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GOTV for Lamb in PA 18

Good morning, everybody! This is the last weekend before the special election for PA 18. Let’s recap how we got to this very important, very expensive congressional election for a district that will not exist after November. (folks, you can’t make this stuff up):

  1. Tim Murphy. It all started last year when PA 18’s Representative Tim Murphy got into a bit of a jam. See, Murphy is a family values, anti-choice, piety and free market Republican like the kind that votes in lock step with his party. But Murphy had a more laid back side too. Specifically, he had a girlfriend who thought for a few weeks that she was knocked up. So, she wrote some emails to Murphy asking him what his opinion was on the subject. Turns out Murphy already had a family so he suggested that she might want to get an abortion. The girlfriend decided to retain that email for future use. And use it she did last year. The good people of PA 18 saw that Murphy was a cad an a hypocrite and demanded that he resign. These are the same people who voted overwhelmingly for Trump so consistency might not be their strong suit but let’s be charitable and say that they appear to have learned their lesson with Murphy. So he resigned. No biggy for the Republicans. They’ll just run another hard ass for PA 18, a pretty solidly Republican district vaguely gun shaped district abutting Pittsburgh and gobbling up perfectly innocent suburbs in its rural and exurban mass. Piece of cake. What could go wrong?
  2. Trump continues to be president. Kicking liberals is a lot of fun but it turns out that PA 18 voters might be tiring of Trump’s shtick. And Murphy’s dalliance with his girlfriend shined a light on Republican hypocrisy in a rather unflattering way. Plus, the economy has not improved all that much in PA 18, healthcare is ridiculous, and except for the areas closer to Pittsburgh, there aren’t that many minorities and immigrants to get angry with in the rolling hills and hidden hollows of PA 18. Oh, sure, the seat is still guaranteed to go Republican. The Republican legislature took care of that. What could go wrong?
  3. The PA Supreme Court. Earlier this year, it took a look at the PA district map in a suit brought by PA voters and the Democrats and said, “Huh, this is interesting. There are more D’s than R’s in this state by about 800000 voters, but regardless of how many times D’s outvote R’s, they can only get 5 out of 18 congressional seats. Whatsupwiththat? Let’s take a look at those maps again”. The court ruled that Republicans had somehow managed to gerrymander the maps so that Republicans would always walk away with 2/3 of the Congressional districts in PA. I’m sure it was unintentional or due to geography just like the Republicans claim. 🙄 But it’s curious how hard they fought to keep the “unintentionally” unfair maps in place after the court ordered new maps drawn in order to better ensure that all Pennsylvanians had equal protection and free speech under the law according to the PA State Constitution. All of the subsequent efforts of the PA Republicans were rebuffed, they drew new maps, which weren’t much better than the old maps (did they think no one would notice?). So the court had some independent congressional map drawing dude from Stanford put PA into his speshul computerized map algorithm modulator and it spit out a new map where all the districts are rejiggered. This is where I come in.
  4. PA 18 is toast in November. Yep. It will no longer exist in its present vaguely gun shape at the lower left corner. Now it will be merged and resected with the current 12th district in its pre-chosen form of a giant slorb and take a chunk of the 9th district that is threatening to gobble everything in sight. The new map is shown below. The new PA 17 district is in red, just above the green snot monster that is Mike Doyle’s district of Pittsburgh. Yes, Pittsburgh is still surrounded but believe me, this map is better. The new 17th district has a lot more Democrats. But the old 18th district still needs a rep until November. So, Democrat Conor Lamb is running for it against Republican Rick Saccone. Lamb is a former marine, a former federal prosecutor and all around clean cut dude. Saccone is another bible thumping family values Republican. Enuf said. Whoever wins this district will have about 2 seconds to bask in the glory before he has to turn around and run all over again in a new district in November. Rick Saccone will end up in Mike Doyle’s district in November. Lamb lives in Mount Lebanon. So in November, his suburb has been redrawn to be in the 17th district. Yes, PA’s Mighty 17th! As it turns out, my suburb just to the east of Pittsburgh has been gently excised from Mike Doyle’s district (he represents most of Pittsburgh) and has been reassigned to the 17th district, which used to be a different district number and it’s all pretty confusing but this much I know: come November, if Lamb wins on Tuesday, he’ll be one of two incumbent Congressmen from my currently non-existent district while old PA-18 will have no incumbents running in November because it will morph into the new PA-14. It hurts my head to even think about it.

Anyway, that’s a long winded way of explaining why I’ll be phone banking and canvassing this weekend for Conor Lamb. The polls are irrelevant at this point. No, don’t even. I went through that with Hillary Clinton. All the coordinators said “Don’t look at the polls! We need every vote in every precinct in PA and if you don’t canvass this third area today and she loses, IT WILL ALL BE YOUR FAULT”. Well, we here in Allegheny county kept our end of the bargain and she won in a landslide and even exceeded Obama’s vote count in 2012 by 14000 votes. It was those other canvassers in East Jabip, York county PA and the lovely voters of PA 18 that let us down in 2016. I’m willing to give them another chance to make amends.

Should be fun. The temperature is supposed to get up to a balmy 42°F today. I have my handy dandy cross body messenger bag for packing flyers, water bottles and gloves, and my favorite pair of fringed canvassing boots I got for $22 buckaroos from Target 3 years ago. All I need is my quilted black puffer with a hood and I am ready to work up a sweat walking the hilly streets and risking my life in red PA 18 that will exist no more in a few months.

Wish me luck!

If you’re from PA 18 or will be in PA 17 in November, consider doing some volunteering this weekend. It’s easy. You get used to talking to strangers. And we need to make sure to get every vote in every precinct or IT WILL BE ALL OUR FAULT IF LAMB LOSES.

But seriously, folks, it’s going to be close. Get out there if you can.


I went to hear The Clarks in Oakmont last night. They’re a local Pittsburgh band and it was an excellent live show. Oakmont is going to be in the Mighty 17th in the fall. Anyway, here’s a song they played last night. It’s a little Bruce working class industrial with a little mountain twang. Enjoy!


International incidents

Last night, the South Koreans announced, from the White House driveway, that Donald Trump had agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un to discuss denuclearization of North Korea.

The announcement has been met with a combination of confusion and alarm by former national security experts and the diplomatic community:

I realize that to the Trump voters out there that this is proof of the revitalizing nature of Trump’s ability to disrupt the establishment. It’s likely that the North Koreans are hoping you guys will keep thinking that. They’re probably thinking that Trump is a man of little understanding and that flattering him into thinking he’s some kind of messianic peacemaker is just the beginning in making both him and the United States look ridiculous.

We’ll see. Most likely, someone has already managed to plant the seeds of doubt in his head and he’ll vacillate several times between now and May and the whole enterprise will become pointless. Not only that but a real deal requires real experts and diplomats, something we have a shortage of right now:

“It’s going to take time to get this underway under any circumstances. I would get going right away,” said Wendy Sherman, who served as North Korea policy coordinator for the Clinton administration and lead negotiator with Iran during the Obama administration.

“When we did the Iran negotiation, we wrote an entire agreement, over 100 pages, before we began the negotiation, so we had a sense of what we were trying to achieve,” Sherman said. “It was incredibly detailed and incredibly technical. There’s homework to be done.”

Traditionally, talks would require a lead negotiator with gravitas and the trust of both the White House and Congress, who would nail down the details of any agreement over a series of meetings before proposing any summit with the U.S. commander in chief. But Trump has long fashioned himself his own negotiator, potentially rendering past diplomatic playbooks void.

Good luck with that. This is going to take more than a Cheeto colored Trump pounding the desk with his shoe.


Scary science: Derek Lowe and the Pharma R&D community on Twitter are busily speculating on the type of nerve agent used on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia as they were sitting outside on a park bench in England. They’ve ruled out Sarin and VX and are now looking at a series of nerve agents designed by the Russian military called Novochoks or ‘newcomers’.

The frightening thing about these agents is that they can be made from two commercially available reactants that are not banned. The products are simple, relatively low molecular weight molecules that block the neurotransmitter acetylcholine at the nerve synapses causing heart and lung muscles to involuntarily contract.

In the attack in England, first responders were also affected. One police officer who performed CPR is in serious condition and 20 other people also experienced milder symptoms. Atropine is supposed to counteract the effects of nerve agents. Do we send police officers out on duty with epipen like devices full of atropine? I’m betting not.

What I’d like to know is how it was administered. Since so many first responders were affected after the attack, it sounds like the agent was not injected or swallowed but was sprayed, sort of like someone would spray roundup. (Please don’t anyone get all panicky about roundup. It’s safe and non-toxic to humans). One report I’d read about the attack was that when Skripal was found, he was gesturing at the sky with his hand. My imagination is conjuring up a remote control drone rigged with a spraying device that administered a large aerosolized dose of agent above the park bench where the two were sitting. It would probably need to be bigger than the drone in the picture. Still, we’re not talking about a lot of nerve agent. Milligram doses would be sufficient.

In fact, I’ve been thinking a lot about how drones can be used as weapons of mass destruction. All you need is a kid with a passion for chemistry and biology, some lab equipment or incubators and shakers, and access to publicly available databases and reagent vendors. Sure, some of the reagents could be expensive. That’s what a cleverly written gofundme Page is for. Then just rig a drone, sit back and watch what happens.

You don’t even need a gun.

Why yes, it is frightening. There are enemies out there thinking of even more clever ways to hurt us. Or it could come from a home grown terrorist. Maybe we could all benefit in some crash courses in the ethics and morality of a “winner takes all” mentality, and that practicing machiavellian behavior is bad, misanthropic and anti-social. For a start, we could stop pretending that a candidate like Donald Trump is entertaining and good for ratings.

Or we could treat every child in this country, regardless of the circumstances of their birth with dignity, kindness and respect, giving them an equal start in life so they have no need to seek revenge when they grow up to be old enough to figure out how to make dangerous substances in their garages.


About those tariffs, Trump is throwing numbers around like they’re bargaining chips but as I heard someone say last night on the radio, businesses do not thrive in an atmosphere of uncertainty. They need to be able to predict what’s going to happen fairly reliably from day to day. Trump’s malevolent capriciousness has the capacity to affect markets all over the world in unpredictable ways, not least of which is via retaliation. The EU is already starting to talk about imposing tariffs on Harley Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon. That’s to send Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan and Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell a message.

But what was even more unsettling was walking around downtown Pittsburgh last night with msnbc talking about Trump meeting with steel workers. I feel for them. I really do. I felt for them even more strongly about 36 years ago when the steel mills in Pittsburgh closed up for good and there was genuine pain in the city. It was devastating.

But the thing is, those mills are gone for good. They were torn down and turned into shopping centers. There are only a few left. I’m talking about the physical buildings. They no longer exist for the most part. The sky in Pittsburgh is clean, the buildings are shiny and pretty. It’s a very nice place now that the mills aren’t belching smoke and turning the sky orange at night with sandblasting or putting to children to sleep with the sound of banging and clanging from the mill down the hill.

Those days when US Steel dominated the economy here are never coming back. Even the US Steel building lost its US steelness. It now sports a gigantic UPMC logo on the top floors.

Sure, go ahead, roll out a tariff on steel a week before a milestone congressional special election. BOTH candidates support it. There is still a small steel presence in the 18th district. But there’s a whole generation of southwestern Pennsylvanians who didn’t grow up expecting to work in the mills. This is an IT, robotics and healthcare town now.

If the Republicans were so concerned with saving the steel industry, they should have done something about it when Reagan was president and if I recall correctly, Reagan was absolutely NOT a union man.

Be careful what you wish for.

Look at what you asshole Trump voters have done.

Look at it. Hear the wails and screams of those children who may never live with their mother again.

We knew this day would come when we’d have video of ICE agents treating a mother or father like animals as they separate them from their kids.

What purpose does it serve? How is your life enhanced in any material way except you now can gloat about them going back to their countries while we look at you with shame and disgust.

You did this. You. Everyone of you who voted for that piece of shit in the White House.

Happy International Womens Day!

This one’s for you @Emma4Change


We have an answer

There’s an old joke concerning a gentleman and an actress at a dinner party at a posh English manor. It goes something like this:

In a game of hypothetical questions, the gentleman asked the lady, “Would you sleep with a stranger if he paid you a million pounds?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“And if he paid you five pounds?”

The irate lady fumed, “What kind of woman do you think I am?”

“We’ve already established that,” returned the gentleman. “Now we’re just haggling over the price.”

Those of us who did not vote for Trump, looked forward to his inauguration with dread and have watched every day of his administration with disgust and horror, finally might have an answer to what it will take for Trump voters to realize that we’re not just unreasonably angry and that there really is something extraordinarily abnormal about Trump and his family.

Dana Milbank at WaPo explains:

For nearly three years, Republican lawmakers have stood with Trump, offering only isolated protest, through all manner of outrage. Disparaging Mexican immigrants. Videotaped boasts about sexually assaulting women. Alleging that his predecessor put a wiretap on him. Falsely claiming mass­ive voter fraud. Racism directed at a federal judge. The firing of James B. Comey. Talk of women bleeding. A payoff to a porn actress over an alleged affair. A defense of white supremacists in Charlottesville. Support for Senate candidate Roy Moore despite allegations of child molestation. The guilty pleas of Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates and the indictment of Paul Manafort. The botched travel ban and bungled repeal of Obamacare. Insulting Britain and other allies. Attacks on the FBI and judiciary and attempts to fire the attorney general. Talk of African “shithole” countries. Questions about his mental stability. The lethargic hurricane response in Puerto Rico. The stream of staff firings and resignations and personal and ethical scandals, most recently Tuesday’s finding that Kellyanne Conway twice violated the Hatch Act.

Republican lawmakers were, by and large, okay with all that. But now Trump has at last gone too far. He has proposed tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum. And the Republican Party is in an all-out revolt.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) fielded four questions at a news conference Tuesday morning and answered the same way four times: with a warning about the “unintended consequences” of Trump’s proposed tariffs.

That, oh best beloveds, is where they draw the line. You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t cause “unintended consequences” in the market. And with the resignation of Gary Cohn, Trump has signaled that he either does not know what he’s doing with tariffs or he doesn’t listen to his top economic advisor. Trump is fully committed to exploiting any populist frenzy and use the power of his presidency to aid his family’s business. If the country starts resembling Haiti under Baby Doc Duvalier and his fashion loving wife Michelle, what does he care?

But if the market gives way at the prospect of relentless trade wars and no sensible person manning the ship going into an election year when Republican voters might notice the hit to their 401k’s? That’s a bridge too far.

That’s real money that affects the corporate overlords’ pockets and makes that paltry middle class tax cut the equivalent of money on the dresser.

That money was the payoff for the Trump voter to look the other way when Trump screwed over poor people, Black people, sick children, DACA people, gunned down teenagers, Muslims, the elderly on Medicare and Medicaid and on and on and on. But now it might all vanish with the opening bell.

The Trump voter might wake up to ask, “what kind of woman do you think I am??”

We’re about to find out.


Sorry I missed this last night. Soledad O’Brien alerted Chris Cilizza to the vacuousness of his writing:

Oh snap! That’s going to leave marks.

Click the tweet to read the whole thread.


I love PA Gov Tom Wolf:

Get out your tiny violin.

Republican Conservative men are having a hard time getting laid:

A handful of conservatives in DC told the magazine they’ve been having a real tough go of it since the election. Only instead of living in constant fear of being deported or having to face down white supremacists in the streets, they’ve just been having a hard time getting laid. According to one unnamed Trump administration official, it’s especially hard to land a date if you’re affiliated with the White House. Sad!

“A lot of times you’ll connect with someone [on an app] and they’ll Google you, find out you worked for Trump’s campaign, and then it’s pretty much all downhill from there,” the official said.

Gutting stuff. Even if you’re not associated with the current administration or a MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter, it can apparently be hard to lock down a date if you lean right. A reporter for a right-wing media outlet told the Washingtonian he recently went out on a date that crashed and burned once the woman noticed some conservative books on his shelf. Even though the guy told her he didn’t vote for Trump and considers himself a moderate conservative, she ended things there.

“She was like, ‘I have to get out of here. I can’t see you,’ and left,” he said. “The policies and these things that are attached to the right, whether or not you’re a supporter of Trump, have been pre-supposed on you, and it’s like a black mark.”

I can relate. Conservatives are the LAST people I’d want to get naked with.

Too bad they couldn’t get in touch with Hope Hicks. She must be very busy these days.

The long reach of the Kremlin

Jane Mayer wrote a lengthy in depth piece about Christopher Steele yesterday in the New Yorker. Steele is the former MI6 Russia expert who was hired by Fusion GPS to collect opposition research on Donald Trump for a conservative political action group and then for The DNC and Hillary Clinton.

As Mayer reports, the dossier is turning out to be more and more credible. Steele wrote a couple of additional memos. In one, he described the actions that the Kremlin was taking in elections in Europe with the goal of destabilizing the EU. (Brexit anyone?). Steele predicts that the Kremlin was likely to escalate its attempts. That was before the 2016 general campaign. Then he wrote one in January 2017 asserting that Putin had rejected Mitt Romney for our Secretary of State, which lead to the selection of Rex Tillerson.

The piece is long but if you don’t have time to read it, slip on some earbuds and listen to it. There is a recording available.

One other thing: Steele went to the FBI with what he found but, no one on the Clinton campaign staff or Obama white house was informed in full about what he found and the extent of Trump’s involvement until January 2017. That was long after Steele stopped talking to the FBI because he felt that there was something up at the agency during the election and he got the hell out of Dodge and back to England.


During his testimony before the senate intelligence committee, Glenn Simpson, founder of Fusion GPS, said he wouldn’t reveal his sources because at least one person had already died.

Last night I heard Jane Mayer say something to the effect that “fake news doesn’t result in real deaths”. But they weren’t exactly sure who Simpson was referring to. There have been more than one possible death.

Yesterday, former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill on a park bench after having come in contact with some deadly substance. They are both hospitalized now. The reports say that the person who found them said that Skripal was still conscious and was making gestures with his hands at the sky.

Interesting. I couldn’t figure out what that meant but is it possible he was referring to a small drone who delivered the poison? Was it equipped with some kind of spraying device? I don’t know but the possibilities are very scary.

Christopher Steele better be careful.


I take 2018 elections VERY seriously. To that end, I’m going to be phone banking/canvassing for Conor Lamb this weekend. If there are any likeminded Conflucians in the area and you want to get some exercise, this is a good place to start to see what campaigning involves and how you can help. “every journey starts with a single step”.

Allegheny County phone banking and canvass for Conor Lamb PA-18.


Morning stroll music from the late great Tom Petty: