Thursday, July 24, 2014

Right Wing Nuts Welcome Their New Majority Leader With An Embarrassing Defeat-- For Him And America

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I was in New York Tuesday and could concentrate on the votes that were going down in the House and I'm afraid people may have missed a vote on Eric Swalwell's H.R. 1022, the Securing Energy Critical Elements and American Jobs Act. The Boehner/McCarthy/Ryan clique that's still fighting to control the House Republican Caucus, felt it had the votes to suspend the rules and pass the bill with a 2/3 majority and no amendments. They should have asked their own chief vote-counter, Republican Whip Steve Scalise, the Louisiana extremist, who was opposed to it.

Although every Democrat but right-wing nut Nick Rahall voted yes and the Boehner/McCarthy clique delivered 78 Establishment Republicans, the healthy majority wasn't quote healthy enough. With 29 Members absent or not voting, 260-143 does not add up to 2/3. It failed, 9 votes short. House Science Committee chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) backed it and told fellow Republicans it would help the U.S. find ways to produce rare earth elements on its own without relying on other countries. "This bill," he said, "helps ensure that the United States remains globally and economically competitive, and that our energy sector and military have the critical elements that they need."

Boehner pawns like Eric Cantor (VA), Fred Upton (MI), Mike Simpson (ID), Dave Camp (MI), Dave Reichert (WA), Tom Cole (OK), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), David Joyce (OH), Greg Walden (OR), Peter King (NY), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Tom Reed (NY), Chris Gibson (NY), Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (Mafia), Devin Nunes (CA), Corey Gardner (CO), Charlie Dent (PA), Vern Buchanan (FL) and Ken Calvert (CA) crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats on something the business community generally favors. The kooks-- like Broun (GA), Coffman (CO), Stockman (TX), Jordan (OH), Ross (FL), Salmon (AZ), Cotton (AR), McHenry (NC), Bachmann (MN), Clawson (FL), Gohmert (TX), Bridenstine (OK), King (IA) and Gowdy (SC)-- and the Republicans hoping to get votes from teabaggers and Hate Talk Radio victims-- like Daines (MT), Kline (MN), Capito (WV), Roskam (IL), Mica (FL), and Schock (IL)-- went along with demands from far right operations Club for Growth and Heritage Action, who threatened Republicans backing the bill. Swalwell, after the failure:
"Under the threat of punishment from Heritage Action and Club for Growth, a majority of House Republicans voted against America's manufacturing and national security interests. Rather than support research and development that will help create jobs here at home, 142 House Republicans just voted to send good-paying American jobs overseas."


If you're still with us… you earned this-- and I can't imagine DWT will ever have another opportunity to share it. Ladies and gentlemen… Rare Earth:

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You're des-THPIC-able, Miss Mitch! (You tell it, Daffy!)

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Isn't this a better look for Senate Minority Leader "Miss Mitch" McConnell? Even with the still-clenched body language, doesn't he seem worlds kinder and gentler?

by Ken

So this morning on the radio they were playing clips from the Senate dialogue on a bill that I gather is intended to increase transparency in political contributions.

So there was Maine's Independent senator, Angus King, saying that you couldn't get up and speak at a town meeting, perhaps our truest form of democracy, with a bag over your head. After all, he went on, who you are is an important part of the package of comment you're delivering; listeners need this information to help evaluate the comment.

Interesting, no?

Then there was "Miss Mitch" McConnell, declaring in that repulsive lying drone we've come to know and hate that that this is nothing more than yet another atttempt to limit free speech.

Now I'm not sure either senator had it quite right, or quite meant exactly what he was saying. As I'm sure Miss Mitch might have pointed out, if it had been paying attention, you certainly could speak at a New England town meeting with a bag over your head. Who's to stop you? I think Senator King is certainly correct to the extent that such speech wouldn't be taken terribly seriously, but I don't see that you couldn't do it.

And I for one regret that Miss Mitch didn't stick it to Senator King by wearing a paper bag over its own personal head, as illustrated above. Not only is it allowable on the Senate floor, it's an unarguable improvement.

To go with this much-improved new look, I think Miss Mitch could look to deploying a new voice. Once no one has to look at its loathsome face, there will be even less tolerance for the droning sound of savage imbecility that accompanies it. My first thought was something along these lines:



But on reflection, I had to conclude that Daffy is too upright, too characterful to serve as the voice of Miss Mitch. I think something more along these lines might be more suitable:



NOW, AS TO MISS MITCH'S FIBBING --

Even as hopelessly pathological a liar as Our Miss Mitch knows that limiting free speech isn't what this legislation is about. It just says that because . . . well, because even an "it" has free speech and knows it can say it.

We already know that what Miss Mitch thinks of as "free" speech isn't free at all; it's in fact quite expensive -- it might be better to call it "top-dollar speech." This Miss Mitch believes in fervently. It also believes fervently in dishonest speech, which after all is the lifeblood of its public career.

And, regrettably, neither of these -- top-dollar speech nor dishonest speech -- is being challenged here. The Supreme Court, alas, regards it as a done deal that money is speech, and as for dishonest speech, well, it's well established that it's as much protected as honest speech; we don't distinguish, except in the most extraordinary circumstances. The traditional remedy for objectionable speech is supposed to be more free speech., though of course when it's actually top-dollar speech, it's not so easy to counteract, which of course is what proponents of Miss Mitchified "free" speech count on.

Which still leaves the "secret" part, and here Senator King's town-hall analogy seems to me quite interesting. The last I checked, even as fervent an upholder of the dictatorship of the overprivileged as Supreme Court Justice Nino Scalia was writing in no uncertain terms that the Constitution provides no protection for the identity of a free-speechifier. So when Miss Mitch demands protection for Top-Dollar, Lying, Secret Speech, in reality only two of those things are protected. And the legislation at issue is in fact aimed at the unprotected "secret" part.

Consider that even with a paper bag over its head, we'll still know that it's Miss Mitch.
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Hawaii: A Bastion Of Progressivism-- Let's Keep It That Way

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Hawaii's primary is August 9, a week from Saturday. Saturday? Sure, that's how to encourage voter participation in a democracy-- have the elections when people aren't working. Conservatives are generally terrified at the prospect of more people voting-- especially working class people-- so they tend to block legislation like Hawaii's. Hawaii is a pretty progressive state, first to mass a $10.10 minimum wage, first to start the process of marriage equality. The Republican Party is pretty moribund there and the Democratic Party has been in charge since 1962. In recent times Bill Clinton won twice, George Bush lost twice and Obama won twice-- with over 70% both times. There are no Republicans in federal office, only one Republican state senator (out of 25) and only 7 Republicans in the 51 member House. In the last U.S. Senate race, pitting progressive Democrat Mazie Hirono against conservative (not extremist) Republican Governor Linda Lingle, Hirono beat Lingle 269,489 (63%) to 160,994 (37%).

That's not to say Hawaii doesn't have a powerful conservative faction working against the interests of working families. The problem is that they're smart enough to embed themselves in the Democratic Party and tell lo-info voters that they are also "progressives." So you wind up with shady career politicians like Ed Case, Colleen Hanabusa, Mufi Hannemann, Donna Mercado Kim, Mark Takai, who would be Republicans in any other state, festering as Democrats in Hawaii. Donna Kim, for example, is the state Senate president but just voted against increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and against marriage equality for Hawaii's big LGBT community. And now she wants to bring her right-wing bigotry to Washington to replace fellow conservative Colleen Hanabusa, the anti-Social Security New Dem who is being pushed by EMILY's List against progressive Senator Brian Schatz.

Schatz, who has been endorsed by President Obama, Elizabeth Warren and every senator who has endorsed in the race, is the lead sponsor of the Strengthening Social Security Act, which would increase benefits by an average of $65-70/month and extend the viability of the Social Security system by removing the wage cap on Social Security, so that all Americans pay their fair share, even rich people. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare endorsed him because of this bill and because of Hanabusa's awful vote in favor of the Simpson-Bowles budget framework and her eagerness to "compromise" away hard earned benefits for working people and seniors, primarily by raising the age of retirement and by recalculating down the cost of living adjustments for retired and handicapped people, which is the Republican position, not the Democratic position.


Hanabusa and her shady lobbyist supporters have been trying to deceive voters in Hawaii by claiming that Schatz's vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act in 2013 cut Social Security benefits by extending provider cuts under Medicare for 2 years. This is total nonsense, and Hanabusa is trying to misrepresent her vote in opposition to the BBA as a vote to protect Medicare and Social Security. Although the BBA was not perfect, it rolled back sequestration cuts and Democrats would not agree to any deal unless Social Security and Medicare benefits were not touched. That's exactly what happened in the deal. As a result, every Senate Democrat and President Obama supported the legislation. Essentially, Hanabusa joined Senate Tea Party Republicans like Ted Cruz on this vote. On top of that, the "cuts" to Medicare/Social Security that Hanabusa is squawking about are actually decreases in provider reimbursements under Medicare that were extended from 2021 and 2023. These provider decreases were actually established by the Budget Control Act of 2011 which Hanabusa neglects to mention that she voted for. Essentially, she voted to establish sequestration and Medicare reimbursement cuts, spent all of 2013 complaining about the negative impacts of sequestration, and then when she had a chance to help fix the worst aspects of sequestration that she helped create, she voted against BBA in a thinly veiled effort to create a difference in position between her and Schatz.

And it gets worse since Hanabusa also bitterly complained that the BBA cut military retiree pensions. Senator Schatz and other Democrats didn't like this aspect of the legislation, and after the BBA passed, Schatz introduced legislation to eliminate that portion of the BBA. This repeal passed-- with Hanabusa and other conservatives voting against the repeal. Jim Dean, chairman of Democracy for America said this about Hanabusa's Republican posture on Social Security:
Hanabusa has been desperately trying to evade responsibility for her vote to cut Social Security and Medicare. At a recent debate, Schatz looked directly at Hanabusa and asked if she regretted her vote for the Simpson-Bowles plan to cut Social Security. She tried to say her vote wouldn't have cut benefits or raise the retirement age.

Schatz then pulled out his trump card. He read out a letter the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare wrote to her, pleading with her to vote against the Simpson-Bowles plan that would have cut benefits and raised the retirement age. The facts are clear-- Hanabusa can't be trusted to protect Social Security.
Hanabusa's claim that Schatz voted to cut Social Security benefits because he voted to extend Medicare reimbursement cuts by two years is typical, sleazy Beltway garbage. Medicare and Social Security are separate programs with different funding and trust funds, so it is absolutely false that Schatz voted to cut Social Security benefits. He's been endorsed by all the organizations voting to protect and expand Social Security. She's backed by conservatives like herself. "The Republicans in the House and the Tea Party," said Schatz, "seem bound and determined to undermine Social Security and I think it's important that for we Democrats in the Senate to stake out a position that not only are we not entertaining cutting Social Security, but we ought to be thinking about ways to enhance the program-- both for the beneficiaries and for the trust fund to be healthy over the long run."

Although EMILY's List promised Hanabusa they could "deliver" Elizabeth Warren's endorsement if she ran against Schatz, Warren not only refused, she enthusiastically endorsed Schatz. In a stunning rebuke to EMILY's List and Hanabusa's deceitful campaign, this week she told her supporters that "I am proud to stand with Senator Mazie Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz, and a growing number in Congress who are committed to protecting and expanding Social Security benefits. The most recent discussion about cutting benefits has focused on something called the Chained-CPI. Supporters of the Chained-CPI say that it’s a more accurate way of measuring cost of living increases for seniors. That statement is simply not true. Chained CPI is just a fancy way of saying cut benefits. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a measure of the real impact of inflation on seniors. It’s called the CPI-E. If we adopted it today, it would generally increase benefits for our retirees-- not cut them. In the end, this is not just about math. It’s about our values. If we want a robust middle class-- a middle class that continues to serve as the backbone of our country-- then we must take the retirement crisis seriously."

As we've discussed before, Hanabusa was one of the congressmembers from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party who refused to sign the Grayson-Takano Social Security pledge or to back Schatz's Strengthening Social Security Act. And on the same Saturday voters in Hawaii are choosing between Hanabusa and Schatz, they are also picking Hanabusa's replacement for the first congressional district (basically, Honolulu). Blue America, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, DFA and People for the American Way have all endorsed Stanley Chang against two well-funded conservative Democrats, Donna Kim and Mark Takai. Chang, who was one of Elizabeth Warren's students at Harvard Law, has backed the same ideas for strengthening and extending Social Security as Schatz. When we asked him this morning, this is what he told us:
I categorically oppose all cuts to Social Security and I am proud to have repeatedly pledged support for the Grayson-Takano Letter, which reads in part: “We will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits-- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.” For me, this promise is the first step in bold strategy to not only protect and defend Social Security, but to expand its critical benefits so that all of our kupuna can retire in dignity after a lifetime of work.

Social Security is the bedrock of the safety net our seniors have earned. The common-sense progressive solution that will ensure Social Security’s solvency for decades to come would be to “scrap the cap.” Currently, only the first $117,000 of income is taxed for Social Security, but if we eliminate this loophole, we will have the necessary funds to ensure that our seniors remain healthy and financially secure.

I am opposed to using so-called “chained CPI” to calculate cost-of-living adjustments. This is merely another way to enact deep, harsh cuts to Social Security, which keeps 22 million seniors out of poverty.
You can help Stanley Chang with his crucial get out the vote effort here and you can do the same for Brian Schatz here. They're both from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.


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Fake Democrat Gavin Newsom Is Only Lt. Governor Now, But He Can Do A Lot Of Damage In The Future

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Like Rick Perry, Gavin Newsom is certain new glasses make him look serious

Gavin Newsom presents well. When he still thought he was running for governor, he called a meeting of L.A. political bloggers in some sleek West Hollywood hotel and did a free-flowing Q and A. He was as sleek as the hotel and everyone swooned. Except me. Having recently exited the corporate world, Newsom's glitz and studied expertise in everything didn't impress me. Good hair, yes... but I could sense that guy at the head of the table was a quintessential Republican no matter what party label he worse and no matter San Francisco gay couples he had married. Jon Ward wasn't at that meeting, but he's got Newsom's number as well-- and he shared it this week at HuffPo-- The Right's Strange New Hero: Gavin Newsom.

After he was elected Lt Governor, Jerry Brown told him to keep out of his hair and go find some ribbons to cut. Instead he wrote a book, Citizenville, although I'm not certain if the proceeds are owned by the state government which was paying his salary while he wrote it. As Ward explains, "the ideas he espouses in the book have Washington conservatives sitting up and taking note." Like Newt Gingrich: "It is a tremendous book which I recommend all the time."

Ward's article goes well with the Tim Donovan piece at Salon we've been looking at, Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future. Newsome was born in 1967, so he's not a millennial, just ahead of his time. And he isn't from a rich family, but a very politically connected one. He was appointed, rather than elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and when he ran he ran in the most Republican district in town-- Pacific Heights, the Marina and Sea Cliff-- and ran on both the Democratic and Republican slates. when people weren't thinking of him as just an opportunistic Republican calling himself a Democrat, he's just been considered a conservative and a part of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

His personal wealth-- he's a multimillionaire-- comes from his connections, particularly to oil heir Gordon Getty who was the primary investor in 10 businesses Newsom started, almost all of them bars, cafes and wine shops. And his policies are the policies that serve the interests of business rather than families. Citizenville is an anti-government screed that any Ayn Rand fan would happily recognize and, according to Ward, the "central premise is that government can be better, more relevant, more engaged with the public by embracing technology-- and getting out of the way." Newsom, channeling his inner Republican: "Government can do best by simply getting out of the way."
Newsom's critique of government’s failures and weaknesses dovetails with the narrative that some on the right are crafting to critique the Democratic Party and spark a revival of the moribund GOP. A loose coalition of thinkers-- including Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs magazine, and Alex Castellanos, a veteran political consultant working on rebranding the GOP-- have been busy promoting the idea of "reform conservatism."

Levin and Castellanos, in particular, are each working independently to craft a way of talking about conservatism that can change perceptions of the right, even among those Americans who don’t pay close attention to politics. It’s a significant ingredient in the GOP’s hopes for resurgence. Their argument is that liberalism is a top-down, antiquated approach to modern governance.

Devolving decision-making power and authority to local institutions is a better way, they say, to approach a technology-driven world that is increasingly complex, diverse and bottom-up.

Put more simply, they say Democrats are the party of old ideas, and conservatives-- who have struggled with being identified as the party of old, white men-- are actually the best fit for the future... Newsom’s steady cultivation of Silicon Valley moguls should help him raise funds for any statewide run.
If the gays want to marry and dopers want to smoke pot, he's all for that but high-speed rail-- investment in the future that will cost rich people money-- he's against it. Compare the fluffy bullshit and hype of Citizenville with the paper, Eliminating Extreme Inequality, Joe Stiglitz and Michael Doyle published for the Carnegie Council's Ethics And International Affairs and you can't help but see the contrast between the striving, self-serving huckster and the thoughtful problem solver.
At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, UN member states took a dramatic step by putting people rather than states at the center of the UN’s agenda. In their Millennium Declaration, the assembled world leaders agreed to a set of breathtakingly broad goals touching on peace through development, the environment, human rights, the protection of the vulnerable, the special needs of Africa, and reforms of UN institutions. Particularly influential was the codification of the Declaration’s development related objectives, which emerged in the summer of 2001 as the now familiar eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), to be realized by 2015:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

• Halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day and those who suffer from hunger.

2. Achieve universal primary education.

• Ensure that all boys and girls complete primary school.

3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
• Eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education preferably by 2005, and at all levels by 2015.

4. Reduce child mortality.

• Reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under five.

5. Improve maternal health.
• Reduce by three-quarters the ratio of women dying in childbirth.

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases.
• Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.

7. Ensure environmental sustainability.

• Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources.
• By 2015, reduce by half the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water.
• By 2020, achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

8. Develop a global partnership for development.
• Develop further an open trading and financial system that includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction-- nationally and internationally.

• Address the special needs of the least developed countries, and the special needs of landlocked and small island developing states.

• Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries.
• Develop decent and productive work for youth.

• In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
• In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies-- especially information and communications technologies.
While the accomplishment of these goals would have been an impressive achievement, even taken together they do not represent a complete or comprehensive vision of human development. They were constrained by what the member states could agree upon in 2000 and, in particular, they lacked a vision of equitable development. As the international community thinks about the set of goals that will follow the MDGs, it is time to address that shortcoming by adding the goal of “eliminating extreme inequality” to the original eight... Extreme inequalities tend to hamper economic growth and undermine both political equality and social stability.

...Economists of widely differing philosophical outlooks agree that inequalities of incomes and assets have harmful economic effects. Increasing inequalities, with top-heavy income distributions, lessen aggregate demand (the rich tend to spend a smaller fraction of their income than the poor), which can slow economic growth. The attempt of monetary authorities to offset these effects can contribute to credit bubbles, and these bubbles in turn lead to economic instability. That is why inequality is often associated with economic instability. In this perspective, it is not a surprise that inequality reached high levels before the Great Recession of 2008 and before the Great Depression of the 1930s. Recent International Monetary Fund research shows that high inequality is associated with shorter growth cycles.

Much of the inequality observed around the world is associated with rent-seeking (for example, the exercise of monopoly power), and such inequality manifestly undermines economic efficiency. But perhaps the worse dimension of inequality is inequality of opportunity, which is both the cause and consequence of inequality of outcomes, and causes economic inefficiency and reduced development, as large numbers of individuals are not able to live up to their potential. Countries with high inequality tend to invest less in public goods, such as infrastructure, technology, and education, which contribute to long-term economic prosperity and growth.

Reducing inequality, on the other hand, has clear economic as well as social benefits. It strengthens people’s sense that society is fair; improves social cohesion and mobility, making it more likely that more citizens live up to their potential; and broadens support for growth initiatives. Policies that aim for growth but ignore inequality may ultimately be self-defeating, whereas policies that decrease inequality by, for example, boosting employment and education have beneficial effects on the human capital that modern economies increasingly need.

Gaps between the rich and the poor are partly the result of economic forces, but equally, or even more, they are the result of public policy choices, such as taxation, the level of the minimum wage, and the amount invested in health care and education. This is why countries whose economic circumstances are otherwise similar can have markedly different levels of inequality. These inequalities in turn affect policy-making because even democratically-elected officials respond more attentively to the views of affluent constituents than they do to the views of poor people. The more that wealth is allowed unrestricted roles in funding elections, the more likely it is that economic inequality will get translated into political inequality.

...One of the most pernicious forms of inequality relates to inequality of opportunity, reflected in a lack of socioeconomic mobility, condemning those born into the bottom of the economic pyramid to almost surely remain there. Alan Krueger, former Chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisors, has pointed to this link between inequality and opportunity. Inequality of income tends to be associated with less economic mobility and fewer opportunities across generations. The fact that those born into the bottom of the economic pyramid are condemned to never reach their potential reinforces the correlation between inequality and slower long-term economic growth.
I don't expect Newsom, who suffered from a severe learning disability in school, to ever understand this stuff on anything but the most superficial level. And who cares? All we need to care about is to make sure he never advances out of the harmless office he now holds as Lt. Governor.

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Did You Miss The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Anniversary Monday?

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Elizabeth Warren's new book, A Fighting Chance, makes it pretty clear that I'm not the only one who thinks Capital One is one big scam and nothing-- at least up on top-- but a nest of crooks and thieves. In the book she talks about how they cheated their own clients and how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's first action was to order them to pay $150 million to two million consumers for selling them credit card products they could not use or did not want. So anyone think I would ever in a million years do business with these gonifs? Sure, the same day I do business with Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Joe Crowley!

So a couple of months ago I got an official-looking letter from the crooks known as Capital One about the credit card I have with them. Except I don't. It even had the last few digits of a number. I was alarmed. I called them and asked what it was all about. The operator was an asshole-- until I told her my next call would be to the CFPB. Everything changed and she said she would delete the account. I told her to please do that and then asked her to tell me how exactly a credit card I had never applied for was active and how they got all my personal information. She said she isn't allowed to say.

So I called CFPB and lodged a formal complaint. At the end of the complaint process they ask you to suggest how the culprit should be handled. I suggested they close down Capital One and throw the CEO and Chairman of the Board into prison for as long as possible since word would get out in the bankster community and a few other banksters might think it wise to forgo this kind of predatory behavior. The CFPB sent me a few letters about how the process was going along over the weeks.

And then I got another letter from Capital One answering my complaint and guaranteeing me they had closed the account. Two weeks letter I got another letter from them-- with the same credit card number-- trying to get more personal information from me. When I called to complain to them again the operator refused to even discuss it unless I gave her my Social Security number. I have to find some time to call the CFPB again. (I'm on the road now and don't have my paperwork handy.)

Monday MassLive.com ran an article by Robert Rizzuto about the success the CFPB has been having since Elizabeth Warren invented it and got it written into statute 3 years ago. For one thing, they've been instrumental in returning over $4 billion scammed from customer by shady banks and other bankstery operations.
And as Monday marks the agency's three-year anniversary, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the architect of the CFPB, says the bureau's many documented success stories not only justify its existence but highlight its effectiveness.

One of these stories centers on a family from Hull, Massachusetts. The father and son, only identified as Harry and Ari, respectively, document their story via a web video released by the CFPB late last week.

Ari, a self-described Iraq military veteran, said he was stationed in El Paso, Texas when he purchased a car prior to deployment, but soon found the terms of his auto loan were a problem.

"I found out about the program that gave me the car loan just by driving off base. There’s car dealerships everywhere and they all have programs tailored towards servicemembers," Ari said in the video. "When the dealership found out that I was a soldier, they promised me… they’d put me in a car I could afford."

Ari gave his father Harry power of attorney over his affairs while he served in Iraq, and it was he who found the terms of the automobile loan to be "unsustainable."

"At some point I decided there would be a need to lodge a formal complaint against this company because they were victimizing soldiers," Harry said in the video. "And I wrote to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in Washington, DC, a detailed letter of my son’s experience and my knowledge of other soldiers who had been victimized in this way."

When the CFPB investigated, they found no wrongdoing pertaining to the specific terms of Ari's loan, but they did end up finding multiple other instances of deceptive practices and efforts to victimize servicemembers by car dealerships. In the end, the CFPB recouped $6.5 million for military members and changed the system to require more transparency and increased disclosures relating to the terms of car loans.

And to Warren, a consumer advocate turned politician who was at the center of the conversation to create the agency, stories like this make the CFPB worth fighting for.

"It's important that the CFPB is there to help protect servicemembers, veterans, and families who are targeted by scams and unfair financial practices," Warren said in an email to MassLive.com. "The consumer agency is a great resource for anyone who has been cheated by credit card companies, mortgage lenders, and other financial institutions, and it is already making a difference for people here in Massachusetts and across the country."
Aside from getting back the $4 billion the banksters have stolen from their customers, the CFPB put rules in place "to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures [and they] helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them." A very optimistic Senator Warren, on the anniversary of the agency:
The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.

The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority. Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.

We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.
At the same time, Marianne Williamson penned a post for HuffPo, an open letter to Hillary Clinton. Like so many of us, Williamson would like to see a woman president and she feels Hillary has a lot of qualifications and would "know what to do from Day 1... But none of that is enough to get my vote, or the vote of a lot of people I know. We only want to vote for you if you run like hell away from that corporate box you've landed in. I'm telling you, Hillary. The American people have become hip to what's happening. We know now that Wall Street runs the country, and we don't like it. And for many of us, we don't want to vote for you if Wall Street runs you too... I want you to support reinstating Glass-Steagall-- not just wink at Wall Street while sipping its champagne."

I would have loved to see Williamson run against sleazy Blue Dog/New Dem Adam Schiff instead of moving a few blocks west into Henry Waxman's district to run against him. I doubt she'll decide to take on Schiff next time but I'm thankful that she's staying in the public forum with her powerful voice and important and unbought perspective.


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A New Breed Of Conservatives Who Aren't Anti-Gay

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Gay conservative Republicans like Aaron Schock (R-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Miss McConnell (R-KY), and Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC) have traditionally locked themselves in closets and voted against LGBT equality in the hope they would fool someone. Gay conservative Democrats have usually been less hypocritical. Maine Blue Dog Mike Michaud stayed in the closet until he came out when Paul LePage started the GOP rumor machine whirling in time for the gubernatorial election. His LGBT record has been so-so, better than most conservatives but not great. Most gay conservative Democrats just come out of the closet these days-- Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ) and Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY) are good examples.

They are two of the worst Democrats in Congress-- they both tend to vote with Boehner and the Republicans on most core issues-- except on LGBT and women's health issues. Both have excellent voting records on LGBT equality, although working class gays might find minimal solace in that, given the two Democrats' anti-working family perspective on everything else. I often run into Democrats who refuse to believe that gay Democrats can be described as "conservative." That's not only silly, it's getting even sillier and soon we will have gay Republicans voting horribly on everything but gay issues. Carl DeMaio (R-CA) is openly gay and conservative and likely to beat conservative New Dem multimillionaire Scott Peters in San Diego this November. (Polls show DeMaio leading, probably because plenty of disillusioned Democrats have no intention of bothering to come out and vote for a disappointing conservative like Peters.) You don't have to be anti-gay to be conservative. You just have to be for conserving the wealth and power of the wealthy and powerful. That's always been the name of the game. The bigotry and hatred was just convenient to get 2-digit IQ voters to betray their own economic self-interests.

The wonderful Salon article by Tim Donovan I keep referring to Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future, makes it clear that the next generation of disgusting Republicans won't be anti-gay, just anti-working class. Sinema and Maloney are ahead of the curve. And so is freshman Republican David Jolly, who won the special election to replace Bill Young in Pinellas County and is, as far as I know, straight. And not anti-gay. In fact, he's pro-gay and says he has been since college.
“Republican David Jolly (Fla.) announces support for gay marriage” reads the headline of the story written by the Washington Post's Sean Sullivan, who covered Jolly during his campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Jolly, when asked by the Post if he supports gay marriage after a Florida judge overturned the state’s ban, said that his personal views on marriage are that it should be limited to one man and one woman. But, he added, states should not be defining the “sanctity” of marriage.

From there, the story quickly went viral. And in almost every article, blog post, story, and tweet, Jolly is portrayed as “coming out” for gay marriage.

Jolly says this has been his viewpoint all along. And not since his campaign, but from his days at law school.

“I can tell you exactly where my thinking began to change,” said Jolly. “It was my constitutional law class in 1998. That began a year of soul-searching on this issue.”

Jolly position on same-sex marriage, he insists, “is not an evolution.” Actually, Jolly’s position is shaped by a libertarian belief that government is not key to the sanctity of marriage.

“To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state,” Jolly explained in a statement to the Washington Post. “Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge.”

...Now that Jolly is talking about the issue, he’s not pulling any punches. He says the state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages goes against the U.S. Constitution and should be overturned.

Asked if he thinks Attorney General Pam Bondi should abandon her legal efforts to uphold the ban, Jolly reiterated his position that the amendment should be overturned but said he was unclear what the charter of Bondi’s office requires her to do to uphold Florida law.

Jolly also made it a point to say that he thinks one of the great “upcoming fights” is over religious liberty. He said he’s worried that the government will overstep its authority and force religious-based schools to teach about matters that go against their beliefs.

But that fight is for another day. Today, Jolly is making headlines for all the right reasons. The only issue is they should probably have been written months ago.
That doesn't mean Jolly is a liberal or a progressive by any stretch of the imagination. He's a conservative, albeit a new breed of conservative who feels secure enough that he can win reelection without catering to the redneck homophobic hatemongers who so many conservatives are always peering over their shoulders for. A couple of weeks ago, Jolly joined all the Florida Republicans to vote of a crazy amendment by coal industry shill David McKinley (R-WV) denying Climate Change and insisting that the government spent no money on it. Jolly voted for it despite the fact that every single inch of Pinellas County will be uninhabitable, mostly underwater in fact, by the end of the century. Now, that's a conservative!

Jolly's Democratic district-- which Obama won in 2008 and 2012 and which voted against Bush both times as well-- is socially moderate. Jolly is smart enough to know that someday the Democrats won't have a bumbling moron and incompetent like Steve Israel running the DCCC and that he'll have a real race on his hands. He's preparing now-- even though, thanks to Israel's startling arrogance and willful stupidity, he has no opponent in November. His voting record is conservative without being too overtly hateful. His 13.43 ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is even better than Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's 9.06 and she's in an even bluer district, although, again thanks to Israel (and Debbie Wasserman Schultz) she has no Democratic opponent this year. And she isn't anti-gay either and she voted to allow her entire district to sink beneath the waves as well.

Prediction: Aaron Schock will come out of the closet and marry his congressional heartthrob Adam Kinzinger and both will start voting relatively well (you know, "for a Republican") on LGBT issues, while still voting horribly on everything else. And they will be called "moderates."

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James Garner (1928-2014)

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Sonny (James Garner) and Rocky (Noah Beery Jr.): In the history of fiction -- in stories and books and plays and on screens large or small -- has anyone ever done a father-son relationship more powerful and cherishable, not to mention funny, than that of Joseph A. and James Scott Rockford? (At least I'm remembering that Rocky's middle initial was "A." I haven't been able to verify my recollection.)

"At a time when the networks were awash with hard-eyed, traditional Western heroes, Bret Maverick provided a breath of fresh air. With his sardonic tone and his eagerness to talk his way out of a squabble rather than pull out his six-shooter, the con-artist Westerner seemed to scoff at the genre's values."
-- from Frazier Moore's AP obit of "reluctant hero" James Garner

by Ken

This is going to be a little easier than I feared, in part because the AP's Frazier Moore has gotten down some of the most important points quite beautifully in his obit. Here's how he begins:
Few actors could register disbelief, exasperation or annoyance with more comic subtlety.

James Garner had a way of widening his eyes while the corner of his mouth sagged ever so slightly. Maybe he would swallow once to further make his point.

This portrait of fleeting disquiet could be understood, and identified with, by every member of the audience. Never mind Garner was tall, brawny and, well, movie-star handsome. The persona he perfected was never less than manly, good with his dukes and charming to the ladies, but his heroics were kept human-scale thanks to his gift for the comic turn. He remained one of the people.
I hadn't really thought about this point about Garner's looks -- that he made such an irresistible Everyman-ish, little-guy figure even with those tall, brawny "movie-star handsome" looks. "He was so gorgeous," my mother said once of him, and I have to tell you, it wasn't a kind of remark I heard from her a lot.

Yeah, come to think of it, he was pretty darned gorgeous. And I don't imagine his looks worked against him when it came to finding work in Hollywood. Not that he was likely ever to be cast just for his looks. Producers and directors who hired him knew that he could not only act but do most anything an actor can be asked to do. And in an enormously productive career, he did just about everything, and did just about everything well. I gather he was especially fond of The Americanization of Emily, the Paddy Chayefsky-Arthur Hiller film in which he costarred with Julie Andrews -- as well he should have been. It's a splendid movie and a splendid performance on his part. But, but --

Intending no disrespect to Jim Garner, there are other actors who could have done that role. When he was cast best, it was in roles that no one else could have done, roles that could burrow into your consciousness and become part of your way of looking at the world.

Obviously I'm thinking above all of his two legendary TV characters, Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford. To return to Frazier Moore:
The 86-year-old Garner, who was found dead of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Saturday, was adept at drama and action. But he was best known for his low-key, wisecracking style, especially on his hit TV series, Maverick and The Rockford Files.

His quick-witted avoidance of conflict offered a refreshing new take on the American hero, contrasting with the blunt toughness of John Wayne and the laconic trigger-happiness of Clint Eastwood.
Of Maverick Frazier writes:
It was in 1957 when the ABC network, desperate to compete on ratings-rich Sunday night, scheduled Maverick against CBS's powerhouse The Ed Sullivan Show and NBC's The Steve Allen Show. To everyone's surprise — except Garner's — Maverick soon outpolled them both.

At a time when the networks were awash with hard-eyed, traditional Western heroes, Bret Maverick provided a breath of fresh air. With his sardonic tone and his eagerness to talk his way out of a squabble rather than pull out his six-shooter, the con-artist Westerner seemed to scoff at the genre's values.
Yes, exactly! (Frazier points out that the real-life Jim Garner "displayed real-life bravery," winning two Purple Hearts for combat wounds suffered during his service in the Korean War.)

Later Roy Huggins, the creator of Maverick (and of such big-time TV series as 77 Sunset Strip and The Fugitive), had the inspiration -- or just good sense -- to bring those unique qualities back to the tube. Bringing in as collaborator the still-young future TV legend Stephen J. Cannell, he created The Rockford Files.

Here's Frazier again (and this is absolutely terrific):
There's no better display of Garner's everyman majesty than the NBC series The Rockford Files (1974-80). He played an L.A. private eye and wrongly jailed ex-con who seemed to rarely get paid, or even get thanks, for the cases he took, while helplessly getting drawn into trouble to help someone who was neither a client nor maybe even a friend. He lived in a trailer with an answering machine that, in the show's opening titles, always took a message that had nothing to do with a paying job, but more often was a complaining call from a cranky creditor.

Through it all, Jim Rockford, however down on his luck, persevered hopefully. He wore the veneer of a cynic, but led with his heart. Putting all that on screen was Garner's magic.
What TV does so well, a point we keep coming back to, is character. And the greatness of The Rockford Files had everything to do with character, and while, crucially, the show's brilliant characterizations were by no means limited to its central character, it was all done in terms of relationships with Jim.

Wikipedia lists as stars, in addition to Jim Garner: Noah Beery Jr., Jose Santos, Gretchen Corbett, and Stuart Margolin, and they're all splendid examples of what the show could do with relationships built around Jim Rockford: the simply mind-blowingly beautiful as well as hilarious relationship with his father; his friendship with Detective Sgt. (later Lieut.) Dennis Becker (and how big a deal was it when Dennis finally made lieutenant?), the no-longer-romantic (at least on Jim's part) but totally trusting relationship with his long-suffering unpaid lawyer, Beth Davenport; and the side-splitting tug-of-war with his incandescently sleazy ex-prison pal Evelyn (Angel) Martin.

We could go on and on with just the series regulars and irregulars (the Wikipedia Rockford Files article has a nice list of "intermittently recurring players"), but then there are the dozens and dozens of actors, well-known and not so well-known, who created such searingly memorable characters through all six of those seasons. I wouldn't even know where to start, but how about Tom Selleck's two episodes as the golden boy of L.A. PIs, Lance White, the effortlessly self-promoting -- though rigidly honest -- investigatorial nitwit who plays the role of genius PI so triumphantly, while managing to make Jim look (and feel) like nobody? Or Rita Moreno's three episodes as hopefully but woefully striving ex-hooker Rita Capkovic?

There are probably 30 actors whose Rockford Files work we ought to talk about in detail. Just about everybody who worked on the show seems to have done work that would stand among the richest and most distinctive he/she would ever do. It seems pretty clear that far from wanting to hog the limelight, Jim Garner wanted to work with the best people he could -- and always helped make them look their best.

Not to mention the producers and writers -- including, in addition to Roy Huggins and Steven J. Cannell, such future TV heavyweights as David Chase and Chas Floyd Johnson.

Still, all of it orbited around that man at the center of the show, and all that magic he somehow managed to put on screen.

A NOTE ABOUT THE ROCKFORD TV MOVIES

I note that I haven't mentioned the eight Rockford Files TV movies eventually made for CBS (1994-99). I've only started rewatching them (as I've written here, I took the drastic step, and paid the considerable price, to import the second of the two DVD volumes, never released here, from Germany), and so far I'm thinking I may wind up liking them more than I did when they were new -- and not really reincarnations of the original series. But then, Jim Rockford wasn't the same Jim Rockford either. It's one thing for a fellow 20 years younger to be living in a trailer (admittedly on the beach at Malibu). For a fellow of the TV-movie Jim's age, it's something else to still be living in what, however expanded and remodeled, is still a trailer. I guess I'm of an age now where an autumnal Jim may be of more interest. That said, the TV movies still seem to me to have OK writing and acting, which wasn't the standard set by the original series. That standard was, to borrow Frazier Moore's apt word: magic.

IT'S A BUSINESS, FOLKS


James Garner talks HERE about having his knee destroyed in Season 2 of The Rockford Files, then having the show canceled two-thirds of the way through Season 6 when he informed his superiors that, with his body in collapse, his doctor had told him he couldn't work. It eventually became well-known how much of his body Jim had sacrificed to the grueling rigors of his role, to keep himself and everybody on the show employed. There was a good deal of acrimony between him and the studio (Universal) and network (NBC), which reminds us how much network TV-series production resembles -- or maybe is -- factories churning out assembly-line product. But sometimes that "product" achieves immortality.
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Do You Back Candidates Because They're The Same Color Or Religion As You Are?

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If you read DWT much, you know how much we distrust identity politics around here. Voting for someone because they are the same religion or ethnicity of gender, etc seems kind of primitive and politically immature. I always thought it should be about character and policy. I was very happy last week when People for the American Way endorsed Stanley Chang for the Honolulu-based congressional seat that Hanabusa gave up and I had been very happy a couple months before that to see the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorse him. Stanley is, hands down, the most progressive of the 7 Democratic candidates in the race. Stanley is a Chinese-American. I don't recall anyone being of Chinese ancestry on the PFAW Board and I'm willing to bet that he wasn't endorsed by the CPC because of his ethnicity either. In both cases, it was all about his progressive policy positions and the progressive work he's done on the Honolulu City Council. So I was gob-smacked this week when I was told that two Japanese-American progressives I think highly of, Mark Takano and Mike Honda, bucked the CPC and endorsed one of Chang's conservative opponents, Mark Takai.

I bet Takano, who is very serious about his gay identity as well as his Japanese-American identity would be mortified if he knew Takai's anti-gay voting record that conveniently changed just when he announced he would be running for Congress. Takai voted no on civil unions in 2010 and 2011.

And I wonder if Mike Honda, one of Congress' preeminent supporters of the down-and-out, knows that Takai was the lead sponsor of a bill to drug-test recipients of public assistance benefits last year. And he's been a cheerleader for Donna Kim's endless tirades against public employees and institutions.

I suspect neither Takano nor Honda bothered to read the 2012 Hawaii Family Forum survey, in which Takai is clear he backed a state constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman and backs the conservative position that gives religious organizations the right to refuse outside groups from using their facilities for activities related even to civil unions.

On one issue he's even more conservative than the religious-right candidate in the primary, Donna Mercado Kim. She was undecided on voting to include a conscience exemption in laws requiring all Hawaii hospitals to provide abortifacient medication to sex assault victims, but Takai said yes. It's hard to imagine either Takano or Honda backing someone with this kind of a record-- and not from ancient history wither, from the last election cycle!

Takai also happens to be a big nuclear power booster and introduced bills in both 2009 and 2011 that would “direct the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism to develop a permitting process for nuclear energy generation facilities in Hawaii.” Just five days after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused level 7 nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, he commented, “I still think it’s prudent for us to take a look at whether nuclear energy is a viable option.”

Takai is far more hawkish than either Takano or Honda and openly advocates spending more money on the military. And he is every bit as friendly with the right wing as Donna Kim is. Hawaii has a fringe Koch-affiliated think tank called the Grassroot Institute. It espouses libertarian economics, but is mostly known for its open hostility to Hawaiian sovereignty. When the Grassroot Institute named a new CEO last year, Takai was the only elected official quoted in the press release. Just a few months ago, he sat down for a nearly hour-long videotaped lovefest (and snoozefest) with the CEO, in which they talked about their shared commitment to Christian faith and beliefs that the public-school system should be "run like a business" and "school choice should be de-politicized." On gridlock in Congress, Takai offered this: "You have people on the left who are really dug in..."

So much for being the "progressive" alternative to Kim (which is an idea he and his backers are pushing hard to people who don't know much about history). Blue America endorsed Stanley Chang-- and as far as I know neither John Amato, Digby, Jacquie or myself is Chinese-American, just progressive-American-- and we're helping him raise money for his get out the vote operation for the August 9th primary. Below is a new ad that shows Stanley talking about... well the same issues Takano and Honda talk about all the time.

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What's Worse-- Rich Old White Aristocrats Or Rich Young White Aristocrats?

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Yesterday I linked to a post at Salon by Tim Donovan, to help get a clearer picture of the next generation of Republicans, Clueless rich kids on the rise: How millennial aristocrats will destroy our future. And he quickly skips over the obvious Ivanka Trumps and Paris Hiltons, gets into some serious economic theory and winds up at electoral politics of the rich and clueless-- and they're certainly not all Republicans either... or at least many are from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party: "a fresh new wave of (many wealthy) millennial Congressional candidates. Enthusiastic and idealistic, these young Americans paradoxically promote a style of bland, Washington Consensus politics, what Pennsylvania House candidate (and proud millennial) Nick Troiano has billed 'radical centrism.' As a generation generally lauded for our commitment to civil service, noted for our love of structure, and gently mocked for our aversion to risk-seeking, surely we must be the perfect generation to fix America’s broken politics… Right?"
Consider two current House Representatives born right on the edge of the millennial generation, Democrats Patrick Murphy (31) and Joseph Kennedy III (33). Their politics are quite divergent, but their individual circumstances are depressingly similar: Both are young white men from wealthy families who attended exclusive private schools starting at an early age. Patrick Murphy is a former Republican who switched parties to defeat conservative wacko Allen West (for which all Americans surely owe him a debt of gratitude). His politics might best be described as “smarmy,” a confusing hodgepodge of positions seemingly intended to appease his right-leaning Florida district. He’s pro-Keystone XL, pro-pointless Benghazi hearings and pro marriage equality. He says he supports “fiscal responsibility,” which is a nice way of saying that he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a center-right politician who wears a donkey pin on his lapel. He’s young enough to surely see the writing on the wall, to sense that the Republican brand is toxic to the majority of his generation.
Let me stop here to insert a few facts about Patrick Murphy that Tim Donovan (who somehow forgot to mention the posterboy for his entire analysis, Sean Eldridge) may not be aware of. His rich father, a Republican of course, started and funded a SuperPAC to elect him. Once Murphy got into Congress, he immersed himself into the Republican wing of the Democratic Party by joining the New Dems and by starting some bullshit No Labels caucus with a bunch of other pathetic Dems with no values and some teabaggy sociopaths from across the aisle, something like Steve Israel's failed Center Aisle Caucus of yore. Fellow transactional New Dem Debbie Wasserman Schultz is already publicly pushing Murphy-- who has accomplished exactly nothing since beating West-- for statewide office. As for Kennedy, Donovan is too kind. He's one of the weakest and politically least progressive members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as though he were only part of it so he can have it on his résumé. He seems to vote with the New Dems as much as he votes with the progressives and he's a lot more like Murphy than he is like Mark Pocan or Alan Grayson.
Joseph Kennedy III’s politics are somewhat less objectionable, which only serves to underscore the deeper problems at play. A fifth generation politician, it seems fair to characterize Kennedy as the poster child of our new American aristocracy. Agreeing with his positions on some issues won’t change the underlying problem-- a system that’s far too likely to keep all but the wealthiest voices out of political power.

With a few notable exceptions, the latest batch of millennial candidates aren’t any better. Almost universally children of wealth and privilege, most embrace some token aspects of social liberalism while hurrying to display their fiscally conservative bona fides. They represent the status quo of the affluent, the powerful-- the inherited wisdom of a political class that has overseen decades of economic failure for all but the wealthiest among us. When compared with other candidates, most of their positions are uncontroversial-- which only makes their grand pronouncements about changing Washington all the more disheartening. If these candidates are in any way representative of the next class of Americans who are both willing and able to run for national office (and I suspect that they are), they should give pause to anyone who thinks that a new generation is coming of age who will rescue our captured politics.

Up until now, Pennsylvania Independent Nick Troiano and Republican Mike Turner have received the bulk of the media’s attention. (Turner recently lost his primary bid despite outspending his opponent 3-1.) Troiano has been in the public eye for a while, most prominently as one of the founders of “The Can Kicks Back,” a tragicomic millennial astroturfing outfit that tried to sell billionaire debt-alarmist Pete Peterson’s ideological vision to young people (slashing entitlement programs so that his gazillionaire buddies won’t be forced to help shoulder the programs’ expanding costs). The Can Kicks Back has been a monumental failure; the group has struggled to stay solvent, characterized as ”nearly broke” by internal emails discovered by Politico reporter Byron Tau last February. But this is America, and kids from upper-class families and cushy private schools always manage to “fail up.” Rather than departing from politics or taking on a more humble role, Troiano has opted to foist his entitlement reform obsession upon the voters of Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional district. As for Mike Turner, at least he was honest about being a Republican: Turner’s campaign went viral recently when Mother Jones ran a story titled “This Millennial Bro Is Running for Congress Using the Family Trust Fund," which is pretty much everything you need to know about former candidate Mike Turner.

Examining the full slate of the millennials running for Congress this term, a troubling trend emerges. Despite varying slightly on a number of other (mostly social) issues, the majority of these candidates display an almost monomaniacal obsession with “entitlement reform” and balancing the budget, as if that were the only long-term crisis facing young Americans. (It isn’tAt allEven a bit.)

Take Republican Weston Wamp (27), son of former Tennessee Rep. Zach Wamp (who once suggested that states might need to secede if Obamacare were passed). On his official website, “conservative but independent” Weston Wamp promotes “holding the federal government in check” and “promot[ing] free market principles.” He’s careful to skate around most of the social issues that his generation supports, such as marriage equality, climate change and the War on Drugs (and didn’t respond to a request for comment), though he notes his support for the “right to life and the right to bear arms.” According to recent FEC filings, the Wamp campaign has raised over half a million dollars as of this writing, with more than half of that bankroll coming from 110 individuals who contributed the legal maximum of $2,600.

Or consider Andrew Walter (32), Republican candidate for Arizona’s 9th District. A former quarterback for Arizona State and the Oakland Raiders and the founder of a senior secured business lending firm, Walter claims (falsely) that “our national debt is larger than our entire economy.” He then suggests that we “decrease the size of government,” “cut spending,” and that we add a Balanced Budget amendment to the Constitution, which is basically the worst idea ever. Walter has already raised $383,945 (and borrowed $100,000 more); half of that was provided by just 72 individuals who contributed the legal maximum.

How about Elise Stefanik (29), a New York Republican running for the House? A long-time D.C. insider and Harvard grad, Stefanik was raised by a family that owns a flooring company worth upwards of $50 million (per manta.com, h/t DailyKos). A consummate D.C. insider who’s now posing as a local small businesswoman, her campaign site is much more cagey than any of the other candidates I researched for this piece. She resorts to generalities when discussing most issues, but does tout “fiscal responsibility,” stressing the need to “balance the budget and pay down the national debt.” Stefanik has already raised a staggering $836,126 from a wide-ranging group of individuals, companies, PACs and party leadership.

...Wealth has always been a feature of American democracy, and perhaps these concerns seem overwrought. But the changing shape of America’s upper class, the $15 trillion projected to flow from the old to the young in the coming decades, is a force too powerful to be ignored or overlooked. As long as the cost of running for office continues to rise, the pool of potential candidates will continue to shrink. We must address this new reality before trust in government erodes beyond repair.

Without political intervention this country will become increasingly aristocratic, and faith in our democracy and her institutions will continue to diminish. That might be an acceptable condition for those affluent individuals who’ve already made their fortunes, who’ve seen their wealth rise to unprecedented heights in recent years.

But for the rest of us? Aristocracy can only spell disaster.

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Andrew Cuomo-- The Richard M. Nixon Of The Democratic Party?

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2 crooks- Cuomo and Klein, a perfect match

If your gut tells you that Andrew Cuomo is a sleazy transactional careerist who has no problem living in a corrupt political environment and making it work for him... give your gut a pat on the back. This morning, the NY Times' top political investigative reporter, Bill Rashbaum, along with colleagues Susanne Craig and Tom Kaplan, explained how Cuomo hobbled state ethics investigations. Corrupt is the nature of conservativism. It always was and always will be. Don't ever mix Andrew Cuomo up with his dad.
With Albany rocked by a seemingly endless barrage of scandals and arrests, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo set up a high-powered commission last summer to root out corruption in state politics. It was barely two months old when its investigators, hunting for violations of campaign-finance laws, issued a subpoena to a media-buying firm that had placed millions of dollars’ worth of advertisements for the New York State Democratic Party.

The investigators did not realize that the firm, Buying Time, also counted Mr. Cuomo among its clients, having bought the airtime for his campaign when he ran for governor in 2010.

Word that the subpoena had been served quickly reached Mr. Cuomo’s most senior aide, Lawrence S. Schwartz. He called one of the commission’s three co-chairs, William J. Fitzpatrick, the district attorney in Syracuse.

“This is wrong,” Mr. Schwartz said, according to Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose account was corroborated by three other people told about the call at the time. He said the firm worked for the governor, and issued a simple directive:

“Pull it back.”

The subpoena was swiftly withdrawn. The panel’s chief investigator explained why in an email to the two other co-chairs later that afternoon.

“They apparently produced ads for the governor,” she wrote.

The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office.

While the governor now maintains he had every right to monitor and direct the work of a commission he had created, many commissioners and investigators saw the demands as politically motivated interference that hamstrung an undertaking that the governor had publicly vowed would be independent.
Remember Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre (1973), the straw the broke the camel's back in the then-unfolding Watergate scandal? Attorney General Elliot Richardson had appointed Archibald Cox as an independent special prosecutor to investigate Watergate and when Cox proved too independent and too competent, Nixon demanded Richardson fire Cox. Richardson resigned instead. Nixon then turned to Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus and gave him the same directive. Ruckelshaus resigned as well and Nixon then turned to a young far right ideologue in the Department who was already known as a mindless zombie to do the task. Robert Bork, later rejected for the Supreme Court because of it, fired Cox. Apparently there were no Richardsons or Ruckelshauses in the Cuomo scandal, just Borks.
The commission developed a list of promising targets, including a lawmaker suspected of using campaign funds to support a girlfriend in another state and pay tanning-salon bills. The panel also highlighted activities that it saw as politically odious but perfectly legal, like exploiting a loophole to bundle enormous campaign contributions.

But a three-month examination by the New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.

Ultimately, Mr. Cuomo abruptly disbanded the commission halfway through what he had indicated would be an 18-month life. And now, as the Democratic governor seeks a second term in November, federal prosecutors are investigating the roles of Mr. Cuomo and his aides in the panel’s shutdown and are pursuing its unfinished business.

Before its demise, Mr. Cuomo’s aides repeatedly pressured the commission, many of whose members and staff thought they had been given a once-in-a-career chance at cleaning up Albany. As a result, the panel’s brief existence-- and the writing and editing of its sole creation, a report of its preliminary findings-- was marred by infighting, arguments and accusations. Things got so bad that investigators believed a Cuomo appointee was monitoring their communications without their knowledge. Resignations further crippled the commission. In the end, the governor got the Legislature to agree to a package of ethics reforms far less ambitious than those the commission had recommended-- a result Mr. Cuomo hailed as proof of the panel’s success.

...Mr. Cuomo said early on that the commission would be “totally independent” and free to pursue wrongdoing anywhere in state government, including in his own office. “Anything they want to look at, they can look at-- me, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, any senator, any assemblyman,” he said last August.

...Yet, The Times found that the governor’s office interfered with the commission when it was looking into groups that were politically close to him. In fact, the commission never tried to investigate his administration.

Beyond that, Mr. Cuomo’s office said, the commission needed the governor’s guiding hand because it was, simply, a mess: Its staff was plagued by “relationship issues” and was “mired in discord.” The commissioners, whom he earlier called some of New York’s sharpest governmental and legal minds, “did not understand the budget or legislative process or how state government worked,” the statement said. Their subpoenas often had “no logic or basis,” and those that touched on the governor’s supporters were more for show than for legitimate investigative purposes, the statement said.
Cuomo has put himself forward as the natural candidate of the Republican wing of the Democratic Party if Hillary stumbles or decides not to run. What a cruel ending of the already frayed relationship between progressives and the Democratic Party that would be!




UPDATE

And Rachel Maddow takes a swing at the developing scandal:



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