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The four Democratic candidates who have announced plans to vie for former Republican Justin Amash’s 3rd Congressional District seat reflect the new diversity of the Democratic coalition in terms of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Former President Barack Obama’s legacy will also be felt in the Democratic primary for the seat, as two of the candidates, Hillary Scholten and Nick Colvin, served in the Obama administration.

Asked about their key issues, the candidates generally agree that access to health care and the environment are priorities. Doug Booth, a gay Latino activist and health educator who has a master’s degree in healthcare policy, pledges on his website to support Medicare for All. Amanda Le'Anne Brunzell, a genderfluid Navy veteran, told Daily Kos in an email that “because of intersectionality,” her top issues are grouped together and include “veterans/military/foreign policy,” “human/civil rights,” and the environment.

In the press release announcing her candidacy, Hillary Scholten, an immigration lawyer who served in President Obama’s Justice Department, said that she is running “to fix our broken immigration system, make health care affordable and accessible for all Michiganders, ensure everyone has access to clean drinking water, and work to pass commonsense legislation to end the gun violence epidemic.”

A spokesperson for Nick Colvin, who was a former aide to President Obama, told Daily Kos that the candidate’s top priority will be “taking on special interests and standing up to big drug and insurance companies to ensure that health care is affordable for all.”

Three of the four Democratic candidates told Daily Kos they believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi should begin impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. The same three also made a commitment not to accept corporate PAC donations, while the spokesperson for one candidate, Hillary Scholten, said the campaign hasn’t yet decided.

All of which still begs the question: Can a Democrat win the 3rd, which hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since the mid-1970s? The answer, increasingly, seems to be that the 3rd district is definitely on the table.

Amash’s decision to leave the Republican Party earlier in July is part of the reason that the 3rd, which according to this July 10 article in Inside Elections “will elect a Republican under nearly all conditions,” is now rated by the organization as only “Leaning Republican.” In May, Amash was the only Republican member of Congress to call for Donald Trump’s impeachment after seemingly also being the only Republican who bothered to read the Mueller report.

According to the article, “With the threat of a GOP nominee and a former GOP congressman running as an independent on the same ballot in a district where Trump received just 52 percent, a Solid Republican rating no longer fits.”

The Cook Political Report agrees, saying in a July 8 piece that the district is now a “toss up.”

But while Amash’s defection (and possible run as a Libertarian, either for his current job or for the presidency) is part of the puzzle, it’s far from the whole picture. The 3rd Congressional District has been changing over time and is no longer quite the bastion of conservative Republicanism many Michiganders and others have come to expect. According to the Cook piece, Trump took the district with 52%, which is less than Mitt Romney’s 53% in the previous cycle. Not only that, but in the most populous county in the district, Kent County, Trump barely squeaked past former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with 48.3% of the vote—a significant drop from Romney’s 53.4% victory in the county in 2012.

Amash has also been losing the district’s support over time. In 2016, he was returned to office by a resounding 59.5% of voters. By 2018, that number had shrunk to 54.4%. “The district is changing rapidly. There's a lot of growth in Kent County, and the kind of people that are moving here are educated people who are fitting the profile of a more Democratic-leaning voter,” said former state Democratic Party chair Brandon Dillon.

Not only that, but Donald Trump has also become “a slight liability” to whoever wins the Republican nomination. “I do think (that) whoever the Republican nominee is in this district is likely to be a very pro-Trump candidate,” Dillon told Daily Kos, “and I don't think that kind of candidate is going to be viewed very favorably, except with hardcore Republicans.”

At least two of the Republicans who have announced their candidacies so far certainly seem to fit that “very pro-Trump” mold. According to this July 6 post by the area’s local ABC affiliate, current State Rep. Jim Lower called himself a “Trump-based candidate.” Tim Norton, a former area village president, said that the 3rd District deserves “real representation” from someone who “support(s) the president of the United States.” The other Republicans in the running so far are State Rep. Lynn Afendoulis and Peter Meijer, a member of the family that founded and owns the Meijer chain of big box department stores in the Midwest.

Facing a strongly pro-Trump candidate in a not-so-pro-Trump district won’t be the only thing in the eventual Democratic candidate’s favor. Dillon told Daily Kos that the Democratic Party also has “a pretty strong” infrastructure in the 3rd, “particularly in Kent County, where the vast majority of the vote is going to come out of, and the Third Congressional District Committee, which has really strong leadership now.”

In 2018, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer won Kent County with 50.47% of the vote to challenger Bill Schuette's 46.32%

“The infrastructure here [has] been developed around getting out the vote for candidates at the top of the ticket because we haven't usually had a competitive congressional race,” Dillon said.

The outlook for flipping the 3rd District is also good because of the strength of the Democratic candidates who have joined the race. While Dillon is one of several Democrats who have endorsed Scholten, he told Daily Kos that he has met almost all of the Democratic candidates so far and is “very impressed, to varying degrees.”

“It's encouraging to see really qualified people step up and try to run for the seat,” he added.

Democratic state party communications director and press secretary Paul Kanan didn’t reply to Daily Kos’ request for comment.

Help Flip the 3rd District!

Michiganders and others who want to help flip Michigan’s 3rd District don’t have to wait until a Democratic candidate is chosen. Here are organizations you can contact right now to get involved: Kent County Democratic Party

Michigan's Third Congressional District Democrats

Dawn Wolfe is a freelance writer and journalist based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This post was written and reported through our Daily Kos freelance program.

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What’s in the jailing of vulnerable migrant children? Money. Lots and lots of it. The former CEO of a “nonprofit” that has won lucrative federal contracts to detain kids—including many stolen from families at the border under the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy—“was paid $3.6 million during the charity’s most recent tax year,” The New York Times reports.

“Juan Sanchez, the chief executive of Southwest Key Programs, received that income, which included life insurance and retirement benefits, between September 2017 and August 2018.” This was during the height of the family separation crisis. “It was more than twice what he was paid the previous year, and it eclipsed the maximum amount of grant money that the government allows migrant shelters to use to pay an employee, which was $189,600 last year.”

Sanchez was paid this, The New York Times continues, “even as the nonprofit organization came under intense scrutiny for its high compensation packages for executives.” Former chief financial officer Melody Chung raked in a $1 million salary, while Sanchez’s wife, Jennifer, earned half a million. Both Juan Sanchez and Chung resigned from Southwest Key, while Jennifer Sanchez remained as of March.

Jailing children for cash is reprehensible, but even worse than that is the fact that children have been abused while under the watch of Southwest Key. Surveillance video dating back to September 2018 showed staffers at the now-closed Hacienda del Sol facility in Youngstown, Arizona, physically abusing children. In one video, blurred to protect the child’s identity, an adult is shown pushing and shoving a boy so hard he hits the wall behind him.

“Another video,” NBC News reported at the time, “appears to show another person dragging a child through a room and then trying to pull the child across the floor as the child lay down and tried to use its legs to block a doorway. At the same time, another person dragged a different child with its arms extended across the same room.” No one, however, was charged after an investigation.

Southwest Key’s interim chief executive claimed Sanchez has returned his salary to the company—it really should be returned to us—but the issue is not as clear-cut as it seems: Sanchez and Chung “still own a shelter in Conroe, Texas, through a shell company; the shelter is rented to Southwest Key. Asked by The Times last year about that potential case of self-dealing, in which the executives collected rent paid by the federal government, a Southwest Key spokesman said the partners would seek to sell their ownership stakes. The property has not yet been sold.”

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Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Pramila Jayapal have unveiled the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, legislation that would finally grant important protections on a federal level to housekeepers, nannies, and more than two million home care workers, the majority of whom are women of color.

The legislation would “include domestic workers in common workplace rights and protections, like paid sick days, meal and rest breaks, and extend anti-workplace discrimination protections,” said a statement from the National Domestic Workers Alliance. It would also “guarantee a minimum wage and overtime pay,” and “address issues that make domestic work so precarious,” like making sure that workers facing termination get at least a month’s notice.

“Domestic workers are one of the fastest growing workforces in our country,” Harris said. “They provide essential care to aging parents, children, homes, and more. However, our nation’s domestic workers have not been afforded the same rights and benefits as nearly every other worker, and it’s time we change that.”

Many most likely assume domestic workers already have some of these protections, “but they were deliberately excluded from many foundational labor laws made during the New Deal era,” Domestic Workers Alliance leader Ai-jen Poo said. “Southern congressmen refused to support the National Labor Relations Act or the Fair Labor Standards Act if the bills included equal protections for the predominantly black and Latino farm workers and black domestic workers.”

While advocates have made important gains at the state level—“Domestic Workers' Bills of Rights have been passed in eight states, with New York, Hawaii, and California leading the way,” Refinery29 reports—a space remains at the federal level. A number of domestic workers joined Jayapal, Poo, Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, and Congressman Joaquin Castro to help unveil the legislation.

“Being a nanny takes so much hard work,” said Thaty Oliveira, a Domestic Workers member. “I don’t know many people who can handle caring for five kids under 5 years old! But our work is still considered unskilled. We need to bring our work out of the shadows—so everyone can know what we do and how hard we work.” Oliveira and a number of other domestic workers visited the offices of several legislators, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, to make their case.

Workers received a boost of national attention from the 2018 movie Roma, which won critical acclaim not just for Alfonso Cuarón’s directing and Oscar-nominated actress Yalitiza Aparicio’s acting, but also for portraying the lives of domestic workers with dignity, humanity, and accuracy. “Despite the vital work that we do,” nanny Audrey Mora said at the time, “our lives as domestic workers exist in the margins of society.”

It’s long past time to end that. “Domestic workers have been excluded from basic protections since the New Deal—and domestic workers are the future of work,” said Rep. Jayapal. “The courageous working-class women, women of color and immigrant women who are demanding their rights today are unwilling to be excluded any longer. When domestic workers win, everyone wins: this bill will protect, stabilize and expand this important workforce in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.”

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Last week, hundreds of Netroots Nation attendees took to the streets of Philadelphia in solidarity with the nurses and other staff of Hahnemann University Hospital to protest its closing. The for-profit hospital is in bankruptcy, being closed down by the private ownership group, Philadelphia Academic Health System, which says it's no longer profitable.

Sen. Bernie Sanders was at Hahnemann this week, promising new legislation that would help local governments purchase for-profit hospitals with a new federal fund designated for that purpose. "I will be very soon introducing legislation in the Senate to establish a $20 billion emergency trust fund to help states and local communities purchase hospitals that are in financial distress," Sanders said. "In my view, any time a hospital is put up for sale in America, the local community or the state must have the right to buy it first with emergency financial assistance." He would also bar private equity funds from owning hospitals.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Nurse Practitioners (PASNNAP), the union representing many of Hahnemann's nurses, says 2,500 jobs will be lost when it closes. Beyond that, it's going to devastate the mostly low-income population of patients the hospital serves. "It's going to have a very large impact," Shanna Hobson, a nurse at the hospital and a member of PSNNAP, told CNN. "We provide a lot of services, especially for patients that don't have a lot of insurance, and it is going to be very difficult for the other hospitals to absorb all of these patients."

The hospital is a "ghost town," workers told a local NBC station. The 47 patients receiving dialysis at the hospital three times a week are fearful for their future. "Dialysis is life-sustaining, it's not an option; they have to do it," Michele Smith, a clinic manager in the dialysis unit said.

The details of the legislation haven't been released yet, but it could also help save the hospitals in rural and underserved communities in states that didn't take Medicaid expansion and are closing because of lack of funding. 

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Crackpot billionaire PayPal and Palantir founder Peter Thiel, an avid Donald Trump supporter/adviser most known as regular sayer of outlandish things, appeared on Tucker Carlson's white nationalist-promoting Fox News show on Monday. Why a billionaire felt the need to slum around on a show more regularly devoted to promoting fringe figures mainstreaming the ideas of racist websites we (cough) cannot fathom, but he brought his own new conspiracy theory to Carlson's audience, claiming that tech giant Google is secretly working with China to do "seemingly treasonous" things to the United States.

But as a Trump booster, he also took the opportunity to insult Trump's potential 2020 opponents en masse. Except one:

"I'm most scared by Elizabeth Warren. I think she's the one who's actually talking about the economy, which is the only thing, the thing that I think matters by far the most."

Warren is not the only one talking about the economy, but she has differentiated herself from the other candidates in her very specific diagnosis of the economy's woes. She believes that corporations and the wealthy have dramatically unbalanced and endangered the economy through specific acts of deregulation and de-taxation, and has outlined a program to re-establish rules intended to protect the broader economy—and, especially, consumers—from predatory upper-crust manipulation.

It is this focus on pulling the American version of capitalism back from the brink of overt kleptocracy that has the financial industry, in particular, in spasms. Many of the too-late protections established after the last financial crisis, a crisis caused entirely by widespread crookery in the financial sector, have already been undone by still-compliant legislators and regulators. The notion of instituting fixes closer to the core of continued Wall Street recklessness has the nation's most reckless figures fearing their best money-squeezing schemes might soon by drying up.

As for Warren, she has no illusions that the Peter Thiels of the world (PayPal, remember) can be convinced to support capitalist reforms rather than fighting them tooth-and-nail, and lobbyist-and-pocketbook. Responding to reports of Thiel's remarks, Warren only tweeted: "Good."

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The entire Republican Party has covered for Donald Trump’s overt racism for years. Now, the House GOP has gone ahead and endorsed it outright: On Tuesday evening, virtually every Republican representative voted against a resolution condemning Trump’s virulent, bigoted attacks on four Democratic members of Congress, all of whom are women of color.

You know what? To hell with that. We need to give these hatemongers the boot, and right quick. Here’s how we do it: Daily Kos has identified a baker’s dozen worth of congressional districts where Republicans will be highly vulnerable in 2020. You can donate immediately to ActBlue’s nominee funds to flip each of these seats blue; all money will be held in escrow until each state’s primary, then transferred to the winner in one fell swoop.

Giving now ensures that our candidates will start the general election with flush coffers. It’ll also help convince Republicans facing difficult re-election campaigns that they’re better off retiring, which is exactly what Georgia Rep. Rob Woodall—grayed out in the photo array at the top of this post—has already decided to do.

Last cycle, we used these nominee funds to great effect: 21 of the 24 Republicans we targeted are no longer in Congress. Let’s finish the job and kick hatred out of the halls of power.

Please give $1 to turn these seats blue and let Republicans know there’s a price for racism!

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By a near-party line vote of 240-187, the House of Representatives voted this evening to condemn Trump's racist tweets against Democratic House members. Republican Reps. Will Hurd, Fred Upton, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Susan Brooks crossed to vote with the Democrats, as did now-independent Rep. Justin Amash.

All but four House Republicans voted that Trump's tweet telling four Democrats, all of whom are women of color, to "go back" to the countries from which they came (all but one are American-born) was not a racist remark. Instead, they used procedural motions to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Eric Swalwell who called Trump's remarks "racist" in their speeches supporting the resolution.

Before the vote, Rep. John Lewis delivered a blistering speech in support of the resolution. "I know racism when I see it," said Lewis. "Segregationists told us to 'go back.'"

"With this vote, we stand with our sisters, three were born in America and one came here looking for a better life,” he continued. “With this vote, we meet our moral obligation to condemn hate, racism, and bigotry in every form."

The Republican Party has long relied on dog-whistle racism to motivate an American base of bigots and nationalists. With this vote, virtually the entire GOP asserted it would stand by presidential racism of the most overt, "go back where you came from" sort. The party has lost its soul; there is nothing left to say, and no dignity even pretended at.

Trump is obviously a racist in word and deed. He premised his opposition to Barack Obama, his presidential campaign, his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim policies, and countless speeches and declarations on the stoking of white nationalist-premised fears and white nationalist-premised conspiracies. There is no question. And there is no question that the vast majority of Republican lawmakers will not just abide, but defend, Trump's toxic and ultimately un-American rhetoric.

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Whatever White House idiot thought it was a good idea to trot out Trump "adviser" Kellyanne Conway to respond to Trump's extended racist rant against non-white Democratic congresswomen would probably find themselves fired if there was a single competent person left in the sorry building. Kellyanne Conway is not who you send out to tamp down on a racism flare-up. Kellyanne Conway is the one you send out when you want to see if you can stoke the fire until the White House gas lines explode.

So here comes Conway, with the subtlety of a power saw, to attack the four congresswomen herself. Trump's not racist, she says. It's just that the four non-white congresswomen represent a "dark underbelly" of America.

"They represent a dark underbelly in this country of people who are not respecting our troops, are not giving them the resources and respect that they deserve."

Team Trump isn't racist, they're just "sick and tired" of "dark" Americans who by the way hate our troops and, Conway added, are "palling around with terrorists." So no, asserted Conway, Donald doesn't regret telling them to "go back" to where "they came."

Having thus Solved the problem of the White House being seen as stoking racism and bigotry, Conway apparently felt the need for a capper. Further defending Trump's demand that his non-white American critics "go back" to other countries, Conway asked the questioning reporter: "What's your ethnicity?"

When the reporter refused to answer, Conway insisted. "I'm asking you a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy." It is relevant because Trump "said 'originally from.'"

The reporter, Andrew Feinberg, is Jewish. And the spectacle of a top White House official belligerently demanding that a questioner reveal his "ethnicity" was not lost on anyone. ("Most Jewish Americans will recognize" Conway's questioning, noted reporter Benjamin Freed. "It's the insinuation that we're from somewhere else, guests in our own country and possibly loyal to another flag.")

Even the scenery-chewing Conway at some point afterwards finally realized she had stepped in it. This necessitated issuing a statement, or at least a tweet. "This was meant with no disrespect," wrote the incessantly disrespectful Trump aide, adding "I am proud of my ethnicity, love the USA & grateful to God to be an American."

So there you go. Kellyanne Conway began the day attempting to claim that Trump telling non-white Americans opponents to "go back" to where they came from was not raw racism based on their ethnicity. She did this by calling them America's "dark underbelly" and demanding a Jewish reporter announce his own ethnicity. And please keep in mind that this is, quite literally, the best the Trump White House could do.

Smooth move, everybody. Consider this scandal tamped-down, and please do your best to avoid the pillars of flame as you flee the building.

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After all but eliminating black lung disease in the 1990s, America is now seeing a huge uptick in coal miners suffering and dying. And that spike in disease is coming even though the total number of working miners has significantly declined.

This is what Donald Trump’s “clean coal” does when it enters the lungs of a coal miner. The particles of coal enter the lungs and they never go away. Coal dust can’t be destroyed by the body. It doesn’t get broken down. It doesn’t get breathed out again. It only accumulates. But every particle of dust generates a response—a release of enzymes, hormones, and inflammatory responses that do break down something: the lungs of coal miners.

At first, those particles of coal cause anthracosis, a relatively mild disease often characterized by tiredness and a hacking “smoker’s cough” even among non-smokers. Its severity is very like that of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and it’s considered “mild” only because of what comes next. As more coal dust accumulates and the lung tissue itself is stained sooty-dark, coal worker’s pneumoconiosis develops. This is a much more serious syndrome that brings on the formation of fibrous connective tissue in the lungs and inflammation of the surrounding tissue. It saps the victim’s breath, leaves them gasping and coughing against the stiffening, fluid-filled spaces in their own lungs. And then it gets worse.

Next comes the affliction known as Progressive Massive Fibrosis. This includes dense, heavy masses of fiber—hard, incompressible masses—as the body’s immune system reacts desperately to the presence of the jagged, irritating particles. And finally comes necrosis, as parts of the lung actually begin to die. Along with the miner.

Together all of the above are known as “black lung disease” and they have been disabling and killing miners for centuries. When the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was passed in 1969, then amended in 1977, it set strict limits on the amount of coal dust in underground mines. By 1999, the worst forms of black lung—especially Progressive Massive Fibrosis—were all but eliminated. 

Then the administration of George W. Bush systematically undermined the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), 18 regulations to protect the health and safety of workers were totally eliminated in just five years, and fines against mine operators were radically cut. The result of those actions took a few years to be visible, but now the numbers dying from the worst forms of black lung are startling.

As The Washington Post reports, the number of miners suffering from black lung is now so large, that the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund is in circumstances as dire as many of the suffers. More than 25,000 men and women receive payments from the trust—a number that’s more than half the number of active coal miners. And as the amount of money in the trust goes down, the burden on people, and families, already suffering from black lung disease goes up.

The decline in coal production and the number of miners and companies contributing has seriously hurt the money in the fund. But there are two other factors that play an even bigger role in seeing that those gasping for air are also desperate for funds.

The first is that most of the largest coal operators in the country have filed for bankruptcy in the last decade. That includes number one provider Peabody Energy, the second largest Arch Coal, and number four Alpha Natural Resources. All of those companies went through chapter 11 and reorganized since 2016—leaving much of their financial obligations, including all their obligations to the black lung trust, behind. The number three producer, Cloud Peak Energy, declared bankruptcy in May. Those four companies alone are half the nation’s coal production, and they’ve left their miners behind.

The second, and equally deadly, factor killing the fund that’s supposed to save those being killed by black lung: the Republican tax bill. That bill cut the coal excise tax, the primary means of funding the black lung trust, by a staggering 55%. It was capped at 4.4% per ton. Starting in 2019, the cap is just 2%.

Put those things together and it’s clear why the money going into the trust is now just a fraction of what it was. And at the same time, the miners who worked through the reduced health and safety conditions that started under Bush, are now approaching a third decade underground.

The Centers for Disease Control report an “unprecedented increase” in the number of miners suffering from the worst form of the disease, from massive fibrosis. And in response, Donald Trump has put a mine operator with one of the worst safety records in charge of the MSHA, seen a near doubling of miner deaths, and presided over destroying the already in debt black lung trust.

More sick miners. Less money to cover them. That’s how Republicans love coal. Or at least … how they love coal mine owners.

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