Sunday, May 20, 2018

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

May 18, 2018: Yet another big, successful day for the National Republican Blood Drive. How many gallons are enough for Smiling Paul Ryan (pictured here), Mitch The Treason Turtle, and Señor Trumpanzee?

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

The DCCC Is Still Undermining Laura Moser, The Likely Democratic Party Nominee


Tuesday is primary run-off day in Texas. The DCCC is counting on an anti-union middle-of-the-road nothing candidate to win the primary and go on to face dull Republican incumbent John Culberson in a suburban Houston district (TX-07) where Hillary unexpectedly beat Señor Trumpanzee 48.5% to 47.1%. Going into that election the PVI was R+13 and Obama had only managed 39% against Romney. Al Gore had only gotten 31%. Now the PVI is a more manageable R+7. But the corrupt rotgut conservatives who infest the DCCC have lit their hair on fire and run around for months screaming that the progressive in the runoff, Laura Moser, can't win a general election. Then they set out to make sure it will be very hard for her, wave or no wave.

Not long ago Pelosi was in Austin, telling the editors of the Austin American-Statesman if primary voters don't nominate the establishment choices, the DCCC will abandon them. That's been a DCCC tactic for over a decade when Rahm Emanuel was chair-- but no one has ever spoken about it publicly before. And I might add that when Emanuel was doing it he failed over and over again as progressives who won primaries against his conservative candidates, they then won general elections without DCCC assistance. And that brings us back to Laura Moser. The DCCC released an especially vicious hit piece on her, claiming that they had to put it out because if they didn't keep her from winning the primary, Culberson would release it and she would lose the general. The DCCC is using this ugly tactic all over the country to get their corrupt conservatives to win against progressives. what it did in TX-07, though, was guarantee an explosion of contributions for Moser and enough votes to put her into the run-off, while the DCCC-backed candidate came in a distant 4th.

Bridget Bowman, writing for RollCall, a website that usually specializes in reprinting press releases and "inside info" from the Beltway committees, asked this week if the DCCC will pay a price for what they did to Moser. "Tuesday’s result," she wrote, "could signal whether that intervention-- which prompted some backlash among liberal activists-- made a lasting impact on the race. And the runoff could be an early sign of which general election strategy Democratic voters find most viable: firing up the base or reaching across the aisle."
“When it comes to what it takes to beat Culberson in November, what sets me apart is my belief that Democrats need to stand firm for our progressive values,” Moser said in a statement. “To win this district, we must bring new voters into the process. I believe we do that by talking to people about the issues that affect their lives-- like income inequality, the spiraling costs of higher education, and the urgent threat of climate change.”

...“At this point, it’s sort of a two-month-old process story,” said Sonia Van Meter, a Texas Democratic consultant based in Austin. “I think voters are not especially concerned with who the D-trip is interested in.”

But the move did rankle local activists, who were concerned about dampened enthusiasm and the perception that the primary was not a fair fight.

“It poses a challenge to us, as the activist community, to unite the entire base under whoever it is that prevails,” said Jon Rosenthal, a founder of a local Indivisible group that has not endorsed either candidate. “From our perspective as activist leaders … we wish that they would butt the hell out so that we could have a clean win.”

“I was really, really upset with what they did,” said Rufi Natarajan, who lives in a neighboring congressional district but is active in Harris County Democratic politics and the Bayou Blue Democrats. Natarajan originally backed Moser but is now supporting Fletcher.

“In a way, it was done very badly, but I guess they were saying what I’m saying, which is, ‘Hey, she’s not electable,’” Natarajan said.

Rosenthal, who is running for the Texas House, said activist leaders are still irked by the move. But they’re telling their members not to let anger toward the DCCC affect their vote, and to support the candidate they believe could defeat Culberson.

“I am more optimistic now rather than right after it happened,” Rosenthal said of chances for unity despite the intraparty fight. “People have come to terms with the fact that either [candidate] is a huge step up and we all need to be pulling together to actually flip that seat.”

But how exactly to flip the seat is still up for debate-- and it’s a major question in the primary.

Both Moser and Fletcher are in line on most policy issues (aside from health care-- Moser backs a single-payer system). So their style and general election strategies have become stark dividing lines in the runoff.

“I’m going to win because I’m a fighter,” Moser said at a debate earlier this month. “And people in this district, including Republicans, want someone who is going to pop it to John Culberson and who will take it to the mat from Day One.”

Moser said the focus should be on energizing existing supporters and new voters. Fletcher, on the other hand, stressed reaching across the aisle.

...That debate over which strategy is best is something Democrats are talking about every day in the 7th District, Rosenthal said. And it’s a debate happening among Democrats across the country.

For some, the answer is clear.

“I like the idea of appealing to as many people on the political spectrum as possible, but right now, Democrats are pissed,” Van Meter said. “They’re angry, they’re galvanized, they’re motivated. And we just need to give them a reason to turn out.”
Goal ThermometerLike too many Democratic Party candidates, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher doesn't stand for anything at all but the status quo and her own career trajectory. Electing her is nothing but a waste of a House seat. Moser is a dedicated fighter for working families. Electing her would be meaningful on many levels. Originally, Blue America supported a different candidate who didn't make it to the run-off. Moser is at least as good a candidate and we endorsed her the day after the first round. If you'd like to make sure she goes up against Culberson, please click on the ActBlue Turning Texas Blue thermometer on the right. One thing I can tell you for sure-- she won't owe anything to Pelosi, Hoyer or Lujan... nothing to anyone but the working families who are fueling her grassroots campaign.

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Pennsylvania Is More Than Likely To Swing Back To Sanity In November


No one will need that graphic again

It wasn't that long ago that Pennsylvania was a Republican state. In my lifetime presidential elections went to Republicans in the Keystone State 8 times and to Democrats 10 times. In 1980, 1984 and 1988 Pennsylvania voters went for Reagan over Carter (49.6% to 42.8%), for Reagan over Mondale (53.3% to 46.0%) and for George W. Bush over Michael Dukakis (50.7% to 48.4%). After that Bill Clinton won the state twice, Al Gore beat George Bush, John Kerry beat Bush, and then Obama won twice, giving Pennsylvania the reputation for being a blue state. And then along came 2016, where the nation watched in horror as Trump unexpectedly beat Hillary 2,970,733 (48.18%) to 2,926,441 (47.46%)-- just 44,292. Did Putin monkey around in Erie, Luzerne and Chester counties? Hillary still won Obama counties like Delaware, Lackawanna and Dauphine but with far fewer votes. Really, what happened?

Since Tuesday, we've been looking at the excellent results for Democrats-- particularly progressive Democrats-- across the state. Democrats were more motivated to get out and vote than Republicans were. And in many cases progressive candidates beat establishment, right-of-center Democrats. Yesterday Gabriel Debenedetti did a post for New York magazine asking Is Pennsylvania Still Trump Country? Still? Like it ever really was?

As we mentioned Friday, Trump and the Democrats got their dream candidate in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary, racist, xenophobe and lackadaisical Lou Barletta. The state and national GOP was less enthused. It's not likely Barletta can even come close to winning a general election. Debenedetti wrote that "When the fiery Barletta first emerged as the party’s likely standard-bearer there last year, it seemed a clear test of the replicability of Trump’s road map to victory in Pennsylvania, where he was the first GOP presidential candidate to win since 1988. If Barletta could win, that would be a clear sign that Trump might be better positioned to run through Pennsylvania in 2020 than he was even in 2016, when he beat Hillary Clinton there by just 0.7 points. But if Barletta-- as close a Trump ally as exists in Congress-- couldn’t, it would be an obvious warning sign for" Señor Trumpanzee.
That sign is now flashing.

Whereas Pennsylvania was once viewed as a high-profile Senate battleground in 2018-- one of the ten seats up for grabs featuring a Democratic incumbent in a state Trump won-- on Thursday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to even put it in his top tier of interest, in an interview with the Washington Post. He called Barletta and Representative Jim Renacci, his counterpart in Ohio, “credible counterparts that could get onto the radar screen,” but in Pennsylvania’s place he listed states like Arizona and Tennessee, both traditionally conservative states held by retiring Republicans.

It’s an understandable pivot: In Tennessee, which Trump won by 26 points in 2016, his approval rating is at 53 percent-- and the Democratic Senate front-runner’s approval rating is still 67 percent, compared to the Republican front-runner’s 49 percent. But Trump’s approval rating in Pennsylvania was down to 30 percent this spring, according to a Franklin & Marshall poll. That won’t help Barletta-- who’s relatively unknown back home-- in his strategy to hug Trump tight and follow his trail through the state. He appears to be ditching the traditional moderate GOP plan of competing in and around Philadelphia (where Casey is now going for a blowout), and instead aiming to win the northeastern regions that Trump flipped away from Barack Obama.

That means Trump’s 2016, and maybe 2020, plan is, indeed, getting a road test in 2018. And national Republicans are looking away.

It’s simple, say relieved Democrats. “Barletta will get wiped out because he won’t do well in the Philadelphia suburbs, and he won’t do as well as Trump did in other places” either, predicted former Pennsylvania governor and Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell, a Democrat. Without Clinton to beat up on-- and thereby no way to dampen voter turnout in the fired-up suburbs-- and without a flood of national GOP time, energy, and money to engage Trump’s base, Barletta’s attempt to duplicate Trump’s path through Pennsylvania is just too far-fetched, he said. “It’s not credible at all.”
And it isn't just Barletta who's going down in 2018. After the 2016 elections, Pennsylvania sent 13 Republicans and 5 Democrats to Congress. In 2019 it looks likely that Pennsylvania will be sending something like 10 Democrats and 8 Republicans to Congress. If the wave is big enough, it could be 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans. That doesn't look like Trump country-- especially not with the up-and-comer next Lt. Governor, John Fetterman, helping define what Pennsylvania looks like politically.

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Politicizing The NRA/GOP Massacre In Santa Fe


Adrienne Bell and Trump Regime con man

Santa Fe is a small, affluent city-- population just over 12,000-- that sprawls on both sides of state highway 6 in Galveston County, south of Houston. A little context: in 1981, when Vietnamese shrimpers moved into the area, the KKK hosted a fish fry in Santa Fe and ceremonially burned a Vietnamese fishing boat. About 2 decades later Santa Fe was in the news again when the Supreme Court ruled their school district's sneaky way of allowing prayer in the school district was unconstitutional. And last week, about 2 decades later, Santa Fe was in the news again-- 9 dead students and one dead teacher... another NRA/GOP special event.

Goal ThermometerSanta Fe is part of Texas' 14th congressional district, represented by far right Republican Randy Weber, whose lifetime score from the NRA is "A." And, yes, he has accepted NRA bloody money for his votes in their favor. The PVI of TX-14 is R+12 and Obama lost the district both times he ran. In 2016 Trump beat Hillary there, 58.2% to 38.4%. Weber was reelected with an even higher percentage-- 61.9% against an unfunded Democrat, Michael Cole. This cycle his Democratic opponent is Adrienne Bell, a Berniecrat who beat Levy Barnes in the primary with enough votes (79.8% to 20.2%) to avoid Tuesday's run-off. She's a school teacher who has been endorsed by Our Revolution Texas and the Justice Democrats. If you want to contribute to her campaign you can do so by clicking on the ActBlue Turning Texas Blue thermometer on the right. Her grassroots campaign can certainly use the help and support.

As of the March 31 FEC reporting deadline, Weber had raised $471,983 for his campaign compared to Adrienne's $76,960. After the massacre she issued this statement:
My heart goes out to the families impacted by the horrendous act that happened today at Santa Fe High School. As an educator, who has taught in a classroom, we view our students as our own. We are there not only to educate, but also to protect and serve. It breaks my heart to think of the fear our teachers, students, and parents are experiencing. This national tragedy, which has plagued schools across America, made it to our doorsteps in Santa Fe, Texas.

It’s past time for Congress to act. Federal representatives must explore EVERY avenue to make sure our children can learn, and our teachers can teach, in a safe environment. This is not a red/blue issue, it is an American issue.

Parents should be able to send their children to school without fear. Children should be able to attend school without fear. It is time to come together as a community of Americans, in support of our children and their right to learn in a safe environment.
On her campaign website she had made it clear that she believes in and supports the second amendment and supports sane, common sense gun legislation: "This national conversation of arming teachers to prevent gun violence in our schools," she wrote, "is disturbing. Texas teachers are trained to meet pedagogy and professional standards, that make learning relevant for today’s learners. Our responsibility does not, and should not, be that of an armed guard. Teachers have always been on the frontline, and now we are on the front-line of violence. Instead, the conversation should be focused on AR-15s being used in the recent mass murders of students, and school personnel, at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since 2012, the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, has been the weapon of choice, in the deadliest mass murders in our country. At Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, the gunman fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, murdering 20 innocent children, aged 6-7, and six staff members. A recent Quinnipiac poll, released February 20, 2018, found that 67% of Americans, which included 53% gun owners, are in support of a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. This is the conversation we need to have-- banning assault weapons, and protecting Americans from mass murders. I stand with the majority of Americans, and call for a ban on assault weapons. I support: Assault weapon ban-- including the sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of customizable semi-automatic rifles Universal background check, Mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases, Ban of high capacity ammunition magazines, Extreme Risk Protection Order."

Right after the massacre, Kellyanne Conway rushed to Fox News Radio to politicize the latest NRA/GOP murder spree by falsely blaming Democrats, claiming-- and without a shred of evidence-- that Democrats are "going right into this gun grab mode." The Con:
There is certain reflexive and thoughtless and pretty predictable and pathetic reaction coming from lots of folks. And frankly, it usually comes from folks who, unlike Donald J. Trump, have been in office for decades and decades and decades and so that certainly applies to the two people you just mentioned. It also is always insensitive that they will… [go] right past the fact that people are suffering, their lives have changed in blink of a second, and they never get all the facts. They just know, right away, they know because it fits the political narrative.
Let's help get rid of NRA handmaiden and Trump rubber stamp Randy Weber and replace him with Adrienne Bell, who does not and will not, take any contributions from the NRA or, for that matter, from any corporate or right-wing PACs. Again, please consider clicking on the thermometer above and contributing what you can to Adrienne's campaign.

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GOP Farm Bill Failed For Lots Of Reasons, But Few Have Anything To Do With Agriculture


Yesterday, ever single Democrat-- even the Blue Dogs-- voted against the GOP Farm Bill, Michael Conaway's Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018. The bill failed, H.R. 2, 198-213 because 30 Republicans voted against it, a weird combination of Freedom Caucus extremists and mainstream conservatives who didn't want to see food stamps cut 5 months before an election. Oddly, even Paul Ryan voted against it! (Western Wisconsin dairy farmers are going bankrupt at an unprecedented rate-- and so are suicides among family farmers. As usual, Ryan's top priority-- only priority-- was tougher work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The two biggest dairy counties in Wisconsin are Clark and Fond du Lac, where Trump beat Hillary, respectively, 63.8% to 31.2% and 60.8% to 34.0%. From the Wisconsin State Farmer: "As the dairy industry struggles with low prices in the face of a long-mounting milk glut, more farmers are finding that their woes are escalating. Over the spring of 2017, a pricing dispute with Canada, Wisconsin's large export market, along with ongoing fears of additional trade issues, have helped crystallize what is turning out to be a serious crisis in dairyland... The fallout from the dairy industry's woes has included a rise in farmer suicides. It's contributing to a growing public health crisis, as farmers overall are aging and suicide is among the leading causes of death for middle-aged men."

Wisconsin Republicans Sean Duffy, Glenn Grothman, Jim Sensenbrenner, and Mike Gallagher all voted for a farm bill that would make life worse for Wisconsin farmers.

In the end, the bill was tanked by far right extremists Mark Meadows (R-NC), Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Scott Perry (R-PA) who were bitching about the direction an immigration bill is moving which isn't radical enough for them. But more mainstream Republicans say the tactic will backfire on the neo-fascists in the caucus.
The bill’s failure, some Republicans predicted, will cause a backlash against the Freedom Caucus agitators by compelling more GOP lawmakers to endorse a procedural gambit, known as a discharge petition, that would force floor votes on four separate DACA bills against the wishes of Republican leaders.

The Freedom Caucus opposes the discharge petition, and have sought ways to sink it.

Denham said their actions on Friday will instead make his lobbying effort easier.

“Given the breaking of the agreement that was made today, you’re going to see more Republicans that are frustrated and angry enough to sign on to something that they’ve never signed on to before,” Denham said after the farm bill failed.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), a senior member of the GOP whip team, agreed.

He said Republican leaders had, in fact, delivered a warning to recalcitrant lawmakers in the lead up to Friday’s vote: Oppose the farm bill, they said, and the discharge petition will gain steam.

“Don’t be surprised if there’s a discharge petition that comes out as a result of this, because I think there are a lot of members on my side of the aisle concerned that they are not relevant anymore,” a visibly frustrated Ross said after the vote.

“I think you’re going to see some members on the Republican side who are more inclined to do a discharge petition in order to at least get something done.”

...Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who sponsored the discharge petition that would force votes on Denham’s resolution, said two Republicans approached him on Thursday to say they’re ready to endorse the petition, though he did not know when they would do so.

At least two House Democrats are withholding their support for the discharge petition, citing concerns that the effort will lead to new construction of President Trump’s border wall.

Curbelo said he’s hoping those Democratic holdouts will change course and sign the petition, but predicted their support ultimately won’t be necessary to reach the 218 mark.

“We’re not too worried about that because we think we’ll get more than 25 [Republicans],” Curbelo said.

The immigration and agriculture issues have become entwined in recent weeks, after the leaders of the Freedom Caucus-- notably Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH)-- threatened to withhold their support for the farm bill unless Ryan solidified a vote on a conservative immigration proposal, sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA).

Although the Goodlatte bill lacks the support to pass the House, conservatives want an opportunity to vote on it, perhaps with amendments. The legislation adopts a hardline approach to immigration reform, boosting interior enforcement and reducing even legal immigration.

“We need to figure out whether we can [pass] Goodlatte as is, or amend it,” Meadows said Thursday. “If that doesn’t work than we know that we have to go with some other option.”

The two groups huddled Thursday night in Ryan’s office in the Capitol, where GOP leaders offered the conservatives a vote on the Goodlatte bill in June. The offer didn’t satisfy some members of the group, however, who wanted to vote on the immigration bill before moving to the agriculture package.

“It was not fully clear,” Meadows said of the leadership offer.

That argument hasn’t appeased Denham, who said he’s agitated with fellow Republicans who “asked for a concession, got the concession, and then took down [the farm bill] anyways.”

“They had asked for a date certain [to consider the Goodlatte bill], and they gave a date certain... It was [a deal] good enough until about 10 minutes before the vote,” Denham said, adding that the agreement is now off.

“If you break an agreement I assume you no longer get what you agreed to. They had gotten their vote, that they had asked for, and we gave them a date. Now they’ve changed their minds. So I would expect that agreement to be null and void, at this point.”
And, obviously, trouble for farmers isn't just in Wisconsin. Listen to the NPR piece about Iowa farmers below. And the Trump economy isn't just moving along and bringing catastrophe for farmers either. Mortgage interest rates rose to their highest in 7 years... and headed up. It had to happen. Without even understanding it at all, Trump has been basking in the glow of Obama's economic achievements... while tearing them apart. That's coming back to bite him in his fat sagging ass-- and to bite the rest of us too, as the regime's economic policies start kicking in. The first victims will be people who drive cars-- as the Trumpanzee foreign policy drives up gas prices-- and people who want to buy homes... and cars.

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Half-Witted Intolerance


Yesterday, in the Washington Post, Michael Gerson, described a societal problem of Trumpism in terms of social psychology. It reminded me of George Orwell's post-World War II writing. And Huxley's Brave New World pre-World World War II masterpiece. And Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968). There were other authors who tackled the dystopian problems that Trump is thrusting on us today, Margaret Atwood (Handmaid’s Tale), Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451), Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games), Stephen King (The Running Man). "Human beings," wrote Gerson, "are wired to favor their ingroup and to view people in outgroups as interchangeable and dispensable. We are willing to form ingroups at the drop of a hat, based even on minor characteristics. We tend to believe that bad things that happen to people in our ingroup are bum luck, while bad things that happen to people in outgroups are evidence of a just universe. Because we are inherently predisposed toward stereotyping, we are particularly vulnerable to propaganda." In a Trumpian Age that's a real problem.
In West Virginia, Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of creating jobs for "China people" and getting donations from his "China family" (McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan). In Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams drives around in a bus he promises to fill with "illegals" who will be deported to Mexico. On the rear is stamped: "Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molesters, and other criminals on board." In Arizona, Republican Senate candidate (and former sheriff) Joe Arpaio is a proud "birther" with a history of profiling and abusing Hispanic migrants. Vice President Mike Pence recently called Arpaio "a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law." In Wisconsin, Republican House candidate Paul Nehlen runs as a "pro-white Christian American candidate."

Randy Bryce is the progressive Democrat in Wisconsin who will prevent Paul Nehlen-- or some Paul Ryan clone-- from following Paul Ryan as the congressman for southeast part of the state. "Our campaign," he told me today, "was launched by stating we need a bigger table. Not only does everyone deserve to be heard, but, everyone deserves to begin the race from the same starting point. I am committed to working on that and will not rest until it becomes a reality. I will not sit down while nobody else is standing up to a man in the White House referring to people as animals. Every member of Congress who is silent now needs to be silenced in their ability to represent us come November. There is only one thing that I refuse to tolerate. That thing is intolerance."
Yes, these are fringe figures. But they are fringe figures in a political atmosphere they correctly view as favorable. In the Republican Party, cranks and bigots are closer to legitimacy than at any time since William F. Buckley banished the John Birch Society.

For some of us, this was a concern from the beginning of Donald Trump's rise-- not just the policies he would adopt but the attitudes he would encourage and the passions he would provoke.

...Whatever else Trumpism may be, it is the systematic organization of resentment against outgroups. His record is rich in dehumanization. It was evident when Trump called Mexican migrants "criminals" and "rapists." When Trump claimed legal mistreatment from a judge because "he's a Mexican" (Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana). When he proposed a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." When Trump attacked Muslim Gold Star parents. When he sidestepped opportunities to criticize former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. When he referred to "very fine people" among the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville. When he expressed a preference for Norwegian immigrants above those from non-white "shithole countries."

This is more than a disturbing pattern; it is an organizing political principle. And it has resulted in a series of radiating consequences.

First, it has given permission for the public expression of shameful sentiments. People such as Blankenship, Williams, Arpaio and Nehlen are part of a relatively (and thankfully) small political group. But the president has set boundaries of political discourse that include them and encourage them. Even when Trump opposes their candidacies, he has enabled the bolder, more confident expression of their bigotry. The Trump era is a renaissance of half-witted intolerance. Trump's Christian supporters in particular must be so proud.

Second, Trump's attacks on outgroups have revealed the cowardice of a much broader faction within the GOP-- those who know better but say little. Some leaders (see House Speaker Paul Ryan) have been willing to criticize specific instances of Trump's prejudice. But few-- and very few with a political future-- have been willing to draw the obvious conclusion that Trump is prejudiced, or to publicly resist the trend toward prejudice among the GOP base.

Third, Trump's attitudes toward diversity have moved the center of gravity of the whole GOP toward immigration restrictionism. In Republican Senate primaries such as the one in Indiana, candidates have engaged in a competition of who can be the most exclusionary. Mainstream attitudes toward refugees and legal immigration have become more xenophobic. Trump has not only given permission to those on the fringes; he has changed the Republican mean to be more mean.

The good news about bias against outgroups is that it can be mitigated. And that, in fact, describes the high calling of a democratic leader-- to set an aspiration of unity, to speak the language of empathy, to emphasize our common goals, our common values and our common fate as a people. The GOP waits on leaders who will make these tasks their own.
Goal ThermometerBlue America isn't waiting for Republican leaders who will make these tasks their own. We're waiting for the November midterms to steer America away from the path Republicans are on. Alan Grayson was an Orlando area congressman when he turned my on to Philip K. Dick's books. I wish other members of Congress understood dystopian visions as fully as he does. Today he told me that "Trump thinking is Neanderthal thinking, and look what happened to them. The things that make us different are the things that make us special. Our differences are not something to be tolerated or overcome; our differences are to be cherished."

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Thursday marked the one year anniversary of the Mueller investigation. Señor Trumpanzee marked the anniversary with, you guessed it, a childish tweet wherein he once again referred to the investigation as a "Witch Hunt," in fact "the greatest Witch Hunt in American history." It figures that Trumpanzee would refer to his "Witch Hunt" as "the greatest." It's only a matter of time until he claims that this "Witch Hunt" has "the highest ratings of any previous 'Witch Hunt."

In his tweet, Trumpanzee also once again, chanted his patented "No collusion. No collusion" personal mantra. Judging by the ever-increasing amount of indictments and guilty pleas, his mantra isn't working. Keep chanting you obese orange mini-handed freak. Maybe this time, America will burn the real witches. Yeah, I know. Fat chance of that. I do have a dream though. I have a dream that you will be judged by the content of your character.

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Shutting Down The Government Is Now A Game Of Chicken For Trumpanzee


A friend of mine used to be in business with one of Trump's lawyers. He told my friend and my friend told me a funny story. Lawyers hate working for Trump and not only because he doesn't pay his bill. This particular lawyer told him that among lawyers who have worked for Trump this is fairly common. He and Trump would be their way to court. The lawyer would say something to the effect of "Now, whatever happens, whatever the judge asks you, do not under any circumstances say 'XYZ.'" So they get to court and the judge says, "For the record, please state your name." And Trump says, "Let's cut the crap and get right to the matter at hand, 'XYZ.'"

Do you think Trump has changed his ways? He hasn't. And it isn't just with lawyers. Trump's a dick who thinks he knows better than anyone else in the room. And wants to prove it. This week Eliana Johnson and Burgess Everett, reporting for Politico, wrote about the GOP Senate luncheon with Señor Trumpanzee. They wrote that the senators didn’t ask too many questions to Señor T "but the party’s most vulnerable incumbent did make one big ask: Please, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller pleaded, don’t shut down the government over funding for a border wall before the midterm elections." But that's exactly what Trumpanzee plans to do and he certainly doesn't care what Dean Heller has to say about it.
Picking that fight during an election season would hurt Republicans at the ballot box, Heller told Trump, according to an attendee and two people briefed on the meeting. Though Heller prefaced his request by heaping praise on the president, Trump was noncommittal. “We’ll see what happens,” he told the group.

Heller, who confirmed he asked Trump not to shut down the government, was speaking for Republican lawmakers who fear that the president’s desire to follow through on one of his signature campaign promises could undermine their attempt to maintain control of the upper chamber. While Trump held campaign rallies with a raucous audience pushing him to “build the wall” at the U.S. border with Mexico, many Senate Republicans want to avoid a government shutdown at all costs-- at least between now and the November elections.

Government funding runs out on Sept. 30, and Trump is laser-focused on getting his wall money in the next fiscal year, telling senators on Twitter not to take their usual August recess unless the border is secured.

...[Trump] has in recent weeks expressed frustration with his advisers about the lack of progress on border security. He blew up at his Homeland Security chief, Kirstjen Nielsen, for example, during a Cabinet meeting earlier this month, telling his advisers that the border remains too porous, and he has privately groused to friends that his team isn’t being aggressive enough.

While the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill Trump signed into law in March allocated $1.6 billion for border security, it focuses on fencing rather than a massive wall as envisioned by the president and is far short of the $25 billion that White House officials wanted. That was one of many aspects of the legislation that infuriated the president and made him tell associates subsequently that he wished he had vetoed the effort and would stop future, similar efforts.

Heller, who is facing Democratic challenger Rep. Jacky Rosen in November, is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate and has for months now sought to chart middle-of-the-road positions that will appeal to Nevada’s moderate voters without drawing Trump’s ire.
Alan Grayson was a member of Congress when the Republicans shut down the government last time. Now Trump wants to-- really wants to-- do it again. "Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing," Trump said to Bill Gates, who thought, "Wow, but you are Trump." Grayson wasn't there for that crazy little get-together. Today, he told us that "If you look at the polling during the government shutdown that cost $27 billion during the Obama Administration, you’ll see that the GOP suffered a crushing 10-point drop in generic polling right then. Which they recovered from, because other things happened, and in the following election, I don’t remember a single Democrat in the entire country ran an ad condemning them for the shutdown. But if Trump does it again, maybe the Democrats won’t let the GOP off the hook this time." I'm sure Grayson won't let them off any hooks... anytime.

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Is The Road To A Senate Majority Thru Tennessee? Bredesen Is Much Better Than Kyrsten Sinema


Tennessee (R+14 PVI, worse than Texas, South Carolina, Kansas or Alaska) was a very Trumpy state in 2016. Trump beat Hillary 1,522,925 (60.7%) to 870,695 (34.7%) and won every one of Tennessee's 95 counties except Shelby (Memphis), Davidson (Nashville) and tiny Haywood, a black-majority rural agricultural county north of Memphis. So its hardly a state you'd think the Democrats would be targeting for a big Senate race. But they are. That's because the likely Republican candidate, Marsha Blackburn, is a crackpot extremist with a crackpot extremist record she can't run away from. And independent voters don't like her or what she stands for. And they do like the Democrat, former Governor Phil Bredesen. He's hardly a Blue America candidate-- to conservative-- but he's no Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin. His record as governor was mixed.

Yesterday The Tennessean published a Vanderbilt poll that shows-- like all the other polls that have come out-- that this deep red state is likely to flip blue in November. Even, Bob Corker, the mainstream conservative incumbent who's retiring has been subtly indicating that he prefers Bredesen over Blackburn.
Independent voters in Tennessee have a significantly more positive view of former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen than Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a new poll shows, as the race to replace U.S. Sen. Bob Corker continues to heat up.

Further, a majority of Republicans even say they have a favorable view of Bredesen.

Both indicators, included in a new poll from Vanderbilt University, offer valuable insight into the state of the race and provide a map for each candidate.

The poll, released Thursday, found 69 percent of independent respondents had a favorable view of Bredesen. Just 44 percent of independents had a positive view of Blackburn.

Independent voters could play a key role in the race, which is expected to draw national attention as Democrats seek to regain control of the Senate.

...For Bredesen to have a path to victory, he needs support not just from Democrats and independents but Republicans. The latest Vanderbilt poll reveals he's experiencing more support from his opponents' party than Blackburn has among Democrats.

The survey found 52 percent of Republicans had a positive view of Bredesen while just 23 percent of Democrats had a favorable opinion of Blackburn.

"If you're Bredesen, these are really, really good numbers for you in terms of your overall name recognition is high, you have much higher favorables than unfavorables," said Vanderbilt University political science professor Josh Clinton, who along with political science professor John Geer, oversees the poll.

Beyond the candidates' support from voters in each party, the survey found negative views of Blackburn outpaced Bredesen.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable view of the Brentwood Republican while 25 percent had a negative view of the former Nashville mayor.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of Bredesen compared to 49 percent having a positive view of Blackburn.
With the exception of a one year appointment after Robert Love Taylor, a Democrat, died in 1912, every senator from Tennessee from 1875 to Howard Baker's election in 1966 was a Democrat. the last Democrats elected to the Senate from Tennessee were Jim Sasser in 1977 (reelected in 1982) and Al Gore, elected in 1985 (and reelected in 1990). And Bredesen was the last Democrat elected governor-- 2003, reelected in 2010.

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Climate Change-- Are There Any Democrats Who Would Sell Out To The Koch Brothers?


Pelosi is serious when she appoints members to the House Science Committee. Ryan and Boehner always thought it was a time for humor. Imagine the laughs when Ryan appointed Scientologist and Big Oil puppet Lamar Smith chairman. How about Orange County crackpot, stoner Dana Rohrabacher? Webster (FL), Loudermilk (GA), Biggs (AZ)... all laughingstocks. Ryan just put another Arizonan on the committee last week, newly elected crazy person Debbie Lesko (AZ). "She's another nutter. We can't put her on a serious committee; put her on Science, where she can rant and rave." But the biggest lunatic on the Science Committee has got to be Alabama freak show Mo Brooks. Brooks was just the star of his own article in ultra prestigious Science magazine this week, Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise. Embarrassing? Not to Brooks; just to America.
The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet.

Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming.

A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.

The purpose of the hearing was to focus on how technology could be deployed for climate change adaptation. But the hearing frequently turned to the basics of climate science. Many of the questions by Republicans and Democrats alike were directed to Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said he was bothered that established climate science has not been questioned more by the committee, which has accused federal climate scientists of fraudulently manipulating climate data and subpoenaed their records.

"I'm a little bit disturbed by, No. 1, over and over again, I hear, 'Don't ever talk about whether mankind is the main cause of the temperature changing and the climate changing,'" he said. "That's a little disturbing to hear constantly beaten into our heads in a Science Committee meeting, when basically we should all be open to different points of view."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the committee, entered into the record an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal yesterday that claimed sea levels are not rising because of climate change, a view that rejects thousands of scientific studies. The piece was written by Fred Singer, who is affiliated with the Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois, which promotes the rejection of mainstream climate science.

"To solve climate change challenges, we first need to acknowledge the uncertainties that exist," Smith said in his opening remarks. "Then we can have confidence that innovations and technology will enable us to mitigate any adverse consequences of climate change."

At one point, Smith showed a slide of two charts that he said demonstrated how the rate of sea-level rise does not equal the sharp spike in the consumption of fossil fuels. When Smith pointed out that rates of sea-level rise have only increased slightly compared with the rate of fossil fuel use, Duffy pointed out that his chart was from a single tide gauge station, near San Francisco, and that sea levels rise at different rates around the world. Smith did not show rising atmospheric CO2 levels or temperatures, both of which have climbed steadily in recent decades as emissions have increased.

"The rate of global sea-level rise has accelerated and is now four times faster than it was 100 years ago," Duffy told Smith in response to the charts.

"Is this chart inaccurate, then?" Smith asked.

"It's accurate, but it doesn't represent what's happening globally; it represents what's happening in San Francisco," Duffy said.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) questioned Duffy on the factors that contribute to sea-level rise, pointing out that land subsidence plays a role, as well as human activity.

Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world's major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level rise.

"Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up," Brooks said.

Duffy responded: "I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects."

Brooks added that Antarctic ice is growing. That was true a few years ago, and scientists say it does not disprove the theory of global warming because different factors affect the Arctic and Antarctic rates of melting.

"We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage," Duffy said.

"I'm sorry, but I don't know where you're getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests... " Brooks said.

Duffy answered: "The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."

"Well, I've got a NASA base in my district, and apparently, they're telling you one thing and me a different thing," Brooks said. "But there are plenty of studies that have come that show with respect to Antarctica that the total ice sheet, particularly that above land, is increasing, not decreasing. Now, you could make a different argument if you want to talk about Greenland or the Arctic."

Earlier this year, NASA researchers determined that Antarctica's ice loss has accelerated in the last decade. More broadly, sea ice extent at both poles set a record low last year. Scientists are racing to better understand the changes occurring in Antarctica because much of its ice is land-based, meaning it could drive sea-level rise around the world as it melts.

Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) said scientists said in the 1970s that the Earth was cooling, a popular talking point of climate skeptics and the subject of a fake Time magazine cover that has become a meme. Duffy corrected him and said that was essentially an outlier position at the time and that scientists long ago determined that humans were warming the planet.

Posey also asked how carbon dioxide could be captured in permafrost in the periods before humans existed. Duffy told him that it was from non-decayed organic matter. Human activity is now causing the Arctic to warm and thaw the ground, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere, Duffy said.

Posey then asked about theories related to warming being beneficial for habitats and to people.

"What do you say to people who theorize that the Earth as it continues to warm is returning to its normal temperature?" Posey asked.

"Look, if you want to characterize a temperature above today's temperature as normal, you're free to do that, but that doesn't mean that's a planet we want to live on," Duffy said.

"I don't want to get philosophical; I'm trying to stay on science here," Posey said.

"I'm not getting philosophical; I'm getting extremely practical," Duffy said. "I'm being extremely practical-- if we let the planet warm 2 or 3 degrees, we will have tens of meters of sea-level rise, and the community where I live will essentially cease to exist."

Posey responded: "I don't think anybody disputes that the Earth is getting warmer; I think what's not clear is the exact amount of who caused what, and getting to that is, I think, where we're trying to go with this committee."
And speaking about climate deniers, the leaders of that movement in the U.S. are the Koch brothers. They've funneled millions of dollars to right-wing Republicans who support their reactionary program. But, as NPR reported early Thursday morning "in the era of Trump, what it means to be on the 'right' is changing, and the Koch network's tactics are changing to reflect new realities... The Koch brothers are going rogue." They're singling out some notorious corrupt conservative Democrats to bribe: so far Ben Ray Luján (NM), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM), Raul Ruiz (CA) Pete Aguilar (CA) and Chris Coons (DE). They're paying them off under the guise of the Koch' s efforts backing immigration, which they support to keep wages low. Below is an expensive mailer they sent out to more than 100,000 of Luján's constituents in northern New Mexico:

Every candidate Blue America has endorsed will be a fighter for action on climate change. Few are campaigning on it as hard as Paul Clements in southwest Michigan (MI-06). It's very personal for him. This morning he sent us this way of looking at it:
When I was a little kid and knocked over a glass of milk, I remember saying, “The milk spilled.” But it’s pretty easy to clean up milk. And I couldn’t very well deny that there was milk all over the table.

I get it that some people don’t want to take responsibility for climate change. It has a terrible momentum. Ninety percent of the heat that our carbon pollution has captured is in the oceans, and some of that heat will come back to the atmosphere. The economic life of the world’s infrastructure already takes us past two degrees Celsius of warming. In a best case scenario the storm devastation in Puerto Rico, the fires in California, are only a pale foretaste of what is to come. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for droughts and floods driving hundreds of millions of people to become refugees either.

But closing your eyes doesn’t help. We are in danger of becoming desensitized to Trump’s lies (what, he lied again!) and to Republican climate science denial. We must not. America has contributed more to cumulative global carbon dioxide emissions than any other country. The death and destruction from unchecked global warming make climate science denial criminal. When the Republican Party packs the House Science Committee with deniers it is blocking responsible action that actually could save civilization. We are responsible and responsible behavior is extraordinarily urgent.
Goal ThermometerTom Guild is a different kind of Democrat than Ben Ray Luján. Guild is not on the take, has nothing to do with the Koch brothers, and he is a firm believer in the proposition that as a nation-- and a species-- we have to get to work on remediating climate damage... and fast. "I remember," he told us, "early in my academic career there were studies that said people weren’t harmed by secondhand smoke. Later, it was revealed that those studies were funded by the tobacco industry. Now, it is clear to anyone who thrives on anything short of 'alternative facts,' that secondhand smoke is dangerous to anyone in its direct path and that millions have become sick and lost their lives because of exposure to secondhand smoke. Pregnant mothers and parents of small children have become particularly sensitized to and keenly aware of the dangers their nicotine habits pose to those they love. Now, come the science and climate deniers, claiming that humans as a significant and major cause of climate change is in dispute. Some scientists have concluded that we have about 100-150 years to turn things around or planet earth with go into an irreversible process that will eventually render our planet uninhabitable in the not to distant future. Climate deniers rely on 'quack' science, often funded by Big Oil and the fossil fuels industry, to make close cousin arguments to those made in the secondhand smoke debate a few decades ago. The stakes then were losing friends, family members, and loved ones to cancer, emphysema, and other dreadful diseases causing painful and agonizing death. The stakes surrounding the climate change debate today include losing the only inhabitable planet to which we have access. The best and brightest members of the US House, should be placed on important committees like the House Science Committee. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance undeterred can lead to the extinction of humankind in fairly short order. Can you say Dodo bird?"

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Back To The Past-- Into The Future... Paul Manafort, Trump's Campaign Manager, A Putin Guy


It's late in September, 2018 and you're at home in Omaha, on North 24th Street between Cuming and Burt neatly tucked between Creighton University and the McDonald's, glued to the TV screen. Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell have basically been covering nothing but the two Manafort trials that started in July and August. The whole country is talking about nothing else. It's the closest we're going to get to a Trump trial until after he's impeached. The Manafort daily revelations have been stunning and tonight is no different. Congressman Don Bacon is ready to commit suicide. His Democratic challenger, Kara Eastman, doesn't care that the DCCC has refused to make her one of their candidates. She's going to win by at least 10 points anyway and she won't owe Pelosi or Hoyer anything. The early ballots arrived a couple days ago. The return rate is the biggest in history, especially from Democrats and independents. They're voting in record numbers.

In a few days California will start voting. Nebraska early voting starts 35 days before the election. In California it's 30 days. Polls show Mimi Walters, Steve Knight, Duncan Hunter, Dana Rohrabacher, Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Devin Nunes are all going down. That's been expected since the trials began. But now it looks like Paul Cook, Ken Calvert and Tom McClintock could lose their seats too; stunning! Doug LaMalfa and Kevin McCarthy may be the only Republicans from California left in Congress-- and McCarthy's race is looking sketchier by the day... by the revelation.

This week the country met a slickly dressed greasy crook, Manafort's former son-in-law, Jeff Yohai. He must have really hated his father-in-law. An old, old friend of mine had a rental property in Malibu and he rented it to a young married couple. Eventually they stopped paying rent on time and then stopped paying rent altogether... and it got worse from there. One day my friend gets a call from the FBI telling him they're about to raid the house, explaining that he has nothing to fear and that it was just the tenants who were involved in a ponzi scheme. The wifey was Paul Manafort's daughter, Jessica and her hubby was notorious real estate crook Jeffrey Yohai. More recently Yohai swindled Dustin Hoffman and his son, Jacob Hoffman, out of $3 million.
The Hoffmans weren’t the only high-profile investors in Yohai’s business. Manafort, his wife Kathleen and daughter Jessica-- who was married to Yohai-- invested $4.7 million in the developer’s L.A.-area projects, according to bankruptcy filings. The biggest of those investments was a $2.7-million loan made by Manafort last year to the now-bankrupt company that owns a property on Stradella Road in Bel-Air, documents show.

...Companies controlling Yohai’s four L.A.-area properties-- the ones on Blue Jay Way and Stradella Road and two others in Los Feliz-- filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December. The properties each entered foreclosure proceedings last year after Yohai defaulted on loans attached to them, real estate records show. They had been scheduled to be sold in trustee’s sales late last year, but that was delayed by the bankruptcies.
Jessica filed for divorce soon after the FBI started talking with Yohai late last winter [2016] about putting her father in prison. Early in October USAToday reported that Yohai has been cooperating with the Feds and accused his father-in-law of conspiring to mislead a federal bankruptcy court about real estate investments.
Yohai's legal declaration alleged that Manafort and other parties in the cases "have all conspired to mislead this court ... as to their true intentions and motivations."

Yohai has worked in real estate in California and New York, business and court records show. Part of that work has focused on buying upscale homes in the Los Angeles area, renovating them and then marketing and reselling the properties to luxury buyers. Four of the properties he planned to redevelop now are in the bankruptcy proceedings.

...FBI investigators are also examining financial transactions between Manafort and Yohai, theNew York Times reported in June. Separately, Politico reported that federal investigators had sought Yohai's cooperation, while CNN reported that he had met with investigators. It is unclear whether Mueller's investigation has included the real estate issues now in bankruptcy court.

Yohai's filing alleged that Manafort and others had misled him and the court about the funding and ownership of the companies that have proposed to clear up the bankruptcy issues. He questioned whether the rescue plan had sufficient funds to finalize the deal.
It looks to me like Yohai and Jessica moved from small time swindling to major money laundering on behalf of Manafort and-- what else?-- Russia criminals. High end real estate, as you know by now, is how crooks from around the world launder their ill-gotten gains.
The revelation about investigators’ interest in Mr. Yohai’s activities comes amid indications that the scrutiny of Mr. Manafort has intensified. Besides the F.B.I. and congressional inquiries, the New York State attorney general’s office has opened a preliminary inquiry “focused on certain real estate dealings” involving Mr. Manafort, according to a third person with direct knowledge of the matter. Last month [Oct, 2017], the Wall Street Journal reported that federal officials had requested his bank records from Citizens Financial Group, and NBC News said a subpoena had been issued for records related to a $3.5 million loan obtained last August by a shell company, Summerbreeze L.L.C., linked to Mr. Manafort. The New York Times first reported on the existence of the loan in April.

...The Summerbreeze loan was part of a series of mortgages over the past year, totaling $20 million, secured by properties belonging to Mr. Manafort or his wife. Some of that money appears to have been used by Mr. Manafort to try to salvage his investments with Mr. Yohai. Court records show that Mr. Manafort and his wife invested at least $4 million in several California properties, part of a real estate business that one of Mr. Manafort’s daughters described as a joint venture between her father and Mr. Yohai.

The partnership was unexpected given Mr. Manafort’s early opinion of his son-in-law, as described in text messages belonging to Andrea Manafort, one of Mr. Manafort’s two daughters, which were hacked last year and posted on a website used by Ukrainian hackers. In the messages, Ms. Manafort said in 2013 that her father “wholeheartedly opposes” her sister Jessica’s marriage to Mr. Yohai, whose financial problems had deeply concerned Mr. Manafort.

Yet within two years, Mr. Yohai, who had a degree in journalism and became a real estate professional only in 2011, was forming shell companies to purchase luxury properties in the Hollywood Hills, worth tens of millions of dollars, which Mr. Manafort would put money into. Mr. Manafort was more than a passive investor; Jessica Manafort told her sister last year that Mr. Yohai had “a contract that says dad and him are 50/50 business partners.”

“He flew out to California and helped Jeff completely reorganize and set up his business,” wrote Jessica Manafort, who filed for divorce in March.

While Mr. Yohai borrowed millions from banks and obtained money from investors, he also intimated he had access to large amounts of cash. In January 2016, he offered $7 million in cash for a mansion whose owner, a Russian businessman, was in debt to several associates from Russia who had liens on the house. Mr. Yohai put $160,000 down to secure the mansion deal, but by June 2016 had backed out of it and forfeited the deposit.

A month later he appeared on a reality television show, Million Dollar Listing, and proposed buying three apartment units in New York City for $15 million in cash; the real estate agent said on the show that he had “seen proof of funds.” When a friend texted Andrea Manafort, asking if her sister and Mr. Yohai really had access to that kind of money, Ms. Manafort replied, “Of course they don’t.”

“Her hubby is running a Ponzi scheme,” Ms. Manafort wrote. “I’m sure of it.”

That is what Mr. Yohai was accused of in a lawsuit filed in November by an investor in Mr. Yohai’s real estate business. The suit asserted that Mr. Yohai employed a “web of dozens of limited liability companies” to repay early investors with money from new investors to create the illusion of a “quick and large return on their investments.”

The lawsuit-- filed by Guy Aroch, a fashion photographer who said he invested $2.9 million with Mr. Yohai-- also accuses Mr. Yohai of taking advantage of his connection to Mr. Manafort to meet celebrities and public figures. It is unclear how Mr. Hoffman and his son, Jacob, came to invest $3 million in one of Mr. Yohai’s deals that has since gone bankrupt; a photo shows Mr. Yohai and Jacob Hoffman together at a launch party for a website in 2015.

A representative for the Hoffmans did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Yohai denied Mr. Aroch’s accusations in a court filing, and said the lawsuit invoked Mr. Manafort’s name “in an improper effort to attract publicity.” Mr. Yohai and Mr. Manafort have the same lawyer.

“This allegation that I participated in fraud and criminal activity is obviously an extremely derogatory accusation that will harm my reputation,” he said in the filing.

Many of Mr. Manafort’s real estate purchases over the years coincided with his long-running work as a political consultant to the Russia-backed Party of Regions in Ukraine. During his time there, Mr. Manafort used a network of shell companies in the tax havens of Cyprus and Belize to move money around and collect payments from clients, who, in addition to the Ukrainians, included Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with whom Mr. Manafort partnered in investments.

Back in the United States, Mr. Manafort created still more shell companies to make cash purchases of expensive properties for millions of dollars and other investments. His Los Angeles investments were handled through a limited liability company called Baylor Holding, in which Mr. Manafort and Mr. Yohai were partners, according to court records.

In a deposition related to Mr. Aroch’s lawsuit, Mr. Yohai said his California real estate business operated under the name Marin West and was focused on buying and redeveloping luxury homes in exclusive neighborhoods around Hollywood. Although he was the sole owner of Marin West, Mr. Yohai seemed ignorant of important details, saying he was not sure when it was created or where it was incorporated, and was uncertain who wrote the content for its website. He speculated it could have been written by someone he described as “kind of like the accountant for Marin West.”

“I think he wrote this bio,” Mr. Yohai said, referring to a description of himself that appeared on the site. “I honestly don’t know.”
Old news... updated yesterday by Reuters: Yohai "has cut a plea deal with the Justice Department that requires him to cooperate with other criminal probes. The guilty plea agreement, which is under seal and has not been previously reported, could add to the legal pressure on Manafort, who is facing two indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election."
Andrew Brown, a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, had been overseeing an investigation into Yohai’s real estate and bank dealings in California and New York several months before Mueller was appointed to his post in May 2017.

Yohai’s agreement, which was concluded early this year, included him pleading guilty to misusing construction loan funds and to a count related to a bank account overdraft.

     While the deal was cut with Brown’s office, the federal government “can ask for help at any time,” said one of the people familiar with the matter.

Manafort is to go on trial later this year to fight the two indictments. The charges against him range from failing to disclose lobbying work for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party to bank fraud.

As a close business partner, Yohai was privy to many of Manafort’s financial dealings, according to the two people familiar with the matter and court filings in the bankruptcies of four Los Angeles properties in 2016. In addition to co-investing in California real estate, the two cooperated in getting loans for property deals in New York, Manafort’s indictments show.

Mueller sent a team of prosecutors to interview Yohai last June, asking him about Manafort’s relationship with Trump, his ties to Russian oligarchs, and his borrowing of tens of millions of dollars against properties in New York, Reuters reported in February, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

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