Chris Collins and the Republican Project

Federal prosecutors indicted GOP Representative Chris Collins for insider trading yesterday.  Collins represents the 27thDistrict in northwestern New York and was an early Donald Trump supporter.  Right now his website touts three Federal grants to improve sewer, airport, and firefighting infrastructure in his district, which is how I suppose he expects to achieve his “Vision: The United States of America will reclaim its past glory as the Land of Opportunity, restoring the promise of the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.”

I guess it’s good to know that at least one GOP rep thinks Government works and should intervene without waiting for markets to allocate resources to regional airports and municipal sewer systems.  But since Collins voted for the tax “reform” act last year, he must also think borrowing money that his grandchildren will have to pay back will restore to them the “promise of the American Dream.”  Low taxes for corporations now and higher taxes for everyone else later sounds like the “Land of Opportunity,” all right – if you’re a corporate CEO or shareholder.

In the indictment, prosecutors allege that Collins, who sits on the board of an Australian drug manufacturer and owns millions in the firm’s stock, panicked when he learned during a Congressional picnic that a critical trial of the only drug the company makes had failed.  Unable to rid himself of his own positions for various reasons, Collins called his son Cameron, who also owns the stock, to let him know so he could sell his. He used his own personal cell, knowing that telling his family members broke his fiduciary duty and the law, and that the House Ethics Committee was already investigating him for – wait for it – insider trading.  Cameron then told his future father in law, Stephen Zarsky, another shareholder.  Collins’ son and Zarsky sold their shares based on this non-public information and also face charges.

This selloff reportedly saved a little under $800K for the family, and this is of course not chump change. But Open Secrets pegs Collins’ net worth at just shy of $70 million. That very wealthy people will break the law in a such a staggeringly stupid way to avoid the loss of something like 1% of their holdings mystifies me.

Of course, it gets better. He used campaign funds to pay legal bills defending himself from the House query.  And some even speak out loud and in public about Trump giving Collins a pardon. Just more data points showing that Trump had no intention of draining the swamp, and in fact wants only to make sure he and his cronies get their share.

This is, in the end, the Republican Party project: use the power of the state to make loans and then transfer the money to corporations and the wealthy by cutting their taxes. These borrow and spend Republicans create large deficits on purpose, knowing that this will pump up the economy and make them look good – but also knowing that the higher growth will not increase revenue.  The Laffer Curve works only at the margins, and we’ve been well inside that margin since about 1985.  And, as George W. Bush demonstrated, bubbles pop.  The US economy needed no stimulus, and in a very real sense the GOP has wasted a golden opportunity to hold power for decades simply by governing effectively and with moderation.

Sad, but these guys seem to have more short-term interests in mind, and it’s not those of the people who elect them.  We’ll see how that works out for them in November.




Protect Roe v Wade politically, not judicially.  Create a grassroots clamor that the court cannot ignore.


Restriction on the right to vote – must own property?



Corey Stewart is the Face of the Republican Party in Virginia

Corey Stewart is now the face of the Republican Party in Virginia. Virginia Republican primary voters chose this defender of treasonous Americans to carry their flag against Tim Kaine, and doing so demonstrated their commitment to using the power of the state to protect discrimination against minorities.  Their support for Corey Stewart says all you need to know about the core Republican voter in Virginia.


Corey Stewart, like Donald Trump, is a racist. He defends the honor of men who betrayed their oaths to the Constitution and fought instead for the right of local plantation elites to use the power of the State to protect slavery – the literal power to own human beings. This was no honorable cause, and men like Robert E. Lee deserve no honorable memoriam.


Virginia conservatives of all types will work and vote for Stewart in the end anyway.  Some simply share his racist views. They want him to use the office to protect them from contact and competition with people of color.


Those who don’t will still happily support a neo-confederate racist for election to the US Senate because they know he agrees with them on policy.  Stewart would vote to cut taxes on the wealthy and regulation of corporate power.  He would vote to confirm judges who would uphold voter suppression laws, overturn Roe v Wade, protect corporations from regulation, and protect the right to discriminate on religious grounds.


The Virginia GOP has its nominee for US Senate.  He’s a white supremacist and a racist.  You guys might as well own it.


Back in the Day: Immigration Edition

There was a time when non-citizens could cross the border very easily.  Quite a few people lived in Mexico but worked in the US.  This changed in 1996.

Is Trump Creating New Dreamers?

Current Trump Administration immigration policy looks like one way to create a path to citizenship for immigrant children.  After kidnapping them and taking them hostage, Trump’s DHS and ICE often fail to reunite parent and child.  These children end up with a sponsor or relative, and if the government loses track, these kids could grow up in the US.  Sixteen years later you have a new Dreamer.


Shame and Shunning

You couldn’t turn on a cable news program today without hearing a discussion of the appropriateness of calling out government officials in public for implementing immoral and racist policies.  An entrepreneur and small businesswoman refused to serve a prospective customer based on closely held moral principles.  XXX of The Red Hen in Lexington, VA asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave her restaurant on Friday night because she objected to Sanders’ participation in defending racist and immoral policy – she and her staff refused to serve Sanders on moral grounds.  Just how this differs from refusal to make a cake for a gay wedding isn’t clear.


Elsewhere protesters hounded DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen out of an upscale Mexican restaurant in DC when a patron alerted the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter. They showed up and shouted “Shame! Shame!” until she’d had enough, probably muttering “Fucking Twitter!” under her breath as she left.   And on Sunday Stephen Miller suffered a less organized but perhaps more cutting jab from a single fellow diner: “Whoever thought we’d be in a restaurant with a real-life fascist begging [for] money for new cages?”


Yes, you read that right. A patron in a public place called a very senior government official and a key presidential advisor a fascist to his face.


I accept the premise that new Trump Administration policy with respect to the processing and treatment of immigrants seeking asylum has a racial foundation – at least inasmuch as Stephen Miller thinks it appeals to white supremacist ideologies held by many Trump base voters.  They believe that MS-13 is an existential threat and more immigrants mean more crime (uh, no).  They either take our jobs or go on the dole.  They’re turning the US brown, and


I also take for granted that it violates our heretofore shared understandings about what “right” looks like.  Normal people, with normal Judeo-Christian values, simply don’t take nursing infants from mothers’ arms—lying that it’s only for a bath—then keep them apart for weeks.   Border agents allegedly use the prospect of reunion with children to influence a criminal proceeding or  then simply neglected to keep track of each in a way that would facilitate an eventual reunion.   then For many, that is, this new policy appears motivated by animus toward brown people from Mexico and points south, and because it strips infants from the arms of mothers it crosses a moral and ethical line.


A racially motivated government policy that violates fundamental moral values calls for a response. How should citizens respond?



The thread began with the Red Hen


Republican Infighting

Corey Stewart’s nomination to go up against Tim Kaine for a US Senate seat has created rifts in the Virginia Republican Party.  See this exchange between Steven Brodie Tucker and John Massoud at The Bull Elephant.

Health Insurance

Insurance is a product that involves pooling risk.  A large number of people contribute to a fund on condition that the fund would make them whole in the event of a specific loss (life, home or automobile value, liability).  As long as underwriters correctly calculate the probability of loss and cost of covering them, insurance companies make money.  This model only works, however, if most contributors never experience a loss. The great majority of drivers, for example, never have an accident.  These people pay for insurance they never use.  They do it anyway because this investment protects them from a catastrophic event that would ruin them financially.


This model, however, won’t work if every customer will eventually suffer a loss.  With health insurance, we know that going in – these firms will eventually have to cover contributor losses.  It may be a minor one – some people live their entire lives without needing any medical care to speak of and then pass quietly.  Many more, however, end up with serious diseases or conditions and use a lot of health care resources.  Most people will receive, at some point, life-saving medical care.  Usually very expensive life-saving medical care.  This means that health insurance firms have only one purpose in this market: payer.  They don’t evaluate the market and allocate resources to fill a market need.  They simply make payments to providers according to rules and procedures they more or less set themselves.


This seriously limits the power of the market to efficiently allocate health care resources, and it’s not the only constraint.  Our shared understandings about the value of human life matter here.  More important is that health insurance firms don’t actually compete to see who can produce the best quality product at the lowest price. They compete to see who can avoid making the product available at all and construct their payment requirements to do just this: avoid payment.  This increases costs on providers, who form the only market-based component of the health care sector.  Whether hospital large or small-town-doctor small, they run businesses or non-profits that provide services for a fee.  Having to navigate the cost avoidance strategy – that is, paperwork – of several health insurance firms limits their efficiency.


Health insurance firms distort markets in another way: they restrict customers to certain provider networks, limiting consumer choice to providers willing to accept lower fees and other conditions set by the insurance company.  Health insurance is not portable – I can’t shop around for the doctor I want – I have to select one from the list on the insurance company website. So provider incentive has less to do with quality product at low price than it does with compliance with payer requirements.





Refugee Camps


Prince William County Democratic Committee

Notes on the PWC Dem Committee from my experience on the campaign trail.


Are 40% of Americans “Independent?”

Smerconish and other talking heads keep telling me that about forty percent of Americans are independent, presumably because they say so when responding to polls and surveys. It’s actually more accurate to claim that 40% of Americans SAY they are independent – and this high number could reflect an unwillingness to formally pick a side rather than no-kidding independent behavior.




Courts as hedge against loss of political majority/power


About XXX years ago, conservatives realized something about the US Constitution: it created a super legislature in the Supreme Court.  They even accused liberal judges of acting so (e.g., finding a right to privacy in the Constitution).


Since Marbury v Madison, state and Federal governments have accepted the power of Federal Courts (with SCOTUS the last stop) to review whether Congressional or Presidential action violates the Constitution.  Approaches to and definition of constitutionality has varied across the years, and judges making specious arguments to support a ruling is not new.


But the GOP has a coordinated strategy for creating a Constitution that protects their political power and policy preferences.  Activists challenge laws they don’t like in the courts, and conservative judges accept their interpretation.  These judges also protect laws that create unequal access to the ballot box and public square.


And conservative politicians have moved courts to the right by obstructing appointments during more liberal administrations and violating norms to ensure the most conservative possible judges get on the bench.


Conservatives have complained about this for ages.


Corey Stewart


Last week, Corey Stewartwon the Republican nomination to run against Senator Tim Kainefor US Senate this November.  This means that the de facto leader of the Virginia Republican Partyis a white supremacist from Minnesota.  We know he’s a white supremacist because he thinks monuments to men who committed treason against the United States in defense of slavery belong in the public square.  The guy made his bones harassing people of color and trying to cleanse Prince William County of immigrants.


Corey Stewart likes to pal aroundwith people like Paul Nehlenand Jason Kessler.  Nehlen is an anti-Semite who jokes on Twitter about killing political opponents.  Kessler organized the Unite the RightRally in Charlottesville last August.  A rally attendee and Kessler supporter killedHeather Heyerwith his car.  Two Virginia State Troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, Virginia, died when their observation helicopter crashed on their way to assist authorities on the ground.  Kessler plans a sequel, by the way.  Wonder if Stewart will attend.


Stewart’s less-than-subtle nods to racists and white supremacists will make him yet another turnout machine for Democrats – along with Trump, gun violence, attacks on health care, separating immigrant parents and children, and shifting America’s alliances away from the network of democracies in favor of closer relations with autocratic states.  Making Corey Stewart the face of the Republican Party in Virginia will infect down-ballot races for Congress and probably improves Democrats’ chances to flip red districts in the Commonwealth.


What does this mean for the Republicans in the Commonwealth?  Stewart has already attached his brand to the RPVA, and his run for a Senate seat as a state-level Donald Trump begs a question: will institutional Republicans in Virginia line up behind him as Mitch McConnel and Paul Ryan have?  How often will Barbara Comstockand Dave Bratcampaign with him?  To be sure, Stewart’s win created a conundrum for conservatives with respect to optics.  The political right in the US has happily dog-whistled racefor decades, and Trump effectively changed no conservative policy goals – he just started saying the quiet parts out loud. Since he won, some politicians will copy this strategy.  The trouble is that after two years of open race-baiting, most Americans now know what they’re getting and don’t much like it.


This includes some conservatives.  Writers at Bearing Driftand The Bull Elephantagree that Stewart’s nomination reflects an acceptance by the Virginia GOP base of a white nationalism that will hurt their chances down ballotMatt Waltoncomplainsthat Stewart lied about whether Democrats hold responsibility for the breakup of immigrant families under Trump.  Norman Leahycalls Stewart “a rebel flag-draped bridge too far” and argues that Dave Brat’s “…biggest problem is how he can separate his campaign from that of Trump’s mini-me, Corey A. Stewart.”


Stewart answers the rhetoric of minority grievance and resentment with the rhetoric of white grievance and resentment,” writes James Bacon, noting that “I’m an educated suburbanite, and Stewart isn’t appealing to people like me.” On primary election night Steven Brodie Tuckerwrote, “The Republican Party of Virginia is the party of White-Identity Politics.”


These guys apparently don’t like having a white supremacist nominee as the face of the GOP.  But it’s not clear what actual Stewart policy proposals they reject.  I suspect they agree in principle that the US should severely restrict immigration.  I can find no examples of these guys objecting to the kind of voter suppression laws and racial gerrymandering that Stewart would vote for.  They would support religious freedom laws that permit discrimination where treating everyone the same would violate a claimed religious belief.  They back misogynistic restrictions on a woman’s right to reproductive health care.  I doubt they would object to more liberal gun laws like concealed carry reciprocity. They would happily support higher government debt in order to further shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor.  And of course they would, like Stewart, enthusiastically back the kind of judges who would uphold these laws.


And this reflects the larger problem with the GOP writ large: they don’t mind Trump saying the quiet parts out loud with regard to race and look the other way when he fills his pockets with taxpayer money as long as they get the tax cuts, deregulation, voter suppression, and judges they want. They plug their ears when Trump riles up the base with false tales of MS-13because it gets out the vote for politicians who will suppress votes, deregulate corporations, cut taxes, and ignore gun violence.


I’ve met Corey Stewart in person and heard him speak at a Mechanicsville Tea Partymeeting a couple of months ago.  This was an intimate setting, with only about a dozen people in the room.  He delivered a fairly standard-issue conservative stump speech – climate change can’t be real because it’s cold outside today, gun-free zones invite gun violence, Democrats just want to expand government for the sake of expanding government.  He also claimed that “there’s a lot of things out there people don’t know about Tim Kaine.”  We didn’t hear much about confederate monuments, so perhaps he’s learned to moderate his message.


I expect Kaine will wrap up Stewart with Trump and Nehlen and Kessler in Confederate battle flags to both motivate Democratic activists and keep that bad taste in the mouths of institutional Republicans in the Commonwealth.  Stewart will win the Tea Party and Trump voters, but it will be interesting to see whether or not principled conservatives will have the backbone to distance themselves with control of the Senate – and with it control over judicial appointments – in play.  If he can only get a dozen Tea Partiers to show up when he speaks, he’ll need their help.



It was a good day, until it wasn’t.


I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters.  Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting.  Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care. Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix.


As I spoke to voters I began to feel a bit better about John’s prospects.  Quite a few people told me that someone had knocked on their door or they had received our mailer or a text.  Those who said they’d voted for John reported that they liked Edwin Santanaand Vangie Williamsjust fine but believed John would have a better chance to defeat Rob Wittmanin November.


An encounter with an older couple at a Prince William County polling place reinforced this thinking. I told them about John and handed them a palm card but they told me they were Republicans and would take the Red ballot. A few minutes later they came out and stopped to tell me that they just couldn’t do it – they just couldn’t vote for any of the GOP Senate candidates.  They had switched and reported that they voted for “your guy.”


At a polling place in Montclair I introduced myself to an older woman sitting in a lawn chair with an Eagle Forumnewsletter open on her lap.  She had volunteered to staff this polling place and recruit volunteers for the Republican Party.  We chatted for a few minutes and when the subject of gun violence came up she tried to tell me I don’t know what an assault weapon is.  I rolled my eyes and started to respond when she interrupted me to yell her “would you like to volunteer for the Republican Party” ask at a woman who had just voted.  This woman never left her lawn chair – she just yelled at people as they walked by – and I wondered about the effectiveness of her technique.


The woman responded with a polite “no, thank you” and moved on.  Then a couple walked out of the building and my new GOP friend asked the same thing: “Would you like to volunteer to support the Republican Party?”


The man responded: “I don’t speak Russian.”


I laughed of course, and thought to myself that if “in bed with the Russians” has become the GOP brand among the kind of folks who vote in primary elections, perhaps a Blue Wave really is coming.


From there I began to make my way to our watch party venue to set things up.  Banner up, laptop hooked to a big screen, and a beer in my hand I opened the State Board of Elections website and stared.


Vangie was ahead, by what looked like a comfortable margin.  I scrolled down to see what precincts remained out and saw that neither Hanover nor Prince William had reported.  We thought we would do well in Hanover so I held out hope but as the returns updated I realized pretty quickly that second would be the best John could do, and even that turned out to be overly optimistic.


So what had been a very pleasant day turned sour very quickly.  Reflecting on how I’d arrived at my expectations, I realized that I’d completely missed an obvious Vangie strategy: focus on minority voters, get them out, and hope that this plus whatever votes she could capture from women would get her over the top in a low-turnout election.


Not sure what we could have done about this had this occurred to me sooner.  We probably wouldn’t have been able to make many inroads with minorities (and perhaps not with women) in the current political climate. And generating high turnout as a general matter was a challenge given that all three candidates shared a Progressive vision.  I can imagine a lot of voters thinking out loud to themselves, “They’re all good, so why bother?”


In any event, it’s over and Vangie won.  She ran a great campaign – very savvy – and I know she’ll be an excellent candidate and a fine Congresswoman.  Time to get working on the next phase.



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