Howie Klein

Who Changed Trump's Mind About Leaving Marijuana Up To The States?

Who Changed Trump's Mind About Leaving Marijuana Up To The States?

A few days ago, Roger Stone sent out a VICE News article, "The GOP has a marijuana problem only Trump can fix," reminding its readers that Trump said multiple times on the campaign trail ...

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Can Pelosi Save American Health Care Reform from the Republican Health Care Horror Show?

We may not always agree with Nancy Pelosi's strategies and tactics. Taking Bush's and Cheney's impeachment off the table drove a lot of people to hate her, no matter how remote a chance there was that that could have succeeded-- or even proceeded without shutting down the basic functioning of Congress and even a chance of getting any progressive legislation passed. And passing progressive legislation is the reason we were all so excited when Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker. Her commitment to real health care reform is almost the only thing standing between the American people's rapidly diminishing chance of getting any genuine reform and the salivating Insurance Industry CEOs who may well have brought off enough Max Baucuses and Blanche Lincolns and Arlen Specters, Joe Liebermen, Paul Ryans, Chuck Grassleys and Ben Nelsons to turn reform into a massive bailout for the Insurance companies. Yes, it's Nancy Pelosi-- not Barack Obama, who could go a long way towards ending this mess by saying "I won't be signing any health care bill unless it includes either single payer or a robust public option"-- who is keeping us out of the clutches of the Insurance Industry predators.

Taking Your Happiness Where You Can Find It

I went to the premier of Oliver Stone's movie, W and when I walked out a camera crew grabbed me and asked me what I thought. I said it was pretty good and that I enjoyed it. The interviewer wasn't happy with that. He wanted to know if I thought it would influence the election. "No," I don't think so," I said. Bush isn't running again and people sharp enough to realize that McCain would simply be another 4 year extension of his agenda have already made up their minds." That wasn't good enough for him either and he wanted to know how I would have changed the movie. Roland was starting to signal me that it was time to go and that he was hungry. "Well, if it was my movie and my world, Bush and Cheney would have been tried and the last scene would be the two of them walking up the steps to the gallows." That ended the interview... to Roland's satisfaction.

I know I'll never be completely happy but tomorrow I plan to revel in the good news as it comes in. Obama, of course, even if that means we get the baggage -- the Bidens and Emanuels and all kinds of horrible crap you can expect to hear Ken and I complaining about in the next few months-- but also the great news we expect to hear about Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg being defeated in Michigan, about the end of Ted Stevens' disgraceful career, about bona fide progressive leaders like Darcy Burner, Alan Grayson and Jared Polis being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where I expect them to do a lot more than take their seats and vote well, and maybe about some close calls coming through, like Jeff Merkley, Tom Perriello, Jim Himes, Joe Garcia, Martin Heinrich... maybe even some genuine miracles like Dennis Shulman, Debbie Cook, Larry Joe Doherty...

But for today, I'm looking for my bits and pieces of celebratory news elsewhere-- and I don't even mean the final poll numbers showing Obama expanding his lead over McCain, ahead in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania and even leading with a crushing margin in Fox's own silly biased polls. Sure I'm taking a great deal of pleasure seeing the ignorant assholes who inflicted 8 years of Bush on the rest of us depressed and disheartened and in no mood to even bother cheering on McCain's dying or dead campaign. I hope they don't bother voting tomorrow so all their down-ballot rubber stamp candidates lose as well. And, yeah, I'm delighted to know that when cell phone users are counted properly, Obama's polling numbers shoot up, and I'm delighted to see that McCain's negative and vicious smears-- like the scurrilous Dole attacks on Hagan we discussed this morning-- backfired and helped wreck his miserable, vile campaign.

Republicans Obstructing Relief in Housing Crisis

Republican governors tend to be less ideological and more practical than the extremists and fanatics their party routinely sends to Congress. They have to actually govern, something that is anathema to the Inside the Beltway GOP-- from Bush and Cheney all the way down to the very bottom of the barrel: naysayers Mean Jean Schmidt and James Inhofe. This morning the two heads of the National Governors Association-- Republican Tim Pawlenty (MN) and Democrat Ed Rendell (PA)-- urged, strongly urged, Congress and the White House to get their collective asses in gear and enact housing-stimulus legislation "so that states can rebound from decreasing tax revenue and increasing crime and neighborhood blight due to a record foreclosure rate."

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There Is No Such Thing As Clean Coal

"Most people know coal isn’t clean, but that hasn’t stopped the coal industry from trying to convince us otherwise."
-- Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog, introducing the website Coal is dirty!, a "Clean Coal Body Slam" created in collaboration with Greenpeace USA and the Rainforest Action Network to combat a massive P.R. onslaught from the coal industry

The magic words, it appears, are "carbon capture and sequestration." I don't think you want to know any more about them than I do, but I'm afraid we may be hearing them a lot, unfortunately from people who are trying to sell us bogus or at least wildly exaggerated science indicating that with these new technologies coal can be made clean and safe. It appears that they're prepared to spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to sell their message.

This drives the folks we trust on environmental and energy issues bonkers -- naturally including our go-to webguy A Siegel, who's waxing rapturous today on his Energy Smart blog about the Coal is dirty! site and its star-studded roster of environmental researchers, activists, and journalists. As Siegel says, "Kevin might not have a $35 million budget but he has a team worth millions in terms of quality."

Kevin Grandia explains:
In essence, this site exists to sell the idea that coal is dirty. Pretty easy to do when you consider the facts and clear out the rhetoric. Like the fact that mercury emissions from coal fired-power plants continues to rise and that carbon capture and storage remains an elusive pipe dream that will take another 40 years to deploy on a commercial scale.

Siegel notes that the new site is already going gangbusters, with:

Will Bob Barr and Ron Paul Out-Flank McCain on the Right?

With GOP toe-sucker Dick Morris publicly urging McCain to shed his far right extremism and move to the center if he's going to have any chance at all to win a few states outside of the Old Confederacy plus Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, a very different kind of reality is closing in on McCain who, says toe-sucker, "has been dealt a terrible hand: a tanking economy, an unpopular war, a Republican incumbent whose approval ratings are at their all-time low and a gloomy national mood, with 82 percent of Americans saying in a Washington Post-ABC News poll last week that the country is on the wrong track." He offers the hapless Republican nominee a roadmap, a roadmap dependent of Jeremiah Wright-- "the honorary chairman of McCain's get-out-the-vote efforts"-- even though every voter in red, red, red Mississippi first congressional district was inundated with Jeremiah Wright and still voted against Bush and the GOP.

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Modern Day GI Bill Passes in the House

Although the fight that matters will be in the Senate, the House passed the bill to modernize the GI Bill today, HR 2642, 256-166. Those numbers are pretty overwhelming and the reflect the fact that 32 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote against Bush and their own reactionary leadership and for our military vets. At the same time, the Blue Dog caucus was unable to muster it's own members to bolster their Republican allies. Only 7 of the sleaziest and most Bush-oriented Democrats voted against vets today:

Melissa Bean (IL)
Dan Boren (OK)
Joe Donnelly (IN)
Brad Ellsworth (IN)
Nick Lampson (TX)
Tim Mahoney (FL)
Jim Matheson (UT)

Our newest conservative Democrats, Don Cazayoux (LA) and Bill Foster (IL) both voted with the Democrats on this crucial bill, Foster even stepping away from Bean's apron strings. This bill will allow vets who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq to go to college-- just what it was intended to do. McCain and McConnell have vowed to kill the bill in the Senate.

I took a look at the Blue America House races to see how the Republican opponents of our candidates-- all of whom support the bill-- voted Most of them voted against vets, as they usually do. Joining the dead-end minority today were Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), David Dreier (R-CA), Ric Keller (R-FL), Randy Kuhl (R-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Gary Miller (R-CA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-OH), and Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH). Heather Wilson (R-NM) is running for Senate and she stuck with Bush, as she usually does. John Doolittle (R-CA) is retiring under a cloud of corruption charges and he also stuck with Bush.

Interestingly, some of the tightest and most competitive races we're following saw die-hard reactionaries abandoning Bush, not because they wanted to or because they suddenly want to help vets, but because they are scared to death that they're about to lose their cushy jobs. John Barrow, a Georgia Blue Dog who almost always supports Bush on these matters is so frightened of the surging state Senator from Savannah, Regina Thomas, that he actually abandoned his usual stance and voted, reluctantly, with the Democrats. Same story in Iowa, where Leonard Boswell's fear of Ed Fallon voters caused him to vote like a Democrat for a change. Republicans Robin Hayes, Chris Shays and Charlie Dent are so worried about the likelihood that they will be defeated by, respectively, Larry Kissell, Jim Himes and Sam Bennett that each switched positions and voted with the Democrats today.

The Profitable Dismantling of Civil Society

Yesterday Scholars & Rogues featured a pretty ominous look at the serious deterioration of basic American infrastructure. The author, Dr. Denny, points out that our otherwise preoccupied government is normally only moved to action by catastrophes-- like the deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis last year. So that bridge is nearly fixed. They're waiting for a spate of disasters before they do anything preventive. They may not have to wait long and we have far more than "failing bridges to find, fund and fix." Dr. Denny is left cold by the leadership abilities of the current presidential candidates to lead us successfully through a real crisis. Just to keep up, the U.S. would need to spend $225 billion per year for 50 years-- $11 trillion. McCain definitely has a couple wars he'd rather wage. But the country's infrastructure-- not just roads and bridges but also dams, sewage systems, drinking water systems, air traffic control, nuclear plants, electricity transmission lines, levees...-- gets a grade of D. Unfortunately, national politicians don't usually find infrastructure sexy.

Wall Street does, I found out on the radio yesterday. Tens of billions of dollars are coming out of the firms that brought us the real estate and mortgage collapse and going into buying up infrastructure. Alarm bells went off when I heard that the sleazy GOP vulture capital firm Carlisle Group-- whose real estate arm went belly up recently-- is buying up sewer systems and roadways. And they're only one of many.

Republicans want to reduce taxes and let the infrastructure go to hell so that the public supports selling it all off to for-profit companies. Democrats are too cowed to stand up for government functions that have been delegitimized by greed obsessed Republicans (and Blue Dogs and DLC Democrats). So... on to the predators. Today Morgan Stanley-- and I assure you a more unscrupulous and cut throat firm you will never find-- announced that it has raised $4 billion to target investments "that provide public goods or essential services in sectors such as transportation, energy and utilities, social infrastructure and communications." Global Infrastructure Partners (General Electric and Credit Suisse) have capped their infrastructure fund yesterday at $6.5 billion. A new Carlyle subsidiary, Carlyle Infrastructure Partners, formed specifically-- and under heavy political protection-- to rip off American taxpayers and ratepayers is investing $1.5 billion in transportation and water and wastewater facilities, including roads, bridges, tunnels, airport facilities, maritime ports, transit projects and other public benefit infrastructure in the US and Canada. Henderson Investors, CVC Capital Partners, Macquarie (Australia), Rreef, Citigroup, Ferrovial (Spain), Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Alinda are all up to the same thing.

Bipartisan Majority Defies Bush Over Mortgage Crisis

While Republican House leaders wring their hands and rend their clothes fretting over why voters are massively rejecting their candidates and worrying that the GOP minority could easily lose another 2 or 3 dozen House members in November, all they need to do is look in the mirror to figure it out. And blaming hapless schnooks like Vito, Vitter or Larry Craig isn't going to do the trick. They are the party of obstructionism and the party that is standing in the way of progress, preventing an end to the occupation of Iraq, preventing universal health care, preventing sound environmental and energy policies, preventing, in fact, everything that the American people want!

Yesterday their despised leader, George Bush, threatened to veto a foreclosure bill that would attempt to help families and neighborhoods that have been victimized by predatory lenders who have been enabled by out-of-control Republican deregulation mania. Today the House passed the first of two of the bills Bush was railing against, Maxine Waters' Neighborhood Stabilization Act of 2008. Only one Blue Dog, Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) voted with the Republicans. Eleven Republicans-- all of whom are either retiring or in grave danger of losing their re-election bids in November-- abandoned their party's reactionary leadership and voted with the Democrats (even including such inveterate rubber stamps as the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida and Steven LaTourette of Ohio).

While Bush was eager to shovel hundreds of billions of dollars towards the predatory lenders to shore up their businesses and even to provide irresponsible and possible criminal executive with multimillion dollar bonuses for causing the collapse of the real estate market, he dug in his heels on Water's attempt to "make federal money available in loans and grants for the rehabilitation and eventual sale or rental of blighted properties."

And just moments ago, the House also passed the companion bill, Barney Franks' American Housing Rescue & Foreclosure Prevention Act, a responsible and comprehensive response to the nightmare of the Bush Economic Miracle. It seeks to assist families facing foreclosure keep their homes, help other families avoid foreclosures in the future, and, with Maxine Waters' bill, help the recovery of communities harmed by empty homes caught in the foreclosure process. The bill, which Bush swears he will veto and McConnell vows to obstruct in the Senate, provide mortgage refinancing assistance, which will help keep families from losing their homes and protect neighboring home values. Barney's bill was voted on in 3 parts and dozens of Republicans were too frightened of the constituents to oppose the bill. On Roll Call 302, in fact, 95 Republicans gave Bush and their extremist leaders the finger and joined all the Democrats to pass it overwhelmingly and with a veto-proof majority. In fact only 94 Republicans voted with Bush. It passed 322-94, one of Bush's biggest defeats since he stole the presidency in 2000. Only the most insane kooks and loons-- The Dana Rohrabachers, John Shadeggs, Michael McCauls, Mean Jean Schmidts, and Scott Garretts hung in there with Boehner, Blunt, Cole and Howdy Doody.

The Mortgage Industry Fights for Its Right to Party

I went to a lovely party this weekend. And there were so many smart people there. Two who I was talking with-- both health care experts-- were absolutely positive than no matter who was elected president, there was absolutely no chance that there would be any transformational change in the way the people of this country receive health care. Gee, I thought that was part of the reason we were electing Democrats in a big way this year. But what do I know?

Today's NY Times has a story in the Business Section that probably belongs on page one. It explains why some things get done and why some things don't. It's only trying to talk about the mortgage industry. But the health care industry is much, much worse. Stephen Labaton, who has decided-- or was assigned-- to tackle the issue begins by mentioning that the mortgage industry is fighting back-- intensively-- against threats of regulation. Societies regulate industry when industry's greed gets out of control and threatens the well being of society. Despite Republicans, meat packing plants had to be regulated because... well, people were dying. The "free market" wasn't quite righting the wrongs fast enough. How many more families need to lose their homes before people start dragging mortgage bank executives out and hanging them from lamp posts? Do you think a jury would find anyone guilty? Not around here.

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