A Muslim Ban in All But Name

A Muslim Ban In All But NameSo on the 27th, Trump started with the Muslim ban that the population knows is coming by issuing one of the stupider executive orders in his first week in office. But it wasn’t just stupid. (That would be the first one he signed.) It is cruel. It is confusing. And it references things that make no sense in the context in which it was issued. Worst, it stripped denizens of the US, who have a legal right to be here, of due process.

First, a brief overview of the power the president has over immigration and movement of people into the United States. Congress has given broad latitude for the president to determine who gets to come moseying on in to the country. Conservatives have already started squawking about 8 US Code 1182f. It was contradicted by a later law that prohibits discrimination on the grounds of place of residence. Unsurprisingly the conservatives haven’t noticed that part. Or if they have, they gloss over it.

So the president has broad powers. Which means that in theory, this type of an order could be issued. It could even make sense. After all, way back in 2011, Obama issued a short term ban of people coming into the US from Iraq. Except he didn’t since refugees don’t come in on visas and they were still allowed to slowly come in to get away from the war we started. Oh, and the president didn’t act the fool and ignore everyone who might tell him no.

Why a Muslim Ban in These Seven Countries?

This all means that there must be some reason to want to ban these seven countries, right? After all, terrorists only come from the seven countries. That is why the only attackers the US has had have been from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and… Wait! None of these countries are on the list! So the reason for banning immigrants from these seven country can’t be because there is or has been a huge uptick in threats against the United States.

It must be because they are in a state of war! After all, it says in the order, “Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States.” Except Iran isn’t in a state of war. Neither is — What a surprise! — Somalia. Somalia does have a problem with a persistent terrorist group but overall it has been stabilized and continues to improve.

The other countries are in states of war but the order doesn’t explain why they would all immediately schlepp over to the US to blow up buildings, shoot up population centers (that’s the white man’s job), or do other things that will harm Americans. After all, if they want to harm others, they can do so at home.

We Won’t Deal With Anyone Not Just Like Us

Then the order talks about this: “The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law.” What?! Why would you demand people who come here to gawk at the Grand Canyon, the mess that is Cleveland, and put on Mouse Ears in California or Florida have to say they agree with the US Constitution? Our Constitution is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it demands they be disloyal to the constitutions of their own countries. This is the first time that visitors have to support American law over your own homegrown law that might be less violent, since they don’t involve the death penalty.

But that is just the start. The rest of it is the actual orders that the Homeland and State Secretaries have to implement. All of which I think is an insult to the hardworking employees who are on the ground who have been trained to carefully and thoroughly vet candidates for the refugee and other systems. This idea that government employees tasked with making sure Americans stay safe are incompetent is a bizarre fantasy of the right, which includes the very people who actually work in those positions!

Why This? Why Now?

It cuts the number of refugees from the 85,000 – 100,000 to 50,000. No reason given, just a drop. And it prioritizes those of a “persecuted faith” (Christian, not Jewish is the obvious context here). This is getting very close if not over the line (based on public statements of the current White House occupant) of establishing a state religion.

Those are just some of the problems with the order itself. It was poorly drafted, cruel, and violates the spirit of the law. And based on the way it’s implemented, stripped people of rights who are entitled based on the Constitution’s view of due process.

I am, of course, not the only person to notice this order’s many many problems.

Possibly, next time I can go over the massive problems this will cause us worldwide since these actions don’t take place in a vacuum. But there will be another outrage tomorrow.

Phoenix Women’s March

I went to the Phoenix Women’s March yesterday. I wanted to talk to the attendees and find out why they went. Also, I went because I wanted to be in solidarity over the fact that the election was stolen from us by people such as Vladimir Putin.

Woman holding sign: It wasn't the emails. It was the white males.

Granted: that one probably will make a few people angry, but whatever.

On Friday, the day of the inauguration, Phoenix was shrouded in clouds and fog with a weeping sky. I honestly thought it was God weeping for what we have wrought. I thought that even more strongly yesterday, since the day dawned bright, clear, and with just enough breeze to make it slightly chilly. When my sister and I got to the event, it was already pretty crowded. The official start was 10:00 am, but loads of people had gathered by 9:40.

We wandered around a bit and then I climbed on something to take some video.

You can hear a man at the beginning yelling, “Mary!” Fear not, according to my sources, he found her.

A Big Event

The crowd was pretty big. Arizona doesn’t do much in the way of protests. Most of ours are pretty small — maybe a few hundred people. Relatively speaking, this one was huge: over 36,000 people.

And as always, there are signs at these things. Most of them were hand drawn:

Four Signs from Phoenix Women's March

Why March?

I had a chance to talk to a couple of the women there.

The first, Sloan, was at the march to resist and to show her support for the women like herself. She said, “I have spent 20 years in a career that is totally dominated by men, and I’ve been paid less than all my male counterparts. I was not invited to the Christmas party because it was held at Hooters.”

She also saw her attendance in generational terms — paying back to the women who went before and helping those coming after.

The second woman I spoke with was ZZ. She said she was there because she couldn’t believe that the fact that Trump admitted to committing sexual assault wasn’t enough to finish him as a candidate.

That is hard to understand. He should have been trash the minute that recording came out. But he wasn’t because, well, it seems that sexual assault doesn’t bother people in reality as much as it does in the abstract.

The Phoenix Women’s March: One Part of a Much Larger Whole

The Phoenix Women’s March was one of 600 that were happening worldwide — all of them reporting massive turnout, far exceeding what the organizers planned.

A friend, Jason Karsh, posted a large collection of pictures from the Las Vegas Women’s March. That’s worth checking out. But there were marches everywhere — even in Antarctica.

Democratic Party Unites and Looks to Future at DNC Forum in Phoenix

DNC ChairOn 14 Janary 2017, the DNC hosted the first of four announced candidate forums for the DNC chair as well as the vice chairs, treasurer, and secretary. It started more or less on time at 9:00 am with remarks from the current interim chair, Donna Brazile. She spoke about Phoenix being a deliberate choice for the location — referring to the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes of its previous form. She is expecting the Democrats to do the same thing.

The Party just went through a bruising year. From the fairly rancor-filled presidential primary to the unrelenting attacks by a foreign government to the final heartbreaking loss of the presidential race, much has been made of what the Democratic Party is going through. Yet there were successes last year as well. Unfortunately they were drowned out by the loss at the top of the ticket.

The Party is dealing with the aftermath by having some internal struggles for what it is going to be. This is why there are so many candidates for DNC Chair. All of them have very good ideas, agree on almost everything, and are willing to stand up for what party-members care about most. This is one of those elections where the DNC committee-members are absolutely spoiled for choice.

DNC Chair Panel, left to right: Tom Perez, Jaime Harrison, Sally Boynton Brown, Keith Ellison, Jehmu Greene, Pete Buttigieg, and Ray Buckley

Morning Session

For the morning session, it was mainly speeches from various party people and elected officials. Arizona Democratic Party Chair Alexis Tameron spoke briefly before introducing Phoenix’s Mayor, Greg Stanton. I had a chance to speak with her a couple of times during breaks in the forum. She told me some interesting things. In particular, the future of the Party is definitely in the southwest. Arizona was not given much assistance from the national party last election ($100,000). Yet the Democrats lost the state by only 3% for the president’s race, a better result than North Carolina. I heard similar sentiments from the Texas Democratic State Party Chair, Gilbert Hinojosa. Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and possibly even Utah have a good shot to flip.

Speaking of things from a state party chair, Hinojosa noted something extremely important: there has to be better fundraising coordination between the national and state party leadership. If the federal party is holding a fundraiser for, say, Barack Obama, don’t hold it the same night the state party is holding its main fundraiser! It’s counterproductive.

Lunch Break

After the morning session, they threw us out of the main ballroom to go mingle with each other. There was a minor shouting war as the Ellison and Perez sides yelled out the names of their candidates. It wasn’t like the problems that plagued the Nevada State Caucus, but there was some push back between the sides.

I spent the time chatting with the various different staff members of the candidates and talking to people such as Chairman Hinojosa about how they picked their candidates to support. The Chairman explained that the DNC chair needed to be ready to welcome all Americans into the Democratic Party tent. He also said that the chair needed to be reflective of the best that the Democrats are. So people know why they should join it.

Shortly after that, I was snagged by a person from the Nurses Union to talk to me about the same thing. Jean Ross is the vice-chair and she mentioned the good legislation that Representative Ellison has introduced to help all Americans. She also pointed out that he understood that healthcare isn’t merely doctors and nurses; it is things like having a decent basic income.

Tom Perez and Staffmembers

I also spoke with the staff members for Tom Perez, Pete Buttigieg, Ray Buckley, and Jahmu Greene. They were friendly, cheerful, and excited about the leaders they had decided to support. That was especially notable since they all traveled to Arizona on a chilly winter’s day. Of special note were the people in New Hampshire who had an especially long trip. I’m pretty sure it was on their own expense too. That takes a lot of dedication.

Afternoon session

This session started with the candidates giving a brief introduction about themselves. Surprisingly, everyone stayed in their two minutes. Good start.

The first question was pretty simple, “How will they unify the Party?” Based on the way that they talked about this question and other issues, they will unify by being friendly opposition. The mood of the room stayed upbeat throughout the discussion. In fact, there was lots of cheering.

Otherwise, the answers were along the lines of, “Oh, I have lots of experience putting up with warring factions.” And that’s true of them all to one extent or another, based on their positions and offices held.

The next question was about working to bring more people up through the leadership pipeline. I literally don’t remember anything anyone said because I was tweeting. [Lesson 03: Notebook discipline and record keeping. :-) -FM]

Audience Questions

The first question from the audience was about the perennial problem in politics: money. Should the party get rid of corporate donations? Do they support a resolution that states that? The moderator, the always amusing Jon Ralston, said that was a yes or no question so it should be quick. He was wrong.

The first candidate to respond, Sally Boynton Brown, said in a roundabout way she did support eventually getting rid of the corporate donations. So did Representative Keith Ellison, who added that we must not hamstring ourselves by not having a replacement ready for the money. Jehmu Greene stated that she agreed with Ellison.

Ralston broke in with another request for yes or no answers. Perez made the excellent point that this isn’t a simple question to answer. When Jaime Harrison had his opportunity to speak, he pushed back a bit on the original question since he recognizes that most candidates do not get the kind of response that Sanders and Obama did in terms of small donations.

Other Questions

Next was a question on effectively using our allies in other groups. As Secretary Perez put it: all of the candidates have experience with coalition building.

The final question was about voter suppression efforts. This is where there was the first actual visible disagreement between the candidates. Only as a minor point. This was when Greene proposed what is to most people a startling and revolutionary idea: there simply shouldn’t be voter registration. Other options include taking what Oregon has done (automatic registration, vote by mail) and exporting it nationwide. Ellison was alone in speaking about the restoration of civil rights to convicted felons.

All of the candidates gave excellent answers and would be great chairs. Each one brings something to the table and differ only in where their priorities lie for the Democratic Party going forward.

After the Official DNC Conference

After the candidates for chair portion, I and my friend Donna Gratehouse had a chance to speak briefly with two of the candidates.

Attendees Milling Around Before the Forum Starts

Jaime Harrison

I asked Jaime Harrison if he would be willing to support an Arizona style Clean Elections law for each state’s legislative and statewide races. He said he would be willing to support that. I followed up, asking if he was also willing to have a legislative drafting team to help give candidates proposed legislation to run on — something concrete they could get right to work on if they win. He said unfortunately that isn’t something the DNC could do but he would support having an organization to do the drafting of said legislation. Then he had to rush off because CNN was waiting.

Jehmu Green

Donna and I ran right into Jehmu Greene after that and she was a delight. Donna asked her about the media’s pernicious influence on the people we are trying to win over. Greene said we need to stop being friends with those who wish us harm — and that would definitely include much of the media. She also said that she wants the party to return to being a lot more aggressive in how we manage our push-back. The Democrats need people who do not spend their entire lives working in the political process to be in charge of the party.

I followed up with a question about bringing back the kicking donkey from the current corporate logo that we have. She smiled and said that the donkey probably wasn’t coming back, but that definitely something with more pep will be looked at. I was impressed: there is a woman who knows how to get out of a question she doesn’t want to answer. The party may need more of that to thrash the Republicans.

Vice-Chair Discussion

I briefly paid some attention to the vice-chair discussion. The only answer that really stuck out for me was when Adam Parkhomenko gave a good answer to how the national party can help those who want to get locally involved. He said that if you do, calling the DNC should make it easy to find out what you need to do by being a one stop clearing house of answers and information on who to get a hold of locally.

Conclusions

The big take away from the Phoenix DNC forum is that people are extraordinarily hungry for something to do in the face of Trump and total Republican control of Washington. They are, for the first time in a long time, reaching out to the Democratic Party to get active. The party can harness this energy. The room was packed for something that really isn’t that big a deal overall. The fact a number of people stuck around for the lesser-known races was pretty high for something that is even less well known than the DNC chair race.

The final thing is that the people currently running the party, Donna Brazile and her team, are excellent organizers. It was smooth flowing, it didn’t get bogged down in fights between the factions, and it was actually fun. I will miss her when she retires from active politics.


Cross-posted at Crooks & Liars.

Hidden Figures: Film and Reality

Hidden FiguresI went to see the movie Hidden Figures recently. It is a movie about the women “computers” who were critical to the American space program. The twist, if that’s the right word, is that these weren’t just women; they were black women.

NASA’s Long History of Women Computers

Back in the day, NASA, along with it’s precursor the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), used people who were known literally as computers; “computer” was a job title. Starting with Virginia Tucker in 1935, NASA hired hundreds of women who had math or other science degrees to do the calculations for the work of the engineers. Since it paid more than being a teacher, plenty of women took these positions.

But the Langley campus did something remarkable: it recruited black women for the positions, and created a specific sub-department for them and assigned them as needed throughout the campus.

Hidden Figures Differences

In Hidden Figures, the timeline is a bit different than it was in reality. For instance, Dorothy Vaughn (PDF), who became the first black woman to be a supervisor (in 1949), actually learned programming before the film’s time. Desegregation occurred (legally) in 1945 with an executive order by FDR. Emotionally, it was another matter. However, it isn’t easy to say, “Oh yeah, this executive order made this possible.” It doesn’t relate to most film-goers because few know that he did that.

Setting it between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the earthshaking change of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it showed how the black women of the time navigated the dangerous waters of their race and gender even in the federal government. By doing this it lets the average viewer see how the world was changing towards a more just outcome for these women.

One of the women, Mary Jackson obtained permission to attend an all-white high school right about the time that Brown v Board of Education was decided (in 1953). And she completed her courses to become an engineer in 1958. The movie has her doing so after the setting of 1961, as it once again, showed the problems that lingered despite the efforts of the federal government.

Hidden Figures Similarities

Where Hidden Figures was similar was in the difficulties that women still face — especially black women. Katherine Goble (later Johnson) was eventually assigned, in 1958, to the Space Task Force. This was the unit that did the calculations and other needed work for Alan Shepard’s and John Glenn’s first space flights. Right before that though, Johnson’s husband passed away leaving her the single mother of three girls. It became a balancing act between the needs of her family and the needs of the space program. Things get even more complex when she is wooed by an army colonel.

Bathroom Breaks

Hidden Figures shows the numerous times that women, especially non-white women, have to bite their tongues. Because of the segregation still left in place in many places, the black “computers” were relegated to colored-only bathrooms that in this case was a half mile from the main facility that Johnson had to do her work. That meant she had to do a mile hike just to use the restroom. In heels. As fast as she could.

Then one day, she has to do it in the pouring rain and that is, of course, the day that her boss wants to know where she disappears to for forty minutes. In a powerful, but short, outburst she explains exactly why she has to disappear for forty minutes with a simple reference to one other indignity: the coffee maker labeled colored. The next scene shows the boss personally smashing down the signs and saying as of right now, where you piddle is desegregated.

It is an important scene because it means that the black women are treated at least as equals to the white women. It is about respect and dignity and why things like fighting HB2 are so important even though they can have real political costs.

Final Thoughts

Hidden Figures was extremely powerful, but not overwhelmingly so. It was ably broken up by the parts that showed the home lives of the women, but focused mostly on the work that the women did. For me, watching this in the aftermath of the painful results in November, what struck me the most was how quietly and overwhelmingly competent these women were forced to be in order to simply get the minimum standard of respect that white men and, to a lesser extent, white woman got.

After the movie was over, the audience applauded. So did I. I cannot recommend it enough.

Afterword

For further reading on the ladies of NASA:

My Christmas Books

BooksI am one of the easiest and yet hardest people to give gifts to. On one hand I love books so you would think, “Easy, I will just get her a book.” Then you realise you have no idea what books I happen to have. Even having a wish list on Amazon doesn’t help as one friend somehow managed to pick the ones I had no interest in reading but had to put on there to placate other friends.

But I am easy to shop for since getting me gift cards to Barnes and Noble always works. So this holiday season, I got book spending money from a couple of people and went digging around for good books to get and now will tell you all about them.

Sex and Politics

My first books was, The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power.

When it comes to powerful women there have been few more powerful than Elizabeth I. (That’s real power and not simply puppetry power like say Queen Victoria after the reforms from the Glorious Revolution continued unabated to now the British monarch runs the military and not much else). The Russians topped her with the German Catherine the Great. (She stole her crown from her husband. Then again, he was incompetent.) And possibly you could consider Tsu-Hsi or Mbande Nzinga.

Fine British Cuisine

Next up is, Seven Centuries of English Cooking: A Collection of Recipes.

This one hasn’t arrived yet but I will experiment with one of the recipes and tell you how fast my kitchen exploded from goodness.

Blood Good Battle

My third books was, Fatal Colors: Towton 1461 England’s Most Brutal Battle.

This was a battle that decided a war, killed a lot of men and took place during a raging blizzard. It is also one of the battles that led to some amazing archeology that you can watch on YouTube.

When you are living through history — like we are — it is helpful to go back to other times where history was being made and see how people reacted to it and what the ordinary had to deal with when it came to the extraordinary. The men and women who dealt with the tumult of a civil war that led to peace and prosperity for most of the time that Edward IV reigned (1461 to 1470 and 1471 to 1483) had to deal with the taxes, the loss of family members, and the social upheaval that war always brings. Some were able to and others were not.

Teen Fiction

The next book was perhaps an odd choice, Forever Again.

One of my favorite authors wrote a teenage book that has a lot more adult elements and a very good twist for the ending. [Bruce Willis is actually dead. -FM] I recommend it because it takes little time to read (I finished it in about four hours) and it reminds me of how different our world is from the late eighties.

Discworld

My fifth book was, The Wee Free Men.

Terry Pratchett’s death left a huge hole in the world of gentle satire. He also was able to blend different lessons into one book again and again without it seeming dated. On one hand, this book is about a bunch of little blue men with violent red hair. On the other it is a book about the importance of family and defending them from those who wish them harm — even if the harm is in the form of sticky sweeties. It is further about learning who you are and who you can become.

MST3K

And last on this sort list is, Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life In No Way Whatsoever.

I followFrank Conniff on Twitter and he is great. He’s always willing to bash a troll in the most droll way possible. But this book has been kind of a dud so far. Maybe you will like it more.

And those are just a few of the books I got with my Christmas loot. I mean gifts.

How We Can Resist and Defeat Cheeto Jesus

Cheeto JesusBecause I am a big fan of action over just talking, I have been looking for stuff to do with the coming resistance to Cheeto Jesus’ lame agenda to destroy all of America and replace it with shoddy versions of good things.

Stopping Cheeto Jesus

So I have been doing a number of things. One is that I’ve been nagging Frank and James about a podcast to go with this blog. We’ve done quite a bit of work on that, but we are (hopefully temporarily) stalled. I’ve also found great things like this: Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. Print it out, because eventually it will be taken down in Cheeto Jesus’ America.

They looked at what worked to harm so much of the Democratic Party in the first two years of President Obama’s first term. We all remember the Tea Party, of course. So they looked at it and other groups that were successful. But it was mainly the Tea Party.

So if you are staring at the future with horror in mind and need something to take your mind off of what is about to happen this is a great way to help cope. Will it do anything? Maybe not at first, because the backlash is going to be incredibly fierce.

Democrats vs Republicans

Democrats believe in institutional norms. They respect process and they listen to the other side.

Republicans don’t. They have no interest in anyone who isn’t willing to do what they want. And they will do whatever it takes to hold onto power — even for just second more. I am certainly a partisan, but I think this is objectively true: Republicans lie, cheat, steal, deflect, project, and never admit error.

A Plan to Resist

But part of the reason that the Republicans are trying to cling to power is because they lost in North Carolina thanks to things like Moral Mondays. This guide is part of using that same tactics locally to get Republicans out of power until they learn to behave like civilized members of society.

First

Start showing up at local congressional events that your congress-critter will be at, and hold them accountable. When they start hiding (and Republicans will), start showing up at their office. Work out details to get access to the fundraisers they need and confront them. Be sure to bring the media.

Second

Be polite but firm about the questions on representatives’ support for Cheeto Jesus’ plans to destroy America. This is where it is going to get tricky. Republicans are authoritarians and that means they will be quick to call the cops on you and anyone else. To them, citizens demanding answers are criminals. The question is how this will play in the media. Thus, a little old lady who doesn’t look like she will harm a fly is the best person to ask the pointed questions. Because then it makes the media want to show how mean the congressperson is for arresting a little old lady who just wanted to have her questions answered. Even better if it was the lady who just handed him cookies right before she asked her question about why he wants to kill her grandchildren.

Third

If you can’t show up because the fuzz is on you (well okay, only a few people are like that), organize phone banks that target the offices with the same polite but pointed questions. And record the responses from staff. One person bitching you out is priceless because the media adores that kind of thing.

Fourth

Keep up the pressure. And if need be, run against them in a primary. Don’t do this to the Democrats. Do this solely to the Republicans. We are way, way too quick to pile on our side for not being sufficiently pure. At this moment in time, the idea shouldn’t be “Joe Manchin needs to support our view on coal” but “This Republican should be terrified about his re-election chances.”

Beyond “Indivisible”

The Indivisible guide doesn’t mention this, but I think it is important: all this work needs to be long term. Don’t expect victories right away. It takes a while to build up enough momentum on the Democratic side. Consider my own experience: I ran for Congress in 2004. I did okay: 38.2 percent of the vote. That was with next to no money (I am a terrible fundraiser). My performance caught the attention of the national party. As a result, the next election, the DNC found and worked closely with a serious candidate. And my Congressional district turned from red to blue.

It just took a little bit of time.

So there is no reason this won’t be the case this time if all of us work on doing this. If you can’t do these specific things, there will be others in the days to come. It’s time to get to work to defeat Cheeto Jesus.

Are Republicans Traitors?

Are Republicans Traitors?It sounds like it is an attempt at clickbait, and it is, kind of. However: it needs to be asked. Are Republicans now traitors? There was evidence before Congress that said Russia was actively interfering in our election and the Republicans just didn’t care. Or they claimed they didn’t believe it.

However most of the people watching this election noticed some odd things. Trump’s circle had an enormous number of people connected to Russia operatives. From Paul Manafort who left but never really left to Carter Page along with his own daughter being best friends with one of Putin’s mistresses and his other children making a lot of stops along the way, Trump is surrounded by people with deep connections to Russia.

Then there was Wikileaks. Once Wikileaks was fêted on the left for the fact that it revealed a great deal of private US government information. And of the people involved, only one was punished for it (Chelsea Manning). However, during this last election it was clear that Assange and his loyalists had thrown in with Russia. It culminated in the publication by Wikileaks of the DNC emails and emails of the Clinton’s campaign staff. And not just that; the information was leaked differently than usual. Instead of one information dump, it was released strategically to do the most damage to Clinton.

Enter the Comey letter. Only 11 days before the election and in total distraction of the news seeping out about how the Russians were hacking into voting machines and voting databases.

How Does This Make Republicans Traitors?

Well first things first. Trump is a Republican. And it is pretty clear by now he was happy to accept help from Russians.

Trump — by his actions in accepting help from Russia and inviting them to do further harm — might even have committed treason. Russians have admitted they were talking to his campaign the entire time. These are not the actions of someone loyal to this country and its ideals.

This doesn’t make all Republicans traitors, of course. But the Republican establishment was complacent about all this. They were told about this months ago. And they refused to do anything. In fact they claimed that it wasn’t evidence at all. (Circumstantial evidence is in fact evidence. It is legally admissible (PDF) and it is something jurors can make factual findings on.) Republican leaders were given the evidence. They were given a chance to put country above whatever it is that they claim they care about. They refused.

Why Are Republicans Traitors?

Republicans were hacked before the election, yet their information wasn’t published. It isn’t unreasonable to presume that the members are compromised by blackmail. Or it could be simply that the Republicans are traitors and this was their chance to destroy the country.

Comey also had this information from the White House. And he still published that meaningless, innuendo-filled letter of his. At the time, I thought it was an attempt to influence the House elections. I think I was wrong. I think it was in fact to ensure that the Russian candidate won.

Republicans are authoritarians. They like power for its own sake. They were promising to abuse it against Clinton before the election and they haven’t completely let it go after.

Republicans admire Putin and Russia for how the dictator treats his people. It probably won’t be long before it happens here. Are Republicans traitors? I don’t think it required this election to see that, but it is now clear as day.

The 2016 DNC Chair Election

DNC ChairThe election for the new DNC chair is coming up. According to the bylaws of the Democratic Party the chairperson is mostly responsible for carrying out the programs and policies of the National Convention and Democratic National Committee. Further the person shall preside over meetings and serve full time.

Recently we have had two part-time chairs: Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. I think most agree that Wasserman-Schultz was awful as chair. But I would go further and argue that nice guy Tim Kaine was awful too. Senator Kaine is the reason we have the corporate logo instead of the kicking donkey.

Essentially, the job of chair is to go around raising money and running the programs and policies for the Democratic Party as a whole.

They don’t have a lot of real power but they do have some influence.

Who Cares Who the DNC Chair Is?

There are a couple of reasons we care who the DNC chair is. The chair is in charge of party building and winning elections. Democrats can’t have an influence on policy if they don’t have elected officials to implement that policy. The US doesn’t work when the Democratic Party is as dysfunctional as the Republicans.

What the Chair Needs to Do

Essentially the DNC chair will need to create and implement a strategy that targets all of the congressional seats that will be winnable in 2018. At the same time, they will help build up the state parties so they can take over state legislatures we don’t have and hang onto ones we do.

There isn’t much more to the job than that.

The Candidates

A number of people have announced interest in becoming the next DNC chair. The most famous of them is Howard Dean. He previously had the job from 2005 to 2009 — an incredibly good period of Democratic Party growth. Unfortunately, Dean has withdrawn from the race for DNC chair. He sees the race as shaping up to be a proxy war between Keith Ellison (representing the Sanders side of the party) and himself (representing the Clinton side). He thinks the party needs unity and a high-profile fight between the two men would be bad for that.

Keith Ellison

Ellison is the co-chair with Representative Raul Grijalva of the House Progressive Caucus. He has been part of Congress since 2007 — elected in the Democratic wave year of 2006. Since he has been on the Hill for quite some time he has racked up a lot of endorsements from the Democratic Congressional Caucus: Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren from the Senate, his co-chair from the House, and others. After all, they know him. He has released a plan for action if he is elected chair that talks about the basics of party building along with some of the other things people are concerned about for party chair.

One problem is that he is in Congress and we need a full time chair. He has, however, indicated that he might resign as Representative if he is elected. Another issue is that he doesn’t have a political machine that stretches past his own district.

He has, however, generated a lot of excitement; and that is always good.

Tom Perez

Perez is Obama’s Labor Secretary and he is a firecracker — exhibiting immense energy. However, he may decide to run for governor of Maryland instead. There haven’t been many articles about him running since 11 November. So it is unclear if he will actually run or not.

Perez has a lot of connections nationwide from being Labor Secretary, and they are with people who could be potentially recruited as candidates. How he is on fundraising is a different story. So he may have what is needed since he has energy and connections; but he could still fail since he doesn’t have the fundraising prowess.

Jaime Harrison

Harrison is the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party. And he was a lobbyist at one point for the Podesta Group (he left that position when he announced he was seeking to run for DNC chair). He would be a full time chair and he also gets that we need to focus on the state rather than national party. He is supported by Representative James Clyburn who he worked for when the Democrats were in charge of Congress.

Where he doesn’t have much of an argument is in the results of the South Carolina election cycles that he was in charge of. He didn’t manage to build the party or recruit candidates to run for office. Amazingly, 27 of the Republican-held seats for the state legislature were uncontested — one-quarter of them all. That is a bad sign for someone wanting to be DNC chair.

Raymond Buckley

The most recent announcement in the race was from the chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, Raymond Buckley. He has run a very successful state party: New Hampshire picked up the Senate seat, a House seat, and gained 17 seats (10 percent) in the State House.

Buckley clearly knows how to build a party and win elections. He also has been doing party politics for a very long time. He probably knows that winning in 2018 involves an immense amount cat herding — something he has done a lot of locally. However, he isn’t inspiring like Ellison is, doesn’t appear to have the firecracker energy of Perez, and isn’t from a southern state like Harrison.

The Coming DNC Chair Campaign

The DNC has announced they will have candidate forums in four cities around the country. One is in Phoenix, so I will be attending.

Measuring the Down Ballot Election: Part 2

Democratic Party BaseNow we will finish off our discussion of the House races and Senate races. As with the rest of the election, it is a mixed bag.

California Heart Break

All three Democratic candidates have lost as of right now. Here is the weird thing: California has an immense amount of voters and their vote tally takes forever to finish. That is why Hillary Clinton keeps getting more votes to be honest — the sheer number of votes out in California.

Which means if Trump ticks that state off enough, it could decide to Calexit and turn into the sixth largest economy country wise while trashing the entire US South.

Anyway on to the break down:

California 10

Despite his frosted tips, it appears that even with the 50,000 votes still outstanding, Michael Eggman is not going to manage to pull off an upset and beat Jeff Dunham. Right now it is a difference of a little over ten thousand between them so Eggman will have to get 60% of the outstanding vote total to beat Dunham. Could it happen? Sure. But as of now, probably not.

California 25

This one is trickier. While as of right now Bryan Caforio is down 17,851 votes, much of the district is in the Los Angeles County with almost a million votes still left to be processed and counted. It is a hugely steep climb though, so I don’t think that Caforio will be able to pull it off. What remains is to see how close it is It is a district that is winnable without the lack of baggage that Caforio had (he was a new comer and I think that probably hurt him).

California 49

This one is tight. While in Orange County (of course), Issa is winning massively by about forty points, San Diego is going in for Applegate, with him 14K votes ahead.

Orange County has about 71,000 ballots left and San Diego has about 164,000 ballots left. It is unclear where exactly those votes are for the two of them exactly but…

Issa only has a 3,234 vote lead which means that Applegate may still pull this off and be our seventh pick up.

Illinois 10

Here is a shocker: we didn’t just win, we won with enough points that this seat may not flip back. Robert Dold won with 3 points in 2014. And Brad Schneider won in 2012 with one point.

This time Schneider won with 5 points or 13,916. Which caused me to tweet that this might keep going…

2018: Dold with 7%

2020: Schneider with 9%

2022: Dold with 11%

Until one of them drops dead. But really, it might stay with us in 2018. We will see. I don’t know if Schneider is going to be one of the Democrats fighting Trump tooth and nail or not, and that can have an impact.

RNC Rundown?

I know I promised that I would write about the race for DNC chair but I am going to probably do that as a separate post because it requires some explaining. And I am going to be like Lucy and ‘splain in greater detail.

Measuring the Down Ballot Election: Part 1

Democratic Party BaseBesides the glamor of the Presidential Race we had the House races and Senate races. There the news was okay but not great. The Democrats picked up four seats in the Senate and six in the House. Mobility has been down due to the lackluster recovery from 2008. As a result, my belief that redistricting doesn’t matter six years later has taken a bit of a hit. Maybe though it means that we can manage in 2018 but we have to be ready as a national party to take advantage. More on that later.

Arizona 01 and 02 Races

AZ-01 was a keeper for the Democrats. Tom O’Halloran managed to destroy Paul Babeu throughout the district, winning by an impressive seven points. He got 117,048 to Babeu’s 100,236. The independent wasn’t a factor so this might stay in the Democratic column in 2018.

AZ-02 was not a pick up, but then I didn’t think it would be. As I said earlier, Martha McSally had been doing everything right by literally going to every neighborhood event she could get her hands on. That kind of careful working of the district really helps keep you in office. She won 157,677 to 120,572. So unless Gabby comes out of retirement (I saw her election night. She isn’t.) the seat will probably stay in the Republican hands absent someone who is even more well-known and liked.

Arizona did have some upsets as Sheriff Joe Arpaio finally lost as did embattled Maricopa County recorder Helen Purcell. I expect that these will flip back to Republicans unless Maricopa County goes more blue. If it does, because shenanigans aren’t going on with the Recorder, we might actually see the state go blue. Arizona will be a minority majority state

Nevada Races

This is about the vaunted Reid machine and it turned out. Both of these seats were two of our six pick ups.

In NV-03, Jacky Rosen’s understated style of campaigning worked. However that doesn’t mean that 2018 won’t be a real fight since she only won by a small percentage. Her win was 146,653 to 142,726 so if she pulls a Martha McSally, that will make her seat safe for the Democrats. Also, of course, it depends on what else is going on at the national level in a year.

In NV-04, Ruben Kikuen reminds me of another Ruben I know getting some attention for the fiery style he has (my congressman Ruben Gallego who is going to have his first baby soon; may Kate have the easiest pregnancy ever!) And he organized relentlessly, so he won by four points. Kihuen got 123,782 to 113,429. I think this will be a keeper.

The Senate Race was a bit closer, but Cortez Masto pulled off a heck of a job (sorry not sorry) and beat Heck by just under four points. She made history as being the first Latina to make it to the Senate. That means that the new class of Senators is very lady-filled since four of the new Senators from our side are women.

Minnesota 02

I was hoping for this to be a pick up but it wasn’t. Angie Craig lost by a small percentage 167,071 to 174,030. However, that said, it is possible Lewis will alienate voters and if we are ready for 2018, it can be picked up because 2 points is winnable. Remember, I lost by less than 20 points in 2004 but in 2006 we won that race with a candidate who was well known, kindly, and drove his opponent nuts. It also would help if we didn’t have an independent spoiler (Paula Overby got 28K votes and that is why the district didn’t go blue).

I am pretty down on third parties — this is not a nation that allows for parties to be coalitions. So I don’t think they should be in close races on our side if we want to get the progress we want.

Pennsylvania 08

I wasn’t sure this would be enough of a wave year for a pick up. And it wasn’t, so Fitzgerald won his brother’s seat by just over 11 points: 173,871 to 144,772. This is unlikely to be a pick up in 2018, lest something very odd happens.

This also might be one of the very few Republicans who will stand up to Trump’s massive corruption and conflict of interest problems. I don’t have much faith but hey, there has to be at least one honorable Republican still left. Stop laughing! It could happen!

New York 03, 19, and 22

We kept NY-03 as the Democrat won there fairly decisively. Suozzi won with 146,457 to 131,718 so the seat stayed in our column.

In NY-19 the exact same thing happened but in the negative direction. Zephyr Teachout, whose left wing history allowed her opponent to bring back the Russian communism thing to attack her on. Unfortunately it may have worked. Teachout lost 100,499 to 113,093. It may be a pick up at a later time, I don’t know.

NY-22 was a bigger loss for the Democrats. Kim Myers lost by six points: 100,549 to 115,557. It really wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I do think it isn’t going to be a pick up any time soon. Five point range is usually good.

Wisconsin 01 and 08

There was no surprises in WI-01. Paul Ryan may have annoyed his base for a few days, but he never really rejected Trump and it didn’t hurt him. So he won with 68%. It will take a great deal of effort to beat him and I don’t think the Democrats, even with Howard Dean at the helm, will seriously contest this district any time soon. So while I wanted people to pick the better Ryan, they didn’t. Ryan Solen lost handily.

WI-08 hurt. Tom Nelson is a good campaigner and a solid Democrat, and he got slaughtered as the district went all in on the Republican 208,982 to 126,613. I am not sure why. It might have to do with the fact he keeps running for a bunch of different offices. I really don’t know. Not sure if this will be something that we can pick up in 2018 since Gallagher doesn’t have much in the way of scandalous behavior.

To Be Continued

There are several more I have to talk about but I just realized this has already hit over a thousand words so I am going to split it up into two and then talk more about the selection of the next Democratic National Committee Chairperson.

So Why Did James Comey Write That Letter?

James ComeyTo the absolute surprise of no one, the James Comey’s FBI has come to the conclusion that there was nothing new on the emails that were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Most of the 650,000 email messages were duplicates and the ones that weren’t had no value whatsoever to any of the investigations — Clinton or Weiner. It was the very definition of a nothing-burger.

But what did happen was Clinton was smeared by the media for a week and a half. It went absolutely ballistic. Emails! Emails!

There are three important things about James Comey’s “update” letter. First, he had no reason to send it. Second, he knew the Republicans would leak it immediately. And third, doing so was a possible violation of the Hatch Act. The reason that the FBI keeps its trap shut on investigations like this one is because it is prejudicial. “Oh, this person is bad! Why else would the FBI investigate them?!”

So why did Comey write the letter? Was it to help Trump? No, actually.

So why did he do it? Two main theories have emerged and I think both have a lot of validity.

Reason One: Comey Was Protecting the FBI

Yale Record Doesn't Endorse ClintonFirst, there is a small subset of FBI agents who are friendly with the Trump campaign. Some of them have been investigating the Clintons on and off since the 1990s. They are suffering from the sunk cost fallacy. They’ve spent so much time investigating, they feel like they have to find something. All that work can’t be for nothing!

So you have people who are very unhappy that they haven’t nailed someone like Clinton. And they want to get them on anything even though there is nothing there.

Whenever the Clintons decide to run for office, they know there will be a deep investigations into literally everything they do. After all, this is a pair that faced a Congress doing 140 hours of sworn testimony into their Christmas Card mailing list. So they are super careful about everything they do. Yet the FBI agents in New York think if they just keep digging, they will catch the Clintons doing something that is illegal. It’s been almost 25 years and: zip!

In this theory, Comey was afraid that these agents would start leaking information and saying that the FBI was covering up for Clinton. So he wrote the letter to say, “We have information and we are looking into it.” That doesn’t explain why he wasn’t clearer that they knew nothing. But the impulse is at least understandable, even though the execution was horrible. That’s the best you can say about Comey.

Reason Two: Comey Was Worried About a Landslide Down-Ballot

The second reason is the fact that until the letter was released, the Republicans were facing a catastrophic wave election that probably would have destroyed their chances for years to come at the national level. James Comey isn’t overly partisan, but he is definitely partisan enough to want to keep the House in Republicans hands. That’s especially true since they have been promising to keep chasing after Clinton if she takes over the White House. What would they investigate her on? They don’t care. If she makes even one mistake (and she will, she is human) they will devote thousands of hours and millions of dollars to investigating everything about it.

Most likely, both of these things factored into Comey’s actions.

Media Culpability

What is enormously frustrating to me is that the media will just blindly go along with this. Which is why yesterday when SNL did their cold open, they pointed out the utter lack of caring over the enormous amount of horribleness that the Orange One indulges in.

Yesterday, Al Franken said that the Senate will be hauling Comey in front of them and demanding to know why he was willing to be so political with one candidate and not the other. The same New York FBI office chasing its tail about Clinton is the one that claimed that there is nothing to see in Trump’s Russian ties despite plenty of other reports contradicting them.

This is disgusting. This is terrifying. Regardless of what happened, this is the top United States law enforcement official tipping the scales for his own reasons. And it is unacceptable.

Good News

The good news is that I am not the only one angry and disgusted by this. There are a lot of outraged people.

It is why so many people are voting early and why the numbers have shot up to the point that Sunday there were 4,000 people in line to vote in Cincinnati. Saturday, hundreds if not thousands of people showed up at a marketplace in Nevada for the final day of early voting. Hell even laboring women are making sure they vote before they deliver.

To quote one of my top hashtags on Twitter, “Hey Comey #expectus asshole. And resign.

Two Heartland House Races: Iowa 03 and Illinois 10

David YoungToday, we head to the heartland. On the docket are races in two Congressional districts: Iowa 03 and Illinois 10. Both of these districts are considered toss ups by The Cook Political Report.

Iowa 03: Playing it Safe

Iowa’s incumbent is Republican David Young. He has only been in office since 2014. Iowa has a strange system where a convention is held if no one in the primary gets more than 35% of the vote. David Young came in 5th out of six candidates, but surprisingly won at the convention. He then went on to win the general election by over 10 percentage points against Democratic challenger Staci Appel.

A former chief of staff to Senator Chuck Grassley, David Young has played it very safe since being elected. Mainly, he is known for showing up — having not missed a single vote.  Then again, with the low number of days the Republican House works, how hard is that?

His opponent this year is a second time candidate named Jim Mowrer. He’s an Iraq War veteran who made some locals uneasy about his run. However, he won decisively in his primary.

Neither candidate stands out, although Jim Mowrer has support from high powered people like Joe Biden (who’s son served with Mowrer in Iraq). That said, Young surprisingly voted for a bill that supported the President’s efforts on anti-discrimination for the LGBT community. So he may be trying to be somewhat less of a typical Republican. Or he may have a personal reason. (See: Rob Portman Affected By Gay Bigotry.) It is unclear.

Right now the polling favors David Young by a large amount. So do the registration numbers (pdf). But that doesn’t mean that things won’t change as we enter the final stretch.

This race doesn’t look too hopeful for Jim Mowrer. But David Young is not distancing himself from the Orange Disaster at the top of the ticket. And if Patty Judge manages to defeat Chuck Grassley for Senate, Mowrer might ride her coattails into the House.

Illinois 10: Routine Rematch

Illinois 10 is represented by Republican Robert Dold. And he is facing Brad Schneider this year. And if that sounds familiar, then you’re a political freak who pays way more attention than your doctor would likely recommend. But there is something very familiar about this race. In 2014, the same two candidates ran against each other. In the end, Dold beat Schnider 51% to 49%. But there’s more! In 2012 Brad Schneider defeated Robert Dold 51% to 49%. This district just cannot make up its mind. (Actually, it’s all about turnout.) Both are part of the major fundraising initiatives from the two national congressional committees and are hotly contesting the seat.

Brad SchneiderIn a surprising twist, Dold not only rejected Trump but was pretty nasty about it. Which may mean that of the Republicans running, he has the least adverse effect of the Trump disaster brewing at the top of the ticket. So the attempts from Schneider to attach Trump to Dold are not going to work (there may be residual disgust in general against Republicans).

The two actually agree on a lot of things, which may not be a surprise with a Republican in a Democratic leaning district.  Dold even supports some gun control!  Not anything created by a Democrat, but it is still very surprising. And it shows he is serious about keeping his seat since that is usually a total poison pill for any Republican.

But this is a Democratic leaning district and so the polling reflects a likely win by Schneider.

Final Thoughts

I have little idea on how Iowa 03 will turn out. It looks like it is David Young’s race to lose. He is a very quiet Representative, who votes cautiously and consistently middle of the road. But we will see.

Illinois 10 looks like a Democratic pickup. But it will be a razor thin margin since Schneider isn’t very popular.