Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Blue America End Of The Month Match For Shenna Bellows


One of Blue America's most dedicated supporters is offering an end-of-the-month match for Shenna Bellow's, the progressive Democrat running for the U.S. Senate seat in Maine. As you can see, Blue America contributors have donated as much to Shenna's campaign as to all the other Senate candidates we are backing combined. But its going to take more than that to get her message out; she's up against Susan Collin's money machine. Collins is already swimming in $5,380,803, only 2% of it ($123,536) from small grassroots contributions. The rest is from wealthy donors and PACs. Our anonymous contributor has offered to match the first $600 of contributions to Shenna's campaign on this page today. In his own words:
How do U spell “U-P-S-I-D-E”? Answer: With Bellows’ shoe-leather & our matche$

I’m not waiting for the next quarter-end to throw another match on the Maine U.S. Senate campaign fire (this time, I’ll match the next $600 contributed to Shenna Bellows through this page between now and midnight of July 31).

How could I wait, when I read that, just before Bellows started her current walk of 350 miles through 63 Maine communities, the Portland Press Herald found that:

"64 percent of Mainers don’t know Bellows well enough to have a positive or negative opinion of her-- and that includes more than half the members of [the Democratic] party."

Today I saw that, for the next six weeks leading up to the Republican primary in neighboring New Hampshire, voters are going to see much criticism of favored candidate Scott Brown’s resistance to campaign spending reform, paid for by the non-partisan reform-seeking MayDay PAC. This will remind Mainers, who share several media markets with New Hampshire, that Maine incumbent Susan Collins deserves similar criticism. This will be "free media" for the Bellows campaign, as is local media coverage each day that she walks into another town and has another road-side chat. But walking shoes cost money, for Shenna and for her canvassers as they knock on doors and prepare to get out the vote.

As I also read in the same Portland Press Herald article:
"…if Mainers are telling the truth about how they feel about big money in politics and dysfunction in Washington, Collins’ perceived strength could work against her."
You probably never heard of Mattawamkeag. Less than 700 people live there, up in Penobscot County, where the Mattawamkeag River meets the Penobscot River. It's an old railroad town that connected the U.S. to Canada and a week ago it was on Shenna's walking tour. This is what she wrote about it:

"Mattawamkeag isn't famous, but it's the kind of town that exemplifies Maine: full of hard-working people and long-time residents who might disagree once in a while, but who all want to keep Maine the beautiful, livable place that it is. They don't care about party labels nearly as much as what their representatives can do to help make their lives better. And what I heard over and over at our busy town hall meeting on Thursday was that we need to create more jobs to bring young people back to rural areas. We need to keep Congress' hands off Social Security. We need to pay people a living wage again and stop shipping our jobs overseas with bad trade deals. I heard what I've been hearing throughout this walk: Washington isn't paying attention to rural America, and that neglect means a lot of families' way of life is disappearing. We don't have to let that happen."

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How Steve Israel Killed Red-To-Blue


Red to Blue looks like such a stinker for Steve Israel this cycle that he's started slipping in candidates in blue districts so his batting average won't look as atrocious on the morning of November 5th as anyone looking at his inept recruiting will surmise. A good red-to-blue program would have strong, progressive candidates running against Republicans in blue-leaning districts. Instead, Israel's personal agenda had him out-right protecting Republicans in many of these districts. These are all districts Democrats should be able to win but that Israel has screwed up-- as he chases impossible districts with revolting Blue Dogs and New Dems in deep red territory.
NY-02- Peter King (R+1)
MI-06- Fred Upton (R+1)
WA-08- Dave Reichert (R+1)
FL-13- Dave Jolly (R+1)
FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R+2)
WI-08- Reid Ribble (R+2)
WI-07- Sean Duffy (R+2)
MN-03- Erik Paulsen (R+2)
PA-07- Patrick Meehan (R+2)
PA-15- Charlie Dent (R+2)
MI-08- Mike Rogers (retiring) (R+2)
WA-03- Jaime Herrera Beutler (R+2)
NY-22- Richard Hanna (R+3)
CA-25- Buck McKeon (retiring) (R+3)
WI-01- Paul Ryan (R+3)
OH-10- Michael Turner (R+3)
In each of these winnable districts Israel has either screwed up the recruiting or refused to back the Democratic candidate-- when there is one. Unless the Democrats win these seats they cannot take back the House. Steve Israel isn't even competing in any of them. His reappointment by Nancy Pelosi after his catastrophic loss in 2012 (while Obama and the Senate Dems slaughtered the Republicans), must have been reason for the Republicans to be popping corks on cartons full of Dom Pérignon.

Israel has been tricking grassroots Democratic donors into sending money to the grotesquely corrupt DCCC in the hope that it would somehow prevent the GOP from impeaching President Obama. Pretty disgusting tactic to use against low-info but sincere Democrats who don't know what a scumbag Israel is! Instead of helping with impeachment, the money is being wasted on the horrible Red to Blue candidates with no chance to win. Tell me which of these districts is as good a bet as the districts Israel is aggressively ignoring up top:
NE-02- Brad Ashford (R+4)
MI-01- Jerry Cannon (R+5)
IN-02- Joe Bock (R+6)
MT-AL- John Lewis (R+7)
AR-02- Patrick Henry Hays (R+8)
OH-06- Jennifer Garrison (R+8)
KY-06- Elisabeth Jensen (R+9)
ND-AL- George Sinner (R+10)
WV-02- Nick Casey (R+11)
AR-01- Jackie McPherson (R+14)
WV-01- Glen Gainer (R+14)
AR-04- James Lee Witt (R+15)
And these are basically a bunch of garden variety conservatives with not an ounce of courageousness between them. It's a stretch to even call most of these candidates "Democrats." Many are anti-Choice, pro-NRA and anti-LGBT and the whole bunch of them are corporate shills who would be-- were they to win (none of them will)-- on the wrong side of the battle lines between the 1% and normal American families.

So, yes, Israel has been on track to having the worst batting average of any DCCC chairman in history. That makes perfect sense, since he clearly is the worst DCCC chairman in history. But to be able to argue otherwise after the debacle in November, he's slipped in a few ringers. Ringers? Yes, these are Democrats running in blue districts replacing Democrats who are leaving Congress. I'm saying they don't deserve support (Pat Murphy running to replace Bruce Braley certainly does), but that they have nothing to do with Red-to-Blue except to make the decrepit program look better when most of Israel's wretched actual Red-to-Blue recruits are defeated in November.
IA-01- Bruce Braley (D+5)
ME-02- Mike Michaud (D+2)
NY-04- Carolyn McCarthy (D+3)
And this is a good place to mention CA-31, the D+5 Inland Empire district that Israel screwed up in 2012 and handed to a Republican, Gary Miller, who knew he could never be reelected so decided to retire this year. Israel's pick for the race is a shady conservative ex-bank lobbyist, Pete Aguilar, who not only is a disguised Republican but has already endorsed a right-wing Republican against a Democrat in the neighboring district. Another great Steve Israel recruit (for John Boehner).

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Today's Democratic Party-- Soul On Ice


If you're from Connecticut, you probably remember Bill Curry as a leader of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and a two-time nominee for governor. Most Americans who know who he is, though, know him for his role as a domestic policy advisor to Bill Clinton. I know the Clintons are very touchy about their sometimes tattered brand and I suspect Bill Curry won't be invited to the Medici Palace when Hillary takes over the world. A look at the piece he wrote Sunday for Salon-- My party has lost its soul: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the victory of Wall Street Democrats, makes you wonder if Curry will even be able to force himself to vote for her. When you say "Wall Street Democrats" you could be talking about Chuck Schumer or Joe Crowley or Steve Israel or Jim Himes but mostly you're talking about Hillary Clinton's soul being sold the the banksters.

According to Curry, the beginning of the end for the Democrats having a soul came in 1980, not because of a Reagan landslide per se, but because a crooked California congressman, Tony Coelho-- the Rahm Emanuel of his day-- was made DCCC chair. "It is inarguable," wrote Curry, "that Coehlo set Democrats on an identity-altering path toward ever closer ties to big business and, especially, Wall Street… In 1985 moderate Democrats including Bill Clinton and Al Gore founded the Democratic Leadership Council, which proposed innovative policies while forging ever closer ties to business. Clinton would be the first Democratic presidential nominee since FDR and probably ever to raise more money than his Republican opponent."
Between 1996 and 2000 the Wall Street Democrats who by then ruled the party’s upper roosts scored their first big legislative wins. Until then their impact was most visible in the quietude of Congress, which had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s. It was the longest such stretch since the 19th century, but no one seemed to notice.

In the late ’70s, deregulation fever swept the nation. Carter deregulated trucks and airlines; Reagan broke up Ma Bell, ending real oversight of phone companies. But those forays paled next to the assaults of the late ’90s. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 had solid Democratic backing as did the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. The communications bill authorized a massive giveaway of public airwaves to big business and ended the ban on cross ownership of media. The resultant concentration of ownership hastened the rise of hate radio and demise of local news and public affairs programming across America. As for the “modernization” of financial services, suffice to say its effect proved even more devastating. Clinton signed and still defends both bills with seeming enthusiasm.

The Telecommunications Act subverted anti-trust principles traceable to Wilson. The financial services bill gutted Glass-Steagall, FDR’s historic banking reform. You’d think such reversals would spark intra-party debate but Democrats made barely a peep. Nader was a vocal critic of both bills. Democrats, he said, were betraying their heritage and, not incidentally, undoing his life’s work. No one wanted to hear it. When Democrats noticed him again in 2000 the only question they thought to ask was, what’s got into Ralph? Such is politics in the land of the lotus eaters.

…Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.

…In 2009, when he had the votes in Congress, Obama chose not to raise the minimum wage. Not till late 2013 did Democrats press the issue. Why then? As the New York Times reported, “they found an issue they believe can lift their fortunes both locally and nationally in 2014.” If there’s a true populist revolt on the left it is as yet invisible to the naked eye.

Meanwhile the populist revolt on the right persists. In 2010 the Tea Party declared open season on GOP incumbents. It has since bagged quite a few. But Republicans don’t just fight over offices, they fight over ideas. It’s hard to track all the players in their endless policy scrum: Heritage, American Enterprise, Focus on the Family, Club for Growth, etc. Rand Paul pilfers Democratic issues like a fox stealing chickens while dynasty star Jeb Bush grapples with such timeless questions as whether there can be such a thing as a conservative social program.

Democrats aren’t even having a debate. Their one think tank, the Center for American Progress, serves their establishment. (Its founder, John Podesta, once Clinton’s chief of staff, is now counselor to Obama.) The last real primary challenge to a Democratic senator was in 2006 when Ned Lamont took on Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman. They say the GOP picks presidents based on seniority. Two years out, Republicans seem headed for a bloody knife fight while Hillary Clinton may be headed for the most decorous, seniority-based succession in either party’s history. (If she loses this time it will be to herself.)

If Democrats had caught populist fever they’d be reappraising their own orthodoxy and offing a few of their own incumbents. Owing only partly to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, they instead spend their days as Republicans do, in an endless search for new ways to help the rich pump money into politics. As public alienation deepens, polls show Democrats generally content with their party’s leaders. Of such stuff revolutions are not made.

...Republicans make their livings off the misappropriation of populism. Democrats by their silence assist them. Rand Paul is more forceful than any Democrat on privacy and the impulse to empire. The Tea Party rails loudest against big banks and corporate corruption. Even on cultural issues Democrats don’t really lead: Your average college student did more than your average Democratic congressman to advance gay marriage.

It’s hard for Democrats to see that their problems arise from their own mistakes. Obama called the 2008 recession “the worst since the Great Depression.” It wasn’t; by most measures-- jobs, wages, exports-- it was the worst since 1982. The valid comparison to the 1930s is that now as then all our vital institutions are broken. Our healthcare, banking, energy and transit systems are badly broken. Our defense policy is obsolete. Politics is a cesspool. Oddly, the one system working relatively well, public education, is the object of our only sustained reform effort.

Mistaking the nature of the crisis, Obama mistook massive fraud for faulty computer modeling and a middle-class meltdown for a mere turn of the business cycle. Had he grasped his situation he’d have known the most he could do by priming the pump would be to reinflate the bubble. Contrast him to FDR, who saw the systemic nature of his crisis. To banks Roosevelt offered only reform; financial help went to customers whose bad mortgages he bought up and whose savings he insured. By buying into Bush’s bailout, Obama co-signed the biggest check ever cut by a government, made out to the culprits, not the victims. As for his stimulus, it didn’t cure the disease and hefty portions of it smelled like pork.

Populist rage against the bailout and stimulus saved the Republican Party. In 2006 it had lost Congress, in 2008 the White House. Younger voters recoiled from its racial and religious politics. Middle-class decline had even devout Christians focused on family finances. That’s when Democrats handed over title to economic populism. Absent the bailout and stimulus it’s hard to imagine the Tea Party being born, Republicans retaking Congress or the government being so utterly paralyzed.

Liberals have spent the intervening years debating macroeconomic theory but macroeconomics can’t fathom this crisis. This isn’t just a slow recovery from a financial sector collapse, or damage done by debt overhang or Obama’s weak tea Keynesianism. We’re in crisis because of all our broken systems; because we still let big banks prey on homeowners, students, consumers and retailers; because our infrastructure is decrepit; because our tax code breeds inefficiency and inequality; because foreign interventions bled us dry. We’re in peril because our democracy is dying. Reviving it will take more than deficit spending and easy money. It will take reform, and before that, a whole new political debate.

…It pains us to watch Democrats bungle populist issues. We see Rand Paul corner the market on privacy and the scrutiny of defense budgets and wonder why no Democrat rises to expose his specious rantings. We yearn for a new politics but worry that our democracy, like that Antarctic ice shelf, has reached its tipping point. For things to improve Democrats must come up with better ideas and learn how to present them. So why don’t they?

One reason is that today’s Democrats think politics is all about marketing. While Republicans built think tanks Democrats built relationships with celebrity pollsters. When things go awry one pops up on TV to tell us how they “lost control of the narrative.” Asked to name a flaw, Obama invariably cites his failure to “tell our story.” Judging by his recent book, Tim Geithner thinks failing to tell his story was the only mistake he ever made. People don’t hate the bailout because Tim Geithner gives bad speeches. They hate it because their mortgages are still underwater.

Democrats must learn that policy precedes message; figure out what you believe, then how to tell people about it. A good idea advertises itself.

Democrats must also learn to argue history. They chortle when Michele Bachmann credits the founders with ending slavery or Sarah Palin forgets who Paul Revere rode to warn. Yet they let the right turn our founding myths into pulp propaganda with nary a reply from any but academics. In Unstoppable Nader enlists Jefferson, Adam Smith, Friederich Hayek and a raft of others to buttress his case and reclaim valuable ground.

Democrats think the power of money is greater than the power of ideas. Nader thinks that with the right ideas you can win even if outspent 100-to-1.  Every year Democrats further dilute their ideas to get the money they think they need to sell them. The weaker the ideas, the more ads they need, the more money it takes, the weaker the ideas. As you can tell from their ads, they’ve been at this a long time.

They don’t believe in ideas because they don’t believe in people. Obama wasted years dickering with Republicans who wished him only ill. He should have talked to the people and let them talk to the Republicans.

One reason we know voters will embrace populism is that they already have. It’s what they thought they were getting with Obama. In 2008 Obama said he’d bail out homeowners, not just banks. He vowed to fight for a public option, raise the minimum wage and clean up Washington. He called whistle-blowers heroes and said he’d bar lobbyists from his staff. He was critical of drones and wary of the use of force to advance American interests. He spoke eloquently of the threats posed to individual privacy by a runaway national security state.

He turned out to be something else altogether. To blame Republicans ignores a glaring truth: Obama’s record is worst where they had little or no role to play. It wasn’t Republicans who prosecuted all those whistle-blowers and hired all those lobbyists; who authorized drone strikes or kept the NSA chugging along; who reneged on the public option, the minimum wage and aid to homeowners. It wasn’t even Republicans who turned a blind eye to Wall Street corruption and excessive executive compensation. It was Obama.

A populist revolt among Democrats is unlikely absent their reappraisal of Obama, which itself seems unlikely. Not since Robert Kennedy have Democrats been so personally invested in a public figure. Liberals fell hardest so it’s especially hard for them to admit he’s just not that into them. If they could walk away they might resume their relationship with Nader. Of course that won’t be easy.

Populism isn’t just liberalism on steroids; it too demands compromise. After any defeat, a party’s base consoles itself with the notion that if its candidates were pure they’d have won. It’s never true; most voters differ with both parties. Still, liberals dream of retaking Congress as the Tea Party dreams of retaking the White House: by being pure. Democratic elites are always up for compromise, but on the wrong issues. Rather than back GOP culture wars, as some do, or foreign wars, as many do, or big business, as nearly all do, they should back libertarians on privacy, small business on credit and middle-class families on taxes.

If Democrats can’t break up with Obama or make up with Nader, they should do what they do best: take a poll. They would find that beneath all our conflicts lies a hidden consensus. It prizes higher ethics, lower taxes and better governance; community and privacy; family values and the First Amendment; economic as well as cultural diversity. Its potential coalition includes unions, small business, nonprofits, the professions, the economically embattled and all the marginalized and excluded. Such a coalition could reshape our politics, even our nation.
Curry is writing a book about populism now. When he writes his condemnation of the Democratic Party I hope he looks beyond the Clintons and scrapes a little Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Steny Hoyer off the bottom of the barrel too.

Wall Street controls the House Dems through these shills

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Will Rick Weiland Start Covering Some Stone Temple Pilots Songs? They Were Huge In South Dakota


There is exactly zero chance the Democrats will take back the House in November. And there is not a single serious, non-senile person who will tell you that there is a chance. A few days ago we looked at some of the underlying reasons here, in an open letter to Nancy Pelosi: extraordinarily bad leadership. The situation in the Senate is not as hopeless, although the leadership at the DSCC this year is not what it was when Patty Murray ran the show in 2012 and swept the field. This cycle an abysmally weak and clueless chairman, Michael Bennet, is beyond worthless and takes orders from Guy Cecil, whose only concern is positioning himself for a top position in the Hillary For President campaign.

Cecil, who wanted defeated Blue Dog chairwoman Setphanie Herseth Sandlin to run for the open South Dakota Senate seat, tools his marbles and went him when prairie populist Rick Weiland scared her out of running in a Democratic primary she knew she would lose. (Her conservative vision is awesome for Beltway centrists like Bennet and Cecil-- but are not relatable for actual Democratic voters). So Cecil, Bennet and Harry Reid have refused to back Weiland and have hampered his fundraising in what should be a very competitive race. So far, Weiland, who has been endorsed by almost every Democratic senator except Reid and Bennet, has only taken in $1,094,098 (as opposed to Republican Mike Rounds' $3,716,986. The two other Republicans in the race-- running as independents-- haven't raised enough to do any real advertising. Former Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler has raised $107,797 and Republican former state Senator and Tea Party favorite Gordon Howie has raised $32,074. (Looks like the teabaggers want to waste all their money in Tennessee banging their heads against a wall trying to defeat ¡Lamar! when getting behind Howie actually could stop Mike Rounds for real.)

Last week the Koch brothers' shady politeical operation opened an office in Sioux Falls the same day the RNC started running anti-Weiland robocalls. The DSCC won't help but the Koch brothers and RNC is frightened enough to start spending money in this race. It's a race that could make the difference between the Democrats controlling the Senate or the Ted Cruz agenda being the Senate agenda. Is that what Guy Cecil wants? Is he so Machievellian that he thinks 2 years of gridlock horror between Obama and a GOP-controlled House and Senate will make voters eager ro elect Hillary? It's not worth it. Blue America has endorsed Rick Weiland's campaign and if you'd like to help save the Senate from the grasp of conservatives-- not something the DSCC is concerned with-- you can contribute here.

A few days ago I saw this note on Weiland's Facebook page:
A year ago, I hit the road with my daughter, my guitar and a map of South Dakota. A few well-meaning friends thought I was crazy to promise to visit every incorporated town in the state. Nine months later, we’d accomplished our goal. Now, we are doing it all over again. This campaign won't be won sitting on corporate jets. It will be won at lunch counters and co-ops on the back roads of South Dakota. Real people, real stories and incredible memories as I ask South Dakotans to help me take our country back from Big Money. We had such a good response on our first video; we’ve decided to make a second one. It’s called "Bring On the Road." Please forward this to your friends and family and anyone who will vote in this November’s Senate race.
The video is up top. I suspect the lyrics, based on the beloved Americana classic by Roger Miller, "King of the Road," aren't going to win over the suits in DC. This isn't they kind of message (or delivery) that someone like Michael Bennet or Guy Cecil can relate to (although I bet Weiland supporter Elizabeth Warren would get it without much effort):
They don't want a handout
But they want a fair shake
And they're tired of Big Money sayin'
Let them eat cake

My vote's not for sale or rent
I just won't listen to the one percent
I'm not campaignin' in corporate jets
I'm meetin' voters in luncheonettes
I used to be a country dj at the Rainbow Cattle Company and then the Outpost in San Francisco and back in the '70s I was an editor of Country Music Magazine and I have a sense that the song will go over real well among real people in South Dakota, no matter what Harry Reid thinks of it. Weiland: “I will never make a living singing country songs, but a lot of folks told me they enjoyed the first song and my friends and family enjoy hamming it up a bit. I said from the beginning, I was going to keep this campaign fun and not take myself too seriously."

OK, Rick, how about covering a road song by Scott Weiland next-- this one:

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Could you pass this new, harder high school equivalency test?


by Ken

Here in New York State there has been a rolling uproar since January, when the NYS Education Department began replacing the age-old General Educational Development (GED) test with what DNAinfo New York's Amy Zimmer describes as "a more rigorous test that's pegged to the new federal Common Core standards."
The 7.5-hour Test Assessing Secondary Completion, known as the TASC, covers far more challenging topics than the GED, requiring students to know everything from Newton's second law of motion to the reasons particular amendments were added to the Constitution.

On the writing section, students now have to read nonfiction articles and compare and contrast them — much more difficult than the old open-ended GED prompts, which asked students questions like what they would do with $1 million, [Bronx Youth Center instructor Renee] Davis said. 
Amy explains that the consternation continues to spread, since the rollout has spread the new test only gradually since the state began using it in January. And apparently the providers still haven't caught up with the need to prepare prospective test-takers for the test they'll be taking -- or to prepare instructors for the test they're preparing their students for.

Even the DNAinfo editors seem confused on the point this week, referring in the headlines to "the new GED." In fact, as Amy explains, there is a new GED, also tailored to Common Core, but the price has doubled, she says, to "roughly $120 per student," and since NYS "covers the full cost of the high school equivalency exam, it would have had to reduce the number of students each year that could take the new GED, created by the American Council on Education and testing giant Pearson." CTB/McGraw Hill's TASC is costing the state "just $52 per student."

Ironically, as Amy reported in March ("New 'GED' Test Will Be Harder Than Regents Exams, Critics Say"): "[B]ecause of backlash from elementary, middle and high school families and teachers, the state's Board of Regents recently decided to delay pegging high school graduation requirements to the Common Core until 2022 — five years later than the previously set target for the high school equivalency exam," meaning that "New Yorkers seeking a high school equivalency diploma will be held to a higher standard before high school students are."
For her latest report, Amy Zimmer spoke to Bronx Youth Center math instructor Renee Davis.
In her 15 years teaching GED prep classes, Davis never needed to teach such a high a level of math. Now, she not only needs to rewrite her curriculum to better prepare her students — she also has to brush up on her own skills.

"It's math that I have to re-teach myself," Davis said. "It went to a much higher level. It's hard."
And test-takers who have been taking TASC, without benefit of preparatory materials that are only now becoming widely available, have noticed the difference. Amy Zimmer began her March report:
Madalyn Vidal's head was spinning after she spent two-and-a-half hours Wednesday taking the first of three parts of the overhauled high school equivalency exam at the FEGS Bronx Youth Center.

"I walked out feeling not smart, like I needed a dictionary," said Vidal, 23, a Bronx resident who left school in 10th grade because of "family issues" but now hopes to go to community college. "My head was hurting. I don't know if it was me or the tension of trying to pass."
You'll note that there's a three-year phase-in of Common Core standards built into TASC, which is another thing that differentiates it from the new GED, which I gather is already Common Core-ready. I assume this means that TASC is going to get harder over the next couple of years.

But the scoring of the test apparently should come as some consolation to test-takers who walk out sure that they've failed. Amy reports:
The minimum passing score for the new test was determined by giving it to a group of recent high school graduates who likely also struggled with the more difficult questions, said Kevin Douglas, policy analyst for United Neighborhood Houses, which offers GED prep programs.

"It is likely that individuals can get fewer correct answers and still pass, relative to the percentage correct they would have needed on the GED," Douglas said.

"Early on this year, there were many reports of students failing to finish the test, or failing to return for the second day of testing because they were so discouraged," Douglas continued, "not realizing that even with what might have felt like a poor performance, they may have indeed passed if they persisted."


I don't dare tell you how long it took me to adapt this mere five-question quiz for our format (not entirely successfully, as you'll note in Questions 4 and 5), because if I did, you'd think boy, I sure have lots of time on my hands, and I guess you'd be right -- though were that times come from, I don't know. But then, for our readers, we don't scrimp.
QUIZ: Could you past the new, harder GED?
[Quiz created by DNAinfo New York's Nigel Chiwaya from practice items distributed by CTB/McGraw Hill]

Read the list in the box. Then answer the question that follows.

Which of these is the best title for the list in the box?

(a) Causes of World War I
(b) Causes of the Cold War
(c) Causes of the Revolutionary War
(d) Causes of the Russian Revolution

Which of these describes a role of DNA in a cell?

(a) DNA is the material that forms into the cell’s membrane.
(b) DNA produces the energy needed for the cell’s activities.
(c) DNA provides the information to make proteins for the cell
(d) DNA is the building block for the other molecules in the cell.

Two rectangles are similar and the dimensions shown are in centimeters.

What is the measure of x, in centimeters?

(a) 4.0
(b) 5.6
(c) 8.4
(d) 11.0

The table below gives selected values for the linear function, f(x).

Which of the following functions has the same slope as f(x)?

[Alas, there are limits to my graphical and HTML fluency -- fairly severe limits, actually. So here, in order to check the correct answer below, you'll have to letter the choices yourself -- (a), (b), (c), and (d). But if you can't handle that, should you really be attempting this quiz? -- Ed.]

The time, T, it takes for 2 people working together to complete a job is given by:

In the equation

r1 is the work rate of the first person

r2 is the work rate of the second person

Which formula could be used to find r1 if you knew the values for T and r2?

[See note for Question 4.]


that most of these questions at first looked harder than they subsequently seemed to me. For example, for Question 1, when you read "the list in the box," those sound like potential causes for an awful lot of wars. But in fact for three of the choices they're pretty silly. Question 2 became more comfortable for me when I read it as written, asking for "a role" of DNA. I thought Question 3 was inexatly worded, plumb forgetting that in geomeltry "similar" means that the two rectangles have the exact same shape, and not that they have "similar" shapes, but the answer still seemed pretty clear -- really, you don't even have to do the decimal arithmetic.

Question 4 had me in a panic for a bit, since I thought I was going to have to remember what the heck a "slope" is. Then I realized that all you have to do is just try out the choices, and while all four are good for the first value, three of them are only good for the first.

Which leaves Question 5, and here I don't see how you have a prayer unless you remember enough algebra to solve it. It's pretty basic algebra, though, of a kind that I do actually occasionally find myself applying in Life As We Know It. I whipped out a sheet of scrap paper and just went at the equation step by step, and was immensely relieved to find that my answer was among the offered choices.


If you can't read them upside-down, you can just rotate your screen -- or else stand on your head.

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Corporate Dems Like Schumer Aren't Done Wrecking The Democratic Party


I've never missed an election in my life-- even while living in difficult to vote places like the mountains of Afghanistan-- and I've never voted for a Republican, although before I was old enough to vote, I was a volunteer for John Lindsay, a liberal Republican-- they had them back then-- running against the conservative machine hack Abe Beame. Lindsay responded to the GOP's inexorable drift rightward by switching to the Democratic Party while he was mayor. That said, it has gotten harder and harder for me to vote for Democrats in recent years. The further Democratic candidates drift from progressive values and principles, the more I find myself voting for judges and assemblymen and leaving out congressmen (Blue Dog Adam Schiff), senators (Dianne Feinstein) governors (Gray Davis) and presidents (Barack Obama, 2012).

A week ago, in a comparison between Netroots Nation and the New Music Seminar I was grumbling about the stature accorded to conservative corporate Democrats Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer. Why not invite Rahm Emanuel, Harold Ford, John Barrow or Robert Rubin? They're Democrats too. When it started the New Music Seminar was a place you could see live shows from REM, The Pixies, The Buzzcocks, My Bloody Valentine, RomeoVoid, 10,000 Maniacs, Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Run DMC. Not Chuck Schumer. Oh I don't care if Chuck Schumers and Joe Bidens come to this kind of thing-- and it's none of my business anyway (and, of course, it is a business)-- but why elevate them and give them some kind of status among the cutting edge? Bleccchhh.

The Finance Sector, or what we affectionately call Wall Street, has given Schumer $20,385,339, more than any senator in history who hasn't been a presidential candidate-- and more than several who have! Like Biden who "only" took in $4,029,797. Schumer's never been a friend of progressives and never will be-- and I remember him from the 1960s at James Madison High School in Brroklyn! A day after he strutted around Netroots Nation, he was writing an OpEd for the NY Times that would make it easier for his Wall Street backers to own even more of the American political system than they already do. "Polarization and partisanship," he writes, "are a plague on American politics." He's sad that Eric Cantor was defeated by some scruffy teabagger and claims primaries poison the health of the political system. I remember when he was head of the DSCC and progressives fought him-- and beat him-- when he put some slimy Wall Street shill up for senator and we got behind populist John Tester, who beat Schumer's candidate and then beat a Wall Street-owned Republican incumbent.

Most of the response to Schumer's proposal to do away with partisan primaries has been very negative. 538: "Here’s the problem with Schumer’s argument: There isn’t much evidence to support it." Jonathan Bernstein for Bloomberg: Chuck Schumer Gets Primaries All Wrong. And California grassroots activist Paul Hogarth points out that Schumer's proposal would just duplicate California's dysfunction.
[I]t was Schumer’s defense of California’s top-two primary that revealed how clueless he is about my home state, and how getting rid of party primaries will only make things worse.
California was racked by polarization until voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that adopted a “top-two” primary system.
Oy vey. Yes, it’s true that California’s government was dysfunctional before 2010, but that did not change because we passed the “top-two primary.” It was ending the two-thirds rule for passing a budget in 2010 that finally brought some sanity, and an increasingly blue legislature in 2012 changed things for the better.

But the “top-two” primary also created a whole new host of problems that has led to abysmal voter turnout, Republican-vs-Republican general elections and the rise of corporate Democrats in the state legislature. Oh, and the Tea Party is still a relevant factor in the state.

So no thanks, Chuck. Please don't export the Golden State's dysfunction. Lots more below the fold, written by someone who actually lives in California...

[A]s state Democratic chairman John Burton predicted at the state party’s 2010 convention in Los Angeles, it was really more about helping big business elect more of their Democrats-- with cross-over votes from Republicans.

Four years later, Burton’s prediction has proven right-- as we have witnessed the rise of the corporate Democrat in deep-blue districts that should be electing progressive champions.
The rise of what might be called the Corporate Democrat can only be partly explained by shrinking GOP delegations in Sacramento. It is also the product of redistricting and effects of the “top-two primary,” by which members of the same political party can win the top two primary positions and then face off in November. Since then, powerful corporations, agricultural associations and other political high rollers have been turning away from their traditional Republican partners and placing more and more of their chips on the Democratic end of the table-- specifically, on candidates like Marc Levine [of Marin County.]
Under the new rules, Silicon Valley Rep. Mike Honda may have easily bested Ro Khanna in the June 2014 primary-- but the “top-two” primary means that corporate Democrat Khanna still has a second bite at the apple, and will attempt to beat Honda with Republican votes. Under the new rules, Republicans can even cross over and pick their Democrat.

We saw this happen in June in legislative races, such as California’s 4th Assembly district—a deep blue district in wine country (Napa County and surroundings), where Democrats enjoy a 20-point registration edge. Progressive champion Mariko Yamada was elected under the old system, and is stepping down due to term limits. But her replacement in November will now be a choice between a Republican-- and an ex-Republican turned corporate Democrat.

That’s because there were 3 Democrats and 1 Republican on the June ballot, and the top two finishers regardless of party moved on to November. The Republican came in first with 26 percent of the vote, followed by Democrat Bill Dodd-- an ex-Republican Napa County Supervisor with heavy funding from the Chamber of Commerce, who benefited because Republicans could now choose which Democrat moved ahead. Progressive Democrat (and labor-backed) candidate Dan Wolk came in a close third, and a fourth Democrat in the race played spoiler.

California will still have a solidly Democratic legislature, but enough corporate Democrats elected under the top-two primary recently colluded with Republicans to kill a fracking moratorium. Expect more of these losses in Sacramento, as Democrats from even deep-blue districts side with their corporate donors.

Sometimes, the top-two primary allows for what could be winnable seats for Democrats into a November match-up between two Republicans. GOP Rep. Gary Miller of California’s 31st Congressional District (San Bernardino) dodged a bullet in 2012, when a crowded field of Democrats on the June ballot meant that he ended up facing another Republican.

Voters in that district, by the way, preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney-- so coat-tails could have netted the blue team an extra House seat. But there was no Democrat on the November ballot, so it was a wasted opportunity.

Miller is retiring this year, and we almost had a repeat in that district. But Democrat Pete Aguilar managed to score a second-place finish in June (by less than 400 votes), so the blue team will at least have a Democrat on the ballot and have a potential pick-up opportunity.

But in California’s 25th Congressional District, where another Republican (Buck McKeon) is retiring, what could have been a possible pick-up for Democrats is now assured GOP representation until at least 2016 (if not further) in a district that is trending blue.

No, Chuck, top-two primary does not mean higher voter turnout

While there are no guarantees, it seems likely that a top-two primary system would encourage more participation in primaries and undo tendencies toward default extremism.

Sen. Schumer alleges that a top-two primary would result in higher turnout. That's exactly what Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abel Maldonado promised back in 2010 when California voters were asked to pass it.

But unlike Schumer, they didn’t have the hindsight to know its effects. Now we know the answer.

The 2014 California Primary Election will go down as the worst ever in terms of voter turnout.

Voter turnout in June was an abysmal 18 percent, which of course turns out the most committed and comfortable voters-- who are disproportionately white, old and conservative.

In California’s race for state controller, we came dangerously close to another November run-off between two Republicans: Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, and conservative David Evans-- who spent practically no money, and benefited from a healthy Tea Party turnout.
The next day, Markos took a swing at the same proposition. "Let's be honest," he urged. "Just one party is polarized, and that's the GOP. That's their problem, not Chuck Schumer's or anyone else's. Let Reublicans fix their own shit. But even both parties were polarized, so what? Partisanship is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our nation's being. There's nothing wrong with it. It gives people without the time and inclination to research every single candidate a guidepost upon which to base their voting decisions. It gives people a flag to rally around, a cause to stir them to action. That's why parties exist. And voters should be allowed to determine the direction of their own parties. That's not a problem that needs solving, and even if it was, his solution does nothing to do so… But the biggest indictment? It kills voter participation."

Before Schwarzenegger and other corporate politicians got the dysfunctional new system passed in California, primary turnout was 30%-- pretty awful… but not as awful as it was with the new system: 18%. Schumer is tired and whatever sharpness he hever ad is long dulled by time. He shouldn't run again; he should make room for fresh new ideas in the Senate.

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Does Paul Ryan Really Want To Help Working Families And The Unemployed?


Paul Ryan's voting record in Congress-- going back to 1999 when he was a 20-something with the consciousness, though not the wisdom, of an angry 80 year old-- shows pretty conclusively he has never cared a whit about working class families. He has consistently voted against unemployment insurance for the men and women tossed out of work when conservative economic agendas have passed and wrecked the economy. So has he changed his mind? I wouldn't bet on it. Last week most Republicans and a gaggle of slimy New Dems and Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party voted for a tax bill that values the children of wealthy parents far more than the value of middle class and low income households' children. Paul Ryan was not one of the mainstream Republicans who crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats opposing that grotesquely unfair tax legislation. Paul Ryan is still the chair of the House Budget Committee, although there are rumors he will be stepping down to concentrate on his goat-milking run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Ryan has been trying to paint himself as some kind of new face of "compassionate conservatism" who can help the poor folks. Ask the poor folks how that "compassionate conservatism" bullshit worked out for them last time, when Bush used it to help him win the presidency and then proceeded to destroy the economy by lowering taxes on the wealthiest families-- a kind of reverse Robin Hood effect. Is Ryan as bad as Bush? Worse… much worse. The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analyzed Ryan's proposal and found that it would actually increase poverty. Robert Greenstein explains that the centerpiece of "Ryan's new poverty plan would consolidate 11 safety-net and related programs-- from food stamps to housing vouchers, child care, and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-- into a single block grant to states"-- Ryan's flashy new “Opportunity Grant” that Greenstein asserts "would likely increase poverty and hardship, and is therefore ill-advised." Here's why:
While Chairman Ryan describes the proposal as maintaining the same overall funding as the current system for each participating state, that would be a practical impossibility. His proposal would convert the nation’s basic food assistance safety net-- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps-- from an entitlement that responds automatically to increased need into part of a sweeping block grant that gives each state fixed funding for the year and, thus, cannot respond in the same way. This would be a particularly serious problem when need rises, such as in recessions.

All ten programs other than SNAP that would merge into the block grant serve only small percentages of those eligible, and federal funding for them (other than low-income rental assistance programs) is comparatively modest. As my colleague Donna Pavetti points out, this means that if some people receive more services under the proposal, as Chairman Ryan envisions, those services will likely be paid for by cutting assistance that helps poor families put food on the table or a roof over their head. Some of the service programs to which funds would likely be shifted have higher administrative costs than programs like SNAP and rental vouchers, so less would remain for basic assistance to needy families. And, in some cases, more powerful state and local political forces may seek to corral more of the funding. For example, many state and local officials likely would try to shift part of the former SNAP benefit dollars to CDBG-type “development” proposals that politically powerful local developers (who often make large campaign contributions) often favor.

While Chairman Ryan says he’s driven by evidence and research, his plan would jeopardize basic nutrition assistance for poor children, which research has shown is highly effective not only in reducing child malnutrition, but also in improving children’s long-term prospects. A path-breaking recent study examined what occurred after food stamps gradually expanded nationwide in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It found that poor children with access to food stamps in early childhood (and whose mothers had access during pregnancy) had an 18-percentage-point higher high school graduation rate-- and were less likely as adults to have stunted growth or heart disease or to be obese-- than comparable children who lacked access to food stamps because their counties hadn’t yet implemented the program. By eliminating poor families’ entitlement to SNAP and placing funds for basic food assistance at risk of being diverted, the Ryan plan would jeopardize these crucial gains.

Total funding to assist low-income families-- from federal, state, and local levels combined-- likely would decline, because the block grant would afford state and local officials tantalizing opportunities to use some block grant funds to replace state and local funds now going for similar services. Chairman Ryan says that the federal block grant funds would have to be used for the poor. But that wouldn’t prevent states and localities from substituting some of these funds for existing state and local funds that they now use for some of the same purposes. That’s what happened under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, even though Congress tried to forestall that through a maintenance-of-effort requirement and non-supplantation provisions. With broad block grants of this nature, some substitution by state and local governments is almost impossible to prevent.

History clearly shows that when policymakers combine a number of programs into a block grant, federal funding typically declines over time, often dramatically. That has occurred in most broad-based block grants of recent decades. When a broad array of programs are merged into a block grant, policymakers find it virtually impossible to identify a specific level of needed federal funding-- or the likely human impact of program cuts. As a result, the broad block grant often becomes easy to squeeze in the competition for federal budget dollars.
Basically, all the problems Greenstein cites, are exactly what Paul Ryan-- devout Ayn Rand disciple-- is trying to accomplish, not accidental miscalculations. Watch the whole video of Ryan molesting the goat at the Racine County fair Sunday-- just the way he plans on molesting working class families with his new "Opportunity Grants."

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Is There Any Way To Measure If Cuomo Is More Corrupt Than Christie Or Christie Is More Corrupt Than Cuomo?


Andrew Cuomo and real estate donors (clockwise from left) Joseph Moinian, Jerry Speyer, Daniel Tishman, Andrew Farkas

You shouldn't have been surprised by Bill Rashbaum's stunning revelations about Andrew Cuomo's ethics problems. Ken and I have been warning readers for years that Cuomo is nothing like his father, Mario Cuomo, a pawn of the powerful and wealthy and an avatar of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. And his corruption is nothing new to anyone who's been paying attention.

Catherine Austin Fitts is a Wall Street bankster type. She was managing director of Dillon, Read, aand worked for George H.W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Housing and as Federal Housing Commissioner at Bush's Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After Clinton beat Bush, he appointed Cuomo Assistant Secretary and, when he was reelected in 1996, Secretary of that department; he impressed Fitts-- as a criminal. She wrote a fascinating column-- HUD is Being Run as a Criminal Enterprise-- that should be more widely read as Democrats prepare to go to the polls to chose between Cuomo/Hochul and Teachout/Wu September 9.
One of the chief beneficiaries of Cuomo’s ascendancy to Secretary and the subsequent cancellation of the loan sales were the developers, owners and managers of apartment buildings that were subsidized by HUD and often financed through FHA and Ginnie Mae. Ginnie Mae is the HUD unit which guarantees securities issued to finance pools of mortgages insured by FHA. Many of these apartment buildings had been originally financed through tax shelter syndications.

The largest HUD subsidized portfolio at the time was the one owned by Insignia, chaired by Andrew Farkas. On September 5, 2006, as Andrew Cuomo was running for the democratic nomination for Attorney General of New York, Wayne Barrett published "Andrew Cuomo’s $2 Million Man" in the Village Voice.  Barrett reported that Cuomo’s compensation from Farkas’s company, Island Capital, in 2004 and 2005 totaled $1.2 million and that Farkas family members and business associates had donated $800,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns since he left HUD. Barrett describes Cuomo’s role as Secretary of HUD in approving an-out-of-court settlement with Insignia (regarding litigation alleging a HUD subsidy being improperly used to pay kickbacks) shortly before Insignia’s sale to AIMCO (Apartment Investment And Managing Company) in 1998.

With Insignia valuations reflecting the benefits of its settlement of the kickback litigation, the cancellation of the HUD loan sales and related policies increasing the private value of HUD subsidized portfolios, Farkas sold out to AIMCO in 1998 for $910 million, described by his attorney as a "fantastic price."

A question that remains unanswered is whether the price of the Insignia sale to AIMCO in 1998 was simply fantastic or whether-- given the pattern of events around it-- it was inflated with government resources and decisions arranged in a criminal manner.

This question raises a second question-- whether the $2 million that Farkas and his network have paid to Cuomo and his campaigns since then represent a kickback from the Insignia sale to AIMCO and whether Cuomo’s compensation is simply fantastic or something more.

…Why did HUD finances melt down under Cuomo’s leadership and what, if anything, does that have to do with the billions flowing to large HUD landlords from the government and the stock market, and the millions now flowing back to Andrew Cuomo and his campaigns years later?

…In 1997, members of my team working with HUD (now led by Cuomo) asked me to authorize Hamilton helping HUD to prepare its next budget using assumptions on the multifamily portfolio that were known to be false. For example, we were to presume that HUD’s apartment portfolio would not be impacted by welfare reform legislation that had been enacted the year before. As federal data indicated that high concentrations of tenants in privately-owned HUD-subsidized housing in large urban areas were getting federal welfare and/or food stamp subsidies, this made no sense. Our assessment was that the combined assumptions that HUD wished to use would make it easier for private owners to displace tenants in a way that would leave the tenants out in the cold without vouchers, while appropriations were preserved to fund project-based subsidies for HUD landlords.

At one point, the Hamilton team leader for our work with HUD came over to my house to try to persuade me that we should help HUD do this. He said that if we did not help HUD with the budget, he was concerned that we would be fired. We agreed that HUD was probably going to persuade the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that they could trust the budget, because Hamilton helped prepare it; hence, my concern that our involvement would be used to perpetuate a fraudulent budget. I asked him to define the value of our contract in terms of an acceptable level of children going homeless or dying. How many children should we help be forced to the streets so that we could keep our contract?  Suddenly, he stopped and said something like, "Why am I doing this? So what if we lose our contract? We have better things to do in our life than be a party to murder." To which I replied, "Now you have it."

I tell this story to remind the reader that we have become a society where the most dangerous serial killers who stalk our land kill with a pen and not with a sword. The most important unanswered question about Andrew Cuomo’s time at HUD goes beyond how or why he and his agency engineered gains into Andrew Farkas, John Ervin and so many other private pockets. The more important question is how many people went without basic necessities because Cuomo diverted resources away from honest taxpayers and the people that HUD was created to serve. How many children in New York and around the country went homeless or worse because vouchers or job training were not available?

This is the most important unanswered question… [A] growing number of investors around the world who do not want to be exposed to the banana republic style corruption now perceived to be epidemic in the United States.

New York is the center of the financial markets in the United States. The health of these markets depends on investors’ faith in the integrity of their governance. The perception that the lead New York regulator is a politician who exploits the power of his or her office for personal ambition and finances will impact the flow and pricing of capital throughout the United States.

My recommendation, to both New Yorkers and members of the US financial and legal establishment concerned with America’s ability to attract capital in global markets, is that they ensure that the unanswered questions relating to Andrew Cuomo’s dealings with Andrew Farkas and Insignia and any other HUD-related 
special interests that have financed him and his campaigns be investigated and answered before Andrew Cuomo is permitted to hold public office again.
My recommendation is that Democratic primary voters do the right thing in September and end Cuomo's career and replace him with Zephyr Teachout.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Colleen Hanabusa's Crazy War Against The Environment


New Dem Colleen Hanabusa has built a political career not based on values or principles but on mutual backscratching and ugly corruption. She desperately, even shrilly, wants everyone to ignore the fact that when the Sierra Club, Climate Hawks Vote, Ocean Champions and the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Brian Schatz for senator, they compared both their environmental records and found his ideal and hers… far from ideal. She would also like voters in the August 9th Hawaii primary to ignore that MoveOn, the PCCC, DFA and Blue America all sited Schatz's work on environmental protection when they endorsed him. Every single U.S. Senator that cares about the environment endorsed Schatz, from Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer and Sheldon White House to all the Senate Democratic leaders, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray.

Not one environmental group is backing Hanabusa. Not one progressive group is backing Hanabusa. Not one senator is backing Hanabusa. And the only Members of the House who have been trying to help her are Rahm Emanuel puppet Tammy Duckworth and right-wing warmongers and anti-environment fanatics Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Randy Forbes (R-VA). Yes, two Republicans, that's what she's got… and the Laborers Union backing her because of her support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Remember, the conservative running against Schatz isn't a Republican. Hanabusa is a New Dem from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, a purely transactional character. Her husband, John Souza, serves as her bagman. Honolulu political insiders know that the two of them are as thick as thieves with real estate developer Jeffrey Stone, who has spent and raised more for Hanabusa's political career than anyone else. She and Souza take good care of her contributors, regardless of environmental impact. In 2011, at a time when Maui’s Hawaiian Cane & Sugar's parent company (Alexander & Baldwin) was one of her largest donors, she voted with her Republican buddies to delay implementation of EPA rules governing air quality in buildings from industrial boiler systems-- two of which Hawaiian Cane & Sugar was using.

Yesterday the Star-Advertiser ran an important piece by Derrick DePledge differentiating between Schatz and Hanabusa on environmental issues. The first paragraph is very ominous for Hanabusa, who has been running away from her repulsive record and trying to twist it out of shape for months: "U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana­busa was one of just 41 House Democrats in October 2011 to vote to delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's tougher clean air standards on industrial boilers." She claims her vote with the Republicans against the EPA was to save the jobs at a sugar mill (and not just for her campaign donors).

In trying to justify her vote against the Clean Air Act, Hanabusa falsely claims that this vote saved the plantation which is total nonsense. Mazie Hirono, Daniel Inouye and Dan Akaka all voted the other way on this bill, and the plantation is still alive and well. The vote clearly demonstrates Hanabusa's total lack of commitment to the environment. Combine this with her vote to clear cut the Tongass Forest and her support for drilling in ANWR and it paints a pretty dim picture of a typical lockstep New Dem shill for Wall Street interests. (As does this poll question from PPP:)

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Hanabusa's opponent in the Democratic primary, argues that Hanabusa made a false choice between the environment and the economy. The EPA was already in the process of revising the rule based on public feedback.

"The EPA has shown a willingness to be flexible when it comes to Hawaii," the senator said. "And if she wanted to get the attention of the EPA, there was no need to undermine the Clean Air Act and vote with tea party Republicans."

During the primary, the two Democrats have disagreed over votes on Social Security, the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Arctic drilling. But their dispute over the vote to delay the EPA's rule on industrial boilers, perhaps more than any other, gets closest to illustrating what each candidate believes is their own strength and, more importantly, their opponent's weakness.

…In Hawaii, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which has endorsed Schatz, have been concerned about air pollution at the HC&S mill. In addition to emissions from the boilers, HC&S also conducts pre-harvest cane burning.

In June, the state Department of Health cited HC&S for more than 400 alleged violations of state clean air rules between 2009 and 2013 and assessed a $1.3 million penalty. The company has said that any violations were unintentional and plans to contest the penalty as excessive.

Hanabusa considers the vote on the EPA's rule on industrial boilers one of several that demonstrate her independence and her ability to look deeper into federal legislation and see the potential impact on Hawaii. She said she would cast the same vote again today.

"It's not an easy vote to do," the congresswoman said. "But it's a vote that I feel had to be done. And the EPA slowed down. And I think the EPA needed it, too, to be able to slow down what it was doing, because it was under court order. And to come up with a set of rules that I believe is really workable."

Schatz counters that the issue was not as complicated as Hanabusa suggests.

"This was not a close call," the senator said. "Everybody wants to support the (HC&S) plantation, but there's nobody in the congressional delegation that thought it was necessary to undermine the Clean Air statute in order to make sure that it was implemented well."

Schatz said Hanabusa "continues to think that we have to make a choice between a clean environment and a strong economy," adding, "And she's flat wrong. That is not the choice that we have to make. We can and should fight for clean air and clean water and strong economic growth at the same time."
And, of course, it isn't just Schatz who has noticed how dishonest Hanabusa is. In February, 2012, the Center for American Progress commented on this very bill and said it "essentially puts the interests of polluters over that of the health and safety of American families. It creates enormous uncertainty and goes far beyond providing the EPA with extra time to finalize their rulemaking. More troubling, this bill would delay and could substantially weaken long-overdue public health protections by allowing the continued emissions of carcinogens and other toxic air pollutants that can cause developmental harm and other serious health effects." DC daily The Hill noted delved a little deeper into the consequences of Hanabusa's support for the Republican efforts to gut EPA rules. The standards imposed by boiler MACT rules, to limit emissions of harmful air pollutants from industrial boilers and incinerators, they wrote, go after mercury, acid gases and fine particulate matter, or soot, from boilers and incinerators. "The agency said the rules would affect about 1 percent of the nation's boilers. It added the rules would yield public health benefits, preventing 8,100 premature deaths and 5,100 heart attacks per year beginning in 2015."

And maybe this is why EMILY's List is rolling out the dirty campaign tactics on behalf of Hanabusa now. It's called desperation-- and it was just released this morning. When Republicans see a poll like this, they whine that PPP is a Democratic-affiliated polling firm. Is that Hanabusa's complaint too?

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What? You say Comic-Connies aren't big spenders? Suddenly my regard for them has jumped


NYT caption: "Comic-Con attendees lunching near the convention center. Spending by visitors to the five-day convention, San Diego’s largest by far, is about $603, a fraction of that of much smaller events."

by Ken

Hey, almost everything I know about Comic-Con comes from watching The Big Bang Theory -- and that hasn't made it seem any more like a gathering where I would want to, you know, gather. But now comes word that the Comic-Connies stand accused of one of the vilest crimes in Consumerist America: being cheapskates.

I'm not exactly free and easy when it comes to parceling out my free clicks, but I couldn't resist this listing on today's "Afternoon Edition" e-mail:


I suppose this sticks out because we generally think of the Connies as among America's free-spendingest suckers consumers, don't we? Now here they are being portrayed as making their pilgrimage to San Diego and keeping their mitts in their pockets! I want to know more!

You want numbers? We got numbers, from Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes's report, "Large Crowds Spend Little at Comic-Con":
In a recent report from the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic-Con is held, the fantasy fans ranked first in terms of the convention center’s attendance, far outstripping the combined total of its next four largest conventions, expected to be about 62,500 people.

But the Comic-Con fans were expected to spend only about $603 each during a convention that began Wednesday night and ran through Sunday. And that was only a little more than a third of the per-capita spending by those who showed up for the American Association for Cancer Research gathering in April, and similarly lower than per-person spending at the next three largest conventions in San Diego.
A measly $603 for four days? Jeez, no wonder the cancer people have the Connies eating dust! The specifics are no cheerier:
At Comic-Con, dining out is apt to mean eating a sandwich while squatting on a city street. McCormick & Schmick’s, a high-end seafood restaurant across from the convention center, sold wraps from a cart, two for $10. At midday on Thursday, more than 150 people stood in line at a nearby Subway.

“For everything? I would say, like, $50,” said Arnold Duong, a fan who was dining on the sidewalk on Thursday, when asked how much he and each of his two friends had budgeted per day for their Comic-Con experience.

Some penny-pinching attendees may actually turn a profit on the cheap posters, hats, action figures and autographs handed out at the convention. As of 3 p.m. on Saturday, more than 4,000 listings were active on eBay under the title “Comic-Con 2014.”
So what if the Connies are a bunch of penny-pinching tightwads? Here's what (lotsa links onsite):
The Toronto International Film Festival has Bell, L’Oréal, and the RBC Royal Bank among its official sponsors. Sundance this year attracted Chase Sapphire, Acura, Hewlett-Packard and Sprint. At the Golden Globes, guests sip from promotional bottles of Moët & Chandon.

But at Comic-Con, a lower-rent affair, official convention sponsorships are largely confined to media companies or game companies, like NBC and Nintendo, and the giveaways — well, a visitor is lucky to snag some lime-flavored Red Bull or a pack of Stride chewing gum.

At this year’s convention, the Samsung Galaxy weighed in with both a convention sponsorship and backing for events related to a pair of upcoming films, Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.”

Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s adult-themed programming block, also picked up corporate sponsorship for individual shows from the likes of Intel, Lexus and State Farm. But those products and their companies were kept pretty much in the background as the cartoons took center stage.

“We develop all this stuff with the idea of a sponsor in mind, but not for the sponsor,” said Amantha Walden, Adult Swim’s director of events.

In truth, companies that might flock to a Tribeca Film Festival, which for years was backed by American Express and now has AT&T as its lead sponsor, would do well to stick with the soft sell here, because nobody is buying much.
The Times team notes that "for media companies, which compete as much for eyeballs as for direct spending, a crowd this large can be irresistible, even when it does not have much cash."
“I absolutely feel like it’s a pop culture carnival, and there is an unspoken competition among networks to outdo each other,” said Michael Ouweleen, a senior vice president and group creative director at Cartoon Network.
But if you're looking to score some actual sales, you probably wish you had the cancer crowd rather than the Connies. The Times-ies report glum tidings for "the few consumer brands that took a chance on Comic-Con":
One of those was Chrysler, which sponsored a popular Dodge Challenger simulator attraction in a parking lot promotional spread for the Weinstein Company’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Another car company, Hyundai, sponsored a display for “Legends,” a crime series from TNT. And there was a snappy, flame-orange Mini Cooper in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel, part of the campaign for “Pixels,” a 3-D action fantasy set for release by Sony Pictures next May.

Yet even the Elio Motors Tadpole, a three-wheeled vehicle priced at a modest $6,800, looked like a reach for some of the Comic-Con types who eyed it on Friday in the doorway of the Hotel Solamar, just a few blocks from the convention center.

“The federal government says it’s a motorcycle,” said a salesman, trying to make a glamour point of the two-passenger vehicle’s exceedingly compact nature. (A rider sits behind the driver.)

“Oh,” said one of three young women who were giving the Elio a look. Then they turned and headed back . . . to the convention.
Now that's a tough crowd, sales-wise.


What I was hoping for was the characters of The Big Bang Theory at Comic-Con. I guess we'll have to made do with the actors. Says TVFanatic Matt Richenthal: "The cast of The Big Bang Theory gathers here for a photo at Comic-Con. They were incredibly nice to us at the event."

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