Monday, February 19, 2018

Will The Blue Wave Be Enough To Win Congress On Its Own?


Don't underestimate the power of women to protect the species from Trump and his enablers

Zac Anderson is the political editor of Sarasota County's top newspaper, the Herald-Tribune. After the surprise Democratic win in a special election for an open legislative seat there last week, Anderson took a deep drive into what happened on the ground to swing a red district 12 points away from Trump in just 15 months since the district gave him a credible win against Hillary. What everyone wants to know, of course, is how to make sure this happens in congressional districts-- not just FL-16 and not just Florida-- but across the country. A 12 point swing in November would certainly hand the House back to the Democrats-- and average district swings since Putin put Trump into the White House have been around 20, not 12.

The loser last Tuesday was James Vernon Buchanan, the son of Vern Buchanan, the congressman from the area. Last November Trump beat Hillary in the older Buchanan's congressional district, 53.7% to 43.0%. All things being equal-- an absurd concept-- a 12 point swing would hand the congressional district over to Buchanan's opponent, either Jan Schneider, David Shapiro or Calen Cristiani. Does it matter which one is nominated? How could it not? Florida media always refers to Shapiro as a "serious" candidate; he's raised over a quarter million dollars and appears to be a "moderate." Neither Cristiani nor Schneider (each a progressive from the Bernie wing of the party) had reported any contributions as of December 31, although Schneider has big name ID, having run in the area multiple times. Quality of candidates and their campaigns matter. Anderson felt that had a lot to do-- besides the building wave-- with Good's win over Buchanan's son last week.
Some Democrats were nervous when polls closed Tuesday in the District 72 state House special election and it became clear that Republican Election Day turnout had far outpaced Democratic turnout.

Democrat Margaret Good appeared to have done well in absentee and early voting. Republican James Buchanan’s prospects for victory hinged on a big GOP Election Day push that brought in 8,168 Republican voters, or 2,652 more than Democrats.

Yet Buchanan only won Election Day voting by 110 votes, not nearly enough to offset Good’s big lead in absentee and early voting.

That led political analysts to conclude that a big chunk of Republican voters - and most independent voters-- went for Good.

That-- combined with strong Democratic turnout-- is how Good won a district that went for President Donald Trump in 2016 and has 12,060 more Republicans than Democrats, electrifying her party in the process and bringing national attention to Sarasota as a potential indicator for midterm elections in November.

Tom Eldon, Good’s pollster and a longtime Florida Democratic operative who once lived in Sarasota, said the fact that Good attracted support from Republican and no party affiliation voters in the northern Sarasota County state House district is not unusual. The area is known as a bastion for moderate Republicans.

But garnering enough GOP and NPA support to secure a 7.4 percentage-point victory in a district that went for Trump by 4.4 percentage points-- a 12 point swing-- is astounding, Eldon said.

“Seeing crossover support from Republicans is not uncommon in Sarasota,” Eldon said. “Seeing NPAs vote for the Democrat is not uncommon. Seeing it at this level is remarkable and at that point I think you’re seeing some Trump backlash with that.”

Good also appears to have benefited from unusually high Democratic turnout, especially among women, said Democratic consultant Steve Schale.

“Largely the story in special elections around the country, women were the story here in Sarasota,” Schale, who ran former President Barack Obama’s campaign in Florida in 2008, wrote in a blog post.

Schale said in an interview that there were two key elements to Good’s victory.

“You saw Democrats turn out, particularly women,” he said. “Then the fact that Republicans-- clearly large numbers of Republicans-- voted for her.”

Democrats make up 32 percent of the registered voters in District 72. But 40 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the special election were Democrats. And while Democratic women make up 20 percent of registered voters in the district, they accounted for 24 percent of voters in the special election.

“The Good campaign did a fantastic job in turning out Democrats,” Eldon said. “When you look at the turnout for Democrats, it’s staggering.”

Eldon believes Good appealed to women across party lines as a “highly qualified female candidate” at a time when “you’re having a national conversation on the treatment of women.”

Turnout was up among women in general, not just Democratic women. Voter registration in the district is 54 percent female but 56 percent of the voters in the special election were women.

The voters who show up in lower-profile special elections “do so for for a reason,” Eldon added.

“That’s to send a message,” he said. “A lot of women were voting who typically don’t vote in an election like this. They were fed up and they were taking it out on James Buchanan.”

Republicans also cast a greater share of the ballots in the special election than their share of registered voters in District 72, but they only went up from 42 percent to 46 percent of the electorate.

That’s a sign that Good had a strong field operation that was aggressive in getting Democratic voters to the polls, and that Democrats are more motivated to vote than Republicans.

Good had a full-time staff of eight paid employees and hundreds of volunteers knocking on doors.

“Very early we made a conscious decision to invest in the field organization and that is something you will see in all of our House races this cycle,” said Reggie Cardoza, the director of political operations for Democrats in the Florida House. “The most effective and efficient way to reach a voter is face to face.”

Eldon said the field team put together by Good and the state Democratic Party was so strong it was more reminiscent of a congressional race than a state House race. Good was able to build up a 3,368-vote lead in absentee and in-person early voting. Voters talked about being repeatedly visited by door knockers and receiving a steady stream of flyers, telephone calls and text messages.

“The get-out-the-vote effort and the field in general was just a very strong fundamental campaign execution,” said Sarasota County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Kevin Griffith, who said he knocked on a few hundred doors.

Griffith said many voters he talked to while knocking on doors “were really motivated.”

“I think it’s just the anti-Trump fervor,” he said.

So was Good destined for victory in District 72 because of the national political climate?

Schale said it’s crucial that Democrats recruited a credible candidate. Good is a lawyer with strong community connections. He also credited Good and her team with running an aggressive, disciplined campaign. Good raised more money than Buchanan and was able to do considerable advertising to complement her get- out-the-vote effort. The strength of the campaign caused prominent Democrats to take notice. Good received an endorsement and campaign help from former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Schale believes Good benefited greatly from anti-Trump backlash among Democrats and independents.

“I don’t want to take away from the campaign those guys ran,” he said. “She’s a great candidate, did a great job. There’s a certain level to this that the Democrats ran a real candidate people wanted to vote for; you can’t take that away. But at the same time independents are so open to voting for somebody different.”

Buchanan also struggled to find his footing as a candidate. Members of his own party criticized him for refusing to debate Good until the final stretch of the campaign, and questioned whether he had a compelling message. A last-ditch effort to try and boost GOP turnout by appearing at a rally with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski raised eyebrows among some Republicans.

Eldon said Buchanan focused too much on hot-button national issues such as immigration that didn’t resonate as well in Sarasota.

“The voters down here care about the environment, they care about education, they’re very concerned about climate change and sea level rise and all they heard from James Buchanan was sanctuary cities, sanctuary cities and sanctuary cities,” Eldon said. “It just fell flat.”

The inability of Lewandowski and Trump-style messaging to pull Buchanan across the finish line indicates the backlash to Trump may be a more potent political force than pro-Trump sentiment right now.

It also means the results from Sarasota’s special election could have big ramifications throughout Florida and the nation. Schale ran state House campaigns for Florida Democrats in 2006 when there was a blue wave. He also experienced the GOP backlash in 2010 that saw Republicans do extremely well in such races. He knows what waves feel like, and he knows what districts are good indicators of where the political winds are blowing. For a Democrat to win by such a big margin in a Sarasota County legislative district that has a relatively older, whiter, more GOP-leaning electorate is a very good sign for the party.

“I don’t think you can overstate the significance of it,” he said. “It wasn’t like a squeaker.”
In Florida a 12 point swing in November would-- again all things being equal-- see the end of the congressional careers of Ted Yoho, Dennis Ross, Brian Mast, Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Curbelo and probably Gus Bilirakis, Bill Posey and Francis Rooney.

Around the country, you'd be saying Randy Bryce replace Paul Ryan in southeast Wisconsin, Lisa Brown replacing Cathy McMorris Rodgers in eastern Washington, Lillian Salerno replacing Pete Sessions in Dallas, Derrick Crowe taking a red seat in the Austin/San Antonio corridor seat, Jason Westin replacing John Culberson in Houston, Jess King replacing Lloyd Smucker in Lancaster, PA, Tom Guild replacing Steve Russell in Oklahoma City, DuWayne Gregory replacing Peter King on Long Island, Jenny Marshall replacing Virginia Foxx in North Carolina, Paul Clements replacing Fred Upton in Kalamazoo, Jared Golden replacing Bruce Poliquin in Maine, Austin Frerick replacing David Young in Des Moines and southwest Iowa, Sam Jammal and Doug Applegate filling the abandoned red seats in southern California, Katie Hill beating Steve Knight in Santa Clarita and David Gill replacing Rodney Davis in central Illinois.

Goal ThermometerBut as Dr. Gill mentioned, "We view the November general election as a golden opportunity to move toward real change; given my past performance against the Republican incumbent, we have no doubt that I can defeat him this year. And when I get to Washington, I intend to be a game-changer, using my background as an emergency medicine physician to counter the myths advanced by those who oppose single-payer, and to help lead the charge to the type of health care system that FDR envisioned for us 75 years ago. But first, of course, I have to survive on March 20. And this primary is really a battle for the soul of the Democratic party. I'm taking on establishment-backed candidates who refuse to stand up for single-payer, the Fight for 15, or tuition freedom. I'll be out-spent, but not out-worked: my staff and I, and our passionate volunteers, have knocked on thousands of doors and talked with thousands of voters. And those Democratic voters are done with half-measures, they're done with Republican Lite. They are demanding a shift toward a government focused on ordinary people, and as a lifelong progressive populist, I look forward to being a part of such a seismic shift." Want to help David and the other Blue America candidates win those primaries against establishment candidates? That's what the thermometer just above is for.

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Cape Town Not Alone: The Eleven World Cities Most Likely to Run Out of Drinking Water


As a result of a 20th-century project to drain nearby swamps, water from the Atlantic Ocean began seeping in to the Biscayne Aquifer, Miami's main source of freshwater. Infographic credit: YouTube (source)

by Gaius Publius

One last follow-up to the Cape Town water crisis story. As you may know, the city of Cape Town, South Africa, is experiencing a severe drought that has reduced the region's dams to 30% or less of capacity (with the last 10% unusable). This has forced the local government to declare a Day Zero, described on the city's website as "the day we may have to queue for water."

At the moment, residents are urged to use no more than 50 liters of water per day — about 13 gallons — for all purposes, including drinking, bathing, flushing the toilet, washing dishes, watering plants and gardens, and so on.

If  Day Zero is reached, the water taps will be shut off by the city and water will be strictly rationed. Residents will have to queue for water with their buckets as water is doled out to them. On Day Zero, the ration will be reduced to 25 liters per day. As of this writing, Day Zero is June 4.

The Canary in a Very Large Coal Mine

I've called this a "canary in the coal mine" for other cities around the world, and indeed, for our species' climate prospects in general.

The BBC News website has a helpful list of eleven cities that are closes to the condition of Cape Town, but not quite there yet. Here's that list; Cape Town is just the tip of the iceberg.

• Heading the list — São Paulo, Brazil:
Brazil's financial capital and one of the 10 most populated cities in the world went through a similar ordeal to Cape Town in 2015, when the main reservoir fell below 4% capacity.

At the height of the crisis, the city of over 21.7 million inhabitants had less than 20 days of water supply and police had to escort water trucks to stop looting.

It is thought a drought that affected south-eastern Brazil between 2014 and 2017 was to blame, but a UN mission to São Paulo was critical of the state authorities "lack of proper planning and investments".

The water crisis was deemed "finished" in 2016, but in January 2017 the main reserves were 15% below expected for the period - putting the city's future water supply once again in doubt.
• Next, the tech-fueled city of Bangalore, India:
Local officials in the southern Indian city have been bamboozled by the growth of new property developments following Bangalore's rise as a technological hub and are struggling to manage the city's water and sewage systems.

To make matters worse, the city's antiquated plumbing needs an urgent upheaval; a report by the national government found that the city loses over half of its drinking water to waste.

Like China, India struggles with water pollution and Bangalore is no different: an in-depth inventory of the city's lakes found that 85% had water that could only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling.

Not a single lake had suitable water for drinking or bathing.
The problem in Bangalore is exacerbated by pollution from human waste; India in general is vastly deficient in toilets and a culture of using them.

• A city that may surprise you, a world capital yet, is next on the list — Beijing, China:
The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when people in a determined location receive less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year.

In 2014, each of the more than 20 million inhabitants of Beijing had only 145 cubic metres.

China is home to almost 20% of the world's population but has only 7% of the world's fresh water.

A Columbia University study estimates that the country's reserves declined 13% between 2000 and 2009.

And there's also a pollution problem. Official figures from 2015 showed that 40% of Beijing's surface water was polluted to the point of not being useful even for agriculture or industrial use.
To put those numbers in perspective, 1000 cubic meters per year is about 725 gallons per day per person. That's the break point for the World Bank's definition of "water scarcity."

In Beijing, 20 million inhabitants have about 100 gallons per day, one seventh of the allotment that defines "scarcity."

• Other cities on the list include Cairo (another world capital); Jakarta in Indonesia; Moscow, Istanbul, London and Tokyo (four more world capitals!) ... and Miami.

Miami's Water Troubles

Despite its large annual rainfall, the American city of Miami is especially vulnerable to drinking water shortages. BBC News again:
The US state of Florida is among the five US states most hit by rain every year. However, there is a crisis brewing in its most famous city, Miami.

An early 20th Century project to drain nearby swamps had an unforeseen result; water from the Atlantic Ocean contaminated the Biscayne Aquifer, the city's main source of fresh water.

Although the problem was detected in the 1930s, seawater still leaks in, especially because the American city has experienced faster rates of sea level rise, with water breaching underground defence barriers installed in recent decades.

Neighbouring cities are already struggling. Hallandale Beach, which is just a few miles north of Miami, had to close six of its eight wells due to saltwater intrusion.
Even without the problem of sea level rise, Miami's water supply is vulnerable to its water table, made of porous limestone.

Jeff Goodell, writing in Rolling Stone (emphasis added):
South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won't just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades. [emphasis added]
Limestone, a porous rock, that forms the Miami ridge also forms the floor, the region's water table:
Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. "Imagine Swiss cheese, and you'll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like," says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. "Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here," says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas. "Protecting the city, if it is possible, will require innovative solutions."
Miami has been working since its founding to stave off salt water intrusion into its freshwater aquifer.
[In] the 1950s, people started noticing their drinking water was getting salty. In South Florida, the drinking-water supply comes from a big lake just below the surface known as the Biscayne aquifer. Engineers examined the situation and determined that the combination of draining the swamps and pumping out the aquifer had changed hydrostatic pressure underground and allowed salt water to move into the aquifer. To stop this, the Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District built dozens of these salinity-­control structures at key points on the canals. When they were closed, salty water wasn't able to flow into the canals. But if there was a big storm and intense flooding, the gates could be opened to allow drainage.

That worked pretty well for a time. The gates were engineered so that, when they were closed, the fresh water was about a foot and a half higher than the salt water. This freshwater "head" (as engineers called it) helped keep pressure in the aquifer and kept the salt water at bay.

But in the 50 years since the structures were built, much has changed. For one thing, nearly 80 percent of the fresh water flowing into the Everglades has been diverted, some of it into industrial-­agriculture operations. At the same time, consumption has skyrocketed: The 5.5 million or so people who now live in South Florida consume more than 3 billion gallons of water every day (including industry and agriculture). Almost all of that is pumped out of the aquifer, drawing it down and allowing more and more salt water to move in. At the same time, the sea level is rising (about nine inches since the canals were first dredged), which also helps push more salt water into the aquifer.
Says Jayantha Obeysekera, the chief modeler for the South Florida Water Management District, "Here, you can see the problem. The water is only 10 inches lower on [the saltwater] side than on the [freshwater] canal [side]. When this structure was built in 1960, it was a foot and a half. We are reaching equilibrium."

The engineering to address these problems is expensive. Installing new pumps on the freshwater side of the control structures cost $70 million each. The full cost of protecting Miami from a three-foot sea level rise will be "upward of $20 billion to $30 billion."

One day that cost will be deemed just too much, and Miami will be abandoned to the world without us — along with most of the other cities on the list above.

You can find more on coming water shortages in world cities at the EcoWatch website. Most of these regional problems, if not all of them, will become severe within the next decade. By most estimates, London, for example, will have to find new water sources by 2025. Trump, or Pence, may still be president by then.

Yes, it's happening now. The last generation kicked the can to this generation. It can't be kicked further.


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Conservatives In Congress-- From Both Parties-- Decide To Beat Up On Disabled People


James Langevin (D-RI)

Jim Langevin (D-RI) is kind of a middle of the road Democrat. Generally speaking, he's not a progressive but he's certainly not a Blue Dog. When he was a 16 year old boy scout he was injured in a gun accident which left him paralyzed. He was elected to Congress in 2000, the first quadriplegic to ever serve in Congress. Far right Texas Congressman Ted Poe offered a bill that puts the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice in jeopardy. So Langevin offered an amendment to remove the requirement that a person who claims discrimination must first provide written notice that allows 60 days for an owner to acknowledge receipt of the complaint and 120 days to demonstrate substantial progress in removing the barrier before legal action may be pursued. Basically he was trying to keep the feasibility of law suits for people with disabilities who get illegally discriminated against by businesses.

And sure, the greedy asinine Republicans were almost all gung-ho to pass Poe's bill without Langevin's amendment. So they voted Langevin's amendment down Thursday before heading off for another nice vacation. It failed 188-226. I was happy to see 15 Republicans get in touch with their souls and vote against what Ryan and McCarthy were demanding of them. Most of them are vulnerable Republicans in swing districts or Republicans who have decided to just abandon the whole fucked up Trump-enabling Congress--
Barbara Comstock (VA)
Ryan Costello (PA)
Brian Fitzpatrick (PA)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (PA)
Gregg Harper (MS)
John Katko (NY)
Peter King (NY)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Dave Reichert (WA)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)
Chris Smith (NJ)
Fred Upton (MI)
Kevin Yoder (KS)
The only Republicans who don't fit either category but who voted NO were Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) and Glenn Thompson (PA). Nice-- whatever the motivation. But it didn't help because, as usual, Ryan and McCarthy know exactly which Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party to go to when they need to find some sellouts. These were the Blue Dog and New Dem sell-outs this time, mostly the usual suspects:
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Lou Correa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Bill Foster (New Dem-IL)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Kathleen Rice (New Dem-NY)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog), who Schumer picked to be the next senator from Arizona
Norma Torres (New Dem-CA)
Maybe you don't get why this is a big deal-- and why we need to make sure Blue Dog and New Dem nominees don't get the Democratic nominations anywhere-- so let's turn to... Teen Vogue. They get it. "The bill," wrote S.E. Smith, "which has been introduced and went nowhere before, would change the way that access to public accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is enforced. Disabled people argue this legislation will introduce substantial barriers to accommodations. Proponents say the legislation is necessary to curb so-called 'drive-by' lawsuits that spuriously target businesses for purported ADA violations. Disability rights have been under threat from the Trump administration: Last year’s attacks on health care put disabled people in the crosshairs; proposed changes to Medicaid would radically limit access to needed health care; the Department of Education has rescinded certain guidance on disability and civil rights; and Jeff Sessions suggested, in reference to the opioid crisis, that people can take aspirin."
The ADA is a landmark piece of bipartisan legislation that affirms and protects the civil rights of disabled people. H.R. 620 specifically takes on Title III, a section that gives disabled people the right to sue public accommodations (like restaurants, hotels, and movie theaters) that don’t comply with the ADA’s accessibility requirements. When you hear “ADA,” you may think of wheelchair users who need ramps, lifts, and accessible bathrooms. But it applies to other disabilities too, as in the case of the complaint against Netflix by the D/deaf and hard of hearing community because the service wasn’t fully captioning its content.

“It's largely up to disabled folks to enforce the ADA by filing lawsuits when businesses violate our civil rights,” disabled attorney Matt Cortland tells Teen Vogue. Historically, the Department of Justice has also mounted suits under the ADA when doing so could expand access for a broad class of people.

Though businesses have been required to provide accommodations for nearly 30 years, they don’t always comply, as social worker Vilissa Thompson tells Teen Vogue. During a layover last year, Thompson entered a supposedly accessible bathroom stall with a door that couldn’t close around her chair. “The attendant who was with me had to stand in front of the door to be a cover of sorts while I had to do my business.”

Disabled people sometimes have to sue for the right to go to the movies, go grocery shopping, or have a fun night out with friends. Some people claim businesses are being plagued by bogus lawsuits filed by disabled people who are greedy for cash. This ignores a couple of things: Filing suit is expensive, and furthermore, ADA suits only entitle disabled people to legal fees and injunctive relief-- addressing the accessibility failure in question. And the legal system already has measures in place to address frivolous lawsuits, up to and including bar action against attorneys who engage in bad faith litigation.
So which shithead candidates are running this year as New Dems and Blue Dogs? Most candidates try to hide it but if you go to the Blue Dog and New Dem websites you get lists of their endorsees. I'm sure if you ask them if they would support the rights of disabled people, 100% of them would say they do. But I guarantee you, if they get into Congress, they'll be leaned on by their corrupt corporate campaign contributors and they'll soon be looking for rationales for living the rest of their professional lives on the Dark Side. That's what being a Blue Dog or a New Dem is all about. Unless you want to sink America into a Trumpazoid swamp, don't support or even vote for any of these:

And below are the New Dems who the Blue Dogs haven't formally endorsed, at least not yet. These days there are basically no substantive differences between the Blue Dogs and the New Dems. Most New Dems are also Blue Dogs and most Blue Dogs also join the New Dems. They should just formally merge and call themselves what they are: the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, bought and paid for by Wall Street.
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)
Greg Stanton (AZ)
Dave Min (CA)
Harley Rouda (CA)
Hans Keirstead (CA)
Lauren Baer (FL)
Jason Crow (CO)
Elissa Slotkin (MI)
Angie Craig (MN)
Dean Phillips (MN)
Mikie Sherrill (NJ)
Susie Lee (NV)
Chrissy Houlahan (PA)
Jana Lynne Sanchez (TX)
Dan Kohl (WI)

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

For President's Day: Teddy Roosevelt, like Lincoln and Eisenhower, was a Republican. All three are in the conversation when it comes to the discussion of who makes the list of our greatest presidents. That alone is a wonder in the world of 2018. They weren't faultless as human beings or as presidents, but they were men with souls and some sense of decency and vision for the future of their country. As such, they would never fit into today's Republican Party.

The full Roosevelt quote reads as follows:
Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, it's riches, its romance.
In today's meme, the first President Roosevelt is talking about the conservation of our natural wonders and our natural parks in patriotic terms; things today's Republicans, led by Señor Trumpanzee and his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, feel should be sold off to the highest bidder for oil or development rights. Republicans view the beauty of natural wonders such as Yosemite and the Grand Canyon as useless obstacles to profits and personal financial gain. Roosevelt saw our wonders as treasures of a different sort, and sources of pride in their own right. Today's republicans are nothing more than parasites that see our national parks as "hosts" to be sucked dry.

If it were possible, I would love to see Señor Trumpanzee locked in a room with Teddy Roosevelt for five minutes.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Worst, Stinkiest Swamp Ever


UK tabloids-- as well as other tabloids-- live to point out the personal ugliness of celebrities and their hideous relationships. Remember when they were being sued for graphic stories about Melania's old days as a high priced call girl from Slovenia or Slovakia? These days they're more into stories about how Melania won't hold hands with her disgusting oafish husband. How British is this?
The frosty exchange was caught on camera as they landed at Palm Beach International Airport to visit survivors in hospital en-route to Mar-a-Lago for the weekend.

This interaction comes just two weeks after Melania was seen storming past her husband as they landed in the same airport on their way to Trump’s golf resort.

Their marriage has been under scrutiny since it was revealed that porn star Stormy Daniels was reportedly paid $130,000 in a settlement before the 2016 election to remain silent about her illicit past with Trump.

Daniels alleged that she had an affair with Trump just months after Melania had given birth to their son, Barron.
On Saturday CNN was along for the ride: Why does Melania stay?. They refer to Ronan Farrow's New Yorker exposé that describes a string of extramarital affairs that Trump had while he was married to Melania, and refers to Trump's use of "clandestine hotel-room meetings, payoffs, and complex legal agreements to keep affairs-- sometimes multiple affairs he carried out simultaneously-- out of the press."
There are plenty of reasons a woman may opt to stay with, or leave, a philandering husband (alleged or otherwise): financial dependency, for the sake of religion, for the sake of the kids, for status. Some of those reasons may apply to Melania.

But also, while men tend to be very territorial about their wives-- and are more distressed by the idea of her with another man-- women tend to be more territorial about a husband's attention and resources.

A woman who benefits from her husband's resources may have a harder time deciding to leave, even if she wants to. Studies show that wives who feel below average satisfaction in their marriage are more likely to leave if they are employed and that women were less likely to leave their breadwinner husbands than women who were the breadwinners themselves. For a woman who is financially reliant on her husband, the alternative to staying may, she imagines, be worse. For a host of reasons, men are less likely to think this way.

So how likely, really, is it that this unusual couple would divorce over all of this-- that Melania wouldn't stay?

Certainly, as First Lady, Melania already has done a lot to distance herself from her husband and create speculation that their 13-year marriage isn't exactly cozy. From the beginning of his presidency, she has been notably absent at important ceremonies, with Trump's daughter Ivanka appearing in her place. For the first five months, she remained at the couple's Manhattan apartment with their son, Barron.

... [I]t's quite possible she's not in a financial position to leave-- at least while ensuring herself the life to which she's become accustomed.

Some in the legal community have speculated that Trump's prenuptial agreement with Melania is likely very tight (he once said that it "made their marriage stronger") and that it's unlikely their prenup changed after he became President, even though the stakes for her staying were raised considerably.
Meanwhile, though, the Trumps seem to have gotten a pass from most of the media on a real Melania-related story, how her friend, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, made many millions of dollars from the poorly attended Trump inauguration, a day most Americans recognized even then as a day of mourning. As Maddow keeps reminding her viewers, Trump's inaugural committee is going to turn into one of the many criminal escapades of the Trump Era. And it paid around $26 million to an event planning company founded by a Melania's pal-- and, according to tax filings released on Thursday, far less than expected to charitable causes.

Trumpanzee crony and Inaugural Committee chairman, Tom Barrack, "had promised that the nonprofit overseeing inauguration events would be careful with its spending and donate remaining funds to charities." It didn't quite work out that way. That's a story yet to be told but the $107 million dollars the committee vacuumed up-- bribes to get on Trump's good side-- "only gave $3 million to hurricane relief efforts. It donated $1.75 million to groups that decorate and maintain the White House and vice president’s home."
Meanwhile, $51 million was split roughly in half between two companies. One of them was WIS Media Partners, a Marina del Rey, California–based firm started in 2016 by Melania Trump’s longtime friend Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a person familiar with the firm told the Times.

Wolkoff became a senior adviser to the first lady’s office after becoming well-known for planning society galas in Manhattan.

...Wolkoff personally got $1.62 million for her labor, an inaugural committee official told the newspaper on the condition of anonymity. Her company also reportedly paid the team used by The Apprentice creator Mark Burnett at the request of the president.
Remember, Burnett possesses lots and lots of behind the scenes tapes of Trump making outlandish racist and sexist assertions far worse than anything revealed on the Access Hollywood tape. Who will investigate the finances of Trump's Inaugural Committee? Only Maddow? It really needs to be looked at very thoroughly.


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Beto O'Rouke vs... Stefano de Stefano?


The Texas general election ballot in November?

Beto O'Rourke, a Democratic congressman from El Paso, hasn't been encouraged to run against Ted Cruz by Chuck Schumer and his DSCC. They haven't targeted Cruz or Texas and O'Rourke's independent way of thinking and anti-PAC stand frighten a Wall Street-owned hack like Schumer. Schumer is far more comfortable with a braindead zombie like Jackie Rosen in Nevada, who will do exactly what she's told by leadership and with another Schumer-like Wall Street droog like Kyrsten Sinema who Schumer picked for Arizona's next senator. The DSCC is all about Rosen and Synema and their stance towards O'Rourke has basically been "Beto? Beto? What's a Beto? Where's Texas? We're busy, leave us alone."

And that seems to have suited O'Rouke just fine. He's busy meeting Texas voters in places Texas Democrats haven't visited since LBJ ran for the Senate. While in Archer City for a town hall yesterday, an older man showed Beto a photo of his father and LBJ right there in Archer City. Why? He said it was the last time a Senate candidate-- from either party-- came to town. And Beto gets that a lot. It's been 40, 50 years since anyone bothered showing up in a lot of places. Beto pledged to visit all 254 counties in Texas, taking no one for granted and writing no one off. This morning he told us he's been to 220 so far. That means visiting places like Weatherford-- where he had between 4 and 500 people--even though it went 82% for Trump. It means visiting the reddest county in Texas (King) because the people of King County and their concerns, views, opinions matter just as much if Beto hopes to represent them. And it means coming back to these places like holding four town halls so far in Tyler and more in Lubbock and returning to Tarrant County each month to be held accountable. But it also means not taking Texans in the Rio Grande Valley for granted. Traditionally, Dems just swing into the valley to get out the vote before election day. Not Beto. He's held a dozen town halls in the Rio Grande Valley-- and importantly, in different locations within it, including Brownsville, Edinburg, Falfurrias, McAllen, Laredo, San Benito... He is not only showing up, but he is learning and taking their stories with him. He is being accountable and answering their questions face to face. No questions screened.

So of course, kissing up to Schumer's banksters and lobbyists isn't what he and his campaign are about. In many ways, he's the opposite of Chuck Schumer. Schumer has taken more money from Wall Street than any other politician-- who hasn't run for president-- in history. So far he's gobbled up $26,735,303 in legalistic bribes from Wall Street, considerably more than either McConnell ($12,276,007) or Paul Ryan ($11,909,105). PAC-happy Ted Cruz has taken $8,965,649 from the financial sector. Beto doesn't take a dime from PACs or special interests, which helps makes the point that he is here to listen to Texans. No one is calling the shots. No pollster, consultant, focus group, party boss... just the people of Texas. Non traditional Democrats respect this because they know he is being genuine, accountable, and they will never have to wonder if he is voting for that check or for the people. People every single time. He doesn't change his message depending on where he is. People in places that aren'y traditionally Democratic love this. They are tired of the BS and the scripted messages and the tip-toeing around tough but important issues. Beto talks about universal healthcare, gun safety, marijuana legalization, public schools, clean energy, women's health and access to reproductive healthcare everywhere he goes. Doesn't matter if it's a "red" county or a "Trump voter." He has a tangible record of bipartisan success to point to. Cruz can't even get along with his own party. People like to see that Beto has written and passed legislation by working with Republicans and by compromising so that the perfect doesn't become the enemy of the good. From the roadtrip with Hurd to  passing a mental healthcare bill  for veterans with Coffman to writing a bill to end the federal prohibition of marijuana with a tea-party Republican, Texans like seeing that Beto won't sit in a corner and hold his breath. 

And there's another Republican in the race. Not many people have ever heard of him-- not even in Texas. Stefano de Stefano has raised $92,506 and spent $78,887 introducing himself to Texas GOP voters in the run-up to the state's primary in just over 2 weeks. This weekend, the Dallas Morning News endorsed de Stefano over Cruz for the March 6 primary.
Texas Republicans have an opportunity in the March 6 primary featuring incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and four Republican opponents to vote for the kind of public leadership that inspires America rather than divides it. A kind of leadership that gives America its best chance to address the very real challenges ahead.

To make the most of the moment, we urge voters to choose Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano over Cruz. Stefano, 37, is an earnest if mostly untested conservative who offers Republicans a way past the bruising style that has characterized Cruz's time in public life.

De Stefano's views on immigration, energy, health care, the economy and social issues are conservative, but less reflexively so. And he is solution-oriented.

Just this week, as the Senate took a rare step toward an open, bipartisan debate over immigration, Cruz stood alone in opposition. Ninety-seven votes in favor. Only Cruz voted no.

De Stefano says he would have voted yes to have the debate, then worked to find a solution that works best for Texas. In explaining his platform, he offers a simple promise: a "return to normalcy."

Our senator has made few allies, even among Republicans in the Senate. He has a thin legislative record to show for it, though he has been more focused since the end of his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. This shift toward productive results enabled him to push for billions in Hurricane Harvey relief for Texas and steer a bipartisan NASA authorization bill to passage. Texas would be well served if it saw more of that work from its junior senator.

But last year's NASA bill is one of just two bills in five years on which he's been the sole sponsor that have become law. By comparison, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, a Republican elected in 2014, has had three times as many.

Cruz's elbows have been so sharp and his disdain for deal-making so pronounced, that he's often stymied his own party's agenda. In 2013, he helped shut down the government to protest the Affordable Care Act. Even fellow GOP senators criticized the effort as grandstanding. Upset over a setback over the Export-Import Bank in 2015, he called the Senate's Republican leader a liar, poisoning prospects for progress.
Goal ThermometerEarly voting in Texas starts February 20, this Tuesday. This morning Beto told us that "The fact that Ted Cruz has not been present in the state, not been accountable to his constituents, and not been committed to working on their behalf is not lost on Texans. Whether it's immediately leaving the state to campaign in all 99 counties of Iowa after being sworn to represent all 254 of Texas, whether it's leaving Texas-- the defining border state-- on the sidelines by being the only senator to vote against starting a discussion on immigration reform, whether it's continuing to try and knock millions of people off their health insurance at a time when we have the highest uninsured rate in the nation, Texans are not only ready to hold him accountable, but they are ready for our state to lead again." That thermometer on the right is for Democrats in tough Senate races this year. Take a look and see if there's anyone in there you'd like to help win in November.

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Up To Bat In March-- Progressives In Texas And Illinois


The first two states with 2018 primaries are Texas-- March 6-- and Illinois-- March 20. The thing is about the Texas primaries is that they're going to, in most cases, lead to primary runoffs on May 22. So we're going to be waiting for another couple of months before we know who the candidates we have going up against Republicans for blue-trending seats in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas, all of which are likely to deny any candidates 50% on March 6. It's a wide open race in west Houston, where award-winning cancer researcher and doctor, Jason Westin, has a bunch of establishment candidates he's competing with, as well as another progressive. He can use some help. Our candidate in Austin/San Antonio, Derrick Crowe, one of the best candidates anywhere in America, is likely to be forced into a runoff with a multimillionaire Republican, Joseph Kopser, pretending-- although not well-- to be a Democrat. Same in Dallas, where our candidate, Lillian Salerno, Obama's deputy undersecretary of rural development for the Department of Agriculture, is facing off against two pretty garden variety establishment big money careerists.

And speaking of Lillian Salerno, tough primary, it's important to remember this is a woman with cutting edge ideas up against careerist hacks whose vision basically sees themselves as seat-holders. Lillian sees sees the ability of government to shake things top-- in a good way. "We need a wholesale, comprehensive, sustainable antitrust policy," she wrote. "We need efforts to protect and preserve the marketplace in all industries across all sectors. We also need to enforce the existing laws on the books."
When it comes to animals, we protect those on the brink or likely to be on the brink of extinction. We do this because history has taught us that regulations must be enforced and immediately kick into place to protect species whose survival is threatened. Habitat is preserved, illegal activities like poaching are prosecuted, and the public rallies for the survival of the species. Just look at the American Bald Eagle: in the 1960’s there were less than 500 nesting bald eagles. Today, there are over 14,000 breeding pairs. It all started when the government banned DDT in the 1970’s. We allowed and demanded the regulators do their job and the bald eagle was saved. That’s why we need a strong antitrust policy-- to save small businesses, family farmers, and independent manufacturers-- to bring them back from the brink of extinction.

I knew first hand as a small business owner and manufacturer that I was an endangered species. After speaking to literally hundreds of rural small businesses in my role as the lead small business official at USDA, I also knew that these folks were an endangered species. You might say, "Lillian, come on, there’s hundreds of thousands of small businesses every day. There’s hundreds of thousands of small farms too." Yet, it’s all about the numbers. You can name almost any sector of the economy and there are almost grotesque concentrations of market power. Here’s a few statistics just in the Agriculture sector:
2 Companies control almost the entire market for milk;
One company dominates the sale of corn and soy seeds and pesticides;
90 percent of all farms are classified as small. Yet, 3 percent of the farms-- the largest farms-- account for almost half of all food production.
When it comes to selling their products; Family farms, small businesses, and independent manufacturers face obstacles every step of the way to market. The massive corporate monopolists have set up an unforgiving obstacle course filled of anticompetitive contracting practices, illegal distribution schemes, and market manipulation.

What is so strange is that we all know this exists. At USDA we tried to help. We encouraged the growth of the small, local family farm. We invested in farmer’s markets and food hubs. We tried to grow the marketplace, preserve the habitat, and ward off the poachers. USDA might be seen as a friend of big agriculture, but the last eight years also saw the rise of the local food movement-- and I am proud to say that we at USDA played a small part in the movement to create more opportunities for the small farmer. But it is not enough.

We need a wholesale, comprehensive, sustainable antitrust policy. As great as the growth of the local food movement has been, it’s really like throwing sand in the wind. We need efforts to protect and preserve the marketplace in all industries across all sectors. We also need to enforce the existing laws on the books. We can’t take much more.

As a business person and as a USDA official anticompetitive contracting practices, illegal distribution schemes, and market manipulation all of these things diminish our potential and cause real hurt and real pain for Americans.
Goal ThermometerThe Illinois primaries later in the month have a more crucial sense of permanence. The candidate with the most votes will face off against the Republican. The race that's gotten the most attention is in IL-03, the Chicagoland district that starts in the southwest part of the city around Bridgeport and the Stockyards, snakes down through though Marquette Manor to Midway, through Palos Hills and to Orland Park, Homer Glen and Lockport just north of Joliet. It's one of those rare races where an excruciatingly bad entrenched incumbent, Blue Dog Dan Lipinski, is being held accountable for the first time. Progressives in the district, in the state and across America have backed Marie Newman, who would make a much-needed and excellent addition to the Illinois congressional delegation.

The Republican in the race, Arthur Jones, an admitted anti-Semite is the former leader of the American Nazi Party. No, not every Republican is a Nazi... but it's funny how they always find a home with the GOP isn't it? Remember Boehner's Nazi buddy in Ohio, Rich Iott? Anyway, whoever wins the March 20 primary-- the Blue Dog Lipinski or progressive Marie Newman-- will be sworn in next January because IL-03 isn't about to elect a Nazi to Congress. The district didn't even vote for Trump. He couldn't even muster 40% against Hillary, who had been defeated in the district primary by Bernie. Polling shows an extremely tight race and it's going to be Marie's field operation that wins this one and sends the DCCC and the Democratic old guard a message that voters are watching what they do and holding the, accountable.

The only other candidate endorsed by Blue America in Illinois is Dr. David Gill in IL-13, a sprawling central Illinois district that meanders southwest from Champaign, Normal and Bloomington down through Decatur and Springfield to suburbs north and east of St. Louis. This was Bernie-country in 2016 and he beat Hillary in the district. And Gill is the candidate who has been working on Bernie issues for as long as Bernie has. He has three big-money establishment primary opponents who will probably split the establishment vote and allow Gill to face off against Davis in November. He definitely needs financial help for his field operation that will be in full swing in the next couple of weeks. Remember, the last time Gill faced off against Republican Rodney Davis, Davis won by just a handful of votes-- 136,596 to 135,309, and that was because left-wing spoiler John Hartman, took 21,319 votes, throwing the election to a crackpot conservative.

"My campaign team and I," David told us, "have worked hard to position myself to succeed in the primary on March 20. Voters here have been very excited about my message of single-payer healthcare, a $15/hour minimum wage, and tuition-free access to public higher education and trade schools

"We view the November general election as a golden opportunity to move toward real change; given my past performance against the Republican incumbent, we have no doubt that I can defeat him this year. And when I get to Washington, I intend to be a game-changer, using my background as an emergency medicine physician to counter the myths advanced by those who oppose single-payer, and to help lead the charge to the type of health care system that FDR envisioned for us 75 years ago.

"But first, of course, I have to survive on March 20. And this primary is really a battle for the soul of the Democratic party. I'm taking on establishment-backed candidates who refuse to stand up for single-payer, the Fight for 15, or tuition freedom. I'll be out-spent, but not out-worked: my staff and I, and our passionate volunteers, have knocked on thousands of doors and talked with thousands of voters. And those Democratic voters are done with half-measures, they're done with Republican Lite. They are demanding a shift toward a government focused on ordinary people, and as a lifelong progressive populist, I look forward to being a part of such a seismic shift."

This week, we want to ask you to consider helping our Texas and Illinois candidates and leave the others for another time-- just this week. Let's make sure the progressives get into the Texas runoffs and into the Illinois general election.

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America's Cabinet-- No Trumpists Need Apply


For those who despair about the future of the Democratic Party when they look at the dysfunction and failure in Congress and the geriatric leadership from a calcified self-serving seniority system that elevates the worst elements of politics-- money and corruptibility over ideas and dynamism-- it's worth looking at a branch of People For The American Way, Young Elected Officials. Last month the group of elected officials under the age of 35 introduced "America's Cabinet," a group of young elected officials that will hold the Trump Administration’s cabinet accountable. They were introduced to the American public at the National Press Club where they offered a positive vision of what our country could be with effective leadership and fresh, innovative solutions to everyday problems.

On the day Señor Trumpanzee read his regime's State of the Union speech, most of the media attention had been focused on the outrage of the day and very little focused on how to actually move our country forward in ways that dramatically-- and positively-- affect people’s lives. PFAW announced that "America’s Cabinet is going beyond simply voicing opposition to the harmful policies coming out of Washington today. They are instead presenting specific reforms and policies that will make this nation one that works for all Americans. Since our launch, cabinet members have held local State of the Union watch parties and have been actively monitoring and responding to policy coming out of the current administration."

So what are the policies America's Cabinet is getting behind? The first one they list is "health security," would "guarantee for all Americans affordable, quality health coverage so they can lead long, enjoyable and productive lives by expanding public health plan options."
Already, 42% of children and 94% of seniors have government coverage. Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and the VA’s health care system are all highly rated by the tens of millions of Americans who use them. At the same time, there is a dissatisfaction with private insurers and a desire for more simplicity, security, and affordability.

We should guarantee that every American can participate in Medicare and Medicaid. Currently, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care plans are private plans delivering services within a government framework. Private plans could also be given access to Medicare provider payment rates at significantly lower costs. Additionally, if we then allow Medicare to negotiate for drug prices the way the VHA does, its massive procurement power could result in paying 80 percent less for brand name drugs, saving as much as $16 billion annually-- and that’s only using the clout of the program’s 57 million beneficiaries it has today. This would also be a shot in the arm for entrepreneurs and small businesses, who provide health-related benefits for their employees.

If we’re not strong, physically and mentally, no other policy idea will matter as we won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. Hospitals and doctors must be accessible, just as we must have the capacity to find cures to diseases and solve other health challenges. Each of us deserves this basic guarantee and our country can’t afford to do otherwise.

We are ready for this. More than 70 percent of Americans somewhat or strongly favor allowing 55- to 64-year-olds to buy into Medicare if they have no other coverage. And, among Republicans, opposition to government health care has dropped nine percentage points since 2013, from 75 percent to 66 percent.
Number one sounds good, right? Here are their 9 other agenda items:

2. Combat sexual harassment and discrimination
Adopt an all hands-on-deck approach across the federal government, ensuring that our government is a safe and fair place for women to work.

3. Manufacturing Moonshot
Help grow small/medium size companies by committing to secure the supply chain here at home for all our defense and adjacent industry needs.

4. Ownership America
Create a path toward home ownership and affordable housing for residents of public housing by partnering with building trades unions to provide quality employment opportunities paired with home loan access.

5. Green Schools for All
Develop a national green schools infrastructure program to build and renovate green schools across the country, feed our students through farm-to-school programs, and create quality local employment opportunities for parents.

6. Employee Voice
Pilot a program that requires companies to include front line employee voices on their board if the company seeks to do business with the government or benefits from public subsidies.

7. Corrections transition
We will reinvent the criminal justice system to focus on rehabilitation rather than retribution by improving prison conditions and investing in professional development to meet the expectations of modern day corrections officers.

8. World Class Infrastructure
By investing in rebuilding our decaying infrastructure and hiring the best trained skilled trades workers to do it alongside a new generation of service recruits, we can get America back on track.

9. Family Re-investment
Promote Universal Family Care to support families with child and eldercare needs and professionalize the care industry so that our loved ones receive quality care.

10. Middle Out Economics
We must reinvent our antiquated labor law system to reflect the changing nature of work, support our democratic values, and promote the freedom of individuals to associate as they choose.

There are 19 officials from 13 states in the cabinet. It sure sounds a lot better than the Trumpanzee cabinet!
“As a nation built by immigrants, we must adhere to immigration policies and tactics for immigration control that recognize the strengths that these individuals bring to our nation,” said Minnesota State Representative Ilhan Omar (Secretary of Homeland Security), who was selected as the Secretary of Homeland Security for America’s Cabinet. “Tearing families apart at our border, holding them in overcrowded detention centers without basic human necessities, and preventing people from entire countries from entering the United States makes our country less safe, not more. I want to use America’s Cabinet as a platform to raise the dialogue around these current dangerous and unconstitutional policies that do not reflect the values of our nation and are un-American.”

“Now more than ever, the American people need new, bold leadership,” said Baltimore City Councilman Brandon Scott (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), who was selected as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. “We need leaders with vision who are working to strengthen families and communities in our urban centers, lifting millions out of poverty by empowering and investing in them to rebuild every aspect of their community. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for America’s Cabinet, I look forward to meeting the American people to listen to their needs and to discuss new bold policy ideas that will improve the lives of all Americans.”

“We must articulate an alternative vision for America to implement policies that correct historic injustices, uphold our democratic rights and expand opportunity for all people.” Said Jane Kim (Attorney General), who is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

“In today’s political climate, it’s so important for young progressive leaders to step up and demand that our country live up to the promise of opportunity and fairness for all,” said Colorado State Senator Dominick Moreno (Secretary of Health and Human Services), who was selected as the Secretary of Health and Human Services for America’s Cabinet. “For that reason, America’s Cabinet seeks to move beyond the politics of opposition and derision by offering bold policy proposals in order to create a government that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

“America is ready for a new generation of leadership, and America's Cabinet is showcasing how young leaders are making a difference across the country right now,” said Michigan State Representative Jon Hoadley (Secretary of Treasury), who was selected as the Secretary of the Treasury for America’s Cabinet. “Starting today-- on day one-- America’s Cabinet is offering real policy solutions to challenges faced by Americans every day, both those we’ve faced for generations and those newly created by the Trump administration.”

"This challenging political era demands dedicated leadership focused on real solutions and real people,” said Wisconsin State Representative David Bowen (Secretary of Labor), who was selected as the Secretary of Labor for America’s Cabinet. “If no one else will, America's Cabinet will meet that demand for the American people. I count it an honor being a part of this group of young elected leaders willing to push against the status quo for the sake of our communities, who deserve more."
These are the cabinet members:

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Will Progressive Education Policy Put Bernie In The White House Next Time?


A week or so ago we looked at an interesting video of Bernie's wife Jane interviewing economist Stephanie Kelton about a paper she and her colleagues had just published on student debt cancellation, likely to be unimportant part of Bernie's 2020 campaign platform. A couple of years ago Gaius posted about Bernie's likely 2020 opponent, Joe Biden and how he has backed bills to make it harder to reduce student debt, let alone cancel it. I can't imagine a Democrat who would be a worse representative of a perspective from the 20th Century... or even the 19th.
Before Biden was rebranded as the kindly, well-liked Vice President, he was a long-serving senator from Delaware, the "senator from MBNA" as he was often called for a number of very good reasons. Delaware is the state that attracted a great many credit card company headquarters by offering little in the way of usury laws-- limits to interest rates that banks could charge their customers. As a result, one of Delaware's most important industries is those who profit from debt-creation.

Being in the consumer debt business, especially student debt and credit card debt, is a license to print money, and protecting that lucrative source of money is the job of Delaware senators like Biden, just as protecting Boeing's access to government money via the Export-Import Bank is the job of senators like Washington's Patty Murray, the so-called "senators from Boeing."

Joe Biden is, and has been for years, a friend and enabler of his state's debt industry.

Biden's political fortunes rose in tandem with the financial industry's. At 29, he won the first of seven elections to the U.S. Senate, rising to chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which vets bankruptcy legislation. On that committee, Biden helped lenders make it more difficult for Americans to reduce debt through bankruptcy-- a trend that experts say encouraged banks to loan more freely with less fear that courts could erase their customers’ repayment obligations. At the same time, with more debtors barred from bankruptcy protections, the average American’s debt load went up by two-thirds over the last 40 years. Today, there is more than $10,000 of personal debt for every person in the country, as compared to roughly $6,000 in the early 1970s.

That increase-- and its attendant interest payments-- have generated huge profits for a financial industry that delivered more than $1.9 million of campaign contributions to Biden over his career, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Biden's a tangent. Public education advocates were cheered-- pleasantly surprised-- when the new governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, a conservative Democrat, dealt a nice strong rebuke to charter school fanatic and Trumpist Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos by appointing Atif Qarni his secretary of education. A Pakistani-American ex-Marine, Qarni was a Prince William County Public Schools educator and, when Northam appointed him to the state's top education slot he was teaching civics and economics, U.S History, and mathematics at Beville Middle School in Dale City.

Qarni: "If we want to build an economy that works better for every family, no matter who you are, no matter where you live, we must begin with the foundation of a world-class education. We can accomplish it if we support our educators and school support professionals, uphold accountability, invest in and expand STEAM curriculum, and make early childhood education a priority."

In the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, an old friend of mine from Athens, Georgia, Bertis Downs, wrote a column for Slate about how Democratic candidates should deal with education policy. He was happy that both Hillary and Bernie had finally started "questioning the efficacy and priority of charter schools in the national dialogue on educating our children" and seemed especially happy that Bernie had proposed a new, "equity-focused approach to funding education." But not happy enough. He wrote that "the candidates’ words don’t seem to resonate with many of the largely untapped public education parents and teachers who are in search of a candidate. Neither candidate really has a grasp on the varied and complex issues that have to be addressed when considering the changes and reforms our schools and children truly need. Let's help their campaigns by outlining the speech that at least one of them ought to give-- and soon:
We know several things about public education. We know it is the road out of poverty for many children. We know many or most of our public schools are doing a fine job of educating our children. But we also know our nation still suffers from generations of neglect, discrimination and underfunding that drive unconscionable disparities in how we educate our privileged and our less affluent children. Clearly, education does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot expect schools or teachers alone to solve the immense problems many of our youngest children face in their home lives. Schools are expected to do more and more in an age when we are making it harder for them to do the basic job of educating their students. It seems that teachers have less control over what and how they teach, yet teachers are blamed more than ever for how their students perform on standardized tests. Is it any wonder we have an impending shortage of teachers? Even those who have long dreamed of being teachers may be hesitant to enter the profession as it is currently defined. Is that really what we want? Is that really what our children deserve?

John Dewey once said, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that we must want for all of the children of the community." Well, under my administration, we will actually govern that way and foster the kinds of schools where we would all be proud to send our children. We all know the factors that make a school great: excellent teachers who are respected, compensated, and supported so they can better teach our children; a rich and varied curriculum that includes the basic academic subjects as well as the arts and physical education; safe and healthy learning environments; the school as a center of community; strong leadership that focuses on enabling educators to collaborate, develop, and improve as they teach; reasonable class sizes; and an active and engaged parent and community presence. These describe some of our best schools-- both public and private. And these are the attributes our policies need to be building and sustaining, not undermining and discouraging. For too long, our policies have created a de facto parallel system-- schools for the Haves and other schools for the Have-nots. We need to shift our thinking and try a different approach-- one that strives to improve opportunities for all of our nation’s children, not just a select few. Put simply, we must redouble our efforts to expand on our schools’ existing strengths, while freeing teachers to teach and addressing the lingering inequality that presents challenges to teachers and administrators.

Thus far, there’s been very little campaign time devoted to public education policy. I guess that’s not surprising given the amount of money and power at stake. Someone recently joked that on the Democratic campaign trail it’s as if children go straight from pre-K to debt-free college, and there’s no such thing as K-12 education in between. Well, I want to change that mistaken perception. I want to address the hard questions, face the obvious challenges, and examine current practices to discern what works and what needs to be expanded. We also have to determine how to equitably allocate our resources strategically to solve problems. And then our nation has to set about the real work to make all our schools work for each of our children.

How do we do that? Well, in recent months, I have been quietly talking with teachers, principals, parents and students. These are the true stakeholders in this debate, after all. Many of these true stakeholders are affiliated with groups like the Network for Public Education, the Badass Teachers Association, Parents Across America, Class Size Matters, Education Opportunity Network, National Education Policy Center, Journey for Justice, FAIRTEST, Save Our Schools, United Opt-Out and the growing movement of student activist groups in many of our major cities. These are grassroots groups with smart, dedicated and hardworking people who believe in the value of public education and work hard every day to strengthen and improve the system.  Groups like these will have a seat at the table in my administration. Together, we will carefully consider the various approaches of Community Schools-- public schools that incorporate social service agencies, local businesses, and health and adult learning resources, to ensure that children and their families have the support they need. These programs have had promising results where implemented, but they have not been fully embraced or built out to their potential. That needs to change. Communities all over America are doing this work-- building communities around and within schools, positively affecting the culture by addressing out-of-school factors that we all know have a major impact on school performance.

I am listening to educators and parents-- the true stakeholders-- and I will put some educators with actual real-world, real-school experience in positions of power in my administration. For a long time now, we have pursued so many of the corporatized policies: test and punish, drill and kill, stack, rank and close. These practices are not helping our children learn. And from my lifelong travels around the country and the globe, I know that no other country uses standardized testing the same way we do. There is a better way-- our teachers and parents know there’s a better way.

This approach will support children and begin to address the socioeconomic factors that pose challenges for our students at home. Let’s try an approach that values educators and supports their efforts to innovate and try new things. And let’s figure out ways to reward schools that look like America, with the rich and sustainable diversity that has long been one of our nation’s essential strengths. Integrated schools are healthier schools. In the wise words of Thurgood Marshall, "...unless our children begin to learn together, there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together."

We say we want good schools for each child. But the policies we have pursued at the federal and most state levels have not produced that result-- not even close. Mine will be the first administration in a long time that not only makes speeches about strengthening and improving our public schools, but actually adopts policies that will strengthen and improve our public schools. To those of you who have said my campaign hasn’t emphasized public education enough: you are right. Admittedly, I am looking at this with new eyes as I consider the education of my own grandchildren. How we educate them, and the millions of peers coming up alongside them, is one of the nation’s greatest responsibilities. I, for one, am ready to do my part.
Alas, neither Hillary nor Bernie ever made that speech. Bernie will have another shot at it in 2 years. I know he plans to emphasize education a lot more strongly in 2020.

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