Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hitting The Right Note, Strategically

There are several arguments I'd be loathe to take up, one of them being with the Pope about Roman Catholic theology. Another would be with Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver about political behavioralism.

But sometimes it's necessary to tread into dangerous waters. Silver analyzes two competing theories  about Donald Trump's rash and ridculous remarks. One has them representing a "deliberate political tactic" and the other as "impulsive and primarily emotional."  None can simultaneously be both, though.

Silver, wishing to avoid Ockham's Razor and Hanlon's Razor, comes down on the side of  the latter. Not a fan of Hanlon's Razor, I somewhat disagree. However, Silver- who recognizes Trump is often "irrational, incompetent, or bigoted"- is far wiser than I am or almost anyone, so okay.

Nevertheless, when he applies his perspective to the President's recent tweets about San Juan mayor, I have to blow an official's whistle.  CNN notes

"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump," the President tweeted from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is spending the weekend. "... Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

Silver argues

No matter how cynical one is, it’s hard to see what possible political benefit Trump could get from criticizing Cruz, whose city was devastated by Maria and remains largely without power and otherwise in crisis....

Trump's dismissiveness toward Cruz... will amplify growing criticism about how the government handled Puerto Rico and why Trump seemed to be more interested in the NFL protests than in his administration's hurricane recovery plan.

But Trump's criticism of NFL players resonates with the large portion of the American public which views professional athletes as overpaid whiners, a misguided- but prevalent- opinion.   Although his response to Hurricane Maria has been delayed and insufficient, that is unlikely to disturb most Americans, especially those of his strong supporters, who are going to be the firewall between his presidency and impeachment. And there are few- very few- GOP voters who will be offended by the accusation that anyone but they, their relatives, or their close friends "want everything to be done for them."

The Washington Post- the Washington Post!- on Thursday ran about an Idahoan in San Juan an article entitled "'Why can't we get out of here?' asks stranded American." Later fixed, the intial headline nonetheless reflects the understanding of many, if not most, citizens on the mainland, who are Americans living in the United States of America.

It is a subtlety easily misunderstood.  Charles R. Venator-Santiago, who is "part of an ongoing collaborative project that seeks to document and clarify the laws around citizenship for Puerto Ricans," explains

It wasn’t until 1940 that Congress enacted legislation conferring birthright, or “jus soli,” (right of soil) citizenship on persons born in Puerto Rico. Whereas persons born in Puerto Rico prior to 1940 could only acquire a naturalized citizenship if their parents were U.S. citizens, anyone born in Puerto Rico after 1940 acquired a U.S. citizenship as a direct result of being born on Puerto Rican soil. This legislation both amended and replaced the Jones Act. The Nationality Act of 1940 established that Puerto Rico was a part of the United States for citizenship purposes. Since Jan. 13, 1941, birth in Puerto Rico amounts to birth in the United States for citizenship purposes.

However, the prevailing consensus among scholars, lawmakers and policymakers is that Puerto Ricans are not entitled to a constitutional citizenship status. While Puerto Ricans are officially U.S. citizens, the territory remains unincorporated. This contradiction has enabled the governance of Puerto Rico as a separate and unequal territory that belongs to, but is not a part of, the United States.

So when President Grump attacks the mayor of San Juan, many Americans assume he is criticizing an individual who is not an American.  He is moreover criticizing a person named "Carmen Yulín Cruz," which sounds suspiciously hispanic, and who strikes Trump's base as more of a "loser" than a "winner."  Whatever its impact is in the short run, that sort of thing for Donald J. Trump is part of any winning strategy.

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The 19th Republican President

On September 8, The New York Times' Peter Baker maintained

Now in the White House, President Trump demonstrated this past week that he still imagines himself a solitary cowboy as he abandoned Republican congressional leaders to forge a short-term fiscal deal with Democrats. Although elected as a Republican last year, Mr. Trump has shown in the nearly eight months in office that he is, in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.

After appearance of the article entitled "Bound  to No Party, Trump Upends 150 Years of Two-Party Rule," the journalist took some heat.

Not nearly enough.  A few days after Baker wallowed in foolishness, USA Today Nicole Hemmer pointed out

To the extent that the Trump administration has accomplished anything – and admittedly, the list is short – it is a list of standard-issue Republican policy: rolling back environmental protections, toughening sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders, prosecuting a phony war on voter fraud, gutting financial regulations.

The final round in the 2018 health care battle hadn't been written yet, but Hemmer could have noted that Trump is the embodiment of the President whom Grover Norquist cited when 5 1/2 years ago he advocated "a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen" because a GOP House and Senate would take the lead in enacting conservative legislation. The otherwise negative President would sign any bill which Ryan/McConnell would send him limiting access to affordable health care, and was especially enthusiastic about the one which would hit Democratic states hardest.

Trump could not have more accurately encapsulated the GOP ethos than with his September 13 tweet "With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!"   With extraordinary human devastation, probably aided by climate change, upon the USA, he could think of little else except tax cuts for the wealthy- and, of course, a plan which would harm Democratic states more than Republican states.

Some independent, some maverick. But refutation of Baker's notion comes even apart from legislation or ideology.  On Monday, the President's account retweeted "NFL Player Pat Tillman joined US Army in 2002. He was killed in action 2004. He fought 4 our country/freedom." The tweets were accompanied by a photograph of Tillman in uniform and the hashtags "Stand for Our Anthem" and "Boycott NFL."

In a statement provided to CNN, Tillman's widow Marie wrote

As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify. Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us. We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.

The very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one's heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn't always agree with those views.

However, Donald Trump is not alone among Republican Presidents in exploiting the memory of Pat Tillman.  When the Administration during the 2004 campaign began using and abusing the killing, Pat's father Patrick stated "the Administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons. This cover-up started within minutes of Pat's death, and it started at high levels. This is not something that (lower-ranking) people in the field do." Pat's mother remarked "They attached themselves to his virtue and then threw him under the bus. They had no regard for him as a person. He'd hate to be used for a lie."

Peter Baker can weave his own, comforting fantasy.  Nevertheless, Donald Trump, other than being incomparably corrupt, is not an outlier in his Party.   He is a Republican's Republican applauding or proposing extreme right-wing initiatives, virtually all with the goal of pushing wealth upward. It's what Republicans do.

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Friday, September 29, 2017

Now They Tell Us

I've never bought it, a topic for a much later date. But I'm in a small minority of individuals even to question, as the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse puts it, that

Addiction is defined as a disease by most medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Like diabetes, cancer and heart disease, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors. Genetic risks factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop addiction.

Addiction involves changes in the functioning of the brain and body. These changes may be brought on by risky substance use or may pre-exist.  

The consequences of untreated addiction often include other physical and mental health disorders that require medical attention. If left untreated over time, addiction becomes more severe, disabling and life threatening.

The disease theory of addiction has served as the theoretical basis of Alcoholics Anonymous, whose first step is "we admitted we were powerless over alcohol- that our lives had become unamangeable." Unquestioned obedience to it is required for the groups it has spawned, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Gambling Anonymous, and for virtually all treatment centers.

Yet, in some jurisdictions, probationers and parolees can be sent to prison for using illegal and/or legal (i.e., alcohol) drugs, sometimes for even solitary relapse. That may end, at least in one state, through the effort of Lisa-Newman Polk, attorney for

29-year-old Julie Eldred, who was put on probation for a year in 2016 for a larceny charge. Her probation conditions stipulated that she remain drug-free and submit to random drug tests. One of those tests — taken 12 days after Eldred was placed on probation -- came up positive for the opioid fentanyl. Because that was a violation of her probation, she was sent to jail.

"I was in the midst of active addiction, so I was actively using," Eldred said. "But you're forced to go into this saying, 'I'll be drug-free,' or you go to jail."

Eldred says she complied with all other probation conditions — she got into an outpatient addiction treatment program, found a therapist, and started medication-assisted treatment with the drug Suboxone.

"I had one relapse," Elred said. "I told my Suboxone doctor, so he upped my Suboxone. And my PO [probation officer] had happened to call me in the next day. She didn't look at that picture, she didn't look that I had just gotten started getting everything in order. She just saw that I had a dirty urine and sent me in front of the judge to go to jail."

Eldred was sent to MCI-Framingham, where she received no treatment..

(Ten days later, Eldred was released after her lawyer found a treatment bed.)


is taking Eldred's case to the SJC, arguing that state officials have repeatedly said that addiction is a disease so it's unconstitutional for the courts to punish someone for a medical condition.

"An order to be drug-free is an order that a person who suffers from substance use disorder needs to be in remission or cured of their addiction," Newman-Polk said. "It's not practical or reasonable in view of what we know about the brain science and what we know about addiction."

Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Henry Dorkin maintains

Even [Charles] Lindbergh bounced down the runway a couple of times before he became airborneand some of these people simply are going to have somerelapses on the way to full rehabilitation, and we would not want to incarcerate people at the first sign of a relapse if we're treating this as a chronic disease.

In my previous life working for 32 years in the Judiciary (not in Massachusetts), it was accepted fact- justifiably or not- that drug or alcohol addiction is a disease not unlike cancer, shingles, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

No one would suggest that an individual on probation (served instead of a prison term) or parole (served after a prison term) be incarcerated because he or she suffers from one of these illnesses. Neither should he lose his freedom strictly because of illegal substance use.

The supervising probation and/or parole officer has other means at her disposal, whether to assist in rehabiliation or to ensure compliance, and they are not limited to patience.   If the offender continues to use a prohibited substance, he is not likely to continue the treatment the judge or the officer has mandated and may be locked up (properly) for that.  The probationer/parolee will have been given an opportunity to address his problem and if he chooses not to do so, there would be consequences.  Similarly, if a new offense is committed, punishment is likely for both that and for violating the terms of his original sentence by committing a new offense.


a brief from state Attorney General Maura Healey's office argues the "brain disease" model for addiction is not uniformly accepted.

That brief also says drug testing probationers promotes public safety, and it points out that Eldred was on probation for committing a crime, not just for drug use. It says probation violations are "not a punishment for the offending conduct. Instead, they constitute punishment for the underlying crime that led to a sentence of probation in the first place."

Former state Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a brief on behalf of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals that says supervision and drug testing are effective and help keep people in recovery. It says the court should not "allow any particular theory of addiction to influence its decision."

This rates an 8.5 on the disingenuousness scale.  Probation violations are a penalty for the offending conduct because they are not charged without the offending conduct. The degree of punishment, such as the length of a prison term imposed, is affected by the underlying crime but that crime cannot be used to determine whether the individual has actually violated probation.

Moreover, were individuals routinely punished not for a new offense or for ceasing treatment but for relapse, offenders may routinely decide that absconding from supervision is preferable to continuing treatment. If the "brain disease" model for  addiction is not uniformly accepted, it comes as a surprise to the vast majority of treatment professionals and of amateurs involved with AA, NA, and GA.

Out-patient drug counseling is typically a condition of supervision for the probationer or the parolee.  If the offender, absent a new offense, maintains treatment and his counselor believes he should continue to work with him, it is wise to let it run its course, within reason.  That should be obvious if drug addiction is considered a disease. If it is not, the Massachusetts high court should so inform us, and let's have at it.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trump On Another Rampage

Donald Trump is an expert in sparking controversy. After an apparent murder during protests in Charlottesville, Va., he issued an incendiary remark, followed by an apparent clarification, followed by a virtual reiteration of his initial remark. He has done blasted North Korea publicly and rashly, egging on a fellow who has nerve gas and nuclear weapons. He used "John McCain for political punch lines on talk radio";John McCain for political punch lines on talk radio"; and on and on and on.

He has provoked protest by asking NFL owners to fire any "son of a bitch" who has the temerity to kneel rather than sit and has tweeted "the NFL has to change. Or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell."

The President knows NFL owners cannot afford open combat with their players. If the league "changes" by adopting a rule requiring kneeling- as Trump has urged- or the teams begin to release players because of their poltical beliefs, the NFL might end up "going to hell."

And he knows about businesses going to hell. Whether relatively minor, such as destroying "priceless art deco friezes" or the relatively major, such as a casino business, Donald Trump knows how to destroy. (Four things to count on: Donald Trump will destroy something, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and Max Kellerman makes a good point.)

That's applies especially to football leagues. Back around the time that the New York news and entertainment media affectionately referred to him as "the Donald," Trump owned the USFL's New Jersey Generals. In the summer of 1986 

having already lost a collective $200 million, USFL owners, out-debated and out-maneuvered by Trump, voted 12-2 to move to a fall schedule. They also went ahead with a $1.7 billion anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, who it claimed, among other things, had a chokehold on national TV rights. USFL owners hoped the suit would void the NFL's TV contracts, force a merger, or provide a game-changing payday. So instead of playing football in the spring of 1986, the USFL landed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. (Bassett, one of the two votes against the fall move, died on the trial's first day). Ehrhart says Trump brought in lawyer Harvey Myerson—later jailed for a phony billing scheme—to lead the case. (Another of Trump's lawyer pals, Roy Cohn, the commie-baiting counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy's hearings in the 1950s, served as only an infrequent consultant, says Ehrhart.) The NFL focused its defense on Trump. It portrayed him, Trump wrote in his 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, as a "vicious, greedy, Machiavellian billionaire, intent only on serving my selfish ends at everyone else's expense." To be fair, he's been called worse.

The 42-day trial ended with a jury ruling in favor of the USFL. But it also concluded that the league's dire straights were largely a result of its own doing, not the NFL's, and so awarded the USFL damages totaling…$1. Damages in anti-trust cases are tripled, so the award grew to…$3. The USFL appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which four years later allowed the award to stand. Including interest, the NFL stroked a check to the USFL for $3.76. Ehrhart still keeps it, uncashed, inside a Memphis bank's safety deposit box. (Ehrhart also handled a $6 million check for the league's attorneys' fees and allows, "I did distribute that one.")

On Myerson's advice, the league scuttled its new fall season while waiting out the appeal, assured a huge payout was on the way.

The USFL never played another game.

Trump not only destroyed the USFL, he probably did so hoping the NFL would absorb his New York Generals. He also failed in a bid to buy the then-Baltimore Colts and the Buffalo Bills.

The man knows how to hold a grudge- as Barack Obama can tell you- and thinks everyone owes him. That is a really bad combination.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Aided And Abetted

Uninronically, the real Donald Trump has tweeted "Facebook was always anti-Trump. The Networks were always anti-Trump, hence Fake News, nytimes (apologized) & WaPo were anti-Trump. Collusion?"

Obviously, there was no collusion, nor did The New York Times apologize.  David Frum responded "Does he know how Facebook works?" while another individual tweeted "Does he know how the presidency works?" and the snarkiest: "Trump knows more about Facebook than the generals do."

The news media may have been hard on Donald Trump. They were even harder on Hillary Clinton, probably because she has a (D) after her name and she is, well, a Clinton. A Harvard Law review of the Berkman-Klein enter report, “Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election," noted

A key difference between the right and left is that Trump supporters found substantial coverage favorable to their side in left and center-left media, particularly coverage critical of Clinton. In contrast, the messaging from right-wing media was consistently pro-Trump....

The report found that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Trump’s agenda. Immigration received more attention than any other substantive issue. However, it was eclipsed by the attention given to the scandals surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the Clinton Foundation, which were perpetuated through the release of hacked emails. 

Facebook did its best, inadvertently, to assist Grump's campaign.  The Daily Beast has found

Suspected Russia propagandists on Facebook tried to organize more than a dozen pro-Trump rallies in Florida during last year’s election, The Daily Beast has learned.

The demonstrations—at least one of which was promoted online by local pro-Trump activists— brought dozens of supporters together in real life. They appear to be the first case of Russian provocateurs successfully mobilizing Americans over Facebook in direct support of Donald Trump.

The sheer magnitude of the fake news the Kremlin supported on Facebook on behalf of the American carnage candidate is astounding. The Daily Beast reports also

Russian-funded covert propaganda posts on Facebook were likely seen by a minimum of 23 million people and might have reached as many as 70 million, according to analysis by an expert on the social-media giant’s complex advertising systems. That means up to 28 percent of American adults were swept in by the campaign.

On Wednesday, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, revealed that Russia had “likely” used 470 fake accounts to buy about $100,000 worth of advertising promoting “divisive social and political messages” to Americans. It was Facebook’s first public acknowledgment of the role it unwittingly played in the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaign. Stamos’ statement was also conspicuous by what it omitted: Facebook has refused to release the ads. More significant, it hasn’t said what kind of reach Russia attained with its ad buy....

On average, Facebook ads run about $6 for 1,000 impressions. By that number, the Kremlin’s $100,000 buy would get its ads seen nearly 17 million times.

The inadvertent assistance provided by Facebook with the Kremlin began two or three years earlier when it was persuaded to block posts by pro-Ukrainian activists, who unsuccessfully warned that the site was being trolled by anti-Ukrainian activists.

Still, it is possible that neither social media nor mainstream media played the role the entertainment media did in promoting the mythic status of the billionaire real estate fraud.

And one of those famed, adored, and tremendously wealthy members of the entertainment media spent thirty years- beginning October 1, 1986- humanizing and promoting the fraudulent real estate con man as a pillar of wealth and success, a deal-making virtuoso.  Here is a portion of a 1997 interview:

There was one in 2011 in which Grump turned into Trump, an earnest fellow able to take a joke, delivering the nationally-famous (if not world-famous) "Top 10" list:

David Letterman ridiculed Donald Trump through the decades, which may- or may not- have reinforced the view of individuals who already seriously doubted Donald Trump. But his legend- the myth and the man- grew, so that when he announced for President in June of 2015, he was reviled for his bigotry but perceived as a credible figure.  He was no Harold Stassen, no Dennis Kucinich, and no Jim Gilmore.

Of course, David Letterman wasn't primarily responsible for the rise of a demagogue, nor was Facebook. But the notion that the media-entertainment complex feverishly tried to block Donald J. Trump's rise to the Oval Office belies a fundamental misunderstanding of the means and method of political propaganda. It is ridiculous and should be everywhere ridiculed.

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Americans, Not America

If they have none, they really need to get an editor at Huffington Post.

Rebecca Shapiro properly highlighted Seth Meyers' brilliant takedown of three of Donald Trump's tweets:

Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..

...It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars....

...owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. 

Aside from recalling that Trump as candidate railed against Wall Street (or at least appeared to), Meyers compared the President's criticism of Puerto Rico as akin to someone who would "start a eulogy by saying 'well, the guy never exercised.'"

Meyers quipped "what are you, some kind of sh_ _ _ _ landlord? Oh, right, you were a sh_ _ _ _ landlord."

And as Shapiro noted, Meyers did state "You wanted to make America great again, so I'll say it again Puerto Rico is America." He added

They're included in the whole 'Make America Great Again' thing. And hey, Puerto Ricans are Americans. They use American currency and carry American passports. There's an Applebees in San Juan tha Americans go to to get disappointed by American food.

Unfortunately, Shapiro wrote "The late-night host went on to remind Trump that Puerto Rico is part of America."

Uh, no, it's not. Her first clue should have been that the island did not give its three or four electoral votes on November 8 to Trump or to Hillary Clinton or to anyone. That is because it does not have electoral votes because it is not part of America, though its residents are Americans. Wikipedia explains

The current political status of Puerto Rico is the result of various political activities within both the United States and Puerto Rican governments. Politically, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, which according to the U.S. Supreme Court's Insular Cases is "a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States within the revenue clauses of the Constitution."

Internationally, the people of Puerto Rico are often considered to be a Caribbean nation with their own national identity

I hate to criticize a Huffington Post contributor, possibly unpaid, while heralding a millionaire late-night talk show host. And Meyers did muddy the waters by saying "Puerto Rico is America," less likely a mistake than a rhetorical device to emphasize the responsibility of the American government toward the island. Trump is not only a bad landlord; he's a bad absentee landlord.

But this stuff matters. President Trump probably would have recognized his responsibility and responded more swiftly were Puerto Rico an actual part of the United States of America.  It would have some electoral votes and have at least a modicum of influence in the United States government.Moreover,  the left should not allow itself to be careless with facts in a nation with a President untethered to reality and unbothered by the distinction between fact and fiction,

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Gingrich Takes Offense

It would take a chapter in a book to catalog all the cockeyed things Newt Gingrich said Sunday on "Fox & Friends", and the entire book to ridicule them sufficiently. Among the points he tried to make was

But I suspect there are millions of Americans who look at these very arrogant young millionaires- let's be clear, that's what they are, the'tre agorgant young millionaires who think that they should now basically inflict their politics in what has historically been a non-political moment.

How dare they! Or rather "how dare they?' Individuals are employed by National Football League teams for the same reason the teller at your local bank or megabank is employed- they create value for their employer.

There are two differences. While some people could perform the job of a bank teller, there are fewer than 2,000 people in the USA who could perform credibly in the NFL.  We know that because every year, there are millions of boys (and some girls) who dream of playing professional football, go on to play at some level, and eventually succumb to the realization that they are unable to compete professionally. The spirit may still be willing but the body, and the talent fall short.  NFL players are the cream of the crop, most gifted at birth with large bodies, but who hone their skills by working ceaselessly for many years.

We know that: otherwise you the reader and I would appear in a team's camp with the opportunity to land a job. We may be unable to be a bank teller, but we most assuredly are unable to tackle Kareem Hunt, block DeMarcus Lawrence, or defend a pass thrown by Aaron Rodgers. The elite group of 1700 performers are paid in part huge sums in part because of their unique skills.

They are paid large sums also because their employers can afford it.  The sports business reporter at The Wall Street Journal explains

The average NFL franchise is worth $2.5 billion, up 8% by FORBES’ count over last year. The Dallas Cowboys were the only NFL team worth $2 billion five years ago. Now all but five of the NFL’s 32 teams are worth at least $2 billion (the Buffalo Bills bring up the rear at $1.6 billion).

NFL owners are minting money thanks to hefty TV contracts and a favorable labor deal with the players. Operating profits (earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) were a record $101 million per team last season, with every team north of $40 million. The $3.2 billion in league-wide income is $500 million more than the combined earnings of teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB.

While Newt Gingrich implies that aside from the current protests, sports have been apolitical. The 16 stadia which hosted the opeining weekend of the 2015 season were built with nearly $3 billion of taxpayer funds granted through the political process.

Additionally, the protest movement begun by Kaepernick lay nearly dormant when on Saturday the President remarked

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!’ You know, some owner is gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag; he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.

Earth to Gingrich: the President of the United States of America is a political figure.

However, the National Football League was embroiled in politics before the petulant one was elected President. We learned late last year

The Department of Defense doled out as much as $6.8 million in taxpayer money to professional sports teams to honor the military at games and events over the past four years, an amount it has “downplayed” amid scrutiny, a report unveiled by two Senate Republicans on Wednesday found....

The 145-page report released Wednesday dives deeper, revealing that 72 of the 122 professional sports contracts analyzed contained items deemed “paid patriotism” — the payment of taxpayer or Defense funds to teams in exchange for tributes like NFL’s “Salute to Service.” Honors paid for by the DOD were found not only in the NFL, but also the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. They included on-field color guard ceremonies, performances of the national anthem, and ceremonial first pitches and puck drops. 

It takes money to make money, and the Pentagon's investment appears to have paid off.

There is little doubt, as the former House Speaker stated, that millions of Americans are angry at whom they view as "very arrogant young millionaires." They now have the opportunity to boycott the NFL, as President Trump has recommended.  But they won't do it, any more than Trump or Newt Gingrich will cease and desist in their effort to sow disunity and division.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Like Mars And Venus, Or Jupiter And Saturn

"Dumb" might not be the best adjective. Maybe it's "unpatriotic" or "forgetful" or something else.
Amidst Lesley Stahl's adoring interview Sunday night on 60 Minutes, there was this:

Lesley Stahl: Did he ever apologize for saying you're not a hero?
John McCain: No.
Lesley Stahl: If the president wanted to have a rapprochement with you, would you be receptive?
John McCain: Of course. Of course. I've supported him on national security. I've supported his team-Lesley Stahl: But personal. I'm talking about man to man--
John McCain: Personal? Sure. I'd be glad to converse with him. But I also understand that we're very different people. Different upbringing.  Different life experiences.

If Donald Trump were to apologize to Senator McCain for contending the latter is not a war hero, it would be insincere. However- even though he has neither apologized nor acknowledged an error- Donald Trump has agreed that John McCain was a hero. Two months ago ABC News reported

President Donald Trump is hailing Sen. John McCain as an "American hero" today as the Arizona senator, under treatment for a brain tumor, returns to the Capitol for a vote on the Republican health care bill.

But during the presidential campaign, then-candidate Trump denigrated the war record of McCain, who served many years in the U.S. Navy and who during the Vietnam War was captured by the North Vietnamese, held as a prisoner of war and tortured.

"He's not a war hero," Trump said of the Republican senator at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit in Iowa. "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured."

Now Trump is saluting McCain for returning to Washington, D.C., for the vote to start debate on the GOP Senate leadership's health care legislation.

"So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero!" Trump tweeted. "Thank you John."

I know what you're thinking: Trump merely was kissing Senator McCain's posterior because he need him at the time.

There is something to that. But there may be an additional reason.

When Trump derided McCain as not a war hero because "I like people ho weren't captured," he was running for the Repub nomination for President. He had to establish among GOP voters the image of someone who not only is a winner, but who has patience only for winners. McCain, Trump was implying, was a loser: he was captured. Trump, by contrast, promised GOP voters as early as February 2016 "We're going to win so much, you're going to get tired of winning."

Trump convinced GOP voters and he was nominated (video below from 7/15). He then had to win independent, and even a few Democratic, voters, which proved especially critical in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. There was no more about John McCain not being a war hero.

Of course there wasn't. Trump was able to sell the idea to Repub voters and knew intiuitively it wouldn't fly among Independents and Democrats.

Maybe GOP voters have a harder time recognizing patriotism or courage than do Independents or Democrats, a sobering thought when considering the self-righteousness indignation toward NFL players respectfully conveying their disgust with what they view as an unjust criminal justice system.

Or perhaps it's something else.  Elizabeth Spiers has explained that when she edited The New York Observer and Jared Kushner owned it, during the 2011-2012 election cycle when Donald Trump was flirting with a presidential run one point, we aggregated a relatively neutral story from the Times, but it happened to have some negative information and then Jared wanted to discuss it. And I said, well, you know, we`re just taking the neutral summary of it. And he said, well, Elizabeth, you know, if you spent time with my father in law, you`d really like him.

And I said, well, that might be true, but it really wouldn`t change the way the paper covered him. Then I said, I have to be honest with you, your father in law has done some things that I find morally repellent. And he said, like what? And I brought up the birther stuff. He said I just find it categorically – it`s racist. And he looked at me and said, well Elizabeth, you know, he doesn`t mean any of those things, he`s just saying it because he thinks Republicans are dumb and they`ll buy it.

She's not sure if Kushner was lying. Nonetheless, there is some reason Donald Trump was not hurt- and probably was helped- by slamming John McCain as "not a war hero" when the eventual nominee began his primary run.The man knows a thing or two about political strategy and as the party's nominee, appealing to a broad swath of the American public, held his lip about the Arizona senator.

Your mileage may vary about what that says about Republicans vs. Independents and Democrats. Whatever it says, though, is nothing trivial.

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Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Not A War Hero And Health Care

What goes around, comes around. Initially,  Initially signaling that he was strongly leading in favor of the Cassidy-Graham health care (tax cuts for the wealthy) bill, Arizona senator John

McCain grew less committal as time passed and the specter of Graham-Cassidy passing the Senate became a reality.

“We need to go to regular order,” McCain told reporters after meeting with McConnell on Monday. “I am not supportive of the bill yet"...

What puzzled McCain’s friends is the idea that a Hail Mary on Obamacare as the clock wound down would ever persuade the sixth-term senator to overcome his convictions. McCain had long railed against the law, but the idea of legislating on the fly to uphold a campaign promise always seemed anathema to the longtime committee chairman.

“Here’s the thing. John has always believed that the Senate ought to operate by regular order, through committees on a bipartisan basis. And he’s always done that,” Black said. “He’s a man you can take at his word in his career. And people should have.”

Rushing through without careful consideration a bill which directly affects one-sixth of the economy may well have been the immediate cause of McCain's decision, and even alone it justifies his decision to oppose it.

McCain's opposition, along with Senator Paul's "no" vote, will be enough to sink the GOP's latest scheme as long as Maine senator Collins (as expected) comes out against it. Assuming that occurs, it will be the second time that the effort by the Repub congressional leadership and President Trump will have been scuttled by the vote of the Arizona senator.

Twice in two months John McCain will have blocked Donald Trump's declaration of victory.

“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” blared Donald J. Trump twenty-six months ago, in July 2015.  It wasn't a mistake, a slip of the tongue. When McCain was the Repub nominee for President in 2000, Trump told an NBC interviewer “You would say that maybe he wasn’t an actual war hero. He was captured, but maybe not a war hero."

The immediate cause is not the root cause.  John McCain forgets neither his five-and-a-half years in a prisoner of war camp while refusing early release nor the man who twice decided he was an easy target.

It's fitting that the elephant is the symbol of the GOP because it has long been said "an elephant never forgets." It is said also "revenge is a dish best served cold."

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Replacing Trump

Conceding Mike Pence is "a typical arch-conservative Christian hypocrite," he is nonetheless, Bill Maher argues (video, from 9/15/2017, below), "a survivable event."

That is in contrast to Donald Grump who, if he runs out of Elton John song titles, might decide to order that Kim Jong-un and his countrymen should be obliterated.  The events that follow might not be survivable.

Still, that probably won't happen and in its absence, some of us would go the other way.

Ann Coulter, an arch conservative who has expressed neither the deep religous faith as has Mike Pence nor the contempt for Christianity as has Donald Trump, is one. An early supporter of Donald Trump and The Wall, Coulter either has lost patience waiting for Trump to stop immigration or recognizes the scam he has run on his supporters.  On September 14 she tweeted "at this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached" followed by "If we're not getting a wall, I'd prefer President Pence,"

She may have figured out, as Bill Maher noted (at 53:58 of video immediately below) Friday evening, "I hate to break it to you "real Americans" but what Trump likes about Chuck and Nancy is they're not you."  Coulter's preference- tepid though it is- for Pence over Trump should give the left some pause in its eagerness for Trump's impeachment, although she may change her mind once the President resumes his con.

Wall Street Journal columnist turned New York Times columnist, Bret Stephens, won't, however.  A conservative Never Trumper who voted for Hillary Clinton, he remarked on September 15 on Maher's "Real Time"

I could never have voted for a guy like Mike Pence.... But the problem with- the difference between Trump and Pence is that Trump is an authentic fraud, right, and that Pence is in essence the exact opposite. He's a fraudulent authentic. And when Pence sort of attests to Donald's goodness as a man and you know he doesn't believe a word of it but he's saying it with a kind of pious oleaginous fake sincerity. It's terrible because you- with Trump you never know that he knows he's lying because there's always the interface of- of- of the manic personality disorders but Pence is a man in his right mind.

Investigate Trump and at the end, impeach if justified; indict and prosecute, even better. Yet, with Donald J. Trump, we get one kind of scam. With Mike Pence, we get a different kind, and it might not be any better.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Get The Lead Out

We learn in Politico Magazine about

a program called Becoming a Man, a 16-year-old group therapy and mentoring program operating in dozens of Chicago schools. It aims to help young men like these learn impulse control—to think more slowly as a way of avoiding the reflexive anger that has led to the deaths of so many young people in Chicago—and learn skills and values that will guide them to productive lives after they graduate.

While with both public and private programs the concept is being implemented in a major way in Chicago

BAM and its sister program, Working on Womanhood, are part of a larger national trend. Urban schools from Oakland and San Francisco to Philadelphia are adopting social and emotional learning based on mounting evidence that kids in high-crime, poor neighborhoods need help coping with the after-effects of witnessing traumatic violence. While officials at the federal level talk about more muscular law enforcement as the solution to urban crime, these programs present a more affordable alternative that’s preventive, not punitive.

Explaining the critical need for such a program

“You can really expect, in schools in highly disadvantaged neighborhoods, that all the students are coping with something very traumatic,” says Micere Keels, a University of Chicago human development professor working on a trauma-responsive curriculum for the Chicago Public Schools. “There’s a growing awareness that [those] kids are coming to school struggling with cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disregulation because of stress.”

Stress, yes- but much more than stress. Reuters recently investigated

hidden lead hazards nationwide. Since last year, the news agency has identified more than 3,300 U.S. neighborhood areas with documented childhood lead poisoning rates double those found in Flint. Studies based on previously available data, surveying broad child populations across entire states or counties, usually couldn’t pinpoint these communities.

Despite decades of U.S. progress in curbing lead poisoning, millions of children remain at risk. Flint’s disaster is just one example of a preventable public health crisis that continues in hotspots coast to coast, Reuters has found...

The human development professor refers to "cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disregulation."  Some of us call it by a different name: crime.

Three recent studies yet again demonstrate the link between a child's exposure to lead and later delinquent and criminal behavior.  Perhaps most intriguing is the study of children in Rhode Island who were born between 1990 and 2004 who, Brookings explained

happened to live closer to busy roads within a neighborhood are more likely to have high blood lead levels, because the soil near those roads was still contaminated due to the use of leaded gasoline decades ago....

(Anna) Aizer and (Janet) Currie find that being exposed to higher levels of lead increases kids’ likelihood of suspension from school as well as (for boys) the probability of being incarcerated as juveniles. The magnitude of their estimates suggest that the reduction in lead exposure due to the switch to unleaded gasoline may indeed explain a substantial portion of the decline in crime in the 1990s and 2000s.

These studies tend to confirm earlier studies, as Kevin Drum has pointed out, "at the international level, the national level, the state level, the city level, and even the individual level. Lead helps destroy "gray matter in the parts of the brain that enable people to pay attention, regulate emotions and control impulses," not unlike the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disregulation cited by Ph.D. Keels.

In February 2016 Drum, who has been out front on the crime-lead connection, wrote "So this is the choice before us: We can either attack crime at its root by getting rid of the remaining lead in our environment, or we can continue our current policy of waiting 20 years and then locking up all the lead-poisoned kids who have turned into criminals."

Programs such as those in Chicago demonstrate that there is a third option:  counseling and lead mitigation.  But we need to avoid the temptation of employing the former, sexier approach while erdicating the toxic material from anything that can affect children.

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Racehorse Genes

Credit the discovery to Michael D'Antonio.  He conducted a series of interviews with Donald J. Trump in 2014, of whom Donald Trump Jr....