Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trump's March to the Sea

"In Midwest, Trump seeks his base’s embrace" by Jonathan Lemire Associated Press  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Struggling to advance his agenda in Washington, President Trump looked to the Midwest on Wednesday in search of his supporters’ warm embrace and to celebrate a Republican congressional victory in an election viewed as an early referendum on his presidency.

Trump began his day by reveling in Karen Handel’s victory in a special election in a House district in suburban Atlanta. By the evening, he was set to tour a community college agriculture program in Iowa and hold a campaign-style rally.

Trump, no stranger to victory laps, seemed poised to turn his visit to a campaign battleground state that he captured in November into a celebration of his resilience — despite the cloud of investigations that has enveloped his administration and sent his public opinion poll numbers tumbling.

With the appearance in Cedar Rapids, he will have held five rallies in the first five months in office.

The event underscores Trump’s comfort in a campaign setting. He has said that he misses barnstorming and appears far more at ease when going after Democrats than trying to push through his own legislative agenda.

All presidents love political distractions.

The White House is making a renewed push to get the president out of Washington. The capital is consumed with the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and Trump’s firing of the director of the FBI.


"The Obama administration feared that acknowledging Russian meddling in the 2016 election would reveal too much about intelligence gathering and be interpreted as “taking sides” in the race, the former secretary of homeland security said Wednesday....." 

It's every day something with the Globe on that issue, and Jeh reveals much there. 

He unknowingly admitted that yes, the Obama administration was using the apparatus of government to spy on the opposition's campaign (how Nixonian of them), and yes, that's how Sessions, Flynn, et al, were unmasked. 

Strange how that scandal, the worst ever regarding an executive administration, just disappears down the memory hole -- although it has shut up Obama.

Campaign rallies energize Trump by placing him in front of supporters who have stuck by him and are likely to dismiss the investigations as Beltway chatter. 

And the fact that there is no there there. Seth Rich was the leaker, and they offed him.

Iowa, with its large share of independent voters, could be a proving ground for whether Trump can count on the support of voters beyond his base.

Unaffiliated, or ‘‘no party’’ voters, as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who are registered Republicans and 31 percent registered as Democrats.

Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls that were conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. That margin helped Trump take the state by nearly 9 points.

Barack Obama had won it for the Democrats in the previous two elections.

Hillary, Hillary, did you also not visit Iowa in addition to Wisconsin? 

Instead she was down in North Carolina!

Trump held a Des Moines rally in December as part of his transition-era ‘‘thank you’’ tour of states where he had won, but he has not been back to the state since.

If he had been back, the pre$$ would have criticized him for that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a supporter. I am opposed to him on my only issue, war policy, and  there is silence from the left on that.

The rally was expected to include a tribute to a former Iowa governor, Terry Branstad, who was picked by Trump to be ambassador to China.

Maybe he can help smooth things over.

Trump’s stop at Kirkwood Community College was intended to draw attention to the school’s advancements in high-tech agriculture. Scheduled to join him were Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as part of the administration’s effort this week to highlight the importance of technology.

But much of Trump’s attention was on the suburbs of Atlanta and the just-concluded race in the 6th Congressional District.

Democrats had lavished attention and money on Tuesday’s special election, hoping for a victory that would underscore Republican worries about Trump and serve as a harbinger of a Democratic wave in 2018.

Still could happen. Riggings, 'er, elections still 15 months away. Will depend on how well Trump is towing the line.

Instead, Handel’s victory, in a traditional Republican stronghold that rarely produces a competitive contest, was met with a sign of relief among the GOP. It was the fourth straight special election that went to the Republicans.

Trump tweeted several times during the evening and capped the night off with a text message to his supporters.....


In its wake was a sigh of despair from Democrats:

"Anguished Democrats bicker over meaning of Georgia loss" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Twin defeats in the Georgia and South Carolina special House elections set off paroxysms of angst and second-guessing among Democrats on Wednesday, revealing a party confused by the political landscape and struggling to come up with a fresh message.

Republican-lite not cutting it anymore?

The Republican victories gave President Trump and company a four-for-four sweep in defending special election seats since he assumed office. The results also showed that a chaotic and scandal-plagued presidency has not ushered in a new political alchemy, where red districts would easily turn blue. Party affiliation still matters deeply, meaning that Republican voters are not abandoning local candidates, even if some have soured on Trump.

The takeaway: No matter how much it spends, even amid an unfolding White House scandal, the Democratic Party’s goal of flipping 24 House seats to regain the majority in 2018 will be difficult — especially if opponents can continue to successfully paint them as elitist defenders of an out-of-touch Washington establishment.

Opponents don't have to "paint" them that way; it's obvious to anyone who can $ee they have done it to them$elves.

“The road back to a Democratic House majority will be long and hard,” said Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a memo to representatives that laid out his case for staying the course.

Didn't work for H.W. (check watch).

But other Democrats, including Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, called for a change in strategy, saying the losses should be a “wake-up” for a party that needs to appeal to more centrist voters. In an interview, Moulton said that an increasing number of Democratic House legislators have told him that they share his view.

“As a party, we’ve grown a little bit tired. As a party, we’ve grown a bit out of touch,” said Moulton, who was among a band of rebellious House Democrats last year who opposed returning House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to her post. “Leadership has got to take responsibility. That means explaining what went wrong and, more importantly, how is next time going to be different.”

More centri$m hasn't worked, because as Truman said, "Given a choice between a Republican and a Republican, Americans will vote for the real Republican every time." 

What has happened is the Democrats, the left, the liberals, the $ociali$ts in Europe, they have all sold out to the same corporate machine that have the Repuglicans. That's why they can only talk identity politics and social issues, other than flogging the dead horse of Russian interference (box for AIPAC donations over there). 

They can't talk about wealth inequality because they are part of the wealthy and privileged cla$$ and can't have any effect on policy even if they wanted to. Trump is finding that out, too, and the lobbying loot would dry up in a second. If Congre$$ withholds the tax breaks they must renew, then you all will face a primary and general election opponent. That's how it works.

His comments came after another tough post-election morning for Democrats. In a suburban Atlanta district, Republican Karen Handel beat newcomer Jon Ossoff in a special election. In South Carolina, Ralph Norman, a pro-Trump Republican, won his race Tuesday, too. Their victories followed earlier Republican special election wins in Montana and Kansas.

So Trump, like Sherman, torched Georgie before heading north.

Even so, with a special counsel investigating Trump’s campaign and the constant spate of divisive policies from the White House, the donor base of the Democratic Party is energized in the age of Trump, as evidenced by the $23 million spent on the race in Georgia. Activism has skyrocketed, too. What’s unclear is whether Democrats have the candidates, and the message, to translate that money and national interest into electoral victories.

Representative Joseph Kennedy III of Brookline, a member of the Democratic campaign committee’s leadership team, chose to take the glass-half-full approach to the Georgia wreckage.

Yeah, outspent 8-to-1 and still lost, and nothing sadder than a delusional Democrat in denial.

“The level of grass-roots engagement and activism we are seeing in these special elections is unprecedented,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Our job in the months ahead is to effectively channel that energy and offer voters a clear, compelling agenda that invests in working families and resists President Trump’s divisive policies.”

And you still lost?

Representative Katherine Clark, the Melrose Democrat who is a lead recruiter for the Democrats in the 2018 election cycle, said she was disheartened by Tuesday’s results, but not dismayed. Clark said she was encouraged by the energy that surrounded the special election — from the scores of volunteers to the millions of dollars in donations.

“When Jon Ossoff nearly won outright in the primary [in Georgia], this became a national race,” Clark said. “It went to a different level. But that’s not going to be true across the country when we have every member of Congress up in 2018. Messages are going to be very much localized and that’s where our candidates are going to win.”

The disagreements, even among the all-Democrat Massachusetts delegation, showed the degree to which Tuesday’s elections did little to resolve the central question for the party in 2018: “What is a winning formula for the Trump-era Democrat?”

Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s Sixth District, often avoided direct criticism of Trump, choosing instead to focus on a positive message of economic centrism and civility. His reward: about the same proportion of the vote in the district — 48 percent — as Hillary Clinton earned in November.

That's where they top out.

Adam Green, cofounder of the large liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Democratic candidates must be more bold going forward.

“The best way for Democrats to maximize gains in 2018 — especially in purple and red districts — is to harness the power of the resistance and field candidates who proudly challenge power on behalf of the little guy,” Green said.

Yeah, that would be a good ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. 

I'm sorry, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

I guess stealing the nomination from Sanders -- not that he was a savior -- wasn't such a good idea after all.

Republicans, on the other hand, were ecstatic Wednesday, as they woke up to another successful election. The party, already with great advantages in Congress, the White House, and state legislatures across the country, got an added bonus this week when it became clear that Trump’s woes, so far, may not be as damaging to the party in individual states as many feared.

That's Obama's legacy, btw. The destruction of the Democratic Party. All to serve his own vanity and reelection.

Trump himself celebrated the election victories on Twitter, but Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster in Washington, cautioned the party against taking too many lessons from the special races. Yes, Democrats would have received a jolt of energy had they been able to flip one of the four deeply red House districts that had special elections this year, but it was always unlikely. Plus, Democrats will have better chances of victory in some of the 2018 districts in more moderate states, such as California.

“My main takeaway is that the GOP can win in a challenging environment,” Ayers said in an interview. “The president structures a broader environment but doesn’t determine the outcome of the political races. . . . It all depends on which candidates are nominated and what campaigns they run.”

In this vein, the results from last night’s race in South Carolina were somewhat encouraging for Democrats. In that election, which drew less attention and less money than its counterpart in Georgia, the Democratic challenger greatly outperformed expectations and almost pulled off a historic upset.

But still lost. 

When is a moral victory no longer satisfying?

Green’s progressive advocacy group published an analysis Tuesday night aimed at encouraging the group’s base, even considering the losses. According to its data, if Democrats in all House districts gain 15 percentage points as they did in Tuesday night’s losing effort in South Carolina — certainly a pie-in-the-sky scenario — the party could gain nearly 90 seats in the House.....

Yeah, keep those spirits up anyway.


Oh well.

Also seeSo much for the Democrats’ ‘resistance’ movement

Maybe they will have better luck in the Senate:

"Senate health care draft would bring wide changes" by Paige Winfield Cunningham Washington Post  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Wednesday were putting the final touches on legislation that would reshape a big piece of the US health-care system by dramatically rolling back Medicaid while providing a softer landing to Americans who stand to lose coverage gained under the Affordable Care Act compared with legislation passed last month by the House.

A discussion draft circulating Wednesday afternoon among aides and lobbyists would roll back the ACA’s taxes, phase down its Medicaid expansion, rejigger its subsidies, give states wider latitude in opting out of its regulations, and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes. While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the ACA does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill, but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally-subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules.

"The dead don't need health care."-- William Tecumseh Sherman

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, intends to present the draft to wary GOP senators at a meeting on Thursday morning. McConnell has vowed to hold a vote before senators go home for the July Fourth recess, but he is still seeking the 50 votes necessary to pass the major legislation under arcane budget rules. A handful of senators from conservatives to moderates are by no means persuaded that they can vote for the emerging measure.

It won't be that big a deal if they don't; will then have more time to work on it in secret. Maybe they can pair it with the insurance bailout, tax code rewrite, and annual tax breaks bill in September.

Aides stress that the GOP plan is likely to undergo more changes in order to garner the 50 votes Republicans need to pass it. Moderate senators are concerned about cutting off coverage too fast for those who gained it under Obamacare, while conservatives don’t want to leave big parts of the ACA in place.

The Senate bill would give states more leeway in opting out of the ACA’s insurance regulations through expanding the use of so-called ‘‘1332’’ waivers already embedded within the law. But it wasn’t yet clear Wednesday evening whether the waivers would go so far as allowing insurers to charge patients with preexisting conditions more - or even denying them coverage altogether.

Moderates who are on the fence about whether to support the Obamacare overhaul are likely to be pleased at the bill’s approach to subsidies because they would be based on financial need, potentially preserving coverage for more people who got insured under the ACA.

Yet the Senate bill would go farther than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid spending. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

In a move that is likely to please conservatives, the draft also proposes repealing all of the ACA taxes except for its so-called ‘‘Cadillac tax’’ on high-cost health plans in language similar to the House version. Senators had previously toyed with the idea of keeping some of the ACA’s taxes.

What kind of plans do they give to themselves? Can't we all get one of those?

The House had a difficult time passing its own measure after a roller-coaster attempt, with the first version being pulled before reaching the floor after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., determined he did not have the votes. House Republicans went back to the drawing board and passed their own measure - which would more quickly kill Medicaid expansion and provide less-generous federal subsidies - on May 4.

Even if the Senate measure does pass the upper chamber, it will still have to pass muster with the more conservative House before any legislation could be enacted.....

They'll get 'er done.


Isn't their anyone who will stand up to him?

Tropical Storm Cindy Reaches from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle.

Going to be a busy summer on that front, unless Trump says he's in on Paris soon.


So what is with the Democratic base?

"FBI says gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind" by Ben Nuckols Associated Press  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Adrift and nearly out of money after three months of living out of his van in the Washington area, the gunman who shot a top House Republican and four other people on a Virginia baseball field didn’t have any concrete plans to inflict violence on the Republicans he loathed, FBI officials said Wednesday.

Down by the river?

James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was shot and killed by police after he opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats last week. Representative Steve Scalise of Lousiana, the House majority whip, was struck in the hip and gravely wounded. Scalise remains hospitalized, and his condition was upgraded to fair on Wednesday. All five people who were shot, including two US Capitol police officers, survived their injuries.

At a news conference on Wednesday, FBI officials gave an overview of the evidence they’ve gathered on Hodgkinson. They said he acted alone and had no connections to terror groups. But they said they had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why, beyond his animus toward President Trump and the Republicans he felt were ruining the country. It wasn’t even clear whether he had prior plans to attack the baseball practice or whether he just happened upon it the morning of June 14, said Tim Slater, who leads the criminal division of the FBI’s Washington field office.

‘‘At this point in the investigation, it appears more spontaneous,’’ Slater said.

Look at them downplay and make excuses for this guy! 

Yup, another lone wolf that will tell no tales.

Hodgkinson had a piece of paper with the names of six members of Congress written on it, Slater said, but the note lacked any further context and there was no evidence from his computer, phone, or other belongings that indicated he planned to target those officials. Slater declined to name the officials whose names were on the note or say whether they were Republicans or Democrats or were at the baseball practice.

What more do you need, and not naming them means they were all Republicans.

Scalise, 51, ‘‘continues to make good progress,’’ according to a statement issued Wednesday by MedStar Washington Hospital Center, ‘‘and is beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.’’ House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Scalise ‘‘is on the road to recovery.’’

Hogkinson was an unemployed home inspector from Belleville, Ill., who frequently railed against Republicans in letters to the editor and angry social media posts. In November, shortly after Trump was elected, he purchased the two guns that he used in the shooting, a rifle and a 9mm handgun.

Neighbors called police as Hodgkinson conducted target practice on his property, but he did not violate any laws, the FBI said.

In March, Hodgkinson left Illinois and drove to Alexandria, Virginia, where he lived in his van in a YMCA parking lot. He rented out a storage unit where he kept more than 200 rounds of ammunition, among other belongings. He had two laptop computers, a cellphone and a digital camera. The FBI has not finished scouring those devices for evidence, Slater said.

In April, Hogkinson made the tourist rounds in Washington, visiting monuments, museums, the US Capitol, and the Dirksen Senate Office Building and taking pictures, the FBI said. He also took pictures of the baseball field where he would later fire more than 60 shots.

‘‘The FBI does not believe that these photographs represented surveillance of intended targets,’’ the FBI said in a statement.

Hodgkinson also visited the office of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose campaign he had worked on as a volunteer, and was in e-mail contact with the two Democratic senators from his home state.

The FBI statement and Slater’s comments painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects. Hodgkinson was taking prescription drugs, although Slater did not say what the drugs were for or whether he was abusing them.


‘‘He was running out of money. He was not employed at the time of the event, and he was looking for some local employment. He was married for 30 years, and it appears that that marriage was not going so well,’’ Slater said. ‘‘It was just a pattern of life where you could tell things were not going well.’’

At least looking for a job helped the economic numbers.


Also see: Hodgkinson’s Disease

Related: "Last year, Dennis Hastert arrived at a Minnesota prison to serve his 15-month sentence in a hush-money case involving revelations that the former House speaker had sexually abused at least four boys."

Did you know the two were connected?

"Nabra Hassanen, 17, was remembered as a shining example of kindness and openness during the services. Police said Hassanen was bludgeoned with a baseball bat Sunday by a motorist who drove up to about 15 Muslim teens walking or bicycling along the road. Police said he became enraged after having words with a boy in the group. Police say they have no evidence pointing to a hate crime by Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, a Salvadoran suspected of being in the country illegally...."

Yeah, only white people commit hate crimes, and I've always wondered who commits a crime of love? Bankers when they loot you?


Just keep heading north, like Lee into Pennsylvania:

"Family urges calm after Milwaukee ex-cop’s acquittal" by Ivan Moreno Associated Press  June 22, 2017

MILWAUKEE — 23-year-old Sylville Smith’s family members reacted angrily to the verdict, swearing and storming from the courtroom. Outside, one man shouted obscenities at a sheriff’s deputy as he was held back by other family members.

I don't blame them.

Later, his father, Patrick Smith, said the killing was ‘‘in cold blood,’’ but he urged people not to react violently to the verdict.

‘‘I really don’t want them to act irrationally toward the cops because all cops ain’t bad,’’ he said.

That's true.

Smith’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, and the city, family attorney David Owens announced after the verdict. He said it had become clear since the shooting that Heaggan-Brown never should have been on the force.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who made the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown, said he did not agree with the verdict but would respect it.

Heaggan-Brown was fired from the police force in October after being charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case. The sexual assault case was not mentioned during the trial because it is being handled separately and knowledge of it could prejudice the jury.

Smith’s shooting was among a string of killings of blacks by police in recent years that have increased debate about race and policing.....


Also see: Copping Out: Upper Midwest

"Canadian man charged in stabbing of airport officer in Flint"  Associated Press  June 22, 2017

FLINT, Mich. — A police officer was stabbed in the neck at the Flint airport Wednesday in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.

The suspect was immediately taken into custody, and federal prosecutors hours later revealed he was charged with committing violence at an airport. They identified him as Amor Ftouhi of Quebec.

The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lieutenant Jeff Neville with a large knife and declared ‘‘Allahu akbar,’’ the Arabic phrase for ‘‘God is great.’’ The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to ‘‘you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.’’

When they yell Allabar Ahkakar you know it is a complete fiction.

It's like a handful of mind-f*** psyops every day now.

The FBI added in the criminal complaint that Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why he didn’t kill him.

Where do you think you are, Minnesota or Wisconsin?

The attack just before 10 a.m. at Bishop International Airport prompted an evacuation and extra security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump was briefed on the stabbing.....


Stay away from the airlines, and there is no sanctuary in Canada.

I wouldn't try Mexico, either:

"Murders spike in Mexico, with May deadliest month in decades" Associated Press  June 22, 2017

MEXICO CITY — May was Mexico’s bloodiest month in at least 20 years, and homicides are up sharply in 2017 compared with last year, new government crime statistics show.

Statistics published Tuesday by the Interior Department said 2,186 people were murdered last month. The previous monthly high was 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of publicly available records that date back to 1997.

During the first five months of 2017, there were 9,916 killings nationwide — an increase of about 30 percent over the 7,638 slain during the same period last year.

‘‘Pretty grim. Not shocking, because we’ve seen this for months,’’ Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said. ‘‘But, yeah, it’s really grim.’’

Mexico launched a militarized offensive over a decade ago to combat drug cartels that plague parts of the country. Homicides fell somewhat after peaking in 2011 but have risen again.

At the state level, Baja California Sur saw the biggest jump in the first five months of 2017. After registering 36 killings during the same period in 2016, the nymber spiked by 369 percent to 169 this year.

Hope said the violence is being driven in part by ‘‘the weakening of the Sinaloa drug cartel,’’ whose top boss, Joaquin ‘‘El Chapo’’ Guzman, was extradited to face drug charges in the United States earlier this year. Hope also noted ‘‘the parallel rise of the Jalisco cartel.’’ 

Is that who the U.S. government is now supporting?


Also see:

"President Trump’s top trade negotiator said there’s no deadline to reach a deal on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement, and if talks end in a deadlock the United States will be compelled to rethink its strategy. The United States plans to start re-negotiating NAFTA with partners Canada and Mexico on Aug. 16 and the government wants the discussions to move quickly, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The United States is currently engaging in a 90-day consultation period with domestic industry, lawmakers and the public to get ready for the start of official talks."

Back in the USSA:

"‘Second tier’ US ranks 18th in study of well-being" Bloomberg  June 22, 2017

NEW YORK —The results of the the Social Progress Imperative’s annual survey ranks nations based on 50 metrics. The Social Progress Index, released this week, is compiled from social and environmental data that come as close as possible to revealing how people live.

Let's get it started!

Scandinavia walked away with the top four of 128 slots. Denmark scored the highest. America came in at 18.

Well, I don't know about that.

SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policy makers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America ‘‘is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.’’

As a result, the United States is ranked as a second-tier nation.....

But with the best flag.