Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Shortly after the Democratic Party in 1984 held its nominating convention in San Francisco, Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatric peppered her convention speech at the Republican National Convention with references to "San Francisco Democrats." Those were the good old days when San Francisco was known most of all for homosexuals (not yet universally "gay") and gay was not good.

On January 12, 2016- approximately 5,237 days or 452 months too late- Ted Cruz stated "I think he may shift in his new rallies to playing ‘New York, New York’ because Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values."  And throughout the years, Republicans have attacked "Hollywood liberals."

Move over, San Francisco, Manhattan, and la-la-land, and make room for Chicago.

The latest comes from Repub governor Matt Bevin, interviewed Monday evening by CNN's Erin Burnett.   When Burnett noted of mentally ill individuals, "if they do not have a gun, they cannot kill a lot of people," Bevin responded "But again, here's it's important (to) understand. Where in America do we have the greatest amount of gun control laws on the books? Name a major city. Chicago might come to mind. Look at the high --"

Of course, coming to mind is Chicago, the previous home of Barack Obama, the current home of Barack Obama, and the home of the upcoming Obama museum.  After Burnett countered with "or New York" (where the crime rate has dropped even more precipitously than elsewhere), Bevin contended

Or New York. Look at some of the -- of the murder rates. Again, every city is different, but I would say this -- we have more rules and more regulation and more restrictions on the purchase and ownership of guns than we ever did historically, and that in many instances is good and appropriate. I'm not taking a beef with that whatsoever...

The FBI Uniform Crime Report of 2015 revealed Chicago as having the 25th highest murder rate in the country. Municipal borders, obviously (except to gun control opponents), are porous and firearms flow in from outside of a city- including Chicago- into a city.  State borders are porous, also, but less so- and as Fact Check found in October, 2015

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, both groups that advocate for strong gun laws, published a scorecard on state gun laws in 2013, giving higher letter grades to states with stronger gun laws. Nine of the 10 states with the highest firearm death rates, according to the CDC, got an “F” for their gun laws, and one of them got a “D-.” (Note that most states — 26 of them — received an “F.”) Seven of the states with the lowest firearm death rates got a “B” or higher; two received a “C” or “C-“; and one — New Hampshire — got a “D-.”

Three of the ten states with (by one measure) the most lenient gun laws are among the six states with the highest age-adjusted firearm rates. As FactCheck pointed out, correlation isn't causation, But "Chicago."

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Not A Coincidence

Charlie Mahtesian sees storm clouds on the horizon in the Democratic Party's bid to retake the House of Representatives.

The factors Mahtesian believes can prevent the Democratic Party from reacquiring a majority include the $66 million raised by the Congressional Leadershp Fund and sister group American Action Network coupled with the $300 to $400 billion the Koch network will be spending on political and job campaigns; "the reliable a-noun-averb-and-Nancy Pelosi strategy;" Democratic infighting between supporters of centrist incumbents and those of progressive challengers; and California's "top-two primary system."   (And he does so without such a run-on sentence.)

If Democrats fail, those will be the primary reasons cited, along with the recuirrent theme of the mainstream media that the Democratic Party has gone too liberal, too far left, and become divorced from the moderate values held by the mythical, enlightened, moderate voter.

But the GOP might maintain its House majority for a reason that has been largely neglected.  Sean McElwee and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate have reported on research recently conducted by three political scientists who

found that the passage of right-to-work measures decreased Democratic vote share by 2 to 3 percentage points in both presidential and down-ballot elections—enough to have swung Michigan and Wisconsin to Trump in 2016. They also found that these laws reduce turnout and demobilize blue-collar workers, with blue-collar workers less likely to report receiving a contact about voting in right-to-work states.

Yet, the Michigan and Wisconsin legislation is ignored in any analysis of Trump's victory in 2016, when observers point out that Clinton stayed out of Wisconsin and was not the hero of the white working-class- among which she smothered Barack Obama in 2008- that Barack Obama was in his campaigns.

 A similar scenario now threatens to play out in House races this fall. McElwee/Stern continue(s)

Right-to-work laws also increase Republican power in state legislatures and shift policy to the right. Using historical data, Feigenbaum, Hertel-Fernandez, and Williamson estimate that right-to-work laws lead Democrats to control fewer seats than they otherwise would, by 5 to 11 percentage points. In addition, the authors find that after the passage of right-to-work laws, state policy shifts to the right, even when Democrats control the legislature.

And as bad luck would have it the U.S. Supreme Court has begun hearing

oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME, a challenge to the idea that public-sector unions can collect fees from nonmembers in 22 states. The court may as well skip the charade of arguments altogether. There is simply no question how the justices will rule in Janus: After Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, they divided 4–4 on this exact question. Since then, Republicans installed Justice Neil Gorsuch on the court, and no one seriously doubts that he will come through for the party that kept his seat open for a year.

The plaintiff's argument rests on a bizarre notion of the First Amendment, one in which paying union dues to secure better wages, benefits, and/or working conditions is somehow a "political" act. The GOP's

framing of unions reflects a profoundly cynical vision of workers’ rights, turning free riders into “compelled riders” who are forced to accept benefits that they reject on political grounds. It also has no real constitutional basis. Eugene Volokh, a right-leaning libertarian who generally opposes unions, contributed to an amicus brief explaining why (Justice Samuel) Alito’s theory is completely incorrect under an originalist understanding of the First Amendment. “Compelled subsidies of others’ speech happen all the time,” the brief explains, “and are not generally viewed as burdening any First Amendment interest.” The government can spend tax dollars on speech with which taxpayers disagree; it can compel lawyers to pay state bar dues, then use the money to promote messages that some lawyers detest; it can even collect a special assessment on teachers to promote education policies that some teachers dislike. Of course it can also let unions collect fees from nonmembers to cover contract negotiations.

(Or it can tax residents to pay for a police department which in many instances some citizens believe administer justice in a more punitive manner toward blacks than against whites, arguably a "political" act.)

Nevertheless, as McElwee/Stern notes, the Court will almost definitely rule against AFSCME, against unions, against workers.  If it does so- and if labor does not mount an extremely successful counter-attack- income inequality will continue to grow, and probably at an acclerated rate.

When President Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) launched his attack upon workers by crushing the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, a (thus far) 37-year decline in income equality was ushered in.  It's conveniently neglected when historians compile their list of greatest USA presidents, in which Reagan is frequently rated disgracefully high. Similarly, if the GOP retains its House majority, A the effect of Janus v. AFSCME will be ignored. It shouldn't be.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Conned By The Con Man

If the first twelve paragraphs of his op-ed in the Sunday New York Times are any indication, David Brody is either one of the most stupid- or conniving- people in the USA  Fortunately, Brody then let slip something accurate when he acknowledged

Finally, why in the world wouldn’t evangelicals get behind and support a man who not only is in line with most of their agenda but also has delivered time and time again? The victories are numerous: the courts, pro-life policies, the coming Embassy in Jerusalem and religious liberty issues, just to name a few. He easily wins the unofficial label of “most evangelical-friendly United States president ever.”

For all the rest, Brody, assuming he's sincere, is quite the sucker.  He writes

Evangelical leaders also see a civic obligation to speak godly counsel to him, on policy and personal matters. He is, after all, the president. And it’s paying off. I’ve watched Mr. Trump through the lens of the faith community for years, and he has delivered the policy goods and is progressing on the spiritual ones.

My reporting suggests Donald Trump is on a spiritual voyage that has accelerated in recent years, thanks to evangelicals who have employed the biblical mandate of sharing and showing God’s love to him rather than shunning him. President Trump told me that he “was exposed to a lot of people, from a religious standpoint, that I would’ve never met before. And so it has had an impact on me.”

It's hard to believe that even in the highly secular world of New York business and high finance, Donald Trump was completely shielded from religious people. Once he decided to chase the GOP nomination for President, however, wrapping himself in the flag of evangelical Christianity quickly became convenient.

It strains credulity to believe that when he announced for the race at age 69, Trump somehow, through the workings of the Holy Spirit, found Jesus or that he now "is progressing on the spiritual (goods)." Donald Trump rarely "progresses." He dives, recklessly, into whatever he comes to believe (or wants to be seen as believing), typically what the last person he has spoken to has told him.

Fortunately, we have corroboration. In his CPAC speech, Trump stated

In times of grief and hardship, we turn to prayer for solace and comfort. In recent days our entire nation has been filled with terrible pain and sorrow over the evil massacre in a great community, Parkland, Florida. This senseless act of mass murder shocked our nation and broke our hearts.

We turn to prayer for solace and comfort. This runs contrary to the belief of both Protestants and Catholics in the prayer model of described by the A.C.T.S. acrostic- adoration, confessions, thanksgiving, and supplication. (I can't vouch for the other monotheistic religions.)

Supplication has been described as "making requests to God, asking Him for our own needs, as well as praying for others" or "the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly." It does not include asking God to make us feel better or comfortable or relieving our anxiety, as if He is the master psychiatrist.

Some people do get "solace and comfort" from praying and, well, good for them. But that should not be its intent. It's a kind of new age approach to prayer, what individuals such as Donald Trump who are not progressing spiritually believe they deserve from praying.

Of course, the worst problem with Brody's piece is the suggestion that the victory of Donald J. Trump was God's will.  Though he does not explicitly embrace it as his own, Brody approvingly writes

The Bible is replete with examples of flawed individuals being used to accomplish God’s will. Evangelicals I interviewed said they believed that Mr. Trump was in the White House for a reason.

It is possible that Trump is in the White House for a divine reason.  It may be to foster hatred and division among his countrymen. It might be to consolidate wealth further in the hands of  the 1%. It might be abort the USA's role as leader of the free world and to upend the Trans-Atlantic alliance. President Trump is accomplishing all three and it could be- accepting David Brody's reasoning- God's will. It would mean also that God has a very morbid sense of humor.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fake News Fantasy

In July, Eric Alterman of The Nation wrote

Lying presidents are nothing new. I coined the term “post-truth presidency” back in October 2004 to refer to the George W. Bush administration. What’s novel about Donald Trump, however, is that he does not lie in pursuit of some larger political goal or to hide a potentially damaging secret. He just likes to lie, often for no discernible reason. But while Trump is a moron in most respects, he is an instinctive genius at media manipulation. And here, his apparently purposeless mendacity achieves two significant goals: First, he overwhelms traditional journalism, which cannot keep up and does not even wish to try. Second, his shamelessness inspires others to revise and expand his lies until they become “true,” at least in the right-wing universe of cable-news-driven political discussion.

It's becoming an upside-down nation.  In a society in which lies are accepted as truth, facts are likely to become a casualty, and truth is liable to be considered "fake."

February's Monthly Harvard-Harris poll, taken 2/16-2/19 among 1934 registered voters, asked several dozen questions. Nearly buried as table 164 on page 203, respondents were asked whether they agree of disagree that "there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media." Sixty-eight percent (67% of women, 68% of men) answered in the affirmative. Similar questions were asked about social media and news "onlinte." But evidently more than two-thirds of Americans believe that the likes of The Washington Post, CBS News, and their local papers report phony stories as real.

Interviewed recently by Chauncey DeVega for Salon, author and Yale University historian Timothy Snyder observed

If you're a Trump-style authoritarian you are not trying to make a big powerful state. What you're trying to do is make the state dysfunctional and then at the end of the crumbling, you and your friends are at the top. What you also do is discredit the resistance actively both by calling people names, whether that's African Americans or Native Americans or women or any other group. You say that protesters are paid, and journalism is all fake news. Insofar as Mr. Trump has a domestic policy it involves shaking people's belief in reality and the facts, because if you do that then everybody just has their own opinion. Money will be the only thing that matters in terms of "the truth." In the end the Trump-style authoritarian who creates the greatest spectacle is going to win.

You say that protesters are paid and journalism is all fake news. The concept originally was invoked to help describe false articles, tweets, Facebook posts and other items propagated in the 2016 election cycle by Russians or others aiming to deliver a defeat for Hillary Clinton. All it needed was a master propagandist to  turn the phrase on its head and use it as a cudgel against the mainstream media, which has had the gall to print the truth about the Trump administration and the investigation conducted by the Special Counsel.

Distorting the language and suppressing political debate have become essential arrows in the quiver of the man with the collected speeches of Adolph Hitler at his bedside. If Donald Trump is able to stand for re-election, truth will become an even harder thing to come by than at presen, and the groundwork laid for a totalitarian state with unforeseen global implications.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not So Fond Of Them, Either

There is a thing (from "The Other 98%") going around reminding us that Donald Trump has defended spousal abusers and neo-Nazis while denigrating Muslims, women, Haitians, Nigerians, Puerto Ricans, Mexican immigrants, African nations, and black athletes protesting racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Very good, but not inclusive. Grump's other prejudice is more subtle because the President cleverly disguises his hatred of the group by constantly praising them- with a paternalistic touch. In his speech Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference he stated

If we don’t have a strong military, you might be allowed into this room some day, okay. You may not have your houses, your homes, your beautiful communities, we better take care of our military, these are the greatest people and we’re going to take care of our veterans, we’re going to take care of the vets. We have been doing a good job on the vets. 

Yet, Trump also took a crack at the nation's most famous war veteran, despite- more likely, because- he is suffering from a brain tumor and thus would find it difficult to defend himself. He added

And, by the way, we’re having tremendous plans coming out now, health care plans, at a fraction of the cost that are much better than Obamacare. And except for one senator, who came into a room at 3:00 in the morning, and went like that [thumbs down], we would have had health care, too. We would have had health care too. Think of that.

But I think we may be better off the way we’re doing it. Piece by piece by piece, Obamacare is just being wiped out. The individual mandate essentially wipes it out. I think we may be better off. And people are getting great health care plans and we’re not finished yet. But, remember, one person walked into a room, when he was supposed to go this way, and he said he was going this way, and he walked in and he went this way and everyone said, what happened? What was that all about? Boy, oh, boy, who was that? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to be controversial, so I won’t use his name. Okay. What a mess.

It would have been out of character had he used the Arizona senator's name, because that would have required a backbone, more glaringly absent in Trump's case than in most conservatives. The New York Daily News has reported that Meghan

McCain revealed that Trump had called her up and promised to stop taking shots at her 81-year-old father.

"I don't believe he would go there again," she told Politico's Women Rule podcast. "I don't think at this point in his administration it would be beneficial to him in any way."

It's not shocking to believe that Donald Trump would lie, or that he would tell the last person he speaks to whatever the individual wanted to hear.  It's also unsurprising that he would slam a war veteran.

That's not only because Trump infamously said- on his way to being the choice of GOP voters as its nominee for President of their country-  that John McCain is "not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured." Joe Scarborough noted that "McCain "could have stayed home like Donald Trump. He could have chased models." Grump's popularity took no hit whatsoever.

He could have stayed home and chased models, like Donald Trump, who once remarked "It's amazing, I can’t even believe it. I’ve been so lucky in terms of that whole world, it is a dangerous world out there. It’s like Vietnam, sort of. It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave solider."  Man slut and combat soldier: six and one-half dozen of the other.

There are two differences between Donald Trump's distaste for almost everyone but himself (and Ivanka) and that for soldiers.  The President pretends to admire enlisted men and women- and he's rarely called out for the contempt he has for them.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

The Town Hall We Won't Have

In a metaphor Dana Loesch especially should understand, criticizing Dana Loesch's comment at the NRA-sponsored Conservative Political Action Conference is like shooting fish in a barrel. Nonetheless (or because)

Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now I'm not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media. And notice I said 'crying white mothers' because there are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend, and you don't see town halls for the, do you? Where's the CNN town hall for Chicago? Where's the CNN town hall for sanctuary cities?

It would be easier to forgive Loesch for playing the race card if she were a noted civil rights activist or someone who had ever done anything for  grieving black mothers other than flacking for an organization determined that enough weapons are in enough hands to create more grieving black mothers.

Obviously, race is what she was talking about, given the reference to "thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend." If there are thousands of grieving black mothers in Chicago every weekend, we have a bigger problem than imagined by anyone, even by the Trumpists who envision "Chicago" as "the place with lots of black thugs including that black president."

If Loesch wants to have town halls for everything, perhaps we can have a town hall for the actual thousands harmed by Medicaid cuts in the GOP budget. But a question more relevant to the  town hall Loesch participated in and slammed, however, would be "where is  the CNN town hall for the NRA's investment in death by firearm?"

In December, 2015 The Intercept's Lee Fang revealed

The Intercept reviewed investor transcripts for gun companies, ammunition manufacturers, and sporting stores, and found many instances of industry executives discussing mass shooting incidents and the resulting political dynamics as lucrative.

Here’s how it works. Following a mass shooting, there is talk of gun control, which the National Rifle Association and other gun advocates attack as an assault on the Second Amendment. Notably, gun and ammunition manufacturers often donate, either directly or as a portion of each sale, to the NRA. The fear of losing gun rights leads to panic buying, which brings greater profits to gun retailers, gun companies and their investors.

After Loesch's remarks, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts (not this Robin Roberts) responded "Powerful statements but wrong statements. We do not do this for ratings.” Further, it seems the mainstream media is far less pleased with mass shootings than the industry which subsidizes the NRA, and for which it speaks. Fang noted

James Holmes killed 12 people and injured more than 70 others after opening fire in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012.

In 2011, Jim Barrett, a financial analyst, asked Ruger’s Fifer during a call with investors if the “recent shooting incident in Tucson” — referring to the shooting that year of Rep. Gabby Giffords — “has stirred gun owners and prospective gun owners to go visit the stores?”

Bob Sales, another analyst, asked Fifer how his company was preparing for future gun sales, given that “a combination of the election in 2012 and the Sandy Hook incident … spurred a massive binge of gun buying.”

On a conference call with investors, Millner, the chief executive of Cabela’s, fielded a question about the Aurora mass shooting from an analyst with Imperial Capital, who asked him if the incident had “any impact on your business.” Millner responded, “I would say that the trends that you read about in the press, we are experiencing at least thus far since the incident.”

On a more superficial level, why term the fact-based, time tested media, as the "legacy media?" Sarah Palin's term "lamestream media" was more rhythmic- and at least she looked like Tina Fey.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Pitiful Conservatives

The cowardice continues, though isometimes paired with something else.  On Tuesday, controversial wingnut and former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke tweeted (emphasis his)

The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it. It is similar to how he hijacked and exploited black people’s emotion regarding police use of force incidents into the COP HATING Black Lives Matter movement.

Clarke is black, but obviously has equally little respect for both blacks and student activists, believing that both groups are easily manipulated.  On a positive note, at least Clarke does not appear frightened. By contrast, on his Trump TV program Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson argued that "organized anti-gun groups"

are using these kids in a kind of moral blackmail, where you are not allowed to disagree or you are attacking the child -- which is, of course -- I can speak for myself, the last thing that I would ever do as a father of four. You would never attack the kid. You can disagree with other people's opinions without attacking them, but the press is conflating that, and making it like you're not allowed to disagree, or you're a bad person.

Most of us are not saying Tucker is not allowed to disagree or even that he's a bad person. One can be frightened without being a bad person.  When Carlson stated "the allegation has been that they are in some way in contact with organized anti-gun groups,"  he is presumably included but without specific acknowledgment.. The "people who have suggested that," he continued,"have  been denounced as immoral, and heartless, and "How how dare you question these kids or attack them?" Which, for the record, I am certainly not doing --"

For the record, "don't blame me. It's not what I have been doing. Why would I, and be denounced?" Such a conservative snowflake. But Carlson's fearfulness is matched only by that of Snowflake Blowhard Rush Limbaugh, who maintained

And I made the point that I could not believe how mature and composed-  this particular student’s name was Addison Jost, and I don’t know if she’s a junior or senior, but I saw her being interviewed and she was epitome of composed and poised. And I had made supportive comment after supportive comment talking about the trauma these kids were experiencing, the shock, they’d been shot at and so forth. And I noted how impressed I was with their maturity and their ability to speak off the cuff in answering questions that dealt with the emotions they were facing.

I never once insulted any of these students. I never have mentioned a student at this school by name, other than Addison Jost in a praiseworthy way. I have commented on some of the sloganeering and the agenda that is being used here. 

Uncharacteristically on the defensive, Limbaugh implores that he "made supportive comment after supportive comment" and "never once insulted any of these students." But as cowardly as Tucker Carlson, Limbaugh added

And it is straight out of the Democrat Party, and I’ve made the point that the left gets away with this quite easily by taking these kids or any group of people that happen to be activists advancing the Democrat Party agenda, and they immediately proclaim them as not political. The media does. And the students themselves did.

Don't blame me, Limbaugh is pleading- would I say anything bad about young people?   No, it's the Democratic Party and the media, the monster under the bed, the outside agitator. The devil made them do it.

As usual, the right  is filled  with cowards afraid of criticism.  We don't know how any of this will end but there is one posiive sign. It  is apparent that, contrary to norm, some conservatives are scared. Very scared.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Shrinking Violets

The right wing has begun to mobilize in opposition to the activism for gun control among Parkland, Florida students. While acknowledging a couple of exceptions, Steve M. observes a "common thread" among the critics in that

The smear merchants are avoiding direct attacks on the students. The sinister plots all involve outside agents who are using the students for their own nefarious ends.

As soon as I started watching videos of Emma Gonzalez's weekend speech and other media appearances by the teenage survivors, I assumed they'd be attacked by the right -- we all remember how opponents of children's health insurance funding smeared the family of Graeme Frost, a seventh grader who spoke up in favor of the funding, in 2007.

But the attacks on the shooting survivors aren't direct -- not even on Gonzalez, whose buzz cut I was sure would be the subject of endless ridicule on the right.

SM noted at least three examples. They included a tweet, retweeted by One America News Network and True Pundit, and liked by Donald Trump, Jr. in which Gateway Pundit's Lucian Wintrich claimed "EXPOSED: School Shooting Surviver Turned Activist David Hogg's Father in FBI, Appears To Have Been Coached On Anti-Trump Lines (Video)."

Ex-Representative (R-GA) Jack Kingston, SM claimed "sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups who have an agenda.... Do we really think 17-year-old on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally? ... Organized groups that are out there, like George Soros, are always ready to take up the charge, and it's kind of like instant rally."

Most comprehensive was Fox News" Todd Starnes, who manages to blame the "mainstream media," Saul Alinsky,"liberals," "indoctrination camps," public schools, and government (sort of a double trifecta) when he rants

The mainstream media is cynically using a lot of traumatized teens from Parkland, Fla., in their latest shameful attack on President Trump and the National Rifle Association.

It's right out of the pages of "Rules for Radicals" -- turning innocent children into propaganda pawns to peddle a fake news narrative....

Honestly, we can't fault the kids. They have been through an unimaginable ordeal, and long before that, their minds were poisoned by liberals who believe there's something wrong with the Second Amendment.

So when you hear the youngsters spouting off about how the NRA should be destroyed and how NRA members are child killers -- take a deep breath and understand they have been brainwashed by government-funded indoctrination camps - pardon me - public schools.

Others could have been cited, such as Dan McLaughlin, "The Baseball Crank," who wrote in National Review “if you have ever been, or known, a teenager, you know that even comparatively well-informed teens are almost always just advancing arguments they’ve heard from adults.”

This approach seems to have been ripped from an old playbook. The right has employed this tact for years in legislating against reproductive choice.

Slate's William Saletan found that in the days after candidate Donald Trump slipped and stated "there has to be some form of punishment" for a woman who procures an illegal abortion (a statement he later retracted)

 “Women who choose abortion often do so in desperation and then deeply regret such a decision,” said March for Life, which organizes the annual rally of pro-life organizations. “We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.” Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said many women turn to abortion as “an escape route from a life of unbearable shame, secrecy, and hardship.”

The Susan B. Anthony List, another pro-life group, said punishment should be reserved “for the abortionist who profits” from the transaction, not for the woman whose male companion “drove her to the desperation which impels her to the crime.” Charles Camosy, a pro-life scholar and author of Beyond the Abortion Wars, added that even in the absence of explicit male pressure, women should be spared punishment because they’re “coerced into having an abortion as a means of having social equality.” Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life, said Trump was wrong because “women who have had abortions are already in a prison of guilt and shame.”

It could be called hypocrisy or cowardice. Some opponents of gun safety legislation have in recent days avoided blaming outside forces for the activism of students urging control of firearms. But those who have succumbed to shifting responsibility are frightened at the backlash which ensue upon criticism of young people, particularly of individuals whose friends were cut down by gun violence.
Like the vast majority of opponents of reproductive choice, these persons lack not only good sense, but the simple courage to identify their adversaries honestly.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Big Reason The Tax Returns Matter

Blake Hounshell, editor in chief of Politico Magazine recognizes  that Russia interfered in the USA's 2016 presidential election as directed by Vladimir Putin, who wanted Donald Trump to be elected. He acknowldges that Special Counsel Robert Muelller hasn't spoken yet about the hacked emails of the DNC and of Clinton campaign chairperson John Podesta.  He admits even that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has denied only that there is no collusion between the Trump campaign alleged in the indictment announced last week, and that the President's comments about all this are inaccurate and intenitionally misleading.

Still, he believes

So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret.

And he argues

If Trump had cooked up a scheme to provide some favor to Putin in exchange for his election, wouldn’t he be tempted to boast about it to someone?.. I’m still waiting for a smoking gun—and the special counsel hasn’t shown us one yet, assuming he ever will.

This assumes that the most damning evidence about Donald Trump- were it to exist- would be his knowing involvement in a conspiracy with foreign actors to defeat Hillary Clinton.  It appears Jonathan Chait would beg to differ:

.... imagining Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed Obama used as a primitive revenge ritual, and Russians taping the episode, is perfectly consistent with what we know about both parties. That exact scenario may not have happened. Indeed, sex is not the only kind of secret Trump harbors. He endured months of criticism first from Republican candidates, then Democrats, and all along from the media, for refusing to disclose his tax returns. Trump clearly feels protective of his financial information. Some of that information is in the hands of his business partners, many of whom are associated with Russia or are unsavory in some other way. All in all, the odds are disconcertingly high that Russia, or somebody, has blackmail leverage over the president of the United States.

It would be unwise to assume, as Hounshell seems to do, that the worst behavior the Special Counsel will unearth in his investigation is collusion, or conspiracy, with Russia.  Two maxims are at play. One is "when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me," as dramatized by Felix Unger/Tony Randall. Even more important is "follow the money."

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Bad Job

In light of credible accusations of sexual misbehavior against numerous men as well as the repercussions some have faced, Jill Abramson considers anew the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearing of 1991. Co-author with Jane Mayer of the 1994 "Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas," Abramson recently recalled that in the course of their investigation

Among the corroborative stories — the potential #MeToos — that (Senate Judiciary Committee chairperson Joe) Biden knew about but was unwilling to use: those of Angela Wright; Rose Jourdain, another EEOC worker in whom Wright confided; and Sukari Hardnett, still another EEOC worker with relevant evidence. (“If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive and worked directly for Clarence Thomas, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female,” Hardnett wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee, contradicting Thomas’s claim “I do not and did not commingle my personal life with my work life” and supporting McEwen’s 2010 assertion that he “was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners” as “a hobby of his.”) Kaye Savage, a friend of Thomas’s and Hill’s, knew of his extensive collection of Playboy magazines; Fred Cooke, a Washington attorney, saw Thomas renting porn videos that match Hill’s descriptions, as did Barry Maddox, the owner of the video store that Thomas frequented. And at least some members of Biden’s staff would have known Lillian McEwen had relevant information.

Late last year, Abramson learned through a Washington lawyer of Nancy Montwieler, who covered the EEOC for BNA’s Daily Labor Report. She "confided that Thomas had also made weird, sexual comments to her, including describing porn and other things he found sexually enticing."

Even in 1991, Abramson recognizes, "The evidence that Thomas had perjured himself during the hearing was overwhelming." Nonetheless

Chairman Biden was outmaneuvered and bluffed by the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. He had plenty of witnesses who could have testified about Thomas’s inappropriate sexualized office behavior and easily proven interest in the kind of porn Hill referenced in her testimony, but had made a bargain with his Republican colleagues that sealed Hill’s fate: He agreed only to call witnesses who had information about Thomas’s workplace behavior. Thomas’s “private life,” especially his taste for porn — then considered more outrĂ© than it might be now — would be out of bounds, despite the fact that information confirming his habit of talking about it would have cast extreme doubt on Thomas’s denials.

Senator Biden's performance as chairperson has had devastating consequences, far beyond the scope of Abramson's article. Unfortunately, Thomas is will not be impeached and removed from the Supreme Court, nor will he fade into obscurity.

Clarence Thomas is not going anywhere, which cannot definitively be stated of former Vice-President Biden.  And so it is with some significance that Abramson believes

Late last year, in an interview with Teen Vogue, Biden finally apologized to Hill after all these years, admitting that he had not done enough to protect her interests during the hearings. He said he believed Hill at the time: “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. ”

Linking to that December piece by Britney Mcnamara, she writes

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Biden said that he believed Hill at the time. “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her,” he said. “As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask.

Biden continued "I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill. I owe her an apology," which may be the basis for Abramson's assumption of Biden's good intentions. However, a statement that one owes someone an apology does not in and of itself constitute an apology.  When coupled with "I wish I had been able to do more" he is claiming his hands were tied, which dovetails neatly with "I wasn't able to tone down the attacks..."

He was powerless, Biden pleads, because he "did not have the power to gavel them out of order," a questionable claim and, as Abramson's analysis suggests, nearly irrelevant.  He does not argue the attacks, made "by some of my Republican friends," were illegitimate.

There should be little fear that Biden is unsympathetic generally toward women's issues, and far less that he isn't sympathetic with the "Me Too" movement.  Instead, there must be serious doubt in an age in which Republicans stand stubbornly against  anything Democratic or even potentially bipartisan, that Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a backbone. That he served eight years as President Obama's sidekick and cheerleader should only deepen the doubts.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Laura Ingraham Minstrel Show

Writer Nick Greene explains that on Thursday night Trump TV's Laura Ingraham was

disparaging LeBron James’ “barely intelligible, not to mention ungrammatical, take on President Trump.” Ingraham cued up a short clip from a video James, Kevin Durant, and Cari Champion made for the James-owned media platform Uninterrupted, a venture Ingraham dismissively referred to as an “ESPN podcast” despite it not being on ESPN and not being a podcast. In that clip, James says Trump “doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a fuck about the people,” while Durant adds that “our team, as a country, is not ran by a great coach.”

Greene  observes "if you’re offended by their words then you should probably look for one of those safe spaces that Fox News is always talking about." Mocking the athletes, Ingraham had begun

"I'm 'numb' to this commentary, 'like' must they run their mouths like that? She added

Unfortunately, a lot of kids, and some adults, take their ignorant comments seriously.  Look, there might be a cautionary lesson in Lebron for kids. This is what happens when you attempt to leave high school a year early to join the NBA and it's always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100,000,000 a year to bounce a ball.

LeBron James is not paid $100,000,000 a year to "bounce a ball" (or that much per year).  There are millions of youngsters- let alone NBA players paid at the league's minimum salary- who can "bounce a ball."  There may be 2 or 3 individuals in world history who can bounce a ball so well while playing at the level LeBron James does, and has done.

It got worse, however, as Ingraham continued "Oh, and Lebron and Kevin, no one voted for you.  They voted for President Trump to be their coach."

Ingraham began by claiming "here's a barely intelligilble, not to mention ungrammatical, take on President Trump," a curious remark from someone unaware that "here's" is not a proper contraction. The phrase is "here is," which would be unremarkable from anyone not slamming a couple of guys for an "ungrammatical" take.

But that's not the only error from someone concerned about the mastery of English grammer of Mr.James and Mr. Durant. No one voted for President Trump, though some people will if he's still around in November, 2020. They voted for Donald J. Trump or corrupt business tycoon Donald J. Trump, for there was no President Trump at the time.

And of course the American people didn't elect Donald J. Trump. The electoral college selected him, no small distinction for someone unpopular at the time, unpopular now, and who himself kept arguing the election was "rigged."  (Ironically, Trump had a point given the intervention by the FBI and the Kremlin against his opponent, though the election was not quite "rigged.")

Denying any "racial intent," Ingraham issued a statement which read in part

In 2003, I wrote a New York Times bestseller called “Shut Up & Sing,” in which I criticized celebrities like the Dixie Chicks & Barbra Streisand who were trashing then-President George W. Bush. I have used a variation of that title for more than 15 years to respond to performers who sound off on politics. I’ve told Robert DeNiro to “Shut Up & Act,” Jimmy Kimmel to “Shut Up & Make Us Laugh,” and just this week told the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to “Shut up & Coach.

She doesn't believe it's possible for a guy who has won five championship rings as a coach to assert his First Amendment right while coaching reasonably successfully. Oddly, among the celebrities Ingraham doesn't believe should "shut up" is Ted "Obama, he's a piece of shit, and I told him to suck on my machine gun" Nugent. She should, however, tell the one-hit wonder to "shut up and sing." (On second thought, please spare us.)

Ingraham concludes by lecturing James and Durant to "keep the political commmentary to yourself or as someone once said 'shut up and dribble,'"   likely provoking Durant's response "to me, it was racist." That might be a little harsh for someone who merely wants to be entertained, who may be nostalgic for some predominantly southern, but clasically American, pre-1960 song-and-dance:

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Integrity, In A Manner Of Speaking

On Valentine's Day, Rubio (R-NRA) said on Trump TV

I think it's important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there was some law that we could have passed that would have prevented it. And there may be, but shouldn't we at least know the facts?

And we know it took fewer than 24 hours for Marco Rubio, Psy.D. to "know the facts" because

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said no gun laws would have prevented the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

As part of comments made in an interview with WPBF, Rubio said "it just takes one individual with a deranged mindset that could lead to violence on a mass scale."

He may- as he suggests- be an elected official, a United States senator, with no responsibility to help prevent violence on a mass scale. But as a licensed clinical psychologist, he just knows that Nikolas Cruz possessed "a dangerous mindset"- and one that could lead to mass violence.

And  as Senator, Rubio is an excellent- even psychic- clinical psychologist.  Still, on Thursday he also

said that "people still don't know how" the shooting occurred, or how the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, obtained the weapon he used to kill 17 people in the Broward County school. 

We now have details about the shooting, and also know how that Cruz bought the weapon legally from Sunrise Tactical Supply in Coral Springs, Florida. That's critical- even the weapon had been obtained illegally, there would have been a reprise of the gun fanatics' old siren song:  "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

Senator Rubio should acquaint himself with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Reality), who if heeded, probably would have prevented the murder of sixteen children and school employees in Parkland. Don't take it from me-:take it from the National Rifle Association, which reported that on November 8, 2017 she

introduced S. 2095, which she is calling the Assault Weapons Ban of 2017. The 125-page firearm prohibition fever dream is perhaps the most far-reaching gun ban ever introduced in Congress.

Subject to an exception for “grandfathered” firearms, the bill would prohibit AR-15s and dozens of other semi-automatic rifles by name (as well as their “variants” or “altered facsimiles”), and any semi-automatic rifle that could accept a detachable magazine and be equipped with a pistol grip, an adjustable or detachable stock, or a barrel shroud. And that’s just a partial list...

Feinstein's proposal never came to a vote and inasmuch as there was no GOP co-sponsor, it's rather unlikely that Senator Rubio (R-NRA) co-sponsored (or came out in favor of) it. Fortunately, the Florida senator will have another chance to propel forward a bill which likely would have saved quite a few lives in his home state because Senator Feinstein

said on Friday that she will introduce legislation to raise the minimum legal age to buy rifles in the wake of a school shooting in Florida.

Feinstein said the legislation would require anyone buying a firearm from a gun dealer to be at least 21 years old.

“Under current law, licensed gun dealers cannot sell a handgun to anyone under 21, but they are allowed to sell assault rifles like the AR-15 to anyone over 18. This policy is dangerous and makes absolutely no sense," Feinstein said.

Regrettably, the GOP will not vote for legislation which would revoke a policy which is dangerous and makes absolutely no sense (video below from March, 2014).. However, Senator Rubio- who claimed there "was (no) law that we could have passed that would have prevented it," at least has a chance to show that he would like to prevent another atrocity as occurred in Parkland, Florida.

He won't, of course. He won't because he has recieved $3,303,355 from pro-gun groups over the course of his career, $90,205 in the 2015-2016 election cycle, after which he earned his A+ rating from the NRA. And he won't because he has integrity. When Marco Rubio is bought, he stays bought.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Another State With Legalized "Murder"

The politics of abortion has a way of crushing the character of most Republicans.

A case in point is Ohio governor John Kasich, who was "ubiquitous" hanging around the GOP presidential convention in Cleveland in July 2016 but never entered the convention hall.  Kasich also lobbed veiled insults at Donald Grump and

Trump's campaign has fired back; its chairman this week called Kasich's absence "embarrassing."

To Republican delegates and activists, especially those supporting Trump, it's all a bit baffling.

"He's a good man and a bad host," said Bobby Kalotee, a county GOP official from New York who was chatting with fellow politicos at a downtown hotel lobby. "You do not invite guests to your home and not be at your home."

Gregory Peterson, a New York delegate, called the behavior "childish" and "petulant."

"In politics, winning counts," he said. "After you've lost, that's a test of character. You've got to be a big boy now."

If the party of Donald J. Trump is accusing you of lacking "character," thy middle name is Integrity- but no longer in the case of John Kasich.  The governor and 2016 candidate for the GOP presidential nomination always has been a supporter of forced birth and in late December Ohio

became the fourth state to ban abortions performed after a prenatal test shows the fetus has or might have Down syndrome.  

Gov. John Kasich signed into law House Bill 214, the 20th abortion restriction passed since he took office in 2011, and 14 other bills Friday morning.

Under the law, doctors who know of a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis and perform an abortion could be charged with a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. 

You probably know what comes next: "There is no punishment for the woman who seeks the abortion."

Of course there is no penalty for the individual who seeks, and pays for, what forced birth activists consider "murder."  There will be no penalty because the myth that the anti-choice movement is about the life of the fetus, rather than restricting the right of a woman to reproductive freedom, can endure.

With the action taken by Ohio governor Kasich, the number of states so concerned about an act they designate as murder that they punish the indivdual most responsible stands at.... zero. Armed with few facts, the forced birth movement is armed with even less integrity.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Politics Of Diversion, Again

On Tuesday evening, Senator Marco Rubio (R-NRA) tweeted "we shouldn't 'jump to conclusions' that gun control laws would've prevented Florida school shooting." Further

Rubio said that "people still don't know how" the shooting occurred, or how the 19-year-old suspect, Nikolas Cruz, obtained the weapon he used to kill 17 people in the Broward County school. 

"I think it's important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there was some law that we could have passed that would have prevented it. And there may be, but shouldn't we at least know the facts?" Rubio said on Fox News.

Maybe he should talk to the Ayatollah of his own party, who predictably has jumped to a conclusion and, predictably, to a wrong one, opting for the mental health dodge when at 7:12 Thursday morning, he tweeted

So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!

But Nikolas Cruz evidently realized there was a "problem." for as CNN reports, Broward County Sheriff Scott

Israel also alluded to Cruz's mental fitness during a news conference, while Broward County Mayor Beam Furr said the teen "had been dealing with mental health issues."

"He had been undergoing some treatment. We can't go into detail on that," Furr said. "I don't know if he was exactly on law enforcement's radar, but it wasn't like there wasn't concern for him. He had not been back to the clinic for over a year, so there's been a time where he was receiving treatment and then stopped."

Cruz evidently had either sought, or been forced into, some sort of mental health and/or psychological counseling, contrary to Trump's inference. For whatever reason(s), treatment obviously failed, as it usually does.

Politico notes

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced plans to visit Florida after a gunman opened fire in a high school there, and he said he will push for action on mental health issues and making schools more secure.

Trump said he would push for steps to make “our schools and our children safer" in the wake of the latest high-profile mass shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 17 people. He made no direct mention of the contentious gun control debate, even as activists and Democrats in Congress renewed calls for tougher measures.

“It is not enough to simply take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference," the president said in a nationally televised address from the White House Diplomatic Room. "We must actually make that difference.”

And what is the #1 thing which can "make us feel like we are making a difference without actually making a difference?" If you believed it is the one step Trump illogically would advocate, you win the award, for the President would actually add “We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health."

If it's too early to consider what we know contributes to the regular practice of school shootings in America, it's too early to assume that all troubled youth respond to their difficulties by murdering seventeen people.

Nikolas Cruz had an AR-15; most young adults do not. That's our starting point, notwithstanding Donald Trump's most recent foray into the politics of diversion.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Stopped Clock Named Manigault

Trump speechwriter David Sorensen has resigned over domestic abuse allegations. A few days earlier, White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter had done the same for the same reason.

In September, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who regularly flew on charter and private planes at taxpayer expense, was forced out by John Kelly, who is himself now under great pressure for condoning, and lying about, the Porter matter.

And then there are the guilty pleas and indictments: Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Richard Gates, all far before the ultimate completion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report. There will be more. "The overall level of venality in this administration," Obama-era ethics advisor Norm Eisen tweets, "is like nothing we have ever seen."

Keep that- and Watergate- in mind when considering the case of Omarosa Manigault Newman.

While on Celebrity Apprentice, Manigault allegedly propositioned Piers Morgan, recommending "a showmance. You know, a romance on the show — we get it on together. Happens all the time on Apprentice. Everyone has sex together. Then we can make lots of money out of it,

Naturally, that qualified her for the Trump campaign, during which Manigault stated "I am the director of African-American outreach for Donald Trump... I know Donald Trump in his heart."

Completely unqualified, she was a perfect fit for the position of communications director of the Office of Public Liaison in the Trump administration, from which she was fired because she reportedly had been using the White House car service "as an office pickup and drop-off service," then "tried to storm the White House residence to appeal to Trump."

Now on Celebrity Big Brother, she recently was featured on a promotional clip, claiming teary-eyed of Trump  "I was haunted by tweets every day. Like, what is he going to tweet next... It’s going to not be OK, it’s not. It’s so bad.”

Manigault was slammed for her as an insincere, self-promoting opportunist- which she is. And now, Salon's Matthew Rosza notes

"As bad as y’all think Trump is, you would be worried about [Vice President Mike] Pence," Manigault Newman told her housemates on a recent episode of "Big Brother: Celebrity Edition." "Everybody that's wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their life. We would be begging for days of Trump if Pence became president, that’s all I’m saying. He’s extreme."

She added: "I'm Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I'm like, 'Jesus didn't say that.'"

Roughly 45 years ago, there was another woman who was derided for having said wacky things.She was accued of being mentally ill, which she was not. However, she probably did have a drinking problem and was brutally obnoxious.

Martha Mitchell, wife of Attorney General turned campaign manager for President Nixon, told the media that the scandal known as "Watergate" reached all the way to the top. She was ridiculed and/or generally ignored by everyone (including Woodward and Bernstein), save famed UPI  reporter Helen Thomas.

But she was right, and bears a similarity to Omarosa Manigault who is, well, a creep, which renders her similar to many members (past and present) of the Trump Administration. And she is concerned primarily, nearly exclusively, with herself.

Nevertheless, despite Rosza's implication, that does not make her wrong about Mike Pence. Like the stopped clock that is right twice a day, Manigault is probably right roughly once a year.The Vice-President could issue a statement denying Manigault's statement or even one saying it doesn't warrant a response, meanwhile asserting the centrality of Jesus Christ in his life. He could issue a more anodyne statement, maintaining that Jesus is a role model for him, a largely meaningless claim that even agnostics and atheists would find acceptable.

He has not done so, perhaps because it would be insincere.  (He does lie, however.) When Omarosa Manigault contends Mike Pence is "extreme"  and "thinks Jesus tells him to say things," she is probably correct. And ifIt is accurate, we eventually would- as she argues- "be begging for days of Trump if Pence became president."

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Making A Killing

"Heavens to Archimedes, it’s Infrastructure Week again!" declared Charlie Pierce on Monday. He cites an article in The Guardian in which an Associated Press reporter explains

Officials said the $200bn in federal support would come from cuts to existing programs.

Half the money would go to grants for transportation, water, flood control, cleanup at some of the country’s most polluted sites and other projects.

States, local governments and other project sponsors could use the grants which administration officials view as incentives for no more than 20% of the cost. Transit agencies generally count on the federal government for half the cost of major construction projects, and federal dollars can make up as much as 80% of some highway projects.

The Huffington Post quotes an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech University arguing

Trump’s infrastructure plan flips the traditional capital expense funding model from 80 to 90 percent federal funding to 10 percent federal funding. The majority of the funding mandates get pushed to the states and private funding, with the administration taking credit for the investment.

Under a long-term lease, Ronald ReaganWashington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport are operated by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Although they are legally owned by the federal  government, that may not last long because, as Politico notes

The Trump administration's infrastructure plan released Monday proposes that the feds consider selling off Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

The administration wants to allow federal agencies to divest assets if they "can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets," according to Trump's blueprint for an infrastructure package, released today.

"Optimize the taxpayer value for federal assets" sounds like Trumpeze for selling off an asset to the private sector. And so

State and local agencies or the private sector may be better at managing assets currently owned by the federal government, the administration argues, and federal agencies should be able to "identify appropriate conditions under which sales would be made." They should also "delineate how proceeds would be spent."

Under the administration's proposal, federal agencies would have to complete an analysis demonstrating an "increase in value from divestiture."

Let me guess: if the asset is a losing proposition for the American people, it will remain in public hands. If it is a desirable asset, it will be relinquished for the sake of private profit.

After the President at his State of the Union address gave the very broad outline of his infrastructure scam, Paul Krugman pointed out there is "no way to turn sewer systems, protective levees on rivers, and lots of other stuff into profit centers." Worse

even where it does work — say, on toll roads and bridges — that private investment doesn’t come free; it’s in return for the ability to collect fees from the public, which is just taxation in another form. And there’s no evidence that doing public investment this way saves any money. On the contrary, it usually ends up costing taxpayers more than just having the government build the thing.

If Trump is proposing it, there are a few sure things: not all of the funding will come from the federal government; he will take credit for the projects; corporations will take a significant cut. Donald Trump will, too.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

But Those Emails!

Donald Trump infamously remarked of his departed staff secretary, Rob Porter

Well, we wish him well. He worked very hard. I found out about it recently and I was suprised by it But we certainly wish him well. It's obviously a tough time for him. He did a very good job when he was in the White House and we hope he has a wonderful career and hopefully he will have a gret career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it and certainly he's also very sad. 

Now he also as you probably know,  he says he's innocent and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he's innocent. So you you'll have to talk to him about that. But we absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job while he was at the White House.

Joe Scarborough found "two or three phrases" which "stand out" to be "shocking" and "unbelievable." It would be far more shocking were Donald Trump to string together 10-11 sentences about some random matter and it were not unbelievable. If remarks of similar length about sexual abuse or harassment or domestic violence were not unbelievable, it would be an upset of epic proportions.

Still, Scarborough's comments made more sense than of emerging sidekick Katty Kay, who contended "and the thing you noticed about that first comment- those remarks that the President made in the Oval- absolutely no mention of the women, let alone a word of sympathy for them."

He may be ill-informed, uncurious, ruthless, dishonest, racist, misogynistic, manipulative, egotistical, and deviously patronizing.  But he's not much of a hypocrite. And if Donald Trump were to utter one word of sympathy for a woman who as a woman had been mistreated by a man, he would be a raging hypocrite. So give him his due- he was in character.

Further, Donald Trump is not a pastor, a therapist, a social psychologist, or journalist. He has never even met the women who have reported domestic abuse.. However, he is President of the USA- and was the employer of Rob Porter. He saw him frequently and spoke to him often.  Porter had access to the most powerful individual in the world, the man holding the position that once was leader of the free world.

While he awaited permanent security clearance, Rob Porter had access to classified documents. NPR's Brian Naylor reports

... national-security experts warn that that person (with the such a background) could be subject to blackmail by a foreignor domestic adversary. That's especially true when it comes to a person with close access to the president, like one responsible for putting the papers the president reads in front of him.

Naylor adds "700,000 people are waiting to have clearances processed, according to a report issued last week by the U.S. Comptroller's office." That's a serious long-term problem, one media will continue to ignore because it's tied up in the underfunding of government began decades ago by Saint Reagan.

Nevertheless, there is an immediate short-term problem which is understated, underreported, and potentially calamitous.  Slate's Jeremy Stahl notes "the ultimate arbiter of who in the executive branch is able to handle this country's most sensitive secrets is one man. That man is Donald Trump."

That's Donald T-r-u-m-p, as in Vladimir Putin's man in the West. Stahl explains

There is nothing preventing Trump from giving top security clearance access to whoever he wants, professional agency adjudication of the normal security-clearance process be damned. Furthermore, there is nobody—aside, perhaps, from Congress—who has oversight over how Trump can issue security clearances. And because this particular Republican Congress has been fully pliant to Trump’s will on all issues surrounding ethical norms, that basically means Trump has untrammeled say over all such clearances.

Porter is not an isolated incident. Stahl continues

In the cases of (Trump son-in-law Jared) Kushner and Porter, it appears that he has all but broken long-standing norms around clearances in a way that seems to have rendered the entire point of the clearance process at the highest levels of government moot. Another example? Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who ultimately pled guilty to lying to the FBI, was allowed to remain in his job even after the Trump administration had been informed that he might be compromised because of such lies. He resigned only after the lies came to public light.

Individuals such as Rob Porter will come and go, especially in this Administration.  Aside from him, there have been tens (hundreds?) of millions of instances of domestic abuse, and probably more than a few occurring at the precise moment that his resignation was reported.  This incident will pass from the national consciousness and there still will be widespread physical abuse of persons by persons living in the same household.

There will be several- albeit too few- first-hand testimonials from victims, and the American people will not want for awareness of the problem. However, this is the moment, and journalists are the medium, in which the nation can learn about the threat to national security because individuals without proper security clearance may have access to information they shouldn't.

The danger has been largely ignored and may continue... unless the word "Hillary" can be somewhere inserted.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Not A Good Look

Steve M believes Donald Trump's military parade "will just be a pointless moment of excess" and warns

Don't get worked up about this. If you get worked up about this, your resentment will be the story: There go the liberals, hating America again. Don't give them the satisfaction. Seventy-two hours after it's over, we'll be chasing some ridiculous Trump tweet, and no one will remember the parade even happened.

A reader recognizes that a parade would be "exactly the kind of brutish symbolism that turns out to be very important indeed" but Steve M responds

they'll forget all about it a few days later, and Trump will go back to watching television, while his administration and Congress go back to transferring even more money and power to the rich from the non-rich. That's where the danger lies. Apart from the pro-Russia skew, which is alarming, the real danger of this administration is not that it's fascist, but rather that it's Republican in an effective way.

So far, that is. Admittedly, in this first term of the Trump reign, the Administration hasn't been fascist but instead dangerously "Republican in an effective way."

But this is the first term.  If this extravaganza comes off without major opposition from Democrats or the military- and the GOP maintains control of Congress, thus hindering the Mueller investigation- it might not be the last.  Trump will contrast the event with the Obama "apology tour" and declare that America has been made great again. We might even get to hear that it's "morning in America" again, an actor borrowing from the (successful re-election bid) previous actor-President, as he borrowed the "MAGA" slogan.

President Trump, elected over the objection of a majority of voters and remaining unpopular, has had no mandate to turn the USA into a police state or otherwise.  Although as Steve M. notes he has put into effect a radically conservative policy agenda, his lack of knowledge of how government works, coupled with a Special Counsel's investigation that has kept him off-balance, has blocked any real chance of imposing an authoritarian regime... yet.

Imagine, however, a re-elected Donald Trump, perhaps even with a majority of votes.  At that time, Bill Maher's insightful comment (beginning at 6:35 of the video below) from Friday night's Real Time might prove eerily prescient:

And now tanks in the streets. You know, I mean, I laugh, too. It's a funny premise- comedians, we like a premise like that, too. Ha, ha, ha. I don't- it's not really funny. The idea- because you shouldn't get used to the look of tanks in the streets. We don't have that look in America and when I've seen that look anywhere else in the world it's never been good and to me this is like, hey, better get them used to that- tanks in the streets.

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Literally big, a former New York Giants offensive tackle is coming up big figuratively : So theres an active shooter and trump tells h...