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Published: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:36:34 +0000

Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 08:36:34 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want
 



Open thread for night owls: But Democrats are using swear words...

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 03:00:49 +0000

There has long been a Great Pundit Uncomfortableness with the public use of swear words. It has been seen as the domain of uncouth bloggers for some time now; during the run-up to the Iraq war it was clear that the Bush administration was manipulating evidence in an attempt to justify their desired military conflict—but the opposition, on the streets and on the internet, were pooh-poohed for not being gentlemanly in their objections to such a thing. The signs! The shouts! How very unfortunate. Similarly, when it was revealed that the United States was torturing prisoners of war in an effort to extract information administration officials wanted extracted—a war crime—it was treated as a scandalous thing, but you still weren't allowed to say that torturing prisoners of war was a fucking monstrous thing to do. To be honest, you weren't even taken seriously if you merely called it a monstrous thing to do; the prevailing pundit belief has long been that whatever nearly criminal or shudderingly unethical or crime against the Geneva Conventions a powerful might propose or actually do, those things were now proper discourse, by virtue of a serious person saying them or doing them, and objecting to such things with genuine, unfiltered anger was an entirely unserious thing to do. You're never supposed to be quite that visibly invested in the moral, ethical, and legal underpinnings of our society, you see. You're supposed to comment on them from above, as if they were merely the landscape under the hot-air balloon in which you're currently sipping tea and unpacking your picnic lunch. We're all supposed to be friends here, on the op-ed pages, and if you're going to get all puffy and red-faced about cutting off medical aid to poor children or subjecting war prisoners to a few war crimes here or there then nobody is going to invite you to the next White House Correspondents Dinner now, are they? This has long been one of my more obscure furies with the pundit class, not because I am uncontrollably enamored with th' swear words but because it never failed to give the game away; punditry is not serious. Punditry is a farce. Our allowable public discourse is stage-managed to the last spotlight and shoe-scuff. None of the people bleating in the papers about this or that injustice truly give a damn about any of them—you cannot "both sides" the impropriety of war crimes against the impropriety of saying shit on a public sidewalk, not without obliquely admitting that you haven't ever cared enough about either to have sat down with a moral yardstick and compared them. But that was, indeed, the pundit message. We may have been lied into war—but saying so was, if anything, equally uncouth. We may have tortured—but being truly angry about that only proves you to be immature. So it's a bit odd to see the return of the should Democrats use swear words genre in our public discourse of late, after a long two decades of insistence that such things only proved you to be temperamentally unfit for the public sphere. The good news is that people are beginning to give less of a damn. The bad news is that this, too, may just be the result of things being so truly enfuckened these days that mere foul language can't compete. Politicians have never been saints when it comes to salty language. Roll through the archives and you’ll find John F. Kennedy chewing out an Air Force General over a Washington Post story and Lyndon Johnson giving his tailor graphic instructions on how to ensure the breathability of his pants. Both Presidents Bush have had hot mic incidents on the campaign trail, and in 2004 it leaked to the press that Dick Cheney had told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to “fuck yourself” on the floor of the Senate. But these exchanges were supposed to be private, or at least weren’t meant for immediate press write-ups. The incorporation of risqué language into the meticulously planned public statements and personas of upwardly mobile politicians appears to be new. And in a time marked by Trumpian combativeness and a deca[...]



Confirmed: House Republicans will not hold vote on Obamacare repeal this week

Fri, 28 Apr 2017 02:36:32 +0000

Once again, Republicans are teetering on the brink of failure—sweet, delicious failure:

Despite pressure from the White House, House GOP leaders determined Thursday night that they don’t have the votes to pass a rewrite of the Affordable Care Act and will not seek to put their proposal on the floor on Friday.

This is a bit like a patient with stage four brain cancer deciding to put off surgery because it might hurt: The prognosis isn’t going to get better if you wait, and it’s still going to be painful as hell.

We’ll see these clowns on Monday.

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Cartoon: Borderwall fundraiser

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:09:47 +0000

Trump cannot seem to get his border wall adequately funded. Heck, he doesn’t even know who’s going to pay for the stupid thing, since amazingly Mexico said, “NO MAMES, CABRON”, which means, “We will not be paying for that f***** wall.” He is reduced to selling Chiclets at the border, to get some funding for his historic boondoggle.

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Hey, working class Trump voters. Remember when Trump promised tax cuts for you and not the rich?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:21:33 +0000

Donald Trump, The Today Show, April 21, 2016:

Q: Do you believe in raising taxes on the wealthy?      

A: I do, I do, including myself. I do.     

Donald Trump, November 7, 2016, Scranton, PA:

[I will] massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country.

Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, “Squawk Box,” CNBC, November 30, 2016:

Any reductions we have in upper-income taxes will be offset by less deductions so that there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class.

Donald Trump Tax Plan for individuals, released April 26, 2017. Whom does it benefit?:

High-income earners. The plan would reduce the top rate on individual income tax — now 39.6 percent for income over around $470,000 for a married couple — to 35 percent. But that’s only part of the gain for high-income earners. It also would eliminate a 3.8 percent tax, used to help fund Obamacare, that applies to investment income over $250,000 for a couple.

Multimillionaires who want to pass money to their heirs tax-free. The plan would eliminate the estate tax, which currently applies to individuals with estates of $5.5 million or couples with estates worth $11 million.

Donald J. Trump. It is striking how many of the categories listed above affect the president and his family. He is a high-income earner. He receives income from 564 business entities, according to his financial disclosure form, and could take advantage of the low rate on “pass-through” companies. According to his leaked 2005 tax return, he paid an extra $31 million because of the alternative minimum tax that he seeks to eliminate. And his heirs could eventually enjoy his enormous assets tax-free.

Was there ever really any doubt?

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Infamous Alabama judge Roy Moore kicks off GOP primary challenge against Sen. Luther Strange

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:48:23 +0000

Roy Moore, who was suspended as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court last year for defying federal court orders regarding same-sex marriage, announced on Wednesday that he would challenge appointed Sen. Luther Strange in this August’s GOP primary ahead of December’s special election. Moore has made it plain that he plans to rally his religious conservative base. Last week, after the state's high court upheld his suspension for the rest of his term, Moore cast himself as a martyr, arguing that the case against him “was a politically motivated effort by the Judicial Inquiry Commission and certain homosexual and transgendered groups to remove me from office because of my steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage.” For good measure, Moore argued at his campaign kickoff that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t mention public education, and that schools are “used as an indoctrination of our children.”  Back in 2003, Moore was also kicked off the bench after he refused to comply with a federal judge's order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the state Supreme Court. For a while after that, Moore’s political career stalled. In 2006, he challenged Gov. Bob Riley in the Republican primary and lost 67-33. Then, in 2010, Moore ran to succeed the termed-out Riley, taking just 19 percent in that year’s primary, enough for a weak fourth-place finish. Moore even flirted with a 2012 presidential bid, but he decided to run for his old spot as chief justice again instead. Moore took just over 50 percent against two primary opponents, allowing him to win without a runoff. However, he struggled in the general election, beat his Democratic foe by just a slim 52-48 margin even as Mitt Romney was winning Alabama 61-38. Still, Moore was finally back—and he quickly made waves once again. In early 2016, months after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Moore told state probate judges that they “have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary” to Alabama’s now-defunct law banning it. The state’s Court of the Judiciary unanimously voted to suspend Moore from office for the remainder of his term as a result. State law already prevented Moore from running for re-election in 2018 because of his age, so this decision effectively banned him from the court for life. [...]



Still a long, long way to go to fill U.S. attorney posts left open by Trump's purge

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:48:18 +0000

The Trump administration is reportedly "moving" to fill some of the nearly 50 U.S. attorney posts left open after a massive March purge, but don't expect a flurry of confirmations any time soon. Though the White House is supposedly set to nominate as many as a dozen-plus U.S. attorney picks in the coming weeks, getting a vote on them could be a long haul, especially in blue states. Politico writes:

It’s still likely to be months before appointees can be confirmed, according to longtime observers and former U.S. attorneys. Appointees have to be screened and vetted by the FBI, and the Senate has to schedule hearings.

Democrats are also threatening to slow the process, according to people familiar with the talks. While the filibuster has now been completely dismantled for both judicial and executive branch nominees, senators retain an effective veto over U.S. attorney, judge and marshal nominations in their states through a Senate procedure known as the blue slip.

The “blue slip” policy gives every senator an opportunity to gum up the works at will. It's exactly what Republicans used to block President Obama from filling a great number of judgeships in the lower courts.

In the meantime, most of the U.S. attorney positions continue to fall to the stewardship of acting U.S. attorneys, who aren’t as beholden to Trump as an appointee would be. That could be especially important in New York.

Trump cares more about some picks than others. None are more important to him than the U.S. attorney posts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, two of the most prominent offices in the DOJ, which are known for handling white-collar crime and terrorism cases.

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Audit of Ferguson court system proves it's a complete and total disaster after Mike Brown's death

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 21:42:22 +0000

The news from Ferguson, Missouri, just gets worse and worse. You may remember that after the killing of Michael Brown, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Department which proved that in “nearly every aspect of Ferguson’s law enforcement system” blacks were impacted severely and disproportionately. This included arrests, jail time, and practices shaped based on revenue needs rather than public safety. And now, the latest news from the beleaguered city comes from a recently released audit which finds that its court system is in “disarray.” The audit was launched in the wake of the protests surrounding Brown’s death. 

State Auditor Nicole Galloway was in St. Louis to release details of the audit, which gave Ferguson courts a "poor" rating — the lowest available. The performance was so bad, Galloway said, that her office will conduct a follow-up review later this year. [...]

Among the problems cited: Files stored in an unsecured storage garage and damaged by water and mold, and $26,000 in illegal fees. She also said uncooperative and "at times combative" court and city personnel that caused delays in access to files.

Water and mold? Disgusting. These are court records we’re talking about—not a family album in someone’s basement. Surely, the city could have taken better care of its citizens important documents. And it also appears that files were also in multiple locations. Galloway’s office’s audit found files in storage garages, the police and courts buildings with no process to track records. Some were also not secured, despite having personal information such as social security numbers and driver’s license information. Some records were so damaged that they are lost forever. Some were simply misplaced.

Some records were never recovered, Galloway said, presumably because they were lost or misplaced. Enough records were uncovered to show that at least $1,400 in cash was missing, "but the careless way these records were kept may prevent us from ever knowing the total amount," she said.

So that’s unsecured files, water and mold damaged files, lost files, and missing funds. This is not just disarray and disorganized. This is negligent. The people of Ferguson deserve better. 

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Trump rails against 'abusive' national monuments while his interior secretary downplays his plan

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:22:13 +0000

Donald Trump’s interior secretary does not seem to be reading from the same script as Trump on the recent executive order calling for a review of national monuments created since 1996. Though Ryan Zinke’s remarks at the signing ceremony did suggest that some recent monuments were too large, he also downplayed the impact of Trump’s order:

Let’s be clear,” Zinke said Wednesday. “This executive order does not remove any monuments. And this executive order does not weaken any environmental protections on any public lands. Under President Trump’s leadership, I’m looking forward to working with and being an advocate for local, state and tribal representation, and to review the designations and provide recommendations for action where appropriate.”

Trump, by contrast, railed against an “egregious abuse of federal power”:

“The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water, and it’s time we ended this abusive practice,” Trump said. “I’ve spoken with many state and local leaders, a number of them here today, who care very much about preserving our land and who are gravely concerned about this massive federal land grab. It’s gotten worse and worse and worse. And now we’re going to free it up.”

Ah, yes. “Free it up.” I’m sure that’s about preservation! So which will it be? Freeing it up or not weakening any environmental protections? (That was a rhetorical question. We’re talking about Donald Trump and his underlings.)

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Incompetent ICE includes babies, toddlers in VOICE database of alleged immigrant criminals

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:56:49 +0000

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was recently forced to abruptly halt the agency’s reports shaming sanctuary cities after only three weeks because they were filled with so many errors. Now in yet another ICE fuck-up, “a database the Trump administration said would help victims of crimes track the custody of suspected criminal immigrants mistakenly listed babies and other children”:

When alerted Wednesday evening, Department of Homeland Security officials said the release of children’s names was a lapse in policy. The agency is not supposed to release information on children in immigration custody, said Gillian M. Christensen, acting Homeland Security press secretary.

Well, guys, you totally just did. Among the identities revealed were those of unaccompanied minors in group homes and a “bad hombre” toddler who is currently in a Texas detention center. According to the Los Angeles Times, a sharp-eyed immigration attorney was the one to catch the security lapse. Bryan Johnson, “who frequently defends children brought into the U.S. illegally, called it ‘reckless incompetence on the part of the Trump administration’’:

“In their haste to pretend like they care about victims of immigrant crimes, the Trump administration released personally identifiable information regarding vulnerable children at risk of human trafficking and other crimes,” he said. “They should just take it down.”

ICE is as incompetent as it is powerful. It’s bad enough that Donald Trump and his agency want to demonize million of immigrant adults, but now vulnerable children too? Here’s to VOICE soon joining those shaming reports in the trash bin.

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Trump's staff tries to 'talk him out of doing crazy things?' So this is the non-crazy version?

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:54:40 +0000

I know we've already talked about this amazing Politico look behind the White House drapes but honestly, it's hard to look away.

I'm not talking just about the apparent inability of Trump's advisers to keep him focused on his day job, or his team's professed surprise that, BY GOLLY, the opposition would continue to oppose a president even after the election, or even the sense of astonishment permeating Team Trump as to how this whole running the government of the most powerful nation on Earth turns out to be a big freaking deal:

“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here,” one White House official said of these early months. “But this shit is hard.”

Who? Who said that? Which person, among the current appointed White House officials, was the goober who didn't think experience was a helpful thing to have when running a government? What gold-leaf-chewing twit is now rethinking their whole position on whether or not running the entire damn government is, as they had previously presumed, something a person of their considerable ego could just pick up on the fly? This does not deserve to be an anonymous quote. That a "White House official" got blindsided by their new job being "hard" seems to be one of those things the public ought to be clued in on. Hopefully it's not someone making nuclear decisions, right? Not one of the military guys? Nobody mucking about with whether or not the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to exist?

No, it’s not even that. It's this gem that really caps the whole piece:

As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. “If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” said one Trump confidante. “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”

Wait, wait, wait. Wait. Trump's advisers are currently tasked with talking him out of doing crazy things?

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North Carolina woman voted illegally for Trump but won't be charged for 'compassionate' reasons

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:05:23 +0000

Donald Trump has made a whole lot of noise about voter fraud in last year’s presidential election. The fact that he lost the popular vote continues to drive him absolutely nuts and, though he’s already been in the White House for almost 100 days, he continues to talk about how millions of people cast illegal votes. Well, he’s right. Not about the millions, but there is proof that some people voted illegally and most of them seem to have been for him. In North Carolina, for instance, a woman admitted that she cast an illegal vote for Trump in the presidential election, in order to fulfill her mother’s dying wish. The state prosecutor, a Republican, announced that she is not going to be charged for this crime. Big surprise, huh?

District Attorney David Learner, chief prosecutor for Catawba, Burke and Caldwell counties, announced his decision Wednesday not to pursue the case, which had been referred to him by the State Board of Elections.

Learner, a Republican, withheld the name of the voter but said she had cast the improper vote for Trump last November “out of sheer ignorance” of the law and while “grieving the loss of her mother.”

Anyone who has ever lost a parent can totally understand a child being overcome with grief. And people cope with death and dying in many different ways. But let’s not forget one small thing in this scenario—this is against the law. And can you imagine if this were a Clinton voter? Or if this woman were an immigrant? They’d have tried to put her away for life.

The voter said her 89-year-old mother was an enthusiastic Trump supporter who felt the Republican presidential candidate could “save our country.” The mother donated to Trump’s campaign and stayed glued to Fox News to watch his debates and follow the presidential election.

The mother also suffered from a serious heart condition. In late October, the daughter says she asked her mother to fill out an absentee voter request – just in case her health kept her from making it to the polls in November. The mother agreed, but added: “If anything happens to me, you have my power of attorney, and you be sure to vote for Donald Trump.”

The next day the mother suffered a massive stroke and died three days later, her daughter said, in a statement included in Learner’s release.

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Despite inmate deaths, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says Sheriff David Clarke gets to keep his job

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:08:43 +0000

Sheriff David Clarke is bad at his job. The Milwaukee County Jail is a mess and is in serious need of reform. There are several lawsuits against the jail from women who say they were abused during their incarceration, including being forced to give birth while shackled. There’s also the fact that inmates seem to keep dying. And even though the last death was by dehydration and seems to be caused by officer neglect (and could be considered cruel and unusual punishment), Clarke amazingly still has a job. On Wednesday, Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said that he will not remove Clarke from office—because he doesn’t feel it’s his job. Let that sink in.

Walker said while he has the authority to remove Clarke, he doesn't feel it's his job. He acknowledged that reports about the 2016 dehydration death were concerning, but said it's up to voters to decide Clarke's fate and judge his oversight of the jail. "I'm not in a position to say," he said, adding that historical practice has been to defer to voters.

Um, hello? While voters, of course, should be the ultimate decision makers about who holds this office since its an elected position, its is well within the governor’s purview to ensure that gross negligence, mistreatment of inmates, and random deaths are not occurring on Clarke’s watch. Still, Gov. Walker seems unwilling to remove Clarke—who clearly has some kind of magical hold over the GOP because they seem to think he can do no wrong.

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Obamacare insurer to Congress: Fund our payments or as many as 700,000 lose insurance—immediately

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:55:22 +0000

Molina Healthcare, a major insurer in the Obamacare exchanges, has now issued a major threat of its own: if Congress doesn't fund the Affordable Care Act cost-sharing reduction subsidies, the company will leave the markets immediately. That would result in about 700,000 people losing their insurance now.

Molina—a Medicaid-based insurer that has thrived in the exchanges—is threatening to throw people off of their health coverage this year and also refuse to participate next year. Roughly 1 million people have a Molina ACA plan. Molina's letter adds a fresh sense of urgency and embodies what the entire health care industry wants: certainty that funding will continue.

In a letter to Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer, Molina CEO Dr. J. Mario Molina writes that the CRSs "have been essential for making coverage affordable for many members. Sixty-five percent of Molina Marketplace members are enrolled in plans with cost sharing subsidies." He goes on:

We entered into these Marketplace contracts with the expectation that the cost sharing reductions would continue to be fully funded. If the CSR funding continues, we intend to maintain are participation in the Marketplace for 2018. […]

If the CSR is not funded, we will have no choice but to send a notice of default informing the government that we are dropping our contracts for their failure to pay premiums and seek to withdraw from the Marketplace immediately. That would result in about 650,000 to 700,000 people losing insurance coverage in 2017, and we would not participate in Marketplace in 2018 resulting in over 1 million Americans losing health insurance coverage.

Molina is the first one to put such a bold statement out there, but it's not the only insurer in this position.

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House leadership eyeing Trey Gowdy to spearhead oversight ruse of GOP investigating Trump

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:22:47 +0000

The power vacuum created by Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s announcement that he might resign early from his “oversight” post along with his perfectly timed medical emergency has left Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders facing a horrifying prospect: Freedom Caucus control of the Oversight Committee. Politico writes:

The committee, which is charged with investigating the executive branch, is stacked with prominent Freedom Caucus members whom House GOP leadership doesn’t trust. Chief among them is Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a ringleader of the group of far-right agitators. Jordan has made a name for himself as one of the most aggressive Oversight interrogators, but he’s also been a huge problem for leadership over the years.

Jordan is next in line if the most senior member, Rep. Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, decides not to run.

And who wants the thankless role of investigating a Republican president running one of the most scandal-ridden administrations in the nation's history? Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford (of Appalachian trail fame), who's fourth in line for the gavel, explains the potential pitfalls of Freedom Caucus-driven oversight—goodness knows what they'll do.

"I've been fairly robust in calling for the president [to release] his tax returns. I think historically in that [OGR] role, they've generally wanted someone quiet, or compliant, you pick the word, as it relates to the administration in power" being from the same party.

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Trump says he's 'absolutely' considering proposals to dissolve court blocking his executive orders

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:41:15 +0000

Donald Trump's so-called "travel ban" barring Muslim visitors and refugees from entering the country has been blocked by several courts. Because Donald Trump is (1) incompetent, (2) an idiot, and (3) under the impression our nation should grant him dictatorial powers, Donald Trump has a solution to this: Simply dissolve the courts causing him trouble, thus making the law whatever he wants it to be.

Asked by the Washington Examiner if he had considered proposals to split the court, Trump replied: “Absolutely, I have.”

“There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It’s outrageous,” Trump told the website. “Everybody immediately runs to the 9th Circuit. And we have a big country. We have lots of other locations. But they immediately run to the 9th Circuit. Because they know that’s like, semi-automatic.”

And now we're going to all sit here and ponder for a minute over the chief officer of a so-called democracy musing that if the nation's judges are going to start insisting his various pronouncements follow the rule of law, well then he's going to just get rid of those judges and do what he wants anyway. Because that is now, in the United States of America, a thing.

We'll ignore Trump's judge-shopping claims, which are false but which Trump is probably convinced of because Donald Trump has spent a hell of a lot of time being sued for things and that's one of the few phrases he remembers from the experiences. We should probably not ignore that during Trump's tantrum and threats to disband an entire federal circuit, he doesn't seem to know the difference between the court he's attacking and the court that actually offended him.

The most recent ruling against Trump, in which Judge William Orrick issued an injunction blocking his executive order targeting so-called sanctuary cities, didn’t occur in the 9th Circuit. It was in the United States District Court in San Francisco, which is one level below.
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Rep. Elijah Cummings: 'The White House is covering up for Michael Flynn'

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:26:02 +0000

The Thursday revelation that Michael Flynn was warned he couldn't take foreign payments came to the House Oversight Committee courtesy of the Department of Defense. But the White House team that put Flynn in charge of national security still hasn't released a "single shred of paper" in relation to the committee’s investigation, says the ranking Democrat. The Hill writes:

“I honestly do not understand why the White House is covering up for Michael Flynn,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said at a joint appearance with other Democrats criticizing President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

“It makes the American people think the White House has something to hide. There is obviously a paper trail that the White House does not want our committee to follow.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer added to that cloud of suspicion Thursday when he pinned the approval of Flynn's security clearance on the Obama administration and the Department of Defense, as if team Trump bore no responsibility for vetting the guy Trump chose to head his national security team.

White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said the committee is requesting documents that are not in the possession of the White House because they involved Flynn’s activity prior to Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Other documents sought by the committee from after Jan. 20 involve sensitive information, he said.

In other words, you can’t see documents from before or after we hired Flynn. Cummings said Thursday that the White House is clearly "stonewalling.”

"I gotta tell you," he said, “you cannot allow situations where the Congress requests documents and basically the White House says, 'Take a hike.' That's simply unacceptable and a dangerous precedent."

It's also known as an autocracy. So much for checks and balances.

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Texas House approves anti-sanctuary cities bill that amounts to 'a white supremacist’s field day'

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:59:15 +0000

Despite fierce blowback from immigrants and their allies in the state, a Republican-led Texas House shamefully approved an anti-sanctuary cities bill that amounts to nothing more than a racist, Arizona-style “show me your papers” law meant to terrorize and criminalize hardworking immigrant families:

The Texas House of Representatives voted 93-54 Thursday night to pass a measure banning sanctuary cities which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities in the state. Alarmingly, the measure also gives law enforcement the power to demand to see the immigration status of anyone they detain—whether or not they are arrested or ever charged with a crime.

The bill, SB 4, essentially forces local jurisdictions to comply with immigrant detainer requests issued by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. A version of the measure was approved by the Texas State Senate in early February.

The bill also “threatens sheriffs, constables and police chiefs that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials with removal from office,” according to reports. “SB 4 is nothing but Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and certain legislators’ hate-filled crusade for mass detention, incarceration and deportation,” said Adonias Arevalo, an organizer with United We Dream. “This bill is a white supremacist’s field day.”

According to the AP, “the vote came just before 3 a.m. and followed 15-plus hours of heated, sometimes tearful debate, much of it from outnumbered Democrats.”

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Zombie Trumpcare 3.0 stumbling around the House, doomed in the Senate

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:20:54 +0000

Campaign Action

The current exercise of reviving Zombie Trumpcare in the House is looking increasingly like a blame-shifting attempt to make House moderates buckle, as the Washington Post's Paul Kane writes.

On Wednesday, however, after a few changes to the legislation that modestly tilted the bill more to the right, the Freedom Caucus issued a forceful endorsement of the new package. Outside allies issued declarations that the bill’s fate now fell entirely on the shoulders of moderate Republicans.

It was a whiplash moment for a group that has previously based its existence largely on opposition in the pursuit of purity — and it set off alarm bells among other Republicans.

“A lot of them were taking a lot of heat for the failure of the bill, and they didn’t like it. It’s an exercise in blame-shifting,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a leading member of the Tuesday Group, the collection of more than 50 moderate Republicans.

Should Ryan overcome moderate opposition and get the votes to pass it, either now or possibly next week as seems more and more likely this blame-shifting will switch to the Senate, where the bill is almost certainly doomed. The Freedom Caucus boosters in the Senate—Sens. Rand Paul (KY) and Ted Cruz (TX)—are applauding the maniacs for making this bill considerably worse, but the hurdles on this bill are just increasing in the Senate. Mostly, the don't want anything to do with it and are coming up with excuses.

House Republicans are hell-bent on ripping away our health insurance. Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121, and demand they vote NO on a renewed Trumpcare that is worse than the one before. Remind them they work for you.

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Trump's inner circle continues to dish: The key job is 'To talk him out of doing crazy things'

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:05:11 +0000

Brace yourselves. It’s time for another story about the dysfunction and incompetence of Donald Trump’s White House, from the popular vote loser himself on down. The opening anecdote of the latest installation is fantastic:

[Trump] took it upon himself to explain that his presidency was actually on track, inviting a pair of POLITICO reporters into the Oval Office for an impromptu meeting. He sat at the Resolute desk, with his daughter Ivanka across from him. One aide said the chat was off-the-record, but Trump insisted, over objections from nervous-looking staffers, that he be quoted.

And then, we can only presume, those nervous-looking staffers buttonholed the reporters on their way out to offer up anonymous quotes about how terrible everything is. Anyway, plenty of White House staffers talked anonymously to Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Shane Goldmacher, and Alex Isenstadt, allowing them to make Trump’s insistence on being quoted bragging about himself and his operation look especially foolish.

The biggest thing—a recurring theme of behind-the-scenes reporting on the Trump White House, but shocking every time it’s reported—is the way staffers have learned to treat Trump like a child:

“If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” said one Trump confidante. “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”[...]

But they’re learning. One key development: White House aides have figured out that it’s best not to present Trump with too many competing options when it comes to matters of policy or strategy. Instead, the way to win Trump over, they say, is to present him a single preferred course of action and then walk him through what the outcome could be – and especially how it will play in the press.

“You don’t walk in with a traditional presentation, like a binder or a PowerPoint. He doesn’t care. He doesn’t consume information that way,” said one senior administration official. “You go in and tell him the pros and cons, and what the media coverage is going to be like.”

Downplaying the downside risk of a decision can win out in the short term. But the risk is a presidential dressing-down—delivered in a yell. “You don’t want to be the person who sold him on something that turned out to be a bad idea,” the person said.

And Trump obviously isn’t responsible for making decisions based on his inability to consider competing options and make reasoned decisions.

It’s like Trump’s own aides are determined to let the world know that however incompetent and unstable and just plain stupid the casual observer might believe Trump to be, reality is worse. 

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Midday open thread: The Simpsons, United and Pete Souza

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 19:10:56 +0000

Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is Across the globe, with Jeff Sessions: Well, this could be fun: "The Simpsons" teased its newest episode on Facebook Wednesday, which looks at President Trump's first 100 days in office. [...] The clip of the episode starts off showing a cartoon Spicer in the White House briefing room dead, hanging from the ceiling with a sign on his body saying "I quit" as an onlooking cartoon Conway says, "I am not replacing him." The clip also shows advisers Steve Bannon and Renice Priebus strangling one another, an apparent reference to reports of infighting between the two, and Trump tweeting from bed while watching the news. Ya think?!? Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc., talked to The Associated Press about the incident and new airline policies designed to deal with overbooked flights. [...] Q: Is this hurting ticket sales? A: We have such big numbers that I suspect there are places where things have fallen off a little bit … It’s a little too early to tell. We will watch that and closely monitor. My going-in perspective is one of paranoia. I breached public trust with this event and how we responded. People are upset, and I suspect that there are a lot of people potentially thinking of not flying us. Good for him: Pete Souza, the former chief White House photographer who became so close to President Obama that he held his wedding in the Rose Garden, is encountering newfound notoriety on social media for a personal Instagram account that has subtly taken aim at President Trump since Inauguration Day. Now, after nearly 100 days and over one million Instagram followers, the natural next step, it seems, is a book deal. On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin leads an explainer of the Byrd Rule trap that forced Republicans to exempt Congress from ACA repeal. Then, a recap of the day’s crazy on Korea, NAFTA, gov’t funding & Ivanka. And a failed attempt to reach out & understand one Trump voter. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash [...]



Obama fired Michael Flynn. Trump made him national security adviser. Guess who Spicer blames.

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 18:35:21 +0000

In 2014, Michael Flynn abruptly announced that he was retiring from the Army ahead of schedule. It was the polite way of saying that he was canned for doing a miserable job at the DIA. From there, Flynn embarked on a career as an unregistered foreign agent, traveling the world to complain about the Obama administration and picking up paychecks despite warnings from the Defense Department.

None of this kept the Trump campaign from latching onto Flynn. Trump proudly pointed to Michael Flynn as his top military adviser and considered him for vice president

NBC News confirmed that the three-star general is being vetted by the Trump campaign. He is the first non-politician known to be under consideration by Trump and would put national security at the forefront of the real estate mogul's campaign.

While Flynn didn’t get the VP nod, he got a prominent role at the GOP convention, where he led the “Lock her up” chorus and attacked Obama as a “weak, spineless president.” After the election, Trump installed Michael Flynn as national security adviser, leapfrogging him over the people who had ushered him out the door. 

So who is to blame for the fact that Michael Flynn was given the keys to America’s highest office of intelligence after he’d pocketed hundreds of thousands from foreign governments and sipped champagne with Putin?

Reporter: Are you satisfied with the vetting that was done of General Flynn by the transition team before he came on board as the national security advisor?

Spicer: So, that’s a great question and I appreciate you bringing it up…. General Flynn was a career military officer who maintained a high level clearance throughout his career in the military. His clearance was last reissued by the Obama administration in 2016 with full knowledge of his activities that occurred in 2015, as you point out. So, the issue is he was issued a security clearance under the Obama administration in the spring of 2016 … all of that clearance was made by the Obama administration.

Welcome to the new “unmasking.” There’s no screw-up, disaster, or just plain crime for which the Trump regime won’t cook up a reason to blame Obama.

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Tens of thousands across 35 states plan to rise up on May 1 national day of action

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:37:16 +0000

Tens of thousands of people in 120 cities and across 35 states are estimated to participate in strikes, teach-ins, rallies, and marches during a RISE UP! national day of action “to demonstrate the power, resilience and strength of immigrant communities and progressives in America.” Thomas Kennedy, an immigrant rights organizer from Florida, writes in the Huffington Post:

This May Day we will continue to take to the streets to call for what we believe is a progressive platform centered on people that truly empowers and looks out for our communities. We call for a return to real and humane debate over immigration, a raise in the minimum wage to $15 an hour, the end of the for-profit prison system, affordable college education, voter restoration rights to the thousands of disenfranchised voters across the country, equal rights for the LGBTQ community, and climate justice to protect communities, such as those in Florida, that are on the front lines of climate change and sea level rise.

Over 90 national organizations are throwing down, including the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, MoveOn, Indivisible, the American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union, the Human Rights Campaign, Bend the Arc, America’s Voice, and dozens of other progressive champions. While popular vote loser Donald Trump has pursued a racist anti-immigrant agenda, a fierce resistance from the grassroots has also dealt him setback after setback. Participants aim to keep that up.

Americans are supporting immigration at record levels—while handing Trump record-low approval numbers—and people power has fought back his failed Muslim bans, his racist border wall, defended the Affordable Care Act, won historic anti-deportation legislation in states like California, kept DACA for Dreamers alive, and made clear that attacking and tearing apart hardworking immigrant families goes against the very moral fiber of our country. 

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AARP, AMA, March of Dimes and others weigh in on Zombie Trumpcare 3.0, and the reviews are brutal

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:40:06 +0000

Campaign Action

Politico's Dan Diamond has been keeping track of the response from industry and interest groups to the Zombie Trumpcare 3.0. All the talk of a possible vote on Friday has created a swarm of opposition from every heavy hitter, enough to make any slightly vulnerable House member quake.

The AARP says the changes in the amendment they would vote on would "make this bad bill even worse."

Specifically, we are concerned that the American Health Care Act will weaken the fiscal sustainability of Medicare; dramatically increase the premium and out-of-pocket costs for 50-64 year olds purchasing coverage on the individual insurance market; substantially increase the number of Americans without insurance; and put at risk millions of children and adults with disabilities and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program to access long-term services and supports and other benefits. In addition, changes under consideration that would allow states to waive important consumer protections—such as allowing insurance companies to once again charge Americans with pre-existing conditions more because they've had cancer, diabetes, or heart disease—would make this bad bill even worse.

The March of Dimes slams the proposal, saying "It's easy to offer inexpensive health coverage if it doesn't cover the benefits people need."

Women and children need quality, affordable insurance coverage to be born healthy and lead healthy, productive lives. Unfortunately, in its current form, the MacArthur amendment to American Health Care Act will deny millions of pregnant women, babies and their families the affordable coverage and quality services they need.

As if taking away health care from 24 million people wasn’t bad enough, House Republicans have a new plan that would be even worse. Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121, and tell them you expect them to FIGHT Trumpcare.

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Trump demands moderate Republicans walk the plank on his futile Trumpcare 3.0 effort

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 17:37:15 +0000

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, not necessarily known as a GOP whisperer, summed up nicely Republicans’ predicament on the Trumpcare 3.0 vote being demanded by their witless leader. "He's asking them to vote for a bill that is wildly unpopular in the country," she said, adding, “The minute they cast that vote they are putting doo-doo on their shoe."

Translation: Hello 2018 attack adds!  

While the White House has gone to great lengths to give Freedom Caucus members cover for a "yea" vote, Trump has left GOP moderates dangling like a piñata as he demands a Trumpcare 3.0 vote this week in service of his big 100-day fireworks display. And moderates know who's gonna take the fall, writes Politico:

Late Wednesday, House leaders held a listening session for moderates who were still publicly undecided on the bill. Tuesday Group co-chair Rep. Charlie Dent has been particularly frustrated by what he argues is a flawed process that led to the latest proposal. He said it appeared to be more about Freedom Caucus conservatives -- who came under fire for sinking the last version of the health care bill -- attempting to shift blame toward moderates.

Several conservative advocacy groups -- like FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth -- opposed earlier versions of the bill but endorsed the new measure.

The White House has seized on the conservative momentum to call for a vote this week, ahead of President Donald Trump's 100th day in office on Saturday. But as of Thursday morning, no vote had been scheduled as leaders continued to take the temperature of skittish members.

Paul Ryan needs 216 votes for passage and can't lose more than 22 Republicans, yet the bill has no path forward in the Senate. So passage, if it even happens, will amount to a Pyrrhic victory for the GOP caucus come 2018. But Trump doesn't care. He specializes in the short game—extremely short. The only question is whether Ryan is really that crazy.

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Democrats to Ryan: You want our help to keep government open? Don't rush Trumpcare

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:40:39 +0000

House Democratic leadership is challenging Speaker Paul Ryan to use his leadership and the fact that Republicans have the White House, Senate, and House. If he wants to pass a short-term funding bill this week, he'll have to either do it entirely without Democrats, or put an end to the Zombie Trumpcare rush.

House Democrats will oppose a short-term spending bill if Republican leaders attempt to expedite an ObamaCare repeal bill this week, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) warned Thursday. […]

"If Republicans announce their intention to bring their harmful TrumpCare bill to the House Floor tomorrow or Saturday, I will oppose a one-week Continuing Resolution and will advise House Democrats to oppose it as well," Hoyer said in an email.

"Republicans continue to struggle to find the votes to pass a bill that will kick 24 million Americans off their health coverage, allow discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on older Americans. That's why they are trying to jam it through the House before their Members can hear from the American people this weekend about their opposition to this horrible legislation."

Hoyer gave Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that message Thursday morning and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi repeated it in her briefing Thursday morning, telling reporters "I assume they have the votes to pass their extension…. [T]he ball is in their court." If Republicans want to keep government open, they're going to have to figure out how to do it without Democratic help.

House Republicans are hell-bent on ripping away our health insurance. Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121, and demand they vote NO on a renewed Trumpcare that is worse than the one before. Remind them they work for you.
 

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Trump's anti-immigrant VOICE office is getting trolled with calls reporting space aliens

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:23:26 +0000

The hotline for the Trump regime’s new VOICE office—a disgusting campaign to demonize undocumented immigrants—has been getting trolled by people reporting crimes committed by space aliens. Cue X-Files theme. xTrumps’ “VOICE” Hotline set up for people to report on crime from illegal aliens was reportedly overloaded with calls about space aliens— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) April 26, 2017 “It's unclear how many people actually placed calls to the hotline,” noted the BBC, “and several Twitter users reported long wait times to get through. But the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency suggested it had impacted their service,” something they did not quite appreciate. "There are certainly more constructive ways to make one's opinions heard than to prevent legitimate victims of crime from receiving the information and resources they seek because the lines are tied up by hoax callers," an ICE spokesperson said about the hotline,1-855-48-VOICE (6423), getting trolled. This United States Marine Corps veteran had a good point. xWouldn't it be a shame if millions of people called this hotline to report their encounters with aliens of the UFO-variety. https://t.co/Cl048Gihnk— Alexander McCoy (@AlexanderMcCoy4) April 26, 2017 It would be a shame, indeed. Certainly wouldn’t want to disrupt that hotline you got there, Donald. [...]



Republican Super PAC is aiming another $3.5 million in attacks at Jon Ossoff

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:15:18 +0000

A Republican Super PAC that spent millions of dollars against Jon Ossoff on the way to him getting 48 percent of the vote in an 18-candidate field last week is preparing to pour another $3.5 million into the special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District:

The Congressional Leadership Fund said Wednesday it will pour $2.5 million into TV advertising beginning May 10 to back Handel’s bid for the suburban Atlanta seat and assail Ossoff. The rest is to be spent on targeted mail and digital campaigns and a network of field operatives charged with knocking on 200,000 doors before the June 20 runoff.

The Congressional Leadership Fund previously tried to make Ossoff look too goofy for Congress in an ad featuring him playing Han Solo in a college skit and too dangerous for Congress in an ad attempting to tie him to black bloc anarchists. But despite the millions spent on those ads:

Expect a new round of attacks to hit on the same themes over the next two months. Corry Bliss is the super PAC’s executive director and was Handel’s campaign manager for her 2014 U.S. Senate bid. He said the group’s “work to define Jon Ossoff has only just begun.”

Ossoff will need major resources to keep hitting back hard on the air and running the strongest possible field campaign. 

Can you chip in $5 to help Jon Ossoff counter the Congressional Leadership Fund's millions of dollars of attack ads?

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Michael Flynn didn't just break the law in taking payments from Russia—he was warned in advance

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:01:02 +0000

The Trump regime might have hoped removing Michael Flynn from the position of National Security Advisor would also take him out of the spotlight of investigations between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, but every day seems to offer new revelations about just how blatant Flynn’s violations really were. It’s now clear that Flynn didn’t just take money from foreign governments, and didn’t just fail to report that money when he was under review for security clearance, he was told in advance not to take the funds and ignored that warning.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned by the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 against accepting foreign payments as he entered retirement, according to new documents obtained by the House oversight committee.

There was no doubt to begin with that Flynn should have been aware of the regulations that prevent recently retired military officers who held high levels of security clearance from running around the world to sell their insight into America’s strategy. But the new release demolishes any idea that he might have simply been ignorant of the law.

"These documents raise grave questions about why General Flynn concealed the payments he received from foreign sources after he was warned explicitly by the Pentagon," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee, in a statement. "Our next step is to get the documents we are seeking from the White House so we can complete our investigation. I thank the Department of Defense for providing us with unclassified versions of these documents."
 

Representative Cummings has also released a series of documents, including a letter from the DIA showing that claims from Flynn and his attorney that he followed proper procedures are simply a lie.

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Oops! Republicans decide they'd better not exempt themselves from Zombie Trumpcare after all

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:47:42 +0000

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They would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those pesky reporters. House Republicans are now vowing that they will not exempt themselves from the worst part of Zombie Trumpcare 3.0—the part that everyone is in an uproar about—allowing states to opt out of making insurance companies provide essential health benefits and protections for people with pre-existing conditions. That's the whole point of the latest Trumpcare amendment, the one that Freedom Caucus types want—gutting the key protections for consumers in Obamacare. Making sure that their own protections didn't go away wasn't going over well, so House Republicans are doing an about-face.

A new bill authored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) would remove the exemption.

GOP staff and lawmakers said the exemption was originally added to comply with Senate rules but acknowledged that it was politically problematic.

"That'll be fixed. That was written in to comply with some Senate rules to make sure it's just a budget vote," said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who authored the amendment. […]

"Congress, my staff, we’re on the Affordable Care Act exchange. We need to live by the same rules as everyone else, period. And I will make sure that is fixed before a vote," MacArthur said.

Democrats quickly latched onto the exemption, touting it as proof that the bill is so bad, its supporters don't want to be subject to it.

Sure, blame it on the Senate. It's always convenient to blame it on the Senate. Removing that exemption, though, doesn't seem to be attracting any more of those moderates. The latest, rather significant, defector is Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

As if taking away health care from 24 million people wasn’t bad enough, House Republicans have a new plan that would be even worse. Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121, and tell them you expect them to FIGHT Trumpcare.

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Trump's VOICE office is yet another attempt to demonize undocumented immigrants

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:58:09 +0000

Donald Trump and Department of Homeland Security Sec. John Kelly have rolled out the latest effort in their campaign to demonize immigrants and their families—a disgusting “VOICE” office to track crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants: The Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office was created in response to one of President Donald Trump’s executive orders, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly said at a press conference. “All crime is terrible, but these victims as represented here are unique, and they are all too often ignored,” Kelly said. “They are casualties of crimes that should never have taken place because the people who victimized them should never have been here in our country. These crimes, in many ways, were preventable.” Kelly shook the hands of family members of people killed or injured by undocumented immigrants, before leaving the DC press conference without taking questions. Here’s the truth: “unauthorized immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than the American population at large,” according to multiple studies. And the pro-immigrant sanctuary city policies that Trump loves to hate actually make communities safer, because local law enforcement agencies are able to build trust with immigrant residents. But truth isn’t Trump’s intention here. As the Atlantic notes, if “Trump’s goal is stigmatizing a vulnerable class of people, then publicizing their crimes—and their crimes alone—makes sense. It’s been a tactic bigots have used more than a century”: In The Nazi Conscience, Duke historian Claudia Koonz notes that the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer ran a feature called “Letter Box,” which published readers’ accounts of Jewish crimes. When the Nazis took power, the German state began doing something similar. Frustrated by the failure of most Germans to participate in a boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933, Adolf Hitler’s government began publicizing Jewish crime statistics as a way of stoking anti-Semitism. In Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, the historian Saul Friedlander notes that, until 1938, Hitler’s Ministry of Justice ordered prosecutors to forward every criminal indictment against a Jew so the ministry’s press office could publicize it. [...]



Trump's tax plan is custom-tailored to benefit Trump—everyone else is an afterthought

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:14:29 +0000

The only thing about Donald Trump’s tax plan that fits on a postcard is Trump’s tax plan. Calling it a plan is an insult to plans. Saying that it’s one page is a tribute to white space. There’s not just no there there, there’s no there.

This is a plan whose highlight is that it brings individual tax brackets down to three, but doesn’t even say where those brackets start. It’s a plan that supposedly limits deductions to just mortgage interest and charitable deductions … but seems to have no idea what that would mean. The average person looking at the plan would have no idea how much less, or how much more, they would pay in taxes. But the average billionaire or corporation would make out like bandits.

Mr. Trump’s skeletal outline of a tax package, unveiled at the White House in a single-page statement filled with bullet points, was less a plan than a wish list. …

But they offered none of the standard accouterments of such rollouts, such as detailed charts showing the cost of each provision, phase-in periods, the impacts of the proposals on people and testimonials on the program’s potential benefits.

It could have been the world’s first number-free tax plan, were it not for the big number—cutting corporate tax rates to 15 percent. That huge corporate cut, along with eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, cutting the top tax rate, and eliminating the inheritance tax ensures that while the 99 percent may be in limbo when it comes to the not-a-plan, the 1 percent can start the celebration without seeing any details. And even though the plan contains less text than the average sweetener packet, it also includes one super bonus for business owners.

Especially notable is that the plan would allow "pass-through" entities, which let business owners treat their revenue as individual income, to qualify for the same 15 percent rate.

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Trump goes on Twitter rampage trying to blame Democrats for Republican shutdown plans

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 15:07:52 +0000

Either a White House staffer stole Donald Trump’s phone this morning or Trump turned over a major new leaf in his tweeting habits, because his personal account sent out half a dozen tweets in the space of about two minutes with no major typos. But the content remained classic Trump, pushing a bloated military budget and anti-immigrant bigotry, and trying to blame Democratic resistance to eviscerating health care for millions of people for any potential government shutdown.

But Trump’s most astonishingly dishonest claim was that “I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare.”

Reality: Democrats have been pushing for months to pass protections not just for miners’ health care but for their pensions. 

This is Trump’s play, though: If Democrats stand firm and don’t let Republicans screw working people every which way, then it’s Democrats’ fault if Republicans shut down the government and families can't vacation at national parks.

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House leadership reanimating Zombie Trumpcare 3.0 for possible Friday vote—let's stop them

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:15:23 +0000

Campaign Action Having bought themselves one week in averting a government shutdown, the House may or may not be considering wasting all that extra time this week on Zombie Trumpcare 3.0 and a Friday vote. The clearest sign of a possible vote quietly surfaced overnight, as Republicans posted the text of the GOP health bill—the American Health Care Act—and several related amendments, on a website which shows the expected schedule for the House floor. The House Rules Committee has also posted the language of the key amendment—the one from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows—on their website. It's an effort to once again try and bridge the gap between hardline conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus and more moderate Republican members—a divide so wide that that when the compromise first emerged last week, GOP aides remained skeptical that it would be enough to get leadership to the 216 votes it needs to pass the bill. Two congressional sources say the language was posted because members wanted to see it for themselves. But popular vote loser Donald Trump wants his Friday vote so it looks like—even though they're still working on the whip count and the CBO hasn't scored it and moderates are not won over—they'll try again for Friday. Fox News is reporting, according to various Twitter sources, that the Rules committee will be meeting later Thursday to prep it for Friday. Which means the thirty or so moderates—along with all the other members—need to hear from us. As if taking away health care from 24 million people wasn’t bad enough, House Republicans have a new plan that would be even worse. Call your member of Congress at 202-224-3121, and tell them you expect them to FIGHT Trumpcare 3.0. [...]



'Oh, come on': Supreme Court justices incredulous at Justice Department immigration argument

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 14:00:59 +0000

It, uh, doesn’t sound like the Trump-Sessions Justice Department is going to prevail in its argument to the U.S. Supreme Court that citizenship can be revoked over any misstatement or failure to disclose at all, however minor, that a person included (or didn’t include) on their citizenship application. Yes, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were all vocally skeptical. But there was also this, from Chief Justice John Roberts: “Some time ago, outside the statute of limitations, I drove 60 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone,” the chief justice said, adding that he had not been caught. The form that people seeking American citizenship must complete, he added, asks whether the applicant had ever committed a criminal offense, however minor, even if there was no arrest. “If I answer that question no, 20 years after I was naturalized as a citizen, you can knock on my door and say, ‘Guess what, you’re not an American citizen after all’?” Chief Justice Roberts asked. Robert A. Parker, a Justice Department lawyer, said the offense had to be disclosed. Chief Justice Roberts seemed shocked. “Oh, come on,” he said. It sounds an awful lot like the Trump regime is looking for the right to revoke any naturalized person’s citizenship at any time, while creating an enormous new hoop for people seeking citizenship to jump through. Can you remember every single thing you’ve ever done? Divna Maslenjak, the woman whose case prompted this exchange, could still face legal problems, since she had claimed that her husband had avoided military conscription in Bosnia when really he served in a unit that committed war crimes. But whatever the specific result for Maslenjak, it doesn’t seem likely that the Trump regime is going to get the far-ranging power it was effectively seeking: Roberts added that it might not be a constitutional problem, but “it is certainly a problem of prosecutorial abuse.” Given the wide range of questions on the naturalization form, he observed,  the government’s position would mean that government officials would have “the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want, because everybody is going to have a situation where they didn’t put in something like that.” “And then the government can decide,” Roberts warned, “we are going to denaturalize you for reasons other than what might appear on your naturalization form, or we’re not.” For Roberts, giving that “extraordinary power, which essentially is unlimited power,” to the government would be “troublesome.” Welcome to the Donald Trump presidency, Mr. Chief Justice.  [...]



Cartoon: Across the globe, with Jeff Sessions

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:50:44 +0000

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Jason Chaffetz is taking a break from Congress thanks to a conveniently timed medical crisis

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 13:00:56 +0000

Hard on the heels of announcing that he’s not running again in 2018 and may even resign before then, House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz is taking three or four weeks off from his duties to have foot surgery.

Almost 12 years ago, I shattered several bones in my foot which required 14 screws and a metal plate to repair,” Chaffetz wrote on Instagram. “The University of Utah doctors now recommend immediate surgery to remove all the hardware or I could be at risk for serious infection.” Okay … but here’s where it gets good:

 I’m sorry to miss the important work we are doing in Washington. This is not an opportune time to be away but medical emergencies are never convenient. I appreciate my constituent’s patience and understanding as I take time to recover.

Uh huh. This actually sounds pretty darn convenient. I’m sure he’s distraught at missing the infighting, failed votes, and general series of disasters House Republicans are likely to inflict on themselves as they tackle Trumpcares 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0, along with whatever else they come up with. In fact, Chaffetz is leaving so quickly he’ll avoid the government spending vs. government shutdown debate happening as this week draws to a close—he told Politico he’s flying out Thursday morning. 

Perhaps this experience will help Chaffetz gain sympathy for people with invisible disabilities, because:

x

Well, at least he’ll have health coverage despite this pre-existing condition. Unless his fellow Republicans do away with that while he’s recuperating.

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Government funding deadline likely to creep forward one week, escape Trump's first 100 days

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:53:39 +0000

Donald Trump doesn’t want a government shutdown in the list of things that happened in his first 100 days, and it looks like he’s going to get his wish. Because the House seems set to produce a bill that would provide funding for just long enough to push any possible shutdown past that deadline.

House Republicans on Wednesday night introduced a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open through May 5 while lawmakers work on a final agreement for legislation to fund the government through September.

At the moment, Trump and his Republicans have agreed to a funding bill that would not include funding on for Trump’s wall. But the bill is still laden with poison pills.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday evening that the funding bill under negotiation still has "70 poison pills" that the Democratic Party can't live with.

Pelosi has asked Mitch McConnell to ban poison pill riders on the appropriation bill, but McConnell has instead been McConnell. Meanwhile Paul Ryan seems determined to not include payments to the for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act that are part of current law.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday came out against funding ObamaCare's cost-sharing reduction payments in the legislation, telling reporters, "We’re not doing that. That is not in the appropriation bill."
 

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Morning Digest: Notorious Alabama judge Roy Moore launches primary challenge against Luther Strange

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:30:51 +0000

Leading Off ● AL-Sen: Roy Moore, who was suspended as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court last year for defying federal court orders regarding same-sex marriage, announced on Wednesday that he would challenge appointed Sen. Luther Strange in this August's GOP primary ahead of December's special election. Campaign Action Moore has made it plain that he plans to rally his religious conservative base. Last week, after the state's high court upheld his suspension for the rest of his term, Moore cast himself as a martyr, arguing that the case against him "was a politically motivated effort by the Judicial Inquiry Commission and certain homosexual and transgendered groups to remove me from office because of my steadfast opposition to same-sex marriage." For good measure, Moore argued at his campaign kickoff that the U.S. Constitution doesn't mention public education, and that schools are "used as an indoctrination of our children." Back in 2003, Moore was also kicked off the bench after he refused to comply with a federal judge's order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the grounds of the state Supreme Court. For a while after that, Moore's political career stalled. In 2006, he challenged Gov. Bob Riley in the Republican primary and lost 67-33. Then, in 2010, Moore ran to succeed the termed-out Riley, taking just 19 percent in that year's primary, enough for a weak fourth-place finish. Moore even flirted with a 2012 presidential bid, but he decided to run for his old spot as chief justice again instead. Moore took just over 50 percent against two primary opponents, allowing him to win without a runoff. However, he struggled in the general election, beating his Democratic foe by just a slim 52-48 margin even as Mitt Romney was winning Alabama 61-38. Still, Moore was finally back—and he quickly made waves once again. [...]



Cheers and Jeers: Thursday

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:15:50 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… What/Who Made Trump Look Like A Bigger Fool This Month Syria Twitter His son His wife Lollipops Susan Rice Tax marchers Science marchers Mar-A-Lago's kitchen "This gentleman" U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick This mom 'n pop paint store His Coke bottle glasses His military advisers His attorney general His press secretary South Korea His thumbs As is now custom, shaped like Lady Liberty’s torch---a reminder that she’s still merrily making him look like a fool, too. Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold...[Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!] [...]



Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 12:01:16 +0000

Well, this is it! The U.S. is withdrawing from remaining in NAFTA! Plus Congress is isn’t voting on health care repeal this week, which they are aren’t exempting themselves from, despite the time crunch. And lack of any text to vote on. Unless some shows up, somehow. From somewhere. Boy, do we ever live in exciting times! Unless we all die, that is. Listen LIVE, right here at 9:00 AM ET! Is the Kagro in the Morning show keeping you sane in these troubled times? Well, we’re pretty good in decent times, too! But the troubled ones are what we have now. If we’re helping you wake up and face the day, you could help do the same for us, with a monthly, sustaining contribution to our Patreon account! Or, if a one-time donation is the way you like to roll, try our brand-new Square Cash account. Not convinced? How about a FREE listen to our most recent live show? Ha ha, sucker! Now you’re trapped! Er, I mean… Enjoy! And welcome! x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash NAFTA, taxes, health care, sanctuary cities,  shutting down the government, ending the world. Donald Trump doesn’t need 100 days to get those things done. He just needs the next couple. For David Waldman, a regular guy with regular hands, all of this is too much to handle alone. Lucky for him, and us, Greg Dworkin, Armando and Joan McCarter join in today! The “Why doesn’t somebody just say...” contingent sticks with Trump as that is pretty much Donald’s entire governing/management process. Greg points out that particular cohort isn’t growing and is becoming less relevant anymore. Trump fixed Trumpcare, and the Freedom Caucus is now behind it 100%, except for the Obamacare parts they are keeping for themselves. Anyhow, repealing Obamacare could violate international law. It pays to read the fine print. Insurers aren't falling for Trump's sabotage efforts, yet. Democrats are feeling a renewed vigor over Obamacare, as Trumpcare tanks. Trump fixes taxes the way he always has, by not paying them. Like climate change, negative action now will reap even more negative consequences later. Trump's Obamacare sabotage threat could cost the government $2.3 billion next year. Republicans move forward with a spending bill that excludes Trump's new border wall funding. Trump has to have that wall now, although later will do. Jesse Watters saw a bj on the internet once, and has an idea of what they look like. Chris Cillizza ♥’s Ivanka. Ivanka ♥’s rampant corruption. David offers us 🌹’s. Trump decides to hop on the worldwide bigotry bandwagon, but Armando and federal judges in Hawaii, Maryland, and California do not see this as a difficult decision. A judge sees the Sanctuary Cities Order as "clearly unconstitutional", Trump never liked the constitution anyhow. Soon he will hate conservative judges. Why doesn’t somebody just say… (Thanks again to Scott Anderson for the show summary!) Need more info on how to listen? Fi[...]



Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Taxes, health care, caving on the Wall, oh my!

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 11:30:51 +0000

Peter Baker/NY Times: Arthur Laffer’s Theory on Tax Cuts Comes to Life Once More  A white cloth napkin, now displayed in the National Museum of American History, helped change the course of modern economics. On it, the economist Arthur Laffer in 1974 sketched a curve meant to illustrate his theory that cutting taxes would spur enough economic growth to generate new tax revenue. More than 40 years after those scribblings, President Trump is reviving the so-called Laffer curve as he announces the broad outlines of a tax overhaul on Wednesday. What the first President George Bush once called “voodoo economics” is back, as Mr. Trump’s advisers argue that deep cuts in corporate taxes will ultimately pay for themselves with an explosion of new business and job creation. The exact contours of the plan remained murky and Mr. Trump will not produce a fully realized proposal on Wednesday. But what the president has called a tax reform plan is looking more like a tax cut plan, showering taxpayers with rate reductions without offsetting the full cost by closing loopholes or raising taxes elsewhere. In the short run, such a plan would add many billions of dollars to the national deficit. Mr. Trump contends that it will be worth it in the long run. Ben Casselman/Five Thirty Eight: The 3 Questions That Will Decide If Trump’s Tax Plan Works What counts as a business? What counts as income? What about the deficit? xThe anti-vax movement can only exist bc few living Americans can recall what polio actually did to ppl. I fear the same is true of fascism.— jelani cobb (@jelani9) December 10, 2016 [...]



Open thread for night owls: After online smears, lawmaker calls internet troll's grandma

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 03:00:56 +0000

Democratic Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims had a message for an internet troll: “David, I can’t tell if you’re just a really dumb little boy or an angry bigot but I know for sure that you shouldn’t have posted your grandmother’s telephone number on your Facebook so many times. She and I just had a very disappointing chat about you.” A Pennsylvania state lawmaker on Wednesday hit back at an internet troll who called him the n-word and a "fa----" by calling his grandmother and telling her what her grandson had done. Pennsylvania House Rep. Brian Sims, an openly gay lawmaker, posted on Facebook Wednesday with a screenshot of his interaction with the troll. [...] ”I explained to her exactly who I was and what he had done,” Sims said. “Like any grandma she was very embarrassed at having this kind of convo and very ashamed at the actions of her grandson. The conversation ended with me telling her that I wanted to hear from him.” • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES TWEET OF THE DAY x"Here's my tax plan.""Mr. President, this is a KFC receipt.""Flip it over.""A doodle of the Monopoly guy punching an orphan.""Bigly!"— David Cornelius (@david_cornelius) April 26, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2009—Finding Justice: Here's what we know, based on the public record as represented above. A) Torture is illegal. B) The architects of the torture regime were informed that the "harsh interrogation techniques" they intended to use were torture, and that those methods were unreliable. C) Against that counsel from a military agency, torture was deployed--excessively, and it was used in part to extract information from detainees about ties between al Qaeda and Iraq, ties that the best intelligence the administration had access to had already deemed nonexistent, in order to justify the planned invasion--the chosen war--in Iraq. We've known much of this for years, actually, and that the moment for deciding on how to reckon for it was coming. On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin, Armando & Joan McCarter carry the show from beginning to end! And we need them all to cover this week’s agenda: tax reform, Trumpcare, the sanctuary cities ruling, the government shutdown deadline & nuclear war with North Korea. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash [...]



Nazi frog: 'Are you a Jew?' David Simon of 'The Wire' says get bent. Virginia GOPer bashes Simon

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:55:26 +0000

Corey Stewart wanted to be the Donald Trump of Virginia, but he's turned out to be nothing more than some random Donald Trump Reddit fanboi. Stewart is an elected official in Prince William County, and he’s running in June’s GOP primary for governor. Polls, however, show him badly lagging, so in a desperate bid for attention on Tuesday, he tweeted out a charming defense of white supremacy. Yes, literally, white supremacy: That same day, the city of New Orleans began removing monuments to the Confederacy, one of which included an engraving explaining that the election of 1876 ejected the “usurpers” and “recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” Stewart’s response was priceless: xNothing is worse than a Yankee telling a Southerner that his monuments don't matter.— Corey Stewart (@CoreyStewartVA) April 25, 2017 That led to a pretty epic pile-on, which even featured singer/songwriter John Legend blasting Stewart in front of Legend’s 9 million followers (“Like, literally, nothing? Nothing is worse?”). Many also relished pointing out that Stewart is from Minnesota, which was, you know, part of the Union. One respondent, crime novelist Laura Lippman, jumped in to explain that, as an actual Southerner, she held views quite contrary to Stewart’s: x@johnlegend @Gwenda @CoreyStewartVA Darlin' I'm a Southerner and happy to explain why those monuments are fucked up.— Laura Lippman (@LauraMLippman) April 25, 2017 And that’s where things got ugly. [...]



In Minnesota, Walmart-style education is not a figure of speech

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:11:33 +0000

Here’s the effort to kill public schools in action. There are 36,000 students in Minneapolis-St. Paul public schools, Ed Hive MN’s Rob Levine reports. There are about 25,000 students in charter schools in the area, and charter backers have a plan to create another 30,000 seats in charter schools in the next few years.

Where is all the money coming from to start these charter schools? A lot of different rich people and their personal foundations, but one name in particular stands out: Walton, as in the Walmart Waltons.

One foundation – the Walton Family Foundation – heirs to the Walmart fortune, has started or helped to start 70 Minnesota charter schools, or 28% of all charter schools ever opened in the state. Of those 70 startups only 46 are still operating, representing 26% of all charters operating in the state.

One in four charter schools in the entire state of Minnesota got Walmart money to start.

Does anything in their record, anything in how they do business, make you think the Waltons are doing this out of concern for Minnesota children? No. This is about privatizing America—and breaking down the idea that the government should work for the public good.

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Trump might put a professional union-buster on board intended to protect workers' right to organize

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:45:29 +0000

Donald Trump likes to occasionally pretend he doesn’t 100 percent hate unions, usually by spending time with the relatively friendly building trades unions. But for anyone tempted to believe that, check out one of the people on his short list for National Labor Relations Board. Doug Seaton is a professional union-buster—and that’s something new, even for Republican presidents.

“Starting with Ronald Reagan,” Leonor writes, “Republican presidents have often named stridently anti-union executives and attorneys to the NLRB. But labor and management sources queried by POLITICO couldn't remember a previous instance when a president placed on the NLRB a ‘union avoidance’ consultant or ‘persuader,’ an occupation known colloquially as union-buster. The Labor Department requires union-busters to disclose their anti-union campaigns publicly. Seaton has done so on six occasions, most recently in May 2016.”

For reference, here’s the mission of the board Seaton could be appointed to:

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees' rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

That’s exactly the mission Seaton has spent his career working against.

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After three months, Trump still has no nominees for 500 top-level government posts

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:12:41 +0000

If there is any sliver of good news in the election of a faux-populism-slinging far-right nationalist with authoritarian presumptions about what he'll be doing to our government, it's that he's incompetent.

President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are growing exasperated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill hundreds of top-tier posts, warning that the vacancies are hobbling efforts to oversee agency operations and promote the president’s agenda, according to administration officials, lawmakers and lobbyists.

The Senate has confirmed 26 of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts. But for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation, the president has advanced just 37 nominees, according to data tracked by The Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition.

If this bozo had even the slightest capacity to surround himself with competent people, democracy in this nation would be in a world of hurt; instead he's filled up what positions he can with either campaign-trail suck-ups or People He Saw On His Teevee, and now that he's run out of both the rest of the appointments are moving at a snail's pace. Breitbart only has so many white nationalists to contribute; Fox News has only so many "analysts." We're getting to the point where the Fox & Friends team may have to do double-duty as Rex Tillerson's entire staff.

The Post identifies no less than five White House figures who hold the ability to nix hires, from Bannon to Kushner to Priebus, with Ivanka Trump sitting in on the process "when a hiring decision piques her interest," because of course she does. That means prospective hires have to have demonstrated past loyalties to at least two opposing administration blocs before even getting to the point where their fealty to Trump himself can be measured, and that's discounting hires nixed on ethical (snicker) grounds and all of the people who turn the White House down because they don't want to try to meet government ethics standards and/or work for a government that so transparently doesn’t know what the hell it is doing.

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EPA chief Scott Pruitt blatantly violates the Hatch Act to raise funds for Oklahoma Republicans

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:15:08 +0000

It may seem ridiculous when looking at the crew now filling the administrative offices of the executive branch, but government employees are not supposed to be partisan. Under the Hatch Act, passed way back in 1939, only the president, vice president, and a handful of others in the executive branch are free to be involved in partisan activities. After revisions (including one signed by Barack Obama), other employees are allowed to run for office and work on campaigns, but they can not engage in political activity with people who have business with their agency, and they expressly can not solicit political contributions using their official titles and positions. Which makes this more than a little problematic:

Next Friday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — former Oklahoma Attorney General — will give the keynote address at the Oklahoma Republican Party’s annual gala.

Not only is Pruitt addressing the fundraising event, he’s a headliner. He appears on the advertising material intended to get people to buy into the $100 dinner—or the much more expensive sponsorships.

In a flyer advertising the event, the Oklahoma GOP touts Pruitt’s role as EPA administrator, highlighting steps he has taken since February to roll back environmental regulations.

“You do not want to miss Pruitt at this year’s OKGOP Gala, as he discusses his plans to slash regulations, bring back jobs to Oklahoma, and decrease the size of the EPA,” the flyer reads.

This isn’t Scott Pruitt giving his political philosophy. It’s an evening with the EPA director to hear how he’s ripping up the agency. Both Pruitt and the Oklahoma GOP seem to be specifically working to violate every last provision of the law.

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The progressive wing of the party won. Now we're fighting over privilege

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:22:22 +0000

One of the frustrating aspects of the current intra-party flareup is the fact that ideologically, we’re pretty much all on the same page. And our side won that ideological battle. 

  • Minimum wage. See headline today: “Democrats unveil plan for a $15 minimum wage.”
  • Social Security. Remember when cutting it was all the rage, fueled by Third Way and other deficit scolds on the supposed left? Well, the party platform now proclaims expansion as the official party position: “Democrats will expand Social Security.” And Democrats (led by Elizabeth Warren) have followed along. Even Hillary Clinton, by the way
  • Income inequality. A conservative Wall Street Journal columnist whined: “[T]he platform draft’s core narrative is inequality, the injustice that inequality entails, and the need to rectify it through redistribution.” And aside from a few red state outliers, the core has been adopted party wide. 

The issues that suddenly divide us? Apparently whether we, as a party, will be unyielding in a woman’s right to choose. Taking a page out of the right’s playbook, Jane Sanders called fighting for that right “political correctness.” I see it as core and just as central to who we are as a party as the bullet points above. We’re apparently arguing over whether economic equality would keep immigrant families from being torn apart by immigration authorities (it wouldn’t), or keep African Americans from being shot in the streets and killed in jail cells (it wouldn’t), or keep Donald Trump from grabbing a woman’s pussy (it hasn’t). 

Those aren’t divisions based on an economic debate. The economic debate, internally, is settled. That debate is over those who think it’s the only issue that matters, and women and people of color who know damn well it isn’t. 

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DOJ report finds poor safety practices and understaffing at a private prison. Is anyone surprised?

Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:12:38 +0000

Well that didn’t take long. Only two months after Donald Trump overturned the Obama administration decision to eliminate the use of private prisons, the Justice Department released a report slamming the private prison company CoreCivic for problems at Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas. As a result of the numerous problems cited in the report, security risks and low morale were rampant and it’s not hard to see why. With high vacancy rates and unsafe conditions, it appears the company made it very hard for corrections officers to do their jobs.

The audit found that CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America, struggled with periodic staffing shortages at Leavenworth. In September 2015, there was a 23 percent vacancy rate among correctional officers, who appeared to be leaving for higher-paying jobs with benefits. As a result, the audit found, CoreCivic required long-term mandatory overtime and had to shutter essential security posts, making it harder to respond to emergencies and control access in and out of the facility. The failure to "consistently fill these posts compromised its ability to run the facility in a safe and secure manner," the auditors wrote.

You’d think with such a high vacancy rate that the company would take steps to address understaffing. But instead, they simply sent staff to work at other correctional institutions. And somehow, they were never held accountable by anyone for their understaffing issues.

CoreCivic, the nation's second-largest private prison company, told the Office of Inspector General that the understaffing at Leavenworth in 2015 was an "isolated incident." It said the facility offered "among the highest correctional officer wages of CoreCivic's institutions" and did not struggle to recruit officers.

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Trump's childcare plan: The more help you need, the less you get

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 14:54:09 +0000

Donald Trump is supposedly going to do something about childcare costs, because Ivanka. But what exactly does the precious daughter have in mind? Shockingly, it’s a big tax cut for rich people! The plan is that families pay for child care, then get a tax refund at the end of the year. That means that if you can’t afford to pay a lot for care, you don’t get a lot back—there’s no help in paying for high-quality care up front, which means that childcare quality stays unequal and then that inequality is used as a reason to give a lot of money back to people who don’t need it. The Center for American Progress has done an analysis of county-level election results, identifying the counties that swung hard toward Trump, moving 15 points or more from the 2012 vote. And guess what—under Trump’s plan, families in those counties wouldn’t get enough help to buy dinner at McDonald’s. According to the analysis, a typical family with two young children in Trump swing counties would only net $5.55 under Trump’s plan, even after spending $6,037 on child care. To get a bigger net benefit, a middle-class family would have to spend much more on child care than they can currently afford. Since the benefit comes at the end of the year on a tax return, only families that can already afford expensive child care will be able to effectively deduct the expenses. The Trump plan is too little, too late—it asks middle-class families to pay thousands of dollars in child care costs up front and wait until the following year for a tiny refund. CAP contrasts that with the high-income Upper East Side of Manhattan, not far from Trump Tower: The typical family of four with two young children on the Upper East Side earns about $295,000 a year. A family with that much income, deducting the average cost of child care for two children in New York, would receive a net benefit of $7,329 from the Trump child care plan. Even wealthier families would get an even bigger tax cut, since the Trump child care tax deduction is available to those earning up to half a million dollars. So if you’re a struggling single mom who needs childcare to get a job, but needs a job to afford childcare, you get nothing under Trump’s plan. If you’re a high-income family that’s already sending your child to an accredited daycare center with a teacher for every three babies and a stimulating curriculum even for six-month-olds, congratulations, you’d get back a bundle. [...]