Tuesday, November 24, 2015

In Ohio And DC, Decrepit Democratic Bosses Are Locking Out The Guy Who Is Actually Their Best Senate Bet


Little Chucky Schucky hasn't even taken over as Senate Democratic Leader yet, but he's already calling the shots. And one of his first shots was to decree that Ohio's Democratic nominee against Republican incumbent Rob Portman shall be Ted Strickland, the other half of the conservative Bobbsey Twins. Strickland is a wretched conservative trying to pass himself off as a progressive for the sake of the primary. But anyone who has watched him amass his putrid record in the House and as Governor, know that Strickland is a Democrat of a couple of generations back, not a progressive. One Ohio activist, pissed that Schumer is trying to shove Strickland down Ohio Democrats' throats mentioned in an e-mail to me today that Strickland "wholeheartedly supported and passed the Castle Law here (the domestic version of Stand Your Ground) and was NRA endorsed over John Kasich, had a terrible 30% rating from NARAL while in Congress, has waffled endlessly on Keystone and "clean" coal, opposed decriminalization of pot and refused to raise taxes on the wealthy during the economic downturn while he was governor, because it would 'harm the economy.' So he instead destroyed our public library and mental health system. Living in Ohio, I'm very engaged in that battle, which the know-it-alls say top vote getter (by far) on the Cincinnati City Council, progressive P.G. Sittenfeld, can't win. Yet P.G.'s not listening to the poobahs; he's barnstorming the state making Strickland look like a decaying statue wherever they both speak (why Strickland won't debate him) and has raised the money he needs to compete."

Yesterday, writing for the Toledo Blade, another prominent Ohio journalist, Keith Burris, warned the Democrats they're making a big mistake in an EpEd, Let P.G. get in the game-- Democrats may be locking out the guy who is actually their best bet. Despite Little Chucky Schmucky and his DSCC goons, Strickland's not going to beat Portman. He's too similar to him and too feeble. "The Democratic Party of Ohio," wrote Burris, "which has an abysmal record of electing people in recent years-- that is, at engaging in political competition-- doesn’t want Mr. Sittenfeld to compete either. Mr. Sittenfeld is running in the Democratic primary, which will be held next March, against former Gov. Ted Strickland. The winner of that primary will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, a popular and well financed Republican who casts himself as a moderate in a sea of right-wing zealots and yahoos."
Mr. Portman IS a man of moderate and modest temperament, but his reasonableness seldom seems to manifest itself in significant legislation or as an influence on his party. He is forever forging bipartisan alliances that go precisely nowhere and he seems often irrelevant to D.C. and Ohio.

It’s good to talk softly, but in politics, you have to carry that big stick as well.

...Strickland, so far, is a Senate candidate without a platform. He has largely been silent on guns, on terrorism, on immigration. He does occasionally articulate a vague populism, but, thus far, he seems to be concentrating on fund-raising.

So the two front-runners are two heads of fund-raising juggernauts, with no real grounding or depth in issues. One gets the impression that a race without ideas, or the competition of ideas, is precisely what both men would prefer: Politics reduced big money and 30-second ads.

Pretty uninspiring.

Enter Mr. Sittenfeld. His party, which has endorsed Mr. Strickland, ignores him and even attempts to silence him. Much of the state’s media ignores him too (TV) or puts stories about him on the obit page.

I was skeptical of Mr. Sittenfeld also. Mr. Strickland and Mr. Portman are both vastly more experienced in government. But then I met and interviewed him a few weeks ago. Congress is broken. While his two elders fund-raise and keep silent, Mr. Sittenfeld is like a brisk autumn wind. He tells people where he stands. He has been particularly eloquent on the issues of gun violence and gun control.

Last week he said: “Every time [a mass shooting happens] our reaction is the same. We weep. We mourn. And we say never again. But then nothing changes. Nothing happens. Nothing ever gets done.”

He’s for universal background checks, without loopholes, including time limits on the checks. He’s for reinstating the federal ban on military-style assault weapons. He’s for banning gun sales to the severely mentally ill and those with a criminal record of domestic violence. And something else: microstamping ammunition so the police can trace bullets fired. I know I will hear from NRA friends, but to me, and I think to most Americans, these are hardly radical proposals. They are reasonable; they simply make sense.

Finally, P.G. Sittenfeld just might have a better chance of beating Rob Portman than Ted Strickland does. That’s what Toledoan and former Democratic state party chair Jim Ruvolo believes. He thinks if Mr. Strickland is the nominee the election will be about him and his term as governor, when Ohio was in recession. And Mr. Strickland will have a very hard time winning. But if Mr. Sittenfeld is the nominee, the election will be about the obstructionist and extremist majority in Congress. And Mr. Portman will have a hard time winning.

So, the Democrats may be locking out the guy who is actually their best bet.

Well, dumber things have happened.

“Stand for something,” John Kasich once wrote.

That is the mood of many Americans today: Stand for SOMETHING.

Mr. Sittenfeld should be dealt into the game just because he’s standing for something, especially on guns.
Strickland won't debate Sittenfeld and does all he can to keep from taking stands on contentious issues that voters are entitled to know about. If he's the nominee, Portman will wipe the floor with him-- and the fault will be Little Chucky Schmucky's and a seriously atrophied Ohio Democratic Party. If you'd like to help P.G. win the nomination and take the race to Portman, please consider contributing to his grassroots campaign here. Sometimes we just have to save the Democratic Party from itself.

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No One Has Figured Out How Cruz Gets Rid Of Trump Yet... Any Ideas?


Media types seemed shocked yesterday when the Washington Post reported the results of a poll showing Hillary Clinton-- who, in preparation for the general election, is already moving rapidly to the right, at least on terror-- to be significantly more trusted by American voters than any Republican on the issue of how to handle terrorism. These media types are more used to seeing a flood of absurd polling from the Republican primary base that represents nothing but morons brain-washed by Fox News and Hate Talk Radio hosts-- like this nonsense about how trusted Texas neo-fascist Ted Cruz would be as commander-in-chief. No shock there, huh?

What should shock media types is that the Republican base is so committed to nominating a far right-- dare I say "fascist"-- like Trump, Cruz or Carson. In the latest Fox News poll, the 3 of them together have 60% of the Republican vote! (That's with Trump at 28%, Dr. Ben at 18% and Cruz at 14%.) And in the early states, it's even worse. In Iowa 3 three fascist-oriented candidates command 70%-- Trump at 30%, Cruz at 21% and Dr. Ben at 19%. No one is close. In New Hampshire, a more mainstream state, 52% of Republicans are supporting the 3 fascists (Trump with 32%, and Cruz and Dr. Ben with 10% each). And in South Carolina, fascism wins again, this time with 67% between the 3 of them-- an astronomical 35% for the Trumpster, 19% for Dr. Ben and 13% for Texas' answer to Joe McCarthy.

The right-wing website, WashingtonExaminer.com points out that in Iowa, where Cruz surged into 2nd place , behind Trump, the Texan "scores best among all the candidates when Iowans are asked who is ready to be the commander in chief. Approximately 67 percent of Hawkeye State voters think Cruz is ready, 51 percent of respondents think the same of Rubio, and 49 percent of those surveyed think Trump is ready to lead the nation." That's a lot more shocking than the poll showing most Americans trust Hillary handling terrorism than any of these GOP crackpots-- especially beating the three fascists. The Washington Post/ABC poll that found Hillary beating all the Republican blowhards on terrorism, showed her ahead of Trump 50-42%, ahead of Dr. Ben 49-40% and ahead of Cruz 48-40%. "Clinton’s position of strength... is perhaps more striking given it also found a record high 54 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling terrorism, and 57 percent disapproved of his handling of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Clinton owes her edge then, to a significant share of Obama detractors who nonetheless prefer her over Republicans. Tellingly, the poll found between one-quarter and one-third of those who disapprove of Obama's efforts dealing with terrorism also say they trust Clinton over Republican on the issue."

This morning Maggie Haberman offered some hope to the panicked GOP establishment: Trump may be wearing thin. She points to Trump's "salesmanlike stretches" and superficiality, which she may not understand is what makes the dumb, Foxified GOP base relate to him so well.
Here are some of Donald J. Trump’s favorite ways to deal with a difficult question:

Asked what he would do on difficult issues like trade deals or terrorism, he warns that bad things are happening “all over the place.” His policies as president might or might not include the subject at hand “and a lot of different things.” All ethnic groups will “love” a Trump presidency.

...No one ever expected Mr. Trump to turn himself into the issues expert of the Republican presidential field. Yet the verbal shortcuts and salesmanlike stretches that he has relied on for months-- generalities used to dodge questions, and questionable recollections-- are tripping him up as the tenor of the campaign has grown more serious.

Mr. Trump’s avoidance of specifics is seen by some of his admirers as a refreshing contrast to musty politicians who play by the rules. And he has a knack for muddying the waters with catchall phrases that allow his supporters and detractors to read whatever they want into his statements.

But his refusal to be pinned down on the details of his positions has repeatedly prompted reporters and interviewers to engage in a guessing game as to what he means. And he tends to choose all of the above.
Yeah, the press and the DC establishment types are frustrated. But that endears Trump to his cretin followers all the more. The Republican Establishment is, metaphorically, pulling the hair out of its head. They certainly don't want Trump as their candidate. Dr. Ben is even less plausible. But Cruz? The most hated Republican-- by Republicans-- in Washington? They don't exactly see him as the white knight coming to rescue them from Trump and Dr. Ben! Yesterday, though, Simon Maloy, writing for Salon, dealt with the question that's been lingering for at least a couple months. How's Cruz going to get past Trump. No matter how offensive Trump appears to normal people, nothing seems to make the great unwashed masses of pissed-off Trump supporters desert him. In fact, quite the contrary.
Ted Cruz, Trump’s competitor for the Republican presidential nomination, offered the gentlest of disagreements when asked about Trump’s Muslim registry flirtation, saying he’s “a big fan of Donald Trump’s, but I’m not a fan of government registries.” Then he knuckle-rapped the media for trying to sow discord in the GOP field. “I recognize that the media would love to get me and other candidates to attack Donald Trump,” he said, “There may be other candidates who want to do that. I ain’t gonna do it.”

Of course Cruz ain’t gonna do it. He’s been loudly refusing to criticize Trump for months now. Even as he rips into Marco Rubio over immigration and questions his Senate colleague’s conservative bona fides, Cruz won’t say a bad word about the GOP 2016 front-runner. Instead, Cruz is nothing but smiles and sunshine toward Trump-- he even hit the campaign trail with Trump in August, inviting him to appear at a rally in D.C. opposing the nuclear deal with Iran.

The reason for all this bonhomie is that Cruz is also a firm believer in the as-yet-unobserved Trump inflection point, and he wants to scoop up the leavings of Trump 2016 when the theoretical collapse occurs. “The Cruz camp is confident that Trump’s candidacy will have a natural arc, that eventually political gravity will pull his numbers down,” National Journal reported in August, “and that when it happens, Cruz will be ideally positioned to absorb his current supporters.” Until that happens, Cruz is happy to have Trump as an ally, especially since Trump has proven skilled at beating down other GOP 2016 contenders with an unceasing deluge of insults.

The problem for Cruz is that he may have miscalculated the Republican base’s bottomless appetite for Trump’s proprietary brand of xenophobic trash wrapped up in glitzy packaging. The “natural arc” they believe exists has thus far not manifested itself-- Trump’s been bouncing up and down a bit in national polls since his early September peak, but he’s never dipped below 20 percent in the averages. And he looks to have survived a challenge from Ben Carson, whose numbers briefly rose to Trump’s level but are now on the decline. If Trump’s support remains this durable, what does Cruz do?

He can’t very well start attacking Trump, given the degree to which he’s defended him-- or at least declined to criticize him-- up to this point. How can you offer yourself as a credible critic of the front-runner if you’ve previously given him a pass on creating a national registry of Muslims? Also, the whole point in flattering Trump was to signal to his supporters that Cruz is on their side and, when the time comes, the natural inheritor of their adulation. If he flips to criticizing Trump, he’ll stomp all over the image he worked to cultivate. And Cruz has to know that direct attacks on Trump come with substantial risk, as Rand Paul and Jeb Bush learned the hard way.

And it’s extraordinarily difficult to out-Trump Trump. The pattern of the Republican primary thus far has been candidates inching further rightward to better align themselves with the markers Trump lays down. No one can replicate Trump’s bizarre cocktail of batshit policy extremism, raw xenophobia, and self-indulgent preening that the Republican base finds so appealing. They just have to patiently wait for voters to get sick of it.

It’s certainly possible that Trump’s dalliances with Muslims registries and the like-- which he’s now distancing himself from-- could provide that long sought-after inflection point. But, of course, the same thing was said about pretty much every other shockingly stupid utterance he’s made. If voters don’t abandon Trump soon, however, Cruz will find that he’s handcuffed himself. He’s in a position where he has to hope that the rumored Trump collapse actually comes to pass, but because he’s aligned himself so closely with Trump, he can’t do anything to help that collapse along.
Something tells me Cruz isn't looking to be Trump's VP pick. According to a report from AP yesterday, what he's doing instead is casting himself as "the electable conservative." But, as Steve Peoples wrote, "Cruz is among the most hated men in Washington, reviled by leaders of both parties as an ideological hard-liner loyal only to the far-right of the conservative movement." However, as Trump pointed out a few weeks ago-- right before soaring into Iowa's electoral stratosphere, Iowa Republican caucus goers are really stupid-- especially the religionist kooks. Cruz knows he can feed them any pile of shit and they'll gobble it up. So he is.

[I]n the crowded and unruly 2016 Republican primary, Cruz is trying to position himself as the grown-up alternative to Trump and Ben Carson, two inexperienced and undisciplined front-runners who have so far captivated their party's most passionate voters by riding a wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Carson's support appears to be softening, and Trump is struggling to explain with precision his exact plans for increasing surveillance of potential threats in the wake of the Paris attacks. At the same time, Cruz is ramping up his pitch and trying to cast himself not just as an outsider-- but an electable outsider at a time of widespread mistrust of Washington.

"I do not believe either one of them is going to be the nominee," Cruz told the AP about Carson and Trump. "I am working very hard to win every one of their supporters."

...[Y]et even while suggesting some Republicans have gone too far with their rhetoric, Cruz spent the weekend campaigning alongside Iowa Rep. King, a favorite of evangelical voters and one of his party's most outspoken hardliners on the issue.

King, who endorsed Cruz this week, has described immigrants living in the country illegally as disease-ridden and compared them to drug mules and livestock. He is perhaps best-known for a 2013 comment attacking children of such immigrants: "For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds-- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they've been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."

With King riding in the second vehicle of Cruz's two-car caravan, Cruz refused to condemn such comments when pressed. He also declined to name any Republicans whose rhetoric on immigration has been "unhelpful."

"I am not going to approach this election like a theater critic-- giving my reviews of every word uttered by every other Republican," Cruz said. "I'm going to focus on my message."

And while that message may be tempered compared to that of Trump and Carson, Cruz's efforts to paint himself as the electable outsider haven't won over some of his critics.

"I have serious reservations at this point about Ted Cruz," said Alfonso Aguilar, a Republican who served in the George W. Bush administration and now leads the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles "He's allied himself with Steve King," Aguilar said, suggesting that Cruz has turned his back on his immigrant roots.

King, meanwhile, heaped praise on Cruz as they crisscrossed Iowa together. The congressman introduced the presidential contender as "the man I believe will restore America's soul."

Like CBS' new poll from Iowa Republicans late last week, the poll Quinnipiac released the morning of more Iowa Republicans confirms Cruz with huge momentum (among the nuts who in the most recent past have voted to nominate Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee). Respondents picked Trump (25%), Cruz (23%), Carson (18%) and Rubio (13%), with no one else in serious contention. When asked who shares their values Cruz ran away with it-- 37%, with Carson (24%) and Trump (18%) trailing. Cruz also showed up as numero uno in the "Honest/Trustworthy" department (27%) and the Best Chance of Winner in November department (25%). When asked who they would "definitely not support," Jeb and Trump led the way with 26% and 23% respectively-- although plenty of nay-sayers for Kasich (19%), Graham (15%) and Christie (14%) as well... but Cruz is cruisin' with just 5%, the smallest number of any contender!

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Living In The Promised Land


This ugly sour puss is Blue Dog Brad Ashford, the only "Democrat" to co-sponsor the anti-refugee bill

In regard to last Thursday's ugly anti-immigrant vote in the House, we've mostly been concentrating on the 47 coward, craven Democrats who voted with the GOP on that shameful 289-137 roll call. The cowards from the Steve Israel wing of the party, your Patrick Murphys, Kathleen Rices, Pete Aguilars, and John Delaneys, many of them Republican-lite Dems that Israel helped recruit for just these kinds of votes. But that 289-137 wasn't always 289-137. At one point it was 288-138 and instead of 2 Republicans voting against Michael McCaul's vicious anti-refugee legislation (co-sponsored by 102 Republicans plus one rot-gut Blue Dog, Nebraska "ex"-Republican Brad Ashford), there were 3 Republicans voting no.

Iowa racist Steve King voted against it because he wanted a more strident and overtly anti-Muslim bill. Walter Jones (R-NC) told his constituents that he voted against it because the bill would do nothing to cut off the funding for Obama’s plan to import tens of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees into the U.S. Maybe he was listening to too much Trump on Fox News. "Defunding President Obama’s refugee program," he said, "is the only way to ensure that America can actually stop a refugee influx until we can determine without question that we are not giving terrorists a free pass into the United States. Congress can defund the program in the appropriations bill which will come to the floor in early December. To ensure our safety, Congress must seize that opportunity and use its constitutional power of the purse. Short of that, even if today’s bill were to pass the Congress and be signed into law, the President would still retain the power to let in whoever, and however many, refugees he pleases. And given the President’s unwavering support for open borders, unchecked illegal immigration, and mass importation of foreign refugees, we know he can’t be trusted with that authority." GOP hardliners usually call him a "moderate," a "squish" and a "RINO." Tough crowd!

But the third Republican who voted against the bill, Oklahoma City wing-nut Steve Russell, has a whole other take on how the GOP has been using the Paris terrorist attack for narrow partisan gain. The video of him speaking on the floor last week (just below) doesn't sound anything like what you've been hearing from partisan hacks like Paul Ryan, let alone the sociopaths running for president. It's short; listen to what he said:

So when he voted against McCaul's ugly bill, no one should have been surprised, right? Yeah, they shouldn't have been-- but they were. In fact, Russell-- a proud combat veteran-- says after he voted against the bill he was "surrounded" by angry Republicans demanding he switch his vote like the rest of the herd, claiming the bill wouldn't be "veto-proof" if he voted against it. That isn't even true but, despite the high-sounding rhetoric about how we should "not become the America that ISIS wants us to be," tough Steve Russell meekly informed the clerk that he was changing his vote to "aye." He's the opposite of cowardly coke freak Pete Aguilar, a corrupt New Dem from San Bernardino, who has been bragging that he only voted with the Republicans against the refugees because his constituents are too dumb to understand the nuances and that he'd switch to opposition if Obama vetoes the bill and he's needed to sustain the veto. One cowardly New Dem to pair up with one cowardly Republican. No wonder Americans hate Congress so much!

The progressive Democrat running for the seat Russell hold, Tom Guild, who Blue America has endorsed, told us that "My opponent Rep. Clyde 'Steve' Russell debated against a bill making it virtually impossible for Syrian refugees to immigrate to the U.S. to escape persecution and death.  He debated against the GOP-sponsored bill by saying it was xenophobic and a "knee-jerk" reaction. Then after being pressured by Republicans in the House he voted for the bill he had just characterized as xenophobic and a "knee-jerk" reaction. He has shown the entire world that he can say one thing now and vote the opposite way minutes later. We can't count on him to keep his word. I support the current system that takes up to two years to vet Syrian refugees before they are approved for immigration to America. I will be true to my word and not do a bait-and-switch on voters when voting on issues before Congress."

Alan Grayson, a candidate for the open Florida Senate seat, is running against 3 right-wing cowards, Republicans David Jolly and Ron DeSantis and "ex"-Republican New Dem Patrick Murphy, all of whom voted against the refugees. Grayson, as you can probably imagine, had something to say about that-- and immediately.
Earlier today, Patrick Murphy chose fear over humanity when he voted in favor of a Republican bill that will make it nearly impossible for Syrian refugees fleeing terrorism in their homeland to come to the United States.

We’re not sure whether it was Patrick Murphy’s fear of orphans and widows with brown skin that caused him to vote for this atrocious bill, or if it was his fear of going against the Republican Party. But, either way, he chose fear over humanity. Hate, over love. He has proven once again that he doesn’t have the courage to do what is right when times are hard. And we can’t have another person like that in the US Senate.

This bill does nothing to punish the terrorists who have killed so many. It does nothing to make us safe-- all it does is deliver Daesh (ISIS) another victory because Congress is giving in to the fear they’re peddling.

This bill punishes the homeless, stateless refugees whose only mistake is believing that when we say we are a nation that welcomes the huddled masses, we actually mean it. Many of these refugees are trying to escape the same terrorists that we’re trying to stop. It would be inhumane to deny them safe passage to the United States based on the color of their skin and their religion.

In the past few days Republicans have called for a religious test for refugees, talked about closing down Mosques and shutting our borders to refugees. Now Patrick Murphy has shown once again that he stands with Republicans in all of their fear-mongering craziness.

We don’t need a Senator that thinks, acts, or votes like Donald Trump or Ben Carson.
His campaign concluded by reminding his supporters that "Alan Grayson will always fight for equality, justice, and peace. He’ll always fight for the most vulnerable amongst us, and he will never back down in building an America we can be proud of."

The next day he wanted to make sure everyone got the message about what a worm Murphy is. "What do terrorists want? To change people’s religions?" he asked rhetorically. "No" he responded to his own question.
They want to cause terror. And this week, when my opponent Patrick Murphy voted to block Syrian refugees from entering our country because he was terrified, he gave them exactly what they wanted.

We will not end terrorism with fear, nor closed borders, nor bombs. We will end terrorism when we are able to overcome our fear, and have the courage to be humane. Without terror, there can be no terrorism.

Our country chose fear over compassion when we rejected refugees from Europe fleeing Nazism. Fearmongers said that there might be Nazis among the masses. We know what happened after that.

We’re supposed to be the land of the free, and the home of the brave. We’re supposed to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of the teeming shore, the homeless, the tempest-tost. And in the past, we haven’t been.

But now, we have an opportunity to live up to these ideals and values that we’ve claimed for so long. We can choose to be courageous and compassionate.

Patrick Murphy and his Republican friends want our country to be scared into submission by these terrorists. That’s the easy thing to do. But we don’t have to let them, or the terrorists, win. We can do what is hard, and what is right. We can prove once and for all that we are the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and that we don’t negotiate with terrorists.

And most importantly of all, we can help those who need it the most. We can lift our lamp beside the golden door.
And then on Monday, Grayson shared a moving experience he had had right after the vote, an event at Constitution Hall honoring Willie Nelson.
Willie Nelson did something magical. Something I’ll never forget. After that miserable anti-refugee vote earlier that day, he found the perfect way to honor our common humanity.

Willie received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, bestowed by the Library of Congress. In his honor, a packed auditorium listened to covers of his great songs, performed by Neil Young, Paul Simon, Cyndi Lauper, and a dozen other amazing performers. At the end of that incredible show, Willie himself took the stage, with his two sons and a few others, and he performed three wonderful songs.

Willie could have played “On the Road Again,” “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before,” and “Crazy,” and left it at that. It was his night, receiving one of the highest honors America can bestow. But he knew that the House of Representatives had passed a terrible slam-the-door-in-their-faces bill just a few hours earlier, and that a number of Congressmen who voted for that awful piece of offal were in the audience. In fact, one of them, Kevin McCarthy, was sitting almost right next to him.

So Willie Nelson saved his best for last. He reached deep, deep down in his personal playlist, and pulled out a song from three decades ago. His last song that night was a musical slap in the face to those who had voted, just a couple of hours earlier, to turn away people in danger, in desperate need. The song is called “Living in the Promiseland,” and it starts like this:
Give us your tired and weak,
And we will make them strong.
Bring us your foreign songs,
And we will sing along.
Leave us your broken dreams,
We’ll give them time to mend.
There’s still a lot of love,
Living in the Promiseland.
The audience went wild. Absolutely, totally wild.

And I felt proud that I had voted against that stinking meadow-muffin of a bill, that putrid cow pie in the form of legislation. Proud to be in the audience, honoring that great man. Proud to be part of the worldwide community of decent human beings.

After the show, I went to Willie’s tour bus, joined him and his wife Annie, and thanked them both.

Willie Nelson, November 18, 2015: It could have been his night, and his night alone. But he made it our night.
Here's some of that performance Grayson was lucky enough to see:

And here's the whole song:

Suggestion: help Grayson win the Florida Senate seat Rubio is giving up instead of electing someone every bit as bad as Rubio. Please contribute what you can here.

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Goldman Eyes $20 Oil; Glut Overwhelms Storage Sites


The price of two oil benchmarks, Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate (WTI), in danger of collapse? (source)

by Gaius Publius

Ever since the "Exxon Knew" story broke, and especially since NY AG Eric Schneiderman announced his Martin Act investigation of Exxon and other carbon companies for fraud, I've been watching to see how this disrupts the oil and gas markets.

To be clear — I consider a disrupted carbon fuel market to be good, since the supply of fossil fuel does have to be interrupted, and forcefully. Consider that if they dig it, we will burn it. So we have to prevent them digging it, and again, with force. The law, when applied with penalties, counts as force. A collapsing commodity price market also counts as force, as does a collapsing stock market price for companies like Exxon.

The alternative, if the market for extracted carbon starts to collapse or become wildly chaotic, is for government to prop it up with even more subsidies and "bailouts" — the opposite of what any climate-aware citizen should want. We need to get off of oil, as a nation, quickly, and we need all the help we can get doing it. I don't want to see government standing in the way of the destruction of the oil and gas industry. (Do you?)

So, is the carbon market headed for chaos? I don't know, but the possibility of oil at $20/barrel is frightening many analysts, including those at Goldman Sachs. From the Telegraph (my emphasis):
Goldman eyes $20 oil as glut overwhelms storage sites

“The world is floating in oil. The numbers we are facing now are dreadful," said David Hufton from PVM Group

The world is running out of storage facilities for surging supplies of oil and may soon exhaust tanker space offshore, raising the chances of a violent plunge in crude prices over coming weeks, experts have warned.

Goldman Sachs told clients that the increasing glut of oil on the global market has combined with mild weather from a freak El Nino this winter. The twin-effect could send prices plummeting to $20 a barrel, the so-called ‘cash cost’ that forces drillers to abandon production. “Risks of a sharp leg lower remain elevated,” it said.

Oil has fallen from $110 a barrel early last year and is hovering near $40 for US crude, and $44 for Brent in Europe.

The US investment bank said the overall glut in the commodity markets may take another twelve months to clear. It cited ‘red flag’ signals on the Shanghai Future Exchange over recent days. Copper contracts point to “imminent weakening” in China’s ‘old economy’ of heavy industry and construction, it said.
The chart at the top shows that benchmark prices have dropped to about $36/barrel, risen but not to new near-term highs, then dropped again. A technical analyst would say, watch that $35 price point. A drop below that could be trouble.

Now for the fundamentals. Note in the quote above: "$20 a barrel [is] the so-called 'cash cost'." At present, people are keeping their oil off the market, not selling their inventory in hopes of a better price ...
It is estimated that at least 100m barrels are now being stored on tankers offshore, waiting for better prices. A queue of 39 vessels carrying 28m barrels is laid up outside the Texas port of Galveston, while the Iranians have a further 30m barrels offshore ready to sell as soon as sanctions are lifted.

“The world is floating in oil, and commercial stocks on land are at a record high,” said David Hufton, head of oil brokers PVM Group. “The numbers we are facing now are dreadful. Stocks have been building continuously for two years. This is unprecedented.”
... yet even so, prices are falling, despite current buying by the Chinese for their strategic reserve (see the article for those details). We're in new territory at present — low prices, high inventory, high production — and could be headed for even newer territory.

The Story Is Complicated; the Outcomes Are Many

This is not a simple story, as the article makes clear. No one in position to comment expects a permanent collapse, yet the items in play are both many and varied. To name just a few, they include conflict among the OPEC nations about how much to produce, the length of time the bear market in oil will stay depressed, the ability of marginally-financed producers — the U.S. shale oil producers qualify here — to stay afloat in a "below cost of production" sales environment, the worldwide growing awareness that climate change and carbon emissions are linked, and so on.

At some point, if these conditions prevail (the last will certainly grow stronger), carbon production will drastically slow and companies will simply go bankrupt. At that point, absent government intervention, if you're an investor do you buy or sell the stock of these companies?

Now add in AG Schneiderman's fraud lawsuit, and then, way down the road, the potential for a Sarbanes-Oxley prosecution to yield criminal charges and jail time for oil and gas execs — assuming some AG (that's you, Ms. Lynch; that's you, whomever President Sanders appoints) is bold enough to pursue that course. That will certainly stir the pot even further, and not in a good way. Just the announced intent to pursue Sarbanes-Oxley prosecution could further roil this market — the roilage of which is your friend, since an uncertain energy market drives an increased move to "safer" renewables.

At this point, it's all up in the air. Oil prices may recover and the market re-stabilize. That would be a bad thing, assuming you have grandchildren and care about them. But the good news is ... right now,  it really is all up in the air. That good thing that could turn into a very good thing with just a few more breaks our way. 


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Why Do So Many Republicans Crave Being Lied To?


Earlier in the campaign for the Republican nomination, did anyone feel another candidate could possibly eclipse Carly Fiorina as the most compulsive liar in American politics? After she was thoroughly outed as someone who just made shit up, her meteoric rise-- even among the Fox/Hate Talk Radio base of the GOP-- was halted and within weeks her aspirations to be anything more than Ted Cruz's running mate came crashing down to earth, voters left with two impressions: her lies about being a successful CEO at Hewlett Packard and her lies about personally seeing some Planned Parenthood video that doesn't exist and has never existed. Her national polling went from a high of 15% when CNN found her the second most popular Republican candidate after Trump in mid-September back down to also-ran status in the newest Fox News poll last week (just 2 months later)-- in a 3-way tie for 6th place with Huckabee and Christie and with a mere 3%, approximately the poll's margin of error. (And, yes, she's still lying her ass off on every subject that comes her way, although now no one is paying much attention to anything she says.)

And then we all remember how Trump skillfully managed it tank his closest rival, poor ole Dr. Ben, with an-emperor-has-no-clothes strategy and a generous use of the word "pathological." The fact that most of the statements by Carson that have been checked by Politifact-- 23 so far-- are either "mostly false (26%), "false" (43%) or "pants on fire (13%) for a grand total of 82% with not even one "true" statement and only 1 that was found to be "mostly true," played right into Trump's hands. It's impossible to come away from a look at what Carson says and think he's less of a liar, even pathological liar, than Fiorina. And after another crazy whopper yesterday-- claiming, like Trump, that he had "seen" thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11, he backed away saying something about having mixed up Jersey City with Raqqa or someplace in the Middle East.

OK, but what about Trump himself. Monday the papers were bursting with examples of his bold-faced lies-- his fake statistic from a neo-Nazi website smearing blacks and his bullshit about having seen with his own eyes New Jersey Muslims celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Not just lies, but malicious, incendiary fascist propaganda aimed right at the tiny brains of Republicans who are now incapable of, largely thanks to Fox News, differentiating between reality and reality TV. Denounced by fact-checking services, by former New York Governor George Pataki, by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, and even, gingerly, very, very gingerly, by political coward Chris Christie, it's just another in a long series of exposed Trumpoid lies that are like water off a duck's back in terms of the Republican Party base. They could care less if he's telling the truth or not, as long as he feeds their own primitive bigotry and prejudices, and the sense of rage, anger and frustration that permeates the Foxified GOP base right now.

Americans across the board have little trust in government, according to a new poll, but Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to say they are "angry" at the government as the 2016 election approaches.

And voters' level of anger has a significant impact on their preferences for the next president, the Pew Research Center poll out Monday showed.

Only 19% of Americans say they can trust government always or most of the time, close to the lowest level in the past 60 years, according Pew.

Republicans on average, though, are much more likely to express dissatisfaction with government than Democrats. They are nearly three times as likely to say they are "angry" with it, at 32% of Republicans and GOP leaners compared with 12% of Democrats and Democratic leaners.

...GOP front-runner Donald Trump fares far better among Republicans who identify as angry than among those who do not.
The Republican Establishment is freaking out that their party has been taken over by an angry mob of racists and bigots too stupid to, or interested in, discerning between objective truth and blatant lies. The Republican Party Establishment made this bed; now they can try sleeping in it. Yesterday Chuck Todd dubbed Trump the post-truth 2016 candidate. As he acknowledges, "almost all presidential candidates exaggerate, dissemble, take statements out of context and, yes, lie. But from the start of Donald Trump's presidential campaign (remember Mexican rapists?), he has taken this to a level we haven't seen before in American politics."

And Trump has dragged the whole GOP Deep Bench down the rat-hole with him. Hillary may defend herself from Bernie allies mentioning she is taking bucketfuls of Dark Money from Wall Street predators by claiming you can't compete without this kind of corrupting cash. But the the Republicans-who-are-not-Trump are saying the same thing about not being able to compete against Trump without lying. Politifact ratings on the percent of statements by presidential candidates that are "true" or "mostly true" give you an idea about what has happened to the GOP in the Age of Trump. From most honest to least honest, you'll notice the most "traditional" politicians are least likely to lie and the least traditional are... well, compulsive liars or, in Dr. Ben's and Trump's words, "pathological liars":
Bernie- 53%
Hillary- 50%
Jeb- 46%
Chris Christie- 41%
Rubio- 38%
Lindsey Graham- 34%
Fiorina- 28%
Ted Cruz- 21%
Trump- 7%
Dr. Ben- 4%
Do those numbers startle you? They should, especially those of Ted Cruz, a United States Senator. Only one statement out of 5 that Cruz makes is even "mostly" true. The chances of Ted Cruz saying something true are, remote. And he's five times more honest than Dr. Ben! Let these numbers sink in. PPP found a different, perhaps more amusing, way to look at this pretty disturbing phenomenon. For their holiday survey they asked participants nationally, and from both parties, which candidate for president would be most likely to say something inappropriate at the table and ruin Thanksgiving Dinner. Trump got more votes than all the other candidates combined!
Trump- 46%
Hillary- 22%
Bernie- 7%
Dr. Ben- 6%
Jeb- 6%
Ted Cruz- 4%
Rubio- 1%
Several things apart from the obvious were clear: no one wants a gross slob like Chris Christie at their Thanksgiving dinner table; few people understand exactly what Ted Cruz is; and people really do see Marco Rubio as an innocuous, frightened little boy. Asked who they would most like having over for Thanksgiving dinner, most people chose Hillary (24%), Dr. Ben (18%), Trump the TV star (17%) and Bernie (11%). No one else was in double digits. Could you imagine having to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with Carly Fiorina or Mike Huckabee or Rick Santorum?

This morning's Washington Post featured OpEds from Dana Milbank-- The GOP is running out of time to find the anti-Trump-- and Michael Gerson-- Republicans are still in ‘denial mode’ over Donald Trump-- that both emphasize the GOP Establishment hand-wringing over the FrankenTrump monster they've created. "Trump," Gerson reminds them, "has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views-- signaling that it is okay to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public. So in Tennessee, the chairman of the state legislature’s GOP caucus has called for the mobilization of the National Guard to round up Syrian refugees and put them in camps. Many Republicans are now on record saying that Islam is inherently violent and inconsistent with constitutional values (while often displaying an ironic and disturbing ignorance of those values)... As denial in the GOP fades, a question is laid upon the table: Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?"

Milbank was less sympathetic: "Republican elites are panicky about the durable dominance of Trump (and to a lesser extent Ben Carson) in the presidential race. They are right to worry, but I don’t feel much sympathy. Trump is a problem of their own creation. Trump gets ever more base in his bigotry-- and yet, with few and intermittent exceptions, rival candidates, party leaders and GOP lawmakers decline to call him out. So he continues to rise, benefiting from tacit acceptance of his intolerance... The longer Republican leaders take to find their anti-Trump voices, the more their quiescence becomes an endorsement." Today, by the way, the Republican establishment seems to be about to try Christie-- at least according to shameless establishment mouthpieces like Joe Scarborough and Michael Barbaro. That should be a laugh and a half. Funnier than even the deflated Kasich trial balloon of a few weeks ago... or are they going to try that again too?

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Nuclear Waste In Lake Michigan? Ask Fred Upton


Five Republican U.S. Representatives from Michigan, and all Michigan’s Democratic Representatives and Senators just sent a letter to Justin Trudeau, the new Prime Minister of Canada. The letter urges the Canadian government to deny Ontario Power Generation permits to build a giant nuclear waste facility underground, less than a mile from Lake Huron. Nuclear waste remains toxic for tens of thousands of years. No matter how geologically secure they say the site may be, this is too close.

Congressman Fred Upton, the shady chairman of the House Energy Committee (who just happens to have taken $789,350 from Big Oil and Gas) refused to sign the bipartisan letter with his Republican colleagues. He is, literally, placing the Great Lakes in danger in order to accommodate the short term needs of his campaign donors. It's the way Fred Upton rolls.

So far this cycle alone Upton has received $79,500 in campaign contributions from Oil and Gas and more from nuclear companies. He’s been giving private profits precedence over environmental security for so long, it seems it has just become habit.

Our Great Lakes are a national treasure and particularly a treasure in Michigan; it’s our duty to protect them. And we need to make polluters pay for the costs of their pollution, something Upton has always opposed with special vehemence.

The environment can’t speak for itself, but it doesn’t forget. We need to hold legislators like Congressman Upton accountable for undermining our collective future. And that has a lot to do with why Blue America has endorsed the progressive Democrat, Paul Clements, running for his southwest Michigan district seat. A life-long environmentalist, Paul is committed to environmental sustainability. He co-chairs the Working Group on Climate Change at Western Michigan University, and he has published and spoken widely on the ethics and politics of climate change.

Last year Paul was endorsed by the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, and the Climate Hawks.This week he told us that "In Congress I will work for American leadership in addressing climate change. Next month's conference in Paris won't take us nearly far enough. Without much stronger leadership we can't stop warming at 2 degrees, and maybe this is too high. But dealing with the effects of climate change will also present unprecedented international challenges, and, frankly, our international institutions are woefully unprepared. Without better cooperation we will degenerate into a fortress mentality. I will lead in rising to the challenge."

This is looking like a good year for progressives and clean energy advocates in Michigan. Please consider digging deep and contributing to Paul's grassroots campaign,which you can do here.

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How To Learn What's In A Congressman's Heart And Soul-- Let's Take Rubio And Loebsack


That's Matrco Rubio's first national TV ad and it shows clearly he's not ceding any ground to Trump or Cruz when it comes to fascist bent the Republicans have been increasingly adopting in recent weeks. He's going all the out with a tried-and-true, simplistic scaremongering strategy in the slick 30-second spot, A Civilizational Struggle.
"What happened in Paris could happen here. There is no middle ground. These aren't disgruntled or disempowered people. These are radical terrorists who want to kill us, because we let women drive, because we let girls go to school... There can be no arrangement or negotiation. Either they win or we do."
Has a certain appeal that should do well among Republican primary voters. The scaremongering and appeal to those kinds of base, primitive instincts normally work less well among Democrats. Recall, though, how we mentioned last night that corrupt conservative New Dem Pete Aguilar (CA) bragged about his San Bernardino constituents being so dumb that he had to vote against showing a sense of humanity towards the thoroughly-vetted Syrian refugees fleeing Daesh terrorists. In that same post last night we re-published an open letter from Bob Lord to another craven and cowardly New Dem, Arizona reactionary Kyrsten Sinema. It's worth going back and re-reading, especially if you're one of her constituents from Mesa and Tempe and the parts of Chandler and Scottsdale she represents.

Bob Lord isn't the only Democrat disappointed to have found out his Democratic congressperson has the character of a use-up tissue. Jonathan Freeman is from southeast Iowa, an area represented by Democratic centrist Dave Loebsack, a man who we've watched grow increasingly conservative and increasingly less courageous since he was first elected in 2006, running as a progressive against long-time Republican incumbent Jim Leach. Freeman, a HuffPo contributor, who has always supported Loebsack, explained why he won't be voting for him again.
Once upon a time, this great nation welcomed refugees and immigrants by the thousands. Great-grandparents on both sides of my family came to this country in search of better lives. A hundred years ago, they faced plenty of discrimination (if not outright abuse), but they raised our family to be contributing members of society. Eastern Europeans-- and more specifically, Jews-- were one of the "Syrians" of the day, mistrusted and feared by many "native" Americans.

Well before Donald "Someone's Doing the Raping" Trump, plenty of others have stated any number of silly things about immigrants and refugees. But the recent vote in the US House of Representatives on HR 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, is a disgrace to the 47 Democrats who voted for it and should be nothing short of appalling to the friends and family of every American does not originate here-- which, by my calculations, means everybody except Native Americans.

Now, it's not surprising that Congress would do something disgraceful or appalling-- that's why their popularity tends to hover at 10-14 percent. My own Congressman is a very nice fellow named Dave Loebsack, a college professor who rode the Democratic wave into office in 2006 by beating a 15-term veteran, Jim Leach, whom many considered a good guy. Congressman Loebsack-- or Dave, as he likes to go by-- is not the greatest politician, which is definitely not a bad accusation in today's hyper-political environment.

Given Dave's "aw-shucks" approach, it was more than a little surprising six months ago to see that he voted to gut some of the provisions of Dodd-Frank, a signature piece of Democratic legislation. He even told me when we bumped into each other how he figured that many people in our home district were not happy with him because of that vote. But my surprise at that vote pales in comparison to the shock, disappoint, and even shame of Congressman Loebsack's vote this week supporting right-wing Republican efforts to stop the few Syrian refugees being allowed into the United States from finding safety from their imploading land.

The United States has a tremendously rigorous process to admit refugees, one that requires jumping many bureaucratic hoops over the course of many, many months. Since 9/11, roughly three quarters of a million refugees have been admitted to our country; less than five individuals have had ties to terrorism. But the reaction to the current refugee crisis that we are seeing from politicians and sadly, our fellow citizens, has nothing to do with facts. It has everything to do with fear.

An America of fear-- whether driven by misinformation, ignorance, or racism-- is neither the America I grew up in nor love. This is America at its worst: an America that imprisoned its fellow countrymen for being of Japanese or German decent; an America that turned away Jews on the SS St Louis so that half of them could be slaughtered in concentration camps. This is an American reacting from a place of emotional weakness, and Congressmen Loebsack voted for it.

Over the years, I have supported Dave by voting for him in every election and occasionally donated to his campaigns not much, but something. The bottom line is that while I did not always agree with him, I always believed that in his heart of hearts, Dave and I shared a common set of Democratic values. After the vote this week, I am confident that Dave does not hold my Democratic values-- and I have serious doubts that he holds any American values at all. I will be hoping that a true Democrat runs against Dave in his primary, and in that event, they will have my vote and support. Since nothing thrills me more than voting, I refuse to let Dave's reprehensible vote stop my voting. Just because Dave has chosen to abandon his values does not mean I will do the same-- in fact his actions will encourage me to write in "None of the Above." Perhaps others can try the same-- let's see what we can change together.
IA-02 is a pretty Democratic district. The PVI is D+4 and Obama beat McCain 57-41% in 2008 and beat Romney 56-43% in 2012. Last year, when the Iowa Democratic Party was all but wiped out Loebsack managed to hold onto his seat with 142,566 votes (52.5%) against Mariannette Miller-Meeks' 129,157 (47.5%). Next year he'll be facing state Senator Mark Chelgren of Ottumwa who beat Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman in 2010 and whose district is entirely inside IA-01 (Davis, Jefferson, Van Buren, and Wapello counties). Although IA-02 has a Democratic registration advantage (160,562 registered Democrats to 136,215 Republicans), the 182,047 independents decide elections there.

As Nick Kristof wrote in his NY Times OpEd, The Statue of Liberty Must Be Crying With Shame, this weekend, "as anti-refugee hysteria sweeps many of our political leaders, particularly Republicans, I wonder what they would have told a desperate refugee family fleeing the Middle East. You’ve heard of this family: a carpenter named Joseph, his wife, Mary, and their baby son, Jesus." Yes, "particularly Republicans"... but not exclusively so. Loebsack was one of the 47 Democrats-gone-bad, but one of only 5 who, along with Janice Hahn (CA), Marcy Kaptur (OH), Louise Slaughter (NY) and Rick Nolan (MN), purports to be a progressive.

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Are You Glad Hillary Now Says She's Backing More Of The Progressive Agenda Bernie Has Been Formulating For 30 Years?


Last night I mentioned that a progressive Member of Congress who had just endorsed Hillary's very establishment campaign instead of Bernie's-- with which he is much more ideologically aligned-- had written that he believes "that Bernie has pushed her far enough to the left now that she is supporting more progressive policies that help regular people and the poor. (Keystone and the TPP were huge for me.)" OK, although I wonder what will happen if she becomes president and no longer cares what Bernie and progressives have to say. Will she revert back to her decidedly non-progressive self-- turning even more Democrats off to the political process? Meanwhile, though, political expediency has her adopting one Bernie position-- or a variation on it-- after another. This weekend she actually told South Carolina Democrats that she would break up the big banks if needed. Really? The people who have spent $36,621,366 on her political career since 2000? I guess "if needed" could always come in handy as an excuse down the road.
The Democratic primary front-runner told Democrats gathered at a rally in North Charleston that she has the "toughest" proposals for dealing with Wall Street. She says would "break up the big banks" if necessary and hold top financial executives accountable.

"I go after not just the banks," Clinton told the crowd, pledging a tough approach to regulating the industry despite receiving tens of millions in speaking fees, donations to the family foundation and campaign cash from Wall Street in her career. "I go after the hedge funds, big insurance companies, shadow banking."
You may recall that a couple weeks ago ole Hillary refused to commit to the progressive approach of expanding Social Security or to even refuse to take an unequivocal stand against future cuts that her Wall Street and New Dem allies are clamoring for.

Meanwhile, Bernie, speaking at a senior center in Manchester Saturday told voters that he and Hillary have a disagreement on Social Security. And, wouldn't you know it-- BOOM! She's got a proposal to roll out. It's not even a bad one-- though it's kind of sad seeing a good policy idea like caregiver credit being used to provide political cover for her refusal to agree to expand benefits across the board or to just come out and say she will not abide the future cuts to Social Security conservative are demanding. Politico was the first to break the story of her newest attempt to persuade voters she's almost as good as Bernie on something.
Clinton is proposing a new tax break for those caring for elderly or disabled family members.

At a campaign event in Iowa today, she will outline a plan to offer a $6,000 tax credit toward costs associated with providing long-term care to aging parents and grandparents, a campaign aide said.

She will also propose expanding Social Security benefits for caregivers, saying many see their benefits reduced when they must take time off from work to care for ailing relatives. That's because Social Security benefits are based on their top 35 years of annual earnings. The plan would provide a credit toward the benefits for caregivers who are out of the workforce.

" ... [A]s baby boomers age, more and more families will need to provide care for or will need care from loved ones," her campaign said. "Many family members, most often spouses and adult daughters, spend time out of the workforce, cut back on hours, or use personal days, vacation, and family time to provide needed care."

Another element of the plan would expand respite care, which provides substitute health care when the main caregiver needs a break from his or her duties. Clinton wants to invest $100 million in the initiative over 10 years. She also said she would launch a program to improve the wages of professional child care and health care workers.

The entire plan would cost $10 billion over a decade, the campaign estimates. It would not add to the debt, the campaign said, because it would be financed with payfors Clinton has previously proposed.

It is the latest in a series of narrowly targeted tax breaks Clinton has proposed, and comes as she battles rival Bernie Sanders over whether any taxes on the middle class should be increased.
She doesn't mention, as far as I can tell, how anyone is going to "prove" to the IRS that someone is meriting the tax break. A doctor's note? Serious about a progressive agenda? You can contribute to Bernie's grassroots campaign here or just click on the Bernie thermometer.

Goal Thermometer

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Blowback, Money & the Washington War Party


U.S. prisoner at Abu Ghraib in Iraq

by Gaius Publius

In a provocative piece called, "Blowback -- the Washington War Party's Folly Comes Home to Roost," David Stockman asks, in effect — "Does America have the wars it seeks and deserves?"

Whatever your answer might be, or mine, I think Stockman's answer is Yes, and he details that answer in an excellent looking-back and looking-forward essay about the U.S. and its Middle East "involvement." I have excerpted several sections below, but the whole is worth a full top-to-bottom read.

Before we turn to Stockman's points, though, I just want to highlight two semi-hidden ideas in his essay. One is about money. What Stockman calls the "War Party" in Washington is really the bipartisan Money Party, since the largest-by-far pile of cash looted from the federal budget (in other words, from taxpayers) goes to fund our military and its suppliers and enablers. Which means that most of it is stolen and diverted in some way. Which means that those who do the stealing have a lot of "skin in the game" — the game that keeps the money flowing in the first place.

Recall that what's now called the Money Party was what Gore Vidal called the "Property Party":
“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
Which means the Washington War Party is a bipartisan gig. Thus our bipartisan wars, which for Stockman answers the first part of the imputed question above. Yes, America does have the wars it seeks.

But that's just the first part — what about wars it "deserves"? Do Americans really want these wars? Does the D.C.-based "war party" have popular backing? You've probably guessed the answer just reading the news, but for the most recent, post-Paris evidence, consider this:
Exclusive: After Paris, Americans want U.S. to do more to attack Islamic State - poll

A majority of Americans want the United States to intensify its assault on the Islamic State following the Paris attacks, but most remain opposed to sending troops to Iraq or Syria, where the militant group is based, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
The poll makes clear that Americans don't want to send in troops (yet), at least most don't. But that just means we're happy with more bombs, drones and missiles fired into streets and villages filled with potential "collateral damage" — also knows as victims,  also known as "future U.S.-hating terrorists."

If the American war-making machine, both the in-government part and the out-of-government part, wants these wars ... and if the American people want our war machine to prosecute them ... well, these do seem to be wars that America both seeks and, sadly, deserves — because frankly, it doesn't fall to me to say my fellow Americans shouldn't have what they seek.

To be clear — I believe my fellow Americans should not have what they seek when they seek their own suffering and pain. I have that great a sense of compassion. But I would not say that, any more than I would say to my drunken uncle, "Time to stop." He's not going to stop, so why spend time asking him? It won't hurt less to watch, whether you ask or not. 

But you and I, we can talk about the truth. And the truth is, all of our Middle East involvement is a deadly exercise, deadly to us — and it will end in tears, our own. Now Stockman to say why.

Blowback & the Washington War Party's Folly

I called Stockman's essay a look back as well as a look forward. The look back produces this (Stockman's emphasis):
Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. ...

As it turned out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.

So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (CIA, State, AID etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.

In a word, the real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.
Yes, there was a day, in the lives of many of us in fact, when peace threatened to break out. But that didn't last long:
Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committ[e]es, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.

As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.

But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989; and they would not be marauding the West today save for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and mendacity of Imperial Washington.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Stockman says plainly:
That the middle east and the Arab/Islamic world in particular is now a burned out zone of failed states and an incubator of barbaric religious and sectarian fanaticism is because Imperial Washington made it that way.

It did so under the banner of two stunningly false predicates. ...
Those "false predicates" are as illuminating to consider as they are surprising.

Is the U.S. Military the Cure for High Oil Prices?

The first false predicate is one that goes back to Henry Kissinger, that the Fifth Fleet, guarding the Persian Gulf, is necessary to free the world from high oil prices.
One of these was the long-standing Washington error that America’s security and economic well-being depends upon keeping an armada in the Persian Gulf in order to protect the surrounding oilfields and the flow of tankers through the straits of Hormuz.

That doctrine has been wrong from the day it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 42 years since then have proven in spades that its doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market, not the Fifth Fleet.

Every tin pot dictatorship from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Saddam Hussein, to the bloody-minded chieftains of Nigeria, to the purportedly medieval Mullahs and fanatical Republican Guards of Iran has produced oil—-and all they could because they desperately needed the revenue.

For crying out loud, even the barbaric thugs of ISIS milk every possible drop of petroleum from the tiny, wheezing oilfields scattered around their backwater domain. So there is no economic case whatsoever for Imperial Washington’s massive military presence in the middle east, and most especially for its long-time alliance with the despicable regime of Saudi Arabia [emphasis Stockman's].
There's much more about this, going back to our 1953 CIA coup against Iran's democratically elected leader Mosaddegh, which "installed the monstrous Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne and thereby inaugurated 25 years of plunder and Savak terror." Stockman then ably traces the history through the First Gulf War to today.

If you read this section, note that the justification for the First Gulf War, and indeed for the existence of the "state" of Kuwait itself, makes no sense. A taste: "Kuwait wasn’t even a country; it was a bank account sitting on a swath of oilfields surrounding an ancient trading city that had been abandoned by Ibn Saud in the early 20th century."

The bottom line about "high oil prices" is this — because every greedy SOB sitting on an oil field wants to monetized it, the market will float on a sea of oil and never be starved of it. For a climatologist, that's a disaster, but for oil prices, not so bad. It's why oil — not gasoline, but oil — is so cheap today. The Saudis won't, or can't, stop selling it, nor can anyone else (like ISIS).

Is Regime Change in America's Best Interest?

The second predicate Stockman fingers as a perp in our constant addiction to Middle East adventurism is the (hubristic, in my view) belief that regime change is in our best interest:
Right then and there came the second erroneous predicate. To wit, that “regime change” among the assorted tyrannies of the middle east was in America’s national interest, and that the Gulf War proved it could be achieved through a sweeping interventionist menu of coalition diplomacy, security assistance, arms shipments, covert action and open military attack and occupation.

What the neocon doctrine of regime change actually did, of course, was to foster the Frankenstein that became ISIS. In fact, the only real terrorists in the world which threaten normal civilian life in the West are the rogue offspring of Imperial Washington’s post-1990 machinations in the middle east.
While that may seem obvious, Stockman includes a stunning particular, the fact that the remnants of the out-of-work Saddam-era Iraqi officer class, and countless others, were being actively radicalized by the U.S. itself:
[E]ven as Washington was crowing about the demise of Zarqawi, the remnants of the Baathist regime and the hundreds of thousands of demobilized Republican Guards were coalescing into al-Qaeda in Iraq, and their future leaders were being incubated in a monstrous nearby detention center called Camp Bucca that contained more than 26,000 prisoners.
Here's part of a quote from a U.S. military officer who visited Camp Bucca (emphasis mine):
"You never see hatred like you saw on the faces of these detainees," [former US Army officer, Mitchell] Gray remembers of his 2008 tour. "When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, 'If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.'"

What Gray didn't know -- but might have expected -- was that he was not merely looking at the United States' former enemies, but its future ones as well. According to intelligence experts and Department of Defense records, the vast majority of the leadership of what is today known as ISIS, including its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did time at Camp Bucca. ...
Camp Bucca was an American terrorist factory. America has a number of terrorist factories around the world.

A U.S. terrorist factory in Cuba (source)

Note that this isn't an indirect connection to current ISIS leadership, but a direct one. These men aren't connected with current ISIS leadership. They are current ISIS leadership. Stockman discusses how L. Paul Bremmer, Bush's "proconsul" in Iraq, threw them out of work when he disbanded the Iraqi army (almost on day one), guaranteeing an era of Shiite revenge-taking against Saddam's former Sunni-led secular regime. These men were the victims of both U.S. punishment and Shiite vengeance. They were, and are, also well trained military leaders. Not the best combination, if you're interested in a peaceful outcome.

Why Are We Fighting in Syria?

Which leads to the last piece of this puzzle. ISIS — for now, but not forever — occupies the terrorized towns of Sunni Iraq, kept there because we keep them supported and in power with our relentless hate-inducing attacks. But why are we in Syria? The answer has to do with, yes, our addiction to "regime change," but also our "friends" in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It turns out that what we want isn't what they want. Are they helping us, or are we helping them?

The newly proclaimed Islamic State also filled the power vacuum in Syria created by its so-called civil war. But in truth that was another exercise in Washington inspired and financed regime change undertaken in connivance with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The latter were surely not interested in expelling the tyranny next door; they are the living embodiment of it. Instead, the rebellion was about removing Iran’s Alawite/Shiite ally from power in Damascus and laying gas pipelines to Europe across the upper Euphrates Valley.
I'm afraid this will not end until the major players stop financing and prosecuting it — meaning us.

How Will This End?

It's easy to see that this ends in either of two ways. It will end when we stop sending money and arms into the region — i.e., when we impoverish our wealth-drunk arms industry and starve the fighting — or it will not end.

Which means, it will lead to continuous tears, American ones. And when, again, you factor in the continuing spiral toward chaos guaranteed by continuing global warming, we may look back and say, "Paris was our generation's Sarajevo." It's hard to stop a war when only a nation's people don't want it. It's almost impossible to stop a war when the people unite with the wealthy to promote it.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, war, and speeches each gave recently. But that's for later.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. If you'd like to help him, click here. This page also lists every progressive incumbent and candidate who has endorsed him. You can adjust the split in any way you wish.)


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