Weekly News Briefs

Twinsburg’s Twins Days Festival ranked 5th quirkiest festival in U.S.

By Brittany Nader, special to cleveland.com


TWINSBURG, Ohio — Twins Days Festival, the largest annual gathering of twins and other multiples will take place Aug. 4-6 in Twinsburg.

Motel 6 ranked the event fifth on the “Top six quirkiest festivals of 2017.”

The theme this year is “TwinCentennial” to honor identical twins Aaron and Moses Wilcox who founded Twinsburg in 1817.

Twins attending the event are encouraged to dress in the style of their country of origin, show their state or city pride or represent their family’s heritage.

The weekend-long festival will include costume contests, talent shows, live entertainment, food, arts and crafts, games, rides for kids, a parade and fireworks.

Interested attendees can also sign up for the 2017 Twins Day Festival Golf Outing, which will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 4. The event will include two-person teams, two-person scrambles and four divisions at Gleneagles Golf Course.

Pre-registered and registering twins are invited to attend the “Welcome Weiner Roast” on Friday, Aug. 4, at Twinsburg High School, located at 10084 Ravenna Rd.

Registration fees for each set of twins is $20 on site. Triplets pay $22.50, quadruplets pay $30 and quintuplets pay $37.50 per set.

Non-twins, including siblings or parents of multiples, pay $4 at the gate. The event is free for children 5 years old and younger.

Twinsburg is located between Akron and Cleveland on SR 91. The festival will take place at Twinsburg Town Square.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit twinsdays.org.

Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to speak at City Club of Cleveland, and people are incensed

By Jane Morice, cleveland.com


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is speaking Aug. 3 at the City Club of Cleveland, and the outcry has been one of the most volatile in the 105-year history of the citadel of free speech.

The City Club has received some positive feedback about the Aug. 3 forum with Lewandowski, now a commentator on Fox News, yet voices of intolerance were the loudest.

“This is gross, Dan,” said one Twitter user, speaking directly to City Club CEO Dan Moulthrop.

This is gross, Dan. He’s not a person in a position of power, which is the cover you’ve used before. He’s a lobbyist.

— Existential Dread (@twkovach) July 14, 2017

Another Twitter user said Lewandowski doesn’t measure up.

The reactions have prompted Moulthrop to defend the club’s decision in an op-ed piece on cleveland.com.

Why the City Club invited Corey Lewandowski to Cleveland: Dan Moulthrop (Opinion)

“We’re interested in Lewandowski’s perspective because he helped run a campaign that no one thought would win,” Moulthrop said. “His philosophy was ‘Let Trump be Trump,’ which ultimately worked. He has a point of view that I think is worth listening to.”

The City Club regularly hosts civic leaders, political candidates and others for a half-hour speech and half-hour question-and-answer period.

The club’s mission is to “create conversations of consequence that help democracy thrive,” and its vision is of ” individuals and communities that prize freedom of speech and civil, civic dialogue.”

But the City Club has experienced pushback on previous speakers. This spring, conservatives criticized the appearance of Bernie Sanders.

Cuyahoga Democratic and Republican party officers could not be reached for comment.

In the past, pro-Israel audience members disrespected a Palestinian-American speaker, Moulthrop wrote in his op-ed. An audience member once asked a racist question of a black Atlantic correspondent.

The pushback could be seen as part of a divisive national trend in the wake of Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory.

In an early 2017 Reuters/Ipsos poll, 39 percent of those surveyed say that they argue with family and friends over politics. Sixteen percent of respondents have stopped talking to family members, and 13 percent have ended relationships.

When the City Club announced Lewandowski’s appearance, social media critics brought up Lewandowski’s criminal history – in March 2016, he was accused of grabbing a former Breitbart reporter, Michelle Fields, when she tried to ask Trump a question at a campaign event. He was charged with simple battery, but the charges were dropped.

Moulthrop did not comment on those allegations, but he pointed out that the City Club has hosted speakers who have been charged with crimes or even served prison time.

Lewandowski’s speaking engagement was suggested by Ohio GOP Congressman Jim Renacci last week and quickly confirmed, Moulthrop said. However, he stressed that this is not an unusual occurrence.

“I suspect there will be people who will say that because this came through Renacci, that it’s not a legitimate suggestion, but that’s not true,” Moulthrop said. “We get suggestions from Congresspeople and public officials all the time. We got President Obama because Valerie Jarrett [an Obama senior advisor] spoke here. Janet Yellen [the chair of the Federal Reserve] was a suggestion from Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office.”

The City Club sees intolerance at each end of the political spectrum, Moulthrop said.

Moulthrop said the City Club would not discourage civil protests of Lewandowski’s appearance. No extra security or increased police presence has been discussed.

Ohio’s Rich Cordray Takes On The Big Banks

Tim Burga, President, Ohio AFL-CIO

Not so long ago, President Donald Trump along with many extreme Republicans promised to gut the The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which was a bipartisan effort passed in 2010 to protect working people due to the financial collapse of 2007-08.

Dodd-Frank established an independent agency named the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and then-President Barack Obama appointed Ohio’s Richard Cordray to lead the bureau. The bureau has established major protections for consumers against unscrupulous financial institutions, but perhaps the biggest blow to the Big Banks came this week.

Click here to send a letter to your Congressperson today to urge them to stand up for working people like us, not Big Banks.

Despite urgings by Congressional Republicans to fire Cordray and terminate the bureau, and hostility from the Trump administration, Cordray issued a new rule to hold Big Banks accountable by allowing consumers to enter into class-action lawsuits.

Bureau Director Richard Cordray said, “Our new rule will stop companies from sidestepping the courts and ensure that people who are harmed together can take action.”

Click here to send a letter to your Congressperson today to urge them to stand up for working people like us, not Big Banks.

According to The Los Angeles Times: “Wells Fargo & Co. for years successfully used its arbitration clause to block lawsuits filed by customers alleging unauthorized accounts had been opened in their names, potentially allowing those practices to persist.

“The bank recently agreed to settle some class-actions suits, but not until the CFPB, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Los Angeles city attorney’s office fined the bank over those practices. Even in the cases that the bank settled, it argued that the plaintiffs could not sue because of arbitration clauses.”

The Congressional Review Act, or CRA, gives Congress the power to scrap some federal rules within 60 days of the date they take effect. The Chamber of Commerce is urging Congressional members to veto this needed rule.

“I am, of course, aware of those parties who have indicated they will seek to have the Congress nullify this new rule,” Cordray said in prepared remarks. “My obligation as the director of the Consumer Bureau is to act for the protection of consumers and in the public interest. In deciding to issue this rule, that is what I believe I have done.”

Secretary Husted Responds to Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

Addresses request for voter data, highlights efforts to preserve integrity of Ohio elections, and offers recommendations for Commission.

COLUMBUS – Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted today (July 24) submitted his response to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request for publicly available voter information, a summary of efforts in Ohio to address voter fraud, and input on ways to improve election integrity.

The letter received from the Commission requested certain voter data if it is publicly available. In Ohio, some voter information is a public record and available to anyone via the Secretary of State’s website. A link to this information was provided to the Commission. Personal voter information, such as the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number or an Ohio driver license number, is not publicly available and will not be provided.

“We believe the accountability system in Ohio elections can be a model for other states to follow in pursuing the goal of making it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Secretary Husted said. “When the Commission’s work is completed, I believe that they will conclude as I have that voter fraud exists, it is rare and we should take reasonable measures to prevent it and hold violators accountable.”

As noted in the letter to the Commission, Secretary Husted is hopeful that the information provided will be used to help educate others about how elections are conducted in each state.

“I trust that in responding to the Commission, the information we are providing will assist you in sharing the facts about the system of elections that are carried out by each of the 50 states.”

The letter to the Commission also outlines Secretary Husted’s efforts to address voter fraud in Ohio. As the first Ohio Secretary of State to compile statewide voter fraud reports, Secretary Husted informed the Commission of his findings related to voter fraud and suppression, as well as non-citizens on the rolls.

“Identifying and addressing any instance of voter fraud, no matter how limited, is important because every vote matters. Over the last four years, Ohio has had 112 elections decided by one vote or tied,” Secretary Husted wrote. “While none of these elections were impacted by the cases of voter fraud we have uncovered, it serves as an example why we as election officials must remain diligent in our efforts to preserve the integrity of our elections.”

Secretary Husted also provided the Commission with two recommendations for strengthening the integrity of our elections. This includes giving states access to the federal database containing non-citizen data for cross matching purposes, which Secretary Husted also sought under the previous administration, and urging Congress to provide funding to states for the purchase of new voting equipment.

In his concluding comments, Secretary Husted urged the Commission to closely review and consider the suggestions being offered and take advantage of the opportunity before the Commission.

“I hope you will strongly consider our recommendations, which are the same recommendations we provided to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration under the Obama Administration,” Secretary Husted wrote. “I encourage you to use the opportunity this Commission presents to assist us in building a more secure system of elections that will build more trust and confidence among voters.”

Trump’s Allies Are Taking Over the Media and Creating Their Own Reality

Is anybody paying attention?

By Eric Alterman

The Nation

On July 17, the Idaho television station KBOI tweeted a story about a would-be robber who allegedly “arrives early at banks to find doors locked.” Even more confusing than the indecipherable English was the photo the station ran: that of Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson being arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge (the robbery suspect was not even black). Having had the mistake called to their attention, KBOI apologized, although another story on its website used the same image of Mckesson beneath the headline “Officer wounded in deadly ambush sues Black Lives Matter.”

That KBOI is owned by Sinclair Broadcasting Group should surprise no one who has ever paid attention to the company—a category, alas, that includes precious few people. Sinclair is a far-right media operation that until recently has flown under the radar of all but the most studious media critics. It received brief scrutiny in December, when it was revealed that Jared Kushner had struck a deal with the company to give it special access to Donald Trump in exchange for a promise to run Trump interviews across the country without commentary. These were especially important to the campaign in swing states like Ohio, where Sinclair reaches many more viewers than networks like CNN. More recently, the station made news when its vice president and director, Frederick G. Smith, whose family owns the company, made a $1,000 donation to Greg Gianforte’s House campaign the day after he assaulted Ben Jacobs of The Guardian for the crime of asking a question about Trumpcare. Now the company is poised to take over Tribune Media in a $3.9 billion deal. Add Tribune’s 42 stations to the 173 that Sinclair already owns, and you’ve got the single biggest conglomerate of TV stations in America, reaching 70 percent of all households in the nation.

Though it receives a fraction of the attention lavished on Fox News, Sinclair is, in its own way, every bit as awful. It forces its affiliates to run regular segments by a former Sinclair executive, Mark Hyman, along with those of Boris Epshteyn, who, until recently, was a “senior adviser” to Trump and is now a full-time apologist for anything and everything the president says and does. In an impressive recent segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver noted that Sinclair sends scripts to its local news anchors to be delivered verbatim together with the clips it wants shown. Among these are “questions” like “Did the FBI have a personal vendetta in pursuing the Russian investigation against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn?” When the Trump administration approves Sinclair’s merger—which it certainly will, despite the fact that the merger violates current rules about concentration of ownership—local television news will be further de-localized as it grows simultaneously more right-wing and Trump-friendly.

A similar fate awaits Time Inc. if it is sold to either of what are reported to be its most energetic suitors. The first of these is American Media, which, run by David Pecker, might as well be run by Trump himself. Earlier in the year, Kushner offered to kill a story about Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s then-secret romance in Pecker’s flagship tabloid, the National Enquirer, if the Morning Joe co-hosts would personally apologize to Trump for their critical coverage. This extraordinary collusion was only recently revealed by Scarborough and Brzezinski in The Washington Post, after our idiot president went after Brzezinski for allegedly “bleeding badly from a face-lift.” Pecker denies all this, but it is entirely consistent with the tone of the coverage that Pecker has given his friend since Trump first announced his presidential campaign. (Representative headlines: “Donald Trump—His Revenge on Hillary & Her Puppets” and “Top Secret Plan Inside: How Trump Will Win Debate!”)

It’s hard to imagine a worse combination than a terrible tabloid tied to Trump and right-wing extremism, but if you were forced to find one, it would be the billionaire father-daughter combination of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who infamously bankrolled Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway and are the moneybags behind Breitbart News. The Mercers’ Renaissance Technologies recently snapped up nearly 2.5 million shares of Time Inc., creating speculation that they, too, were angling to buy the publisher of Time, People, and Fortune, among other titles.

So on the one hand, far-right extremists with next to no commitment to traditional journalistic standards are seeking to expand their empire to the point where their version of “reality” will soon overwhelm the reporting from what remains of the mainstream media. On the other hand, those institutions—under intense financial and political pressure—are increasingly caving in to demands that they tailor their coverage to make it more consistent with the fantasy world promoted by Trump and his acolytes. CNN head Jeff Zucker, recently profiled in The New York Times Magazine as a lonely defender of truth under fire from a hostile White House, not only guided Trump’s career at NBC, he practically turned CNN over to the huckster during the campaign. In addition to all the free airtime he gave Trump, Zucker hired both the hapless Jeffrey Lord, to act as Trump’s de facto on-air surrogate, and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was simultaneously being paid by the campaign and enjoined by a nondisclosure agreement from telling the truth at the time of his hiring. Zucker’s defense? Lord and Lewandowski, far from informing CNN viewers regarding facts and evidence, are instead acting as “characters in a drama,” as if news programming were no different from The Sopranos.

MSNBC, meanwhile, has been on a spree of hiring right-wing hacks like Hugh Hewitt, Charlie Sykes, Greta Van Susteren (since fired), and George Will, who will join Elise Jordan, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Rick Tyler, Nicolle Wallace, Scarborough, and the execrable Mark Halperin on this allegedly “liberal” counterpart to Fox. Meanwhile, Fox is still Fox, despite the departures of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, among other sexual predators formerly in the station’s employ.

Finally, inside the White House press corps, faux-news organizations like the racist Breitbart, Laura Ingraham’s silly LifeZette, Tucker Carlson’s dumb Daily Caller, and the ridiculous One America are treated as the real thing, while actual journalists are barred from being allowed to do their jobs. And when they do manage to do their jobs and expose the criminal idiocy and dishonesty that passes for “policy” in this administration, they find themselves threatened with violence from troglodyte Trump supporters—all the worse for them if they happen to be Jews.

And yet, where are you reading about this? Who besides a British comedian with a weekly show on pay cable is raising this particular alarm? Almost no one. The frog is in the water and the heat is turned up high. But it’s not a frog; it’s the possibility of truth even entering our political discourse and determining the fate of our democracy that’s dying a slow death.

American Democracy Is Now Under Siege by Both Cyber-Espionage and GOP Voter Suppression

The same Republicans who benefited from Russian hacking in the 2016 election have been suppressing the vote for years.

By Ari Berman

The Nation

July 12, 2017

In September 2010, the District of Columbia unveiled a pilot project to enable overseas residents and people serving in the military to vote over the Internet, and invited users to test the system. Within 36 hours, University of Michigan computer scientist J. Alex Halderman and his team were able to hack into it, flipping votes to candidates named after famous computers, like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and playing the Michigan fight song, “The Victors,” after every recorded vote. Amazingly, it took two days for election officials in DC to notice the hack and take the system down. The pilot project was eventually scrapped.

Though online voting remains a distant prospect in American politics, this wasn’t the first election system that Halderman hacked. On June 21, 2017, he testified before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in a hearing on “Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Elections.” “My conclusion,” Halderman told the committee, “is that our highly computerized election infrastructure is vulnerable to sabotage, and even to cyber-attacks that could change votes.”

“Dr. Halderman, you’re pretty good at hacking voting machines, by your testimony,” Senator Angus King of Maine observed. “Do you think the Russians are as good as you?”

“The Russians have the resources of a nation-state,” Halderman replied. “I would say their capabilities would significantly exceed mine.”

It is now clear that Russian interference in the 2016 elections went far beyond hacking Democratic National Committee e-mails; it struck at the heart of America’s democratic process. “As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted,” Jeanette Manfra, the chief cyber-security official at the Department of Homeland Security, testified at the Senate hearing.

Only two of those states have been publicly named: Illinois, where hackers stole 90,000 voter-registration records, including driver’s-license and Social Security numbers; and Arizona, where the voter-registration list was breached via a county-level infiltration. On June 13, Bloomberg reported that “Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states.” And The Intercept, citing a leaked National Security Agency report, stated that “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.”

“This was a well-planned, well-coordinated, multi-faceted attack on our election process and democ-racy,” said Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counter-intelligence division, at the Senate hearing.

“Any doubt it was the Russians?” Senator King asked.

“No, sir,” Priestap answered.

“Any doubt that they’ll be back?”

“No, sir.”

While there’s still a lot we don’t know about the extent of the hacking and why it occurred, it’s painfully clear that the US voting system is dangerously insecure. Even though voting machines aren’t connected to the Internet, hackers can inject malicious software into them by accessing the computers used to program the machines, which are sometimes online. Five states in their entirety, and some counties in nine others, vote using electronic machines with no paper trail, which could make such a hack almost impossible to detect. And even though 36 states use paper ballots or electronic machines with paper backups, that paper is rarely checked thoroughly enough to ensure the results are accurate (only a little more than half the states require even basic post-election audits). Moreover, 42 states are using machines that are at least a decade old and run primitive software like Windows 2000. This is an election meltdown waiting to happen.

The intelligence community has repeatedly said that no votes were changed by Russian hacking, but DHS officials admitted at the Senate hearing that they have not conducted a forensic analysis of any voting equipment used in the presidential election. I asked Lawrence Norden, a voting and democracy expert at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, how confident he was that no votes were altered in 2016. He took a deep breath, sighed, and said, “It’s impossible to know.”

Without changing a single vote, hackers could even more easily wreak havoc on US elections by accessing state voter-registration rolls, as they did in Illinois in 2016. The theft of 90,000 records there went undetected by officials for three weeks, until they finally took the system down for 10 days in response. “Attackers could try to interfere with the ability of voters to cast ballots by deleting them from lists of registered voters, marking them as felons prohibited from voting, or changing party affiliation to keep them from voting in their party’s primary,” notes the Brennan Center in a new report. In states with strict voter-ID laws that require an exact match with voter rolls, changing even a few letters in a person’s name could block thousands from casting a ballot.

“The bigger point here is that what happened in 2016 could easily happen again and go much further,” Halderman says. “In fact, I think it’s only a matter of time before some attacker, be it Russia or another hostile country, really does either sabotage or manipulate the country’s election infrastructure…. Eventually it will happen, unless we take steps to stop it. And so far, very little has changed since 2016.”

Halderman says the solutions are obvious: Record all votes on paper, perform routine audits of ballots, and conduct regular threat assessments, as is done in many industries. But the White House and Congress are doing less than nothing: President Trump regularly refers to reports of Russian hacking as “fake news,” and House Republicans voted to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that helps to protect states against hacking. “We’re doing way too little,” Norden says. “The intelligence community has their hair on fire saying the Russians are coming back, but there’s almost zero discussion in Congress about taking steps to protect our elections ahead of 2018 and 2020.” Things are hardly better at the state level, where in most cases there’s no money for new voting machines or added security precautions.

The truth is that the same Republicans who benefited from Russian hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaign e-mails in the 2016 election have been trying for years to suppress Democratic-leaning votes. As civil-rights leader Rev. William Barber notes, “Voter suppression hacked our democracy long before any Russian agents meddled in America’s elections.” Since the 2010 election, 22 states—nearly all of them controlled by Republicans—have passed new laws making it harder to vote, which culminated in the 2016 election being the first in more than 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

According to a new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 12 percent of the electorate in 2016—16 million Americans—encountered a problem voting, including long lines at the polls, difficulty registering, or faulty voting machines. And last year’s election was decided by just 80,000 votes in three states.

Republicans have accelerated their voter-suppression efforts at the state and federal levels in 2017. According to the Brennan Center, 99 bills to limit access to the ballot have been introduced in 31 states this year, and more states have enacted new voting restrictions in 2017 than in 2016 and 2015 combined. Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, and Texas passed new voter-ID laws; Georgia made voter registration more difficult; and Montana is in the process of limiting the use of absentee ballots.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s new presidential commission on “election integrity” is preparing to nationalize the GOP’s restrictions on voting under the pretext of combating the virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud. The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has pioneered the voter-suppression efforts in his home state, including requiring proof of citizenship to register, which has blocked one in seven Kansans from registering to vote since 2013 (because most people don’t carry around a copy of their birth certificate, passport, or naturalization papers when they register). If such laws were adopted at the federal level, they would disenfranchise millions of voters.

On June 28, Kobach sent a letter to all 50 states asking for sweeping voter data, including Social Security numbers, party affiliation, felony convictions, and military status. The federal government has never made such a broad request before, and voting-rights advocates fear that such data, in the hands of the Trump administration, will be manipulated to spread lies about voter fraud and purge the rolls in inaccurate and discriminatory ways. “[Vice President Mike] Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple,” tweeted Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division under President Obama. That same day, the Justice Department also asked states how they plan to remove people from their rolls under the National Voter Registration Act, which seems like further proof of plans to limit voting access.

The good news is that red and blue states alike unexpectedly rebelled against Kobach’s request, with 48 states refusing to turn over sensitive, private voter data. Some of the sharpest criticism came from Republican secretaries of state, like Mississippi’s Delbert Hosemann, who told the Trump administration to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.” The opposition at times bordered on the surreal: At least two members of Trump’s handpicked commission, the secretaries of state for Maine and Indiana, rejected Kobach’s request, and even Kobach, as secretary of state for Kansas, couldn’t hand over voters’ Social Security numbers to himself, because they’re not publicly available in his home state. One commission member, Maryland Deputy Secretary of State Luis Borunda, resigned.

The bad news is that under the guise of “election integrity,” Trump’s commission marks the beginning of a nationwide voter-suppression campaign by the GOP. It’s impossible to overstate the threat this poses, at the same time that the administration is practically inviting another hack from Moscow or elsewhere. Whether its enemies are foreign or domestic, American democracy is in grave danger.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today’s Rasmussen Reports Survey News

Asbury Park, NJ – Here’s a look at today’s independent public opinion surveys… for more polling news and information in the areas of politics, business and lifestyle, visit www.rasmussenreports.com

Rasmussen Reports has recently launched a new subscription called the Rasmussen Reader. If you do not have a subscription but need to get access to some of our content for publication or broadcast, please don’t hesitate to call me at 732.776.9777 ext. 205 or e-mail me at beth.chunn@rasmussenreports.

26% Rate Trump-Russia Allegations Nation’s Biggest Problem

Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters

Despite wall-to-wall media coverage of the Trump-Russia allegations, just one-out-of-four voters rate them as the most serious problem facing the nation. For most voters, economic issues, Obamacare and other problems are more serious.

When Likely U.S. Voters are asked which of six major problems facing the nation concerns them most, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 26% opt for the Trump administration’s alleged ties to Russia. Eighteen percent (18%) say the economy is their biggest concern, while 16% list Obamacare.

For 15%, taxes and spending are the biggest worry, while just as many (14%) are more concerned about national security and the war on terror. Seven percent (7%) put illegal immigration at the top of the list.

Daily Presidential Tracking Poll

Survey of 1,500 Likely Voters

Trump: Strongly Approve: 26%… Strongly Disapprove: 49% Index: -23… Total Approval: 43%…

Americans Are Happier Than They Have Been In Years

Survey of 1,000 American Adults

Americans are feeling better about their own lives than they have in over a decade.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 74% of American Adults now rate their own life today as good or excellent. That’s up from 61% in 2010 and 67% in 2014. This is the highest level of satisfaction recorded in regular surveys since 2006. Fewer than ever (5%) rate their life as poor.

Americans continue to feel the years before age 40 are the best for most people: 59% feel that way, consistent with three years ago but up slightly from earlier surveys. This includes six percent (6%) who consider the years up to 18 best, 27% who prefer 18 to 29 and 26% who think 30 to 39 are the best years. Seventeen percent (17%) say the 40s are best for most people. Twelve percent (12%) say ages 50-64 are best, while six percent (6%) favor 65 and older.

The Circular Firing Squad Isn’t Amusing Anymore

The left is tearing itself apart.

By Danny Goldberg

The Nation

Notwithstanding the addictive daily drama of leaks, tweets, and resistance, there are major issues that exist separate and apart from the 24-hour news cycle. These long-term problems are as salient in the digital moment as they were in the analog ’60s.

This coming October 9 will mark the 50th anniversary of Che Guevara’s murder. Yet the pathology underlying his famous quip that when the American left is asked to form a firing squad it gets into a circle is as relevant today as a Rachel Maddow response to Kellyanne Conway’s spin du jour.

Last year, speaking to a gathering of veterans of the Vietnam anti-war movement, Tom Hayden lamented, “We said we would not be like the old left, but we became like the old left. We fell into the same sectarian divisions.” This syndrome even cropped up at Hayden’s memorial service a few months ago in Los Angeles when speakers carped about the relative merits of the 1968 primary campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy.

The DNC e-mails hacked by Russia in 2016 and curated by persons unknown focused overwhelmingly on tidbits that would make Bernie Sanders voters reluctant to vote for Clinton. If there weren’t such bitter tribal rivalries within the left (which long predate the election), the divide-and-conquer strategy could never have worked in the first place.

With excruciating predictability, main-streamers blame young people for low turnout and for being seduced by the Libertarian or Green parties, as if finger-wagging at youth has ever been effective. Such lectures are like a rock band blaming the audience for not giving them an encore instead of improving the show. A certain number of low-information young voters struggling with college debt, stressed out by diminished job opportunities, and terrified of global warming were not motivated by charts showing statistical economic growth during the Obama years or by Tim Kaine’s harmonica playing.

It is equally absurd when some on the left refuse to admit that the United States and the world would be in a lot better shape today if imperfect Hillary Clinton had won.

Lefty infighting has been the norm for so long that some progressives have come to view it as a permanent, vaguely endearing fact of life. In the Trump era, such an attitude is not worldly—it is nihilistic. Non-Republicans—ranging from veterans of Occupy Wall Street to the centrist Democrats in the Clinton and Obama mold—have to decide if asserting their differences with robotic intensity is worth living under Republican control.

In order to have any chance of reversing the right-wing trends that began in the Reagan years, mainstream Democrats and progressives have to find ways to disagree without destroying the ability to accomplish their shared goals. Theories and tribalism must be subordinate to knowable or probable policy effects on the most vulnerable, on the 99 percent, and on the planet.

Democratic Party main-streamers should stop claiming that they and they alone are pragmatic. (Or as a smug New York Times headline put it, “The Base Wants It All. The Party Wants to Win.”) That argument has long been highly debatable, but after 2016 it is delusional. They have controlled most of the candidate selection and most of the campaigns that have resulted in the weakest presence of Democrats in elective office since the age of silent movies.

At the same time, an intellectually honest left should stop insisting it has a monopoly on virtue or that both major parties are the same. This was not true in the 1960s, and—notwithstanding the frustrating limits of what the Clinton and Obama years accomplished in terms of progress on health care, the environment, the minimum wage, militarism, and civil liberties—millions of Americans had much better lives than would have been the case if Republicans has occupied the White House during the same time periods.

False choices are a luxury that must be jettisoned. It is neither rational nor helpful to ignore misogyny as a factor in the demonization of Hillary Clinton (and, for that matter, Nancy Pelosi). Sexism is still a thing. On the other hand, Obama and Clinton partisans need to acknowledge that the vast majority of Bernie Sanders voters were not motivated by his gender but by his articulation of positions that they felt were an inspiring departure from the constricted political playing field of recent years.

A few modest suggestions:

§ Generalizing about potential coalition partners is counterproductive. Although they are both “Democrats,” Maxine Waters is very different from Rahm Emanuel. Although they both are critics of mainstream Democratic leaders, Robert Reich and the Revolutionary Communist Party agree on almost nothing else.

§ Name-calling rarely dissipates darkness. For the rest of the Trump years, the left should retire the epithet “neoliberal.” It lumps too many people together unfairly and casts a counterproductive shadow on old-school Bobby Kennedy liberals who agree with progressives on the issues. Better to focus on specific policy arguments.

§ Main-streamers should stop whining about “Bernie bros.” If they feel a compelling political or moral need to disagree with Bernie himself, it should be based on issues, not on Facebook posts by a tiny, unrepresentative handful of his supporters.

§ Hillary supporters should stop implying that Bernie cost her the election, and Bernie fans should refrain from alleging that Bernie was cheated out of the nomination.

It won’t be easy or particularly enjoyable to transcend tribalism. There were bonds formed in the anti-globalization movement and at protests like those at Standing Rock that are rooted in deep values. There is a justifiable pride among progressive public servants in having done the often-invisible work of making government agencies help more people, or among political advisers who prevailed against Republican demagoguery in elections. There are social, spiritual, and political differences that are intertwined with a hard-fought sense of self. But the alternative to dismantling the circular firing squad is to remain on repetitive, self-righteous tracks obsessed with what Freud called “the narcissism of small differences” while the Trumps and Bannons and Kochs of the world laugh and plunder.

It is quite possible that Democrats are going to spend nearly $1 billion trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. By buying into a myth about why they lost in 2016, they are ignoring the underlying math about what really happened—misspending huge amounts of money, while setting themselves up to lose again in the critical contests to come.

Many progressive politicians and pundits have bought into the notion that millions of people who had voted for Barack Obama in 2012 defected from the Democrats and voted for Donald Trump in 2016. The strategic premise flowing from this conclusion—that the Democrats can prevail in the congressional and presidential races to come by winning those voters back—is influencing how tens of millions of dollars are being spent and will continue to shape the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in the midterm elections next year. But as my colleagues at Democracy in Color and I point out in the new report “Return of the Majority Progress Report: Another Billion Dollar Blunder?,” the premise driving this strategy is ill-founded and incorrect.

The popularity and persistence of the myth was encapsulated in a recent New York Times column by Thomas Edsall, “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought.” Edsall devoted considerable attention to “Obama-to-Trump” voters and cited estimates based on exit polls in which voters were asked whom they’d voted for in 2012 and 2016. That polling quantified the ranks of said voters as ranging from 6.7 million to 9.2 million people. The viewpoint has been popularized to the point where it is now accepted as fact and drives major Democratic decisions such as where to hold the Senate Democratic caucus retreat (West Virginia), to whom to feature in the response to the State of the Union (white people in a Kentucky diner), to how to spend $19 million in advertising in the Georgia special election (targeting Republicans rather than rallying Democrats). The primary problem with this approach is that the math underlying the myth is perplexing, at best, and just flat wrong at worst.

The inaccurate arithmetic is most evident when looking at what happened in Wisconsin, one of the three narrowly decided states that led to Clinton’s losing the Electoral College despite prevailing handily in the national popular vote. The conclusion that large numbers of Obama voters switched their allegiance to the Republican is undercut by the fact that Trump got fewer votes in Wisconsin than Mitt Romney did four years earlier. If Trump got a big infusion of previously Democratic votes, why did the Republican vote total go down? But look even more closely, at county-level data. In the 23 counties that flipped from Democratic in 2012 to Republican in 2016, the data show that it is likely that there were just as many Obama-to-third-party voters as there were Obama-to-Trump voters (an increase of 23,117 third-party votes, as compared with 20,662 additional Republican votes in those counties). And the biggest problem in Wisconsin was the fact that 60,000 fewer people voted in heavily black Milwaukee, contributing to Clinton’s losing the state by 23,000 votes.

The myth also lacks mathematical support in a state like Florida, where there was an actual surge for Trump, with him picking up 450,000 more voters than Romney received. That increase, however, didn’t come from disaffected Democrats. Clinton got more votes in 2016 than Obama did in 2012. What happened in Florida is that large numbers of whites who sat out 2012 rallied to Trump’s racial-solidarity appeals and came out in significantly larger numbers.

While the data from Wisconsin and Florida undermine the myth about what happened in specific strategic states, the aggregate data throw the entire premise into question. The most inconvenient fact for the proponents of the Obama-to-Trump migration theory is that Clinton got very nearly the same number of votes as Obama did nationally. It’d be like being told someone has taken 10 percent of the money out of your bank account, but when you check your balance it shows you have the exact same amount of money. If 10 percent of the funds went away, where did the 10 percent come from to backfill the account?

The other problematic point for the 7 million-lost-votes figure is that Trump’s total vote number increased only by 2 million over what Romney secured in 2012. If there are 7 million Obama-to-Trump voters, why didn’t Trump’s vote total increase by 7 million? It’s conceivable that a ton of Romney voters defected from Trump and were replaced by Obama-to-Trump voters, but there has been precious little analysis of that possibility. The focus for most Democrats begins and ends with wooing the Obama-to-Trump voter.

The numbers that aren’t in dispute are the figures for black voters and Stein voters. Recently released Census data shows that African-American voter turnout dropped precipitously, falling below the rate of the 2004 election. In Pennsylvania, according to national exit-poll data, the black turnout dropped by 137,000 people, and Clinton lost by 44,000 votes. In Michigan, the problem was Obama-to-Stein voters, with Stein getting 30,000 more voters than she did in 2012, and the Democrats losing the state by just 11,000 votes.

Certainly some voters did defect from Obama to Trump, and, conversely, some Romney voters moved to either Clinton or Johnson, complicating the calculations all around. Digging into data is important, but, unfortunately, that’s not where Democratic leaders are focusing their analytical attention. Rather than accurately assess the numbers, they have let the myth take on the status of legend, and tens of millions of dollars are being allocated based on faulty data.

Perhaps the most pernicious part of the myth is that it reinforces the absolutely incorrect mind-set that progressives are in the minority in America. Democrats won the popular vote—and not by a little, with Clinton’s 3 million vote margin surpassing the largest figure ever recorded by someone who didn’t win the Electoral College. In the critical states that enabled the Electoral College loss—Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida—the progressive vote splintered, allowing Trump to slip through with less than a majority of the votes in each of those states.

This minority mindset leads to timid tactics and tepid politics that are no match for the audacity of the right’s racist, xenophobic assault on multiracial America that is occurring every day. Fear of alienating the unicorn of the white swing voter mutes Democratic responses when the only proper response to what is happening in America is unapologetic fighting back by every means available—pushing for impeachment, conducting sit-ins to block the buses deporting people, and issuing fullthroated denunciations of a judicial system that sanctions the police murders of unarmed black people. As Obama’s successful elections showed, Democrats win only when their voters are inspired to turn out in large numbers, and a bold, courageous, hopeful platform is essential to generating voter enthusiasm. In order to carry ourselves with the confidence to act with that kind of decisiveness requires the conviction that we are in fact the majority of people in America. If we look at math and not myths, we can straighten our backs, raise our voices, and do what is necessary to bring about the return of the majority in America.

Time for sober realism on the U.S.-Russia relationship

By Katrina vanden Heuvel

July 18, The Washington Post

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer promising derogatory information about Hillary Clinton reaffirms the need for a full accounting of how our democracy may have been subverted in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into claims of Russian interference in the election, Russia’s potential collusion with the Trump campaign and the possibility of criminal malfeasance by President Trump or his associates is essential. Beyond the existing investigation, Democrats should seek an independent commission to lay out steps to protect the integrity of future elections.

None of the above should be controversial. At the same time, there is another set of facts that need to be reckoned with in this precarious moment, concerning the abject failure of U.S. policies toward Russia and the dangerous path down which the two countries are headed. These facts also concern real and present threats and cannot be ignored. Indeed, the crisis we are now facing makes clear that it’s time to fundamentally rethink how we approach our relationship with Russia.

As U.S.-Russian relations have deteriorated, the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, including the danger posed by a nuclear-armed North Korea, has risen to its highest level since the end of the Cold War. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists now rates the danger higher than when the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear device, in 1949. The new Cold War is punctuated by perilous military face-offs in multiple arenas: in Syria; on Russia’s western border, with 300,000 NATO troops on high alert and both Russia and NATO ramping up deployments and exercises; and in Ukraine. The United States and Russia possess nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons between them — more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal — and keep almost 2,000 on hair-trigger alert. So the extreme danger of nuclear war can be reduced only through cooperation between the two countries.

Concurrently, the era of cyberwarfare has arrived without any of the agreed-upon rules that govern traditional wars or, for that matter, nuclear deterrence. There is now a rising threat of hackers breaching not only emails and elections but also power grids, strategic warning systems and command-and-control centers. For years, there has been discussion of the need to establish clear rules of the road for cyberwarfare. Now, reports of escalating interference make it imperative that cyberweapons, like conventional, chemical or nuclear arms, be controlled by treaty. Again, however, this cannot happen without a more constructive U.S.-Russia relationship.

Given these significant threats, the escalation of tensions with Russia, rather than deescalation, serves neither the national interest nor our national security. This moment calls for diplomacy and dialogue, not moral posturing and triumphalism.

Needless to say, rebuilding a working détente with Russia will not be easy. It will take skill and persistence. Russian President Vladimir Putin heads an authoritarian government that tramples basic rights. Trump has demonstrated that he has neither the temperament nor the advisers to sustain a coherent policy initiative. It is hard to see how we get from here to there. But we come to negotiations with the governments we have, not the ones that we wish we had. There is simply no other choice.

For Democrats, whose understandable desire to resist Trump has helped fuel the anti-Russia fixation, there is also another reality to consider. Focusing on Trump’s ties to Russia alone will not win the critical 2018 midterm elections, and it will not win meaningful victories on issues such as health care, climate change and inequality. Moreover, cold wars are lousy for progressivism. They strengthen pro-war parties and fatten defense budgets while depleting funds that could be put to better use rebuilding infrastructure and expanding social programs. They empower the worst forces in both parties and, importantly, close off space for dissent. This is as true in the United States as it is in Russia. And personally, having worked with Russian dissidents, independent journalists and feminist nongovernmental organizations for three decades, I see how cold war has been used to suppress independent voices in that country.

The bottom line is that opposition to Trump cannot become the same as opposition to common sense. Common sense dictates that we protect our democracy by strengthening our election systems to counter outside interference. It dictates an independent investigation of claims of Russian meddling in the presidential campaign. But it also tells us that we cannot address many of our most urgent challenges — from Syria and climate change to nuclear proliferation and cyber issues — without the United States and Russia finding ways to work together when it serves our mutual interests. We do not have to embrace the Russian government to work on vital interests with it. And we cannot afford a revival of Cold War passions that would discredit those seeking to deescalate tensions. Efforts to curtail debate could be a disservice to our country’s security.

As editor of the Nation, a magazine with a long history of adopting alternative views and unpopular stances, especially on matters of war and peace, I believe it’s important to challenge the conventional wisdom, to foster rather than police debate and to oppose the forces that vilify those advocating and pursuing better relations. And while arguing that both the United States and Russia have serious interests in maintaining a working relationship may not be popular, it also isn’t radical. It is simply sober realism.

Editor and publisher of the Nation magazine, vanden Heuvel writes a weekly column for The Post. Follow @KatrinaNation

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