Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Another Couple Of "Sarah Palins Of The South"-- Tough Love/Soft Hate


With right-wing congressman Bill Cassidy running for Mary Landrieu's Senate seat, his Baton Rouge-based House district looks very attractive to an awful lot of candidates. It's a grotesquely gerrymandered (i.e., ethnically-cleansed) deep red district with a PVI of R+21. Obama won 31% there against McCain and 32% against Romney. In 2012 the Democrats didn't even bother putting up a candidate against Cassidy. There are 18 Republicans in the open primary but an inordinate amount of coverage has been about the campaign of former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards.

The video above, though, is from one of the leading Republicans in the race, Lenar Whitney, a crackpot who isn't given much of a chance to break through the clutter. Still, she is one of the 7 candidates to have raised six figures. This is how much each had raised by June 30 and how much cash they had on hand
Garret Graves ®- $814,932/$722,071
Paul Dietzel ®- $429,201/$111,500
Craig McCulloch ®- $257,176/$93,368
Dan Claitor ®- $220,944/$128,617
Edwin Edwards (D)- $210,476/$141,342
Trey Thomas ®- $135,387/$82,043
Lenar Whitney ®- $123,173/$104,952
David Wasserman from Cook is not known for hyperbole, let alone for hysteria. He analyzes House races for the Cook Report but his report on Whitney in this morning's Washington Post was pretty hilarious. This isn't what anyone would expect to hear from Wasserman: "As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years, both to get to know them and evaluate their chances of winning. I’ve been impressed by just as many Republicans as Democrats, and underwhelmed by equal numbers, too. Most are accustomed to tough questions. But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be." But that was how Lenar Whitney was introduced to a national audience.
Whitney, a graduate of Nicholls State University who is running for Louisiana’s open 6th District, owned a dance studio in Houma, La., for 34 years and also worked in sales for small telecommunications and oilfield equipment companies. She clearly relishes poking Democrats in the eye, cites Minnesota’s Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) as a political role model, and takes kindly to the nickname “Palin of the South.”

Whitney has only raised $123,000 to date (fourth in the GOP field), but she has sought to boost her profile and appeal to conservative donors with a slickly made YouTube video entitled “GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX” (84,000 views so far). In the video, Whitney gleefully and confidently asserts that the theory of global warming is the “greatest deception in the history of mankind” and that “any10-year-old” can disprove it with a simple household thermometer.

Whitney’s brand of rhetoric obviously resonates with some very conservative Louisiana voters who view President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency as big-city elitists directly attacking the state’s energy industry and their own way of life. And she would hardly be the first “climate denier” elected to Congress. But it’s not unreasonable to expect candidates to explain how they arrived at their positions, and when I pressed Whitney repeatedly for the source of her claim that the earth is getting colder, she froze and was unable to cite a single scientist, journal or news source to back up her beliefs.

To change the subject, I asked whether she believed Obama was born in the United States. When she replied that it was a matter of some controversy, her two campaign consultants quickly whisked her out of the room, accusing me of conducting a “Palin-style interview.”

It was the first time in hundreds of Cook Political Report meetings that a candidate has fled the room.
Know Nothing imbeciles are in no short supply on the fringes of instinctual, brainwashed right-wing populism. If deranged KKK-oriented gun-totin' pastors Jody Hice and Mark Walker can win primaries in Georgia and North Carolina against Establishment faves, anything goes, right? And a job in Congress is made to look so easy by folks like Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, Virginia Foxx, Steve King… Anybody could do it! And look how far Palin has gotten! Lenar Whitney may come off like a witless, brainwashed zombie who spent too much time listening to Fox and Hate Talk Radio, but another GOP queen of clowns in the making, Laura Ingraham, isn't just a victim of Hate Talk Radio's massive epidemic of ignorance; it's her stock in trade. And every since she started taking credit for defeating Eric Cantor, there has been speculation on the fringes that she would eventually run for something. Last week, London's Sunday Times DC bureau chief, Toby Harnden, filed a story explaining Ingraham to British readers by comparing her to their own neo-fascist party, UKIP, a comparison Ingraham understood… and embraced.

[S]he is fast becoming the most powerful conser­vative voice denouncing any compromise on immigration and call­ing for the deportation of the Latin American children who are amassing on the southern border of the United  States.

At a raucous campaign event in Nashville last week, Ingraham accused President Barack Obama of "fomenting a crisis at our border that seeks to undermine the very fabric of American rule of law, our sovereignty, our national identity."

Her most withering contempt was aimed at her own party’s estab­lish­ment-- the "good old boys" and "go along to get along Republican politicians doing backroom backslapping" with Democrats, being as eff­ective as "beige wallpaper."

Ingraham has already claimed the scalp of Representative Eric Cantor, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, by headlining a massive rally that helped to propel his obscure opponent to a shock victory in a party primary last month.

Her appearance in Nashville was on behalf of Joe Carr, a rough-edged candidate from Tennessee who has support from the grassroots Tea Party movement. He is standing on a "no amnesty" platform to oust Senator Lamar Alexander, a genteel deal-maker on Capitol Hill, in an August 7th primary. [The most recent polling show's Ingraham's nut-bag candidate losing by 30 points.]

…Ingraham, 50, has been branded a xenophobe because of the stand she has taken. The satirical comedian Stephen Colbert recently described her approach as "a tough love-- or a very soft hate."

She said accusations of racism were a sign of panic among her opponents. "I stand a lot more for the suffering of the American people of every colour or background than they can ever claim to," she told the Sunday Times.

"Plus, the last time I checked, I had three children living in my home from pretty difficult backgrounds, one adopted from Guatemala and two from Russia. I don’t wear that on my sleeve but, OK, I don’t like Latino people? It’s ridi­culous. I cared enough about the region to rescue someone who was abandoned there."

Carr, who is lagging in the polls and is vastly outspent by Alexander, said Ingraham’s support could be crucial. "For us to get her endorsement is huge. It’s real important when you get somebody with a microphone that big. For crying out loud, her show’s on more than 300 stations," he said.

Matt Studd, 57, a car haulage driver and Tea Party activist who was wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Ameri­can flag and images of Iwo Jima and the US constitution, said that the intervention of Ingraham, a Catholic convert, had energised conservative voters: "She’s awesome. She stands for the traditional Christian core values that we know she holds dear."

Republican leaders support centrist incumbents such as Alexander because they believe it is the easiest way to regain control of the Senate in November’s mid-term elections. Candidates such as Carr, they fear, would alienate moderate voters.

Ingraham said this outlook was akin to living in the past, explaining that she sensed a profound shift in American politics with a new element-- similar to Ukip in Britain-- emerging on the right.

"There are Tea Party elements but it has kind of an independent, anti-corporatist streak, a populist strain running through it. There’s a younger sensibility too," she said.

Republican grandees were fool­ish to believe that allowing illegal immi­grants to stay was a way to attract new voters, she added: "You make real headway in the Latino, black and immigrant communities not by selling a policy that would lower their wages and burden their communities, but by econo­mic rejuvenation. You have to be unafraid to say these things. UKIP's done that pretty well in Britain."

Ingraham hinted that her forays into Republican primary races this year could be the foundation for a political career of her own. "I've been approached by various people to get involved," she said. "I'm keeping an open mind about running for office in the future."
So if Ingraham runs for the House, where will she set up her circus tent? She lives in DC but she's from the Hartford, CT area. She could challenge popular Democrat John Larson there but the D+13 district gave Obama a 63-36% win over Romney and the last cycle saw Larson beat his GOP opponent, John Henry Decker 70-28%. Maybe they could debate Larson's resolution to honor Pope Francis, which radical right GOP bigots like Ingraham oppose. Or maybe she's smart enough to realize running in Connecticut isn't the way to go. Virginia is right down the road from her current home. The 3 districts in the DC suburbs, the 8th, 10th and 11th, are all very moderate and would be an awful fit for a kook like Ingraham. The 1st, 5th and 6th are more her style-- and they all have Republicans she could go after in primaries, respectively Rob Whitman, Robert Hurt and Bob Goodlatte. None of them is a moderate by any stretch of the imagination bit none of them is nearly extreme enough for Ingraham and her followers. And Goodlatte is a close ally of the hated Boehner and a co-sponsor of the resolution to honor Pope Francis that the extremists are all world up over.

Of course, Ingraham could run anywhere. She's a national figure-- like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Palin. They could all run-- form a third party or something. I'd like to see Ingraham run against a Blue Dog like John Barrow in Georgia. She'd beat him easily and her votes in Congress wouldn't be that much different than his anyway. And he's as dull as a doorknob and she would at least be entertaining, in the same way that Palin, Gohmert and Bachmann are entertaining.

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Man, what a dingbat ex-VA First Lady Mo McD is! Yes, the Dingbat Defense emerges as the McDonnells' secret weapon!


Wait, you didn't really want to see this clip about the McDonnell trial witness list, did you? Sorry, it was on the WaPo "McDonnell Trial" live-blog page, and I don't even have a living link for you. But consider, that's 32 seconds of your life you would never get back.

by Ken

Hey, you'd be peeved too if the phone in the cubicle opposite yours had been ringing all frigging day -- and that cubicle has been unoccupied now for almost a year! Not to mention all that stuff going on in, you know, Washington and, well, the world!

So I vowed that I was by God going to find a subject for my post this evening that for once wouldn't have me raging, goddammit! Naturally my pile of Stuff to Maybe Write About didn't include anything that fit that description, so I went fishing.• On some webpage -- don't ask me which -- I found this:

I don't know who Maksim Chmerkofskiy is, but he must be important. I gather he's someone who has appeared on Dancing With the Stars, and while I find it hard to imagine that anything connected with Dancing With the Stars could be important, still, maybe the news that Maksim, whoever he is, for darn sure won't be appearing on it again -- that could be sort of good news, no?

Okay, so there was this:

Well, then this caught my eye:

Except I realized that no, I truly don't wanna see how the stars of Seinfeld have aged, as witness the fact that in the end I didn't click through.


Virginia Is for Lovers: But alas, it seems it wasn't the storybook romance it appeared from the outside, the marriage of the Family Values Party's Governor Bob and Dingbat Mo.

Okay, this could work. Here's a real corker of a story from yesterday's courtroom drama. It seems that Mrs. Governor Bob "had a 'crush' on the charismatic executive who lavished gifts and cash on the couple." So you see, "She was not hatching a scheme with her husband to get rich by abusing the prestige of the governor’s office; rather, she was a woman in a broken marriage who craved attention."

Is this Mo McD a dingbat, or what?

Ohmygosh, shades of Martha Mitchell! It's the Dingbat Defense! Who doesn't love a good Dingbat Defense? We haven't been seeing it much lately. They still teach it in the law schools, don't they?

Okay, here's the story, and please, no smirking about the fact that it took three people to write:

Defense attorney: McDonnell marriage had ‘broken down’

By Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman and Laura Vozzella

RICHMOND — Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife on Tuesday unveiled an unorthodox defense to the federal corruption charges against them: Maureen McDonnell had a “crush” on the charismatic executive who lavished gifts and cash on the couple.

Maureen McDonnell’s intense — even romantic — interest in Jonnie R. Williams Sr. helps explain why she let him pay for expensive shopping trips and vacations for her and her family while she promoted a nutritional supplement he was trying to sell, defense attorneys said during opening statements. She was not hatching a scheme with her husband to get rich by abusing the prestige of the governor’s office; rather, she was a woman in a broken marriage who craved attention.

“Jonnie Williams was larger than life to Maureen McDonnell,” said William Burck, Maureen McDonnell’s lead defense attorney. “But unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to Maureen McDonnell.”

And the governor, his defense attorneys said, was an honest public servant who promised Williams nothing of consequence. They said he would take the witness stand to proclaim his innocence even if that required him to lay bare his family’s troubles and discuss his wife’s dealings with another man.


Glad you asked. Courtesy of today's WaPo live-blogging page, we've got our share of goodies.

We've had young Robert Ryan "Bobby" McDonnell on the stand, testifying how he thought of Jonnie R. Williams, the alleged corruptor of his parents, as a "mentor," and also how he thought the Rolex his mom gave his dad for Christmas -- a watch that in fact Jonnie R.W. had paid $6500 for -- was "a fake," "a knockoff."

We've had Jonnie R.W. himself on the stand, explaining about his company's strange history as it became intertwined with the story of the McDs' worsening financial situation. But much more fun are Jonnie's insights into Mo McD's Dingbat World. He told the story of the famous April 2011 New York shopping expedition, on which he accompanied the Virginia First Lady on. It seems Jonnie doesn't remember exactly how many items were bought, but one thing he surely does remember: “It went on for hours.” he said.

Which brings us to the jolly story of Dingbat Mo's dream of a schmatta from the rag shop of Oscar de la Renta:
A 'rain check' on an Oscar de la Renta dress

In a small restaurant near the lobby of the Four Seasons hotel in New York in 2009, businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. said he had his first sit-down meeting with the McDonnells, “just trying to establish a relationship” with the then-governor elect in what “happens to be a nice environment.”

There, too, was Brad Kroenig, a male model and friend of Williams. Williams testified that when he introduced Kroenig to then- Gov. Robert McDonnell’s wife Maureen, she began talking fashion — particularly what she would wear to her husband’s upcoming inauguration.

“She said, ‘You know, I have a problem with, I’ve got to come up with a dress to wear for the inauguration,” Williams said. He said she asked Kroenig if he had any connections in the fashion world who might be able to assist her.

Williams testified that he himself, though, was the one with the fashion connection — a good friend, he claimed, was the goddaughter of Oscar de la Renta. He testified he told Maureen he would help her with the dress, hoping that through his friend, he could line up a loaner from de la Renta.

The governor, Williams said, heard the exchange. But ultimately, the plan fell through. Williams said a lawyer in the governor’s office called him later and nixed the idea, to Maureen’s dismay.

“She wasn’t happy about it. She was disappointed,” Williams testified. “She said she would just take a rain check.”
But wait, let's go back to the story of that magic day 4/11/2011-- you remember, the shopping trip that "went on for hours":
Jonnie Williams has just finished explaining to the jury his April 2011 shopping trip with the then-first lady of Virginia. He said he got a call from Maureen McDonnell in April explaining that she and the governor were coming to New York and “we could go shopping now.”
Williams, recalling that he had earlier been told by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s counsel Jasen Eige that he could not purchase the first lady’s inauguration gown, said he responded, “Are you sure that’s okay?” he testified. She responded, “It’s okay now.”

So he said he arranged the day. Accompanied by her chief of staff Mary-Shea Sutherland and two police officers, Williams took Maureen McDonnell first to lunch at Bergdorf-Goodman. Then, the crew went to Oscar de la Renta, where he had made an appointment through a friend who was close to de la Renta. After that, they went to Louis Vuitton. Then, he testified, Maureen McDonnell requested to return to Bergdorf-Goodman for more shopping.
Okay, Jonnie R.W. also testified about Mrs. Governor Bob telling him about the McDs' severe financial woes, in a conversation that also included chitchat about Jonnie's company, and about her asking him for loans in the amount of $50K and $15K would sure come in handy for the McDs, and about Jonnie saying he really wanted to talk to the governor himself. ("I needed to make sure her husband knew about it. He’s the breadwinner in the house, and I’m not writing his wife checks without him knowing about it.")

However, there was no testimony -- Post-ie Matthew Zapotosky stresses -- about a quid pro quo connected to the loans. Well, that's okay then, right?


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Blue America End Of The Month Match For Shenna Bellows


One of Blue America's most dedicated supporters is offering an end-of-the-month match for Shenna Bellow's, the progressive Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat in Maine. As you can see, Blue America contributors have donated as much to Shenna's campaign as to all the other Senate candidates we are backing combined. But its going to take more than that to get her message out; she's up against Susan Collin's money machine. Collins is already swimming in $5,380,803, only 2% of it ($123,536) from small grassroots contributions. The rest is from wealthy donors and PACs. Our anonymous contributor has offered to match the first $600 of contributions to Shenna's campaign on this page today. In his own words:
How do U spell “U-P-S-I-D-E”? Answer: With Bellows’ shoe-leather & our matche$

I’m not waiting for the next quarter-end to throw another match on the Maine U.S. Senate campaign fire (this time, I’ll match the next $600 contributed to Shenna Bellows through this page between now and midnight of July 31).

How could I wait, when I read that, just before Bellows started her current walk of 350 miles through 63 Maine communities, the Portland Press Herald found that:

"64 percent of Mainers don’t know Bellows well enough to have a positive or negative opinion of her-- and that includes more than half the members of [the Democratic] party."

Today I saw that, for the next six weeks leading up to the Republican primary in neighboring New Hampshire, voters are going to see much criticism of favored candidate Scott Brown’s resistance to campaign spending reform, paid for by the non-partisan reform-seeking MayDay PAC. This will remind Mainers, who share several media markets with New Hampshire, that Maine incumbent Susan Collins deserves similar criticism. This will be "free media" for the Bellows campaign, as is local media coverage each day that she walks into another town and has another road-side chat. But walking shoes cost money, for Shenna and for her canvassers as they knock on doors and prepare to get out the vote.

As I also read in the same Portland Press Herald article:
"…if Mainers are telling the truth about how they feel about big money in politics and dysfunction in Washington, Collins’ perceived strength could work against her."
You probably never heard of Mattawamkeag. Less than 700 people live there, up in Penobscot County, where the Mattawamkeag River meets the Penobscot River. It's an old railroad town that connected the U.S. to Canada and a week ago it was on Shenna's walking tour. This is what she wrote about it:

"Mattawamkeag isn't famous, but it's the kind of town that exemplifies Maine: full of hard-working people and long-time residents who might disagree once in a while, but who all want to keep Maine the beautiful, livable place that it is. They don't care about party labels nearly as much as what their representatives can do to help make their lives better. And what I heard over and over at our busy town hall meeting on Thursday was that we need to create more jobs to bring young people back to rural areas. We need to keep Congress' hands off Social Security. We need to pay people a living wage again and stop shipping our jobs overseas with bad trade deals. I heard what I've been hearing throughout this walk: Washington isn't paying attention to rural America, and that neglect means a lot of families' way of life is disappearing. We don't have to let that happen."

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How Steve Israel Killed Red-To-Blue


Red to Blue looks like such a stinker for Steve Israel this cycle that he's started slipping in candidates in blue districts so his batting average won't look as atrocious on the morning of November 5th as anyone looking at his inept recruiting will surmise. A good red-to-blue program would have strong, progressive candidates running against Republicans in blue-leaning districts. Instead, Israel's personal agenda had him out-right protecting Republicans in many of these districts. These are all districts Democrats should be able to win but that Israel has screwed up-- as he chases impossible districts with revolting Blue Dogs and New Dems in deep red territory.
NY-02- Peter King (R+1)
MI-06- Fred Upton (R+1)
WA-08- Dave Reichert (R+1)
FL-13- Dave Jolly (R+1)
FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R+2)
WI-08- Reid Ribble (R+2)
WI-07- Sean Duffy (R+2)
MN-03- Erik Paulsen (R+2)
PA-07- Patrick Meehan (R+2)
PA-15- Charlie Dent (R+2)
MI-08- Mike Rogers (retiring) (R+2)
WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler (R+2)
NY-22- Richard Hanna (R+3)
CA-25- Buck McKeon (retiring) (R+3)
WI-01- Paul Ryan (R+3)
OH-10- Michael Turner (R+3)
In each of these winnable districts Israel has either screwed up the recruiting or refused to back the Democratic candidate-- when there is one. Unless the Democrats win these seats they cannot take back the House. Steve Israel isn't even competing in any of them. His reappointment by Nancy Pelosi after his catastrophic loss in 2012 (while Obama and the Senate Dems slaughtered the Republicans), must have been reason for the Republicans to be popping corks on cartons full of Dom Pérignon.

Israel has been tricking grassroots Democratic donors into sending money to the grotesquely corrupt DCCC in the hope that it would somehow prevent the GOP from impeaching President Obama. Pretty disgusting tactic to use against low-info but sincere Democrats who don't know what a scumbag Israel is! Instead of helping with impeachment, the money is being wasted on the horrible Red to Blue candidates with no chance to win. Tell me which of these districts is as good a bet as the districts Israel is aggressively ignoring up top:
NE-02- Brad Ashford (R+4)
MI-01- Jerry Cannon (R+5)
IN-02- Joe Bock (R+6)
MT-AL- John Lewis (R+7)
AR-02- Patrick Henry Hays (R+8)
OH-06- Jennifer Garrison (R+8)
KY-06- Elisabeth Jensen (R+9)
ND-AL- George Sinner (R+10)
WV-02- Nick Casey (R+11)
AR-01- Jackie McPherson (R+14)
WV-01- Glen Gainer (R+14)
AR-04- James Lee Witt (R+15)
And these are basically a bunch of garden variety conservatives with not an ounce of courageousness between them. It's a stretch to even call most of these candidates "Democrats." Many are anti-Choice, pro-NRA and anti-LGBT and the whole bunch of them are corporate shills who would be-- were they to win (none of them will)-- on the wrong side of the battle lines between the 1% and normal American families.

So, yes, Israel has been on track to having the worst batting average of any DCCC chairman in history. That makes perfect sense, since he clearly is the worst DCCC chairman in history. But to be able to argue otherwise after the debacle in November, he's slipped in a few ringers. Ringers? Yes, these are Democrats running in blue districts replacing Democrats who are leaving Congress. I'm saying they don't deserve support (Pat Murphy running to replace Bruce Braley certainly does), but that they have nothing to do with Red-to-Blue except to make the decrepit program look better when most of Israel's wretched actual Red-to-Blue recruits are defeated in November.
IA-01- Bruce Braley (D+5)
ME-02- Mike Michaud (D+2)
NY-04- Carolyn McCarthy (D+3)
And this is a good place to mention CA-31, the D+5 Inland Empire district that Israel screwed up in 2012 and handed to a Republican, Gary Miller, who knew he could never be reelected so decided to retire this year. Israel's pick for the race is a shady conservative ex-bank lobbyist, Pete Aguilar, who not only is a disguised Republican but has already endorsed a right-wing Republican against a Democrat in the neighboring district. Another great Steve Israel recruit (for John Boehner).

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Today's Democratic Party-- Soul On Ice


If you're from Connecticut, you probably remember Bill Curry as a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and a two-time nominee for governor. Most Americans who know who he is, though, know him for his role as a domestic policy advisor to Bill Clinton. I know the Clintons are very touchy about their sometimes tattered brand and I suspect Bill Curry won't be invited to the Medici Palace when Hillary takes over the world. A look at the piece he wrote Sunday for Salon-- My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the victory of Wall Street Democrats, makes you wonder if Curry will even be able to force himself to vote for her. When you say "Wall Street Democrats" you could be talking about Chuck Schumer or Joe Crowley or Steve Israel or Jim Himes but mostly you're talking about Hillary Clinton's soul being sold the the banksters.

According to Curry, the beginning of the end for the Democrats having a soul came in 1980, not because of a Reagan landslide per se, but because a crooked California congressman, Tony Coelho-- the Rahm Emanuel of his day-- was made DCCC chair. "It is inarguable," wrote Curry, "that Coehlo set Democrats on an identity-altering path toward ever closer ties to big business and, especially, Wall Street… In 1985 moderate Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore founded the Democratic Leadership Council, which proposed innovative policies while forging ever closer ties to business. Clinton would be the first Democratic presidential nominee since FDR and probably ever to raise more money than his Republican opponent."
Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.

…Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.

…In 2009, when he had the votes in Congress, Obama chose not to raise the minimum wage. Not till late 2013 did Democrats press the issue. Why then? As the New York Times reported, “they found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014.” If there’s a true populist revolt on the left it is as yet invisible to the naked eye.

Meanwhile the populist revolt on the right persists. In 2010 the Tea Party declared open season on GOP incumbents. It has since bagged quite a few. But Republicans don’t just fight over offices, they fight over ideas. It’s hard to track all the players in their endless policy scrum: Heritage, American Enterprise, Focus on the Family, Club for Growth, etc. Rand Paul pilfers Democratic issues like a fox stealing chickens while dynasty star Jeb Bush grapples with such timeless questions as whether there can be such a thing as a conservative social program.

Democrats aren’t even having a debate. Their one think tank, the Center for American Progress, serves their establishment. (Its founder, John Podesta, once Clinton’s chief of staff, is now counselor to Obama.) The last real primary challenge to a Democratic senator was in 2006 when Ned Lamont took on Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman. They say the GOP picks presidents based on seniority. Two years out, Republicans seem headed for a bloody knife fight while Hillary Clinton may be headed for the most decorous, seniority-based succession in either party’s history. (If she loses this time it will be to herself.)

If Democrats had caught populist fever they’d be reappraising their own orthodoxy and offing a few of their own incumbents. Owing only partly to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, they instead spend their days as Republicans do, in an endless search for new ways to help the rich pump money into politics. As public alienation deepens, polls show Democrats generally content with their party’s leaders. Of such stuff revolutions are not made.

...Republicans make their livings off the misappropriation of populism. Democrats by their silence assist them. Rand Paul is more forceful than any Democrat on privacy and the impulse to empire. The Tea Party rails loudest against big banks and corporate corruption. Even on cultural issues Democrats don’t really lead: Your average college student did more than your average Democratic congressman to advance gay marriage.

It’s hard for Democrats to see that their problems arise from their own mistakes. Obama called the 2008 recession “the worst since the Great Depression.” It wasn’t; by most measures-- jobs, wages, exports-- it was the worst since 1982. The valid comparison to the 1930s is that now as then all our vital institutions are broken. Our healthcare, banking, energy and transit systems are badly broken. Our defense policy is obsolete. Politics is a cesspool. Oddly, the one system working relatively well, public education, is the object of our only sustained reform effort.

Mistaking the nature of the crisis, Obama mistook massive fraud for faulty computer modeling and a middle-class meltdown for a mere turn of the business cycle. Had he grasped his situation he’d have known the most he could do by priming the pump would be to reinflate the bubble. Contrast him to FDR, who saw the systemic nature of his crisis. To banks Roosevelt offered only reform; financial help went to customers whose bad mortgages he bought up and whose savings he insured. By buying into Bush’s bailout, Obama co-signed the biggest check ever cut by a government, made out to the culprits, not the victims. As for his stimulus, it didn’t cure the disease and hefty portions of it smelled like pork.

Populist rage against the bailout and stimulus saved the Republican Party. In 2006 it had lost Congress, in 2008 the White House. Younger voters recoiled from its racial and religious politics. Middle-class decline had even devout Christians focused on family finances. That’s when Democrats handed over title to economic populism. Absent the bailout and stimulus it’s hard to imagine the Tea Party being born, Republicans retaking Congress or the government being so utterly paralyzed.

Liberals have spent the intervening years debating macroeconomic theory but macroeconomics can’t fathom this crisis. This isn’t just a slow recovery from a financial sector collapse, or damage done by debt overhang or Obama’s weak tea Keynesianism. We’re in crisis because of all our broken systems; because we still let big banks prey on homeowners, students, consumers and retailers; because our infrastructure is decrepit; because our tax code breeds inefficiency and inequality; because foreign interventions bled us dry. We’re in peril because our democracy is dying. Reviving it will take more than deficit spending and easy money. It will take reform, and before that, a whole new political debate.

…It pains us to watch Democrats bungle populist issues. We see Rand Paul corner the market on privacy and the scrutiny of defense budgets and wonder why no Democrat rises to expose his specious rantings. We yearn for a new politics but worry that our democracy, like that Antarctic ice shelf, has reached its tipping point. For things to improve Democrats must come up with better ideas and learn how to present them. So why don’t they?

One reason is that today’s Democrats think politics is all about marketing. While Republicans built think tanks Democrats built relationships with celebrity pollsters. When things go awry one pops up on TV to tell us how they “lost control of the narrative.” Asked to name a flaw, Obama invariably cites his failure to “tell our story.” Judging by his recent book, Tim Geithner thinks failing to tell his story was the only mistake he ever made. People don’t hate the bailout because Tim Geithner gives bad speeches. They hate it because their mortgages are still underwater.

Democrats must learn that policy precedes message; figure out what you believe, then how to tell people about it. A good idea advertises itself.

Democrats must also learn to argue history. They chortle when Michele Bachmann credits the founders with ending slavery or Sarah Palin forgets who Paul Revere rode to warn. Yet they let the right turn our founding myths into pulp propaganda with nary a reply from any but academics. In Unstoppable Nader enlists Jefferson, Adam Smith, Friederich Hayek and a raft of others to buttress his case and reclaim valuable ground.

Democrats think the power of money is greater than the power of ideas. Nader thinks that with the right ideas you can win even if outspent 100-to-1.  Every year Democrats further dilute their ideas to get the money they think they need to sell them. The weaker the ideas, the more ads they need, the more money it takes, the weaker the ideas. As you can tell from their ads, they’ve been at this a long time.

They don’t believe in ideas because they don’t believe in people. Obama wasted years dickering with Republicans who wished him only ill. He should have talked to the people and let them talk to the Republicans.

One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them. If they could walk away they might resume their relationship with Nader. Of course that won’t be easy.

Populism isn’t just liberalism on steroids; it too demands compromise. After any defeat, a party’s base consoles itself with the notion that if its candidates were pure they’d have won. It’s never true; most voters differ with both parties. Still, liberals dream of retaking Congress as the Tea Party dreams of retaking the White House: by being pure. Democratic elites are always up for compromise, but on the wrong issues. Rather than back GOP culture wars, as some do, or foreign wars, as many do, or big business, as nearly all do, they should back libertarians on privacy, small business on credit and middle-class families on taxes.

If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.
Curry is writing a book about populism now. When he writes his condemnation of the Democratic Party I hope he looks beyond the Clintons and scrapes a little Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steny Hoyer off the bottom of the barrel too.

Wall Street controls the House Dems through these shills

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Will Rick Weiland Start Covering Some Stone Temple Pilots Songs? They Were Huge In South Dakota


There is exactly zero chance the Democrats will take back the House in November. And there is not a single serious, non-senile person who will tell you that there is a chance. A few days ago we looked at some of the underlying reasons here, in an open letter to Nancy Pelosi: extraordinarily bad leadership. The situation in the Senate is not as hopeless, although the leadership at the DSCC this year is not what it was when Patty Murray ran the show in 2012 and swept the field. This cycle an abysmally weak and clueless chairman, Michael Bennet, is beyond worthless and takes orders from Guy Cecil, whose only concern is positioning himself for a top position in the Hillary For President campaign.

Cecil, who wanted defeated Blue Dog chairwoman Setphanie Herseth Sandlin to run for the open South Dakota Senate seat, tools his marbles and went him when prairie populist Rick Weiland scared her out of running in a Democratic primary she knew she would lose. (Her conservative vision is awesome for Beltway centrists like Bennet and Cecil-- but are not relatable for actual Democratic voters). So Cecil, Bennet and Harry Reid have refused to back Weiland and have hampered his fundraising in what should be a very competitive race. So far, Weiland, who has been endorsed by almost every Democratic senator except Reid and Bennet, has only taken in $1,094,098 (as opposed to Republican Mike Rounds' $3,716,986. The two other Republicans in the race-- running as independents-- haven't raised enough to do any real advertising. Former Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler has raised $107,797 and Republican former state Senator and Tea Party favorite Gordon Howie has raised $32,074. (Looks like the teabaggers want to waste all their money in Tennessee banging their heads against a wall trying to defeat ¡Lamar! when getting behind Howie actually could stop Mike Rounds for real.)

Last week the Koch brothers' shady politeical operation opened an office in Sioux Falls the same day the RNC started running anti-Weiland robocalls. The DSCC won't help but the Koch brothers and RNC is frightened enough to start spending money in this race. It's a race that could make the difference between the Democrats controlling the Senate or the Ted Cruz agenda being the Senate agenda. Is that what Guy Cecil wants? Is he so Machievellian that he thinks 2 years of gridlock horror between Obama and a GOP-controlled House and Senate will make voters eager ro elect Hillary? It's not worth it. Blue America has endorsed Rick Weiland's campaign and if you'd like to help save the Senate from the grasp of conservatives-- not something the DSCC is concerned with-- you can contribute here.

A few days ago I saw this note on Weiland's Facebook page:
A year ago, I hit the road with my daughter, my guitar and a map of South Dakota. A few well-meaning friends thought I was crazy to promise to visit every incorporated town in the state. Nine months later, we’d accomplished our goal. Now, we are doing it all over again. This campaign won't be won sitting on corporate jets. It will be won at lunch counters and co-ops on the back roads of South Dakota. Real people, real stories and incredible memories as I ask South Dakotans to help me take our country back from Big Money. We had such a good response on our first video; we’ve decided to make a second one. It’s called "Bring On the Road." Please forward this to your friends and family and anyone who will vote in this November’s Senate race.
The video is up top. I suspect the lyrics, based on the beloved Americana classic by Roger Miller, "King of the Road," aren't going to win over the suits in DC. This isn't they kind of message (or delivery) that someone like Michael Bennet or Guy Cecil can relate to (although I bet Weiland supporter Elizabeth Warren would get it without much effort):
They don't want a handout
But they want a fair shake
And they're tired of Big Money sayin'
Let them eat cake

My vote's not for sale or rent
I just won't listen to the one percent
I'm not campaignin' in corporate jets
I'm meetin' voters in luncheonettes
I used to be a country dj at the Rainbow Cattle Company and then the Outpost in San Francisco and back in the '70s I was an editor of Country Music Magazine and I have a sense that the song will go over real well among real people in South Dakota, no matter what Harry Reid thinks of it. Weiland: “I will never make a living singing country songs, but a lot of folks told me they enjoyed the first song and my friends and family enjoy hamming it up a bit. I said from the beginning, I was going to keep this campaign fun and not take myself too seriously."

OK, Rick, how about covering a road song by Scott Weiland next-- this one:

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Could you pass this new, harder high school equivalency test?


by Ken

Here in New York State there has been a rolling uproar since January, when the NYS Education Department began replacing the age-old General Educational Development (GED) test with what DNAinfo New York's Amy Zimmer describes as "a more rigorous test that's pegged to the new federal Common Core standards."
The 7.5-hour Test Assessing Secondary Completion, known as the TASC, covers far more challenging topics than the GED, requiring students to know everything from Newton's second law of motion to the reasons particular amendments were added to the Constitution.

On the writing section, students now have to read nonfiction articles and compare and contrast them — much more difficult than the old open-ended GED prompts, which asked students questions like what they would do with $1 million, [Bronx Youth Center instructor Renee] Davis said. 
Amy explains that the consternation continues to spread, since the rollout has spread the new test only gradually since the state began using it in January. And apparently the providers still haven't caught up with the need to prepare prospective test-takers for the test they'll be taking -- or to prepare instructors for the test they're preparing their students for.

Even the DNAinfo editors seem confused on the point this week, referring in the headlines to "the new GED." In fact, as Amy explains, there is a new GED, also tailored to Common Core, but the price has doubled, she says, to "roughly $120 per student," and since NYS "covers the full cost of the high school equivalency exam, it would have had to reduce the number of students each year that could take the new GED, created by the American Council on Education and testing giant Pearson." CTB/McGraw Hill's TASC is costing the state "just $52 per student."

Ironically, as Amy reported in March ("New 'GED' Test Will Be Harder Than Regents Exams, Critics Say"): "[B]ecause of backlash from elementary, middle and high school families and teachers, the state's Board of Regents recently decided to delay pegging high school graduation requirements to the Common Core until 2022 — five years later than the previously set target for the high school equivalency exam," meaning that "New Yorkers seeking a high school equivalency diploma will be held to a higher standard before high school students are."
For her latest report, Amy Zimmer spoke to Bronx Youth Center math instructor Renee Davis.
In her 15 years teaching GED prep classes, Davis never needed to teach such a high a level of math. Now, she not only needs to rewrite her curriculum to better prepare her students — she also has to brush up on her own skills.

"It's math that I have to re-teach myself," Davis said. "It went to a much higher level. It's hard."
And test-takers who have been taking TASC, without benefit of preparatory materials that are only now becoming widely available, have noticed the difference. Amy Zimmer began her March report:
Madalyn Vidal's head was spinning after she spent two-and-a-half hours Wednesday taking the first of three parts of the overhauled high school equivalency exam at the FEGS Bronx Youth Center.

"I walked out feeling not smart, like I needed a dictionary," said Vidal, 23, a Bronx resident who left school in 10th grade because of "family issues" but now hopes to go to community college. "My head was hurting. I don't know if it was me or the tension of trying to pass."
You'll note that there's a three-year phase-in of Common Core standards built into TASC, which is another thing that differentiates it from the new GED, which I gather is already Common Core-ready. I assume this means that TASC is going to get harder over the next couple of years.

But the scoring of the test apparently should come as some consolation to test-takers who walk out sure that they've failed. Amy reports:
The minimum passing score for the new test was determined by giving it to a group of recent high school graduates who likely also struggled with the more difficult questions, said Kevin Douglas, policy analyst for United Neighborhood Houses, which offers GED prep programs.

"It is likely that individuals can get fewer correct answers and still pass, relative to the percentage correct they would have needed on the GED," Douglas said.

"Early on this year, there were many reports of students failing to finish the test, or failing to return for the second day of testing because they were so discouraged," Douglas continued, "not realizing that even with what might have felt like a poor performance, they may have indeed passed if they persisted."


I don't dare tell you how long it took me to adapt this mere five-question quiz for our format (not entirely successfully, as you'll note in Questions 4 and 5), because if I did, you'd think boy, I sure have lots of time on my hands, and I guess you'd be right -- though were that times come from, I don't know. But then, for our readers, we don't scrimp.
QUIZ: Could you past the new, harder GED?
[Quiz created by DNAinfo New York's Nigel Chiwaya from practice items distributed by CTB/McGraw Hill]

Read the list in the box. Then answer the question that follows.

Which of these is the best title for the list in the box?

(a) Causes of World War I
(b) Causes of the Cold War
(c) Causes of the Revolutionary War
(d) Causes of the Russian Revolution

Which of these describes a role of DNA in a cell?

(a) DNA is the material that forms into the cell’s membrane.
(b) DNA produces the energy needed for the cell’s activities.
(c) DNA provides the information to make proteins for the cell
(d) DNA is the building block for the other molecules in the cell.

Two rectangles are similar and the dimensions shown are in centimeters.

What is the measure of x, in centimeters?

(a) 4.0
(b) 5.6
(c) 8.4
(d) 11.0

The table below gives selected values for the linear function, f(x).

Which of the following functions has the same slope as f(x)?

[Alas, there are limits to my graphical and HTML fluency -- fairly severe limits, actually. So here, in order to check the correct answer below, you'll have to letter the choices yourself -- (a), (b), (c), and (d). But if you can't handle that, should you really be attempting this quiz? -- Ed.]

The time, T, it takes for 2 people working together to complete a job is given by:

In the equation

r1 is the work rate of the first person

r2 is the work rate of the second person

Which formula could be used to find r1 if you knew the values for T and r2?

[See note for Question 4.]


that most of these questions at first looked harder than they subsequently seemed to me. For example, for Question 1, when you read "the list in the box," those sound like potential causes for an awful lot of wars. But in fact for three of the choices they're pretty silly. Question 2 became more comfortable for me when I read it as written, asking for "a role" of DNA. I thought Question 3 was inexatly worded, plumb forgetting that in geomeltry "similar" means that the two rectangles have the exact same shape, and not that they have "similar" shapes, but the answer still seemed pretty clear -- really, you don't even have to do the decimal arithmetic.

Question 4 had me in a panic for a bit, since I thought I was going to have to remember what the heck a "slope" is. Then I realized that all you have to do is just try out the choices, and while all four are good for the first value, three of them are only good for the first.

Which leaves Question 5, and here I don't see how you have a prayer unless you remember enough algebra to solve it. It's pretty basic algebra, though, of a kind that I do actually occasionally find myself applying in Life As We Know It. I whipped out a sheet of scrap paper and just went at the equation step by step, and was immensely relieved to find that my answer was among the offered choices.


If you can't read them upside-down, you can just rotate your screen -- or else stand on your head.

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Corporate Dems Like Schumer Aren't Done Wrecking The Democratic Party


I've never missed an election in my life-- even while living in difficult to vote places like the mountains of Afghanistan-- and I've never voted for a Republican, although before I was old enough to vote, I was a volunteer for John Lindsay, a liberal Republican-- they had them back then-- running against the conservative machine hack Abe Beame. Lindsay responded to the GOP's inexorable drift rightward by switching to the Democratic Party while he was mayor. That said, it has gotten harder and harder for me to vote for Democrats in recent years. The further Democratic candidates drift from progressive values and principles, the more I find myself voting for judges and assemblymen and leaving out congressmen (Blue Dog Adam Schiff), senators (Dianne Feinstein) governors (Gray Davis) and presidents (Barack Obama, 2012).

A week ago, in a comparison between Netroots Nation and the New Music Seminar I was grumbling about the stature accorded to conservative corporate Democrats Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer. Why not invite Rahm Emanuel, Harold Ford, John Barrow or Robert Rubin? They're Democrats too. When it started the New Music Seminar was a place you could see live shows from REM, The Pixies, The Buzzcocks, My Bloody Valentine, RomeoVoid, 10,000 Maniacs, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Run DMC. Not Chuck Schumer. Oh I don't care if Chuck Schumers and Joe Bidens come to this kind of thing-- and it's none of my business anyway (and, of course, it is a business)-- but why elevate them and give them some kind of status among the cutting edge? Bleccchhh.

The Finance Sector, or what we affectionately call Wall Street, has given Schumer $20,385,339, more than any senator in history who hasn't been a presidential candidate-- and more than several who have! Like Biden who "only" took in $4,029,797. Schumer's never been a friend of progressives and never will be-- and I remember him from the 1960s at James Madison High School in Brroklyn! A day after he strutted around Netroots Nation, he was writing an OpEd for the NY Times that would make it easier for his Wall Street backers to own even more of the American political system than they already do. "Polarization and partisanship," he writes, "are a plague on American politics." He's sad that Eric Cantor was defeated by some scruffy teabagger and claims primaries poison the health of the political system. I remember when he was head of the DSCC and progressives fought him-- and beat him-- when he put some slimy Wall Street shill up for senator and we got behind populist John Tester, who beat Schumer's candidate and then beat a Wall Street-owned Republican incumbent.

Most of the response to Schumer's proposal to do away with partisan primaries has been very negative. 538: "Here’s the problem with Schumer’s argument: There isn’t much evidence to support it." Jonathan Bernstein for Bloomberg: Chuck Schumer Gets Primaries All Wrong. And California grassroots activist Paul Hogarth points out that Schumer's proposal would just duplicate California's dysfunction.
[I]t was Schumer’s defense of California’s top-two primary that revealed how clueless he is about my home state, and how getting rid of party primaries will only make things worse.
California was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a “top-two” primary system.
Oy vey. Yes, it’s true that California’s government was dysfunctional before 2010, but that did not change because we passed the “top-two primary.” It was ending the two-thirds rule for passing a budget in 2010 that finally brought some sanity, and an increasingly blue legislature in 2012 changed things for the better.

But the “top-two” primary also created a whole new host of problems that has led to abysmal voter turnout, Republican-vs-Republican general elections and the rise of corporate Democrats in the state legislature. Oh, and the Tea Party is still a relevant factor in the state.

So no thanks, Chuck. Please don't export the Golden State's dysfunction. Lots more below the fold, written by someone who actually lives in California...

[A]s state Democratic chairman John Burton predicted at the state party’s 2010 convention in Los Angeles, it was really more about helping big business elect more of their Democrats-- with cross-over votes from Republicans.

Four years later, Burton’s prediction has proven right-- as we have witnessed the rise of the corporate Democrat in deep-blue districts that should be electing progressive champions.
The rise of what might be called the Corporate Democrat can only be partly explained by shrinking GOP delegations in Sacramento. It is also the product of redistricting and effects of the “top-two primary,” by which members of the same political party can win the top two primary positions and then face off in November. Since then, powerful corporations, agricultural associations and other political high rollers have been turning away from their traditional Republican partners and placing more and more of their chips on the Democratic end of the table-- specifically, on candidates like Marc Levine [of Marin County.]
Under the new rules, Silicon Valley Rep. Mike Honda may have easily bested Ro Khanna in the June 2014 primary-- but the “top-two” primary means that corporate Democrat Khanna still has a second bite at the apple, and will attempt to beat Honda with Republican votes. Under the new rules, Republicans can even cross over and pick their Democrat.

We saw this happen in June in legislative races, such as California’s 4th Assembly district—a deep blue district in wine country (Napa County and surroundings), where Democrats enjoy a 20-point registration edge. Progressive champion Mariko Yamada was elected under the old system, and is stepping down due to term limits. But her replacement in November will now be a choice between a Republican-- and an ex-Republican turned corporate Democrat.

That’s because there were 3 Democrats and 1 Republican on the June ballot, and the top two finishers regardless of party moved on to November. The Republican came in first with 26 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Bill Dodd-- an ex-Republican Napa County Supervisor with heavy funding from the Chamber of Commerce, who benefited because Republicans could now choose which Democrat moved ahead. Progressive Democrat (and labor-backed) candidate Dan Wolk came in a close third, and a fourth Democrat in the race played spoiler.

California will still have a solidly Democratic legislature, but enough corporate Democrats elected under the top-two primary recently colluded with Republicans to kill a fracking moratorium. Expect more of these losses in Sacramento, as Democrats from even deep-blue districts side with their corporate donors.

Sometimes, the top-two primary allows for what could be winnable seats for Democrats into a November match-up between two Republicans. GOP Rep. Gary Miller of California’s 31st Congressional District (San Bernardino) dodged a bullet in 2012, when a crowded field of Democrats on the June ballot meant that he ended up facing another Republican.

Voters in that district, by the way, preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney-- so coat-tails could have netted the blue team an extra House seat. But there was no Democrat on the November ballot, so it was a wasted opportunity.

Miller is retiring this year, and we almost had a repeat in that district. But Democrat Pete Aguilar managed to score a second-place finish in June (by less than 400 votes), so the blue team will at least have a Democrat on the ballot and have a potential pick-up opportunity.

But in California’s 25th Congressional District, where another Republican (Buck McKeon) is retiring, what could have been a possible pick-up for Democrats is now assured GOP representation until at least 2016 (if not further) in a district that is trending blue.

No, Chuck, top-two primary does not mean higher voter turnout

While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism.

Sen. Schumer alleges that a top-two primary would result in higher turnout. That's exactly what Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abel Maldonado promised back in 2010 when California voters were asked to pass it.

But unlike Schumer, they didn’t have the hindsight to know its effects. Now we know the answer.

The 2014 California Primary Election will go down as the worst ever in terms of voter turnout.

Voter turnout in June was an abysmal 18 percent, which of course turns out the most committed and comfortable voters-- who are disproportionately white, old and conservative.

In California’s race for state controller, we came dangerously close to another November run-off between two Republicans: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and conservative David Evans-- who spent practically no money, and benefited from a healthy Tea Party turnout.
The next day, Markos took a swing at the same proposition. "Let's be honest," he urged. "Just one party is polarized, and that's the GOP. That's their problem, not Chuck Schumer's or anyone else's. Let Reublicans fix their own shit. But even both parties were polarized, so what? Partisanship is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation's being. There's nothing wrong with it. It gives people without the time and inclination to research every single candidate a guidepost upon which to base their voting decisions. It gives people a flag to rally around, a cause to stir them to action. That's why parties exist. And voters should be allowed to determine the direction of their own parties. That's not a problem that needs solving, and even if it was, his solution does nothing to do so… But the biggest indictment? It kills voter participation."

Before Schwarzenegger and other corporate politicians got the dysfunctional new system passed in California, primary turnout was 30%-- pretty awful… but not as awful as it was with the new system: 18%. Schumer is tired and whatever sharpness he hever ad is long dulled by time. He shouldn't run again; he should make room for fresh new ideas in the Senate.

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Does Paul Ryan Really Want To Help Working Families And The Unemployed?


Paul Ryan's voting record in Congress-- going back to 1999 when he was a 20-something with the consciousness, though not the wisdom, of an angry 80 year old-- shows pretty conclusively he has never cared a whit about working class families. He has consistently voted against unemployment insurance for the men and women tossed out of work when conservative economic agendas have passed and wrecked the economy. So has he changed his mind? I wouldn't bet on it. Last week most Republicans and a gaggle of slimy New Dems and Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party voted for a tax bill that values the children of wealthy parents far more than the value of middle class and low income households' children. Paul Ryan was not one of the mainstream Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats opposing that grotesquely unfair tax legislation. Paul Ryan is still the chair of the House Budget Committee, although there are rumors he will be stepping down to concentrate on his goat-milking run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Ryan has been trying to paint himself as some kind of new face of "compassionate conservatism" who can help the poor folks. Ask the poor folks how that "compassionate conservatism" bullshit worked out for them last time, when Bush used it to help him win the presidency and then proceeded to destroy the economy by lowering taxes on the wealthiest families-- a kind of reverse Robin Hood effect. Is Ryan as bad as Bush? Worse… much worse. The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed Ryan's proposal and found that it would actually increase poverty. Robert Greenstein explains that the centerpiece of "Ryan's new poverty plan would consolidate 11 safety-net and related programs-- from food stamps to housing vouchers, child care, and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-- into a single block grant to states"-- Ryan's flashy new “Opportunity Grant” that Greenstein asserts "would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised." Here's why:
While Chairman Ryan describes the proposal as maintaining the same overall funding as the current system for each participating state, that would be a practical impossibility. His proposal would convert the nation’s basic food assistance safety net-- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps-- from an entitlement that responds automatically to increased need into part of a sweeping block grant that gives each state fixed funding for the year and, thus, cannot respond in the same way. This would be a particularly serious problem when need rises, such as in recessions.

All ten programs other than SNAP that would merge into the block grant serve only small percentages of those eligible, and federal funding for them (other than low-income rental assistance programs) is comparatively modest. As my colleague Donna Pavetti points out, this means that if some people receive more services under the proposal, as Chairman Ryan envisions, those services will likely be paid for by cutting assistance that helps poor families put food on the table or a roof over their head. Some of the service programs to which funds would likely be shifted have higher administrative costs than programs like SNAP and rental vouchers, so less would remain for basic assistance to needy families. And, in some cases, more powerful state and local political forces may seek to corral more of the funding. For example, many state and local officials likely would try to shift part of the former SNAP benefit dollars to CDBG-type “development” proposals that politically powerful local developers (who often make large campaign contributions) often favor.

While Chairman Ryan says he’s driven by evidence and research, his plan would jeopardize basic nutrition assistance for poor children, which research has shown is highly effective not only in reducing child malnutrition, but also in improving children’s long-term prospects. A path-breaking recent study examined what occurred after food stamps gradually expanded nationwide in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It found that poor children with access to food stamps in early childhood (and whose mothers had access during pregnancy) had an 18-percentage-point higher high school graduation rate-- and were less likely as adults to have stunted growth or heart disease or to be obese-- than comparable children who lacked access to food stamps because their counties hadn’t yet implemented the program. By eliminating poor families’ entitlement to SNAP and placing funds for basic food assistance at risk of being diverted, the Ryan plan would jeopardize these crucial gains.

Total funding to assist low-income families-- from federal, state, and local levels combined-- likely would decline, because the block grant would afford state and local officials tantalizing opportunities to use some block grant funds to replace state and local funds now going for similar services. Chairman Ryan says that the federal block grant funds would have to be used for the poor. But that wouldn’t prevent states and localities from substituting some of these funds for existing state and local funds that they now use for some of the same purposes. That’s what happened under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, even though Congress tried to forestall that through a maintenance-of-effort requirement and non-supplantation provisions. With broad block grants of this nature, some substitution by state and local governments is almost impossible to prevent.

History clearly shows that when policymakers combine a number of programs into a block grant, federal funding typically declines over time, often dramatically. That has occurred in most broad-based block grants of recent decades. When a broad array of programs are merged into a block grant, policymakers find it virtually impossible to identify a specific level of needed federal funding-- or the likely human impact of program cuts. As a result, the broad block grant often becomes easy to squeeze in the competition for federal budget dollars.
Basically, all the problems Greenstein cites, are exactly what Paul Ryan-- devout Ayn Rand disciple-- is trying to accomplish, not accidental miscalculations. Watch the whole video of Ryan molesting the goat at the Racine County fair Sunday-- just the way he plans on molesting working class families with his new "Opportunity Grants."

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