Friday, June 23, 2017

The Philando Castile Case: Trevor Noah Calls Out The NRA


-by Noah

For those who don’t remember, Philando Castile was a Missouri-born American citizen who was shot at, 7 times, while sitting in his car, by St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez back on July 6, 2016.

Castile had been stopped by the police in a traffic stop as local police were looking for a pair of robbery suspects. Castile was cooperating with the police and he was merely returning home from having dinner and doing some grocery shopping.

The crime reached national notoriety, not because it was unusual, but because its immediate aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by the victim’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who had been riding with Castile and her daughter. On the Facebook clip, you can clearly hear Ms. Reynolds interacting with the police.

7 times. Clearly, officer Yanez was not merely attempting to disable or stop an assailant. Castile was not running away. He was not running towards police, weapon in hand, even though police had been told by Castile that he had a legally permitted firearm. Castile was shot in the process of handing over his wallet. He had already handed Yanez his proof of insurance and was making what he was doing very clear.

Diamond’s Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter was sitting in the backseat as Yanez pumped 5 bullets (2 missed) into his victim from point blank range, shooting through the driver’s side window. 2 bullets pierced Castile’s heart. Both Reynolds and the girl were miraculously not physically hurt; emotionally and mentally will be another story altogether.

The police car dashcam recorder shows that Yanez spoke to Castile for approximately 40 seconds before he started shooting. 7 times. Point blank. You can see it all as part of the video at the end of this post.

After the shooting, Yanez was unable to say that he had definitely seen a gun in Castile’s hand. However, almost a year later, during the trial, he emphatically said he had. When paramedics arrived, they found the gun still in Castile’s pocket. Yanez and his partner, Joseph Kauser hadn’t even bothered to take the pistol out and place it on the floor or on the seat of the car to make their story look good, as might happen in a TV crime drama.

7 times. Point blank. 2 in the heart. Yanez was acquitted of all charges (only 2nd Degree Manslaughter and 2 counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm) last week. To the city’s credit, he was fired the same day.

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah has addressed this tragic story, along with similar tragic stories numerous times. This story, as Mr. Noah points out, has something different about it: Philando Castile was not just deferential to the police. He was legally licensed to carry a firearm. He did everything he was supposed to do. He had a gun that the NRA says so vociferously that he has a right to bear. He threatened nobody, and, he got killed by the police in cold blood. Did the NRA wail about jackbooted cops attacking a legally armed citizen? Nope. A few days ago, Trevor Noah asked why. His 2:20 discussion, which I’ve placed at the beginning of this post, is must see TV. This is the kind of thing that makes The Daily Show special.

Trevor Noah followed up the next day. Please see below. Mr. Noah’s words are even more poignant, more moving. The laws, the lawyers, the courts, the jury; they all failed Philando Castile, and every one of us. It would be easy to make a cheap joke and say that Minnesota acted like Alabama, but, it’s much more tragic than that.

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L.A. Doesn't Allow Slavery-- Indentured Servants, Though... An Entirely Different Matter


I woke up this morning and my e-mail box was filled with messages about this report, Rigged by Brett Murphy for USA Today. I had missed it when it ran a few days ago but. My correspondents were insistent it is a must-read. And it is. It’s worth reading in full— though probably not on a full stomach. Murphy started off with the story of an immigrant trucker, Samuel Talavera Jr., virtually a modern day American slave. Or does being paid make you not a slave… even if the pay is 67 cents a week? One driver told Murphy that “We are not human. We are machines for making money for these people.” Talavera’s truck, which he was leasing-to-buy from the company he worked for, broke down in October, 2013.

When Talavera could not afford repairs, the company fired him and seized the truck-- along with $78,000 he had paid towards owning it.

Talavera was a modern-day indentured servant. And there are hundreds, likely thousands more, still on the road, hauling containers for trucking companies that move goods for America’s most beloved retailers, from Costco to Target to Home Depot.

These port truckers-- many of them poor immigrants who speak little English-- are responsible for moving almost half of the nation’s container imports out of Los Angeles’ ports. They don't deliver goods to stores. Instead they drive them short distances to warehouses and rail yards, one small step on their journey to a store near you.

A yearlong investigation by the USA Today Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.

If a driver quit, the company seized his truck and kept everything he had paid towards owning it.

If drivers missed payments, or if they got sick or became too exhausted to go on, their companies fired them and kept everything. Then they turned around and leased the trucks to someone else.

Drivers who manage to hang on to their jobs sometimes end up owing money to their employers— essentially working for free. Reporters identified seven different companies that have told their employees they owe money at week’s end.

The USA Today Network pieced together accounts from more than 300 drivers, listened to hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony and reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public.

Using the contracts, submitted as evidence in labor complaints, and shipping manifests, reporters matched the trucking companies with the most labor violations to dozens of retail brands, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, J.Crew, UPS, Goodyear, Costco, Ralph Lauren and more.

Among the findings:
Trucking companies force drivers to work against their will-- up to 20 hours a day-- by threatening to take their trucks and keep the money they paid toward buying them. Bosses create a culture of fear by firing drivers, suspending them without pay or reassigning them the lowest-paying routes.
To keep drivers working, managers at a few companies have physically barred them from going home. More than once, Marvin Figueroa returned from a full day’s work to find the gate to the parking lot locked and a manager ordering drivers back to work. “That was how they forced me to continue working,” he testified in a 2015 labor case. Truckers at two other companies have made similar claims.
Employers charge not just for truck leases but for a host of other expenses, including hundreds of dollars a month for insurance and diesel fuel. Some charge truckers a parking fee to use the company lot. One company, Fargo Trucking, charged $2 per week for the office toilet paper and other supplies.
Drivers at many companies say they had no choice but to break federal safety laws that limit truckers to 11 hours on the road each day. Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation testified that their managers dispatched truckers up to 20 hours a day, then wouldn’t pay them until drivers falsified inspection reports that track hours. Hundreds of California port truckers have gotten into accidents, leading to more than 20 fatalities from 2013 to 2015, according to the USA Today Network's analysis of federal crash and port trade data.
Many drivers thought they were paying into their truck like a mortgage. Instead, when they lost their job, they discovered they also lost their truck, along with everything they’d paid toward it. Eddy Gonzalez took seven days off to care for his dying mother and then bury her. When he came back, his company fired him and kept the truck. For two years, Ho Lee was charged more than $1,600 a month for a truck lease. When he got ill and missed a week of work, he lost the truck and everything he’d paid.
Retailers could refuse to allow companies with labor violations to truck their goods. Instead they’ve let shipping and logistics contractors hire the lowest bidder, while lobbying on behalf of trucking companies in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Walmart, Target and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies have paid lobbyists up to $12.6 million to fight bills that would have held companies liable or given drivers a minimum wage and other protections that most U.S. workers already enjoy.
This isn’t a case of a few bad trucking companies accused of mistreating a handful of workers.

Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ enforcement arm, known as the labor commission.

Judges have sided with drivers in more than 97% of the cases heard, ruling time after time that port truckers in California can’t legally be classified as independent contractors. Instead, they are employees who, by law, must be paid minimum wage and can’t be charged for the equipment they use at work.

The rulings stop there. They do not address specific allegations of abuse by drivers, including whether trucking companies physically barred them from leaving work or ordered them to work past federal fatigue limits.

But allegations like those have been made in sworn testimony in hundreds of the cases, virtually all of which ended with trucking companies ordered to repay drivers for truck expenses and lost wages. The USA Today Network found that at least 140 trucking companies have been accused by at least one driver of shorting them of fair pay or using threats to squeeze them to work longer hours.

Prominent civil rights leader Julian Bond once called California port truckers the new black tenant farmers of the post-Civil War South. Sharecroppers from that era rented farmland to make their living and regularly fell into debt to their landlords. Widespread predatory practices made it nearly impossible for the farmers to climb out.

Through lease contracts, California’s port truckers face the same kinds of challenges in ways that experts say rarely happen in the U.S. today.

“I don’t know of anything even remotely like this,” said Stanford Law School Professor William Gould, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and one of the nation’s top labor experts.

“You’re working to get yourself out of the debt. You just don’t see anything like that.”

…Some company owners said their lease-to-own programs were a favor to truckers who might otherwise have been out of work. And there are drivers who make it through the contract to own their trucks, something that’s grown more common with time and a rebounding economy. Drivers who can't make a living aren't working hard enough, many company executives say.

“Our owner very generously went out and purchased a fleet of clean trucks,” said Marc Koenig, a vice president at Performance Team, which has lost cases to 21 drivers at the California labor commission. “That’s what really frustrated our owner. He really reached out and helped these guys.”

…California’s port truckers make it possible for the Walmarts and Amazons of the world to function. Even so, most of the two dozen retail companies contacted by the USA Today Network declined to comment, some saying they had never heard of the rash of labor violations at their primary ports of entry.

Only Goodyear said it took immediate action. Spokesperson Keith Price said in a statement that the tire giant dropped Pacific 9 in 2015, “within two weeks” of California labor commission decisions in favor of dozens of drivers.

The few others that issued statements said it was not their responsibility to police the shipping industry. Retailers don't directly hire the truckers who move their goods at the pier. They generally hire large shipping or logistics firms that line up trucking companies through a maze of subcontractors.

…For decades, short-haul truckers at the nation’s ports relied on cheap clunkers to move goods to nearby warehouses and rail yards.

With little up-front investment, drivers-- most of them independent contractors who owned their own trucks-- could make a decent living squeezing the last miles from dilapidated big rigs that weren’t suited for the open road.

In October 2008, that changed dramatically in southern California, home of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach. State officials, fed up with deadly diesel fumes from 16,000 outdated trucks, ordered the entire fleet replaced with new, cleaner rigs.

Suddenly, this obscure but critical collection of trucking companies faced a $2.5 billion crossroads unlike anything experienced at other U.S. ports.

Instead of digging into their own pockets to undo the environmental mess they helped create, the companies found a way to push the cost onto individual drivers, who are paid by the number and kinds of containers they move, not by the hour.

There are 800 companies regularly operating at the LA ports. Almost all of them turned to some form of a lease-to-own model, some without thinking through the consequences, said industry consultant and lobbyist Alex Cherin.

“Flying by the seat of their pants and making it up as they went along,” he said of the scramble to find trucks for drivers. “Ultimately what they were trying to do was survive in a business with very thin margins.”

Truckers at dozens of companies describe the same basic scene. They were handed a lease-to-own contract by their employer and given a choice: Sign immediately or be fired. Many drivers who spoke little English said managers gave them no time to seek legal advice or even an interpreter to read the contract.

It was "take it or leave it," according to Fidel Vasquez, a driver for Total Transportation who said he couldn’t read the contract because it was in English.

Jose Juan Rodriguez owned his own truck and drove primarily for Morgan Southern, where two dozen drivers have filed claims for back pay at the California labor commission and civil court. Like many drivers, Rodriguez said he didn’t understand what he was signing, but felt he had no choice.

His wife has stage three breast cancer and his adult son has severe brain damage requiring frequent doctor visits.

“Where do I sign?” Rodriguez recalled asking right away. “The only thing I had to worry about is work, because I have a family.”

The contracts work like sub-leases. Knowing drivers could not qualify for their own loans or leases, trucking companies arranged to finance their fleets. Then they had drivers sign up for individual trucks.

Drivers gave their old trucks-- many of which they owned outright-- to their company as a down payment. And just like that they were up to $100,000 in debt to their own employer. The same guys would have had a tough time qualifying for a Hyundai days earlier.

As far back as August 2008, a trucking finance firm warned Port of Long Beach board members that 40% of drivers were likely to default on truck leases. But no one stopped the deals, which place almost all of the financial risk onto the workers.

Drivers' names were not on the truck titles. And many contracts effectively barred drivers from using their truck to work for other companies.

The companies also retained the power to decide how much work to give their drivers. They decide who gets the easiest and most lucrative routes-- and who gets to work at all.

That leaves drivers in constant fear of upsetting managers, who can fire them for any reason, or simply stop sending them business, a process some call “starving” them out of the truck.

On a five-year lease, drivers could pay in for four years and 11 months. If they got sick, fell behind on the lease or were fired in the last month, they could lose everything--as if they had never paid a dime.

“The truck was never his,” one California labor commission hearing officer noted in a March, 2014 ruling. “And he has nothing to show for all the time and money he spent.”

…Drivers who signed up for leases watched their take-home pay plummet and often had no choice but to work longer hours.

After emigrating from Nicaragua in 1992, Samuel Talavera Jr. drove a truck at the Los Angeles harbor and made an honest living. Since 9/11, all truckers working at ports of entry must be legal residents.

Talavera bought his wife, Reyna, a house and took his daughters to Disneyland.

But everything changed in late 2010, when he went into the QTS warehouse and his boss told him he needed to trade in his truck and sign a lease-purchase contract.

For the next four years, he worked mind-numbing hours to pay the bills.

To save commuting time, he slept in his truck at work. To avoid bathroom breaks, he kept an empty two-liter bottle by his side. He became a ghost to his family.

Still, he had to drain his savings to survive.

A stack of weekly paychecks he keeps in a drawer at home shows his worst weeks. He grossed $1,970 on June 3, 2011, but it all went back to QTS. After the lease and other truck expenses, he took home $33.

On February 10, 2012, he took home $112 after expenses.

The next week, he made 67 cents.

Reyna got two office cleaning jobs and a third taking care of the elderly to try to make ends meet. Even so, when her father died, she couldn’t afford to fly home for the funeral.

Talavera was working so much, she said. “We didn’t understand why there was hardly any money left over.”

Through interviews and court records, reporters catalogued more than 120 drivers who say they regularly worked past exhaustion, 12 to 20 hours straight behind the wheel.

Federal law prohibits commercial truckers from driving more than 11 hours at a time, and they can’t work at all after 14 hours, until they have had 10 hours of rest. Government studies show that for every hour past 11 that someone drives, the chances of crashing increase exponentially.

Many drivers feel they have no choice but to take that risk.

On bad weeks-- when Flores hits traffic or gets assigned a low-paying delivery-- he says he takes home $300 or less for 100 hours of work. That translates into $3 an hour, less than a third of what he could make washing dishes at California’s minimum wage.

Drivers could quit and find new work. But many, like Flores, say they’ve stayed on hoping things would improve. Then they realized if they quit, they would lose thousands paid toward their truck. “They’re captive,” Teamsters’ international vice president Fred Potter said.

Truck payments can cut so deep into wages that drivers actually owe their employer come Friday.

“Working for free,” one driver called it in a court statement.

Paychecks read instead like weekly invoices: Faustino Denova, negative $9.64. Germen Merino, negative $92.50. Jose Covarrubias, negative $280.

For some truckers, the debt stacked up week after week, until they borrowed against their house or from friends, used their savings to pay it off or until their company fired them.

“The company didn't care whether I took a gallon of milk to my home or not,” one driver testified in a civil court case. “The company would take everything.”

Enough weeks like that put truckers into a hole they can’t escape.

Like many drivers, Talavera and his wife fell behind on their mortgage, and then stopped paying it altogether. They filed for bankruptcy to save their home.

In ways that happen in virtually no other workplace in America, port trucking companies in Southern California wield enormous power over their workers.

Through interviews and a review of sworn statements, the USA Today Network identified more than 100 drivers who reported threats and retaliation. Managers punish drivers most often for turning down the lowest-paying routes, missing work or refusing to work past federal hour limits.

At least 24 companies have fired drivers outright under those circumstances, according to interviews and a review of court, NLRB and California labor commission records. In each case, the driver lost his truck and what he’d paid into it.

Arcadio Amaya said he refused to work 15 hours straight one night at Pacgran Inc. and was fired the next day. He lost $26,400 he had paid toward a truck.

Armando Logamo, a former driver at RPM Harbor Services, said he saw other drivers bribing dispatchers for better-paying assignments, so he told his supervisor. The next week, Logamo was fired. He lost the truck, along with all the payments he had put into it.

“They fired me because I was one of the ones that was speaking up,” he said. “It was pretty devastating because I was with them for two plus years.”

Eddy Gonzalez once missed a day when he was called to court to testify as a witness. As punishment, he said his boss at Seacon Logix didn't let him work the next day.

Then, a few months later, he missed a week to bury his dead mother. When Gonzalez came back, he said, his boss cleaned out his truck and fired him on the spot while he pleaded to keep his job.

“He just took the keys and left,” Gonzalez testified in court.
On Monday, Nanette Barragan, a freshman congresswoman whose district isn’t far from L.A.’s port was with the Teamsters to stand with them in solidarity on this issue. This morning she told me that her cousin is a truck driver. “I know first hand how hard our truck drivers work to make ends meet. Some of them don't even make minimum wage; this is unjust. I stand with our working families who deserve a fair and just wage."

Kia Hamadanchy is running for the Orange County congressional seat held by absentee congresswoman and Trump/Ryan rubberstamp Mimi Walters. Moments ago told us that "What's happening to these truckers is absolutely unconscionable and should have no place in any industry in this country. Companies shouldn't be allowed to trap their workers in these kinds of arrangements and situations like these are a big part of why I'm running for Congress and what I'd fight for once I get there." And the other excellent progressive running for the CA-45 seat is Katie Porter, who had the same reaction as Kia. She told us that "This is another example of how crushing, exploitive debt reveberates through people's lives and makes it almost impossible for many families to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. You should be able to work in this country to get yourself out of debt, but our financial and legal system has created an almost permanent class of debtors. Its why in Congress, I'll work to end credit checks for hiring and end employment discrimination based off consumer financial history."

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If Pelosi Goes Who Would You Like To See As Leader, Crowley, Hoyer Or Wasserman Schultz?


The Dream Team-- for the GOP at least

I gradually stopped being a fan of Nancy Pelosi’s. I went from an admirer to a detractor primarily because of how she ran the DCCC-- an utter catastrophe for Democrats-- and because she imperiously declared an impeachment investigation of Bush was “off the table” after the Democrats won back the House. But my anger towards her has built slowly as the DCCC leaders she appointed went from bad to worse-- and lost more and more House seats. But, I’m not foolish enough to get onboard the train that is most eager to displace her-- the New Dem/Blue Dog choo choo-- i.e., the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- salivating at any prospect of kicking her and her progressive core values to the curb. She may be terrible, but everyone lined up to replace her is much, much, much worse. How many times do I have to say “much” to get the point across? K Street wants their man Steny Hoyer. Wall Street wants their man Joe Crowley. Those are the two most likely successors and Wall Street would as happily settle for Hoyer as K Street would for Crowley. Is there no one else? Not really… unless you want to rev up that ole Wasserman Schultz machine again-- a hopefully no one wants that, not even the members she’s still been funneling the dirty money to that she takes from all the wrong sources.

Late Wednesday afternoon two consecutive Politico pieces, one by John Bresnahan at 4pm and then another by Gabe Debenedetti at 5:30, raised the spectre of a revolt against Pelosi’s leadership over Ossoff’s loss. Before we get into them, I just want to remind everyone when House Dems whined and fulminated last year about how the caucus wanted to take control of the DCCC from Pelosi she granted them two concessions. First was that the DCCC chair would be elected not appointed. And second that 5 DCCC regional vice chairs would be elected by members.

So here’s what happened. Pelosi nominated the hapless and worthless failure who had been trained by the vile Steve Israel and had already proven himself absolutely incompetent and a detriment to Democrats ever winning anything. No one ran against him and he was unanimously reelected. I don’t think any of the DCCC regional vice chair seats were contested and the 5 members were elected: Joe Kennedy (Northeast), Don McEachin (South), Betty McCollum (Midwest), Jared Polis (Central), Ted Lieu (West Coast). From what I can tell the only one taking the job seriously is, predictably, Ted Lieu. I spoke with one of the other Vice Chairs and he confided in me that he doesn’t know why he ran and doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do. I tried going over some of the live races in his area and he was unaware of any of them. When I call a candidate in California, even really long-shot candidates in non-targeted districts, they tell me they’ve already had conversations with Ted Lieu or with his chief of staff. When I call candidates in crucial states like Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York they mostly say they never heard of a DCCC Regional Vice Chair. “What do they do?” Good question. But "nothing"-- other than in Ted's case-- would be a likely answer.

If the fish rots from the head, in the case of the House Democratic Caucus, the rot has spread really deeply… really, really deeply. The leadership is sclerotic; so is much of the membership. “There's a lot of grumbling by rank-and-file members, but no leadership change is imminent, wrote Bresnahan. “There is no challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, and none is going to happen at this point, said numerous Democrats. But it’s clear frustration is growing with the longtime Democratic leader following the extensive losses Democrats have suffered over the past half-decade. And the fact that Republicans spent millions of dollars on TV ads tying Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff to Pelosi-- and the brand of progressive policies she represents-- shows that she will once again be an issue for Democratic challengers in the very districts that the party needs to win to make her speaker again.” Bresnahan, of course, doesn’t put who the members he quotes into any kind of real context. For example, his first quote is from ultra-conservative/ultra-corrupt Texas Blue Dog, Fielmon Vela, who has an ugly “F” rating from ProgressivePunch and who votes against progressive legislation more frequently than he supports anything worthwhile. The only Texans with (marginally) worse voting records are fellow Blue Dogs Vicente González and Henry Cuellar-- and in the current session Vela’s record is worse than González’s. He generally votes for whatever he’s paid to vote for and he doesn’t belong in Congress (or the Democratic Party) but here’s what he told Politico: “I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top… Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.” (It’s unimaginable to someone like Vela that Ossoff could have lost because he failed to embrace a progressive narrative once he had sucked millions and millions or dollars from the grassroots vaguely pretending to be progressive when he launched his campaign.) Bresnahan found other garbage-crats to give him quotes too, like Long Island Wall Street shill, New Dem Kathleen Rice.
“There comes a time when every leader has to say, ‘For the good of the order and for the betterment of the party, it’s time for me to step aside.’ And I wish that that would happen right now,” Rice said in an interview. “This is not a personal thing. I want to get back in the majority.”

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who challenged Pelosi for minority leader in November, wouldn’t comment directly whether she should step down, saying only, “My position hasn’t changed.”

“I think it’s very concerning that that tactic still has some punch,” Ryan said. “Again, it’s part of the broader national brand that average people don’t feel connected to the Democratic Party. Walk up the street and ask 10 people what the Democrats stand for, you’ll get 10 different answers. That’s no way to build a national party.”
There was even a little anti-Pelosi cabal that Rice put together with fellow conservaDem Seth Moulton (D-MA) on Thursday. Louisiana New Dem Cedric Richmond, head of the Congressional Black Caucus, was one of the dozen attendees. Progressives aren't breaking from Pelosi... it's really just the very corrupted Republican wing of the party. Debendetti started by quoting a spokesperson for MoveOn: “There are definitely some real lessons to be taken from this: Democrats are going to have to do better and improve on things a lot in order to take advantage of the opportunity presented by 2018. It doesn't matter how much money you have if it's not clear to people what you stand for, and if what you stand for isn't change.”
But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee doesn’t believe it erred in the Georgia race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Karen Handell, or in its spending decisions in the surprisingly competitive South Carolina special election that also took place Tuesday. After all, each of those districts-- like those in Kansas and Montana special elections earlier this year-- swung aggressively toward Democrats, and the group has been testing messages and tactics for 2018 within those races.

In a memo to staff and lawmakers on Wednesday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan even declared for the first time that the House is in play.

But the morning was otherwise marked by finger-pointing reflecting some of the biggest divisions in the party-- including some that have been festering since the 2016 presidential primary. To many progressives, Ossoff’s loss was a symptom of the party’s insistence on running moderate candidates who try to appeal too much to Republicans who dislike Trump.

"So far this cycle, we've seen an underfunded, authentic candidate with a message lose and we've seen a well-funded candidate with D.C. talking points lose. Now it's time to focus on putting real resources behind candidates who can inspire progressives and give folks a clear vision for the future," said longtime Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz, referring respectively to Rob Quist in Montana and Ossoff. "Democrats have to stop focusing all our energy on winning over Romney voters and start figuring out how to bring more progressive independents into the fold.”

Ossoff’s closing message in a district that routinely goes for GOP candidates by at least 20 points was largely about fiscal responsibility, rather than opposition to Trump or the offer of a broad economic plan. That kind of message is anathema to many liberal lawmakers and strategists.

“We need a bolder economic platform, our party needs to be for good jobs and better wages, [and] we have to have some bold economic ideas that are going to convince people that we get it,” said Rep. Ro Khanna of California. “There’s still a ways to go. The challenge is not simply a messaging issue or a branding issue, the challenge is a vision issue.”
Any wonder Ro Khanna is the very first member of Congress from anywhere in the country to endorse Randy Bryce for Congress? "We need leaders connected to the community who can speak with authenticity about the need for universal healthcare, better wages, and good jobs," said Ro. "Randy has a bold vision that is rooted in his life experience. It's heartening to see people like Randy step up to serve. That is what our founders envisioned."

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

How The Democrats' Worst Enemy Is... The DCCC


Lottery winner Gilbert Cisneros

Yesterday’s Democratic operative quote of the day was "We no longer have a party caucus capable of riding this wave. We have 80-year-old leaders and 90-year-old ranking members. This isn't a party. It's a giant assisted living center. Complete with field trips, gym, dining room and attendants." I would just add that the younger leaders-in-waiting are even worse-- much worse than the ones on their way out. The shady Wall Street hustler who Pelosi and Hoyer have picked to take over leadership of the House Democrats once they’re finally gone— Caucus Chair Joe Crowley— told Fox’s Chad Program that though the Dems didn’t win GA-06, “2018 will be a different story.” Pelosi’s utterly worthless, zero value-add DCCC chairman, Ben Ray Luján, petrified the grassroots money he’s been wasting might dry up after the loss in GA-06, sent DCCC staffers a memo for them to leak asserting that polling shows the Democrats can win back the House in 2018 by taking seats from vulnerable GOP incumbents-- pointing specifically to Brian Mast (FL-18), Darrell Issa (CA-49), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), David Valadao (CA-21), Jeff Denham (CA-10),Kevin Yoder (KS-03) and Martha McSally (AZ-02). The clueless and ineffective chairman wrote that his pathetic committee has “a unique opportunity to flip control of the House of Representatives in 2018. This is about much more than one race: the national environment, unprecedented grassroots energy and impressive Democratic candidates stepping up to run deep into the battlefield leave no doubt that Democrats can take back the House next fall.” He added that the DCCC is out recruiting, something that should scare the crap out of all Democrats since all the DCCC looks for are uninspiring wealthy self-funders, Republican-lite misanthropes and identity politics garbage. Without a trace of irony, he wrote that the reactionaries who head the recruitment committee-- Blue Dog Cheri Bustos (a Rahm thing) and wealthy New Dem Denny Heck-- are looking for “top-tier candidates to fill the remaining holes in our map… We have our work cut out for us. Taking back the majority will not be easy. Despite the grassroots energy and the winds at our backs, we have a number of real structural disadvantages in these districts.” He should get a giant mirror for himself and his grotesquely corrupt staff if he wants to examine those real structural disadvantages.

Or maybe he could hire someone like the NY Times’ Nate Cohn to look into what ails-- and has been ailing for over a decade-- the DCCC, making it dysfunctional and an assert for Republican control. In a column after the Ossoff debacle, Cohn noted that the Democratic candidates outperformed but still lost in red open seats in Kansas, Montana, Georgia and South Carolina. Wutgout mentioning DCCC ineptness and lousy recruitment, Cohn wrote that “this contradiction is the heart of the challenge the party faces in 2018. Democrats will probably benefit from an extremely favorable political environment, as they do today. But the problem is that they’re fighting an uphill battle, even if the wind is strongly at their backs. The 2018 midterm elections will be decided in Republican-leaning terrain. Even a wave the size of the electoral tsunamis that swept Republicans out of power in 2006 and back into it 2010 would not guarantee the Democrats a House majority in 2018.”
Democrats did better in these special elections than would have been expected, based on previous election results and even supposing that the national political environment was as hostile for Republicans as it was in 2006. That’s even true in Georgia’s Sixth, where Mitt Romney and the outgoing representative (Tom Price) won by 23 points, even though President Trump won by just 1.5 points.

Democratic strength is not surprising, since all of the ingredients for a strong Democratic performance are in place. The president’s party just about always loses seats in the midterm elections, and it generally gets clobbered when the president’s approval rating is beneath 50 percent, much less beneath 40.

But alone, a strong national political environment doesn’t guarantee Democratic control of the House.

The Democrats just don’t have many top-tier opportunities to win Republican-held seats. This year, just 11 Republicans represent seats with a Democratic tilt in recent presidential elections. Back in 2010, the Republicans had 73 such opportunities.

The election in 2006 is a particularly relevant example, because Democrats had a somewhat similar, if better, set of opportunities. Those chances yielded 31 seats, just a few more than the 24 seats they need in 2018. But Democrats also had some good luck in 2006 that will be hard to duplicate: There were a half dozen safely Republican districts where the incumbent succumbed to scandal or indictment, including Tom DeLay, a House majority leader.

The Republicans have a real shot to retain control of the House in a political climate that would doom them under typical circumstances. There are a lot of reasons for this structural G.O.P. advantage, like partisan gerrymandering, the inefficient distribution of Democrats in heavily Democratic cities, and the benefit of incumbency.

To retake the House, Democrats will ultimately need to carry seats with a clear Republican tradition. This year’s special elections, including Jon Ossoff’s loss to Karen Handel in Georgia, are a reminder that it will indeed be difficult for Democrats to win in Republican-leaning districts, just as it was for the Democrats in 2006 or for Republicans on Democratic-leaning turf in 2010.

Recruitment and messaging are key. The Democrats are looking at candidates who are duplicates of the vile recruiters (think New Dem Heck and Blue Dog Bustos)… and worse. Worse? Oh yeah. Let’s look at CA-39 for a moment, powerful entrenched incumbent Ed Royce’s seat, predominantly in Orange County but with a chunk of L.A. County and a sliver of San Bernardino County. The DCCC has, for years, studiously avoided targeting Royce. Then Hillary beat Trump there 51.5% to 42.9%, her biggest win among the GOP-held Orange County districts the DCCC says they hope to win in 2018. Whites are a minority in this district and the DCCC should have been building a multi cycle campaign to win it back for years; but they’re way too lame, incompetent and unaccountable to have done any such thing. The district stretches from deep blue Hacienda Heights into La Brea Heights, La Habra, Rowland Heights, Brea, up to Walnut, Diamond Bar and Chino Hills and then south to Buena Park, Fullerton, Placenta, and Yorba Linda.

How excited is the DCCC about winning CA-39 and ousting Royce? They’re already written it off. The powers that be in DC have decided to sell the nomination to someone they know will have no chance to win, a very wealthy-- but otherwise useless-- lottery winner named Gil Cisneros. Cisneros doesn’t live in the district and his preparation for announcing his campaign is trying to lose a couple of chins plus meeting with corrupt lobbyists at a resort outside of DC this weekend instead of meeting folks in the district the DCCC is selling him. (The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Bold PAC, run by Tony Cárdenas is brokering the deal and hosting the weekend event at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge, Maryland. Besides all the corrupt lobbyists, attendees include Tom Perez, Steny Hoyer, Ben Ray Lujan, Cárdenas, and reactionary Blue Dogs Jim Costa (CA), Vicente Gonzalez (TX), Stephanie Murphy (FL), Tom O’Halleran (AZ) and Lou Correa (CA). Among the lobbyists will be representatives of AT&T, the Pedestal Group, Goldman Sachs, Walmart, Microsoft, Charter Communications, Amgen, Concast, Pepsi, Pfizer, Sempra Energy, Primerica, Loews, Biogen, T-Mobile, Safeway, Johnson & Johnson, Astra Zenica, Sprint, PayPal, and dozens more.

So far Man-Khanh Tran and Philip Janowicz have declared for the seat and rumors are circulating that progressive attorney Sam Jammal will also run. But what I’m being told is that the DCCC is going along with Bold PAC to give the nomination to Cisneros in return for lots and lots and lots of that lottery money and then just give ups on the seat entirely. Works for Royce too, doesn’t it? I wish I could say this is a unique situation but this is the kind of crap the DCCC has been pulling for years and continues right now. I don’t see it ever changing without a major upheaval in the House Democratic Caucus. Last year when the rank and file threatened Pelosi if she didn’t let them elect the DCCC chair, she agreed and then no one even ran against incompetent loser Lujan. And people wonder why Democrats can’t beat Trump and the Republicans! Expect no changes until the sclerotic House leadership changes-- and that ain't changin' unless 2018 is another series of GA-06's and more cycles like 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

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Latest Mumia Abu-Jamal Book Asks A Provocative Question: Have Black Lives Ever Mattered?


-by Denise Sullivan

Following the shocking back-to-back police murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille outside St. Paul in July of 2016, author and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal responded with what seemed to be an uncharacteristic loss for words when he ended a short lament titled "Killed By Cops Who Were 'Just Doing Their Jobs'" with this refrain:

And another one gone…and another…and another.

A few days later, in a piece called "What Happens To A Dream Deferred," he invoked the Langston Hughes poem in reference to Sterling, Castile, and a massacre in Dallas in which five police officers and others were injured.

A new stage has been reached in America's longest war with itself.

Capsulizing the history of white slave patrols, their relationship to today's police departments and a justice system that preserves immunity for officers who kill, Abu-Jamal goes on to suggest how and why we've arrived at such a horrific place in American history.

Oppression can drive people mad. It can turn calm brains into minds consumed by anger, rage, and resentment.

One year later, in the wake of recent worldwide terrorist events, mass shootings from coast to coast, and an entirely not unexpected not guilty verdict for Jeronimo Yanez, the cop who killed Castile, it is safe to say the tyranny of our brand of liberty has brought us to yet another new stage in the long war with ourselves. In his broadcasts, Abu-Jamal quotes Alexis de Tocqueville and Mao Tse-tung as he reckons with the civil war now in progress. In another titled, The Second Death of Philando, he concludes, "The jury believed once again, that a black life had no intrinsic value and that it could be treated like trash, burned up and discarded, like an old pair of shoes."

In his latest collection of essays, Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? published this month by City Lights, Abu-Jamal offers no easy answers except for what's undeniable: "Well, they certainly seem important enough to suppress and steal." Over the course of the book, he shines his light on a fraction of the Black lives sacrificed since 1998-- the cases that made it into the public eye-- while underscoring the fact: Living while Black in the US is in itself a traumatic experience.

Between waging his own daily struggle to maintain his health despite being denied care on the inside, and working continually to overturn his own wrongful conviction for allegedly killing a police officer in 1981, Abu-Jamal writes, and writes, and writes: Over the course of nine books including the previous City Lights collection, Writing on the Wall, countless essays and radio broadcasts, all created in prison over 30 years, (much of that time on Death Row), Abu-Jamal has rung the warning bells, raised and lowered the flags for freedom, and sounded its sirens with his words, in his efforts to defer the American emergency in progress. Stating in plain language what may seem obvious is an art, the job of a prophetic voice, and Abu-Jamal owns his. The view from the inside allows for his precision and laser-focus, to see and say things the likes of which we who are free to travel the world and the Internet cannot. And yet, his status or lack of it as a prison inmate has left his input marginalized and at times dismissed by society at large. Perhaps the sheer volume of work at this point is what daunts otherwise intelligent people to shun him, or maybe it's just that old white supremacy doing its number again...

There remains an inexplicable resistance within the so-called progressive left to regard Abu-Jamal as a poet and a writer of substance, much less a prophet or defining voice of the voiceless. Those who seem to have the time for revered prison writings from Jean Genet, George Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, just haven't gotten around to vigorous discussion of Abu-Jamal's vast catalog of material. Though his supporters may rest assured that long after we're all gone, these writings will stand as testimonies to a very strange time in American history and scholars of the future will likely shake their heads in disbelief at why more attention was not paid to his prophetic wisdom and why we did not heed its call. Therein these compositions are answers and valuable tools for the recovery of America's lost soul.

In a 2002 piece titled, "The Other Central Park Rapes," concerning the five young men wrongfully accused and incarcerated for crimes they did not commit in 1989, Abu-Jamal calls out Donald J. Trump, citing the vicious full page ads he took out proclaiming the men should've received the death penalty (the young men were later found innocent after serving from 6-13 years of their 5-15 year sentences). Of that miscarriage of justice, Abu-Jamal asserts that this was no isolated incident: That five Black men should be victimized by the justice and prison systems, scarred for life by its business as usual, is quite simply more evidence of Black lives cast aside. In this same piece he asserts Black, Brown, and Latino lives "don't matter."

A 1998 essay, "We Are Blind To Everything But Color," considers how people are treated in court: "…how they are charged and how they are sentenced are direct reflections of what race and ethnicity they are and how such traits are regarded by white America." He outlines an experimental exercise among law students in which whites imagined turning Black and agreed it was "a disability," worthy of millions in damage awards. "Why damages, unless color does matter?" he asks.

Of the 41 shots that killed Amadou Diallo, in 1999, Abu-Jamal noted the "predictable acquittal of his killers, four white cops," in 2002 and called for the formation of a movement to stop the violence. Some 12 years later, following the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, that movement launched, though Black Lives Matter does not claim inspiration from Abu-Jamal nor does he seek their endorsement, though anyone with eyes and ears can see he was the forerunner in regard to resisting police terror and naming white supremacy as a source of law enforcement's ills.

Read one by one like a daily reader, the essays, like the radio commentaries, are dense enough to reflect on for hours. Read all in one sitting, the evidence for bias presented by Abu-Jamal could potentially penetrate a racist mind and change it for the better, though sensitive liberals may find themselves sick with grief following the undeniable catalog of suffering here, some of it committed by our own hands (let this serve as your trigger warning). His critique of politicians is not reserved for the right: He notes the Clintons role in what he calls the mass incarceration boom as well as Obama's legacy of mass surveillance and systemic repression: "He left the horrors of mass incarceration fundamentally unchanged and in the hands of an ultra-right wing populist, endorsed by a known domestic terrorist group, the Ku Klux Klan."

As we prepare for the long hot summer of American contradiction and its high holiday, the Fourth of July, Mumia asks us to consider what he and abolitionist Frederick Douglass asked: What does such an observance mean to a slave? As long as we remain a nation with the highest prison population in the world, with over two million serving time, we are not only a prison nation, but none of us are free. Time and again, the wrong people are warehoused when the real killers of American freedoms have yet to be tried, convicted, and locked away. "Until then," Abu-Jamal writes,"The Fourth is just another day."

The State of Pennsylvania has remained invested in keeping Abu-Jamal behind bars, despite a pile of evidence in favor of his innocence. In the eyes of a racist and fearful America this makes perfect sense, though in a more perfect union, where the deck isn't stacked and there is such a thing as a justice for all, Abu-Jamal's lifetime of incarceration would be the crime. Until that time, his writings provide companionship in the bleak hours of an American narrative that affirms, again and again although it's a lie, that some lives are expendable.

Denise Sullivan is the author of Keep On Pushing: Black Power Music From Blues to Hip Hop and an occasional contributor to DWT on arts, culture, and gentrification issues.

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Whither Thou Goest, Sean Spicer?


-by Noah

President Trump is reportedly considering limiting press briefings. Of course, he is. His desire to work his corruption and his incompetence in as much shadow and secrecy as possible should come as no surprise. Trump has taken note of how fellow Republican, $enate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is working on their Trumpcare bill in secret and he’s decided that turning Republican governance completely into a black hole of secrecy is the way to go.

Spicy, we hardly knew ye...

Remember when Trump said he had the best words? Well, the Trumpanzee’s ”Best Words” guy, Sean Spicer, is all but gone. The White House says Spicy is interviewing potential replacements.

Yeah, I know, Sean Spicer was always obviously, “gone.” Spicy is or was one helluva gone guy. He’s got quiet an imagination. He sees people, live people, people that just aren’t there. We realized that on his first day on the job when he spoke about the inauguration “crowd.” Spicer begat a whole cottage industry of memes.

Spicer is an unintentional master of the surreal and a court jester. But, he is gone, as in no longer in his job. The job he elevated to high Orwellian comedy. The job that he was born to fill! He was press secretary of the most famous lunatic asylum of all time. Looks like we won’t have him to kick around anymore.

Will Spicer ever face the press again? How long before Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus announces that Spicer has been sent to a farm in the country where he can happily play and frolic all day with all the other former press secretaries?

Soon, we will be wondering...

Has anyone seen my old friend Sean? Can you tell me where he’s gone? Did Kellyanne Conway cook him up in a big black pot in the Rose Garden and eat him? Has he been thrown in the dungeon on Elba to party with Napoleon’s ghost?

Has he been disappeared? Will Spicer be found buried in the concrete foundation of a Trump Tower in Swaziland, Fredonia or The Duchy of Grand Fenwick? Has he been quietly made President Trump’s new envoy to an isolated Amazon tribe, or emissary to the spirits of some off the map South Seas volcano? Will he return? Will he ever return? Will his fate remain unknown?

OK. I guess the world needs to accept the abrupt departure of Spicy, but did it have to be this way? Already, the Great White Asylum has announced that there will be no more live Spicy Shows. No More! Oh no! Instead, they said there would be “press conferences” with no audio and no visuals. It’s not just no Spicy. The asylum would control the vertical and the horizontal because reality is so passé in Trumpworld. I guess in the world of the outer limits, it was bound to happen. But, to never witness the surreal dark comedy stylings of Spicy ever again? That’s harsh.

You knew Spicy’s days were numbered, when Trump, knowing that Spicy is a devout Catholic, shafted him during the recent Trump Insult The Allies Tour by not letting him even meet the Pope and shake his hand. It’s a measure of Spicer’s foolishness that he didn’t quit then and there, but I guess he needed a ride home.

I know the Trumpanzee decided that Spicy was no longer up to the gig. It’s doubtful that any clown on Trump’s vast roster of wackos would be. Trump, himself, can’t handle the job. You can’t expect a person as insecure as Trump to surround himself with people that might outshine him.

But couldn’t they have been kinder to Spicy?

Instead of not letting him speak to the press anymore, couldn’t they have still let Spicy still come out to the podium. He could have referred all questions to his imaginary 6-foot rabbit friend Harvey.

Spicy himself, has experience as a bunny so that seems to fit. What harm would it do? We’re already way beyond that point. The bottom line would still be the same.

Who better than the rabbit Harvey to represent today’s Trumpian Nut House. An ephemeral, phantom spokesperson who doesn’t really exist drawing endless alleged “alternative facts” from some Rose Garden wormhole that leads to an alternate universe. SNL’s Melissa McCarthy? A mime? The Duck Dynasty weirdo? A Fox “News” intern? A Russian whore? Chris Christie still wants a job with Trumpy and he’s already proven that he’ll lower himself to any level. Perhaps you have a relative locked away in a padded cell who’d fit right in. Who would Putin choose?

Alas, for now, it won’t be Harvey. It will be the single digit IQ Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Meanwhile, Spicer and his imaginary rabbit friend, the only friend he has left, will interview those potential replacements. Who wants the job? Feel free to apply. If you include a picture of yourself with a screwdriver embedded in your forehead, your application will probably go right to the top of the pile.

Spicy’s future...

I expect that, in the distant future, Spicy may be found in a D.C. alley one night. He will have miraculously escaped exile, adopted a new identity, but failed as a FOX “News” host. His only friend, Harvey, will always be close by, even though no one else sees him; just like all those people no one but he and Trump saw at the 2017 inauguration, or all those 3 million illegal Clinton voters.

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Some People "Would Rather Have 1st Class Seats on the Titanic Than Change the Course of the Ship"


(Click to see original tweet.)

by Gaius Publius

"Change cannot occur if the displaced ruling class is left intact after a revolution against them. We have proof of this throughout South America. Every revolution by the indigenous people has left unmolested the Spanish ruling class, and every revolution has been overthrown[.]"
—Paul Craig Roberts, quoted here

Read the quote in the graphic above again. Insider Party consultants made millions off of Jon Ossoff's loss. Would those insiders take an Ossoff win if it meant no money for them? These people, Democratic Party elites, are not your friends and they're not the nation's friends. They are their own friends, period.

This is the other problem the nation faces. This is why the nation can't have nice things, like Medicare for All:
Hillary Clinton: Single-payer health care will 'never, ever' happen

Clinton stressed how difficult it is to stand up to the existing health insurance industry ... "I think it's important to point out that there are a lot of reasons we have the health care system we have today," she said. "I know how much money influences the political decision-making..."
an economy free of predatory monopolies:
Amazon is the shining representative of a new golden age of monopoly that also includes Google and Walmart.... In its pursuit of bigness, Amazon has left a trail of destruction—competitors undercut, suppliers squeezed—some of it necessary, and some of it highly worrisome. And in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette, it has entered a phase of heightened aggression unseen even when it tried to crush Zappos by offering a $5 rebate on all its shoes or when it gave employees phony business cards to avoid paying sales taxes in various states.)
and bankers who got to jail when they steal money ("The Untouchables: How the Obama administration protected Wall Street from prosecutions").

This is a large part of why the worst political party in 100 years — the Republican Party, if you're wondering — holds so much power. The other resistance is against Democratic Party policies like these. Democrats will have a very hard time winning until they change.

Which means, I think, that we'll have to make them change. It should be clear by now that the next revolution must be inside the Democratic Party, unless one wishes to scale the mountain of deliberate, structural impediments to forming a viable, 50-state third party.

No Time Left At All

Moreover, we don't have time for a 30-year project of reform. We have two years, maybe four, at most — après ça, le déluge. Here's why:

a. Climate change won't wait 30 years, while we elect sufficient climate-friendly Democrats and build sufficient Democratic political infrastructure to deal with it.​ Mother Nature is on the very verge of shrugging her shoulders at last and sloughing us to the floor of the historical past. Once that moment occurs, once we cross that line, we're doomed to end as a memory, though none will be left to remember us.

b. Nor will all the pissed-off, angry, dying middle class voters wait 30 years, those who live in states where pissed-off dying voters are most concentrated and who chose the worst presidential candidate in modern history, Donald F-ing Trump (yes, that's his middle name), over the "You can't have nice things" Democratic candidate our Establishment elites cleverly offered them.

Those people won't wait at all. They've totally had it. Students drowning in debt have totally had it. The jobless and homeless — and soon-to-be jobless and homeless — they've had it as well. Every independent ("I hate both parties") voter in the country, or most, have had it too, and every study says so.

How many "I hate both parties" voters are there — or would-be voters if someone would just give them something to vote for? This many:

What does "they have had it" look like in practice? It looks like anything that looks like rebellion against a hopeless life, including putting a fool like Trump in office. It also includes horrors like these. (Nicole Sandler and I discussed this very topic, the collapsing social contract, recently. Click here for the interview. Start at 42:00 for that part of the discussion. Or start at 31:15 for the whole interview, where we discuss what's going on with Trump-Russia-Comeygate as well.)

"Tick-tick-tick," says the world-historical clock on the wall. By my count, with the Georgia election Democrats have just blown their fifth chance in a row to make a new first impression — all so that its entrenched politicians, consultants, service-providing infrastructure and media surrogates can make a larger pile of money, grease the skids on their own and their children's careers, and swan about DC like the minor-league queens and kings they think they are.

"We may be on the Titanic," I hear them all say, "but the service in First Class is terrific! Check out the lobster in the Oh It's You, Senator lounge."

Protecting Their First Class Seats on the Titanic

The quote in the title of this piece is from Bernie Sanders, said in a recent interview with David Sirota. Here's just a part (emphasis and paragraphing mine):
Sirota: The Democratic Party leadership has lost the White House, Congress, 1,000 state legislative seats and many governorships. Why is the party still run by the same group of people who delivered that electoral record?

Sanders: Because there are people who, as I often say, would rather have first class seats going down with the Titanic, rather than change the course of the ship. There are people who have spent their entire lives in the Democratic Party, there are people who've invested a whole lot of money into the Democratic Party, they think the Democratic Party belongs to them. You know, they own a home, they may own a boat, they may own the Democratic Party.

I mean, that's just the way people are, and I think there is reluctance on some, not all, by the way — I mean, I ran around this country and I met with the Democratic Party leaders in almost every state in the country. Some of them made it very clear they did not want to open the door to working people, they did not want to open to door to young people. They wanted to maintain the status quo.

On the other hand, I will tell you, there are party leaders around the country that said, “You know what, Bernie? There’s a lot of young people out there who want to get involved. We think that’s a great idea, and we want them involved.”
Those who said "You know what, Bernie? There’s a lot of young people out there who want to get involved. We think that’s a great idea" — they don't run the Party when it comes to its top layers of leadership. Not by a very long shot.

For the Message to Change, the Leadership Must Change

So what's a progressive to do? It should be obvious. The Democratic Party has to change its policy offering, from "You can't have what all of you want" to "If the people want a better life, we will give it to them."

Yet this is not so easily done. For the message to change, the leadership must also change.

Which raises the critical question: How do we depose Chuc​k Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and the rest of their kind and make people like Bernie Sanders and Jeff Merkley the Party leaders instead?

After all, if someone like Bernie Sanders isn't Senate Majority Leader, if a Sanders-like politician (Ted Lieu perhaps) isn't Speaker of the House, what's the point of electing more back-bench progressives, more "supporting cast" players? ​

If there's no way to do that — and soon, given the ticking clock — we're Sisyphus pushing the same heavy boulder up the same high hill, year after year, decade after decade, till we die or the game is finally truly over. 2018 is around the bend. 2020 is coming. Après ça, le déluge. Not much time to solve this one.

Completely filling the Second Class cabins on the Titanic with our people (that is, populating Congress with progressives who are nevertheless kept from leadership and control) won't change what goes on in the Captain's cabin and on the bridge.

Put more simply, we need to control the Party, or when the clock truly runs out, all this effort will truly have been pointless. I'm not fatalistic. I assume there's a way. So here's my first shot at an answer.

Elected Progressives Must Openly Rebel Against Their "Leaders"

In order for the revolution inside the Democratic Party to work, our elected progressive congressional representatives and senators, must work to depose Pelosi and Schumer (etc.) and take power. More — they must do it visibly, effectively and now, in order to convince the 42% of voters that someone inside the Party is trying to knock these people out of the Captain's chair.

We voters and activists have our own challenges. This is the challenge for the electeds we've already put in place. If our elected progressives don't do this — or won't do this — "tick-tick-tick" says the world-historical clock on the wall. And we can all go down together, steerage and First Class alike.

It's time to step up, elected progressives. It's also time to be seen to step up.  Read the Paul Craig Roberts quote at the top again. If the Party's failed leaders aren't deposed, the revolution will have failed.

It's a moment for real courage, and moments of courage bring moments of great fear. I understand that this kind of open rebellion, open public confrontation, a palace coup in front of the TV cameras, is frightening.

It's also necessary.

My ask: If you agree, write to your favorite elected progressive and say so. No more gravy train for Democratic elites. Meat and potatoes for voters instead. Complete the Sanders revolution by changing House and Senate leadership — now.

I know this puts some very good people on the spot. But maybe that's a feature, yes?


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