AMERICAblog NewsAMERICAblog News A great nation deserves the truth // One of America's top progressive sites for news and opinion Wed, 25 May 2016 17:52:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wisconsin county clerk says that weekend voting gives “too much access” to ballot Wed, 25 May 2016 17:52:30 +0000 “When it comes to voting, more often means worse.” – George Will

The trial in a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s laundry list of ballot access restrictions keeps getting more and more frustrating.

One week after a former Republican staffer testified that the state’s voter ID law was passed for the express purpose of reducing turnout among low-income, minority and student populations, a county clerk testified that the state was right to eliminate weekend hours for early voting in Milwaukee County because it gave those voters “too much access.”

From the Chippewa Herald:

[Waukesha County clerk Kathleen] Novack said she believes eliminating weekend voting “level(s) the playing field” between large urban areas and smaller suburban and rural communities that lack the resources to staff weekend hours.

Scott Walker, via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

“If there’s an office open 30 days versus an office that’s only open 10 work days, there are obviously voters that have a lot more access than someone else,” Novack said. “There has to come a point where it’s just giving over-access … to particular parts of the state.”

Asked whether she thought voters in Milwaukee and Madison — communities that previously used weekend voting — had too much access, Novack said, “too much access to the voters as far as opportunities.”

Novack went on to dismiss the issue of long lines at polling places that result from getting rid of weekend voting, arguing that “Apparently access is an easy thing or they wouldn’t have long lines.” At this point, I assume that the plaintiffs’ lawyers, whose beef with eliminating weekend voting is that it reduces access in party by making lines on Election Day longer, began bleeding from the ears.

In Wisconsin in particular, it’s important to note the racial politics at play here. Milwaukee County is surrounded by three counties — Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington (the WOW counties) — that are 94, 95 and 96 percent white, respectively. Milwaukee County is 65 percent white, and Milwaukee voters are often used by Republicans in the state as shorthand for black people. When Novack says that Milwaukee’s weekend voting gave its citizens too much access, what she’s worried about isn’t that her counties’ residents won’t be able to vote; she’s worried that black people, and by extension Democrats, will.

These folks aren’t very good at masking their contempt for certain types of voters.

(h/t Rick Hasen)

Debbie Wasserman Schultz could be out as DNC chair before the convention Wed, 25 May 2016 15:47:51 +0000 If this is the only thing that comes from Bernie Sanders staying in the race for a few more weeks, it’ll be well worth his time.

Yesterday, the Hill reported that Democrats in Washington are thinking of replacing Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the Democratic National Committee before the party’s convention in August. According to their sources, the thinking is that replacing Wasserman Schultz — who is for many Sanders supporters the personification of a primary system weighted against their candidate — could help unite the party as it looks toward November.

Bernie Sanders recently endorsed Tim Canova, Wasserman Schultz’s challenger in a primary for her seat in the House.

Democrats who support both Sanders and Clinton have recently been frustrated with Wasserman Schultz, both as a party leader and as a member of Congress. From setting a debate schedule that minimized candidate exposure to blaming Hillary Clinton’s lack of support from young women on their “complacency” to going to bat for the payday lending industry, it’s been getting harder and harder for Democrats to say she’s been doing a good job as the leader of our party with a straight face. Having her running the proceedings in Philadelphia this summer would surely be met with at least some disapproval.

From the Hill:

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, via Wikimedia Commons

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, via Wikimedia Commons

“There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” said one pro-Clinton Democratic senator.

The lawmaker said senators huddled on the chamber floor last week to talk about Wasserman Schultz’s future and estimated that about a dozen have weighed in during private conversations.

“I don’t see how she can continue to the election. How can she open the convention? Sanders supporters would go nuts,” said the lawmaker, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Wasserman Schultz has already indicated that she will be out as DNC chair by the time the next presidential cycle rolls around. It seems that the politics surrounding her role as chair could accelerate that process.

Video shows Sanders-supporting chair thrower at Nevada Dem convention Tue, 24 May 2016 19:07:10 +0000  

Courtesy of Samantha Bee and CNN, there’s now video of a chair being raised in the air, apparently about to be thrown, at the Democratic state convention in Nevada.

Bernie Sanders and his supporters have claimed repeatedly that there was no threat of violence at the convention, a scene that nearly broke into a riot a week ago after Sanders supporters claimed, falsely, that they had been cheated. Not only was Sen. Barbara Boxer booed at the convention, but the state party chair received threats against her children. Boxer later told CNN that she feared for her safety. Security finally shut down the event when they could no longer guarantee the attendees safety from Sanders supporters.

As background, Hillary Clinton had won the state earlier this year, and Sanders supporters attempted to change the rules so that they could get the most delegates. They lost, and threw a fit.

Sanders and his supporters, when faced with public outrage over their behavior, denied — quite vociferously — that anyone was “throwing chairs.”

In the video, a snippet of which is below, it’s quite clear that a man raises a chair in the air, and is about to throw it before someone else stops him.

As Samantha Bee notes, perhaps the man thought he was at a Jewish wedding.

Here’s the relevant clip from Bee’s recent broadcast.

chair 3

And when you get a chance, it’s worth looking at the rest of Samantha Bee’s report. She’s quite pointed, in only the way she can be, about Sanders’ repeated claims of being cheated out of the nomination.

What’s up with this maybe-scandal in Virginia? Tue, 24 May 2016 17:00:03 +0000 Yesterday, CNN reported that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice and FBI over $120,000 in campaign contributions he received via businesses owned by Wang Wenliang.

Putting the words “McAuliffe,” “ongoing investigation” and “campaign contributions” in the same sentence confirmed many suspicions people have about McAuliffe. The former head of the DNC and prolific Clinton fundraiser has always come off as a bit of a sleazebag. Hell, this is a guy who put a story in his autobiography about the time he left his wife in the delivery room while she was giving birth to their daughter to swing by a party hosted by the Washington Post.

However, once you get past CNN’s headline — “Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe under federal investigation for campaign contributions — the actual story seems pretty thin. Once you get a few paragraphs in you learn that, while it’s super illegal to take donations from foreign nationals, Wang Wenliang has permanent resident status in the United States. This means that he is almost certainly allowed to make political donations. In fact, he’s been a regular donor to other causes — some political, some not — in recent years.

You also learn that while Wang has donated to the Clinton Global Initiative, where McAuliffe previously served as a board member and could arguably be the most suspicious part of the two’s relationship, “there is no allegation that the foundation did anything improper; the probe has focused on McAuliffe and the electoral campaign donations.”

CNN’s report was apparently the first McAuliffe had heard that he was under investigation, and both he and his campaign’s lawyer, Marc Elias, have insisted that nothing illegal took place. To be honest, and in spite of the fact that McAuliffe has struck me as a somewhat shady money man, I’m inclined to believe them, for two reasons:

Terry McAuliffe, photo by Kate Wellington.

Terry McAuliffe, photo by Kate Wellington.

First, the CNN report is incredibly vague and references an investigation that has gone on for over a year already. This says to me that it was leaked in order to do political damage. McAuliffe is coming off of a handful of political victories for Democrats in Virginia — from his executive order restoring the franchise to ex-felons to the Supreme Court rejecting a Republican appeal of a ruling which held that the state’s congressional map was racially gerrymandered — and he is also closely tied to Hillary Clinton, who counts Virginia as a top-tier target in November. Letting some air out of his balloon — putting an asterisk next to his felon re-enfranchisement order by cuing up a series of jokes about how it may have been in his own self-interest — is a hell of a way to start the general election campaign in the state.

Second, someone as experienced with fundraising as McAuliffe, especially someone who knows they will be a target given the office they’re running for and the soon-to-be presidential candidate they are closely tied to, really ought to know who he can and can’t raise money from. I think McAuliffe is well-aware where the lines are, and how to avoid crossing him. In this case, being a sleazy money man may be to his advantage.

I could be wrong, and McAuliffe could become the second Virginia governor in a row to be convicted of political crimes. It certainly would jive with everything we already sort of suspect about the man. But as it stands right now, the story isn’t as interesting as the headline.

Who at Secret Service came up with Team Trump’s gay-Holocaust pin? Tue, 24 May 2016 15:40:54 +0000 The Secret Service has reportedly given Donald Trump’s presidential campaign a lapel pin that key staffers can wear to identity themselves.

The question is why the Secret Service would choose a pin that looks like it came from the Holocaust.

I noticed the pin a few months back on the jacket of Trump chief of staff Corey Lewandowki. The pin, an upside down triangle made up of two colors that look like pink and purple, struck me as odd, and oddly familiar, at the time.

by default 2016-05-24 at 11.06.55 AM

I didn’t think about it again until this morning, when Trump adviser Michael Cohen was on CNN, sporting the same pin.


Friends on Twitter suggested it might be something from the Secret Service. (Members of Congress sport their own unique pin to identify themselves to security, and the White House has its own version as well.)

And in fact, Vocativ confirmed that the pin was issued by the Secret Service.

But the problem remains: Why use a pin that looks straight out of the Holocaust? And it does. The Nazis forced many of their prisoners to wear inverted triangles, the color of which indicated the particular class of prisoner. For example, gays sported pink, while criminals wore green, political prisoners wore red, “asocials” wore black, and Jehovah’s Witnesses wore purple. Jews got an extra triangle added as well.

So the Trump button is a combination of the ones the Nazis forced gays (pink) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (purple) to wear in concentration camps.


Here is a specimen of the Nazi’s gay emblem:

pink triangle nazix

Gays in Nazi Germany were considered a threat to German purity. The Nazis arrested 100,000 men, with 10,000 to 15,000 sent to concentration camps to die.

Gays in Nazi Germany were considered a threat to German purity. The Nazis arrested 100,000 men, with 10,000 to 15,000 sent to concentration camps to die.

In more recent times, the pink triangle was a symbol of gay liberation and pride from the 1970s through the early 1990s, before the rainbow became the prevalent symbol of the LGBT movement. The gay pride version of the triangle is decidedly pink, and looks remarkably like the Trump Secret Service pin. See examples here, here, and here.

Congresswoman and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Pink Triangle Ceremonies in 1999 and 2012. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Pink Triangle and The

Congresswoman and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks at the Pink Triangle Ceremonies in 1999 and 2012. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Pink Triangle and The

It’s bad enough that Trump’s triangle (bi)color looks awfully pink from a distance, but regardless of color, what could have possibly crossed the Secret Service’s mind to choose an inverted triangle as a symbol of presidential security when the inverted triangle is, and forever will be, a symbol of Nazi persecution?

Even though I’m certain it was a historical oversight, rather than a bad joke about Trump’s more extreme policies, it’s weird — and weirdly inappropriate.

Evangelical leader’s fundraising pitch for Trump: He points to the sky for Jesus Mon, 23 May 2016 17:15:07 +0000 Donald Trump is the most transparently irreligious candidate to win a major party nomination in the modern era. He doesn’t claim to attend church often, is clearly uncomfortable with religious terminology and can’t name a favorite Testament — to say nothing of a favorite Bible verse. Not to mention the fact that he’s a thrice-married egomaniac who has spent his entire life exaggerating his wealth and sexual exploits.

The only thing that would make Donald Trump less of a Christian is if he sacrificed a goat in front of a golden statue of himself (perhaps with horns) in front of Trump Tower.

Trump’s clear disregard for the core tenets of his self-professed faith stand in stark contrast to Hillary Clinton, who will be the most religious Democratic nominee since at least Jimmy Carter. There is one committed Christian in this race, and it isn’t the Republican.

And yet, the Evangelical Christian community nevertheless feels the need to speak in some rather strange tongues in order to justify their support for the Republican nominee. As Bloomberg is reporting today, Trump has begun reaching out to Evangelical leaders in an attempt to raise a hefty sum of money for his presidential bid — since now that the Republican primary is over, he no longer feels the need to “self-fund,” whatever that meant. Despite the fact that he has no sincerely-held religious beliefs, they’re going to go out of their way to play along:

At one recent meeting with Trump, evangelical leaders noted how he often flashes a signature hand gesture, with a thumb out and a finger point to the sky, as he enters and exits rallies.

“You see athletes do it all the time and it’s their chance to point to the sky, to thank God for their success,” said Pastor Mark Burns, CEO of a Christian television network based in South Carolina. “Trump does this all of the time, too. He’s giving reverence to the man upstairs.”

“Even with Mr. Trump’s billions of dollars, he too still submits himself to God,” said Burns, who has become a top Trump surrogate and a staple on the campaign trail, frequently introducing the candidate at rallies. “We should all chip in to help him out. You know, even a billionaire needs some cash flow.”

This sounds positively bonkers, but it’s a fairly standard trick in industrial Christianity. These folks can take pretty much anything and spin it into a sign from God that means you should give them and their friends — who just so happen to already be rich, in accordance with the Lord’s will — a sizable chunk of your money.

Still, this is pretty impressive even by their standards. Think how hard you have to dig to find a religious justification for picking Trump over Clinton in order to land on “he points to the sky a lot.”

Just so we’re clear, this is the gesture Burns thinks is drawn from divine inspiration:

Trump pointing his tiny sausage finger to the sky "in reference to the man upstairs," apparently.

Trump pointing his tiny sausage finger to the sky “in reference to the man upstairs,” apparently.

Trump makes that gesture all the time. It’s one of his rhetorical tics. It doesn’t look at all like he means anything by it, unless you choose to believe he means exactly what you want him to mean.

And if you choose to believe that Donald Trump hearts Jesus because he points upward a lot, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, perhaps you don’t deserve the $20 you send him anyway.

Breitbart laments close loss of neo-Nazi presidential candidate in Austria Mon, 23 May 2016 15:43:48 +0000 Voters in Austria narrowly elected Green Party candidate Alexander van der Bellen after mail-in ballots pushed him over the top to a narrow 50.2 – 49.8 victory.

van der Bellen’s opponent, Norbert Hofer, held a narrow lead after in-person ballots were counted in an instant runoff on Sunday.

The fact that Hofer held any lead at all was alarming, given that he leads the far-right Freedom Party. Hofer had run on an anti-European Union (and, by extension, pro-Putin) platform, making immigration restrictions from Muslim-majority countries one of his signature issues. He has also called for repatriating the Italian territory of South Tyrol, which used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Nationalist calls for the repatriation of land to Austria squares with the Freedom Party’s roots. The party was founded in 1956 by Anton Reinthaller, a former Nazi Minister of Agriculture and SS officer, as a consolidation of hyper-nationalist parties that had formed following World War II.

Hofer is very much a political figure in the mold of Reinthaller. As Business Insider notes, had Hofer won he would have been the first far-right European head of state since Francisco Franco in Spain. And while Austria’s president is largely a figurehead, Hofer had promised to push the limits of his powers in office, attending EU meetings and throwing a wrench in trade deals that had been worked out elsewhere in the government. In short, his election would have been significant and jarring for the European political landscape.

The combination of taking a hard line on immigration — which in Europe is shorthand for scaremongering about refugees from majority-Muslim countries — and replacing skepticism of Putin with skepticism of trade deals had led Hofer to be dubbed the Donald Trump of Austria. That association may explain why Breitbart’s homepage this morning looked like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 11.25.36 AM

That’s right: Breitbart is very sad that the pro-Putin candidate from the party founded by an SS officer lost, because that candidate hates Arab Muslims as much as Donald Trump does. In their view, van der Bellen is the radical one, and it’s a shame that he eked out the win…because he’s nicer to brown people than the neo-Nazi candidate. Or something.

And they wonder why Facebook doesn’t consider them a legitimate news source.

Why and how to prepare for a President Trump Mon, 23 May 2016 14:55:16 +0000 The now all-but-guaranteed Republican presidential nominee is Donald Trump.

This is a man running a race like no other, routinely resorting to crude caricatures of his political opponents and calls for violence against protesters. This is a man the liberal media — insofar as an echo chamber run by five multibillion dollar corporations can be “liberal” — has dismissed, disparaged and outright mocked since before his candidacy began. This is a man seemingly unfazed by this treatment, who in fact uses it as fuel to stoke the fire of his campaign.

This is a man who is one recession away from being the next President of the United States.

Some of the more self-assured voices on the left and center-right, content to dismiss Trump voters as a particularly vocal but ultimately insignificant faction of bigots and trolls within the Republican Party, might disagree with this claim. Hillary Clinton’s fluctuating margin of victory over Trump in national polls is cited as often as Bernie Sanders’ thirteen point hypothetical lead goes ignored. If the election were held today, pundits claim, Clinton would soundly defeat Trump.

Of course, they qualify, unless she doesn’t.

The road to November is long and, as Trump’s chaotic campaign has demonstrated, utterly unpredictable. To speak about the future political inclinations of millions of people with any degree of certainty is an exercise in futility made the norm by the rhetorical grandstanding and personal interests inherent to a corporate media environment. Outlined here is not a prediction so much as a possibility — one educated Americans would do well to consider rather than resting on their laurels in wry condemnation of Trump as they have been all too eager to thus far.

A Clinton-Trump matchup in the general election is historic for multiple reasons, foremost among them the unprecedented unlikability of both candidates. But while Trump remains the more unlikable of the two, the numbers are steadily increasing in his favor as the Republican establishment myopically rallies behind his campaign. Clinton’s unfavorable ratings, on the other hand, have remained largely consistent since the beginning of April. Her popularity is largely concentrated among self-identified Democrats while the Trump campaign has relied mostly on support from right-leaning independents (independents of all sorts comprise nearly forty percent of the electorate). So too has the Sanders campaign drawn from this pool of supposedly unaffiliated citizens — who in reality harbor partisan stances but abhor the associated labels — as evidenced by the tremendous success of the senator from Vermont in open primaries. Though the Democratic elite are admonishing Sanders supporters to line up behind Clinton, the brief foray of these independent voters into the political process may very well begin and end with the Sanders campaign, writes Joshua Holland in The Nation, as independent voters are “more likely to just stay home in November” — evidenced by the much-maligned “Bernie or Bust” movement which threatens to rob Clinton of the presidency she has long considered inevitable.

Though the anti-establishment parallels of the two campaigns are striking, Sanders voters and Trump voters differ dramatically in the tenor of their aspirations. The Sanders campaign — and progressive ideology in general — has its allure in the hope of its promised future. Reactionaries throughout history, among whom Trump and his supporters are the most vivid example in recent years, operate on a different emotion: fear. The longing for a nonexistent past embodied in slogans emblazoned on hats and T-shirts — “Make America Great Again” — leaves unspoken the foundational premise of Trump’s appeal, a perceived loss of privilege seen not as the erosion of an oppressive status quo but rather as an abandonment of the way things were in a falsely idealized golden age. In fighting to regain this privilege, a sizable segment of white America has abandoned all pretense of civility and has chosen a crass demagogue as their savior.

Having ignored Sun Tzu’s exhortation to never back one’s enemy into a corner, the left may very well have won its battles for justice only to lose the social war. The same government credited by liberals for recent concessions to racial and LGBT equality is now poised to become a tool for oppression more powerful than ever before and with immense grassroots support for this effort, black and brown and gay and trans Americans stand to wake up the morning after Election Day in a country hostile to their very existence. Having grown content that the government which granted them their rights would never again take them away, these various identity groups now stand to be deprived of their liberty by a demagogue dependent on a white Christian base for his power, a base which sees minority gains as their losses. Utter disregard for the rule of law is regarded not an electoral liability or a step towards fascism but rather as evidence of Trump’s unique capacity to reverse the degradation of their once-great nation.

None can deny the overtly racist components of Trump’s platform, as the candidate has explicitly called for a ban on all Muslim immigration and the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. As many from across the political spectrum have acknowledged, the logistical demands of this latter policy would require a full-fledged police state to efficiently arrest, detain, and deport over eleven million undesirable citizens. Working hand-in-hand with the armed agents of the state enforcing this racial purge would be the more vehement of Trump’s supporters — anyone who doubts this need only examine the spontaneous aggression Trump has encouraged at his rallies. Just as Israeli violence towards Palestinians routinely goes unpunished by a right-wing Zionist administration, so too would crimes against Muslims and Mexicans be ignored by a Trump government. To presume such a program of state and civilian violence against racial and religious minorities could not happen in America is to maintain a naive view of the power of fear and hatred when coupled with the massive security apparatus of the United States government.

Protest, via Wikimedia Commons

Protest, via Wikimedia Commons

Let it not be written that we watched with folded arms as our fellow human beings were stripped of their liberty. Let it not be said that Americans stood slack-jawed as their nation descended into totalitarianism. The duty of every citizen motivated by liberty and justice when confronted by a fascist threat is twofold. First, we must openly protest the actions of the regime. Given the would-be despot’s thin-skinned nature and tendency towards machismo, protesters who today take to the streets for largely neutered rallies would tomorrow find themselves at a scene more resembling the frontline of a battlefield. Protesters must be ready to face harassment, detention, arrest and police violence in response to their agitation. Those unmotivated by mass protest or afraid of the violence that is likely to ensue can make their voices heard by disrupting — in Black Lives Matter fashion — the day-to-day activities of a society content to allow such tyranny. By blocking highways, by shutting down malls, by interrupting campaign speeches and legislative assemblies, protesters can throw a wrench in the business-as-usual mentality of the masses and use their inevitable incarceration as a wake-up call for their families and communities: Knowing full well what happens when you raise your voice in Trump’s America, still we must resist.

The second, more sacred duty of those who resist is to defend the oppressed. This will have to be done in clandestine fashion, adapting tactics not seen in America since the days of the Underground Railroad. Surveilling immigration agents and other law enforcement officials to preempt the arrest of undocumented citizens and fellow dissidents, hatching schemes to free those imprisoned in mass detention facilities, providing shelter and passage to safety from looming danger — these tasks would blatantly violate the laws that govern humanity in service of the higher law which defines humanity. In bringing themselves into conflict with both the state and its populist Redhat paramilitary, the perpetrators of these crimes will require the means to protect themselves and others. This demands the utmost discretion — encryption of online communication, thorough vetting of all associates, non-hierarchical organizations and the careful division of tasks — as well as the right to bear arms enshrined by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. When physical security can be arbitrarily granted and denied by the state, it falls on the people to defend collective liberty by any means necessary.

This is obviously a nightmare scenario. In all likelihood, Trump may never set foot in the Oval Office. But the story of the Trump candidacy has been a series of improbabilities made manifest despite universal derision and disbelief. Simply put, few alive have seen anything like this before, and the writers and talking heads and politicians are among the least qualified to consider possibilities outside the bounds of the liberal democratic system they represent. It is abundantly clear that, in its role as arbiter of informed democracy, our media has failed us. In its self-assigned responsibility for a just and equitable peace, our government has failed us. And we have failed ourselves in our readiness to cede this responsibility, in the complacency with which we have put the burden of our freedom into the hands of uncaring bureaucracies and corporations interested only in preserving their own power.

We must prepare today if we are to avoid a tomorrow we cannot abide. Let it not be written that we walked self-assured and smiling into the jaws of defeat. Let it not be said that we were caught unaware as an impossible nightmare became an inescapable reality.

Congressman Matt Salmon’s oddly specific budgetary hit list Fri, 20 May 2016 17:23:49 +0000 Yesterday, I flagged two bills sponsored by Congressman Matt Salmon (R – Buzzkillistan). The first would prohibit the federal government from subsidizing yoga and pilates classes for its employees, because when he said he wanted to run the government like a business he only meant the part about slashing departments and outsourcing labor. The second would prohibit the federal government from funding one niche area of research that the National Science Foundation had deemed worthy of studying — specifically, why and how people get stressed when they talk about politics.

As one might imagine, those aren’t the only two ridiculous budgetary grievances Salmon has lodged in bill form during his time in Congress. He is retiring at the end of this year, and appears to have made it his final mission to ban every pocket of federal spending he doesn’t like, one line item at a time.

His budgetary hit list is way too long and odd to not explore in slightly greater detail.

Of the last 75 bills that Salmon has been lead sponsor on, no less than 27 have been for the specific defunding of various and at times weirdly specific federal expenditures. They are, in reverse chronological order:

Congressman Matt Salmon (R - Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

Congressman Matt Salmon (R – Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

  • Contributions to the United Nations Population Fund
  • Contributions to the East-West Center
  • The Science and Technology account of the EPA
  • The Voice of America
  • The Rural Utilities Service High Energy Cost Grant Program
  • The National Labor Relations Board
  • Contributions to the United Nations Democracy Fund
  • National Science Foundation funding for travel to Antarctica by writers and artists
  • The Heritage Partnership Program and National Heritage Areas
  • Contributions to the Institute of Peace
  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Popular Romance Project, or any similar project relating to love or romance
  • The entire National Endowment for the Humanities (this one was introduced exactly one week after the bill to block the specific NEH project)
  • Amtrak
  • Coastal recreation water quality monitoring and notification
  • Contributions to the United Nations Population Fund (again)
  • Research on the prevention of rose rosette disease
  • The Voice of America (again)
  • Contributions to the United Nations Democracy Fund (again)
  • Developing or evaluating a video game to train parents in food parenting practices, specifically “Kiddio: Food Fight — Training Vegetable Parenting Practices”
  • The Polar Learning and Responding Climate Change Educational Partnership
  • The Science and Technology account of the EPA (again)
  • The National Labor Relations Board (again)
  • Hiring contractors to deliver interactive, professional training seminars for senior-level officials on effective congressional testimony and briefing skills
  • Research on which facets of social interaction about politics are most stress inducing, for which kinds of people, and in which contexts
  • Yoga and pilates classes for Executive agency employees

And, finally, introduced yesterday:

  • Research on the effects of artificial light on the behavior and movement of insects

As I pointed out yesterday, prohibiting the government from subsidizing yoga and pilates classes for its employees because “the government isn’t Google” seemed a bit odd given Salmon’s previously expressed interest in running the government like a business. It is even odder when one considers that, in the middle of taking a legal scalpel to the federal programs that he finds personally objectionable, Congressman Salmon also introduced a bill to make withdrawals from health savings accounts for expenses relating to gym memberships and classes (even yoga and pilates classes!) tax-deductible. Per Salmon, having the government subsidize yoga is fine, as long as government workers aren’t the ones doing the yoga.

Salmon has also introduced bills to repeal a tax on gun silencers (the Hearing Protection Act — get it?) and to allow states to require proof of citizenship for voter registration. Salmon’s home state of Arizona is one of just four states seeking to institute such a requirement for voter registration — a requirement that the courts have rejected on multiple occasions.

All this is to say, if this is what Congressman Salmon wants to spend his time and energy on during his last few months in the House, I guess that’s his prerogative. None of these line items amount to anything close to significant chunks of the federal budget (as I noted yesterday, Salmon’s own case for defunding yoga hinged on $15,000 that the State Department spent last year — a figure that amounts to 0.00003%, or three one hundred thousandths of one percent, of the agency’s annual budget), but he’ll always be able to get a headline back home for fighting against spending he can portray as wasteful. And these bills, by and large, never make it anywhere because, honestly, why would we bother passing an entire law to block one NSF grant, or one specific training practice for people invited to testify before Congress? So at the end of the day, no real harm is being done by letting Salmon swing at a few windmills before he heads out.

But at the same time, being in Congress is a really cool and important job, and Matt Salmon has devoted more than a third of his leadership efforts to bills that are as trivial as they are full of shit. At the very least, I can’t help but wonder if he feels like his time in office has been well-spent, and if he thinks he’s leaving the country and his district slightly better than he found it.

Matt Salmon’s constituents ask him what he’s done for them lately to make their lives better, and he brags about how he fought to make it slightly harder for EPA workers to stretch. Maybe his successor will be slightly more into the idea of public service, but for some reason I doubt it.

The Trump campaign is one big commercial for Trump Inc. Fri, 20 May 2016 14:40:15 +0000 Donald Trump is giving the Republican National Convention a makeover. In his own image.

As Politico reported yesterday, “Trump is viewing the convention as a showcase for the brand he built in entertainment over three decades and then melded with a political persona developed over the last year. It’s an opportunity to fill a vacuum created by longtime Republican standard-bearers, from Mitt Romney and John McCain to the Bush family who are opting not to attend, and to elevate a new coalition of conservatives and present a party refashioned, at least for the moment, in his own image.”

As one of his campaign aides points out in the article  “This is a massive television production and he is a television star.” Trump the business man has made a career out of using media, especially television, to promote himself. Of course Trump the candidate would borrow from that playbook as he runs for President.

Donald Trump’s campaign could be viewed as one big commercial, but is it a commercial for his candidacy? It’s a legitimate question. His latest financial disclosures show that Trump’s Presidential campaign has been good for business.

The Washington Post compared his last couple of financial disclosures and found that Trump’s business revenue went from $362 million in 2014 to $557 million from July of 2015 through Monday.

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump, via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

At his tony Florida resort Mar-a-Lago, revenue nearly doubled, climbing from about $16 million in 2014 and the first half of 2015 to about $30 million since the start of his campaign, according to the forms.

Sales of his licensed bottled-water brand, Trump Ice, are up as well — from $280,000 last year to $413,000 this year, the forms show.

“Crippled America,” his book published in November, made between $1 million and $5 million in royalties, he reported.

Running for President as a business venture isn’t unheard of. In 2012 Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich were both accused of running primarily to build their profiles and donor lists that could later be rented and sold at a hefty profit. (Both men have since proven those accusations true.) This cycle Ben Carson was accused of the same.

But Donald Trump hasn’t been building lists of donors. That’s small potatoes compared to what he’s accomplished. Trump’s Presidential campaign is one long infomercial for his business ventures. Which as it turns out is far more profitable than simply selling donor lists when your campaign has run its course. The RNC convention is his biggest advertising opportunity to date: 4 nights of prime time television to promote the Trump brand.

What’s interesting is that Trump has alluded to doing this before. When he was considering a third party run in 2000 Trump told a reporter: “It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it.” Sixteen years later, it looks like Trump finally realized his goal.

Meanwhile, in Congress… Thu, 19 May 2016 16:55:36 +0000 There are a lot of things in our country right now that need fixing. Our bridges are collapsing, our schools can’t keep their lights on, rural communities are still running dialup Internet and factory employees are being forced to wear diapers to work because their employers won’t let them take bathroom breaks.

And yet, through all of that, Republican Congressman Matt Salmon has zeroed in on the root of our problems: It is too easy for EPA workers to stretch.

Last week, Salmon introduced H.R. 5242, “To prohibit Executive agencies from using funds for yoga classes or instruction, and for other purposes.” This totally real bill is designed to curtail what has apparently been profligate spending on the part of the federal government on behalf of its already-overpaid employees — all at the taxpayers’ expense. As the Washington Examiner reported:

Salmon’s bill is a reaction to a report that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., released last year. His “waste report” noted that the Departments of State, Energy and Agriculture, as well as the EPA, all provide yoga classes to their workers.

Paul’s report said the State Department spends $15,000 a year on yoga classes in Washington, D.C., while the Department of Energy spent $11,000 a year for pilates classes in California.

Hold the god damn phone, folks. Fifteen thousand dollars for yoga classes at the State Department? That’s a whopping three one hundred thousandths of one percent of the State Department’s $46.2 billion budget request for 2015. It’s less than half of one entry-level employee’s salary — for an agency with over a thousand employees in Washington, D.C. alone.

But sure, $15k here, $15k there, sooner or later we’ve gotten rid of the national debt, right? El oh el.

Singling out one physical activity for the federal government to defund seems especially inane given that, in all likelihood, these yoga and pilates classes are covered under federal employees’ regular gym memberships. It’s not like the head of the EPA is spending gobs of money bringing a personal yoga instructor into their office. Gym memberships are a regular benefit offered by employers around the country, and gyms offer yoga and pilates classes. And some gym members take those classes.

Congressman Matt Salmon (R - Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

Congressman Matt Salmon (R – Arizona), via Wikimedia Commons

But according to Salmon, that may in fact be the problem: The government is acting too much like an employer in the private sector. As he explained to the Examiner, “The government isn’t Google, so stop trying to be.” This, of course, would be a bit of a break from the Matt Salmon’s previous and familiar exhortations for the government to be run — How does the phrase we’re so fond of hearing go? — like a business. As he explained in 2013, “It is critical that the U.S. government treat its budget like any normal family or business would. Congress should be allocating our resources based on needs and benefits, rather than history.”

I guess he only meant the part about cutting departments, slashing wages and outsourcing labor.

Normal families and businesses invest in things like gym memberships — even yoga classes! — because they calculate that the benefits outweigh the costs. This is especially true of for-profit businesses, who wouldn’t bother subsidizing employees’ gym memberships if it didn’t result in employees being more productive at work and taking less time off for health-related issues. They more than make back the money they spend on gym memberships in the form of productive hours worked. As long as you think the EPA should be doing a good job, which Congressman Salmon doesn’t, then a couple thousand dollars a year for yoga seems perfectly justified — dare I say smart.

Salmon’s “Screw Yoga in Particular” Act is part of a broader “Shrink Our Spending” initiative targeting pockets of probably-useful spending that Salmon has deemed personally objectionable. Last month, he introduced a bill “to ban federal funding for studies on why people get stressed out when they talk about politics.” There is one such study currently being funded by the federal government. Congressman Salmon introduced an entire bill to block one study in particular — a study that received a grand total of $149,975 in federal funding from the National Science Foundation and actually sounds like a pretty worthwhile investment.

That being said, I guess I could save those researchers some time. I get stressed out when I talk about politics because people like Matt Salmon are making decisions about how the federal government spends its money.

Connecticut Secretary of State to implement automatic voter registration through unique agreement with the DMV Wed, 18 May 2016 16:23:33 +0000 Connecticut is getting automatic voter registration, and it didn’t even have to pass a bill.

That’s because the Secretary of State’s office announced yesterday that they had entered into an agreement with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to change the way they comply with the federal motor-voter law on an administrative level.

The policy will go into full effect two years from now, while changes to the voter registration process at the DMV will be streamlined in other ways in the meantime. According to a press release from the Secretary of State’s office, these changes “include a provision for a unified application for licensing and voter registration at DMV offices while the broader automated system is built.”

When the automated system is rolled out, the DMV will share data relevant to voter registration with the Secretary of State’s office automatically, allowing citizens to update their registration every time they renew their drivers license or engage in some other interaction with the agency. As the Secretary of State’s office explained in February, when they first proposed the change:

The data provided to the DMV would populate a voter registration form. An ‘e-signature’ program would permit an electronic signature to be collected so the client could certify citizenship; accept or refuse to register to vote or affiliate with a party. The registration applications would be electronically transmitted to the Registrars of Voters.

This makes Connecticut the fifth state to adopt automatic voter registration, and the first to do so without legislation. By simply agreeing to switch their compliance with the federal motor-voter law from opt-in to opt-out, Connecticut could serve as a model for other states (fine, blue states) who want to make it easier for their citizens to register to vote without running the risk of the policy getting tied up, watered down or paired with an objectionable policy (say, voter ID) in the legislature.

While it’s technically true that a future administration less-favorably disposed to automatic voter registration could undo the system if it wasn’t backed by legislation, there’s little reason to suspect that they would. Once an automated process such as the one being proposed here is in place, it’s really hard to justify going back to a less-efficient, manual system. Especially if the only reason for doing so is purely partisan — as in, lacking any bureaucratic justification.

The specifics may vary from state to state, but I’d imagine that in at least a few of them there’s no real reason why they can’t implement automatic voter registration as Connecticut plans to — without legislation. The policy is wholly unobjectionable, and all it requires is for a state to change how it complies with an existing federal law — not whether it will comply in the first place. So as long as there’s nothing on the books specifying that the DMV and other state agencies have to give people an opportunity to register to vote on an opt-in basis, they don’t need to change the books themselves in order to switch that to opt-out.

Voila. Automatic voter registration.

According to a recent report from Demos, automatic voter registration via the DMV would add 312,000 people to Connecticut’s voter rolls. Their current governor, Dan Molloy, won his race in 2014 by just over 27,000 votes.

Sanders issues belligerent statement after followers threaten to kill NV party chair Tue, 17 May 2016 19:49:35 +0000 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders issued an angry statement today, that appeared to belittle and make excuses for death threats, and violence, from his supporters at the Nevada Democratic Convention a few days ago.

Concerns are growing among Democrats that Sanders and his extremist supporters may willingly bring the same violence to the national Democratic convention this summer.

Sanders’ supporters were unhappy that several of their delegates were turned away from the convention because they weren’t registered as Democrats, a requirement of the convention. Several of Hillary Clinton’s delegates were also not permitted to enter, for similar reasons. More on the procedural details here. And there’s much more from local political reporter Jon Ralston about what really happened, and how it was Sanders’ supporters who created the riot.

The Sanders supporters, unlike the Clinton supporters, caused a near riot as a result, and forced security to shut the convention down after it was no longer believed safe.

Following the raucous event, Sanders supporters then published the private cell phone number of the state party chair, who then received death threats.

Lots of them.

Sanders has been silent for days in the face of such thuggery from his own supporters. When he finally spoke today, the Senator was belligerent, and seemed to blame the party for the violence and bullying coming from his most diehard supporters. Keep in mind that these people were Sanders’ delegates to the convention — they weren’t nobodies that he has no connection.

First, here’s Sanders’ statement. Then, the horrific cell phone calls to the state party chair.

by default 2016-05-17 at 3.13.53 PMby default 2016-05-17 at 3.14.04 PM

Now here are a few of the text messages that Nevada Democratic party chair Roberta Lange received following Sanders’ supporters publishing her private cell phone number, and urging people to harass her:

by default 2016-05-17 at 1.38.04 PM by default 2016-05-17 at 1.37.56 PM

This is but a sampling of the 1,400 messages she received. Here are a few of the harassing voicemails (courtesy of Jon Ralston) – be warned, they’re vulgar:

Call 1.

Call 2.

Call 3.

See more examples of the calls, including transcripts, from Ralston.

HuffPo has more of the text messages and the transcript of this voice message:

“You should be tried for treason, stripped of all authority that you think that you have. All your property, everything. You should be hung in the middle of town, till dead. You are a disgrace to the American people. You should just commit suicide. You’re a disgrace. You’re horrible. Nobody wants you in power. You are a dirt bag. You are the reason why we are voting for Bernie Sanders,” the caller said.

The Nevada Democratic party is rightfully worried that the thuggery shown in Nevada by the Sanders campaign and its followers is only a harbinger of what’s to come at the national Democratic convention later this summer. The party has filed a complaint against the Sanders company — this was before Sanders issued the bizarre statement downplaying what his delegates and supporters did.

And this was how the Sanders delegates treated Sen. Barbara Boxer:

This is what happens when you try to win an election by convincing people that the system is broken and that the election was stolen. They end up believing you. Sanders’ refusal to tamp down the violence is scarily akin to Donald Trump’s own refusal to help de-escalate his most extreme supporters.

What Sanders’ delegates and supporters did to Roberta Lange is simply inhuman. The woman is now afraid for the safety of her kids. Sanders thinks this is how he’s going to still win the election. In fact, it’s how he’s losing any remaining shred of dignity he had left.

Here is a video of Bernie Sanders’ vision of America:

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Former Wisconsin GOP staffer testifies that voter ID law was passed to win elections Tue, 17 May 2016 14:38:15 +0000 Todd Albaugh, former chief of staff to a Republican state senator in Wisconsin, testified in federal court yesterday that his state’s voter ID law was passed in order to make it more difficult for Democrats to win elections.

According to Allbaugh, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, “State Sen. Mary Lazich, urging fellow Republican senators to enact a voter ID requirement in a closed-door meeting in 2011, told her colleagues to consider its impact in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and the state’s college campuses” and “Congressman Glenn Grothman, serving at that time as a state senator, said in the same meeting that he supported voter ID because it would help Republicans win elections.” Allbaugh also quoted Grothman as saying in a closed-door meeting with his Republican colleagues that “What I’m concerned about here is winning,” with respect to his justification for voting in favor of the law.

Per previous testimony, roughly 300,000 citizens of Wisconsin lack photo identification, and they are disproportionately low-income, young and non-white — all constituencies that just so happen to cast most of their votes for Democrats.

Yesterday was the first day of the trial in a federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s laundry list of changes to its election laws, including its voter ID provision. Those changes range from restrictions on voter registration drives to reductions in early voting days to requiring citizens who move in-state within four weeks of Election Day to vote at their old address. They even prohibited municipal clerks from giving citizens the opportunity to correct errors on absentee ballots.

The extent of Wisconsin’s voting restrictions aren’t limited to the letters of its new laws, however. The implementation of Wisconsin’s new voting provisions has compounded difficulties for low-income and minority voters to access the ballot box. As the Wisconsin State Journal continued:

Congressman Glenn Grothman (R - WI), on the right, screenshot via YouTube

Congressman Glenn Grothman (R – WI), on the right, screenshot via YouTube

Others testifying in Monday’s trial spoke of difficulties they encountered to get special IDs for voting from the state Department of Transportation. One woman testified her elderly father, born in Mississippi during the Jim Crow period, was unable to get an ID because his name was misspelled on his birth certificate.

As the Brennan Center for Justice has reported, “the only ID issuing office in Sauk City, Wisconsin is open 8:15 a.m. – 4 p.m. on the fifth Wednesday of each month. There are only 4 fifth Wednesdays in 2016.”

Wisconsin also never funded the public education campaign that its own voter ID law required, a fact that attorneys for the plaintiffs in this week’s trial made sure to note in the proceedings.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Republicans in Wisconsin passed voter ID in order to win elections, but it’s the first time names have been named…in court. It’s not like we didn’t know what the deal was, though. Last month, Congressman Grothman (the same one from above) let slip on live television that he thought Hillary Clinton would lose his state in November because “now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is gonna make a little bit of a difference as well.”

To paraphrase Marco Rubio, let’s dispel with this fiction that Wisconsin Republicans didn’t know what they were doing. They knew exactly what they were doing.

Donald Trump qualifies for a tax break he claims he’s too rich to take Mon, 16 May 2016 16:00:15 +0000 So that‘s why Donald Trump doesn’t want to release his tax returns.

According to the New York business magazine, Crains, Donald Trump has in recent years qualified for a tax break that you’re only eligible to claim if you make less than $500,000 per year.

This would call into question his boasts of being worth over “10 BILLION DOLLARS,” to say the least.

From Crains:

It’s called the STAR program, which stands for the New York State School Tax Relief Program and has been around since 1997. It offers an approximately $300 annual benefit for those who qualify. Hundreds of thousands of New York homeowners get it.

Here’s where it gets interesting for Trump: To be eligible for STAR, a married couple must have annual income of $500,000 or less. One wouldn’t think a guy as rich as Trump claims to be would qualify, but records filed with the city’s Department of Finance show he received a $302 STAR benefit on his latest property-tax bill for his Trump Tower penthouse on Fifth Avenue.

The only way Trump could have qualified for this tax break, according to the state of New York, is if he sent them a copy of his federal income tax return — showing an annual income of less than $500,000 — and declared his Fifth Avenue penthouse as his primary residence. Asked about the $302 that Trump didn’t have to pay in taxes last year, on again/off again campaign manager and crowd enforcer Cory Lewandowski insisted that Trump had received the exemption as a result of an error on the part of New York State. According to Lewandowski, the government just decided out of the blue to send Donald Trump a few hundred bucks that he hadn’t asked for since 2009 — conveniently, the year New York State began checking the incomes of STAR program applicants.

To be clear, wealth and income are two very different things. It is theoretically possible for Trump to have a high income and a stupid high net worth, especially if most of his assets are tied up in real estate. That said, if Trump really is as rich as he says he is, how big of a cheapskate does he have to be, and how aggressively does he have to arrange is finances, in order to go that far out of his way for $300? In relative terms, that’s worth less to a multi-billionaire than a penny on the sidewalk is to the rest of us. When’s the last time you filled out paperwork for a penny?

And lest Trump follows up his claim that New York simply made an error in giving him a tax break he was too rich to qualify for, Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo has you covered:

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Donald Trump, via iprimages / Flickr

Shortly after Crain’s initial report in March, New York City officials said they believed Trump had received the tax break in error and asked Trump to pay up. But it wasn’t clear that New York City was saying he’d received the tax break in error because of his taxable income on file with the state. It seemed either to be because of his publicly professed wealth or because the Trump Tower apartment may not even have been his primary residence. He’s apparently listed two primary residences in New York City. So, as Crain’s notes, New York City’s statement still suggests that Trump’s income was at some point in the last three years less than $500k.

It is still technically possible that Trump really is as rich, or close to as rich, as he claims. But in order to square being worth TEN BILLION DOLLARS with seeking and qualifying for a $300 tax break for people making less than $500,000 per year, you have to believe some combination of the following things: Donald Trump’s self-professed net worth is orders of magnitude greater than his liquid assets, New York State makes a habit of doling out cash and/or he is the reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Or he’s grossly exaggerating his wealth, and that’s why he doesn’t want to let the public take a look at his finances. You decide which of these is the most plausible.

Why a die-hard Sanders supporter is happily voting for Hillary Mon, 16 May 2016 14:36:24 +0000 I “Felt the Bern” for a long time during Sanders’ candidacy, within days of his announcement. On a basic gut level, I preferred his populist progressive positions over Clinton’s.

Even as early on, Clinton was trotting out “protect Social Security and Obamacare” messages and promoting those awful free trade agreements, Sanders was proposing expanding Social Security, lowering the retirement age back to 65, increasing benefits, replacing Obamacare with universal healthcare, making public college tuition free, and so on.

On the other hand, on the social issues, they didn’t disagree at all, so I had nothing to complain about there. Really, the early Democratic debates were boring because they spent most of the time agreeing with each other.

My initial hopes for Sanders didn’t pan out

I was hopeful when the caucuses and primaries started that the unashamedly liberal firebrand would take the lead early and take the nomination in a rout. That didn’t happen. From the first Super Tuesday on, Clinton proved she was preferred by more Democrats than Sanders. Week after week, primary after primary, she kept increasing her lead. Sanders would recover when he hit the favorable demographics and open caucuses, but then would lose ground again — often by large amounts — whenever the race turned back to the closed primaries and Clinton-favorable demographics.

Put simply, whenever Sanders won big percentages, it was the small caucus states mostly; whenever Clinton won big percentages, it was the high-population primary states. Hence her current lead of more than 3 million in the popular vote.

April 26th was my self-imposed deadline, the middle-Atlantic Super Tuesday, which included coincidentally my original home state of Pennsylvania. Either Sanders needed to show he could start beating Clinton by double-digit margins, or it was time to recognize the reality of “the math” simply not being in his favor. Yes, a week later he won in Indiana by a small margin… and fell further behind on the percentage of pledged delegates remaining that he’d need to win the nomination. Even if he started beating Clinton in every single state remaining by 55/45, he would still lose. In California, the biggest remaining state of all, he’s behind by around 10 points; he’d have to turn that around by more than 25 now. Which seems very unlikely at this point.

Then Sanders started to lose me

I supported Sanders staying in the race until the end, if only to help keep pulling Clinton to the progressive left, as is obvious he’s already done. I supported Sanders’ notion he should have a hand in shaping the party platform — and perhaps even have a prominent position in the Clinton administration. Hell, I actually mused what a powerhouse a Clinton/Sanders ticket would be. (Not likely, I know, but still.)

However, as I noted in other comments of mine scattered about the Internet blogs, I was unsettled by Sanders’ lack of specificity and seeming lack of grasping the details of getting things done in the NY Daily News interview. (Seriously, I think that paper should get a Pulitzer just for managing to interview just about all the prominent candidates, in-depth, and to ask really great questions.) I didn’t like how “Wall Street” and “Goldman Sachs” became a drinking game whenever he spoke. I was bothered more by Sanders’ continued insistence, even now, that he can still win the nomination outright. And my breaking point was almost there when he began suggesting the super-delegates — the elected and former leaders of the Democratic party — should defy the popular vote, the pledged delegates, and the primary results and give him the nomination.

I’m even witnessing his supporters apparently moving the goalposts, saying Sanders only needs a bare majority of the pledged delegates to win (2,026), whereas they insist Clinton’s “magic number” benchmark is now 2,283, in pledged, not super-delegates.

My “screw it” moment

My “screw it, I just can’t even” moment came when Sanders said this back on April 25th:

“We’re not a movement where I can snap my fingers and say to you or to anybody else what you should do, that you should all listen to me. You shouldn’t. You make these decisions yourself.

“And if Secretary Clinton wins, it is incumbent upon her to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. She has to go out to you.”

That’s the opposite of responsible leadership and an abdication of responsibility as a would-be leader of the Democratic party. It is his, and every leader’s job, to persuade people to do the right thing.

Even hinting he won’t endorse the party’s nominee if it’s Clinton is appalling. And he’s basically implying it’s okay to just sit out the election if Clinton doesn’t persuade all his people to switch to supporting her instead. Sanders won’t lift a finger to help make that happen.

Clinton isn’t the lesser of two evils

Sanders isn’t morally equivalent to Trump. Neither is Clinton. Neither of them is perfect. I still prefer Sanders’ positions in general, but over the months I’ve become more confident in Clinton’s ability to get things done and command of the details of governing — and most of what she says she wants to do isn’t bad at all. Her husband gave us Ginsberg and Breyer; I expect her SCOTUS picks to be even better. If Clinton says she’ll improve the PPACA (‘Obamacare’) in some incremental way, I’ll complain about it, but her chances of getting it done far exceed Senator Sanders’ chances for giving the country universal no-insurance healthcare. Not when her plan is “win back Congress” and his (in his own words) was for people to email and fax the Republicans.

But Trump IS Trump — and he will be the GOP nominee. Hell, in an alternate reality where Romney suddenly declared he was a Democrat and was the party’s unexpected nominee — I’d vote for HIM rather than sit out the election or throw away my vote on a pointless 3rd party candidate.

This isn’t “lesser evils.” This is someone you might or might not like, or even have decided you hate, versus an outright monster. An avowed racist, xenophobe, misogynist and guy eager to torture prisoners, bomb innocent civilians, and maybe even use nuclear weapons. Nixon was run out of office for targeting his political enemies; Trump has already promised he’ll “do the same, and more.” And Trump has literally said he wants to make “unfair” statements about him illegal. Including no doubt this blog post right here.

Only the Democrats can stop Trump

No independent Sanders run or 3rd party Green or Libertarian candidate will stop Trump. Only the Democrats can do that right now. Only them. Provided the party as a whole doesn’t mess this up, as I already know they can do.

As far as I was concerned, Sanders’ narrow win and pick-up of just 6 delegates in Indiana was the final nail in the already sealed coffin. I could support him as long as he was promoting the liberal-populist cause itself. I could no longer support Sanders when it became clear he intends to do as much damage to the Clinton campaign as possible during the next several weeks, and that he apparently had no loyalty to the Democrats at all. They seem to have been just a convenient vehicle for his own ambitions.

I’ll be honest here, too: While I supported and was enthusiastic about Senator Bernie Sanders for many months, I never stopped believing Clinton was a perfectly acceptable alternative. Especially given who the GOP is running. I finished off many of my remarks with “I support Sanders, but I will support whomever the Democrats nominate for President, and every one of their down-ticket candidates this year. Because it’s just that important.”

Well, the nominee is just about certain now to be Clinton. So I decided it was time finally to do what I promised to do for all those months: Support the presumptive Democratic party nominee. I just donated to her campaign, for my first time this cycle.

I wish Bernie Sanders well back in the Senate and I hope he continues to fight for his causes. But I really don’t want him harming the party which has been giving him plum committee assignments despite his not belonging to them for all those years.

I won’t make the 3rd Party mistake again

Senator Sanders through his own actions and statements lost me and Secretary Clinton won me over, in roughly equal measure. And Trump convinced me to set aside any impulses I might have ever to cast symbolic ‘message sending’ votes. I’m never doing that again because they don’t work. Sanders managed to shift the party leftward by running as a candidate inside it; all he’d accomplish running against the party as a 3rd party candidate would be to make the Democrats even less like he’d want them to be.

Oh and just maybe give the country President Trump instead. Yeah, this is electoral extortion. Sorry. However it’s also our current reality and protest votes aren’t going to change it, not in 2016 and probably not ever. Not as long as here in America it’s winner-take-all and a winner is simply the man or woman who wins the most votes, even if it’s significantly less than 50%. Ask Nader, Perot, and Anderson supporters whether the party their candidate ran against became more or less like they wanted it to be, after their guy lost and the candidate they would have preferred least was declared the winner.

When you declare the Democrats are too far gone ever to get your vote, what happens is they don’t say, “Gee, we should change to recapture the support of those who’ve rejected us.” What they do is say, “There’s people in the middle and center-right who haven’t made up their minds. We’ll go for them.” It’s what’s been happening with the Dems for the last half century.

Sure, Clinton is not in any way entitled to your vote — I get that — but your country is entitled to your responsible use of that important privilege. Voting simply to feel better isn’t being responsible.

Elizabeth Warren blasts Trump as sexist, reckless, dangerous, bully Fri, 13 May 2016 14:42:10 +0000 US Senator Elizabeth Warren excoriated presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump this week on twitter.

It began several days ago when Warren blasted Trump for his “sexism & xenophobia,” and really hit Trump hard in a series of Tweets on Wednesday of this week.

In the tweets, Warren attacked Trump for opposing the minimum wage, belching insults, being dangerous and reckless, having an embarrassing record, and scamming students with Trump University.

But my personal favorite was Warren taking Trump to task for his creepy attacks on women:

There have been a number of stories lately about Warren potentially becoming Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate. While Warren says she’s “nothing thinking about another job,” some see a Clinton-Warren ticket as a Democratic dream team.

And it’s certainly clear from the Tweets below, and Warren’s long record taking on Wall Street while in Congress, that Warren would give Trump a run for his money.

Here are Warren’s latest tweets:

by default 2016-05-13 at 10.23.38 AM

And here are Warren’s earlier Tweets:

by default 2016-05-13 at 10.23.49 AM

And here are two of Warren’s best speeches:

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Zimmerman auctioning gun used to kill Trayvon, proceeds to defeat Hillary Thu, 12 May 2016 03:41:21 +0000 In a shocking posting on a gun auction site, George Zimmerman says he is auctioning off the gun used to kill African-American teen Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman says he will use some of the proceeds of the sale of the weapon to help defeat Hillary Clinton.

Zimmerman was was tried for the death of Martin, and found not guilty.

The auction, posted by GZ1776, begins on Thursday, May 12; and bids start at $5,000.00.

WOGX confirmed with Zimmerman that the auction is for real.

Here is the description for the item posted on

Prospective bidders, I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon. The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012.

A picture alleged to be Zimmerman's gun, posted on the auction site.

A picture alleged to be Zimmerman’s gun, posted on the auction site.

The gun is a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm. It has recently been returned to me by the Department of Justice. The pistol currently has the case number written on it in silver permanent marker. Many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm including The Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. This is a piece of American History. It has been featured in several publications and in current University text books. Offers to purchase the Firearm have been received; however, the offers were to use the gun in a fashion I did not feel comfortable with.

The firearm is fully functional as the attempts by the Department of Justice on behalf of B. Hussein Obama to render the firearm inoperable were thwarted by my phenomenal Defense Attorney. I recognize the purchaser’s ownership and right to do with the firearm as they wish. The purchaser is guaranteed validity and authenticity of the firearm.

On this day, 5/11/2016 exactly one year after the shooting attempt to end my life by BLM sympathizer Matthew Apperson I am proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds will be used to: fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers, ensure the demise of Angela Correy’s persecution career and Hillary Clinton’s anti-firearm rhetoric.

Now is your opportunity to own a piece of American History. Good Luck.

Your friend, George M. Zimmerman ~Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum~

Just when you thought this campaign couldn’t get any more surreal or disgusting.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis  — Win a pony! (not really)

An update to our style guide Wed, 11 May 2016 15:35:28 +0000 Hey AMERICAblog readers,

I wanted to give you all a heads up that, as of today, we will be making a change to our style guide. While we have previously referred to Donald Trump by his name, Donald Trump, we will now switch to using the apparently more accurate nomenclature, [The Nominee].

After having spent the past week listening to Republican commentators, elected officials and even many voters, it is clear that they do not support the man, Donald Trump, for president. However, they still maintain that they fully intent to cast their ballot for some other guy, [The Nominee], in November. This being the case, we feel that we have no choice but to adopt the terminology that Republicans around the country are using to describe [The Nominee], as it appears that he, not Donald Trump, is the current Republican standard-bearer.

After all, it sure doesn’t sound like Republicans plan on voting for Donald Trump. Check out some of the things they’re saying about the guy:

Marco Rubio: “I believe that he would be best served (as Vice President) by someone who more fully embraces the things he stands for. And that’s certainly not me…My differences with Donald, both my reservations about his campaign and my policy differences with him, are well documented, and they remain.”

Paul Ryan: “There are lots of questions that conservatives are going to want answers to…I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard bearer that bears our standards.”

Paul Ryan, again: “I’m just not ready to do that (support Trump) at this point. I’m not there right now.”

Kelly Ayotte: “There’s no place in our society for racism and bigotry, and I found Mr. Trump’s response to David Duke and the KKK disgusting and offensive.”

Dan Sullivan: “Some of his rhetoric, some of his policy, certainly some of his instincts on national security and foreign policy…you’re looking right now the choice of someone who, I don’t think has fully formed ideas.”

John McCain: “Frankly, I have never seen the personalization of a campaign like this one, where people’s integrity and character are questioned…It bothers me a lot.”

John McCain, again: “I have strong disagreements with Mr. Trump on a number of issues…I’m not comfortable with a lot of the things that he has done.”

And yet, here’s what those same people are saying about [The Nominee], in the same statements and interviews:

Marco Rubio: “I signed a pledged saying I’d support the Republican nominee and I intend to continue do that.”

Paul Ryan: “I hope to support our nominee. I hope to support his candidacy fully.”

Kelly Ayotte, through a spokesperson: “Senator Ayotte intends to support the Republican nominee.”

Dan Sullivan: “I’ve had disagreements in terms of rhetoric used, in terms of policies stated, or lack there of. But, I plan on supporting the Republican nominee.”

John McCain: “I’m not one to tell him how to campaign except on the part of uniting the party…You have to listen to people that have chosen the nominee of our Republican Party. I think it would be foolish to ignore them”

John McCain, again: “I’m supporting the nominee of the party.”

As the Washington Post’s Alexanda Petri has deduced, the only possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that Republicans have hit upon a third option. They can withhold their support from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by gravitating toward [The Nominee], a person who shares all of their values and agrees with everything they have ever said. As she explained:

It is good that there is this third option. The Nominee sounds wonderful.

He seems to have a strong base of support. Senators who have nothing positive to say about Trump at all speak glowingly of the mysterious Nominee.

Very little is known about him, apart from the fact that he is probably statesmanlike and definitely not embarrassing to have at the top of the ticket, and probably Reagan would have liked to have a beer with him, or something, but what more do you need to know?

So there you have it. When we talk about Hillary Clinton’s opponent this November, we apparently aren’t talking about Donald Trump. We are talking about [The Nominee]. Apparently, we have no choice but to treat this race accordingly.



Ted Cruz (R – The Moon) leaves door open for restarting presidential bid Tue, 10 May 2016 16:49:24 +0000 Former presidential candidate and current Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz isn’t ready to endorse presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. Apparently, he isn’t even ready to endorse ending his own campaign.

In an interview with Glenn Beck earlier today, Cruz left the door open to getting back in the race for the Republican nomination if his supporters pretend he’s still running and deliver him a victory over Donald Trump in Nebraska.

As he said, quoted by The Hill, “We launched this campaign intending to win. The reason we suspended our campaign was that with the Indiana loss, I felt there was no path to victory. If that changes, we will certainly respond accordingly.”

Setting aside for the moment that restarting Cruz’s presidential campaign would require re-hiring hundreds of staffers who have presumably packed up and gone on a much-needed vacation in the days since Cruz effectively fired them by suspending his campaign, the idea that Cruz could develop a plausible path to victory is laughable. Especially when one considers the fact that Cruz also ruled out the prospects of a convention fight or third-party bid in the same interview with Beck. Per Cruz, if he wins Nebraska he may consider it possible that he could re-emerge as a zombie candidate and win the nomination outright. On the first ballot. After having already conceded that Donald Trump won the race.

It’s hard to overstate how much of a fantasy that is.

It’s one thing to not be ready to support Donald Trump, even if you do support this mythical “Nominee” person that everyone keeps talking about. It’s another thing entirely to be so full of yourself that you believe you could run the table and win every contest after having dropped out. Politicians all have big egos — you can’t be a good candidate if you don’t think highly of yourself — but I didn’t quite appreciate exactly what Cruz’s Senate colleagues meant when they said that Cruz was monumentally arrogant, even by their standards, until now.

Christ, man. It’s over. Get over yourself.