Sunday, April 22, 2018

America Needs Congressmembers Like Ro Khanna And Kaniela Ing To Watch What Facebook Is Up To


If you watched the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee "grilling" Mark Zuckerberg a few weeks ago... well it wasn't as bad as when Alaska SenatorTed Stevens explaining net neutrality and the internet in terms of a series of tubes and big trucks just over a decade ago. But almost. They're old. And they have staffers who type for them.

Ro Khanna, the progressive congressman who represents Silicon Valley was dismayed-- "less" wrote Alex Nazaryan for Newsweek "because of what the Facebook co-founder and chairman did say-- for the most part, bromides about privacy, security and censorship-- than because of what the lawmakers arrayed before him didn’t." Ro is a calm and composed fella. One can only imagine if Hawaii state Rep-- and congressional candidate-- Kaniela Ing was sitting next to him.
“This was a missed opportunity,” Khanna lamented later that evening in a text message. “The hearing revealed a knowledge gap in Congress about technology.” Many of the men and women questioning Zuckerberg were about twice his age, and some were quite a bit older than that. They knew that adversaries like Russia had weaponized social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, but the particulars of the problem clearly eluded them. The 44 legislators who took turns quizzing Zuckerberg showed only a cursory understanding of data collection and encryption, and the lengthy hearing quickly devolved into the kind of exasperating technology tutorial one dreads having to give aging relatives.

It was an amusing day for the purveyors of humorous internet memes. But anyone anxious about the obviously uneasy marriage between democracy and digital technology would not have been reassured. Zuckerberg left Capitol Hill without having to explain in any appreciable detail the failure that brought him there in the first place: the improper use of data belonging to 87 million Facebook users by data research firm Cambridge Analytica, which was conducting microtargeting work for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He did offer apologies and reassurances, but these were vague enough to not be especially reassuring.

Only eight years older than Zuckerberg, Khanna has been called “Silicon Valley's ambassador to Middle America.” California’s 17th congressional district, which he has represented since 2017, is home to some of the most successful corporations in the world: Apple (market value: $892 billion, as of April 16), Intel ($245 billion), Yahoo (now part of Verizon, whose market capitalization stands at $197 billion) and Tesla ($50 billion). Alphabet ($726 billion), with its Googleplex, is one district over, as is Facebook ($480 billion), with its thumbs-up icon announcing its Menlo Park Headquarters, at 1 Hacker Way.

That address captures the mood of Silicon Valley a decade ago: whimsical, cheeky, maybe even hubristic. This was before anyone had ever heard of the Internet Research Agency, where Vladimir Putin’s minions were waging a new kind of war. Psychographic data, of the kind Cambridge Analytica supposedly collected, was not yet for sale to politicians looking for an edge. Trolls were the stuff of medieval legend. And coding savants could not have expected to be lectured by the likes of Senators Chuck Grassley and Dean Heller, as Zuckerberg was earlier this month. The thumb is still there, at 1 Hacker Way, but the joke is no longer funny.

“I believe representing Silicon Valley is one of the most important jobs in American politics,” Khanna says. To represent Silicon Valley is to speak and account for a techno elite given far more to self-celebration than introspection. Aware of the region’s surpassingly good fortunes, and of its closely related tendency to hubris, Khanna has tried to export the former while arguing that it is necessary to tame the latter. He believes that the success of the tech sector is replicable and could serve as economic balm for other parts of the nation, particularly those where mining or manufacturing can no longer vault blue-collar workers into the middle class. Despite troubling disclosures about Facebook and its peers, he believes that most any community would welcome Zuckerberg, along with his Cambridge Analytica problem.

The same week that Zuckerberg testified on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi selected Khanna to draft an Internet Bill of Rights. It was a significant show of confidence in the House freshman by Pelosi, a veteran of the chamber renowned for her political acumen. Although it is impossible to say what an Internet Bill of Rights will look like, Khanna has long proposed such a measure to give Internet users clarity over the data they share as they click through Facebook photos or shop on Amazon.

The Internet Bill of Rights would, in turn, prove a major test of just how much regulation Silicon Valley is willing to countenance. Big Tech has been a remarkably cagey industry, in part because it knows it gives us what nobody else can. It knows that even as we complain about hegemony, we order diapers on Amazon, instead of walking to the corner store. World leaders spar on Twitter, while chefs who once wanted to impress critics now think about what will look good on Instagram. At the same time, Reddit trolls disseminate fake news, which Google algorithms uncritically promote, while terrorists talk freely on WhatsApp, protected by the messaging service’s encryption. Silicon Valley is becoming a victim of its own explosive growth, like the too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks that failed in 2008, plunging the nation into a recession.

Khanna is aware of souring public opinion and has tried to both acknowledge it and reshape it. “You can’t be an island of success,” he says of the district he represents. “We have to answer the nation’s call.” If Silicon Valley can answer that call with “humility,” Khanna says, the tech behemoths can avoid the kind of onerous regulation other liberal legislators are calling for, such as the General Data Protection Regulation that will go into effect in Europe in 2018.

Khanna’s indefatigable optimism has positioned him as a potential leader in a Democratic Party unable to reconcile its progressive and centrist elements and desperate for new faces. As a member of the Progressive Caucus, Khanna has advocated for liberal policies such as expansion of the earned-income tax credit. But his corporate past—- and corporate constituency—- keep him from veering too far into the sort of political fantasy for which Northern California is sometimes known. He may be just what the party needs, a moderate by temperament but by no means a centrist.

“You can have a bold progressive vision coming from Silicon Valley, rooted in patriotism,” Khanna says. “And I guess the case study is they elected me.”

..."This is a huge opportunity for tech leaders to work with Congress,” Khanna says. Otherwise, he warns, the regulatory power will fall to “a bunch of bureaucrats who, frankly, don't know much about tech,” intellectual siblings of the senators who haplessly interrogated Zuckerberg. If regulation is inevitable, better that regulation be informed by the industry in question.

Back to Kaniela for a moment. He's already taken on Zuckerberg... and won. Kate Arnoff, writing for In These Times explained how in 2014, "Zuckerberg purchased 700 acres of beachfront property on land Native Hawaiians have gathering rights to. Then he built a wall around it, and sued local families to keep them out. Ing helped lead the charge from the state legislature for Native Hawaiians to reclaim their rights to that land, and Zuckerberg eventually dropped the lawsuits. Now, Ing, a Native Hawaiian, is running to represent Hawaii’s first congressional district, with a critique of Facebook and other corporations that extends well beyond their CEOs’ real estate investments. In Washington, Ing hopes to curtail corporate power, and regulate Facebook and other major tech firms like utilities." Kaniela:
We know what it’s like to be up against oligarchy in Hawaii. We’ve lived in a feudal society and a really unequal capitalist society throughout history. Now we’re seeing that repeat. We have three men in American who hold more wealth than the bottom half-- than 50 percent of the entire nation. And 82 percent of new wealth generated in 2017 went to the top 1 percent. It’s more stark than ever. Mark Zuckerberg is one of today’s oligarchs, just like on the mainland with Standard Oil and some of the other oligarchs in the past. Except now these guys have control over commerce, like Amazon, and communications, like Facebook. And that’s where it gets really dangerous for a democracy. It’s important that Congress act now and not rely on self-regulation by these monopolists.

Goal Thermometer...Zuckerberg calls Facebook a social utility. And if he’s admitting it’s a utility he should agree that it should be treated like one. The same goes for the internet in general, not just social networks but broadband connection. It’s a necessity now in the modern world, the way electricity was almost a century ago. There was way too much control by a few corporations that actually didn’t benefit the majority of the public. So the government took over lines and-- at the very least-- heavily regulated these monopolies to make sure that everybody had equal access to electricity. We’re going to have to do that for broadband generally, and we’re going to have to do that for social networks. Right now there’s nothing stopping someone like Zuckerberg from adjusting their algorithms to punish people with certain political views or certain companies. Arguably it’s already happening. A lot of independent news sources don’t have the same ability to reach their own followers that more corporate news sources do. That’s unfair.
If you'd like to help Kaniela win his race-- against 3 conservative barely Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- please click on the thermometer above and contribute what you can to his campaign. You want to see real change in Congress? There's no one who's out to do that, and ready to do that, like Kaniela.

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John Delaney-- The Presidential Candidate To Make Joe Biden Look Like A Progressive


This morning David Siders started a column with a fair assumption for Politico readerts-- that Maryland Congressman is "little known." Few people even know he's running for president-- and few of those are taking his run seriously. He's a very wealthy New Dem, a devoted Wall Street ally who served their interests on the House Financial Services Committee... and who's already spending big.

Let me start with a little background. After the Democratic-controlled Maryland legislature gerrymandered the state, Delaney beat longtime congressman Roscoe Bartlett, a moderate Republican, in 2012. Delaney spent $2,370,556 of his own in the race, which was over half the $4,423,738 he spent and was the third most-- after Suzan DelBene and Scott Peters-- any Democrat that year spent to buy himself a House seat. Needless to say all 3 immediately joined the extremely corrupt, pro-business/anti-family New Dems. Delaney had beaten Bartlett handily-- 58.8% to 37.9%. But in the next cycle, a midterm, Democrats already had gotten a taste for what a total piece of shit Delaney is. After 2 years of watching him back the Republicans over and over gain, Democratic grassroots voters weren't interested in voting for him again. He was forced to spend $937,912 out of his own pocket and only beat Republican Dan Bongino 49.7% to 48.2%. In 2016 he spent another $354,125 of his own money to win again-- this time against a rich Republican, Amie Hoeber, who spent $787,000 out of her own wealth.

Delaney was, of course, an anti-Bernie Democrat who endorsed Hillary in the 2016 primary. Once he got into Congress he quickly became a fount of Republican ideas-- like forbidding the EPA from protecting clean drinking water in streams and lakes, raising the retirement age for the working poor and forcing chained CPI down the throats of Social Security recipients. Delaney has been the perfect Democrat for Fox News, always eager to blame progressives for everything, always eager to equate progressives with the extremists, Confederates and fascists that dominate the Republican Party. He's an advocate of the "both sides are equally wrong" simplemindedness. "Washington," he wrote in a Washington Post OpEd in 2015, "is paralyzed by extreme political rhetoric that creates powerful sound bites but poor policy... With Washington already broken, the last thing we need is a left-wing version of the tea party. But I am worried about where some of the loudest voices in the room could take the Democratic Party." Delaney is worried. Why doesn't he hop the fence and join the GOP officially? From his OpEd:
Rejecting a trade agreement with Asia, expanding entitlement programs that crowd out other priorities and a desire to relitigate the financial crisis are becoming dominant positions among Democrats. Although these subjects may make for good partisan talking points, they do not provide the building blocks for a positive and bold agenda to create jobs and improve the lives of Americans.

...[W]e need a philosophical shift in the Democratic Party, a new willingness to support programs that create pathways for nongovernmental and philanthropic innovation and investment to help solve the problems of society. We should embrace approaches, such as social impact bonds, that combine private-sector capital and expertise with public-interest goals to produce better government services. Such changes will require Democrats to leave our ideological comfort zone and move away from the idea that government, and government alone, is the answer to our problems.

But instead of being used to voice an agenda that can bring the country together, the party microphone has been hijacked by people more interested in scoring points than in solving problems. They propose expanding Social Security rather than prioritizing serious efforts to preserve the program-- even though it will be unable to provide full benefits as soon as 2032, the Congressional Budget Office has made clear. The only way a large-scale expansion could work is by allocating new revenue away from needed investments in the next generation or by shifting the financial burden to workers or our children.
In a barely veiled critique of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Mark Pocan and other stalwart progressive fighters, Delaney wrote that "some in our party continue to engage in time-consuming rhetoric attacking banks that has little chance of producing more financial reform and distracts from far more consequential areas of economic risk, such as climate change, chronic underinvestment in the next generation and our broken immigration and housing finance systems."

He's painting an entirely false picture, especially when you consider that the same legislators attacking his Wall Street pals happen to be the most determined fighters for immigration reform, for low-income housing, for reforming the education system, for restoring American infrastructure and, of course, for battling against climate change. But painting false pictures is John Delaney's stock-in-trade. It's what he does; it's all he seems capable of doing.

Two of Congress' most dedicated and enlightened progressives, at the time, reacted badly to Delaney's nonsense. Alan Grayson mused that "corporate tax breaks, corporate welfare, corporate trade giveaways and sucking up to Wall Street... 'New Democrats' sound a lot like old Republicans." Mark Pocan told us at the time that "The surest way to avoid the creation of a tea party on the left wing is to stop the Democratic Party from moving to the right. It's clear people are for progressive values and the Democratic Party should reflect that or face defeats at the polls."

Another Democratic congressmember who asked for anonymity fumed that Delaney is the "poster child for what's wrong with the Democratic Party. Recruiting clueless, rich people who have no real values is almost always a failure."

Delaney's district was blue enough for him to have the breathing space to act like a real Democrat without any worries but instead he's always represented the interests of his own socio-economic class: rich assholes. He introduced a bill Wall Street loves. It would grant a tax amnesty to multinational corporations bringing home billions of dollars of profits now offshore.

Delaney's bill, H.R. 2084, was designed to reward big corporations that avoid taxes through overseas accounting tricks, encourage more future offshore tax dodging, fail to create jobs in America and increase the deficit-- another tax holiday for the wealthy like Delaney himself that is "nothing more than a blatant attempt to escape their tax obligations and shift the burden onto taxpaying Americans, small businesses and domestic firms." His co-sponsors were all Republicans and a gaggle of corrupt New Dems like Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Ami Bera (CA), Gerald Connolly (VA), Patrick Murphy (FL) and Scott Peters (CA). And now he's "running" for president. Siders wrote that "Delaney-- a wealthy, little-known congressman from Maryland-- has spent more than $1 million on TV in Iowa, hired staffers and opened a campaign office in Des Moines. Since announcing his bid last July, he’s made 110 campaign stops in 48 of Iowa’s 99 counties. He has visited New Hampshire six times, and on Friday made his second trek to South Carolina... [I]n his massive investment of time and resources-- his Iowa TV buy marks the earliest significant paid advertising from a presidential candidate in memory-- he is testing the limits of a virtually unknown politician’s ability to gain early-state traction by starting first and spending heavily."
The odds confronting Delaney are enormous. The Democratic field is shaping up to be historically large-- and it’s likely to be filled with some of the party’s biggest stars-- while the former banker is barely known outside his home state.

He runs so far under the radar that his name has not even been included in many early national polls. In the latest Granite State Poll, in February, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Delaney registered at less than 1 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. That ranked behind every major prospective candidate, and also “other,” at 4 percent.

Still, Delaney runs undeterred.

“I think I’m the right person for the job, and I have the right vision, but not enough people know who I am,” Delaney, 55, said before arriving in South Carolina. “The way you solve that problem is by getting in early.”

Delaney added, “I think I’m going to win.”

In his TV advertisements, Delaney first introduced Iowans to his blue-collar upbringing and business and government credentials, while pledging to usher in a new era of bipartisanship. This month, he went up with a more pointed ad criticizing Trump’s decision to set new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, saying “his trade war could devastate our manufacturing and farming economies and raise prices on hard-working Americans.”

Iowa media markets are so inexpensive that by spending more than $1 million on television, Delaney has mustered significant reach. Jeff Link, an Iowa Democratic strategist who hosted an event for Delaney at his house in March, said that when he asked people if they were coming, many told him, “Oh, that’s the guy on TV.”

In Iowa, Link said, $1 million “goes a long way.”

“I think getting here early is helpful in that people get to see you a couple of times,” he said. “He’s a smart guy, he’s a very serious guy … And, he has a good message.”

Price said Democratic activists in Iowa are focused on this year’s midterm elections but that Delaney is “doing a good job kind of building his name ID and recognition out there... Certainly among the activists, I hear people talking about him.”

In New Hampshire, Jim Demers, a longtime fixture in the state’s Democratic politics, said that while Delaney remains largely unknown to most voters, “with Democratic activists, he’s sort of in the middle category of ‘somewhat known,’ and he moved up to that category by coming to New Hampshire and doing a lot of visits.”

With so much time before the 2020 primaries, Demers said, Delaney’s stock could improve. However, he said, “I do think that when you look at some of the people who may be in this race, it’s going to be a struggle.”

Delaney left South Carolina on Saturday to speak at a Democratic summit in Maryland, then planned, as he does every Monday, to convene a staff meeting in Washington to plot campaign strategy for the week. He is focused almost exclusively on Iowa and New Hampshire.

“I view us as running a full scale campaign at this point,” Delaney said. “The way I think about it kind of simply is, there are six congressional districts in Iowa and New Hampshire … I’m doing all the things you would do to run a congressional campaign times six in those states.”

Jeffrey Zients, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama and a friend of Delaney, said, “He’s decided there’s an opportunity, and he’s executing on it. He’s working hard.”

Delaney’s supporters often point to Jimmy Carter as an example of a candidate able to capitalize on early campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Carter was a governor. And that was more than 40 years ago. The last time a member of the House won the presidency was 1880, when James Garfield pulled off the feat.

Yet precedent is the least of Delaney’s obstacles. Aside from his low profile-- even by House standards-- the three-term congressman cuts a more moderate profile than much of the Democratic Party’s increasingly leftward-shifting base.

He is skeptical of single-payer healthcare and supported President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which was opposed by both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Delaney said divisions within the Democratic Party are overblown, with most of America disinterested in “a lot of the things that people are obsessed with here in Washington.”

“I think the central question facing the United States of America in 2020 is how do we take this terribly fractured nation and begin to unify it so that we can start to work for the American citizens,” Delaney said. “And I think I’m the person to answer that question.”

On Friday, Delaney spoke at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Blue Palmetto dinner, then walked several blocks to Rep. Jim Clyburn’s annual fish fry, a mainstay on the presidential circuit.

“I didn’t know who he was,” said Phil Noble, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who met with Delaney during his visit. “But so what? Everybody’s got a chance in presidential politics.”

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DCCC Tries To Shove A Blue Dog Comeback Down Democrats' Throats


Rahm Emanuel was chairman of the DCCC in 2006, the last time there was a huge Blue Wave. He had as little to do with creating it as Ben Ray Lujan has in creating the 2018 huge Blue Wave (i.e., nothing whatsoever). Infact, Lujan, like Rahm (who consults him), is keeping the wave from growing even bigger. In 2006, the Democrats picked up 30 seats from the GOP. That's good, right?

Well... kinda/sorta. Pelosi replaced Denny Hastert as Speaker and the Democrats were able to get a few consequential things done before the next midterm when Democratic voters-- the grassroots-- stayed away from the polls en masse and the GOP swept back into power with a vengeance-- beating all of Rahm's 2006 picks. In fact, that year, 2010, the Democrats lost an astounding 63 seats-- and Pelosi was swept out of the Speaker's chair and replaced by first John Boehner and then Paul Ryan.

Why did that happen that way? Emanuel had forced dozens of Blue Dogs and New Dems on the Democrats as candidates-- just as Lujan and his wretched team is doing today. They all voted the way members of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party can always be expected to vote-- with the Republicans. There was a 9.1% swing towards the Republicans in 2010 but that was primarily because the Democratic base was disappointed and disillusioned with the Blue Dogs and New Dems 2006 had delivered them.

That's exactly what's going to happen in 2022. Exactly. Luajn and his imbecile crew are making sure of that by crushing progressives in primaries in favor of Blue Dog and New Dems.

Last week Lujan was engaging in his favorite activity, plumbing sewers and feasting on shit. He added 5 cruddy candidates to the DCCC Red-to-Blue list, including lottery winner, "ex"-Republican, carpetbagger and political ignoramus Gil Cisneros, NRA candidate Anthony Brindisi (Blue Dog-NY) and anti-union attorney Lizzie Fletcher. Unions screamed so loud that the DCCC immediately removed her, calling it a "communications staff drafting error," prompting this email from Laura Moser, the progressive in the Houston race the DCCC has been working hard to destroy, pretty much ensuring reelection for Republican John Culberson.
On Wednesday, the DCCC sent out an email endorsing our primary opponent.

They later called it a “communications staff drafting error”-- which, like “mistakes were made,” is what people in Washington say when they don’t want to take responsibility for something.

But was it really an error? The DCCC already unleashed false and misleading attacks against me and my family just a few days before our primary election.

I’ll never forget that terrible moment when a staffer pulled me aside to show me the opposition research the DCCC had dumped on me on their website. As a lifelong Democrat, I was stunned. How could the party I had dedicated so much of my life to turn on me so maliciously? What would this mean for our campaign?

I still don’t know the answer to the first question. (I’ve got some ideas.)

We’ll need your help once again if we’re going to fend off any and all attacks from the DCCC before our runoff election next month... After all, we’ve had fair warning. They’re going to try to rig the runoff, too. But the folks in Washington who so often choose losing corporate clones don’t have that much influence on Texans. We’ll choose our own candidates, thank you very much. And we'll win with a strong message, a genuine commitment to democratic values, and grassroots support-- not through a party coronation.

So no matter what lies they try to spread, we'll keep talking about expanding access to health care, protecting undocumented Americans from deportation, offering every child access to affordable education, reforming our gun laws, fighting for equal rights and reproductive rights, and building an economy that offers both more growth and more equality.

We’ve shown we can overcome the DCCC attacks with an outpouring of grassroots support and by staying true to our message and platform.

The DCCC often lies and says there is no ideological impetus behind their efforts to pack Congress with Blue Dogs and New Dems. That's an utter lie that is too terrible for most DCCC-dues-paying progressives to admit even to themselves. Before you read this late March post that was published by The Hill, remember that when they use the word "centrist" (the most positive political phrase in America's politics lexicon), they are referring to the far right of the Democratic Party, the Blue Dogs and New Dems. And if anti-Choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-healthcare, anti-immigrant, pro-NRA shitbags like Dan Lipinski and Henry Cuellar (for example) are "moderates" what are members like Jan Schakowsky, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Judy Chu, Jamie Raskin and Mark Pocan? Left-wing extremists? Communists? I don't think so. And remember, it's always when the Democrats look ascendant that the media suddenly calls for a coalition of right-wing Democrats and the GOP as a governing coalition. The media NEVER calls for a governing coalition of right-wing Democrats and mainstream conservative Republicans when the GOP is ascendant. One more thing to remember, the right-wing group "No Labels" is financed by Republican multimillionaires and billionaires and they just spent immense sums smearing Marie Newman on behalf of Lipinski's election campaign.
Moderate lawmakers in both parties believe their influence will rise after the midterm elections no matter which party takes control of the House.

The centrists are projecting that either Democrats or Republicans could have a narrow majority, which would give lawmakers in the middle more power to drive the agenda as leaders come begging for their votes.

Coalitions of moderate lawmakers also suspect their ranks will swell next year given the political climate.

“If it’s a slim [GOP] majority, we also win,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), whip of the moderate New Democrat Coalition. “You can’t ignore us anymore. You’re going to have to cut some deals if you want to get something done.”

“The idea that you can do it alone,” he added, “is not going to work if you’ve only got a two- or three-seat majority.”

...Blue Dog Democrats, a conservative and rural segment of the party, dwindled in size from 54 in 2008 to 18. Now they are hoping for a comeback.

“We’re going to have a lot more say in policy and legislation,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition. “I certainly want the Democrat majority, but even if it’s a slim [GOP] majority, the Republicans still need some of the more moderate individuals that might be Democrats to work with them.”

“So either way,” he added, “I think we’re going to be in a good place.”

Efforts to push more bipartisan ideas through Congress have been ramping up over the past year. The Problem Solvers Caucus, which works closely with the bipartisan advocacy group No Labels, launched last year with the goal of building bipartisan consensus on key policy issues.

The 48-member caucus is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. If 75 percent of the group and more than 50 percent of each party agrees on an issue, then the entire caucus will vote as a unified bloc.

The strategy takes a page from the book of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which takes formal positions on issues if 80 percent of its members agree. The group of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners has been highly effective at blocking bills on the House floor.

“Any bloc of any legislators that is able to stick together is able to be kingmakers ... but the only real organized blocs in the House has been on the far right and far left,” said Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist at No Labels. “What hadn’t existed, until recently, is something like the Problem Solvers Caucus.”

The caucus has already produced bipartisan solutions on a range of contentious issues, including health care, immigration and guns-- but none of the proposals have been brought to the floor.

The group blames how legislative business is conducted in the House and has started discussing some potential rules changes that could increase their power.

No Labels has been encouraging lawmakers to withhold their support for the next Speaker unless the candidate agrees to a package of rules changes. Moderates would have even more leverage to make demands from future leaders if there is a slimmer majority.

Some potential reforms that could make moderates stronger include allowing more open rules and amendments, ensuring conference committees have members from both parties, requiring the Speaker to receive a larger majority to win the gavel and abandoning the Republican practice of only allowing a bill to come to the floor if it has a majority of the GOP’s support.

That would force the majority to negotiate with the minority and increase the odds of achieving bipartisan solutions in Congress, the group says.

Reed said he would even consider supporting a Democrat’s bid for Speaker if they agreed to certain rule reforms.

But such reforms are sure to face fierce resistance in both parties, and it’s unclear whether enough centrist lawmakers would be willing to play hardball.

“It might entail some political risks, but if they’re willing to make some asks … it could have huge rewards,” Clancy said.

While a number of Republicans in the Problem Solvers Caucus are facing tough reelection races, Reed said he is hearing more interest than ever before from “influential stakeholders” who want to help get pragmatic lawmakers elected to Congress in order to break gridlock.

No Labels is planning an aggressive effort to spend tens of millions of dollars to protect moderates in both parties from primary challenges.

The Blue Dogs are also expecting to increase their numbers next year, especially as Democrats seek to win over the blue-collar voters that fled the party to support President Trump. They recently gained Conor Lamb, who pulled off a special election victory in a Pennsylvania district that Trump carried by 20 points.

The coalition’s political arm has become a bigger player in the Democratic strategy to win back the House, which is further raising hopes they will wield more influence next year.

“The road to the majority is through the coalition... The political arm of the Blue Dogs is very active,” said Kristen Hawn, a senior adviser for the group’s political action committee. “We’re seeing a lot more interest, and a lot of fundraising is up.”

The DCCC has 38 candidates on their Red To Blue list so far. I count three who are worth voting for-- and I'm not even 100% sure about one of the three. At least nine of them are outright Blue Dogs:
Brendan Kelly (IL)
Paul Davis (KS)
Gretchen Driskell (MI)
Dan McCready (NC)
Brad Ashford (NE)
Jeff Van Drew (NJ)
Max Rose (NY)
Anthony Brindisi (NY)
Ben McAdams (UT)
And 21 of them are admitted New Dems:

Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Jason Crow (CO)
Lauren Baer (FL)
Nancy Soderberg (FL)
Debbie Powell (FL)
Paul Davis (KS)
Elissa Slotkin (MI)
Angie Craig (MN)
Dean Phillips (MN)
Dan McCready (NC)
Kathy Manning (NC)
Brad Ashford (NE)
Mikie Sherrill (NJ)
Tom Malinowski (NJ)
Max Rose (NY)
Anthony Brindisi (NY)
Susie Lee (NV)
Chrissy Houlahan (PA)
Jana Lynne Sanchez (TX)
Ben McAdams (UT)
Elaine Luria (VA)
They also list Lisa Brown, a progressive from eastern Washington-- who supports the legitimate aspirations of working families-- and she's asked them to remove her name from their horrible list of shame, which they have refused to do. And one last thing, the New Dems and Blue Dogs have already picked who they want as the next Speaker, the most corrupt Democrat in the House... and disgracefully, there are already progressives pledging their fealty to him-- lots of them.

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Eventually Everyone Will Flip On Trumpanzee... Except Some Voters In Wyoming, Oklahoma And West Virginia


Trump is demanding Sessions fire his perceived political enemies. Months ago he went nuts on Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray about why they hadn't fired Peter Strzok and Lisa Page from the FBI for disloyalty to the all high Trumpanzee, unable to distinguish between loyalty to America and loyalty to the Führer, who "pressed his attorney general and FBI director to work more aggressively to uncover derogatory information within the FBI’s files to turn over to congressional Republicans working to discredit the two FBI officials."
The effort to discredit Strzok and Page has been part of a broader effort by Trump and his allies to discredit and even fire FBI officials who they believe will be damaging witnesses against the president in Mueller’s obstruction of justice probe.

Those attacks, in turn, are part of a broader push to denigrate Mueller himself and make it easier for Trump to publicly justify his potential firing. Those efforts have taken on new urgency as Mueller continues to rack up guilty pleas from former senior Trump officials like Michael Flynn and Rick Gates, and after the FBI, in conjunction with other federal prosecutors, raided the office, home, and hotel room of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer. Trump’s fury over the raid has made many of his closest advisers worry that he’s inching closer to firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, and possibly Mueller as well.
Friday night, a team of Washington Post national security reporters wrote that Sessions said he'd quit if Trumpanzee fires Rosenstein. That might be another incentive for Señor T to initiate his own Saturday Night Massacre. I wonder if anyone has explained to the ignorant Putin puppet what the Saturday Night Massacre was and what it led to.

He's still fuming that Sessions recused himself from all things related to Putin-Gate and would love to see him leave the Justice Department. Sessions called Don McGahn, the official chief White House counseland told him if Trumpanzee fires Rosenstein over the Cohen raid, he may have to resign. The Post speculated that "the protest resignation of an attorney general-- which would be likely to incite other departures within the administration-- would create a moment of profound crisis for the White House." Really? Why? Trump only cares about what his base thinks and none of this would mean anything to them as long as Trump tweets something derogatory about Sessions.

The 4 Post writes pointed out that "Last summer, when it appeared Trump was going to fire Sessions or pressure him to resign, Republican lawmakers and conservative advocacy groups rallied to Sessions’s side and warned the president not to move against him." Since then, Trump's power with the GOP has grown immensely and he doesn't care what Republican lawmakers or conservative advocacy groups whine about. If he's not king of America, he is king of the GOP. He dominates the Republican Party utterly and entirely. He refers to Sessions as Mr. Magoo and Rosenstein as Mr. Peepers. There is no one who can stand up to him--no one. And remember, Rosenstein isn't some Obama administration hold-over. Rosenstein, a Republican, was put in place by Señor Trumpanzee himself.

Trump had told senior officials last week that he was considering firing Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support last year. Since then, alumni of the Justice Department have rallied to Rosenstein’s defense.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 800 former Justice Department employees had signed an open letter calling on Congress to “swiftly and forcefully respond to protect the founding principles of our Republic and the rule of law” if Trump were to fire the deputy attorney general, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or other senior Justice Department officials.

...Rosenstein, the Justice Department’s No. 2 official, is tasked with running the day-to-day operations of the sprawling agency of 113,000 employees who work for the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Bureau of Prisons; U.S. attorneys offices; and Main Justice, the agency’s headquarters. But from the time he was confirmed in May of last year, the investigation into possible coordination during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump associates and agents of the Russian government has overshadowed everything he has done.

...A month after Rosenstein became deputy attorney general, he was criticized for his role in the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey. Rosenstein wrote a critical memo lambasting Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, and the White House later used the document as a pretext to remove the FBI director. After a few days, though, Trump said he was thinking about the Russia investigation when he fired Comey. Comey has said in recent days he believed Rosenstein “acted dishonorably” and could not be trusted.

At that point, Rosenstein was overseeing the Russia investigation because Sessions had recused himself. On May 17, about a week after the Comey firing, Rosenstein announced that he had appointed Mueller as special counsel to conduct the Russia investigation.

Rosenstein took the action without first consulting Sessions and notified him when he was at the White House meeting with Trump. The decision took Trump by surprise and greatly angered him.

A person close to the White House and the Justice Department said Sessions has “vacillated, I think, from being concerned about the deputy leaving or being fired and recognizing that Rosenstein has not been a friend of either him or the department.”

...This week, two of Trump’s top legislative allies and leading members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus met with Rosenstein and pressed him for more documents about the conduct of law enforcement officials involved in the Russia probe. They warned him that he could face impeachment proceedings or an effort to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not satisfy Republican demands for more documents.
By forcing the Justice Department into releasing Comey's memos to themselves, House Republicans-- who promptly leaked the memos to the press-- blundered into making Trump look even more repulsive and more guilty than he already looked. On top of which there's all this chatter about whether or not the sleaze-bag Michael Cohen will "flip" on Trump. It's unimaginable to be but... isn't Trump in the White no less unimaginable? [Also unimaginable: the media referring to yenta and Fox scumbag Alan Dershowitz as a "liberal."]
Two sources close to the president said people in Trump’s inner circle have in recent days been actively discussing the possibility that Michael Cohen-- long seen as one of Trump’s most loyal personal allies-- might flip if he faces serious charges as a result of his work on behalf of Trump.

“That’s what they’ll threaten him with: life imprisonment,” said Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer and frequent Trump defender who met with the president and his staff over two days at the White House last week. “They’re going to threaten him with a long prison term and try to turn him into a canary that sings.”

...In a court filing last week, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York explained the FBI raid was “the result of a months-long investigation” into the president’s lawyer and that prosecutors were looking for evidence of crimes related to his business dealings.

Trump and his allies fear that documents and recordings that the FBI swept up from Cohen’s home and office could come back to haunt the president, whose lawyers have joined Cohen’s in New York in asserting attorney-client privilege and are asking a federal judge to approve an independent review of the material.

“Who knows what Cohen has in those files,” said a person close to the White House.

But their concerns go beyond Cohen’s voluminous files. Increasingly, Trump’s outside advisers are worried about the risk posed by Cohen himself.

“I think for two years or four years or five years, Michael Cohen would be a stand-up guy. I think he’d tell them go piss up a rope. But depending on dollars involved, which can be a big driver, or if they look at him and say it’s not two to four years, it’s 18 to 22, then how loyal is he?” said one defense lawyer who represents a senior Trump aide in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Is he two years loyal? Is he 10 years loyal? Is he 15 years loyal?” the attorney added. “That’s the currency. It’s not measured in inches. It’s measured in years.”

Jay Goldberg, a longtime Trump lawyer, told the Wall Street Journal that he spoke with Trump on Friday about Cohen and warned the president against trusting Cohen if he is facing criminal charges. Goldberg said he warned the president that Cohen “isn’t even a 1” on a scale of 1 to 100, where 100 was remaining fully loyal to the president, the newspaper reported.

...The prospect of years or even decades in prison might be easier to swallow if Cohen believes a presidential pardon is possible. White House officials and others close to the president insist that last week’s decision to pardon former Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby on perjury charges dating to his service in the George W. Bush administration was not intended to send a message to Cohen-- but it nonetheless could go a long way toward reassuring the president’s lawyer.

“They’re going to squeeze him like a grape. I think in the end he’ll pop unless Trump pardons him,” said Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the nonprofit R Street Institute and a former senior counsel during independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton.

...Cohen flipping “would be Trump’s worst nightmare,” said John Dean, the former White House counsel whose cooperation with Watergate prosecutors helped lead to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

“It would be as stunning and life-disrupting a surprise as his winning the presidency,” Dean added. “And if there is any prosecutor’s office in the USA that can flip Cohen, it is the Southern District of New York.”

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

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

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Saturday, April 21, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump On Kasich: "Digusting"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Truth Behind the Bombardment of Syria


Oops-- might not be a chemical facility after all

-by Reese Erlich

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

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

Now it looks like history is repeating itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what actually happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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