Friday, September 22, 2017

For Dayna Steele's Campaign, As For All Houston Hurricane Harvey Was A Serious Interruption


Most people in the Houston area know Dayna Steele, former KLOL radio host, as "the First Lady of Rock'n'Roll." The first time they heard every great song and every great band-- from U2 , Nirvana, Joan Jett and The Police to Van Halen, Heart and Bon Jovi-- that jolted their lives-- in a way few politicians ever can-- it was intimately, just them, their radio... and Dayna. Otherwise her latest endeavor-- taking on right-wing kook Brian Babin in a beet-red district-- would seem... quixotic. TX-36 went for Trump over Hillary 72% to 25%. The PVI is R+26. No Democrat has ever won an R+26 district before. With not even a nod in her direction from the DCCC, Dayna is starting the process of making history. Or, rather, she was starting that process when Harvey intruded on her life and on the lives of the people in her district. TX-36 was one of the hardest hit districts from this hurricane, ironic when you consider that Babin is a lunatic fringe and very aggressive Climate Science denier. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Dayna turned her congressional campaign into a relief and resources team. She's been working to help her neighbors ever since. Now it is our turn to lend a hand to Dayna. You can donate to her campaign to unseat Republican Brian Babin here.

We asked Dayna to write another guest post-- her first for us was here-- about the impact of the hurricane on her, her campaign and the folks in Houston-- and what can be learned from that.

A Plan
-by Dayna Steele,
candidate for Congress (TX-36)

A reporter for International Business Times asked me the other day what I thought of the federal government response to Hurricane Harvey. I really had to stop and think a minute. My answer? I don’t really recall seeing anyone from the federal government except for the one time I had to drive my campaign truck to a local grocery store and rescue two dogs, one very unhappy crated cat, and a lovely woman who had just escaped three feet of water in her house. Come to think of it, it was not the federal government that was there helping. It was the Texas-based grocery chain H.E.B. and the National Guard called up by Texas-- that the federal government took credit for when saying they sent “over 6,000 troops.” No, they did not. They sent about 1000 and we supplied the national guard.

What I did see were hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and neighbors in their own boats, using jet skis and kayaks, pool floats, and large coolers saving friends, family, strangers, and animals. What I did see was the immediate use of social media, including Team Dayna, working to identify people who needed to be saved-- immediately. While the federal government and FEMA were coming up with a plan, we were already working around the clock all over the area saving thousands and setting up make-shift shelters.

So, the question I’m getting now from reporters and followers? What would you have done differently? What will you do differently when you are elected to Congress?

I would act to insure there is a plan.

After we evacuated for Hurricane Rita in 2005, though it turned out to be a false alarm for our area, it was a wakeup call for what we needed as a family for a hurricane plan. During the ten hours it took us to drive to San Antonio, Texas (normally a three-hour drive), I took notes-- everything I wish we had, the things family members wished they had brought with them and not left behind for destruction: a favorite stuffed animal, the family recipe book, and more. I also made notes of the things we should have done before we left: turn off the breakers, bring the outdoor furniture inside, check the generator weeks before, fill the gas cans, and more there as well.

Overtime, I added to this list. When Mom went into assisted living for Alzheimer’s, she was added to the list as another responsibility: who would pick her up, when, what did she need.

As we fostered and adopted two dogs (foster fails) and a cat and eventually Mom’s rescue Chihuahua, they had to be added to the plan too-- crates, leashes, food, and food bowls.

The family hurricane plan became this: check and evaluate everything when hurricane season begins on June 1. If anything changes in our lives, add that to the plan-- a son moves to college, we gain another animal (I promised no, but you know things happen...), we add something outside, we add something valuable inside, etc. Mom has since passed away but I keep her on the list-- I just can’t hit that delete button. That, and I share the list with so many who are taking care of aging relatives.

When we got the call to evacuate for Hurricane Ike in 2008, our plan kicked into action and, for the most part, worked. That’s the thing about a plan, you should constantly evaluate and update a plan for it to work.

You get the point. We have a plan.

What I saw with Harvey were no plans. Attending a meeting at the local city hall as nearby homes were flooding, I saw eight people sitting around a table arguing their plan. Why wasn’t there one in place to begin with? We are surrounded by lakes and Galveston Bay. Odds are, we were going to have bad flood at some point. We saw it during Ike.

We live on the Texas Gulf Coast. Climate change-- global warming to call it what it really is and leave the Republican framing behind-- is real, it is happening, scientists have been warning us for years this could happen and would. It did. And there was no plan.

The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas had emergency generators in case of a plant failure to keep the plant, and surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. neighbors/people) from exploding. The generators were on the ground and not twelve feet up because, well you know, that would cost money and would have cut into profits so the Republican Congress removed regulations otherwise known as protections for people. Now instead we have first responders with health issues because of the chemicals released from that plant. There was not a plan.

A picture of residents of a local nursing home started to circulate almost immediately on Facebook during Hurricane Harvey and the rains in the Houston area. These elderly people were shown sitting on couches and in their wheelchairs as the water rose around them. There was no plan in case of a catastrophic emergency. Volunteers took matters into their own hands, shared the horrifying image on Facebook, and strangers went into action, saving all the residents.

Then the water receded and we were faced with thousands of homes that needed to be mucked out. While officials including the incumbent I am running against had meetings to come up with a plan, volunteers sprang into action sharing information online, created Google docs, posting where help was needed and organizing work crews and supplies. The Texas Muck Map is a work of genius-- put together entirely by volunteers while the government was still organizing a plan.

The list of government agencies and businesses without a plan goes on and on and will be the stories/arguments you hear for years. Instead of arguing and pointing fingers, just take this as a lesson and come up with a plan moving forward. For your family, your business, your neighborhood, your community, your district, your state, your county. You know what you are in charge of, so be in charge.

Plans take time and cost money to implement. However, plans save time and money later as well as save lives.

We should not have to pass laws to get people to do the right thing but if that is what it takes, that is what I will do. I will demand a plan. A plan that puts priorities where they should be-- with and for we the people.

Labels: , , ,

DCCC Loses One Of Their Candidates Already


Erin Cole, the DCCC choice to run against western New York state Trumpist, Chris Collins, withdrew from the race Monday. The DCCC flavor of the cycle is women army veterans, which Cole was, so Ben Ray Lujan and his DC crew of imbeciles probably need a hug this week. NY-27 is a hellish district stretching from the suburbs east of Buffalo to the suburbs west and south of Rochester. Last year the PVI was R+8 (easily the worst in the state)and it's even worse this year-- R+11!). Obama lost both times and last year Señor Trumpanzee beat Hillary 59.7% to 35.2%, the only district in the state where she failed to break 40%.

Collins' Democratic opponent last year, Diana Kastenbaum, was ignored by the DCCC and only managed 107,832 votes (32.8%) against Collins' 220,885 (67.2%). He spent $582,459 and she didn't raise the $5,000 that would have required an FEC report. Cole was the only declared candidate this cycle.
Cole didn't return a phone call seeking comment. Other Democratic sources said was she frustrated with fundraising and other challenges that often trouble first-time political candidates.

"What I'm gathering is that jumping in the deep end can be difficult for first-time candidates, and she just concluded that the race was not for her," said Judith Hunter, the Livingston County Democratic chair who also chairs  Turn 27 Blue, a coalition of county Democratic leaders and progressive activists who've come together to try to defeat Collins, a Clarence Republican.

...While Cole's departure from the race might surprise those outside Democratic circles, she was by no means guaranteed to get the party's nomination to challenge Collins.

East Aurora resident Sean Bunny, an Erie County assistant district attorney, is also considering a race against Collins, as are other Democrats, said Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner.

"We've always believed there would be multiple candidates taking the temperature of the electorate out there," Zellner said.
A political operative who has worked in the district frequently told me that the DCCC (and EMILY's List) puts unrealistic fundraising goals on candidates and then constantly beats up candidates to reach them, leaving them virtually no time for messaging or any kind of grassroots campaign. "The DCCC has been a mess for a decade but it's gotten much worse with the really weak and chairman Pelosi put in for last cycle and this. He's a boob and lets a pretty lame staff run the show... [Most] candidates hate them with a passion... Cole is probably celebrating getting away from them." He suggested I take a look at a race right across the country-- in Tucson, Arizona, where the DCCC has recruited a very conservative carpetbagger, New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick, who is making a mess of a very winnable race. "She's a waste of time but they moved her down south and the Democrats in the area are laughing at her and at them."

He told me about the AZ-02 Democratic candidates forum in Sierra Vista at Cochise College in the reddest part of the district, Cochise county on the Mexican border. Kirkpatrick opened her remarks by thanking "Coconino Community College" for hosting the event. Coconino County (Flagstaff) is where she lived until a few weeks ago when the DCCC moved her down to Tucson to run against Martha McSally. It was the first forum in her new district and her idiotic flub occurred within 30 seconds of her opening her mouth. One of the other candidates should start bringing a map of the district to future debates/forums in case she requires a reference.

"Two of the other Dems on the stage, Mary and Bruce," he told me, "swiveled their heads around so fast they could have incurred whiplash injuries! The Cochise College students said it all... they seemed really upset... The internal polling I've seen from one of the campaigns has Matt Heinz leading her in the primary anyway. People see her as an interloper from outside sent by the DCCC which hasn't helped them in the past... Democrats polled were not happy that she opposed the Assault weapons ban and that she ducked the vote on Dream Act in 2010 and wouldn't publicly oppose SB1070. And that don't like that she opposed EPA clean energy standards, always sides with Wall Street in opposing consumer financial protections and supports destruction of sacred tribal land to benefit foreign mining interests. She'll lose but the DCCC will pour resources into her anyway; it's what they do."

"The DCCC," he said, "kept pestering Cole to raise $350,000 each quarter and that's next to impossible for a Democrat in that district unless you want to flat out sell yourself to Wall Street, which is exactly what party leaders expect 'their' candidates to do-- and willingly, with a smile on their faces. Kirkpatrick is comfortable doing they. It's what she's done for her whole career. But it doesn't endear candidates to the base. She was bitter because even if she raised the $350,000 she said the DCCC wouldn't guarantee her any financial support anyway."

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Why Centrism Absolutely Sucks


You probably didn't hear Ann Coulter ranting and raving on Howie Carr's Hate Talk radio show Wednesday. She still trusts in what she calls Trumpism... but not so much in Señor Trumpanzee. She still wants to see him impeached. "If we're not gettin' a wall, we may as well have an attractive, dignified Republican there. We'll get better Supreme Court justices under Pence. We'll get better Supreme Court justices under Pence; we won't have to worry about Nikki Haley being sent to the Supreme Court at least."

The new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that "only a third of the public believes Trump has accomplished much as president, and fewer than 30 percent back his handling of health care, race relations and the violent episode in Charlottesville." The only thing the public likes about his tenure in office so far-- by an overwhelming 71% to 8% margin-- was his outreach to Chuck and Nancy on government funding. On everything else-- from North Korea and Climate Change to Joe Arpaio, healthcare and race relations, the public is giving a big collective thumbs down.

Respondents liked the top congressional leaders even less than Trump! In order of approval (First number is approval and the second is disapproval):
Pelosi- 25%/43%
Ryan- 24%/40%
Schumer- 18%/27%
McConnell- 11%/41%
Goal Thermometer"[W]hat stands out about McConnell and Ryan is that a sizable number of Republicans now view these GOP leaders unfavorably." Now. keep in mind that neither McConnell nor Schumer are up for reelection in 2018. Pelosi and Ryan are. Although Pelosi has a vigorous primary challenge from Berniecrat, Stephen Jaffe, her district has an unassailable D+37 PVI. Ryan, on the other hand, is in real danger-- mortal jeopardy. His reelect numbers in his own district are in the low 40s; he has a Trumpist nut challenging him on the right and, for the general election, Randy Bryce is taking away most of his independent voter support with a clear and authentic-- meaning non-DCCC-- message that goes right to what working families are thinking about. Head to head match-ups in the district show Randy and Ryan statistically tied and Randy pulling significantly ahead when voters hear a few lines of candidate bios. Ryan's district has a PVI of R+5, not easy to overcome, but doable in a wave election and doable with the exceptional attention the race is drawing because of two super-high profile candidates. (That's the Stop Paul Ryan ActBlue thermometer on the right. Consider giving it a tap and contributing what you can to Randy Bryce's campaign.)

That all said, Reid Wilson had an interesting OpEd at The Hill Wednesday-- Fury fuels the modern political climate in US. "Americans," he began "are angry about everything."
Last November, voters faced a choice between the two least-popular major-party presidential nominees ever to appear on a ballot.

Trump, the surprise winner, took over a capital as deeply divided as the country it ostensibly serves. One legislative chamber is controlled by a small cadre of the majority’s leadership, who are in turn at the mercy of a rump faction of arch ideologues. The other is torn by partisan discord that has escalated measurably for nearly 50 years, to the point of dysfunction.

After a decade of economic and cultural tumult, one in which our trust in civic institutions has fallen to all-time lows, the degradation of the nation’s political system has left American government at a crossroads. Congress is at a standstill. The two major political parties are both dealing with identity crises.

The chasms that have emerged in the wake of partisan gamesmanship and a vastly uneven economic evolution-- even before a more uneven recovery-- have become a feature of American life, not a bug.

“Our system is set up for cooperation, negotiation, those sorts of things,” said Rob Griffin, a demographer at the Center for American Progress and George Washington University. “Our system is uniquely unsuited to deal with polarization.”

...The partisan fever created by two almost evenly divided factions vying for power, and the logjam in government, show few signs of breaking without some sort of nationally unifying catastrophe.

The polarization of our politics and the wider loss of trust in cultural institutions comes amid a collective struggle to sort out the next steps in the American experiment, the stalemate among our leaders to chart a future course.

To begin, the issues at the heart of both the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s campaign touched on the very questions of what it means to be an American.

The economic evolution that has sent manufacturing and extracting industries plunging while service and technology jobs surge has challenged the preconceptions of a generation of Americans accustomed to seeing an assembly line job as a path to middle-class success.

The influx of immigrants seeking a better life within our borders is speeding a demographic change already well underway due to natural growth in minority communities.

And the small towns that once defined Middle America are dying as big metropolitan areas outpace them in job creation and cultural dominance.

“The things that we’re fighting about are fundamentally different visions of what America is,” said Lee Drutman, a political scientist at New America. “There’s never been a democracy as diverse or unequal as the United States.”

Blame lies, too, with the leaders sent to Washington. Politicians, like anyone, are driven by incentives, and in a moment of hyperpartisanship the overwhelming incentive is to demonize the other side-- as Trump has with immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally, or to a lesser extent as Clinton did with her “basket of deplorables” remark.

More broadly, that demonization has set communities against each other: Rural residents resent the elitism of urban cores. Race relations between whites, blacks and Hispanic-Americans are degrading: About 60 percent of minorities say race relations are generally bad, according to a Pew Research Center poll released last year, and another Pew poll showed 43 percent of whites and an incredible 74 percent of blacks fear race relations will get worse. About 6 in 10 Republicans and Democrats say they fear the other party’s agenda, a four-fold increase since the mid-1990s.

“Concerns about the other tend to be more prevalent than before, but what that other is isn’t clear,” said Emily Ekins, director of polling at the Cato Institute.

Some blame the media for playing up conflict and increasing divisions in the country. Arguably, no industry has undergone a longer and more sustained disruption than the communications industry.

Decades ago, Americans consumed the vast majority of their news from one of a small handful of sources, concentrated in the nation’s largest cities. Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America, and even robust local newspapers consumed Associated Press content or raced to match the New York Times.

Today, the rise of partisan media outlets has supplemented conservative talk radio and in turn has been supplemented by the internet’s ability to spread dubious news.

“You have basically the information network that stitched America together now cracking apart,” said Laura Quinn, a Democratic data analytics expert.

“We don’t even start from the same set of facts anymore,” said Billy Piper, a Republican lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

In a political system with a bias toward slowing progress, most observers see three potential paths ahead, two of which are unlikely and a third that is unpalatable: a radical change to existing rules, the rise of a third party or a continuation of the intractable morass of the status quo.

...“The anger that comes with being presented with those two extreme choices has led to the gridlock and paralysis and political failure,” Quinn said. “Donald Trump’s narrative is simply: America is in a zero-sum game. Pick your tribe and arm yourself. And if his narrative wins, that’s the future that we all have to look forward to.”
Wilson's positions are those of a dyed-in-the-wool Beltway centrist, so his little-of-this-little-of-that/both sides perspective is what informs his writing and the way he sees politics. He will always equate the failure on the right-- Nazis, fascists, Trumpists-- with a desire to see an equally extreme left, something that doesn't exist. A real world equivalent of the far right of the Republican Party would be nothing like the vision Bernie Sanders and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A significant-- now dominant-- strain of the Republican Party, neo-fascism, has nothing "balancing" it inside the Democratic Party with which to draw any equivalence except false equivalence. There is no opposite faction inside the Democratic Party-- not even close. The furthest left members of Congress, say Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Barbara Lee and Jamie Raskin, are all firmly within the mainstream of American politics-- straight out of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt vision of U.S. governance. Now compare that with someone like Roy Moore, who is about to be nominated by the GOP for an Alabama Senate seat. Or sociopaths like Steve King (R-IA), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Lamar Smith (R-TX) or Louie Gohmert (R-TX) or anyone else from the profoundly anti-democratic Steve Bannon wing of the GOP. A by-product of Trumpism is that GOP centrists like Dean Heller no longer have a natural constituency within the GOP. Centrists like Wilson don't want to understand that, don't want to understand that with every fiber of their beings. It kills the whole shitty narrative they live their lives by. After all, their stinking vision of a happy centrist politics created Paul Ryan out of a gym instructor and former Weinermobile driver.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Midnight Meme Of The Day!


-by Noah

I love this portrait of Lord Tiny Hands. The artist has really captured the internal and external grotesqueness of the man. You can also actually look at him and smell the stench. So can the little rodents at his fat ass and feet. Nice outie, too. I wonder if it's caused by some alien demon trying to escape. I suppose, though, that it's just an outie. Either way, I bet Putin is very fond of it.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Is The Kremlin Working To Turn Out An Audience For Trump And Strange In Alabama This Week?


Friday or Saturday (depending on if you're paying attention to Trumpanzee's tweets or to Luther Strange's campaign announcements], Trumpanzee is traipsing off to Huntsville to campaign for appointed incumbent Republican Senator Luther Strange, who is currently running several points behind far right psychopath Roy Moore (Bannon's candidate). Tuesday is the Republican primary runoff. Moore led in the first round and the 3rd place candidate, Mo Brooks, endorsed Moore last week.

Tuesday, Breitbart reported that the White House political department is flipping out in the fear that Trump won't draw a big enough crowd to satisfy his ego (and that he'll fire someone-- as he did after the debacle in Phoenix, where Bernie drew 4 times as many people as he did).

They already took down the size of the venue, from the Madison City Stadium, where Trump last stopped in Huntsville to the Von Braun Center's Propst Arena, which only holds 9,000 people. [Bretibart's reporting, as usual, is screwy on this since the Madison City Stadium is actually the slightly smaller venue.] The poorly-written report claims that "White House aides" told then that "they were worried about turning out a large crowd size for Trump, given they know the president has already given his endorsement and that he and the Vice President Mike Pence are campaigning for the establishment candidate against the presumed anti-establishment candidate."].
“It doesn’t look good to have them [Trump and Pence] stumping for the guy who is going to lose,” one White House official said.

Pence is slated to campaign in Birmingham on Monday for Strange.

Another, who wished not to be quoted, told Breitbart News that many people in the White House are concerned that Trump will be unimpressed with crowd size because Alabamians do not think highly of Strange given his lobbyist history.

“We have concerns that there may not be a high amount of turnout at the rallies for Strange and we are concerned that some of those that may show up may be there to shout pro-Roy Moore slogans–or that they just want to see the president and vice president but still plan to vote for Roy Moore,” a third White House aide told Breitbart News. “Translating this into votes for Luther Strange is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.”

After the February 2016 rally in nearby Madison, Trump told attendees the crowd was upwards of 30,000.

What they forgot to mention is that Trump is a congenital liar and that the Madison City Stadium only holds 7,000 people, not 30,000. But Trump demands that all sycophants around him accept his alternative reality as fact. Breitbart did report that "Law enforcement the day after that event put the figure much lower. Maj. Jim Cooke of the Madison Police Department told at the time the estimate was between 12,000-15,000 people in attendance, which is still significantly higher than the Von Braun Center’s capacity," more than double the capacity. There is some speculation that the Trump team has been frantically moving the date of the rally so as not to have to compete with football games which are very popular, as opposed to Trump's stale shtik, which no one is that interested in hearing any longer.

Still, the obvious way to go to solve this problem would be for the White House to go back to campaign mode when they had Russians manipulating Facebook to turn out audiences for Trump rallies-- a long way from when Trump was actually paying actors to pretend to be audience members.

The Kremlin-paid propagandists turned out audiences for Trump for about a dozen rallies in Florida during the campaign (which is illegal since foreign governments aren't allowed to give candidates in U.S. elections anything of value, even though defining a Trump fan as "something of value" might not hold up in a court of law).
The Aug. 20, 2016, events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!” and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state. It’s difficult to determine how many of those locations actually witnessed any turnout, in part because Facebook’s recent deletion of hundreds of Russian accounts hid much of the evidence. But videos and photos from two of the locations-- Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs-- were reposted to a Facebook page run by the local Trump campaign chair, where they remain to this day.

“On August 20, we want to gather patriots on the streets of Floridian towns and cities and march to unite America and support Donald Trump!” read the Facebook event page for the demonstrations. “Our flash mob will occur in several places at the same time; more details about locations will be added later. Go Donald!”

The Florida flash mob was one of at least four pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton demonstrations conceived and organized over a Facebook page called “Being Patriotic,” and a related Twitter account called “march_for_trump.”  (The Daily Beast identified the accounts in a software-assisted review of politically themed social-media profiles.)

Being Patriotic had 200,000 followers and the strongest activist bent of any of the suspected Russian Facebook election pages that have so far emerged. Events promoted by the page last year included a July “Down With Hillary!” protest outside Clinton’s New York campaign headquarters, a September 11 pro-Trump demonstration in Manhattan, simultaneous “Miners for Trump” demonstrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in October, and a pro-Trump rally outside Trump Tower last November, after his election victory.

The Being Patriotic Facebook page was closed in August 2017—right when Facebook purged accounts secretly operated by a notorious St. Petersburg troll factory called Internet Research Agency. According to a public report by U.S. intelligence agencies (PDF), Internet Research Agency is financed by “a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.” Being Patriotic’s posts included scores of pro-Trump or anti-Clinton memes framed and watermarked in the same style as those found on the Heart of Texas and Secured Borders Facebook pages previously identified as Russian operations.

The Being Patriotic Twitter account was suspended at around the same time.

A Facebook spokesman told the Daily Beast the company was “not able to confirm any of the details here,” in response to a question about the Russian origin of Being Patriotic, but did not challenge the Daily Beast’s reporting.

On Sept. 6, Facebook acknowledged for the first time that inauthentic accounts from 2015 to 2017 promoted what the company’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, characterized as “divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum.” But Stamos said that most of the fraudulent activity it found-- some 3,000 ads connected to 470 now-shuttered accounts linked to Russian troll farms-- “didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election, voting, or a particular candidate.”

After the Daily Beast found known Russian accounts that used Facebook’s Events tool to promote rallies inside the United States, the company said that it was not well positioned to determine “if something like coordination occurred” between the Trump campaign and Russia-- something investigators and security researchers doubt because of the social network’s massive trove of information on its customers.

But the discovery of the Being Patriotic rallies suggests that the fraudulent activity on Facebook did indeed involve messaging on behalf of Trump, did prompt at least some Americans to rally on Trump’s behalf, and did result in the Trump campaign volunteers subsequently sharing material from those events.

The pro-Trump events represent “the next level” of suspected Russian influence operations, said Clint Watts, a former FBI agent who has testified about those operations to a Senate committee investigating them.

“This would be a direct effort that they attempted that’s more than online promotion,” Watts told the Daily Beast. “‘Let’s organize and try to get people to move to events in a proactive way around a candidate. Again, if it traces back to Russia, you can’t deny that’s foreign influence in an election.”

The page earned such a large following, a known Macedonian fake news distributor, Nikola Tanevski, purchased this year, but the page is currently dormant. Tanevski runs popular, pro-Trump fake news factories and Attempts to reach Tanevski did not receive a response.

The layers of deception went beyond Facebook posts and manufactured rallies. When it wasn’t organizing events, Being Patriotic encouraged violence against minorities in incendiary posts. “Arrest and shoot every shithead taking part in burning our flag! #BLM vs #USA,” Being Patriotic’s Twitter account posted in April 2016, using the hashtag for the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

The account also advertised a toll-free “Being Patriotic Hotline” to report instances of voter fraud on Election Day.

“Detected a voter fraud? Tell us about it! Call 888-486-8102 or take photo/video and send it to us,” the account wrote on Nov. 8. Being Patriotic’s sister account, @March_for_Trump, plugged the same phone number, as well as a hotline for the “Trump Lawyer Team.” The number is now disconnected.

Not just Stone, Bannon & Palin... even Louie Gohmert is bucking Trump on this

When asked for comment, the White House referred the Daily Beast to the Trump campaign, which, in turn, did not respond to emailed questions. But Susie Wiles, who served as Trump’s campaign manager in Florida, told the Daily Beast that the Broward County portion of the flash mob “was not an official campaign event.”

That’s despite the fact that the event was promoted on “Official Donald J. Trump for President Campaign Facebook Page for Broward County, Florida.” Photos and videos of the demonstration were posted there afterward.

When emailed the link to the Facebook posting, Wiles told the Daily Beast: “There are groups such as this across the state-- and maybe other places, too. Groups of people get together and establish a presence such as this but it is unaffiliated with the campaign, per se. The photos ring no bells with me.”

Wiles also said that the Trump campaign’s purported Broward County Facebook page, which markets itself as being “official,” was not set up by the campaign.

“The Donald Trump campaign did not set these Facebook pages up,” she told the Daily Beast. “Rather, supporters (like the lady registered as the contact) set them up to support the campaign and subsequently the president.”

The “lady” registered as the contact is Dolly Trevino Rump, the Trump campaign’s chairwoman for Broward County who, until this April, was also the secretary of the local Republican Party. The Miami Herald described her as “perhaps Broward’s most famous Donald Trump fan.” Rump did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Beast. Neither did the chairman of the Broward County Republican Party.
I wonder if they checked with Rupert Ditsworth/Tarsey, a major Tumpanzee supporter and Secretary of the Broward County Republican Party. I bet he knows what the Russians were up to. Or maybe Dana Rohrabacher? Matt Taibbi summed this all up earlier today at the Rolling Stone: "So McConnell has sold out to Trump, and Trump has sold out to McConnell, and it's Steve Bannon, who just weeks ago was kicked out of the White House, who is now playing the role of kingmaker in the Republican Party. The spectacle will achieve peak gruesomeness Thursday evening, when Sarah Palin and the also recently ousted Dr. Sebastian Gorka will campaign for Moore in Alabama. The event is sponsored by something called the MAGA Coalition, a new group not officially connected to Trump. (Charles Manson and the ghost of Heinrich Himmler were not available.) Having these two freak shows back-to-back-- Palin-Gorka Thursday, Trump-Strange Friday-- will offer the national media and the Republican electorate a reality-show-style standoff, cartoonizing the new divisions within the party... What a glorious disaster this is, all the way around. McConnell and company disgrace themselves totally by clinging to Trump's ankles. Trump betrays his own constituents and may soon represent the same 'swamp' he campaigned against. If the world is just, they will roast together for all eternity in the same boiling hell-cauldron."


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Want To See Democratic House Leadership Change? Leadership PACs Have A Role To Play


Doug Applegate, Ted Lieu, Randy Bryce

A couple of night ago I went to a LIEU-PAC event in Manhattan Beach with Randy Bryce. LIEU-PAC is Ted Lieu's leadership PAC, contributions to which go to candidates Lieu is trying to help elect to Congress (but not to himself). You can contribute to it here. Ted was elected regional vice chair of the DCCC by members of Congress from California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Hawaii and he's decided to stay neutral in the California races during primary season and then help the Democratic candidates in the general election. So far the only congressional candidate Ted has endorsed in the current cycle is Randy Bryce, the iron worker and union/veterans activist running against Paul Ryan in Wisconsin. Since he was in town... I brought him to the LIEU-PAC meet-up.

The activists who were there were very excited, not just having one of Congress' best members as their own congressman, but also getting to meet two of the most effective progressives against two congressional arch-villains, Paul Ryan and Darrell Issa. Yes, as you can see from the photo, Doug Applegate also came to the event. (Ted supports all California challengers to congressional Republicans and his events are open to any or all of them at any time. We were lucky that Doug decided this was the one to come to.) Ted spoke to the enthusiastic crowd about healthcare and about Putin-Gate and then introduced Randy and Doug and gave each of them a chance to speak to a very appreciative and supportive audience.

So what's the whole rationale behind a leadership PAC? For one thing, it helps do exactly what it says it does-- assist endorsed candidates to win elections. The other function is to help the PAC's principle build his or her own power and influence within the party. Needless to say, helping candidates raise money engenders loyalty. When members want to rise in the ranks of leadership, starting a leadership PAC is a first step. This week explained leadership PACs. "Politicians," they rote, "collect money for their own campaigns-- we all know that. But many of them also raise a separate pot of money, commonly called a leadership political action committee, to help other politicians. By making donations to members of their party, ambitious lawmakers can use their leadership PACs to gain clout among their colleagues and boost their bids for leadership posts or committee chairmanships. Politicians also use leadership PACs to lay the groundwork for their own campaigns for higher office. And some use their PACs to hire additional staff-- sometimes even their family members-- and to travel around the country or eat in some of Washington's finest restaurants. The limits on how a politician can spend leadership PAC money are not especially strict."

Based on FEC data reported by May 16 of this year, Open Secrets listed the currently active leadership PACs. Last cycle $49,017,853 was spent, 62% ($30,277,900) for Republicans and 38% ($18,729,253) for Democrats. There were 535 PACs that made contributions. These are the House leadership PACs that contributed the heaviest last cycle:
Kevin McCarthy (Majority Committee PAC)- $2,086,513
Paul Ryan (Prosperity Action)- $1,326,238
Steny Hoyer (AmeriPAC)- $1,114,399
Steve Scalise (Eye of the Tiger PAC)- $942,485
Mark Meadows (House Freedom Fund)- $702,535
Patrick McHenry (More Conservatives PAC)- $699,500
Jim Clyburn (BRIDGE PAC)- $647,500
Kevin Brady (Making America Prosperous)- $595,304
Joe Crowley (JOE PAC)- $568,500
Greg Walden (New Pioneers PAC)- $560,900
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CMR PAC)- $547,199
Jeb Hensarling (JEB PAC)- $525,000
Pat Tiberi (Pioneer PAC)- $514,042
Nancy Pelosi (PAC to the Future)- $496,000
The numbers for 2017 and 2018 aren't available yet. Last year Hoyer was the biggest donor to Democratic challengers. He gave to 68 House challengers. His tendency is to give much more heavily to the Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party and more perfunctorily to progressives. The only challengers who he gave over $10,000 each were:
LuAnn Bennett- $12,700
Terri Bonoff- $12,700
Angie Craig- $12,700
Charlie Crist- $12,700
Pete Gallego- $12,700
Josh Gottheimer- $12,700
Colleen Hanabusa- $12,000
Lon Johnson- $12,700
Raja Krishnamoorthi- $12,000
Jim Mowrer- $12,700
Stephanie Murphy- $12,700
Kim Myers- $12,700
Tom Nelson- $12,700
Tom O'Halleran- $12,700
Doug Owens- $22,200
Jacky Rosen- $12,700
Steve Santarsiero- $12,700
Brad Schneider- $12,700
Anna Throne-Holst- $12,700
Monica Vernon- $12,700
Shelli Yoder- $12,700
Those were all conservative candidates. What about progressives? He donated to some of them as well-- but much less money:
Doug Applegate- $5,000
Adriano Espaillat- $5,000
Duwayne Gregory- $5,000
Pramila Jayapal- $5,000
Ruben Kihuen- $5,000
Anil Kumar- $5,000
Don McEachin- $5,000
Jamie Raskin- $6,000
Annette Taddeo- $5,000
Zephyr Teachout- $10,000
Crowley had a similar pattern-- top dollars to conservative scum like Gottheimer and just a perfunctory contributions to actual progressives, like the grudging $1,000 to Applegate and $2,500 to Jayapal. Pelosi wasn't that different either-- top dollar to Blue Dogs like Gottheimer, O'Halleran, Lon Johsnon and Stephanie Murphy and much more modest contributions to progressives like Jayapal, Applegate and Teachout.

Wassermann Schultz has been very active in trying to bye friends as well. But last year, as she struggled with her own political survival after being caught cheating in the primaries in favor of Hillary and against Bernie and then fired from the DNC, she still gave out $1,459,022, down from $1,988,607 in the 2014 cycle. She also gave heavily to conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party (like herself) and lightly to progressives-- nothing at all to Teachout or Jayapal and just $2,000 to Applegate.

Progressives have tended to not do much with leadership PACs. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a rising star, was an exception. His Blue Majority PAC raised $167,300 last cycle and he gave vaguely equal amounts to progressives and conservatives. Monica Vernon got $4,372 and he gave $4,000 each to Jamie Raskin and Susannah Randolph. He also contributed to progressive candidates that the party leaders tended to freeze out like Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Nanette Barragan. His efforts helped when he ran for chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He won and his now co-chair with Raul Grijalva. So... if you would like to see Ted Lieu continue to rise within the Democratic leadership-- so that when Pelosi retires the only choices to replace her aren't just corporate shills like Hoyer, Crowley and Wasserman Schultz, please consider contributing what you can to LIEU-PAC.

Labels: , , ,

Can Anyone Even IMAGINE A Foreign Policy Debate Between Bernie And Señor Trumpanzee?


Nancy Ohanian drew Bernie too

Did you know that when Trump meets with foreign leaders, he has a map of the U.S. showing his electoral college win over Hillary Clinton to present. Bernie did something similar today-- and, at the same time, quite the opposite. He very effectively linked foreign policy with a domestic agenda in the context of massive worldwide inequality. It was inspiring.

Yes, this morning, Bernie spoke at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, the site of one of Winston Churchill's most famous speeches, the Iron Curtain speech. Callaway County-- of which Fulton is the county seat-- was Trump country last year. He buried Hillary there-- 13,052 (68.2%) to 4,988 (26.1%), far worse than the statewide totals (where Trump won 57.1 to 38.0%). However on primary day, Callaway County was Bernie country. He beat Hillary there 1,678 (54.2%) to 1,378 (44.5%). And Ted Cruz beat Trump.

During the election, Clinton partisans tried getting a narrative going that all Bernie cared about was domestic issues and that he was "weak on foreign policy." The Clinton people and their army of media shills repeated it ad nauseum. Today, in presenting a vision of what a progressive foreign policy is, Bernie made it clear that he is intent on beginning a more vigorous debate that "broadens our understanding of what foreign policy is." Below is what Bernie called "A Renewal of American Purpose."
Foreign policy is directly related to military policy and has everything to do with almost 7,000 young Americans being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tens of thousands coming home wounded in body and spirit from a war we should never have started. That’s foreign policy. And foreign policy is about hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan dying in that same war.

Foreign policy is about U.S. government budget priorities. At a time when we already spend more on defense than the next 12 nations combined, foreign policy is about authorizing a defense budget of some $700 billion, including a $50 billion increase passed just last week.

Meanwhile, at the exact same time as the president and many of my Republican colleagues want to substantially increase military spending, they want to throw 32 million Americans off of the health insurance they currently have because, supposedly, they are worried about the budget deficit. While greatly increasing military spending they also want to cut education, environmental protection and the needs of children and seniors.

Foreign policy, therefore, is remembering what Dwight D. Eisenhower said as he left office: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And he also reminded us that: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway…”

What Eisenhower said over 50 years ago is even more true today.

Foreign policy is about whether we continue to champion the values of freedom, democracy and justice, values which have been a beacon of hope for people throughout the world, or whether we support undemocratic, repressive regimes, which torture, jail and deny basic rights to their citizens.

What foreign policy also means is that if we are going to expound the virtues of democracy and justice abroad, and be taken seriously, we need to practice those values here at home. That means continuing the struggle to end racism, sexism, xenophobia and homophobia here in the United States and making it clear that when people in America march on our streets as neo-Nazis or white supremacists, we have no ambiguity in condemning everything they stand for.

There are no two sides on that issue.

Foreign policy is not just tied into military affairs, it is directly connected to economics. Foreign policy must take into account the outrageous income and wealth inequality that exists globally and in our own country.  This planet will not be secure or peaceful when so few have so much, and so many have so little-- and when we advance day after day into an oligarchic form of society where a small number of extraordinarily powerful special interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the world.

There is no moral or economic justification for the six wealthiest people in the world having as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population-- 3.7 billion people.  There is no justification for the incredible power and dominance that Wall Street, giant multi-national corporations and international financial institutions have over the affairs of sovereign countries throughout the world.

At a time when climate change is causing devastating problems here in America and around the world, foreign policy is about whether we work with the international community-- with China, Russia, India and countries around the world-- to transform our energy systems away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. Sensible foreign policy understands that climate change is a real threat to every country on Earth, that it is not a hoax, and that no country alone can effectively combat it. It is an issue for the entire international community, and an issue that the United States should be leading in, not ignoring or denying.

My point is that we need to look at foreign policy as more than just the crisis of the day. That is important, but we need a more expansive view.

Almost 70 years ago, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood on this stage and gave an historic address, known as the “Iron Curtain” speech, in which he framed a conception of world affairs that endured through the 20th century, until the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that speech, he defined his strategic concept as quote “nothing less than the safety and welfare, the freedom and progress, of all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands.”

“To give security to these countless homes,” he said, “they must be shielded from the two giant marauders, war and tyranny.”

How do we meet that challenge today? How do we fight for the “freedom and progress” that Churchill talked about in the year 2017? At a time of exploding technology and wealth, how do we move away from a world of war, terrorism and massive levels of poverty into a world of peace and economic security for all? How do we move toward a global community in which people have the decent jobs, food, clean water, education, health care and housing they need?

These are, admittedly, not easy issues to deal with, but they are questions we cannot afford to ignore.

At the outset, I think it is important to recognize that the world of today is very, very different from the world of Winston Churchill of 1946. Back then we faced a superpower adversary with a huge standing army, with an arsenal of nuclear weapons, with allies around the world, and with expansionist aims. Today the Soviet Union no longer exists.

Today we face threats of a different sort. We will never forget 9/11. We are cognizant of the terrible attacks that have taken place in capitols all over the world. We are more than aware of the brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups.

We also face the threat of these groups obtaining weapons of mass destruction, and preventing that must be a priority.

In recent years, we are increasingly confronted by the isolated dictatorship of North Korea, which is making rapid progress in nuclear weaponry and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Yes, we face real and very serious threats to our security, which I will discuss, but they are very different than what we have seen in the past and our response must be equally different.

But before I talk about some of these other threats, let me say a few words about a very insidious challenge that undermines our ability to meet these other crises, and indeed could undermine our very way of life.

A great concern that I have today is that many in our country are losing faith in our common future and in our democratic values.

For far too many of our people, here in the United States and people all over the world, the promises of self-government-- of government by the people, for the people, and of the people – have not been kept. And people are losing faith.

In the United States and other countries, a majority of people are working longer hours for lower wages than they used to. They see big money buying elections, and they see a political and economic elite growing wealthier, even as their own children’s future grows dimmer.

So when we talk about foreign policy, and our belief in democracy, at the very top of our list of concerns is the need to revitalize American democracy to ensure that governmental decisions reflect the interests of a majority of our people, and not just the few-- whether that few is Wall Street, the military industrial complex or the fossil fuel industry. We cannot convincingly promote democracy abroad if we do not live it vigorously here at home.

Maybe it's because I come from the small state of Vermont, a state that prides itself on town meetings and grassroots democracy, that I strongly agree with Winston Churchill when he stated his belief that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms.”

In both Europe and the United States, the international order which the United States helped establish over the past 70 years, one which put great emphasis on democracy and human rights, and promoted greater trade and economic development, is under great strain. Many Europeans are questioning the value of the European Union. Many Americans are questioning the value of the United Nations, of the transatlantic alliance, and other multilateral organizations.

We also see a rise in authoritarianism and right wing extremism-- both domestic and foreign-- which further weakens this order by exploiting and amplifying resentments, stoking intolerance and fanning ethnic and racial hatreds among those in our societies who are struggling.

We saw this anti-democratic effort take place in the 2016 election right here in the United States, where we now know that the Russian government was engaged in a massive effort to undermine one of our greatest strengths: the integrity of our elections, and our faith in our own democracy.

I found it incredible, by the way, that when the President of the United States spoke before the United Nations on Monday, he did not even mention that outrage.

Well, I will. Today I say to Mr. Putin: we will not allow you to undermine American democracy or democracies around the world. In fact, our goal is to not only strengthen American democracy, but to work in solidarity with supporters of democracy around the globe, including in Russia. In the struggle of democracy versus authoritarianism, we intend to win.

When we talk about foreign policy it is clear that there are some who believe that the United States would be best served by withdrawing from the global community. I disagree. As the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth, we have got to help lead the struggle to defend and expand a rules-based international order in which law, not might, makes right.

We must offer people a vision that one day, maybe not in our lifetimes, but one day in the future human beings on this planet will live in a world where international conflicts will be resolved peacefully, not by mass murder.

How tragic it is that today, while hundreds of millions of people live in abysmal poverty, the arms merchants of the world grow increasingly rich as governments spend trillions of dollars on weapons of destruction.

I am not naïve or unmindful of history. Many of the conflicts that plague our world are longstanding and complex. But we must never lose our vision of a world in which, to quote the Prophet Isaiah, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

One of the most important organizations for promoting a vision of a different world is the United Nations. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped create the UN, called it “our greatest hope for future peace. Alone we cannot keep the peace of the world, but in cooperation with others we have to achieve this much longed-for security.”

It has become fashionable to bash the UN. And yes, the UN needs to be reformed. It can be ineffective, bureaucratic, too slow or unwilling to act, even in the face of massive atrocities, as we are seeing in Syria right now.  But to see only its weaknesses is to overlook the enormously important work the UN does in promoting global health, aiding refugees, monitoring elections, and doing international peacekeeping missions, among other things. All of these activities contribute to reduced conflict, to wars that don’t have to be ended because they never start.

At the end of the day, it is obvious that it makes far more sense to have a forum in which countries can debate their concerns, work out compromises and agreements. Dialogue and debate are far preferable to bombs, poison gas and war.

Dialogue however cannot only be take place between foreign ministers or diplomats at the United Nations. It should be taking place between people throughout the world at the grassroots level.

I was mayor of the city of Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union was our enemy. We established a sister city program with the Russian city of Yaroslavl, a program which still exists today. I will never forget seeing Russian boys and girls visiting Vermont, getting to know American kids, and becoming good friends. Hatred and wars are often based on fear and ignorance. The way to defeat this ignorance and diminish this fear is through meeting with others and understanding the way they see the world. Good foreign policy means building people to people relationships.

We should welcome young people from all over the world and all walks of life to spend time with our kids in American classrooms, while our kids, from all income levels, do the same abroad.

Some in Washington continue to argue that “benevolent global hegemony” should be the goal of our foreign policy, that the U.S., by virtue of its extraordinary military power, should stand astride the world and reshape it to its liking. I would argue that the events of the past two decades-- particularly the disastrous Iraq war and the instability and destruction it has brought to the region-- have utterly discredited that vision.

The goal is not for the United States to dominate the world. Nor, on the other hand, is our goal to withdraw from the international community and shirk our responsibilities under the banner of “America First.” Our goal should be global engagement based on partnership, rather than dominance. This is better for our security, better for global stability and better for facilitating the international cooperation necessary to meet shared challenges.

Here’s a truth that you don’t often hear about too often in the newspapers, on the television or in the halls of Congress. But it’s a truth we must face. Far too often, American intervention and the use of American military power has produced unintended consequences which have caused incalculable harm. Yes, it is reasonably easy to engineer the overthrow of a government. It is far harder, however, to know the long term impact that that action will have. Let me give you some examples:

In 1953 the United States, on behalf of Western oil interests, supported the overthrow of Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and the re-installation of the Shah of Iran, who led a corrupt, brutal and unpopular government. In 1979, the Shah was overthrown by revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was created. What would Iran look like today if their democratic government had not been overthrown? What impact did that American-led coup have on the entire region? What consequences are we still living with today?

In 1973, the United States supported the coup against the democratically elected president of Chile Salvador Allende which was led by General Augusto Pinochet. The result was almost 20 years of authoritarian military rule and the disappearance and torture of thousands of Chileans-- and the intensification of anti-Americanism in Latin America.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the logic of the Cold War led the United States to support murderous regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, which resulted in brutal and long-lasting civil wars that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

In Vietnam, based on a discredited “domino theory,” the United States replaced the French in intervening in a civil war, which resulted in the deaths of millions of Vietnamese in support of a corrupt, repressive South Vietnamese government. We must never forget that over 58,000 thousand Americans also died in that war.

More recently, in Iraq, based on a similarly mistaken analysis of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, the United States invaded and occupied a country in the heart of the Middle East. In doing so, we upended the regional order of the Middle East and unleashed forces across the region and the world that we’ll be dealing with for decades to come.

These are just a few examples of American foreign policy and interventionism which proved to be counter-productive.

Now let me give you an example of an incredibly bold and ambitious American initiative which proved to be enormously successful in which not one bullet was fired-- something that we must learn from.

Shortly after Churchill was right here in Westminster College, the United States developed an extremely radical foreign policy initiative called the Marshall Plan.

Think about it for a moment: historically, when countries won terrible wars, they exacted retribution on the vanquished. But in 1948, the United States government did something absolutely unprecedented.

After losing hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the most brutal war in history to defeat the barbarity of Nazi Germany and Japanese imperialism, the government of the United States decided not to punish and humiliate the losers. Rather, we helped rebuild their economies, spending the equivalent of $130 billion just to reconstruct Western Europe after World War II. We also provided them support to reconstruct democratic societies.

That program was an amazing success. Today Germany, the country of the Holocaust, the country of Hitler’s dictatorship, is now a strong democracy and the economic engine of Europe. Despite centuries of hostility, there has not been a major European war since World War II. That is an extraordinary foreign policy success that we have every right to be very proud of.

Unfortunately, today we still have examples of the United States supporting policies that I believe will come back to haunt us. One is the ongoing Saudi war in Yemen.

While we rightly condemn Russian and Iranian support for Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter in Syria, the United States continues to support Saudi Arabia’s destructive intervention in Yemen, which has killed many thousands of civilians and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the region’s poorest countries. Such policies dramatically undermine America’s ability to advance a human rights agenda around the world, and empowers authoritarian leaders who insist that our support for those rights and values is not serious.

Let me say a word about some of the shared global challenges that we face today.

First, I would mention climate change. Friends, it is time to get serious on this: Climate change is real and must be addressed with the full weight of American power, attention and resources.

The scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, climate change is caused by human activity, and climate change is already causing devastating harm throughout the world. Further, what the scientists tell us is that if we do not act boldly to address the climate crisis, this planet will see more drought, more floods-- the recent devastation by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are good examples-- more extreme weather disturbances, more acidification of the ocean, more rising sea levels and, as a result of mass migrations, there will be more threats to global stability and security.

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement was not only incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but it will also end up hurting the American economy.

The threat of climate change is a very clear example of where American leadership can make a difference. Europe can’t do it alone, China can’t do it alone, and the United States can’t do it alone. This is a crisis that calls out for strong international cooperation if we are to leave our children and grandchildren a planet that is healthy and habitable. American leadership-- the economic and scientific advantages and incentives that only America can offer –is hugely important for facilitating this cooperation.

Another challenge that we and the entire world face is growing wealth and income inequality, and the movement toward international oligarchy-- a system in which a small number of billionaires and corporate interests have control over our economic life, our political life, and our media.

This movement toward oligarchy is not just an American issue. It is an international issue. Globally, the top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 99 percent of the world's population.

In other words, while the very, very rich become much richer, thousands of children die every week in poor countries around the world from easily prevented diseases, and hundreds of millions live in incredible squalor.

Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

But economic inequality is not the only form of inequality that we must face. As we seek to renew America's commitment to promote human rights and human dignity around the world we must be a living example here at home. We must reject the divisive attacks based on a person's religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, country of origin or class. And when we see demonstrations of neo-Nazism and white supremacism as we recently did in Charlottesville, Virginia, we must be unequivocal in our condemnation, as our president shamefully was not.

And as we saw here so clearly in St. Louis in the past week we need serious reforms in policing and the criminal justice system so that the life of every person is equally valued and protected.  We cannot speak with the moral authority the world needs if we do not struggle to achieve the ideal we are holding out for others.

One of the places we have fallen short in upholding these ideas is in the war on terrorism. Here I want to be clear: terrorism is a very real threat, as we learned so tragically on September 11, 2001, and many other countries knew already too well.

But, I also want to be clear about something else: As an organizing framework, the Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership. Orienting U.S. national security strategy around terrorism essentially allowed a few thousand violent extremists to dictate policy for the most powerful nation on earth. It responds to terrorists by giving them exactly what they want.

In addition to draining our resources and distorting our vision, the war on terror has caused us to undermine our own moral standards regarding torture, indefinite detention, and the use of force around the world, using drone strikes and other airstrikes that often result in high civilian casualties.

A heavy-handed military approach, with little transparency or accountability, doesn’t enhance our security. It makes the problem worse.

We must rethink the old Washington mindset that judges “seriousness” according to the willingness to use force. One of the key misapprehensions of this mindset is the idea that military force is decisive in a way that diplomacy is not.

Yes, military force is sometimes necessary, but always-- always-- as the last resort. And blustery threats of force, while they might make a few columnists happy, can often signal weakness as much as strength, diminishing U.S. deterrence, credibility and security in the process.

To illustrate this, I would contrast two recent U.S. foreign policy initiatives: The Iraq war and the Iran nuclear agreement.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude.

In addition to the many thousands killed, it created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. Indeed, had it not been for the Iraq War, ISIS would almost certainly not exist.

The Iraq war, as I said before, had unintended consequences. It was intended as a demonstration of the extent of American power. It ended up demonstrating only its limits.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal advanced the security of the U.S. and its partners, and it did this at a cost of no blood and zero treasure.

For many years, leaders across the world had become increasingly concerned about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration and our European allies were able to do was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

That is real leadership. That is REAL POWER.

Just yesterday, the top general of U.S. Strategic Command, General John Hyden, said: “The facts are that Iran is operating under the agreements the we signed up for.” We now have a four-year record of Iran’s compliance, going back to the 2013 interim deal.

I call on my colleagues in the Congress, and all Americans: We must protect this deal. President Trump has signaled his intention to walk away from it, as he did the Paris agreement, regardless of the evidence that it is working. That would be a mistake.

Not only would this potentially free Iran from the limits placed on its nuclear program, it would irreparably harm America’s ability to negotiate future nonproliferation agreements. Why would any country in the world sign such an agreement with the United States if they knew that a reckless president and an irresponsible Congress might simply discard that agreement a few years later?

If we are genuinely concerned with Iran’s behavior in the region, as I am, the worst possible thing we could do is break the nuclear deal. It would make all of these other problems harder.

Another problem it would make harder is that of North Korea.

Let’s understand: North Korea is ruled by one of the worst regimes in the world. For many years, its leadership has sacrificed the well-being of its own people in order to develop nuclear weapons and missile programs in order to protect the Kim family’s regime. Their continued development of nuclear weapons and missile capability is a growing threat to the U.S. and our allies. Despite past efforts they have repeatedly shown their determination to move forward with these programs in defiance of virtually unanimous international opposition and condemnation.

As we saw with the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, real US leadership is shown by our ability to develop consensus around shared problems, and mobilize that consensus toward a solution. That is the model we should be pursuing with North Korea.

As we did with Iran, if North Korea continues to refuse to negotiate seriously, we should look for ways to tighten international sanctions. This will involve working closely with other countries, particularly China, on whom North Korea relies for some 80 percent of its trade. But we should also continue to make clear that this is a shared problem, not to be solved by any one country alone but by the international community working together.

An approach that really uses all the tools of our power-- political, economic, civil society-- to encourage other states to adopt more inclusive governance will ultimately make us safer.

Development aid is not charity, it advances our national security. It’s worth noting that the U.S. military is a stalwart supporter of non-defense diplomacy and development aid.

Starving diplomacy and aid now will result in greater defense needs later on.

U.S. foreign aid should be accompanied by stronger emphasis on helping people gain their political and civil rights to hold oppressive governments accountable to the people. Ultimately, governments that are accountable to the needs of their people will make more dependable partners.

Here is the bottom line: In my view the United States must seek partnerships not just between governments, but between peoples. A sensible and effective foreign policy recognizes that our safety and welfare is bound up with the safety and welfare of others around the world, with “all the homes and families of all the men and women in all the lands,” as Churchill said right here, 70 years ago.

In my view, every person on this planet shares a common humanity. We all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water and breathe clean air, and to live in peace. That’s what being human is about.

Our job is to build on that common humanity and do everything that we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, “The world of the future is in our making. Tomorrow is now.”

My friends, let us go forward and build that tomorrow.

Labels: ,