon has been distancing himself from the bill to insulate himself from political fallout of it failing. He’s told people that Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn-- a West Wing rival-- has run point on it. (Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.)

Whether or not the bill passes, Ryan has been weakened, the pro-Breitbart Freedom Caucus has been emboldened. It’s hard to see how the Republican health-care civil war hasn’t been a boon for Bannon.
Also yesterday, Jennifer Jacobs reported for Bloomberg that behind the scenes, Trump's people "are planning to blame Ryan" for the defeat. "Several Trump associates have already laid groundwork to blame the speaker, who butted heads with Trump repeatedly before his election. 'I think Paul Ryan did a major disservice to President Trump, I think the president was extremely courageous in taking on health care and trusted others to come through with a program he could sign off on,' Chris Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax and a long-time friend of Trump’s, said in an interview last week. 'The President had confidence Paul Ryan would come up with a good plan and to me, it is disappointing.' A Trump associate who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s views on the matter said that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus may also be imperiled. Trump’s core supporters regarded Ryan as at best unimportant during the presidential campaign and at worst a poster child for the sort of establishment, scripted politician they loathed. Still, Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and top White House aides had been working closely with Ryan on a health bill since the election and were heavily involved in negotiations to reach a deal, according to a senior Republican aide. That leaves questions about whether they’ll be able to cooperate to pull the party together on other tough issues, crucially a tax overhaul that Trump has said is a personal priority."

Wrap your head around this Machiavellian approach from Joe "Oily Joe" Barton (R-TX)

In the middle of all this-- and the Putin-Gate/treason investigations-- Trump agreed to do an interview with Time Magazine for a story they were doing about how his modus operandi includes strategic and tactical lying, something he defended by remarking that "I’m president, and you’re not," meaning he thinks it's worked for him. I'd say that bodes poorly for Ryan in all this.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Yes, There Was Collusion, But How Far Up The Chain Did It Go? To Trump?


Adam Schiff is very focused on Putin-Gate and when he was on Meet the Press the other day, he told Chuck Todd that "There is more than circumstantial evidence now... and is very much worthy of investigation." The next day CNN reported that the FBI has information that indicates associates-- is that Roger Stone? Steve Bannon? Flynn? Carter Page? Gorka? Manafort? Tillerson? Ross? -- of Trump "communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign." Remember, when Comey testified Monday he said the FBI has been investigating coordination between the Trumpists and Putin since July and that the Bureau had "a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power."

Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, and Trump's spokesperson, Sean Spicer, both denied everything. CNN's source told them that "people connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready."
One of the obstacles the sources say the FBI now faces in finding conclusive intelligence is that communications between Trump's associates and Russians have ceased in recent months given the public focus on Russia's alleged ties to the Trump campaign. Some Russian officials have also changed their methods of communications, making monitoring more difficult, the officials said.

Last July, Russian intelligence agencies began orchestrating the release of hacked emails stolen in a breach of the Democratic National Committee and associated organizations, as well as email accounts belonging to Clinton campaign officials, according to U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Russian operation was also in part focused on the publication of so-called "fake news" stories aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign. But FBI investigators say they are less focused on the coordination and publication of those "fake news" stories, in part because those publications are generally protected free speech.

The release of the stolen emails, meanwhile, transformed an ordinary cyber-intrusion investigation into a much bigger case handled by the FBI's counterintelligence division.
CNN followed up this morning with another report about more evidence of collusion between Trump and Putin, again, coming from Schiff sources. Schiff said it's grand jury level evidence not trial jury evidence (which means "beyond a reasonable doubt." But he said, "we're at the beginning of an investigation, and given the gravity of the subject matter, I think that the evidence certainly warrants us doing a thorough investigation."

Manafort bleeds borsht-- will he roll over on Trump though?

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Want To Know Why Hawaii Has Such A Weak And Ineffective GOP?


A couple of weeks ago I heard a 33 year old Hawaiian state legislator, Beth Fukumoto, being interviewed on NPR. She had a compelling story about criticizing Trump and being stripped of her leadership position in the state House by her fellow Republicans. I thought it might make an interesting story for this blog and then stopped myself with a promise that I would revisit when Beth, a former state party GOP chair and the Minority Leader of the state House, inevitably switched parties and became a Democrat. That happened yesterday, when she made the video up top.

Since 2012 she's been representing one of the few Republican areas of Hawaii-- district 36 (the Mililani Mauka area of Honolulu. (There are no Republicans in the state Senate and only 6-- soon to be 5-- in the state House, out of 51 members.) The GOP, statewide and nationally, never lost an opportunity to tout her as their new friendly face-- like in this post in Newsweek, Nine Women Remaking the Right. The House Republicans ousted her as Minority Leader when she spoke at the Women's March on Jan. 21 and referred to Señor Trumpanzee as a bully.

Wednesday, in a resignation letter to Republicans she wrote a devastating analysis of what the Hawaii GOP is and why it fails so badly.
Since becoming a member eight years ago, I’ve suggested our local party should reflect our uniquely diverse community. And I believed that if I was committed to this cause, I could help attract more people to the party. But, a little more than a year ago, a fellow caucus member told me “We are the party of middle America. I don’t care if the demographics don’t fit.” He declared that Republicans are the national majority and that it is our responsibility to represent “middle American” values here in Hawaii.

It was in that moment that I was finally able to identify the colonial mindset I’d unknowingly run up against for years. No ethnic group in our state is a majority, and more than 70 percent of the population isn't white. But our Hawaii Republican Party leaders wanted us to adopt “middle American” values instead of holding on to Republican principles that also reflect our own local values, such as responsible stewardship over things like wealth and power.

This election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments towards women. So, when I listened as our now top office holder refused to condemn the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, speaking out didn't seem like a choice.

A little over a year ago, I was in Washington, D.C. with a group of Republican friends talking about my concerns with Donald Trump’s candidacy and, more specifically, his suggestion about a Muslim registry. They told me it was just rhetoric. I reminded them that a registry was only one step away from internment camps. Less than an hour later, we saw the breaking news headline, “Trump says he may have supported Japanese Internment.” As a woman and the only Japanese-American in our (then) seven-member caucus, I had something valuable to add about why our party continues to lose.

My Japanese-American grandparents owned a small grocery store in Hawaii during World War II with a small house attached to the back where my father's family all lived in cramped space. When word spread through the community that the government was placing Japanese-Americans in internment camps, my grandpa destroyed everything written in Japanese, smashed my family's beautiful Japanese dolls, and buried everything else that would make them look “less American” in the backyard.

Despite his devastatingly heroic actions, they took my grandpa anyway. He was fortunate enough to be detained for only a few hours, however, thousands of families across the United States weren’t so lucky.

Every immigrant group has a story of hardship and suffering. Every woman has a story about sexism or inequality. Most people’s stories are worse than mine. I’ve had a lot of opportunities in life, and I truly believed that the Republican Party was a group that believed in creating more opportunities for everyone.

President Trump’s meteoric success and his unabashed prejudices should have forced our party to address the elements of racism and sexism within the base. But for years, the party allowed it, fearing Democrats, primaries and third-party challenges. With electoral successes across the nation, concerns about disenfranchising minority voters are being buried. The party has ended conversations about how Republican rhetoric and actions threaten any ability to win amongst an increasingly diverse electorate.

So, I continued to speak out. The day after the inauguration, I spoke at the Hawaii’s Women’s March. I said we should all agree that the campaign remarks made by our president about women and minorities were unacceptable, and that it was our responsibility, regardless of who we voted for, to show our kids that everyone should be treated with respect.

A call for kindness and respect should have been a non-partisan message, but it was controversial within the party. Within 24 hours, calls for my resignation or censure abounded. My caucus told me that they would remove me from leadership unless I promised to not criticize the president for the remainder of his term. That was a promise I simply could not make.

Since I became a Republican eight years ago, I’ve served the party at every level from envelope stuffer to party chair. And, I’ve served our Republican legislators as a file clerk, an office manager, a research director and eventually, the Minority Leader. I dedicated myself to making the Republican party a viable, relevant party in Hawaii. But, what I've experienced over the last eight years is that the GOP doesn't want to change.

The leaders that remain in the party either condone the problems I’ve identified or they agree with me but are unwilling to stand up and fight. For those reasons, I am resigning from the Republican party.

If I chose to stay, I would simply become an obstructionist in a political party that doesn't want to hear my voice or my message. I don't believe that I can make a difference in the Hawaii Republican Party, but I still believe there's hope for other Republicans in other states.

I want to see all Americans fight for diversity of opinion, moderation, minorities, women, and ultimately, a better party system. Without confronting this problem, Republicans across the country will inevitably discover what it’s like to be a super minority, or a Republican in Hawaii. No matter how many walls are built and travel bans enacted, America's demographics will keep changing, and the Republican party can't keep marginalizing voices like mine and the people that care about what I'm saying.
Last month, the Civil Beat editorial board used Fukumoto's problems with the party to explain why the Hawaii GOP is destined to be irrelevant. "The Hawaii Republican Party," they cautioned, "must recognize that it is not the Oklahoma Republican Party, where Trump’s rhetoric and policies are more in tune with the constituents. In Hawaii, a moderate Republican like Fukumoto stands a much better chance of success than a Trump Republican, both with voters and with bipartisan initiatives. Trump is no ordinary Republican. He is deeply divisive within his own party, even among the most staunchly conservative members... In a Civil Beat video Fukumoto says that she’s received thousands of phone calls, emails and postcards from Republicans and Democrats all over the country praising her for speaking out against Trump and her insistence that the Republican party is better than him... But the Hawaii GOP insists on standing with its national leadership, not with moderates like Fukumoto, even as Hawaii wholeheartedly rejected him... [B]y refusing to build a coalition that is in tune with the electorate, the Hawaii GOP will remain nothing more than an afterthought in state politics-- a joke that no one, least of all the state’s Democrats, need take seriously." Last year Hawaii voters gave Bernie a 69.8% win over Hillary and, in the general election, gave Hillary a massive 251,853 (62.3%) to 121,648 (30.1%) win over Trump. They know what's up.

Our old friend Stanley Chang is the progressive Democrat who recently banished the last Republican from the state Senate. He reminded me today that although a lot is made about Hawaii being a functional one-party state, the party is very much split between progressives and garden variety corporate Dems. He seemed happy enough, though, to welcome another non-progressive into the party. "I welcome Rep. Fukumoto's wish to join the Democratic Party, just as countless other Republicans have stood up against Trump. It would have been easier to go along to get along, but I am humbled by her courage in speaking out and now, putting her country above her party. The support of allies like Rep. Fukumoto is the reason why Democrats will succeed in 2018 and beyond."

That all said, don't get overly excited by Ms. Fukumoto's story. After all, she has been anti-choice, anti-LBGT, anti-gun control, and has stood firmly against virtually the entire Democratic Party platform throughout her entire career. The Democratic leadership are, predictably, excited by her switch but in a one-party dominate state, it's fair to ask whether she made this move for political expediency with to higher office in mind, using Trump's insidious yet convenient comments to manipulate the public. A Hawaiian friend based in DC told me that morning that in his opinion "the Democratic Party has opened its tent far too wide, to the point where its founding values no longer matter. We accept more party members from the right than the left. People wonder why the bluest legislature in the nation struggles to pass progressive legislation? This is why."

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Hey, DCCC, Why Does Devin Nunes Get To Run Basically Unopposed Year After Year After Year?


I believe McCain when he stated yesterday that "Congress no longer has the credibility to handle this alone, and I don't say that lightly." He was referring to the investigation into Putin-Gate, which he's come to realize that his own party is approaching as a partisan endeavor meant to impede and perhaps coverup rather than get to the bottom of what happened. And no one has been worse player than California Republican Devin Nunes. Thursday Nunes apologized-- more or less-- to the House Intelligence Committee for betraying Congress and the American people on Wednesday. That's a serious investigation? Elijah Cummings, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee called for an investigation into Nunes and why he went running to Trump with committee information. "What he did," Cummings told Chris Cuomo on CNN, "was basically to go to the president, who's being investigated, by the FBI and others and by the intelligence committee, to give them information... [which] put a cloud over his own investigation."

  Nunes, financed by PhRMA and Big Insurance, was first elected in 2001 in a brand, new deep red Central Valley district, CA-21 (now CA-22). The 2001 primary was his last-- his only-- serious election challenge. The district is made up of much of two counties, Fresno and Tulare, including the northern part of Fresno itself (including Cal State) and it's northern and eastern suburbs, Clovis, Dinuba, Visalia and Tulare.

The DCCC has always dismissed it as "too conservative" and has never run a candidate against Nunes-- never. He skates to reelection without serious opposition. Last year his unsupported Democratic opponent, Louie Campos, didn't even raise the $5,000 that would have triggered an FEC report, while Nunes raised $2,459,235, almost entirely from special interests; only about 1% of his contributions ($25,038) coming from small donors. The bulk of his money came in the form of outright bribes from PACs ($1,623,714). He's widely considered one of the most corrupt characters in Congress and today he's sitting on a formidable $3,177,900 war-chest, interesting in a district that the DCCC has never looked at. He beat Campos 143,333 (68.2%) to 66,802 (31.8). Yes, Campos did terribly but he took 66,802 votes spending no money and with no DCCC help. One district west and south-- CA-21-- saw the DCCC and Pelosi's House Majority PAC spend $94,400 in 2014 and $1,778,846 in 2016 (primarily on ineffective-- and commissionable-- mass media) and the two Democrats who ran spend $1,690,530 (2014) and $648,918 (2016). Now remember how Campos, with his grassroots field operation turned out 66,802 Democratic voters against Nunes? In CA-21 there were just 33,470 Democratic voters in 2014 and just 49,643 in 2016. Even with money, you only win if you know what you're doing. The DCCC has absolutely no idea and local Democrats are-- at best-- out of practice, everything atrophied from lack of use.

The district is minority-white now. Ethnically, it is 45.9% Latino, 41.9% white, 7.0% Asian and 2.5% black. McCain and Romney both beat Obama with just over 56%. Last year Trump beat Hillary 52.1-42.6%. According to the old CBO report, if TrumpCare becomes law, 87,694 Nunes constituents will lose their health insurance. That number, with the changes Ryan put through to placate extremists, is probably closer to 100,000. Now. Remember, Nunes only netted 143,333 votes in 2016, not that many more than the people who are liable tol lose their health care. The DCCC should be working on organizing and registering those voters now. They aren't.

Nunes feels so completely, even arrogantly, unthreatened that he can pull off the kind of bullshit-- and self-villainization-- that he's been doing without endangering his reelection chances. How many other elected officials would go out of their way to make themselves potential electoral targets? Nunes knows he has nothing at all to fear from the lunkheads and sad-sacks at the DCCC. Nunes has been so sure of his invincibility that in 2014 he campaigned against Republican Justin Amash in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spending money on Amash's establishment GOP primary opponent and calling Amash "al-Qaida's best friend in Congress." Imagine if there was a competent, functional DCCC who understood how to exploit something like that-- not to mention Nunes' current status as a genuine Putin-Gate villain?

This week I spoke with local Democratic activists in the district. I suggested that more important than money big per se at this point, is an inspiring-- like in non-corporate-- candidate willing to commit himself or herself to 2 cycles of uphill guerrilla war. That's what it'll take, even in an anti-Trump tsunami and that kind of strategy is against the DCCC's religion, which is why the are the ultimate Beltway losers.

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Loads Of Power Players Don’t Want You To Tune Into A Conference On The Israel Lobby And American Policy, But Ignorance Ain’t Bliss


-by Skip Kaltenheuser

In what amounts to bewildering media malpractice, mainstream media always gives massive coverage to the annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) policy conference at the end of this month, while basically ignoring a humble but critical counterweight, taking place this year on Friday the 24th. That counterweight may seem a knight-errant’s tilt at a windmill, but it’s the fourth annual conference examining the Israel lobby’s outsized influence on US Foreign policy, and it’s intellectual depth has always proved impressive. No coverage the first two years, despite famed intellectuals, former Congressmen, former diplomats, intelligence agency analysts, military careerists, international journalists, and other knowledgeables who spoke on a wide range of relevant panel topics or delivered keynotes. This is an event held couple blocks from the White House in a packed ballroom at the National Press Club. Last year the Washington Post finally allowed a short article as coverage of the meaty all-day conference, again nothing from the NY Times. A quick shout-out to Salon for practicing journalism with its coverage last year, an exception to the rule of media indifference. But you can view the conference streaming online at its site, and afterwards you can take it in smaller bites reading transcripts and watching videos that will go online. Thus, you can diminish the power of the power-players who’d rather you didn’t take notice.

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence and a bipartisan team from Congress, one of them now the Representative to the UN, will be preparing their AIPAC conference group genuflection to Nut’nyahoo, who will appear from the heavens via satellite. Among them are Republicans Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Joni Ernst, and Nikki Haley, now US Permanent Ambassador to the UN. Democrats include Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, Ted Deutch, Kamala Harris, Robert Melendez, Tom Perez and Nancy Pelosi. Nut’nyahoo-- I’ll try not to wear out my term of endearment-- appeared before Congress to diss President Obama and undermine his foreign policy efforts with Iran, but that’s no problem for these Democrats. The conference says two thirds of Congress will attend. Look over the speakers to see how the skeleton of the Israel propaganda machinery is put together. You’ll recognize many of the usual suspects whose talking points saturate media and Sabbath Gasbag shows, not to mention political fundraisers. Now consider that the day before the first Presidential debate both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump met with Netanyahu. That still astounds me.

In 1999 I had my enlightenment on the machinery of influence while doing an adventure travel feature on Israel for Canadian newspapers. I’ve been reluctant to write on it because I didn’t want to embarrass my hosts and-- my own malpractice-- because I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable blowback. But the mayhem that has ensued since-- from the invasion of Iraq cheer-leaded by Netanyahu and his Bush administration neocon compadres to the horrors of Gaza-- belittle such concerns. Consider the alarm expressed in this letter by five former US Ambassadors to Israel regarding Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, confirmed by the Senate yesterday.

I relished the rich adventure travel experiences. Not so much the full-throttle propaganda I encountered, of which many travel writers complain in private. During my trip came a ray of hope for reform. Election results came in while I was with a group riding camels at night under a spectacular sky, heading to a Bedouin desert camp. The Bedouin guides were ecstatic at Netanyahu’s defeat by Ehud Barak, chattering on their cell phones, hopeful for reforms that would give them a fair shake.

Later I was at a luncheon when the outgoing Minister of Tourism under Netanyahu, Moshe Katsav, sat next to me. Let me stress that tourism minister is a cabinet position, and not a backwater one. It’s a key instrument of propaganda and, particularly then, of national income. For awhile, Barak even served as both Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism simultaneously.

I asked Katsav why, instead of arguing with Jordan which side of the Jordan River Christ was baptized on, why the countries didn’t join together in joint tourism projects to enlarge the tourism pie. Even better, why not include the Palestinians, giving them more skin in the game and a stake in stability? Katsav’s sneering answer had me nearly drop my fork.

“The Palestinians, they are our N-words.”

He didn’t say N-words. He said the word. He didn’t say it ironically He wasn’t expressing disgust at the treatment and plight of Palestinians. He was doing his level best to express his disgust with Palestinians, and the absurdity of my question. He assumed I would grasp it if put in terms a white American would understand. He had no concern of insulting me or African-Americans any more than he had about insulting Palestinians.

It was then I realized not just the inherent racism underlying the plight of Palestinians, but the longstanding lie behind government rhetoric, particularly but not solely from the Likud, about a two-state solution.

Katsav went on to become President of Israel. He later resigned in a plea bargain. After reneging, he was convicted of rape and obstruction of justice and went to prison, from which he was recently paroled after five years of a seven year sentence. Consider this was the man Netanyahu chose for a vital position, and what that says of Netanyahu’s real views of the peace process.

Katsav fared better than a subsequent tourism minister, Rehavamd Ze’evi, who Ehud Olmert accused of protecting organized crime figures. Ze’evi wanted to make Palestinians so miserable they’d leave, calling those not Israeli citizens a “cancer” that should be gotten rid of "the same way you get rid of lice." He was eventually assassinated. Big fan of Netanyahu. Not all tourism ministers were ethical cretins, Amnon Lipkibn-Shahak, for example, backed the creation of J Street, an American Jewish pro-peace lobby group. But you won’t find much progressive thinking in proximity to Netanyahu.

What I’m getting at is the dehumanization systematically done to justify the treatment in what many observers view as an aparteid regime in the West Bank and Gaza, and to drive Palestinians to despair. The Intercept recently took note of a UN report on apartheid conditions and on the Trump administrations effort to quash it. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis knows the peril to the US reputation and it will be intriguing to see how he navigates the path Trump is laying down for him between a rock and a hard place. I’ll be surprised if he ignores his instincts for long.

At the 2015 conference on the Israel Lobby, one of Israel’s leading journalists, Gideon Levy of the daily Haaretz, gave a stunner of a speech on how this dehumanization of Palestinians was destroying universal values in Israel, and how unconditional US support for Israel endangers Israeli voices. You couldn’t spend a better, more enlightening twenty minutes. Here’s the audio, the transcript, and the video. Throughout, I wished we had more US politicians, and for that matter journalists, with Levy’s salt.

Levy recounts waiting at a checkpoint at the city of Jenin, behind a Palestinian ambulance with its emergency red lights. After forty minutes, during which the soldiers played backgammon in their tent “...I went out from the car. I went first to the Palestinian ambulance driver. I asked him, what’s going on? He told me that’s the routine, they let me wait one hour until they come and check the ambulance. And I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to the soldiers. It became a confrontation, but the question that I asked them which really brought them to direct their weapons toward me was one: what would happen if your father was lying in this ambulance? This freaked them out. They lost control. How can I dare to compare between their father and the Palestinian in the ambulance? This set of beliefs, that they are not human beings like us, enable us Israelis to live in so much peace with those crimes, ongoing crimes for so many years, without losing any kind of humanity...”

Return to Gideon Levy for his keynote at the 2016 conference (above). It’s built around the striking contrast American congressional delegations touring Israel are treated to and the tour that Levy would give them should he get the chance.

A conference sponsor, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, has an interesting offering of short video samplings of last year’s speakers. You can get the full videos here, and transcripts here. You might not agree entirely with every speaker’s perspective, but you’ll find every perspective challenging and thought-provoking.

Among those who stick in my mind are Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Secretary of state Colin Powell's former chief of staff, speaking on Israeli influence on US foreign policy.

Another, from 2015, is journalist Gareth Porter, speaking on the manufacturing of the Iran crisis and the push for war, transcript here. You can view all the videos from that conference here and read about the conference here.

If you’re on a historical roll, video, transcripts and audio from the 2014 conference is here.

Not from the conference, but one of the better appraisals of how we got where we are can be had in a 2014 two-part interview at Democracy Now! with Rabbi Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress.

More recently, in the March 30th, 2017 issue of the London Review of Books, in “The Ultimate Deal,” Siegman takes a wrench to the Trump and Netanyahu's joint press conference in February, explaining both Trumps naïveté and Netanyahu's duplicity regarding a viable two-state solution.

Another round of insight can be gained from this two-part interview with Noam Chomsky from Democracy Now! It imparts a historical perspective on the horrors of Gaza.

Keynote speakers and presenters at the 2017 conference on the Israel Lobby and American Policy can be seen here.

I’m not going to waste words pointing out the difference between being critical of Israeli extremists-- claim jumpers brandishing real estate deeds from God-- and being anti-Semitic. Those that inevitably try to equate the two aren’t worth the bother. Like everyone else whose great-great grandchildren will still be paying all manner of dues for the invasion of Iraq and for other Middle East blunders, we have all the qualifications we need to be critics.


Will Ryan Postpone The TrumpCare Vote Again Today?


Would it change your negative feelings towards Trump voters-- not the racists, the others-- if you understood the "sea of despair" their lives have become? That's how the Washington Post described their state of mind yesterday, based largely on a new report from the Brookings Institution, Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century. The researchers found that "deaths of despair"-- deaths from suicide, from drug overdose, from alcohol-related liver diseases-- are on the upswing among non-Hispanic whites, the American working class. They make the point that it isn't just an Appalachian problem or a rural problem, but something that is happening across the U.S. Mortality rates are going up everywhere in the country, New York, New Jersey and California being the only exceptions. In the video above, Princeton Professor Anne Case explained that "The people who are really getting hammered are people with less education."
While midlife mortality rates continue to fall among all education classes in most of the rich world, middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. with a high school diploma or less have experienced increasing midlife mortality since the late 1990s... [M]ortality rates of whites with no more than a high school degree, which were around 30 percent lower than mortality rates of blacks in 1999, grew to be 30 percent higher than blacks by 2015.
Case and her colleague, Professor Angus Deaton suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort. Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise. They documented an accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites that took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended, and continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.

Unable to round up enough votes to pass it, Ryan and McCarthy pulled the TrumpCare vote off the congressional schedule for yesterday and claim there'll be a vote today-- a vote on a bill that, if ever signed into law, will exacerbate every single thing that Case and Deaton are talking about. Of course, when you demonize science and scientists... you become immune to hearing their warnings. As Matt Taibbi emphasized in his new Rolling Stone piece this week, Trump The Destroyer, "One of the brilliant innovations of the Trump phenomenon has been the turning of expertise into a class issue. Formerly, scientists were political liabilities only insofar as their work clashed with the teachings of TV Bible-thumpers. Now, any person who in any way disputes popular misconceptions-- that balancing a budget is just like balancing a checkbook, that two snowfalls in a week prove global warming isn't real, that handguns would have saved Jews from the Holocaust or little kids from the Sandy Hook massacre-- is part of an elitist conspiracy to deny the selfhood of the Google-educated American. The Republicans understand this axiom: No politician in the Trump era is going to dive in a foxhole to save scientific research. Scientists, like reporters, Muslims and the French, are out." Oh, and by the way, Trump announced that if Ryan can't pull this off today, he's moving on to his own priorities and that Ryan will be on his own with this mess. No one ever thought Trump had much of an attention span for anything that doesn't include enriching himself.

Late last night, Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman reported for the NY Times that Trump, who they wrote has appeared "impatient and jittery" all week "has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with" Ryan's anti-healthcare jihad right out of the box, although that doesn't line up with the million and one statements Trump made on the campaign trail promising to repeal Obamacare on his first day in office. "Trump," they reported "was slow to recognize the high stakes of the fight, or the implications of losing." He wants to win so badly that he doesn't seem to care how bad of a betrayal to his voters TrumpCare has become-- scrapping mandatory essential benefits like outpatient visits, mental health services (such as opioid addiction, which he specifically campaigned on) and maternity care.

Yesterday, Ryan's SuperPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, was instructed to put a scare into Republicans opposing Ryan's TrumpCare bill by pulling financial support from David Young's 2018 reelection efforts-- in an Iowa swing district Obama won both times and Trump won 48.5% to 45.0%. That's hard ball. I bet Ryan wasn't excited yesterday to get a letter from the new CBO director he appointed, Keith Hall, with the latest estimates on the latest version of TrumpCare, after the changes that Ryan and his cronies made to the bill to make it more attractive to far right extremists who generally just oppose government activities in health care. The new estimates incorporate the manager's amendments from Wednesday night when Pete Sessions kept the Rules Committee up all night coming up with something ever more horrible than the first version. "As a result of those amendments," he wrote, "this estimate shows smaller savings over the next 10 years than the estimate that CBO issued on March 13 for the reconciliation recommendations of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce." That's $186 billion over the 10 year period. But that isn't the worst of it:
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would reach 21 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 52 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.

...Compared with the previous version of the legislation, H.R. 1628, with the proposed amendments, would have similar effects on health insurance coverage: Estimates differ by no more than half a million people in any category in any year over the next decade. (Some differences may appear larger because of rounding.) For example, the decline in Medicaid coverage after 2020 would be smaller than in the previous estimate, mainly because of states’ responses to the faster growth in the per capita allotments for aged, blind, and disabled enrollees-- but other changes in Medicaid would offset some of those effects.
Pramila Jayapal took one look at the new CBO report and told her Seattle constituents that "the revised TrumpCare bill is worse than the original. In addition to stripping 24 million people of health care, raising costs for low and middle income families, and subjecting middle-aged Americans to an age tax, TrumpCare will now give a $1 trillion tax cut to the rich. Despite all this, Republicans are still ratcheting up this tax bill disguised as a health care plan and offering backroom deals to drum up support. The American people want nothing to do with TrumpCare. I hope the majority in Congress listens to them, and gives up on their ideological quest that would leave millions without health care. As much as Republicans talk about moral values, this bill makes a mockery of every one of those American ideals. Instead of getting more people health care, they just increased tax cuts for the rich by $400 billion."

When she said that "the American people want nothing to do with TrumpCare," she wasn't just speaking rhetorically. Just before the new CBO report came out, Quinnipiac released a new poll showing already very low support for TrumpCare plummeting further. Voters overwhelmingly disapprove 56% to 17%, with 26% undecided. Even support among Republicans is a very tepid 41%. Quinnipiac reported that "if their U.S. Senator or member of Congress votes to replace Obamacare with the Republican health care plan, 46 percent of voters say they will be less likely to vote for that person, while 19 percent say they will be more likely and 29 percent say this vote won't matter... 'Replacing Obamacare will come with a price for elected representatives who vote to scrap it, say many Americans, who clearly feel their health is in peril under the Republican alternative,' said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

John Yarmuth (D-KY), ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, pointed out that the "CBO has reconfirmed tonight that the Republican plan will cause millions of Americans to lose their coverage and out-of-pocket costs to skyrocket, while subjecting middle-aged Americans to an age tax. They do all this to give $1 trillion in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, but they may not stop there. It is astounding and appalling that Republicans in Congress are negotiating with the health and well-being of American families. They have no moral compass."

It had been widely predicted that if Ryan moved the bill in an uglier direction-- which he very much did with the manager's amendments-- mainstream conservatives would bail... and they did, while Freedom Caucus extremists, who want repeal without replace, are still not on-board. In the last few days many swing state Republicans, sensing the betrayal, ran for the exits. Undecided congressmembers in districts where Democrats have the best chances of beating them are no longer undecided. Among the NO votes now are Charlie Dent (PA), Leonard Lance (NJ), who voted for the first version in committee, John Katko (NY), Dan Donovan (NY), David Young (IA), Chris Smith (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA). John Faso (NY) who bought into one of Ryan's promises a couple of days ago is wavering again.

"Sad," wrote Charles Pierce in Esquire referring specifically to Paul Ryan, "the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin, [who] took one in the chops when a vote of his well-camouflaged tax-cut bill was postponed until Friday morning. This came after a frenzied 48 hours in which Ryan and the president were pulled around by the nose by the more lunatic members of their party who thought the dead-fish Ryan had sent to the House wasn't tough enough on poor people. Finally, rather than face the revolt of the wingnuts, Ryan and the Republican leadership pulled the vote, opting for a meeting of the Republican conference and a possible vote on Friday. This sent the House side of the Capitol into a positive whirlwind of rumor, speculation, and undeniable flopsweat."

Goal Thermometer Carol Shea-Porter represents a very swingy New Hampshire district. She won in a 3-way race 44.3%-42.9%-9.4%, while Trump beat Hillary 48.2% to 46.6%. In her report to her constituents-- 40,049 of whom would lose health care under the less terrible first TrumpCare proposal-- yesterday she put it like this: "“There are proposed last-minute changes to the bill that would make a cruel bill even meaner. Republicans now want to take away requirements that insurance plans cover essential services like hospitalization, pregnancy care, prescription drugs, and mental health and addiction treatment. These changes would make a terrible bill-- one that would kick 24 million Americans off their coverage-- even worse. The American people don’t want this bill, and neither does New Hampshire: we have a large volume of calls coming in to my office. House Republicans are ignoring their own hardworking constituents, who are pleading to keep their insurance. Health care organizations are attacking this bill. The only people who benefit are the wealthiest, who would get huge tax breaks. Republican leadership is rushing this unpopular, destructive bill to a vote this week because today is the 7-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Clearly, this rushed process is about spite, scoring political points, and helping wealthy supporters, rather than about doing what’s best for the American people.” See that thermometer on the right? Tap it and help slow down Trump and help end Paul Ryan's tenure as Speaker.

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