Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Midnight Meme Of The Day

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-by Noah

Republicans still have their daggers out for Hillary Clinton and they always will. Having their guy win the presidency over her just isn't enough to them. Maybe it's the fact that she got over 3 million more votes than Señor Trumpanzee. Maybe it's just because they can't deal with women at all or women of such professional accomplishment and brain power. She may have been a poor campaigner and candidate, but, really, do they want to get into comparisons of Clinton vs. a stark, raving mad fascist with a mind that will keep shrinks talking for the rest of human history?

The build up to the release of Clinton's new book, What Happened has brought out a new flood of deranged bile from every dark corner and crevice of Republican World, including insane accusations that it was Hillary Clinton who was "colluding with Russia" all along, not the assclown that leads their party, and-- you guessed it-- calls for new investigations into Benghazi, and-- wait for it-- Her Emails!!! Two dozen Republican congresscretins called for a special counsel, back in July, to get into this once again and the Senate Republicans want to look at the "possibility" that Ukrainians were helping Hillary.

Clearly, no amount of rehab will ever retrieve the sanity of any Republicans you may have the misfortune to know; not that they ever had any anyway. The only thing that distracts the Republican Party from their demented obsession with Hillary Clinton is their desire to do away with Obamacare and find the best way (to them) to bring about the deaths of as many Americans as possible, but, hey, that's another nutball obsession that runs their days.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Take Off Your Swastika: Berkeley Punks Rule-- Gilman Street/Green Day Film Arrives Just In Time For Campus "Free Speech Year"

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Green Day at Gilman, 1992-- photo by Murray Bowles

-by Denise Sullivan

In 1988, the peace punks who congregated at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California, had a choice to make: To meet encroaching skinheads with violence or to fight back with the tactics of non-violence. Choices were made, the inevitable schisms from within ensued, and life went on, as the new documentary, Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk, tells. While the story and other tales of punk rock glory illustrate punk's inherent contradictions and what happens when utopian ideals like egalitarianism and rule-by-committee are put to the test, the film is also in perfect synch with the hate speech controversy happening in Berkeley here and now.

“The film played in Charlottesville a few weeks back,” explained its director, Corbett Redford. “Someone from the audience commented, 'This is how allies work. Allies stand up.”

The punks of Gilman, far more of them straight, white, and male than queer, people of color, or women, did indeed stand up to the Nazi strain in their midst. And yet, the politics of waging peace and the how music fits into those politics is often more nuanced and complicated than taking up of pitchforks, tiki torches, or baseball bats. The project at Gilman Street, while largely a success and a piece of the Bay Area's larger legacy of resistance, is also a reminder, to me anyway, that people on the same team are not immune to the cruelties and divisiveness that destroys alliances, especially here in our own left coast bubble.

Recounted against a backdrop of music, animation, and collected ephemera, the film provides plenty of context in the form of hundreds of testimonials by the fans, friends, DJs, zine makers, and bands, all who helped to shape and were shaped by the intentional community that was Gilman. Additional voiceover narration is supplied by Iggy Pop. All of the elements go a long way toward explaining how one place held close white punks, black speed-metal heads, self-identified queers, and baby feminists, as capitalism moved steadily toward its hypernormal end phase.

Take the story of Green Day, who are also the film's executive producers: Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt were just two kids with long hair-- mullets, in fact-- trying to find their way out of the suburbs and into rock 'n' roll. This was a logical career choice for people back then-- in the years before the Internet-- a time when music still meant something and musicians with actual talent had a real shot at making a living with their art. For kids from East Bay suburbs like Pinole, El Sobrante, and Rodeo (accent on the day-o) any options beyond their semi-rural, semi-industrial refinery towns would've been welcome in the economically dim R & B (Reagan and Bush) era, as was Gilman, a place where you could dream about life beyond the 'burbs (or get away from parents), accompanied by a hardcore punk soundtrack of your own making. You were also taught about others systems of governance and lifestyles, all of it an alternative to skateboarding in 7-11 parking lots, video games, and bottomless bowls of weed, the area's standard fare.

At Gilman, kids were people too; they had a voice and made decisions. But as players on the punk scene, musicians with songwriting talent the likes of Green Day were also subject to skepticism and derision. By the time Billie Joe came around asking to play, the band was perceived as “too pop” and was turned away by Tim Yohannan, Gilman's co-founder and booker. Yohannan (“A red-diaper baby who had been at People's Park,” according to filmmaker Redford) was also the founding publisher of the punk zine and radio show, Maximum Rock'n'Roll; he used what means he had to secure the 924 space, becoming its de facto elder. He then gave the youngsters its keys, as well as an education in all things collective, communal, and dogmatic: Enforcing the strictly straight-edge, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic rules worked in theory, but was more complicated in practice. Yohannan does not get to tell his story (he died of cancer in 1998), but his friends and co-workers remember him in Turn It Around.

Howie recently compared Billie Joe to Shakespeare in a tweet. I mention this because both his and Yohannan's extreme positions on Green Day go some way toward explaining the divide within the small but mighty Bay Area punk scenes which supposedly had a code of no racism, no sexism, and no homophobia, but at times felt racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and threatening to anyone who wasn't a straight white male. Back when Yohannan held dominion over Gilman and the East Bay but before Green Day hit the scene, Howie was young and I was younger still. We both worked on the San Francisco side of the Bay, spinning records that were not heard anywhere but in clubs and on the left end of the dial, and our tastes were decidedly more “commercial,” and catholic. These simple differences led to real hostilities, you might even say warfare, between rival college radio stations KUSF and Berkeley's KALX (Redford tells me that version of his film was mostly left on the proverbial cutting room floor but will likely show up as extras on a DVD). By the time Green Day was on the rise, I was reporting on Bay Area music for the region's paper, the Contra Costa Times. Admittedly, much of what I knew about what went on inside Gilman was colored by my experience with punk rock at KUSF and SF's own punk clubhouse, the Mabuhay Gardens. I was among those who perceived hardcore and the suburban influence to have poisoned our scene, bringing with it slamdancing, mosh pits, skinhead violence and the smell of fear. The small-minded punk versus "not punk enough” dynamic came to bear further after Howie left San Francisco and was heading Green Day's chosen record label, Reprise, which helped make way for their superstardom (for those unfamiliar, Green Day are stadium-fillers with Grammy and Tony Awards to their credit; they are also among the handful of American recording artists who stood up in the era of Bush II and cried foul during the Iraq war with a concept album titled American Idiot). Green Day's success was not entirely celebrated by the punks at Gilman who had “collectively” banned major label recording artists from their space. I ultimately attended some girl-friendly shows there, but while the place wasn't for me, it was a godsend for the kids in the East Bay, a once largely conservative bastion whose districts by and large vote Democrat these days, though there is still one assembly district held down by a Republican in the wealthier, far east county. Filmmaker Redford contends that things could've easily gone to the other way.

“When you have a blustery blowhard in the media everyday, it emboldens people to come out from under their rocks,” he says in the wake of Berkeley's recent defeat of Nazi terror and in anticipation of the University's planned Fall program of hate speech. “But I don't believe there are more of them than people who believe in treating people fairly and equally. I have to believe that. I don't want to lose hope."

Green Day is currently on a multi-city mega world tour. Gilman survives as an all-ages, non-profit collective and its alumni seem more comfortable celebrating each other's successes since its regulars have gone on to become popular zine makers and authors, scholars, professional musicians, and workers of all stripes-- everyday people who still believe in the dream of pluralism while threat of fascism looms large in Berkeley and throughout the land. Our differences, for the most part, have been cast aside, we are all children of punk rock, and its spirit of self-reliance and resistance serve us well in these times: Punk made us pro-peace and against racism, sexism, and wage slavery. We still seek safe places-- a safe country for people of all identities-- and reject patriarchal, colonial mentalities. And while we recognize it is uneasy business to create these spaces, many of us remain involved in trying.

“People building things, making positive change, creating art for each other, anywhere you find that, there is punk rock,” says Redford, much like a true-believing, modern day Tom Joad. “Punk isn't dead, no matter what anyone tells you. If you can't find it, you might have to change your way of thinking. Wherever there is resistance culture, wherever there are people, there is punk rock.”

Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk opens in theaters nationwide this week.



Denise Sullivan reports on arts, culture, and gentrification issues for DWT!

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Dana Rohrabacher Seems To Be Making Every Move He Can To Lose His Reelection Bid

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When Dana Rohrabacher was first elected to Congress in the '80s his Orange County district was beet red. Last year, nearly three decades on, the PVI was a very daunting R+7. Next year, Rohrabacher faces a more hostile environment. Trump lost the district to Hillary-- albeit narrowly-- and the PVI shows a slide towards the Democrats. It is now R+4, winnable, especially in a wave election.




Back when he was first election, Rohrabacher got off to a peculiar start. His predecessor, right-wing crackpot Dan Lungren, was appointed state-- but never confirmed-- state Treasurer by Governor George Deukmejian. Rohrabacher, then a Reagan speech-writer, was helped by Oliver Noth to win the primary and then the general election. Instead of going to the congressional freshman orientation, he went to Afghanistan to smoke powerful, mind-altering hash-- I know how strong it is; I spent almost a year there-- and play dress-up with the Taliban. The only serious challenge Rohrabacher ever had to reelection was in 2008 when Huntington Beach mayor Debbie Cook held him to a 53% win. Not anticipating Hillary's win last year, the always backward-looking DCCC didn't bother to run a candidate and Rohrabacher beat Suzanne Savary, an underfunded local who had no help from the DCCC, by nearly 50,000 votes, 58.3% to 41.7%. The DCCC-- in backward-looking mode as usual-- says they plan to take Rohrabacher on this year and recruited a Canadian-American stem cell doctor/entrepreneur multimillionaire with no sense of politics, Hans Keirstead. Harley Rouda and Laura Oatman, also in the race, look like more effective candidates. As of the June 30 FEC reporting deadline Rohrabacher had $406,616 in his campaign account to Rouda's $177,974, Keirstead's $135,396 and Oatman's $68,870.

A neo-fascist Trumpist nut-case, Stelian Onufrei, is running against Rohrabacher from the right and attacking him for his marijuana activism (and for being "an entrenched career politician"). Former Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh may also run and has raised $546,915 into a federal fund.

Rohrabacher is best known for his pot advocacy and his pro-Russia stands. Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told congressional Republicans that Rohrabacher takes money from the Kremlin, although he later said he was "joking." In the beautiful coastal district, his Climate Change denialism isn't a plus. Rouda has been primarily attacking Rohrabacher for his reactionary stands on economic issues, immigration and healthcare but he has certainly noticed Rohrabacher's bizarre relationship to Putin. He told us last month that "Rohrabacher has time and time again shown that he values the interests of Russia over the interests of his own district. The public doesn't have all the facts about Dana Rohrabacher's relationship with Russia-- but what we know already is enough to disqualify him. We need a Congressman who focuses on the 48th Congressional District; not a hostile foreign power."

Last week, Rohrabacher got himself embroiled in another crazy controversy that has Orange County voters scratching their heads and wondering if their congressman has smoked too much pot and hash lately. This time Rohrabacher is claiming the horrifying scene in Charlottesville with the KKK and Nazis marching in the streets, threatening Jews in a synagogue and murdering a young woman peacefully demonstrating against Nazis. Rohrabacher now says it was "a total hoax" staged by Clinton and Bernie supporters!
“It’s all baloney,” Dana Rohrabacher told the San Francisco Chronicle, speaking of the rally where police said a car driven by a white supremacist injured 19 and killed counterprotester Heather Heyer.

“It was left-wingers who were manipulating them in order to have this confrontation,” Rohrabacher said Thursday, in an effort to “put our president on the spot.”

His claims are just the latest in a tit-for-tat fight between the representative and Democrats.

The Unite the Right rally held August 12 was attended by avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, who helped lead a torchlit rally around a statue of Confederate army general Robert E. Lee in central Charlottesville the night before. Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer website also promoted and defended the event online.

White supremacist Christopher Cantwell turned himself in to police at the end of August after finding out he was wanted on two counts of illegal use of tear gas and other gases. Hundreds of photos and videos on social media attest to the fact that the event was attended by neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan and the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist movement.

Yet that’s all bunk according to Rohrabacher, who pinned the events on a former “Hillary and Bernie supporter” who got Civil War re-enactors together to protect the statue of Lee, which would be removed under a proposal before Charlottesville’s City Council.

“It was a setup for these dumb Civil War re-enactors,” Rohrabacher said of the Charlottesville rally.

All this, he claims, was a ruse to box in President Donald Trump over the issue of racism in America. On the day of the rally and at a press conference at Trump Tower a couple of days later, the president said blame for the violence fell “on both sides.” His response hurt his approval ratings among Republicans who saw his statements as divisive.

Rohrabacher’s claims are “disturbing,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said Thursday. The group works to elect Democrats to the House of Representatives.

Both Rohrabacher’s claims and the DCCC’s response are the latest in a feud between the hard-right representative and Democrats who see him as a major Republican problem.


“Embattled Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, now apparently a person of interest to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, has no business chairing the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee that oversees Russia,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law at the end of August.

Law called for Rohrabacher to be stripped of his post chairing the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, which handles issues covering Russia-U.S. relations. The issue is particularly sensitive after U.S. intelligence agencies issued reports earlier this year that Moscow directed a campaign to sway the election toward Trump.

Rohrabacher told the Chronicle that these findings are “total bull” and that the reports are “full of weasel words.”

The Democrats went after the representative after congressional sources told CNN the Senate Intelligence Committee is considering calling Rohrabacher to answer questions after he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in London last month. During his meeting, Rohrabacher was flanked by Chuck Johnson, the operator of conspiracy theorist website GotNews.com, who has ties to alt-right conspiracy theorists.

WikiLeaks released emails that U.S. intelligence agencies said with “high confidence” were stolen by Russian intelligence from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Rohrabacher said he wants to debrief Trump on what Assange told him.

According to Rohrabacher, Assange insisted he was not behind the leak of the Democratic National Committee emails last year.

House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chair Ed Royce’s failure to strip Rohrabacher of his position shows he is “unwilling to put country before party and unserious about the need to stop Russia from meddling in our elections,” Law said.

“The DCCC, obviously embarrassed by the DNC’s antics last year, does not know how to think strategically about foreign affairs and has descended to the guilt-by-association tactics reminiscent of America’s Red Scares,” Rohrabacher’s spokesman, Ken Grubbs, told Newsweek, in an email last month. “It compounds its own embarrassment.”

Rouda, again, busy talking with CA-48 voters about jobs and healthcare, took a minute to shake his head at Rohrabacher's most recent public display of bizarre eccentricity. "His latest conspiracy theory is really troubling," he told us this morning. "It is disturbing enough when he does the bidding of Julian Assange and Vladamir Putin, but now he is defending literal Nazis who killed an innocent American. We have a president who not only employs white supremacists, he claims there are good people attending these rallies and chanting anti-semitic and racist slurs. Now we have a congressman who says it was all 'a set up.' This madness has to end. Standing up to Nazis shouldn't be partisan. If Dana Rohrabacher is too afraid to denounce this hatred, he shouldn't be in Congress representing any corner of this country."

Oh, one more thing: remember the Panama papers? I bet Rohrabacher does too. McCarthy may have thought he was joking about Rohrabacher being on Putin's payroll. But Rohrabacher and Putin knew better.
Rohrabacher has been friends with Putin since the early 90’s when he famously lost a drunken arm-wrestling match with the then deputy mayor of St. Petersburg who was visiting Washington.

Five years ago, the FBI warned Rohrabacher he was being targeted by the Kremlin as an agent of influence. The congressman rebuffed the warning but his legislative record appears to back up concerns he’s somehow compromised.

Rohrabacher sided with Russia when Moscow invaded Georgia and opposed U.S. support of Ukraine. In September, he called the White House to push for a pardon of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who released the hacked DNC emails last year.

But nothing gets Putin and Rohrabacher’s back up more than the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 sanctions bill was enacted in response to the prison murder of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had exposed a scheme by Putin and his oligarchs to embezzle $230 million stolen from taxpayers.

Since then, Putin has waged a diplomatic war to get the sanctions dropped. First, he banned U.S adoption of Russian children. He then put together a strike team-- lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin-- to work on getting the sanctions lifted and he reached out to his old friend Dana Rohrabacher.

In 2014, Rohrabacher and his assistant Paul Behrends took a secret three day trip to Moscow. In the months following their return colleagues noticed a softening of their position on Russia.

Behrends also became the chief congressional contact for Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin (he has since been fired from his post on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee).

A year later, a whistle-blower leaked a full registry of off-shore companies known as the Panama Papers which exposed the corrupt dealings of world leaders from Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, South Africa, Qatar, UAE and Russia.

The papers exposed Putin’s theft of $2 billion stolen from Russians and transferred into offshore companies registered to his friends. The Magnitsky Act means those assets could be frozen. Putin is enraged by the sanctions because they hit his own personal fortune held in these offshore holdings.

The other connective tissue between Rohrabacher and Russia’s efforts to end the Magnitsky sanctions is Yuri Vanetik, a self-proclaimed financier and Republican official. Vanetik is a Rohrabacher donor and lives in California but was still somehow appointed the National Finance Co-Chair of the New York GOP in March.

Vanetik was born in Soviet Ukraine in 1970 and claims his family fled to the U.S. to avoid “political persecution.” This is striking because his father Anatoly was a major political and business figure in the Soviet Union working directly with the Russian Oil Ministry even after the fall of the USSR. In 2014, Yuri penned an op-ed calling for the U.S. to drop sanctions against Russia.

He claims a career in law but we couldn’t find any records of him being admitted to the bar in California, although he was licensed in Pennsylvania. He’s been embroiled in two lawsuits for allegedly defrauding investors in of Valueluck and Private Equity Management Group.

In February last year, Vanetik and several business leaders started the “Great America PAC” to help elect Trump. The PAC was well-funded with $26 million and was willing to accept donations from anyone, no matter how legal.

An undercover investigation by the Telegraph exposed PAC officials accepting a donation offer from reporters posing as Chinese donors, in exchange for implied promises from the new administration.

Vanetik also has financial ties to both Russia and Trump properties. In 2007, Vanetik bought a unit at the Trump Ocean Tower in Panama City. Trump Towers are viewed as a vehicle for Russians to launder money with Trump skimming off the top by charging overblown “management fees.” In 2011, Vanetik invested in Terra Resources, a U.K. based company with plans to develop Russian oil fields.

Rohrabacher and Vanetik traveled to Berlin together in April and posted an Instagram photo of their dinner with anti-Magnitsky documentarian Andrei Nekrasov.

During the same trip to Berlin, Rohrabacher met Putin lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin in a hotel lobby. When asked about Akmetshin’s possible ties to Russian intelligence agencies, Rohrabacher told CNN: “I would certainly not rule that out.”

Rohrabacher and Behrends also traveled to Moscow as part of a congressional delegation to Moscow where they received a “confidential” Russian document alleging the world was wrong about Magnitsky.  The Kremlin also gave the duo access to the aforementioned Russian documentary about Magnitsky. The document and film claimed human rights activist and Magnitsky sanctions champion Bill Browder lied about Putin’s money laundering.

Weeks later, Akhmetsin and a colleague showed up unannounced at Rohrabacher’s congressional office. “They said they were lobbying on behalf of a Russian company called Prevezon and asked us to delay the Global Magnitsky Act or at least remove Magnitsky from the name,” a congressional staffer told the Daily Beast.

On June 9, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya visited Trump Tower where they met Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner for a meeting arranged to hand over dirt on Hillary Clinton to the Trump Campaign.

A few days later, Rohrabacher attempted to stage a “show trial” of Bill Browder in the form of a congressional hearing. “During the hearing, Rohrabacher had planned to confront Browder with a feature-length pro-Kremlin propaganda movie that viciously attacks him-- as well as at least two witnesses linked to the Russian authorities, including lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya,” according to the Daily Beast.

When senior Republicans caught wind of the plan, the hearing was cancelled. Browder instead later testified in front of a full committee. The treasury and state departments are now implementing the sanctions.

Vladimir Putin’s extraordinary efforts to get the Magnitsky sanctions dropped using a web of Russian and Republican operatives, and their vocal opposition to the Panama Papers, raises a tantalizing question: Just how much looted Russian cash is stashed in the shell companies detailed in the Panama Papers and is it connected to Veselnitskaya, Akhmetsin, Vanetik and Rohrabacher themselves?

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Señor Trumpanzee's Speech This Morning Didn't Go Over That Well

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My pal Roland texted me moments after Trump got up in front of the UN and he appeared relieved (and duped): "He sounds as normal as any American president." Another minute or two passed before his next text: "He's out of his mind, going crazy in front of the UN... attacking everyone." Let's see... what's the population of North Korea that he threatened to "totally destroy?" Ah, yes... 25.37 million, most of whom are the victims of the fascist state there. "Hey Roland, I don't remember any other American president-- or even any Brits-- quoting Elton John before. You?" By the end of the speech Roland was relieved Trump didn't take off his shoe and start banging it it on the lectern but he did end our text conversation as he entered his classroom in Compton by sending me this message: "Whatever else you might think of Trump, you have to admit he's stupid and he's very dangerous."
She packed my bags last night, preflight
Zero hour, nine a.m.
And I'm gonna be high
As a kite by then

I miss the earth so much
I miss my wife
It's lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time
'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no no no
I'm a rocket man
Rocket man
Burnin' out this fuse
Up here alone




And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time
'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no no no
I'm a rocket man
Rocket man
Burnin' out this fuse
Up here alone

Mars ain't the kind of place

To raise your kids
In fact, it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them
If you did

And all this science

I don't understand
It's just my job
Five days a week
A rocket man
Rocket Man

And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time

'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Ah, no no no...
I'm a rocket man
Rocket man
Burnin' out this fuse
Up here alone

And I think it's gonna be a long, long, time

'Til touchdown brings me 'round again to find
I'm not the man they think I am at home
Ah, no no no...
I'm a rocket man
Rocket man
Burnin' out this fuse
Up here alone
Eric Bauman is the chairman of the California Democratic Party. He has a way with words: "Donald Trump’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly should terrify every American. It’s clear that the peace and safety of the world is caught up between two crazy men locked in a contest to see whose rockets are bigger and shoot farther. The neocons cheering on Trump’s reckless bluster should keep in mind the fact that tens of thousands of American soldiers stationed in South Korea and hundreds of thousands of innocent Korean citizens could be killed in the opening moments of the war Donald Trump just threatened-- just as they should remember that a war between two nuclear powers could easily spill out of control and kill hundreds of millions of people. For the safety and security of the world, Congress must act to constrain Trump’s ability to drag us into a long, bloody war over his pathetic, macho posturing."

I'm guessing that when Señor Trumpanzee spouted that "If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph," we were all thinking the same thing about who the wicked few are. Unfortunately many were also interpreting this in a different way from what Trumpanzee meant it to mean: "The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos." And everyone shuddered when the orange baboon said the world faces "great peril."

The Guardian's Jerusalem correspondent, Peter Beaumont, told his readers that Netanyahu "could have written the section on Iran so closely does it ally with his own views on the threat posed by Tehran." Netanyahu: "In my more than 30 years at the UN, I have never heard such a brave and clear speech. President Trump told the truth about the world’s lurking dangers, and called for them to be addressed with fortitude, to ensure the future of mankind."

I asked a friend of mine who's part of France's delegation to the UN what kind of reaction Trump's rant was getting there. He told me most people expected Trump to brag about his electoral victory over Clinton. He also said he won a bet with a diplomat from Chad about whether Trump would criticize Russia and another bet with a diplomat from India about whether or not Trump would demand Mexico pay for his wall. The Venezuelan foreign minister:




I'm sure Paul Ryan will claim to be delighted with Trump's rant. But he progressive opponent in Wisconsin, Randy Bryce was anything but delighted: "I couldn’t believe what I heard come out of Donald Trump’s mouth this morning. In front of the assembled United Nations delegates he threatened to annihilate North Korea while referring to their leader as 'rocket man.' I fully understand that North Korea is an issue, but, to antagonize them in such a high school manner is outrageous. He also went on to slam an agreement that we have entered into with Iran while snubbing them as well. This isn’t leadership-- this is being a bully. This is how to make America hated. If we don’t take back Congress in 2018, we very well may see ourselves being considered as a rogue nation."



Doug Applegate, Ted Lieu, Randy Bryce

Last night Ted Lieu hosted an event for his Manhattan Beach constituents and invited Randy and to be his guest. This morning he and Randy were obviously on the same page about the UN rant. Ted: "President Trump’s speech to the United Nations will be remembered not for rallying the international community around our common challenges, but instead for threatening another nation with annihilation. Let us be clear: the issue is not whether the U.S. is capable of destroying North Korea, but rather whether we are willing to allow South Korea, Japan, and potentially Guam to be destroyed in the process-- along with hundreds of thousands of American lives. Name-calling and brash rhetoric make America neither great nor safe. I am also disappointed that President Trump failed to include a single mention of climate change, which poses an existential threat to America and the world."

Matt Cartwright (D-PA) is one of the few progressive Democrats who represents a district Trump won in. He told us he joins "with most Americans in believing that military action is a very last resort, and must be entertained only after all diplomatic efforts have failed. Saber-rattling and name-calling do not count as diplomacy. The United States should be looking for ways to de-escalate this conflict, not turn it into a nuclear crisis. We should be turning our energies toward lining up international support for more crippling sanctions, not impairing our own credibility with Twitter rants. We should be thinking about how to give this dictator a path to a face-saving retraction of his nuclear ambitions, not provoking him with loudmouth schoolyard taunts. I am thinking of the hundreds of thousands of American citizens in that region, and I do not like where this is going."

After reading his teleprompter speech Bannon didn't write for him, he casually told reporters, "I think the United Nations has great, great potential."


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Trust Bustin'

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Kaniela Ing is the most progressive member of the Hawaii state legislature and Blue America and other progressive groups are trying to persuade him to run for the open congressional seat in Honolulu. If you wonder why, consider this statement he gave us today on anti-trust efforts: "In today's political climate, no entrepreneur looking to grow his or her business should ever consider voting Republican. The GOP's pro-oligarchy agenda has rigged the American economy against both workers and the majority of business owners. A handful of multi-national corporation and Wall Street investment firms are seeing enormous gains, while everyday entrepreneurs are being hung out to dry. Now that the GOP controls Congress and the White House, it's no wonder so many corporations are driving up prices, lowering wages, and shipping jobs overseas. The greatest threat to American innovation, small business, and a resilient economy is the monopolization of industries. Democrats must lead the fight to break apart monopolies and big banks, and build a future economy that leaves no one behind."

  The other day, in the post about the undrained, fetid Trump Swamp, we included two lists of the worst Wall Street bribe takers in Congress. Although Ryan led the House list with $10,955,550 and McCain led the Senate list with $39,398,887, the Democrats who were taking the most in Wall Street bribes were virtually all influential party leaders. McCain was at the top of the list primarily because he ran for president. Exclude him and the biggest crook in Wall Street bribe congressional history-- excluding presidential candidates-- is Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer ($26,628,675), who gobbled up more than the Senate's two top Republicans-- McConnell ($12,149,201) and Cornyn ($8,649,666)-- combined! The top 5 crooks in the House were all Republicans but the 4 of the 5 Democratic crooks run the congressional party:
Joe Crowley, the heir apparent- $6,491,559
Steny Hoyer, the Whip- $6,094,848
Jim Himes, head of the New Dems- $5,773,452
Nancy Pelosi, top dog- $3,650,387
To understand how internal party power is won and maintained, you have to understand the money flows from the banksters to the corrupt politicians, who lead each of the political parties. For example, it's important to understand the depth of Democratic Party corruption to fully understand the import of Danny Vinik's story about the new monopoly-busting.




Anti-trust crusader Barry Lynn and his operation, Open Markets, "has spent six years arguing that the Democrats have become too comfortable with corporate money and power, and need to rally around a new principle: breaking up monopolies. As the party remains locked in a struggle to reboot itself, unable to craft a unifying vision in the Trump era, Lynn and his group are trying to push it into a new fight against global corporate titans, targeting big companies like Google by name, and arguing that it’s time to use federal antitrust law to chip away at their influence. They see the fight as both a boon to democracy and a political framework that could excite voters in a new, more energized populist moment."

The problem, of course, is that Google and other tech giants-- and their multimillionaire executives-- are underwriting the Democratic Party and the careers of many of its leaders. Last cycle alone, computer software companies, for example, gave $10,438,708 to candidates for Congress-- $6,970,066 to Democrats and $3,354,067. Electronics manufacturing and equipment (which includes companies like Oracle, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Cisco Systems, Apple, Intel, IBM. Hewlett-Packard and other tech giants) contributed $26,349,245-- $16,837,279 to Democrats and $9,292,413 to Republicans. Among the biggest winners in the House were party leaders who did not have contests races but who always appreciate the help with building their power:
Paul Ryan (R-WI), Speaker- $236,065
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Majority Leader- $153,550
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Leader- $91,187
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- Minority Whip- $75,400
In 2016, Google's company PAC spent $2,178,015 on candidates, although more on Republicans than on Democrats. Candidates they maxed out to ($10,000 each) included committee chairmen and party leaders like Ryan (R), McCarthy (R), Pelosi (D), Hoyer (D), Jim Clyburn (D), Steve Scalise (R) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R). And they gave $30,000 each to the DCCC, the DSCC, the NRCC and the NRSC, as well as $10,000 pops to the corrupt leadership PAC run by criminal elements like Wasserman Schultz, the Blue Dog PAC, the New Dem PAC, Hoyer's PAC and so on.
Lynn, a former journalist, has spent years building a public case that corporate monopoly is a growing threat, hiring like-minded thinkers and writers to advance the cause. The rest of his team has become increasingly high-profile, including Lina Khan, who earlier this year wrote an influential law-journal article attacking Amazon as the new shape of anticompetitive corporate behavior; Matt Stoller, a prolific Twitter warrior who communicates weekly with lawmakers like Ro Khanna, the Silicon Valley-based congressman. Zephyr Teachout, the New York law professor and darling of the progressive left, will chair the board of the Open Markets Institute.

Open war with a powerhouse like Google, risky as it sounds, is typical of Lynn’s team, which is making a name for itself going after the largest possible targets in the Democratic universe. Khan’s article spent 40,000 words targeting one of the biggest names in the Democrat-friendly tech industry. Stoller, who frequently trades barbs with leaders of the Democratic establishment, is known for frequent attacks on Barack Obama himself, who he has called a “bad president” who is “ideologically averse to democracy” and whose policies “entrenched fraud and monopoly as the guiding principles in our commercial system.” At a time when Obama might be the only figure with some unifying power among Democrats, that amounts to something of a frontal attack on the very identity of the national party.

“[Barry has] been fearless and persistent in pushing these issues,” said Jonathan Kanter, an antitrust lawyer at Paul Weiss. “It’s hard to think of somebody more central to the discussion than Barry and Open Markets.”

Lynn and his team argue that the concentration of money and power in a small number of companies is a huge danger to our economy and politics, and that Washington's main weapon to combat it, antitrust law, has become rusty from lack of use. They want to revive the New Deal antitrust regime that prioritized competition and worried about the political power of large companies—a reform that would represent a reboot of antitrust thinking for the new tech age and the kind of new political rallying point that Democrats have been looking for.

Politically, it's novel territory: A populist philosophy that rejects both the technocratic approach of the Obama and Clinton administrations and the centralization at the heart of Bernie Sanders-style democratic socialism. Lynn and his team see themselves as essentially pro-competition and pro-business, creating new openings for smaller companies being boxed out by giants. At a time when the new Bernie-bro energy seems to be pulling the party toward its left fringe, they see this philosophy as offering a middle way, a populist agenda that can bring in independent-- maybe even Republican-- voters, appealing to a farmer in Des Moines, a small businessman in Dallas and a single mother in Detroit.

...[F]or all the Democratic Party’s renewed interest in antitrust, it has still not adopted the more ambitious and controversial aspects of Open Markets’ broader political philosophy. Notably, none of the new plans target Amazon, Google, Facebook or the other big tech firms that Open Markets believes are becoming the biggest threats to commercial freedom-- but are big political allies of the Democrats.

...In theory, Washington had a tool to deal with this problem in the form of antitrust law, which was once used to break up immense monopolies like Standard Oil. But in practice, that no longer happened. In 2006, in a much-discussed article for Harper’s, he called for the break-up of Walmart, saying that the retail giant had too much power over its suppliers and workers. That eventually turned into his second book, Cornered, which came out in 2010 and traces the rise of modern-day antitrust policy. Since the New Deal, policymakers had looked skeptically on large firms, preventing mergers that would create huge corporations and breaking up companies that grew too big. But in 1978, the conservative legal scholar Robert Bork published “The Antitrust Paradox,” a nearly 500-page book that argued that antitrust policy should be concerned only with “consumer welfare,” generally measured by consumer prices, and should not concern itself with the structure of markets. If prices were low, he argued, the market was working. Bork’s consumer-focused approach gained the support of prominent liberal economists like John Kenneth Galbraith, and under President Ronald Reagan it became national policy. The "consumer welfare" framework has driven antitrust policy under both Democratic and Republican administrations ever since.

Lynn argued that this approach was far too narrow and that it left the government powerless to fight some of the most damaging effects of corporate concentration. A monopolist can keep prices down and still cause harm-- by underpaying workers, for example, or influencing the political system. Lynn considers himself a deep believer in free market competition, a difference between the new antitrust movement and leftists, but he believes the government needs to play an active role in keeping those markets competitive. This philosophy dates back to the country’s founding, when Thomas Jefferson and James Madison argued that the government must protect individual citizens from monopolies; it was later reinvigorated by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. (For that reason, the new antitrust movement is sometimes called the “New Brandeis” movement; Stoller prefers Jeffersonian Democrats.)

If that sounds grandly historical, Lynn has never been shy about the import of what he's doing. “We are resurrecting a lost language of political economics,” said Lynn. “The word 'political' has been lopped off from the word economics. We’ve been taught to see economics as an entirely technical sphere. We have these experts who study problems, like doctors studying a body, and they tell us what to do. The traditional political economics is all about the engineering of power.” In this view, the shape of markets is inherently a political decision, but for decades it has been depoliticized under the guise of economics. “When the technocrats tell you it’s science, that’s bunk.”

“It is the extension of checks and balances into the political economy,” he added. “Competition policy determines how individual citizens compete with one another. It is the way that we make our society. It touches on absolutely everything.”

The Open Markets view is that government should use its antitrust powers broadly, to structure industries to meet societal goals. That structure would look different depending on the industry; industries that mass manufacture goods-- chemicals, cars, metals, for instance-- should be allowed to vertically integrate as long as they have real competitors, said Lynn. For farming, retail and services, antitrust would promote individual ownership, so that “people who want to be an independent farmer or insurance agent or restaurateur, if they had the wherewithal to do so, could run their business without facing giant, super-capitalized predators.”

In 2011, Lynn launched the Open Markets program at New America, an effort to take the ideas he developed in “Cornered” and bring them to a wider, more influential audience. Lynn’s first hire, Lina Khan, spent significant time out West, interviewing farmers and telling stories about their run-ins with the big meatpackers, like Tyson and Perdue. But more recently, Open Markets has become especially focused on the tech industry. The Silicon Valley behemoths, in this view, pose something of an existential threat not just to the economy but to democracy itself. “We see these institutions as incredible, powerful and very useful,” said Stoller, “but as concentrations of power that are dangerous.”

The argument runs like this: By exerting such near-total dominance of their own channels-- Google in search, Amazon in e-commerce, Facebook in social sharing-- the tech firms have become 21st century informational gatekeepers, controlling unprecedented quantities of data and building giant-- if unseen-- entry barriers that make it impossible for anyone to challenge them. But because these dangers are posed by companies offering consumers totally free services, or very low prices, they fly under the radar of current antitrust policy.

...Over the past two years, Open Markets’ influence has grown quickly: The Obama administration warned last year about corporate concentration; Hillary Clinton issued a fact sheet calling for aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws; Democrats adopted an antitrust plank in their 2016 platform; and Democrats prioritized antitrust in their “Better Deal” agenda. Open Markets has been involved in all these plans.

Open Markets doesn’t operate like a typical Washington think tank, spitting out an endless supply of white papers and policy memos and jamming them into the hands of congressional aides. In fact, it publishes very few papers at all. Instead, it focuses on conducting original research and writing articles for mainstream publications (including Politico, where Khan argued for significant reforms to the FTC). “With a few exceptions, there’s no reason to write up a policy paper and then convince a journalist to mention it someplace,” Lynn said. “We can vertically integrate and do the writing ourselves.” The Washington Monthly, a left-leaning magazine founded in 1969, has become a frequent place to find work by Open Markets scholars; recent stories have focused on concentration in the airline and poultry industries and blamed monopolies for the decline in black-owned businesses and the rise in regional inequality.

Lynn has also proven adept at managing and developing outside relationships, building a movement that extends beyond Washington. Joe Maxwell, a former lieutenant governor of Missouri and executive director of the Organization for Competitive Markets, which focuses on antitrust and trade policy in the agricultural industry, first met Lynn a decade ago at the OCM’s annual convention. Antitrust looms large in the agricultural world, in which many industries are dominated by a couple of major companies. Lynn has worked hard at building relationships with farmers like Maxwell and, importantly, bringing them together to form a more powerful political force. “The central conduit was Barry Lynn,” said Maxwell. “We discovered that there were more and more of us who thought the same way.”

In early 2016, Lynn and a few colleagues had dinner with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had read some stories by Open Markets scholars and wanted to learn more about rising corporate concentration and the new antitrust movement. Soon after, a Warren aide contacted Lynn to say that the Massachusetts senator wanted to give a speech on antitrust. That speech, held in June and sponsored by Open Markets, marked a pivotal moment for the antitrust movement. “I love markets,” Warren exclaimed to a packed room. “Strong, healthy markets are the key to a strong, healthy America.” She went on to refute the Bork framework on antitrust and lamented that “competition is dying.”




In a speech in October, Hillary Clinton delivered her own criticism of rising concentration and released a fact sheet on antitrust. Amid the numerous distractions in the presidential election, Clinton’s commitment to stronger antitrust enforcement went largely unnoticed. But to the Open Markets team the message was clear: Mainstream Democrats had finally awoken to the problems of rising corporate concentration. It had been nearly two decades since the earthquake struck Taiwan and launched Lynn’s interest in antitrust, but finally Washington was listening.

But as Open Markets has begun to name names and push the envelope on what kinds of companies should count as a monopoly, it has run into some of the most powerful groups in Washington. During the drafting of the antitrust plank of the Democratic platform, Lynn and his colleagues pushed for language that would have directly targeted major technology companies, such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. But each time they added that language to the platform, it would get removed; ultimately, it was dropped altogether. Likewise, the Democrats’ “Better Deal” agenda called out the airline, beer and eyeglasses industries-- but it doesn’t mention the tech industry.

Lynn is still thrilled with the platform and “Better Deal” agenda; that antitrust policy has become a top priority for the Democrats is clearly a big victory for him. But the refusal to target the big tech firms is the clearest signal that Democrats aren't ready to jettison the consumer welfare framework and haven’t yet totally bought into Open Markets’ philosophy.

“They’ve made a major step forward,” Lynn said. “[But] the difference is bigger than they realize.”

“We’ve seen that academic thinking can filter into policymaking. That’s what Bork did,” said Representative Khanna. “My hope is that Lina Khan’s work will reorient antitrust to a concern on jobs and communities and concentration of power and move away from an absolutism about consumer prices.”

To the new antitrust movement, the tech firms are something of a litmus test for the Democratic Party’s commitment to the Brandeis and Jeffersonian vision of antitrust policy. To Stoller and Lynn, Obama clearly failed that test. The Obama administration largely embraced the tech companies, with a revolving door to the industry: Numerous tech workers, especially from Google, temporarily joined the administration. Obama campaign manager David Plouffe left politics to become Uber’s top lobbyist, and now has a senior role at the private foundation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. More broadly, Democrats draw on Silicon Valley both for money and expertise. If Democrats were really to target these firms-- by calling for utility-like regulation, for instance-- the political consequences could be severe.

Philosophically, it’s hard for the Democrats to let go of the centrist dream of the 1990s, one that Bill Clinton rode to such success—that good technocratic governance is perfectly compatible with staying friendly to big global corporations. That technocratic approach achieved a lot of good, Democrats argue, and blowing it up-- whether for the sake of principle, or to chase a new populist coalition-- is unnecessarily risky. And it may not be a turnkey solution to today’s economic problems and the party’s political issues. “Antitrust is a critical part of this,” said Neera Tanden, the former Obama adviser who now runs the Center for American Progress. “It’s not the only issue that progressives need to address.”

For Open Markets, this philosophy is not just about antitrust. It’s about structuring markets to promote competition. Stoller draws a direct line from the Bork revolution to the election of Donald Trump. Rising concentration, in this view, has led to a litany of economic and social ills, enabling corporations to amass huge amounts of power over working Americans and fostering a deep-seated anger at the political establishment. “The New Dealers were very worried about autocracy and financial autocracy,” he said. “They would’ve understood that Trump is a result of a society that has lost control of its ability to manage its commercial institutions.”

He added, “We’re trying to bring this tradition back."
Orlando Democrat Alan Grayson explained why he sees this kind of antitrust action as important in the current political climate: "The secret ingredient to capitalism is competition. Without competition, capitalism doesn’t work. Monopolies and oligopolies grow larger and larger, and wealth and power accumulate in a small number of small hands. That threatens democracy, and impels us toward a Soviet-style economy and polity." Even a Republican should be able to understand this and see the dangerous implications.

It wasn't that long ago that Congress had an effective and powerful spokesperson for economic populism from the state of North Carolina-- Brad Miller. As soon as the Republicans gained control of the state legislature and governor's mansion they set about to gerrymander Miller out of his seat-- which they did in 2012. We still harbor hopes that he'll get back into elective politics at some point. Anti-trust and monopoly issues are part of his bailiwick and we asked him to comment about the politics behind the effort. His response is very much worth reading:
This is now the fault line between the establishment and reform wings of the Democratic Party. Voters may not be antitrust policy wonks, but they get the problem with the concentration of power. Internet and cable providers are always high on the list of the most hated companies in America. It will not be hard to persuade voters that the problem there, the reason Americans have the crappiest and most expensive internet service in the developed world, is lack of competition. And that because economic power has become so concentrated, competition in many industries has been smothered in the crib. They know that the companies with monopoly economic power have way, way too much political power, and that they get screwed as a result.

This was a big issue in the behind-the-scenes jostling between the establishment and reform wings over the expected Clinton transition. Reformers were not going to accept nominees for antitrust policy spots on the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice who went to good schools and did well and then went to work for prestigious law firms, but thought we just needed to restore the economic status quo that we had before the financial crisis. We wanted people who had a credible commitment to bring back antitrust.

I polled in my own district the legislation to break up the big banks. I figured since I’d introduced it, I should probably figure out if voters liked it, although I had a pretty good idea. The two reasons I gave in the poll question for the bill was that we shouldn’t ever have to bail the big banks out again, and because they had too much power. It was wildly popular.

The problem in the poll and in politics generally is that people are pretty skeptical now of what politicians say. There was a pretty good-sized chunk of voters who liked the bill, but didn’t really believed I’d introduced it, or thought there was some catch. They certainly didn’t think it was something that really made me different from other Democrats.

Voters now think that whatever politicians say in public, something else happens when the doors close in Washington and the real decisions are made. And they’re right about that.
Goal ThermometerTim Canova is a Florida law professor who has been fighting these kinds of battles against big money interests for many years. Now it's spilled into politics as he takes on one of the most craven ands corrupt protectors of corporate dominance: Debbie Wasserman Schultz. "Democrats have been far too complicit for far too long in the gutting of antitrust enforcement and the rise of monopolies and cartels that gouge consumers, exploit workers, and corrupt our political system," time told us this morning. "In addition to renewed antitrust enforcement to prevent mega mergers and break up huge concentrations of corporate power, we need to reform the board rooms of giant corporations as well. As long as corporate CEOs effectively handpick board members, the gains from their cartels will flow mainly to top management and the wealthiest shareholders. If publicly-traded corporations were required to include representatives of workers, environmentalists, and taxpayers on their boards, there would likely be more effective oversight of management, less systematic frauds on consumers, and less damage to the environment. None of these needed reforms are possible as long as we keep electing career politicians who are taking huge campaign contributions from big corporate interests. That's why we need campaign finance reform, publicly financed elections, free TV and cable airtime for federal candidates, and much higher progressive tax rates on the super-wealthy to prevent them from corrupting the political process with huge campaign contributions."



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As The Congressional GOP Falls Apart, The Party Is Looking More And More Like TRUMP

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We've been commenting lately about how mainstream Republicans are starting to announce their retirements from Congress earlier and in greater numbers than normal. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Charlie Dent (R-PA) and David Trott (R-MI) have already announced they've had it and won;'t be returning to Congress in 2019.  None of them specifically mentioned the new report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, a study that shows hate crimes-- crimes targeting people based on their race, religion, sexuality, disability or national origin-- rose about 5% since Trump was installed in the White House. States with the biggest rates of increase were Indiana (+123%), Minnesota (+27%), Michigan (+22%), New York (+20%), California (+11%) and Kentucky (6%). Cities with the biggest increases in hate crimes are Portland, Oregon (+200%), Phoenix (+46%), NYC (+28%), Seattle (22%), DC (+22%), Cincinnati (22%), Los Angeles (+13%), Philadelphia (+9%) and Chicago (+8%).

Professor Brian Levin, who directed the study, says that attacks against Muslims and transgender people have been rising rapidly and he attributes the rise in general to Trump's rhetoric, which appears to Nazis and racists to be offering them unintentional permission to go on the offense, even violently.

That said, Charlie Dent was interviewed by Andrew Desiderio for the Daily Beast and he seemed to be blaming the retirements on Trump's "isolationism, protectionism, and nativism" plus the nihilism and dysfunction that have marked his first half year in the Oval Office. Dent admitted he didn't vote for Trump last year, neither in the primary nor in the general election.
Since Trump’s inauguration, Dent has clashed with Trump on a host of issues. He criticizes the president’s “economically isolationist tendencies on trade” and his “restrictionist approach” on immigration. He calls the president’s travel ban “ill-considered and horribly executed,” for example, and fought hard against Trump when he was pushing for the passage of the American Health Care Act-- the House version of an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill.

Ahead of the AHCA’s eventual passage, Dent took his concerns straight to Trump-- a man who he believes focuses too heavily on personalities in his approach to politics, rather than substantive policy.

“I was in two meetings with the president. One went well, the other not so much,” Dent said with a laugh. “We just came down on different sides of that. I was opposed to the House bill, and he spoke negatively of the House bill after the fact-- said it was mean. So I don’t know. Go figure.”

Dent was suggesting that Trump decided to lobby support for the bill when he thought it was in his own interest, and soured on it when he realized it could be more of a political ticking time-bomb.

Dent’s pushback against the president on the merits of the AHCA was something that would earn most elected Republicans a primary challenger at their next election. In his meetings with Trump, Dent suggested fixes to the AHCA that went entirely against Republican orthodoxy: that some of the Obamacare taxes remain in place, that the Medicaid aid cuts be softened, and that a provision defunding Planned Parenthood be scrapped.

“He wasn’t happy that I was not supporting the bill, and he let me know it,” Dent said. “He said it was pretty clear it would undermine tax reform if we didn’t pass that bill and that I was going to cause great damage to the Republican party. And he blamed me. OK, but it didn’t change my opinion.”

Unlike Trump, Dent doesn’t make his criticisms personal. He decries the shift toward personality-based politics that he believes predates Trump, but has taken center stage in the Trump era-- and when he agrees with the president, he does so enthusiastically.

Dent applauded Trump’s recent agreement with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to combine Hurricane Harvey relief funds, a debt ceiling increase, and a government funding mechanism into one piece of legislation. The deal was met with disgust from conservatives.

“It was absolutely the right call,” Dent said. “There are not 218 republican votes to extend the debt ceiling for three months, six months, 18 months. So clearly the Democrats had some leverage and the president recognized that. So for the guys in my party that are complaining about the deal… the reason why we got the deal that we got is because a lot of our guys wouldn’t vote for a debt ceiling anyway.”

Dent, who hails from what he calls the GOP’s “governing wing,” was referring to the party’s ideological purists-- those who, in his view, are “very good at telling us what they can never do because it violates their principles.” In recent years, for example, Republican lawmakers have demanded that modest spending cuts be tied to any increase in the federal debt ceiling.

...[T]he conservative hardliners in the House Freedom Caucus have gained immense power and leverage over the years. They successfully forced out embattled House Speaker John Boehner in 2015, and have threatened to shut down the government if their demands for spending cuts aren’t met. Their votes were critical for the passage of the AHCA, which many of them threatened to vote against on the grounds that it wasn’t conservative enough. Dent refers to them as obstructionists who remain “cohesive as a unit” to derail any negotiations with the other side.

“They can’t pass what they want, but they can stop things from happening,” Dent said, referencing the government shutdown in 2013 as the first incident that sparked his consideration of retirement.

“Some of the frustrations predated Donald Trump,” Dent added. “The difficulty of enacting just the most basic fundamental items of governance-- from keeping the government open to not defaulting on our nation’s obligations, and other similar things like budget agreements and just necessary bills that had to be enacted or re-authorized-- these types of matters were becoming extraordinarily difficult to enact.”
Still percolating is the uptick in internecine warfare that will manifest itself in destruction, ideological (and careerist) primaries. We've been reading about Bannon's and Mercer's plans to finance neo-Nazi extremists against mainstream GOP Senate incumbents in Alabama, Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee and Mississippi. The likeliest result will be candidates less able to compete for the votes of independents in general elections-- and seriously depleted campaign war-chests. Even Paul Ryan has a Republican opponent from the Trump wing of the party, one who Bannon is trying to persuade to run as a third party candidate in the general election where he can do Ryan the most harm. Crazy Republicans, huh?

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Midnight Meme Of The Day

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-by Noah

By now, we've all seen multiple clips of reporters and late night TV hosts going out and interviewing Trump supporters in the streets. It's easy. You just go up to some clown that's wearing a Trump hat, turn on the camera, ask your questions, and watch the crazy come pouring out. To be fair, though, (and I'm always fair), it doesn't seem to be just the most fervent Trump supporters. It's Republican voters in general. It has become impossible to tell the difference. If you vote like a Trump supporter, you are one; no hat required. No stupid slogan on your shirt, no confederate flag or white hood either.

As Hurricane Harvey flooded Texas and Señor Trumpanzee toured a couple of firehouses with The Whore Of Slovenia to sell some hats, a common statement by Republicans ran along the lines of "See. Trump is taking real action. Where was Obama during Katrina?" In the alternative fact based Republican World, Obama had been shirking his duties as president and was out playing golf somewhere, never mind that, in the real world of 2005, Obama was not the president and wouldn't be for another 3 years. Not only that, but then Senator Obama actually did go to New Orleans and lend a hand.

All of this leads me to these questions when I see someone wearing a Trump hat, shirt, sheet, hood, or whatever: Should such people, for their own good and ours, be allowed to operate machinery? Should we step up the growth of public transportation for them in order to keep our highways safer? Do they get their own busses? Could it be that there is a beyond intolerable amount of lead in red state drinking water? Or is it all just due to bad schooling and FOX "News"? Well, of course, it could be all of those things, or, it could be just that the Walter White, of Breaking Bad fame, is a real person, that things have been reversed and the Republican Big World of Alternative Facts is actually the real world, and the "real" world that I have been living in is a fictional TV world. If that's the case, then obviously Walter was every bit as wildly successful in selling meth to the real world masses as the show depicted, and Breaking Bad is really all a documentary. Silly me, I thought that was just well-done fiction.

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