Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

The word is that Señor Trumpanzee wants his $30,000,000 penis compensation parade of mighty missile might on Veterans Day. It's the least he can do to sort out the problems of caring for our veterans, so, the least is exactly what he's doing. But, really our vets have nothing to do with it. As always, it's all about Trump. Cadet Bone Spurs doesn't have a caring or patriotic bone in his bloated body.

Maybe Señor Trumpanzee will even invite his crazy brother from another mother, Kim Jong-un. Would it surprise you if they both stood there, together on the Pennsylvania Avenue reviewing stand while the rockets rolled by? I wouldn't be surprised if they got matching haircuts, wore $150 "Trump, The Real Rocket Man" shirts, and announced that their deal includes gold-tipped Trump Towers all over North Korea. What a fine tribute that would be to all our vets who served in the Korean War, eh? Meanwhile, Trump will turn to his new buddy and say, "See, mine's bigger than yours."

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Monday, March 19, 2018

North Dakota-- One Of The Least Likely States To Flip Blue... But Not Totally Impossible


In 2016 North Dakota was one of Trump's strongest states. He beat Hillary 216,794 (62.96%) to 93,758 (27.23%). Libertarian Gary Johnson took 21,434 votes (6.22%). Only West Virginia, Wyoming and Oklahoma were redder. And only New Mexico, where he had once served as governor, gave Johnson a bigger share of its votes than North Dakota. Clinton won just two of North Dakota's 53 counties counties, Sioux and Rolette. 73% of Rolette County and 85% of Sioux County are populated by Native Americans, in fact, all of Sioux County is encompassed by the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The last time North Dakota gave its 3 electoral votes to a Democrat was in 1964, when LBJ beat Goldwater. The state's PVI is R+17, the 5th worst in the country. In North Dakota's caucuses Bernie crushed Hillary 64.2% to 25.6%.

This year, the race that everyone is watching in North Dakota is the Senate race, where the Senate's most conservative Democrat, Heidi Heitkamp will be defending her seat from Republican Kevin Cramer, who is leaving his safe Senate seat to challenge her. The most recent poll (late February), by Republican firm Gravis Marketing, shows a dead-heat, Heitkamp leading 43-40% with 17% undecided. But what about the at-large House race to replace Cramer?

The primary is June 12, but the state party had its convention on Saturday. The main events were to endorse candidates for attorney general and agriculture commissioner. Convention endorsements are important because they come with a guaranteed spot on the June 12 primary ballot and party support that includes access to lists of previous Democratic campaign donors. Endorsements don't protect a candidate from a primary challenge, but they are rare within the Democratic party. And, indeed the 3 Democrats running for Congress had all agreed to withdraw for the endorsed candidate. The candidates were Jamestown state Sen. John Grabinger (assistant minority leader) and former state lawmakers Ben Hanson of Fargo and Mac Schneider of Grand Forks. Schneider won after having just entered the race a couple of weeks ago. He's well-known to state Democrats because he had represented Grand Forks from 2009 until his defeat for re-election in 2016.

The last Democrat North Dakota sent to the House was Earl Pomeroy, a Blue Dog. Schneider used to work for him as a press secretary. Is he a Blue Dog too? Well, when he announced his interest in running, he said he would be "honored to work with President Trump." So I'll guess yes. By the way, Biden was there looking for support for his presidential run from the same kind of establishment Democrats who backed Hillary but saw grassroots voted go overwhelmingly for Bernie. The North Dakota Democratic Party hasn't figured that out yet.

The Republican field includes former GOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong, a state senator from Dickinson, and Tom Campbell, a potato farmer and state senator from Grafton, who has already self-funded $745,000 into his campaign.

UPDATE: And About Tomorrow In Illinois

The above fun and catchy music video highlights some of the stakes, in tomorrow’s Illinois primaries, for #Medicare4All and many other issues, and the role of an unsung villain in whipping for the wants of big money rather than the needs of the American people.

In majority-Democratic IL-03, Nancy Pelosi recently stumbled in allowing public visibility of her support for Dan Lipinski, the anti-ACA, anti-reproductive rights, anti-LGBTQ, anti-DREAMer, anti-#FightFor15, anti-gun control incumbent (originally installed by the local machine through a sneaky late resignation by Lipinski’s father). This money-over-principles support suddenly looks lonely after many other incumbent Democrats took the rare step of endorsing a primary challenger: Marie Newman.

More typical is Illinois’ purple IL-13, where Pelosi has personally avoided visibility while her appointed leadership of the DCCC continues its vendetta, against a longtime leader of the single-payer movement, Dr. David Gill, for continuing to demonstrate that he is a much stronger candidate, than the DCCC’s series of under-performing, donor-focused puppet-candidates, against the vulnerable Republican incumbent.

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It's Not Like Corruption Is Just A Republican Thing-- But It Is SUCH A Republican Thing!


Last week, Vicky Ward wrote the definitive piece on GOP slime machine Nick Ayers, Swamp Thing. It's like a book about an insider that few people know about. Ayers is Mike Pence's brain in the same way Rove was Bush's. He's also very handsome and the first-- of many-- pictures in the piece in the one everyone uses to imply that Pence is an obsessed repressed homosexual. This one:

Ayers in from a poor family and he's worth something like $50 million today-- having never had an honest job in his life. For years people have implied he sold his ass to rich old Republican closet cases. Washington is a city like that but... not $50 million worth. My favorite part of Ward's post is how people like Ward so get rich. I recognized it from my studies of the DCCC staffers.
Astonishingly, when Ayers entered the White House, he didn’t immediately sell his lucrative business, C5 Creative Consulting, as previous administrations would have required. He also obtained a broad waiver permitting him to talk to former clients. His ownership of C5 turned his White House job into a minefield of possible conflicts of interest. As chief of staff to the vice president, Ayers’ duties can include advising Pence on which candidates to support—decisions that can have a huge influence on fundraising and, hence, political advertising. In addition, in his private work for the Pence PAC, he is in a position to steer donor dollars into races where the company could potentially benefit. “That’s staggering,” one seasoned Republican operative told me.

In an environment where ethical scandals are spilling into public view on a near-daily basis, each seemingly more flagrant than the last, no one paid much attention to Nick Ayers’ consulting firm. Ayers himself declined to speak on the record and did not respond to a detailed list of questions for this article. After multiple attempts to clarify the status of Ayers’ business, Pence’s office sent a statement just as this story was going to press to say that his next financial disclosure in May “will reflect” the sale of his company. The White House provided no proof that the sale had occurred.

Waiting for so long into his White House tenure to address the issues posed by his ownership of C5 (and seemingly only under pressure) was a characteristic move from Ayers-- and one strikingly at odds with the plain-spoken virtue that the vice president seeks to project. But, as is clear to those who have followed Ayers’ rapid ascent to the top of his profession, he has made an art form of skillfully navigating the gray areas in electoral politics. And in the process, he has demonstrated that the real danger in our porous, post-Citizens United campaign-finance regime isn’t always what’s illegal, but what’s been made possible.

...No one has ever made a fortune in electoral politics merely by giving sound advice to candidates. The real money is in political advertising. “Everybody sees the media budget as the golden ticket,” said a senior executive at one of the five largest Republican media buying firms.

Even the standard way of doing business is, frankly, dubious. There can be variations on the model, but usually a consultant hired by a campaign or political action committee chooses a creative firm to make its TV ads. The consultant also hires a media buying firm to negotiate with TV stations over distribution. A commission of up to 15 percent of the advertising expense is split in various combinations between the consultant, the creative firm and the media buyer. And this is where the dubiousness comes in: Neither the candidate nor the donors typically have any idea how the split is divided. Often, at the end of the election, the TV station will not have run the exact number of ads the media buyer purchased. So the stations rebate the media buyer, who—in theory—is supposed to return that money to the campaign. But “only the media buyer knows the true amount of the rebate,” said one veteran creative director.

The sheer volume and speed of the transactions can obfuscate a lot of double-dealing. Campaigns are largely forced to trust that the media buyers pay the TV stations the contracted amount for the right ad spots. Two buyers emphasized to me that they pride themselves on returning leftover funds, suggesting that such scrupulousness may be the exception rather than the rule.

It is also not unusual, I was informed by a handful of industry insiders, for the consultant to privately negotiate a fee for bringing the media buyer the business. These sums can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, far outstripping a consultant’s typical monthly retainer of around $15,000 on a gubernatorial or senate race. All of which provides a powerful incentive for the consultant to use the media buyer who will give him the best deal, not the one who will deliver the most effective ads. “That’s what happens a lot,” said one top buyer. Most political campaigns don’t conduct even perfunctory oversight of their spending. “There is no CFO on any campaign,” said the buyer. “There is a treasurer. The treasurer’s job is to make sure that the reports get filed properly at the FEC. That’s it.”

Until about a decade ago, Target Enterprises hardly had a presence in national political advertising. But in his West Coast milieu, David Bienstock was known as a consummate hustler. A flashy figure, he “was the kind of man to carry cash,” said a former colleague who remembers him being visited monthly at his offices by a banker who delivered envelopes of bills. Bienstock, who did not comment for this article, has a taste for lavish real estate. He changes cars often and used to drive a gullwing model with doors that opened upward. The former colleague recalls a framed photo in Target’s hallway of Bienstock standing next to his favored private plane. He’s known as both a charmer and a screamer who sometimes holds court at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, dressed in a black T-shirt and blue jeans. When discussing pitches with colleagues, he talks a lot about “the dangle”—that is, what the client really wants. He might say, “So, the dangle is... ”

In 2009, Bienstock acquired a right-hand man who could help him break into national politics. Adam Stoll, a former Goldman Sachs executive then in his mid-30s, had run New York governor George Pataki’s 2002 reelection campaign. Quiet and preppy, Stoll is Bienstock’s outward opposite. Someone who has worked with him remarked to me that “he probably showers in his suit.” Stoll was also a longtime friend of Ayers, who was then midway through his tenure at the RGA.

The RGA had never used Target before 2009. That year, the firm was hired to work on, among other things, the Virginia gubernatorial race—a “test run” of sorts, said someone involved with discussions between Ayers and Target. But Bienstock and Stoll wanted a much closer relationship with the RGA for 2010. So they invited Ayers and Bennecke to a retreat at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas over the weekend of November 20 to cement a deal. The weekend “has become legend,” said one media consultant. “Nobody could figure out why Nick and Paul would even go anywhere with Bienstock. You’d see why if you met him ... [he] makes my skin crawl.” One of the items on Saturday’s agenda was a talk by Bienstock: “Media Buying: The Inside Story … A View from Behind the Curtain.”

I talked to four people who have heard Target’s pitch. Their experiences were not identical, but two consultants gave very similar accounts of someone at Target proposing the following arrangement: Target would charge the campaign a much lower fee than its competitors. The Target representative would go on to explain that the company would later invoice for an amount that represented a payment for how much the firm had saved the campaign-- with Target determining what the savings had been. This model might be described as “performance-based pay,” said an industry insider. A more accurate term, said one person who listened to the pitch, is “fucking bullshit.” However, most campaigns either lack the expertise to spot the catch in a highly technical pitch or are too focused on winning to closely monitor how their media budgets are spent. “It’s much easier for someone to pull the wool over the eyes of a political client than a consumer client,” said a veteran buyer in both spaces.

Whatever Target’s dangle to Ayers and Bennecke was, it seemed to be persuasive. “David can be very charismatic,” said the former colleague. In 2010, according to IRS filings, Target suddenly became the RGA’s biggest vendor, receiving $31 million for buying ads—about 36 percent of the RGA’s budget. (The next-highest-paid media buyer was Crossroads Media, which got $7 million.) Bennecke and Target did not respond to questions about Target, its business practices and its relationship with the RGA. I asked Haley Barbour why the RGA had chosen to give Target so much of its business. He told me he could “not recall that one firm got an especially large [share] of the media buy.”

Fourteen months into Trump's presidency, the idea that he would fulfill his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” is the stuff of black humor. His failure to sell his real estate business-- while technically legal because the president is exempt from conflict-of-interest statutes-- has cast suspicion over nearly everything he does. It is impossible to tell whether a decision has been motivated by policy or financial self-interest or some combination of the two. This uncertainty undermines public trust in government-- and the dynamic is far from limited to Trump.

Although Ayers had been a valued member of the transition, he was initially reluctant to take an official administration role. People who know him believed he was hesitant because he didn’t want to sell his business. “I was doubtful he was going to give up his financial empire,” mused the Pence ally. Ayers had lobbied unsuccessfully to succeed Reince Priebus as the chairman of the Republican National Committee. (Priebus, according to one source, couldn’t dismiss the chatter about Ayers’ prodigious self-promotion over the years.) After that, Ayers briefly ran Trump’s outside advocacy group, America First Policies. And he remained indispensable to Pence. Last spring, he was flying regularly to D.C. from the exclusive Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, where he has a $2.3 million home, to advise the vice president.

Privately, however, he was less than thrilled with his situation. He had rare behind-the-scenes access to the president and vice president and wasn’t fully utilizing it. A big problem, as he saw it, was that he wasn’t getting paid. He called a political veteran asking if there was some kind of “special purpose vehicle,” such as a 501(c)(4) or PAC, that he could set up so he could at least be reimbursed (it was unclear by whom) for his trips to and from D.C.

After checking around with others, this person told Ayers that the proper way to cover those costs was to go through the RNC. Furthermore, this person added, Ayers could not advise the vice president-- even voluntarily-- while on a business trip paid for by private clients. Ayers, the political veteran recalled, seemed unsatisfied by the conversation.

Within weeks of this exchange, Pence launched a leadership PAC headed by Ayers and another Pence adviser, Marty Obst. A front-page New York Times article would later describe the PAC as the possible vehicle for a “shadow campaign” for the presidency, which would be unheard of so early in a new administration. (Pence called this claim “offensive.”) One of the PAC’s first large expenditures was $50,000 to C5. According to the most recent available records, C5 has received over $110,000 from the Great America Committee, including a payment as late as October. It occurred to the person whom Ayers had approached for advice that perhaps The New York Times had misread the point of the PAC. Ayers “was calling around about a [special purpose vehicle] and then weeks later suddenly there was the PAC. Oh my God: The PAC was the SPV for Ayers,” this person said. (Obst did not respond to a request for comment.)

These ethical questions only became more acute when Ayers finally entered the White House. Ordinarily, someone with a political consultancy would have been expected to divest himself of it to avoid the potential for conflicts of interest. For instance, when Karl Rove became George W. Bush’s senior adviser, he sold his political consulting business on the advice of Richard Painter, then the chief White House ethics lawyer. Rove also went on to sell his stock portfolio. While the sale was processing, he was prohibited from attending any meetings on energy because he owned Enron stock. Separately, Rove got a waiver allowing him to talk to former clients if, for example, there was a government investigation or regulation that directly involved them. By selling his business, Rove had removed the prospect of those conversations being motivated by personal gain.

In contrast, by retaining his business, Ayers created a situation where even the most mundane matters could create the appearance of an improper conflict. Under 18 U.S.C. 208 it is illegal for a government employee to participate in any matters in his official position that could have a direct or predictable effect on his business. A chief of staff to the vice president can be called upon to help make all kinds of decisions that would have implications for a consulting firm looking for work—whom to endorse, whom to welcome into the White House, where to campaign, which event to show up for. “I think it’s a very dangerous situation,” Painter said. “It’s hard to avoid doing something in your official capacity that’s not going to affect [the consultancy].”
If there wasn't already so much crap queueing up to upend the Trump Regime, the obsessive, all-consuming greed of Nick Ayers would be a sure bet to be a defining scandal. Now a lot of stuff like that-- that would have been 5 alarm fires at any time pre-Trump-- is barely noticed. Like Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan has gotten awful rich as a public servant. With all that money sloshing around for corporate donors, it's not to hard to figure out how-- generally speaking. But how about specifically speaking. I never see much about Ryan's crookedness. In 2012 though, Dominic Rushe tackled one aspect of it for The Guardian: Paul Ryan sold shares on same day as private briefing of banking crisis. It may have disappeared down the national memory hole, but that doesn't erase the fact that Ryan profited from a 2008 meeting with Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Hank Paulson , then Secretary of the Treasury, in which officials outlined fears for financial crisis. And when he sold stock in US banks right after that meeting-- on the same day in fact-- (when it was disclosed the banking sector was heading for a deep crisis)...well, that's called insider trading. Right after the meeting Ryan sold stock in banks that we're disclosed as troubled, including Wachovia and Citigroup, and bought shares in Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s old employer and a bank that he had been told was stronger than its rivals. About a week after Ryan sold his shares, Wachovia plunged 39% and was soon absorbed by Wells Fargo for a fraction of its former value. Citigroup’s share price fell soon after the meeting and was among the largest beneficiaries of the the taxpayer-funded bailout that Ryan pushed through Congress. (After the bailout, which was opposed by many Republicans, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo flooded Ryan's campaign apparatus with huge "contributions."

It's our Congress, but they pass their own behavioral rules... and no one ever thought of bringing up criminal charges against Paul Ryan or any of the dozens of any of the other members who have become very wealthy by trading on insider information. Accountability is up to the voters.

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Do You Ever Wonder About The Things We've Done, As A Nation, That Have Made Us Deserve Trump?-- Just Asking For A Friend


A psychologist friend of mine diagnosed Trump last night. Prognosis doesn't sound good-- for us. "Trump’s ego has dissipated and his id has risen to the surface of consciousness. Trump has realized he can do whatever he wants and he is letting his id loose. It is growing and morphing into a lethal andromeda strain. A malicious, gleeful, vindictive, wrecking crew of impulses is on the move." Schumer warned him of "severe consequences" if he shuts down the Mueller investigation. Oh, yeah, that'll stop him. I think it was the Washington Post that hissed from the sidelines that we're a country of laws. Oh, yeah, that's shut him down for sure. Nothing will stop him-- short of American Secret Service martyrs on a level of Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. 30 bullets... wow!

And his Republican enablers-- in Congress and in the media-- have gotten more aggressive... not in the slightest bit outraged. ICE agents haven't been rounding up MS-13 members in California... they're been rounding up just normal folks... IN CALIFORNIA. And no one seems to be able to do anything about it.

Meanwhile one piece of shit from a gerrymandered Virginia district, Trump fellator Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a hideously racist, xenophobic, Trumpist immigration bill, Securing America’s Future Act, which funds the Great Wall of Trump, end the kind of family-based visas that Melania just used to get her family over here, and create a guest worker program that's somewhat better than indentured servitude. Oh, yeah-- and withhold federal funds from "sanctuary cities." Don't ask me why there are Hispanic Republicans but, somehow, Hispanic Republicans-- or some at least-- are giving Goodlatte some pushback.

Goodlatte put together a propaganda event last week to tout all these Hispanic groups that back his bill. But the groups his office said were coming didn't show up and many denounced Goodlatte and his fascist bill, like the Latino Coalition. Omar Franco, from the Latino Coalition-- and former chief of staff for Mario Diaz Balart (R-FL)-- said he opposes the bill. "That bill," he said, "is a sellout to the entire community, we would never support something like that." Goodlatte had promised Rev. Tony Suárez and Rev. Gus Reyes of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Lourdes Aguirre of Eres America, and Danny Vargas, the former chairman of the National Republican Hispanic Assembly would all be there. None of them showed up.

Mario López, head of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a conservative advocacy organization, opposes the bill described the bill as "a piece of shit," the exact same way I described Goodlatte!

With every Democrat in the House opposing it, the bill doesn't have the 218 Republican votes it needs to pass and move on to the Senate and Señor Trumpanzee. Who thinks it will stop Trump's agenda? Who thinks anything will stop Trump's destruction of American norms? Can he get away with shutting down the Mueller investigation? He's going to try... and ta majority of congressional Republicans back him. A majority... most of them. It looks like nearly all of them.

Over the weekend, there was a lot of buzz about Peter Baker's NY Times piece, Trump and the Truth: A President Tests His Own Credibility. Señor T "has made so many claims that stretch the bounds of accuracy," he wrote, "that full-time fact-checkers struggle to keep up. Most Americans long ago concluded that he is dishonest, according to polls. While most presidents lie at times, Trump’s speeches and Twitter posts are embedded with so many false, distorted, misleading or unsubstantiated claims that he has tested even the normally low standards of U.S. politics."
Trump’s presidency has been marked from the start with false or misleading statements, such as his outlandish claims that more people came to his inauguration than any before and that more than 3 million people voted illegally against him, costing him the popular vote. He has gone on to assert that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, a claim that his own Justice Department refuted, and that he would not benefit from his tax-cutting plan.

The lack of fidelity to facts has real-world consequences in both foreign affairs and domestic policymaking. Foreign diplomats and lawmakers of both parties say they do not assume anything he says is necessarily true. In a White House where one aide described the existence of “alternative facts” and another acknowledged telling “white lies,” staff members scramble to defend his claims without putting their own credibility on the line. News organizations debate when to use the word “lie” because it implies intent.

...Advisers say privately that Trump may not always be precise, but is speaking a larger truth that many Americans understand. Flyspecking, tut-tutting critics in the news media, they say, fail to grasp the connection he has with a section of the country that feels profoundly misled by a self-serving establishment. To them, the particular facts do not matter as much as this deeper truth.

...As a businessman, Trump often fabricated or exaggerated to sell a narrative or advance his interests. In his memoir, The Art of the Deal, he called it “truthful hyperbole” or “innocent exaggeration.”

When trying to lure investors to a hotel project, he had bulldozers dig on one side of the site and dump the dirt on the other to give the impression that the project was making progress. He would call reporters and pretend to be a publicity agent for himself named John Barron. He claimed to earn $1 million from a speech when it was $400,000. He claimed to be worth $3.5 billion when seeking a bank loan, four times what the bank eventually found.

“He’s a salesman and that’s not about telling the truth, that’s not the DNA about being a salesman,” said Gwenda Blair, the author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President, a biography of his family. “The DNA of being a salesman is telling people what they want to hear. And he’s got it.”

Jack O’Donnell, who was president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, recalled Trump telling New Jersey authorities that he had secured bank financing for a new casino and would not use junk bonds, only to turn around and then use junk bonds.

“In my experience with him, there are times when he just compulsively lies, and there are times when he strategically lies,” said O’Donnell, who wrote a scathing book about Trump. “In both regards, after he says something, I do think he believes that whatever he says becomes his reality. That’s my experience with him. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but it certainly can be.”

Trump continued his practice as president. The Washington Post’s fact-checker documented more than 2,000 false or misleading claims in Trump’s first year in office, a rate of more than five a day, many of them repeated even after he was corrected.

Polls show that only 35 percent of Americans consider him honest, while 60 percent do not. In their first terms, more than 50 percent considered Bush honest and more than 60 percent considered Obama honest, although those numbers fell for both by their second terms.

Republicans as well as Democrats express concern. Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, has a new book coming out in May called Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us. On the cover is an illustration of Trump with a Pinocchio nose.

Her explanation is that Trump’s supporters do not see deception, they see a commitment to winning. “Donald Trump’s lies and fabrications don’t horrify America,” says the publisher’s summary of her book. “They enthrall us.”
Goal ThermometerWe've all got to keep our eyes on the ball-- the one way to actually slow him down: defeating Republicans in November, as many as possible, and replacing them with courageous Democrats, not wooses. You ready for that? Please consider supporting the progressive Democratic candidates running for the House that you'll find by clicking on the Blue America thermometer on the right. There is virtually no other way to slow this maniac, seemingly hell-bent on destroying our country, down. We can do it; if this post sounded pessimistic, I'm extremely optimistic. What happened in PA-18 Tuesday indicates Democrats can win over 100 seats in November. That means impeachment, not any kind of need for Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.

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Why Climate Activists Must Include Supply-Side Restrictions in Their Recommended Policy Mix


Daily average Arctic surface temperature since 1958. The red line is now — 2018 year-to-date (source: Bill McKibben).

by Gaius Publius

Climate policy recommendations, to date, cluster around a very small number of recommendations, all designed to discourage demand for fossil fuels and encourage demand for renewable energy sources. Few policy recommendations address the plentiful, cheap and growing supply of fossil fuels.

This is a major mistake. It may even prove fatal to the great task ahead. And only the climate activist and policy community can fix this error.

Consider the following six points.

The Argument for Restricting the Supply of Fossil Fuels

1. Note the graph above. If it's not already clear that global warming has not just reached truly dangerous proportions, but is accelerating, what's shown in graphs like that should dispel all doubt.

Here's another, from the same series of tweets by climate writer Bill McKibben:
The Chukchi Sea is the region of the Arctic north of the Bering Strait. As you can see, the extent of sea ice is declining precipitously. (See also here and here.) All those tiny lines are measurements from the most recent previous years.

(Both of these graphs come from the website of climate scientist and student Zachary Labe, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth System Science at UC Irvine. The site is rich in graphs like these. For more Arctic sea ice figures, see here and also the links at the bottom of the page.)

If this isn't an emergency, what is? The World War II analogy would be: Germany has been arming for war for years and has now massed troops on the Polish border. There's no time to waste in preparing the Polish people for the onslaught.

2. If there's no time to waste in addressing the climate crisis, it's necessary not just to restrict the demand for fossil fuels — for example, via carbon taxes and mandatory emissions standards — but also the supply.

This means, in turn, putting the squeeze on the economy to force a conversion to renewable energy supply, rather than simply put pressure on the economy via more gentle restrictions and encouragements that allow the economy to adjust, if it wishes, in a way that's "comfortable."

Examples of "comfortable" demand restrictions include carbon taxes and mandatory cap-and-trade systems. "Comfortable" demand encouragements include subsidies for renewable energy infrastructure.

Supply restrictions, in contrast, tend to be uncomfortable — for consumers because supply is restricted in advance of changes in buying behavior or availability of alternatives; for suppliers because the flow of profit is artificially constrained; and for segments of the economy as a whole because money is forced out of fully operating sectors (fossil fuel production, delivery and use) and into alternative, less-developed areas.

The purpose of supply restrictions, in fact, is to use that discomfort to force changes in behavior, to force the development of alternatives — and not to settle for waiting until the market or consumers decide to make these changes on their own.

The World War II analogy would be the transfer of money from the consumer part of the U.S. economy via rationing into the war-making part of the economy, in order to force the production of ships, tanks, guns and other materiel needed by the military. The constricting factor, the reason the U.S. couldn't support both parts of the economy at full capacity, is manufacturing capacity. No developed nation can double manufacturing capacity in a year, even with all the money in the world to do it. Capacity to make cars, for example, had to be converted to make tanks. In the same way, overall spending had to be diverted, since a nation's ability to expand government spending, while large, isn't infinite.

3. Restrictions on supply, when coupled with constrictions on demand, work very well in other areas where public policy intervention is needed to create a positive social change. Consider the attempt to limit tobacco use in Australia, from a recent academic study ("Cutting with both arms of the scissors: the economic and political case for restrictive supply-side climate policies" by Fergus Green & Richard Denniss) that looks at the utility of supply-side restriction in the battle to mitigate climate change (emphasis added):
Significantly, many countries rely on complicated and evolving combinations of these measures, wherein restrictive supply-side policies play an important role complementing demand-side policies.

Policies to control tobacco smoking in Australia provide an instructive example. The policy mix includes prohibitions on producing tobacco without a license, selling tobacco without a license, selling tobacco to children, tobacco advertising, tobacco sponsorship, and smoking cigarettes in confined public spaces. It also includes heavy taxation of tobacco consumption, hard-hitting public information campaigns, “plain packaging” laws, mandatory health warnings on cigarette packages, and the subsidisation of certain substitutes for cigarettes such as nicotine patches.
None of these anti-"free market" measures is considered out of bounds by the public in the war on tobacco use:
Far from being derided as an inefficient mire of “red tape”, Australia’s tobacco regulatory environment is lauded as a global model of effective public health policy, with the country seen as an early mover in innovative regulation in the sector (Chapman and Wakefield 2001). The combination of a wide range of policies, rather than an ‘optimal’ policy, is, moreover, endorsed in the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which states that “‘tobacco control’ means a range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and their exposure to tobacco smoke…” (article 1(d)).
As the authors also note, supply-side restrictions "have also played an important role in efforts to reduce negative environmental pollution externalities, including chlorofluorocarbons (Haas 1992), asbestos (Kameda et al. 2014), and lead in petroleum products (Needleman 2000)."

4. Restrictions on demand for fossil fuels alone aren't doing the job, certainly not fast enough. The march to a far less human-friendly climate — what I've been calling the Next New Stone Age — is relentless and accelerating. Again, we are now seeing zero degree Celsius days in February in the Arctic. In plain English, that means this: air, warm enough to melt ice, in the Arctic, in winter.

Restrictions on supply are therefore critically needed. Yet restrictions on supply create discomfort, both for producers and consumers. Can counter-arguments that point to "discomfort" as a reason not to address climate change via fossil fuel supply restrictions be overcome?

5. The surprising answer is yes, those arguments can be overcome. The paper cited above notes both economic and political benefits of restricting the supply of fossil fuels, and shows that, controlling for other factors, those arguments can be popular and effective. To my knowledge, it's the first paper to do so.

It points out that the economic benefits of supply-side restrictions include low administrative and transaction costs, higher certainty of abatement outcomes, positive price and efficiency effects, the avoidance of infrastructure "lock in," and others.

On the political side, the authors assert that "supply-side policies are generally likely to attract higher public support than demand-side policies, all else equal."
Scholars have identified various reasons, related to these factors [perceived benefits, distributional fairness, and so on], why people tend to prefer certain kinds of climate policy instruments over others (e.g. command and control regulation over market-based instruments) (Jenkins 2014; Karplus 2011; Rabe 2010) and, within a given class of policy instrument, certain design features (e.g. explicit earmarking of revenue from market-based instruments) (Drews and van den Bergh 2015, 863; Rabe and Borick 2012). What has not been analysed is the effect on public support resulting from whether the instrument targets the supply side or the demand side (controlling for instrument type and relevant design features such as, where applicable, revenue allocation). 
The point of the study is to support that point by "controlling for instrument type and relevant design features such as, where applicable, revenue allocation".

For example, on the "perceived benefits" of demand-side vs. supply-side climate policies, the authors state:
A common conclusion from climate-related public opinion research is that climate science is poorly understood and concern about the problem, though widespread, is shallow, i.e. it tends to be a low-salience, low-priority concern and individuals have a low “willingness to pay” for solutions (Ansolabehere and Konisky 2014; Guber 2003; Jenkins 2014, 470–72; van der Linden et al. 2015). This is unsurprising: the climate benefits of mitigation policies are diffused widely across time and space; they disproportionately accrue (and are perceived accrue) to future generations and people in other countries; and their magnitude is uncertain, meaning they are likely to be strongly discounted by voters (van der Linden et al. 2015).
Supply-side policies suffer none of these disadvantages:
By contrast, supply-side instruments typically target fossil fuels per se. Survey evidence suggests that people more readily link co-costs/co-benefits (environmental, health, security, social, economic) to specific energy sources than to the more abstract concepts of “carbon”/“climate” (e.g., Ansolabehere and Konisky 2014); and fossil fuels are well-understood commodities that many people more readily associate with a range of higher-priority, more localised and more immediate negative (non-climate) impacts, resulting in negative attitudes toward fossil fuels, especially coal (see Green 2018, section 3.1.1 and references there cited). These features give supply-side policies considerable advantages in attracting public support for climate policy. Relatively high public support for fossil fuel severance (resource extraction) taxes, even in climate-ambivalent, tax-averse north-American states and provinces (Rabe and Borick 2012, 377–79), provides circumstantial empirical support for these arguments.
The paper studied similar support for supply-side policies based on perceptions of distributional fairness and lower costs.

6. The bottom line is: This is the first study that controls for other factors in determining support for supply-side climate policies vs. demand-side policies by themselves, and finds much to be encouraged about.

The authors conclude:
In our experience, the climate policy community has for too long been excessively narrow in its preference for certain kinds of policy instruments (carbon taxes, cap-and trade), largely ignoring the characteristics of such instruments that affect their political feasibility and feedback effects. At the very least, then, we hope we have shown that supply-side policies should be in the toolkit, ready to be wielded when circumstances favour.

Better, we think, to cut with both arms of the scissors.
Cutting with "both arms of the scissors" means using both supply-side policies and demand-side policies in addressing the looming climate crisis. It's clearly ineffective to use just one.

Only the Climate Policy Community Can Lead in Making This Change

Note the addressee of the authors' conclusion — the "climate policy community." This recommendation is not addressed primarily to politicians, who in the West are natively "free market" apologists, which means, natively Big Money enablers.

And it's not addressed to the public at large, who fear — and are led to fear — the "discomfort" of supply restrictions. Recent American Petroleum Institute ads, for example, say this in effect to consumers: "Do you like that big-screen, smart-phone lifestyle of yours? Be sure to keep carbon in the energy mix, or you'll lose it." Yet the reality is, if Mr. and Ms. Consumer truly hope to keep their smart-phone lifestyle intact, they better start now to arrest the devolution to Stone Age life that constantly burning carbon will cause — just the opposite of what the API is telling them to do.

It makes sense then, does it not, that a message that clearly explain the benefits of reduction — and destruction — of fossil fuel supply can only be carried at first by leading climate activists and the broader policy community?

I see no one else to offer it. And considering both the existential nature of the coming emergency and its near-suffocational timeline, that leadership needs to start ... well, now.


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Collusion As Far As The Eye Can See-- You Don't Even Need Binoculars To See All The Collusion


When Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intel Committee, got caught colluding with the White House on the investigation and pretended to recuse himself, Mike Conaway (R-TX) supposedly took over as acting chair in all matters Putin-Gate. Conaway represents TX-11, a west Texas district (Midland, Odessa, San Angelo) so red that the PVI is R+32. Trump beat Hillary there 77.8% to 19.1%. In 2012 Obama took 19.6% of the vote. Conaway usually gets reelected with around 80%. He had no Democratic running against him in 2012, 2014 or 2016. It hardly matters to him how imbecilic his sounds. He constituents are even stupider. Yesterday on Meet The Press he admitted that the reason the committee didn't find any collusion was because they weren't looking for any. Nunes and Trump have been running around yelling "no collusion, no collusion." Look at the crazy orange chimp:

On Saturday, Trumpanzee was at it again: "The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime."

Conaway, yesterday, a slow-witted dullard doing his first Sunday morning talk show: "We were focused not so much on that, as it feeds into the collusion issue. Our committee was not charged with answering the collusion idea. So we really weren't focused in that direction." In fact a few days ago, Conaway said on a conference call that "we believe that the broader evidence available to us was that they [the Kremlin] favored her [Hillary] over him [Comrade Trumpanski], and the main issue was to sow discord." Watch Chuck Todd interview the poor stumbling, mumbling, simpleminded Conaway:

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) were on CNN yesterday, warning Señor T that he better not fire Mueller and that he had to allow federal investigators looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to do their jobs. Graham said it was very important that Mueller be allowed to proceed without interference and that many Republicans share this view. Flake said it appeared the baboon’s latest comments were aimed at the firing of Mueller.
“I don’t know what the designs are on Mueller, but it seems to be building towards that, and I just hope it doesn’t go there, because it can’t. We can’t in Congress accept that,” Flake told CNN’s State of the Union.

“So I would expect to see considerable pushback in the next couple of days urging the president not to go there. He can’t go there.”

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump accused the FBI leadership of lies, corruption and leaking information. He called the Russia probe a politically motivated witch hunt.

... “The only reason Mr. Mueller could ever be dismissed is for cause. I see no cause when it comes to Mr. Mueller,” Graham said on CNN. “I pledge to the American people as a Republican, to ensure that Mr. Mueller can continue to do his job without any interference.”

“As I have said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation,” Graham said... "As I have said before, if he tried to do that, that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, because we’re a rule of law nation."

...Senator Angus King, an independent, also warned Trump against trying to fire Mueller.

“This is a serious investigation, and if the president tries to terminate it prematurely, I think it will be a true constitutional crisis,” he said on CBS.

Trump also drew criticism from fellow Republicans on Sunday over the firing of McCabe, who said he believed he was targeted because he corroborated Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure Comey into killing the Russia probe.

“I don’t like the way it happened. He should’ve been allowed to finish through the weekend,” Senator Marco Rubio said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Rubio, who supports the special counsel probe, said the decision to fire McCabe was made before the release of the Justice Department inspector general’s report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited in his dismissal.

Flake said the Senate Judiciary Committee would look at the report, which Sessions said concluded McCabe leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“I’m just puzzled by why the White House is going so hard at this, other than that they’re very afraid of what might come out,” he said on CNN.
Rubio seems to be really scared of Trump, like a child afraid of a stove after he's burned his little hand on it. No one can count on him to oppose Trump no matter what he does. Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown was also on Meet the Press yesterday with an interesting way of phrasing that kind of mentality. "I hear so many Republican senators grumble about Trump’s ethics, about his name-calling. … At some point Republican enablers in the House and Senate are going to say publicly what they’ve been saying privately. And that’s when things change and we see a president back off this kind of name-calling, not telling the truth, sending out these tweets, all that." We'll have to see if that ever happens-- at least before November. Speaking of which...

By a pretty big 50-40% margin, registered voters want to see Democrats win the congressional midterms in November. Two even more important numbers are that voters over 65, by an 11 point margin, want Democrats to win and Independents, by a 12 point margin, also want Democrats running the House and Senate. Seniors vote in midterms more than any other group. And, in terms of districts not as red as Conaway's, independents, decide the races. So in basically all the Republican districts outside off the Deep South, it could be curtains for congressional Republicans. This is a doomsday scenario building for GOP members like from Maine (Bruce Poliquin) to all of them in New York and New Jersey and more than any Democratic strategists was counting in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio... I wonder if any of them will jump off a bridge or a building. They really should based on what they've been doing to allow Trump to run rabid and wild.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Rather than taxpayers paying for Señor Trumpanzee's weekly golf trips, sleazy fundraisers, and presumed weekend getaways with porn stars, we the taxpayers should make it better known that we consider him making trips to campaign for his fellow Republican goofballs, sociopaths, and total nutbags to be a much better use of our tax dollars. It seems that the more he can campaign for them, the more likely it is that they will lose, and that is money well spent to ensure the survival of both us as individuals and as a nation.

So, get out there Mr. Trumpanzee. Work your magic. Stop asking what your country can do for you, your dirtbag family, and your criminal associates. Ask what you can do for your country, and, just so there's no misunderstanding, by "your country," I mean the United States of America. Got it?

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bill Maher Had Beto O'Rourke On Real Time This Week


Texas' primary was March 6. Incumbent Ted Cruz coasted to victory in the Republican contest-- 1,315,146 votes (85.35%) and El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke coasted to victory in the Democratic race, 640,769 votes (61.82%). 1,036,467 people voted in the Democratic primary and 1,540,890 voted in the Republican primary. As of the February 14 FEC reporting date Cruz had raised $17,452,363 and spent $11,906,543 to Beto's $8,708,746 (and $4,168,970 spent). Cruz's war chest, as of that date, has $6,025,231 and Beto's has $4,938,475. Media is expensive in Texas for statewide races. You have to advertise in Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso and you still have over 30 other cities, like Laredo, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Lubbock, Killeen, Odessa, Plano, Waco, Abilene, Brownsville, etc with over 100,000 people.

Goal ThermometerCan a Democrat win statewide in Texas? The last time Texas elected a freshman Democratic senator was in 1970 (Lloyd Bentsen and the last time he was reelected, in 1988, was the last time Texas elected a Democrat to the Senate.) Cruz was first elected in 2012, beating Paul Sadler by over a million votes, 56.4% to 40.6%. Democrats like to point out that Texas is a no-vote state, that millions of Texans don't vote, which is true, and that if they could just get them out to vote... That may be true, but in 2016, Trump beat Hillary statewide 4,685,047 (52.2%) to 3,877,868 (43.2%). There's a lot of ground to make up. Will the Blue Wave sweep Texas in November and rid us of Cruz. The DSCC isn't betting on it. Beto O'Rourke might as well be running as an independent. The Bill Maher audience sure liked him. Watch-- and see if you want to support him by clicking on the Blue America Senate thermometer on the right.

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How Many More GOP Seats Did Trump Lose With His Vile Tweet About Andy McCabe?


Neither my old friend Cynthia in L.A. nor my even older friend Helen in Westchester is a rambunctious kid, at least not any more. Helen is pushing 70 and Cynthia passed that goal post some time ago. Every day, Cynthia says things about Señor Trumpanzee that I hope and pray the Secret Service isn't hearing. And Helen... she hates Trump even more than Cynthia does. I've been worrying about Helen because she tells me she stays up nights tossing and turning and fretting about what he's doing to the country. I know these two gracious ladies aren't the only Americans in this exact frame of mind-- from from it.

Take legal scholar Jeffrey Tubin, for example. "If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night. Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds."
In his statement, McCabe spoke with bracing directness. “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” he said. In other words, McCabe was fired because he is a crucial witness in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. The firing of Comey is the central pillar of a possible obstruction-of-justice case against the President, either in a criminal prosecution or in an impeachment proceeding. By firing McCabe, Trump (through Sessions) has attempted to neuter an important witness; if and when McCabe testifies against Trump, he will now be dismissed by the President’s supporters as an ex-employee embittered by his firing. How this kind of attack on McCabe plays out in a courtroom, or just in the court of public opinion, remains to be seen.

What’s clear, though, is the depth of the President’s determination to prevent Mueller from taking his inquiries to their conclusion, as his personal attorney, John Dowd, made clear. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Dowd said, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.” Of course, notwithstanding Dowd’s caveat that he was speaking only for himself, Rosenstein is on notice that his failure to fire Mueller might lead to his own departure. And Sessions, too, must know that his craven act in firing McCabe will guarantee him nothing. Trump believes that loyalty goes only one way; the Attorney General may still be fired at any moment.
Former CIA Director John Brennan tried to send his message in the language Trumpanzee understand: Tweetese: "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America... America will triumph over you."

Barry McCaffrey is one of the most highly decorated 4-star generals in America. Trump isn't fit to wipe his ass. I suspect it wasn't easy for him to tweet Friday "Reluctantly I have concluded that President Trump is a serious threat to US national security. He is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks. It is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of Mr Putin."

Unlike most sane Americans, former FBI Director Jim Comey never refers to Trumpanzee as a pile of dung or something along those lines, and he still addresses him with the inappropriate monicker "Mr. President," as in "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

Sen. Mark Warner is a very conservative Democrat from Virginia. I rarely find myself agreeing with him on much--but this tweet is important: "Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now." Unfortunately, the Republicans are utterly devoid of any semblance of moral leadership. The only Republicans who are speaking up are the ones who have already announced their voluntary retirements-- like Charlie Dent (R-PA), who went on CNN Saturday morning and "harshly criticized the Trump administration’s decision to fire former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, adding that he doesn’t think it bodes well for his party. 'Candidly, it looks like retribution and a bit vindictive,' Dent said. 'And I think it’s unfortunate. The man said he’s resigning, and on a Friday night before his 50th birthday, he’s fired to take away his pension? I don’t like the optics of this. I really don’t.' Dent said he thinks the attorney general made the decision under pressure from President Trump. Trump has repeatedly publicly demanded that Sessions fire McCabe, who is potentially a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president for possible obstruction of justice."

Goal ThermometerThe best realistic outcome we can hope for at this point is that something like 100 House Republicans-- some of the ones not speaking up (especially Paul Ryan)-- lose their seats in November. Sounds far-fetched? Not nearly as far-fetched as a candidate as mediocre as Conor Lamb in a district as red as PA-18 (R+11) could have beat Trump, Pence and Ryan's $10 million. Now, that's far-fetched! Don't listen to the media. They have no clue what's going on with electoral politics until the day after the election-- if then. Instead, be proactive: speak to friends-- persuade someone who wouldn't otherwise vote that his or her country needs them-- or volunteer on a campaign or contribute to a solid progressive candidate who is going to be vigilant against Trumpist tyranny and kakistocracy in general. (If you want to contribute... that's what that thermometer on the right is for. Click on it and give what you can-- even if you've never done so before.)

Friday night, by the way, I tweeted as well... in response to NBC host Andrea Mitchell:

By early Saturday morning congressmen Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) + Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) had already offered to hire Andrew McCabe in their congressional offices. We need more like them in Congress... and fewer like Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy. Joe Walsh is a hate talk radio host and a former far right-- far, far right-- congressman from Chicagoland. The way his former colleagues are enabling Trump is even too much for him! Today he fulminated that "Republicans have no freaking clue about what is going to hit them in November. They're in denial."

NY Daily News sports commentator Mike Lupica, hit the nail on the head for a lot of us yesterday: "People keep saying that Trump will never fire Mueller, because that would touch off a constitutional crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre in the heat of Watergate, when Nixon fired independent prosecutor Archibald Cox, which led to the resignations of his own attorney general and deputy attorney general. But every time you read or hear that, you have the same thought: What, we’re not having a constitutional crisis already?" And mainstream conservatives are losing their shit-- like Nicolle Wallace, former Communications Director for the George W. Bush White House and then a senior strategist for McCain.

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Republicans On The Wrong Side Of History... On The NRA And On Putin-Gate


Teachers with Guns by Nancy Ohanian

On the extreme right, the Freedom Caucus has decided they can replace Ryan with neo-fascist Mark Meadows (R-NC) as Speaker and they are doing everything they can to undermine Ryan and bolster Meadows. Mainstream conservatives have their own problems with the incompetent and ineffectual Ryan and are also eager for him to announce his retirement and move on. (Ryan is widely rumored to be waiting 'til after Easter to announce he isn't running, saving himself the career-tarnishing embarrassment of being beaten-- possibly heavily beaten-- by a construction worker in November.)

On Friday Elaina Plott, reporting for The Atlantic, noted that growing numbers of congressional Republicans are pressing for action on guns... pressing on Ryan. Needless to say, Meadows and the Freedom caucus aren't among them. And she noted that it's a month since the Parkland NRA/GOP massacre and a month since Señor Trumpanzee "told lawmakers he didn’t want to wait 'two weeks, three weeks, four weeks' to address gun violence in America, when 'people sort of forget and we go on.'...[S]students have helped keep the issue alive. And as Trump has backtracked on proposals he supported one month ago, including universal background checks and some kind of assault-weapons ban, reporters are continuing to ask questions."
As many Americans call for tighter gun laws after a mass shooting, Republicans are usually silent. According to the Republican lawmakers I spoke to for this story, there are several reasons why this is the case, from fears of primary challengers to the gun lobby. But, in the wake of the Parkland shooting, an increasing number of Republicans appear ready to abandon these concerns in favor of a more proactive response to gun violence. Now, they’re eager for their leadership to do the same, meaning an issue that has long united the party could suddenly expose even more rifts in an already fractured conference.

“There is a genuine lack of serious discussion on these issues,” Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who chairs the Second Amendment Caucus, told me. “Our leadership seems like the sheriff deputies at the Florida shooting: They don’t want to go in and take fire, and instead just hope the issue will burn itself out.”
Since 1990, the NRA and other so-called "gun rights" groups have given members of Congress and candidates for Congress $37,225,077 of which $32,287,496 went to Republicans and $4,257,394 went to Democrats, almost exclusively to Blue Dogs from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. (Note: the DCCC is still actively-- very actively-- recruiting NRA-backed candidates for Congress, examples this cycle being Anthony Brindisi in New York, Ann Kirkpatrick in Arizona, Elaine Luria in Virginia and, perhaps worst of all, Jeff Van Drew in New Jersey.) Below are the dozen worst House members in terms of how much blood money they've taken-- but not including the millions of dollars the NRA spends helping their favorite candidates with independent expenditures-- from the NRA and other gun groups (since 1990).

So far this cycle the dozen biggest bribe takers from the gun groups are listed here... but remember, the really big spending will come in the next seven and a half months, as we close in on the midterm elections, when the NRA will be fighting to defend their top congressional allies-- at least in part with illegal Russian money.

As the progressive winner of the TX-23 primary Rick Trevino is in the late May runoff to determine which Democrat will go up against Republican gun-extremist Will Hurd. This morning he told us that "Since I've been running for US Congress 3 of the top 10 worst mass shootings in US history have taken place. As long as we have NRA backed candidates like Will Hurd in the House and Senate, nothing will change. If the American people want gun reform they need to look at who takes money from the NRA and vote them out. Also, this is not just a GOP problem. In my home town of Laredo, Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX-28) has an A+ rating from the NRA. Any NRA backed candidate is garbage and needs to go and Democrats have to call out not just the GOP but NRA Dems within their ranks." That's why we love Rick-- outspoken and courageous. Please support his campaign here.

Brent Welder is running in an even redder district, and against an NRA favorite, Kevin Yoder in Kansas. "It is shameful," he told us, "that Rep. Kevin Yoder has decided that kowtowing to the corporate gun lobby and the NRA is more important than the lives of our children. We need leaders now more than ever on this issue and I will lead the efforts of reform and call out all gun lobby bootlickers like Rep. Kevin Yoder."

Levi Tillemann, the newest candidate Blue America is supporting, is running for the suburban Denver seat NRA ally Mike Coffman occupies. "It is becoming more and more evident," he told us, "that Republicans like Mike Coffman really have no empathy or real concern for the victims of gun violence.  The only thing that matters to GOP members is the continuing flow of green cash from the NRA spigot.  I call on Mike Coffman to return every penny he has accepted from the NRA and to stand up to the NRA and protect our children by passing safe gun laws."

On Friday, the editorial board of the Washington Post declared flatly that History Won't Be Kind, Republicans. The Republicans who care enough to have bothered to read it would have found out the board is furious at them for enabling Trump, Nunes and Putin. They blame the same guy who is getting all the pushback on a dysfunctional gun policy: Paul Ryan. "The nation's intelligence community," they wrote, "concluded long ago that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an effort to hurt the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. In the face of this unprecedented attack on U.S. democracy, House Republicans have produced a report that casts doubt on the work of U.S. intelligence professionals whose conclusions were politically damaging to the White House. This was a new low for the Republican majority and their leader, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI)."
On Tuesday, House Intelligence Committee Republicans officially stopped pretending to investigate Russian election meddling, handing over a draft report to their Democratic colleagues. They did not deny what is plainly impossible to refute, that the Russians aggressively interfered in the race to sow discord and undermine U.S. political institutions. But they disputed the intelligence community’s finding that the Russians engaged in these activities to help Mr. Trump. In fact, House Republicans are trying to draw connections between the Kremlin’s influence campaign and Ms. Clinton, always a convenient GOP punching bag, deflecting awkward questions about Russia’s clear affinity for Mr. Trump in 2016.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (CA), the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, and former intelligence officials decried the attempt to cast doubt on Russian intentions. “The four intelligence chiefs all agreed with the assessment, which was based on highly classified intelligence,” former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. told CNN. “This is a case of people living in their own reality bubbles when we can’t agree on basic facts.” Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III recently indicted 13 Russians for, among other things, “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump... and disparaging Hillary Clinton.” It is already on the record that the Russians selectively released damaging information on Democrats but not Republicans.

Perhaps sensing that their position was untenable, Republican Intelligence Committee members admitted to reporters later on Tuesday that the Russians had, indeed, attempted to harm Ms. Clinton, if not to help Mr. Trump, as though doing the former does not imply the latter.

If they’re unclear about Russian intentions, leaders won’t draw the right lessons, or even ask the right questions. Why did the Kremlin dislike Ms. Clinton and favor Mr. Trump? What kinds of candidates will the Russians attack, or help? How should voters assess the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

House Intelligence Committee Republicans also insisted that they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, just evidence of “bad judgment” in a few circumstances. It’s easy not to find evidence when you don’t look. Many potentially relevant witnesses went un-interviewed, and witnesses who refused to answer questions were let off the hook. Fortunately, while House lawmakers have decided that their work is done, the Senate Intelligence Committee continues investigating, as does Mr. Mueller. History will not judge kindly these legislators who abased themselves and their institution.
Anyone think it's just a coincidence that Putin laundered many millions of dollars into the Trump campaign through the NRA? And Paul Ryan... and the Republican Party-- on the wrong side of history? Yes, on everything.

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