Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sunday Classics snapshots: More Vickers -- "I am afraid, I am afraid that I will never again be granted this divine moment" (Boito and Verdi's Otello)


A chunk near the end of the Otello Act I duet lip-synched by Jon Vickers (Otello) and Mirella Freni (Desdemona), from the Unitel film, with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, including our excerpt (at 1:21)
[The sky is now quite clear. Some stars are visible and, on the rim of the horizon, the blue reflection of the rising moon.]
OTELLO: Such is my soul's joy that I am afraid,
I am afraid that I will never again be granted
this divine moment
in the unknown future of my destiny.
DESDEMONA: Dispel such anguish.
Our love will not change from year to year.
OTELLO: Upon this prayer,
let the ranks of angels respond: Amen.
DESDEMONA: Amen, let them respond.

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Leonie Rysanek (s), Desdemona; Rome Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tullio Serafin, cond. RCA, recorded July-Aug. 1960

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Mirella Freni (s), Desdemona; Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, July 30, 1971

by Ken

We've talked about this before, and for me the giveaway here is Otello's repeated "temo" ("I am afraid"). I suppose someone without his potentially disabling fear might express himself similarly at a moment of such perfect happiness -- and this is surely the greatest love scene, with or without music, ever imagined by the mind of artistic man, only somewhat undercut by our knowledge that by the end of the opera the man will murder the woman.

But again, listen to that repeated "temo," and tell me you're not hearing a man who, at the pinnacle of his success, both career-wise and personal, believes at every moment that in the next moment it could all be taken away from him. If for some reason you really, really hated Otello, and wanted to destroy him, and you knew this about him, this might be the angle you would work.


Jon Vickers's great roles were always some sort of outlier, outsider, or other kind of social doesn't-fit-in. And there happen to be a group of such roles that were written for -- and some others that can be advantageously allotted to -- a voice of this immense scale.

I don't think we need to say any more before listening to the whole of the Otello Act I Love Duet, backing up to the riot that brings Otello back out to face the Cypriot mob, a riot orchestrated by Jago to bring down his rival, Cassio.

VERDI: Otello, Act I, Cypriots, "All'armi! All'armi!" . . . Otello, "Abbasso le spade!" . . . Otello-Desdemona duet, "Già nella notte densa"
It's the night of the triumphant but terror-inspiring return to Cyprus of its governor from his whupping of the Saracens, which was almost climaxed by the demise of his own in a violent storm within sight of home port. Now, amid the island festivities, Jago has been furiously setting in motion plots against his rival, Cassio -- a first step in his ultimate plot, against Otello himself. Jago has nudged events so that a drunk Cassio winds up starting a riot that brings Otello storming out of his castle followed by torchbearers like so.

CYPRIOTS: To arms! To arms! Help! Help!
OTELLO: Down with your swords.
[The combatants stop fighting.]
Hold there! What's happening?
Am I among the Saracens?
Or have you become rabble Turks,
who fight each other like dogs?
Honest Jago, by the love and loyalty
that you have for me. Speak.
JAGO: I don’t know . . .
We all were just celebrating, as friends.
Then, as if a malicious star fell upon us,
a quarrel broke out.
Weapons were drawn -- chaos ensued.
I would rather cut these legs off,
for having brought me to witness this.
OTELLO: Cassio -- how could you forget yourself like this?
CASSIO:. Pardon, my Lord. I don't know . . .
OTELLO: Montano?
MONTANO [supported by a soldier]: I'm wounded, and cannot speak.
OTELLO: Wounded! By Heaven, my blood rages.
Yet my better angels restrain me.
[DESDEMONA enters. OTELLO quickly goes to her.]
What -- my sweet Desdemona.
She too was awoken by this outrage.
Cassio, you are no longer my captain!
[CASSIO lets his sword fall. It is picked up by JAGO.]
JAGO [handing CASSIO's sword to a soldier and speaking aside]: Oh, my triumph!)
OTELLO: Iago, go around the frightened town
with this squadron and restore the peace.
[JAGO leaves.]
Someone help Montano.
[MONTANO is helped into the castle.]
Everyone return to your homes.
[With an imperious gesture] I will remain here until the streets are deserted,
and calm reigns once more.

[The people leave. OTELLO makes a sign to the torchbearers who accompanied him to return to the castle. OTELLO and DESDEMONA are left alone.]
OTELLO: The vast night sky extinguishes all strife,
And my trembling heart is calmed by its embrace.
Yet, from such immense hatred
comes our immense love.
DESDEMONA: My superb warrior.
Many torments, and such sadness,
And much hope have brought you
to this blessed embrace.
How sweet when we whispered together:
Remember now with me.
When you revealed your life of exile,
and told me of your battles, and sorrow.
And I would listen from my very soul
with fear, and ecstasy in my heart.
OTELLO: I painted a canvas of armies,
of weapons poised to attack,
The assault -- of terrible victory –
cutting to the rampart -- killing the foe.
DESDEMONA: Then you would guide me
to the shining deserts of your homeland,
At last sharing your suffering –
in chains, as a slave.
OTELLO: Your tears ennobled my story.
Your beautiful visage, and your sighs
Descended upon my darkness
a blessed glory -- a paradise -- and the stars.
DESDEMONA: And I saw in your brow
a genius of eternal beauty.
OTELLO: And you loved me for my misfortunes;
And I loved you that you pitied them.
DESDEMONA: And I loved you for your misfortunes:
And you loved me that I pitied them.
OTELLO: Truly you loved me.
Let death come! And may the supreme moment take me
in the ecstasy of this embrace.
[The sky is now quite clear. Some stars are visible and, on the rim of the horizon, the blue reflection of the rising moon. ]
Such is my soul's joy that I am afraid,
I am afraid that I will never again be granted
this divine moment
in the unknown future of my destiny.
DESDEMONA: Dispel such anguish.
Our love will not change from year to year.
OTELLO: Upon this prayer,
let the ranks of angels respond: Amen.
DESDEMONA: Amen, let them respond.
OTELLO [supporting himself against the parapet]:
Ah. Such joy overcomes me
so vehemently, I cannot bear it.
A kiss.
OTELLO: Yet another kiss.
The stars of the Pleiades descend toward the sea.
DESDEMONA: It is late.
OTELLO: Come. Venus shall guide us.
[They go slowly toward the castle, clasped in each other's arms.]

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Tito Gobbi (b), Jago; Florindo Andreolli (t), Cassio; Franco Calabrese (bs), Montano; Leonie Rysanek (s), Desdemona; Rome Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Tullio Serafin, cond. RCA, recorded July-Aug. 1960

Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Peter Glossop (b), Jago; Ryland Davies (t), Cassio; Siegfried Rudolf Friese (bs), Montano; (s), Mirella Freni (s), Desdemona; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, July 30, 1971

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Trump Supporters Want A Daddy Even More Than A President


Truman Capote, from his unfinished book Answered Prayers: "In fact, I was a kind of Hershey Bar whore-- there wasn't much I wouldn't do for a nickel's worth of chocolate."

Yesterday, the NYTimes fleshed out the conventional wisdom about Trump being a racist and a latter-day Know-Nothing. They pointed out, as an example, that when he wanted to prevent a rival casino from getting into business 15 years ago, he ran ugly ads that said, "The St. Regis Mohawk Indian record of criminal activity is well documented... Are these the new neighbors we want?" This morning on ABC's This Week said if the GOP Establishment doesn't treat him fairly and he felt burned, he might run as a third-party candidate-- a potent threat since it would virtually guarantee that Bernie or Hillary win the White House.

Long before Mr. Trump announced his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, roiling the 2016 election with his pugnacious style and speeches in which he has branded many undocumented immigrants as rapists and murderers, he had proved himself in New York as an expert political provocateur with an instinct for racially charged rhetoric.

...Mr. Trump acknowledged that his style can be offensive to some, but he defended it as essential for communicating his message.

“It would be nice to be somewhat gentler,” he said in an interview this week, “but at the same time, I don’t think I would be able to make the point nearly as well, whether it’s the death penalty or other things, totally unrelated.”

Mr. Trump said it was “not my intention” to speak in racially provocative terms, but expressed little interest in softening his language. “It’s very time-consuming to be politically correct,” he said, “and I don’t like wasting a lot of time.”

...Rowena General, who was chief of staff for the St. Regis Mohawks in 2000, said Mr. Trump’s ad campaign was a cynical attempt to use fear about race and crime to protect his business investments. The tenor of his presidential campaign, she said, was “not surprising at all, considering our experience with him.”

Eleven years earlier, Mr. Trump had financed what was perhaps an even more charged advertisement days after the brutal assault on the jogger in Central Park. The ad, in the form of an open letter from Mr. Trump, was topped with two sentences that blared: “Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police!”

The message, which appeared in four publications, including the New York Times, channeled widespread anger and fear about violent crime. Invoking the image of “roving bands of wild criminals” wreaking havoc on the streets, Mr. Trump’s letter rebuked Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Democrat who supported the death penalty, for urging New Yorkers not to turn to hate in the aftermath of the Central Park assault.

“I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” Mr. Trump wrote in the ad. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.”

The rape and near-murder in Central Park rocked New York in the midst of the 1989 mayoral race, becoming a chilling symbol of a city seemingly out of control. Over time, it also came to represent the flaws in the criminal justice system. Five young, black men who were arrested and imprisoned for carrying out the attack, known as the Central Park Five, had their convictions vacated years later after another man, Matias Reyes, confessed to the crime.

State Senator Bill Perkins, a Democrat who at the time was president of the tenants’ association at Schomburg Plaza, the Manhattan apartment complex where several of the defendants lived, said he was horrified to see Mr. Trump emerge as a contender for the presidency. A framed copy of Mr. Trump’s 1989 newspaper ad hangs in Mr. Perkins’s Harlem office as a reminder, he said, of an ugly moment in the city’s recent past.

“This was taking a moment, a very unfortunate and one might say racially tense moment in our city, and fueling a lynch mob,” Mr. Perkins, who is black, said of the ad. “This is the Donald Trump that we have to remember as we pay attention to his ranting, his continuous ranting and carrying on.”

...Two years after running the ads about the Central Park case, Mr. Trump drew accusations of racism during a lobbying effort in Palm Beach, where he was seeking to subdivide the palatial estate known as Mar-a-Lago. As he faced considerable opposition from the town, articles appeared almost simultaneously in both The New York Post and The Palm Beach Daily News reporting, based on anonymous sources, that he might sell the property to the Unification Church.

The church, which was founded by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and viewed by many at the time as a cult, roundly denied any interest in the property and accused Mr. Trump of using the faith as a racial and religious cudgel against officials in the Florida town. Dr. James A. Baughman, who led the church’s branch in the United States at the time, said then that the church had no interest in the property. Mr. Trump, he said, was using “the Unification Church as a scare tactic in an attempt to compel Palm Beach officials to submit to the will of Mr. Trump.”

...In the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has discussed crime and immigration in explicitly alarmist terms. He has highlighted murders committed by undocumented immigrants, and has repeatedly referred to an undocumented Mexican immigrant who has been charged with killing a young woman in San Francisco as “this animal.”

The furor over his comments led NBC to sever its ties with him: He will no longer be associated with the “Apprentice” franchise, and NBC’s parent, NBCUniversal, said the network would no longer carry the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, part of a joint venture with Mr. Trump.

He said that there might be some value in speaking with greater restraint, but that that would exact its own price: “I might not get my point across nearly as well.”

“The interesting thing is,” he said, “I am probably the least racist person that you will ever speak to.”
Probably not. But one thing is for sure, Trump is the least self-aware person running for president, perhaps ever. Not that that keeps the dregs of the uneducated Republican base from flocking to his Know-Nothing banner. 

A new Gravis poll in Iowa shows he's even upending the strategy for victory the Koch brothers have laid out for their puppet candidate, Scott Walker, the conveniently located governor of neighboring Wisconsin. Walker was supposed to gain big momentum by winning in Iowa. He's now in second place, with 15.4% to Trump's 30.9%. Wisconsin broadcast media makes Walker a familiar figure to many Iowans, especially in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City, and the Decorah area. His support among Iowa Republicans is more than double the support of religious-right contenders like Huckabee (6.0%) and Bobby Jindal (7.2%), and he absolutely trounces nationally known figures like Senator Ted Cruz (5.5%), Governor John Kasich (5.0), Senator Marco Rubio (2.8%) and Governor Chris Christie (0.8%). 

But his lead over these candidates proved inconsequential when Trump denounced him last week in no uncertain terms. "Wisconsin’s doing terribly. It’s in turmoil," he told Iowa voters, who already know this from Wisconsin media reports. "The roads are a disaster because they don’t have any money to rebuild them. They’re borrowing money like crazy. They projected a $1 billion surplus, and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster. The hospitals and education was a disaster. And he was totally in favor of Common Core!" And Walker began crashing.

What was that about Trump manufacturing his signature overpriced ties in China? Did you think it was hypocrisy? Reuters reports that Trump owns companies that have sought to import at least 1,100 foreign workers on temporary visas since 2000.

Nine companies majority-owned by Trump have sought to bring in foreign waitresses, cooks, vineyard workers and other laborers on temporary work-visa programs administered by the Labor Department.

The candidate's foreign talent hunt included applications for an assistant golf-course superintendent, an assistant hotel manager and a banquet manager.

Two of his companies, Trump Model Management and Trump Management Group LLC, have sought visas for nearly 250 foreign fashion models, the records show... Trump has positioned himself as a champion of American workers whose livelihoods are threatened by illegal foreign laborers and the offshoring of U.S. jobs.

“I will be the greatest jobs president that God every created," he said in announcing his candidacy on June 16. "I will bring back our jobs from China, Mexico and other places. I will bring back jobs and our money."
Trump's cheap jingoism was made for these backward Iowa Republicans. As Joan Walsh pointed out at Salon yesterday, Trump's supporters "are not thinking. They want to be entertained." She was talking about a Republican focus group in New Hampshire. One in Iowa, for all the differences between the two states, is likely to be identical. Because those differences don't affect the low end of the GOP base.
But actually listening to those voters, it’s hard to take much they said seriously. Their Trump praise frequently reflects their Obama disdain-- calling a potential Trump White House “classy” is an implicit assertion that the current occupants of the White House aren’t “classy”-- and their support of Trump’s “solutions” makes no sense.

Bloomberg quotes “Roger, who works with the elderly,” saying: “Specifically, he said he’ll put a wall on the southern border. When you talk about common sense, that’s a common-sense thing to do.”

If Roger thinks erecting a wall on our 2,000-mile southern border with Mexico is “a common-sense thing to do,” I worry a little bit about the elderly he works with.

There’s a childlike wishful thinking in these voters’ belief that Trump can solve all the country’s problems by being “tough.” And that’s what I meant with my reference to the “lowest common denominator”-- I actually wasn’t referring to the voters themselves (in fact, that makes no sense); I was talking about the solutions they seem to embrace for the country’s woes. Pining for a “tough” guy who’s done well in “business” but is “one of us” is simplistic and a little scary. Most of that New Hampshire focus group seemed to want a daddy, not a president.
The new Trump and the old Trump are the same Trump-- predictably attractive to sad GOP rubes. "He talks a good game but he lacks character" comes out of this documentary about the ridiculous huckster:

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Saturday, August 01, 2015

As Mitch Waxman prepares to tramp around his beloved Newtown Creek, we look at a blogpost that shows what blogposts can do


As recently as two years ago, when binary_bob took the top photo, posted on Reddit (click to enlarge), the once-mighty but long-doomed-following-abandonment Domino Sugar plant on Brooklyn's once-industrial waterfront still retained a large measure of its grandeur. The lower image, is a rendering of the redevelopment plan (click to enlarge), courtesy of SHoP Architects, looking east and slightly southward, with the Williamsburg Bridge at the right. Quick: Can you find the refinery building itself?

"One cannot help but drop his jaw whenever the former Havemeyer or Domino Sugar plant site comes into view. It is being redeveloped as a residential structure – more luxury condos for the children of the rich to dwell within. The question of what will happen to these structures when NYC slides backwards into an era of degeneracy and decay is one few ask."
-- from Mitch Waxman's Monday Newtown Pentacle post, "last stages"

by Ken

All week I've been meaning to talk a bit about our pal Mitch Waxman's Monday Newtown Pentacle post, "last stages," which seems to me a textbook-worthy demonstration of what the blog format can do when it's crackling. A blogpost, after all, has two fundamental resources: pictures and words. (Videos seem to me for the most part less a resource than a brain-draining abomination.) And Mitch has a way with both. You may recall that he's a compulsive NYC urban wanderer and photographer with a deep connection to place and time.

In terms of "place," he's based in Astoria, Queens, and along the way has developed a special connection to legendarily pollluted Newtown Creek, which forms the western part of the boundary between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and which once was the industrial heartland not just of the New York City but of the U.S.A., which after all is how it got so polluted. So before we get to that blogpost, I thought I would mention that there are two immediately upcoming opportunities to take advantage of his obsession with his "beloved" Newtown Creek for anyone who might be in the New York City area tomorrow (August 2 -- kind of late notice on this one, I know; sorry!) and/or next Saturday (August 8), when Mitch is doing two of his signature Newtown Creek-related tours:

Bushwick and Maspeth walking tour

Sunday, August 2, 10am-12:30pm

Join Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman for walk through the industrial heartlands of New York City and along the Newtown Creek. Following the currently undefended border of Brooklyn and Queens, we will be exploring the colonial, industrial, and environmental history of the borderland communities. We will encounter century old movable bridges, visit the remains of a 19th century highway, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell's Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be described.

Meet up at the corner of Grand street and Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn. Map: The L train stops nearby at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, and the Q54 and Q59 bus lines stop nearby as well. Check the morning of for last minute transit changes.

Be prepared for rough terrain and possible heavy truck traffic. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking and hot weather. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk.

Long Island City walking tour

Saturday, August 8, 10am-1pm

In 13 steps, Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman will be showing us the then and now of Dutch Kills tributary, once known as the "workshop of the United States."

A central maritime artery of Long Island City, Dutch Kills is surrounded by hundreds of factory buildings, titan rail yards, and crossed by century old bridges - and it's found just a few blocks away from Queens Plaza. During this three hour tour, we will cover three miles of Brooklyn and Queens to see where the industrial revolution actually happened. Bring your camera, as the tour will be revealing an incredible landscape along this section of the troubled Newtown Creek Watershed.

Be prepared for rough terrain and possible heavy truck traffic. Dress and pack appropriately for hiking and for weather. Closed-toe shoes are highly recommended. Bathroom opportunities will be found only at the start of the walk.

Meet up at the Albert E. Short Triangle park found at the corner of Jackson Avenue and 23rd Street in Long Island City, Queens. This is the Court Square MTA station, and served by the 7, G, and M lines. Additionally, the Q39 and B62 buses have nearby stops. Drivers are encouraged to leave their vehicles near the Pulaski Bridge in either Greenpoint or Long Island City.


Now about that blogpost. I was talking a moment ago about Mitch's sense of "place, and for this post, our pal Mitch Waxman he was ensconced in one of his recently favorite places for wandering, the East River Ferry, taking some great shots of what's left of the once-teeming working waterfront of New York City's East River. Note that he hastens to clarify what he means by "a working waterfront," which is to say one "that is engaged in the production of something other than artisanal pickles."

However, he notes that observing "the modern day East River bums me out." And the quote at the top of this post is Mitch deep in bumnation, contemplating the finally-taking-place transformation of the Domino Sugar plant in Williamsburg, just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. Here are two photos he took, one with the bridge and one without (click to enlarge):

Not long ago, Open House New York -- as part of a new series, "Projects in Planning," which aims to "explore the design and planning process of a single project during its early stages of development," to give us a window on the process of a major development project still in the development stage -- offered members a presentation by Vishaan Chakrabarti of SHoP Architects on the "Domino Sugar Refinery Redevelopment" (see the photo above), for which redevelopment plans have been kicking around almost since the plant was shut down in 2004 Here was the description (scroll way down, to April 8, in the "Recent Programs" section of the OHNY programs page):
OHNY members are invited to a presentation of SHoP Architects' master plan for the redevelopment of Brooklyn's iconic Domino Sugar Refinery. With a renovated refinery building as its "nerve center," the project is expected to create a 24/7 mix of creative office space, market-rate and affordable housing, retail shops, community facilities, and public open spaces. The distinctive buildings, which will create a new skyline for Brooklyn, are designed to allow light and air to penetrate through the site into the neighborhood beyond.
Now Vishaan Chakrabarti is one heckuva presentation presenter. After all, while in this instance he was talking to a bunch of people whose only standing came from having ponied up OHNY's modest annual membership fee, he's accustomed to giving presentations to people who are contemplating spending zillions of dollars, or perhaps have the power to turn thumbs up or down on other people's expenditure of said zillions of dollars. And as he described the process that had brought the project to its present state, he persuaded me, at least, that as large-scale development projects go, this one -- which includes an array of new buildings as well as open spaces surrounding the old plant itself (which is one of three buildings on the site that have landmark protection) -- has been planned with unusual sensitivity to the site's history and to the current needs of the nearby community.

Nevertheless, it looks to be a blight on the waterfront (don't you just love that "doughnut hole" building?), and it doesn't matter, because in the end it all comes down to what it all always had to come down to: the triumph of money. Williamsburg, after all, is now NYC's hippest and perhaps also hottest neighborhood, and the whole point of hipness, at least from the commercial standpoint, and it's hard to think of any other standpoint that can be said to matter, is to create hotness, in the real-estate sense, of course. So if the shores of Long Island City (Queens) and Greenpoint (Williamsburg's Brooklyn neighbor to the north) are to be lined with sky-high and sky-high-priced giant glass boxes, and they are, you can be sure that Williamsburg is getting them even glassier and boxier. (The one concession that city has extracted from developers is parkfront development along the riverfront proper and free access to it, which is certainly very different from the waterfront in its old industrial stage.)

Now here's Mitch ruminating on the old Domino site:
Williamsburg is officially lost as a point of interest for me. Bland boxes of steel and glass will extend all along the East River soon enough, stretching from the former industrial heartland once called “America’s Workshop” in Long Island City all the way through the Gold Coast of North Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Bridge.


First, speaking of this span of high-priced glass-and-steel boxes rising above the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront north of the Williamsburg Bridge, he notes:
Criminals are already beginning to focus their attentions on this area, just as they did in the age of industry. Why? Because predators go where the prey is.
Then he adds another characteristic touch -- a touch, one might say, of bumnation: "It’s cliché to even comment on it anymore, one realizes."

Except that Mitch has a comment on this redevelopment of the Domino site "as a residential structure -- more luxury condos for the children of the rich to dwell within."
The question of what will happen to these structures when NYC slides backwards into an era of degeneracy and decay is one few ask.

Any historian will tell you that it’s a cyclical thing here in the megalopolis, one that flips back and forth on a roughly forty year cycle which can be directly correlated to rates of crime, and that the City’s current upswing began in the late 1990’s – reversing a decline process that started shortly after the Second World War.

Rich people tend to move away from the City center when things get hairy. The rest of us are kind of stuck here.
This, I think, is sweet. Finally, here's Mitch's sendoff for this post:
Scenes long familiar, lost. The wilderness of the oligarchs is upon us, and deep in the woods – wolves howl to celebrate and delight. The nobles will be safe in their keeps, but the peasants – we’re on our own.


On his ferry ride, Mitch observed "the Alice Oldendorf bulk cargo ship at work, making a delivery to a concrete plant at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The ship hosts a series of cranes and conveyors which unload her holds, producing the cyclopean mounds of sand and gravel witnessed above." (Again, click to enlarge.)

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Book critic reads eight books by Donald Trump, lives to tell tale


"Trump’s books tend to blur together, with anecdotes and achievements enhanced with each retelling. . . . I'm no billionaire, but much of the advice usually falls between obvious and useless."
-- Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada,
after binge-reading eight books by Donald Trump

by Ken

You remember back in April when that crazy guy swam the Gowanus Canal for Earth Day, and lived to tell the tale? Until now I would have held that out as a latter-day prototype for sheer raw guts. Now, however, Washington Post nonfiction book critic Carlos Lozada announces in a headline: "I just binge-read eight books by Donald Trump. Here's what I learned."

In both cases, of course, the first question that pops to mind is: Why??? At least the chicken that crossed the road had a reason -- to get to the other side.

In the case of the Trump binge-read, the second question that pops to mind is: You mean Trump has written eight books? Okay, I'll admit it: I would have been surprised to learn that he's read eight books. And Carlos never says that his binge-read encompassed all of Trump's books. There could be others floating around out there. For the record, here's the corpus:
Books cited in this essay:

• Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump with Tony Schwartz. Ballantine Books, 1987.
• Trump: Surviving at the Top by Donald J. Trump with Charles Leerhsen. Random House, 1990.
• Trump: The Art of the Comeback by Donald J. Trump with Kate Bohner. Times Books, 1997.
• The America We Deserve by Donald J. Trump with David Shiflett. Renaissance Books, 2000.
• Trump: How to Get Rich by Donald J. Trump with Meredith McIver. Random House, 2004.
• Trump: Think Like a Billionaire by Donald J. Trump with Meredith McIver. Random House, 2004.
• Think Big: Make It Happen in Business and Life by Donald J. Trump and Bill Zanker. Collins Business, 2007.
• Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again by Donald J. Trump. Regnery Publishing, 2011.
For the record, this breaks down to "three memoirs, three business-advice titles and his two political books, all published between 1987 and 2011." Already there's a surprise: Contrary to what one might have expected, only five of the eight titles begin with "Trump." Another observation just from the listing: In the most recent outing, for right-wing nuthouse Regnery, the "co"-writer has been demoted to ghostwriter. Or maybe The Donald actually wrote this book? Nah, I didn't think so either. When would he have time in his hectic schedule of being, you know, The Donald?

Carlos begins his report: "Sitting down with the collected works of Donald J. Trump is unlike any literary experience I’ve ever had or could ever imagine." Going in, he says, he was "hoping to develop a unified theory of the man, or at least find a method in the Trumpness." It didn't quite work out that way.
Instead, I found . . . well, is there a single word that combines revulsion, amusement, respect and confusion? That is how it feels, sometimes by turns, often all at once, to binge on Trump’s writings. Over the course of 2,212 pages, I encountered a world where bragging is breathing and insulting is talking, where repetition and contradiction come standard, where vengefulness and insecurity erupt at random.

Elsewhere, such qualities might get in the way of the story. With Trump, they are the story. There is little else. He writes about his real estate dealings, his television show, his country, but after a while that all feels like an excuse. The one deal Trump has been pitching his entire career — the one that now culminates in his play for that most coveted piece of property, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — is himself.
One change Carlos notices is the back in the day, "before he was a brand name," The Donald "had to convince people he was worth their time," as chronicled in the book that Carlos knows its author keeps coming back to, 1987's Art of the Deal.
It was small things here and there. Like asking his architect to gussy up the sketches for a hotel so it seemed like they spent huge sums on the plans, boosting interest in his proposal. Or having a construction crew drive machinery back and forth on a site in Atlantic City so that the visiting board of directors would be duped into thinking the work was far along. “If necessary,” he instructed a supervisor, “have the bulldozers dig up dirt on one side of the site and dump it on the other.”

“I play to people’s fantasies,” Trump explains. “. . .­­ It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.” Perception is reality, he writes, and achieving an “aura” (a recurring word in his writings) around his projects, his ideas and himself is essential.
In business, naturally, The Donald is veritable perfection -- or whatever it is that's the next notch up from perfection. Even he acknowledges something less than perfection in his personal relationships, especially with women -- like his marriages. But then, you know women. Our Donald certainly does.
“There’s nothing I love more than women, but they’re really a lot different than portrayed,” he confides. “They are far worse than men, far more aggressive, and boy, can they be smart!” Boy.
"To be fair," Carlos writes, "it is not just his wives, not just women -- it's everyone.
Trump’s books are sprayed with insults, like he’s trying to make sure we’re still paying attention. He trashes a former Miss Universe for gaining weight. When he meets a one-star general, he asks, “How come you’re only a one-star?” The Rolling Stones are “a bunch of major jerks.” He dismisses Paul McCartney, “the poor bastard.” (That was for not getting a prenup. Obviously.) Trump also slams complete unknowns — random banking executives or real estate types, lawyers or community activists, anyone who dared cross or disappoint him. “If someone screws you,” he writes, “screw them back.”

Trump’s world is binary, divided into class acts and total losers. He even details how physically unattractive he finds particular reporters, for no reason that I can fathom other than that it crossed his mind. The discipline of book writing does not dilute Trump; it renders him in concentrated form. Restraint is for losers.
There's more -- oh yes, there's more, and it's interesting enough, and I'll leave that for you to discover on your own. Well, maybe just this one more point, about The Donald and the American Dream, in which he is, as you may imagine, a big believer. It just may not be everyone's American Dream. Trump's dream, Carlos writes,
is born of a narrow view of America. They say presidents struggle to break out of their bubbles, but Trump has designed his quite deliberately. “The reason my hair looks so neat all the time is because I don’t have to deal with the elements,” he explains. “I live in the building where I work. I take an elevator from my bedroom to my office. The rest of the time, I’m either in my stretch limousine, my private jet, my helicopter, or my private club in Palm Beach Florida. . . . If I happen to be outside, I’m probably on one of my golf courses, where I protect my hair from overexposure by wearing a golf hat.” Even when Trump tries to relate, he can’t pull it off. In one instance, he complains about awful traffic on the way to the airport. A common gripe. “Luckily,” he adds, “it was my plane we were heading to, my plane, so it’s not as if I could have missed the flight.”
Is it any wonder that The Donald is the current political heartthrob of America's ordinary people?

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Democratic Party Of Ohio-- Basically As Incompetent And Unsuccessful As The Florida Democratic Party


Ohio GOP's most effective weapon was long Chris Redfern

Earlier this morning I mentioned that the Florida Democratic Party is probably the worst and least successful of any big state's in the whole country. I'll stand by that. But... Ohio's state Democratic Party has been a mess for a very long time as well. Another one in shambles. This column from yesterday's Cleveland Plain Dealer was written by Brent Larkin, who was the paper's editorial director from 1991 until he retired in 2009. He knows what he's talking about.
The funeral of former Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Paul Tipps was a turn-back-the-clock moment for a political party that has lost its way.

Tipps was the state party boss at the beginning of a decade-long run that might have been the 20th century's best for Ohio Democrats. In the 1982 and 1986 statewide elections, Democrats won all 10 contests for the state's five executive offices. Since then, they've lost 27 of 35, including 10 in a row.

Here's a statistic that might be even more stunning: In the 1970s and 1980s, Democrats won 81.5 percent of the contests for Ohio's executive offices. Since then, Republicans have won 77.8 percent.

So it was understandable that "remember the good old days" was a major theme in the three eulogies for the astute and personable former chairman at his April 24 funeral in Columbus.

Those eulogies came from the dominant Democratic leader during that decade of success, 77-year-old former Gov. Richard Celeste; from Jim Ruvolo, 66, who succeeded Tipps as chair in 1983; and from Gerald Austin, Ohio's most prominent political consultant of the period, who is 70.

One of that day's messages was: We knew how to win.

More subliminal was this one: Today's Democrats don't.

Generational comparisons are a risky business. But all things being equal, any political dispute that pits old versus young should be resolved in favor the latter.

Ohio Democrats should have thought long and hard about the wisdom of endorsing a 75-year-old freshman (Ted Strickland) for election to the seniority-conscious U.S. Senate next November. Attorney General Mike DeWine, who wants to be Ohio's next governor, would be a way-too-old 80 by the end of his second term.

Age became a relevant issue when Strickland's friends in organized labor rammed through a party endorsement of his Senate candidacy in next spring's Democratic primary against 30-year-old Cincinnati Councilman PG Sittenfeld.

And another food fight with age implications exploded into headlines across Ohio in late July when David Pepper, the Ohio Democratic Party's new state chair, somewhat gently-- but unwisely-- suggested that Sittenfeld's candidacy for statewide office distracted from the business of curing Cincinnati's rising crime rate.

Never mind that Pepper was an elected official from Cincinnati when he ran around Ohio for a year chasing, but failing to land, the job of state auditor. Pepper's remark about Sittenfeld was a minor, albeit unnecessary, mistake that received a huge amount of attention when Ruvolo ripped Pepper for attempting "to intimidate PG into leaving the race."

But there's a delicious irony in this latest outbreak of combative behavior within the party that fights more than it wins.

Many of the people who have figured out that Democrats made a gigantic mistake in endorsing Strickland come from the party's senior citizen wing.

It's the slightly younger ones-- especially those from the public-sector unions-- who once again seem intent on running the party into the ground.

Pepper deserves a chance to succeed. He works hard and has some specific ideas about how to rebuild a broken party.

The question is whether the labor leaders who have worked diligently at wrecking the state party for an astonishing 21 years will allow that to happen. Late last year, they even had the audacity to twice embarrass their best friend, Sen. Sherrod Brown, by rejecting out-of-hand Brown's candidates to succeed Chris Redfern as party chairman.

Labor leaders who aggressively attempt to humiliate a United States senator with a pro-labor voting record somewhere north of 99 percent are not good Democrats. They're self-dealing bullies.

"Pepper doesn't understand he's a gopher," said Austin. "They [labor leaders] control him. He doesn't have any power."

Christopher Celeste is the former governor's 50-year-old son, a successful Columbus and Cleveland entrepreneur who has seen his political party destroyed from within.

In a July email to friends that generated considerable Internet traffic, Celeste wrote, in part, "Forty-plus years ago Celestials were young troublemakers. They spoke of the future, not the past. They didn't wait their turn, or do what they... Being young isn't enough, for sure-- but being young and having the right values and an actual stake in the future you are building is very, very different than thinking your 'experience' entitles you to elected office.

"The world is changing-- and as always-- it isn't the old guard that brings the new ideas to the table."

Some rewriters of history argue that the voters' rejection of Senate Bill 5 in 2011 was one of labor and the Democrats' greatest victories. But that specious claim ignores that Senate Bill 5 would never have become law in the first place if Democrats had done a better job of electing legislators.

In fact, the Ohio Democratic Party has yet to endorse the redistricting reform issue on the November ballot-- an issue every voting Democratic member of the Ohio General Assembly supported.

Rejecting a similar reform plan in 2010 was arguably the worst political blunder Ohio Democrats have ever made-- and they've made a lot of them.

But some labor leaders are back for more, privately arguing Democrats should oppose the ballot issue.

Just when you think they can't get any dumber.
I'm sure Ted Strickland is just as nice as any NRA-loving, conservative, corporate Dem can be. But Blue America was eager to endorse Sittenfeld and his cutting-edge progressive approach, very much the opposite of the tired, lazy politics of Strickland and Republican incumbent Rob Portman. If you'd like to help Sittenfeld win the seat-- and clean up the Ohio Democratic Party-- here's the page for you.

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Why The Florida Democratic Party Is A Political Shambles


Like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Alan Grayson isn't fooling around. He is willing to fight-- for real-- for the legitimate interests of American working families. There are a lot of politicians willing to talk as though they are, but few who are actually willing to go up against the vested interests of the oligarchs and plutocrats who extra-constitutionaly rule this country. 

As former President Jimmy Carter told Thom Hartmann Tuesday, the United States is now an "oligarchy" in which "unlimited political bribery" has created "a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors." Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, "look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves." Carter, who will be 90 in October, knows. He's not still in the business; Grayson is. And he's roiling the political waters by speaking out... and speaking out... and speaking out. The oligarchs and plutocrats do not like it-- nor do their handmaidens in the politics business, creeps like Chuck Schumer, the senator who has taken more in (legalistic) bribes from Wall Street, $21,052,681 at last count, than any other non-presidential candidate in history.

And sold-out politicians like Schumer cast their nets-- their power networks-- widely. Schumer has pledged to his Wall Street financiers that he will keep more progressives out of the Senate; no more Democrats whom the oligarchs and plutocrats fear as "the Elizabeth Warren wing" of the party. They demand-- and Schumer has pledged to deliver-- fake Democrats and corporate shills like "ex"-Republican Patrick Murphy.

This week Kyle Munzenrider, writing for Miami's New Times, tried explaining how this works inside the utterly failed Florida Democratic Party establishment, one of the worst and least successful state parties in the country.
Some of Rep. Alan Grayson's more colorful comments may get him labeled a "crazy liberal," but what's that old cliché about the true definition of insanity? The one Bill Clinton, of all people, repeated several times during his 1992 campaign? Oh, right. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

But that's exactly what Florida's Democratic establishment is doing by backing Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Democratic Senate primary for Marco Rubio's to-be-vacated seat while trying to run Grayson out of the race.

Of course, the Democratic party hasn't tried to run Murphy over and over again, it's just that the young representative (and former registered Republican until 2011) from Palm Beach County is the latest in a long line of moderate, boring candidates Dems have run for state-wide races. With the exception of the untouchable Sen. Bill Nelson, almost all of those candidates end up losing. Fittingly, Murphy has the endorsement of past Democratic losers Charlie Crist and Alex Sink. Murphy also snagged the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee before anyone else got in the race.

Today, Daily Beast columnist Eleanor Clift asks the question, "Can Florida Dems squash Alan Grayson?" [And by "Florida Dems," the Clift relic doesn't mean actual Florida Democratic voters, who love Grayson, but her version, the hacks and mini-Schumers who make up the state's contemptible Establishment, which has always feared and loathed Grayson.]

The answer seems to be that they're trying their best.

Granted, the fight has already proved something of an idealogical war within the party, but most brass are too smart to enflame it even more by talking publicly. Clift however does get mega-attorney and mega-donor John Morgan on the phone to share his take. Morgan, of course, is best known from being a major bankroller of recent electoral failures like 2014's effort to legalize medical marijuana and Charlie Crist's post-Republican political career. (He's also literally Crist's boss. The former Gov works at his law firm).

“Alan is a friend of mine, he’s a client of mine, and I tried mightily to dissuade him from walking away from a national platform that most congressmen and women do not have,” says Morgan. “He’s like Barney Frank-- he was a congressman from Massachusetts and he was America’s congressman, progressive America’s congressman. I told him, I hate to see a smart guy like you walk away from the Congress because I don’t see a path forward for you in Florida.”

Morgan clearly thinks Grayson has no shot of winning the state.

“It’s a tightrope with no room for error, it’s threading a needle with a fine piece of thread,” says Morgan. “You have to be able to do well in the Panhandle. I’m a fan of Alan’s politics but he has a lot of minuses."

Granted, Barack Obama won Florida twice and did absolutely horribly in the Panhandle both times, and even though this Senate election will take place in an presidential election year, that's apparently of little import to Morgan.

Never mind that recent polls show Grayson beating Republican contenders by a healthy margin (to be fair Murphy beats them by a healthier margin).

Never mind that Republicans continue to dominate state-wide races by not running insurgent candidates like Rubio and Rick Scott from their primaries.

Never mind that Florida appears in recent years to be as much as a "Get your base out to vote" swing state as it is an "appeal to the middle" swing state.
Want to help Grayson get into the Senate-- a rebuke to the bosses, a rebuke to Wall Street, a rebuke to the worst political forces not overtly part of the GOP? You can do it here. I hope you will.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Gosh, if we'd only known about Mullah Omar, we could've at least sent a card or something


We could have had, like, a little memorial service? Or maybe sent a nice floral arrangement? (A local florist would have known what's in season over there.)

Milt Bearden, a former CIA operative in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that “it is beyond puzzling” that Omar’s death could go unconfirmed for so long, especially given the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of the United States.

But “it’s another case of why intelligence collection in that part of the world is so difficult,” Bearden said. “The truth is layered, and there are multiple agendas, none of which we ever really understand.”
-- from "Taliban leader Omar's tale reflects clashing
," by the
Washington Post's Greg Miller

by Ken

It's a relief to find that a certified secret-intelligence pro is "beyond puzzled" by that two-year gap in getting out news of the death of Mullah Omar. At the same time, you wouldn't think that "alive" or "dead" would be a truth subject to such extensive layering.

Meanwhile, I'll bet there are Taliban fighers all over Greater Talibania frantically searching their memories now trying to figure out just how long ago it was they got that inspiring yet terrifying order: "Please to dispatch 20 infidels by sundown also clean out your cave it's disgusting. Kind regards Mullah O." Because as we know now, if the message came less than two years ago, it appears most unlikely that it was from the One-Eyed One after all, and it's now a much less interesting story to tell strangers passing through, not to mention the grandkids. ("You know, Mullah Omar and I were so close that . . . .")

After all, it was just a couple of weeks ago that there was buzz about the sudden appearance of a message from Mullah Omar. Daily Outlook Afghanistan reported "Mullah Omar's Dramatic Emergence; An Impetus to Talks."


As breaking-newsbreaks go, it has to be that some luster is taken off the news of Mullah Omar's death by the fact that the event apparently happened two years ago. I wonder what would happen if I tried telling my landlord or mobile-phone service provider that that payment they're so hot to have is on its way when I what I really mean is "at some point in the next two years . . ."

It may also take some of the top off memorial services for Mullah O, the fact that the man hasn't been with us for, you know, two years now. You know that sparkling grape juice you were planning to serve? (It surely wouldn't do to celebrate the passing of a fundamentalist Muslim fighter with sparkling wine. I guess in view of the nature of this particular celebration, you'd want to open the bottles so the fizz goes flat.

One thing I don't think we have to worry about is the late Mullah O feeling slighted by the delay in recognition of his passing. I'm guessing he'd be pleased as punch to have put another one over on the Western infidels. At the same time, if he felt slighted in life by all the attention focused on that upstart interloper in his country Osama bin-Laden, he might smart at public disclosure that his whereabouts and elimination were subjects of vastly less interest to the Western infidel security apparatus -- that basically we infidels didn't give all that big a whoop whether Omar was alive or dead.

As to reasons why the news may be so late in coming, near the end of Greg Miller's Washington Post report we learn: "A former Pakistani official said parts of the government may have sought to keep Omar's death secret out of fear that Taliban factions would splinter without him and damage Islamabad’s ability to influence peace talks with Afghanistan."

The Western infidel security people certainly had inklings. Here's the start of Greg Miller's report:
In early 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confronted the president of Pakistan with a disturbing piece of intelligence. The spy agency had learned that ­Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader who had become one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was being treated at a hospital in southern Pakistan.

The American spy chief even identified the facility — the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi — and said the CIA had “some raw intelligence on this” that would soon be shared with its Pakistani counterpart, according to diplomatic files that summarize the exchange.
U.S. intelligence officials now think that Omar probably died two years later, in 2013, and Afghan officials said this week that he succumbed while being treated for a serious illness in a Karachi hospital, just as those earlier intelligence reports had indicated.
Which suggests that if perhaps you were undergoing a medical procedure that you hoped might be kept under wraps -- a little cosmetic work, say -- that Karachi is a destination worth considering. As scary a place as we're often told it is, especially for Westerners, it does appear that the hospitals there know a thing or two about patient confidentiality.

But I digress.
The belated disclosure this week of Omar’s death has added to the legend of the ghostlike Taliban chief, a figure so elusive that it appears to have taken U.S. spy agencies two years to determine that one of their top targets after 9/11 was no longer alive.

But the emerging details of Omar’s death may also help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan.

Current and former U.S. ­officials said that despite intermittent intelligence on Omar’s whereabouts, there was never a concerted push to find him that remotely approached the scale of the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

At the same time, the one-eyed Taliban leader’s apparent ability to get medical treatment in the port city of Karachi has bolstered long-standing suspicions that Omar was being sheltered by Pakistan.
The Pakistanis, of course, don't want to hear this.
A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”

A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”
Then again, for any number of reasons, including all those drones we keep sending their way, Pakistani intelligence officials haven't been exactly Chatty Cathies with us in recent years. Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan and former CIA counterterrorism chief tells Greg Miller of the relationship with Pakistan's much-feared intelligence directorate, the ISI:
Pretty quickly you could see a pattern. Where the ISI was very effective working with us in tracking down ­al-Qaeda, anytime we had a lead on a senior member of the Taliban, the Pakistanis weren’t successful in following up.
But then, Grenier also notes, "We were overwhelmingly focused on al-Qaeda." When U.S. forces stumbled across Taliban leaders, it seems to have been a surprise both to us and to the Pakistanis.

And Pakistani officials aren't necessarily all that high on the ISI's "need to know" list. A source described as "a former Pakistani official" -- the same former Pakistani official we heard earlier speculating that the Pakistani government may have deliberately tried to keep Mullah Omar's death secret for fear of post-Omar factionalizing of the Tabliban -- says "the ISI told Pakistani leaders in March this year 'that Mullah Omar is seriously ill and his condition is deteriorating.' "

It seems he could only have wished to be "seriously ill" and "deteriorating" this past March. So it goes.

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DCCC Still Sneaking More Republicans Into Congress Disguised As Democrats


The DCCC has long looked the Republicans for congressional recruits. Rahm Emanuel, Chris Van Hollen and Steve Israel are all guilty of recruiting conservative Republicans to run as Democrats-- almost all of whom joined the Blue Dogs or New Dems and subsequently lost their seats. They lost their seats when Democratic voters realized they'd be sold a bill of goods by the DCCC and then refused to go out too the polls and vote fourths phonies. That they lost their seats-- and drove the Democratic Party into the minority in the House, a minority that could last decades, hasn't slowed the conservaDems down one bit. Steve Israel seems to have persuaded the naive new DCCC chairman, Ben Ray Luján, that this is how Beltway grown-ups are supposed to behave.

Right now Chuck Schumer is waging the ugliest and most vicious Senate campaign of the cycle in Florida-- but not against Republicans... against progressive icon Alan Grayson on behalf of "ex"-Republican/New Dem Patrick Murphy, the Wall Street candidate. And, unless you know otherwise, it's almost getting safe to assume that DCCC recruits-- like IA-01 GOPer-turned conservaDem Monica Vernon-- is a DINO. Yesterday Roll Call reported a story in Missouri that's even more complicated and with more twists and turns that most. This time a Republican the DCCC recruited, Eric Greitens, is back to running as a right-wing Republican, which is what he was all along anyway, regardless of the DCCC calling him a Democrat.
Depending on how things shake out, Missouri voters could face a bizarro world next fall: A former Democrat running as the Republican nominee for governor against a Democrat who used to be a Republican.

Eric Greitens is part of a crowded and growing field of Republican candidates who will face off next August. As he launched a statewide tour earlier this month, the former Democrat attempted to turn what could be a weakness in the crowded Republican primary into a strength.

“I am a conservative Republican, but I didn’t start out that way,” Greitens wrote in a Fox News editorial in mid-July.

Greitens, an ex-Navy SEAL turned New York Times best-selling author who has led the veterans advocacy group The Mission Continues, said that Democrats tried to recruit him “several years ago” to run for a federal office.

An official at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee told CQ Roll Call that ahead of the 2010 elections, Greitens met with the committee about running against Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from mid-Missouri.

Ultimately, Greitens told the DCCC no. As he put it, “There was one rather large problem: As I got older, I no longer believed in their ideas.”

The flirtation was not Greitens’ first with Democratic politics. Two years earlier, he got in the car with the state’s former Democratic governor, Bob Holden, and drove from St. Louis to Denver to see then-Sen. Barack Obama accept the nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention, Holden said.

“He was still just kind of getting his feet on the ground with The Mission Continues and all of that,” Holden told CQ Roll Call, who mentioned that Greitens actually finished one of his books at his cabin near Jefferson City. “Eric has said he leaned toward the Democratic Party. I wish he still did.”
Like many Beltway Democrats from the Establishment, Greitents had nothing but contempt for a progressive vision and for liberals. "I had concluded that liberals aren’t just wrong," he wrote. "All too often they are world-class hypocrites. They talk a great game about helping the most vulnerable, with ideas that feel good and fashionable. The problem is their ideas don’t work, and often hurt the exact people they claim to help... [G]ood intentions are easy. Even easier when you’re spending other people’s money. But they’re not enough. To actually achieve meaningful results, you have to have good ideas, discipline and accountability to go along with it. The problem is that most Democrats seem to think more money and bigger government are the solutions to virtually every single problem. They’re wrong. It’s easy to give people food stamps; harder to get people into good-paying jobs. It’s easy to encourage dependency; harder to help people into a life of purpose and dignity. The worst are politicians who smugly talk about caring for the little guy, and then abandon the poorest, most vulnerable of our children to schools that give them little chance to succeed. That’s not just hypocrisy. It’s a tragedy. I became a conservative because I believe that caring for people means more than just spending taxpayer money; it means delivering results. It means respecting and challenging our citizens, telling them what they need to hear, not simply what they want to hear."

That's what the DCCC thought would be a good idea to recruit-- just like so-called "ex"-Republicans Monica Vernon (IA) and Mike Derrick (NY) this cycle. Dozens of former congressional Democrats-- Blue Dogs primarily-- have become Republicans. Steve Israel seems completely comfortable with that. No Republicans or Blue Dogs on this Blue America list, just well-vetted progressive candidates.

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New Jersey Extremist Scott Garrett Finds His Base Turning On Him


NJ-05 sits on the entire northern border of New Jersey with New York, from the Hudson River in the east to just outside of Port Jervis in the west, and the entire northwestern border with Pennsylvania from Milford through the Delaware Waiter Gap and beyond my old home in Stroudsburg. It's an affluent R+4 district in blue New Jersey. Over 70% of the population is in northern Bergen County's suburbs and towns like Paramus, Hackensack, Teaneck, Mahwah and Lodi. The Sopranos was set there and Lodi was the location of the Bada Bing strip club. Politically, this is Chris Christie country although Sen. Bob Menendez won the district with 51% last time he ran. McCain won the district in 2008, 51-48% and Romney won in 2012, 52-49%. The congressman from the area, Scott Garrett, is the most extreme right congressman from New Jersey-- and the entire northeast United States-- since he was first elected in 2002. He was reelected in 2014 with 55.7% against political novice Roy Cho and in 2012 he won with 55.0% against Adam Gussen, Deputy Mayor of Teaneck. Cho spent $1,251,518 to Garrett's $2,245,456 and Gussen spent $51,444 to Garrett's $1,105,177. Neither Democrat was backed by the DCCC, which hasn't gone up against Garrett since giving some minor help to Dennis Shulman (the blind rabbi) in 2008.

The source of Garrett's power and campaign money stems from his position on the House Financial Services Committee, where he is widely considered a prime spokesperson for Wall Street banksters. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises he has been in a position to make sure Wall Street priorities become Republican policy, just the way he has worked for Vegas mobster Sheldon Adelson, sponsoring a federal prohibition of online poker and for Big Oil, making himself a pariah among New Jersey Republicans by being the only member of the New Jersey delegation to vote for oil and gas drilling off the state's coast and the only member to vote against restrictions on price gouging by oil companies. He is probably the most right-wing Member of Congress from New Jersey in history but Wall Street has backed him to the hilt-- until now.

Last cycle the Finance sector (Wall Street) only paid out legalistic bribes of a million dollars or more to 10 current Members of the House who were not running for Senate seats. Garrett was one of them, taking $1,171,579, even more than Wall Street's pet Democrat, Patrick Murphy, who gobbled up $1,127,650 in bribes. since Garrett's first congressional election Wall Street has given him $4,347,936, nearly as much as their House darlings Paul Ryan ($4,936,303) and Pete Sessions ($4,740,807). But many on Wall Street have now had it with Garrett's extremism and have decided to cut him off.

Garrett, likely to be a target of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's jihad against extremists, declared two months ago that he would stop paying dues to the NRCC for not being anti-gay enough. He'd voted against reelecting Boehner to the Speaker's job. Boehner and his team take it as part of the right-wing rebellion against his authority. Boehner told Financial Services Committee chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) to crack the whip on Garrett and Garrett responded that "his procedural vote against leadership was a matter of conscience. Then he stunned the room with this explanation: He had not supported the NRCC in the past, he said, because it actively recruited gay candidates and supported homosexuals in primaries." This flipped out North Carolina closet queen Patrick McHenry, a junior member of leadership, who led the NRCC’s candidate recruitment during the 2014 election cycle and said that Richard Tisei, a gay Republican whom the NRCC supported, was "equally homosexual" when Garrett donated directly to him in 2012.
The northern New Jersey Republican has not yet paid his dues to the NRCC. He has a serious opponent this cycle. Josh Gottheimer, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, raised $412,000 last quarter and has almost $600,000 in the bank. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon declined to say whether the campaign arm would get involved in that-- or any-- race.

"I’m not going to talk about who we’re going to support and who we’re not going to support anywhere across the line, because hopefully we don’t have to come into races like that," Walden said of Garrett’s race. "He’s been able to raise a lot of money, he’s got a lot of money in the bank-- close to $3 million. My preference is we have members who pay their dues in full."
But, as Walden well knows, new Wall Street money isn't going to be as available to him as it has in the past-- and will be available to conservaDem Josh Gottheimer who one New Jersey pundit termed "a conservative Jew who loves Wall Street more than lox." He's getting huge help from "top veterans of the Clinton and Obama administrations, over $219,000 in March alone. Obama and Clinton big-wigs like Patti Solis Doyle, Mack McLarty, who was President Clinton’s chief of staff; Julius Genachowski, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Sandy Berger, former national security adviser to Clinton; Paul Begala, Clinton political strategist and media commentator; and Jennifer Palmieri, communications director of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, are helping him in his bid to oust the hated Garrett.
The outpouring of support for a challenger is unprecedented this early in the campaign cycle in the Republican-leaning 5th District, a place Democrats in North Jersey have repeatedly said they could win if a candidate could raise enough money to define Garrett on New York television.

Gottheimer is a North Caldwell native who moved back to North Jersey with his family three years ago. A corporate strategist for Microsoft, he previously worked for the FCC and on the presidential campaigns of John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2008.

“I believe pretty deeply we need to bring people back to Washington who want to work and get things done,” Gottheimer said. “Like most people, I’m frustrated with the extremism from the wings of the parties.”
Politico pointed out that "according to FEC filings, Gottheimer already has raised $150K from Wall Street execs including Tom Nides (MS), Peter Scher (JOM), Blair Effron (Centerview), Orin Kramer (Provident), Phil Murphy (ex-GS), Marc Lasry (Avenue) and Jake Siewert (Goldman)."

Bloomberg: "Representative Scott Garrett, who heads an influential House subcommittee overseeing the U.S. capital markets, is facing a revolt by corporate and Wall Street donors after he reportedly made anti-gay remarks at a private meeting of Republican lawmakers. ... Earlier this month, in what financial lobbyists said was a sign of things to come, the Big 4 accounting firms and their trade association abruptly canceled a fundraising event for the New Jersey Republican.

"In addition, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has decided to stop making political action committee donations to Garrett ... Other firms are likely to follow suit, and some in the industry have debated whether to take a more drastic step and ask for their contributions back from Garrett, said the people, who asked for anonymity so as to not antagonize a lawmaker who oversees their industry." Couldn't happen to a more deserving sociopath!

Meanwhile, other New Jersey Republicans, as usual, are embarrassed by Garrett's deranged extremism. Mainstream conservative Leonard Lance: "I am not going to criticize Scott Garrett because I do not know what he said,” said Lance. “I, however, disagree with anyone who rejects Ronald Reagan’s 'Big Tent' philosophy of an inclusive Republican Party. We should welcome into the Tent all people who believe in Republican ideals and principles of fiscal responsibility regardless of their race, religion, creed, national origin, gender or sexual identity. That has always been my position and will continue to be so."

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Why Would Anyone Think Career-Long Corporate Shill Joe Biden Would Be Any Better Than Hillary?


Corporate goofball almost makes Hillary look good

Inevitably, there's been some speculation that, with Hillary stumbling a bit, Biden might be more electable. Few people remember what a corporate shill Biden was for his entire, long senatorial career. He may be a lovably goofy vice president but he's not even remotely part of the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. He's always been a DLC hack and an outrageous corporate shill and, first and foremost, a Beltway careerist.

Josh Kraushaar posits that Hillary's strength was her inevitability and electability. First woman president inspires a lot of people. "As an older white man," he wrote, Biden "would probably face challenges exciting the core of nonwhite voters who make up the base of Obama's support."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. Throughout the summer, Clinton has been hammered over using a secret, personal email server as secretary of State-- one that government officials believe may have compromised the country's national security and allowed her to conceal (and delete) email correspondence. Meanwhile, as she faces energetic opposition from her party's progressive base, she's decided to tack to the left, offering little to disaffected swing voters dissatisfied with Obama. Her campaign operatives believe it's worth mobilizing the Democratic Party's ascendant constituencies without offering much to the (shrinking) number of voters in the middle.

In the process, however, her favorable ratings have hit all-time lows, with clear majorities of Americans saying they don't like her and have trouble believing she's trustworthy. In the critical swing states of New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia, reputable new polls show her favorability ratings not much better than Donald Trump's-- with unfavorable ratings nearing 60 percent. Quinnipiac's swing-state polling found her losing in Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia to all three leading GOP candidates (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker), while NBC News/Marist polling found her favorability ratings to be just as dismal in Iowa and New Hampshire. National polling doesn't put her in much better shape, with her favorability still upside-down in CNN/ORC's new poll (45/48, among all adults). Gallup found her overall favorability at 43/46, her worst net showing since their November 2007 survey. Her numbers aren't any better than Obama's, and many polls are finding them in worse shape.

Suddenly, if you're Joe Biden, running for president makes a lot more political sense.

...[A]t a time when authenticity is a highly valued asset-- for better or worse--Biden boasts the natural political skill set that Clinton clearly lacks. He's a happy warrior who enjoys campaigning and isn't constrained by talking points or rope lines. He's able to ham it up with union rank-and-file, while also giving a stem-winding speech blasting Republicans in Congress. His all-too-frequent malapropisms are endearing at a time when voters are cynical about scripted politicians.
Sounds like President Hubert Humphrey-- exactly like so, in fact. Except Humphrey, unlike Biden, was a genuine liberal. Biden has a long record as a corporate phony, who knows how to make the right noises for a base he often betrayed. Policy-wise, he's probably as bad as Clinton, nothing whatsoever like Bernie Sanders. More like his old ally, Joe Lieberman. From a post I did in 2007:
When one thinks of "Senator Joe Biden" and "bankruptcy," the first thing that comes to mind is his slavish support for corporate contributors like the big banking and credit card industries. Biden took the Republican position that has destroyed American families and he did it for his big campaign contributors. (Interestingly, Biden is also the only Democrat who is getting the kind of relative support between corrupt insiders and the grassroots that Republicans get.)

That said, Joe Biden is not a serious candidate for president. He's a quintessential Inside-the-Beltway windbag who is auditioning to be Hillary's Secretary of State. Like Richardson, that's why he's running for president and wasting people's time and money. Would he make a good Secretary of State. No, he'd be as terrible as Condoleeza Rice. Early in tonight's debate Biden was asked which Republican he would consider for VP if he had to. He picked Chuck Hagel-- and then he gratuitously threw in that he thought Dick Lugar would be a good Secretary of State, presumably whether he had to appoint a Republican or not.
Meanwhile, if you want to help the one candidate running for president who both can win and can make a substantive difference for the country, here's the page for you.

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