Monday, July 28, 2014

Colleen Hanabusa's Crazy War Against The Environment


New Dem Colleen Hanabusa has built a political career not based on values or principles but on mutual backscratching and ugly corruption. She desperately, even shrilly, wants everyone to ignore the fact that when the Sierra Club, Climate Hawks Vote, Ocean Champions and the League of Conservation Voters endorsed Brian Schatz for senator, they compared both their environmental records and found her ideal and hers… far from ideal. She would also like voters in the August 9th Hawaii primary to ignore that MoveOn, the PCCC, DFA and Blue America all sited Schatz's work on environmental protection when they endorsed him. Every single U.S. Senator that cares about the environment endorsed Schatz, from Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer and Sheldon White House to all the Senate Democratic leaders, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray.

Not one environmental group is backing Hanabusa. Not one progressive group is backing Hanabusa. Not one senator is backing Hanabusa. And the only Members of the House who have been trying to help her are Rahm Emanuel puppet Tammy Duckworth and right-wing warmongers and anti-environment fanatics Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Randy Forbes (R-VA). Yes, two Republicans, that's what she's got… and the Laborers Union backing her because of her support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Remember, the conservative running against Schatz isn't a Republican. Hanabusa is a New Dem from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, a purely transactional character. Her husband, John Souza, serves as her bagman. Honolulu political insiders know that the two of them are as thick as thieves with real estate developer Jeffrey Stone, who has spent and raised more for Hanabusa's political career than anyone else. She and Souza take good care of her contributors, regardless of environmental impact. In 2011, at a time when Maui’s Hawaiian Cane & Sugar's parent company (Alexander & Baldwin) was one of her largest donors, she voted with her Republican buddies to delay implementation of EPA rules governing air quality in buildings from industrial boiler systems-- two of which Hawaiian Cane & Sugar was using.

Yesterday the Star-Advertiser ran an important piece by Derrick DePledge differentiating between Schatz and Hanabusa on environmental issues. The first paragraph is very ominous for Hanabusa, who has been running away from her repulsive record and trying to twist it out of shape for months: "U.S. Rep. Colleen Hana­busa was one of just 41 House Democrats in October 2011 to vote to delay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's tougher clean air standards on industrial boilers." She claims her vote with the Republicans against the EPA was to save the jobs at a sugar mill (and not just for her campaign donors).

In trying to justify her vote against the Clean Air Act, Hanabusa falsely claims that this vote saved the plantation which is total nonsense. Mazie Hirono, Daniel Inouye and Dan Akaka all voted the other way on this bill, and the plantation is still alive and well. The vote clearly demonstrates Hanabusa's total lack of commitment to the environment. Combine this with her vote to clear cut the Tongass Forest and her support for drilling in ANWR and it paints a pretty dim picture of a typical lockstep New Dem shill for Wall Street interests. (As does this poll question from PPP:)

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, Hanabusa's opponent in the Democratic primary, argues that Hanabusa made a false choice between the environment and the economy. The EPA was already in the process of revising the rule based on public feedback.

"The EPA has shown a willingness to be flexible when it comes to Hawaii," the senator said. "And if she wanted to get the attention of the EPA, there was no need to undermine the Clean Air Act and vote with tea party Republicans."

During the primary, the two Democrats have disagreed over votes on Social Security, the Bipartisan Budget Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Arctic drilling. But their dispute over the vote to delay the EPA's rule on industrial boilers, perhaps more than any other, gets closest to illustrating what each candidate believes is their own strength and, more importantly, their opponent's weakness.

…In Hawaii, environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, which has endorsed Schatz, have been concerned about air pollution at the HC&S mill. In addition to emissions from the boilers, HC&S also conducts pre-harvest cane burning.

In June, the state Department of Health cited HC&S for more than 400 alleged violations of state clean air rules between 2009 and 2013 and assessed a $1.3 million penalty. The company has said that any violations were unintentional and plans to contest the penalty as excessive.

Hanabusa considers the vote on the EPA's rule on industrial boilers one of several that demonstrate her independence and her ability to look deeper into federal legislation and see the potential impact on Hawaii. She said she would cast the same vote again today.

"It's not an easy vote to do," the congresswoman said. "But it's a vote that I feel had to be done. And the EPA slowed down. And I think the EPA needed it, too, to be able to slow down what it was doing, because it was under court order. And to come up with a set of rules that I believe is really workable."

Schatz counters that the issue was not as complicated as Hanabusa suggests.

"This was not a close call," the senator said. "Everybody wants to support the (HC&S) plantation, but there's nobody in the congressional delegation that thought it was necessary to undermine the Clean Air statute in order to make sure that it was implemented well."

Schatz said Hanabusa "continues to think that we have to make a choice between a clean environment and a strong economy," adding, "And she's flat wrong. That is not the choice that we have to make. We can and should fight for clean air and clean water and strong economic growth at the same time."
And, of course, it isn't just Schatz who has noticed how dishonest Hanabusa is. In February, 2012, the Center for American Progress commented on this very bill and said it "essentially puts the interests of polluters over that of the health and safety of American families. It creates enormous uncertainty and goes far beyond providing the EPA with extra time to finalize their rulemaking. More troubling, this bill would delay and could substantially weaken long-overdue public health protections by allowing the continued emissions of carcinogens and other toxic air pollutants that can cause developmental harm and other serious health effects." DC daily The Hill noted delved a little deeper into the consequences of Hanabusa's support for the Republican efforts to gut EPA rules. The standards imposed by boiler MACT rules, to limit emissions of harmful air pollutants from industrial boilers and incinerators, they wrote, go after mercury, acid gases and fine particulate matter, or soot, from boilers and incinerators. "The agency said the rules would affect about 1 percent of the nation's boilers. It added the rules would yield public health benefits, preventing 8,100 premature deaths and 5,100 heart attacks per year beginning in 2015."

And maybe this is why EMILY's List is rolling out the dirty campaign tactics on behalf of Hanabusa now. It's called desperation-- and it was just released this morning. When Republicans see a poll like this, they whine that PPP is a Democratic-affiliated polling firm. Is that Hanabusa's complaint too?

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What? You say Comic-Connies aren't big spenders? Suddenly my esteem has risen


NYT caption: "Comic-Con attendees lunching near the convention center. Spending by visitors to the five-day convention, San Diego’s largest by far, is about $603, a fraction of that of much smaller events."

by Ken

Hey, almost everything I know about Comic-Con comes from watching The Big Bang Theory -- and that hasn't made it seem any more like a gathering where I would want to, you know, gather. But now comes word that the Comic-Connies stand accused of one of the vilest crimes in Consumerist America: being cheapskates.

I'm not exactly free and easy when it comes to parceling out my free clicks, but I couldn't resist this listing on today's "Afternoon Edition" e-mail:


I suppose this sticks out because we generally think of the Connies as among America's free-spendingest suckers consumers, don't we? Now here they are being portrayed as making their pilgrimage to San Diego and keeping their mitts in their pockets! I want to know more!

You want numbers? We got numbers, from Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes's report, "Large Crowds Spend Little at Comic-Con":
In a recent report from the San Diego Convention Center, where Comic-Con is held, the fantasy fans ranked first in terms of the convention center’s attendance, far outstripping the combined total of its next four largest conventions, expected to be about 62,500 people.

But the Comic-Con fans were expected to spend only about $603 each during a convention that began Wednesday night and ran through Sunday. And that was only a little more than a third of the per-capita spending by those who showed up for the American Association for Cancer Research gathering in April, and similarly lower than per-person spending at the next three largest conventions in San Diego.
A measly $603 for four days? Jeez, no wonder the cancer people have the Connies eating dust! The specifics are no cheerier:
At Comic-Con, dining out is apt to mean eating a sandwich while squatting on a city street. McCormick & Schmick’s, a high-end seafood restaurant across from the convention center, sold wraps from a cart, two for $10. At midday on Thursday, more than 150 people stood in line at a nearby Subway.

“For everything? I would say, like, $50,” said Arnold Duong, a fan who was dining on the sidewalk on Thursday, when asked how much he and each of his two friends had budgeted per day for their Comic-Con experience.

Some penny-pinching attendees may actually turn a profit on the cheap posters, hats, action figures and autographs handed out at the convention. As of 3 p.m. on Saturday, more than 4,000 listings were active on eBay under the title “Comic-Con 2014.”
So what if the Connies are a bunch of penny-pinching tightwads? Here's what (lotsa links onsite):
The Toronto International Film Festival has Bell, L’Oréal, and the RBC Royal Bank among its official sponsors. Sundance this year attracted Chase Sapphire, Acura, Hewlett-Packard and Sprint. At the Golden Globes, guests sip from promotional bottles of Moët & Chandon.

But at Comic-Con, a lower-rent affair, official convention sponsorships are largely confined to media companies or game companies, like NBC and Nintendo, and the giveaways — well, a visitor is lucky to snag some lime-flavored Red Bull or a pack of Stride chewing gum.

At this year’s convention, the Samsung Galaxy weighed in with both a convention sponsorship and backing for events related to a pair of upcoming films, Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1.”

Adult Swim, Cartoon Network’s adult-themed programming block, also picked up corporate sponsorship for individual shows from the likes of Intel, Lexus and State Farm. But those products and their companies were kept pretty much in the background as the cartoons took center stage.

“We develop all this stuff with the idea of a sponsor in mind, but not for the sponsor,” said Amantha Walden, Adult Swim’s director of events.

In truth, companies that might flock to a Tribeca Film Festival, which for years was backed by American Express and now has AT&T as its lead sponsor, would do well to stick with the soft sell here, because nobody is buying much.
The Times team notes that "for media companies, which compete as much for eyeballs as for direct spending, a crowd this large can be irresistible, even when it does not have much cash.
“I absolutely feel like it’s a pop culture carnival, and there is an unspoken competition among networks to outdo each other,” said Michael Ouweleen, a senior vice president and group creative director at Cartoon Network.
But if you're looking to score some actual sales, you probably wish you had the cancer crowd rather than the Connies. The Times-ies report glum tidings for "the few consumer brands that took a chance on Comic-Con":
One of those was Chrysler, which sponsored a popular Dodge Challenger simulator attraction in a parking lot promotional spread for the Weinstein Company’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.” Another car company, Hyundai, sponsored a display for “Legends,” a crime series from TNT. And there was a snappy, flame-orange Mini Cooper in the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel, part of the campaign for “Pixels,” a 3-D action fantasy set for release by Sony Pictures next May.

Yet even the Elio Motors Tadpole, a three-wheeled vehicle priced at a modest $6,800, looked like a reach for some of the Comic-Con types who eyed it on Friday in the doorway of the Hotel Solamar, just a few blocks from the convention center.

“The federal government says it’s a motorcycle,” said a salesman, trying to make a glamour point of the two-passenger vehicle’s exceedingly compact nature. (A rider sits behind the driver.)

“Oh,” said one of three young women who were giving the Elio a look. Then they turned and headed back . . . to the convention.
Now that's a tough crowd, sales-wise.

What I was hoping for was the characters of The Big Bang Theory at Comic-Con. I guess we'll have to made do with the actors. Says TVFanatic Matt Richenthal: "The cast of The Big Bang Theory gathers here for a photo at Comic-Con. They were incredibly nice to us at the event."

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Are Governors Too Big To Jail? Christie, Cuomo, Walker And Deal Must Be Hoping McDonnell Gets Off


Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, as we've explained before, is probably the most overtly extremist governor anywhere. Polls show that Kansas voters are determined to remove him from office and that he's likely to be beaten by a moderate Democrat Paul Davis. Brownback is losing because of his political agenda and because his vision of governance has failed dramatically and, for many in Kansas, catastrophically. But at least no one wants to throw him in prison for corruption-related charges.

At least 4 other governor-- 3 Republicans and a Democrat-- are facing the prospect of leaving office not because of their conservative politics but because of their corrupt natures. Conventional wisdom-- and a helluva lot of evidence-- has it that Nathan Deal (R-GA), Chris Christie (R-NJ), Scott Walker (R-WI) and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) have all been steeped in the kind of corruption that doesn't just make one ineligible for public trust, but also eligible for federal prison. These are all ugly, grasping little men and they all have something in common: each is an example of the classic definition of a narcissist, a "personality a disorder in which a person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process" [Wikipedia]. Watch the video below for a better understanding of the disease and why so many of our politicians are afflcted with it.

Narcissism isn't a felony and we don't put politicians in prison for it-- or even force them into mental health treatment. Narcissism, however, more often than not, will lead them into committing the kinds of crimes that are bringing down Deal, Cuomo, Christie and Walker. You remember Richard Nixon, the fella in the Rachel Maddow video up top, right? He never went on trial-- let alone spent a day in prison. Are our politicians too big to jail? We may find out as a trial unfolds starting today for ex-Governor, Bob McDonnell and his wife, a pair of right-wing crooks and narcissists from Virginia. Douglas Wilder, another Virginia ex-Governor who is friendly with McDonnell: "It’s going to be ugly. The more you read, the more sleaze develops. It’s not going to be nice for anyone." It looks like The Post has decided to make its coverage… melodramatic: "McDonnell, 60, a Republican who until January held the same office once occupied by Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, is the first Virginia governor to be charged with a crime."
Together, he and his wife are fighting 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents. Prosecutors have charged that in exchange for private plane rides, golf outings, expensive apparel and $120,000 in loans, the couple helped promote a businessman’s company, setting up meetings for chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. with state officials and even once letting him use the Executive Mansion for the launch of his new product.

Prosecutors will allege that McDonnell, a popular politician who had served 22 years in public life as a state delegate, attorney general and then governor, led a double life.

They will say that even as he held a reputation as a squeaky clean and earnest public servant with his eye on national office, he was secretly plotting with his wife to exchange state favors with Williams for luxuries the couple could not otherwise afford.

McDonnell’s attorneys will counter that he never promised to help Williams’s company and that the garish executive, with his boastful claims of celebrity friends, his high-flying lifestyle and a checkered business past, is now lying about dealings with the governor.

Even touchier, court filings show that McDonnell’s attorneys are preparing to argue that the governor was essentially a victim of his wife, who they will say at times accepted gifts from Williams without her husband knowing about it.

The case has been dissected in hundreds of news stories over the course of the 16 months since it was first revealed that Williams, 59, then the chief executive of a dietary supplement company called Star Scientific, paid $15,000 for the catering at the 2011 wedding of the governor’s daughter.

But the trial undoubtedly will feature new revelations about the couple and about the man from whom they accepted lavish gifts.

One detail that could emerge as defense attorneys try to puncture Williams’s credibility: Williams’s boast that he was friendly with [Lindsay] Lohan and [Paris] Hilton.

The claim came as he stood chatting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City in 2009 with some of McDonnell’s aides, according to people familiar with what the aides have told prosecutors.

McDonnell had only recently been elected governor and was set to take office the next month. Williams, who had lent his private plane to the victorious campaign, had requested to meet with the incoming governor during a fundraising swing in New York City.

At the time, Williams barely knew McDonnell. But as he awaited his arrival, it was not long before Williams was holding up his cellphone and scrolling through the contact list to show off to the governor’s aides that he had the actresses’ personal numbers.

Accompanied by a friend, a New York-based male model whom Williams said he was eager to introduce to the newly elected governor, Williams told the aides that he had once flown Lohan on the same private plane he lent to the McDonnell campaign.

…The case will come down to whether prosecutors can convince jurors that the McDonnells actually lent Williams the power of the governor’s office as part of a corrupt bargain.

They must prove that the McDonnells were in a conspiracy to perform “official” acts for Williams and that they did so intending to cheat Virginia voters of the governor’s honest services.

Presiding over the case will be U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer, a former prosecutor and army officer appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan. He is known for his stern and businesslike control of his courtroom, and he will surely attempt to limit salacious distractions.

But the human drama inherent to the case will inevitably emerge. The couple fought unsuccessfully for the right to be tried separately. Instead, the two will share a defense table as the governor argues that his wife kept him in the dark about many of her interactions with Williams, a claim that will require laying bare potentially deeply embarrassing details of their 38-year marriage.

For instance, McDonnell’s attorneys have vigorously denied that the couple were broke, even though they had invested nearly $4 million over three years in real estate and went to Williams three separate times for loans.

Their goal is to deny prosecutors the ability to argue that McDonnell was forced to strike a deal with Williams because of secret financial desperation.

…Even their final days in the governor’s mansion were marred by the kind of jarring contrasts that the federal case has revealed about McDonnell’s four years in office.

McDonnell was consumed with completing his final budget, highlighting the accomplishments of his administration and girding for the indictment that by then seemed inevitable.

Maureen McDonnell was pressing to enjoy the final perks of office.

According to several state employees familiar with her requests, she pushed to stay at the Executive Mansion as long as possible, even asking for access to the 200-year-old historic home after her husband ceded office to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) on Jan. 11. She reasoned that her husband was elected to a four-year term and had not taken office until Jan. 16, 2010.

In the end, the couple departed the mansion only on the morning of McAuliffe’s inauguration, breaking a recent tradition in which first families have vacated the premises days in advance to allow state employees time to prepare for the new occupants.

About a month before the McDonnells’ exit, the first lady also stunned members of the mansion’s advisory council when she asked whether she could have as keepsakes four shoeboxes full of Christmas ornaments, one from each year that the family occupied the mansion, according to two people directly involved with the council.

The Citizens Advisory Council for Furnishing and Interpreting the Executive Mansion had raised the money to buy the ornaments and had donated them to the mansion, making them state property.

They offered to let her pay for them.

She declined.
Can you imagine anyone bragging that they are friends with Paris Hilton? Can you imagine a conservative Republican governor being impressed with that? The nature of conservatism-- both sides of the aisle (keep Cuomo and Gavin Newsom in mind)-- is fully integrated into the nature of narcissism. Those natures have never and will never lead to anything else but a culture of corruption. For the sake of our democracy, let's hope McDonnell, Deal, Christie, Cuomo and Walker all get life in prison for their felonious betrayal of the public trust. I don't care whether McDonnell's wife goes to prison or not; she was his victim, not the other way round the way his lawyers are trying to paint it.

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Dear Nancy Pelosi-- You're Letting Steve Israel Throw Away A Winnable Seat In Michigan


If there's one district that demonstrates the venality of Steve Israel and his utter unfitness to head the DCCC, it is the race in southwest Michigan between the hereditary multimillionaire chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton, and Paul Clements, a professor at Western Michigan University, an advocate for middle class families and for environmental sanity. MI-06 has a PVI of R+1, one of only a dozen districts in the country with that rank. Five of those seats are held by Democrats and 7 are held by Republicans. For Democrats to ever think about taking back the House, they have to win those 7 seats. Steve Israel isn't contesting 4 of the 7, which should be enough of a reason for Nancy Pelosi to fire him on the spot. People often ask me why he isn't going after MI-06, since it would be a much more likely win than almost any of the Red to Blue seats he is going after.

There are several reasons, aside from just general incompetence. First of all, Upton was a member of Israel secret society, the Center Aisle Caucus which joined Blue Dogs and mainstream conservatives into a pact to never oppose each other in elections. And second is Israel's sweet little deal with the NRCC that if he doesn't target Republican leaders or committee chairs, they won't target… Steve Israel, the only member of either party in a district with a zero PVI that doesn't have a contested race.

MI-06 is the highest Democratic performing seat currently held by a Republican in Michigan; Obama in 2008 and hometown boy Mitt Romney only won by one percentage point in 2012. Despite that, Israel has decided to ignore Paul Clements and ignore MI-06 and dump money into MI-01 where an anti-Choice conservative Democrat is trying to win in an R+5 district and into MI-07 where a moderate, garden variety Democrat is trying to win in an R+3 seat. If Israel's CIA spy wins the primary in MI-11, he says he'll spend money there too-- a district with an R+4 PVI. But nothing, not a nickel in MI-06. Someone might ask, "Is Pelosi asleep at the wheel?" I would rephrase that: "Can anyone wake Pelosi up, or is it too late?"

And what makes this even worse is this poll that Israel and the DCCC saw last October, clearly showing just how vulnerable Upton is: 53% disapproval, 51% ready to elect a Democrat, 56% saying they would be even less likely to vote to reelect Upton after his vote to shut down the government and a final score of Upton- 36%, Democrat- 56%, undecided 8%. Steve Israel may be a moron (he is) but even he can read a poll this clear and obvious.

Israel is throwing money at districts between R+8 and R+19. He's not going to win even one of them-- NOT ONE. And he's throwing away MI-06 (and WA-06), primarily because he's a Blue Dog who hates progressives. Maybe Pelosi should have thought of that before reappointing him after his catastrophic losses in 2012 while Obama was being reelected and Patty Murray at the DSCC was cleaning the Republicans' clocks in impossible state after impossible state after impossible state. Israel couldn't even win the easy ones! And Pelosi is allowing him to replay the same ugly scenario this cycle.

People in southwest Michigan deserve better; people all over America deserve better. And what if Upton loses his primary to teabagger Jim Bussler a week from Tuesday? It's not likely-- but more likely than it was for David Brat to beat Eric Cantor. Last cycle, Upton won by the smallest margin of his career, and the local media has finally-- after all these years, started telling voters about what he;s been up to in Washington. Had Israel helped 2012 Democratic candidate Mike O'Brien, Upton would have probably lost-- or at least set the state for a loss this cycle. And Clements is an even better candidate than O'Brien… and a better fundraiser. Clements has already raised over half a million dollars (with 100 days to go) while O'Brien raised only $293,987 for the entire cycle, Israel telling institutional donors not to "waste" their money on either candidate.

In the past, no one would have read this kind of unfriendly editorial about Upton from the Kalamazoo Gazette. "Dear Fred," they wrote. "Knock it off. Let go of this irrational desire to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through unending legislative maneuvers. And, stop heeling to the extremes of the Republican Party."
Your obsession, the Republican party’s obsession, with attempting to dismantle the law has now resulted in a government shut down, because you and 227 other representatives voted in favor of a plan tying government spending to a one-year delay in the ACA's mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance.

In August, during a live chat on, you wrote in response to a reader's question about a potential government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act: "I know some of my colleagues have suggested that they will not support [a Continuing Resolution] unless the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is defunded. I think this would be a lousy idea and certainly harm the most vulnerable."

It was a lousy idea in August, and it was still a lousy idea a few days ago. And, yet, you decided to go along with it. Saying Tuesday, just hours after the shutdown, "The Affordable Care Act is not ready for primetime, but shutting down the federal government is not a solution” does nothing to ease the frustration of voters.

If shutting down the government is not the solution, then don’t vote for a measure that results in that. The American public is now being made to pay the unreasonable price of reduced services-- or no services-- for this partisanship.

Which brings us to the bigger point. There is serious work to be done, be it improving Obamacare, dealing with the budget and the debt ceiling, jobs, tax reform. There is serious work that requires serious statesmanship with a decidedly bipartisan bent.
Upton is too in thrall to the teabaggers he fears to be that statesman. It's time for him to leave. He's failed miserably on Climate Change, where as committee chair he could have done more than just bottling up solutions to the greatest problem facing mankind today, which has a great deal to do with why the Sierra Club has ignored Steve Israel and endorsed Paul Clements, the loudest voice on behalf of Climate Change solutions of any candidate for Congress this year-- and running against the Republican who the L.A. Times rated as the #1 enemy of planet earth. Please consider helping Clements keep his field operation and his grassroots outreach strong. You can contribute to his campaign directly on this page. No contribution is too small. This is one where we can make a very real and very important difference.

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Is There One Single Best Member Of Congress? Have You Met Alan Grayson?


When Blue America weighs the pros and cons of endorsing a candidate for Congress, we often find ourselves measuring them by how similar he or she appears to be to Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson. Grayson is brilliant, courageous and, more than anyone else in the House, he defines progressivism. And you know what? One Congressman can matter. A lot-- that's why we're asking you to consider making a contribution to Grayson's reelection campaign today.

You've probably heard that Grayson passed more amendments than any other member of Congress. You've probably heard that he helped pass the first Federal media shield bill through the U.S. House of Representatives. But you probably haven't heard that he exposed a plot by the banks to form their own war council with a bunch of three letter agencies. This sounds crazy, but you can read this Bloomberg article, titled "Banks Dreading Computer Hacks Call for Cyber War Council." It's right there. Under the guise of fearing hackers and terrorists, banks have been seeking a formal way to influence the NSA and CIA into cyber-attacks. Alan Grayson is the member of Congress who exposed it, because he knows that exposure is the way to stop the banks from gaining power they shouldn't have.

This doesn't show up on a vote tally. It doesn't show up in the Congressional Record. It doesn't take a majority of Congress to do this. It takes one person, who puts the time and effort in. That's what makes Alan Grayson special. As Martin Sheen said in the video up top, "Last year, when the prospect of war between the United States and Syria reared its ugly head, Alan Grayson worked tirelessly to convince both his colleagues and the American people to give peace a chance. Alan Grayson not only won that fight, but he also established a critical principle-- that when it's our blood to be spilled and when its our money to be spent, then it's our decision to make. Tireless, tough, creative, articulate, honest, poised and persuasive, Alan Grayson has become one of the bold leaders of the renewed peace movement here in America."

Grayson is doing a money bomb this week and Blue America wants to make sure all of our members know about it. You can contribute here. As Alan said:
"'Government of the people?' Well, obviously. 'Government by the people?' Who else, space aliens? But 'Government for the people'-- that’s where the real debate is. And I know which side I’m on. I know which side Blue America is on. What about you?"

A last thought from Rep. Grayson: "We need your help in the year 2014, not in the year 3114, when Hillary Clinton the XXXIII will be running against George Bush the XXXV for President. Now, not then. Oh, and just a reminder: we will be choosing one moneybomb contributor (donating $20.14 or more) to join Rep. Alan Grayson in Orlando on Election Day, or some other date that’s good for you. Come on, Mickey Mouse is dying to see you!"

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Movie Watch: "Calvary" at MoMI -- first watch the movie, then watch the writer-director and principal actor talk about it


Brendan Gleeson as Father James Lavelle

by Ken

Here's something to imagine. Imagine that you've just seen a movie that so overwhelmed and shocked you that at the end you hadn't yet had time to piece together how you felt -- a film that is so centrally built around its central character that he's a central piece of the architecture of the film (into which he had substantial input) -- and you knew that when the lights went up, the film's writer-director and principal actor would be coming onstage to talk about it!

Regular readers have probably guessed that the setting was the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, from which I just got home with 55 minutes till my post deadline. (I should admit that I did a fair amount of mostly illegible scribbling on the long two-train subway ride home. It remains to be seen, however, how useful that scribbling will prove.) What we saw was a members-only screening, courtesy of Fox Searchlight, of Calvary, the second film written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, and the principal actor was Brendan Gleeson, who had worked with McDonagh on his first film, The Guard, which I should say I had never heard of let alone seen (though now I guess I'll have to make it my business to. Variety's Justin Chang describes The Guard as "still the most successful Irish indie of all time."

I've written a fair amount (last September, for example, and as recently as this 4th of July) about the outsize pleasure I've derived from MoMI screenings and the extraordinary discussions that often accompany them -- like tonight's. And sure enough, it was chief curator David Schwartz who introduced tonight's program and led the post-screening discussion. (It was just last weekend that David was introducing a members-only preview of the about-to-open exhibition devoted to the legendary cartoon and animated-film director Chuck Jones. That exhibition, by the way, is a collaborative undertaking that has been conceived from the outset as a traveling show, so watch for it in a museum near you.)

One thing I've learned about MoMI screenings, though, is never to read the program hand-out till after the screening. It's something McDonagh and Gleeson didn't have to think about as they talked about the film, because they knew we had all just seen it. But sure enough, although tonight's program note consisted of a really smart review by the aforementioned Justin Chang of Variety, I'm sure glad I hadn't read it before seeing the film. To my mind, it gives away much too much that it seems to viewer is meant to sort out for him/herself as the picture begins to unfold.

This much I can say. The film takes us through a week in the life of a small-town Irish priest -- a good priest and a good man. (McDonagh explained that in the conception of the film, which he was able to accomplish during the extraordinarily protracted editing of The Guard, one of the things he wanted to do was to make a film about a good man.) Father James is in a condition of imminent personal crisis, and it's a crisis that is in no way his fault. (If you're thinking that in view of the worldwide priest scandals of these growing decades priests deserve to have anything that's dumpable dumped on them, let me assure you that this is in fact the animating subject of the film.)

Writer-director John Michael McDonagh

In the course of following Father James around for that week, we are introduced to a rogues' gallery of parishioners, and here I think Justin Chang gives away just the right amount:
There's a butcher (Chris O'Dowd) who is initially suspected of beating his town-slut wife (Orla O'Rourke), until he explains that she probably sustained her injuries at the hands of her Ivorian-immigrant lover (Isaach De Bankole). There's also a vaguely sinister police detective (Gary Lydon, reprising his role from The Guard whom the priest interrupts mid-tryst with a saucy male prostitute (Owen Sharpe), a doctor (Aidan Gillen) who makes no secret of his violently atheist views; and extravagantly wealthy man (Dylan Moran) whose riches have failed to bring him any lasting happiness; a sex-starved young man (Killian Scott) considering joining the army in order to vent his violent impulses; and an aging American writer (M. Emmet Walsh) determined to end life on his own terms.

All these villagers are introduced, one after another, in a series of sharply written, compellingly acted and increasingly pointed moral discussions, during which the priest will offer his counsel  . But the richest insights here are those we glean into the character of the grizzled clergyman himself . . . whose every nugget of hard-headed wisdom resonates with bitter life knowledge.
Onstage afterward, John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson were smart and intense and funny. McDonagh explained that the climax of the film had always been part of his conception, and that in fact the exigencies of a tight filming schedule dictated that it was shot near the beginning of the film, Gleeson noted that having that already safely on film had made shooting the rest of it freer and easier for him. I've mentioned that MoMI audiences ask excellent questions, and one about the film's setting elicited the information that Sligo is where his mother's people are from, and so he had visited often growing up, and therefore knew the locations -- including a large, barren flat-topped mountain that we see a lot of in the film.

M. Emmet Walsh
Which reminds me, the film is extraordinarily beautiful, and that reminds me that both it and The Guard were shot by the outstanding cinematographer Larry Smith. McDonagh explained that early on he had been thinking that Smith would be the ideal person to shoot The Guard but that he assumed there was no way he could get him to do it -- until it occurred to him that if he didn't ask, he certainly couldn't get him. He wound up asking and getting him, now for both pictures. Which turns out to be how M. Emmet Walsh was cast as well. I think McDonagh said it was his wife who had suggested that the great character actor would be perfect for the role, and again, if you don't ask, you don't get.

Both McDonagh and Gleeson talked about how much they enjoyed working with Walsh. Gleeson mentioned that after shooting was completed, he got a note from him saying that he'd finally worked his way up to Dublin, and everywhere he ate he generously dropped Gleeson's name -- and paid full price everywhere. Gleeson also talked about what it was like working with his son, who played a seriously psychopathic murderer Father James visits in prison. He explained that after working on the scene together, they went their separate ways for a week before shooting the scene.

That's the sort of detail that you don't need to "get" the film, but that deepens your understanding of and appreciation for the kind of effort that goes into producing something of lasting value.


Can Anyone Trust Pete Aguilar?


Substance abuser and New Dem Petey-Pie lets his hair down

I don't think even someone as astoundingly incompetent as Steve Israel could lose CA-31-- the Inland Empire congressional district-- for the Democrats again this year, despite having maneuvered to get an ethics-free, corrupt ex-lobbyist,  Pete Aguilar, the nomination. After all, the district has a PVI of D+5, Obama won it both times with 57% and the Republican incumbent Israel allowed to slip in in 2012, Gary Miller, is retiring. Almost nothing short of a coke bust-- always possible considering the photo above-- or a rape will keep Aguilar from beating GOP outsider Paul Cabot, despite Chabot coming in first in the primary with 14,163 votes (26.6%) to Aguilar's 9,242 (17.4%). And a Republican came in in 3rd place as well, Lesli Gooch, with 9,033 votes (17.0%). Aguilar is counting on the 19,074 votes (35.8%) 3 other Democrats-- Eloise Reyes, Joe Baca and Danny Tillman-- got in the race. And I'm sure he'll get some of them, although Baca hates him with a passion and is telling people to not vote for him; Tillman told him to go screw himself when he asked for his support; and Reyes isn't much of a fan either, despite giving him a polite pro forma endorsement. Baca and Tillman point right to Steve Israel's heavy-handed bumbling for why they won't back Aguilar now. Even Gregg Walden, the GOP version of Israel admits that it would be next to impossible for the Republicans to hold the district.

As of the June 30 FEC filings, Aguilar had raised $1,327,366, spent $1,021,285 and was sitting with $325,729 cash on hand. Chabot had only raised $164,912 and was sitting on a pitiful $26,342. Southern California Republicans Kevin McCarthy, Ken Calvert, Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa have promised to raise him enough cash to stay competitive with Aguilar.

There has been no outside interest from independent right-wing groups in helping Chabot so far and the DCCC and its House Majority PAC have spent $162,753 on Aguilar already and plan to spend a lot more (in a district that should be a gimme). Robert Conaway won the Democratic nomination to run in the 8th district, due north and east of the 31st. It's one of California's reddest districts (PVI is R+10) and Obama lost to McCain and to Romney with 42% each year. In 2012, the two highest vote-getters in the open primary were Cook and a deranged teabagger, Gregg Imus, andRobert Conaway's wife, Jackie came 4th after 3 Republicans with 14.3%. This time her husband avoided that came fate, coming in second with 18.7%, behind Cook with 58.1% and ahead of the second-ranking Republican, Paul Hannosh who got 13.1%. Friday, Conaway penned an OpEd in one of the local newspapers, Why I Can't Trust Pete Aguilar. Aguilar, who was never really a Democrat until he decided to front for the Chamber of Commerce as "their" appointed Hispanic on the City Council and then as their appointed mayor, is extremely tight with the Republican Machine. His conservative views mesh nicely with them as well.
On February 8, 2014, while winning the California Democratic Party’s pre-endorsement at a caucus in the Antelope Valley, I was personaly promised by Pete Aguilar that he would work with me and looked forward to working with me in Washington.

After both Pete and I earned the full party’s nomination at the California Democratic Party’s state convention on March 9, 2014 and thereafter helped each other by honoring the State Party endorsement to only support each other (despite the pressures from other democrats running against us both in each of our Districts), we both advanced in June as one of the top two finishers (Aguilar is up against Chabot and I against Paul Cook)-- with Aguilar’s supporters spending a reported $1.9 million and well my spending, well less than $5,000 (but I won by more votes and by a bigger margin-- hmm).

On July 17, 2014, long after the primary victories, Candidate Pete Aguilar shows his loyalty and trustworthiness in an interview with the Washington Post’s Jeff Simon where he says in response to “Who is your favorite republican politician?” Aguilar replies:
“You know what, I am going to say Congress Paul Cook from our area. He is a Great guy. A decorated war veteran. I’ve worked with Paul in the local government world when he was a local mayor as well and just a fantastic individual. We will disagree on a lot of issues, but if I am going to sit a plane with someone from our region, I would love to sit next to Paul Cook and pick his brain and talk about the region”
When I asked the Aguilar campaign to take the link to Facebook and campaign website link down to the Washington Post website-based interview, the campaign manager [Boris] on July 24, 2014 after a San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee meeting wanted to talk with me and after agreeing it “was an attack” and he “was present at the interview,” conditioned removal of the links on not making a formal protest of what anyone could logically consider to be an endorsement of the opposition candidate.

That the Cook campaign or one of its surrogates will run an ad or send a flyer with Pete Aguilar’s face on it and the text of his praise for Paul Cook is the next problem, as it will be a flyer that will target Democratic voters that last time had the choice between Imus (a Tea Party Republican) and Cook due to the quirk of an open primary.

Politics are dirty in the Inland Empire and while Aguilar may be new to Congressional politics, to me, he is the same ole’ sack of shit and makes me think, just maybe Aguilar thought he was answering the Yankee Stadium fans’ question, “Who’s your daddy?”
And here I always thought Aguilar's daddy was Jerry Lewis… and Steve Israel. Oh, and Herman Aguilar who he told the media had died as an excuse for losing in 2012. Herman is back from the dead and campaigning for him again this year.

Corrupt Inland Empire conservatives rally around their boy Pete Aguilar, including his pal Jerry Lewis,  Bill Emmerson,  Mike Morrell  and, of course, Gary Miller 

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August Primaries


There are quite a few of them but the ones progressives have a stake in, in chronological order, are Hawaii (August 9), Wisconsin (August 12), and then a late super-Tuesday on August 26 for Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma. That same day has primaries in Alaska, Missouri, Oregon and Vermont with interesting races but no races that pit a progressive against a shill from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

Up top is the brand new video from one of the most grassroots campaigns anywhere, the Tom Guild campaign for the open Oklahoma City congressional seat. Guild came in a strong first in the 3-way June 24th primary, beating non-courageous, and conservative Establishment Democrat Al McAffrey:
Tom Guild- 11,597 (42.1%)
Al McAffrey- 8,505 (30.9%)
Leona Leonard- 7,424 (27%)
McAffrey, who is being partially financed by Krumme Oil, has out-raised Guild but small contributions through ActBlue are keeping Guild competitive. OK-05 doesn't have an astronomical media market and Guild is using contributions to keep his ad on TV news shows and on a field operation and get out the vote effort.

Yesterday we took a brief look at the WI-07 primary, where a Republican right wing lunatic and gun fanatic, Mike Krsiean, switched his party registration so he could primary progressive Democrat Kelly Westlund in the race to replace Paul Ryan-clone Sean Duffy. The other Wisconsin primary to watch is in the southeast part of the state, WI-01, where an L.A.-based UFO conspiracy buff, Amar Kaleka, is challenging Rob Zerban (on the same day that a Republican marijuana activist named Jeremy Ryan is challenging Paul Ryan in the GOP primary. Republican crossbow expert Ryan Ryan says he will challenge whichever of the two Ryans wins when he's old enough to run in 2016.) So far Paul Ryan raised $6,938,372; Rob Zerban raised $494,878; Amar Kaleka raised $138,353; and neither Jeremy Ryan nor Ryan Ryan has raised enough to file with the FEC. In WI-07, Sean Duffy has raised $1,808,688; Kelly Westlund has raised $303,214; and Mike Krsiean and his 700 pound pig Barney are refusing to report their fundraising to the FEC.

There's an important primary in Phoenix, where Ed Pastor, first elected in 1991, is retiring from a super-blue district, AZ-07 (PVI D+16). Obama beat hometown boy John McCain there 65-34% and in 2012 wiped out Mitt Romney 72-27%. Whoever wins the Democratic primary August 26 will be the next congressmember. There are 4 Democratic candidates, Ruben Gallego, Randy Camacho, Jarrett Maupin and, from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, Mary Rose Wilcox. Gallego, who has been endorsed by Raul Grijalva, Dolores Huerta, MoveOn, the Sierra Club, Climate Hawks Vote and Daily Kos, is the progressive fave in the race and Mary Rose Wilcox is just another grotesquely conservative, corrupt EMILY's List pick. They're the only two who have raised any money-- $434,873 for Gallego and $335,656 for Wilcox. Celinda Lake has done the only published poll (May 22) and it shows Gallego leading Wilcox 38-32%.

Primary day in Hawaii, two weeks from yesterday, is really important and it features two races, one for Senate and one for the House, that pit shills from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party against proven progressives. The Senate race is a match-up between Senator Brian Schatz, one of the best members of the Senate-- right up there with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley and Tom Harkin-- against a corrupt conservative New Dem, Colleen Hanabusa. Everything you need to know about the Senate primary is here. The House race is to replace Hanabusa in the seat she gave up to run against Schatz. The progressive in the race is Stanley Chang and he's being challenged by two conservatives, Mark Takai and Donna Kim. Back in May the Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed Chang. Last week, Japanese-American congressman, Mark Takano, lied to his fellow caucus members and convinced them that his Japanese-American pal Takai is not really a conservative and railroaded them into making it a "dual endorsement." They should have known better because Takano, one of the least effective and least trustworthy members of the CPC, also went to bat for corrupt conservative Pete Aguilar (a New Dem) on behalf of DCCC chairman Steve Israel (a Blue Dog who was behind both Aguilar and Takai).

One of the CPC members I respect, even admire, sent me a note that explained how Takano had persuaded him and other members to go for the dual endorsement. I don't have permission to publish it but I will publish my own response to that member:
Yeah, I know. And Brat had no chance to beat Cantor either. So Stanley had "no chance" so you endorsed an anti-gay conservative who's slightly better on most things-- but not all-- than Donna Kim, splitting the progressive vote and guaranteeing that Kim will win. Sorry it took so long to get back to you but the electricity in my neighborhood was down all day 'til just now.

Takai talks a good game, but he's not a progressive, as I've been writing about on my blog.

Many Democrats including el presidente have "evolved" on marriage equality in recent years, but Takai's flip-flop is very recent and smacks of opportunism, which is how the press in Honolulu interpreted it. Takai voted no on civil unions twice and was in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman in 2012. He only reversed his position after deciding to run for Congress, a few months ago. Does a "progressive" go from no on civil unions and pro-marriage amendment to yes on marriage in the blink of an eye?

Takai introduced bills to drug-test welfare recipients twice. He's terrible on choice. You mentioned emergency contraception as an issue that is important to you, but Takai has repeatedly said that he would vote for religious exemptions for hospitals that don't wish to offer emergency contraception, including in statements to the Hawaii Family Forum in 2010 and 2012. This is not ancient history.

You expressed concern about the polling, but the most recent poll (by Civil Beat) was conducted over two months ago. It had a sample size of 249 people and a margin of error of nearly 5%. This poll was in the field just 2 days after Stanley's first TV ad went live and right at the point where Stanley's campaign began ramping up their voter outreach. It does not reflect today's reality on the ground. The media in Hawaii paid barely any attention at all to this race until very recently, due to the high-profile primaries for Senate and Governor. In May, voters were not knowledgeable about the candidates and were only responding on the basis of name recognition.

Labor unions and other local organizations are notoriously risk-averse in their endorsements and tend to go for establishment figures. Stanley has gone out of his way to court labor and all the local unions like him. Many of the major unions like HGEA have decided to stay neutral in this race. The endorsement by Equality Hawaii is a joke. There was no questionnaire, no process, no interview; just a few board members getting together to back Takai. Equality Hawaii is widely mocked and hated by the progressive LGBT community in the state. Takai's endorsement by the Star-Advertiser is meaningless and they are very conservative, having endorsed the worst Democrat in contemporary Hawaii politics Mufi Hannemann (anti-equality so-called Democrat turned Independent this cycle) twice for Governor in 2010 and Congress in 2012. Needless to say, he lost both times.

I'm not sure what evidence Takai gave you for his strong ground game, but we have people on the ground in Honolulu and they are NOT seeing it. Except for Schatz, Stanley's campaign is the only one in the state that has a serious field operation. I'm talking about real voter outreach, not just appearances like sign-waving, which is what many in Hawaii mean when they talk about canvassing.

Kim said in this week's debate, when asked who she would vote for if she weren't running: "To be very honest, I would be supporting Mark Takai, because I've worked with Mark Takai for many years in the State House of Representatives. We get along very well and I respect Mark."

Takai is going through the motions to pander to the progressive community, and if you watch his talking points over the past several months you will notice this evolution. Sure, it's great that he's on our side now for some issues, but I have a hard time imagining him in the Progressive Caucus-- MAYBE the way Jared is-- and I very much doubt that he'll be a reliable progressive vote if elected. His interest first and foremost is bringing more military resources to Hawaii.

XXX, I don't expect anything better from Takano, but you got sold a bill of goods and I feel awful about it.

Endorsed Mark Takai, who has a virulently homophobic voting record, but… what the hell?

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Ghost of Sunday Classics: Yes, it's more Donald Adams!


Princess Ida's three "hulking brothers" are bested by Prince Hilarion and his friends Cyril and Florian in Act III of the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' Princess Ida.
Politics we bar,
they are not our bent!
On the whole we are
not intelligent!
-- Ida's brother Arac, in Act I of Princess Ida
by Ken

So far in this series we've heard our Donald as the army-besotted landlord Sergeant Bouncer in Burnand and Sullivan's Cox and Box and as the Usher in Trial by Jury, and most recently as the specter of the late Sir Roderic Murgatroyd in Ruddigore. And I thought we should start by finishing up with Sir Roderic, since we gave rather short shrift to the great scene in which the ancestral Murgatroyds step out of their picture frames in the great hall of the Bad Baronets of Ruddigore to torment the recently entitled Sir Ruthven over his failure to live up to the fabled Witch's Curse -- to "do one crime or more, once every day forever." After all, it was supposed to be our goal in last week's post, "When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls."

So we're going to return to the Picture Galley, then push farther into Ruddigore, and then we're going to hear Donald in another role, one he didn't have occasion to sing often, but sang wonderfully on two recordings of Princess Ida.

Read more »

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Boehner Still Afraid To Whip His Obstructionist Caucus Into Line On Fixing The V.A.


Almost every Senate Republican-- even extremist obstructionists like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Richard Burr-- followed Bernie Sanders' lead last month to pass a bill to address the sordid situation at the V.A. It passed 93-3 with the only dissections from mentally unstable right-wingers Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (R-KKK) and Bob Corker (R-TN).

The House Republicans can't quite get their shit together on the whole V.A. mess they've been desperately trying to turn into a talking point. Talking points are a lot easier for them than actually doing anything. So, Thursday evening they failed to pass a motion to instruct their conferees to agree to the original, bipartisan Senate-passed V.A. overhaul. It failed by 2 votes, 207-205, only 13 Republicans with the guts to stand up to the Tea party sociopaths and obstructionists. Every Democrat voted "yes" and the 13 Republicans were a gaggle of relatively mainstream conservatives (or Members in fear of losing in November): Jeff Denham (CA), Charlie Dent (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Chris Gibson (NY), Gregg Harper (MS), Joe Heck (NV), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Candice Miller (MI), Steve Pearce (NM), Ed Royce (CA), Lee Terry (NE), Fred Upton (MI), and Frank Wolf (VA).

Boehner didn't vote but he knew he'd have to get the bill-- unpopular with the crackpot base only because it signals cooperation instead of anarchy-- passed. So, the following day he allowed it to be voted on again. Less than 24 hours after it failed, a dozen more Republicans crossed the aisle and voted with the Democrats for veterans. These were the 12 who voted "no" on Thursday and "yes" on Friday:
Andy Barr (KY)
Michael Burgess (TX)
Steve Daines (MT)
Renee Ellmers (NC)
Cory Gardner (CO)
Sam Johnson (TX)
Walter Jones (NC)
Leonard Lance (NJ)
Tom Petri (WI)
Bill Posey (FL)
Tom Rooney (FL)
Chris Smith (NJ)
Denham, Harper, Pearce and Wolf had voted for the veterans on Thursday but changed their minds and voted against veterans on Friday, nearly upending the whole opportunity to address the V.A. emergency.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders, the point person for the compromise in the Senate wants to allow vets to go to private doctors if they face long waits for appointments at a V.A. hospital or if they live more than 40 miles from one. His proposal would shave around $10 billion from the original Senate bill that's already passed and which House Republicans say is too expensive. You ever notice that conservatives are never concerned about the cost of sending men and women to fight in wars but then want to nickel and dime the wounded to death when they come back broken and shattered? That's part of the inherent nature of conservatism. It's what the essence of conservatism is all about. From Sanders' official website:
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders on Thursday detailed compromise legislation that he offered to House negotiators one week ago that would reform the VA and give it the tools to provide quality, timely health care to veterans. The proposal (click here for details) would address the need for short-term, emergency access to care while strengthening VA’s capacity to address veterans’ needs in the long term.

The Senate voted 93-3 on June 11 for a bill that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cost $35 billion. The House separately passed veterans legislation that CBO estimated would cost $44 billion. Sanders’ latest proposal-- given last Friday to House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)-- would cost less than $25 billion.

Instead of working constructively toward a compromise, Miller unilaterally called a “conference committee meeting” to unveil his take-it-or-leave-it gambit. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations. We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations-- 24/7 if necessary-- to resolve our differences in order to pass critical legislation,” Sanders said.

“The major veterans’ organizations have been clear about the needs of the VA. It is time for the House to pay attention,” Sanders added. He was referring to a letter on Wednesday from the nation’s major veterans groups on Wednesday backing increased funding for more doctors, nurses and space at VA facilities. (Read the letter.)

Sanders said the proposal that he detailed for Miller on Monday concedes that some of the costs of this bill should be offset and would provide more than $2.5 billion in savings from within the Veterans’ Affairs Committees’ jurisdiction. “What it does not concede,” Sanders said, “is that the cost of war is expensive and that the cost of war does not end when the last shots are fired and the last missiles are launched.  The cost of war continues until the last veteran receives the care and benefits that he or she has earned on the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, 116 Democrats signed this letter to Reid and Boehner demanding that there be no congressional vacation until an agreement is readhed on the V.A. problem:

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Does It Say About The 25 Democrats Who Crossed The Aisle To Vote With The GOP To Amend The Internal Revenue Code Of 1986


The whole purpose of the vote Friday afternoon was, euphemistically called the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014-- and sponsored by 4 corporate shills, Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Devin Nunes of California and Tom Reed of New York-- was to expand tax credits for wealthy families while leaving kids from poor families behind, standard operating procedure for Republicans, of course. But 5 Republicans opposed the grotesquely unfair bill and 25 of the worst conservatives from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party in the House voted for it.

Let me preface this by saying that I had a very rich and rewarding experience last week. I spent it at my alma mater, Stony Brook, getting a better understanding of their EOP/AIM program (Equal Opportunity Program/Advancement on Individual Merit). I spent my days there getting to know the administrators, the teachers and the incredible motivated students. These kids come from homes where the average household income is $12,000 a year and many of them never thought they would find themselves in a top-rated university-- with all the opportunities inherent in that. But Stony Brook goes out to high schools and recruits kids who would benefit from the program, helping them visualize themselves in college and he helping them tackle the inevitable problems that come up for their entire 4 years college experience. The program's graduation rate-- 78%-- is about significantly higher than the graduation rate from the university in general.

Friday, writing for Mother Jones, Erika Eichelberger, explained the inherent unfairness of the bill the conservatives passed, 237-173. The bill, she wrote, "changes the way the federal child tax credit works by raising the eligibility cap for married couples. At the same time, the legislation would allow a 2009 child tax credit increase for low-income families to expire at the end of 2017. Here's how that would play out in the coming years. A married couple with two children that bring in $160,000 a year would get a new annual tax cut of $2,200, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). A single mother with two kids who makes $14,500 a year would lose $1,725 annually.
"The big winners would be the more-affluent families who would become newly eligible for the [child tax credit]," tax experts at the CBPP noted Tuesday. "The losers would be millions of low-income families who are doing exactly what policymakers often say they want these people to do-- working, even at low-wage jobs."

…The 2009 law that increased the child tax credit for poor families did so by lowering the income level required for a partial credit to $3,000 and reducing the annual income required for a full credit to $16,333. If it expires, 6 million children and roughly 400,000 veterans and military families would lose all or part of their child tax credit.
The 5 Republicans who voted with the Democrats against this monstrosity of unfairness were mainstream conservatives Jeff Denham (CA), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Walter Jones (NC), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), and David Valadao (CA), all except Jones representing Democratic-leaning districts And these were the 25 disgraceful excuses for Democrats who crossed the aisle in the other direction to vote against working families:
Ron Barber (Blue Dog/New Dem-AZ)
John Barrow (Blue Dog/New Dem-GA)
Ami Bera (New Dem-CA)
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog/New Dem-GA)
Bruce Braley (cowardly Senate candidate-IA)
Julia Brownley (CA)
Cheri Bustos (Blue Dog-IL)
Bill Enyart (IL)
Pete Gallego (Blue Dog/New Dem-TX)
John Garamendi (CA)
Joe Garcia (New Dem-FL)
Ann Kuster (New Dem-NH)
Dave Loebsack (IA)
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
Sean Patrick Maloney (New Dem-NY)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog/New Dem-NC)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Gary Peters (New Dem-MI)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Nick Rahall (Blue Dog-WV)
Raul Ruiz (CA)
Brad Schneider (New Dem-IL)
Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog/New Dem-AZ)
Every Republican, except maybe the 5 who crossed the aisle, plus these 25 faithless Democrats, are class enemies of most Americans. The medium household income in the country is $50,502. 49.5% of American families live in households where the annual income is less than $50,000 and only 4.3% of Americans live in households with annual incomes above $200,000. These conservative congressmembers think their job is to safeguard inequality and keep the doors of opportunity bolted to the children of the less well-off. Forget about party affiliation; if you're not making six-figures you shouldn't vote for any of these people. And if you are making six-figures, you should only vote for them if you hate America and want to see it whither and die.

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TV Watch: There's something going on in "Jennifer Falls," which makes it something of a miracle in today's TV world


"Here it comes -- blame the mother!" Jennifer's psychiatrist (Kurt Fuller) tries to conduct a repeat session with his patient, Jennifer (Jaime Pressly), and her family -- psychologist mom Maggie (Jessica Walters), brother Wayne (Ethan Suplee), sister-in-law Stephanie (Nora Kirkpatrick), and, ever so briefly, daughter Gretchen (Dylan Gelula), in last week's episode of Jennifer Falls, "Three Dates With My Mother."

by Ken

The problem with trying to write a regular "TV Watch" feature is that the powers that be seem determined to make sure they're dishing out next to nothing worth writing about. You watch new show after new show, and eventually it dawns on you that the "creative" process, in program develoment and pitching, has become something like: "Hey, here's something that could be really crappy!"

So I think it counts for something that after catching a later episode of Jennifer Falls -- having resolutely avoided the thing based on the death-defyingly horrible promos, which carry the message, "Run for your life!" -- I felt impelled to watch the earlier episodes via On Demand and then went so far as to program the DVR to preserve new ones. What's more, I've actually watched the couple of episodes that the DVR recorded. This doesn't qualify as an actual commitment, but it's something.

You probably know the premise: that Jennifer (Jaime Pressly), a career-long rising star in the financial-services industry, suddenly crashed and burned, and tail between her legs has slinked back to old home -- along with her teenage daughter, Gretchen (Dylan Gelula) with her psychologist mom (Jessica Walters), and the company of her sweet but nebbishy brother, Wayne (Ethan Suplee), his overbearing wife, Stephanie (Nora Kirkpatrick), and Jennifer's onetime best friend, Dina (Missi Pyle). Even from the promos you could see that there's an inordinate quantity of cheekbones and Hollywood hair and sitcom perkiness. The instinct, as I said, has to be to run not walk. (It's probably just as well that I didn't remember Jaime Pressly and Ethan Suplee from the few episodes I watched of My Name Is Earl, a show I found supremely repulsive.)

Still, premises are just that, premises. You can reduce Hamlet to a cheesy premise, or The Trouble with Harry, or even -- perhaps especially -- Downton Abbey. What matters is what the creative people have thought to do with the premise. And something in that first episode created a tingle of a sense that series creator Matthew Carlson has something in mind, and possibly that seeing more episodes might even reveal that he's got it going. I've noted a number of times that in cases where a show's creator(s) had something genuinely original going, it was all there from the start and I just missed it.

My classical extreme instance has long been SOAP. The first time I saw the first episode, I was appalled. I mean, someone thought it was funny to have Benson (Robert Guillaume) joke about pumping sugar into the diabetic Chester Tate (Robert Mandan)? Years later, having gotten the hang of what the show was doing via later episodes, I rewatched the pilot and was totally charmed. Even in my "for instance," the show's creative team had nailed the, er, difficult relationship between Benson and Mr. Tate. Many of the things that had initially put me off on first viewing turned out to be not only carefully conceived but fresh and inspired.

Alas, I haven't found that to be the case in my catch-up Jennifer Falls viewing, but there's still something there. I guess I'm not hugely fond of the way the show is executed, because when I can focus on the writing, it often seems to me really quite good, even outstanding.

Take this scene from last week's episode, "Three Dates With My Mother" (written by Matthew Carlson), where Jennifer had to admit to Mom that for three months she had been seeing not just a therapist but a psychiatrist, knowing that Maggie as a psychologist hates psychiatrists, in order to convey the psychiatrist's request that she bring her family in for a session. Jennifer had to do all this knowing that her mother would not merely bear her anti-psychiatrist grudge but would be convinced that Jennifer's treatment would quickly come 'round to "blame the mother."

At the beginning, Jennifer and Maggie are entering an elevator, en route to a session that her psychiatrist (Kurt Fuller) as requested with her family.
MAGGIE: I can't believe I have to do another one of these insufferable sessions. I canceled a salt scrub for this.
JENNIFER: All right, you know what, Mom? I am really sick of you being all pissy about my therapy. I mean, is it too much for you to try and help me instead of spending all your energy trying to attack my therapist?
MAGGIE: Boy, you're in a mood today. Did you skip breakfast this morning?
JENNIFER: You know what? That's it! [Reaches for the elevator control panel and engages the stop button] We are not leaving this elevator until we get to something real. You know, when I lost everything and had to move back in with you, [with crazed exasperation] you threw me a party! You know what I would have really liked more, Mom? If you would have just asked me what it felt like to fail.
MAGGIE: It was a nice party.
JENNIFER [aghast]: I failed, Mom.
MAGGIE: You didn't fail.
JENNIFER: Yes, I did. I did. I mean, why is it so hard for you to admit that sometimes bad things happen to this family?
MAGGIE [reaching to release the elevator stop button]: We're going to be late for the appointment.
JENNIFER [reengaging the elevator stop button]: No! No! We are doing this! You're going to admit it. You are going to look at me and tell me that your daughter screwed up.
MAGGIE [rereleasing the elevator stop button]: This is ridiculous.
JENNIFER [reengaging the elevator stop button]: Tell me, Mom.
MAGGIE [pulls the elevator stop button clear out of the panel, trailing a rootlike agglomeration of wires 'n' stuff]: No! Now we're stuck!
Now I happen to think this is exceedingly smart writing, and could have been turned into a really terrific as well as really funny scene, instead of what seemed to me an okay one. At least, though, the acting quieted down, and we got some sense of actual interchange between the characters rather than what always seems to me mindlessly perky, sing-songy, machine-gun-like delivery.

I have no inside knowledge, but I can't help suspecting the unhelpful influence of Network Suits. I think of Jessica Walters, for example, as a stunning actress, one who had a special talent for doing "smart" and "beautiful" simultaneously. In her later years, however, she seems to have gotten pigeonholed in her selfish-narcissistic-mother groove, which worked extremely well in the crazed ensemble of Arrested Development but much less well in her earlier TVLand series, Retired at 35. I get the feeling that no one here really wants to see what she could do for a real Maggie.

Let me stress that it's not the decision to treat the Jennifer Falls situation comedically that rubs me the wrong way. True, it could be played for Strindbergian psychodrama, but that's not what I'm proposing. (Nobody would watch that anyway.) I think Matthew Carlson is absolutely right to think that there could be comic gold in this material. He has made all kinds of utterly excellent choices -- as, for example, the basic personality Jennifer presented to the people in her high-flying-banker life, which was abrasive, domineering, and dehumanizing. It's not that these qualities necessarily brought about her cataclysm, but that her firing, far from displeasing the people above and below her, or arousing sympathy from them, seemed generally to be quite a happy development for them all.

Now that's a past-life circumstance that could be worked with from a writerly standpoint in Jennifer's humbled present circumstances. Or again, there's the basic circumstance that while Maggie is indeed exceedingly self-concerned, the fact is that when her daughter found herself so suddenly in such ghastly circumstances, Maggie welcomed her and her granddaughter back home, not grudgingly and resentfully, but eagerly and uncomplainingly. There's room for a lot of irony here in the gulf between mother and daughter.

As a matter of fact, the elevator scene brought a breakthrough of sorts for Jennifer and Maggie. As daughter recognized as soon as she realized that they were indeed stuck in the elevator, this was likely to trigger Mom's claustrophobia. Sure enough, Maggie went into a claustrophobic panic, announcing that she didn't want to die, pounding the elevator door, and crying out for help. But eventually the two of them find themselves actually talking, and Maggie recalls her mother -- the grandmother whom Jennifer remembers as a kindly, saintly presence -- openly ridiculing her every time she said or did anything wrong. Jennifer would never have seen this behavior, because Maggie learned how to prevent it. "All I had to do was never be wrong."

Afterward, Jennifer, speaking directly to us, as she sometimes does, said, "It's not like the world changed, but after that, things got a little easier between us."

Which is where last week's episode finished. I'm curious to see where we pick up this week. I know we're going to meet Gretchen's dad, Jennifer's ex. That could be interesting. It's been awhile since a TV-show episode left me curious enough about what happens next to want to see it.

SOAP's Chester Tate (Robert Mandan) and Benson (Robert Guillaume): The show's creative team, led by Susan Harris, had this hilariously poisoned relationship nailed from the get-go.