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Published: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:51:19 +0000

Last Build Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:51:19 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want
 



Second judge blocks Trump's 'capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified' transgender military ban

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 18:22:59 +0000

Donald Trump's policy-on-the-fly tweet in July announcing a ban on transgender servicemembers was thoroughly obliterated Tuesday by a second federal judge.  

U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis of Maryland, a George H.W. Bush appointee, suspended implementation of the entire ban on both trans recruitment and retention along with its prohibition on medical treatment for transgender servicemembers.

The preliminary injunction issued by the judge in Baltimore on Tuesday goes further than the earlier ruling by also preventing the administration from denying funding for sex-reassignment surgeries after the order takes effect.

Importantly, both federal judges have agreed that a “heightened scrutiny” standard of review should be applied to Trump's trans ban, meaning that the government will have to advance an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for discriminating against this group of servicemembers. But Garbis dismissed the ban as “unlikely” of even passing a less rigorous “rational basis” test.

Trump has no one but himself to thank for the ill-conceived and perhaps fatally flawed ban he issued with zero forethought or consultation with informed parties. Judge Garbis skewered Trump for his "shocking" negligence in announcing the new policy.

An unexpected announcement by the President and Commander in Chief of the United States via Twitter that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” certainly can be considered shocking under the circumstances. … A capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified tweet of new policy does not trump the methodical and systematic review by military stakeholders qualified to understand the ramifications of policy changes. 

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Hundreds march to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in support of Haitian TPS recipients

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 17:14:29 +0000

Campaign Action

An estimated 200 demonstrators marched on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort (not the Winter White House) in protest of the administration’s cruel decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 50,000 Haitians currently living in the U.S. An estimated 24,000 Haitians live in South Florida, and ending humanitarian protections for them will mean deporting families back to unsafe conditions:

Marchers gathered at the intersection of Southern Boulevard and Washington Road in downtown West Palm Beach, walked east over the bridge to cross the Intracoastal Waterway and into Palm Beach, where they were stopped by the police.

Signs carried by demonstrators included various messages, including “Immigrants make South Florida work,” “Honk for TPS” and “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.”

Rachel Gumpert, one of the rally organizers and a spokeswoman for the labor union Unite Here, said many of the service workers in the union have temporary protected status. “In many cases, they have been here for over two decades,” she said. “Not only can their country of origin not absorb them, but they have good union jobs, and deep roots here. They are paying taxes, buying houses. This is their home.”

The administration has now given TPS recipients until July 2019 to sort out their immigration status or leave. “We all know that Haiti is not ready to absorb so many of its children,” said Gepsie Metellus, executive director of Sant La, the Haitian Neighborhood Center in Miami. “This is a sad day, a very shameful day, a depressing day especially on a Thanksgiving eve where a nation of immigrants would be rebuking immigrants.”

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Sexual assaulter Trump privately doubted the accusers of sexual predator Moore

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 16:37:05 +0000

Campaign Action

What happens when a narcissistic sociopath with an established history of sexual assault confronts the notion that a candidate made in his mold has been credibly accused of sexually preying on teenagers as an adult man in his 30s? The narcissistic sociopath, still miffed at being revealed as a total creeper, endorses the sexual predator after "days of behind-the-scenes talks in which he vented about [Roy] Moore’s accusers." Politico's Alex Isenstadt writes:

During animated conversations with senior Republicans and White House aides, the president said he doubted the stories presented by Moore’s accusers and questioned why they were emerging now, just weeks before the election, according to two White House advisers and two other people familiar with the talks.

The White House advisers said the president drew parallels between Moore’s predicament and the one he faced just over a year ago when, during the final weeks of the 2016 campaign, Trump confronted a long line of women who accused him of harassment. He adamantly denied the claims.

Thirteen women to be exact.

Somewhere between Donald Trump's aides faking a bad connection from Asia to get him off the phone and his quiet morning moments on the pot spewing racism into the twittersphere, Trump just couldn't separate his own injury from Moore’s. The notion that his own advances were repulsive, that women didn't actually like being grabbed by the p*ssy by a gross old man, was just too much for his fragile sense of self.

“Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it,” Trump told reporters.

Oh, well, if he “totally” denies it, case closed.

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Operation 45 releases partial White House visitor logs through ProPublica

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 16:02:18 +0000

Not all efforts to bring to light a few secrets require hacking into servers, and not all transparency organizations are busy coordinating between Trump and Putin. Ever since Donald Trump moved in, the formerly public logs of visitors to the White House have been kept under lock and key. But transparency group Property of the People has sued to get the logs as part of their Operation 45—an effort to gain some insight into the highly secretive Team Trump.

The first results of that effort are now available through ProPublica. The records cover a span from Trump’s first day in office up until early September, but the more than 8,000 visits covered in the logs would be more helpful, if they didn’t include 2,169 redactions—a quarter of all visitors to the White House are still unknown. Also, these results only cover five departments, not including direct visitors to the Oval Office. Not much of real import is obvious. Don’t expect to find the name of Devin Nunes with the topic of “skulking around the bushes” or any surprise drop-ins from the Kremlin.

That said, some of the redactions aren’t all that redacted. Take for instance this February 6 meeting at the underpopulated Office of Science and Technology.

Visitor Topic
REDACTED meeting with Ted Wackler Aaron Miles and Ted Chat

Very sneaky. But not very ominous, as the topic was likely food aid and efforts to establish food security in at-risk regions (Miles’ area of expertise).

In addition to rubbing out many names, on dozens of occasions the only thing listed under “visitor” is “not filled out.” Which sort of brings into question the whole idea of having a visitors log. The Council of Environmental Quality apparently embraced that concept fully, as their log lists no visitors at all. The Trade Representative’s office is littered with meetings with “redacted” on the enlightening topic of “work.”

Overall, the results are … results. But with more than a quarter of the records missing, only a few departments represented, and much of what is present intentionally made worthless … it’s almost as if this White House feels it doesn’t have to answer to the public.

It will take some googling of names and considerable follow up to see if there’s anything in the released records  worth noticing.

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Senate tax cuts bill: Higher insurance premiums cancel out cuts

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 15:48:01 +0000

People who buy health insurance on their own are going to be really screwed by the Senate Republicans tax cut plan, if it includes a repeal of the individual mandate, according to new analysis from the Commonwealth Fund. Any tax cut the 7 million people who buy their own insurance and don't qualify for premium subsidies might get will be offset by higher premium prices, which will also be permanent, while their tax cuts will eventually expire.

We estimated the dollar amount of the annual premium increase of 10 percent associated with the mandate repeal alone, relative to estimated premium increases under current law. CBO recently projected premiums would grow by about 5 percent per year under current law over 2019–27 (see Methodology). Looking at the average increase in dollars for each age group for the lowest-cost ACA marketplace silver or gold plan, whichever is lower in each rating area in 2018, (Exhibit 1), we find:

  • 27-year-olds would see an increase of $492 in 2019, rising to $726 by 2027;
  • 40-year-olds would see an increase of $598 in 2019, rising to $883 in 2027;
  • 60-year-olds would see an increase of $1,269 in 2019, rising to $1,875 in 2027.

The individual mandate repeal was added so that corporate tax cuts could be made permanent. So while corporations would forever enjoy that break, 7 million middle class Americans would get a temporary cut that is completely offset by how much more they’re having to pay in insurance premiums. Provided the Obamacare markets survive this sabotage and they can still get insurance at all. 
Which means that this bill would leave millions of middle Americans worse off.
Jam your senators' phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote "no" on the Republican tax bill.
 

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Of course the Republican 'tax plan' is a massive giveaway to the rich. That was the whole point.

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 16:01:18 +0000

Oh, I think we all know they "realize" it.

Lawmakers who sped a bill through the U.S. House last week may have handed a few more goodies to Wall Street’s wealthiest than they realize.

Investors in billion-dollar hedge funds might be able to take advantage of a new, lower tax rate touted as a break for small businesses. Private equity fund managers might be able to sidestep a new tax on their earnings. And a combination of proposed changes might allow the children and grandchildren of the very wealthy to avoid income taxes in perpetuity.

You can't possibly think those were unintended effects. The entire point of the tax bill was to be a gift—or rather, a repayment—to the wealthiest of Republican donors. And the wealthiest of Republican donors want to stop paying taxes, thank you very damn much. On, if at all possible, everything.

The House bill would limit the tax to even fewer estates right away, and then eliminate it entirely in 2025. But it leaves in place a related measure that allows heirs to sell assets without having to pay income tax on the appreciation that took place before they inherited them.

Taken together, that means that a family whose fortune derives from a long-held asset—think Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., or the Walton family’s Walmart Stores Inc.—might never have to pay tax on the bulk of that wealth at all. The founding generation could borrow against the stock to meet expenses, and the next generation could sell it income tax-free.

Yeah, no kidding. So is this an accidental oopsie of Republican tax planning, or the intended effect? Let's let GOP Rep. Chris Collins of New York answer that.

"My donors are basically saying, 'Get it done or don’t ever call me again.'"

Contribute $3 to our slate of endorsed candidates and help Democrats take back the House. Every penny counts toward a Democratic wave.

 

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Hotel housekeepers and casino workers, many of them immigrants, have also been sexually harassed

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:14:21 +0000

An overwhelming majority of hotel housekeepers and casino workers say they have been sexually harassed by a guest, according to a Unite Here survey of roughly 500 members. The devastating numbers come as many prominent women have stepped forward with personal stories of sexual assault and harassment while in their fields. But, as the Huffington Post reports, “much less attention has been paid to the rampant harassment in blue-collar workplaces, particularly the hotel industry,” where many workers are Latina and Asian immigrants:

If famous A-list actresses must deal with unwanted advances in the privacy of a hotel suite, imagine the vulnerability of an immigrant woman cleaning the room alone, for close to minimum wage, plus tips.

“Frankly, I don’t think much of the public understands what housekeepers go through just to clean these rooms and carry out the work,” said Maria Elena Durazo, a labor leader with the hospitality union Unite Here.

According to the survey results, 58 percent of hotel workers and 77 percent of casino workers said they had been sexually harassed by a guest. Cecilia, a mini bar attendant, recounted stories of a male guest masturbating when she walked into his room, and another of a male guest who attempted to embrace a younger coworker in his room.

Cecilia said she took the coworker to security to report the incident, one that happens at an alarming rate: “65 percent of casino cocktail servers said a guest had touched or tried to touch them without permission.” More than one-half of respondents “who’d reported harassment said they didn’t feel safe on the job afterward,” leading to Unite Here advocating for legislation that would mandate “panic buttons” to help protect workers.

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Republicans can either pass a DACA fix and avoid a government shutdown, or not

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 01:56:12 +0000

As "Congress speeds toward [a] shutdown over Dreamers,” according to Politico, it's Republicans who hold the keys. Though they can't control the votes of all their members, they do control which bills make it to the floor. That gives them a choice between finding a fix for a program Donald Trump is killing that protects some 800,000 Dreamers from deportation or failing to do so and setting up a GOP-led government shutdown.

The rub is that the House GOP's own caucus is too erratic to pass funding bills that keep the government's lights on, so Republican leadership must rely on Democratic votes to push the funding bill over the finish line. That has given Democrats a leverage point for providing a legislative fix for Dreamers if they are going to help Paul Ryan do what his caucus won't.

“We want a clean DREAM Act,” said Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), referring to legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for the young adults. “That is what it’s going to take for me and others to sign on.”

For now, both Ryan and [Leader Nancy] Pelosi are falling in line with the more combative wings of their parties.

Ryan told reporters in early November that there was no need to address DACA by year’s end because the program expires in March under President Donald Trump’s orders.

Pelosi vowed at a news conference earlier this month, “We will not leave here without the DREAM Act passing, with a DACA fix,” adding: “We're not kicking the can down to March.”

But Ryan has the bigger problem by far. Failure to keep the government funded can easily be blamed on the Republican majority given their triumvirate of government control. A shutdown will simply reinforce America’s perceptions about the GOP’s disastrous run at governing. 

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Trump's racist morning tantrum demands that he get love ... or else

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:48:28 +0000

Campaign Action

This morning, Donald Trump woke up to continue demanding that LaVar Ball bow down and be thankful.

It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence - IT WAS ME. Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair. Just think LaVar, you could have spent the next 5 to 10 years during Thanksgiving with your son in China, but no NBA contract to support you. But remember LaVar, shoplifting is NOT a little thing. It’s a really big deal, especially in China. Ungrateful fool!

I don’t care if LeVar Ball is a jackass. I don’t care if LaVar Ball sells his shoes for $4000. I don’t care if LaVar Ball eats live kittens on TV. Because LaVar Ball hasn’t turned the commander in chief of the free world into a whining infant demanding that people change his sodden nappy … and like it.

This is utterly disgusting, and represents a new low in Trump’s eternal quest to get lower. If the racist message of Trump’s demand weren’t clear enough, see his next tweet for a reminder of his other great quest to get people to behave the way he thinks they should.

The NFL is now thinking about a new idea - keeping teams in the Locker Room during the National Anthem next season. That’s almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league! ..…

Trump apparently intended to everyone to connect those dots to “black people don’t act right” as he next he retweeted a post about Ball’s “ungratefulness” in failing to acknowledge that, for all of ten seconds, Trump might have done his job. Since this is the day before Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to toss Trump a Bible verse.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. ... And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:22

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Navy transport plane goes down in the Philippine Sea, searchers recover 8 of 11 on board

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:30:58 +0000

While Donald Trump was busy haranguing a father this morning, the Navy was busy scouring the seas for 11 sailors missing after a C-2 Greyhound  transport plane crashed into the Philippine Sea.

Eight people had been rescued, with the remaining three unaccounted for, it said, adding that all of the rescued personnel were transferred to the Ronald Reagan for medical evaluation and were in good condition.

Some hours later, someone nudged Trump to produce a standard set of prayers. The Navy is continuing to search for the three missing men.

The C-2 is an older, prop-driven plane, but it has an extremely good safety record. The last recorded crash of a C-2 was in 1973.

The plane that went down on Wednesday morning is assigned to the Seventh Fleet. This is the same Naval group which recently experienced a pair of devastating collisions with civilian ships. Following those collisions, the fleet commander was relieved from his post and the general level of training an preparedness in the Seventh fleet was called into question.

It is in these areas – training, maintenance, and operational tempo – that many observers find fault with the current condition of the Navy.

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Morning Digest: Rep. Chellie Pingree reportedly close to deciding on surprise bid for Maine governor

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:01:23 +0000

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar. Leading Off ● ME-Gov, ME-01: Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree didn't rule out running for governor back in December of 2016, but we'd seen no sign since then that she was at all interested. However, the Bangor Daily News' Lance Dutson writes that Pingree is privately telling supporters that "she is seriously considering a run," and that she's "expected to make her decision very soon."​ Campaign Action ​The Democratic field is still taking shape, and there's no clear frontrunner. The best-known candidate is probably Attorney General Janet Mills, though she's never run statewide before. (In Maine, the attorney general is selected by the legislature.) Pingree has represented the southern half of the state in Congress since 2009, and if she runs, she'd start with plenty of name recognition and connections. Pingree's 1st Congressional District, which includes Portland, backed Obama 60-38 and Clinton 54-39, and Team Blue would be favored to hold it without her. On the GOP side, businessman Shawn Moody, who owns several auto body and repair shops in the state, announced he was running on Tuesday. Moody ran for governor in 2010 as an independent and took fourth place with 5 percent of the vote. But despite that inauspicious performance, some key members of GOP Gov. Paul LePage's campaign team are backing Moody. Notably, Moody’s campaign has signed on Lauren LePage, the termed-out governor's daughter and sometimes spokesperson, and political advisor Brent Littlefield. The governor himself appointed his former rival to serve as a trustee for both the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System after the 2010 election. LePage so far has not taken sides in the GOP primary, though WCSH's Don Carrigan says there's speculation that he'll back Moody. A few other Republican candidates are also LePage allies, most notably ex-state Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew and state House Minority Leader Ken Fredette. State Senate Majority Leader Garrett Mason, who is close to the state's conservative Evangelical political network, and state Senate President Mike Thibodeau, who has come into conflict with LePage, are also in for Team Red. [...]



Cartoon: offline and chill

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 13:01:24 +0000

Follow me on Twitter at @MattBors or like my Facebook page.

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Cheers and Jeers: Wednesday

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:48:07 +0000

Hispanic Federation Fund for Puerto Rico Relief Link

-

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE

Pre-gobble gobble preparations

No pardon for this one:

-

Wherever your travels take you over the holidays---whether by plane, train, automobile, blimp, or a twisted-up blunt on your living room couch---have a safe and stuffy-facey one. In fact, go ahead...take the rest of the day off.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold...[Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

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Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Tax scam, Roy Moore and the Congressional deluge to come

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:31:30 +0000

NBC:

"Obviously, I would never vote for Doug Jones," the Democratic candidate in the race, Curtiss said in a telephone interview with NBC News. "At this point, I would probably not even go to vote on Dec. 12."

That's not a position she ever thought she'd find herself in — and it's not a comfortable one.

"I've never felt the inner turmoil I feel over this," she said. "At some point, decency comes before politics."

It’s not that Rs will vote for Doug Jones, it’s that they stay home. That’s the dynamic to watch for. 

x
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Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 12:01:52 +0000

Happy Day Before Thanksgiving! I hope you’re not in traffic somewhere! We’re not. We’re right here, bringing you today’s show. After which, we’ll stay right where we are, and bring you tomorrow’s. Dotard J. Trump hit the road—by which we mean the road to the airport, on his way to still more vacation—but not before pausing to endorse the child molester in the Alabama Senate race. Which, of course, we all knew he would. Still, it’s sad to see it happen. Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET! Podcasts! Am I right, people? Ha ha! I know, right! Well, screw all of those other ones! This one has Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando. Plus also, me. And you! Yes! You know how things are, these days. If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. Sit down with your smart phone or other electronic recording device and send us your stories and commentary to share with the audience. There’s no easier way to try your hand at podcasting, without all the hassle! Of course, even if you do do things yourself, the modern condition is the same everywhere: We need money to do it. Create the media you’ve always wanted! Join us with monthly donations via Patreon, or one-time contributions via Square Cash. Not sure yet whether we’re really the greatest thing since sliced bread? Check out our last LIVE show and see for yourself: x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash What are you thankful for? Some days you really have to search for something, but today David Waldman has an easy choice. Ben Spielberg, co-founder of 34justice joined Armando on KITM for an hour-long discussion of the controversial DNC Unity Commission and the proposed reforms going into 2020. The conversation touched on caucuses vs. primaries, binding vs. non binding vs open vs closed vs firehouse caucuses, but the focus was on increasing democracy, fairness and representation, at least on our side of things. Al Franken had only one responsibility to concentrate upon at the Minnesota State Fair, but lapsed, again, allegedly. Charlie Rose lapsed every which way, and seemingly often. Alabama “Young Republicans” (18 to 40 year olds, so they aren’t Roy Moore’s kind of “young”) are deserting him. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster mocked President Trump’s intelligence—how hard can that be? Ezra Cohen-Watnick, removed from his National Security Council post by McMaster, is now working at Oracle, a popular hangout for like minds. Meanwhile, the Republicans work on passing the opposite of tax reform bill, and Russian bots work to take over the world. A police suspect kept quoting whole sections of Trump’s upcoming State of the Union speech until interrogators had to evacuate the room. (Thanks to Scott Anderson for the show summary! Please help me pay him more!) Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold. [...]



Open thread for night owls: Barbara Lee's war on war

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 04:01:45 +0000

Matthew Cunningham-Cook at In These Times writes—Barbara Lee’s War on War. Washington’s voice of conscience since 9/11: CONGRESSIONAL NEGOTIATIONS OVER THE PENTAGON’S ANNUAL BUDGET ARE USUALLY A STAID AFFAIR, with much of the focus on lawmakers’ favored pork projects. But on June 29, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) won nearly unanimous support on the appropriations committee for her measure to sunset the post-9/11 authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF, essentially a blank check for American wars. Though Paul Ryan stripped the measure from the bill later in the summer, Lee singlehandedly launched a debate on the issue in Congress, with Republicans and Democrats alike asking whether the president should have this power. Lee’s success also comes as a vindication; she was the only member of Congress to vote against the AUMF. “September 11 changed the world,” she said at the time. “Our deepest fears now haunt us. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Boondocks cartoonist Aaron McGruder paraphrased Lee’s speech this way: “You people are being intensely stupid right now. Please stop.” To date, the passage of that resolution has left more than 100,000 dead in Afghanistan, including more than 30,000 civilians and over 2,000 U.S. soldiers. Since 2001, the AUMF has been used to justify at least 37 military actions in at least 16 countries, including ongoing campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Niger and Yemen. But the landscape has changed enormously since the House voted 420-1 to approve the AUMF. Lee’s protest of Ryan’s decision to excise her AUMF sunset language was retweeted 18,000 times. The 10-term congresswoman has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity as an outspoken voice on racial justice and war and peace. Lee, who got her political education in the Black Panther Party, channels long-suppressed, now-emergent forces in American life: a bipartisan war-weariness and a restiveness among people of color, principally Black folks, organizing and speaking out against police violence and mass incarceration. [...] • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “Everyone I have spoken with about working with the Russians in space exploration believes that the United States has learned a great deal from Russia and that Russia has learned a great deal from the United States—and that the entire international space partnership is much better because of it.”                 ~Ron Garan, The Orbital Perspective: Lessons in Seeing the Big Picture from a Journey of 71 Million Miles (2015) TWEET OF THE DAY x20 states now take away the drivers licenses of people who fall behind in their student loan payments— a measure no doubt designed to ease the transition from debtor to fugitive.— Barbara Ehrenreich (@B_Ehrenreich) November 19, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST On this date at Daily Kos in 2009—GOP health care derangement syndrome: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Government takeover! Destroying America! The end of the world as we know it! Yes, we've heard it all before. But did you know how many times, and for how long? The fact is that the Republican Party told teabaggers' grandmas (of "death panel" fame) that Social Security was going to be the end of America. And today you can't swing a euthanized cat without hitting a Republican at a microphone insisting he's Social Security's greatest champion. Republicans likewise told teab[...]



Those dark streaks cascading down the Martian landscape may not be caused by flowing water after all

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:20:25 +0000

If you’re among the many who did somersaults in 2015 when NASA announced it had found “the best evidence yet” for water flowing on the surface of Mars, you’ll probably want to sit down. 

On Monday, a team of researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey published a study that suggests dark streaks spotted on the steep slopes of Mars probably aren’t moist patches that could harbor microbial life, but instead are left behind by flowing sand or dust.

The finding comes as a disappointment to scientists who had pointed to the “recurring slope lineae,” as they’re known, as a strong indicator for liquid water below the planet’s surface.

“This new understanding . . . supports other evidence that shows that Mars today is very dry,” lead author Colin Dundas said in a news release.

The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, is based on observations made by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera. The new work rolls back earlier findings that the dark streaks were likely caused by liquid salty water that flowed when the seasons and temperatures were just right. U.S.G.S. scientists were joined in making the new analysis by researchers from the Planetary Science Institute, the University of Arizona, and Durham University in England.

"We've shown that RSL are likely granular flows, which changes our assessment of what they mean for flowing liquid water on Mars and points to formation processes with little or no liquid," wrote Dundas in an email.
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Alabama newspapers won't back down to Roy Moore's legal threats: 'will not be silenced or slowed'

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:09:26 +0000

The Alabama Media Group has committed the cardinal sin (in Republican eyes) of doing serious reporting on Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s history of pursuing teenage girls, and that has Moore and his lawyers all worked up. Trent Garmon, Moore's dog-whistling attorney, has repeatedly threatened AMG and its AL.com website with lawsuits, due to—allegedly—“false news and/or careless reporting.” And in these times of too easily intimidated media, AMG’s response is worth a big cheer:

“AL.com hereby rejects your demand. AL.com stands by its reporting regarding all of the matters addressed in your letter,” Thompson wrote to Moore legal representative Trenton Garmon. The letter was sent a day after the publisher issued a public statement saying they “will not be silenced or slowed” by Moore’s intimidation tactics. [...]

“AL.com and our newspapers stand firm in our resolve to accurately report the news in Alabama despite Roy Moore camp’s threats to scare or silence us,” Michelle Holmes, vice president of content at AMG, said in an email Monday.

AMG’s newspapers have endorsed Democrat Doug Jones:

“Stand for Decency, Reject Roy Moore,” read the headline for the editorial, which over the weekend led the front pages of The Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register and The Huntsville Times, three of the state’s largest newspapers that are all owned by AMG.

“Alabamians must show themselves to be people of principle, reject Roy Moore and all that he stands for,” the editorial board wrote. “There is only one candidate left in this race who has proven worthy of the task of representing Alabama. He is Doug Jones.”

Like they said: Stand for decency. Can you stand for decency by chipping in $3 to help Doug Jones defeat Roy Moore?

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If you want to work for the Trump administration, it helps to have family that already does

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 02:31:10 +0000

Of all of Team Trump's actions in office, their predilection for hiring on husbands and wives and sons and daughters and cousins and what-have-you is probably the least surprising.

A Daily Beast examination of public records reveals that there are at least 20 families, joined by either blood or marriage, in which multiple members hold some federal post or appointment. They include the families of some of Trump’s most prominent campaign supporters and agency officials, including one cabinet officer. The posts range from senior White House staff to more ceremonial and advisory positions.

As one key example, the Beast uses the DeVos family. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, her husband, and her sister-in-law all landed their own posts; brother Erik Prince also is able to catch the president's ear. The same story exists throughout the Trump administration, because the word of the day is nepotism.

But this is not terribly surprising, right? From the outset, Donald Trump claimed he would staff the government with "all the best people." But Donald Trump doesn't know the best people. Donald Trump has rarely if ever been in the same zip code as the best people; the best people have avoided Donald Trump all his life. Donald Trump knows wealthy assholes. Donald Trump knows sycophants. That's it.

If Jared Kushner had not married into the Trump family, he would be lucky to be able to visit the White House as part of a tour group. If name-any-particular-member-of-the-administration was not either personally very rich or the longtime policy servant of someone who is very rich, they would not be there. The Trump administration is staffed by people Donald has met at his club, who themselves hired on the people they met at their own clubs, and so forth. It's a big, happy family of folks who have achieved personal success and who, therefore, presume themselves to be geniuses.

Of course they're only going to hire family members and other rich people. If they set out to hire qualified, experienced, and knowledgable subordinates, how would they even know how to find them?

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New analysis: Republican tax cut plan will leave us $1.3 trillion in the hole

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:19:50 +0000

Republicans insist that their massive tax giveaway to the wealthy will spur so much growth, the middle class won't even notice they're being royally screwed. But a third group, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, has stepped up to say there’s no way this plan will pay for itself. The Tax Policy Center found that the economic growth the bill would create would add $169 billion in additional tax revenue over the next decade. But that would be far outweighed by $1.436 trillion in revenue losses over the decade due to the bill's tax cuts, leaving the bill with a net addition to the deficit of $1.266 trillion. The Tax Policy Center found that the House Republican tax-cut package would add 0.6 percent to U.S. gross domestic product in 2018 but just 0.3 percent in 2027. […] "These economic benefits would be modest because most tax reductions would accrue to high-income households, who spend a smaller share of any increases in after-tax income than lower-income households," the Tax Policy Center said. This is the third analysis to blow a hole in the Republicans’ talk of massive growth. The Penn Wharton Budget Model at the University of Pennsylvania found that it would leave a "loss in revenue of between $1.470 trillion and $1.697 trillion" and the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank Republicans love, says it will add $1 trillion to the national debt. Which leads to a really great point from Gene Sperling, former director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy under Presidents Clinton and Obama. xImagine: GOP allows deficit increase of $1.5 trillion and yet Senate plan will raise taxes on 50% of households when fully implemented. How beholden must you be to be top 1% & major companies to blow $1.5T hole in deficit & still raise taxes on half of US households? https://t.co/jTlVwyeywx— Gene Sperling (@genebsperling) November 21, 2017 How beholden to the super rich, indeed. Jam your senators' phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote "no" on the Republican tax bill. [...]



Alaska: Lisa Murkowski is lying to you about tax cuts and Obamacare

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:54:47 +0000

Sen. Lisa Murkowski won't be coming to the rescue of the Affordable Care Act this time around, she tells Alaskan voters in an op-ed in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner. I have always supported the freedom to choose. I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed. That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception and also why I cosponsored a bill to repeal the individual mandate tax penalty starting as early as 2013. And that is why I support the repeal of that tax today. She goes on to talk about the effects of Obamacare in Alaska (with some significant factual errors that Charles Gaba is totally on) and then tells her readers: Repealing the individual mandate simply restores to people the freedom to choose. Nothing else about the structure of the ACA would be changed. If you currently get tax credits to help pay for your insurance, you could still receive those credits if you choose to buy an exchange plan. If you are enrolled on Medicaid or received coverage under Medicaid expansion, you could still be enrolled if you choose to be. The only difference would be is if you choose to not buy health insurance, the government would not levy a tax on you. She states her one demand that her tax cut vote may or may not hinge on: "I strongly support enacting the bipartisan compromise Alexander/Murray legislation into law as fast as possible to stabilize our markets, provide more control to states and more choices to individuals." So now we know she's definitely going to support the tax plan, and is looking for cover, as she  hinted last week. So there are a lot of problems with this argument. The first is that repealing the mandate won't do anything to the structure of the ACA. That's simply a lie. It will cause healthy people to leave the markets. It will mean insurers have to raise premium costs to cover the sick people who remain. It will cause a price spiral which will force more and more people out of the markets. That's why the CBO says 13 million people will lose their insurance under the plan. And here's the kicker, which Murkowski has persistently ignored: Alexander-Murray, which restores cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, cannot undo the harm from mandate repeal. It would help insurers out, sure, and slightly reduce premium costs for one tier of plans—the silver plan that the CSR payments apply to—but all the other plans would have premium increases. And particularly large increases—like an annual increase of $2,900—in Alaska. Oh, yeah, and it would force a $32 million reduction in Medicare, just in Alaska, just in the first year. Murkowski wants that massive tax cut for the wealthy, just like every other Republican. She's willing to lie to her constituents to get it. Don't let her get away with it. Jam your senators' phone lines at (202) 224-3121. Tell them to vote "no" on the Republican tax bill. [...]



Nevada asks for emergency funds for children's health, 52 days after Republicans let it expire

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:13:55 +0000

Campaign Action Congressional Republicans are back home gearing up for Thanksgiving celebrations and their eventual return to D.C., where they will attempt to push through their massive tax breaks for the rich. While they're enjoying themselves, millions of families are wondering if their kids will have access to health care next year, and state officials are in a panic. Because while Republicans have been focused on those tax cuts, they've shoved aside the children. Nevada has requested an extra $11.3 million in federal funding to continue the state's Children’s Health Insurance Program while Congress decides if it will renew funding for the decades-old program. If the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approves the state’s request, it will keep the Nevada Check Up program running through February, according to Chrystal Main, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. Without it, the state will run out of funding by the end of the year, and families will need to find health coverage elsewhere. "Nevada Medicaid continues to be hopeful that action will be taken on a more permanent solution before then," Main said via email Monday. There's no indication yet that the Republican Congress cares enough to do that. The House passed a bill that leadership knew would be rejected by the Senate, one that had poison pills for Medicare and public health programs—stealing the funding from those programs to pay for CHIP. Then Sen. Orrin Hatch  of Utah, who is the Finance Committee chair, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned their focus to the tax cuts bill, rather than getting the CHIP bill to the floor and passed. The Senate bill is clean, and doesn't have the poison included in the House bill. But that doesn't mean Hatch will insist on his bill. It's becoming more and more clear that the Republicans' plan is to try to force Democrats to swallow the bad bill as part their end-of-the-year continuing resolution that will keep government running. Waiting until just before the Christmas break, though, means states are going to have to send letters out to all those parents who depend on CHIP telling them that they might be losing funding. That's not a holiday greeting anyone should be getting. Jam the phone lines of House and Senate Republicans. Call (202) 224-3121, and tell them to stop holding kids hostage and to pass a clean funding bill for CHIP and community health centers. [...]



Trump's Office of Science and Technology is an office ... it just doesn't have any people

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:36:54 +0000

Not every ghost town is found in the high deserts of the West. As CBS reports, you can find a few without leaving Washington, D.C.

In its 41-year-old history as the White House hub of innovation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has never gone this long without a leader or official mandate. The science office, which takes up half of the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, has a fleet of empty desks.

Of course, it’s easy to think of many reasons why Trump might be leaving those desks open. He’s been slow to nominate people in many areas and he’s often convinced his giant brain needs no assistance. Trump knows how to tweet. What else is technology good for anyway? 

And of course, there’s another factor.

The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.

Trump has been on a purge of actual scientists throughout the government. In addition to purging the EPA science boards of anyone who can describe the atomic theory of matter, science offices from the FDA to the DOE have been staffed with non scientists. Trump didn’t even invite America’s Nobel prize winners to the White House. 

It’s probably better that Trump doesn’t have a fully staffed-up OSTP. Considering the reports coming out from other departments, it would likely be talking about coal is an important part of a balanced diet.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announces plan to sell out net neutrality protections to big telecom

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:34:27 +0000

As promised, Ajit Pai, the new far-right chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has taken the first action that will put the internet entirely in the hands of internet service providers, ending net neutrality protections for, well, everybody who uses the internet. In a release, Pai said his proposal would prevent the government from "micromanaging the Internet." In place of the existing rules, he added, the FCC would "simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices." The proposal would also shift some enforcement responsibility to the Federal Trade Commission, which can sue companies whose actions do not reflect the commitments or statements they have made to the public. Because we all know how transparent Comcast and Verizon are, right? The providers couldn't be more thrilled, but since they probably wrote the new proposed rules, they aren't surprised. Says Verizon, "We're very encouraged by Chairman Pai's announcement today that the FCC will move forward next month to restore the successful light-touch regulatory framework for internet services." For "light touch" read "nonexistent." If the full commission decides to adopt this order at its next meeting on Dec. 14, it means that there will be no more enforcement of the net neutrality protections—no blocking, no throttling, and no "fast lanes"—in the existing open internet order millions of us fought to achieve. The internet will be classified as a mere "information service," and the only enforcement the FTC can provide would be slaps on the wrist for violations of truth in advertising claims from the providers. Well, they'll have to go through millions of us to do it again. Sure, Pai can keep trying to cook the books to make it look like astroturf anti-net neutrality comments are real, the telecoms would never violate net neutrality, the U.S. has the best internet ever, and millions of comments in support of net neutrality were really made by hackers. We know better. So now we're going to have to take our fight to the Republican Congress. They're going to have to know that when the internet is ruined, we're going to be taking it out on them, and we're going to do it at the polls in 2018. Time is running out before Trump's FCC and Big Cable destroy net neutrality—but we can still stop them. Tell congress to oppose Trump FCC's plan to destroy net neutrality and the open internet [...]



Obamacare enrollments are still surging, but time is short

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:19:59 +0000

Campaign Action Things are looking very good for the first few weeks of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act—better than any previous year, by far. About 300,000 more people signed up in the first two weeks this year than did last year, which in turn had more enrollments than the previous two years. But here's the problem: one of the most effective of Trump's sabotage efforts was lopping weeks off of the enrollment period. That means it ends in three weeks, on December 15, whereas it extended into January in previous years. Because the Trump administration cut the enrollment period in half this year, to 45 days from three months, weekly sign-ups would need to double to match the number of sign-ups in previous years. The deadline to sign up this year is Dec. 15 in most states. Last enrollment period, it was Jan. 31. There are usually two spikes during the enrollment period: one in the middle and one near the end. The first spike is from people signing up before the end of the calendar year in order to get coverage that starts on Jan. 1. It's the second spike that's going to be the problem, the one at the end. That's when a larger share of the enrollees are younger and healthier, and much more receptive to television ads reminding them that open enrollment will be ending soon. These are the people who help keep the markets stable. And this year, the Trump administration will not be running those ads reminding people to sign up. So they've got six weeks less to find out about and sign up for Obamacare. Which means that many of them won't be signing up. The last surge of enrollments we've seen in previous years almost certainly won't be there. That makes the job of the grassroots in getting the word out all the more critical. If you can help, please do. It's easy to join an Open Enrollment Team! Click here to sign up now. Can't volunteer at this time? Click here to share info about open enrollment on Facebook. [...]



Cartoon: Steve Earle

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:51:15 +0000

Get your 2018 Calendar here!!

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The GOP tax heist: Looting 50 percent of Americans to line the pockets of the top 1 percent

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 18:15:08 +0000

The more daylight the GOP’s tax plan sees, the more it stinks to high heaven. The takeaway from the latest analysis of the Senate bill shows that it will actually raise taxes on about one-half of Americans when all is said and done. The Washington Post writes:

Here is the key takeaway from the new analysis, which is the work of the Tax Policy Center: By 2027, around 50 percent of taxpayers will see a tax hike. The whole purpose of this tax increase is to make it possible for Senate Republicans to pass a tax cut that overwhelmingly benefits the very wealthiest taxpayers — on party lines, without any Democrats.

What the Senate tax bill does is frontload the benefits to middle- and low-income Americans, shrinking them steadily over time until they entirely disappear and, in most cases, are replaced by a hike. Check out what happens by 2027, once the Senate plan is fully implemented: Most low- and middle-income Americans will see a tax increase, but fully 83 percent of the top 1 percent and 98 percent of the top .1 percent will get a cut.

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Mueller's interview with Hope Hicks may signal he's closing in on the target

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:55:39 +0000

If Business Insider is right, Trump’s lawyer may be more accurate than anyone knew when he said Mueller was getting close to wrapping up his investigation.

Campaign Action

A report from Politico this week, which found that the special counsel Robert Mueller is gearing up to interview the White House communications director, Hope Hicks, indicates that one of the many threads of the Russia investigation is probably moving into its final stages.

Why would interviewing Hicks show that the investigation—or at least, one part of the investigation—was about to cross the finish line?

"Any time you can get someone who is the right-hand person or who's been around the primary target of an investigation, under oath, answering detailed questions, means you've progressed very far along in the investigation," Goldberg told Politico.

Hicks has served not just as a press secretary and surrogate for Trump during the campaign, she’s been his personal email “firewall.” When someone wants an email to reach Trump, without leaving behind that nasty evidence that it reached Trump, they forward it to Hicks. That’s put her in the room for many of Trump’s big decisions—and also, as David Corn would like to remind Mueller, made her part of the cover-up.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly aiming to interview the White House communications director as part of the Trump-Russia investigation. When he and his team of lawyers do so, they presumably will be mindful that the 29-year-old Hicks told one of the biggest whoppers of the 2016 campaign.

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Trump supporters know racism is wrong but are happy to support racism. Sadly, this isn't new

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:10:23 +0000

There is no one reason that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election. Actually, we know that she really didn’t lose at all since she received millions more votes than her opponent. But we also know that, despite these numbers, she is not the one in residence at the White House.

At any rate, there are lots of theories as to why this is so and many of them have merit: Russian interference, a flawed candidate to begin with, poor data and bad decisions about where to campaign, underestimations of the white working class’ anger, and “economic anxiety” are among them. 

And racism.

While we can (and probably will) spend years debating whether or not all Trump voters are racist, it is clear that at the very least, racism wasn’t a deal-breaker for them. And, not surprisingly, many of them don’t even specifically see the Trump agenda as inherently racist. 

Adam Serwer of The Atlantic spoke to Trump voters in order to understand their support of him. He says that, regardless of their own claims of being anti-racist, many Trump supporters are following an old playbook when it comes to saying that racism is bad but backing a candidate that supports racist ideas and policies.

The specific dissonance of Trumpism—advocacy for discriminatory, even cruel, policies combined with vehement denials that such policies are racially motivated—provides the emotional core of its appeal. It is the most recent manifestation of a contradiction as old as the United States, a society founded by slaveholders on the principle that all men are created equal. [...]

These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.

Here’s what’s really fascinating in Serwer’s report: among the people he talked to, there is a clear awareness that to be accused of being a racist is to risk being shunned in American society. So to that end, people most certainly do not want to be identified as racist. And because of their blind, unwavering loyalty to him, they also do not identify Trump’s positions as racist. But they clearly have support for all kinds of racist ideologies and things that would punish non-whites and immigrants—like Muslim bans, stop-and-frisk policies, and immigration enforcement targeting anyone undocumented, even if they are students. 

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Trump endorses Roy Moore: A pedophile is better than 'a liberal Democrat'

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:53:10 +0000

Forget about letting Alabama voters decide their Senate race, Donald Trump threw all that crap out the window Tuesday when he told reporters at the White House, "We don’t need a liberal Democrat in that seat.”

Here's Trump’s response to being asked, “What is your message to women, sir, at this pivotal moment in our country where we are talking about sexual misconduct...”

“Roy Moore denies it— that’s all I can say.”

In fact, "He totally denies it."

And later, "He says he didn't do it, so I believe him."

x

Did anyone ever believe a sexual assaulter like Donald Trump would undercut a sexual predator like Roy Moore?

No, and now we have the definitive answers. Birds of a feather...

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Sessions wants to financially reward police departments that turn in undocumented immigrants

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:14:25 +0000

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s hatred of black and brown people has no bottom, which is why the Department of Justice is now prepared to bribe local police departments to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal immigration agents. There’s evil, and then there’s this fucking guy:

The Justice Department announced on Monday it will award more than $98 million to local police departments, giving preferential treatment to 80% of the recipients because they'd agreed to let federal immigration officers inside local jails and notify federal authorities about undocumented immigrants in local custody.

The grants are part of a broader effort by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reward cities that cooperate with the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration, while threatening to block standard-issue crime-fighting grants from dozens of jurisdictions that may have adopted sanctuary policies.

The overwhelming majority of local police departments were picked because they indicated in their applications that they’d be willing to collude with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and at the expense of public safety. Research has shown that so-called “sanctuary city” policies make communities safer, because immigrants are less afraid to report crime to police:

By contrast, the same grant program under the Obama administration gave a leg up to police departments in 2016 that were “building trust” within their communities, based on standards set out in Obama’s 21st Century Policing plan, which sought to promote transparency and diversity among police, and switch to a “guardian” culture instead of “warrior culture of policing.” Applicants in 2016 also earned points for engaging in school-based policing, homicide or violent crime, and homeland security.

Hmm, that sounds like engaging in public dialogue with brown and black communities, and America’s most racist Keebler elf can’t have that shit.

ICE has already been targeting “sanctuary cities” in order to sweep up mothers and fathers, many with no criminal record. For Sessions, it’s never been about public safety: it’s been about making life for immigrants as hellish as possible. Now he’s prepared to bribe his way into even more deportations.

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Midday open thread: Free birth control in Mass.; Mugabe quits; seas may riser faster than thought

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 20:01:47 +0000

Today’s comic by Jen Sorensen is Authoritarian funnies, mass arrests edition:  • Scientists believe sea levels may rise more quickly than they believed previously: The prospect of “ice-cliff instability” being a factor in melting of glaciers in Antarctica has been raised, which makes the Nature headline from last year even scarier—“Antarctic model raises prospect of unstoppable ice collapse.” Unstoppable, as in the melting of gigantic glaciers that would greatly and relatively quickly raise sea levels, quickly as in the end of this century. For 25 years scientific predictions in ongoing reports of how fast the ice will melt have been conservative. If that’s still the case, it means some adults today could live to see catastrophic sea level increases: Three feet of sea-level rise would be bad, leading to more frequent flooding of U.S. cities such as New Orleans, Houston, New York, and Miami. Pacific Island nations, like the Marshall Islands, would lose most of their territory. Unfortunately, it now seems like three feet is possible only under the rosiest of scenarios. At six feet, though, around 12 million people in the United States would be displaced, and the world’s most vulnerable megacities, like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Ho Chi Minh City, could be wiped off the map. At 11 feet, land currently inhabited by hundreds of millions of people worldwide would wind up underwater. South Florida would be largely uninhabitable; floods on the scale of Hurricane Sandy would strike twice a month in New York and New Jersey, as the tug of the moon alone would be enough to send tidewaters into homes and buildings. But 11 feet is nothing compared with the rise of nearly 50 feet scientists predict could be the case by 2500. • He held out until even Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe could see he had to resign. And he has. • Prominent sexual predators now have their very own Celebrity Perv Apology Generator. Here’s a sample: As a person who was born in an era before women were “people,” my actions do not align with my values, nor represent who I am as a person. I comforted myself by saying that at least I asked before I “honked” her boobs and demanded she watch me shower, and of course now I realize my behavior was wrong. In conclusion, I will wait 2-3 years before reappearing in film and TV and just sort of hope you all forget about this. • Kicking Hannity in the haunches: • Bloomberg TV and PBS suspend Charlie Rose over sexual harassment accusations by 8 women. And CBS fires him: In a statement, Rose offered a defensive nopology on Monday, which concluded: “It is essential that these women know I hear them and that I deeply apologize for my inappropriate behavior. I am greatly embarrassed. I have behaved insensitively at times, and I accept responsibility for that, though I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate. I always felt that I was pursuing shared feelings, even though I now realize I was mistaken.” • Massachusetts Republican governor makes his state first to ensure free birth control: Governor Charlie Baker (R) signed the bipartisan bill Monday evening, after it nearly unanimously passed in the state l[...]



Trump's top pick to run the 2020 census: The author of 'Competitive Elections Are Bad for America'

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:31:17 +0000

Republicanism: the art of selecting the worst possible person for every job.

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Because what America really needs is, of course, more elections in which one side or the other will always win, in all circumstances, even if one side decides to pick a criminal or a pedophile, and voters needn't bother even showing up.

The pick would break with the long-standing precedent of choosing a nonpolitical government official as deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau. The job has typically been held by a career civil servant with a background in statistics. It does not require Senate confirmation, so Congress would have no power to block the hire.

This is after Brunell was floated to be the census director, but the idea was panned in the Senate for the whole grossly-unqualified-devoted-partisan business. (And consider, for a moment, what it takes to be considered unqualified or too partisan for this Republican Senate.)

Why would an advocate for redistricting and non-competitive elections be appointed to run the 2020 census? What possible qualification is that for counting up America's citizens and reporting the numbers back? Why the insistence on stuffing this fellow into the census gears regardless of what the Senate itself thinks?

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Trump's tweets show a concerted attempt to undermine the Russia investigation, reinforce obstruction

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:00:56 +0000

Donald Trump’s frequent tweets in which he denies any connection to Russia on his part, and pressing for investigations into supposed ties between Russia and Democratic politicians, and according to USA Today they also contribute to charges that he’s trying to obstruct justice.

President Trump's Twitter habit may become a legal liability for him, as his latest tweets about the Russia investigation could help build a potential case against him for obstruction of justice or witness intimidation, legal experts say.

Trump has repeatedly used his Twitter account to not only deny any connection to Russia on his account and on the part of his campaign, he’s used it to belittle witnesses such as George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, to attack both former CIA director James Comey and current special counsel Robert Mueller, and to pressure both Congress and the Justice Department to investigate accusations against Hillary Clinton.

All of that adds considerable weight to possible charges of obstruction.

Trump's tweets about indictments in the Russia probe "could be used to further support a case against him for obstruction of justice," said Barry Berke, a partner at the New York law firm of Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel. ...

"To the extent the president’s tweets regarding the indictment of Manafort and Gates or the cooperation of Papadopoulos are knowingly false and intended to mislead investigators, influence the testimony of others or cover up what actually occurred, that could support an obstruction of justice case," Berke said.

Across his history of civil suits—up to and including the action that ultimately resulting in Trump paying a $25 million settlement over Trump University—Donald Trump has been vocal in his disdain for judges and the legal process. However, that attitude may not play so well with Mueller.

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Trump administration to end humanitarian protections for 50,000 Haitians by July 2019

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 17:26:45 +0000

Campaign Action Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Elaine Duke announced the end of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 50,000 Haitians in the United States, giving them until July 2019 to either find a way to adjust their immigration status or leave. The program was established under President George H.W. Bush for “immigrants who cannot return to their homes due to violence, natural disasters, or other conditions,” and advocates have repeatedly stated that conditions in Haiti have not yet improved enough to justify the return of tens of thousands of TPS recipients. They were ignored: “Haiti is not ready to absorb 58,000,” said Marleine Bastien, a South Florida Haitian activist who has pushed for at least an 18-month extension of TPS. “It’s going to be a disaster for the 58,000 families in the U.S. and a disaster for Haiti. Clearly they are not making decisions based on facts on the ground, but rather politics. This is purely unacceptable.” Members of Congress from South Florida reacted with dismay. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, called the decision “unconscionable,” urging the administration to reconsider. U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat, both vowed to look for legislative solutions. “This is a cruel decision, and a stupid decision,” said America’s Voice executive director Frank Sharry. “It's cruel to the tens of thousands of Haitians who work in critical industries, care for U.S. citizen children and contribute so much to the country that has welcomed them. It's a stupid decision because if 50,000 Haitians are forced to return to Haiti in 18 months, it would further destabilize a nation wracked by natural disasters and epidemics.” “The administration’s agenda is clear,” tweeted United We Dream co-founder and immigrant rights leader Cristina Jimenez. “Deport immigrant communities of color in mass. Another assault to people of color right before Thanksgiving. Congress must act by passing legislation this year.” [...]



Moore's sex scandal metastasizes into GOP candidacies nationwide

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 01:39:44 +0000

Alabama Republicans have placed GOP candidates across the country in a disastrous political situation by refusing to oust pedophile Roy Moore as their Senate candidate. Already, Republicans are being forced to choose between the Mitch McConnell and Steve Bannon wings of the GOP, but with no surefire way of avoiding becoming collateral damage themselves.

Choosing the Bannon side of the fight and backing Moore might well result in sacrificing another GOP voting bloc: suburban whites. The once-dependable demographic already appears to be repulsed by another sexual predator in the party, Donald Trump, if Virginia's voting patterns presage a nationwide shift. On the other hand, distancing themselves from Moore might bring a backlash from Trump’s fiery base supporters.

Democrats are already pushing the dilemma on candidates they're likely to face in next year's elections, including Senate hopefuls Josh Mandel of Ohio, Corey Stewart of Virginia, and Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona; along with GOP congressmen running for re-election such as Indiana’s Todd Rokita and California’s Darrell Issa; and even GOP gubernatorial candidates such as South Carolina’s Catherine Templeton, who declined to pressure Moore to drop out of the race. All of them have been pressed to take sides on the Moore issue. Politico writes:

"You can say we didn't respond," a Mandel spokeswoman initially told The Associated Press.

By Thursday, Mandel had come to a decision. “I agree with @IvankaTrump. If these allegations are true, Roy Moore must step down,” he wrote on Twitter. 

In Virginia and Texas, Democratic candidates are using Moore's toxicity to raise money for their campaigns.

Will you help compound the GOP’s Moore headache by contributing $3 to our slate of endorsed candidates? Every penny counts toward a Democratic wave!

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Michigan governor sets up public health council—then appoints woman responsible for Flint to lead it

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 16:54:35 +0000

It’s hard to imagine the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, being handled any worse that it already has been. But, sadly, it does get worse. More than three years after officials decided to save money by getting lead-tainted water from the Flint River, we are still learning about the impact of contaminated water on the city’s residents. A number of people have already died from an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease, and we now know that fetal deaths increased by more than 50 percent and fewer children were born than in previous years.  While several city officials have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, obstruction of justice, and misconduct, justice has been ridiculously slow. Adding to the situation is Republican Gov. Rick Snyder who just can’t seem to do right. On Monday, Snyder created a new public health council to improve how the state prepares for and responds to public health emergencies—like the water crisis in Flint. Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday created a new Public Health Advisory Council by issuing an executive order. "The Public Health Advisory Commission laid the groundwork for a more responsive and cohesive public health system in Michigan. The new council will continue this important task by turning recommendations into actions and improving the state's response to public health threats," Snyder said in a press release. Sounds good, right? This would be one thing the state can do to make sure what happened in Flint never happens again. Except there’s one small problem. Look at who has been placed in charge of leading the council: The council will be lead by Eden Wells, the state's chief medical executive. Wells is currently facing criminal charges as part of Attorney General Bill Schuette's probe into the Flint water crisis. Wells said in a statement, "The creation of this new Public Health Advisory Council is a vital step forward for Michigan in preparing for and responding to emerging public health issues." Hello? How on earth does this make sense to anyone? Wells has been charged with obstruction of justice and lying to a peace officer in terms of what she knew about the water crisis. Prosecutors say that she even threatened researchers who were trying to looking into what caused the Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak. [...]



New Democratic ad turns the words of Roy Moore's own party against him

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 16:14:34 +0000

A new ad from Democratic Alabama Senate candidate Doug Jones uses the statements of sexual predator Roy Moore’s own party against him to make the point that the Republican candidate is just too morally bankrupt to be elected. Perhaps most notably, the ad features the words of the former occupier of that Senate seat, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is one of the most popular politicians in the state.

“Jeff Sessions says, ‘I have no reason to doubt these young women,’” a narrator says. The state’s other GOP senator is also invoked, quoting him as saying he will “absolutely not vote for Roy Moore.”

The narrator continues, “Conservative voices, putting children and women over party, doing what’s right.”

Notably, the ad never asks voters to vote for Doug Jones, it just reminds them what an indefensible act voting for Moore is. If enough GOP voters are so disgusted they stay home or write in another candidate, the defections could be enough to tip the race away from Moore and toward Jones.

Let’s help give Doug Jones all the resources he needs to flip that Alabama Senate seat by donating $3 toward his election. Every penny counts!

Watch the ad below.

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Judge permanently blocks Trump's sanctuary cities order, calling it 'unconstitutional on its face'

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:40:31 +0000

Campaign Action Calling it “unconstitutional on its face,” a federal judge has permanently blocked Donald Trump’s January executive order targeting so-called “sanctuary cities,” which sought to starve localities of federal funding unless they cooperated with his mass deportation force, often in unconstitutional ways: “The counties have demonstrated that the executive order has caused and will cause them constitutional injuries by violating the separation of powers doctrine and depriving them of their Tenth and Fifth Amendment rights,” [U.S. District Judge William] Orrick wrote. The city and county of San Francisco and the county of Santa Clara had argued they could lose billions of dollars in federal funds each year. Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice said the order would apply to only a few grants and would involve far less money, an argument rejected by Orrick, who said it was written broadly in an attempt “to reach all federal grants.” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who filed two lawsuits against the Trump administration, called the decision “a victory for the American people” and said the case was “a check on the president’s abuse of power.” “This executive order was unconstitutional before the ink on it was even dry,” Herrera said. “This president and his administration have been trying to twist facts, stoke fears and demonize immigrants to score cheap political points. The American people are too smart for that.” According to Huffington Post, “Trump’s own words were used against him in Orrick’s ruling, including an instance where the president said he would use the executive order as ‘a weapon’ against jurisdictions that disagreed with his policies.” [...]



State department officials formally accuse Rex Tillerson of violating US law on child soldiers

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 14:48:18 +0000

Under the Obama administration, nations that appeared on such lists as human rights abusers and state sponsors of terror has tended to be based on an idea that now seems odd and outdated—evidence. For Team Trump, these lists are all about the narrative they’re trying to create (with a side order of who has a lot of oil/where would it be neat to have a hotel). But in deliberately altering the list of nations who promote child soldiers, Rex Tillerson appears to have simply violated US law.

A confidential State Department “dissent” memo not previously reported said Tillerson breached the Child Soldiers Prevention Act when he decided in June to exclude Iraq, Myanmar, and Afghanistan from a U.S. list of offenders in the use of child soldiers. This was despite the department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries.

Why did Tillerson do this? Because it makes it easier to slip these countries military aid. Plus, admitting that Iraq and Afghanistan are putting children under arms makes it harder to draw the strict good guys/bad guys line that Tillerson, and Trump, want in the Middle East.

And telling the story they want to tell is more important than the fact that these nations are turning children into cannon fodder.

Documents reviewed by Reuters also show Tillerson’s decision was at odds with a unanimous recommendation by the heads of the State Department’s regional bureaus overseeing embassies in the Middle East and Asia, the U.S. envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the department’s human rights office and its own in-house lawyers. 

It’s another illustration of how “America First” means “people in the rest of the world are disposable.” Even children.

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Roy Moore's own story of meeting his wife tells you what you need to know about Moore and teen girls

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:52:56 +0000

Campaign Action Roy Moore himself has repeatedly told a story that tells us what we need to know about his disgusting pursuit of teenage girls in his early 30s, AL.com’s Kyle Whitmire points out. It’s the story of how Moore met his wife. They met when she was 23 and he was 37, but: "Many years before, I had attended a dance recital at Gadsden State Junior College," Moore wrote. "I remembered one of the special dances performed by a young woman whose first and last names began with the letter 'K.' It was something I had never forgotten. Could that young woman have been Kayla Kisor?" Moore later determined that it was. "Long afterward, I would learn that Kayla had, in fact, performed a special dance routine at Gadsden State years before," he wrote. In a separate interview, Moore has guessed that the dance recital was eight years earlier.  It's a simple matter of subtraction. When Roy Moore first took notice of Kayla she would have been as young as 15. There's a little fuzziness, to be sure, in the timeline. There's the "or something" Moore fudges with in the interview. Eight years before could have been slightly too early to put Moore in Gadsden, he started work as an deputy district attorney there in 1977. So maybe she was 15, or maybe she was 16. But still, here is a grown man at about 30 years old attending a girls' dance recital, and doing what exactly? That was at the very same time, Whitmire points out, that we have so many stories of Moore trolling the mall, hitting on teenage girls working in the stores, asking teenagers out. And there he was, at a dance recital, taking such special notice of one girl that he remembered her years later when they met at a party. Moore plays it as a sweet origin story to his marriage, but it has some seriously dark, gross background. Can you chip in $3 to help Doug Jones become the next U.S. senator from Alabama? [...]



Despite few available details, Trump rushes to exploit death of Border Patrol agent

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 22:12:27 +0000

Few details are publicly known regarding the circumstances of the death of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent Sunday morning, following an incident while on patrol in southwest Texas: Rogelio Martinez, 36, and his partner were responding to activity while on patrol in the Big Bend Sector, which runs along the US-Mexico border, and the partner reported they were both injured, the agency said. The agents were patrolling near Interstate 10, in the Van Horn station area of the sector. Customs officials would not say what type of activity the agents were responding to. Other agents responded, provided medical care and transported both to a local hospital. CBP was later told Martinez had died, and his partner remains hospitalized. It was not clear what injuries they suffered. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman said Martinez was not shot. Federal officials have still not said what kind of injuries the men suffered, or even so much as identified Martinez’s partner by name. “While it was unclear what happened,” the New York Times notes, Donald Trump used the agent’s death to promote his U.S./Mexico border wall. “We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible,” he tweeted. “We will, and must, build the Wall!" xBorder Patrol Officer killed at Southern Border, another badly hurt. We will seek out and bring to justice those responsible. We will, and must, build the Wall!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2017 Trump wasn’t alone. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz both called the incident an “attack,” with the latter saying that "this is a stark reminder of the ongoing threat that an unsecure border poses to the safety of our communities and those charged with defending them.” Both men, however, were silent when CBP detained 10-year-old Rosamaria following emergency surgery. “The F.B.I. was leading the investigation,” the NYT continued, “and a bureau spokeswoman said it planned to release more details about the episode on Monday. ‘We are still working hard putting the facts together,’ the spokeswoman said. ‘It’s a very active, fast-moving investigation.’” Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 · 5:50:55 PM +00:00 · Gabe Ortiz According to an unconfirmed AP report, the Border Patrol agent may fallen to his death: U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation into the death of a border patrol agent said that the surviving agent who radioed in for help doesn't remember what happened. The official, who was briefed on the investigation but is not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Monday that Rogelio Martinez was found at the bottom of a 14-foot culvert and that investigators believe he may have fallen. The official said the incident happened after dark in an area that's known for drug activit[...]



Voters given ballots for wrong district in race that could determine control of Virginia state House

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:11:06 +0000

It's been two weeks since Election Day in Virginia, but there are still a few outstanding state House races where the outcome could determine whether Republicans lose the 51-49 majority they would hold if they won every seat where they currently lead. While recounts are far from uncommon in close races, one close district is facing a potential disaster of epic proportions after election administrators admitted that at least 83 voters were given ballots for the wrong district in a race where Republican Bob Thomas leads Democrat Joshua Cole by just 82 votes. It would be unreasonable to assume all 83 of those voters would have favored Cole if correctly assigned to the Fredericksburg-area 28th District, but it's plausible that Thomas' lead could shrink after a looming recount, meaning this administrative error potentially swung the race. The state board of elections certified the results in all races except the 28th and the adjacent 88th District, where the local elections registrar wrongly assigned those 83 voters, although that latter district's outcome won't change regardless. Complicating matters further, the Republican incumbent who prevailed in the more GOP-leaning 88th was named Mark Cole, which may have introduced additional voter confusion when those 83 Virginians received the wrong ballots. Thus, even if we knew how those 83 voters voted in the 88th, there’s no telling how they would have voted if given the correct ballots in the 28th, especially since Virginia doesn’t have party registration. It's deeply troubling that this sort of administrative error can happen and potentially swing a pivotal election. If the recount indeed lowers Thomas' margin to where these wrong-district votes could have changed the outcome, Democrats' only recourse may be legal action to void the election and hold a new one, which is not without precedent in other states but would depend on the particulars of Virginia state law. Although the board certified the other 98 House races, Republican Del. David Yancey leads Democrat Shelley Simonds by a mere 10 votes in the 94th District. That margin is slim enough that it's quite plausible a recount could change the outcome. If Democrats indeed prevail in the 94th, they would force a 50-50 tie that would necessitate the GOP actually ceding some power and enter an arrangement to share control of the chamber with Democrats. And of course, if Simonds prevails and the wrong-district voters cause the 28th District to have to hold a new election, Democrats would have a shot at taking a 51-49 majority, a result that was practically unthinkable in the run-up to Election Day. [...]



Leaked documents reveal sexual harassment by John Conyers ... and Congress' broken system

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:24:39 +0000

Campaign Action Rep. John Conyers, the Democrat who’s the longest-serving member of Congress, is the latest powerful man revealed to be a sexual harasser. Documents detailing a settlement Conyers reached with a former member of his staff who alleged she was fired for rejecting his sexual advances were leaked to Buzzfeed, and the details are bad. Conyers’ career should be over as a result of these revelations. Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic. [...] In her complaint, the former employee said Conyers repeatedly asked her for sexual favors and often asked her to join him in a hotel room. On one occasion, she alleges that Conyers asked her to work out of his room for the evening, but when she arrived the congressman started talking about his sexual desires. She alleged he then told her she needed to “touch it,” in reference to his penis, or find him a woman who would meet his sexual demands. In one of the affidavits, a male staffer says he confronted Conyers about his behavior, with no success. The case is also a reminder of Congress’ terrible system for handling harassment allegations, a system designed to protect abusers. Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 · 3:47:17 PM +00:00 · Barbara Morrill Well, this is … unexpected: Longtime Michigan Rep. John Conyers has told The Associated Press that he hasn’t settled any sexual harassment complaints with any staff members. Conyers, who answered the door at his Detroit home Tuesday morning, says he knows nothing about any claims of inappropriate touching and learned of the story just hours earlier. Referring to allegations of sexual harassment and assault being made against politicians and others, the veteran lawmaker says he’s “been looking at these things with amazement.” [...]



Morning Digest: Bobby Baker, who helped make Lyndon Johnson the master of the Senate, dies at 89

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 13:01:12 +0000

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar. Leading Off ● Deaths: Bobby Baker, an influential protégé to Lyndon Johnson who helped him amass power in the Senate and may have helped doom his political career if the Kennedy assassination had not happened first, died last week at the age of 89. Baker arrived in the Senate as a page in 1943 at the age of 14, and he quickly acquired a huge and intimate knowledge of every senator. In 1948, Sen.-elect Johnson sought out Baker. Decades later, Baker recounted Johnson telling him, "Mr. Baker, they tell me you're the smartest son of a bitch over there," and Baker responded, "Well, whoever told you that lied. I know all of the staff on our side. I know who the drunks are. And I know whose word is good." Campaign Action And indeed, as historian Robert Caro recounts in great detail in "Master of the Senate" (a book we highly recommend), Baker very quickly proved his worth. In 1950, Johnson was appointed as assistant Democratic leader (now known as whip), which was pretty much a useless position at the time. However, Baker helped provide Johnson with the best possible information about which way Democratic senators were leaning on any vote. As one contemporary recounted to Caro, Baker was no "true believer," because he wasn't someone who "just can't help but feel that the issue is so clear on their side that the people must vote that way… Bobby didn't let that kind of consideration affect him, maybe because he didn't have terribly strong convictions himself." Johnson's whip counts were far better than anything else available, and fellow Democratic senators and the Truman White House came to depend on them. As whip and later as Democratic leader, Johnson utilized Baker to understand where senators actually stood on votes, and what means were needed to bring over reluctant members. Baker later said that after hours senators "let their hair down when they've had a few drinks, tell you their likes and dislikes, and you file it away. You find out who likes to take trips around the world, and then you try to repay those who voted against their conscience to help you. Senator Johnson was very adept at taking care of senators and their wishes, and the bills that they wanted." Baker was close to Johnson throughout his time as leader, and he acquired the nickname "Little Lyndon." However, while Baker helped Johnson become the most powerful leader of the Senate before or since, he almost led to his political downfall. [...]



Cartoon: Authoritarian funnies, mass arrests edition

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:51:14 +0000

The mass arrests at the Trump inauguration protests (and at other protests around the country) are a breathtaking abuse of power that should leave every American appalled, no matter what their political leanings.

For more on the latest efforts to criminalize protest, read this op-ed column by a woman who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and has spent the last year fighting felony charges. This is also chilling. Did I mention the police were doing body cavity searches that left a photojournalist feeling as though he'd been raped?

I still remember being horrified by the indiscriminate roundups at the 2004 Republican National Convention in NYC, when hundreds of people were trapped and unlawfully detained by the NYPD. A decade later, the city settled a lawsuit for $18 million.

Follow Jen on Twitter at @JenSorensen

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Abbreviated pundit roundup: The White House embraces Moore for the sake of tax cuts for the rich

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:47:16 +0000

We begin today’s roundup with Catherine Rampell at The Washington Post and her analysis of the GOP talking points in the Alabama Senate race: Fun fact: Under U.S. law, sexual assault allegations are now adjudicated by political election. Don’t believe me? Just ask White House officials, Republican lawmakers and right-wing pundits, who lately argue that an electoral win provides absolution for any past sexual misconduct. This troubling claim is being applied to (who else?) our president. But it also sets a terrible precedent for what happens if alleged child molester and sexual predator Roy Moore wins an Alabama Senate race. Paul Waldman at The Week explains why the GOP is making the tax code more complex: It does eliminate some deductions, that's true. Depending on whether you take those deductions, you may find your taxes a little simpler — but if you do, it's because your taxes are probably being raised. For instance, if you're someone with significant health-care expenses — let's say because you have a family member with a disability — the good news is you won't have to gather up all your receipts and count up how much you spent on health care this year, which could save you as much as an hour when you're making your way through your tax software. The bad news is that you won't be able to deduct those expenses (depending on which version of the tax bill finally gets passed), which could mean your tax bill will go up by thousands of dollars. Ditto for your state and local taxes: Congratulations on not having to enter them into your tax software; sorry that you won't be able to deduct them anymore. The truth is that the "simplification" represented by the elimination of those deductions is miniscule — and at the same time, Republicans are adding complication to the code. One big way is with the gigantic loophole they want to open up with "pass-through" income. Right now, most businesses are organized as pass-throughs, meaning the profits go directly to a person or group; they pay taxes on that income at the regular individual rates. But because Republicans want to give special privileges to pass-through income, they'll create a gigantic incentive to classify all kinds of work as a pass-through. There will be a whole new avenue for tax avoidance for anyone (especially the wealthy) who can find creative ways to take advantage of this loophole. [...]



Cheers and Jeers: Tuesday

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:46:26 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… An Open Letter to President Trump Dear President Trump, Yesterday I signed up for my 2018 health insurance through your Healthcare.gov site, and I wanted to let you and all Americans know how it went. For starters, all my friends kept telling me that you were eliminating the Affordable Care Act, but Jimmy Kimmel told me on TV that it wasn’t true. In fact, he said I would find some really cool benefits in my Trump plan, and he was right!  For instance: I won’t be penalized because of my pre-existing condition (the cancer I was diagnosed with last March---I kicked its butt, but I’ll always be at-risk for its return). I won’t have to worry about lifetime caps. Preventive, aka “essential” services like checkups and colonoscopies are free. Parents can keep their kids on their plans up to age 26. And the premium support helps make it affordable. Signing up was easy---basically just log in and then click click click click click, followed by the message I could almost hear in your booming voice: “Congratulations, you successfully selected a new health plan for coverage this year.”  Thanks to your stewardship of Healthcare.gov, I’m all set for another year, as are a whole bunch of my friends and, I hear, about a million American patriots (so far) including many of your biggest supporters. I’m posting a reminder below by my friend Charles Gaba so that others who haven’t signed up yet will know to do so by the December 15th deadline: A little over eight months ago, on the very day I was admitted for late-night emergency surgery, you tweeted: ”Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!”  Well, sir, I plan to get that tweet framed and hang it on my wall as a reminder of your commitment in writing to keep and improve the coverage that Americans---like all those salt-of-the-earth folks who attend your rallies and who would be really mad if you took away their benefits---can get at your Healthcare.gov site. I encourage you to work with both parties in Congress to keep Healthcare.gov 100% funded and even expand coverage. Imagine how “big-league” your legacy will be if, by the time you leave office, all Americans are able to rely on universal, comprehensive and affordable Trump health insurance. Now that would help “Make America Great Again.” Sincerely, Bill in Portland Maine Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [...]



Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:01:39 +0000

In addition to the many items on which we need to catch up, plus any morning rage-tweets from The Hairdo, we’ll be conducting a little radio experiment today. Armando had an argument on Twitter, you see. So far, no surprise. And the argument was about the DNC Unity Commission and the proposed reforms going into 2020. Also no surprise. Only this time, he’s arranged for the person with whom he was arguing (Ben Spielberg of 34justice.com) to do so via Skype (which is like Uber, but for carrying voices back and forth between two or more locations). Will it solve anything? Yes! It will become the second half of today’s show! Why, it’s practically magic! Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET! Podcasts! Am I right, people? Ha ha! I know, right! Well, screw all of those other ones! This one has Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando. Plus also, me. And you! Yes! You know how things are, these days. If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself. Sit down with your smart phone or other electronic recording device and send us your stories and commentary to share with the audience. There’s no easier way to try your hand at podcasting, without all the hassle! Of course, even if you do do things yourself, the modern condition is the same everywhere: We need money to do it. Create the media you’ve always wanted! Join us with monthly donations via Patreon, or one-time contributions via Square Cash. Not sure yet whether we’re really the greatest thing since sliced bread? Check out our last LIVE show and see for yourself: x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash David Waldman continues his struggle with that new-fangled Skype, which seems to get even more fangled every day. Greg Dworkin calls in to talk politics, and to be embarrassed with most Americans over Roy Moore and Donald Trump. Roy Moore is out of control, Evangelicals have gone wild, but the Gop still hopes to keep it barely legal. Alabama seems to be developing a moral center, but next month seems so far away, let alone 2018. Donald Trump, immoral in so many ways, also turns out to be incompetent, which you’d think would make him toast. Never-Trumpers can’t agree on anything but that. Has anyone considered that Trump might be just a dumbass? The Gop tax bill Is the end of all economic sanity in Washington, which again you’d think would be a deal breaker, but maybe not. This is a place that makes Louise Linton look normal, so Trump, family and friends are of course going to take the money and run—but not before targeting a few enemies. Armando warms up the crowd for tomorrow’s upcoming discussion/cage match vs. 34justice co-founder and blogger Ben Speilberg in the KITM Octagon,[...]



Open thread for night owls: FCC set to enhance the flow of propaganda by wrecking net neutrality

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 04:01:49 +0000

John Nichols at The Nation writes—Donald Trump’s FCC is a Clear and Present Danger to Democracy:  Eighty years ago, the dawn of the modern communications age coincided with the rise of authoritarian leaders who controlled and manipulated communications in Europe. President Franklin Roosevelt recognized the danger, declaring that If the fires of freedom and civil liberties burn low in other lands, they must be made brighter in our own. If in other lands the press and books and literature of all kinds are censored, we must redouble our efforts here to keep them free. If in other lands the eternal truths of the past are threatened by intolerance, we must provide a safe place for their perpetuation. Roosevelt and his aides were determined to guard against media-ownership structures that might place control of broadcast media in the United States in the hands of a tiny circle of elite individuals or corporations. To that end, they advocated for a muscular Federal Communications Commission that would guard against consolidation of media ownership and assure that all Americans had access to the information and ideas that sustain democracy. The FCC was charged in 1934 with the clear mission of protecting the “public interest” from profiteers and propagandists. That mission was enhanced and extended over time. It was threatened, as well—but never so aggressively, nor so dramatically, as it is now threatened. President Donald Trump’s chair of the FCC, Ajit Pai, and the Trump-aligned majority on a commission is bent on clearing the way for precisely the sort of media monopoly that FDR and the small-“d” democrats of his time feared. Last week, the FCC voted 3-2 for a radical rewrite of media-ownership rules that will benefit corporate conglomerates, while diminishing the character and quality of the discourse in communities across the United States. In so doing, they strengthened the hand of at least one conglomerate that is closely aligned with Trump. [...] TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “Most women are all too familiar with men like Calvin Smith. Men whose sense of prerogative renders them deaf when women say, ‘No thanks,’ ‘Not interested,’ or even ‘Fuck off, creep.’”                ~Jon Krakauer, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, 2015 TWEET OF THE DAY x1) The Internet works because the people who charge you for access to it cannot charge different amounts for different content, depending on their commercial interests. You pay the ISP, you get the whole Internet. What the FCC is doing is revoking that rule.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) November 21, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST On this date at Daily Kos in 2002—N[...]