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Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:25:36 +0000

Last Build Date: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:25:36 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want
 



Open thread for night owls: 'It's the end of the road for me', says Republican megadonor to GOP

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 03:30:05 +0000

Republican megadonor Al Hoffman Jr. says he's out: He will no longer contribute to any Republican candidate who does not support an assault weapons ban. “For how many years now have we been doing this — having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings — and how many years has it been that nothing’s been done?” Mr. Hoffman said in an interview. “It’s the end of the road for me.” Mr. Hoffman announced his ultimatum in an email to half a dozen Republican leaders, including Jeb Bush and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida. He wrote in the email that he would not give money to Mr. Scott, who is considering a campaign for the Senate in 2018, or other Florida Republicans he has backed in the past, including Representative Brian Mast, if they did not support new gun legislation. “I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons,” he wrote. “Enough is enough!” TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES • THE WEEK’S HIGH IMPACT STORIES TWEET OF THE DAY xI 100% support arming teachers: Arm them with higher salaries, smaller classes, more supplies, meals for their students, better benefits...Not with guns.— Denizcan James (@MrFilmkritik) February 17, 2018 BLAST FROM THE PAST On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—Vice President Biden: 'The test ban treaty is as important as ever.’ It's turning out to be a rather eventful week for nuclear weapons news, on both the domestic front and the international stage. For the sake of clarity, I'm going to deal with what's going on in the US in this post, and address international issues separately. First of all, the Obama administration is in the home stretch regarding the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR); the President's national security team met yesterday to discuss the options they will present to the president, so he can make his final decision regarding "U.S. nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture" for at least half of the next decade. It is a legislatively mandated review, and I've written about it in several previous posts. Since the meeting was behind closed doors, we don't know many specifics, but national security expert and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione has laid out what form he thinks the final NPR should take. Secondly, today, the administration continued to prove its ability to multitask on nuclear weapons issues. Vice President Joe Biden gave a speech at the National Defense University in which he basically expanded on his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece from several weeks ago, in which he discussed the proposed budget for the nuclear weapons complex, and why it is important in the overall national security picture. As Travis Sharp noted over at the Nukes of Hazard, Biden's speech today took the middle ground regarding criticism of the new nuclear budget. Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at Stitcher.com), and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio.” LINK TO DAILY KOS STORE [...]



I can't wait for people of every color to be wearing Black Panther costumes

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 02:15:04 +0000

There are a lot of shitty things going on in the country I love. Kids are being shot in school—and not once in a while, either. The (mostly) Republicans under the sway of the NRA stand in the way of taking any actions that might reduce the “American carnage” that’s getting worse on Mr. Popular Vote Loser’s watch. Additionally, people who’ve known no country other than ours are in danger of being deported because he remains in thrall to his white supremacist base and the senior policy adviser who reminds him every day just what they believe. And that’s just in the past few days. In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, I’m going to ask you to indulge me (and possibly yourself) for a few minutes to revel in something good. Something that will nudge our society in the right direction, toward greater love and fellowship and a sense of community across the boundaries of race and culture; boundaries that some among us—those who control the lion’s share of wealth and power—would like nothing more than to exploit in order to keep us divided and ruled by them. Don’t laugh, but I’m talking about a movie and the impact it is expected to have. The movie is called Black Panther and it was released nationwide here in America on Friday. To say that people are excited about it would be an understatement. xThis morning felt like the first day of school all over again. My outfit and hair are ready for #BlackPanter! I haven’t had this much pep in my step since Obama won in 2008. I’m giving everybody the nod like I see you AND I’ll be at the theatre with or without ya!#WAKANDAFOREVER pic.twitter.com/8CDcTqZBaV— Lisa Barber (@PhysicalCanvas) February 15, 2018 Oh, and screw the haters. [...]



If Democrats provide an answer to these types of problems, they will be unbeatable

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:30:06 +0000

Wednesday was a productive morning. I completed some research and was feeling accomplished. Then two stories hit as I left Starbucks on my way to record my political program.

First, word came down that once more a murderer gunned down many students at a high school. This time it was in Florida. I was disappointed with my initial reaction. It was kind of: “There we go again. Next story.”

Second, NPR featured a story about the difficulty teachers are having purchasing a home in Denver. Did you know Denver was the second-least affordable city for teachers because of real estate prices?

The Florida massacre will be well covered. It is likely to follow the same lame coverage where the excitement is rampant for three to five days. People scream for gun control. And then America loses its attention span for a few weeks, until the next massacre. These events are graphic and painful but sadly, not enough people are dying to make most in the nation feel it is an existential problem for them. Our national level of empathy is still very lacking.

Like the latest school shooting, the story about the teachers is not just a Denver story: it is a national story. Folks in my country of origin revere teachers. It’s appalling that we disregard and disrespect teachers the way we do in the United States. Educating is the most important profession in the country, as educators are the ones who maintain the continuum of knowledge over time.

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Mass shooting survivor to Donald Trump: 'You sicken me'

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 20:40:27 +0000

On Sunday morning, five survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 students and adults dead, appeared on Face the Nation. They were emphatic in their condemnation of the politicians and organizations who continue to allow such shootings to take place. Some of their words, taken from the transcript:

Cameron Kasky:

[T]he adults in office have let us down. Absolutely. And fortunately we have a lot of support from the older generations here, but what we're trying to do here March for Our Lives is say, the adult politicians have been playing around while my generation has been losing our lives. [...]

[F]rom here on, we are creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA. It is a special interest group that has most certainly not our best interests in mind. And this cannot be the normal. This can be changed and it will be changed.

Emma Gonzalez:

[A]t this point I don't even know if the adults in power who are funded by the NRA I don't even think we need them anymore because they're going to be gone by midterm election. There's-- there's barely any time for them to save their skins. And if they don't turn around right now and state their open support for this movement they're going to be left behind. Because you are either with us or against us at this point.
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Despite Trump's praise of Rob Porter, domestic violence remains a deadly threat

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 22:45:07 +0000

The emerging facts and photos about former White House staff secretary Rob Porter spell out a dark truth about the prevalence of domestic abuse.

It happens no matter how “strong” women are. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway foolishly argued in a CNN interview that White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is dating Porter, was "immune” to such abuse because she was a "strong woman.”

Earth to Kellyanne: The perpetrator can be a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, like Porter, or a high school dropout. He can work at the White House or be unemployed. He can be a Mormon or not take part in any religion at all. As Porter’s first ex-wife, Colbie Holderness, the one with the black eye in the photos, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post:

Abuse comes in many forms. It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.

Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity evil. It transcends race, economic status, income level, education level, religion, political party, sexual orientation, and ethnic background.

Of course, in the case of this White House, it wasn’t just one case. Speechwriter David Sorensen also resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse. Instead of having a black eye like Colbie Holderness, Sorensen’s ex-wife, Jessica Corbett, alleged that Sorenson ran a car over her foot and put out a cigarette on her hand.

Rob Porter was one of more than 100 White House staffers with only an interim rather than a permanent security clearance (a scandal all by itself) as late as last November. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders keeps telling ever-changing stories on why that’s so. When she’s not spouting that nonsense, she’s making laughable claims that “we’ve condemned domestic violence in every way possible.” Sanders touted the fact that the budget proposed by Donald Trump “fully funds” the Violence Against Women Act.

As if there should ever be any question about that funding. But in the age of President Grab-’em-by-the-pussy, nothing is sure.

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To honor victims of latest mass shooting, White House says Trump will skip one game of golf

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 20:02:09 +0000

After flying to Florida to meet with some of the victims of this nation's latest mass shooting and the law enforcement officers who responded to that shooting, Donald Trump's team quietly announced that he would be making the ultimate sacrifice.

President Trump reportedly skipped a day at the golf course on Saturday following the Florida school shooting that took place just miles from his Mar-a-Lago resort.

White House aides told Bloomberg that the decision not to golf was a show of respect for the victims and grieving families of the school shooting in Florida.

Mar-a-Lago is uncomfortably close the Broward County high school at which the shooting took place, and so Trump went to his club both before and after meeting with victims.

x

Note that the message only suggests Trump skipped Saturday's planned golf outing in a show of respect for the victims; it does not say he would be skipping a game of golf today as well. That seems a significant omission.

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Celebrating the life my mom lived rather than the one we had hoped for her

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 21:00:05 +0000

When my mother, Lynn Eleveld, passed away this week at 78, little more than a handful of folks attended her modest funeral service in Grand Rapids, MI, the place of her birth. Mom's extended family had largely become the staff members at her group home who had given her excellent care for over a decade in the waning years of her life. It was a sweet little gathering but profoundly different from the bash we threw to mark my father's death just last year, complete with shrimp and prime rib, beer and wine, and some 500 of the many friends he had made along his journey. 

To some, the lack of fanfare for my mother might seem sad, but to me the experience of her passing was equally as meaningful, even if in a different way.

My mother lived with a debilitating mental illness most of her adult life. Prior to showing the first noticeable signs of paranoia and delusions in her early 40s, she was a woman ahead of her time. She earned both a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Michigan State University, married in 1961, and worked full time while still being the main caregiver for my older brother and me through the '70s. Women's liberation was certainly a concept by then, but in practice, most of Mom's peers in Midwestern suburbia were still stay-at-home moms. She was unique in many ways—sharp witted, highly intellectual, and incredibly elegant, according to many descriptions I've heard over the years. A family friend once told me she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever met. But although she inspired a good deal of admiration in those around her, she was also aloof. As one of her high school friends once told me, many people put her on a pedestal and she found it difficult to connect—though she certainly longed for that connection.

By the time I was around 11, Mom began having trouble. Throughout most of my teens and twenties, she was in and out of crisis units. She had as many different diagnoses over the years as she did prescription treatments coursing through her veins. She would often travel during fits of mania and we wouldn't know where she was until a hospital or a law enforcement agency called. She turned up in places ranging from New York to Colorado to Alaska. I'm not going to lie, it was an agonizing couple of decades. She and my father divorced even before the onset of her symptoms and my brother and I lived with him until we went off to college and ventured into adulthood.

While living in San Francisco in my early thirties, I decided to make a 20-minute "short" documentary about my mother's struggles as a thesis project for my Master's in journalism. In preparation, I had the good fortune of spending a summer back in Grand Rapids. I saw Mom regularly during that time: 2-3 times a week and the consistency of our interactions seemed to calm her. She quit the revolving-door tour of hospitals she had been on and settled into a group home that provided a more familial atmosphere to her. Even after I returned to Berkeley, Mom mostly thrived in her new situation. As much as she always longed to live independently one day, she needed the assistance and daily interactions that the home facilitated by Hope Network offered her. Though she never let go of her dream of leaving, she clearly found her new surroundings containing. 

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Trump is furiously tweeting about Russia—but we already know his campaign sought collusion

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 18:48:13 +0000

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller's team unveiled indictments against 13 Russian nationals in a wide-ranging, ambitious plot to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential elections. As any casual observer of the garbage fire in the White House expected, this led to a furious weekend-long tweetstorm from the conflagration masquerading as a president. His message: stop investigating.

But before we get to that, a reminder: It was revealed last year that Donald Trump Jr. received an email in June, 2016 from a group of Russians seeking to talk about the U.S. presidential campaign. The offer was, in the text of the email:

to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

Trump Jr.'s emailed response is now famous: "if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer." The top members of the Trump campaign arranged to meet the Russian team in Trump Tower, where the Russians delivered a folder of documents relating the Clinton campaign. When questioned on this meeting, Trump Jr. originally claimed it was to talk about Russian "adoptions"; we now know that wildly misleading statement was in fact authored by Donald Trump himself, on Air Force One. That act is now under investigation by Robert Mueller's team.

With that reminder in place, let us now have a look at what Trump has been furiously tweeting, in the immediate aftermath of these new indictments.

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The first rule of White House Wife-Beaters Club is don't talk about ... the wives

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:15:05 +0000

Have you ever faced an integrity test?

For example: someone reaches into their pocket and when they pull out their hand, a $20 bill slips out and lands or the floor. Or someone ahead of you in line at the grocery accidentally forgets their wallet and leaves it on the counter.

Do you immediately alert this person about their potential loss, or do you simply pocket what they’ve carelessly left behind for your own gain? Do you do what’s right, or simply what’s expedient and convenient?

If someone behind you in line sees you pick up the item and just before you stuff it in your pocket they say “HEY!”—do you deserve credit for finally giving it back only after you’ve been caught in the act?

I think not.

We face small and large tests like these all the time.  How we respond to them is a testament to our underlying character. How the Trump White House has responded to such challenges over the past year is a clear testament to their complete lack of the same.

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How the Republicans stole the Second Amendment

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 17:30:08 +0000

Republicans stole the Second Amendment. Over the course of 30 years, the right waged a war on political, legal, and academic fronts to redefine that amendment, contrary to history, text, and precedent, as creating an individual right to bear arms. Of course, none of those efforts, nor their aggregate effect, would have been enough to accomplish the right’s aims without a far-right ideologue on the Supreme Court, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to codify them. 

The right’s misappropriation of the Second Amendment ranks among the most stunning legal feats in U.S. history. 

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Thoughts and prayers are not doing a damn thing

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 15:45:05 +0000

The headlines read, “17 killed in mass shooting at high school.” It doesn’t matter which community this happened in: it is a national disgrace. This does not happen in any other country in the world with the regularity that it happens here in America. We are No. 1 in school shootings. Of all the things we could lead the world in, it is the taking of innocent lives. Seven weeks into 2018 and this is the eighth time (at the time of this writing) there has been a school shooting with fatalities.

Immediately after this most recent shooting at a Florida high school, arguments were made that we need to arm the teachers. Great idea—let’s put the kids in the crossfire. The answer to gun violence is not more damn guns. The problem is not mental illness, nor is it the firearm itself. The problem is that we live in a culture that glorifies violence, and firearms policy is being driven by a vocal minority.

In 2014, 31 percent of American households reported owning a firearm, down from 47 percent in 1973, according to a report from National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

Gun ownership has become more concentrated as a result, with a small sliver of gun owners owning a growing segment of America’s firearms inventory, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. These gun buyers have come to be known as “super owners” and one study, conducted by Harvard and Northeastern universities, concluded that about half the guns in America are owned by only 3 percent of the adult population, with an average of 17 firearms each. (Emphasis added)

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Black History Month: The vejigante masks and bomba music of Puerto Rico

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 14:00:40 +0000

Throughout the Caribbean, in Brazil and here on the U.S. mainland Carnival, Mardi Gras and other heavily African-influenced traditions are a testament to the survival and persistence of black cultures in the diaspora. Carnival season in Puerto Rico came and went this year, ending on Fat Tuesday as it does every year—with an explosion of music, dance and vejigante masks. Carnival In Ponce, Puerto Rico, known as “Carnaval Ponceño has been celebrated for 160 years, and this year was dedicated to to the volunteers who worked tirelessly for hurricane relief.

No hurricane, no Donald Trump bullying and racist neglect of the island will ever be able to extinguish the deeply rooted traditions that provide both strength and joy to the island’s people.

Looking at the devastation wrought by Irma and Maria to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the ongoing crisis for people on the islands, fueled by the failure of the president and Republican-controlled Congress to shoulder its responsibility—one wonders how people can celebrate? 

The answer is simple—how can they not? A people without joy, without music, without song and dance are defeated. Puerto Ricans will not be defeated.

Puerto Rico se levanta!

Join the celebration and continue to contribute

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Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Forget the thoughts, shove the prayers, bring action

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 12:00:33 +0000

Here’s some news from the land of really sick irony. On May 4, the NRA will hold it’s annual “leadership forum” in Dallas. The speakers list for the event promises the standard mouth-foaming of the NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre. It will bring the reqisite irrational screeds in the form of the latest model Anne Coulter, Tomi Lauren. And it will bring a slate of political speakers. Those speakers include North Carolina Representative Richard Hudson, who Americans can thank for a bill that would let people carry concealed weapons in any state, no matter what the state laws say. A bill that Hudson brags is “the greatest gun rights boost since ratification of Second Amendment in 1791.” It includes Ted Cruz. Who is … Ted Cruz. It includes Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is best known for blocking enforcement of background checks in Nevada. A little legal finagling that has endeared Laxalt to the NRA, though maybe not to the 527 people in Las Vegas who wish he’d taken his task a little more seriously. And the list of featured speakers includes one more big Republican name — Florida Governor Rick Scott.  Yes, while Rick Scott has been out there on the thoughts and prayers circuit this week, his reptilian smile has also been gracing the literature handed out to promote the NRA conference. And why not?  Scott was also a featured speaker at the 2017 event, where he praised the NRA in saying that “no one had done more” to elect Donald Trump. His 2017 speech called for replacing any justice on the Supreme Court who didn’t “believe in the Second Amendment” so that there was a “9-0” vote in favor of more guns, and for a larger Republican majority in the Senate so that the NRA didn’t have to worry about the “least conservative” Republicans when it came to passing more laws they liked.  He spent a lot of time asserting that the phrase “shall not infringe” meant that no law of any sort could be passed limiting firearms. Somehow the phrase, “ a well regulated Militia,” did not come up. I’m sure the parents and students of his state would be fascinated by Scott’s speech declaring that nothing, but nothing, can stand between a shooter and his gun. And by the way, Rick Scott, if you’re going to spend half your speech talking about this “three word phrase” and how critical it is, you might want to note that “shall not infringe” isn’t in there, It’s four words — “shall not be infringed.” Picky, I know. But you’d think if you were going to repeat something fifty times, you would at least double-check the source. Screwing it up the way Scott did makes it sounds as if he doesn’t really care about the Second Amendment at all — just about the money the NRA pays him. It makes him sound like a money-grubbing hypocrite willing to go down on his knees in front of the people who are assiting in the murder of the children of his state. But hey, he’ll keep giving those thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. Come on inside, let’s read pundits. [...]



Saturday open thread for night owls. Stacy Mitchell: '6 ways to rein in today's toxic monopolies'

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 03:30:07 +0000

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where her research focuses on economic concentration and the health of local economies. At The Nation, she writes—6 Ways to Rein In Today’s Toxic Monopolies: After nearly four decades of lax antitrust policy, during which a handful of corporations have been allowed to gobble up market share like a horde of deranged amoebas, the consequences of unfettered monopoly have become painfully apparent. Competition has fizzled, replaced by pockets of extreme concentration. The number of new businesses has plunged. Wages have stagnated. Inequality has spiked. And extreme wealth—alongside its evil twin, extreme power—has pooled in fewer and fewer hands. Mercifully, smart minds have been busy mulling smart solutions, brainstorming ways to begin reining in today’s mega-monopolies. Here are six suggestions. —The Nation 1. HOLD FIELD HEARINGS ON THE IMPACT OF CONCENTRATED ECONOMIC POWER Many Americans feel the consequences of monopoly in their daily lives. Nurses in Michigan saw their income depressed by an estimated 20 percent as a result of alleged collusion among dominant hospitals seeking to keep labor costs low. Dairy farmers in the Southeast contend they have been denied a fair price for their milk by two dominant firms that control the processing and distribution of milk.  It’s no wonder that about two-thirds of Americans believe the economic system “unfairly favors powerful interests.” That sentiment should prompt members of Congress to organize regional field hearings to investigate the real-world impacts of concentrated economic power and engage citizens in a conversation about what to do about it. 2. BRING DAYLIGHT TO THE NATION’S ANTITRUST AGENCIES [...] 3. SET A HIGHER BAR FOR APPROVING MERGERS [...] 4. BREAK UP BIG TECH [...]  5. BLOCK BIG CORPORATIONS FROM USING THEIR FINANCIAL MIGHT TO CRUSH SMALLER COMPETITORS [...] 6. PASS ANTI-MONOPOLY POLICIES AT THE LOCAL LEVEL [...] Cities and states can take significant steps to protect their citizens from monopolies, while dispersing opportunity and promoting competition. (My organization, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, focuses on providing policy ideas to help them do so.) A growing number of places are taking up the cause. [...] In 2014, the citizens of North Dakota voted overwhelmingly to keep their state’s pharmacy ownership law, which mandates that pharmacies be independently owned and has largely spared North Dakotans from the higher prices and other harms that the rest of the country is seeing as a result of concentration in the prescription benefits industry. TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES TWEET OF THE DAY xPoliticians saying they want to arm teachers when they won’t even fund feeding children is the most absurd thing.So you’ll pay for every teacher to have a Beretta, but not for every kid to have a decent meal?Seriously, vote them out. Idiots.— David Yankovich (@DavidYankovich) February 17, 2018 BLAST FROM THE PAST On this date at Daily Kos in 2005—"Controversial" Negroponte Nominated to Be First Director of National Intelligence: The current U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, has been nominated to become the first Director of National Intelligence […] Negroponte began his diplomatic career in 1960 and served in South Vietnam before becoming an aide to Henry Kissinger during negotiations in Paris with North Vietnam. From 1981 to 1985, he was U.S. ambassador to Honduras, where he helped carry out the Reagan administration's efforts, using the Contra rebels, to oust the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. He also served as ambassador to Mexic[...]



Cartoon: Trump's fine military parade

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 04:46:11 +0000

Trump’s military parade happened last year in Charlottesville and throughout the White House.

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Nuts & Bolts: Inside Democratic campaigns—Don't sweat the small tasks!

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 02:00:33 +0000

Welcome back, Saturday Campaign D-I-Y’ers! For those who tune in, welcome to the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. Each week, we discuss issues that help drive successful campaigns. If you’ve missed prior diaries, please visit our group or follow Nuts & Bolts Guide.

While this guide exists to cover a subject matter related to running large and small campaigns, in the beginning of the series, I wrote a companion piece “AARGH! Mistakes you should avoid.” This week’s entry goes back to those roots, and we’re going to have a little bit of fun discussing an easy mistake a lot of campaigns make that is equally easy to avoid. 

In an effort to get things right, it is pretty easy to get tied up, overanalyze, overthink and just burn yourself out on small items which will have almost no impact on your small campaign. Sometimes, the best response is just let go—or to realize not everything has to be perfect all the time. While campaigns have to worry about making sure some items click together, and continual missing of small things can signal problems, the reason why these items become problematic often isn’t inbuilt dysfunction, too often it is because too much work on making sure you achieve perfection results in paralysis that slows everything down.

This week: don’t sweat the small tasks.

Campaigns face a lot of big decisions, policy profiles, advertising strategies, scheduling and how to spend money. These items rise to the top of every discussion within a campaign. Campaigns also run into small decisions that make almost no difference but can become so overwhelming that little happens.

Because Nuts & Bolts here is written with the small candidate in mind rather than a large, presidential campaign, realize that some of these items may scale differently in larger federal races, but the time associated is still in accordance to the level of staff and resources.

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This week in science: ring around the rosy

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 01:00:08 +0000

I got that image form Bad Astronomy over at the Sy-Fi Wire and thought it was so cool, it had to be shared! While there, I noticed an excellent post wherein the Bad Astronomer takes down Trump’s anti-science-y budget in precise, fisky detail. Short version, the WFIRST telescope is sacrificed, but the ambitious Europa and the Mars 2020 Lander are spared, for now. Eric Berger, at Ars Technica, has some more on the lunar return budget:

Perhaps the most significant thing about this budget proposal is that, although the White House has made a big show about returning humans to the surface of the Moon, there are no giant leaps toward that goal in this plan. Rather there are incremental steps that, if followed over the next decade, may allow astronauts to eventually set foot on the lunar surface again.

The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent — and possibly upheaval — through 2018,” said Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence.

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'I will be the change': Man's post on turning in assault rifle after Parkland shooting goes viral

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:59:58 +0000

Ben Dickmann, a conservative white man in Florida who owns guns, is sick of simply offering thoughts and prayers after every American mass shooting. In a very lengthy Facebook post yesterday, Dickmann shared he knows more needs to be done—especially by gun-owning, conservative white men like him (emphasis mine):

I am standing up and saying to anyone that will listen…We need better, more comprehensive gun control, ownership, and training requirements in this county. We need to start this now. We needed to start this 20-30 years ago in all reality.

Dickman shares that he personally knows people affected by three different mass shootings—the recent Parkland attacks, last year’s Las Vegas tragedy, and the Northern Illinois University shooting from 2008—and we need change to prevent more of these events from happening.

He writes a long proposal of what must be done for American safety: banning assault weapons that are popular among mass shooters, implementing training requirements, and thorough mental health screenings. He knows that it’s a lot of hoops for gun owners to jump through, but he believes that’s okay; it’s worth it.

Is any of this going to be cheap and or easy? Nope. But, if you want to continue to maintain your “right” to keep and bear arms, why would you not be willing to prove your ability to maintain that right? I am. I know I would pass. Any responsible gun-owner should be able to. There are so many other types of guns out there that you can still own and use, we don’t need the military style rifles in the public market.

In a new post the following morning, Dickmann shared that he wanted to do more than just talk the talk. He wanted to walk the walk as a self-proclaimed “responsible, highly trained gun owner” and so he surrendered his AR-57 assault rifle at the Broward Sheriffs Office in Tamarac, Florida. He could have sold the weapon to recoup some of the money he spent purchasing it, but he didn’t want it out in the world. 

 I could have easily sold this rifle, but no person needs this. I will be the change I want to see in this world. If our law makers will continue to close their eyes and open their wallets, I will lead by example.

As of this writing, the post has over 49,000 reactions and over 25,000 shares. There are also over 8.6k comments—many of which are from conservatives mocking and denouncing him for daring to say to take a stand against gun violence. Here’s the post below:

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This week in the war on workers: Who will be hurt most if Supreme Court rules against public unions?

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:55:06 +0000

Who’s going to lose out the most if (when) the Supreme Court deals a body blow to public sector unions in the Janus case? 

While the outcome of the case will affect about 17 million public-sector workers across the country, black women in particular could be hurt by Janus, as they are disproportionately represented in public sector jobs. They make up 17.7 percent of public-sector workers, or about 1.5 million workers.

Black women have traditionally faced a double pay gap—a gender pay gap and a racial wage gap. EPI research has shown that black women are paid only 65 cents of the dollar that their white male counterparts are paid. However, unions help reduce these pay gaps. Working black women in unions are paid 94.9 percent of what their black male counterparts make, while nonunion black women are paid just 91 percent of their counterparts.

Wounding that is part of the Republican payoff for stealing a Supreme Court seat.

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Spotlight on green news & views: Polar vortex splits; mountain glaciers melt; Pruitt flies high

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:00:06 +0000

This is the 545th edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views (previously known as the Green Diary Rescue) usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the February 7 Green Spotlight. More than 28,410 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it. OUTSTANDING GREEN STORIES Besame writes—Daily Bucket: Rogue Wolf Girl Looking for Hot California Lover: “A young female wolf from Oregon’s Rogue Pack was tracked entering eastern Siskiyou County California in late January. OR-54 probably is the daughter of the first wolf to enter California in a 100 years, OR-7, and likely is dispersing in search of a mate or another pack. She was trapped in Oregon in early October 2017 and outfitted with a radio collar to help key tabs on southern Oregon’s Rogue Pack and is the only member of that pack wearing a tracking collar. Around the time she was trapped, biologists also spotted OR-7 on a camera trap so as of last fall, he was still alive and well. In 2014, OR-7 fathered the first wolf pack in southwestern Oregon in more than six decades. He and his mate also had litters each of the next three springs. OR-7 will turn 9 years old this spring. The average life span of wolves in the wild is 6 years, fish and wildlife statistics show. [...]  If I were a young wolf in Oregon, I’d want to GTFO too. Some ranchers don’t bother to follow livestock predation risk reduction practices and then are fired up when they lose cattle. They want the state to list wolves as “invasive species” (because yeah sure cattle are totally natural and have precedence due to their ecosystem importance). Wolves have been killed for the joy of being a mighty wolf hunter AKA poaching.” The stratospheric polar vortex, which normally in winter is one cold vortex spinning around the pole has split in two. The light blue color shows areas of intense heating caused by atmospheric wave energy that spun up from the lower atmosphere. The map shows Northern Hemispheric circulation at 10mb in the high stratosphere for 12Feb18 10amEST. Powerful heating is driven by planetary wave number 2. FishOutofWater writes—Polar vortex splits, record high heat into polar stratosphere, record low Arctic sea ice: “The most powerful episode of poleward heat transport into the stratosphere on record has split the stratospheric polar vortex in two. The polar vortex forms in the winter in the stratosphere when there is no UV energy to heat the ozone in the upper stratosphere. A zone of high winds, called the polar night jet, normally spins high above the Arctic. Normally there is one cyclonic vortex centered near the pole. Right now, there is a weak, warm anticyclone above the pole and there are two cold cyclonic vortices spinning over north America and Eurasia. There is intense compressional heating above the Labrador sea and central Eurasia caused by this planetary wave number 2 of unprecedented power. The image [below] shows what Northern Hemisphere planetary wave no. 2 looks like — warm over the Arctic and oceans — cold over the continents. This wave pattern is intensified by the presence of warm water and the loss of sea ice on the Atlantic side of the Arctic. [...] The possible impact of the polar vortex split on the weather is complicated, but there has been consistency between models and consistency within models that cold air will be be displaced towards no[...]



Steve Scalise gets Jefferson wrong, but that's nothing compared to everything else he's wrong on

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 22:00:34 +0000

All right, fine, so House Whip Steve Scalise plopped himself down at the National Prayer Breakfast and said a thing, and what do we even do with this:

“This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God. Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson – who was the author of the Constitution – if you go to the Jefferson Memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson: ‘God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?’

“You can’t separate church from state …. People would say, you know, when you’re voting on issues, how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are.”

This is one of those things that really ought to be ignored by us, and yet the temptation to do otherwise is irresistible. What to do?

First off, Thomas Jefferson was not the author of the Constitution. He wrote the other one, the Declaration of Bugger-Off King George, whose famous lines are forever being confused with the Constitution because modern-day schoolchildren blow through learning about both of them in the span of a week or two and some of those school children grow up, eventually, to be ambitious stains on the nation who give ambitious public speeches without ever once bothering, in the decades between, to thumb through either document before pompously declaring What The Founders Intended In Their Own Minds. It is rote, at this point.

And, as Steve Benen's rebuttal points out, Jefferson was one of the nation's most aggressive advocates of that separation between church and state. The man spent more than a little time contemplating the divide between faith and religion, and his pointed thoughts on the matter have been grist for historians and academics and preachers alike for two centuries now; Jefferson was a veritable quote machine when it came to the need for government to butt out of organized religious expression. And we're not even going to go through any of that here because it would be abso-tootly pointless. Go look it up if you want to—this isn't a college course, I don't have a tweed jacket and if you're in ruinous debt right now, it's for reasons other than textbook acquisition.

The reason we know that whole discussion would be pointless? Scalise's second pronouncement. Declaring Thomas Jefferson to be the real author of the Constitution is small potatoes compared to this dreck, which is the equivalent of exhuming Jefferson's corpse and using his skull as a spittoon.

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Unacceptable: It's been one full year since Donald Trump's one and only solo press conference

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:47:09 +0000

Donald Trump is public servant. He is accountable to the American people. At least he should be, right? So why are his colleagues and the media allowing him to get away with not answering to the American people? It is standard for American presidents to hold regular press conferences to answer questions from reporters. Donald Trump has done that precisely once since taking office. Here’s how that stacks up against other presidents in their first year (stats courtesy of USA Today): Why isn’t there more pressure for Donald Trump to answer to the American people via our free press? During the 2016 campaign, cable news shows were apocalyptic that candidate Hillary Clinton had gone several months without holding a press conference. They had graphics with clocks counting the days, minutes, seconds since Hillary Clinton’s last press conference. Chris Cillizza was relentless in his desire to hold Hillary Clinton’s feet to the fire. From his Washington Post article, "Hillary Clinton hasn’t held a press conference in 257 days. That’s ridiculous." Donald Trump said lots (and lots) of thing during his hour-long town hall with Fox News's Sean Hannity on Wednesday night.  This one — Trump talking about Hillary Clinton — stood out to me: She is so protected.  They are so protecting her. She hasn't had a news conference in, like, 250 days. It couldn't be that long since Clinton has talked to the press, I thought.  So, I went to the handy-dandy tool that some guy named Philip Bump built to track how long it's been since Clinton faced the press. And this is what I found: Almost 258 days! Trump undersold something! Jokes aside, it's beyond ridiculous that one of the two people who will be elected president in 80 or so days continues to refuse to engage with the press in this way. Who needs protection now? Where are the bold graphics, the clocks on every cable news network? Where is the drumbeat from the free press to hold Donald Trump accountable and demand a press conference? This administration doesn’t even hold regular press briefings, cancelling two days in a row despite deep crisis, another mass murder in a public school and indictments of 13 Russian nationals who interfered in the 2016 campaign.  For what it’s worth, during that one and only press conference, Donald Trump called the Russia investigation a “scam” by the media, repeatedly said the American people shouldn’t believe the “fake news” from the likes of CNN, defending the now indicted Mike Flynn, said he would do “something” to Putin, but won’t tell us what (he didn’t do a thing) and said he hoped Putin would be his friend. HIf you want to walk down memory lane, here is that long ago press conference, held 365 days ago. In Cillizza terms, that’s 525,600 minutes ago.  x x YouTube Video [...]



This week at progressive state blogs: VA ranks 38th in solar; LA cranks create $1 billion shortfall

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 21:00:04 +0000

This week at progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Here is the Feb. 10 edition. Inclusion of a blog post does not necessarily indicate my agreement with—or endorsement of—its contents. At Blue Virginia, A Siegel writes—Here comes the sun … though Virginia remains solar straggler: Former Governor Terry McAuliffe exclaimed, more than once, that Virginia was a true leader in solar power, with growth rates that should amaze one and all.  While McAuliffe deserves credit for a number of actions, recognizing the reality of a GOP run legislature and heavy Dominion Power opposition to solar, reality didn’t seem to match the rhetoric. Pulling back the curtains on Virginia solar left one scratching one’s head trying to figure out the justification for this.  Yes, there was growth — primarily because of two things: the starting point (due in no small part to Dominion Virginia Power (primarily) working its magic in the legislature to suppress solar) was so low; and major players (such as Amazon data centers and universities) demanding solar (often, as with Amazon, as part of their choice to develop in Virginia). McAuliffe pointed to high percentage growth and then pointed to all the potential projects in the pipeline with wording that would make most casual observers think that those ‘maybe’ projects were done deals and, well, perhaps even already generating electrons. Show-barker exclamations, however, didn’t represent the reality of Virginia’s renewable energy world. [...]  While ’20th’ rank of current status with 13th in growth might not seem so bad, putting Virginia in the upper half of the 51 states and DC, we shouldn’t be fooled into any form of complacency. Each year Solar Power Rocks, a firm that focuses on helping homeowners and small businesses go solar, analyzes those 51 as to solar attractiveness for those potential customers. [...] In the 2018 ranking, as in 2017, Virginia is ranked 38th and earns a merited D. [...]



Saturday midday open thread: Mulvaney making consumer crime easier; Calif. indy registrations rise

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 20:00:37 +0000

261 days until the November 2018 election ••• ••• ••• • What’s coming up on Sunday Kos … ° How Republicans stole the Second Amendment, Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza ° I can’t wait for people of every color to be wearing Black Panther costumes, by Ian Reifowitz ° The first rule of White House Wife Beaters Club is don’t talk about … the wives, by Frank Vyan Walton ° Despite Trump’s praise of Rob Porter, domestic violence remains a deadly threat, by Sher Watts Spooner ° If Democrats provide an answer to these types of problems, they are unbeatable, by Egberto Willies ° Thoughts and prayers are not doing a damn thing, by Mark E Andersen ° Black History Month: The vejigante masks and bomba music of Puerto Rico, by Denise Oliver Velez • By November, California could have more registered independents than Republicans: Democrats still dominate the voter rolls in California, but the number of independents is rising and could, by November, exceed the number of Republicans. Currently, Democrats account for 44.6 percent of California's registered voters, giving the party a 19 percentage point advantage over the GOP at 25.4 percent, with voters stating “no preference” at 25 percent, and 5 percent registered with other parties, registration figures show. Democratic registrations have barely budged in the past two decades, slipping not quite 2 percent since 1997, while Republican registrations have fallen by nearly 11 percent, and independent registrations risen by more than 13 percent. Paul Mitchell, who runs the data firm Political Data Inc., told the Los Angeles Times that more and more millennials, college students, young Latinos and Asian Americans are registering as independents. "Democrats are celebrating Republicans losing registration. But they should be mourning," Mitchell said. "This new registrant population looks like Democrats but they are registering as independents." In past elections, "no party preference" voters in California have leaned heavily Democratic at the polls.  • Mike Mulvaney’s objective is to wreck the CFPB and leave a hollow shell. If that sounds to you like what’s happening throughout the Trump regime, you’re not imagining things. Former Rep. Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who served on the House Financial Services Committee, was one of the leading voices in Congress for consumer finance protection: "I think we'll be right back to where we were in 2007 and 2008," Miller said. "Where it's open season on consumers. Where anything you sign may have hidden in the tiny little print . . provisions that just screw you blind." He noted, "That was true of credit cards. It was true of mortgages, and it will be true again. It's never really stopped being true; consumer finance has continued to be a problem." "What the Trump administration is going to do, and Mulvaney is going to do, is strip away all the protections that were intended to keep that [a major financial crash] from happening again," Miller explained.  MIDDAY TWEET The woman's back was once Catalonian hills • New scanning method can reveal what’s beneath master works:  U.S. researchers have employed a new technique that let them see beneath one of Pablo Picasso's major works, the Crouching Woman (La Misereuse Accroupie). The new x-ray fluorescence scanning system was used to find a landscape of Barcelona under the Picas[...]



Kentucky is going to have to pay more to cover fewer people with Medicaid under Bevin's plan

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:02:15 +0000

Campaign Action

Gov. Matt Bevin, Kansas’ own "Freedom" maniac, received the first waiver from the Trump administration to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. He's also the first governor to be sued over it. Bevin's argument is that it will save the state money because it will force some 100,000 people off of Medicaid in the state. Because he thinks 100,000 more uninsured people is a good thing, apparently. The other problem for Bevin, besides the 100,000 more uninsured people, is that it's going to cost the state more to kick those people off the program than if it did nothing but continue the program as it was.

Cost savings come from the assumption that nearly 100,000 people will drop out of Medicaid by the end of the five-year project recently approved by the federal government. For those who remain, the monthly cost of care increases faster than it would have had the state made no changes, according to the administration's projections.

"You're spending more money to cover fewer people," said Dustin Pugel, a policy analyst for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy in Berea and a critic of the Bevin plan. "I'm not crazy about the idea of us spending more money to cover fewer people."

Meanwhile, Kentucky plans to spend close to $374 million over the next two years—most of it in federal money—to launch the plan starting July 1.

It has added $186 million to the current budget and proposes $187 million in the next budget year starting July 1 for administrative costs, most of the money associated with the Medicaid changes. Part of the administrative costs added to this year's budget would go toward creating a Medicaid computer system required by the federal government.

Just to make this crystal clear: they are going to spend $374 million to take insurance away from 100,000 people.

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Trump wants people to report each other; Wray admits FBI did nothing about Parkland shooter report

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:31:07 +0000

Nobody is explaining why or how the Miami FBI was never forwarded a second tip about threats posed by Nikolas Cruz in January. Amazingly enough (especially in this administration), an official statement issued Friday morning owns up to what ended up being a fatal error on the Bureau’s part.  On January 5, 2018, a person close to Nikolas Cruz contacted the FBI’s Public Access Line (PAL) tipline to report concerns about him. The caller provided information about Cruz’s gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting. Under established protocols, the information provided by the caller should have been assessed as a potential threat to life. The information then should have been forwarded to the FBI Miami Field Office, where appropriate investigative steps would have been taken. We have determined that these protocols were not followed for the information received by the PAL on January 5. The information was not provided to the Miami Field Office, and no further investigation was conducted at that time. As the funerals for those lost in the Parkland massacre began today, emotions are already high; to learn that this specific tragedy might have possibly been thwarted just makes things worse. Trump was quick to blame the people in Cruz’s orbit for not speaking up about their suspicions of the shooter. (The contrast to his defense of Rob Porter, and lives being shattered by “mere allegations,” is extra ironic today.) xSo many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018 Great advice, Prez, but people slip through the cracks constantly; we all know law enforcement doesn’t always get it right, whether it’s ignoring warning signs or going after the wrong people. [...]



Have there been 18 school shootings in 2018, or five? Either way, it's too damn many

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:21:02 +0000

Campaign Action Ah, clickbait headlines. They exist for “Wow! That’s amazing/terrible/unbelievable” claims and attempted take-downs of those amazing/terrible/unbelievable claims alike. Witness the Washington Post’s “No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.” What we have here is an argument about methodology, with a headline presented as myth-busting hard facts. The 18 school shootings in 2018 figure comes from Everytown for Gun Safety, which is transparent about its definition of a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” Other groups have other methods for counting school shootings, which could also be reasonable to use. But in their zeal to prove that the 18 number is “flat wrong,” John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich get awfully flippant about cases they would dismiss as not really school shootings. The one where a man committed suicide on the grounds of a school that had been closed for months? Agreed we can dismiss that as a school shooting. But: A week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. No one was injured, and it was past 8 p.m., well after classes had ended for the day, but Everytown still labeled it a school shooting. If there was a basketball game going on, there were students on the premises, right? So the fact that classes had ended for the day is a distraction. There were students there! Shots were fired, and it’s luck that no one was injured. Or take this: On Feb. 5, a police officer was sitting on a bench in a Minnesota school gym when a third-grader accidentally pulled the trigger of his holstered pistol, firing a round into the floor. None of the four students in the gym were injured, but, again, the incident was probably scary. If by “probably scary” you mean “children could have been killed,” then yes. It’s reasonable to prefer a more conservative count of school shootings. But trying to define it down as these authors do, to “Just five of Everytown’s 18 school shootings listed for 2018 happened during school hours and resulted in any physical injury,” is to say that a school shooting doesn’t count if the would-be shooter has bad aim. Also, holy crap! It is mid February and there have been five school shootings in 2018 that injured people! Being all “well, actually” dismissive about this is not a good look, even if it does make for a clickbaity headline. [...]



After indictments skip him, Trump claims vindication, but collusion still part of Mueller's probe

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:20:41 +0000

How many times has Trump responded to indictments or plea deals or new evidence about the criminal swamp he inhabits by tweeting “NO COLLUSION”? He did it again Friday, even as the indictments don’t actually address the question. The indictments make clear that that while they don’t charge anyone within Trump’s inner circle, they also don’t rule out such a future possibility. Simply put, Friday’s indictments are about Friday’s indictments.  Natasha Bertrand: Trump said in a tweet hours after the indictment was released that “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!” The indictment did not make a judgment as to whether the results of the election were impacted, or whether collusion occurred between the Trump campaign and Russia in any other instances. Trump also claimed that the election results were not impacted, but that question also was not addressed in these indictments. “Claims of a ‘hoax’ in tatters,” John Brennan, the former CIA director, said in a tweet. “My take: Implausible that Russian actions did not influence the views and votes of at least some Americans.” So odd that Trump keeps claiming exoneration when it doesn’t exist. But what the indictments did leave in tatters is Trump’s continuing claims that the investigations are a “witch hunt” or “fake news.” Which will make it that much more difficult for Trump to rationalize firing Mueller, or otherwise stopping the investigation. It also eviscerates the narrative the Trump orbit will try to spin if Americans do end up indicted. And meanwhile, about that question of collusion: Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors have not concluded their investigation into whether President Donald Trump or any of his associates helped Russia interfere in the 2016 election, according to a person with knowledge of the probe. Friday’s indictment of a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” and 13 Russian nationals should be seen as a limited slice of a comprehensive investigation, the person said. Mueller’s work is expected to continue for months and also includes examining potential obstruction of justice by Trump, said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss an investigation that is largely confidential. The investigation continues. Trump continues to reveal himself in unintentional ways. And remember when this was supposed to be the latest iteration of Infrastructure Week? [...]



Abbreviated Science Round-up ... In Space

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 16:38:37 +0000

You might notice that this week’s Abbreviated Science Round-up has gone in a new direction. Don’t worry, the review of recent scientific articles, letters, and research papers will return next week — assuming that Robert Mueller doesn’t drop another 13 indictments on Friday afternoon while I’m trying to concentrate on “Endoplasmic reticulum acyltransferase with prokaryotic substrate preference contributes to triacylglycerol assembly in Chlamydomonas.” Because … seriously.

So, rather than try to read the 19 papers I’d singled out for this week in just a few hours, and making an even bigger mess of it than usual, I thought I’d try this morning giving a sampler of something I’m hoping to add as another regular feature in the next couple of weeks — the Abbreviated Space Round-up. 

The Space round up is designed to put you in touch with what’s happening overhead in the next few weeks. What’s launching, what’s being tested, missions in the works, space in the news, news from orbit, Mars, and beyond. Coming off the excitement of the Falcon Heavy launch earlier in the month, it seemed like a good time to remind everyone that we’re in a very exiting time where fantastic space-related news is popping all the time.

Since this is a New Thing — and it’s being thrown together in those same few hours that I didn’t think were enough to do the regular Abbreviated Science Round-up — some of the formatting is going to be odd and the information incomplete. So give me some feedback. Let me know what works, what else you want, and where you need more detail. 

And let me know if you’d like an Abbreviated Space Round-up to be a regular weekly feature alongside the Abbreviated Science Round-up … though we’ll have to come up with another name. Because ASR and ASR, is just not going to work.

Now, come on in ...

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$26 million in inauguration funds went to a brand-new company formed by longtime Melania friend

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 16:00:37 +0000

You can presume that everything the Trump family does is a grift.

President Trump’s inaugural committee paid nearly $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the first lady, Melania Trump, while donating $5 million — less than expected — to charity, according to tax filings released on Thursday. [...]

The 116-page filing indicates that the overwhelming majority of the funds went toward expenses related to the inauguration, with the biggest share — nearly $51 million — split roughly evenly between two companies.

The $26 million went to a company formed one month before the inauguration run by a "longtime friend" of Melania Trump, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff; The Times reports that friend "made her name planning Manhattan society galas." She now works in the White House, because of course she does.

Ms. Winston Wolkoff personally received $1.62 million for her work, according to one official from the inaugural committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the details publicly. The official said that Ms. Winston Wolkoff’s firm paid the team used by Mark Burnett, the creator of “The Apprentice,” whose involvement in the inaugural festivities was requested by Mr. Trump.

Seems like one and a half million dollars is a pretty remarkable payday for "planning" a single event, but what do we know. It sounds like everyone involved with the event did pretty well for themselves; of the astounding $107 million raised, the group donated $5 million to charity and has only $2.8 million left to disburse. So they really did spend roughly $100 million on an inauguration and balls. Whether they got $100 million worth of glamour out of it is another question.

Just as an aside, Obama’s inauguration cost only half as much but had many, many more people. You know, just as an aside.

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Republican lawmaker: Rob Porter's wife-beating wasn't a 'crime of character'

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 18:02:34 +0000

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney opened up several cans of worms in her comments on the White House’s handling of the Rob Porter scandal. Tenney didn’t seem to know much about the situation, but that didn’t stop her from having opinions. Lots of opinions. Like that domestic violence is not a “crime of character.” First, though, Tenney tried to dismiss the whole issue: “We’re also getting into the minutiae of what’s going on with White House,” Tenney said of allowing someone to remain in a job controlling the flow of papers to the president of the United States for months after the FBI found serious problems in the background check for his security clearance. This is not minutiae. But about those crimes of character: Informed of the fact that the FBI was looking into the allegations as part of its background check of Porter, and that there was potential concern over the possibility of the staffer being blackmailed, Tenney shot down that possibility. “Right, except blackmail and domestic situations don’t really line up, they’re not crimes of character,” she said. “They’re [crimes of] character but they’re not dishonesty—know this. To me... just because somebody has been accused of these things and even if they’re true that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be dishonest and commit blackmail. I don’t think it was a great hire if these are true, but again, are these true?” Aside from the fact that the concern is that Porter would be vulnerable to blackmail because he wanted to hide his wife-beating ways from the world, not that domestic abusers have a heightened propensity for committing blackmail, NOT CRIMES OF CHARACTER? Or, “character but they’re not dishonesty,” although given that Porter was actively trying to hide his history with ridiculous excuses like that he didn’t punch through his second wife’s window, he just tapped on it with a finger until his knuckle went through it, there are some freaking honesty issues here, too. Tenney, who represents New York’s 22nd Congressional District, has a serious Democratic opponent this year in state Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi. Let’s hope she continues to bring this level of eloquence and panache to her campaigning. Take back the House! Can you give $1 to the Democratic nominee fund in each Daily Kos-targeted district? [...]



Voting Rights Roundup: GOP plots to destroy Arizona's independent redistricting commission yet again

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 23:54:21 +0000

Leading Off ● Arizona: Republican legislators just won't give up in their fight gain the ability to engage in partisan gerrymandering by dismantling Arizona's independent redistricting commission. They recently advanced a proposed state constitutional amendment out of a state Senate committee that would dramatically reorganize the commission in a way that would render it toothless. If the voters approve this in a November ballot referendum, the commission would effectively be neutralized, giving the GOP-majority legislature the power to pass its own gerrymanders. This isn't the first time that Arizona Republicans have gone to extremes to fight for the ability to gerrymander, which we'll explain below.​ Campaign Action ​Back in 2000, voters approved a ballot initiative to create the commision itself after legislators gerrymandered decade after decade. This commission has two Republicans and two Democrats, who then pick a fifth unaffiliated tiebreaker. Most importantly, legislators and party officials themselves don't get to nominate who can serve on the commission, making this one of the very few in the country that can truly be deemed independent of legislative dominance. Independence from legislative control is critical because even when states create commissions where legislative leaders of both parties select an equal number of partisans, those commissioners are far more likely to engage in bipartisan incumbent-protection gerrymandering, while regular citizens often favor more competitive lines. And furthermore, Arizona's commission is explicitly tasked with using partisanship in an impartial manner to produce competitive districts without intentionally favoring one party over the other in an undue manner like a partisan gerrymander would. indeed, the current congressional and legislative maps give neither party much of an advantage. This commission produced maps that relatively favored Republicans after the 2000 census, and Republicans let them be. But after the 2010 census, Republicans became apoplectic when Colleen Mathis, the lone independent on the commission, sided with Democrats to approve district maps that didn’t give the GOP any unfair advantage. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer and the GOP-run state Senate then overstepped their authority by firing Mathis, only to see the state Supreme Court promptly rebuke them and reinstate her to the commission. Republicans then sued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue that any voter-initiated redistricting reform measure violated the U.S. Constitution, which would have struck a deadly blow to redistricting reform efforts in America. But fortunately, the court upheld the constitutionality of the commission in 2015, paving the way for redistricting reform advocates to attempt ballot initiatives in a large number of states. But Republicans didn't even give up then. In 2016, they again sued all the way to the Supreme Court to get the maps themselves declared unconstitutional, but the court once again rebuked them. [...]



Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Yeah, the Russians meddled. They helped Trump. And he's cornered.

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 12:30:12 +0000

So, what’s new in your world? What’s listed below is a crime. And with a conspiracy in place, anyone aiding and abetting it is in legal jeopardy. What's been announced is only what's been announced. The indictment here recognizes “unwitting” Americans. But this is not the end of the probe.  Any attempt to fire Mueller now… xMr. Mueller seems to know an awful lot. https://t.co/u1CWaHDRSw— Francis Wilkinson (@fdwilkinson) February 16, 2018 Jennifer Rubin/WaPo: The special counsel’s actions raise a host of questions, but here is what we can say with confidence: There is no “hoax,” and Trump’s insistence that the Russia investigation is about nothing only reinforces the perception that he cannot concede that he received Russian help and/or that he’s been trying to disable the Russia investigation, precisely because he did not want this plot of interference to come through. It will be exceptionally hard, if not impossible, for Trump now to fire Rosenstein or Mueller. Mueller and his team are moving with remarkable speed, wrapping up witnesses and substantiating a conspiracy to influence the election. There is much more to this than “just” evidence of obstruction. There is an embarrassing scheme of influence that certainly could have been the motive for Trump’s effort to thwart the Russia investigation. Mueller has multiple witnesses: Michael Flynn, Richard Pinedo(the indicted American), George Papadopoulos and soon, we are told, Rick Gates). Trump and his legal team should be exceptionally worried about what else Mueller has. The president’s failure to take action to protect the U.S. election system and prevent another assault on our democracy — a real and ongoing concern voiced by the unanimous testimony of his top intelligence officials — appears to be a gross dereliction of Trump’s duties and an abrogation of his oath. The Russian plan was specifically aimed at helping Trump. “By February 2016, the suspects had decided whom they were supporting in the 2016 race. According to the indictment, Internet Research Agency specialists were instructed to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),'” The Post reports. “Prosecutors say some Russian employees of the troll farm were chastised in September 2016 when they had a ‘low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton’ and were told it was ‘imperative to intensify criticizing’ the Democratic nominee in future posts.” While Rosenstein said there was no evidence that the actions in the indictment affected the election outcome, such an assertion, he surely must know, is not a provable fact and is legally immaterial. No one can prove how many people were affected by what the Russians put out. x1/ Sweet Jesus the MAGAS, the clickservatives, and Gentry Breitbart think he's exonerated. It's freaking spectacular. SPEC-TAC-ULAR.— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) February 16, 2018 [...]



Open thread for night owls. James Risen: 'Is Donald Trump a Traitor?'

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 04:00:37 +0000

Coincidentally, I had been (finally) reading James Risen’s 2014 book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, when I caught a bit of the “Kagro in the Morning” radio show today in which there was a lengthy discussion about something Risen had written before Friday’s indictments of 13 Russian nationals were announced. The piece, updated after the indictments, is at The Intercept and titled Is Donald Trump a Traitor? One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment. His 2016 campaign is the subject of an ongoing federal inquiry that could determine whether Trump or people around him worked with Moscow to take control of the U.S. government. Americans must now live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether the president has the best interests of the United States or those of the Russian Federation at heart. Most pundits in Washington now recoil at any suggestion that the Trump-Russia story is really about treason. They all want to say it’s about something else – what, they aren’t quite sure. They are afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost. They seem to think that treason is too much of a conversation-stopper, that it interrupts the flow of cable television and Twitter. God forbid you might upset the right wing! (And the left wing, for that matter.) But if a presidential candidate or his lieutenants secretly work with a foreign government that is a longtime adversary of the United States to manipulate and then win a presidential election, that is almost a textbook definition of treason. [...] To anyone who has studied the history of the KGB, particularly during the Cold War, the attack on the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party during the 2016 U.S. election looks like the contemporary cyber-descendant of countless analog KGB propaganda efforts. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the KGB frequently engaged in ambitious disinformation campaigns that were designed to sow suspicion of the United States in the developing world. The KGB’s so-called “active measures” programs would use international front organizations, cutouts, and sometimes unwitting enablers in the press to disseminate their anti-American propaganda. The most infamous and dangerously effective KGB disinformation campaign of the Cold War was known as Operation Infektion. It was a secret effort to convince people in developing countries that the United States had created the HIV/AIDS virus. [...] TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES • OVERNIGHT NEWS DIGEST QUOTATION “Treason is very much a matter of habit, Smiley decided.”   ~John le Carre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) TWEET OF THE DAY xIf the 2nd Amendment was designed to prevent tyranny, it failed us just like the Electoral College.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) February 16, 2018 BLAST FROM THE PAST On this date at Daily Kos in 2006—Cheney drank before shooting [...]



How many times has Trump cheated on Melania? Another allegation and more hush money emerges

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:49:45 +0000

The New Yorker has a bombshell story about Donald Trump and another alleged affair he had in 2006, the same year he allegedly cheated on his newlywed Melania. In fact, according to the detailed reporting of Ronan Farrow, he paid for former Playboy “Playmate of the Year” Karen McDougal to fly to Lake Tahoe to attend a celebrity golf tournament. If that sounds familiar, that is the very same weekend he is alleged to have started an affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels. Same weekend he offered another porn actress $10,000 to have sex with him. All while Melania Trump was home with baby Barron Trump. According to Farrow’s reporting, McDougal’s story follows a clearly emerging pattern of secret hotel rendezvous and back channel hush money payoffs. Picking up after McDougal’s first alleged sexual encounter with the married Donald Trump in 2006, after they met at the Playboy mansion: Afterward, McDougal wrote, she “went to see him every time he was in LA (which was a lot).” Trump, she said, always stayed in the same bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel and ordered the same meal—steak and mashed potatoes—and never drank. McDougal’s account is consistent with other descriptions of Trump’s behavior. Last month, In Touch Weekly published an interview conducted in 2011 with Stephanie Clifford in which she revealed that during a relationship with Trump she met him for dinner at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Trump insisted they watch “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel. Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” alleged that Trump assaulted her at a private dinner meeting, in December of 2007, at a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Trump, Zervos has claimed, kissed her, groped her breast, and suggested that they lie down to “watch some telly-telly.” After Zervos rebuffed Trump’s advances, she said that he “began thrusting his genitals” against her. (Zervos recently sued Trump for defamation after he denied her account.) All three women say that they were escorted to a bungalow at the hotel by a Trump bodyguard, whom two of the women have identified as Keith Schiller. After Trump was elected, Schiller was appointed director of Oval Office Operations and deputy assistant to the President. Last September, John Kelly, acting as the new chief of staff, removed Schiller from the White House posts. (Schiller did not respond to a request for comment.) Trump was extremely brazen, bringing McDougal to meet his family at events. [...]



Racist trolls using abuse victims' photos to make fake claims of attacks at 'Black Panther' shows

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 18:49:03 +0000

The latest Marvel superhero movie Black Panther is out! Its Thursday opening is expected to have raked in over $25 million—yes, in one night. 

Unfortunately, racists hate to see black people have any joy—and some are doing anything possible to chip away at it. Just take a look at this recent heinous example of the tactics used by racist people to spread misinformation. Warning: screenshots including some of the graphic photos are included below.

BuzzFeed News reports that racists are using Twitter to share photos of bloody and/or bruised white women with false claims that they’re the result of being attacked by black people at Black Panther movie screenings. 

x

Someone even used a photo of a bruised Colbie Holderness, an ex-wife of former White House secretary Rob Porter, taken after being assaulted by him in the early 2000s.

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The Coal War in the West: Wyoming legislature considers suing Washington to force them to take coal

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 05:03:36 +0000

For two decades, coal companies with operations in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana have been looking for a way to ship their coal across the Pacific. There are existing ports that could handle some coal, but nothing that could handle the millions of tons that the companies hope to ship to steam plants across Asia. Volume was an important factor, because Powder River coal is relatively low-BTU low-price coal. Making a new port designed to handle coal worth it means making something that can handle, at least, tens of millions of tons per year. But that sheer scale—a new port, tens of millions of tons of coal being shipped through by rail, handling of that coal on the ground, etc.—has led coastal states to turn down every proposal. In many cases, these projects have been strongly opposed not just by activists, but by local residents who don’t want to turn their town into the gateway for Wyoming coal. 

But at the other end if the rail line is Wyoming, a state that’s structured their finances around the fees that come in from fossil fuels. With hundreds of millions of tons of coal rolling out of the Powder River Basin, and a hefty tax on every ton, Wyoming residents have enjoyed top flight schools and facilities, while having no state income tax. The state has even socked away billions in savings. But the rise of cheap natural gas from fracking, and the rapidly falling prices for solar and wind has resulted in a sharp decline in demand for steam coal in the United States. That’s left Wyoming in a pickle. 

What to do about a looming, $684 million budget deficit will be the top priority as Wyoming lawmakers begin their annual legislative session Monday, but major changes to taxes or spending don't appear imminent.

Instead, tax-phobic Wyoming residents are facing some severe spending cuts. But rather than face the idea of implementing new taxes or getting by with less, Wyoming legislators have another idea.

A Republican lawmaker wants Wyoming to sue Washington State for denying a coal port that could carry Powder River Basin coal overseas – and set aside a quarter of a million dollars to do it. 

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Judge forces Perry to enforce energy efficiency standards, but Energy Star is probably dead

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:51:28 +0000

There are things Donald Trump has done that seem petty and vindictive, then there are some that go beyond petty. They’re petty-plus. Super-spiteful and at the same time, deeply, deeply picayune. Things like killing the Energy-Star program

Trump’s budget would get rid of Energy Star. The government labeling program for energy-efficient appliances and consumer products is on the chopping block as the president tries to slash spending so he can steer $54 billion more a year to the military.

It’s not that the Energy-Star program isn’t important—it has saved American consumers over $430 billion in electrical expenses, while cutting back on the pollution that energy would use. But it’s not really the program costs that Trump is after. The whole Energy Star program operates on less than $50 million a year, making it a terrific national investment. It’s so good, in fact, that it’s been emulated by many other countries.

Energy Star is on the chopping block for two reasons: First, the idea of saving energy, whether it’s with hybrid cars or LED bulbs, offends the rolling-coal conservatives who view an erg not turned into smoke as an erg wasted. And second because Trump has a personal stake in this game.

Energy Star is best known for labels that tell you how much you'll pay on your utility bill if you buy a new refrigerator or television. But it also has ratings for hotels, condominiums and office buildings.

Trump's properties tend to receive low Energy Star ratings. … On a scale of 1 to 100 for energy efficiency, Manhattan's old Mayfair Hotel, which Trump converted into condos, rated a 1.

Another day, another conflict of interest. What’s giving up insight into product efficiency if it helps Trump sell a condo? But even if Trump is turning off the lights on Energy Star, not every efficiency rating will die, because a federal judge was willing to slap down Trump’s actions.

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About those Russia sanctions ...

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:13:30 +0000

This isn’t complicated.

A.)

Just so we’re clear, the law wasn’t intended to make sanctions on Russia optional. What’s more, this isn’t the first time the president and his team have dragged their feet on implementing congressionally approved sanctions on the country that attacked U.S. elections in 2016.

It helps explain why some lawmakers aren’t exactly pleased this morning. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said on Twitter this morning, “Congress voted 517-5 to impose sanctions on Russia. The President decides to ignore that law. Folks that is a constitutional crisis. There should be outrage in every corner of this country.”

B.)

So to recap, the head of America's foreign intelligence agency is suggesting Russia will attempt to do what it did in the 2016 election again in 2018 and that he hasn't “seen a significant decrease in their activity.” But then the State Department announces that it doesn't need to impose the sanctions that were meant to punish that behavior because the legislation is already serving as a deterrent?

The sanctions themselves specifically target those who do business with Russian defense and intelligence firms, aiming to harm Russia's economy. The State Department argues that foreign governments have indeed backed out of doing such business because of the mere threat of sanctions. But if the overall goal is to deter future election interference, Pompeo seems to argue that hasn't really happened.

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FCC investigates FCC chairman Pai over potential 'improper coordination' with Sinclair Broadcasting

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:59:36 +0000

The inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission is investigating the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, for possibly having worked just a little to closely with far-right media conglomerate Sinclair Broadcasting in its attempt to purchase Tribune Media.

WASHINGTON — Last April, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, led the charge for his agency to approve rules allowing television broadcasters to greatly increase the number of stations they own. A few weeks later, Sinclair Broadcasting announced a blockbuster $3.9 billion deal to buy Tribune Media — a deal those new rules made possible.

By the end of the year, in a previously undisclosed move, the top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair, according to Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey and two congressional aides. […]

A New York Times investigation published

Sinclair’s top lobbyist, a former F.C.C. official, also communicated frequently with former agency colleagues and pushed for the relaxation of media ownership rules. And language the lobbyist used about loosening rules has tracked closely to analysis and language used by Mr. Pai in speeches favoring such changes.

In addition to Pai's communications with Sinclair, the Democrats asked the IG to look into communications between Pai and the White House, referencing "a report in March 2017 from The New York Post, in which Mr. Trump is said to have met with Sinclair's executive chairman, David Smith, and discussed F.C.C. rules."

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Trump White House schemes to replace popular, qualified VA secretary with a 'political candidate'

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:47:37 +0000

Improving the efficiency of the Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the few points on which both Democrats and Republicans agree. No one wants to see long waits or poor service for veterans. And Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin was one of those rare things in the Trump cabinet—someone who appears to be well-qualified for his role and who was approved by a broad bipartisan vote.

Born on an Army base with his father an Army doctor, Shulkin is a Yale grad with a background in healthcare management and a previous role as the president of Beth Israel Medical Center. His choice to head the VA received across the board support from inside and outside the organization, and his actions over the last year have made Shulkin the most popular member of Trump’s team on both sides of the aisle.

“What motivates me and what motivates Dr. Shulkin is the same, to provide the best care to veterans,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “I don’t know whether he’s a Republican or Democrat, and I could care less.”

With all that going for him, it shouldn’t be surprising that Trump’s White House is now working to not just get rid of Shulkin, but find a way to harass and embarrass him until he’s forced to quit.

An email sent in December by Jake Leinenkugel, the White House senior adviser on veterans affairs, expressed frustration with Dr. Shulkin and listed ways to topple the leadership of his department once key legislation was passed. … Mr. Leinenkugel, who has an office in the department, proposed “solutions” in the email, including using a continuing investigation of the secretary’s travel to remove Dr. Shulkin’s chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson; replacing the deputy secretary, Thomas G. Bowman, with Mr. Leinenkugel; and replacing Dr. Shulkin with a “strong political candidate.”

That last line from the New York Times’ article is the critical one. Shulkin has to go, not for anything he’s done as head of the VA, but because he’s refusing to play politics with the agency.

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In California, fear may be driving eligible immigrant youth from applying for college financial aid

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:13:20 +0000

Applications for the California Dream Act—which allows eligible undocumented immigrant youth access to state financial aid for college—are down.  "We're 20,000 students behind," said the California Student Aid Commission’s Lupita Cortez Alcalá. With a deadline about two weeks away, officials say applications are at one-half of what they were last year, and they’re pretty sure they know why:

College counselors and Cortez Alcalá cite immigrant families' increasing distrust of the government. Students are especially concerned about the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which hangs in the balance.

"There's rumors about ICE raids all the time — some unfounded and some maybe founded," said Jane Slater, a teacher at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, Calif., who also advises a club for students who are in the country without legal permission. "The headlines about immigration make people feel like they're really in the spotlight. Kids are more afraid for their families than they are for themselves.”

Officials noted a drop in applications last year, but “after weeks of advocacy and ‘cash for college’ events to spread the word, 36,127 applications came in — slightly more than the year before.” But even in a state as pro-immigrant as California—home to the largest population of DACA recipients in the nation—there is panic. 

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Scott Pruitt makes it clear—He flies first class to avoid the dirty hippies at the back of the plane

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:11:35 +0000

Why does EPA chief Scott Pruitt require an absolutely unprecedented army of at least 30 personal security guards? Why did he clear a whole floor of the EPA for his private use? Why did he institute a new security system within the security system to keep people out of the building, and a $25,000 cone of silence within in his office? Most of all, why does he fly around the world in first class, surrounded by his security entourage? What horrible threat requires that the public spend—at least—hundreds of thousands on giving Pruitt special waivers to grab first class tickets not just to Europe, but on even the shortest flight?

Now we have an answer. Someone … hurt Pruitt’s feelings.

The director of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Henry Barnet, told Politico that Pruitt was “approached in the airport numerous times” and had profanities “yelled at him” during his travels.

This apparently so traumatized Pruitt that he had to be entitled to an umbrella drink and a warm towel on all his flights. That’y why it now costs $36,000 for Pruitt to fly from Cincinnati to New York, and at least $90,000 just for his travels in June. All that’s on top of the at least $2 million in extra funds for his private army; a security detail far larger than anyone, ever, in any position other than president. 

Barnet told the publication that one specific incident saw a person approach Pruitt and shout “Scott Pruitt, you’re f---ing up the environment” while recording it on a cellphone.

With a horror like that, we can only be grateful that Pruitt didn’t decide to go nuclear on the entire National Airport.

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After a year in office, Trump still doesn't understand what a filibuster is

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 14:28:47 +0000

Campaign Action The White House press office released this statement Thursday night, after the legislation the occupier of the Oval Office sent to the Senate went down in humiliating flames. Today, the Schumer Democrats in the Senate demonstrated again that they are not serious about DACA, they are not serious about immigration reform, and they are not serious about homeland security. They filibustered a proposal with an extremely generous path to citizenship because it also contained reforms that secured our border and secured our immigration system. The Grassley bill was a compromise bill—as demonstrated by the fact that some conservatives opposed its very generous DACA provisions. Yet, the Schumer Democrats chose to filibuster it because they are held hostage by the radical left in their party, which opposes any immigration control at all. Today, they sided with an extreme fringe over the hardworking men and women of the Department of Homeland Security. The Administration will continue advocating for an immigration package that includes border security, ending chain migration, cancelling the visa lottery, and a reasonable DACA solution—a proposal Americans support overwhelmingly. And while radical Schumer Democrats align themselves with the open border fringe, the Trump Administration will continue advocating for the American people. The next step will be for the House to continue advancing the proposal from Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman McCaul. Trump's bill—the Grassley bill—was not a compromise. It was Stephen Miller's white supremacist wish list for remaking immigration policy to make sure only wealthy white people could come into the U.S. And it failed miserably, with 14 Republicans voting against it. Four. Teen. That's not Democrats defeating it. [...]



Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Resistance FRIDAY!

Sat, 17 Feb 2018 00:20:30 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… Late Night Snark “Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Abraham Lincoln was born 209 years ago. Of course, he was tragically assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington by a member of MS-13. I read that on the White House website. Is that not right?” ---Jimmy Kimmel “According to sources at the White House, Donald Trump's lawyers are telling him to refuse an interview with Robert Mueller because the president, who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself, could be charged with lying to investigators. It’s a crack legal analysis from the law firm of No, Shit & Sherlock.” ---Stephen Colbert ---The Daily Show “The Mexican-American judge that Donald Trump insulted may hear a case about his border wall. It’s the landmark case of Donald Trump vs. Payback’s a Bitch.” ---Conan O’Brien And this interesting juxtaposition from Feb. 2009… "How about President Barack Obama's first prime time press conference last night? He was cogent, eloquent, and in complete command of the issues. I'm thinking to myself, what the hell am I supposed to do with that?” ---David Letterman And Feb. 2017… Trump at his one and only solo press conference exactly 365 days ago: To be honest, I inherited a mess. Stephen Colbert: No. You inherited a fortune. We elected a mess. ---The Late Show If your name is Robert Mueller, tonight drinks around the kiddie pool are on the house. Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!] Note about the poll: the high schoolers are from Parkland, Florida, not “Lakeland,” which I apparently pulled out of some dusty, malfunctioning part of my brain. In other words: my brain. Our apologies.  [...]



Rick Gates close to a deal with Mueller—make that three cooperating witnesses

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:37:19 +0000

For some time, it’s been clear that something was going on behind the scenes concerning the indictment of Rick Gates. Gates split with his defense team two weeks ago. The reasons for that attorney-client divorce were filed under seal, but the suspicion was there from the beginning that Gates had decided to make a deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Now that deal seems to be almost a certainty. Gates has already spoken to Mueller's team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He's had what criminal lawyers call a "Queen for a Day" interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors' team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed. Any deal would seem to require that Gates hand over long-time partner Paul Manafort’s head on a plate. But while Gates is often referred to simply as “Manafort’s protege” in descriptions of their relationship, it’s worth noting that Gates was actually a member of Donald Trump’s campaign staff much longer than Manafort. The two men came in at the same time, but Gates stuck around after Manafort’s departure, acting as the go-between for the Trump campaign and the RNC. He may be one of the few people able to tell a continuous story from Papadopoulos, right up to “I love Wikileaks.” Gates would also be able to speak to how much information was passed from the Trump campaign to other Republican officials. There’s one other thing that absolutely has to be included in any deal with Rick Gates.  A number of lines in the robustly applauded speech delivered by Melania Trump at the Republican national convention on Monday night appear to have been lifted verbatim from a speech Michelle Obama delivered at the 2008 Democratic convention. … A campaign source suggested to the Guardian that the blame lay with Rick Gates, a longtime aide to top Trump strategist Paul Manafort.  Rick Gates is the guy who took the blame for Melania’s plagiarized speech, and America deserves to know the truth—if only because it would be hilarious.  [...]



Top ICE attorney pleads guilty to stealing immigrants' identities to go on $190,000 shopping spree

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 18:46:34 +0000

The top counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has pled guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated theft after being charged with stealing the identifies of seven immigrants in order to scam them and credit card companies to the tune of nearly $200,000. A “bad hombre” indeed:

The former lawyer, Raphael A. Sanchez, used his position as the ICE chief counsel for immigration proceedings in several Western states to gain access to the victims’ personal information in federal databases, including their immigration records. Using those records, Mr. Sanchez created fake Social Security cards, driver’s licenses and utility bills to open credit card and bank accounts in their names, the authorities said.

Mr. Sanchez, 44, ran the elaborate scheme, which included his claiming three of the people as dependents on his tax returns, from October 2013 to October 2017, ordering items online and having them shipped to his house. To try to make the purchases appear legitimate, he also signed up for credit monitoring to track the immigrants’ credit scores and fabricated income statements, the Justice Department said.

“Raphael Sanchez is a good person who has made serious mistakes in violation of the law,” his attorney Cassandra Stamm claimed. Do good people usually steal the identities of human beings in deportation proceedings so they can go on shopping sprees?

The New York Times reported that Sanchez has resigned from ICE, an agency that has deported immigrants for broken taillights, driving without a license, and other mild offenses, despite having no criminal record. Sanchez is expected to get 48 months and will have to repay his victims. He’ll eventually get his freedom back. But for immigrants deported by his agency, that freedom will remain elusive. 

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Congressional Republicans stand by 'man of integrity,' the abuse-enabling John Kelly

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:27:50 +0000

Campaign Action White House chief of staff John Kelly put a significant dent in his reputation as the adult keeping things ship-shape on Donald Trump’s staff thanks to his long delay in firing staff secretary Rob Porter, and lost the confidence of many in the White House. But many congressional Republicans are standing by Kelly: Asked whether he had confidence in Kelly, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) replied: “Yes. And I don’t know that there’s an alternative.”  There’s a certain whiff of desperation in the second part of Blunt’s answer there, but others were more laudatory: “I’d certainly like to see him stay in the White House,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “He’s just a man of integrity, and he’s doing a great job.” Kelly is a man who kept an abuser on staff long after the FBI provided its background check and then lied about what he knew and when he knew it, but hey, maybe that fits Ron Johnson’s definition of integrity and doing a great job.  Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), who’s known Kelly for years, said he stopped watching the news because he feels the coverage is “overkill” and unfair to the chief. “I don’t want to see Gen. Kelly go,” Rooney said. “You’re talking about one of the greatest men I have met in my entire life.” Here’s a thought: maybe you should go looking for other greatest men, because surely there are better people in this nation than deportation enthusiast, Civil War revisionist, liar, and wife-beating enabler John Kelly. If there aren’t many people better than that, we should just give up right now. [...]



Trump's response to indictments puts focus on what he was doing with Russia in 2013-14

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:57:27 +0000

So this is interesting. Trump’s immediate response to today’s indictments, tweeted immediately after he boarded Marine One to head off to Florida.  xRussia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018 Long before he announced he was going to run for president, but about the time Russia was clearly recognizing just how useful Donald Trump could be for them. Let’s just revisit the timeline a bit, shall we? In November, 2013, Trump was in Moscow for his Miss Universe contest, where “US intelligence experts note, he would have been a natural and obvious target for Russian intelligence.” Whether or not the more salacious details of the Steele dossier happened, giving the Russians potential blackmail to use against Trump, he made connections during his few days in Moscow that ended up being involved in his campaign two and a half years later. Like billionaire Aras Agalarov, who through his son Emin (a performer at the pageant) offered that dirt about Hillary Clinton from “Russia's top prosecutor” to Don Jr. So maybe Trump did something in 2013 to give Putin leverage over him and maybe he meets some people there who are trying to cultivate him. That makes Trump’s focus on 2014 as the starting point kind of interesting. Particularly when you see the concrete thing that starts happening in 2014. The invaluable Sarah Kendzior points out that by 2014 “Russian state media was promoting Trump and Trump was praising Putin on FOX News.” She wrote about it in August 2016. Trump had appeared on Fox and defended Russia’s ongoing disaster of a disorganized and chaotic Sochi Olympics. And this: The future Republican presidential nominee concludes by stating the US should give Russia a pass, because: “[The US is] going to win something important later on, and they won’t be opposed to what we’re doing.” Trump never specifies what exactly this future “win” will be, but it’s an interesting comment in the context of his ascendancy to the GOP candidacy. 2014 may have been long before Trump actually announced that he was running for president, but it would have been exactly when Russia was deciding he would be their perfect stooge for 2016. [...]



Cartoon: The White House winter games

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 22:50:03 +0000

I haven't watched any of the Winter Olympics yet. The NHL preventing their players from participating in the hockey tournament ruined the only event I'm interested in.

But I'll take any obscure winter sport over the stunts this administration is pulling.

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