Sunday, February 18, 2018

America's Cabinet-- No Trumpists Need Apply


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

The official portraits for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were unveiled in Washington on Monday. Of course, since they break with stylistic tradition, the portraits are a bit controversial but so what. Many of those who object are complaining about the choice of the artists who did each portrait; African-American artists and damn good ones at that. Some people will just never get over it. Hopefully, such people will die off soon, very soon. Tomorrow can't be too soon.

Anyway, lots of people like that the Obamas broke with the stuffy old tradition of presidential portraits that stylistically recall the portrait styles of centuries past. In a just world, so will the Trumpanzee portrait, as tonight's meme depicts.


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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Who Is Going To Protect America From Trump And Trumpism? Larry Krasner?


This morning, the NY Times asserted that Trump's Conspicuous Silence Leaves a Struggle Against Russia Without a Leader. OK, but who will protect our country from Trump? With shameless Trump enablers Paul Ryan and Miss McConnell in charge of Congress, there's exactly zero hope from either the Senate or House. Mueller seems like a serious guy but Trump can fire him when he feels like he needs to. So that leaves the states. And there's basically one state most people count on-- or, at least one state Attorney General: New York's Eric Schneiderman. He's suing the Trump Regime over DACA and over more bullshit EPA actions, Busy guy. Busy heroic guy. Where are the other blue state attorneys general. Eh... spinning their wheels mostly, I'm afraid. I hope I'm wrong.

That said, there was some very good news out of Philly Friday. Philly isn't a state but the population is about 1.6 million. That's more than 11 states (with attorneys general): Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. Philly has a new District Attorney, which is not an Attorney General. Pennsylvania's AG, Josh Shapiro, is a garden variety politician, kind of a hack. He's not going to lead on anything except on his own p.r. He talks a good anti-Trump game, but not as good as my neighbor Cynthia. He writes protest letters but if we had to depend on Josh Shapiro to protect us from Trump, I would have probably moved back to Amsterdam by now. Larry Krasner, on the other hand... Last week his office announced it's suing 10 pharmaceutical companies in connection with the opioid epidemic and is dropping all outstanding marijuana possession charges.

That isn't the same as protecting us from Trump, but it's more what voters expect of chief law enforcement officers now than what most attorneys general are doing.
In just a little over a month since taking office, Krasner has already built on the progress that began under former mayor Michael Nutter’s administration by further reforming the city’s drug policy to the point where getting busted with pot now no longer means a court date is in your future. Krasner says citations are issued approximately 90 percent of the time someone is caught with marijuana.

“What we’re talking about is the 10 percent or so that are being charged as they used to be, as misdemeanors in court,” Krasner said during a press conference Thursday. From now on, the DA will advise his staff not to pursue criminal charges against anyone arrested for marijuana possession in the city. Citations currently range from $25 for possession to $100 for those caught toking up in public.

“I did it because I felt it was the right thing to do,” Krasner said when asked of his motivation. “We could use those resources to solve homicides.”

Additionally, the DA’s office said that it had filed a lawsuit on February 2nd against Big Pharma under Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Laws for their alleged role in creating the city’s opioid epidemic. The defendants are Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc.; Allergan Finance, LLC; Cephalon, Inc.; Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.; Endo Health Solutions, Inc.; Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; and Johnson & Johnson.

“The City of Philadelphia has been hurt, more than any other city in the nation, by the scourge of opioids,” Krasner said in a release. “The time to act is now, which is why I’ve taken this unprecedented action, in parallel with the City of Philadelphia’s suit, to stop these companies from systematically distracting the public from knowing the true dangers of opioid use as they reap billions of dollars in profits.”

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Legal Marijuana v Jeff Sessions


This is a list of U.S. senators: Cory Gardner (R-CO),Michael Bennet (D-CO) Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Edward Markey (D-MA). It seems unlikely that anything would put these 18 on the same list. But what did was marijuana. From someone as progressive as Elizabeth Warren to someone as far right as Rand Paul, all of them signed a letter backing the right of the states to regulation marijuana policy. What they want is that congressional leaders of both parties insert new far-reaching protections for state marijuana laws into a must-pass spending bill due next month.
“For the last several years, states have changed their regulatory regimes governing marijuana. What began with relatively isolated experiments has spread across the country as citizens have expressed their will through the democratic process,” the lawmakers, led by Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D), wrote in a letter sent to the Senate’s top appropriations decisionmakers on Monday. “Today, the vast majority of states-- 29 in all-- have some form of reduced restrictions on marijuana. Other states have proposals to do the same. These states crafted serious, thoughtful regulatory regimes.”

An existing provision in federal spending law protects state medical cannabis laws from Justice Department interference, but it does not extend to policies allowing recreational use and sales, and its own continuance in upcoming legislation is in jeopardy after House leaders blocked a vote on it.

A current temporary spending bill-- and its policy riders like the medical marijuana protections-- is set to expire on March 23. Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded Obama-era guidance that has generally allowed states to implement their own marijuana laws without federal intervention.

“Citizens who have been acting in good faith based on federal and state assurances now feel exposed,” the senators wrote. “This disruption may deny medications to the sick, push individuals back into illicit markets, and nullify the previously-effective regulations-- all while thwarting the democratically-expressed will of the states.”

The bipartisan group wants congressional leadership to join them in crating new “precise language that will preserve state laws regarding marijuana regulation until we can establish a longer-term framework.”

“It is our hope that the fiscal year 2018 appropriations will alleviate the turbulence the Attorney General’s abrupt decision has caused and that the appropriations will help preserve the strong regulatory frameworks the states have created,” the wrote. “Doing so will provide the opportunity to pursue federal legislation that both protects the legitimate federal interests at stake and respects the will of the states –- both those that have liberalized their marijuana laws and those that have not.”
Marijuana legalization, fortunately, isn't only in the hands of a barely dependable Congress. There are already cases making their way through the courts. On Valentine’s Day, federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York heard oral arguments on the motion to dismiss Washington v. Sessions, a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Schedule I classification of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The federal government argued to have the case dismissed. Hellerstein didn't rule and is reserving decision.

The plaintiffs in the case include: Denver Broncos Super Bowl Champion, Marvin Washington; 12-year old girl, Alexis Bortell; seven-year old Jagger Cotte of Georgia who suffers from Leigh’s Disease; disabled military combat veteran Jose Belen; and the Cannabis Cultural Association.

The lead attorney in the case, Michael Hiller, issued the following statement (in part) regarding Hellerstein reserving the decision:
Protecting our American values, way of life and civil and constitutional rights are who we are as Americans. To many, it is obvious, we are living in an era where we must remain vigilant and ask hard questions. If we look back at our collective history, this is not the first time we have seen some in the US government shamefully argue out-dated ideologies under a legal mask that is inevitably on the wrong side of history. We saw this with slavery, segregation, women’s right to vote, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, gay marriage, and sadly, countless other times.

We’ve seen civil rights trampled on before, but we have also seen everyday Americans and leaders rise to the occasion and have our judicial branch recognize when an interpretation of the law is obviously tragically flawed and wrong.

The stated basis for the Controlled Substances Act was to help Americans’ lives. However, today, the federal government came to court to preserve the right to put Americans in jail, who use cannabis -- even when it used as an alternative medicinal treatment to addictive opioids and powerful prescription drugs. Tragically, what the federal government has done is taken the Controlled Substances Act and turned it on its head. Sadly, the government is now using the ‘Act’ to hurt and oppress US citizens, rather to liberate, deliberate and help them treat their illnesses and diseases.

We firmly believe the federal government is prostituting and perverting the Controlled Substances Act as well as blatantly criminalizing behavior that they themselves are inducing. We look forward to standing on the right side of history and ensuring that cannabis is descheduled once and for all as well as to receiving Judge Hellerstein’s decision, and moving the case forward.
Goal ThermometerTim Canova, the progressive Democrat taking on anti-legalization fanatic Debbie Wasserman Schultz in south Florida, is eager to get to Congress to work on many issues, legalization being one of them. This morning he told us that he's "opposed the misguided drug war for many years, and I support efforts to protect state marijuana laws from any federal crackdowns. In fact, I also support legislation to delist cannabis as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, the most restrictive category in U.S. drug law.

"Studies now show that states which have liberalized their marijuana laws have far lower levels of opioid addiction. One major study found that opiate related deaths decreased about 33 percent in 13 states in the six years following legalization of medicinal marijuana. Yet, my opponent Debbie Wasserman Schultz calls marijuana a 'gateway drug.' She opposed a statewide referendum to approve medicinal marijuana-- a referendum that was then approved by more than 70 percent of Florida voters in 2016. Meanwhile, Wasserman Schultz has taken tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from private prisons and Big Pharma makers of opiates, and she supports the drug war, privatized prisons, and the system of mass incarceration that's been rightly referred to as the New Jim Crow.

"We should respect principles of federalism in these matters and allow the states to serve as 'laboratories of reform' for medicinal and recreational cannabis. It’s time to end the war on marijuana. We need education, jobs, and public health programs as alternatives to the drug trade and mass incarceration."

Another Florida progressive running for Congress this year, Alan Grayson, has already been in Congress, where he has written and introduced bills to further the cause of legalization. "This," he told us yesterday, "is why I wrote a bill limiting federal marijuana sentences to no more than whatever the corresponding state sentence may be. (I would go further than that, but that’s a bill that actually could win a vote in today’s Congress.) I agree that there is significant Republican support for drug reform, but it’s still only a noticeable minority. You can see this from actual votes, like the vote on the Rohrabacher amendment to allow VA doctors to prescribe marijuana in medical marijuana states."

And of course, Florida isn't the only state where the debate is raging over marijuana legalization. I asked Derrick Crowe, the progressive candidate in the Austin-San Antonio that Lamar Smith is leaving open. "Two days ago," Derrick told us, "I was canvassing a rural part of the district. I met a man with scars all over his head from a serious aggravated robbery. He was struck with a tire iron and kicked savagely. He begged me, literally begged me, to fight to make marijuana legal so that people like him could have an alternative to opiods while they dealt with chronic pain from serious injuries or diseases. I've spoken to people in jail cells who were there on minor marijuana offenses, missing children's birthdays, being cycled into and out of treatment programs and the general jail populations, who absolutely posed no threat to anyone but who entered the criminal justice system through marijuana possession offenses. This is insanity. Compassion has claims on your actions. We need to legalize marijuana and stop pulling our communities apart."

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The DCCC Would Rather Lose An Election-- So Long As It Can Make Sure Everyone Gets Paid Off


If CA-39 is any indication, the perennial losers at the DCCC appear ready to give up on the House. It's not even March and they are organizing their puppets around one of the worst and least electable candidates running for Congress in Orange County.

In the 39th district, which Hillary won by nearly 9% and where local activists forced out 24 year incumbent Ed Royce, the DCCC is rallying around lottery-winning, slumlord Gil Cisneros. Cisneros doesn't live in the district and has no ties to the community, but he is a rich conservative "ex"-Republican-- all that matters when the DCCC prioritizes lining the pockets of its revolving door consultants over winning elections.

By any measure, the 39th should be one of the most winnable seats this cycle. The district is 35% Latino and 30% Asian American. Democrats won the state Senate seat that covers the entire district for the first time in 40 years last cycle. Democrats and Republicans are basically equal in voter registration and the Cook Report rates the seat as "lean Democrat." The key to flip the 39th will be voter turnout, which means actually running a candidate who connects to voters.

None of this matters to the DCCC. While it's hard to imagine there are many more favorable seats across the country, the DCCC is willing to throw away one of the 24 it needs.

Why? Cisneros and his wife have donated nearly $150,000 since 2013 to California Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. One member of the Hispanic Caucus has a family foundation that Cisneros has donated tens of thousands of dollars to in just the past 3 years. Cisneros alone has given $16,000 in the past 3 cycles to the California Democratic Party and this cycle he and his wife have given $10,000 to the Democratic Party of Orange County. This doesn't include the tens of thousands he and his wife donated in 2015-2016 to the Clinton campaign and state parties on her behalf. I guess it's fair to say we know how much it costs to buy Democrats. Throw a few grand in several directions and even a former Republican slumlord can have the corporate version of the "progressive" label.

Here are the facts on the ground-- when local Democratic activists and clubs have had an opportunity to vote on the candidates, progressives Sam Jammal and Jay Chen have come out ahead. At the Democratic Party's pre-endorsement caucus-- a generally corrupt process driven by party elites-- Cisneros was so toxic to party controlled delegates that he only received just one (1) vote. Chen received the plurality of votes but fell shy of the endorsement. At a meeting of the Tri Counties Democratic Club, one of the few clubs in the district, Cisneros received 0 votes. Jammal received the majority of votes but fell shy of the endorsement. Time and again, when people have met Cisneros, they have chosen anyone but him.

You would think Democrats would have learned that you can't force a candidate down voters throats. Especially a candidate that local voters have shown no interest in supporting. But nothing has changed. If anything, it's gotten worse.

Does this look like a man trying to buy an election? It is

Cisneros has used his money to buy endorsements from the Giffords Campaign where he is one of their biggest donors and has a number of local elected officials who followed their congressional counterparts in Cisneros' pay-to-endorse scheme. He has also started to get the DCCC signal from their puppets to endorse. SEIU came on board this week and you can expect more to come as the DCCC tries to give Cisneros a clear path to defeat-- and the patina of being a Democrat.

This is all pathetic and why voters generally dislike the Beltway Democrats. Cisneros is a former Republican, who only became a Democrat 2 years ago, but a few bucks thrown around makes you a credible voice for Democrats so long as the checks keep cashing. If you are looking to lower turnout in a district that will only flip if Democratic base voters maintain enthusiasm, Cisneros is the perfect candidate-- uninspiring, pay to play and easily set up to be lampooned as an out of touch, out of district millionaire who didn't earn his money and is a slumlord.

There are few better positioned seats for a win but the DCCC is more concerned with getting paid. It's probably better for their consultants to lose the House and raise money off of Trump than actually be concerned about what 2 more years of an unchecked Trump will bring.

Yesterday I spoke with Nancy Leeds, campaign manager for Andy Thorburn, one of the candidates the DCCC is trying to pressure into leaving the race in order to clear a path for Cisneros. "Our campaign," she told me, "has amazing momentum. Andy is racking up endorsements left and right from nurses, steelworkers, teachers and grassroots leaders across the district AND he has the most cash on hand of any candidate in the race. He is the Democrats' best chance to flip the 39th district. Furthermore, our campaign believes is it against the values of both our system and our party for a candidate to be chosen by Washington rather than the voters. The idea that Andy would drop out is ridiculous."

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Is A Republican-Lite, Pro-NRA Approach Sometimes Needed For A Democrat?


Friday morning's post, How Many Pro-NRA Candidates Is The DCCC Trying To Sneak Into Congress This Cycle? Way Too Many, dealt with the Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who:
back an NRA line
are DCCC darlings.
We dealt with Conor Lamb, whose PA-18 special election is less than a month away: March 13. It's a pretty red district with a PVI of R+11. Trump beat Hillary there by a massive 58.1-38.5%. She under-performed Obama and Trump over-performed Romney. For Lamb to win, he will really need a massive wave and everything going his way. Last week the House Blue Dog coalition formally endorsed him-- just in case anyone had any doubts about where he stood.

As of the December 31 FEC reporting deadline, Lamb had raised $557,551 and had $412,186 on hand and his Republican opponent, state Rep. Rick Saccone had raised $214,675 and had $199,938 on hand. Those figures were largely obliterated as the NRCC and other GOP outside groups spent $2,160,880 attacking Lamb as a Nancy Pelosi clone and another $825,182 bolstering Saccone. The DCCC spent $236,000 on Lamb's behalf. Since those officially reported expenditures, the RNC reports it will spend $1 million on a GOTV operation and Ryan's SuperPAC has invested $1.7 in anti-Lamb ads and has opened 2 field offices in the district. The DCCC ad, up top, is mediocre, unemotional and ineffective. It ran for 2 weeks and ended Feb. 12. As the Republican support for Saccone goes into overdrove, the DCCC seems to have left the field of battle entirely.

The most recent polling-- Feb 14-- by Monmouth tests 3 models, one for low turnout, one for high turnout and one with a surge model (akin to a big blue wave). Saccone wins in all 3 scenarios, but Lamb comes closest in the surge model-- 49-46%, within the poll's margin of error. In other words, Lamb needs Democratic enthusiasm if he's going to even have a chance. But... unlike Alabama, where unbelievable minority participation won the day for Doug Jones, there are virtually no minorities in PA-18. It's a very white district-- 2.3% black, 1.6% Asian, 1.4% Latino. That's not going drag Lamb over the finish line.

So what's Lamb doing to pull this off? Taking the Jon Ossoff route, AKA, Republican-lite. After the NRA/GOP massacre in Florida this week, Lamb took a standard Republican line.
Democratic congressional candidate Conor Lamb said Friday that new gun laws aren't the answer to preventing more mass shootings like the one at a Florida high school this week.

Lawmakers should instead improve the effectiveness of existing background-check laws, said Lamb, 33, of Mt. Lebanon, who is campaigning for a March 13 special election in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“I believe we have a pretty good law on the books and it says on paper that there are a lot of people who should never get guns in their hands,” Lamb said at a campaign event in Carnegie. “And we know that the background check system is not achieving that result. What I think it's going to take is people in Congress who are willing to do more than just talk, who are willing to actually work together and stay late, if it requires that, and do some things that would really produce change.”

He didn't provide specifics on what he thinks might produce that change.

When asked whether he would support background checks for people who buy weapons at gun shows and online-- checks are not currently required for all private sales in those situations-- he said, “I'd be willing to look at proposals that would strengthen our background check system, but I want to start where the broad agreement already is, and the broad agreement already is that we're not doing a good enough job keeping guns out of the hands of people with mental health conditions and with criminals.”

Lamb said changing individual laws-- such as a proposed ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines-- isn't the place to start addressing gun violence.

“I think that the emotions that a lot of us are feeling right now are very raw because we know that there's not one thing we can do with the stroke of a pen or one thing you can ban,” he said. “We need a comprehensive answer on mental health.”

...The National Rifle Association, which fights against new gun regulations, endorsed Saccone last month and has given him an A+ rating based on his votes in the state House. He received $1,750 in campaign donations from the NRA Victory Fund from 2010 through 2014, according to state campaign finance records. He received about $5,700 in that time from the group Firearm Owners Against Crime, which has also donated $750 to his congressional campaign, according to the records.
Pennsylvania state Senator Daylin Leach: "The problem is that the pro-gun nuts are already voting for the Republican. All this will do is suppress Democratic and Independent enthusiasm for Lamb. It would have not only been the right thing to do, but smarter politics to boldly say 'It may not be popular, but we need to pass reasonable legislation to stop this slaughter.' He would have been a hero, rather than another panderer."

David Gill is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in a Republican-held district in central Illinois. I didn't ask him about guns but in preparation for a Blue America letter asking for last minute contributions for his get out the vote operation, I asked him for a closing statement. He's taking a very different approach than Lamb. If you prefer it, please consider tapping on the thermometer below and contributing to Dr. Gill's campaign.
My campaign team and I have worked hard to position myself to succeed in the primary on March 20. Voters here have been very excited about my message of single-payer healthcare, a $15/hour minimum wage, and tuition-free access to public higher education and trade schools.

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

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

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Trump Will Likely Be Remembered As A Benedict Arnold, Not As A Father Coughlin


Thursday night I was down in Huntington Beach for a house party for Laura Oatman, the progressive running against Dana Rohrabacher. It was great. Laura and Marianne Williamson tag-teamed and it was amazing. At some point a man had asked Laura if she "had the stomach" for such a tough race. You should have seen the two mama bears in action! "The stomach?"asked Marianne with either incredulity or outrage. "She has a womb!" Laura then said "And this womb produced 5 children in 5 years. Her husband looked a little embarrassed but the statement brought down the roof. Rohrabacher will need one himself before she gets finished with him-- or maybe before Mueller does.

You've probably heard by now that yesterday Mueller started laying the groundwork for the collusion case against the Trump Circus by unveiling the details of a widespread and coordinated campaign by Russians to influence the 2016 election in favor of Señor Trumpanzee, delivering on his initial mandate by the Justice Department. He indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities on charges of defrauding the U.S. government by interfering with the political process.
Prosecutors provided a remarkably detailed picture of how Russians used social media, fake rallies and secretive operatives in the U.S. to create “political intensity” by backing radical groups, opposition social movements and disaffected voters. The outreach from the Russians included direct contact with over 100 Americans.

This “information warfare” by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters. Trump and his Republican supporters have repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt” and have denied any collusion. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign.

Still, the accusations detail unprecedented foreign attempts to influence the outcome of a U.S. election, including the manipulation of accounts at big U.S. companies like Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and Instagram. Those companies will continue to face pressure to clamp down on fraudulent accounts or risk a government crackdown as intelligence officials have warned that Russians are already engaged in influencing the 2018 midterm elections.

The president has been briefed on the indictment, the White House said. The Russian government called the accusations absurd. Mueller’s office said that none of the defendants was in custody.
Trumpanzee immediately reacted defensively confirming-- by adamant denial-- his collusion with the Kremlin:

The Kremlin had given orders that Trump was their candidate by April 2016, if not sooner, "and began producing and purchasing ads promoting the reality-TV star to voters and 'expressly opposing Clinton,' according to the indictment.
Richard Painter, who was the chief ethics adviser in the George W. Bush administration, said the lack of any evidence of collusion in the indictment wasn’t the final word by prosecutors.

“They’re charging what they know,” he said. “The contact with the Trump campaign might be unwitting in this case, but that doesn’t mean that the collaboration issue is finished.”

The Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization, and the defendants began working in 2014 to interfere in U.S. elections, according to the indictment. They used false personas and social media while also staging political rallies and communicating with “unwitting individuals” associated with the Trump campaign, it said.
An "unwitting individual," of course, describes virtual everyone who voted for Trump. A planning memo instructed its operatives to harm Clinton and bolster Trump, even going so far as to help derail Rubio and Cruz.
The group bought advertisements on U.S. social media and created numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if they were U.S. groups or people, according to the indictment. One fake account, @TEN_GOP account, attracted more than 100,000 online followers.

The Russians tracked the metrics of their effort in reports and budgeted for their efforts. Some traveled to the U.S. to gather intelligence for the surreptitious campaign, according to the indictment. They used stolen U.S. identities, including fake drivers licenses, and contacted news media outlets to promote their activities.

In September 2016, the group ordered one worker to “intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” after a review found insufficient anti-Clinton activity.

The effort went well beyond social media. The Russian effort included organizing rallies for Trump and paying Americans to participate in them or perform tasks at them. One American was paid to build a cage on a flatbed truck; another was paid to portray Clinton in a prison uniform.

Rallies were promoted with Facebook ads. Paid ads included this one on Oct. 19, 2016: “Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is.”

...In June 2016, the defendants allegedly posed as grassroots activists using the account @March_for_Trump to contact a volunteer for the Trump campaign in New York. The volunteer agreed to provide signs for their “March for Trump” rally, according to the indictment. By August, the accused Russians were communicating with unwitting Trump campaign staff involved in local community outreach to discuss their fraudulent “Florida Goes Trump” rallies.

Two years before the election, the Russians began monitoring groups that use social media sites to influence U.S. politics and social issues, tracking the size of groups and how popular they were with their audiences, according to the indictment.

Several Russians traveled around the U.S. to gather intelligence for their operation, posing as U.S. political and social activists. They used clandestine methods to communicate and gather information, employing special cameras, “drop phones” and “evacuation scenarios” to ensure security.

The Russians set up Facebook and Instagram groups with names that targeted such issues as immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also controlled numerous Twitter groups that appeared to be controlled by U.S. people, such as “Tennessee GOP.”

They spent thousands of dollars a month to buy advertisements on social media groups, while carefully tracking the size of U.S. audiences they reached, according to the indictment.

All of the people and companies charged in Friday’s indictment were connected in some way to the Internet Research Agency, a company widely reported to be a front for Russian government influence campaigns on social media. The company and 12 of its current or former executives and employees were charged.
Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm based in St. Petersburg, was controlled by Yevgeny Progozhin, a wealthy Putin crony who is one of the 13 Russians indicted. Who would have ever imagined sane people would be asking questions like Is Trump a traitor? [Confession: it's not something I ever doubted was absolutely possible, not for one second.] As James Risen wrote for The Intercept yesterday, Trump is not a complicated character. "Quite the opposite... everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them. At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly-- you don’t remember them, either.)"
Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.

Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?

Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?

One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.
There can be ZERO doubt that Señor T and his cronies worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. But can it be proven in a court? Until then wrote Risen, we all must live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the crook in the Oval Office "has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart. Most pundits in Washington now recoil at any suggestion that the Trump-Russia story is really about treason. They all want to say it’s about something else-- what, they aren’t quite sure. They are afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost. They seem to think that treason is too much of a conversation-stopper, that it interrupts the flow of cable television and Twitter. God forbid you might upset the right wing! (And the left wing, for that matter.) But if a presidential candidate or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election, that is almost a textbook definition of treason. In Article 3, Section 3, the U.S. Constitution states that 'treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."
[E]vidence of the connections between Trump’s bid for the White House and Russian ambitions to manipulate the 2016 U.S. election keeps piling up.... [I]t seems increasingly likely that the Russians have pulled off the most consequential covert action operation since Germany put Lenin on a train back to Petrograd in 1917.

...There are four important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

Fast-forward to the run-up to Russia trying to steal the midterms for the Republicans. What do you think the Russians did after the Florida militia nut gunned down 17 students in Parkland last week? Russia/NRA trolls were immediately at work, grabbing attention, provoking emotions and spreading propaganda. "In the wake of Wednesday’s Parkland, Florida school shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, troll and bot-tracking sites reported an immediate uptick in related tweets from political propaganda bots and Russia-linked Twitter accounts... [S]ome accounts with large bot followings are already spreading misinformation about the shooter's ties to far-left group Antifa, even though the Associated Press reported that he was a member of a local white nationalist group.

Bret Schafer, a research analyst with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, says the spike in shooting-related posts from Russia-linked bots is in line with what his group observed after last year's shootings in Las Vegas and Texas. The Russia-linked bots weigh in on any attention-grabbing news event, but seize on shootings particularly. "Because of the politicized nature of them, they are perfect fodder to take an extreme position and start spreading memes that have a very distinct political position on gun control," he says.

The use of pro-gun control hashtags like #guncontrolnow, along with the spread of anti-gun control links like the Politifact article, appear at first to show the Russian strategy of promoting discord on both sides of a debate. Russian-linked Twitter accounts have attempted to spread confusion and angst on topics ranging from police violence against black people, to NFL player protests, to Al Franken’s sexual misconduct accusations. (On other topics, like special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election, the bots have worked in concert to further the Kremlin's agenda.)

But in this case, Schafer suspects the use of pro-gun control hashtags like #guncontrolnow are being used sarcastically, particularly since they're often paired with the anti-gun control links. Since the Twitter accounts Hamilton 68 tracks often target right-wing audiences, Schafer believes the trolls are using the message to attract more eyeballs. "That allows them to then push content that is more directly related to the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda," such as the Nunes memo, he says. "I don’t think the Kremlin cares one way or another whether we enact stricter gun control laws," he adds. "It's just being used as bait, basically."

Public awareness that antagonistic bots flood the Twitter debate hasn’t stopped them from achieving their goals of ratcheting up the vitriol-- even amid a live tragedy like the Parkland shooting. The goal, after all, isn't to help one side or the other of the gun control debate win. It's to amplify the loudest voices in that fight, deepening the divisions between us.

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

Republican logic.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Will Missouri Have The Worst Senate Race Of 2018? It Just Took Another Step In That Direction


On Thursday the Senate Majority Super-PAC, which is controlled by Schumer released 2 videos essentially the same, one for Indiana conservative Joe Donnelly and one for Missouri conservative Claire McCaskill (above). The message of the 2 ads is that the GOP tax scam that both voted against gives 83% of the benefits to the richest one percent of the population while adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt. And the Republicans plan to pay for it by cutting Medicare. Strong messaging-- but these two will need strong messaging in these two red states. Each state has a daunting a PVI of R+9. Trump beat Hillary 1,557,286 (56.8%) to 1,033,126 (37.9%). She only managed to win 4 of Indiana's 92 counties. Indiana was ready for change, not for Hillary's status quo message. In the primaries Bernie had beaten her 335,256 (52.5%) to 303,382 (47.5%)-- even though Wasserman Schultz had fixed the results so that Hillary walked away with a majority of the delegates. In Monroe County (Bloomington) Bernie didn't just beat Hillary 15,166 to 8,063, he beat Trump, Cruz and Kasich combined (14,447).

Missouri was very much the same story as indiana in November. Trump beat Hillary 1,594,511 (56.8%) to 1,071,068 (38.1%), Hillary winning just 4 of the state's 114 counties. Bernie and Hillary each got just over 49% in the primary, but, again, Wasserman Schulz had rigged the primary so that Bernie got just 34 delegates to Hillary's 47.

Last time McCaskill faced Missouri's voters was in 2012. She lucked out when the GOP ran bizarre sociopath Todd Akin, too much to swallow even for a red state like Missouri. After Akin's self-inflicted wounds about "legitimate rape" followed by him comparing McCaskill to a dog, she beat him 1,484,683 (54.8%) to 1,063,698 (39.1%) on the same day Romney was beating Obama 1,482,440 (53.8%) to 1,223,796 (44.4%). This year McCaskill isn't running against a verifiably insane Republican. The Republicans are running state Attorney General Josh Hawley. In the last half dozen polls, he's run ahead of her in 5 and she beat him-- by one point-- in the 6th. He's no Akin, although Republicans can't quite stay away from their party's war against women. In December he said that the sexual liberation of the 1960s had mitigated the social stigma for sex outside of marriage, which "has led to exploitation of women on a scale that we would never have imagined," leading to slavery of women. Trump loves him.

And yesterday, McCaskill's road to reelection may have gotten even steeper-- as an independent, Craig O'Dear jumped in. When he first formed his exploratory committee in January, Newsweek noted that it could be a game changer.
Geoffrey Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, highlighted the unpredictable nature of an O'Dear candidacy.

“If O’Dear takes disproportionately from Hawley or McCaskill, that could potentially swing the race,” Skelley said. “In a race that is close, if there is some of that, it might be bad” for either candidate.

Skelley further stressed that Democrats need to hold on to the seat to have any chance of securing a Senate majority.

Even with a Republican Senate majority, Trump has had a difficult time pushing through much of his agenda during his first year, often blaming the filibuster rule and calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to repeal it.

If Democrats take control of the upper chamber, Trump will find it almost impossible to get his legislative agenda through Congress. His two biggest achievements, the passage of a tax bill and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, only barely passed the Senate. A Democrat-controlled Senate would have no incentive to do the president any favors ahead of the 2020 election and would likely refuse to hand him any significant legislative victories.

Republicans currently control the upper chamber by the thinnest of margins, holding 51 seats to the Democrats' 49. For Democrats to wrest majority control from the Republicans, they would need to pick up two Republican-held seats while successfully retaining each seat they are defending. Such a scenario is essentially impossible without a McCaskill victory in Missouri, an outcome made even more uncertain with the addition of a wild card like O’Dear.

...Despite being a self-described longtime conservative Republican, O’Dear donated to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run for president. This is already being used as ammunition by both leading candidates.

The McCaskill campaign is seeking to paint O’Dear as a staunch conservative driven out of the party by an unpopular president.

“It’s not surprising that another lifelong Republican is abandoning their party because of Donald Trump,” Meira Bernstein, communications director for the McCaskill campaign, said. “This is a fight over the soul of the Republican Party.”

But the Hawley campaign has other ideas, describing the race as a battle between McCaskill and O’Dear for Democratic votes.

“Sounds like another Hillary-loving liberal to me,” Kelli Ford, spokeswoman for the Hawley campaign, said. “We look forward to watching the trial lawyer and Senator McCaskill compete to be the liberal standard-bearer.”
Yesterday O'Dear pulled the trigger yesterday. To me he sounds like an utterly clueless idiot offering the very worst of the Republican Party mixed with the worst of the conservative Democrats and a big splash of ignorance. On top of that, he doesn't have any kind of political network and isn't known at all-- but still thinks he can win by capturing 35-40% in a 3-way race, a virtually impossible task. He says he was encouraged to run by Greg Orman, an independent running for governor of Kansas. O'Dear had contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, including $3,200 to Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, currently drowning in a scandal about paying hush money to a woman to shut her up about their extramarital affair.
O’Dear does not plan to caucus with either party if he is elected to the Senate. He said that the fact that the federal government has faced a shutdown twice in the span of two months demonstrates the dysfunction caused by the party system.

“The problem in the United States Senate is everything is controlled by two caucuses… We have got to find a way to introduce some non-caucus space in this country,” he said. 
O’Dear said that is a central part of his pitch to voters even if they identify as Republicans or Democrats.

“You want to help your party, help get me elected,” he said. “It will moderate both parties if you help create a center.”

McCaskill was one of only five Senate Democrats to vote against shutting down the federal government in January, but O’Dear contended that her move to the center was part of an election year strategy.

He also criticized President Donald Trump for proposing spending increases after pushing for tax cuts last year, two moves that will increase the country’s deficit.
Prediction: O'Dear won't take 10% of the vote and won't be a real factor in the race, drawing equally from each party. Unless the anti-Trump/anti-GOP is wave is massive, McCaskill will lose. Missouri is a Republican state and behaving like a Republican, the way McCaskill does, won't persuade more Republican voters to switch over to her than it will persuade Democratic voters to sit out her reelection bid. Like her support for the Crapo crap-bailout of big banks. Are Missouri voters dumb enough to buy into her anti-consumer deregulation bullshit?

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