Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Last Call For Getting Tough With Vlad

Oh, we're not getting tough with Putin at all, as our government is chock-full of Russian sycophants and useful idiots in Moscow's orbit, but at least our closest and oldest ally isn't putting up with his crap anymore.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday ordered the immediate expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats believed to be involved in espionage, in the first reprisals against Moscow for a chemical attack on a former double agent
May, speaking to Parliament, said the response would include a halt to high-level meetings with Russian officials and the cancellation of a planned visit to Britain by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 
She also said the royal family and government ministers would boycott this summer’s World Cup soccer tournament in Moscow. More countermeasures — some clandestine — are under consideration. 
The prime minister repeated the conclusion of British investigators that Russia had either deployed or lost control of a dangerous nerve agent used in the attack targeting former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia.

May said Russia’s dismissive response to her demand for explanation has “demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events.” 
“Instead, they have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance,” she told lawmakers.

The British leader gave no further details on the Russian diplomats ordered out of the country but said they were deemed “undeclared intelligence officers.” She called it the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain since Cold War-era retributions in the 1970s

We're in a new Cold War folks, we've been in one for years, and we're losing it.  Badly.

Expect swift Russian retaliation on both the diplomatic and economic fronts.  Moscow can make things rather uncomfortable for Europe if they want to, not that Vladimir gives a damn about what May thinks. 

This is a fight Putin has wanted for a long time, and now that he's taken the US off the board with Trump and company, and cracked the EU open with Brexit while picking up a few things in the Ukraine, he can make his next move.  The Germans are on the ropes with Merkel barely hanging on, the French have bigger problems to worry about right now with Marine Le Pen's merry crew of racists, and the rest of the EU is trying to keep the nationalist cancer in Poland from spreading.

The Brits are standing up to him on this for now, but I expect that will change sooner rather than later, and Vlad knows how to play the long game.  He's not going anywhere anytime soon.

The Problem With Pompeo

Joe Romm at Think Progress gives us the file on Trump's pick for Secretary of State to replace the humiliated Rex Tillerson, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who as a Kansas GOP congressman was one of the most odious people in politics today and the Republican party's number one climate denier.

In just four election cycles, 2010 through 2016, Pompeo received: $335,000 from Koch Industries employees (including $92,000 just from the Koch family); $69,000 from the Koch Industries PAC; $417,175 from Americans for Prosperity (which is the right-wing advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers); plus another $87,532 from “Other outside groups heavily funded by the Kochs.” 
That’s over $900,000 to buy one Congressman. No surprise, then, that Pompeo, who was a Tea Party member, is also a major denier of climate science. Pompeo described President Obama’s effort to cut carbon pollution at home (through the Clean Power Plan) and abroad (through the Paris climate deal) as a “perverse fixation on achieving his economically harmful environmental agenda” and as “worshiping a radical environmental agenda.” 
He called the Paris Climate Accord a “costly burden” in 2015, adding that “Congress must also do all in our power to fight against this damaging climate change proposal and pursue policies that support American energy, create new jobs, and power our economy.”
In reality, the Paris Climate Accord is hardly radical given that 200 nations unanimously agreed it is vital for preserving a livable climate. Indeed, it remains an incredible deal for America, since it would avert numerous catastrophic climate impacts on this country, while requiring us to merely continue reducing carbon dioxide emissions at the pace we have been in recent years. 
During his confirmation hearings for CIA director, Pompeo dodged all questionsabout climate change, saying “Frankly, as the director of CIA, I would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science.”
But the State Department plays a direct and key role in climate change — not just in international climate negotiations, but also in international aid and development, including choices about which energy sources developing countries should choose — so, such non-answers given as by Pompeo previously should not fly this time around.

You'd think so, and I'm sure Senate Dems will have some appropriately tough questions.  But keep in mind he's already been confirmed as CIA head, so there's nothing to make me think he'll be blocked for SecState.

Also, Pompeo is a screaming anti-LGBTQ bigot who will almost certainly rescind Obama-era passport gender indication guidelines for transgender Americans, so Senate Dems could in fact do something to stop him if they can stand together and convince some Republicans to do the same.

We'll see.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

This morning we don't know who yet is the winner in PA-18, Democrat Conor Lamb has a lead of six hundred and change, but over a thousand absentee ballots and thousands of provisional ballots have to be counted still, and Republican Rick Saccone is talking about filing for a recount.  But even if Saccone does end up coming from behind to win, the damage to the GOP last night is done.  There's no way the race should be this close in a district that Trump won by 19 points in November 2016 and Republicans now know they are in mortal peril come this November. Vox's Dylan Scott:

When you take a step back and look at the 2018 race for the House, you realize: There are more than 110 Republican-held House districts that Trump won by less than he won in the district where the Republican House candidate just effectively tied with the Democrat.

Strategists and election analysts on Twitter couldn’t quite agree on exactly how many districts — 114? 118? 119? — but the number is, by all accounts, greater than 110. A few months ago, you wouldn’t have heard Democratic operatives, even at their most optimistic, describe the 2018 battleground as that big. (As of last month, Democrats had just expanded their battleground map to 101 seats.)

There are the districts Hillary Clinton won, of course, but there are also the suburban, classically Republican districts where Trump has soured the electorate, and those white working-class districts with Obama-Trump voters.

This comes with plenty of caveats. This was a special election. Republican incumbents are going to be stronger than Republicans in an open seat like the Pennsylvania 18th. Conor Lamb was a particularly strong Democratic candidate, and Rick Saccone might have been an unusually weak Republican nominee.

But still: Democrats need 24 seats to reclaim the House majority. If Tuesday night is any guide, it looks like they will have a lot of opportunities to get them.

Think about what this means. In an average year maybe 5-10% of House seats are even in play, 95%+ of incumbents keep the seat in their own party every two years.  That usually means 20-40 seats are in play, and maybe half of those are toss-ups at most.  Districts are drawn that way for a reason.  Republicans have had the gerrymandering advantage recently nationally, but Democrats have done it too in some of the states they control.  They're designed to keep 90% of incumbents in power (and in the Senate, holding elections every six years accomplishes the same result).

But this time around even given the GOP's massive gerrymandering advantage in dozens of states, more than 110 GOP districts now have to be considered on the board for Democratic pickups.  That's more than 25% of the entire House in play and all of it red-to-blue.  Yes, there are districts where I expect Republicans to win a blue seat here or there (there are a couple of open Democratic seats in Minnesota and Nevada in rural Trump areas and New Hampshire's seat always seems to switch every couple of years) but Dems could pick up dozens in November.  Dozens.

By the way, Trump's visit to the district over the weekend just ended up reminding people what he did to their health care.

Public Policy Polling conducted a telephone exit poll election survey of voters who cast ballots in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District special election yesterday. Voters who voted in the contest were asked about the role of health care in their decision. 
The exit poll shows that health care was a top priority issue to voters in this district and that voters believed Democrat Conor Lamb’s views were more in step with theirs. 
In 2016, voters in this district backed Donald Trump by 20 points, but last night they backed a Democrat for Congress in a referendum on the health care plans of the Republican Congress: 
-Health care was a top issue to voters. Health care was ranked as a top issue for 52% of voters (15% saying it was the most important issue and another 37% saying it was very important). Only 19% said it was not that important or not important at all. 
- Conor Lamb won big especially among voters for whom health care was a top priority. Among voters who said health care was the most important issue for them, Lamb beat Rick Saccone 64-36 and among the broader group of voters who said it was either the most important or a very important issue Lamb beat Saccone 62-38
- On health care, voters said Lamb better reflected their views by 7 points (45% to 38%) over Saccone. With independents, that gap widened to 16 points with 50% saying Lamb’s health care views were more in line with theirs to only 34% for Saccone. 
- Voters were less likely to support Saccone because of the Republican health care agenda. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda made 41% of voters less likely to vote for him and only 28% more likely to support him. 
-Voters in this heavily Republican district disapproved of the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act by 14 points (53% to 39%).

It's 2010 only in reverse, and the loss of Obamacare is going to decapitate Republicans in November. The GOP knows it.  Look for more Republicans to head for the exits this month.


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