Thursday, May 25, 2017

All-Electric Air Travel Is Not an Impossible Dream


A brief 2015 video report from the WSJ about the Airbus all-electric airplane, the E-Fan. Airbus is not the only company doing this. Go here for an interesting video about Pipistrel's electric plane.

by Gaius Publius

A brief follow-up to our recent piece on the coming death of Big Oil as a business (see "The Dying Fossil Fuel Industry"). One argument against the demise of Big Oil is that "there will always be a need for oil, somewhere." The most often-used examples for "somewhere" are in the global transportation industries — air travel and international shipping.

We've looked at these industries before and agreed that they do represent a problem. For example, from a 2015 piece: "Independent of the [Paris Agreement] pledges of the various nations — which are proving to be entirely inadequate to meeting even the modest goals of the U.N. — pledges by nations aren't the entire solution. In fact, the pledges by a number of nations would be entirely wiped out by the emissions of two international industries. These are international shipping and international air travel."

Take the Canadian climate pledge, for example. Canada has promised to cut its pollution by 30% below 2005 levels (a peak year) by 2030, and by 16% below the benchmark year of 1990, from 690 MtCO2e to 579 MtCO2e (megatons of CO2-equivalent emissions). Over the same period, 1990 to 2030, international aviation and international maritime emissions are expected to more than triple in a business-as-usual scenario, for a combined increase in emissions that's more than ten times the promised emissions decrease from Canada (pdf, page 42).

When most people think about how to cut global emissions to zero, that's were they get stuck, with an unsolvable problem when it comes to international travel and shipping. Those who don't get stuck there posit a world of less capitalism, less "buying for the sake of buying" — which is needed to feed the capitalists' constant need to "sell for the sake of selling." As admirable as that sounds as a goal, it also sounds impossible to achieve, at least voluntarily. Besides, less capitalism, defined as production of consumer goods, would certainly require less global shipping, but wouldn't solve the problem of global air travel.

Can these two industries, international maritime and international aviation, every be freed from the grip of fossil fuels?

All-Electric Planes Are Here Today

It turns out that all-electric airplanes are not that far from the horizon, and what works for air travel could well be adapted to shipping, given the right advances in energy storage. Consider this, from Scientific American in 2014:
"Impossible" Electric Airplane Takes Flight

The Berlin Air Show witnessed a silent, clean test flight by Airbus's E-Fan two-seater aircraft, which is entirely propelled by electricity

...The fully electric E-Fan aircraft, engineered by Airbus Group, made one of its first public demonstrations here last week following it's first-ever flight in France on March 11.

The novel two-seater aircraft was designed from the outset for electrical propulsion, from its energy management system to safety features. In developing this technology, Airbus aims to one day reduce the aerospace industry's carbon dioxide emissions by an order of magnitude.

"It's a very different way of flying," said Jean Botti, chief technical and innovation officer at Airbus Group, "absolutely no noise, no emissions."

A series of lithium-ion batteries fitted into the wings of the plane are the sole power source for the E-Fan's two 30-kilowatt electric motors. A 6 kW electric motor in the main wheel provides extra power during acceleration and taxiing to reduce electrical power consumption on the ground.
The obvious problem is range. The 2014 version described above had a one-hour range, which means it didn't stray far from the airport. The 2015 version of the same plane (see video above) performed a Channel crossing.

The plan, though, is ambitious: "Airbus will make a next-generation two-seater electric plane, set for launch in 2017, and a four-seater electric plane with a gas-powered range extender, set for launch in 2019."
These advances are steppingstones toward realizing Flight Path 2050, the European Union's aggressive goal to reduce the aviation sector's nitrous oxide emissions by 90 percent, noise pollution by 65 percent and carbon dioxide emissions by 75 percent by 2050.
What's holding these projects back is the current pace of advancement in battery technology. But changes are coming faster and faster, spurred by both economic and environmental motivation. (Imagine the payoff to the inventor who develops a reliable, light-weight, quick-charge, slow-drain battery cell. Imagine how many inventors, investors, and companies are looking for it — the battery and the payoff.)

In the meantime, it's not hard to imagine the day when air travel will be freed from the need to pollute in order to operate. When that day comes, one more barrier to fossil-free living will fall.


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Election Day-- Today... In Montana


Today's the day. A quarter million people have already voted in Montana but whatever analysis of that available shows that neither side has any advantage so far in the early voting. [For comparison's sake-- even if it's an apples-to-oranges comparison-- the June 6 special election in CA-34 has had 14,820 early votes and the expected total for the entire race is between 40 and 45,000.] This is going to be close and it's totally about getting out the vote. So, if you're in Montana, or you know anyone in Montana... your country needs you today.

Rob Quist has raised over $5 million from over 200,000 donors. Gianforte raised around the same amount but from only a tenth as many people-- and includes $1.5 million from himself. In the last week, spending has gone through the roof as internal GOP polls have shown Quist having caught up with Gianforte. Helena's Independent Record reported that "Republicans are significantly outspending Democrats," meaning outside groups... GOP outside groups have ensured that Republicans have a spending advantage, though, airing more than $7 million worth of TV ads, versus about $3 million from Democrats. House Majority PAC, Democrats’ main House outside group, on Tuesday added a last-minute $125,000 TV ad buy to the race, on top of $25,000 announced last week." That's Pelosi, who's decided to spend big in GA-06 and just pretend to be helping in Montana to pacify Berniecrats, many of whom are too new to politics to understand the difference between Pelosi spending $150,000 and Ryan spending $3 million.
In the past 20 days, outside groups have spent $228,061 in support of Quist. Groups supporting Gianforte have spent $356,476. Much of that money is being spent on getting out the vote. The Progressive Turnout Project, for example, has spent $14,825 on employees to get out the vote for Quist. The Republican National Committee spent $16,939 on Gianforte phone calls May 20-21.

Turnout in rural Montana counties, where Republicans do well, has been strong with more than 70 percent of absentee ballots returned by rural voters, according to Montana’s secretary of state. Turnout through Monday had absentee ballots from rural counties comprising 30 percent of the state’s absentee vote. That’s better than the normal absentee turnout, which is 25 percent, said Craig Wilson, Montana State University Billings political science professor emeritus.

Combined, the rural county absentee vote is higher than the turnout in Missoula and Gallatin counties, Montana’s second and third largest counties for absentee ballots. Anchored by the state’s two largest universities, those are counties where Democrats need higher turnout, Wilson said.

Money spent against the candidates is more lopsided. Republican groups have spent almost four times as much targeting their opponent as Democrats have. That's $1.93 million against Quist and $442,450 against Gianforte in the past 20 days.

...The campaign committees of Quist and Gianforte have raised at least $10 million combined, while outside groups have spent more than $7.1 million thus far.

The Quist campaign announced Tuesday that it had topped $6 million in contributions, noting that it had generated about $1 million in small donations over the past five days.

That amount could not be immediately verified because it had not yet been reported to the Federal Elections Commission.

Gianforte's campaign said it has raised about $4.6 million, including a last-minute loan of $500,000 from Gianforte. He had previously lent his campaign $1 million. The combined total in direct contributions is a record haul for a Montana congressional race.

...The money flowing into the campaign from independent outside groups, which can spend unlimited amounts of money, has mostly benefited Gianforte. Groups supporting the Bozeman entrepreneur have spent more than $6.3 million, according to FEC records, including $2.4 million from the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The fund has also spent heavily to influence another special congressional election in Georgia, as have the Republican Party committees.

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have combined for more than $3.1 million.

While Quist has gotten most of his money from individual donors, he has also benefited from independent campaign committees, such as Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which was responsible for about half of the roughly $800,000 in spending on Quist's behalf.
Today, the question is whether or not the surge in grassroots Quist contributions will equate to a surge in grassroots Quist voters. Does the national enthusiasm translate to Montana voter enthusiasm? Are Trump and Ryan as toxic for Republicans in Montana as they are in other places? After the two big wins for Democrats in very Republican legislative districts in New Hampshire and Long Island Tuesday, Republicans are freaking out today about Montana. Gianforte complained to his supporters that "This race is closer than it should be." Elena Schneider, writing for Politico yesterday reported "recurring nightmare of a pattern for Republicans around the country, as traditional GOP strongholds prove more difficult and expensive for the party to hold than it ever anticipated when President Donald Trump plucked House members like Ryan Zinke, the former Montana Republican now running the Interior Department, for his Cabinet. Gianforte is still favored to keep the seat red, but a state Trump carried by 20 percentage points last year became a battleground in the past few months."
Republicans have called on Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. to calm their nerves about turnout and prevent Democrats from having the only energized voting bloc in the special election. Both have rallied voters with Gianforte, and Pence recorded a get-out-the-vote robocall. Gianforte, who said little about Donald Trump when Gianforte ran for governor and lost in 2016, has cast himself as a willing and eager partner of the president this time around.

On Tuesday, surrounded by Trump stickers-- and some Trump hat-wearing supporters-- Gianforte said he was eager "to work with Donald Trump to drain the swamp and make America great again," invoking two of the president's campaign slogans. Pence's robocall may give another boost to Republican turnout efforts.

But the environment has changed since Trump’s presidential win last fall. One senior Republican strategist warned that, based on the party’s performance in special elections so far, if Republicans “cannot come up with better candidates and better campaigns, this cycle is going to be even worse than anybody ever thought it could be.”

“The fact that we're talking about Montana-- a super red seat-- is amazing,” said John Lapp, who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 cycle. “It's also amazing how much money Republicans have to pour into these seats to defend them. It's still a steep climb in Montana, but we know that the reaction there means that there's a tremendous amount of Democratic energy across the country, a tremendous amount of fundraising that will then feed into races that are much fairer fights."

Democrats hope the passage of House Republicans’ health care bill just three weeks before the election will put the wind at Quist’s back. It has been the subject of Quist’s closing TV ads, and he has called the plan “devastating” to Montana.
It's been called devastating for Montana because it is-- more so than almost any state that voted for Trump. Because the state expanded Medicaid, 9.3% of Montanans stand to lose their health insurance if TrumpCare becomes law-- 96,317 people, a very significantly higher percentage than Texas' 3.0%, Georgia's 3.4%, Kansas' 2.3%, Alabama's 2.6%, Idaho's 4.4%, Tennessee's 2.4%, Oklahoma's 2.5% or Mississippi's 2.2%. That should help boost turnout today. As will the fact that even "Republicans acknowledge that Gianforte has flaws Democrats exploited mercilessly in last year’s gubernatorial race, likely cementing negative feelings about him from some voters. Gianforte is dogged by reports that he sued Montana to block access to a stream in front of his ranch, kicking up a public lands dispute that hits home with Montana voters and has “probably followed him into this House race,” said Jeff Essman, the state’s GOP party chairman."

Last night, over-entitled, right-wing crackpot Greg Gianforte went completely insane and beat up a reporter. No wonder both Montana and national Republicans think Gianforte is the worst possible candidate they could have been saddled with today. Listen below. Despite the witnesses and the audio, Gianforte made up a whole lie about how the reporter attacked him because... "liberal journalist." The Fox News reporters in the room had something to say about that.
The race to fill Montana's sole seat in the U.S. House of Representatives took a violent turn Wednesday, and a crew from the Fox News Channel, including myself, witnessed it firsthand.

...Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of "I'm sick and tired of this!"

...To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff's deputies.

As for myself and my crew, we are cooperating with local authorities. It is not clear if charges will be filed against Gianforte at this time.

Overnight, Montana's three most influential newspapers-- the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian and the Helena Independent Record-- withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte... and he was charged with misdemeanor assault. Voters are waking up to that today! And this:


Montana has same day voter registration. People waking up are seeing some incredible news about the Republican dirt-bag-- who has strong ties to neo-Nazi organizations-- who they are being asked to vote for today. From last night's Missoulian:
Greg Gianforte should not represent Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican candidate for Congress not only lost the endorsement of this newspaper Wednesday night when, according to witnesses, he put his hands around the throat of a reporter asking him about his health care stance, threw him to the ground and punched him-- he should lose the confidence of all Montanans.

...The Gallatin County sheriff’s office found probable cause to cite Gianforte for misdemeanor assault Wednesday night. We will leave it to the legal system to determine his guilt or innocence.

But there is no doubt that Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn’t land him in jail, also shouldn’t land him in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He showed Wednesday night that he lacks the experience, brains and abilities to effectively represent Montana in any elected office.

And in case critics say this is just fake news from the liberal media, let us repeat one fact again: The eyewitness account of Gianforte’s actions came from a Fox News reporter.

We hope our fellow Montanans who haven’t already cast their ballots will say loud and clear at the polls Thursday that Greg Gianforte is not the man we want representing us in Washington. He does not represent Montana values and he should not represent us in Congress.

We’re putting our trust in your good sense.

The whole country is.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trump Ready To Get His Revenge Against Iowans


On February 1, 2016, the day of the Iowa caucuses, Trump was still just a joke. He was sputtering that Iowa Republicans had brain damage from too much fertilizer after polls started showing him losing to Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. On the day of the caucuses Cruz won-- with 51,666 (27.6%). Trump came in second with 45,429 votes (24.3%), much closer to Rubio's 43,228 (23.1%) than to Cruz. Trump, who did beat Carson-- currently his Secretary of Housing-- was still basically a stand-up comic back then:

Though Obama won Iowa both times he ran-- 54-44% against McCain and 52-46% against Romney-- Hillary couldn't have been a worse fit for the state. She lost the state's 6 e;sectoral votes by almost 10 points-- 800,983 (51.1%) for Trumpanzee to 653,669 (41.9). Trump has still never apologized to the state's rural voters for repeatedly accusing them of being stupid and brain-damaged. And his new budget is particularly devastating for Iowans.

Forget for a moment how TrumpCare will be catastrophic for a state that has already utterly sabotaged the Affordable Care Act. And lets not think about what the draconian cuts in food stamps will do to Iowa's farmers. The Trump budget, if ever enacted, will completely eliminate 66 federal programs, several of which are vital for Iowa's economy and well-being. For starters Mulvaney has slashed the Agriculture Department mercilessly and completely eliminated nearly a billion dollars by ending 4 programs that benefit Iowans: the Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program Account, the Rural Business-Cooperative Service, the Single Family Housing Direct Loans, the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education. Other programs being eliminated include the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration, the Labor Department's Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Training and their Senior Community Service Employment Program, Health and Human Service's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program-- for those cold Iowa winters-- even Homeland Security's Flood Hazard Mapping and Risk Analysis Program. Also the over $4 billion cut from the State Department's aid programs will be disatrous for farmers, since much of that aid is in the form of surplus agricultural products that will otherwise flood domestic markets driving down prices. Trump manages to save $43 million by shutting down the Treasury Department's Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

And, as you've probably read, some of ind independent agency's Trump and Mulvaney are targeting for elimination especially serve rural communities, like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.

Even as much a knee-jerk Trump supporter as Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is, even he admits he's concerned about some of the Trump cuts that target farmers and rural communities. Iowa Public Radio reported that Grassely is bitching that, although he doesn't especially care about Trump and Mulvaney further squeezing the food stamps program, "reducing crop insurance subsidies would leave taxpayers on the hook to pay for farm damages from natural disasters... Isn’t it better to have the farmers pay part of it and the taxpayers pay part of it instead of the taxpayers paying 100 percent, like they do for other natural disasters, like hurricanes and earthquakes?"

Dave Loebsack, the only Democrat left in Iowa's delegation to Washington said "this budget is a direct attack on Iowa’s hardworking families, rural communities and small businesses, all while giving more and more to those who are wealthy and well." Although all of Iowa's Trump puppets in DC have taken an uncomfortably supportive posture towards the budget, other Republicans around the country are denouncing it. Nevada Republican Dean Heller is already using it as a piñata in his reelection campaign. "From slashing funding for important public lands programs to its renewed effort to revive the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, the President’s budget request contains several anti-Nevada provisions." That's strong stuff. John Cornyn, the Senate's #2 Republican pronounced it "DOA-- dead on arrival." By the end of the week, expect frightened Republicans in Iowa-- Rod Blum and David Young-- to start cautiously backing away, especially once local polling shows how unpopular Trump's proposals are.

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Which GOP Garbage Will Be Swept Away In The Great Wave?


The wave that's forming up now could well be an anti-Trump/anti-Ryan tsunami by 2018. When Republicans say there are 18 months and a lot can change they are sweating under their suit jackets because they know the intensity of voters' reaction against the Republican agenda is intensifying, not dissipating. It won't just be Republicans in the blue districts that the DCCC has botched who get decimated but Republicans in districts who represent districts with R+4 and R+5 PVIs, seats that are normally considered "safe." I was struck by a conversation between Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and Chris Hayes Tuesday night. Merkley, who makes a point of visiting every county in his state, including the blood red ones where he's lost massively-- like Wallowa (34.4%), Lake (30.9%), Grant (32.8%), Malheur (27.6%), Linn (42.5%) and Klamath (36.3%). Merkley recalled that in the past he has been booed and heckled in some of these rural counties where people get their information from Hate Talk Radio and Fox. This year, he said, he's walking into town halls and getting standing ovations. "They are looking for champions to stop this craziness, this destructive set of strategies that trump is putting forward." Watch the last couple of minutes of the video above.

While Hayes and Merkley were chatting on MSNBC results were starting to come in from special election to fill red legislative seats in New Hampshire and on Long Island-- results that help explain why it isn't just Republicans like Carlos Curbelo (FL), John Katko (NY) and Erik Paulsen (MN) in districts Hillary won, but also Republicans like Steve Chabot (OH), Mark Amodei (NV), Steve King (IA), Tom Reed (NY) and Paul Ryan (WI), who the DCCC traditionally declares too red to contest, who are in trouble.

Both the legislative districts last night were won by Romney and Trump. The Long Island district-- right in the heart of Peter King's congressional district (Massapequa, West Babylon, Babylon Village, West Islip and West Bay Shore)-- had gone to Trump with a massive 23 point margin over Hillary! Last night, progressive activist, Berniecrat Christine Pellegrino defeated Conservative sociopath Tom Gargiulo 5,590 (57.89%) to 4,049 (41.93%). In a victory statement Pellegrino made it clear she isn't just another garden variety Democratic hack politician. "This is a thunderbolt of resistance," she said. "This is for all the supporters and voters who understand a strong progressive agenda is the way forward in New York." She had been a Bernie delegate to the Democratic National Convention last year.

In New Hampshire, GOP state Rep. Harold Parker had resigned to join the Sununu administration, triggering the special election in Wolfeboro (Carroll County). Democrat Edith DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache 811 (52%) to 755 (48%), the first time a Democrat had ever won the seat.

Every time Ryan and Trump do something to further undermine working families, the enthusiasm to defeat Republicans ticks up, even in "safe" Republican districts like these two. Once again, the DCCC has adamantly refused to target Steve Israel-crony Peter King. But there is no doubt there will be a grassroots candidate running against him in 2018, with or without assistance from Pelosi and her clueless DC Democrats.

The most important lesson to remember from last night is that these candidates do NOT fit the DCCC candidate profile which results in the recruitment of loser candidates who are wealthy self-funders and Republican-lite conservatives. This morning DNC chair Tom Perez may have been happy but he wasn't particularly inspiring in his remarks: "To rebuild the Democratic party, we need to win from the school board to the Senate. No seat is too small, and to be competitive we have to get back to the basics of grassroots organizing as a party. Last night, two Democratic women won upset victories in down-ballot races where Trump won by a large margin, and held on to a key Democratic seat in New York. They did it by talking to every voter. As President Trump and Republicans across the nation push budgets and policies that help the rich get richer at the expense of the rest of America, Democrats are focused on lifting people up and on the issues that matter to working families. As we saw last night, the Democratic Party continues to turn this moment into a movement and this movement into votes." He should have let Keith make the statement.

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Why Are The Imbeciles At The DCCC Boycotting Wisconsin This Cycle?


There are 16 House Democrats with perfect scores from ProgressivePunch for the current session-- a score of 100. One, Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is a freshman, which means her lifetime crucial vote score is also 100. The other freshmen with eye-popping great scores are Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Ro Khanna (D-CA). ProgressivePunch is a very imperfect tool but where it fails in precision, it excels in relative direction, especially over long periods of time. My gut tells me that Pramila at 5 months in will still be a super-progressive champion at 5 years in. Meanwhile, though, the non-freshman-- so people with a longer and more complicated voting record-- with the best voting record in the House is Mark Pocan from Madison, Wisconsin. Pocan has a 98.99 crucial vote score, almost unbelievable for someone elected to Congress in 2012.

And the voters back home in Wisconsin know it. In November, Mark out-performed Hillary in his blue collar Midwest district, scoring 69% of the vote against his Republican opponent. Yesterday Mark was elected co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, taking over for Keith Ellison who is now Deputy Chairman of the DNC. Pocan is one of the Democrats in Congress insistent on the Democrats presenting a positive agenda ago voters, not just a list of complaints about Trump and Putin. He bridges the gap nicely-- something his colleagues should try to incorporate into their own presentations: "With the Trump Administration attacking both the values we hold dear and the programs which provide vital services to people across the country, it is my goal to help make the Congressional Progressive Caucus the voice of the resistance. All we need to do is take a look at the devastating cuts proposed in the budget President Trump released today to see the clear distinction between progressives and this Administration and Congress. I am proud to help lead the charge in Congress for progressive ideas that lay the foundation for our resistance in this era of Trump. The CPC will fight the fights against bad policies and offer positive alternatives which demonstrate progressives have a pulse on the will of the people and a plan forward.

"As a lifelong progressive, I will continue to fight for the kitchen table issues we all care about and put forward pragmatic, progressive policies to combat Donald Trump and Paul Ryan’s radical agenda," he emphasized. "House Republicans think they can get away with passing a health care bill that will cause 24 million Americans to lose coverage, but the CPC will work with outside groups to ensure people understand what Congress is doing. We know progressives have a winning message across the country and in America’s heartland. I hope to help the Congressional Progressive Congress make sure the voices of the American people are heard in the halls of Congress."

As we mentioned yesterday, the DCCC announced their expanded list of target districts for the 2018 midterms. Not a single one was in the great progressive bastion Wisconsin has been and will be again, despite the fact that several of the congressional districts are true swing districts and that one, in particular, WI-01, is occupied by the most obvious target in the whole Congress: Paul Ryan. These are all Wisconsin districts Obama won and have been abandoned by a DCCC incapable of thinking beyond the newest shiniest object (red suburban districts Trump managed to lose in Texas and Orange County, CA). The percentage was Obama's winning number against McCain.
WI-01 (Ryan)- 51%
WI-06 (Glenn Grothman)- 49%
WI-07 (Sean Duff)- 53%
WI-08 (Mike Gallagher)- 54%
Maybe worth the effort? Especially in a year when Tammy Baldwin will be at the top of the ticket asking voters to send her back to the Senate.

Virtually all of the Democratic campaign managers operating independently of the DCCC web of corruption have uniformly negative opinions of the DCCC and their capacity to win races. Rahm was seen as pure evil but Chris Van Hollen, Steve Israel and Ben Ray Lujan are sad-sad laughing stocks who have eviscerate the Democratic Party and crapped on its brand. We asked one of the most respected and coveted of those managers what he thinks of the DCCC boycott of Wisconsin. I swear I could sense steam coming out of his ears as he exploded into a stream of vituperatives. When he calmed down he said that "Given the blue collar nature and partisan make up of Wisconsin 1, there is not a more winnable seat for a Democrat in Wisconsin currently held by a Republican (not to mention the fact that having Paul Ryan as the incumbent most likely means more grassroots money than is necessary to win). Not only is Wisconsin 1 winnable, it is a seat that is necessary to win in order to gain real momentum heading into 2020's battle for the presidency. The Democratic Party can go all over the country looking for GOP-held seats in suburban America, but the fact is that if we don't start winning the blue collar worker back, any presidential math will be difficult. Sweeping Orange County congressional seats would be nice, but let's face it, California is a Democratic stronghold on the electoral map. But if we can show that hard working men and women in good union jobs can articulate strong Democratic values in areas like southeast Wisconsin, Donald Trump (or incoming president Pence) should probably give up and head back to their local Klan meeting or Billy Graham circus spectacular." He gets a little carried away.

We asked one of the smartest Wisconsin politicians we know, state Senator Chris Larson, what he thinks of how the DCCC has left his state out of their plans this cycle. He told us that "Wisconsin was a leading state in the progressive movement and we will be a part of the resurgence. Folks thinking of writing off Wisconsin should spend some time on the ground here first. They'd discover what we all know: there are amazing people getting ready to run on a progressive vision and there's a grassroots army ready to to get behind them."

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Florida Democratic Party Continues To Aim Low, Enabling GOP Dominance


Looking at the cluelessness, the incompetence (and, yes, the corruption) of the DCCC, we often worry if they will, once again, wreck the chances of Democrats to take back the House. Between Trump's unpopularity and Ryan's draconian anti-working family agenda, it should be hard for Republicans to hold onto their House majority in 2018. But if there's anything that will make it possible for them, it's Pelosi's ever-putrid DCCC.

Here in California, where Ted lieu was elected DCCC regional vice chair, recruitment and candidate support are actually working the way they should. No matter how unlikely to win a candidate is, when I call them I'm finding Lieu or his chief of staff, Marc Cevasco, have already touched bases and been generously sharing advice and encouragement. Unfortunately, I'm not finding anything like that in any of the other regions. I've yet to find a candidate in the South, the Midwest, the Rocky Mountain states (and Texas) or the Northeast who have even heard that Don McEachin, Betty McCollum, Jared Polis or Joe Kennedy are regional vice chairs. I'm not sure what they're waiting for-- or why they bothered running for the positions. Sad. Tiny Update: When I was complaining to one of the top party leaders in the House about this yesterday, this is what I was told by e-mail: "Confidently [I think they meant confidentially]-- those new DCCC titles were a part of when Nancy was challenged by Tim Ryan, and they were handing out titles. Not sure if they actually do anything..." True dat! (Except Ted Lieu, one of the real heroes in a House that needs more heroic figures.)

Yesterday, the new chairman of the California Democratic Party, Eric Bauman, asked me to be part of his circle of advisors. My first advice to him was to work with Ted Lieu to make sure California is no longer at the mercy of the vision-free imbeciles Rahm Emanuel puked up to run the DC Dems. I hope I can get him to understand what I'm talking about before the midterms.

This week, Jerry Iannelli, writing for Miami's New Times, showed why the problems Democrats have go beyond the clueless lunkheads at the DCCC and have permeated into the state parties as well. "There is truly no defeat the Florida Democratic Party will avoid snatching from the hands of victory," he wrote. "Donald Trump has turned the Republican Party radioactive. His polling numbers are plummeting right alongside the GOP as a whole. And the nation is seeing a groundswell of progressive activism at levels not witnessed since the 1960s.

So how does the new, incoming brass running the Florida Democratic Party respond? By telling constituents that 'issues' don't matter and that it's not the party's job to focus on policies that will actually help anyone, like single-payer health care." Ah... yes, welcome to the party of Debbie Wasserman Schultz!
Last night, the party's new second-in-command, Sally Boynton Brown, spoke in front of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County. And throughout the exchange, she steadfastly refused to commit to changing the party's economic or health-care messaging in any concrete way.

"This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we're in now: I believe that we're in a place where it's very hard to get voters excited about 'issues,' the type of voters that are not voting," Brown said.

Brown, the former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, was hired last month to take over for the outgoing executive director, Scott Arceneaux. Last night was her first encounter with local progressives, who are already disgruntled after [Wasserman Schultz puppet] Stephen Bittel-- a billionaire real-estate developer, gas station franchiser, environmental dredging company executive, and major political donor-- was elected to serve as party chair earlier this year. Many progressives accused him of buying his way into the job via campaign donations.

And Brown's speech perfectly illustrates why the Florida Democratic Party (and the party in general) can't seem to get out of its own way and actually win elections.

How important is it for candidates to concentrate on "issues" like health care or economic equality, one audience member asked. Her answer? Not very. She said candidates moving forward should focus on "identity messages" instead, which she didn't actually define.

In a follow-up question, she also warned party members not to get too excited about turning districts from Republican to Democrat and said the best we ought to hope for is that Florida becomes more "purple." (She also said she was proud about not supporting either candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary, which is an odd sort of thing to boast about as a Democratic Party leader.)

Later in the meeting, she then said that people who are struggling to make ends meet-- and often decline to vote because they say it doesn't matter-- do not vote based on "issues" they care about and instead vote because they are "emotional beings." She added that people apparently skip voting because they've somehow forgotten about the "power of democracy," whatever that means.

She also said that taking money from large corporations such as Florida Power & Light could somehow be a good thing-- and that the "relationship" created when gigantic corporations give thousands of dollars to political candidates can somehow make it easier for politicians to push back against corporations when they are "raping our country."

"It's not so much about the money controlling the conversation; it's about the people controlling the conversation," she said. "And right now, unfortunately, we live in a system where you have to have money to work the system."

(That system seems to be working pretty well in Florida as it is.)

Brown then attempted to explain what she believes the party's strategy ought to be instead. She contradicted herself multiple times and wasted a lot of air deflecting the fact that she wouldn't commit to forcing candidates to pushing for progressive changes that could help people-- and perhaps excite them to get to the polls. Here's her nonsensical answer in full:
"At the end of the day, what really matters, is what our candidates decide to do. So, two things to that. One, I believe that the FDP needs to have an overarching 'identity message' that we are making sure that we are driving out to everybody. And, in that identity message, we identify key issues, health care definitely being one of them, and then we educate our candidates to be able to go talk about those with the best of their ability. So, I believe that the way that we have those conversations needs to be drastically different than the way it has been. As Democrats, I think we continue to try and connect with voters' heads around 'issues,' and 'facts,' and 'truth,' when we are now in an era of emotional politics, where people are scared, and we have to figure out how to connect with their hearts. And I think we have a lot of experimentation to do on how that happens. And I am not prepared to try and say 'issues' don't do that. Because I know there's a lot of people who think differently. What I would like to do is test different 'scripts' that really talk about that, and what I know is that health care and having accessible health care for all is one of the number-one issues that we have."
Brown was right, in that her viewpoint didn't get anyone excited. After she finished her answer, the man who asked the question literally walked right out of the room as she was answering the next question.

The answer was so confusing that at roughly 35 minutes into the clip, an elderly black woman asked Brown to clarify her point. She brought up the fact that poor people of color don't get motivated to vote for Democrats because both major parties haven't done much to help those communities prosper in decades.

"You're not touching their issues," she said to Brown. "The platform has to come from issues. Can you explain that to me so I can get unstuck?"

Brown then explained that, as a person in charge of party "staffing," she's not in charge of what policies her candidates push. And then she contradicted herself a split-second later by admitting it's her job to "elect Democrats."

"My job is to elect the Democrats who go do the governance and then go figure out the policies and issues," she responded.

And then yet another audience member chided her for her answer.

"You sort of hinted when you first answered that you felt that what got people out to vote wasn't really issue-oriented," the man said. "The evidence is that that's not really true at all. Voter participation tends to crash, but when somebody tends to bring out issues, that's when [people] come out. We saw that with Bernie Sanders. And so I think you have a contradiction there."

At this point, Brown argued that poor people are simultaneously struggling to make ends meet but also don't vote based on what policies will benefit them.
"I believe that what we saw with Bernie was a phenomenon that did not just have to do with issues he was talking about. I believe it was much more than that. Trump had a similar phenomenon. And frankly from Justin Trudeau all the way to the future around the globe, we have seen similar phenomenons. The issues have not been the same everywhere. So, I believe that people are emotionally reacting to the emotion. I believe, and again I don't have the data to back this up, but is that Bernie found a core group of people who were excited about 'issues,' and their passion, and enthusiasm, and energy created an emotion that more people reacted to. That's what I saw from an outside perspective."
She added that "they are emotional beings who are struggling to make a living, and they need to know that somebody's going to be on their side and be able to help them."

"They're struggling to make a living over issues," the audience member responded. "Those are economics."

"I'm not going to get into the hard-head debate," she said. "I'm just sharing my perspective and that we absolutely will do data testing to see which scripts work best [and then share that with our candidates]." (So now Brown's job does include deciding policy? What?)

It's worth noting that Hillary Clinton's campaign relied on data testing to an almost extreme degree in 2016 and lost catastrophically after much of that data turned out to be wrong.

Let's pause for a second: Who is not an "issues person"? Politics is entirely about issues. The basic reason you vote for anyone is because you want that person to accomplish things that make your life better. Who are these "emotional beings" that get excited about candidates but don't care about policy?

The rest of the meeting didn't inspire much more confidence. Brown was also asked about the party's plan to convert formerly red states or counties to blue ones-- and her response was that she had spent the past six years working to instead turn Idaho "purple," and that's the best we ought to hope for in Florida (which voted twice for Obama).
I think they need Sally Boynton Brown back in Idaho-- and pronto! Perhaps she could do Florida Democrats one real, honest-to-goodness favor on the way out-- by taking Stephen Bittel and Wasserman Schultz with her. And just in case that doesn't happen for some reason... please consider helping Tim Canova remove Wasserman Schultz from her poisonous perch when he battles her again for the Broward/Miami-Dade congressional seat in the 2018 midterms. (Always remember, not all the villains are Republicans.)

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Will Montana And Georgia Special Election Voters Help Stop Trump? Lookin' Good


A new poll of GA-06 voters is a dire warning to congressional Republicans. Paul Ryan's SuperPAC has put more money into the campaign on behalf of Karen Handel than any outside group has ever spent on any congressional race in history. And those millions and millions of dollars appear to have been wasted as Jon Ossoff has pulled ahead:
Jon Ossoff- 51%
Karen Handel- 44%
At the same time, tomorrow's at-large race in Montana is looking so close that no one can call it-- again, after massive expenditure from Ryan and the GOP on behalf of billionaire self-funder Greg Gianforte.

In his NY Times column yesterday, David Leonhardt emphasized that "while the rest of the country has been transfixed by Trumpian chaos, members of the Senate have spent the last two weeks talking about taking health insurance from millions of Americans... The effort to take health insurance from the middle class and poor and funnel the savings into tax cuts for the rich is a little like mold. It grows best in the dark. That’s why Republican leaders in the House handled their bill as they did. They did not hold a single hearing, because they knew that attention would have been devastating."

But the Republican posture towards healthcare-- which has largely driven the polling numbers up for Ossoff in Georgia and for Quist in Montana-- will now be reinforced by the Republican posture towards Social Security. As the NY Times explained, the $4.1 trillion budget Señor Trumpanzee proposed "cuts deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities." The Republicans are trying to redefine "Social Security" to leave out of the definition the parts they want to cut-- aid to people with disabilities.

Yesterday, Chuck Todd hammered Trump on the broken promise to protect Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare from his fellow Republicans whose grasp on power makes them think they have a mandate to destroy all three. Mantra-like, Trump always claimed during his campaign that he wouldn't allow that to happen. "Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it," he said. "[T]wo subjects-- seizing on immigration/race and protecting entitlements-- eventually made him the first Republican since 1988 to carry Pennsylvania and Michigan, and the first since 1984 to win Wisconsin. So it's striking that President Trump's first budget cuts Medicaid and a part of Social Security, arguably hurting many of the voters who helped him win in 2016." Will Montana and Georgia special election voters take it out on Gianforte and Handel? They should-- and more important, midterm voters should decimate the GOP ranks in Congress next year. The Regime "proposes reducing spending on Medicaid programs by more than $600 billion over the next decade, a massive cut that appears to go on top of $839 billion in Medicaid cuts included in the House bill... [Señor Trumpanzee] opposed cuts to Social Security during the campaign, but the new budget would make cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance, which covered over 10 million recipients as of December 2015. It would save about $72 billion through changes to disability programs over the next ten years. Asked about the discrepancy, Mulvaney suggested that the president intended his promises to apply only to retirement benefits. 'If you ask 990 people out of a thousand, they'd tell you Social Security disability is not part of Social Security,' Mulvaney said."
[W]hat's extraordinary about this Trump budget-- released just six months after his presidential victory-- is how it undercuts a central campaign promise... [I]t more reflects Mulvaney's values as a former House Freedom Caucus member than what Trump campaigned on in 2016. "This is, I think, the first time in a long time the administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people paying the taxes," Mulvaney told reporters yesterday, per Sarlin. That sounds a lot more like Ayn Rand and the Tea Party than Trump and Steve Bannon, no?

...The National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee and the Paul Ryan-affiliated super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund have already spent more than $15.5 million combined on a trio of unexpectedly competitive races in deep red congressional districts, according to independent expenditure and disbursement reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. More: "[N]ational Democratic groups have spent only a fraction of what their Republican counterparts have pumped into competitive races so far. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DNC and the House Majority PAC have spent about $4.2 million combined on the three special elections in Georgia, Kansas and Montana, according to FEC reports and statements from the organizations."
And who gets hit the hardest by this budget? Trump's own base. According to Politico, "Rather than breaking with Washington precedent, Trump’s spending blueprint follows established conservative orthodoxy, cutting taxes on the wealthy, boosting defense spending and taking a hatchet to programs for the poor and disabled-- potentially hurting many of the rural and low-income Americans that voted him into office."
The budget proposal underscores the wide gulf between campaigning and governing, even for a president who promised to rewrite the presidential rule book.

The president’s budget plan calls for more than $1 trillion in cuts to a wide range of social programs with millions of beneficiaries, from farm subsidies to federal student aid. That includes a $600 billion cut to Medicaid over 10 years, despite Trump’s repeated promises on the campaign trail not to cut the program. The budget also takes an ax to the federal food stamp program and Social Security Disability Insurance.

Trump also proposes some of the deepest cuts to agriculture subsidies since Ronald Reagan, squeezing out nearly $50 billion over 10 years.

Trump’s budget would drastically cut domestic programs controlled by Congress, slashing $1.7 trillion over 10 years. At the end of the decade, the U.S. would spend nearly twice as much on defense as on other domestic programs. Domestic discretionary spending would be capped at $429 billion per year, below 2004 levels, while military spending soars to $722 billion.

...Trump’s budget would tighten the belt on programs for low-income families ranging from cash assistance to the child tax credit. Nearly $200 billion in cuts will come directly from the federal food stamp program, which helps feed 44 million people each year.

Trump would also slash $72 billion by tightening the rules for programs for people with disabilities-- programs that Trump’s advisers have described as riddled with fraud and abuse. A federal watchdog, however, found last year that 17 anti-fraud programs already exist.

Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Vice Ranking member of the House Budget Committee, responded to the release of Trump's budget in way that doesn't augur well for House Republicans headed into the 2018 midterms. "There is only one way to describe the Trump budget-- cruel. It pulls the rug out from under people who are already struggling to make ends meet. Simply put this is a $54 billion assault on Americans living on the brink. This budget proposal continues the trend of transferring taxpayer dollars into the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of our nation’s working families. It attacks women’s health care by defunding Planned Parenthood, destroys Medicaid, cuts funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and guts nutrition assistance programs that help families put food on their tables. This budget continues down the path of tearing apart families by proposing funding for a billion dollar border wall, and it neglects the health and safety of everyone by making a 31 percent cut to EPA funds that keep our air and water clean. A budget is a statement of our values. My values and the values of the people of Washington’s 7th District could not be more different from those expressed in this proposal. I believe our budget should invest in jobs and opportunities for working families who are desperately in need of support. This budget, in total contradiction to the populist platform that the President campaigned on, does exactly the opposite. It guts investments in working people to give tax cuts to the wealthy. That's just wrong. As a member of the House Budget Committee, I am determined to fight against this budget and protect our communities from harm."

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against North Carolina GOP Racists Who Control The State Legislature


The Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature has given Governor Roy Cooper every reason in the world for him to want to do them some harm. The House has 74 Republicans, 45 Democrats and an independent and the Senate has 35 Republicans and 16 Democrats. Yesterday, after the 5-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming that the Republicans in the legislature are a pack of racist animals who should immediately lined up against a wall and shot-- not blindfolds and no cigarettes-- Cooper pointed out that "for the second time in two weeks, the Supreme Court ruled that Republican legislative leaders broke the law. Today's ruling showed they tried to rig elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African Americans." Except they didn't try; they did it. In 2012 Obama won North Carolina 2,270,395 (50%) to 2,178,391 (48%). And this year Señor Trumpanzee beat Hillary 2,362,631 (49.8%) to 2,189,316 (46.2%). So let's say it's a 50/50 state.

But the state's 13 congressional districts have been drawn in such a way to create 3 Democratic districts and 10 Republican districts. A fair redraw would result in one party winning 6 and the other winning 7. Gerrymandering has been very pernicious in North Carolina. I was kidding about the firing squad for the Republican state legislators. With no punishment, there is no reason for them-- or other monsters like them around the country-- to alter their behavior. "Their gerrymandered electoral maps and their bogus voter access law-- both struck down by the Supreme Court-- have the same goal: To win elections at all costs," continued Cooper. "Being able to hold free and fair elections is a pillar of our democracy, and today's ruling is a big step in the fight for fairer districts... [W]e must continue to work to ensure that all of us have an equal shot at the ballot box." The Republican legislators won't. What do they have to lose. Maybe even if just one in ten were randomly pulled out and shot they would change their behavior. Maybe. It's worth a try. After all the Supreme Court ruled that they had used drawn on their racism to violate the Constitution. That sounds like a serious offense, no?

The NY Times' Adam Liptak reported that "The court rejected arguments from state lawmakers that their purpose in drawing the maps was not racial discrimination but partisan advantage."
The decision was the court’s latest attempt to solve a constitutional puzzle: how to disentangle the roles of race and partisanship when black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats. The difference matters because the Supreme Court has said that only racial gerrymandering is constitutionally suspect.

Election law experts said the ruling would make it easier to challenge voting districts based partly on partisan affiliations and partly on race.

“This will lead to many more successful racial gerrymandering cases in the American South and elsewhere,” said Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Democrats welcomed the ruling.

“This is a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering,” Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general and the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement. “North Carolina’s maps were among the worst racial gerrymanders in the nation.”

Conservatives complained that the Supreme Court had succeeded only in making the law murkier.

“The Supreme Court says race can be a factor in redistricting, but not the predominant factor, a rule that is so vague, so broad and so lacking in a definable legal standard that it is not really a rule at all,” Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer with the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement.

The ruling on Monday was the second Supreme Court victory for North Carolina Democrats this month. Last Monday, the justices declined to hear an appeal of a decision that had struck down parts of a restrictive North Carolina voting law that, among other things, tightened voter identification requirements and cut back on early voting.

A federal appeals court had ruled that the restrictions were an unconstitutional effort to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

...In defending the new district lines for District 12, state lawmakers said they had meant to secure a partisan advantage for Republicans, a lawful goal. But Justice Kagan said race could predominate even if legislators had mixed motives.

“The sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics,” she wrote, in a passage that some election law experts said would make it easier to challenge asserted racial gerrymanders.

In a concurrence, Justice Thomas said he agreed that the trial court had not committed a clear error in finding that “race was North Carolina’s predominant motive in drawing the district.”
Goal Thermometer So far, Blue America has endorsed two candidates for Congress in North Carolina, Matt Coffay who is running for the western district currently held by Freedom Caucus chairman, Mark Meadows, and Jenny Marshall, the 5th District candidate for the seat Virginia Foxx occupies. Last night Jenny told us that she's "very pleased with the decision handed down by the Supreme Court today. The GOP and their ploy to gerrymander groups of voters by race was defeated. While the decision is a step in the right direction, we still do not have a clear indication as to what the next steps will be for state and congressional races that were won under gerrymandered districts. In 2016 they redrew congressional districts in North Carolina. The new 5th district moved more blue, but most of the districts remained heavily gerrymandered. Not surprisingly the outcome of the election remained the same at 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats. While we cannot blame gerrymandering for all the results of these congressional races, we must demand that gerrymandering by both parties end and that non partisan commissions be tasked with the job of drawing our district lines fairly to all.

This morning we spoke with Matt Coffay. He told us "It's hard to say at this point how this ruling will impact North Carolina for 2018. However, it's clear that there's now a groundswell of both public and judicial support when it comes to ending gerrymandering. The irony with this case is that the plaintiffs didn't claim they were innocent of gerrymandering: instead, they claimed they had politically (as opposed to racially) gerrymandered the districts; which, up until now, has been legally acceptable. Fortunately, the Wisconsin decision regarding political gerrymandering gives me hope that legal precedent is also beginning to swing in the direction of making political gerrymandering illegal. I truly believe that with enough public awareness and pressure, we can put an end to this despicable, undemocratic practice once and for all. It's time we stopped letting politicians pick their voters, and instead let voters pick their politicians."

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Who Has Bad Judgment?-- Wall Street Version


Zach Carter is one of Huff Po's most perceptive reporters and yesterday he warned his readers that while we were all distracted by the clown show Trump had finally delivered one on big campaign promise-- not for his voters, of course, but for his Wall Street donors-- he pretty much gutted Dodd-Frank. "Trump," he reminded us, "campaigned on conflicting promises about big banks. One minute, he was going to stick it to the corrupt financial insiders who had wrecked the middle class. The next, he’d vow to liberate our benevolent princes of capital from crushing regulations Obama had cruelly imposed." Pushed by the traditional GOP swamp creatures all around him-- from Pence, Ryan, Priebus and Hensarling to Mnuchin, Ross and Cohn-- the Trump Regime has been all about deregulation.
Last week, a council of top regulators quietly met to discuss the future of the Volcker rule-- the most important structural change Obama established for the financial system. A few days later, a freshly installed Trump official went further, threatening to defang the rule “unilaterally” by “reinterpreting” its entire purpose.

The rule is basically dead, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a note to clients last Monday: “Examiners can start giving banks the benefit of the doubt regarding compliance with Volcker almost immediately.”

The Volcker rule was conceived as an update to the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which banned traditional banks from engaging in risky, high-stakes securities ventures, which became the domain of investment banks, hedge funds and other firms that didn’t rely on federal support. Until its repeal in the 1990s, Glass-Steagall put an end to many conflicts of interest that had plagued banking during the Roaring Twenties, and prevented government subsidies from flowing into speculative securities schemes, which made it harder for big crazy asset bubbles to accumulate.

Glass-Steagall was as powerful as a sledgehammer, but only slightly more precise. The Volcker rule tried to draw a finer distinction. Instead of banning banks from the securities business outright, it only barred proprietary trading. Banks were no longer allowed to make reckless bets for their own accounts, but other types of trading to help clients meet legitimate market needs would be permitted. Done right, the Volcker rule would have been a technocratic improvement on Glass-Steagall, providing all the benefits of its New Deal predecessor without its costs.

It reflected the broader approach Obama and congressional Democrats took with Wall Street reform, treating the financial crisis as a mechanical malfunction best corrected by expert regulators who could write specific rules for nuanced situations. The economic system, they believed, could not be properly repaired with blunt instruments or lines in the sand.

Twenty-first-century banking is indeed a nasty thicket of money and numbers. But the financial crisis was more than a technocratic breakdown. It was an abuse of power. And the 2010 Dodd-Frank law didn’t really try to reshape the political dynamic between Wall Street and Washington. A handful of financial titans retained control over multitrillion-dollar institutions tasked with socially essential functions. They were not prosecuted for fraud, they continued to lobby both Congress and federal agencies with ferocity, and their firms continued to provide lucrative jobs for political operatives from both parties. Against this mountain, Obama set the willpower of individual regulators.

It didn’t work. Consider the Volcker rule, which ran into trouble almost immediately. “One of the world’s largest banking firms” enlisted the Podesta Group-- a lobbying powerhouse founded by Democratic power brokers John and Tony Podesta-- to water down the rule in Congress. The Podesta Group still boasts about the effort on its website, under “Wins.”

“The client’s desired language on the ‘Volcker Rule’ was passed into law,” reads the page, titled “Challenging Wall Street Reform To Defend Jobs.” The lobbying barrage continued at the regulatory agencies, whose final version of the rule stretched to 300 pages of loopholes, exemptions and special considerations. Bank lobbyists succeeded in delaying the implementation of key elements of Volcker for years. Now the beast is being put out of its misery by Trump appointees with close ties to the financial industry, demonstrating that Wall Street’s political clout remains as strong as ever. Volcker’s destroyers will include former bank lawyer Keith Noreika, along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, a Goldman Sachs alum, and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, who served as Goldman’s bailout attorney.

A similar fate will soon follow for the derivatives regulations and other rules written during the Obama years. Even capital requirements, the simplest and last line of defense against bad bank behavior, are under assault following the resignation of Federal Reserve Governor Daniel Tarullo. We will never know if Obama’s tweaks and adjustments would have prevented or ameliorated another financial crisis. Today, big banks are bigger than they were before the crash, and are returning to pre-crash levels of oversight. The potential for financial turmoil under an erratic president is just as strong as the potential for foreign policy dislocation.

The one element of Dodd-Frank that will likely survive the Trump presidency is also the only aspect that seriously restructured the power relationship between government and finance. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is important not because it involves a host of complicated new rules-- stealing from customers was illegal before, during and after the crisis-- but because it changes the way these protections are enforced. Prior to Obama, consumer banking products were regulated by five different agencies that competed with each other for “assessment” fees paid by the banks they regulated. This gave banks political power over their regulators-- an agency that was too tough on consumer protection risked losing its banks, and the funding they brought, to another regulator.

Obama scrapped this regime in favor of a single consumer finance overseer, the CFPB, and charged lifelong consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren with setting up the agency and hiring critical personnel. This established a new power center in Washington capable of challenging not only big banks, but also broken bureaucracy. When Obama’s Education Department turned a blind eye to student loan abuses, the CFPB took action. It has returned over $11 billion in ill-gotten bank gains to customers since its inception.

So the next meltdown probably won’t be caused by consumer fraud. Other than that, we’re pretty screwed.
As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the corrupt nest of thieves headed by Texas crook Jeb Hensarling-- the House Financial Services Committee-- has almost been entirely bought off by the banksters. Millions and millions of dollars in bribes have gone to corrupt Republicans like Hensarling ($7,372,690), Ed Royce ($6,931,797), Steve Stivers ($4,192,037), Patrick McHenry ($3,949,286), Peter King ($2,761,274), Sean Duffy ($2,376,646) and Blaine Luetkemeyer ($2,371,565) and to corrupt Democrats on the committee as well-- Jim Himes ($5,545,212), Gregory Meeks ($3,120,688), DavidScott ($2,770,894), Charlie Crist ($2,474,349), John Delaney ($2,100,202) and Kyrsten Sinema ($1,662,043).

There's no doubt the House is going to pass the legislation the bank lobbyists have written for Hensarling, destroying as many consumer protections as they can, especially the CFPB. But even McConnell admits that the greed and avarice of the banksters and the bribed House members won't get the legislation through the Senate for Señor Trumpanzee to sign. McConnell told Bloomberg News "I’d love to do something about Dodd-Frank, particularly with regard to community banks but that would require Democratic involvement. I’m not optimistic... So far, my impression is the Democrats on the banking committee believe that Dodd-Frank is something akin to the Ten Commandments."
Despite McConnell’s remarks, helping community lenders hasn’t been the main sticking point in negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, the banking panel’s top Democrat, has said he supports relaxing rules for the smallest banks. But Democrats have been vocal in resisting any changes to Dodd-Frank that they say will aid Wall Street, such as scrapping Volcker Rule trading restrictions and weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

On Tuesday, Brown pushed back on McConnell’s contention that Democrats are blocking efforts for a bipartisan compromise.

“The Senate Republican leader seems to have forgotten the harm Wall Street’s greed and reckless behavior caused to millions of working families and taxpayers,” Brown said in a statement. “If this were really about community banks, we might have come to an agreement years ago. Republicans are once again using them as leverage to help a rogue’s gallery of special interests.”

[Senate Banking Committee chair Mike] Crapo has previously said efforts to revise Dodd-Frank would be slow as most major bills require 60 votes to pass the Senate, and Republicans hold just 52 seats. The House is moving faster, with that chamber’s Financial Services Committee approving legislation earlier this month that would alter many of the law’s key provisions. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he wants the legislation to move to a floor vote as soon as possible.

Absent action by Congress, McConnell said rolling back Dodd-Frank will fall to the Trump administration. After a slow start, President Donald Trump has made progress in recent weeks in filling the agencies that oversee Wall Street with his own appointees.

Trump, who has called Dodd-Frank a “disaster” that has made it difficult for businesses to get loans, signed an executive order in February requiring regulators to examine financial rules. The Treasury Department is scheduled to issue a report on the findings next month, kicking off what the administration has promised will be a broad rewrite of regulations implemented under Dodd-Frank.

Unless the situation in Congress changes, we will be “stuck with whatever the administration thinks it can do on its own to modify the impact of Dodd-Frank,” McConnell said.

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In Which Country Will Trump Make The Biggest Fool Of Himself?


Everyone knows how Roger Stone said watching Trump bowing and scraping-- actually curtsying-- to the Saudi dictator made him want to puke. And we all know how clueless doofus (and murderer)Wilbur Ross slept thru Trump's speech after his strenuous sword dance and that he then went on CNBC to say that "There was not a single hint of a protester" in Saudi Arabia during Trump's visit, apparently unaware that protesters are beheaded in Saudi Arabia. By the next morning, Secretary of State T-Rex was calling Tel-Aviv, the most secular city in Israel, the home of Judaism.

Wingnutia back home as been buzzing that Señor Trumpanzee didn't use the sacred phrase of right-wing morons, "radical Islamoc terrorism. The White House has put out the word that it was just an oversight and that Trump was exhausted from his trip. I thought Hillary was the one with no stamina. Kellyanne Con-man told reporters el Señor mixed up the wording of his prepared remarks in Saudi Arabia because he was pooped. "He’s just an exhausted guy," she said on background. PolitiFact, though looked into the whole change of tenor between tough campaign-mode Trump and Arab-ass-kissing Trump.
In his quest for the GOP nomination, Trump distinguished himself for his readiness to embrace policies that went beyond what other Republicans would endorse.

Following the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., he called on Dec. 7, 2015, for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on."

In a March 9, 2016, interview on CNN, Trump said "Islam hates us." When pressed a day later if he meant all Muslims, Trump said "I mean a lot of them."

In contrast, during his speech in Riyadh, Trump said, "I have always heard about the splendor of your country and the kindness of your citizens."

Throughout the campaign, when Trump spoke of Islam, it generally followed the word "radical."

"When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM?" Trump tweeted Nov. 15, 2015. "He  can't say it, and unless he will,  the problem will not be solved!"

After the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump leveled the same charge at Hillary Clinton on June 13, 2016. He derided her for a tweet in which she said "Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people, and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."

"She is in total denial," Trump said. "And her continuing reluctance to ever name the enemy broadcasts weakness across the world."

At one point, Trump said he was open to creating a database of all Muslims in America, and on a few occasions said he would strongly consider closing some mosques.

In Riyadh, Trump didn’t use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" and seemed to go out of his way to suggest that only a few extremists engaged in terrorism.

"This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations," Trump said. "This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it."

...During the campaign, attacks at home drew the strongest responses from Trump.  Overseas at least, Trump has embraced the view that while there are many Muslims who hate America, there are at least as many who don’t.
But the question that everyone has been asking was about the Saudi orb. What was that thing and why did Trump take part in what looked like a satanic ritual with the Egyptian dictator and the Saudi "king?" The NY Times reported that the 3 authoritarian rulers "placed their hands atop a radiant whitish sphere, which illuminated their faces like a campfire, and kept them there for nearly two minutes."

With the media back home reporting that Señor Trumpanzee's 39.7% approval is lower than any of his last 12 predecessors, social media went crazy over the spooky-looking orb ritual.
The orb’s segmented pedestal, which looked as if it might have come from the bridge of a science-fiction starship, added to the mystery. And an illuminated floor, not directly visible in the most widely circulated images, intensified the dramatic underlighting.

Critics of Mr. Trump, some of whom seem eager to see something nefarious in anything he does, appeared especially agitated. Some projected onto the images their dismay about Mr. Trump’s playing down of human rights and about the authoritarian Egyptian and Saudi governments. Bill Kristol, a prominent conservative critic of Mr. Trump, likened the group to the conclave of witches in “Macbeth.”

Many others drew on tropes from science fiction and fantasy, invoking comic-book villains, the Harry Potter novels and films, and even “The Wizard of Oz.”... Brian Klaas, a political scientist who has been critical of Mr. Trump, likened the leaders to the evil wizard Saruman from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

The real meaning of the sphere had little to do with the occult.

The occasion was the opening of a new Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, based in Riyadh, and the orb was in fact a translucent globe, with the world’s waters represented in light gray and the continents in black. Its purpose appeared to be decorative.

The futuristic look of the darkened room may have helped to fire observers’ imaginations.

It was filled with computer terminals. At one end was a wall of monitors displaying feeds from news networks. Employees of the center were segregated by gender, as is common in Saudi Arabia.

The design felt to a pool reporter who was present like a hybrid of a game-show set and a television thriller’s idea of a counterterrorism operations control room.

Among the many dignitaries at the event were Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef.

The globe did not appear to have any magical powers, but when the king and Mr. Trump touched it, background music of the kind that might accompany a reality show’s elimination sequence or introduce a cable news program soared and pulsed. The screens glowed with statistical displays and videos about fighting terrorism. An unnamed official who narrated the features of the new control center said the displays used artificial intelligence to track, in real time, news reports and online statements.

“This groundbreaking new center represents a clear declaration that Muslim-majority countries must take the lead in combating radicalization, and I want to express our gratitude to King Salman for this strong demonstration of leadership,” Mr. Trump said in his prepared remarks.
And with that, the snakes on a plane were off to Israel.

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