Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Treason Is A Very Serious Crime-- Way Too Serious For Devin Nunes


Yesterday James Fallows wrote that Señor Trumpanzee's credibility crisis is now front-and-center. He worries about the inevitability of the moment a crisis causes Trump to say "Trust me," and no one can and that's why so many veteran officials have warned about his habit of incessantly telling instantly disprovable lies. "If an administration will lie about facts where the contradictory evidence is in plain sight, how can we possibly believe them on anything else? And that anything else could well involve the most bizarre charges ever lodged against an American president. Soon the whole country will want to know who in the Trump Regime is literally guilty of treason-- and has this particular stinking fish rotted from the head.

Did you watch Spicy Spice on TV claiming authoritatively that "General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign" and that Paul Manafort "played a very limited role for a very limited amount of time?" We're talking about, respectively, Trump's now-fired National Security Advisor and his former campaign manager, the one who probably cut the deal with Putin that in all likelihood won him the election. Oh, you thought Bannon was the top guy at the campaign. Well, after Manafort's relationship with Putin started leaking out, the ghastly Mercer clan put their man Bannon in place but Bannon was in charge for just 83 days... Manafort 144 days. Anyway, watch Spicy trying to weasel out from under the importance of two of the Putinistas inside TrumpWorld. Very Ministry of Truth:

How did Trump even come into contact with Paul Manafort? Well longtime Trump crony Roger Stone-- the Julian Assange and Guccifer2 (GRU) contact person-- had been Manafort’s business partner, so it wouldn't be that much of a stretch to figure the introduction came from there. Trump would have taken right to Manafort, a ruthless and corrupt suck-up to power, just like Trump himself. Right now Trump and Manafort are both still claiming that neither of them was behind the only change the Trump campaign made to the GOP platform at the Republican National Convention, namely to let Putin write the position on Ukraine. Manafort, the scumbag who laundered payments from Putin's Ukrainian puppet into offshore accounts. This morning, the Associated Press blew the Manafort-Putin story sky high. Even Republicans are going to find it harder and harder to keep denying this with a straight face. "Manafort," reported AP, "secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics...The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests."
Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics to benefit the Putin government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work.

"We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success," Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, "will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government."

Manafort's plans were laid out in documents obtained by the AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear.

The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort's ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed.

...Deripaska became one of Russia's wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin's interests. U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 described Deripaska as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis" and "a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin's trips abroad." In response to questions about Manafort's consulting firm, a spokesman for Deripaska in 2008-- at least three years after they began working together-- said Deripaska had never hired the firm. Another Deripaska spokesman in Moscow last week declined to answer AP's questions.

When asked Wednesday about Manafort's work for Deripaska, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, "we do not feel it's appropriate to comment on someone who is not an employee at the White House."

Manafort worked as Trump's unpaid campaign chairman last year from March until August. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert Washington lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine's ruling pro-Russian political party.
Unpaid? No. Unpaid by Trump but not unpaid. Putin picked up that tab as surely as Mercer picked up the tab for Bannon and Kellyanne and the rest. AP makes the point that "the newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to Putin's interests" and that "federal criminal prosecutors became interested in Manafort's activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukraine assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014."
Manafort and his associates remain in Trump's orbit. Manafort told a colleague this year that he continues to speak with Trump by telephone. Manafort's former business partner in eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House on a number of occasions. Gates has since helped plan Trump's inauguration and now runs a nonprofit organization, America First Policies, to back the White House agenda.

Gates, whose name does not appear in the documents, told the AP that he joined Manafort's firm in 2006 and was aware Manafort had a relationship with Deripaska, but he was not aware of the work described in the memos. Gates said his work was focused on domestic U.S. lobbying and political consulting in Ukraine at the time. He said he stopped working for Manafort's firm in March 2016 when he joined Trump's presidential campaign.

Manafort told Deripaska in 2005 that he was pushing policies as part of his work in Ukraine "at the highest levels of the U.S. government-- the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department," according to the documents. He also said he had hired a "leading international law firm with close ties to President Bush to support our client's interests," but he did not identify the firm. Manafort also said he was employing unidentified legal experts for the effort at leading universities and think tanks, including Duke University, New York University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Manafort did not disclose details about the lobbying work to the Justice Department during the period the contract was in place.

Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, people who lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties must provide detailed reports about their actions to the department. Willfully failing to register is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, though the government rarely files criminal charges.

Deripaska owns Basic Element Co., which employs 200,000 people worldwide in the agriculture, aviation, construction, energy, financial services, insurance and manufacturing industries, and he runs one of the world's largest aluminum companies. Forbes estimated his net worth at $5.2 billion. How much Deripaska paid Manafort in total is not clear, but people familiar with the relationship said money transfers to Manafort amounted to tens of millions of dollars and continued through at least 2009. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the secret payments publicly.

In strategy memos, Manafort proposed that Deripaska and Putin would benefit from lobbying Western governments, especially the U.S., to allow oligarchs to keep possession of formerly state-owned assets in Ukraine. He proposed building "long term relationships" with Western journalists and a variety of measures to improve recruitment, communications and financial planning by pro-Russian parties in the region.

Trump was notoriously chummy with his campaign volunteers-- and Putin cutouts

Manafort proposed extending his existing work in eastern Europe to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Georgia, where he pledged to bolster the legitimacy of governments friendly to Putin and undercut anti-Russian figures through political campaigns, nonprofit front groups and media operations.

For the $10 million contract, Manafort did not use his public-facing consulting firm, Davis Manafort. Instead, he used a company, LOAV Ltd., that he had registered in Delaware in 1992. He listed LOAV as having the same address of his lobbying and consulting firms in Alexandria, Virginia. In other records, LOAV's address was listed as Manafort's home, also in Alexandria. Manafort sold the home in July 2015 for $1.4 million. He now owns an apartment in Trump Tower in New York, as well as other properties in Florida and New York.

One strategy memo to Deripaska was written by Manafort and Rick Davis, his business partner at the time. In written responses to the AP, Davis said he did not know that his firm had proposed a plan to covertly promote the interests of the Russian government.

Davis said he believes Manafort used his name without his permission on the strategy memo. "My name was on every piece of stationery used by the company and in every memo prior to 2006. It does not mean I had anything to do with the memo described," Davis said. He took a leave of absence from the firm in late 2006 to work on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Manafort's work with Deripaska continued for years, though they had a falling out laid bare in 2014 in a Cayman Islands bankruptcy court. The billionaire gave Manafort nearly $19 million to invest in a Ukrainian TV company called Black Sea Cable, according to legal filings by Deripaska's representatives. It said that after taking the money, Manafort and his associates stopped responding to Deripaska's queries about how the funds had been used.

Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, Deripaska's representatives openly accused Manafort of fraud and pledged to recover the money from him. After Trump earned the nomination, Deripaska's representatives said they would no longer discuss the case.
Are members of Congress paying attention? Some are. This morning, Ted Lieu issued a statement that the report about "Manafort's secret work to benefit Vladimir Putin’s government is a new explosive revelation in the increasingly disturbing story of the Trump Campaign’s connections to Russia. The revelation that Manafort was paid $10 million by a Russian oligarch to influence politics, corporate dealings and media coverage to benefit Putin is scary enough. Even more ominous is the fact that the Trump White House keeps lying about its ties to Russia. For the good of our Republic, there must be a full accounting of any and all ties between Russia, President Trump, his administration and his associates.  Russia waged an unprecedented, robust, covert effort to alter the outcome of our nation's 2016 election. The importance of fully understanding if Team Trump colluded with Russia cannot be overstated. That’s why Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and I have introduced a House resolution of inquiry that could compel the Trump Administration to publicly disclose information to Congress and the American people. The American people have an absolute right to know the truth about Trump and his team's ties to Russia now." OK, now listen to Dave Gahan on this:

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There's A Referendum On Trump In The Atlanta Suburbs In 27 Days


Yesterday, Ryan Grim penned a piece for HuffPo, While Nobody's Watching, Paul Ryan Is Taking A Sledgehammer To Medcaid's Promise To Seniors. "While the debate over Obamacare repeal focuses on insurance subsidies," he wrote, "coverage equity and tax cuts, a far more radical attempt is quietly underway to end the Medicaid program as we know it. As currently structured, Medicaid guarantees a set of benefits to everybody who qualifies. Most people associate Medicaid with the poor and working class, but historically the program has spent as much or more money on elderly and disabled people who qualify, and use it to pay for things like nursing-home care that Medicare doesn’t cover. The new version of the program would upend this arrangement. It would devolve Medicaid to the states and reimburse them using a predetermined formula that, as the Congressional Budget Office and other experts have concluded, would not actually keep up with the cost of care. As the federal contribution toward Medicaid eroded over time, states could make up the difference on their own or-- more likely-- they could make cuts in who or what the program covers. The federal guarantee would be over, and with it, the Medicaid program as we know it. That’s not an accident. If House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) wanted Medicaid to keep up with the cost of providing coverage to those eligible, there would be an easy way to do it: leave the program as is. But Ryan has been salivating about targeting Medicaid most of his life, he said this week. When he’s speaking with conservative audiences, Ryan is upfront about the goal. 'We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around-- since you and I were drinking at a keg,' he recently told keg-party buddy Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review."

On a meta level, this is obvious to anyone who has followed Ryan's political career. The part that should scare us in Grim's headline is the first part, though: "While Nobody's Watching." Whoever is doing Jon Ossoff's e-mail program should be taken out today-- not tomorrow-- and shot (metaphorically). I've never seen a worse e-mail program in my life-- and for such an outstanding candidate and cause, no less. They send half a dozen message-less annoying e-mails every single day. Like most people, I just gave up a few weeks ago and started deleting them without opening. Ossoff has a compelling message-- I've heard it from him and read it on his website-- but apparently the e-mail consultant is either too thick to have absorbed it or, worse, doesn't want to. Maybe the DCCC is secretly "helping." This does smell a LOT like them. But the people we need to BE watching what Ryan-- as well as Pence, Price, Mulvaney and the Trumpists-- are doing are the voters in the suburbs and small towns in Fulton, Cobb and DeKalb counties due north of Atlanta.

29,329 people in GA-06 are going to lose insurance coverage if TrumpCare is enacted. It's been a very red district ever since Nixon's Southern Strategy kicked in. In 2012 Romney beat Obama in the district 60.8% to 37.5%. Trump did much worse than Romney and Hillary did much better than Obama. He only managed to squeak by with a 48.3-46.8% win. Even Republicans in the district don't like him. In last year's Georgia Republican primary Trump won the state but lost the district. He came in first in Georgia (38.8%), followed by Rubio (24.4%) and Cruz (23.6%). This is how it went in our 3 counties:
Cobb Co.- Rubio- 34.6%, Trump- 31.0%, Cruz- 21.2%
Dekalb Co- Rubio- 41.2%, Trump- 25.2%, Cruz- 15.4%
Fulton Co.- Rubio- 41.6%, Trump- 26.6%,Cruz- 14.6%
GA-06 hasn't become more Trump-friendly in the interim and if Ossoff succeeds in making the special election into a referendum on Trump, he could well win Tom Price's congressional seat. (Round one is April 18 and if Ossoff doesn't win outright, the runoff will be June 20.) So far Ossoff is succeeding. The polls just keep getting better for him. While the multitude of Republicans running for the seat amounts to an incoherent jumble, Ossoff has emerged not just as the top Democrat in the race, but as the top candidate-- by far. This is how the race looks this week:
Jon Ossoff (D)- 40.9%
Karen Handel (R)- 16.1%
Bob Gray (R)- 15.6%
Judson Hill (R)- 9.2%
Dan Moody (R)- 5.1%
Ron Slotin (D)- 2.9%
David Abroms (R)- 1.7%
Bruce LeVell (Trumpist)- 0.6%

And this poll was done by a Republican firm for a right-wing website. Last month the poll showed Ossoff ahead as well, but with 32%. He's making real headway with the voters, while Handel has been trending downward-- drastically so-- as voters have gotten to know her better. In last month's poll she was at 25%. They also polled Trump's job approval in the district:

And they polled the TrumpCare mess. Look who voters in the district are blaming for it:

Goal ThermometerThe Handel and Gray campaigns are now attacking each other on TrumpCare-- savagely. He opposes it from the right-- and has been endorsed by Club for Growth-- while Handel is in lockstep with Paul Ryan, exactly who most GA-06 voters blame for the whole mess. The degree of viciousness between the Handel and Gray camps has increased so precipitously now that it will be hard for the most devoted followers of whomever loses to get behind the Republican who comes in behind Ossoff and has to face him in the June runoff. If you'd like to help Ossoff keep up the momentum and take this race all the way, please consider contributing to his campaign by tapping the ActBlue thermometer at the right. If Ossoff wins this one, dozens of nervous congressional Republicans will head for the hills on the rest of Trump's toxic and destructive legislative agenda. I think we can do this thing.

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I'm Not Ready To Give Up On All The Trump Voters


A group of American students on a Spring Break cruise broke into a chant of "Build the Wall!" off the coast of Cancun. That's not going over real well in the country they're visiting.
This is just one of the many blameworthy behaviors that young spring breakers have shown recently in Cancun and that are described as acts of xenophobia and discrimination against Mexicans within their own country, which is (or should be) totally unacceptable.

...Several Mexican tourists on board the ship expressed their annoyance, but the Americans did not stop at all and continued singing the racist hymn.

This situation is far from being an isolated incident, and it adds to the growing number of complaints from tourism sector workers, who point out that in recent days many Spring Breakers have been offensive, rude and haughty towards Mexican people.
This is what David Leonhardt's OpEd, All the President's Lies, in yesterday's NY Times had to say about their leader, the one who makes this kind of behavior permissible. "The current president of the United States lies. He lies in ways that no American politician ever has before. He has lied about-- among many other things-- Obama’s birthplace, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, ISIS, NATO, military veterans, Mexican immigrants, Muslim immigrants, anti-Semitic attacks, the unemployment rate, the murder rate, the Electoral College, voter fraud and his groping of women."
Trump sets out to deceive people. As he has put it, “I play to people’s fantasies.”

Caveat emptor: When Donald Trump says something happened, it should not change anyone’s estimation of whether the event actually happened. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. His claim doesn’t change the odds.

...Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are.

I want to admit something-- a guilty pleasure. Sometimes I fantasize that in the tuture someone wanting to vote take a lie detector test. "Did you vote for Donald Trump in 2016?" Those who say yes-- or who set off the alarm bells-- can't vote until they complete a basic civics course. I know; it's a horrible thought. It's just a fantasy. That's not who I am. I understand solidarity-- which is why, when when of my oldest friends (the daughter of a communist no less) e-mailed me (from an outdoor cafe in Barcelona) Frank Rich's column , No Sympathy for the Hillbilly. She wrote in her e-mail: "Waste of time for Dems to pursue them... I have been saying no sympathy for them, useless. They should be accountable for their votes." I've known her since 1966 and I'm pretty sure she's of two minds on this, like many of us are. I don't know about solidarity with those spoiled brats on the Cancun cruise chanting "Build the Wall," but... Well, let's look at what Rich had to say first:
Why did white working-class voters reject Hillary Clinton and the Democrats? Why did they fall for a billionaire con man? Why do they hate us?

There were, of course, many other culprits in the election’s outcome. Comey, the Kremlin, the cable-news networks that beamed Trump 24/7, Jill Stein, a Clinton campaign that (among other blunders) ignored frantic on-the-ground pleas for help in Wisconsin and Michigan, and the candidate herself have all come in for deserved public flogging. But the attitude among some liberals toward the actual voters who pulled the trigger on Election Day has been more indulgent, equivocal, and forgiving. Perhaps those white voters without a college degree who preferred Trump by 39 percentage points-- the most lopsided margin in the sector pollsters define as “white working class” since the 1980 Ronald Reagan landslide -- are not “deplorables” who “cling to guns and religion” after all. Perhaps, as Joe Biden enthused, “these are good people, man!” who “aren’t racist” and “aren’t sexist.” Perhaps, as Mark Lilla argued in an influential essay in the New York Times, they were turned off mostly by the Democrats’ identity politics and rightfully felt excluded from Clinton’s stump strategy of name-checking every ethnicity, race, and gender in the party’s coalition except garden-variety whites. Perhaps they should hate us.

While many, if not most, of those in #TheResistance of the Democratic base remain furious at these voters, the party’s political class and the liberal media Establishment are making a concerted effort to convert that rage into empathy. “Democrats Hold Lessons on How to Talk to Real People” was the headline of a Politico account of the postelection retreat of the party’s senators, who had convened in the pointedly un-Brooklyn redoubt of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Democrats must heed the rural white enclaves, repeatedly instructs the former Pennsylvania governor and MSNBC regular Ed Rendell. Nicholas Kristof has pleaded with his readers to understand that “Trump voters are not the enemy,” a theme shared by the anti-Trump conservative David Brooks. “We’re Driving to the Inauguration With a Trump Supporter” was the “Kumbaya”-tinged teaser on the Times' mobile app for a roundup of on-the-ground chronicles of these exotic folk invading Washington. Even before Trump’s victory, commentators were poring through fortuitously timed books like Nancy Isenberg’s sociocultural history White Trash and J. D. Vance’s memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, seeking to comprehend and perhaps find common ground with the Trumpentariat. As measured by book sales and his appeal to much the same NPR-ish audience, Vance has become his people’s explainer-in-chief, the Ta-Nehisi Coates, if you will, of White Lives Matter.

...[I]t’s one thing for the Democratic Party to drain its own swamp of special interests and another for it to waste time and energy chasing unreachable voters in the base of Trump’s electorate. For all her failings, Clinton received 3 million more votes than Trump and lost the Electoral College by the mere 77,744 votes that cost her the previously blue states of Michigan (which she lost by .2 of a percentage point), Wisconsin (.8 point), and Pennsylvania (.7 point). Of the 208 counties in America that voted for Obama twice and tipped to Trump in 2016, more than three-quarters were in states Clinton won anyway (some by a landslide, like New York) or states that have long been solidly red.

The centrist think tank Third Way is focusing on the Rust Belt in a $20 million campaign that its president, a former Clinton White House aide, says will address the question of how “you restore Democrats as a national party that can win everywhere.” Here is one answer that costs nothing: You can’t, and you don’t. The party is a wreck. Post-Obama-Clinton, its most admired national leaders (Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) are of Social Security age. It rules no branch of federal government, holds only 16 governorships, and controls only 14 state legislatures. The Democrats must set priorities. In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.

That makes it all the more a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving “the poorly educated” who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.

...You need not take a liberal’s word for this. The toughest critics of white blue-collar Trump voters are conservatives. Witness Kevin D. Williamson, who skewered “the white working class’s descent into dysfunction” in National Review as Trump was piling up his victories in the GOP primaries last March. Raised in working-class West Texas, Williamson had no interest in emulating the efforts of coastal liberals to scale empathy walls. Instead, he condemns Trump voters for being “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.” He chastises them for embracing victimhood by blaming their plight on “outside forces” like globalization, the Establishment, China, Washington, immigrants-- and “the Man” who “closed the factories down.” He concludes: “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.”

Though some in Williamson’s ideological camp recoiled from his blunt language, he’s no outlier among conservatives. The popular blogger Erick Erickson tweeted last year that “a lot of Trump voters have failed at life and blame others for their own poor decisions.” His and Williamson’s line of attack echoes the conservative sociologist Charles Murray, most recently famous for being shouted down at Middlebury College in Vermont, where some remembered his co-authorship of The Bell Curve, a Clinton-era slab of spurious science positing that racial genetics play a role in limiting blacks’ performance on I.Q. tests. In a 2012 Obama-era sequel titled Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960–2010, Murray switched his focus to whites and reprimanded those in the lower strata for abandoning family values and civic virtues. (This time, the culprit was not the genetic code but the anything-goes social mores wrought by leftist 1960s counterculture.)

...The conservative contempt for Trump voters-- omnipresent among the party’s Establishment until the Election Day results persuaded all but the most adamant NeverTrumpers to fall into line-- would seem to give the Democrats a big opening to win them over. Bemoaning how his blue native state of West Virginia turned red well before Trump beat Clinton by 42 percentage points, the veteran liberal editor and author Charles Peters was hopeful the tide could be reversed with time and, yes, empathy: “If we don’t listen, how can we persuade?” he implored readers of the Times. Those who want to start that listening now can download an “Escape Your Bubble” browser extension to sweep opposing views into their Facebook feeds; both MSNBC and CNN have stepped up their efforts to expose their audiences to Trumpist voices. But getting out of one’s bubble can’t be a one-way proposition. It won’t make any difference if MSNBC viewers hear from the right while Fox News viewers remain locked in their echo chamber. Nor will it matter if hipsters-- or Democratic politicians-- migrate from the Bay Area and Brooklyn to Louisiana and Iowa to listen to white working-class voters if those voters don’t listen back. There’s zero evidence that they will. The dug-in Trump base shows no signs of varying its exclusive diet of right-wing media telling it that anyone who contradicts Trump, Rush, or Breitbart is peddling “fake news.” When Bernie Sanders visits West Virginia to tell his faithful that they are being raped and pillaged by Trump-administration policies that will make the Trump University scam look like amateur hour, he is being covered by MSNBC, not Fox News, whose passing interest in Sanders during primary season was attributable to his attacks on Clinton.

The most insistent message of right-wing media hasn’t changed since the Barry Goldwater era: Government is inherently worthless, if not evil, and those who preach government activism, i.e., liberals and Democrats, are subverting America. Facts on the ground, as Hochschild saw in Louisiana, do nothing to counter this bias. In his definitive recent book on the Rust Belt drug plague, Dreamland, the journalist Sam Quinones observes that “other than addicts and traffickers,” most of the people he encountered in his reporting were government workers. “They were the only ones I saw fighting this scourge,” he writes. “We’ve seen a demonization of government and the exaltation of the free market in America over the previous 30 years. But here was a story where the battle against the free market’s worst effects was taken on mostly by anonymous public employees.” In that category he includes local police, prosecutors, federal agents, coroners, nurses, Centers for Disease Control scientists, judges, state pharmacists, and epidemiologists. Yet even now, Reagan’s old dictum remains gospel on the right (Vance included): “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” In Portsmouth, Ohio, the epicenter of opiate-pill mills and of Quinones’s book, Trump won by a landslide. As he did in Ohio’s Butler County, where Vance grew up and which now ranks eighth among all American counties in the increase in the rate of drug-related deaths between 2004 (when opioid fatalities first spiked) and 2014.

As polls uniformly indicate, nothing that has happened since November 8 has shaken that support. And what are Trump’s voters getting in exchange for their loyalty? For starters, there’s Ryan-Trumpcare, which, on top of its other indignities, eliminates the requirement that Medicaid offer addiction treatment, which over the past two years has increased exponentially in opioid-decimated communities where it is desperately needed. Meanwhile, Trump’s White House circle of billionaires is busily catering to its own constituency, prioritizing tax cuts for the fabulously wealthy while pushing to eliminate rural-development agencies that aid Trump voters.

The go-to explanation for the steadfastness of Trump’s base was formulated by the conservative pundit Salena Zito during the campaign: The press takes Trump “literally but not seriously” while “his supporters take him seriously but not literally.” If this is true, then presumably his base will remain onboard when he fails to deliver literally on his most alluring promises: “insurance for everybody” providing “great health care for a fraction of the price”; the revival of coal mining; a trillion-dollar infrastructure mobilization producing “millions of new jobs” and accompanied by “massive tax relief” for all; and the wall that will shield America from both illegal immigration and the lethal Mexican heroin that has joined OxyContin as the working-class drugs of choice.

There’s no way liberals can counter these voters’ blind faith in a huckster who’s sold them this snake oil. The notion that they can be won over by some sort of new New Deal-- “domestic programs that would benefit everyone (like national health insurance),” as Mark Lilla puts it-- is wishful thinking. These voters are so adamantly opposed to government programs that in some cases they refuse to accept the fact that aid they already receive comes from Washington-- witness the “Keep Government Out of My Medicare!” placards at the early tea-party protests.

Perhaps it’s a smarter idea to just let the GOP own these intractable voters. Liberals looking for a way to empathize with conservatives should endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes-- or in some cases failure to vote-- and live with the election’s consequences. If, as polls tell us, many voters who vilify Obamacare haven’t yet figured out that it’s another name for the Affordable Care Act that’s benefiting them-- or if they do know and still want the Trump alternative-- then let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests. That they will sabotage other needy Americans along with them is unavoidable in any case now-- at least until voters stage an intervention in an election to come.

Trump voters should also be reminded that the elite of the party they’ve put in power is as dismissive of them as Democratic elites can be condescending. “Forget your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap,” Kevin Williamson wrote of the white working class in National Review. “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.” He was only saying in public what other Republicans like Mitt Romney say about the “47 percent” in private when they think only well-heeled donors are listening. Besides, if National Review says that their towns deserve to die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?

So hold the empathy and hold on to the anger. If Trump delivers on his promises to the “poorly educated” despite all indications to the contrary, then good for them. Once again, all the Trump naysayers will be proved wrong. But if his administration crashes into an iceberg, leaving his base trapped in America’s steerage with no lifeboats, those who survive may at last be ready to burst out of their own bubble and listen to an alternative. Or not: Maybe, like Hochschild’s new friends in Louisiana’s oil country, they’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.
I'll pass on--like in refrain from participating in-- Rich's orgy of guilty pleasure. Iowa's first congressional district-- Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo-- went for Obama 56.2% to 42.5% in 2012. Last year it flipped to Trump 48.7% to 45.2%. If TrumpCare passes 44,991 people will lose their health insurance in the district, and their far right multimillionaire congressman, Rod Blum is waving the TrumpCare flag-- but only if Ryan makes it even more restrictive and harmful. This is the last kind of district in the country I would want to abandon to the Republicans, let alone the Trumpists. Of the 20 counties in the district, the population base is in 4 and this 4 decide the elections. Here's how they voted in last year's Iowa Caucuses
Black Hawk Co.- Bernie- 3,647 (52.9%), Trump- 1,360 (23.0%)
Dubuque Co.- Bernie- 2,276 (47.4%), Trump- 1,087 (27.3%)
Linn Co.- Bernie- 6,331 (52.3%), Trump- 2,344 (20.2%)
Marshall Co.- Bernie- 960 (53.4%), Trump- 608 (26.1%)
Yep... Bernie would have won. His message would have won. Hillary was the wrong candidate for this district. And to make it worse, the DCCC forced a sack of garbage on the district as the nominee, a rich, clueless "ex"-Republican named Monica Vernon who, of course, EMILY's List was pushing. And Schumer and the DSCC insisted on another crap corporate pile of shit candidate, Patty Judge. There was no reason for any Democrat-- except a blue zombie-- to vote for either one of them. Sure plenty of people went dot vote against Blum and against Grassley, but the DCCC and DSCC lesser of two evils strategy failed and failed miserably. Judge got wiped out completely, losing the bluest counties in the district. In fact, she only won one small county in the entire state. She was the worst Democratic Senate candidate in a plausible race anywhere in the country and Schumer wouldn't hear of anyone else being the candidate but her. Judge got 23.7% of the vote statewide. She did't even break 40% in Dubuque or Marshall counties. She offered absolutely nothing to any voters other than she an unconvincing assertion that she wasn't as bad as Grassely. Vernon got her ass kicked as well. The wretched GOP extremist was reelected 206,273 (53.9%) to 175,447 (46.1%) primarily because Vernon had nothing to offer anyone in this D+5 district but an EMILY's List cookie. No, I'm not giving up on these people; I'd give up on the Democratic Party first.

Besides, there IS the RedNeckRevolt, which we should all be tuned into: "The history of the white working class is one full of resistance, collectively and individually, against the rich elite that hold power over all of our lives. From massive armed uprisings like the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, to the resistance to coal mining in predominately white rural Appalachia today, white working people have been in conflict with those that uphold predatory economic, political, and social systems. The history of the white working class is also one filled with collaboration with those same rich elite power holders. White working people have played the role of foot soldiers for the political and economic elite, participating in genocide and the enslavement of other peoples, and overall protectors of the ruling class. White working class participation in state and paramilitary organizations and formations like the Ku Klux Klan, the Minutemen, the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Council of Conservative Citizens has undermined the struggle for freedom among all people. It is with these conflicting histories in mind that we hope to incite a movement amongst white working people that works toward the total liberation of all working people, regardless of skin color, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, or any other division that bosses and politicians have used to fragment movements for social, political, and economic freedom."

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I Bet The Senate Never Votes On TrumpCare-- At Least Not This Version The House Takes Up On Thursday


Ted Cruz thought he was going to be president last year-- he really did. And except that he got rolled by a Times Square clown with a jacket filled with fake Rolexes, he nearly won his party's nomination. I guess he came in second. Now he really doesn't want to be the first Texas Republican to lose a reelection bid to a Democrat since James Flanagan may have been beaten by Samuel Maxey, formerly a Confederate Brigadier General, in 1875. So... with El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke breathing down his neck, Cruz has announced he isn't voting for the extremely unpopular Trumpcare bill Paul Ryan, Mike Pence and Tom Price concotted. Sunday he told a Face the Nation audience that he "cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising." He and fellow right-wing anti-healthcare fanatics Rand Paul (KY), who seems offended by the $100 million insurance industry bailout in the bill, Tom Cotton (AR), Steve Daines (MT) and Cruz's only actual Senate friend, Mike Lee (UT) are all committed to voting against the bill because it isn't awful enough for their standards. More mainstream conservatives Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Cory Gardner (CO), Rob Portman (OH), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Dean Heller (NV) and Bill Cassidy (LA) are saying they're ready to vote against the bill because it takes away coverage from too many Americans by rolling back Medicaid expansion.

If the Democrats stick together in their opposition to TrumpCare-- and the most Republican-like of them, Joe Manchin-- has already already said he's a no vote, McConnell can only afford to lose 3 Republicans. That first paragraph counts 11. That's more than 3. But none of them expect there's even going to be a vote in the Senate. That's because it will never make it out of the House. In Senator Cotton's own words on This Week (March 12): As it’s written today, this bill in the House of Representatives cannot pass the Senate. And I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans and it wouldn’t deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans. So, I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote... I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year... And I don’t want to see the House majority put at risk on a bill that is not going to pass the Senate."

A couple of days later, after the devastating CBO report came out, Cotton told far right radio host, crackpot Hugh Hewitt that "There is no three-phase process. There is no three-step plan. That is just political talk. It’s just politicians engaging in spin."

But Ryan says he's going to force a vote on Thursday. He and Trump have been targeting recalcitrant Republicans with negative TV ads and robocalls and threatening them with primaries. Yesterday they offered some weird, amorphous  $75 billion sweetener that I don't know who's going to like. Ryan's got Pete Sessions (his newly vulnerable House Rules Committee chairman tinkering with the bill to make it more acceptable to extremists figuring they can afford to lose a handful of mainstreamers if they can rope in a couple of handfuls of far right sociopaths). My GOP staff contacts in the House say its probably not going to work.

Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows claims his own whip count shows 40 definite no votes. That would kill the bill as long as Ryan doesn't cut a deal with the New Dems and Blue Dogs, which looks unlikely at this point. On public record in opposition as of now:
Justin Amash (MI)
Mark Amodei (NV)
Dave Brat (VA)
Mo Brooks (AL)
Ken Buck (CO)
Warren Davidson (OH)
Charlie Dent (PA)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)
Tom Garrett (VA)
Louie Gohmert (TX)
Paul Gosar (AZ)
Darrell Issa (CA)
Walter Jones (NC)
Jim Jordan (OH)
John Katko (NY)
Steve King (IA)
Raúl Labrador (ID)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Tom MacArthur (NJ)
Thomas Massey (KY)
Mark Meadows (NC)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Mark Sanford (SC)
Daniel Webster (FL)
Rob Wittman (VA)
Ted Yoho (FL)
If they vote for it, as they more or less claim they are going to as of now, these are probably the dozen Republicans most likely to lose their seats in the 2018 midterms just because of this one vote. Most of these Members voted to advance the bill in either the House Ways and Means Committee or the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I expect more than a few of them to panic on Thursday when they stare political mortality in the eyes... and vote against the bill:
Ryan Costello (PA)
Carlos Curbelo (FL)
John Faso (NY)
Bill Johnson (OH)
Jason Lewis (MN)
Patrick Meehan (PA)
David McKinley (WV)
Erik Paulsen (MN)
Tom Reed (NY)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Peter Roskam (IL)
Mimi Walters (CA)
And yes, of course, there is something that could save each and every one of them-- incompetent 2018 DCCC candidate recruitment, something more and more Republican incumbents have come to rely on cycle after cycle. That could, once again, make the lot of them safe no matter what they do. Although not safe from Trump. He was on Capitol Hill today telling Republicans that they'd better vote for TrumpCare or "many of you will lose your seats in 2018." He smilingly threatened Mark Meadows, who he made standup before the whole crowd before dressing him down: "Mark, I'm gonna come after you." Among those who buckled under and raised the white flag today were Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Martha McSally (R-AZ), who polls show will lose her seat if she votes for TrumpCare.

The Undertaker-- GOP Austerity Health Care Act

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Looks Like Renacci Will Be The Ohio Gubernatorial Candidate For The Trump Party-- At Least For Now


Rep. Jim Renacci (R), backstage, shakes hands with some old rocker from the past

John Kasich will be termed out as Ohio governor next year. It looks like 4 well-known Republicans-- ex-Senator Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Secretary of State Jon Husted and, as of yesterday, Congressman Jim Renacci-- and an unknown number of Democrats-- from ex-Congressmembers Betty Sutton and Dennis Kucinich, ex-state Rep. Connie Pillich, Columbus ex-Mayor Michael Coleman and ex-state Sen. Nina Turner to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, state Senate minority leader Joe Schiavoni. Judges Bill O'Neill and Jennifer Brunner and Cincinnati and Dayton Mayors John Cranley and Nan Whaley-- are getting into a free-for-all battle for their parties' nominations.
Renacci, a four-term congressman and former Wadsworth mayor, is positioning himself as an outsider in the mold of President Donald Trump, whose White House victory last year stunned the political establishment. Renacci emphasizes his background as a businessman. He also emphasizes his roots in "a working class, union family" growing up in the Pittsburgh area.

...Renacci, 58, lacks the flashy personality and the wide name-recognition of Trump, who for years starred in a reality TV show that made him a national celebrity. He could benefit, though, from his enthusiastic support for Trump last year at a time when other Ohio Republicans who were loyal to Kasich's unsuccessful presidential bid kept their distance. Rob Scott, a top Ohio operative for the Trump campaign, has signed on to assist Renacci's campaign.

An accountant by trade, Renacci is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. Other business interests have included nursing homes and an Arena Football league franchise.
Hard to imagine Renacci being a viable candidate for governor if he votes-- as he is likely to do on Thursday, having already done so in the House Ways and Means Committee-- for higher health insurance premiums, less coverage and a fat tax break for insurance industry CEOs. As Trump's popularity collapses and buyers' remorse sets in, even among Trump's own voters in places like Ohio-- they like the the Great Lakes to be clean there don't they, even if it is just Lake Erie?-- hard core Trumpists like Renacci are going to find themselves in difficult situations.

When Renacci officially declared yesterday, after fundraisers with his pal Bon Jovi in Columbus and Cleveland, he signaled the start for a battle for his 16th congressional district, a gerrymandered conglomerateion of suburbs drawn to carefully skirt Cleveland, Akron and Canton. Most of the votes in the district come out of Cuyahoga County, although Medina, Stark, Wayne and Summit counties are each almost equally important. Obama lost the district both times--51-47% to McCain and 54-45% to Romney in 2012. Last year OH-16 was decidedly not Hillary country. Trump beat her 56.1% to 39.5%. Renacci, a self-funding multimillionaires who put $752,400 when he ran against Blue Dog incumbent John Boccieri in 2010, faced off against a Berniecrat with no funding, Keith Mundy in November. Renacci raised $2,088,873 to Mundy's $13,081-- and beat him by over 100,000 votes-- 221,495 (65.4%) to 117,296 (34.6%).

One problem though-- no one, on either side of the aisle, thinks Renacci will still be in the gubernatorial race come next December when he actually has to make up his mind to give up his seat in Congress or not. So far no Republicans have been jumping in and the only Democrat seriously talking about it-- Renacci or no Renacci-- is Keith Mundy. There's some talk about the congenital losers who make up the centrist Democratic Party establishment in Ohio recruiting former Parma mayor Dean DePiero, who was too mired in corruption to even run for mayor again but... well, that's the Ohio Democratic Party, which is, after all, the sole explanation for how the Ohio Republican Party is able to do so well.

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Trump Regime Unravelling Some More-- He's Now Officially A Liar. Traitor Next?


Yesterday was another disaster for Team Trump, first and foremost in the House Intelligence Committee, which publicly questioned FBI Director Jim Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers. From the very outset the main takeaways were going to be that Trump and his campaign are being investigated by counter-intelligence for what can only be regarded as treason if it pans out-- connivance with Vladimir Putin to steal the 2016 election and that Trump has lied about Obama wire tapping him.

Republicans on the committee immediately went into panic mode and circled the wagons trying desperately to turn the hearing into something about leaks. As GOP presidential candidate and former CIA employee Evan McMullin put it in a tweet during the hearing, "this is why they can't be trusted to investigate." It was clear to anyone paying attention that one party, the Republicans, was all about party over country. It was ugly. Scott Shane, covering it for the NY Times, noted that the committee usually meets behind closed doors and that this was a fairly rare exception. So now Americans know for sure-- not "fake news"-- that the FBI is and has been since July absolutely investigating "the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts." That was straight from the horse's mouth. He added that the FBI will make "an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."

Both Comey and Rogers-- in strong, prepared statements-- "definitively dismissed" Señor Trumpanzee’s deranged, Adderall-fueled tweets March 4 claiming that he and his campaign had been the target of eavesdropping ordered by former President Obama.
While the two officials hedged their answers on some questions and declined to answer others, they were unequivocal in rebutting Mr. Trump’s claims.

“I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the F.B.I.,” Mr. Comey said. “The Department of Justice has asked me to share with you that the answer is the same for the Department of Justice and all its components. The department has no information that supports those tweets.”

Admiral Rogers was asked about another theory, first floated on Fox News and repeated by Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary: that Mr. Obama had asked the British spy agency, known as G.C.H.Q., to intercept Mr. Trump’s communications.

“I’ve seen nothing on the N.S.A. side that we engaged in any such activity, nor that anyone ever asked us to engage in such activity,” Admiral Rogers said. Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, asked what he made of official British denunciations of the G.C.H.Q. claim as “nonsense and utterly ridiculous.”

“Would you agree?” Mr. Schiff asked.

“Yes, sir,” said Admiral Rogers.
I would have loved to have seen Trump's blood pressure readout at that moment. Yesterday, after the hearing, Carol Shea-Porter was speaking for most Democrats when she called for a nonpartisan, independent investigation of Putin-Gate. "For months, I have voiced deep concerns about coordination between President Trump’s campaign and administration and Russian officials as both a Member of Congress and, before that, as a Presidential Elector. Today’s revelation by Director Comey that the FBI is actively investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia indicates these concerns are well-founded. Director Comey’s testimony today made it clearer than ever that we need an immediate independent investigation to find out the extent to which our democratic process and national security have been compromised."

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Forget About Trump's Mental Illness, He's Causing The Whole Country To Have A Breakdown


Do anxiety levels seem higher among the people you interact with since Trump managed to win the White House? I don' feel more anxious or tense at all, but nearly all of my friends appear to be, particularly my women friends, but men as well. Some literally seem on the verge of nervous breakdowns. And the whole nation-- or at least the part of it that I'm in touch with-- seems obsessed with Trump. It's not just the God damn media; even in restaurants everyone seems to be talking about him and, at least in the restaurants I go to, not in a very celebratory manner.

Even before the his electoral victory, there was quite a few people writing about Trump's impact on the national psyche. Writing for Politico in early October, Gail Sheehy, wrote that America's therapists were worried about Trump's effect on people's mental health, primarily because his campaign was "sowing fear, distress and anger." She wrote how Clinton brought up Trump's effect on American's mental health in a debate that month, pointing to a "Trump effect, an uptick in bullying and distress that teachers are noticing in classrooms as their students are exposed to a candidate who regularly attacks his opponents in bombastic, even threatening terms. The new revelation of Trump’s crude boasts in 2005 about being able to kiss and grope women and 'move on' a married woman 'like a bitch' gave new fuel to the charge that his candidacy might be normalizing aggressive, disparaging talk and behavior." And thousands of therapists say that was more than just a political attack and that they were worrying that it’s something more-- and had been saying so for months.
Over the summer, some 3,000 therapists signed a self-described manifesto declaring Trump’s proclivity for scapegoating, intolerance and blatant sexism a “threat to the well-being of the people we care for” and urging others in the profession to speak out against him. Written and circulated online by University of Minnesota psychologist William J. Doherty, the manifesto enumerated a variety of effects therapists report seeing in their patients: that Trump’s combative and chaotic campaign has stoked feelings of anxiety, fear, shame and helplessness, especially in women, gay people, minority groups and nonwhite immigrants, who feel not just alienated but personally targeted by the candidate’s message.

The manifesto also made a subtler point: that all the attention heaped on Trump is actually making it harder for therapists to do their jobs. Trump’s campaign is legitimizing, even celebrating, a set of personal behaviors that psychotherapists work to reverse every day in their offices: “The tendency to blame ‘others’ in our lives for our personal fears and insecurities, and then battle these ‘others,’ instead of taking the healthier, more difficult path, of self-awareness and self-responsibility,” as Doherty wrote. Trump also “normalizes a kind of hyper-masculinity that is antithetical to the healthy relationships that psychotherapy helps people achieve.” Not to mention that his comments in the 2005 tape, Doherty says, are consistent with the behavior of a “sexual predator.”

...It isn’t enough to defeat Trump the candidate, some signers of Doherty’s manifesto say, and that’s not really the point. They believe they have to fight Trumpism—the emotional pain they say he has already caused. “There is a real and present danger for a national mental health crisis,” Doherty says. “And regardless of the outcome of the election, it will continue to need our attention.”
One survey on behalf of the American Psychological Association, found that 52% of Americans said that the election was their biggest stress trigger and that the outcome of the election would impact their amount of stress directly. And, yes-- as we have suspected-- his win has caused a surge in demand for mental health services, services he quickly moved to defund with Trumpcare and his draconian budget. Many crisis hotlines experienced an increase in calls, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Trevor Project’s suicide hotline for gay youth. Maria Oquendo, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said the organization has also noticed a surge in demand, stretching thin the country’s already-strained mental health resources. "There have been a number of groups targeted in the campaign," she said. "For those groups it’s very frightening to know they are being targeted not just verbally but in other ways-- they are fearing for their livelihood and safety."

After Trump somehow defied the odds and logic and managed-- via the electoral college-- to claim the presidency after losing the vote by almost 3,000,000 people, anecdotal reports of national mental health problems started circulating widely. In early January, the San Jose Mercury News reported that mental health of young Californians had been particularly effected.
Around the country, children and adolescents who are undocumented immigrants or who have undocumented family members, are experiencing a surge in stress, depression and anxiety, according to advocates, educators and mental health providers. The same is true for young people belonging to other groups targeted by threats or hate crimes, including Muslim and transgender youth.

Reports of these mental health concerns remain mostly anecdotal so far. And Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, says it would be too soon to try to quantify the impact of the election on people’s mental health. But he believes the election was “uniquely scarring.” Specifically, he says, members of groups that have been targeted by hateful rhetoric are now uncertain whom they can trust. He lists, among others, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, African-Americans and women and victims of sexual assault.

During his campaign, Donald Trump announced plans to create a Muslim registry and to immediately deport as many as 3 million people upon taking office. A tape recording of his remarks about grabbing women by their genitals was widely reported.

In November, the FBI reported that hate crimes had increased 6 percent in 2015-- during the runup to the presidential election-- compared with the previous year.

In recent weeks, civil rights groups and journalism organizations in California and around the country have reported threatening incidents apparently linked to campaign themes. Among the reports: a Redding high school student who handed out fake “deportation” notices to fellow students, and teachers in Los Angeles and San Jose who told their students that they or their parents would be deported.

Imelda Padilla-Frausto, a mental health researcher at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said studies show that discrimination leads to increased mental disorders. Young children often absorb stress and become depressed, she said; adolescents-- especially boys-- are more likely to act out or abuse drugs or alcohol.

In January, as Trump's anti-healthcare-- and anti-mental healthcare-- visions started coming into focus, The Nation ran a piece by Michelle Chen about a possible coming mental health crisis, especially if Trumpcare is enacted. She wrote that "while the health care–reform debate raged over the last eight years, a quiet progressive victory made lives better for millions of people with surprisingly little controversy-- the simple idea that mental health should be taken as seriously as physical health. That’s because a broad coalition of advocates ensured that the Affordable Care Act included the concept of “mental health parity”-- meaning insurance providers must provide equality in services for mental- and physical-health care. But now the Trump administration threatens to just as stealthily unravel the modest gains in mental-health equity by shredding the ACA, sinking those millions deeper into silent despair. The ACA required both private insurance and state-subsidized Medicaid plans to offer mental health and substance-abuse treatment as an essential benefit-- a core safeguard for parity." Ryan, Pence, Mulvaney and Price have as little interest in that than the do in anything that protects the lives Sandwell being of ordinary people. Mental health is out now.

"In policy debates," she wrote, "mental-health issues have historically been neglected, stigmatized, or criminalized. But today the crisis is bleeding into public life through our politics, as revealed in the despair many voiced during the campaign season about families suffering depression and communities ravaged by heroin addiction. The atmosphere of anxiety was exacerbated by Trump’s own bloviating aggression and bigotry. For millions struggling to heal not only sick bodies but also shattered minds, a depressing political climate is about to trigger a nationwide breakdown."

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Neil Gorsuch-- Enemy Of The People... Literally


Even my twitter polls don't usually result in such unanimity. But let's not kind ourselves, Donald Trump isn't fit to appoint a justice to the Supreme Court. I almost feel sorry for Gorsuch. Almost. But not quite... because I don't feel sorry for corporate whores who seek to make the lives of ordinary American families worse. And that, after all, is exactly what Neil Gorsuch is.

Yesterday, the country was more focused on the drama of the House Intelligence Committee questioning FBI Director Comey and the fireworks that ensued, but yesterday was also the first day of hearings into the suitability of Gorsuch to be confirmed for a lifetime appointment by Donald Trump to the Supreme Court.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley began the hearings by laying out a schedule that would have the committee vote on the nomination in two weeks. Democrats, still fuming that the Senate Republicans refused to even consider the nomination of Merrick Garland, see no reasons to rubber-stamp this controversial nomination the way extremists like Ted Cruz is demanding that they do.

Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the first senator to endorse Bernie Sanders, was also first Senator to stand up and commit to opposing Gorsuch, explaining that "the Republicans stole this seat, which they clearly did. Merkley said he is still eager to hear Gorsuch answer some tough questions:
Trump promised to nominate someone who opposed abortion. Would you overturn Roe v. Wade?
Is money speech? Can Congress regulate campaign fundraising at all?
Do Americans have a right to health care? What about clean air and water? Or education?
Do people have a right to equal protection under our law and protection from discrimination, including visitors like immigrants, Muslims, and LGBT Americans?

The most compelling line of questioning yesterday came from former Rhode Island Attorney General, Sheldon Whitehouse, whose case against Gorsuch is essentially that "a conservative court," as Matt Stoller put it, "a corrupt cog in a political machine." In it's report on the hearings, the NY Times writers were struck with Whitehouse's "blistering attack on the United States Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., listing more than a dozen decisions in which the court had voted 5 to 4 to limit voting rights, increase the role of money in politics and favor business interests. In each, he said, the five Republican appointees were in the majority. It is true the Roberts court has been closely divided along partisan lines. Several studies have also showed that the Roberts court tends to favor business interests. If Judge Gorsuch fills the seat left vacant by Justice Scalia’s death last year, he will return the court to a familiar dynamic, with a five-member majority of conservative justices, all appointed by Republican presidents, and a four-member bloc of liberal justices, all appointed by Democratic presidents."

Gorsuch looks normal, both physically and on paper, qualified even. But he's a monster in normal people clothing, who has a destructive agenda. Would Trump-- I mean Bannon and Pence, of course-- have picked him under any other circumstance? Overturning Roe v Wade, dragging LGBT equality back into the 1950s and pushing Bannon's (and Mercer's) favorite project forward: deconstructed the administrative state, i.e., an agenda for the law of the jungle with no EPA, no FEC, no FCC, no CFPB, no effective regulatory agencies of any kind. Anyone voting in committee to move Gorsuch's nomination towards a vote will be embracing exactly that. Matt Stoller was awed by how forthright in his critique Whitehouse was yesterday. "There’s been a lot of bullshit peddled by the press and by insiders," he wrote, "that Neil Gorsuch can’t be beaten, that Democrats don’t have a message. He’s just so qualified, say the American Bar Association, Obama hack Neil Katyal and [Gorsuch's] former clerks. Essentially this is all coming from BigLaw firms. BigLaw firms--  both on the Democratic and Republican sides--  love a court that rules for their big business clients. He’s so qualified, they argue. Gorsuch is polite, rarely late, and has many leather bound books."
Well Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in his opening statement at the Gorsuch nominating hearings, isn’t having it. Gorsuch, he said, will fight for big corporations versus actual ‘humans’ in every arena possible.

Whitehouse eviscerated Gorsuch as a payoff to a big conservative political machine. The special interests who financed the campaign to put Gorsuch on the court, he said, “obviously think that you will be worth their money”. Beyond that, he points out, John Roberts sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee and lied that he would just be an unbiased umpire calling balls and strikes. Roberts then went on the court and ruled for big business in every case that came before the court which involved big business. “Once burned, twice shy,” said Whitehouse. Gorsuch will join a court that ruled for big business in everything from class actions to labor to jury systems to voting rights. Whitehouse listed a litany of cases and their impacts, with this one as a particular kicker, “Help insulate investment bankers against fraud claims? Why not?”

The special interests that financed this big business takeover of the court is not principled, said Whitehouse, it isn’t intellectual, it is simply a “delivery service” for big business. Gorsuch is highly qualified, Whitehouse noted. But fundamentally Gorsuch is a payoff to the special interest groups that will profit from his rulings.

It’s important to note here that Whitehouse is making a broader claim about the court. His point isn’t just that Gorsuch should be rejected, but that Democrats should have no respect for the legitimacy of the court so long as the court serves a role as a cog in a corrupt big business machine. He’s pointing to a long-term strategy, regardless of whether Gorsuch wins. The Democrats are going to try and strip the court of the powers that it no longer deserves, because the routine bad faith big business friendly rulings that eviscerate our democratic traditions. The court itself has set itself up for this through decades of malevolent ruling to help big business. The American public is losing faith in its rulings, and that faith is in reality the only real power the court has. Most elite lawyers won’t say this, because they don’t want to anger the establishment they depend on for social, political, and financial currency. But they all know it.

Whitehouse is a very smart lawyer. It is a BIG deal to have an elite credentialed legal thinker like Whitehouse saying what we all know, which is that the Supreme Court is at this point an entirely political and anti-democratic chokepoint meant to sustain Republican and big business dominance of American culture.

Now that’s a populist message.

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