Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dems Bungle In The Cali Jungle

California's top-two "jungle" primary system was put in by Democrats years ago as a way to maintain party power.  The top two candidates in a primary are put on the ballot, regardless of primary.  Democrats were okay with it because it meant that in heavily blue districts, two Dems could run against each other, while in more competitive districts, Republicans would still more often than not get on the ballot in November, even in moderately blue districts, where they could get behind a single candidate and dominate like they have in the Orange County.

But California politics have now reached the point where so many Democratic primary candidates are running against vulnerable Republicans that the Dems could very well end up taking each other out, splitting the vote to the point where two Republicans could come out on top in June primaries and essentially lock Dems out of multiple House districts completely.

With so many Democrats running, the party’s fear is that the vote will be splintered, allowing Republicans — who have fewer candidates — to dominate some primaries. The party and allied groups are spending more than $4 million on just three campaigns, intervening in one contest to prop up a favored candidate; attacking a Republican from the right in another; and even reminding people not to waste their votes on “ghost candidates” who have dropped out yet remain on the ballot.

As any progressive activist will explain through gnashed teeth, the head-snapping scramble is because of the state’s “top two” open primary system, which allows the two leading vote-getters — regardless of political parties — to advance to the general election.

The “top two” system was meant to create incentives for political moderation in a state where about a quarter of the voters are independents, but it has created immense stakes for Democrats: They need to win 23 seats to take back the House, and party officials believe the path runs through the seven competitive California districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

“It’s a disaster,” Gail Reisman, a retired gerontologist and Toronto native who lives in Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s district, said after attending a candidate forum Tuesday. “If we have two Republicans running I think I’m going back to Canada.”

The situation would be your standard comically "inept Democrats stupidly blowing it at the national party level" that's happened in almost every election I've been alive for if it wasn't the whole "threatening to keep Russian-bought traitors like GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the House" part.

Nowhere is the danger more acute than in a pair of contiguous districts that stretch from Orange County’s Seal Beach down the Pacific coastline to the cliffs of La Jolla.

It is here where national Democrats, deeply concerned their voters are scattered among little-known House candidates, are staging a rescue mission to ensure they are not locked out this fall in Mr. Rohrabacher’s district and the one farther south held by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican who is retiring.

Opposition research and hard-edge direct mail pieces are flying between candidates, too, some of them tinged with accusations of #metoo impropriety. But surveys show many of the candidates bunched together in the teens and few operatives have a firm grasp for what will unfold.

Actual policy issues are largely secondary: The differences between the Democratic hopefuls are a matter of degree, with all of them vowing a progressive agenda on health care, the environment and gun control while taking aim at Mr. Trump. The Republicans are focused on gains in the economy, a gas tax repeal measure and warning the largely moderate and center-right voters in the districts that Democrats are turning sharply to the left.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s arm in House races, is most concerned that two Republicans might prevail in the primary for Mr. Rohrabacher’s seat. The committee has broken with the state Democratic Party to endorse a candidate, Harley Rouda.

Meanwhile, the main House Democratic “super PAC” is pouring over $600,000 into commercials in the Los Angeles market, which reaches 27 congressional districts, to try to drive down Republican candidate Scott Baugh’s share of the vote against Mr. Rohrabacher, in hopes that a Democrat can finish in the top two and face the incumbent in November.

And the national campaign committee is supplementing the air attacks with a ground game that includes alerting voters about five “ghost candidates” who remain on the 16-person ballot.

What worries Democrats in a primary season where female candidates are having great success, though, is that two of the former candidates are women and could draw latent support from voters eager to support them. So paid canvassers are handing out pamphlets that cross out the names of some of the candidates who have withdrawn while noting two of them have endorsed Mr. Rouda.

It's a train wreck, and with the primary just ten days away,  there's a good chance that Democrats will find a way to lose both these districts to Trump and the GOP through their own massive, massive incompetence.

There's a reason I've switched a decade ago to making individual donations to candidates in specific races and never to national Democrats, especially the DCCC, and this is a prime example of why.

Dems should have anticipated and adjusted for this contingency, and instead they're just making things worse.  What a surprise, right?

Russian To Judgment, Con't

I hear and read the argument from Trump regime supporters that if there were any actual evidence of collusion that we would have heard about it by now, but I guess that at this point, now that we have evidence of Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen meeting with one of Putin's oligarchs in Trump Tower a week and a half before the inauguration it won't matter to them.  Especially the part where Cohen then later received a million-dollar consulting contract after the inauguration, that's totally innocent and everything's fine and what about that Hillary botch though, right?

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. 
In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said. 
Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

Mr. Intrater said in an interview that Mr. Vekselberg, his cousin and biggest client, had no role in Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Mr. Cohen as a consultant. When asked about the meeting at Trump Tower during the presidential transition, Mr. Intrater described it as a brief and impromptu discussion, and said that Mr. Vekselberg had not originally planned to attend. 
“Obviously, if I’d known in January 2017 that I was about to hire this high-profile guy who’d wind up in this big mess, I wouldn’t have introduced him to my biggest client, and wouldn’t have hired him at all,” Mr. Intrater said. He agreed to be interviewed about his dealings with Mr. Cohen, he said, because he had done nothing wrong. 
The disclosure sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin. The meeting came months after Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met at Trump Tower during the campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer claiming to have damaging information on his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and a former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, met with Russian intermediaries in Europe. During the campaign, Mr. Cohen himself was pursuing a deal to build a Trump high-rise in Moscow, which did not come to fruition. 
Mr. Cohen’s meeting with Mr. Vekselberg happened during his final days as a Trump Organization employee, at a time when his position in Mr. Trump’s orbit seemed uncertain. Although Mr. Cohen told some associates that he expected a high-level White House job, that role never materialized, and he instead struck out on his own to drum up business from companies that wanted advice and access to the Trump administration, including AT&T and Novartis.

Cohen was selling access to Donald Trump's White house, plain and simple.

He was selling that access to multiple parties, including Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

This alone should warrant impeachment and removal from office of Trump, but this is actually a drop in the bucket of both the global corruption of the Trump Orgnaization and of Russian influence in Trump winning the election, something that former National Intelligence Director James Clapper has admitted happened.

Russians not only affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — they decided it, says James Clapper, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, and during the 2016 vote
“To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it,” he told the PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on Wednesday. 
Clapper, who chronicles his life and career in his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” said Russians are “are bent on undermining our fundamental system here. And when a foreign nation, particularly an adversary nation, gets involved as much as they did in our political process, that’s a real danger to this country.”

Trump sold us out before the election, during the election, and after the election to the Russians.  He is not a legitimate president and he never will be. The Trump regime continues to sell access to a number of foreign countries, not just the Russians.

China’s second-largest state-owned bank offered wealthy clients the opportunity to have dinner with the American president for $150,000 a ticket, spurring a complaint from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A branch of China Construction Bank Corp. invited high-net-worth clients willing to pay the ticket price to a May 31 dinner in Dallas, according to an invitation seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed with bank staff. Chinese participants would have the opportunity to communicate with U.S. “tycoons,” take photos with Trump and get his autograph, according to the invitation.

While Trump was expected to host a $50,000-a-head fund-raising dinner with the Republican National Committee in Dallas that night, it’s illegal for U.S. political campaigns to accept donations from foreign nationals or from corporations. That means only the Chinese bank’s customers with U.S. passports would be eligible to attend.

Officials with Trump’s campaign and the RNC said they had no knowledge of the Chinese bank’s advertisement before Bloomberg News asked about it. The campaign alerted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office about the solicitation, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing a potential law enforcement matter.

Do we finally understand, people? 

Soccer It To Me, Cincy, Con't

With all the political craziness going on in the world, it looks like in local Cincy/NKY news that Major League Soccer will be coming to Cincinnati after all, despite the West End stadium deal sill being very much up in the air. Pat Brennan at the Enquirer:

Major League Soccer is coming to Cincinnati next week, and league officials are likely bringing with them an invitation for Futbol Club Cincinnati to join their ranks. 
Sources confirmed to The Enquirer that a major club announcement is coming Tuesday at Fountain Square and MLS commissioner Don Garber will be in attendance.

Team and league officials declined to comment further on the nature of the announcement. 
Perhaps there's nothing for officials to add, though, as Garber's presence for an announcement in Cincinnati points an invitation for FC Cincinnati to join MLS. 
"Major soccer announcement" was the phrasing used as a not-so-subtle heads up prior to the December expansion announcement in Nashville.

The announcement is expected Tuesday afternoon and the club is expected to start playing next season using the U of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium until their own venue can be built.  I guess things with keeping the Columbus Crew just an hour and change up the interstate must be going far worse than previously thought for MLS to cave like this to Cincy without a specific venue deal in place.

The stadium deal, as I said, is still in the proposal stage.

FC Cincinnati last week signed a benefits agreement with a group representing West End residents, paving the way for a soccer stadium in the neighborhood. But exactly what's in it? 
Right now, there is no single document spelling out the details of the community benefits agreement (CBA). 
A final document is being worked on between the lawyers of all the parties, but officials said it would not be complete for at least another week. So The Enquirer compared both documents to get a full list of promises and arrangements, to see what additional benefits the neighborhood got after nine hours of negotiations. 
The big question: How much will FC Cincinnati spend in West End? A total of $6,170,000 over the 30-year deal. Here's how it breaks down:
  • $100,000 annually for a West End Youth Soccer Program
  • $100,000 annually for West End community building initiatives
  • $100,000 one-time payment for a housing study
  • $50,000 one-time payment for a communication consultant related to affordable housing
  • $20,000 one-time payment support entrepreneurship training for West End residents

I guess the CBA agreement was enough for the MLS. A 30-year deal makes me laugh, because neither the team nor MLS will be around in 30 years the way things are going in this country right now (hell, *I* might not be around in 30 years.)

My prediction:  neither the Columbus Crew nor an FC Cincinnati stadium groundbreaking will be in Ohio by Election Day 2020, but a lot of pissed off voters will be.

We'll see.
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