Thursday, February 11, 2016

One Of America's Greatest Jazz Pianists, Marcus Roberts, Feels The Bern

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Marcus Roberts is a jazz pianist and composer. And he's blind. He is self-taught but went to the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, where Ray Charles also studied (much earlier). Wynton Marsalis, with whom he toured, called him the "greatest American musician most people have never heard of." Ryan Lizza, writing for the New Yorker this week, broke the news that Roberts, who is also an eloquent teacher, has written songs about four of the presidential candidates, in an effort to show that art has a place in politics. He's releasing an EP, Race for the White House featuring one song each about Bernie ("Feel the Bern," which you can listen to above), Hillary ("It's My Turn"), Herr Trumpf ("Making America Great Again-- All By Myself") and Dr. Ben ("I Did Chop Down That Cherry Tree").

"Feel the Bern," according to Roberts, is meant to "show the different components of Bernie Sanders’s personality. When the piano does it, it’s laid-back and it’s kind of cool and dignified. When the tenor plays it, it starts to get a little more rambunctious. You know, maybe that’s when he tells Hillary, 'I don’t really give a damn about hearing about your e-mails anymore.' It becomes kind of aggressive, and there’s a lot of fire, like, we’re going to get to this. I think that’s why Sanders appeals to young people."
“It’s My Turn” is slower and mellower than “Feel the Bern,” and it attempts to describe the many phases of Clinton’s long career in politics. “We know that she’s undergone a whole lot of changes,” Roberts said. A Clinton supporter, he was originally going to call the song “I Guess I’m Just Overqualified,” but he decided to keep the music as nonpartisan as possible. “People have been messing with the lady for twenty-five years about this and that, so I decided we’ve definitely got to have some changes,” he said, noting that, of the four songs, it is the most complicated and nuanced, just like her campaign. “We start in D-flat minor, but we change to G-flat and then to B-flat, and we change the meter and the tempo.”

Roberts said that he wrote the songs fast, attempting to capture the candidates based on what was happening in debates and on the campaign trail at the time. “I was focussed on something that was literally occurring even as I was writing it,” he said. “I’m listening to Ben Carson on TV, and he’s talking slow. I’m thinking, well, the piece for him can’t be up-tempo.” The Carson song was written at the stage in the campaign when Trump, feeling threatened by Carson’s candidacy, had attacked Carson for some bizarre anecdotes from his opponent’s memoir.

“Carson’s telling people he did all this lawless stuff as a kid,” Roberts said. “I’m like, how can I capture that?” Jason Marsalis’s initial drumming on the song didn’t sound quite right to Roberts. “I said, ‘No, man, I need it to sound like it’s a hammer hitting something, O.K.? I need it to sound like he might be beating up one of his friends at school. It needs to sound that way.’ ” They accomplished the musical equivalent of Carson’s hammer attack with a three-beat rim shot.

Trump’s was the easiest personality to capture. “It was clear that it needed to be bold and up-front and egotistical,” Roberts said. He told Marsalis to whistle as if he were Trump surveying his vast real-estate empire from up high. “You’re rich, you’ve got pretty much everything anybody could want, and you’re just chilling,” Roberts said. A trumpet cuts in on the whistling, to show Trump’s more aggressive and cocksure side. “He interrupts himself,” Roberts explained, “almost to say, ‘I’m going to get all this great stuff done, I don’t need any help, I know what I need to do, just get out of my way and let me do it.’ It almost has a Batman-superhero vibe to it.”

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Hall And Coates (CA-44)

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California state Senator Isadore Hall, widely considered the most corrupt politician in Sacramento, must have been feeling his oats when he snagged a cushy deal at the Alameda Court apartments development he helped push through... with a nice subsidy from the City of Compton. Shortly after the initial approval, the developers contributed $10,000 to Hall. Can you spell quid pro quo? Or you thought only Republicans engage in this kind of bribery? Did he get his place rent free while the other tenants were subjected to leases based on the old racist "rent-to-own" program historically foisted upon African-Americans who were red-lined by the banks? The idea is to take the money but find an excuse-- any excuse will do-- to void the agreement and steal the money while evicting the hapless and helpless buyer. In his much discussed Reparations piece for The Atlantic last week, Ta-Nehisi Coates went into this ugly practice in some depth. "From the 1930s through the 1960s," he reminds his readers, "black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market."
Three months after Clyde Ross moved into his house, the boiler blew out. This would normally be a homeowner’s responsibility, but in fact, Ross was not really a homeowner. His payments were made to the seller, not the bank. And Ross had not signed a normal mortgage. He’d bought “on contract”: a predatory agreement that combined all the responsibilities of homeownership with all the disadvantages of renting-- while offering the benefits of neither. Ross had bought his house for $27,500. The seller, not the previous homeowner but a new kind of middleman, had bought it for only $12,000 six months before selling it to Ross. In a contract sale, the seller kept the deed until the contract was paid in full-- and, unlike with a normal mortgage, Ross would acquire no equity in the meantime. If he missed a single payment, he would immediately forfeit his $1,000 down payment, all his monthly payments, and the property itself.

The men who peddled contracts in North Lawndale would sell homes at inflated prices and then evict families who could not pay-- taking their down payment and their monthly installments as profit. Then they’d bring in another black family, rinse, and repeat. “He loads them up with payments they can’t meet,” an office secretary told the Chicago Daily News of her boss, the speculator Lou Fushanis, in 1963. “Then he takes the property away from them. He’s sold some of the buildings three or four times.”

Ross had tried to get a legitimate mortgage in another neighborhood, but was told by a loan officer that there was no financing available. The truth was that there was no financing for people like Clyde Ross. From the 1930s through the 1960s, black people across the country were largely cut out of the legitimate home-mortgage market through means both legal and extralegal. Chicago whites employed every measure, from “restrictive covenants” to bombings, to keep their neighborhoods segregated.

The devastating effects are cogently outlined by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro in their 1995 book, Black Wealth/White Wealth:
Locked out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history, African Americans who desired and were able to afford home ownership found themselves consigned to central-city communities where their investments were affected by the “self-fulfilling prophecies” of the FHA appraisers: cut off from sources of new investment[,] their homes and communities deteriorated and lost value in comparison to those homes and communities that FHA appraisers deemed desirable.
In Chicago and across the country, whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport. “It was like people who like to go out and shoot lions in Africa. It was the same thrill,” a housing attorney told the historian Beryl Satter in her 2009 book, Family Properties. “The thrill of the chase and the kill.” ... Contract sellers became rich.
Now... back to Compton and Hall, the crooked state senator being boosted by the party establishment for a congressional seat (CA-44) that covers, San Pedro, Wilmington, Carson, Compton, North Long Beach, Willowbrook, Lynwood, Watts, South Gate and West Rancho Dominguez, a district that is over 70% Latino.

After some of the Alameda Court tenants filed a lawsuit over the leases, complaining of violations of their supposed "rent-to-own" provisions, claiming that there was never any intention to let these tenants buy their apartments, they were served with eviction papers-- and further claiming that Senator Hall received special "white glove" treatment and was exempt from the harassment that Plaintiffs endured because of his relationship with the landlord. Instead of being credited towards down payments, the additional payments were confiscated by the property managers to cover "repairs" and "deposits." Sound familiar? And Coates thought this was a practice that was used against blacks "from the 1930s through the 1960s?"

While the plaintiffs continued to proffer rents, their payments were rejected and the retaliatory evictions proceeded. And caught up in the mix was our friend, Senator Hall. He too was served with eviction papers (less than 3 months ago while he was running for Congress)! Somehow he owed rent of $4,800 and ran up utility bills of $5,000! What was he growing?? After allowing Hall to live rent-free in the complex, "Landlord" Doug Baker signed a declaration, under penalty of perjury, that Hall had not paid rent since March, 2015.

Are you listening, California Democrats? You endorsed him for Congress! Yes-- it's a good idea to get him out of LA-- even his landlord agrees-- but is this the best way to do it? Congress has more than enough crooks already.

Blue America has endorsed environmental hero Nanette Barragán in the CA-44 race. If you can, please help her raise the money she needs to compete against the Democratic Party establishment machine behind Hall. You can contribute to her grassroots campaign here.

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Clinton And The Lobbyists

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Wednesday morning, we looked at how right-of-center Democratic Members of Congress-- most of them dripping in the kind of corruption you expect from the GOP but not from Democrats-- are all huge Hillary supporters. But when a friend of mine, slightly drunk at a Tuesday night impromptu Bernie celebration in Brooklyn not far from Clinton's national headquarters, asked why I didn't think it would be smooth sailing for Bernie right to the nomination, I didn't point to the corrupt conservative congressmembers-- all of whom are anti-democracy super-delegates-- but to the lobbyist community instead. That-- even more than the banksters-- is where the core support for the Clinton Machine comes from. The lobbyists run her campaign on every level-- and one of them, Campaign Chair Podesta's brother, Tony, signaled a couple of days ago that once Clinton replaces Obama in the White House, she'll tear up his restrictions against lobbyists and K Street will be welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue once again.

A few years ago, Gallup polled the public on lobbyists. The public doesn't feel as warm and fuzzy towards them as Bill and Hill do. In fact, lobbyists are even more despises than Members of Congress! Lobbyist ethical standards were rated as "low" or "very low" by 58% of respondents, even worse than used car salesmen (53%) and congressmembers (45%). Tuesday, Democratic voters in New Hampshire indicated that their contempt for lobbyists has rubbed off on Hillary:



Gallup's annual update on the honesty and ethical standards of people in various professions finds a new entry ranking at the bottom of the list. For the first time, Gallup asked the public to rate the honesty and ethical standards of lobbyists, and only 5% describe their ethics as "very high" or "high." Lobbyists, car salesmen (5%), and advertising practitioners (6%) are the lowest-rated professions. Nurses, typically the top-rated profession each year, again get the highest ratings. Ratings of congressmen are the worst Gallup has ever recorded.

...Eighty-three percent of Americans rate nurses' honesty and ethical standards as very high or high, easily the most positively rated profession. Nurses were first included in 1999 and have averaged an 81% very high/high rating since then. That has been good for first place each year except 2001, when firefighters were included after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and received a 90% rating.

After nurses, grade-school teachers (74%) and pharmacists (71%) are rated next most highly this year. Just under two-thirds of Americans give high ratings to military officers and medical doctors. Clergy and policemen are the only other two professions that receive positive ratings above 50%.

As is typically the case, politicians do not fare that well, but local officeholders (20%) are rated better than state officeholders (12%) and congressmen (9%). In fact, congressmen rank above only lobbyists, car salesmen, and advertising practitioners this year. Lawyers (15%) and business executives (14%) also receive relatively poor ratings.

...The public's ratings of congressmen (14% to 9%), advertising practitioners (11% to 6%), and business executives (18% to 14%) also show significant drops, but not a return to previous levels. In fact, all three have established new lows. The score for congressmen is less than half of what it was in 2004, down from 20% in that year's poll.
This new Bernie ad started running today in Minnesota:



Hillary has taken more from lobbyists than anyone else who has ever served in Congress. This money rep[resents the most blatant and purest form of bribery that doesn't send someone to prison. Only 18 Members of Congress have taken over a million dollars from the lobbyists. Hillary is about to surpass $3 million.
Hillary Clinton- $2,915,238
John McCain- $1,881,850
Harry Reid- $1,765,101
John Kerry- $1,541,462
John Boehner- $1,449,121
Barack Obama- $1,373,848
Mitch McConnell- $1,368,310
Patty Murray- $1,337,372
Ed Markey- $1,300,937
Mary Landrieu- $1,293,716
Chuck Schumer- $1,250,727
Arlen Specter- $1,228,976
John Murtha- $1,205,174
Chris Dodd- $1,182,680
Max Baucus- $1,090,459
Maria Cantwell- $1,081,946
Robert Menendez- $1,026,162
Steny Hoyer- $1,005,382
Yesterday. Lee Fang, writing for The Intercept, documented how freaked out the scummy lobbyists and consultants of Clinton World are over Bernie's much-bigger-than-expected win in New Hampshire Tuesday. He pointed with contempt to TPP lobbyist Tony Fratto, co-founder of Hamilton Place Strategies, which, in a sane environment would be considered a dangerous criminal enterprise. Fratto and other lobbyists, from Alex Castellanos-- who is working full time on smearing Bernie-- and AT&T/Zurich Financial Services lobbyist John Feehery (who referred to Bernie inspiring victory speech Tuesday night as Castro-like to Rory Cooper, a right-wing political strategist as well as managing director of Purple Strategies (which gives money to Republicans and to corrupt right-wing Democrats like Gwen Graham, Ann Kuster, Gary Peters, Mark Pryor and John Barrow.) His Twitter followers didn't appreciate his tweet after the primary results came in:




And a little bonus because we love you and this video just will not wait until our next post on Herr Trumpf tomorrow. So... enjoy-- and if you want to contribute to a campaign today, consider these men and women who have endorsed Bernie and are running for Congress on his issues. No matter who wins the White House, we will need more progressives in Congress, right?



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Michelle Alexander, the Black Community & the Hillary Clinton Campaign

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Author and historian Michelle Alexander (source)

by Gaius Publius

Though I've written about this myself, I don't want to advocate, but present. So consider this a horse race post. Clinton's self-admitted "firewall" is South Carolina in particular and the southern states in general, states with large numbers of minority voters. Words like "less diverse" when used about New Hampshire and Iowa are code for "white," or "too white" to lead to a Democratic primary victory.

The Clinton campaign is clearly and openly putting its Sanders-stopping eggs in the minority basket; in particular, counting that victory will come from the hands of the African-American voters. Recent polls show her far ahead of Sanders among those voters, with two contests with a more "diverse" electorate, Nevada and South Carolina, up next.

For example, from a recent PPP poll (pdf) of the national races (my emphasis):
On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders 53/32. Sanders does keep gradually moving closer- our previous couple polls had her leading 56/28 in December and 59/26 in November. But he still has some weaknesses that may make it hard for him to catch up. Primary among these is African American voters- Clinton leads 82/8 with them and has a 79/9 favorability compared to 27/23 for Sanders. That does suggest some possibility for Sanders to improve his position- part of his problem is just that black voters don’t really know him yet- but he’s starting at a tremendous disadvantage that will make the upcoming run of Southern primaries very difficult for him.
Other polls show her losing by less, but by any measure the difference in support is considerable. So the horse race question — can Sanders make up that difference in the time left to do it? The Nevada caucus is February 20. The South Carolina primary is February 27. Super Tuesday is March 1. Each will occur in just a few weeks.

Hillary Clinton & the Black Vote

Enter widely respected author and academic, Michelle Alexander, writing in The Nation. Alexander is best known for her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, so she has special expertise in the recent history of black America. She starts by detailing the relationship that both Clintons have enjoyed with African-American voters:
Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote
From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted—and Hillary Clinton supported—decimated black America.

Hillary Clinton loves black people. And black people love Hillary—or so it seems. Black politicians have lined up in droves to endorse her, eager to prove their loyalty to the Clintons in the hopes that their faithfulness will be remembered and rewarded. Black pastors are opening their church doors, and the Clintons are making themselves comfortably at home once again, engaging effortlessly in all the usual rituals associated with “courting the black vote,” a pursuit that typically begins and ends with Democratic politicians making black people feel liked and taken seriously. Doing something concrete to improve the conditions under which most black people live is generally not required.

Hillary is looking to gain momentum on the campaign trail as the primaries move out of Iowa and New Hampshire and into states like South Carolina, where large pockets of black voters can be found. According to some polls, she leads Bernie Sanders by as much as 60 percent among African Americans. It seems that we—black people—are her winning card, one that Hillary is eager to play.
Which sets up her punch line: "And it seems we’re eager to get played. Again."

The rest of the piece walks through the troubled Clinton legacy — again, both of them, since Hillary strongly and vocally supported the Clinton era policies — and the horrific effect those policies have had on the black community. The overview (my emphasis):
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, urban black communities across America were suffering from economic collapse. Hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs had vanished as factories moved overseas in search of cheaper labor, a new plantation. Globalization and deindustrialization affected workers of all colors but hit African Americans particularly hard. Unemployment rates among young black men had quadrupled as the rate of industrial employment plummeted. Crime rates spiked in inner-city communities that had been dependent on factory jobs, while hopelessness, despair, and crack addiction swept neighborhoods that had once been solidly working-class. Millions of black folks—many of whom had fled Jim Crow segregation in the South with the hope of obtaining decent work in Northern factories—were suddenly trapped in racially segregated, jobless ghettos.

On the campaign trail, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did. 
Alexander discusses the reasons that black voters "should have seen it coming," including this chilling detail:
Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”
As I said, these are policies that Hillary fully supported at the time. For example, this is Hillary Clinton talking about the 1994 crime bill: "They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel." Note the code word "predators" echoing the Reagan-era racist depiction of black criminals.

Both Clintons have since recanted. Alexander notes:
To be fair, the Clintons now feel bad about how their politics and policies have worked out for black people. Bill says that he “overshot the mark” with his crime policies; and Hillary has put forth a plan to ban racial profiling, eliminate the sentencing disparities between crack and cocaine, and abolish private prisons, among other measures.
But is that enough? she asks. It's a valid question, whether you consider the answer to be yes or no.

Mass Incarceration: The New Housing Program for the Urban Poor

The section on mass incarceration is particularly chilling, especially since many of the non-violent men and women are still in prison. A very small taste of this painful-to-contemplate section of the article:
[T]he Clinton administration didn’t reduce the amount of money devoted to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the funds would be used for. ... Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”
Alexander also notes how government statistics, which don't count the incarcerated in the unemployment rate, hid the true unemployment rate among young black men. "When Clinton left office in 2001, the true jobless rate for young, non-college-educated black men (including those behind bars) was 42 percent." This section is more than chilling; it's horrifying.

Sanders Is Not Blameless

Alexander brings Sanders to task as well, and includes many of the offsets to her anti-Clinton argument, such as the fact that black community leaders were similarly concerned with crime in their neighborhoods. She notes: "This is not an endorsement for Bernie Sanders, who after all voted for the 1994 crime bill. I also tend to agree with Ta-Nehisi Coates that the way the Sanders campaign handled the question of reparations is one of many signs that Bernie doesn’t quite get what’s at stake in serious dialogues about racial justice. He was wrong to dismiss reparations as “divisive,” as though centuries of slavery, segregation, discrimination, ghettoization, and stigmatization aren’t worthy of any specific acknowledgement or remedy. But recognizing that Bernie, like Hillary, has blurred vision when it comes to race is not the same thing as saying their views are equally problematic."

Which leads Alexander to this indictment: "In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it."

Moving the Needle?

There's much more in the article — please do read it through. Whatever position you take, notice first that the argument is nuanced — it acknowledges all of the "yes, but"s that can reasonably be raised — and second, that it's incredibly well written. (I'm officially jealous of her talent in this regard.)

But this not about Clinton and the arguments for and against her vis-à-vis the African-American community; that's a question primarily for them to decide. Nor is it about Sanders and what can be said for or against his racial policies and awareness. There's a lot of "that was then and this is now" one can offer in this discussion.

My real interest in bringing this to your attention is this. The South Carolina primary is February 27. Super Tuesday is three days later, with its cluster of southern and other "more diverse" states. Conventional (and Clinton campaign) wisdom holds that these states are out of Sanders' reach, that he can never make up the difference in support that the polls, exemplified by the one cited above, show to be great.

Losing 82-8 with African-American voters is the largest differential we've seen in this Democratic primary. It's almost a no-brainer to call the next rounds hers, and it's not too unreasonable to imagine that the next four weeks or so could be do-or-die for Sanders, regardless of your preference. Still, this is a Black Lives Matter moment — thank god for that; it's been needed since forever, meaning 1619 — so the electoral outcome could be far from certain.

Given my belief that this election will be the most important in any of our lifetimes, for a variety of reasons, I'm watching the coming contests with great interest. Sanders has promised to take it to the convention, and I'm glad to hear that. What he takes to the convention could be decided very soon, as I see it.

Will thought-leaders in the African-American community, people like Michelle Alexander and former NAACP head Ben Jealous, be able to move the needle sufficiently and in time? We're clearly into popcorn territory. Stay tuned.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president. If you'd like to help out, go here; you can adjust the split any way you like at the link. If you'd like to "phone-bank for Bernie," go here. You can volunteer in other ways by going here. And thanks!)

GP
 

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House Republicans And NRA-Dems Once Again Reject A Call To STUDY Gun Violence

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Yesterday the House passed Lamar Smith's Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (H.R. 3293) 236-178, all but 7 Democrats voting NO and all but 4 Republicans voted YES. Donna Edwards wrote an amendment that was meant to allow scientific research about the national epidemic of gun violence and it was brought to the floor as the Democrats' Motion to Recommit. Her intent is to allow scientific research to resume-- the NRA ordered Congress to have it halted some years ago-- so as to "increase the understanding of the causes and prevention of gun violence."

What's odd about the rejection of this bill by the Republicans + 6 NRA-controlled Democrats-- Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA), Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA), Jim Langevin (RI), Rick Larsen (New Dem-WA), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)-- is that Republicans, at least in public, always mouth the idea of studying the mental illness associated with gun violence but, spurred on by the NRA's #1 whore in Congress, Paul Ryan, always vote against what they claim they want themselves. Donna addressed the issue head on... and the Republicans, as you can see in the video up top, refused to even give her the courtesy of listening to her points. This is what they didn't want to hear:
We have a gun violence problem in the United States. According to The American Journal of Medicine, compared to other rich countries, Americans are: 25 times more likely to be violently killed with a firearm; 6 times more likely to be accidentally killed with a gun; 8 times more likely to commit suicide using a firearm; and 10 times more likely to die from a gun death overall. To address it, Americans deserve the facts and Congress needs the breadth and data of the epidemic.

“Just think if we were able to use the public health approach to address our gun violence epidemic. This is a small, yet powerful step that could lead to significantly reducing the number of Americans killed by firearms. Innocent victims like second-grade teacher NeShante Davis, her daughter Chloe, and all Americans deserve nothing less. Even if we are able to save just one life, it will have been well worth it.
Right now, Donna is running for the open Senate seat in Maryland. An establishment Democrat, Chris Van Hollen, is running against her and he is loaded with special interest money, much of it unethically obtained through his position as Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee. Van Hollen is flooding the state with high-priced ads and Blue America is struggling to help Donna keep up. If you'd like to contribute to her campaign, you can do that right here. We need people in the Senate who are going to take this epidemic seriously.


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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Turmoil In Illinois Democratic Politics

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This morning, I was pointing out that conservatives, generally corrupt, infiltrate the Democratic Party, which they use as a vehicle for their careerism, while wrecking the party's brand, tugging it inexorably towards the money-friendly right. The linked post is about Members of Congress. But, of course, this starts at the local level. Illinois has it's share of corrupt conservative Democrats in Congress, of course, including vile Blue Dogs Dan Lipinski and Cheri Bustos and New Dem Bill Foster. And Schumercrat/Rahmocrat Tammy Duckworth isn't exactly good news for progressives either. In fact, when Duckworth, now Schumer's Senate candidate, first ran for the House, it was against progressive Christine Cegelis and today, coincidentally-- and not related to the point of this post-- Cegelis endorsed Mike Noland against sleazy New Dem-type Raja Krishnamoorthi, pointing out that Mike "is the only candidate in this race with a proven record of supporting the progressive values we all share." [You can contribute to Mike's campaign here on the Blue America ActBlue page.]

A couple of days ago, Andy Grimm wrote a piece for the Chicago Sun-Times about a race in a long, skinny Chicago state House district-- the 5th-- just west of Lake Michigan that stretches from the South Side’s Grand Crossing neighborhood to the Near North Side. It's one of the bluest districts in the entire state-- chunks of Danny Davis' 7th CD and Bobby Rush's 1st CD; Obama scored 85.5% against Romney there.

Before we get into Grimm's story, let's look at the background. Illinois Democrats have a 71 to 47 super-majority in the state House, exactly the number they need to override vetoes from the state's right-wing governor, Republican Bruce Rauner). Problem is Ken Dunkin, who represents the 5th. He's an ego-centric careerist, unconcerned with policy, in Rauner's pocket, and he's refused to be that 71st vote needed to override, most recently on a couple of bills that attempted to invalidate Rauner's obsessive austerity efforts to cut social service programs.

So how crooked is Dunkin? Plenty crooked, to the point of taking the biggest legalistic bribe that anyone can remember to an Illinois state legislator. The quid pro quo for helping Rauner was a $500,000 check from the Illinois Opportunity Project, a Republican PAC founded by Hate Talk Radio host Dan Proft.

Speaker Mike Madigan is apoplectic over Dunkin and his serial betrayals and would like to see him defeated for reelection and they're openly supporting attorney Juliana Stratton's campaign against Dunkin in the March 15 primary. Julianna Stratton, his opponent is basically being endorsed by the Democratic Party against him. Last week it was Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Secretary of State Jesse White, Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis, as well as AFSCME and the SEIU. Stratton isn't pulling any punches. "Ken Dunkin," she told the media, "took a half a million dollar thank you gift for voting against our families. That is not putting people over politics."

Dunkin has repeatedly struck back with shenanigans aimed at attacking the Illinois Democratic Party-- who he calls "monkeys"-- and is trying to make the race all about him vs Madigan claiming, for example, that the "Mike Madigan slave mentality of his plantation politics is real," and calling Stratton Madigan's puppet.

Today, even President Obama, visiting Springfield, chimed in after Dunkin interrupted his speech several times. This afternoon Obama told Illinois lawmakers Wednesday that they and the nation should insist on a "better politics" based on civility and compromise as a cure to the "poisonous political climate" that pushes citizens away.
While directing his remarks about political dysfunction largely at Washington, Obama did make references to Illinois' historic stalemate that has kept the state without a budget for eight months.

The president noted his support for unions and collective bargaining to improve the middle class, earning the cheers of Democrats who are battling Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to push a pro-business, union-weakening agenda in exchange for a state budget agreement.

More pointedly, Obama singled out Democratic state Rep. Ken Dunkin, of Chicago, who has sided with Rauner on several issues to deny House Speaker Michael Madigan a 71-vote, veto-proof majority. Dunkin is facing a primary challenge and is being backed for re-election by Rauner allies.

Obama said reaching political compromise across the aisle "doesn't make me a sell out to my own party." Then the president said, "We'll talk later, Dunkin. Sit down," as Democrats erupted into wild cheers.

In reciting what he called the ills of modern-day politics, Obama said the problems were not that politicians were worse or that issues have become more complicated.

"We've always gone through periods when our democracy seems stuck, and when that happens we have to find a new way of doing business. We're in one of those moments. We have to build a better politics," he said.

"What's different today is the nature and extent of the polarization," Obama said, citing political parties that have become more homogeneous in their ideology, a fractured media, advocacy groups and "unlimited dark money."

"So often these debates, particularly in Washington but increasingly in state legislatures, become abstractions," he said, adding that voters have become turned off by a politics that "encourages the kind of ideological fealty that rejects any form of compromise as weakness."

At various points in his speech, Obama noted that while Democrats would stand and applaud, Republicans stayed largely in their seats-- a symbol of the political divide in Washington.

"One of my few regrets is to reduce the polarization and meanness in our politics," Obama said. "I was able to be part of that here and yet couldn't translate it the way I wanted to, to our politics in Washington."

Obama called for efforts to reduce what he called "the corrosive influence of money in our politics," an end to gerrymandered congressional districts and making it easier to vote. He called on Illinois lawmakers to approve pending legislation that would make voter registration automatic when people get their driver's licenses.

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Orange County Congressional Candidate Bao Nguyen Endorses Bernie Sanders

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Last week Congresswoman Judy Chu announced she is backing Bao for Congress

Blue America endorsed Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen last summer when he decided to run for the open Orange County CA-46 seat that Loretta Sanchez was giving up. Wow ironic would it be that a transitional district formerly represented by the most extreme right thug in the GOP, Bob Dornan, and then by a barely-Democratic Blue Dog, is now being contested by an unabashed progressive. Bao, who is trilingual and interned for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, holds a master’s degree in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, and has a certification in mediation from the Dispute Resolution Program of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, is a proud member of the LGBT community and one of the first public officials in Orange County to endorse Bernie Sanders' campaign.

His two top opponents in the congressional race, Sacramento politicians, Lou Correa (who has an anti-Choice and pro-pollution record in the state legislature) and Joe Dunn, are both significantly to the right of Nguyen. And both have major money-raising capacity because of their times in the state legislature. Bao needs grassroots support if he's going to be part of the effort to make Congress more progressive. You can contribute to his campaign here.

Bao made his endorsement of Bernie official yesterday as New Hampshire Democrats headed to the polls to elect a real FDR candidate-- and, pointedly, not elect a politics-as-usual conservative Democrat mired in Wall Street filth. "It’s going to take a political revolution in order to move the United States onto a path toward greater income equality, social justice, and universal access to higher education," Bao told his supporters and the local media. "Bernie Sanders has the progressive values and political courage that is needed to take on the status quo, and implement bold new policies that will make a real difference in the lives of middle class families. I am proud to announce my endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President, and I look forward to helping him take on the billionaire-class and shake up the balance of power in Washington."

Today Bao reminded us that although the 2 million smallest donors nationwide have contributed over $150 million so far during this election cycle, just 100 multimillionaires and billionaires have given $195 million so far to the Establishment candidates. Four of the top 6 billionaires who have given so far this year have been funneling millions of dollars into Ted Cruz SuperPACs. Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio aren't far behind. Like Bernie, Bao depends on small donors. And he's on an ActBlue page with Bernie and the congressional candidates who have endorsed Bernie. You can access it-- and I hope you will-- by tapping on the thermometer below. From what I can tell, Bao is likely to be the most progressive Member of Congress and will give Wisconsin's Mark Pocan a run for his money for that position in the new Congress-- along with Primila Jayapal (WA) and Zephyr Teachout (both of whom are also on that page. These are the candidates that represent the future of a progressive-- rather than a corporatist, conservative and corrupt-- Democratic Party. Bao:


Bernie and I are committed to political revolution: A revolution to provide universal access to free public college education; greater income equality; a recognition that we have to radically change the way we treat the environment and develop natural resources.

Like Bernie Sanders, I am passionately committed to social justice issues. Together, we will establish full and equal rights for women and LGBT people, comprehensive immigration reform, universal healthcare, and a minimum wage that guarantees our nation’s workers won’t live in poverty.

I’m committed to ending the power of the billionaire class.

My campaign, like Bernie’s campaign, is an insurgency. I’m up against two entrenched political players who are long time members of the political establishment. They have served the state well, but now it is time for a new generation of leadership. I’m a candidate for the future not for the status quo.

I am committed to working with Bernie Sanders to bring about a nation that recognizes the worth of all Americans, sees strength in compassion, and value in equality and justice.
You can contribute to Bao's campaign by clicking on the thermometer:
Goal Thermometer

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Last Night's Final New Hampshire Results-- And Bye-Bye Fiorina

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In New Hampshire yesterday Herr Trumpf brought out more voters to the Republican primary-- both to vote for him (35.3%) and to vote against him (64.7%)-- than had ever voted in a New Hampshire Republican primary in before (almost as many as the Democrats' record turnout in 2008). And Democratic turnout Tuesday-- primarily for Bernie obviously-- was also much higher than expected. In 2008, the record-holder 'til yesterday, 287,542 Democrats voted and 238,979 Republicans voted. Hillary beat Obama that night:
 Hillary- 112,404 (39.1%)
 Obama- 104,815 (36.5%)
 Edwards- 48,699 (16.9%)
And McCain, who, unlike Hillary, went on to win his party's nomination, beat Romney that year:
 McCain 88,571 (37.1%)
 Romney 75,546 (31.6%)
 Huckabee 26,859 (11.2%)
This time 246,815 Democrats and 278,442 Republicans voted in the primary. Bernie won more votes Tuesday than Hillary won in 2008, making him the biggest Democratic primary vote winner in New Hampshire history (as well as the first Jew to ever win a presidential primary there or anywhere else). Not only did Bernie beat Herr Trumpf and John Kasich combined, but even the Democratic loser, Hillary Clinton, almost tied the Republican winner! This is how the votes broke down:
Bernie- 151,573 (60.4%)
Hillary- 95,242- (38.0%)
And because the Democratic Establishment has instituted an anti-democratic mechanism to keep control for itself-- unelected super-delegates-- Clinton walks away with 15 delegates and Bernie gets 15, even though he led by 22.3%. Yes, the party that pretends to care about voting rights! Between the 8pm and midnight, Bernie grassroots donors contributed just over $2.5 million to his campaign. (You can add to that here.) And in her concession speech last night Hillary-- who won two demographic groups, people over 65 years old and people making over $200,000-- pretended that she stands for the same agenda Bernie does. "Senator Sanders and I," she said, "both want to get secret, unaccountable money out of politics." Really? Who knew? It certainly hasn't been a theme of her campaign, the way it has been of Bernie's. And her campaign is widely funded by multimillionaires, billionaires and special interests (some good and some horrible).



And over on the right:
Herr Trumpf- 100,127 (35.3%)
Kasich- 44,776 (15.8%)
Cruz- 33,105 (11.7%)
Jeb- 31,220 (11.0%)
Rubio- 29,947 (10.6%)
Christie- 21,010 (7.4%)
Fiorina- 11,671 (4.1%)
Dr. Ben- 6,483 (2.3%)
In this video from last night, Bill Maher tells Jimmy Kimmel why he endorsed Bernie and why he thinks Ted Cruz is the worst Republican of the whole mealy lot:



Bill Maher may think Ted Cruz is Satan-- he isn't alone there-- but Ezra Klein made the case for why Herr Trumpf is worse a few hours after the polls closed. And it wasn't just because the politically-correct Ezra was offended by the word "pussy." He wrote, "I'm not here to clutch my pearls over Trump's vulgarity; what was telling, rather, was the immaturity of the moment, the glee Trump took in his 'she-said-it-I-didn't' game. The media, which has grown used to covering Trump as a sideshow, delighted in the moment along with him-- it was funny, and it meant clicks, takes, traffic. But it was more than that. It was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president showing off the demagogue's instinct for amplifying the angriest voice in the mob."
Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash... He's not a joke and he's not a clown. He's a man who could soon be making decisions of war and peace, who would decide which regulations are enforced and which are lifted, who would be responsible for nominating Supreme Court Justices and representing America in the community of nations. This is not political entertainment.

...Behind Trump's success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum-- for Americans to win, others must lose. "We're going to make America great again," he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, "but we're going to do it the old fashioned way. We're going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We're going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It's not going to happen anymore."

Trump answers America's rage with more rage. As the journalist Molly Ball observed, "All the other candidates say 'Americans are angry, and I understand.' Trump says, 'I’M angry.'" Trump doesn't offer solutions so much as he offers villains. His message isn't so much that he'll help you as he'll hurt them.

Trump's other gift-- the one that gets less attention, but is perhaps more important-- is his complete lack of shame. It's easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they're exposed as liars, when they're seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

Trump doesn't. He has the reality television star's ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won't, to say what others can't, to do what others wouldn't.

By the way, the Republicans spent their donors' money like their lives depended on it. So far Fiorina had dropped out and Christie is supposedly negotiating with several campaigns to see who will give him the best deal to drop out and endorse them. Jeb is most likely to absorb his campaign debts, although he admitted he spent a lot of time talking with Herr today. Fiorina's exit from the race is likely to have little impact on anything, except the nerves of people who watch their wretched debates, since her incessant lying was pissing off so many people all the time. Anyway, good riddance; I'm sure the entire nation hopes it will never hear of you again. These figures account for New Hampshire campaign spending and SuperPAC spending:
Jeb- $36 million-- $1,236/vote
Christie- $18.5 million-- $933/vote
Rubio- $15.2 million-- $547/vote
Kasich- $12.1 million-- $289/vote
Herr Trumpf- $3.7 million-- $40/vote
Fiorina- $1.8 million
Cruz- $0.6 million
Hillary spent $121/vote and Bernie spent $58/vote. Funny how the two winners-- Bernie (151,573 votes) and Herr Trumpf (100,127 votes) also spent their campaign money most effectively.


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Bill Clinton, David Brock & the Kitchen Sink

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Everything But The Kitchen Sink Soup (source)

by Gaius Publius

I hope this is wrong. From the middle of this Wash Post piece (emphasis in the original):
-- Did Bill [Clinton] go off the reservation with his attacks on Sanders? Or is he being strategic? We think the latter. Or, as Marco Rubio put it in a different context: Let’s dispel with the fiction that Bill Clinton doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

1. His seemingly off-the-cuff attacks got intense coverage yesterday, enough so that he did not need to repeat the lines of attack and could show restraint. “The hotter this election gets, the more I wish I was just a former president and, just for a few months, not the spouse of the next one,” he said. “I have to be careful what I say.”

2. WJC accomplished his goal of signaling to pro-Clinton outside groups that they should start throwing the kitchen sink. David Brock, whose outside group coordinates directly with the Clinton campaign, called Bill’s comments “a strong call to arms.” As Brock told Politico, “Senator Sanders is trying to live in the purity bubble, and it needs to be burst.”

Last night, when Bill introduced Hillary, he sounded liberated. “Finally, the dam broke in the polarization of the campaign, and we are finally free” to have a discussion of whose ideas are better, he said in Hudson.
I really hope this is just rumor-mongering and pot-stirring by the Post. But I'm not optimistic.

GP
 

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The Most Corrupt And Most Conservative Democrats In Congress Are All Huge Hillary Supporters

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Harry Belafonte, one of the first celebrities to embrace-- and bankroll-- the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, is endorsing Bernie today. I image Hillary's neocon foreign policy agenda makes him sick. Most Military-Industrial Complex Democrats are enthusiastic Hillary supporters, so it's good to see Belafonte step up to the plate and explain what she's always been all about and how detrimental her election would be to the cause of peace. Sure, she's better than the Republicans, but... what a low bar, especiallyin the middle of primary season! Last night, the only income level Clinton won was voters who make $200,000 or more. Sanders won all over income levels below that. What does that tell you about their respective appeals?

Think of the worst Democrats in Congress-- the ones who vote most frequently for the GOP agenda, who want to help dismantle Dodd Frank's financial consumer protections, who want to gut Obamacare, who back the NRA, who are willing to compromise away Social Security and Medicare benefits, who work hand-in-hand with Wall Street's lobbyists... the Blue Dogs and New Dems and conservative garbage who, for one reason or another, wound up on Team Blue, The DINOs-- they're all stumping for self-proclaimed "progressive" Hillary Clinton.



Let's turn to ProgressivePunch, which tracks every single vote in Congress, and look at the lifetime crucial vote scores. Although they all have "F" grades, these are the Members with the 15 worst scores-- in order of horribleness:
Gwen Graham (Blue Dog-FL)- 28.57
Brad Ashford (Blue Dog-NE)- 36.73
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ)- 38.05
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- 39.96
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- 39.98
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)- 43.90
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)- 43.93
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)- 47.99
Raul Ruiz (CA)- 50.79
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)- 50.92
Ann Kirkpatrick (New Dem-AZ)-51.12
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)- 51.54
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)- 51.69
Filemon Vela (New Dem-TX)-54.77
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)- 56.97
Any score less than 70 indicates a virtually worthless Democrat on many issues that are core, values-driven and made contentious by ideological conservatives and reactionaries. The only one of these conservative Democrats who hasn't endorsed Hillary is Arizona conservative Kyrsten Sinema. All the others-- the ones with A+ NRA ratings and the ones who oppose Obamacare and who are undermining Dodd Frank and the EPA-- have endorsed Hillary.


"But good Democrats have endorsed her too," you might counter. That's true; some good Democrats had a lapse in judgement-- for whatever reason-- and endorsed her, but most of the best Democrats in the House have either endorsed Bernie-- Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and KeithEllison (D-MN)-- or have stayed neutral, expressing support for both candidates, like Alan Grayson (D-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Jim McDermott (D-WA). One prominent super-progressive congresswoman, who has endorsed Hillary, put it to me like this, "Look, you know my voting record and you know that it's a lot more like Bernie's. But it's time for a woman president and that's what's motivating me." Yep... that's what she's got going for her: she's a woman... and if she wins the nomination, the other argument will be "she's better than any of the Republicans."

By her ugly, virulent and dishonest attacks on Bernie-- both by her horrible cast of corrupt conservative surrogates and, more (barely) subtly, by herself, she is turning off progressive general election voters. I wonder how many general election votes her husband lost for her this week with his vicious and patently false attacks on Bernie and Bernie's followers.

Clintonian sore losers are whining that Bernie won because Vermont is so close to New Hampshire. That's 100% bullshit, of course-- otherwise Hillary wouldn't have lost Connecticut and Vermont in 2008, which are covered by the media from their huge next door neighbor where she was senator. New Hampshire gets Massachusetts media, not Vermont media. In fact, New Hampshirites say Vermonters are just a bunch of New Yorkers with fake flannel shirts. Bernie won because of his message, which is why he had such a landslide that cut across almost all demographic lines. He won women her supposed raison d'être... and ultimate firewall. Now, let's bring this home for Bernie-- and for the congressional candidates who have endorsed him and are running on his issues. Please tap the thermometer:

Goal Thermometer

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Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Alan Grayson Explains Why He's Supportive Of Both Bernie And Hillary-- But Not Endorsing Either Over The Other

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Yesterday Alan Grayson was interviewed by the Real News Network. You can watch it above and read some of it below. Alan is running for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida that Marco Rubio has abandoned. One of the most right-wing House Democrats, Patrick Murphy-- a "former" Republican with a very rich and very crooked Republican pappy who pays for his campaigns-- is running against Alan on behalf of Wall Street. The banksters have given Murphy more money than any other candidate for Senate who isn't already in the Senate-- a lot more. Getting Murphy into the Senate is the #1 priority of the Wall Street banksters-- and the Finance sector has kicked in $838,500 so far. Alan actually needs support from grassroots progressives or he's going to get buried in an avalanche of poisonous TV and radio ads from Murphy and Chuck Schumer, Murphy's puppeteer. You can contribute to Grayson's campaign here.


JESSICA DESVARIEUX: So we have to just get into Iowa, before we start talking about policy. It was basically a photo finish between Senator Sanders and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And I have to ask you, who are you endorsing?

ALAN GRAYSON: I haven't endorsed either one of them. I'm running for the Senate in Florida. I have to be able and willing to work with either of them, depending upon who gets the nomination. I've said--there are important things that need to be said about both of them. With regard to Secretary Clinton, I've said that she's a very well-qualified candidate. One of the best-qualified candidates of my entire life. She's been in the Senate, she's been in the cabinet. And I think it makes a difference for the country to have a woman as president of the United States.

With regards to Bernie Sanders, on MSNBC recently I called him a national treasure. He's been right on every issue now for 20 years or more. And that certainly has to count for something, as well.

DESVARIEUX: But I want to push back on her being qualified, because some folks will say, yes, her resume, you know, is certainly there. But what she stands for is not necessarily progressive and in line with what you advocate for. I mean, you have talked about a $15 minimum wage. You and Bernie Sanders are both members of the Progressive Caucus. When Secretary Clinton was Senator Clinton, she was not a member of the Progressive Caucus. So why wouldn't you support Senator Sanders instead?

GRAYSON: Well, to be fair to Senator Clinton, first of all on social issues I think that her experience and her record is unblemished.

DESVARIEUX: Unblemished?

GRAYSON: Unblemished. I can't think of any occasion when she's been on the wrong side of a social issue. Obviously she's pro-choice. And I could go on from there. And I think she's been a powerful champion of equal rights for women and minorities for a generation.

With regard to economic issues, I see your point. I agree with you, there is a difference between a $12 minimum wage, which is what she supports, and a $15 an hour minimum wage, which is what Bernie Sanders supports, so I'll concede the point there. And I also feel, in an area that you didn't mention, that I've been somewhat concerned about some of the foreign policy.

DESVARIEUX: What in particular?

GRAYSON: I have to--well, in particular the fact that unlike Joe Biden, for instance, Secretary Clinton never spoke out in favor of ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq any earlier.

DESVARIEUX: And she voted for the Iraq war.

GRAYSON: She voted for the Iraq war. So all of that is true, I can't argue with you there.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. What about her stance on the TPP? Her, as Secretary of State, she really helped bring it together. She's now against it. But now we have the president of the chamber of commerce, Tom Donohue, saying that if she's elected she's going to support the TPP. And you're very much against the TPP. So what about that?

GRAYSON: I don't know why he's saying that. I don't know what would make him think that. Frankly, it sounds like it might be sabotage.

DESVARIEUX: You don't know-- I mean, in terms of her, the interests behind her, Wall Street being behind her, corporations being behind her, supporting her candidacy? There's no link there?



GRAYSON: I think Bernie's done a magnificent job of lighting up the grassroots. I can't remember anybody else in my lifetime at this stage in the presidential cycle who could boast that he had over 3 million contributions from virtually everybody who regards themself as a progressive. There's no question that his money base for this campaign is, in some respects, healthier than hers.

DESVARIEUX: Yes. And when you say healthier, what do you mean by that?

GRAYSON: What I mean is it's more reflective of the grassroots. And it's more reflective, frankly, of people who want nothing in return for their support except for good government. When somebody gives $100,000 or $1 million to a super PAC, there's a good chance that they want something in return for that.

DESVARIEUX: Or a speaking fee, for $400,000. Goldman Sachs.

GRAYSON: Again, I see those kinds of quid pro quos in this building from time to time. And I have enormous respect and admiration for Bernie to be able to do something similar to what Barack Obama did eight years ago, except taking it to the next level. Barack Obama never actually said to large donors, I don't want your money. Bernie is coming very close to doing that, and I think that's a very healthy thing for our democracy. Bernie does not spend his time on fundraising, he spends his time on legislating.

And frankly, the same thing is true of me. I've got the fifth-largest donor base of the Democratic party. Over 100,000 people have come to our website, SenatorWithGuts.com, and made a contribution at the website. And that gives me the same liberty that Bernie has had over the years to be right on the issues and be a champion for ordinary folks, and try to preserve the middle class. So Bernie gets high marks from me in that regard, for having run his campaign in an exceedingly clean manner.

DESVARIEUX: But you still won't endorse him.

GRAYSON: Well, I mean, look at it from my point of view, okay. My point of view is that if it turns out that Hillary's on the ticket, and I'm on the ticket in November in Florida, I don't want anybody to say that we're working at cross-purposes with each other. I mean, obviously, obviously, my progressive track record on legislation is closer to Bernie's than it is to Hillary's when she was in the Senate, obviously. But I have to make sure that I don't undermine either candidate if they're going to be on the ticket in November.

DESVARIEUX: So you, when do you think you'll make your endorsement?

GRAYSON: I think--you know, I want to consult with our grassroots. I'm going to see what people have to say about that. I'm going to get more input from people who actually represent the progressive movement, and see what they have to say.

And by the way, I don't want it to sound like Bernie has all of the grassroots and Hillary doesn't. That's not how I see it. I think Bernie has a substantial majority of the grassroots.

DESVARIEUX: What portion of the grassroots do you see Hillary having?

GRAYSON: I don't know, I can't quantify it for you. But there are plenty of, shall we say, the people who actually register the voters, the people who knock on the doors, the people who make the phone calls, there are plenty of people who support Hillary. You can see that from the polls. I mean, the polls still show Hillary ahead nationwide, even though in New Hampshire Bernie is well, well ahead.

DESVARIEUX: Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Today's a huge day in the step of making it a reality, the TPP. A lot of folks know, we've talked about it here on the program. Folks can go watch episodes of the TPP that we've discussed here at the Real News. You are very much against the TPP. Now we're seeing it being signed by Pacific Rim countries today. What is your reaction?

GRAYSON: It's a disaster for the American middle class. If we do nothing you can kiss this country goodbye. We're already $11 trillion in debt to foreign countries. That's almost $40,000 for every man, woman, and child in this country. What if they came to you tomorrow and said, we want our $40,000 back? What would you do? Most Americans would be horrified by that, but that is the condition we're already in. We're already there. And the TPP takes that bad status quo and makes it that much worse.

DESVARIEUX: And how?

GRAYSON: By, by accelerating the export of jobs out of the United States. You know, it's not really free trade anymore, it's fake trade. What's happening is that we are buying the goods and services produced by foreign workers. But they're not buying an equal amount of goods and services from America. Instead they're lending us the money, we're borrowing the money, and that drives us deeper and deeper into debt, over $1 billion every single day. Every day we're another billion dollars into debt to foreigners.

If we had no trade deficit, that would be a different story. But the TPP would actually make our trade deficit that much worse. It certainly doesn't help to solve the problem. We need to be running trade surpluses, not trade deficits. The world is running a con game on America. And that con game is thank you very much, America, your purchasing power and your willingness to drive yourself into debt is putting tens of millions of foreign workers to work, and to hell with the American worker.

DESVARIEUX: And you say the world. I mean, let's name them. We're talking multinational corporations, really.

GRAYSON: Yes, of course. I mean, very little trade is done by mom and pop shops. Exactly right. It's multinational corporations that are doing this, driving us deeper and deeper into debt. And the endgame is very simple, it's cheap labor. It's debt slavery. And it's national bankruptcy. That's where we're actually heading, unless we get off the fast track to hell called TPP.

DESVARIEUX: Do you--you mentioned, you see how this building works, the Capitol works. The TPP having so much support from multinational corporation lobbyists. Where do you see this going, now?


GRAYSON: Well, the people have to rise up. Why are they signing this in New Zealand? They're signing this in New Zealand because they're desperate to avoid any sort of attention in the American media. You're one of the few people who actually knows about this. I did a Google search about this earlier today and I came up with only foreign news coverage. Only in other countries are they paying attention to the fact that it's now a signed, done deal, and it's going to be foisted on Congress and the American people.

So what we have to do is basically rise up. When we were dealing with the fast track legislation last year I was able to get thousands of people to call Capitol Hill who had signed up at our website, TradeTreachery.com, for our emails. Thousands of people called Capitol Hill and gave their elected officials two cents on how they didn't want to see this country driven into bankruptcy. Just recently, a couple of months ago--actually, less than that. Barely a month ago, when they were soliciting comments on TPP, we informed people of the comment period and we quadrupled the number of public comments that were submitted in 24 hours.

So if people want to learn about this they can come to my website, TradeTreachery.com. There's a nine-minute video there that 1.4 million people have seen on Facebook already. And they can sign up to help. And by help I mean organize, organize, organize. Submit public comments, call your representative, be involved, and engage. Because that's exactly what the multinational corporations are afraid of, the fact that people might actually be informed of this issue and fight back.

DESVARIEUX: And you know, you're hearing a lot--I don't know if you're hearing this. But in terms of the news coverage around the TPP, folks are saying it's not going to come up this year, because it's an election year. So that might be another reason why there might be not as much coverage on this, because it's sort of in the distant future. But you don't see it this way at all. Could this possibly come up this year?

GRAYSON: Well, thanks to the fast track legislation the president can force a vote on it before the end of the year. What's happened is McConnell has told him he doesn't want to see it before the election. But between the election and January 3rd is the lame duck session. And if the president lines it up properly, given the fast track legislation, the president can force a vote on this.

Now, I don't know if he really wants to do that, because he may very well lose. Last year during the president's State of the Union address when he talked about this, these trade giveaways, it was the only time during the speech the Republicans got up and cheered, and Democrats stayed utterly silent. You could hear a pin drop on our side of the room. This year, when he talked about it, he lost the Republicans as well. The only people who stood up and applauded him were his own cabinet. You can go to the tape and you can check that out. It was really shocking to see even the Republicans abandoning the president on these giveaways to multinational corporations.

So he brings it up now with every Democrat, and also every Republican other than John Kasich, who is a Republican candidate for president, going against this. It should go down to defeat. You can bet that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, these are all people who are going to understand that it's a device for them, politically, to be able to work against the president, and to be able to supposedly stand up for the working man. Although that's a farce when you're talking about any of the three of them, particularly the one whose catch phrase is “You're fired.”

But in any event, I think that given the fact that all of the three primary Republican candidates, plus the two Democratic candidates for president that remain in the race, all of them are now against TPP, makes it politically impossible to bring it up before the lame duck session.

DESVARIEUX: Well, we're certainly going to be following what happens in New Hampshire this weekend. We should tell our viewers that we are going to be out there in New Hampshire. So please, be sure to check in our coverage. Congressman Grayson, thank you so much for being with us.

GRAYSON: Thank you very much. I think what we're seeing here this year more than anything is an opening toward the progressive spirit. It's not so much a function of people, Bernie himself would tell you that. Notice that their catch phrase is “Not me, us.” What we're seeing here for the first time in a long time is an openness to the idea that we're all in this together, and we can make America a paradise if we simply work together and improve the lives of the people in the middle and at the bottom rather than simply trying to appease and placate the people at the top.
There are many a very clear differences between Grayson and Murphy. Murphy was found to be one of the least effective Members of Congress, and is widely considered a mediocre dolt, and Grayson, widely considered one of the most brilliant Members of Congress, was found to be the most effective. That's got to be something.
Goal Thermometer

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