Friday, November 24, 2017

Things Will Only Get Worse For Ryan And His House Republicans As The Midterms Approach

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Every poll that asks about who voters would rather see in control of Congress shows the same thing: by large and growing numbers, registered voters and likely voters want to see the Republicans lose control of Congress. Except for hard core Republicans-- and not even all of them no one wants to see another Paul Ryan speakership and even fewer people want to see Mitch McConnell in control of the Senate. But the caveat is always "but a lot could happen between now and the 2018 midterms. And that's true; a lot could happen. And there's no reason to believe what happens will help the Republicans' situation in any way. In fact, every indication is that the GOP will be in worse shape next November than they are in this November.

Harry Enten endeavored to explain this at FiveThirtyEight a couple weeks ago, with a logical post, There’s No Reason To Think Republicans Will Be In Better Shape A Year From Now. Polls that week by CNN and the Washington Post/ABC News "both found Democrats leading Republicans by 11 percentage points on the generic ballot... But the really bad news for Republicans: There’s a good chance they won’t be able to eat too much into that lead by the 2018 midterms."
The generic congressional ballot, even more than a year before a midterm, has historically been quite predictive of what will eventually occur in the following year. It was predictive in April, and it’s even more predictive now. You can see this phenomenon in the chart below. The chart shows the margin by which the presidential party leads on the generic ballot in an average of polls in October a year before the midterm compared with the national House margin in the midterm election. Every midterm cycle since 1938 is included, with the exception of 1942 and 1990, for which we don’t have polling at this point in the cycle.



The generic ballot polls a year from the election and the eventual House results are strongly correlated (+0.90). Importantly, past elections suggest that any big movement on the generic ballot from this point to the midterm tends to go against the president’s party. That movement explains why the Democrats lost ground in 2010 and 2014 in the generic ballot polls when they controlled the White House, while they maintained their lead in 2006 when Republicans held the White House. (With a similar set of data, I used the generic ballot to forecast Democratic problems early on in the 2010 cycle.)

Indeed, recent election outcomes show that Republicans should be worried about what the generic ballot is showing. The results in Tuesday’s gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey were called perfectly by the generic ballot once we control for the partisan lean of each state. The special election results this year have also been in line with a big Democratic lead on the generic ballot... [T]here’s no reason to think that Republicans will be in any better shape nationally a year from now. The Democratic lead on the generic ballot has about doubled since April... The bottom line is that although Republicans may see the national environment improve, there’s no reason to think it will. That’s bad news for them heading into 2018.
And this kind of analysis doesn't take other factors working against the Republicans, like Roy Moore, for example... or their inability to get anything done in Washington... or how much the public hates what they are trying to get done. Can they outspend the Democrats? Can they outwork the Democrats? They can, but even if they do, it won;'t save them.

In both the 2006 Democratic wave and the 2010 Republican wave, incumbents who outspent challengers by as much as five to one, were swept away anyway. Challengers need enough money to create name recognition but-- unlike in non-wave elections-- they don't need to come anywhere close to matching their opponents in spending. And as for outworking the Democrats... Republicans are demoralized and unenthusiastic about the midterms-- and like to get more so in the next 11 months.

Early Thanksgiving morning New Jersey's Observer showed one way how that is manifesting itself. Recall that a couple of weeks ago New Jersey Republicans had their heads handed to them. In the gubernatorial race, mediocre Wall Street Democrat Phil Murphy beat Republican Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno 1,178,628 (55.8%) to 886,966 (42.0%). At the same time, the Democrats increased their state Senate majority from 24-16 to 25-15 and they increased their majority in the Assembly from 52-28 to 54-24 (with 2 seats still in recount). What the Observer reported yesterday was that Democrats have outpaced Republicans in voter registration gains in battleground congressional districts, converting a larger share of unaffiliated voters since 2012.
Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the 7th and 11th congressional districts, where incumbent Reps. Leonard Lance (R-7) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) are expected to face tough re-election bids. But the gap between registered Republicans and Democrats has tightened since 2012 as the number of unaffiliated voters fell.

In the 7th congressional district, the share of unaffiliated voters dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent. Democrats converted more of those voters than Republicans, going from roughly 24 percent to 28 percent of all voters from 2012 to November. Meanwhile, Republicans increased their registration totals by less than one percentage point, rising to nearly 31 percent. Republicans still outnumbered Democrats, 160,458 to 147,799, as of Nov. 7, according to the state Division of Elections.

This pattern-- more Republicans overall, but larger Democratic gains in terms of voter registration-- also appeared in Frelinghuysen’s 11th congressional district. Registered Democrats grew from 25 percent to 29 percent of the electorate there, while the share of Republicans ticked up from 30 percent to 31 percent. Unaffiliated voters make up less than 40 percent of district, down from 45 percent. Republicans outnumbered Democrats, 167,812 to 156,422, as of Nov. 7.

The reduction in unaffiliated voters and accompanying surge in registered Democrats is largely a result of the 2016 presidential primary, said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. Even though the presidential nominations were essentially determined by June, many voters were still enthusiastic about their candidates, particularly Bernie Sanders supporters, Murray wrote in an email.

But Murray said the recent spike is also part of a “statewide phenomenon representing slightly more Democratic enthusiasm.” Republicans are still holding their own in pro-Trump areas, such as Ocean County, he added.

...The 3rd district saw both Democrat and Republican registration grow by roughly 3 percentage points since 2012, as the number of unaffiliated voters fell by 6.5 percentage points. Democrats outnumber Republicans there, 154,664 to 143,328 as of Nov. 7, according to the Division of Elections. The district is represented by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3), who is also being targeted by Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

In the 2nd District, where Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) is retiring at the end of his term, Democrats outnumber Republicans, 147,472 to 131,799. Democratic registration grew by 3 percentage points since 2012, while Republicans saw a 2-point increase. The number of unaffiliated voters fell by nearly 6 percentage points.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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-by Noah

Dear Donnie, If you really want to be praised for an action you took in your heinous life; if you really want to be considered a patriot: Do it! Do it now!

If only. If Señor Trumpanzee would take that step tonight! Black Friday would never be known as Black Friday again. It would be something like VE Day was in 1945; much celebration in the streets, and so much relief and happiness in so many homes across America. We could call the Friday after Thanksgiving "National Euphoria Day." If he'd join hands with Republicans in Congress and they would all jump like a bunch of lemmings, even better. Best of all would be if we could park McConnell and Ryan in a Russian car on the street below, and he landed, splat, right on top of them.

Given advance scheduling, the World Pay-Per-View profits would be so high that we could pay to fully fund a national healthcare program, repair our infrastructure, and maybe even find a cure for cancer; all without using taxpayer dollars! And, of course, one big orange tumor of a humanoid would be gone. Bring on the hazmat team to clean up the mess.

If only.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Is Bannon's Scheme To Get Rid Of Jared Kushner Finally Working Out?

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Kushner-in-law and Ivanka have wanted to move back to New York and get out of the public spotlight for some time. Now it's too late, as Kushner's Trumpian world is collapsing around his ears. Wednesday, AOL reported that "Mueller's team has begun to question witnesses about some of Kushner's conversations and meetings with foreign leaders during the transition [and] investigators are also homing in on Kushner's role in pushing Trump to fire former FBI Director James Comey in May." It's all about the big "C" and "O" words: collusion and obstruction.

Gabriel Sherman has a major piece in Vanity Fair about how WhiteHouse chief of staff John Kelly has clipped Jared's wings, and diminished his role in the West Wing.
It’s perhaps hard to remember now, but it wasn’t long ago when Trump handed Kushner a comically broad portfolio that included plans to reinvent government, reform the V.A., end the opioid epidemic, run point on China, and solve Middle East peace. But since his appointment, according to sources, Kelly has tried to shrink Kushner’s responsibilities to focus primarily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And even that brief appears to be creating tensions between Kushner and Kelly. According to two people close to the White House, Kelly was said to be displeased with the result of Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia last month because it took place just days before 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested 11 Saudi royals, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The Washington Post reported that Kushner and M.B.S., as the prince is known, stayed up till nearly 4 a.m. “planning strategy,” which left Kelly to deal with the impression that the administration had advance knowledge of the purge and even helped orchestrate it, sources told me. (Asked about this, Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, in part: “Chief Kelly and Jared had a good laugh about this inquiry as nothing in it is true.”)




...As Kushner’s Russia troubles mount-- last Friday the Senate disclosed that he had not turned over e-mails about WikiLeaks, a claim his attorney, Abbe Lowell, denied-- insiders are again speculating, as my colleague Emily Jane Fox reported last month, about how long Kushner and Ivanka Trump will remain in Washington. Despite Kushner’s efforts to project confidence about Robert Mueller’s probe, he expressed worry after the indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates about how far the investigation could go. “Do you think they’ll get the president?” Kushner asked a friend, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

According to two Republicans who have spoken with Trump, the president has also been frustrated with Kushner’s political advice, including his encouragement to back losing Alabama G.O.P. candidate Luther Strange and to fire F.B.I. Director James Comey, which Kushner denies. (For what it’s worth, Kushner’s choice of Strange prevented Trump from the embarrassment of inadvertently supporting Roy Moore.) Trump, according to three people who’ve spoken to him, has advocated for Jared and Ivanka to return to New York in part because they are being damaged by negative press. “He keeps pressuring them to go,” one source close to Kushner told me. But as bad as the Russia investigation may be, it’s not clear a New York homecoming would be much better for Kushner, given that his family’s debt-ridden office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue could be headed for bankruptcy.
Not unrelated, and also in Vanity Fair is a report by Emily Fox on Kushner's Putin-Gate problem. "[A]ccording to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Mueller and his team remain deeply interested in many of Kushner’s dealings. Specifically, investigators have been asking witnesses questions about Kushner’s involvement in a series of controversial events that transpired over the past year and a half, including Kushner’s role in firing former F.B.I. director James Comey, a decision that many believe was a fatal mistake, and which led to Mueller’s appointment," she wrote. Kushner defenders say he was just agreeing with Trump that Comes should be fired.
Investigators are also looking into Kushner’s role in setting up meetings and communications with foreign leaders during the transition, according to the Journal. Kushner, who met with more than 100 officials in that time period, said he had four meetings with Russians. One of those sit-downs was with Sergey Gorkov, chief executive at a Russian state-owned bank that was on a U.S. sanctions list over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In an 11-page statement issued in July, Kushner said that he and Gorkov did not discuss sanctions or his family real-estate business in their brief-sit down at the end of last year, but Mueller’s team has reportedly questioned those around Kushner regarding the meeting.

...The insight into Mueller’s sustained interest in Kushner comes just days after congressional investigators expressed their frustration that Kushner may not have been completely forthcoming and truthful with two committees this summer in both his testimony and his document production. Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee leaders sent Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, a letter explaining that they are still missing documents they requested last month, adding that there are “several documents” known to exist that Lowell did not turn over in his initial production, including e-mails sent to Kushner last year about WikiLeaks, which Kushner then forwarded to another campaign official.

Despite evidence that he received and forwarded the e-mails in question, Kushner told congressional committees in July that he was unaware of any contact with the campaign and WikiLeaks. In response, Lowell said in a statement that “a communication in which he was a copied recipient and was not about Russia contacts by him (or apparently by anyone else) was not responsive to any request about Mr. Kushner’s own contacts.” On Monday, Lowell told CNN, “If you look at the content of these e-mails, he’s the hero . . . He’s the one who’s saying there shouldn’t be any contact with foreign officials or foreign entities.

The swirl of suspicion around the West Wing princeling has had a chilling effect on what was once an expansive mandate to reform the government. In September, the Journal reported that Trump’s lawyers had suggested that Kushner resign, worried that his meetings with Russians and financial dealings could imperil the White House. As I reported earlier this month, several sources have said that President Trump himself has repeatedly reminded the couple of what a nice life they had in New York before they were “getting killed” by the press in D.C.


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Trump's Toxic Brand Is Now Less Than Worthless

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Every time another Trump property is called out for being a major hub or criminal activity-- like in Baku and more recently, Panama City, the Trump's go to great lengths to explain that they don't own the hub and they don't know anything about it... all they do is rent the building Trump's name. In fact, all his bullshit about being a multibillionaire was always based on the "value" of his name as a brand. Before he moved into the White House, he owned about $940 million in real stuff you can sell but the $10 billion dollar claims about his worth were all based on his brand being worth any random number of billions of dollars.

Well, it turns out the nearly bankrupt Trump Soho is paying him for his name--paying him to take it down and end any association between the hotel and the toxic Trump brand. Back in April we mentioned that the Trump Soho's sushi restaurant, Koi, shut down. Grubstreet explained that "his controversial campaign’s harsh rhetoric and administration’s agenda have made many potential customers uneasy about giving their business to Trump’s properties. Residents of Manhattan’s Trump Place successfully changed their property’s name, two celebrity chefs famously backed out of D.C.’s Trump International Hotel and others were unwilling to replace them, and Trump’s new line of hotels won’t bear his name. Then last December, a month after three NBA teams announced they wouldn’t stay at his hotels, members of the Cleveland Cavaliers (including Black Lives Matter supporter LeBron James) refused to stay at the Trump Soho. Now, that hotel’s restaurant operator, Koi, an international chainlet of sushi spots for beautiful people, is shuttering its outpost there. But this isn’t a closing as usual. It’s collateral damage from the rise of Trump." Trump's name will come off the hotel and the Trump Organization will cease managing the property.
Trump SoHo has emerged as one of the clearest examples of how Trump's divisive politics have redefined his luxury hotel and real estate company, which spent years courting upscale customers in liberal urban centers where he is now deeply unpopular.

...The deal to remove the Trump name was made with the Trump SoHo condominium board and the property's majority owner, CIM Group, a California-based real estate investment firm. The hotel is divided into condominiums whose owners allowed them to be rented out as hotel rooms.

"We recognize and sincerely appreciate [the Trump Organization's] contributions to this exceptional asset," Bill Doak, CIM Group's first vice president of hotels, said in a statement.

The release did not specify what the building would be renamed or who would run it. Trump Organization and CIM Group officials declined to answer questions about the reasons for the move.

Officials described the transaction as a "buyout" but did not specify whether any money changed hands between the Trump Organization and the building's owners. The president's business now receives 5.75 percent of the hotel's operating revenue as a management fee, according to company documents posted online by Reuters.

This will be the third time since Trump's election that his name has been removed from a building. In July, the Trump name was taken off the Trump International Hotel in Toronto after the property's owner reached a similar buyout deal. The hotel will be reopened as a St. Regis, according to the Toronto Star.

And last year, the owners of three Trump Place apartment buildings in New York announced that those properties would be renamed after tenant complaints. Trump's company no longer had a business relationship with the buildings.

...[T]he Trump Organization has seen greens-fee revenue fall at its golf courses in Los Angeles and the Bronx, and it has lost dozens of customers who rented out banquet rooms for parties or golf courses for charity tournaments.

One of the biggest changes has happened at Mar-a-Lago, the president's for-profit social club, which doubles as the "winter White House" in Palm Beach, Florida. Last summer, 19 charities canceled galas or other fundraisers they had planned for this winter at Mar-a-Lago, costing the Trump Organization hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

The SoHo hotel was once a jewel of the Trump empire. Opened in 2010, it offered Hudson River views, a spa named after Ivanka Trump and a location in one of New York's most fashionable neighborhoods. Trump promoted the property on his reality show The Apprentice.



In 2012, prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney's office scrutinized the property's development as part of an investigation into whether Trump's children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. committed fraud by misleading condo buyers about the project, according to a report last month from ProPublica, WNYC and the New Yorker. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. decided not to pursue charges.

In its early days, the hotel attracted Hollywood celebrities and many NBA teams. "When I stay here in New York, I'm at the Trump SoHo," Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook told GQ in 2014, saying the hotel's luxe lobby had inspired his fashion designs.

But by this year, at least 11 of the 12 NBA teams that previously stayed at Trump SoHo had quit. Some cited logistical reasons. Others said they could not stay at a hotel with Trump's name on it.

"The president has seemingly made a point of dividing us as best he can," Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the Washington Post in an interview earlier this year. His team quit using Trump SoHo in 2016. "He continually offends people, and so people don't want to stay at his hotel," Kerr said. "It's pretty simple."

Trump SoHo hotel rates have fallen dramatically. Rooms are routinely offered online for below $300 a night. Luxury Manhattan hotels took in an average daily rate of $451 in the second quarter of this year, according to the accounting and consulting firm PWC.

The Trump Organization does have plans to expand its hotel business, targeting areas where Trump's political brand is more popular.

Those plans include two new, less-expensive brands of hotels called Scion and American Idea. But since those brands were announced in June, progress has been slow. The three discount hotels that were supposed to start the American Idea brand are still operating under their old names.

And at the site chosen for the first Scion hotel, in Cleveland, Mississippi, construction stopped weeks ago while Trump Organization and its partners reworked plans.

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This Post Might Help Save Your Life Today-- Sugar Really Does Kill

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When I was diagnosed with cancer, the very first thing my doctor told me was that he could save my life but that I had to stop eating sugar. He asked me if I was willing. I agreed. There was a lot more after that, but stopping sugar consumption was the first step. Good news: there are healthy sweeteners-- replacements-- that are just as good, if not better: stevia, honey, fruit, agave... Bad news: like the tobacco industry, the sugar industry isn't giving up without a fight. Yesterday Business Insider covered a new report you might want to read before sitting down to dinner tonight.



For decades, sugar lobbyists have been taking aim at studies linking sugar and cancer.

When a study last year found that mice on sugar-heavy diets were more likely to develop breast cancer, the Sugar Association, one of the biggest sugar lobbying groups in the US, called it “sensationalized.” The group insists that “no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established.”

But doctors and researchers claim the sugar industry may have been intentionally keeping research about that link from getting published.  A new study in the journal PLOS Biology reveals how the Sugar Association worked to suppress scientific findings on the harmful effects of table sugar on rodents nearly 50 years ago.

The report details the results of two unpublished studies, known as Project 259, which were funded by the sugar lobby in the late 1960s. Both involved research on the effects of feeding sugar to rats.

In the first study, one group of rats was fed a balanced diet of cereal, beans, fish and yeast, while the other rats were given a high-sugar diet. The researchers found that the sugar eaters were at greater risk for strokes, heart attacks and heart disease, and had higher-than-normal levels of fat (triglycerides) in their blood.

The second study compared sugar-fed rats with starch-fed rats and found that the sugar-eating rodents were more likely to have elevated levels of an enzyme associated with bladder cancer in humans.

None of that rodent research saw the light of day, though. The Sugar Research Foundation cut Project 259 short and didn’t publish any of the results.

"Our study contributes to a wider body of literature documenting industry manipulation of science," the researchers, who hail from the University of California San Francisco, wrote in their report.

In a statement, the Sugar Association denied that allegation, saying the new study is just "a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry."

"We reviewed our research archives and found documentation that the study in question ended for three reasons, none of which involved potential research findings: the study was significantly delayed; it was consequently over budget; and the delay overlapped with an organizational restructuring," the group said.

Not cocaine, not heroin-- more dangerous


But this is not the first time we’ve learned that ‘big sugar’ has gotten in the way of science. L ast year, some of the same researchers  found that the Sugar Research Foundation-- the former name of the Sugar Association-- paid off three Harvard scientists in 1967 to make sugar seem less unhealthy and suggest that fat was the problem in our diets instead.

"The kind of manipulation of research is similar to what the tobacco industry does," study co-author Stanton Glantz said in a release.

Decades of research on sugar since Project 259 have linked sugar consumption to a glut of serious health problems, including high cholesterol, heart disease, and kidney disease, to name a few.  Recent research also suggests that sugar may play a role in tumor growth, but scientists don't think it makes cancer grow faster, and still aren't certain whether sugar consumption has any link to cancer formation.

After years of fueling up on high-sugar, low fat foods, consumers are finally becoming wise to the problems with sugar that were hidden for so many years. And t he US Food and Drug Administration is, too-- by  2021 , all nutrition labels will have to include the percent daily value of added sugars for the first time, while the "calories from fat" column will get scrubbed.


Healthy eating, especially in schools, shouldn't be a political hot potato. But it is... very much so. Anyplace where vested interests and big money collide with progress you can count on an explosion. And few groups short of Wall Street, the Medical Industrial Complex, and the Military Industrial Complex have been as adapt as AgriBusiness in molding public policy to its own special interests. Since 1990 Big Sugar-- one component of AgriBusiness-- has poured $44,757,434 into congressional races. In addition, Big Sugar has spent an astronomical $8,895,736 on lobbying this year alone! And they're very strategic with their investments. Although they're on both sides of the aisle, most of their money goes to Republicans, Blue Dogs and other corrupt conservative Democrats. Big Sugar's contributions, thinly veiled bribes, have amounted to $25,136,746 for Democrats and $19,370,071 for Republicans. The bribes taken since 1990 by the ten biggest sugar whores currently serving in the House:
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $476,877
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)- $291,500
Frank Lucas (R-OK)- $261,000
Mike Simpson (R-ID)- $233,750
Mike Conaway (R-TX)- $222,050
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)- $197,299
Sandy Levin (D-MI)- $174,521
Tim Walz (D-MN)- $161,500
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- $157,400
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL)- $148,450
So far this cycle, Big Sugar has added 9 members to their list of the biggest congressional bribe takers: Donald Bacon (R-NE), Neal Dunn (R-FL), Steve Scalise (R-LA), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Jason Lewis (R-MN), Clay Higgins (R-LA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).



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Verizon and the Death of the Internet

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In Portugal, with no net neutrality, internet providers are starting to split the Internet into "packages" — so much for email service, so much for social media, and so on. You don't buy the service, you don't get access (source; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

There are two stories here, one about net neutrality — which Trump's FCC is about to terminate — and one about a corruption of the process by which the FCC arrives that decision.

About net neutrality itself, consider an analogy. Should companies that control the telephone wires control (a) who gets to use them, and (b) what is allowed to be talked about? In the U.S. a long time ago, the answer was no. Telephone wires were declared "common carriers" in the same way that roads are common carriers — a resource that should be open and available to all.

The same with the transmission lines and pathways that carry the Internet, or so the thinking goes. For most of its life, the Internet was treated like a utility, and Internet "wiring" was treated like a common carrier. That made sense and happened almost automatically, since early Internet traffic was carried by phone wires (via modems and DSL), to which established common carrier rules already applied.

In short, in the early days, the Internet was treated the same way the phone system was treated — like a public utility whose transmission likes were regulated to remain open.

The Internet, Big Money and Political Speech

Then three things happened. First, "ecommerce" grew, becoming a sizeable percentage of both Internet traffic and company profit. The Internet wasn't just about communication, it was about Money, not just for large existing companies. Dedicated ecommerce giants were created — Amazon, for example, and Netflix. The people who love money more than anything now had a stake in how the Internet was treated under the law. Meaning, they had a stake in making sure their Internet traffic was special, privileged.

Second, Internet traffic spread from phone lines to wired coax and fiber optic cable networks (Comcast, Time Warner) and wireless channels like satellite transmission (DirecTV). Were cable and satellite systems considered "common carriers" under the law? No, and it made no original sense to consider them so, since traffic on those channels was typically one-way, from the company to the customer, and never in the other direction. Internet traffic, of course, changed all that, turning cable lines and satellite transmissions into virtual common carriers, even though they weren't considered as such under FCC regulations.

Finally, the Internet became an organizing tool for opponents, not just of Big Money, but of what I would broadly call "rule by the rich" — which includes, among other things, the establishments of both political parties. It's the Internet that allows dissidents all around the world to organize resistance to powerful elites, from Cairo to Beijing to Washington D.C. The world of power hates the Internet, and works in every way it can to subvert it.

All three of these changes made the Internet vulnerable to perversion no matter which party was in power, and open Internet, or net neutrality, advocates have been fighting ever since to keep the Internet as we now understand it open and free, which was always its developers' original intention.

The FCC and the Open Internet

President Obama's FCC looked for a while like it would write rules that benefited the wealthy, since his choice for FCC chair, Tom Wheeler, had ties strong to the industry. Surprisingly, though, the Wheeler-led FCC preserved net neutrality — the open Internet as we know it today.

Trump's FCC chair is also an industry insider, Ajit Pai, and this time the threat to net neutrality is almost certain to be realized.
The Federal Communications Commission took aim at a signature Obama-era regulation Tuesday, unveiling a plan that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers see and use.

Under the agency’s proposal, providers of high-speed Internet services, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, would be able to block websites they do not like and charge Web companies for speedier delivery of their content.

The FCC’s effort would roll back its net neutrality regulation which was passed by the agency’s Democrats in 2015 and attempted to make sure all Web content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.
According to Free Press, the new order would:
  • End Title II protections and erase the three Net Neutrality rules passed at the FCC in 2015 and upheld in court last year.
  • Legalize internet blocking and discrimination by Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, no questions asked.
  • Permit throttling back the speeds of different kinds of websites and apps.
  • Encourage paid prioritization — sticking most sites and apps in the slow lane and reserving the fast lane for the few wealthy companies that can afford special treatment.
Ajit Pai is a former general council to Verizon and most recently, a partner in a lobbying firm specializing in "communications practice." He also has strong anti-government views. If you consider him an industry advocate (or shill), you wouldn't be wrong.

From a Trump administration perspective, Ajit Pai is to the FCC what Scott Pruitt is to the EPA — a destroyer. His "new rules" are set to be decided in December.

Ajit Pai's FCC Is Stone-Walling NY AG Schneiderman

The second story here involves the corruption of the process by which the FCC will make its decision — in particular, the "public comment" process.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, in an open letter to Pai posted at Medium, writes (my emphasis):
In April 2017, the FCC announced that it would issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repeal of its existing net neutrality rules. Federal law requires the FCC and all federal agencies to take public comments on proposed rules into account — so it is important that the public comment process actually enable the voices of the millions of individuals and businesses who will be affected to be heard. That’s important no matter one’s position on net neutrality, environmental rules, and so many other areas in which federal agencies regulate.

In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules. In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue. Worse, while some of these fake comments used made up names and addresses, many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale.

My office analyzed the fake comments and found that tens of thousands of New Yorkers may have had their identities misused in this way. (Indeed, analysis showed that, in all, hundreds of thousands of Americans likely were victimized in the same way, including tens of thousands per state in California, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and possibly others.) Impersonation and other misuse of a person’s identity violates New York law, so my office launched an investigation.

Successfully investigating this sort of illegal conduct requires the participation of the agency whose system was attacked. So in June 2017, we contacted the FCC to request certain records related to its public comment system that were necessary to investigate which bad actor or actors were behind the misconduct. We made our request for logs and other records at least 9 times over 5 months: in June, July, August, September, October (three times), and November.

We reached out for assistance to multiple top FCC officials, including you, three successive acting FCC General Counsels, and the FCC’s Inspector General. We offered to keep the requested records confidential, as we had done when my office and the FCC shared information and documents as part of past investigative work.

Yet we have received no substantive response to our investigative requests. None.
Ajit Pai and Trump's FCC are stone-walling the New York Attorney General, who is investigating an apparent scheme to grossly pervert the FCC public comment process so that it produces a result Agit Pai strongly favors. Whoever is behind the scheme, Ajit Pai is protecting them.

Are big-money "friends of Ajit Pai," or big-money "friends of Verizon," engaged in such a scheme? Agit Pai is acting like they are.

For all we know, he or a subordinate could be behind the scheme, or the author of it. 

The Death of the Internet — Mourned or Avenged?

I'll make one tenuous prediction. If Pai and Verizon's plan goes through, it's possible the tired and harried masses will accommodate themselves to it. After all, betting on the willingness of most Americans to surrender their liberties was an easy call, ever since 9/11 "changed everything."

But look at the graphic at the top. Note that social media content is blocked in Portugal unless you pay extra. Same with video, music, messaging and email. Will people really stand for that?

In addition, without net neutrality, some content — for example, political discussion groups and websites — may never be accessible, no matter what you may want to pay, turning the U.S. into China in that regard. Will people really stand for that?

So this prediction: I could be wrong, but it may just be that this shocks Americans so much that they won't stand for it. And in this case, "won't stand for it" happens to have a convenient and effective target for expression — and punishment.

Verizon.

Ajit Pai's former employer, and one of the key companies pushing for this change.

Are you a Verizon customer? A paying customer? Time to change that perhaps.

Is there a Verizon office near you? Care to make a little visit? I hear they welcome the public with open arms.

Maybe you could bring your friends, or organize a group excursion via social media ... while you still can.

GP
 

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Doug Applegate: "A Labor Family Is What's Given Me The Values That's Made Me What I Am"

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Frank Schaeffer has been traveling around the country meeting with the best progressive candidates for Congress and filming them. Last week he was in Orange County. We saw his talk with Laura Oatman, the progressive woman running for the coastal Orange County district held by Dana Rohrabacher, a few days ago. The video above is the interview he did with Doug Applegate.

Doug is, by far, the best candidate running to represent the district just south of Oatman's in southern Orange County and northern San Diego County. CA-49 goes from Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and Ladera Ranch in the north, through San Clemente, Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Vista and Encinitas to Solana Beach, Del Mar, Torrey Pines and UC, San Diego. Last cycle the Applegate-Issa election was the very last to be decided in the whole country because it was so close. The DCCC had never tried holding Darrell Issa accountable before. Doug forced them to and he came with in a small handful votes to beating one of Congress' arch-villains. The final vote was 155,888 (50.3%) to 154,267 (49.7%). Doug and his grassroots army announced that they would complete what they started in 2018.

But, almost immediately, along came the self-serving opportunists-- the forces of big money who had never objected to Darrell Issa and had never done anything to defeat him. Failed Virginia political hack and sleazy multimillionaire-- and Pelosi crony-- Ira Lechner decided he needed to put one of his own puppets into a race that looked very winnable... and he picked some clown and Hillary fundraiser named Mike Levin. Then San Diego New Dem-- one of Congress' richest men and one of the most right-wing Democrats in Congress-- Scott Peters decided the seat could be bought by one of his crooked cronies, Paul Kerr (because we all know that if there's one thing Congress needs more of it's clueless mega-millionaires). Not to be outdone, the young heiress to the Qualcomm fortune, Sara Jacobs, came flying in from Brooklyn last week to declare she's running too. What a pathetic nest of cruddy opportunists and self-servers!

Meanwhile, Issa is hoping his crooked Republican colleague, Duncan Hunter from the district next door (CA-50) gets indicted already so he can switch districts and not have to face near certain defeat at Applegate's hands next year. Issa, normally a dependable rubber stamp for the GOP House leadership, is so frightened of Applegate that he was one of only 13 Republicans in Congress to vote against Paul Ryan's tax scam last week.

Goal ThermometerThis is going to be some wild race! We should make sure the Democratic Party nominee is a man of proven selfless integrity and strength, not another multimillionaire with nothing better to do than have the word "Rep" on their business card. Levin, for example, is playing the role of a poisonous snake, slithering around and whispering all the baseless and disproven charges Issa made against Applegate last cycle-- recycling the garbage... all he can do with no ideas of his own beyond "me," "me," "me."  He's the worst example of a candidate in a Democratic primary race anywhere in California. Please consider tapping on the ActBlue 2018 California Congress thermometer on the right and celebrating Thanksgiving by helping Doug Applegate in his sprint to repealing and replacing the odious career criminal Darrell Issa. Remember, there's no such thing as a contribution too small, not in a grassroots race against the richest-- and most crooked-- member of Congress.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!

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-by Noah

Imagine if there was something called RA. You know, a 12 step program for those who suffer the shame of having a Republican in their family. For me, it would go something like this: "Hello, my name is Noah and I have a Republican in my family."

Imagine being in a room with others who could say the very same thing. For too many suffering Americans, that is what they face every Thanksgiving. The problem is, though, that all too often, that Republican is in the same room, the dining room. That is not the case with me! When it comes to my family, I adopted a Republican-Be-Gone solution. Yes, I am genetically related to a couple of Republicans, but I didn't need no stinking 12 step program. I simply ignore their existence. A 1 step program! Perhaps, for you, that would be hard. Perhaps, you considered setting up a TV table or a card table in the corner of the dining room for the family goon. Not me. Not the "kiddie table" approach. Not the porch. Not the garage. Not on my property! I'm a get off my lawn guy. I mean, come on! We all know what happens to that patch of grass when the dog pees on it.

Look, I know it's probably too late. You've probably already, in some ridiculously misguided moment of tolerance, invited the family Republican to Thanksgiving dinner, but, there's always next year, or, perhaps you could quickly build a wall around your property, one that is high enough that no Republican could ever jump over it; one that is deep enough that no Republican could tunnel under it. Think of the delicious irony!

But, enough of this. Assuming that you might have some FOX "News"-Alex Jones-Breitbart loon in your midst today, why not give everyone else in your house some sort of Buzzword Bingo game or drinking game and just count the seconds before the family wacko pukes out the words "Entitlements," "Chem Trails," "Benghazi," "Crooked Hillary," "Birth Certificate," "Kaepernick," or, best of all "Black Lives Matter." Warning: If you've chosen the drinking game approach, you are going to have an extra black Black Friday.

Anyway, I chose today's memes with all of this in mind. They're just a quick refresher course of a few talking points. You know, after all, that Psycho Paul Ryan is going to come up as your crazy uncle or whatever starts talking about the "It's about time!" Trump/Repug Tax "Reform" scam. First of all, try calling it what it really is. Call it a Screw Americans Tax Plan, or, more politely, if you must, a Raise Taxes Plan. Whatever you decide to call it, it's a Tax Scam, and it's being put forward by psychopaths who are incapable of doing anything but hurting anyone who isn't in position to give them big bags o' money for their "campaigns."

Since Republican plans to cut Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, Childcare, Obamacare, Veterans benefits and any other benefits they can think of so they can hand billionaires more billions in tax cut favors, will come up, and since Paul Ryan, who enjoys healthcare on our dime and who used his father's Social Security benefits to pay for his own education, has summoned his inner Wisconsin Jeffrey Dahmer in order to get House approval and send this Big Scam to the $enate and then the Big Obese Orange Freak's desk so he can use his crayons to sign off on it before he goes back to eating a Playdough sandwich, here you are. Have at it, not that the family loon has enough functioning brain synapses to even begin to understand or reason. They only think emotionally or just in some reptilian way. Maybe the best thing to do is have one of your kids pick his pocket. Then your crazy Republican uncle will know how it feels, at least until the word "Benghazi" pops into what's left of his mind.


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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Has Congress Ever Had A Spy For A Hostile Foreign Power In Its Midst Before?

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Putin's favorite congressman, Dana Rohrabacher

This NY Times headline could have only been referring to 2 congressmen, both Californians-- and both of whom having made spectacles of themselves in relations to Putin-Gate: Dana Rohrabacjer from Orange County or Devin Nunes from the Central Valley. Both are in big trouble with voters in their districts. He’s a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name. The Times story, by Nick Fandos, was another nail in Dana Rohrabacher's political coffin. "For two decades," he began, "Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia. Then came President Trump."

Before Trump was elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, believing he was speaking to a group of Republicans who would never rat him out, was recorded saying that "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." When other Republicans asked if it was really true that Putin was actually funneling money into the Trump campaign, McCarthy, who later claimed he was joking, said "Swear to God." Paul Ryan was there and tried to get all the other Republicans in the room to promise not to tell anyone. "No leaks," he warned. This stays in the family." And, indeed, McCarthy's and Ryan's secret about Putin and his two patsies stayed secret for almost a year. But now almost everyone in Rohrabacher's swingy Orange County district-- Hillary beat Trump there last year 47.9% to 46.2%-- knows why Rohrabacher is always being referred to as "Putin's favorite congressman." This cycle Rohrabacher is being challenged for reelection by 2 Republicans-- Stelian Onufrei and Paul Martin and by at least 7 Democrats-- New Dems Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, self-described "Reagan Democrat" Omar Siddiqui, millennial and out-of-the-box ideas man Michael Kotick, progressive Laura Oatman and some vanity candidates. Back to Fandos:
As revelations of Russia’s campaign to influence American politics consume Washington, Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, who had no known role in the Trump election campaign, has come under political and investigative scrutiny. The F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had last year with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

At the same time, fellow Republicans-- questioning his judgment and intentions-- have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him.

“I feel like I’m in good shape politically,” he said breezily during an interview last week, a day before he voted against his party’s tax bill. “My constituents couldn’t care less about this. They are not concerned about Russia. They are concerned about the taxes on their home. They are concerned about illegal immigrants coming into their neighborhood and raping people.”

...[A]s investigators in Washington scrutinize the Russian interference campaign, Mr. Rohrabacher, like an extra in an spy thriller, just keeps showing up-- if not quite at the scene of the action, then just off camera.

In April 2016, he was in Moscow, accepting a copy of a “confidential” memo containing accusations against prominent Democratic donors that would, months later, reappear in Trump Tower when a Russian lawyer who had reported those allegations to the Russian government, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, sat down with Donald Trump Jr. to deliver a similar document.

Last August he was in London on a quick diversion from an anniversary trip to the Iberian Peninsula to meet Mr. Assange at the fugitive’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy. American intelligence agencies believe Mr. Assange acted as a conduit for Russian operatives seeking to release a trove of hacked Democratic emails. Mr. Assange denies the accusation, and Mr. Rohrabacher hoped to broker a meeting with Mr. Trump to allow him to make his case.

Then earlier this year, this time on Capitol Hill, Mr. Rohrabacher dined with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime. During Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Mr. Torshin tried to set up a “backdoor” meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, according to an email that has been turned over to Senate investigators.

Mr. Rohrabacher asserted that none of the meetings were untoward or inappropriate, given his chairmanship. Ms. Veselnitskaya and her allies are fighting the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses, and they deserved a hearing, he said. Russia, he argued, could be a key ally to defeat Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, and under Mr. Putin, the Kremlin has undertaken key reforms back home. “I want to treat Russia as if it is a nation state that deserves to be judged as all other nation states are judged,” he said.

Mr. Rohrabacher said his efforts to connect Mr. Assange with the president have been stonewalled by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

NBC News reported this month that Mr. Mueller’s investigators are looking at a 2016 meeting between Mr. Rohrabacher and Mr. Flynn, whose lobbying for foreign powers has come under scrutiny by the special counsel.

Mr. Rohrabacher acknowledged meeting Mr. Flynn twice, once to discuss computer chip technology and once to discuss a plan advanced by Mr. Flynn late last year to build a series of nuclear power plants across the Middle East. He said he did not remember discussing Russia.

“All I remember about that meeting is that they were promoting some kind of an idea about having Gulf State countries invest in building nuclear power plants of some kind, I think,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.

Mr. Rohrabacher may shrug off such scrutiny, but on the Foreign Affairs Committee, fellow Republicans have had enough. The committee’s chairman, Representative Ed Royce of California, pushed out Mr. Rohrabacher’s top committee aide, Paul Behrends, in July amid stories about his ties to pro-Russian lobbyists.

Since then, the chairman has taken a more hands-on approach to managing Mr. Rohrabacher’s subcommittee, a Republican House aide said. The chairman has not imposed a blanket ban on Mr. Rohrabacher’s travel or power to convene hearings, nor has he stripped Mr. Rohrabacher of his subcommittee chairmanship.

But Mr. Royce’s aides are closely scrutinizing his requests.

Mr. Rohrabacher has given conflicting assessments of his own status on the committee, most recently saying that he faced few limitations. But in an interview with The New York Times in late October, he acknowledged actions to curtail his activities and said they represented Republican regrets about leaving the gavel to someone who would not “just go along and get along with whatever the State Department wants.”

“What happens with our committee is, if there is anything positive to say about Russia, it is trash-canned,” he said.
I wonder if he thinks coastal Orange County voters care about that. Michael Kotick has a friendly warning for Rohrabacher: "If it’s true that Dana feels like he’s 'in good shape politically,' I’d call that best evidence of how out of touch he is. He speaks for his constituents as though he’s spoken to his constituents, but in truth he actively avoids most of us. If he’d been listening back home, he’d know that we DO care about Russia and we aren’t scared of immigrants. I don’t know where he is getting his view of things, but I can tell you that if 10 people were lining up for my job while I was under active investigation, I would know I wasn’t in good shape."

Goal ThermometerLaura Oatman sent me a few messages about the NY Times article over the last day. Speaking of Rohrabacher, she wrote that "his involvement levels with Russia have been troubling for some time-- especially given his lack of attention to his constituents here." She's been spending her time talking with her neighbors in Orange County about issues that concern their daily lives more than about Putin-Gate and Rohrabacher's Russian intrigues. But she did mention that she'd "like to think of an amusing code name, but there’s nothing funny about collaboration with a nation that has interfered with our Democratic process... Regardless of whether you voted for or against him, it is a shame that he will be remembered for this.  We’re watching the Titanic just before midnight. The malfeasance that starts in D.C. has reached our shores, unfortunately. Dana has shown through his actions that he isn’t the right person to represent this amazing district... People who live in Huntington Beach, Aliso Viejo, Westminster and other CA-48 cities shouldn’t need to compete with the citizens of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok for Congressman Rohrabacher’s attention."

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No Men-- Especially No Men In Public Office-- Should Ever Think They Are "Untouchable" When It Comes To Workplace Sexual Harassment

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-by Valley Girl

I wrote an email to Howie a few days back saying in part "I totally agreed with your tweet. This is what leadership should be about. It seems that they are not willing to name names because it will hurt their own careers. Howie, you have a lot of connections. Is there any way you could winkle this information out of someone? Get them to name even a few names? My gut feeling is that once even a few names are mentioned, then the floodgates will open."

Howie asked me to do a guest post. I’ve been working on that. Getting into the weeds, as I usually do. I started checking out Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who I didn’t know anything about before, but who now seems to have little record of bravery of any sort. I’ve compiled quite a dossier on her.

And, reminding myself of the details of Jackie Speirs’ history-- 1978 including when she went, as a congressional aide to Leo Ryan, to Jonestown, Guyana. By the end of the trip, Ryan was dead-- the first and only congressman to be assassinated in office-- along with three journalists and one cult defector. Speier and nine others had been shot and left for dead at a remote airstrip; they waited 22 hours for help to arrive.

Yes, she does have a solid history of bravery, courage, and public service. Watch this for context as to what Howie was talking about-- a House hearing:



Also note that this video above leaves out something: via CNN: During the hearing to review the House's sexual harassment policies, Comstock said it was "important that we name names."... exactly what Howie challenged her to do in his tweet.

And, also from the same CNN link, note this, if you follow the link-- "Speier, a Democrat who has gone public with her own allegations of sexual assault while she served as a Hill aide decades ago, testified before the panel Tuesday that two currently sitting members of Congress-- one Democrat, one Republican-- have 'engaged in sexual harassment' but have not yet been reviewed." NO, CNN is wrong on this quote. Speier actually says: two members… one Democrat, one Republican, who have been subject to review, or not have been subject to review, who have engaged in sexual harassment.

Fast forward with the post I’ve been working one-- I’m on EST, so I missed this news by several hours, until I woke up this morning. And ended up ditching most of what I’d already written. Note again Speier’s actual comment above.

The Buzz Feed story blows the lid off one of these two-- John Conyers. Title and subtitle: She Said A Powerful Congressman Harassed Her. Here’s Why You Didn’t Hear Her Story. "When you make private settlements, it doesn’t warn the next woman or the next person going into that situation."
Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.”

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

And the documents also reveal the secret mechanism by which Congress has kept an unknown number of sexual harassment allegations secret: a grinding, closely held process that left the alleged victim feeling, she told BuzzFeed News, that she had no option other than to stay quiet and accept a settlement offered to her.

“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she said in a phone interview. BuzzFeed News is withholding the woman’s name at her request because she said she fears retribution.

The woman who settled with Conyers launched the complaint with the Office of Compliance in 2014, alleging she was fired for refusing his sexual advances, and ended up facing a daunting process that ended with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a settlement of more than $27,000. Her settlement, however, came from Conyers’ office budget rather than the designated fund for settlements.

In this case, one of Conyers’ former employees was offered a settlement, in exchange for her silence, that would be paid out of Conyers’ taxpayer-funded office budget. His office would “rehire” the woman as a “temporary employee” despite her being directed not to come into the office or do any actual work, according to the document. The complainant would receive a total payment of $27,111.75 over the three months, after which point she would be removed from the payroll, according to the document.

The process was “disgusting,” said Matthew Peterson, who worked as a law clerk representing the complainant, and who listed as a signatory to some of the documents.

“It is a designed cover-up,” said Peterson, who declined to discuss details of the case but agreed to characterize it in general terms. “You feel like they were betrayed by their government just for coming forward. It’s like being abused twice.”

Two staffers alleged in their signed affidavits that Conyers used congressional resources to fly in women they believed he was having affairs with. Another said she was tasked with driving women to and from Conyers’ apartment and hotel rooms.

In her complaint, the former employee said Conyers repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and often asked her to join him in a hotel room. On one occasion, she alleges that Conyers asked her to work out of his room for the evening, but when she arrived the congressman started talking about his sexual desires. She alleged he then told her she needed to “touch it,” in reference to his penis, or find him a woman who would meet his sexual demands.

She alleged Conyers made her work nights, evenings, and holidays to keep him company.

In another incident, the former employee alleged the congressman insisted she stay in his room while they traveled together for a fundraising event. When she told him that she would not stay with him, she alleged he told her to “just cuddle up with me and caress me before you go.”

“Rep. Conyers strongly postulated that the performing of personal service or favors would be looked upon favorably and lead to salary increases or promotions,” the former employee said in the documents.

Three other staff members provided affidavits submitted to the Office Of Compliance that outlined a pattern of behavior from Conyers that included touching the woman in a sexual manner and growing angry when she brought her husband around.

One affidavit from a former female employee states that she was tasked with flying in women for the congressman. “One of my duties while working for Rep. Conyers was to keep a list of women that I assumed he was having affairs with and call them at his request and, if necessary, have them flown in using Congressional resources,” said her affidavit. (A second staffer alleged in an interview that Conyers used taxpayer resources to fly women to him.)

The employee said in her affidavit that Conyers also made sexual advances toward her: “I was driving the Congressman in my personal car and was resting my hand on the stick shift. Rep. Conyers reached over and began to caress my hand in a sexual manner.”

The woman said she told Conyers she was married and not interested in pursuing a sexual relationship, according to the affidavit. She said she was told many times by constituents that it was well-known that Conyers had sexual relationships with his staff, and said she and other female staffers felt this undermined their credibility.

“I am personally aware of several women who have experienced the same or similar sexual advances made towards them by Rep[.] John Conyers,” she said in her affidavit.

A male employee wrote that he witnessed Rep. Conyers rub the legs and other body parts of the complainant “in what appeared to be a sexual manner” and saw the congressman rub and touch other women “in an inappropriate manner.” The employee said he confronted Conyers about this behavior.

“Rep. Conyers said he needed to be ‘more careful’ because bad publicity would not be helpful as he runs for re-election. He ended the conversation with me by saying he would ‘work on’ his behavior,” the male staffer said in his affidavit.

The male employee said that in 2011 Conyers complained a female staffer was “too old” and said he wanted to let her go. The employee said he set up a meeting in December 2011 to discuss “mistreatment of staff and his misuse of federal resources.” The affidavit says that Conyers “agreed that he would work on making improvements as long as I worked directly with him and stopped writing memos and emails about concerns.”

Another female employee also attested that she witnessed Conyer’s advances, and said she was asked to transport women to him. “I was asked on multiple occasions to pick up women and bring them to Mr. Conyers['] apartment, hotel rooms, etc.”

“I don’t think any allegations should be buried... and that’s for anyone, not just for this particular office, because it doesn’t really allow other people to see who these individuals are,” said the former staffer. “When you make private settlements, it doesn’t warn the next woman or the next person going into that situation.”

Another staffer said Conyers’ reputation made people fearful to speak out against him. Aside from being the longest-serving House member and the ranking member of a powerful committee, Conyers is a civil rights icon. He was lauded by Martin Luther King Jr. and is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“Your story won’t do shit to him,” said the staffer. “He’s untouchable.”
Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is the second most senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee after Conyers. This was his statement yesterday: "The allegations against Ranking Member Conyers are extremely serious and deeply troubling. Obviously, these allegations must be investigated promptly by the Ethics Committee. There can be no tolerance for behavior that subjects women to the kind of conduct alleged. We also must support efforts to reform the way the House of Representatives handles these matters to make the process easier and more supportive of victims, as well as more transparent."

I'll leave this post with a brief mention of the salience of "political correctness" in the societal explosion we're going through now. I borrowed it from an essay by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic: "Political correctness is a vague term, perhaps best defined by the conservative scholar Samuel Goldman. 'What Trump and others seem to mean by political correctness is an extremely dramatic and rapidly changing set of discursive and social laws that, virtually overnight, people are expected to understand, to which they are expected to adhere.' From a different vantage point, what Trump’s supporters refer to as political correctness is largely the result of marginalized communities gaining sufficient political power to project their prerogatives onto society at large. What a society finds offensive is not a function of fact or truth, but of power. It is why unpunished murders of black Americans by agents of the state draw less outrage than black football players’ kneeling for the National Anthem in protest against them. It is no coincidence that Trump himself frequently uses the term to belittle what he sees as unnecessary restrictions on state force."


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