Friday, June 23, 2017

LEGALIZE BRIBERY, ANYONE?



     This morning, MSNBC displayed a list of the thirteen Republican Senators who drafted Trumpcare and the contributions they’ve received from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries from 2010 thru 2016, a single election cycle for Senators. The numbers were assembled by MapLight.org.

Orrin Hatch: $471,560; Mitch McConnell: $433,400; Rob Portman: $382,400; Pat Toomey: $354,616; Lamar Alexander: $228,100; John Cornyn: $180,050; Cory Gardner: $151,850; John Barasso: $149,750; Mike Enzi: $$146,600; John Thune: $123,400; Mike Lee: $66,750; Ted Cruz: $58,895; Tom Cotton: $28,941.


     Grand Total: $2,776,012.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET RANT



      I’ve spent the past couple of days listening to evaluations of the Georgia 6th special election from pols, pundits and pals. The overall mood has been doom and gloom. I don’t know, maybe there’s something about progressives that makes them enjoy defeat, but my first instinct is to take them by the shoulders (the pals, anyway) and shake them until they open their eyes. Hey, for God’s sake, look at the forest (or, at least, the grove) instead of that damn tree. You’ve been victimized by unrealistic expectations. Again.

     Four special elections have taken place since Trump assumed office, each to replace a Republican Congressman (no Congresswomen, of course) plucked from the House to serve in the Trump administration. All were chosen, in part, because they came from safe districts. Those districts, as it finally turned out, were indeed safe, so there’s no reason to cry about losing, even in Georgia’s supposedly vulnerable 6th district. Nevertheless, we need to take a closer look before we throw up our hands.

       Mike Pompeo was plucked from the 4th District in Kansas to serve as CIA Director. In 2016, he defeated his Democratic challenger by 31%. Trump, at the same time, won the district by 27%. In April, Ron Estes, the Republican, defeated James Thompson by 7%.

     Ryan Zinke was recruited from Montana’s at-large District to head the Department of the Interior. A special election was held on May 23 to replace him. In that election, Greg Gianforte, the Republican, beat Rob Quist, his challenger, by six points. Trump won Montana by 27. Ryan Zinke won Montana’s single Congressional seat by 16 points.

      Mike Mulvaney left South Carolina’s 5th to become Director of Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. In 2016, he defeated his Democratic challenger by 21 percentage points. On June 20 of this year, the Republican nominated to replace him, won by 3.2 percentage points.

       In Georgia’s 6th District we find the tree everyone’s staring at. Don the Con only beat Hillary by a single point in the 6th, so why, my friends ask themselves, couldn’t our nominee for the seat best the Republican candidate? After all, neither was an incumbent and Ossoff had more money than he could count. Both true, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the odious Tom Price won Georgia’s 6th by 23 points with Trump at the head of the ticket. Georgia’s 6th, by the way, has been Republican since 1978. That’s 39 years and nineteen election cycles, in case anyone’s counting.


      Unrealistic expectations lead to painful outcomes. Winning Georgia’s 6th was always a longshot. Ossoff garnered the same percentage of the vote he received in the primary while losing to Handel, shaving 19 points off Price’s margin of victory. When I factor this into the other three results, I’m forced to conclude that the Democrats are nicely set up going into 2018. That’s not to say the Democrats have established a platform of their own. Like Hillary, they seem content to run against Trump and the Republicans. Perhaps they’re afraid to go positive.

Friday, June 16, 2017

PLEASE, ENOUGH WITH THE FORGOTTEN MAJORITY RANT



      Again and again, I read, in liberal publications, that progressives have abandoned the white, working class. Somehow, swollen with vanity and oozing contempt, we’ve relegated this long-suffering population to the sidelines while heaping largess on undeserving black-and-brown city dwellers. Make no mistake, this is Ronald Reagan’s fried-chicken eatin’ welfare queen elevated to basic principle, a starting point from which rejection of the Dems by abandoned whites automatically follows. The basics have been developed in two recent, best-selling books: Arlie Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land, and J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. And it’s clear that many millions of white voters, rural and suburban, embrace this belief. You can listen to them every morning on C-Span’s call-in show, National Journal.

      In a poll taken in November of 2015 by the Public Opinion Religious Research Institute, 64% of Republican responders claimed that white people are the real victims of racism in America. While supremely unworthy minorities, whose poverty results entirely from a character flaw, get everything they need from the government, self-reliant and patriotic white folk are entirely shut out. They’re forgotten, neglected, abandoned, discarded, forsaken and dismissed.

     I tell ya, boys and girls, their sad tale brings tears to my eyes. Or it would if it bore some resemblance to the truth, which it does not.


     Let’s take a look at West Virginia. Why, you ask? Because West Virginia is more than 95% white, so the State’s poverty rate (now that the Kenyan, Barack Obama, is out of office) cannot be blamed on “them”.

      Although some slight variations in the various estimates exist, the State of West Virginia receives an astounding $2.34 from Washington for every $1.00 it sends to Washington. This according to data collected by WalletHub and confirmed by The Atlantic and Mother Jones. New York, by contrast, receives $0.73 for every dollar sent to the feds. A review of all states reveals the same pattern, with richer blue states providing support to needier red states. Mississippi, for example, receives more than $3.00 for every dollar it sends, while South Carolina, king of the takers, receives almost $9.00 for every dollar in federal taxes collected from the state.

      Without doubt, the 2008 recession caused great pain across the entire country. But relief did not flow evenly along the political spectrum. So, I urge West Virginians to answer the following questions. Not in a public setting, but some evening when you’re sitting alone, when there’s nobody watching, nobody to check on your personal orthodoxy.

      Here goes.

      Which party fought to extend unemployment benefits during the recession and which party made every attempt to cut them off?

      Which party fought to increase funding for the SNAP (food stamp) program, and which to cut funding? Please note that 18% of West Virginians receive food stamps. That’s more than one-in-six.

      Which party fought to pass the Affordable Care Act, which extended Medicaid benefits to 175,000, previously-uninsured West Virginians and which party is right now enacting legislation to take that insurance away?

      Which party fought to pass a stimulus bill which sent $1,400,000,000 to West Virginia and which party voted unanimously against any stimulus?

     Which party is currently trying to pass a living-wage bill and which party continues to oppose any increase in the minimum wage?

     Which party passed legislation to aide homeowners about to lose their homes and which party voted unanimously against any attempt to assist?

      Which party passed legislation designed to prevent a future bank collapse and which party opposed that legislation?

      Which party wants to provide free college tuition, at least for the first two years, and which party wants to cut Pell grants and increase interest on student loans?

      White, working-class men and women (along with white Southerners, African-Americans and progressives) were critical elements of a New Deal Coalition organized by a Harvard-educated billionaire from New York. This coalition prevailed for the next thirty years, but has since fallen apart. Can it be put back together? In my opinion, not by any positive act on the part of the Democratic Party. We wrote the most progressive platform in the party’s history in 2016. Very few people, and certainly not Trump voters from West Virginia, even noticed. True, Bernie caught their attention when he railed against trade pacts, but Trump easily matched him, adding misogyny, racism, xenophobia and a willingness to turn every river in American into a sewer.

      Trump won, by the way.


      Night before last, Virginians held gubernatorial primaries for both parties. The Democratic turned out 540,000 voters, the Republicans 360,000. MSNBC called on Larry Sabato to analyze this discrepancy. A former Republican pollster, Sabato now heads the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Republican moderates, Sabato declared without hesitation, are deserting the party in droves. Trumpians (his word) now form the party’s base, not only in Virginia but around the country. These Trumpian diehards, it should be noted, are the very folk the Sanders wing of the Democratic Party hopes to reach.


      Face it, the Democratic Party has become, by default, the mainstream party. The Radical Republicans are the ones out of touch. We need to make this point, and continue to make it at every opportunity. As for those white, working-class voters in West Virginia? They won’t come back until Republican policies finally drive them back. But Republican moderates? Well-educated and well-off for the most part, they appreciate stability and are drawn to the center. Democrats occupy that center, whether they know it or not. Whether they like it or not. The real issue is whether or not they choose to exploit this advantage.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

HOPELESS AND HELPLESS RANT



      Let’s start with a timeline.

      September, 2015: The FBI first contacts the Democratic National Committee with the bad news. The DNC’s computers have already been penetrated and the threat is ongoing.

      July 10, 2016: Seth Rich is murdered on his way home from a DC bar at four in the morning. At the time, Rich is employed as a DNC staffer, his job to help voters find their polling places. No arrests have been made as of this writing, and no suspects developed. However, because Rich’s hands were bruised and he had cuts to his face, police believe Rich was killed by an armed robber when he refused to submit.

      August 8, 2016: Roger Stone, longtime Trump adviser, tweets that Rich was on the way to meet with the FBI (at four o’clock in the morning) when he was murdered. The motive? He was about to offer testimony against the Clintons. “Four More Bodies In The Clintons Wake,” Stone writes. “Coincidence. I think not.”

     August 9, 2016: WikiLeaks offers a $20,000 reward for info leading to an arrest.

     August 9, 2016: WND (worldnetdaily) publishes the story. “Three people (including Rich) with tangential connections to Bill and Hillary Clinton have died in unusual circumstances over the past few weeks, sparking a renewed interest in the so-called `body count’ of people who allegedly got in the way of the Clinton machine.”

      August 10: TheBlaze publishes a story claiming that Julian Assange is “suggesting” that Rich might have ties to WikiLeaks.

      May 15, 2017: Ten months after the murder, Rod Wheeler, a D.C. homicide cop turned private eye who regularly appears on Fox News, declares that a source within the FBI has told him that Seth Rich, not Russian hackers, supplied the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks. As a staffer, Rich was able to copy the emails to a compact disc, then easily smuggle the disc out of DNC headquarters. The FBI, still investigating according to Wheeler, has taken possession of Rich’s laptop and is now examining the contents.

     May 16, 2017: Malia Zimmerman publishes a story on the Fox News website claiming that an anonymous investigator inside the FBI has confirmed Wheeler’s story.

     May 19, 2017: Kim Dotcom, a New Zealand-based hustler facing extradition to the United States for computer-related crimes, proclaims that he can prove Seth Rich was in contact with WikiLeaks. Dotcom promises to release this proof in the near future.


      It should be noted that no reputable news outlet runs a story based on a single anonymous source. Information supplied by anonymous sources must be confirmed by an independent source before publication. Both Wheeler’s declaration and the Zimmerman story were single-sourced.

      The political right in our country, of course, generally avoids the verification issue, fake news being fake news. Thus, the usual suspects promote the various claims, including the one about the Clintons pulling off multiple assassinations: TheBlaze, worldnetdaily, Townhall, Matt Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, ZeroHedge and many others. More insidious are the contributions by Fox News and local Fox outlets because they give a blatant lie the aura of legitimacy. If the most popular news outlet in the country is running a story, there must be some truth to it. I mean, they couldn’t just make it up? Wouldn’t somebody sue them?

     Consider this from Melanie Alnwick on DC’s Fox 5: “This is really jaw dropping developments here. Now, Seth Rich worked as the voter-expansuion data director here at DNC headquarters. And there are a number of let’s call them intriguing things about his murder a month ago. Now you add this interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that had really thrown gasoline on all these internet theories.”

      Consider this from Steve Doocy, co-host on Fox and Friends: “Now WikiLeaks is offering a $20,000 reward and some on the internet are suggesting, wait a minute, was Rich the source of the leaks?”

      The worst comes from Sean Hannity. He repeats the various assertions, especially Dotcom’s. Hannity also interviews Assange, who refuses, naturally, to name his source, yet insists that the leaked emails might have come from a DNC staffer. This seems perfectly credible to Hannity although he’s previously accused Assange of “waging war against the United States”. Then, on May 17, one day after Wheeler’s claim, Hannity repeats Wheeler’s story without developing a source of his own. He follows up twice more with the most egregious charges. Did a close friend of the Clintons have Seth Rich killed?

      The story quickly falls apart when Wheeler backs off his claim, Fox News takes down Malia Zimmerman’s story, Zimmerman makes herself unavailable for comment and Dotcom withdraws his accusations. Still, Hannity refuses to quit. And when the Rich family, mother, father and brother, asks him to cease, his response is swift. “I am not backing off asking questions,” he tells his audience of approximately one million on May 19, “even though there’s an effort that nobody talk about Seth Rich.”

      As his ratings surge, Hannity becomes more defiant. Congress must investigate. Democrats are “panicking”. Even after Fox News retracts the Zimmerman story, admitting that it didn’t meet the network’s minimal standards, Hannity persists. “I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.” No, Hannity doesn’t shut up until Media Matters publishes a list of his advertisers. Only then does he decide that sparing the Rich family further pain outweighs the public’s right to know.

     One more thing, The New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post and many other mainstream outlets publish stories debunking the Seth Rich rumors. Their efforts, at least in my opinion, only reinforce the story. If the liberally-biased-media is paying attention, the must be fire somewhere beyond all the smoke.


      Try a small experiment. Do a Google search for “Clinton Body-Count”, then pass a few moments browsing… oh, but you probably don’t want any cookies planted on your computer by the ultra-right websites you uncover. Fortunately, I’m using a VPN, so I’m not worried about being tracked. I can report that there are dozens of sites, including Ann Coulter’s LifeZette, supporting the conviction, held by millions, that Bill and Hillary have been murdering people since 1977. As a typical example, here are three claims made by whatreallyhappened.com. The site lists more than one hundred “murders”.

      1977, Suzanne Coleman, Age 26: “Had affair with Clinton when he was Attorney General of Arkansas. Died of suicide with gunshot wound to the back of her head. Was seven months pregnant at the time of her death. Had told friends it was Bill Clinton’s child.”

      2016, Dr. Sandeep Sherleker, Age 54: Anesthesiologist who “participated in a surgery on June 30 to relieve a blood clot on Hillary Clinton’s brain”. Died: 9/30/2016, Suicide by overdose.

       2016, Former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe: Scheduled to testify about Hilary’s links to Ng Lap Seng , who’d been accused of funneling illegal Chinese donations to Bill Clinton’s reelection fund. Ashe died from a crushed larynx.

      As I said, there are at least 100 names on whatreallyhappened.com’s list. Available to anybody who cares to look. Free for the asking. And just in case some of you out there have been suckered into the equivalency trap – the Dems are just as bad – I spend several hours trying to run down a progressive website riddled with crackpot theories that cross the border into delusional. I couldn’t find one.

      I titled this rant HOPELESS AND HELPLESS because there’s no way to reach conspiracy theorists who blind themselves to any truth. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Tens of millions of Republican voters believe the entire universe – not just the Earth – is 6,500 years old. Just as many millions believe Trump will return prosperity to West Virginia by reviving the coal industry. Denial is a slippery slope. Slide too far down and you’ll never find your way back. No, you’ll find yourself sharing a space with John Hinckley who believed that if he managed to kill Ronald Reagan, Jodie Foster would fall in love with him.


      You’ll find yourself in TrumpWorld.

Friday, June 2, 2017

PLEASE LORD, TAKE ME NOW


       Just heard this on C-SPAN's call-in show, National Journal. Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are taking money from George Soros, who is a socialist and who wants to overthrow our government. The woman caller who made the statement knows this is true because her friend saw it on a website.

      Welcome to TrumpWorld.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TERRORISTS WELCOME RANT



      No serious observer on the right or the left disputes the claim that Saudi Arabia has supplied the religious justification for radial Islamist terrorism in the form of Wahhabism-Salafism. The Saudi's have exported this conservative interpretation of Islam to madrasas throughout the Islamic world and to Islamic communities in the West. Similarly, no serious observer on the right or the left disputes the claim that funding to terrorists, including Isil, has, and continues to, flow from the Gulf states.

      Now that Don the Con, who condemned the bestial nature of Saudi Arabian human rights policies during the campaign, has taken sides with the Sunnis in a dispute between Sunnis and Shiites that's been ongoing for 1400 years, the terrorism plaguing western nations is more or less guaranteed to continue. Obviously.

      Welcome to TrumpWorld.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

SO LONG, IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YA RANT



      OK, so I’m not just getting old, I am old. Which is as good an excuse as any for the nostalgic states of mind that more and more frequently seize my flagging attention. Those without much future are compelled, I suspect, to review the past. After all, there’s a lot more of the latter than the former.

      While my nostalgic ramblings tend to be unfocused for the most part, last night they flew, straight as a laser, to 8:00 PM on November 4, 2008. That’s when the networks declared Barack Obama to be President-elect of the United States. The celebration in New York City, and in many other cities, went on for hours. We were dancin’ in the streets, brothers and sisters, and it’s hard to blame us foolish liberals if we concluded that America had turned a corner, that we’d left behind the segment of our history that declared a black man – or a red man, or a yellow man - to have no rights that a white man was bound to respect.

      The liberals applied a term to this new (and just a few years before unthinkable) state-of-affairs: post-racial. And even as I acknowledged the naivete, I hoped for a union - pragmatic, to be sure - between working people of all descriptions, a return to the New Deal coalition that gave rise to the progressive legislation Americans take for granted. And why not? If Barack Hussein Obama could succeed in North Carolina and Florida, if he could finish within six points in Georgia, anything was possible.

      Though I didn’t know it at the time, even as Barack Obama took the oath of office, Republican leaders were meeting in a DC steak house, the Caucus Room, to devise a party-first-and-to-hell-with-America strategy that would again fan the flames of racial resentment. Paul Ryan attended, as did Eric Cantor, as did Kevin McCarthy, now House Majority Leader. Nine days later, on January 29, Republicans gathered once more, this time at a retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Every single Republican in both houses of Congress had already voted against the stimulus bill by then, despite the worst recession in 70 years.

      The theme at the retreat was party unity. From that day forward, the Republicans would oppose anything and everything, country be damned. Mike Pence stirred the crowd with a clip from Patton, the George C. Scott film: “We’re gonna kick the hell out of him all the time. We’re going to go through him like crap through a goose.”

        Call it a precipitating factor. Obama had to be vilified, to be made into an anti-American other, illegitimate as a pedophile in an orphanage. And no matter how the violent the contortions, no matter how obvious the hypocrisy, the Republican party stayed the course. Take Obamacare. The template for the Affordable Care Act – the individual mandate - originated with the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. The association between Heritage and the concept reaches back to 1989 and the publication of a book, A National Health System for America, by Stuart Butler and Edmund Haislmaier. At the time, conservatives promoted the book’s overall scheme as an acceptable alternative to single payer. The basic idea was endorsed by New Gingrich (as he later admitted), then put into practice by an enthusiastic Mitt Romney. Force adult Americans not covered by their employers to purchase insurance policies, the reasoning went, and costs will drop as the healthy contribute to the insurance pool. Problem solved.

       All that changed when a Democratic Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Republicans, all of whom voted against the legislation, declared the individual mandate to be an affront to the essential liberty that made America the land of the free. The act had to be opposed at every turn as Republicans sought to rescue the nation from a concept they’d created.

       How great a leap is it from this level of hypocrisy to, “Obama is a secret Muslim born in Kenya?” How big a jump to, “Obama wants the terrorists to win?” In a focus group of Trump voters conducted by Frank Luntz in 2016, seven years after the Republicans decided to live by obstruction, only three of twenty-nine participants believed Obama to be a Christian. Just twenty believed he was born in the United States, despite the birth certificate. And according to Luntz, who was not a Trump supporter, the more you challenged this group’s beliefs with evidence, the more those beliefs hardened. Like the one about Obama putting his hand on the Koran before placing it on the Bible when he took the Oath of Office, which the far right enthus-iastically embraces. (In fact, the photo supposedly showing Obama with his hand on the Koran, actually depicts Obama with his hand on a pair of stacked bibles, one formally owned by Martin Luther King, the other by Abraham Lincoln.)

       Think it can’t get worse? Toward the end of the session, Luntz asked the volunteers to sum up their opinion of Obama in a word or phrase. The exchange began with words like “traitor” and “socialist”, but quickly advanced to, “I wouldn’t urinate on him if he was on fire.”

      The kicker was delivered a few minutes later. “When you bend down to the Saudis, take your shoes off, put your hand on the Koran and then the Bible when you’re sworn in? I would not only piss on him if he was on fire, I’d throw gas on him.”

      As Frederick Douglass declared long ago, backlash is the price we pay for progress. But I wouldn’t take that to mean it doesn’t hurt. But there it is. The haters have emerged - encouraged by a debased Republican Party that places power ahead of country - to elect Don the Con (who may, given the Kushner revelations, be an actual traitor). How much time will elapse, do you suppose, before Trump calls his deluded followers into the streets? If you recall he made that threat as the Republican Convention approached, then again toward the end of the campaign.


      Gird your loins for battle, folks. TrumpWorld is upon us.