Friday, August 17, 2018

Theological Predisposition

Amanda Marcotte explains

The Catholic Church sex abuse scandals are often talked about as if they are in the past, but this summer has been a reminder that this horror show continues to unspool, 16 years after the Boston Globe's famous "Spotlight" series exposing the cover-up first ran. This week, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report accusing more than 300 priests of abusing more than 1,000 children over seven decades. The details are almost incomprehensibly awful, including accusations of repeated rape, child pornography and priests who marked their victims with jewelry to alert other predators that these children had been "groomed" to accept abuse....

The church in Pennsylvania was working simultaneously to shield child abusers while pushing for laws to punish women for consensual sex, so the easy charge to reach for is "hypocrisy." But that's an accusation that barely skims the surface. The far more troubling reality is that the willingness to cover for sexual predators is entirely consistent with advocating for restrictions on women's reproductive rights. Both attitudes are rooted in the same poisonous commitment to putting men in positions of permanent social dominance as well as rejecting the idea that women and children have bodily autonomy and sexual safety rights.

Agreed. Marcotte argues, persuasively I think

Trump and the Christian right are aligned in their true belief, which is that women must be kept in their place.

So there's no real conflict in the Catholic Church covering up sexual abuse while trying to prevent women from accessing legal and safe abortion services. In both situations, it's about using sexuality as a tool to enforce patriarchal hierarchies. In both cases, it's about a group of conservative men conspiring to organize the world so they hold power and everyone else is subject to their whims.

Shame is a major factor here too. The same sexual shame that religious conservatives try to instill with restrictions on reproductive rights is also used to silence victims of sexual abuse. It's difficult for victims to speak up, precisely because so much shame is built up around sexuality. Victims, male and female, are often subject to people digging through their sexual pasts, using their consensual activities as "evidence" that they're dirty and therefore undeserving of protection against abuse.

It's possible that one reason more survivors of abuse are willing to speak out these days is that the pro-choice movement has done so much work in destigmatizing consensual sex. The fear that victims used to experience -- of being outed as someone who has consensual sex and quite likely enjoys it -- no longer has the power it used to have, creating more space to speak out.

Observing "the lesson here is there is no way for religious groups to preserve their traditions of male dominance and sexual shaming while also eradicating sexual abuse," Marcotte logically concludes "the only way to root out the abuse is to root out those patriarchal values."

That would have a major impact. However, rooting out sexual abuse by priests would require two additional steps, one which probably ultimately will be taken by the Church and the other which will not.

Obviously, allowing women to become priests would reduce the sexual perversion (with no quote marks necessary). At some point, that is likely to occur.

Nevertheless, the other step which would be helpful is one the Roman Catholic Church never will take because it would undermine the indispensable, all-encompassing role of the priest. 

Although origin of the concept is shrouded in mystery, the "priesthood of all believers" is a fundamental precept of Protestantism which emerged from the Reformation. The rationale may be described as

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or "type" of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ--a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ's death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

Confession- a less formal ritual in Protestantism than in Catholicism- and prayer are undertaken directly to God, rather than mediated through a priest or any other mortal individual. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the mana Christ Jesus," wrote Paul.

The Reformers' perspective was not superior, some will argue, and your mileage will vary. Additionally, belief in the priesthood of all believers does not guarantee that there will be fewer acts of sexual abuse committed upon children by Roman Catholic clergy than by Protestant clergy.

There are other factors, and not only the ones pointed out by Marcotte. Members of the clergy in many independent congregations are subjected to a process less scholarly and formal than have clergy in either mainline Protestant denominations (e.g., Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church in America, some Baptist) or in Catholicism. Further, there typically will be less vetting of the ministerial candidate.

Nonetheless, the role of the Catholic priest is one which exalts him to a remarkable level, in which he plays a part in the transmission of confession and prayer to the Almighty. It will affect the perception of the clergyman in the eyes of many young people, even in the West and in our most sophisticated of times.

There may be powerful biblical or otherwise theological rationale for eschewing the notion of the priesthood of believers. However, its role in sexual abuse of children should not be completely ignored.

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An Issue Reformers Will Ignore

This is bad. The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer has found

According to reporting by Philadelphia-based journalist Maura Ewing — published in the Appeal, a blog of the Harvard Law School and Philadelphia Weekly as a part of the "Broke in Philly" series — the city routinely keeps 30 percent of bail deposits as "processing fees"even if the initial charges are dropped.

When people are charged with a crime, judges can impose cash bail. The accused is required to pay 10 percent of the bail amount. No matter what the outcome of a person's case, the city gets a 30 percent cut.  That means that people who were wrongfully arrested and charged are literally paying for the mistake of officials. It's also putting burdens on people who can least afford it.

The bail fee is one of many fines and fees that the court imposes on defendants. Unlike most fees, which are dictated by state law, the bail fee is in the city's control and goes to the city itself. In fiscal year 2018, the bail fee added $2.9 million to the city's general fund.

Both the city's mayor and its district attorney are addressing the situation, presumably because they no longer can ignore it (also because the mayor and the DA are Democrats, the latter official occupying an ideological space somewhere to the left of Bernie Sanders).

However, this practice, reported by the New Orleans Advocate, is worse:

On Friday, (US District Judge Sarah) Vance declared that "undisputed evidence" shows the 13 judges of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court have "a policy or practice of not inquiring into criminal defendants' ability to pay before those individuals are imprisoned for nonpayment of court debts."

She also declared that the judges have an "institutional conflict of interest" in making such poverty determinations themselves.

That's because the proceeds from fines and fees go directly to the court's Judicial Expense Fund, a kitty controlled by the judges that can be used for a broad range of judicial expenses. Fines and fees have contributed about $1 million a year to the court's coffers.

Vance ruled that the court's failure to "provide a neutral forum for determination of such persons' ability to pay is unconstitutional."

The decision appears to leave it up to the court to decide how to set up a mechanism for such decisions.

Seafood gumbo and crawfish boil can get pretty expensive for judges except, of course, when poor defendants are paying the freight. It  might not be where the fines and fees have been going- but the temptation is undeniable, even if the burdensome assessments are imposed to enhance the court system. The court's fund and especially the general fund are legitimate destinations for bail money or fines/assessments, but not (as in Orleans Parish) when judges are disinterested in a defendant's ability to pay.

Prior to a finding of guilt, no money innocuously termed "processing fees" or otherwise should go to the public kitty. Nor should judges be permitted to impose costs upon a defendant, pre- or post- conviction, without determining his financial means.  (Video below, from The Young Turks, is worthwhile, notwithstanding Uygur implying the criminal justice system is a bowl of cherries for middle-class individuals. The biggest problem is for the working poor.)

Remember this especially when politicians allegedly intent on criminal justice "reform" ignore these practices in favor of decrying the imprecise and nebulous, bestial "mass incarceration."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Through The Russian Mob To The KGB

You've heard it for a year or so from the Republican National Committe, surrogates for Donald Trump, and even from the man himself when he tweeted

Objective fact-checkers, in these cases CNN, The Washington Post, and Politifact, have found this claim to be (on balance) inaccurate. Admittedly, the fact checks took place shortly after Trump's claim in mid-winter.

Several things have changed since then, one only the other day.  Continuing to inch his way, inresponse to a defense bill named after Senator John S. McCain, toward unquestioned authority

When President Trump signed a $716 billion military spending bill on Monday, he claimed the authority to override dozens of provisions that he deemed improper constraints on his executive powers.

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

Charlie Pierce translates:

In other words, the president* doesn't have to enforce the provision in the JSMNDAA of 2019 that denies the legitimacy of Vladimir Putin's land grab in the Ukraine. It also leaves open the option to spend United States military funds to help Putin maintain control in Crimea if the president* so desires to do so.

The depth and breadth of Donald Trump's relationship with Moscow are shrouded in mystery. However, one clue comes from reporter Craig Unger, who discussed Wednesday on CNN the findings in his new book, "House of Trump, House of Putin." As described in Raw Story (video below from thirteen months ago), in 1984

It started off as a money-laundering operation where a man in the Russian mafia met with Donald Trump in Trump Tower — this new, glitzy building then — and he just came in with $10 million and he said, ‘I’ll buy five condos,'” Unger explained. “That event was typical of at least 1,300 such purchases of Trump properties.”

Unger went on to discuss the next major contact between Trump and Russians, which came in 1987 when he made his first trip to the then-Soviet Union.

In particular, Unger said one of his sources told him that Trump “had lots of fun with women” during his 1987 trip to Russia and that “the Soviets had kompromat” — i.e., compromising information — on him dating back to that trip.

Additionally, Unger said that any contacts with Russia mobsters by Trump should be seen as the same as talking with Russian intelligence officials.

“I interviewed a counter-intelligence officer for the KGB, i asked him about the Russian mafia, and he said it is another part of KGB,” he said. “They are another part of the intelligence.”

"Lots of fun with women" sounds a lot like like Donald Trump. It also sounds a great deal like raw (uncorroborated)intelligence that Christopher Steele was given about Mr. Trump.  Except to the mathematically illiterate, it all adds up to something very serious.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Being a day later and more than a dollar short, I take note now that, as Christina Cauterucci points out

On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump praised his chief of staff John Kelly for letting go of Omarosa Manigault Newman—or, in Trump’s words, “for quickly firing that dog!”...

Dog marks a new low in this war of words. Some people are calling it sexist. Some are saying it’s racist. Some people think it’s neither, and it could always be both! So, what is it?

Cauterucci argues

With evidence to support both racism and sexism in the use of the word dog, and taking into account Trump’s historical contempt for women and black people, it’s safe to say that the answer to the “sexist or racist?” quandary is “both.” The theory of intersectional oppression holds that both racism and sexism are multidimensional.

No definition of intersectionality was offered for those of us not on the cutting edge, still unaccustomed to ripping apart the English language for ideological benefit.  It does, however, allow writers or pundits to manipulate concepts like "racism" and "sexism" for purposes.

As if multidemensional intersectional oppression weren't sufficiently speculative, Cauterrucci concludes

Trump called upon a very specific kind of anti-black sexism that comprises both the American history of enslaved black women being treated as livestock-like “breeders” and contemporary pop culture depictions of black women as angry, emasculating “bitches.”

Trump's press secretary claims that he is an "equal-opportunity offender," a thug unafraid to ridicule or condemn anyone regardless of race or gender. Whether her characterization is overly generous, insufficiently generous, or accurate, the combination of black and woman does not appear to be particularly noxious to him.

Unlike Cauterrucci, I don't know much about black women being treated as livestock-like breeders. It's unlikely that a fan cheering on today's good works of one Frederic Douglass does, either.

No one ever knows for sure what is in Donald Trump's mind. However, his racism and sexism are often understandably attributed, by inference or directly, partly to age and gender.  So, too, should his phrase "for quickly firing that dog" be seen in the context of his age and gender.

In the greater New York City region in which Trump grew up, among white males the term "dog" generally was a synonym for "ugly woman." That would not be an apt description of Omarosa Manigault Newman. However, accuracy was not a high priority of boys coming of age in the late '50s and '60s in the NYC metropolitan area who wanted to insult a woman.

Alternatively, having referred to "firing that dog," Trump might have been using "dog" as synonym for "worthless employee," a synonym for "dog" in a certain context. That would imply, however, that Donald Trump is more concerned with a female employee's work product than her appearance.

We know that is unlikely because Donald Trump has a track record, and we don't have to understand the intricacies of socio-cultural jargon to recognize that.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Only What We'd Expect

Stipulated:a)  Donald J. Trump is racially bigoted; almost everyone realizes Trump is racially bigoted; b) some people are repulsed by Trump's bias, a few people are a little less than repulsed, and c) some have no problem with it.  Still, it's interesting that

President Donald Trump said on Monday night that he’d never used the N-word and that no tapes existed of him saying other inflammatory material, rebutting the claims made by former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman that Trump repeatedly said the word during the filming of his reality-TV series “The Apprentice.”

“.@MarkBurnettTV called to say that there are NO TAPES of the Apprentice where I used such a terrible and disgusting word as attributed by Wacky and Deranged Omarosa,” the president wrote on Twitter, claiming he talked to Burnett, who produces the series. “I don’t have that word in my vocabulary, and never have. She made it up.”

Presumably, one of the first questions at the next news conference starring Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the flack hack, will be "why did Mr. Trump call Mark Burnett to determine no tapes existed of something the President claims never happened?

That question may be preceeded by "Why has Mark Burnett, recognizing the inflammatory nature of Omarosa's charge, not releas a statement or tweeted a confirmation that Trump called him?

The producer could claim that Trump had called him even if the President had not done so. The President has publicly declared that Burnett called him. Thus, there is no chance of contradiction by Trump, and no way to demonstrate the conversation did not take place.

And yet, as of 10:00 Tuesday morning, there is nothing from Burnett despite

It's possible that Trump did not use the "n-word" on the set of The Apprentice.  The credibility of Omarosa Manigault Newman is not great- and who could doubt the word of the president who hires only "the best and most people?"

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Monday, August 13, 2018


Thus far, this we know: Theresa May is no LindseyGraham.

You know Lindsey Graham. During the GOP presidential primary campaign, Donald Trump revealed the South Carolina senator's personal cellphone number and Graham later noted that he received so many unsolicited calls that he had to discontinue his service.

A few months later, still during the campaign, Trump labeled Graham "a disgrace" and "one of the dumbest human beings I've ever seen."

Sometimes, truth is not a defense.  As of two months ago, he had reached full kiss-up mode:

Further, the senator has voted with the President nearly 90% of the time, further illustrating the placement of Graham's lips on the backside of Donald Trump. His ridicule of other public officials has not had the same effect.

After a terrorist attack in June, 2017 in London, President Trump slammed Saddiq Khan, tweeting "at least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed.'" Less than three hours later, it was "we must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse."

In an interview while in England last month, President Trump contended Khan "is doing a terrible job" and "I think he has done a very bad job on terrorism. I think he has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in.” He remarked "allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame" and hailed Prime Minister May's political rival as “a very talented guy," adding “I am just saying I think he would be a great prime minister. I think he’s got what it takes.”

Guess who needs whose help; now? Politico reports

America’s top diplomat in London has urged Britain to support Washington’s push to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal and impose economic sanctions in the country, days after the EU vowed to stand by the agreement.

“America is turning up the pressure and we want the U.K. by our side,” Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador in London, said in an op-ed for the Telegraph published Sunday, calling on Britain “to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort towards a genuinely comprehensive agreement....

The first set of U.S. sanctions entered into force on Monday and targets sectors such as the car industry and aviation. A second set of sanctions covering Iran’s oil exports will be imposed in November.

Johnson warned Britain that siding with Brussels would have economic consequences, saying: “Any businesses that put their commercial interests in Iran ahead of the global good will risks serious consequences for their trade with the U.S.”

However, Great Britain was one of the original negotiators of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and- thus far- is unwilling to go the Lindsey Graham route because

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement — which he insisted is a “bad deal” that would not thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions — in May dealt a heavy blow to European allies, who vowed to stand by the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The U.S. call for British support comes days after EU leaders — including U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian, Germany’s Heiko Maas and EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini — issued a statement Monday making clear they are actively working to thwart renewed U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“We deeply regret the re-imposition of sanctions by the U.S., due to the latter’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” they wrote, adding that the EU is taking legislative action — activating a so-called blocking statute — in a bid to protect EU businesses operating in Iran from the U.S. economic sanctions....

Trump’s plea for British support on Iran has already been rebuffed by British officials, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing continued U.K. support for the agreement.

Now that President Trump wants London to feed the hand that bit it, he has found- as of Monday morning- he is facing in Great Britain and the European Union parties which are not as "dumb" as is Lindsey Graham.  However, the deal with Iran was a positive step toward peace, and it is notable that Europe is more dedicated to its own interests and international stability than to following blindly a government whose head no longer sees it as an ally.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Casting A Wide Net

You don't have to be a misogynist like Donald J. Trump to understand the problem with one of these questions. Donald Trump would not recognize the problem- but many fair-minded and normal voters would.

 The Huffington Post reports

For the past seven months, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) has been asking President Donald Trump’s nominees the same two questions.

“Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?”

“Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?”

Hirono  states “The questions have never been asked before. And why is that? Because it would take a woman to ask questions like that, I would say.”

And I would say that's a fairly insulting remark to make about women.

Question no. 2 is only logical because it is disturbing if the applicant has faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to improper conduct.  Not so reasonable is "have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?"

"Verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature" is so vague as to be meaningless. "Verbal harassment" is a subjective concept, one likely defined extremely broadly by Senator Hirono and very narrowly by a man who has committed verbal harasssment. Additionally, the question implies an equality between verbal harassment and physical harassment. There is a difference between the alleged behavior of, say, Al Franken and that of Matt Lauer.

Similarly, "have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors" is begging for a lie in response. There are tens of millions of men alive, and others now deceased, who have made an unwanted request for a sexual favor. Often, when the request is met with a "no" or "leave me alone" or "get lost, you creep," the incident abruptly ends. Even Senator Hirono's husband, being a man, may himself have done this at one time.

But no man is going to reply "yes" to that first question posed by Senator Hirono because it opens a Pandora's Box.  The question itself implies that if a man makes a request for a sexual favor- and sexual favors do not have to be intercourse, vaginal or oral- it is itself disqualifying, even if there was reason that the man did not expect it to be unwanted.

Senator Hirono is probably very safe in her Senate seat from Hawaii. However, people are watching and voters are watching. Hillary Clinton, determined to "break the glass ceiling," did not grasp the backlash from many voters, most but not all of them men, who sensed that some politicians harbor anti-male sentiments.  Until men are banned from the voting booth, Democratic office-seekers should not disregard their perspective.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Impotence Of The Spoken Word

It's one thing to be used in 1984. It's another to be used in 2018, 34 years later. Steve M. blogs about the dishonest incident in which

Donald Trump Jr. posted a fake graphic to Instagram on Wednesday to misrepresent his father’s approval rating.

It was unclear who made the fake graphic that the president’s eldest son shared in an Instagram post that has not yet been deleted, but in it his father’s 40 percent approval rating is clearly visible below a photoshopped 50%....

The fakery was called on out the Instagram post and on Twitter.

John King of CNN explained thoroughly this gross misrepresentation, which SM noted compared "Trump's numbers now to Obama's at the same point in his presidency.On the air, King made clear several times that Obama had taken office at the depths of a recession, while Trump took office during a recovery." Still, SM concluded,

What King said gave the full story, more or less. But it's 2018. King and CNN should have known that a graphic like this will inevitably be used by pro-Trump partisans, who, of course, won't provide the context. Broadcasting the chart without a visual explanation of the context was a mistake.

This wasn't specifically- or maybe not solely- King's error. I saw Chris Cuomo of the same network also showing the chart, though he demonstrated that the 50% job approval of Donald Trump had been sneakily changed from 40%.  However, it is 2018, decades beyond 1984 and CNN  should have realized its value not only in promoting Trump further to his loyalists, but also to voters undecided about President Trump or who could be easily swayed in either direction. 

Here is Lesley Stahl explaining in 2015- as she has chosen to do on many occasions- what she (distressingly) learned from the Reagan camp in that year of the Reagan landslide:

Stahl concluded

We learned that we can’t be conflicting with the picture. You can’t. And just to run these- we used to call it “wallpaper"- we’d put up these pictures of the President- whatever he did, whatever it was, just to show it and we'd say something completely different. So we stopped doing that.

If Donald Trump has studied the tactics of Ronald(6) Wilson(6) Reagan(6) even 10% as much as he has those of Adolph Hitler, it's a lesson he has learned, also.

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No Thanks

The Interior Secretary is planning to undermine implementation of the Endangered Species Act and a peeved Malcolm Nance remarks
Environmentalism is the raison d'etre of the Green Party which, among other things, helped pave the way for the Trump presidency and probably put George W. Bush, instead of Al Gore, into the White House sixteen years earlier. And so Dr. Stein and her cohorts probably are unconcerned that, as the Los Angeles Times found earlier this week

The day before she was to testify before President Trump’s school safety commission, Jennifer Johnston, an expert on media coverage of mass shootings, received a phone call from an Education Department advisor who asked her to “refrain” from any gun-control remarks.

The official, Kent Talbert, cited a section of her pre-submitted testimony that called for federal officials to “greatly restrict the sale of semiautomatic and automatic weapons across states,” Johnston recalled.

Johnston ultimately backed off and additionally

During more than 20 hours of testimony in five panels, three field visits and two public listening sessions so far, commission officials have largely avoided, limited or, in Johnston’s case, suppressed discussion of gun-control measures, according to interviews with participants and a review of official video recordings of events available on the commission’s website.

Gun safety probably is not a high priority of 77-year-old Connie Kessler, an Ohio resident of the Mahoning Valley, which is midway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. It is an "old steel country full of labor union members," which "has been loyal Democratic turf for generations" and

"He's the one that turned me," she says at her makeshift reception desk near a giant cut-out of the president, with his signature thumbs-up gesture. "When I walked in here to sign up as a volunteer, I was a Democrat," she says. "I don't want Democrat next to my name anymore."

The Administration headed by Donald Trump continues to address the interests of such hard-working, salt-of-the-earth traditional Democrats by

- rescinding a Department of Labor regulation which required employers to pay overtime if employees worked over 40 hours a week;

- rescinding a Department of Labor regulation in which employers were barred from "tip pooling," which redistributed tips paid to service workers'

- signing a congressional resolution which required employers to report workplace injuries or illnesses to OSHA;

- blocking "the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule, which banned government contracts from going to companies with poor safety or labor records, and kept track of violations;"

- killing the fiduciary rule, in which economic advisers were bound to act in the best interests of their clients;

 - appointing to the Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch, who cast the deciding vote in a  May decision which made it more difficult to file class-action lawsuits against employers, and in June's Janus vs. AFSCME, which puts all public employees under right-to-work laws, in which unions cannot charge non-members fees for representation, and which mandates new employees opt-in for membership.

President Trump is only getting started. Laws or regulations protecting the environment, workers, the elderly, schoolchildren, poor people, and others are in his sights.  There is a whole lot of blame to go around for Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party, and many others who assisted the election of Donald Trump. It may be that the animals to which Malcolm Bunch referred are not the only endangered species.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

It's "Don't Rock The Vote"

Steve M quotes (emphasis his) Laura Ingraham in Wednesday's controversial commentary, "The Left's Effort To Remake America," in which the conservative Republican contended

Because in some parts of the country, it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that of course progressives love.

Most criticism went elsewhere. Former New York Times and Washington Times reporter Heather Timmons slammed "divisive and racist words (which) could incite more hatred towards immigrants in the US. Morning Joe regular Donnie Deutsch remarked "I have a call to action to advertisers as far as to Laura Ingraham's message. Someone gets thrown off the air for saying the N-word- this is more reprehensible, you're basically saying we should be white." And S.E. Cupp maintained

To many, that sounded racist. That's because it is. She isn't complaining that the country's getting older or younger, richer or poorer, that we're having more or fewer children or moving to the suburbs. She's complaining that people who come to America from other countries -- even legally -- are making this country unrecognizable to her. Indeed, to "us."

Who "us" means is also clear: Fox News viewers, who are predominantly 65 and older and white. I know many of those viewers, and I'm sad to say that message probably resonated with a lot of them.

However, Ingraham singled out Virginia and California rather than saying "throughout the country" or specifying Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Nebraska, Iowa- other states which have seen a major influx of refugees and/or immigrants.

Those six states are either marginally, or solidly, Republican, while California is overwhelmingly Democratic and Virginia increasingly so.

The main concern of Ingraham, who has two Russian-born children, probably is voting, a message resonating with the Trump Administration, which

is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children's health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

Those immigrants would not be booted from the USA but until and unless they became citizens, would not be permitted to vote. That applies to visa holders and.... what do we have here?

Despite his rhetoric that immigration hurts American workers, President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club is seeking to hire 61 foreign workers for the 2018 winter season, according to the Labor Department.

Trump’s “Winter White House” has applied to hire 21 cooks from other countries to work at the resort from October to May. The Palm Beach, Fla., club also wants to hire 40 foreigners for wait-staff positions.

The seasonal workers would be required to return to their home country once their H-2B visas expire.

Sometimes, foreigners are fine with this crowd, as long as they cannot vote.

Donald J. Trump is a Republican. Stephen Miller is a Republican. Laura Ingraham is a Republican. They may have multiple motives, even including animus to individuals based on their, well, cultural backgrounds. But what they want most is the election of Republicans.It's an obsession as old as Richard Nixon and Anna Chenault, Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, and Kris Kobach

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Thursday, August 09, 2018

If Not Now, When?

Two months ago, Representative Ro Khanna of California, who had introduced a resolution to end this country's involvement in the war Saudi Arabia is conducting against the Houthis in Yemen, explained

President Obama never obtained congressional authorization for active US involvement in this war. His administration made a unilateral decision in 2015 to engage in these hostilities to reassure the Gulf monarchies of the US strategic alliance in light of the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed that year, though administration officials did not anticipate the scale of the Saudi atrocities. Now, under President Trump—whose shadowy campaign ties with the Saudis and Emiratis are only now emerging—these countries have felt emboldened to intensify the conflict. American military participation has even expanded to include secretive on-the-ground operations by Army Green Berets.

The war began in 2014, but The New York Times now has reported

An airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition struck a school bus in northern Yemen on Thursday and killed dozens of people, many of them children, local medical officials and international aid groups said.

The attack sent a flood of victims to overwhelmed hospitals struggling to cope in what the United Nations considers one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The coalition said it had hit missile launchers and called the attack a “legitimate military operation,” but the attack and the justification for it were condemned and drew new attention to the tremendous human toll of the war in Yemen, especially on children.

The Times adds "much of Yemen, which was already the Arab world’s poorest country, has been plunged into crisis, with poverty, malnutrition and diseases like cholera spreading."

In the year since he took over as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman has both taken steps to modify the Kingdom and to increase repression of dissidents.  Additionally, according to CNN, he "has also taken a hard line abroad, instigating a bruising blockade of its tiny neighbor Qatar, picking fights with regional rival Iran, and prosecuting a costly war to oust rebels from Yemen."

This week, after mild criticism by Canada of Riyahd's human rights record

the Saudi government has responded with a steady string of retaliatory measures, expelling the Canadian ambassador from Riyadh and recalling the Saudi envoy to Ottawa, suspending Saudi state airline flights to Toronto, and ending thousands of Saudi scholarship programs in Canada.

Then on Tuesday, Saudi authorities announced they would halt all medical treatment programs in Canada and transfer Saudi patients to hospitals outside the country.

The Saudi foreign minister said "Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it."

The kingdom also said it plans to freeze future trade relations between the two countries.

This "mistake" could be easily fixed.  The United States should immediately withdraw support from the coalition murdering civilians in Yemen.

It could, but it won't. The Saudis believe the Houthis are fighting a proxy war for Iran, and the Trump Administration has an obsession with Iran rivaling that of the federal government with the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

Noting that some Middle Eastern countries have supported Saudi Arabia while Europe has said little on behalf of Canada, a fellow at a London-based think tank lamented "it's a little bit disappointing that no one feels they're in a position to come out and support the Canadians on issues that just a few years ago they probably would have a lot more vocal on."

This dispute calls for leadership from the West. That leadership once was supplied by the USA, but the era of this nation as the leader of the free world has been erased by President Trump. 

For a long time, even after Riyadh-financed charities probably were involved in the attacks of 9/11/01 (in which 18 of the hijackers, plus Osama bin Laden, were Saudi nationals; video below from 4/16), there was an understanding that we should not mess with Saudi Arabia because of the need for Mideast oil. But the economics of energy have changed drastically since that time, and it's time for the USA, on behalf of Houthis, Canadians, and others, finally to say "no" to Riyadh.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Rough Road Ahead

Will Bunch is not sanguine about the likelihood of a happy ending of the Mueller investigation as occurred in Watergate, when an unethical Republican was forced to resign the presidency. He is stunningly depressing as he explains

In 1974, idealistic young prosecutors like Ackerman and Wine-Banks were able to take on an imperial president because the political system — especially Congress — was still committed to fundamental notions of democracy. Some of that was ideology — you actually had such a thing as “liberal Republicans” like Connecticut Sen. Lowell Weicker who could be a thorn in Nixon’s side — but some of that was real accountability; the Senate voted 77-0 in February 1973, when the president was at the peak of his power, to investigate Watergate. That simply would not happen today, not with Republicans answering to voters who claim they’d prefer Vladimir Putin over Hillary Clinton.

The other difference, though, is the man in the Oval Office. Nixon — for all his paranoia and the illegality of his campaign dirty tricks — still respected the guardrails of constitutional democracy enough that he didn’t destroy the White House tapes, didn’t defy the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court when he was ordered to turn them over, and even voluntarily released that “smoking gun” tape with an acknowledgment that he would be impeached. (Instead, he resigned after a delegation of GOP senators urged him to do so; could you imagine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — after shredding the Constitution to get Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court — doing the same?)

Trump, on the other hand, is a graduate of the despicable “fixer” Roy Cohn’s school of political diplomacy — deny everything, admit nothing, lie profusely, and when those don’t work, sue everybody in sight. There’s little doubt that had Trump been president in 1974, he would not think twice about doing the things that even Richard Nixon would not do — ripping America apart and maybe even threatening a civil war, all for the sole purpose of saving his own narcissistic hide.

But the reality may be even worse. Mother Jones' David West cautions that there is a chance that the Special Counsel's report will never see the light of day. After it is given to Rod Rosenstein, the Assistant Attorney General can release it to the public, send it to Congress (a member of which probably would leak it), or simply do nothing. The warning from West's colleague David Corn, who has followed the Trumpian connection to Russia closely, is even more ominous: "Those Americans out there who are waiting for Robert Mueller to give us the full truth of what happened in terms of the Russian attack on the United States, we're likely not to be satisfied."

That is probably overly pessimistic. However, the system may be incapable, even beyond Bunch's fears, of holding the President and his gang accountable.  

It is widely assumed that Mueller's negotiations with Giuliani over an interview with Mr. Trump can only end badly for the President. But Giuliani may- for all his apparent bumbling- may actually be achieving the President's aims.

Although it is unlikely, the former New York city mayor may obtain favorable terms for an interview. Conducting the interview at the White House, as that of Bill Clinton with Ken Starr's office, would be a relatively small concession. More significantly, it may be limited in topic or in length. It could also be in written form, though that is extremely unlikely because answers would be written by White House lawyers, vetted, and answer little or nothing.

There will be no report until a meeting takes place- as is more likely- Mueller and Giuliani conclude there will be none.  That may leave no time for issuance of a report before Election Day.  If a report is issued before November 6, it will be in autumn, in the midst of campaign 2018.  The tweets from President Trump nearly write themselves, accompanied by distortion and manipulation from legal representative Rudy Giuliani, and cries of anguish from Trump surrogates. 

By the week before the election, the GOP will have Fox News and the Trump base convinced that Robert Mueller is working hand-in-hand with the Russians in order to rig congressional elections for the Democratic Party.

Once President Nixon resigned, there was a rough consensus in the country, especially among elites, that the system had worked.  The subject of the Watergate investigation had resigned, there was relatively little recrimination, no criminal charges, no rioting, and the leader of the free world was replaced by the sane and sober individual previously selected as Vice-President. Nixon went on to have a pleasant career sought after for his reputed knowledge of foreign affairs.

There was no acknowledgment that the system actually had failed.  Nor do we understand that the failure to hold President Nixon fully accountable played a role in numerous misdeeds- Iran-Contra,  illegal interrogation- torture, running the White House for personal financial gain- committed by subsequent Presidents.  After suspicions about Richard Nixon were borne out, he was pardoned, paying no penalty other than being returned to the status quo ante. 

With the inertia and contradictions of the legal system and apprehension of politicians and the media, the deck is stacked against demanding accountability for a Republican president. Donald J. Trump understands this even better than the other seven individuals who have followed Mr. Nixon. Therefore, as Bunch concludes

people are going to have to vote in November as they’ve never voted before and protest and march and make phone calls and — hardest of all — take the kind of risks that people in other endangered nations are accustomed to taking, and that Americans aren’t. It’s not Watergate II: The Sequel, and there’s no guarantee of a happy ending. But it’s the story that we’ll need to write for ourselves in order to live.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Rest In Piece, Second Amendment Victim

Wayne LaPierre and others have claimed "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun."  There are good guys with a gun in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania because, well, there are good guys with a gun everywhere in the USA. However, there is one fewer today than there was 48 hours ago. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports

Philadelphia police shot and killed a 59-year-old Germantown homeowner and wounded his wife Monday when a SWAT team showed up at 6 a.m. looking to arrest his grandson and the man mistook them for intruders and opened fire, hitting one officer in the face.

Police Commissioner Richard Ross said the man — whom he did not identify but whom property and other public records identify as Ricardo Giddings — apparently began shooting in an attempt to protect his home. His wife, 67, was struck by a police round as she tried to run out of the house, Ross said. She was hospitalized in stable condition.

The officer, Jaison Potts, 49, was able to walk into Temple University hospital but had to be sedated and was listed in critical condition. Ross said Monday night that a bullet remained lodged in Potts’ jaw.

Ross said officers knocked and announced themselves several times before seeking to enter the home to arrest the man’s grandson, 20, wanted on weapons violations. Ross said a television was on inside the home, so it was possible that the occurred about 6 a.m. on the 4800 block of Knox Street. Ross said SWAT officers “knocked and announced their presence at least three times, indicating they had a search warrant at that address.”

When they did not receive a response, they broke through a front door, Ross said.Inside, the man had grabbed a handgun, and thinking they were in danger, urged his wife to flee out the back of the house, Ross said.

Before officers broke through a second door to gain entry to the house, the homeowner began shooting, according to the commissioner. He fired four bullets; one hit Potts in the face near his jaw.

Potts’ partner, whom Ross did not identify, fired a shotgun five times in return, Ross said. At least one round hit the homeowner.

The man’s wife was struck in the stomach by a shotgun pellet that ricocheted before striking her, Ross said. She also suffered back injuries trying to flee the house.homeowner did not hear the warnings.

The grandson, whom police did not identify, was not there. He turned himself in to police later Monday, according to Ross.

Though hospitalized, the police officer and the homeowner's wife are both expected to survive the shooting, which

occurred about 6 a.m. on the 4800 block of Knox Street. Ross said SWAT officers “knocked and announced their presence at least three times, indicating they had a search warrant at that address.”

When they did not receive a response, they broke through a front door, Ross said.Inside, the man had grabbed a handgun, and thinking they were in danger, urged his wife to flee out the back of the house, Ross said.

Before officers broke through a second door to gain entry to the house, the homeowner began shooting, according to the commissioner. He fired four bullets; one hit Potts in the face near his jaw.

Potts’ partner, whom Ross did not identify, fired a shotgun five times in return, Ross said. At least one round hit the homeowner.

The man’s wife was struck in the stomach by a shotgun pellet that ricocheted before striking her, Ross said. She also suffered back injuries trying to flee the house.

Speaking in Dallas two months ago at the annual National Rifle Association convention, President Trump declared "your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never ever be under siege as long as I am your president."

Rest assured, Donald.  A fellow's 2nd Amendment rights are safe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania- as they are everywhere in America. no matter how many innocent people are dead because of it. The NRA- and therefore Donald Trump- wouldn't have it any other way.

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Monday, August 06, 2018

Put Up Or Shut Up

Appearing as usual on "AM Joy," Malcolm Nance on Saturday maintained

Russia has never been deterred. They put a man into the White House. Let’s just say that bluntly here, okay? They now have a working partner in the President of the United States. He is covering for their activities and that the national security establishment had to come out and do a cover-your-butt press conference just before this, shows the ineffectiveness that they have.  The president will not lead on this. Whatever his oath is sworn to, it is not sworn to the Constitution of the United States.

At first, there was a statement from Donald Trump; Jr. that the meeting was about Russian adoptions. Next, it was an offer of "vague, ambiguous" claims  of damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Later, we were told that the President had no involvement in drafting his son's statement but thereafter that he helped draft it, but with no involvement in the meeting. The line changed to Throughout, we repeatedly heard and read "no collusion," until we were informed "collusion" may not be a crime.

And now Dear Leader, almost as if to confirm Nance's claim that the Kremlin "put a man into  the White House," has conceded

At this rate, in another year, Trump; might be bragging that he requested and coordinated the meeting. Although comment on Trump's tweet has focused on his first admission of collusion (though not necessarily "conspiracy,"as the law requires) with Russians, a slightly different take has been offered:
This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics. The caginess of this remark has been largely overlooked. Elected president railing against "the swamp" (whatever that is), Trump has effectively employed bothsiderism with a claim that "they" all do it.

As Eisen evidently understands, this cannot stand. The Administration, whether represented by Sarah H. Sanders, a television surrogate, or the President himself, must be called on to cite chapter and verse.  We need to know who has taken such meetings, when they were taken, for what purpose, and to what effect.

The remark was made not only to excuse Trump's behavior. It goes to the heart of what he always has contended, thoroughly dishonestly, to do once he got to Washington: to expose the self-serving, double-dealing politicians he implied saturate the government of the USA. 

Donald Trump and his lackeys deserve the chance to expose the politicians who have taken the kind of meeting attended by his son and others, while the American people deserve to know who in this manner has jeopardized national security. And if the Trump camp can't come up with anybody, voters have a little more information to judge the man, his campaign, and his presidency.

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Sunday, August 05, 2018

Unfortunate But True

Back around mid last century, after John Kerry had lost (with the help of vote shenanigans in Ohio) the presidential election to incumbent George W. Bush, there was widespread skepticism that a Democrat not from the south could win the presidency. Then along came Hawaiian Barack Obama by way of the Illinois Democratic machine.

He could not have captured the nomination, however, without black voters, who had initially supported Hillary Clinton, at that time the front- runner (and slightly more progressive than Obama). Competing against Bernie Sanders in 2016, the more moderate candidate, Hillary Clinton was (coincidentally or not) the preferred candidate of black primary voters.

It's a little history that Steve Schmidt, now a professed Democrat after a career as a GOP strategist, understands far less well than one of the other guests on Friday night's Real Time.

Bill Maher, who has emphasized like almost no one the importance of the 2018 mid-term elections, should have (but didn't) know better than to accept on the "overtime" segment of "Real Time" the question "who in the prospective field of democratic candidates do you think would be most likely to beat Donald Trump in 2020?"

Schmidt (at 7:30) suggested centrist Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, as well as "out of the progressive wing" (we need to talk, Steve) California senator Kamala Harris. After diplomatically- probably insincerely- responding, "but I will add to that," New York Times columnist Charles Blow (at 9:04) explained

it's very hard to win the Democratic primary and not be from the south and you haven't named anybody from the south. And I think you have to mix into that group people like Mayor Landrieu of New Orleans and people like that because the Democratic Party primary system swings south so quickly. 

That's why Bernie had a problem. He could have won but he did not get into the south quick enough, did not have a message strong enough, did not connect closely enough with with those, with the older black women voters. And Killer Mike is a great guy but the older black woman goes "Killer Mike, what's a Killer Mike?" So it just doesn't work, right? So this idea of someone from the Midwest or California- it could work, but it's hard. It's hard. 

Given that the Democratic candidate in 2016 lost because of the Midwestern states of Michigan and Wisconsin and near-Midwestern Pennsylvania, not all would be lost if the candidate were from, say, Ohio. However, strength in the south and among black voters- especially women who are not young- in the Democratic primary process is particularly critical. In his analysis, Blow has nailed it twenty-seven months out.

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Theological Predisposition

Amanda Marcotte explains The Catholic Church sex abuse scandals are often talked about as if they are in the past, but this summe...