Saturday, October 22, 2016

GOP Finger-Pointing Has Already Begun In Ernest-- Over Two Weeks Before Their Debacle At The Polls!


Keith Olbermann: "It has long been anticipated that the runaway train quality of the Trump campaign would eventually claim as its collateral damage all or most of the GOP and its leaders... To the Republican leaders I ask again, when will you disavow this anti-democratic demagogue? When will you defund him? When will you deny him? Conway, Sessions, Giuliani, Palin, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Corey Lewandowski, Roger Stone... These people are done in this country's politics. Who's next? Paul Ryan? Mitch McConnell? Who else will this madman Trump take down?"

Do you know what Nikki Haley, Sam Brownback, Mary Fallin, Butch Otter, Rick Snyder, Doug Ducey, Scott Walker, Matt Mead, Nathan Deal, Pete Ricketts and Dennis Daugaard and even Chris Christie all have in common? Well, they are all Republican governors-- respectively of South Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota and New Jersey-- who have contradicted Trump's assertions that the presidential election would be rigged. Nikki Haley: "This election is not rigged, and it's irresponsible to say that it is. Faith in the democratic process is one of America's greatest strengths, and it's more important than the outcome of any election." Maryland's, Massachusetts' and Ohio's GOP governors, Larry Hogan, Charlie Baker and John Kasich, have already washed their hands of Trump and Trumpism entirely (as did, Thursday night, former RNC chairman and Maryland ex-Lt. Governor Michael Steele, publicly stating that Trump had "captured that racist underbelly, that frustration, that angry underbelly of American life and gave voice to that... I was damn near puking during the debates.") There have been reports that even Sheldon Adelson-- who has given Trump SuperPACs $25 million-- is fed up with the bungling incompetence of Trump and his campaign.

Yesterday former GOP congressman and current GOP MSNBC propagandist, Joe Scarborough, told the Washington Post that "The Republican Party must reform or die. Because if it stays on its current course, George W. Bush’s fear may be proven right. He may be the last Republican ever elected to the White House." Ryan, of course, is hoping he'll be the next Republican president-- that he and McConnell will be able to obstruct everything Hillary attempts to do in her first term so that Ryan can offer himself as an alternative in 2020. And although Ryan hasn't withdrawn his endorsement of Trump, Trump and his minions are now constantly accusing Ryan of undermining the campaign. They seem to have settled on him-- as well as the media-- as the excuse for the historic landslide Trump is going to suffer 2 weeks from Tuesday.

There is open speculation that a defeated Trump will work with Ryan haters like Steve Bannon and the other kooks billionaire hedge fund sociopath Robert Mercer embedded in his campaign, to deny Ryan another term as Speaker. Sean Hannity is campaigning for one of the House's craziest members, Louie Gohmert (TX) to replace Ryan. Others would prefer someone superficially saner, like Jim Jordan (OH). Ryan has become a hated figure among Trumpists nationwide.
Only 40 percent of Republicans now hold a positive view of Ryan (R-Wis.), according to the poll, down from 54 percent 10 days ago.

Among Trump supporters, just 28 percent still like Ryan, down from 48 percent. About 6 in 10 Trump supporters disliked the speaker in the latest poll. Four in 10 Republicans disliked him in last week’s poll.

Among all voters, Ryan favorability rating has sunk to negative 20, the lowest rating recorded in a YouGov/Economist poll for the GOP leader since he became speaker of the House one year ago.
Yesterday Judd Legum reported that far right North Carolina extremist Mark Meadows, who Hannity also said would be a good replacement for Ryan, is openly braying about a move to oust Ryan as Speaker.

Meadows revealed that this was more than speculation. There is a real effort underway to replace Ryan, according to Meadows, and it’s “picking up some steam.”

“A lot of the people who believe so desperately that we need to put Donald Trump in the White House-- they question the loyalty of the speaker,” Meadows said.

He added that there “will be real discussions after November 8 on who our leadership will be and what that will look like going forward.” Meadows said that, since Ryan announced he would no longer defend Trump, he’s been flooded with calls about why Ryan is “not supporting the nominee.”

He also said he was “flattered that Sean Hannity would mention me as a possible speaker replacement.”
Ryan needs 218 votes to win the Speakership election in 3 weeks, right after the election, when the Democrats will either have enough votes to defeat him and replace him with Pelosi in January or, more likely, have 15-20 more seats, making it much tougher for Ryan to win the 218 he needs in the closed GOP conference in 3 weeks. Many of his allies are being targeted for defeat by Democrats, rather than lunatic fringe Republicans like Gohmert and Meadows from blood-red, lunatic fringe constituencies. There is increasing speculation that Ryan is on the verge of resigning as Speaker right after the election.

Ultimate Villager, Charlie Cook, penned a column for the National Review that puts Ryan's woes in the context of the Republican civil war ripping the party to shreds right now. Trump's defeat is a foregone conclusion to him and he points out that Republicans had better "con­tem­plate the con­sequences of hand­ing over their party’s car keys to the tea-party move­ment and watch­ing as the quint­es­sen­tial tea parti­er, Don­ald Trump, drove the car over a cliff." He sees them losing the Senate, and a minimum of 15 House seats, not to mention governorships and state legislative seats. He's not a bold guy but he boldly predicts that "the ques­tion to be decided on Elec­tion Night is how far over 300 elect­or­al votes" Hillary will go. "How many nor­mally Re­pub­lic­an states will turn blue on Nov. 8? Ar­gu­ably Re­pub­lic­ans could have nom­in­ated a pot­ted plant and do bet­ter than they will in 17 days."
And what about the tea party, the Free­dom Caucus in the House, and oth­er Trum­pet­eers with no polit­ic­al philo­sophy ex­cept re­sent­ment? Will they slink off in­to the night and al­low the rest of the GOP to be­gin re­pair­ing the party of Lin­coln and Re­agan, or will they con­tin­ue to sab­ot­age it for an­oth­er two or four years? Nobody knows at this point.

In 2018, Re­pub­lic­ans the­or­et­ic­ally have a chance to put their party back on track. Midterm elec­tions, with 40 per­cent few­er voters, fea­ture an elect­or­ate that is gen­er­ally older, whiter, more con­ser­vat­ive, and more Re­pub­lic­an. We also know that midterm elec­tions are usu­ally un­kind to the party in the White House. In only three midterm elec­tions in the last cen­tury has the party hold­ing the White House not lost seats: in 1934, Frank­lin Roosevelt’s first midterm elec­tion, when Amer­ic­ans were not fin­ished kick­ing the day­lights out of Her­bert Hoover’s party; in 1998, when voters pun­ished the GOP for try­ing to im­peach Pres­id­ent Clin­ton des­pite a strong eco­nomy; and in 2002, when voters were not about to vote against their com­mand­er in chief in the af­ter­math of 9/11. The GOP should have an edge in the Sen­ate in 2018. The seats to be con­tested be­long to law­makers who won in 2012, when Pres­id­ent Obama was reelec­ted; Demo­crats have 25 seats at risk, to just eight for the GOP.

Then there is the eco­nomy. As was aptly poin­ted out in last Fri­day’s Wall Street Journ­al, the cur­rent, al­beit an­em­ic, eco­nom­ic re­cov­ery began 88 months ago in June 2009, mak­ing it the fourth-longest peri­od of growth since 1854. While eco­nom­ic ex­pan­sions are said not to die of old age, something has to kill them, and I sus­pect they grow frail with age, par­tic­u­larly when they’re as slug­gish as this one and the world eco­nomy is in even worse shape. On top of that, in­terest rates are already at rock bot­tom, the Fed­er­al Re­serve Board has few ar­rows in its quiver, and a dys­func­tion­al polit­ic­al pro­cess in Wash­ing­ton is un­likely to re­spond quickly and boldly with stim­u­lus. No mat­ter who wins, the odds of a re­ces­sion over the next four years are pretty good, something ob­vi­ously bad for the coun­try but giv­ing Re­pub­lic­ans an op­por­tun­ity to bounce back-- but only if they right a party ap­par­at­us that is cur­rently list­ing at about 45 de­grees.

When I talk to smart Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers and strategists, they have a very good idea of what their party’s prob­lems are, and they know what needs to be done. But my col­league Amy Wal­ter re­cently re­minded us of a great line by former House Speak­er John Boehner: A lead­er without fol­low­ers is simply a man tak­ing a walk. Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are faced with a party in which about half of its mem­bers be­lieve that com­prom­ise is a four-let­ter word and hold some pretty exot­ic views of what this coun­try is and where it is headed-- views that are very dif­fer­ent from where the coun­try ac­tu­ally is and where it is go­ing.
Meanwhile, Trump signaled his fans in Ohio on Thursday that they shouldn't vote for Republican incumbent Rob Portman. He told a local NBC affiliate there that "We have a couple of cases where people who aren’t supporting me. They are losing and I’m winning states, and you’ve seen that, that’s all over the place. So, you know, I was very disappointed in Rob, but he is free to do whatever he has to do... We are actually up substantially in Ohio. We have tremendous support from the people. We’re doing fantastically well in Ohio." Typical Trumpist delusion. The two most recent polls of Ohio voters (by Suffolk and by Quinnipiac) show Trump and Hillary tied at 45% each, while the two most recent Ohio Senate polls, also by Suffolk and Quinnipiac, show Portman devastating Democratic hack politician Ted Strickland, the former by 15 points and the latter by 13 points. But none of that will mean anything to Trump fans. If he decides to really screw with Portman, he can probably make his race a lot closer. Don't think for one moment that the Republican Party hasn't earned every torment Trump is bringing-- and will bring-- them.

I hope you liked the post above. This video below has virtually nothing to do with it. I just thought you might enjoy it as much as I did; and... what a way to start the day! You know "Weird Al," right? Weird Al Yankovic? He had some fun with Hillary and the execrable Donald. With apologies to Mark Meadows:

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Friday, October 21, 2016

A Devil’s Advocate Rings in a Bad Night for Bankers


-by Skip Kaltenheuser

It was a long hard slog to publish Lucifer's Banker. Had Brad Birkenfeld managed to get his book out say, a year or so earlier, we might not be staring at the political train wreck we are now. It might have changed the political landscape, perhaps the standard bearers. Maybe even elevated different issues for the last lap beyond the cursory checklist now fed us. But I’m glad it’s arrived. This book underscores every lament Bernie Sanders uttered about the gravity of the finance sector's black hole. There's ample material to make Washington insiders lose sleep, plenty to bring out loosely-defined authorities saying move along, nothing to see here. Above it all the central question floats like a banshee-- when a whistleblower revealed the largest systematic American tax fraud to surface, why was the only person to go to prison the whistleblower?

Birkenfeld is that whistleblower, logging long house arrest and thirty-one months of a forty-month sentence to a Federal penitentiary, with the added insult of a thirty-grand fine, never mind his legal expenses. His tale of DOJ's whistleblower smack-down, of its shooting the messenger, makes an entertaining read. But it ought to frighten the hell out of everyone. With dollops of irony, fright is likely the reason behind this whistleblower whacking, a warning to those who might raise curtains on the very rich and very powerful and very, very connected.

Birkenfeld worked for UBS in Switzerland as a private banker serving wealthy American clients. He went to jail on what seems a DOJ engineered Catch-22 that made him vulnerable to a charge of covering for a client, a Russian immigrant in California who hit it big in real estate. After Birkenfeld voluntarily approached the US government in 2007, DOJ sought to replace his whistle with a supersonic one no one could hear. It refused to give him the subpoena he requested that would protect him from prosecution under Swiss bank secrecy laws. Those laws once protected Germans from execution under the Third Reich for slipping money out of Germany. Now they serve darker purpose. Try to imagine the incredible weight of the money and power pushing out of Swiss vaults against DOJ's door.

Birkenfeld went to every other agency he could think of. He got the necessary subpoenas he needed and divulged accordingly, including on that client DOJ claimed he covered for. And he cued in the US Senate in a private hearing. But someone in DOJ couldn't take a joke, and they nabbed him as if what he'd already divulged was done in an alternate universe. Given the profile of the case, Birkenfeld has no doubts the hammer came down from on high.

If you'd like to hear the jaw-droppers from that Senate hearing-- most of which were his answers to Senators’ questions, join the club. The government sealed it and refuses to provide Birkenfeld with a transcript of his testimony.

Plenty of black eyes for plenty of politicians, and in particular for the Department of Justice-- let's just lump DOJ with the politicians. This book shreds that agency's credibility, laying bare once again Eric Holder's real legacy-- smooches to banks. Sadly, it's a legacy he's spreading around, including to his former boss.

I interviewed Birkenfeld awhile back as a component for an essay on the revolving door, (my apologies to the editor for my slow pace). The first thing that rides in on Birkenfeld's earnest, down-home Boston accent is that he isn't someone easily intimidated. He knows the territory, remembers who did what and won't quit shoving his boulders up the hill until credit is given where it's due. Gold stars are not in the offing.

That was underscored at Birkenfeld's book party Tuesday night at the National Press Club. He does have an advantage few of the royally screwed enjoy. After he was released a new law brought him an IRS whistleblower award, $104 million before the tax man's knock. Why not? His revelations enabled the US Treasury to recover $15 billion in back taxes, fines and penalties. They also put in motion international investigations of offshore banking's many misdeeds, and juiced up reformers seeking tougher oversight. Impacts on Swiss private banks-- there are scads of such banks, all shapes and sizes-- include a 2013 tax treaty facilitating the exchange of tax data between countries. This put a hitch in Switzerland's offshore tax haven status that vacuumed money. And plenty of dirt. Alas, though trickier, Birkenfeld says the multitude of nefarious practices requiring secret accounts still have plenty of global options.

Thing is, what the US reaped was a fraction of what could have been garnered had the massive tax evasion been fully brought to heel. That failure only increases the debt load every American carries. Why the lack of DOJ prosecutorial enthusiasm against tax cheats and their enabler bankers?

I don't want to step on too many nuggets, but Secretary of State Clinton stepped in to do the negotiations with UBS. She required UBS to disclose only 4,700 out of 19,000 illegal account holders. Birkenfeld's curious, as we all might be, as to who made the selection and how, and why the names were never made public. Why was the fine so inadequate compared to long-term profits, and why did DOJ so carelessly offer undeclared account holders anonymity and repeated amnesties?

Who are these titans of favoritism? Will the real masters of the universe please stand up?

It brings to mind proposals for excessively reduced corporate taxes for repatriating money sloshing around abroad, but I digress.

In Washington's small world of startling coincidence, before the negotiated deal UBS only contributed sixty grand to the Clinton Foundation. Afterwards, notes Birkenfeld, it went up by a factor of ten. UBS also partnered with the Foundation providing a low-interest thirty-two million dollar loan for a Foundation program. And President Clinton, the First, earned over a million and a half dollars "for a series of fireside chats with the bank's Wealth Management Chief Executive, Bob McCann...Bill Clinton's biggest payday since leaving the office of the Presidency."

I’m not a finance guy, but I’m getting better at the smell test. Ah,well, what's to worry? A legion of editorialists, commentators and spinners assures us there's no quid pro quo. The Trump gun at our temple is a curiosity killer.

In Washington, “pay it forward” is a concept not fully embraced.

Birkenfeld reckons Americans are on the hook for a trillion dollars escaping off-shore, so they ought be making demands.

The book balances entertaining asides and stark realities. One notable is how big players like UBS distribute business and retainers to put major law firms on the shelf as they avoid conflicts of interest. And the inescapable revolving door-- lubricated by so-called public servants sugaring up those they're supposed to ride herd on, while anticipating wildly better compensated employment elsewhere. Birkenfeld expresses particular fondness for DOJ prosecutors who shepherded him through his adventure in criminal prosecution. The lead prosecutor negotiated Birkenfeld’s plea and signed off on his motion for a sentence reduction. Then he sat quietly while a judge nailed Birkenfeld with a much longer sentence than Birkenfeld was led to expect.

Later, Birkenfeld discovered his lead prosecutor signed a secret non-prosecution agreement for the UBS kingpin who oversaw the 19,000 US accounts (including all of the North and South American offshore business), the show-runner for approximately $20 billion in assets. That banker was quietly allowed to go back to Switzerland two weeks later while the US Senate committee was on summer recess.

Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor then left DOJ to partner with a law firm that's now defending a Credit Suisse private banker who also handled US accounts (which Birkenfeld told the DOJ prosecutor about in 2007). The Credit Suisse banker is being prosecuted by another prosecutor, still at DOJ, that also dealt with Birkenfeld. Before leaving DOJ, Birkenfeld's lead prosecutor supervised the indictment of the Credit Suisse banker, which was signed by both prosecutors. The former prosecutor now with the law firm isn’t listed as attorney of record on the case. He’s merely a partner in the firm.

In any case, here’s a September 6th letter Birkenfeld sent to the Federal judge hearing the case regarding the Credit Suisse banker.

No word on the future plans of the prosecutor still lingering at DOJ.

Speaking generally, the revolving door is powered by contacts left behind in government.

His book might not be on the White House wish list, but on Oct. 1st Birkenfeld dispatched Lucifer to President Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Secretary of State John Kerry. It went with this letter urging action and answers. All members of Congress can look forward to Lucifer coming their way.

Among the questions posed, why was a key UBS official allowed to return to Switzerland after he agreed to cooperate but instead pleaded the Fifth at a Congressional hearing? Why was what Birkenfeld characterizes as a sham prosecution conducted against another top UBS official, who was acquitted and returned home after DOJ refused to call Birkenfeld to testify?

That’s high contrast with the French, Greeks, Canadians and others now eager for Birkenfeld’s assistance, which he’s giving, in government actions against the bank.

Note that UBS US employees have long poured money throughout America’s political system, including considerable largess to President Obama since he was a US Senator.

There's been press on Birkenfeld before, much of it sympathetic, when he blew the whistle, when he went to the hoosegow in 2010 and on his record IRS whistleblower award. He's since had plenty of time to ponder life. His book weaves together new threads connecting what happened and why. The resulting fabric is a brilliant lesson on how the fix is in. Read more at Birkenfeld's site. Can a movie be far behind?

Back to Washington's small world of coincidence. The first Sunday after Birkenfeld was sentenced, President Obama went golfing at Martha's Vineyard. His golfing partner was Robert Wolf, Chairman of UBS Americas.

Cue the Church Lady.


A quick aside and a disclosure. Not all the levers of power, the finance villains and their aiders and abettors, are on Wall Street or in mega-banks. This writer has regrettable first-hand knowledge of the impacts on individual families from government indifference to, if not complicity with, people who in my view were financial predators on my mom, at the so-called community bank level. In my view, there was even a well-wired US Attorney-- with a conflicted background - running interference against my efforts to get government to focus on what in my view was glaring bad faith and deception. Confronted, that US Attorney refused multiple opportunities to comment.

In my opinion, we were also treated to a self-serving "trustee" in the DOJ administered bankruptcy system. When I spoke with the top supervisor in the region she asked if I was going to the FBI or planned to try and have him disbarred, warned about liability if I went public with what happened, and was basically told resistance is futile. But she refuses to put in writing that everything the trustee did was hunky-dory.

The saga ultimately cost my 99 year old mom her Iowa family farm and much more, most of it avoidable if, in my view, the trustee had not primarily been self-serving his interests at our expense, in my view to keep his gravy train rolling even if it meant destroying asset value. No matter how high I push it, the FBI won't even acknowledge my complaint. Nor will DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility, famed as a burnout system. I have a legal background and once served as an asst. AG for the state of Kansas. I can't begin to describe my disillusionment with what has happened to justice, and about what I believe to be happening to people across the country who are theoretically less armored.

After reading Birkenfeld's book, and speaking with an FBI whistleblower at the launch party, I have to laugh at my quaint notion that government waits eager to ride to the rescue of the little guy, to champion even those dwelling far beneath potential headlines with political mileage. Nothing to do now but to try and tell the story. No payouts in cases like mine. But if Birkenfeld's book inspires the aggrieved to find voice, to tell their own stories of injustice at the ground level, they may awake others to the peril slack government places us in. That alone would make the book worth its ink.


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The DCCC Is Tying Republican Incumbents To Trump Even After They've Disowned Him


The above ad from the DCCC just started running in TX-23, the immense South Texas congressional district (almost a quarter of the state in size!) that stretches from Socorro and the outskirts of southwest El Paso, along the Rio Grande border with Chihuahua and Coahuila through Guadalupe, Big Bend, Del Rio, the big smuggling center in Eagle Pass, and up into the western and southern suburbs of San Antonio. Those Bexar County suburbs are the Republican part of the swing district-- won narrowly by Obama in 2008 and narrowly by Romney in 2012. In 2012, Ted Cruz also won the district-- which is 71% Latino-- but so did corrupt conservative Blue Dog Pete Gallego. Gallego was one of the worst members of Congress for his 2-year stint-- voting with the GOP on core issues far more frequently than with the Democrats. So in 2014, Democrats just refused to even bother to come out to vote for him and he lost to ex-CIA agent Will Hurd 57,459 (50%) to 55,037 (48%). His 2012 vote total (96,477) utterly collapsing.

Gallego, operative, dog buscuits
By the summer of 2013, DWT had already rated Gallego among the 10 worst freshmen Democrats-- along with garbage members like Sean Patrick Maloney (NY), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), Patrick Murphy (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Cheri Bustos (IL), Dan Maffei (NY), Joe Garcia (FL)... all Blue Dogs and New Dems from the craven Republican wing of the Democratic Party). That first term, Gallego voted with the Republicans to weaken regulations on Wall Street, with the Republicans on domestic spying (CISPA), with the Republicans to freeze the pay of federal employees, for Ryan's austerity budgets, with the Republicans on several bills written by oil and gas lobbyists and with the GOP to oppose Obama's plans to shut down Guantánamo-- not once, but twice. What an inspiration!

Goal Thermometer The last time I checked-- this week-- the DCCC had already spent $2,651,421 on his race, the second-largest amount on any congressional candidate. He's been endorsed by both the Blue Dogs and the New Dems, so exactly the kind of corrupt, Wall Street-friendly conservative the DCCC favors. As of the June 30 filing deadline Gallego had raised $1,273,280. Last week alone, Pelosi's House Majority PAC spent (wasted) $906,196 on his race-- tragic, as she continues to refuse money to progressives like Mary Ellen Balchunis (PA), Tom Wakely (TX), DuWayne Gregory (NY), Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Paul Clements (MI), Mary Hoeft (WI), Alina Valdes (FL), while severely underfunding Zephyr Teachout, who is up against a virtual avalanche of dirty money from GOP hedge fund billionaires and Paul Ryan (over $4 million) with the DCCC kicking in just over $600,000, nothing like the massive $2,651,421 for the Republican-voting Gallego. (Please tap on the thermometer on the right to help the progressive candidates who won their primaries in winnable districts but who the DCCC refuses to assist at all.)

As you can see from the DCCC ad, they have nothing positive to say about Gallego-- what could they say... that he's a bankster amigo or an opponent of everything Democrats expect from a congressman?-- and instead just attack his opponent for not denouncing Trump clearly enough. The DCCC has a similar ad they rolled out yesterday on behalf of New Dem Terri Bonoff (MN), who they've already spent $1,808,005 on. This one attacks Erik Paulsen who didn't disavow Trump until after the "grab-her-by-the-pussy" tape came out.


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Sure, we say it every four years, but isn't THIS the craziest presidential election in memory?


He-e-e-ere's Speaker Louie! DailyKos caption: "Now, doesn't this inspire confidence?" Yeccch! My proposed new Louie Rule: From now on, the only living Louie to be acknowledged publicly will be Louis CK.

"Whoever comes next will have the task of restoring respect for the law and a common adherence to the Constitution -- the heaviest of burdens, even for a candidate prepared by training and disposition to carry it."
-- David Bromwich, in the new (Nov. 10) NYRB

by Ken

I mean, here we are watching the far-right-wing crazies defending -- as only far-right-wing crazies can, viciously and with a strong whiff of impending violence -- their boy the Billion-Dollar Loser, who isn't even a conservative. Unless you count where he sort-of-plays one for totally cynically selfish reasons on the, you know, campaign trail.

Here's Kerry Eleveld at DailyKos:
Step aside Paul Ryan, Hannity has announced your replacement as Speaker: Rep. Louie Gohmert

Fox News host Sean Hannity is all out auditioning to be chief correspondent of the loons once the new Trump-bart debuts. And first on the chopping block after Trump is roundly defeated by overwhelming majorities at the polls: Paul Ryan, whom Hannity called a "saboteur" of Trump's campaign. Allegra Kirkland writes:
Speaking to the Washington Post in the spin room after the final presidential debate, the devoted Donald Trump ally hinted that the intra-party war between far-right conservatives and their more moderate counterparts would continue regardless of who wins the presidential race on November 8.

Hannity told the Post that Ryan, who has offered only tepid support for the Republican nominee during the 2016 race, “needed to be called out and replaced.”
Nice! Ryan, who hasn't even had the guts to disavow Trump, is now responsible for the miserable failure of a campaign Trump has run. Sorry, Paul.

Hannity also had a lot of good ideas about members of the House Crazy Caucus who could unite the party (ahem) upon Ryan’s ouster: Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan (chair of the Crazy Caucus), North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows (who devised the wildly popular 2013 government shutdown), and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert! LOL. Gohmert! The wackiest of the wack jobs, who has called Hillary Clinton "mentally impaired." Speaker Gohmert! ROFLOL.


I mean, Sean Hannity threatening to take Paul Ryan down for being insufficiently conservative? PAUL RYAN??? Wouldn't you think that if there's one thing Speaker Paul doesn't have to answer for, it's being insufficiently conservative? Has anyone in our public life done more to drag us back to the 16th century? And I include Sean Hannity, who's all mouth, whereas Speaker Paul is the, er, "brains" of the Far Right politicos, providing a steady stream of actual legislative proposals to do the deed.

In fairness to Shifty Sean, what he lacks in brains -- which sure seems to be quite a lot -- he more than makes up for in savagery, uninhibitedness, dishonesty, and naked self-promotingness. Still, to plug some of the evident gap in ideological awareness, here's some of what David Bromwich has to say in a compendium of ten frequent contributors' thoughts "On the Election" running through the new (Nov. 10) issue of the New York Review of Books:
From the first debates of 2015, Donald Trump stood out because he wasn’t one of the usual suspects. He was the to-hell-with-it candidate. If you dislike politics generally, don’t study or understand them but are sure the country has declined and that the future looks worse than the past, Trump is your man. He doesn’t know politics any better than you do, but he says (reassuringly) that it is a mug’s game, and he ought to know. He comes from money, lives for money, and before he entered the race he was in the business of buying favors from the mugs.

Who better to avow that the system is rigged? Everyone admits that the Clinton Foundation has done good works. But anyone with a nose can tell that it uneasily mixes philanthropy and aggrandizement. Trump took his cue and blew it up and—since Hillary Clinton is known to have met with donors while she was secretary of state—he called the foundation itself a pay-to-play scheme. Trump the insider has the best and biggest nose for such things; and in the mood of perpetual disquiet these last two years in America, the undeniable blots on his character have made people strangely trust him more.

Comparisons with Reagan are misleading. Reagan was intimate with politics and political interests as far back as his presidency of the Screen Actor’s Guild. He tricked his opponents into underrating him, right up to the election of 1980, but the reason wasn’t the lack of a consistent ideology or a coherent personality. Reagan was undeviating in his overall views: the people who supported him knew what they were getting. With Trump, they prefer not to know, and he panders to wishful ignorance by saying that whatever he does in his first days as president, he’ll do it good and do it fast. The vagueness, bloat, and feckless reiteration of the promises (the height of the wall with Mexico, the total ban on Muslim immigration, the vow to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”) go against the grain of a representative government based on checks and self-restraint.

Trump the post-political billionaire can seem refreshingly heterodox only if one performs a drastic curtailment of common judgment. The right-wing anti-imperialist Pat Buchanan thinks that Trump has the mind-set and stamina to extricate the US from our half-dozen wars in the Greater Middle East (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia). On the evidence, one would guess that Trump indeed has a less hearty appetite for wars than Hillary Clinton, but his solutions often sound like “Bomb them back to the Stone Age” rather than the reasoned noninterventionism this branch of apologists are looking for.
For the record, the other NYRB "On the Election" contributors are: Russell Baker, G.W. Bowersock, Mark Danner, Andrew Delbanco, Elizabeth Drew, Benjamin M. Friedman, Diane Johnson, Nicholas Lemann, Jessica T. Mathews, Darryl Pinckney, Marilynne Robinson, Garry Wills. (Yes, they're presented alphabetcially!) And to be clear, David Bromwich continues with a powerful takedown of Hillary Clinton, including this:
[H]er stated positions and political history leave her unequipped to repel [Trump's] charges against immigration, the American jobs lost through trade deals, and the scenes of disorder in American cities that followed the killing of black men by police and the killing of police by black men. Hillary Clinton is the reverse of a popular politician—she is more like an ideally dutiful chair of a committee—and it has been an odd feature of the campaign to advertise her as “the most qualified person ever to run for president.”


Which is decidedly mournful:
The domestic state of the nation is so unpropitious in October 2016 that one may pity the winner of this election as much as the loser. We are living in a country under recurrent siege by the actions of crowds. There is the Tea Party crowd with their belief that global climate disruption is a scientific hoax; there is the Black Lives Matter crowd with their ambiguous slogan “No Justice, No Peace”; and there are more ominous developments, such as the acts of serial defiance of the federal government by the Bundy family in Nevada and Oregon. Whoever comes next will have the task of restoring respect for the law and a common adherence to the Constitution—the heaviest of burdens, even for a candidate prepared by training and disposition to carry it.

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America Meets Its Darkness: A Look at HBO's Westworld


Maryann Price singing "I'm an Old Cowhand" with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks. She knows all the songs that the cowboys know, 'bout the big corral where the dogies go, 'cause she learned them all on the radio, yippee-i-o-ki-ay. There are fake cowboy visitors in HBO's new series Westworld too, but they're not so nice.

by Gaius Publius

I'm a fan of science fiction, especially when it reflects and comments on the state of our national affairs — and our national affairs are definitely in a state. Which brings me to the new HBO series Westworld.

Westworld is derivative in some ways. It takes off from a pleasant mid-1970s film entertainment by Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner, also called Westworld, in which an android-populated theme park goes chaotic and androids starts killing the visitors. But this new version adds in much of the violence and dark tone from HBO's excellent, realistic Western drama Deadwood, plus a lot more brutal sexuality than the earlier film, similar to that in Game of Thrones and other recent productions.

Yes, the visitors to the original Westworld theme park could "encounter" the saloon girls at will, all of whom would be willing, and shoot up the android locals, but that part was downplayed in the film. As Rick Perlstein amply documents in Nixonland, America of the 1970s was starting to come to grips with its darker self, with the world of the My Lai massacre and police brutality, of brutal sexism and incentivized social conformity, and it dealt with that encounter by trying to turn away, by trying to re-enter the world of American myth that Ronald Reagan ultimately shepherded us to.

Just one example: The 1968 My Lai massacre was prosecuted, sort of, but what was done, there and elsewhere, was never absorbed, understood or metabolized as a wider problem within the American psyche — particularly the male American psyche, since the soldiers involved in all these massacres were indeed male. So the pushback, the effort to start the forgetting, began. As early as 1970 mainstream propagandists were working to blunt Vietnam era awarenesses and counter-cultural challenges with, for example, "folk" groups like entirely anodyne New Christy Minstrels, who were introduced at Super Bowl IV as "young Americans who demonstrate — with guitars."

Bottom line, in the 1970s the country was in the process of trying to sanitize itself, and there was an ongoing public "discussion," both explicit in public conversation and implicit in the media and public entertainment. The original Westwood was part of that effort, if unconsciously. As I said, a pleasant entertainment, and in fact a watchable film.

America Meets Its Darkness

America today is a much different place. The Reagan Revolution is over — Reagan, the agent who engineered our re-entry into American counter-factual myth — and the brutal facts of our darker nature are now coming home to stay, in the form of murderous counter-strikes from abroad and at home, and an economically induced opioid-and-suicide crisis that won't cease until our rulers cease the economic pressure that drives it.

Which they will never do. And which everyone knows they will never do, everyone at least who watched the determined effort to destroy the Sanders campaign by anyone with a stake in the status quo. Trump voters, those not driven mad by demons of race, have parallel fears.

In short, America is having dark dreams about itself, and those dreams are beginning to be represented even in mainstream entertainment, like the new Westworld.

Here's what Rolling Stone critic Rob Scheffield says about this series:
What 'Westworld' Says About America Right Now

HBO's big-budget reboot of the Seventies sci-fi movie is really about masculinity – and Rob Sheffield thinks it could not be more timely

In a better time for this country, Westworld would feel a lot more like science fiction. Instead, this HBO show is a bloody, pulpy, breast-intensive satire of the American male psychosis at its most demented. It's set in a futuristic theme park where guests pay thousands of dollars a day to live out their Wild West fantasies, which mostly involve shooting or torturing the robot "hosts" who populate the park. Saloons, whorehouses, six-shooters and Stetsons: all an excuse for the clientele to act on their most depraved urges. One of the human masterminds behind the park sums up the guests as "rich assholes who want to play cowboy." The robots bleed real-looking blood – buckets of it, in fact – but it's all fun and games as long as they don't really feel or remember anything, right? Like the replicant hunters in Blade Runner would say, they're just skin jobs.

Except what happens if these hosts develop their own consciousness – androids who dream of electric tumbleweeds?
In this Westworld, the androids who permanently inhabit the park are not the villains, but the victims of "rich assholes who want to play cowboy" — victims of wealthy visitors who see others in the world as toys for their entertainment (sound familiar?). And now those toys, previously unaware of their own low status in a world they thought was theirs, are starting to wake up.

How's that for a concept that perfectly captures the times?

More from Scheffield:
Evan Rachel Wood, by the way, is easily the best thing about Westworld – she's the spark of raw humanity who makes it all compelling. Her Dolores is a doe-eyed rancher's daughter who exists to be either rescued or abused, depending on the whims of the paying costumer. And since it's usually abused, she lives out the same loop over and over again, a loop that ends as her blood gets wiped away and her memory gets reset. But before the technicians send her back to work on the bunny ranch, they test her with one query: "Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?" As long as she keeps saying no, she qualifies as a good little robot sexpot. Except she's unmistakably showing signs of logging memories and figuring out what's going on, which means she's showing signs of becoming disturbingly human.
And something else, something that Scheffield isn't saying, is that Wood's character is learning to lie to the technicians about what she knows — a detail that gives the series an added dramatic punch.

You'll need to be clear about the premise before you begin to watch, though; the pilot is confusing. I think the film-makers were counting on the grit and gore to keep you tuning in until the tragedy of that world becomes clear. It's not immediately obvious, for example, who's not an android and who is, and I almost stopped watching. But if you're forearmed with enough information, you won't make that mistake.

"Minds destroyed by madness"

This isn't so much a movie review as a nation review. Like Allen Ginsberg, we are watching, not just the best minds of this generation, but also the worst, "destroyed by madness," trapped in a world they can neither tolerate nor change. The Sanders-side electoral rebellion has failed, for whatever reason, and the Trump-side uprising, fueled by the radical mix of forces that drove that rage, will likely be snuffed at the ballot box as well.

Where do they go from here? Do they endure till they die in the hole they live in, dreaming of "freedom" via thirty-second offroad truck commercials? Or do they do something else? What will Evan Rachel Wood do after the third or fourth brutal rape, somewhere in midseason, when she realizes she doesn't have to execute her programming and can execute ... something else? Will her reaction be sanctioned by law, or by the keepers of the world she can't escape? The dramatic possibilities, in the series at least, are endless and exciting.

I don't expect to say the same for the larger Westworld that created the smaller one, certainly not with the word "exciting" attached.

"But I saw you and you saw me, mostly"

Let's end, however, on a cheerier note, with the scat singing of the above-mentioned Maryann Price, performing a song I call "But I Saw You and You Saw Me, Mostly," but which Dan Hicks called "Shorty Falls in Love" or here, "Another Night."

Ignore the odd laughter and applause — it's a rehearsal for the Flip Wilson comedy show on what may be a crowded practice set.

We sped around the world
To see what we could see,
But I saw you and you saw me mostly

Eyes for each other and not for the world. Maybe there's a lesson there.


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How Toxic Will Trump Prove For Republican Candidates Nov. 8?


If I'm right about people being fed up with the negativity and sheer dysfunction of the Republican Party, there really will be a wave in three weeks, nothing affirming about the almost-as-bad Democrats, but one that should send the GOP reeling. The party bosses will blame Trump-- and the media and Democrats who "forced him" on their party-- but the rejection I see coming is not just about Trump; it's about the Republican Party itself. A really shitty Trump-like candidate, a crooked billionaire who captured the West Virginia gubernatorial nomination, Jim Justice, is going to beat Bill Cole, the garden variety Republican president of the West Virginia state Senate. Indiana is almost as terminally red as West Virginia. Indiana is likely to replace Mike Pence with a Democratic governor, John Gregg, and replace Republican Senator Dan Coats (retiring) with crooked hack Democratic lobbyist Evan Bayh (over a mainstream conservative Republican congressman, Todd Young). The winner of the Colorado Republican Senate primary, Darryl Glenn, may well lose to an unpopular and unaccomplished Democratic hack, Michael Bennet, in a jaw-dropping landslide. The most recent poll, by Quinnipiac, shows Glenn unable to even break 40%. Bennet leads among independents, among women, among men, among white and among non-whites. Even the least talented, least accomplished and least appetizing Democratic Senate candidate anywhere in the country, Florida doofus Patrick Murphy (who the DSCC has already written off), may wind up beating Rubio, simply because Rubio is a Republican in a year when people have had enough of that party of crackpots.

Mike Shields, president Ryan's Congressional Leadership Fund, said this week that "Trump has his own brand. He’s not running as a Republican." That's certainly what they're all hoping the voters believe. Blue America, having looked closely at races all over the country, decided pointing out Republican incumbents' closeness to Trump, was the best way to defeat them. We have mobile billboard trucks deployed against Trump allies Peter King (Long Island), Lamar Smith (central Texas), Cresent Hardy (North Las Vegas) and Frank Guinta (New Hampshire) each featuring a picture of the Republican with a little Trump sitting on his shoulder. This is the one that was on the Long Island Expressway at 9:18 this morning, and in Amityville, Babylon, Lindenhurst, Islip all day.

Our truck for Carol Shea-Porter in southeast New Hampshire started today off in Manchester and will be spending all day tomorrow in and around Hookset. People aren't throwing flowers, but waving and smiling and honking in approval. They seem happy to see anything they associate with "not Trump" efforts.

Glenn Thrush and Andrew Sullivan both explained the debate in ways that help explain how sick voters are of Trump and Trumpism. Thrush (in Politico): "There were two candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night-- and both were intent on demolishing Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency. Truly historic moments are rare in politics. But this was a thunderbolt that might have spelled the end for Trump’s dynamic, disorganized and self-destructive campaign and the elevation of the first female major party nominee, whose precision and preparedness has often been overshadowed by her flashier opponent... Trump made the biggest mistake of his life. Like most gaffes, this one wasn’t actually a mistake but an honest statement of suicidal sentiment. Trump has been telling overflow crowds he believes the election is “rigged,” even though he’s the most unpopular candidate in modern memory and recent studies show that the actual rate of voter fraud is about as common as a lightning strike. Trump was undone by a simple question, one that wouldn’t have been a speed-bump for a nominally prepped candidate. Instead, he crashed and burned-- a fatal one-car crash by a driver parking in his own garage. Asked moderator Chris Wallace: Would he support the results of the election, as every other presidential candidate has done since time immemorial? 'I will look at it at the time,' Trump said, to audible gasps in the debate hall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 'I will keep you in suspense.' ... Every single sentient being in the press watching the debate, and not currently on the payroll of the Trump Organization, knew instantly that his refusal to accept the results of the election (foreshadowed by a similar feint during the primaries) was the moment of the debate, and quite possibly the most important moment of the campaign."

Sullivan (for New York) noted that even Trump seems to have "internalized that he has lost this election... [and that] this was easily the most decisive debate. She devastated him. He melted down. His refusal to accept the results of this election disqualifies him automatically from any office in the United States. There were several areas where he was utterly incoherent, grasping at 'facts', without any understanding of policy. His personal foulness emerged."

Even Maureen Dowd noticed it is all over for The Donald. "Continuing to deploy lethal darts from her team of shrinks, Hillary Clinton baited Trump into a series of damaging nails-in-the-coffin statements. And it was so easy. The one-time litigator prosecuted the case against Trump, sparking another temperamental spiral, as effectively as Chris Christie once broke down Marco Rubio."

There are no serious GOP leaders who think Trump can win November 8.The debate made it worse. How much worse? That we'll know when we see how many House and Senate seats fall to the Democrats in 3 weeks. They hoped he would perform well enough ti at least not make the party's down-ballot results worse. Their hopes were for naught. She crushed him-- and with him, Republican hopes for several seats they had hoped to hang onto. As Alex Isenstadt put it in Politico right after the debate, "Trump’s rocky performance on the final debate stage did little to allay his party’s concerns that the GOP is headed for an electoral catastrophe up and down the ticket.
“The biggest loser tonight was not Trump, the presidential race is over,” said Robert Blizzard, a GOP pollster who is working on a number of congressional races. “Instead, down-ticket Republicans lost tonight-- they needed some help and got absolutely none.”

...“Trump was already behind,” said Bill Kristol, a Trump critic and the editor-in-chief of the conservative publication the Weekly Standard. “He didn't help himself tonight, indeed he hurt himself. He's very likely to lose, and to lose badly. He'll drag the Senate and House down with him unless Senate and House candidates can make the case they're needed to check and balance Hillary.”
Take a look at some of the brand new ads that just went up on TV, like the one above. Notice what they all have in common?

This would be a pretty good time to help with progressive candidates' get out the vote efforts by contributing. The thermometer below includes the House and Senate candidates Blue America has endorsed and who have won their primaries and are facing conservatives in November.

Goal Thermometer

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Political Debates Would Look Like If I Was In Charge


-by Noah

Intro: Ok. The last presidential debate is over. Done. Like anyone else with at least half a mind (Yeah, I know that leaves out Rudy Giuliani and others). I am disgusted with the whole enterprise. With that in mind, I thought I would benefit mankind by drawing up a plan for how political debates would run if I were in charge. Here you go: 14 steps to a more sensible approach to our political debate process. Says who? Says me!

1. All debates would be held in a court of law. There would be background music as the show began. This music could be faded up and down throughout the proceedings at the discretion of the moderator. The music will be by Ennio Morricone. The intro to the show would feature the theme to “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.”

2. All participants would be under oath.

3. Audiences would be small in number. I envision a Grand Jury size panel of 30 citizens chosen at random.

4. All audience members would wear uniform generic clothing so as not to give any indication or their economic status or fashion sense. Jeans are suggested. T-shirts are also suggested but they would be plain. No symbols. No pictures. No words. Also, no jewelry is allowed. No watches to be worn. No visible tattoos.

5. In addition, all audience members would wear black, execution style hoods.

6. The debate participants can dress as they please. This, in itself, can be revealing.

7. All participants should be identified with their full names, including what their mob nickname would be, even if, by some chance, they are not known to be associates of any crime syndicate, corporate, mafia, or otherwise. Some suggested examples follow:
Rand “Paulie White Hoods” Paul
John “Johnny Drinks” Boehner
Scott “The Pension Graber” Walker
Hillary “Hill The Shill” Clinton
Rick “Ricky No Brains” Perry
Rick “Mr. Rogers” Santorum
Elizabeth “Fuck You Wall Street” Warren
Donald “The Bankruptcy King” Trump
Mitch “Nancy Boy” McConnell
Newt “The Flab Curtain” Gingrich”
8. I strongly feel that the first question is all-important in setting the tone. The first question would be: Have you ever paid for, or had, an abortion? Forget the old, outmoded questions about military service. More and more of our politicians seem to be of a class that does not go to the battlefield anyway. The reasons for that are worth discussion but the issue of military service is no longer number one. Neither is the old “Did you ever smoke pot?”

In America today, subjects such as immigration, and gun rights elicit strong passions on all sides but nothing tops the abortion issue. Time and time again, for Trump supporters (and Clinton’s), their vote comes down to the Supreme Court nd the implications regarding Roe v. Wade.

Abortion is now the biggest motivator of today’s single-issue voters. Since, for example, there are many Trump supporters that are willing to forgive any insanity on the part of their guy, as long as he states an anti-abortion stance, it would be useful to know what any candidate’s past is in relation to this issue.

The answer a candidate provides would best be the truth since a lie could be, whether likely or not, contradicted by a person who received that abortion coming forward with the medical records to prove it. The documentation could even show up in the hacking of a hospital’s or clinic’s records. Considering how volatile this subject is, lying about it would be a very big gamble. So, if a candidate is going to make abortion a central issue of their campaign, let’s hear it. Answer the question. Yes or no. How many times might also be relevant.

As it is now, we have a situation in our society, where a political party could nominate The Zodiac Killer for President and The Zodiac Killer would get millions of votes as long as he pledged to nominate justices who were in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Donald Trump himself has said that he could murder people on New York’s Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and his followers would still vote for him. Trump supporters are rationalizing their vote for him based on his abortion stance, even though they don’t like other things about him, saying things like “God sometimes uses bad people for good reasons.”

9. All candidates must submit to a full physical and mental examination before being allowed to participate in any debate. The results will be publicly revealed in the debate pre-show.

10. Likewise, complete tax and financial records going 40 years back shall be a qualification for being in any debate. This stipulation will be known as “The Lord Tiny Hands Rule.”

11. A genealogy going back to the candidate’s great-grandparents must be submitted and authenticated. This is not to question whether or not the candidate is a legal citizen. But, if the candidate is making questions of immigrant documentation a cornerstone of their campaign, we should know, just as we should know the answer to my proposed abortion question, what level of hypocrisy we are being fed. The same rule should apply to a candidate’s spouse, significant other, household help, car mechanic, restaurant staff at the candidate’s favorite eatery, dry cleaner, etc.

12. Stagecraft: The stage settings and designs for our current debates are absurdly boring and pointless. They have nothing to do with what is going on. Therefore, the back wall of the stage should be one large screen on which scenes from spaghetti westerns, Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, Being There, Rodan vs. Godzilla, Network, Leave It To Beaver, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Wizard Of Oz, and others will be shown at the appropriate time, to match up with what is said by the individual candidates as they speak. Clips of politicians meeting with K Street lobbyists, along with FBI sting clips of politicians taking bribes should also be considered for use at the right moments.

13. All participants will be hooked up to lie detector machines and results will be shown, at the TV screen bottom, in real time. Let us watch those needles fly! Participants will also be hooked up to a taser-like device that can be activated by the debate moderator if the question asked of the participant is not being answered directly. Deflection, or subject changing will not be tolerated.

14. I will be the moderator.

Post debate: Instead of the circus of spin rooms; under my plan a period of vigorous cross-examination will ensue. Each candidate can choose one prosecuting attorney to question their political rivals. No more post debate cloying, pandering Chris Matthews or Wolfie what’s-his-name. No more completely insane nihilism from Sean Hannity.

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Congress And Food Policy-- The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


The stated mission of Tom Colicchio's group, Food Policy Action, is to highlight the importance of food policy and to promote policies that support healthy diets, reduce hunger at home and abroad, improve food access and affordability, uphold the rights and dignity of food and farm workers, increase transparency, improve public health, reduce the risk of food-borne illness, support local and regional food systems, protect and maintain sustainable fisheries, treat farm animals humanely and reduce the environmental impact of farming and food production. This week they put out their 3rd annual scorecard to highlight how members of Congress have been voting on food-related issues.

Among the many bills they focused on were these dozen with very specific aims:
H.R. 1284- Directs EPA to suspend registration of certain pesticides until they can be proven safe for bees, and to conduct research on the health of bees and bee mortality.
S. 1332- Gives USDA the authority to issue mandatory recall of contaminated meat and poultry products.
H.R. 913 and  S. 511- Amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the sale of food that has been genetically engineered or contains genetically engineered ingredients, unless that information is clearly disclosed.
H.R. 1061 and  S. 569- Increases annual mandatory Farm to School funding from $5 million to $15 million and increases the maximum grant award to $200,000. Expands the program scope to include pre-schools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs. Creates incentives for beginning, veteran and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to participate in the program.
H.R. 1728 and S. 613- Expands eligibility for summer food service, increases the number of reimbursable meals, and establishes a competitive grant program for solutions to limited transportation to congregate summer food sites.
H.R. 2627- Requires USDA to establish and implement a plan to increase the use of salad bars in schools, including through a competitive grant program.
H.R. 3164 and S. 1832- Raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour for most workers by 2020, and provides a formula for an annual increase after that.
H.R. 3316 and S. 540 - Authorizes USDA loan guarantee program for school kitchen infrastructure improvements, and authorizes targeted grants for infrastructure and training and technical assistance.
H.R. 704- Eliminates the Renewable Fuel Standard’s corn-based ethanol requirement, caps the ethanol blend amount into gas at 10%, and requires EPA to cap cellulosic biofuels levels at current production levels.
S. 190- Authorizes FDA program for inspection of imported seafood, and amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prohibit the importation of any seafood from a foreign country unless the country complies with U.S. standards for seafood manufacturing, processing, and holding.
They singled out six congressmen as "Food Policy Failures," Tom Graves (R-GA), Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Kenny Marchant (R-TX). Most Democrats did well and most Republicans did poorly. But... there were some exceptions. Democrats with failing grades included this batch of shit-heads:
Collin Peterson (Blue Dpg-MN)- 41%
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 43%
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 50%
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog)- 53%
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog)- 56%
Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE)- 60%
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- 60%
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)- 63%
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)- 64%
David Scott (Blue Dog-GA)- 65%
Cedrick Richmond (New Dem-LA)- 67%
Terri Sewell (New Dem-AL)- 67%
Tim Walz (D-MN)- 67%
Jim Clyburn (D-SC)- 69%
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)- 69%
George Butterfield (D-NC)- 69%
Filemon Vela (Blue Dog-TX)- 71%
Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL)- 71%
Ironically, the last name on the list, Gwen Graham, was elected as Food Policy Action's first big success. They helped oust reactionary Republican Steve Southerland in a close, hard-fought race in 2014. Graham has turned out to be
a- better than Southerland
b- worse than almost any Democrat in Congress
c- pretty bad on Food Policy Action's issues
They probably need to get a little more sophisticated about understanding that not all Democrats are any good and that the worst thing anyone with a progressive agenda can ever do, is take advice from the creeps at the DCCC, DSCC and DNC, likely where lots of the board members, Colicchio included, have friendly contacts. Stick with them and you wind up wasting your money and efforts promoting garbage candidates like Gwen Graham. There 6 House endorsements this year come straight from the DCCC and include 2 California candidates who might turn out to be good-- Michael Eggman and Emilio Huerta-- and three who will turn out to be as bad or worse than Graham: "ex"-Republican Monica Vernon (IA), and two grotesque Wall Street-oriented Blue Dogs, Brad Schneider (IL) and Josh Gottheimer (NJ), who will eventually have all the Food Policy Action folks sitting around in a circle weeping and cursing. (The 6th endorsee, Anna Throne-Holst, Steve Israel's Suffolk County girlfriend, is going to lose badly, so it isn't worth speculating about how bad she would wind up being on food issues in Congress.)

Two much better endorsements-- but not ones the DCCC or Pelosi would have ever told them about would be Tom Wakely, the progressive Democrat running against House Science Committee chairman, Lamar Smith, and DuWayne Gregory, the progressive Democrat running against GOP hack Peter King-- in other words, against two reactionary Trumpists who failed the Food Policy Action scorecard with miserable scores. "With Lamar Smith and this insane brand of conservatism," Wakely told us, "it's all about the bottom dollar. He doesn't care if pesticides make you ill. He doesn't care if you want to know where your meat is sourced. Smith and his cronies only care about promoting enterprise at any cost, and unfortunately the cost is usually the well-being of our citizens. This is becoming taxation without representation. We're paying the salaries of congressmen like Lamar Smith so they can be stewards of everything but the people they were elected to represent. When I'm elected I'll always vote in a manner so that the people will have a right to know how their food was prepared. It's simply common decency."

And DuWayne went through the Food Policy Action scorecard report on King and told us that the Long Island congressman "has an abysmal 31% record when it comes to food safety. Voting against common sense measures to ensure our food supply is healthy to consume shouldn't be complicated. I understand the importance of dangerous chemicals being restricted from our food supply and hold those accountable with strict regulations. We need members of Congress that will fight for the people and not loosen laws for violators."


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