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Published: Mon, 29 May 2017 13:32:11 +0000

Last Build Date: Mon, 29 May 2017 13:32:11 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want

Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Trump voters got the Chaos they were promised

Mon, 29 May 2017 12:42:32 +0000

On this Memorial Day enjoy your time off. But keep in the difficulty that establishment Washington is having in wrapping their collective heads around the Big Picture:


Trump is not a legitimate president. That’s scary to many. But it’s true. And in the meantime while we figure that out, damage is being done.


Following Trump’s trip, Merkel says Europe can’t rely on ‘others.’ She means the U.S


Open thread for night owls: In Oklahoma, a four day school week leaves some children hungry

Mon, 29 May 2017 02:30:49 +0000

American public schools are, first and foremost, our means of education. For those families that live below the poverty line, however, they can also be an all-too-necessary source of food. Oklahoma's deep education cuts have resulted in many districts moving to a four-day school week. For some of the state's children, that means another day of going hungry. [E]ven kids are not unanimous. Chad Marble said his second-grader, Emerson, comes home complaining that school is too rushed. And some children are sensitive to the fact that the four-day week means extra stress for working families that struggle to find day care and poor children who depend on school for meals. “It’s good and bad,” one Newcastle fourth-grader said. “The good part is we have more time with our families, and the bad part is some people don’t get to eat.” Newcastle has arranged for low-cost child care on Fridays — $30 per child per week — and the town has a low poverty rate by Oklahoma standards. Only about one-third of students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch. A food bank sends extra food home with hungry students to tide them over during long weekends, but teachers say few ask for that help. [...] Macomb, a tiny rural district where 88 percent of students qualify for subsidized meals, was on four-day weeks until Superintendent Matthew Riggs persuaded the school board in 2015 to return to a traditional schedule. Riggs said he could not “in good conscience” continue the four-day weeks — not when his students were already struggling in math and reading, and not when some were going hungry. • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES • THE WEEK’S HIGH IMPACT STORIES TWEET OF THE DAY BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2003—Rumsfeld backtrack on WMD claims: Before the war, Rumsfeld was so sure that Iraq had WMDs, that it disregarded CIA evidence to the contrary and formed his own little in-house intelligence agency to buttress the claims. Now even he has to admit that perhaps he was wrong. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested publicly for the first time that Iraq may have destroyed chemical and biological weapons before the war there, a possibility that senior U.S. officers in Iraq have raised in recent weeks. Rumsfeld has repeatedly expressed optimism that it is just a matter of time, and of interviewing enough senior Iraqi scientists and former government officials, before military teams uncover the illicit arms that President George W. Bush cited as a major reason for attacking Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein's rule. While Rumsfeld repeated that assertion Tuesday, he added, "It is also possible that they decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict." Major General David Petraeus, commander of the army's 101st Airborne Division, now in northern Iraq, mentioned the same possibility two weeks ago. Given that WMDs were the administration's primary justification for war (as it made Iraq a clear and imminent danger), is the realization that no WMDs existed mean that all the death in the conflict was for naught? Given that WMDs were the administration's primary justification for war (as it made Iraq a clear and imminent danger), is the realization that no WMDs existed mean that all the death in the conflict was for naught? Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for "Netroots Radio.” [...]

Who wants to be the next H.R. McMaster?

Mon, 29 May 2017 01:00:53 +0000

Would you work for Donald Trump? 

Let’s say you’re a near 40-year Army veteran, silver star winner, and one of the most celebrated soldiers of the Iraq War. You wrote a book, Dereliction of Duty, about the failure of military officers to be honest with their civilian leaders and the lies that led our country into the Vietnam War. 

You get a request from the commander-in-chief. He wants you to be the national security adviser. As an active military officer, it’s difficult to turn down a request from a superior officer. You probably feel it’s your duty to your country.

On the other hand,  what might you be asked to do? Take a loyalty oath? Start a war to cover up for someone’s incompetence? Lend your credibility to that of a conspiracy theorist?

Is this why the White House is having so much trouble filling positions? Maybe Rep. Jason Chaffetz was smart to recognize a no-win situation and leave when he did. Who wants to be the next H.R. McMaster?   


As Americans learn how policies affect their personal economies, they will activate

Sun, 28 May 2017 23:01:03 +0000

Why would any politician come up with a budget and policies that hurt the citizenry at large? They must know it is career suicide, right? But Republicans and the power structure that rule them are quite adept at what they do.

This week Donald Trump released a draconian budget proposal that would slash the social safety net, increase welfare for the defense industrial complex, and transfer the wealth of the masses to the wealthy through tax cuts. The budget is a Paul Ryanesque/Ayn Randian dream.

Robert Reich's piece titled "Trump's Cruel and Deviant Budget" said the budget displayed deviancy in three respects: it imposes huge burdens on people already hurting; it sets a new low bar for congressional and public debate over social insurance in America and the government's role; and it eviscerates the notion that an important aspect of patriotism involves sacrificing for the common good.

The goal of many in power is to make sure that you feel powerless. When people feel powerless or inconsequential, they will often stay home or take fallacies at face value. That is why many vote against their interest or don't vote at all. But every single American can make a choice to change our political condition and be engaged.

We are all different and have different abilities. Whether you are shy, like to be with people or not, are computer savvy or not, you can be a part of out political solution.

I have conversations with hundreds of individuals a week over social media, email, and phone calls. I interact with thousands via activism networks like DailyKos, the Politics Done Right radio show on Pacifica's KPFT 90.1 FM Houston network, Facebook Live feeds, Coffee Party USA, Indivisible Houston, and others.

I hear two distinct messages. The first comes from those that are politically active, are fighting the good fight, and at the same time are upset at those who vote against their interests or don't vote at all. The second comes from those who feel depressed or unworthy, who state they don’t believe they can make a difference.

It is important that those fighting the good fight get over their disgust for non-voters, or those voting against their interests. The fighters must encourage the others through education framed in their realities, in a non-threatening and empathetic manner.


You cannot fight a war against terror

Sun, 28 May 2017 21:01:01 +0000

What happened in Manchester, England, last Monday is inconceivable and horrific. It’s impossible to imagine what it would be like to send your child to a concert and have some madman blow himself up, killing innocent children for no reason.

Terrorists are nothing more than cowards. Attacking the innocent, the unarmed, and untrained by blowing yourself up is not an act of bravery, and it is not an act that will get you into heaven. It serves no purpose for the terrorists’ cause. The only thing it will do is cause hellfire to rain down upon them, which in turn will create more terrorists, who will then take more innocent lives. It’s a never-ending cycle.

“Extreme vetting,” racial and religious profiling, and fearing people who follow the Islamic faith will not do anything to end terrorism. All of those things are exactly what the terrorists want: they want us to change our way of life. They want us to live in fear. They want us to fight them, because they know they can use all of those things against us. To them, these reactions are merely recruiting tools.

Which is why President Trump’s words do not lend any comfort.

So many young, beautiful innocent people - living and enjoying their lives - murdered by evil losers in life.  I won't call them monsters because they would like that term.  I will call them losers from now on - because that is what they are - losers.

The terrorists and extremists, and those who give them aid and comfort, must be driven out from our society forever. This wicked ideology must be obliterated, and innocent life must be protected.  All civilized nations must join together to protect human life and the sacred right of our citizens to live in safety and peace. (Emphasis added)

Other than having the vocabulary of a 12-year-old, our president has no idea of what he is dealing with. “This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”  Terror is not an ideology. It is war by other means.


Jared Kushner is in deep trouble—and his White House enemies are feeling pretty good about that

Sun, 28 May 2017 20:01:22 +0000

The Friday news that Trump son-in-law in charge of All The Things, Jared Kushner, sought a secret line of communications with Russian officials that would bypass American intelligence services is four large Goodyears tossed onto the White House tire fire. There is no "legitimate" reason why Trump's transition team should have sought out a secret line of communication with a foreign nation that the American government wouldn't know about. Sunday shows be damned; there is no spin that makes that "better." That's colluding with a foreign government in defiance of your own no matter how you look at it, and is prima facie evidence that there was something going on between the top members of Team Trump and Russian officials that they didn't want American officials getting wind of—and that's even without considering the breaking news that Kushner had still more conversations with Russian officials that he did not previously bother to mention.

This news now puts Jared Kushner in the center ring of the Russia investigation, the one now being handled by a special counsel after Trump fired the FBI director running it. And certain other people in the always-tumultuous White House, people who do not like Golden Boy and find his presence irritating, might be a wee bit happy about that.

“No one knows what to make of it because he’s there every day, making decisions, in the Oval,” [a senior administration official] said. “So everyone just tries to act normal.” [...]

But outside of Kushner’s small circle of trust – a group that includes Kushner’s wife Ivanka Trump, and advisers Hope Hicks, Josh Raffel, Dina Powell, Gary Cohn, Chris Liddell and Reed Cordish – many West Wing advisers are simultaneously rattled by the backchannel revelations, and feeling a sense of schadenfreude. [...]

Internally at the White House, according to multiple sources, there is a feeling of resentment among people about Kushner’s special status as a family member, and a feeling that it’s about time for him to have a turn under the gun.

I don't think we have to worry about the members of this White House colluding with each other to sweep their worst scandals under the rug. The members of this White House would feed each other to passing bears, if the opportunity arose.


There's so much wrong with Trumpcare that it's hard to know where to start

Sun, 28 May 2017 19:01:05 +0000


But let's give it a shot. This week the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued its analysis of the Trumpcare bill passed by the House on May 4. The short version is that 23 million fewer Americans will have health coverage a decade from now, thanks to people whose fundamental principle when it comes to developing a plan for health care is this: Obama sucks.

Additionally, the federal Treasury will see a gain of about $12 billion per year over those 10 years as a result of Zombie Trumpcare. Looking at it one way, this bill would mean the government will save a lousy $521 per person, per year, from all the people who’ll be losing coverage. Wouldn’t you rather our country spent that money on covering those people? And of course many of them will still get sick, get injured, and, unfortunately, worse. Either they’ll go without proper care, get care too late at an emergency room—with the costs being passed on to everyone else anyway often enough—or just die. The price of such developments cannot be fully measured in dollars.

Note: This graph was created based on the March version of the House Trumpcare bill, but the new version’s benefit distribution was not significantly different, given the repeal of Obamacare taxes on upper incomes in both.

Essentially, the bill is a massive shift of wealth from those at or below the median income to those in the top couple of percent. When you think about it, doesn’t that pretty much describe every Republican proposal that has anything to do with money? It contains a tax cut—mostly going to the very wealthy—of almost two-thirds of $1 trillion, while stripping almost $1 trillion from Medicaid as well as one-quarter of $1 trillion in subsidies that currently help middle-income folks buy insurance through the Obamacare exchanges. Do Republicans openly trumpet these reverse Robin Hood measures as the reasons why this is such a great bill? If you think they do, I’ve got a nice patch of Sherwood Forest to sell you.


As Trump rages over Russia probe, big changes may be coming in the White House

Sun, 28 May 2017 17:25:29 +0000

Donald Trump is now back from his foreign trip. It was touch and go for that last bit there, when he was shoving other leaders and making threatening comments about how the rest of NATO owed him lunch money, and when the rest of the G7 leaders went out for a brief final stroll Trump lacked the stamina to follow, instead trailing behind in a golf cart.

Oh, and he comes home to multiple catastrophes. But don't worry! He has a plan! Like any middlingly successful rich fart, Trump knows that the first, last and only thing a sinking company effort needs is a good, hard rearranging of the deck chairs.

While much remained fluid Saturday, the beefed-up operation could include the return of some of Trump’s more combative campaign aides, including former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was fired nearly a year ago, and former deputy campaign manager David N. Bossie, who made his name in politics by investigating Bill and Hillary Clinton for two decades. Both of them have already been part of ongoing discussions about how to build a “war room,” which have been led in part by chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

That's right, the White House "plan" is that the people who led them into this mess will now get more communications power, and will be backed up by people too odious to have credibly been given White House positions the first time around. Then everyone will yell even louder about fake news and the mean press and things will, finally, begin to work out.

As for the people who are not willing to be as insane as the rest of Team Trump has been chafing to be, they're on thinner ice:


'Because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.'

Sun, 28 May 2017 17:01:03 +0000

On November 17, 1973, four months before the IRS billed him $400,000 in back taxes and for improper deductions, Richard Nixon held a press conference in which he famously stated

“I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service — I earned every cent,” he said. “And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I could say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”

And while it is unlikely that Melania Trump owns a “respectable Republican cloth coat,” the American people are still entitled to “know whether or not their president is a crook.”


CBO: Conservative Bulls**t Obliterator

Sun, 28 May 2017 15:01:01 +0000

This past week was a very big one for some very big promises from Republicans in Washington. It didn’t go well for them.

Three weeks after House Republicans voted to pass a new version of their “American Health Care Act,” the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) weighed in on high-profile pledges from President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. While Trump guaranteed “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better,” Ryan insisted the revised AHCA “protects people with pre-existing conditions.” Not content to rest there, HHS Secretary Tom Price boasted that Trumpcare’s $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid will "absolutely not" result in millions losing coverage.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration also unveiled its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. With its draconian spending cuts to the social safety net programs, the White House blueprint was proclaimed “dead on arrival” even by some Republicans. But more embarrassing to Donald Trump was its double-counting of $2 trillion in revenue for Uncle Sam magically generated by “sustained, 3 percent economic growth.” As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared a month ago, “the plan will pay for itself with growth.”

Unfortunately for the White House and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, the CBO demolished all of those Republican myths. Again. That’s because whether the issue is health care, taxes, job numbers, or the impact of the President Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus, the acronym “CBO” doesn’t just stand for “Congressional Budget Office.” It’s also shorthand for “Conservative Bulls**t Obliterator.”

As it turns out, in recent years that’s been true even when Republicans have their hand-picked choice running the agency.


They fought and died for freedom: Black soldiers in the U.S. Civil War

Sun, 28 May 2017 13:01:01 +0000

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and as we prepare to attend ceremonies for members of the U.S. military who died in service to this country, I want to salute those black men and women who fought so that my people could gain their freedom.

Black soldiers, including more than a dozen Congressional Medal of Honor winners, fought in 449 Civil War battles. More than one-third of them died during the war.

This is more than just a political or historical issue. It is also personal, since my great grandmother Amelia Weaver's brother Dennis Weaver served in Company D, 1st Regiment, United States Colored Troops (USCT). He served and survived—and spent the rest of his life fighting to get his pension, as did his wife Delia after his death. My dad’s grandfather, John Oliver, served in the 17th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, and fought at the Battle of Nashville.

The fact that this country has a very long list of Confederate memorials to racism and slavery is deeply troubling. Frankly, it's too damn long. Though I celebrated as the good people of New Orleans cheered recent removals of Confederate statues, we have a long way to go to eradicate the shrines to hate and bondage that still tarnish our nation.

Confederate memorials number in the hundreds while the list of memorials for black Union troops is a short one, numbering about 30. As the author of "Monuments to the United States Colored Troops (USCT) [African American Civil War Soldiers]: The List" points out:

“Of note is that at least fifteen of these monuments were erected in the past 20 years. My speculation is that this recent interest in memorializing the USCT got its impetus from the 1989 movie Glory, which is a fictionalized account of the 54th Massachusetts regiment that served in the Union army.”

The most well-known, the African American Civil War Memorial depicted in the photo above, is located in Washington, DC at the corner of Vermont Avenue, 10th St, and U Street NW.


Abbreviated Pundit Round-up

Sun, 28 May 2017 11:01:04 +0000

The question came up this week about favorite stories on Daily Kos. The truth is there are so many I found it hard to choose. It’s not just the incredible work that writers like Joan McCarter do every day, day in and day out (not to play favorites … but everyone has favorites). It’s DarkSyde putting together some of the best popular science pieces found anywhere. And Chris Reeves giving a masterclass in how to run for office. It’s the Daily Bucket guys putting together a natural history feature every single day. And the best elections team in any media — and I really believe that.

But what struck me as I scrolled back through the last fifteen years is how much it is about the community. That sounds sappy, I know but ... While looking through my own old pieces to see if there was anything that still held up, I found the most recommendations I ever got came from a post that had nothing to do with Donald Trump, or Russia, or coal mining, or the war in whereever-we-are-warring this week. It came from something that didn’t appear in any headlines outside of this community. It came from this, a short eulogy I wrote for my father on his death in 2008.

None of you knew my father. But later that week, when it was time to deliver an actual eulogy in front of a room of tearful people, many of them who not been back to my home town in decades, both I and the pastor delivering the message used quotes and comments from the responses to that eulogy on Daily Kos. The community didn’t just help me grieve my father. It helped me honor him.

Speaking of dad … If you asked most people what defined my father, they’d have told you it was the town where he worked as city administrator for more than forty years. Or his fifty-four year marriage. Or his friendships that spanned hundreds of miles in all directions. Or the moments of triumph, mountains of work, and the painful grinding decline of owning a small independent retail store in a small rural town in an age when both were slowly fading.

He would have accepted all that, but he would have also mentioned something else. My dad was in the military for only three years. Next to the decades he spent doing other things, it was over in a flash. But it was hugely important to him. 

Harold Everrett Sumner, and possibly Sgt. Storm

That’s my dad on the left in this picture, holding a rifle made by the Singer Sewing Machine folks, doing their bit for the war effort. No idea who the guy on the right was, but he looks ready to join the Howling Commandos and rip open a tank or two.

Even though my father had been home from the service by well over five decades when he died, a nice group of young soldiers from Fort Knox showed up to play taps on a bugle and fold a flag for my mom. I had absolutely no doubt, then or now, that their presence on that day would have been really appreciated by my dad.

He’d also be very pleased by the little flag they’ll bring him this weekend.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, folks. Share some memories.

But also come inside and read some pundits.


Open thread for night owls: Finding common ground requires that we not talk past each other

Sun, 28 May 2017 02:30:54 +0000

At Waging Nonviolence, Joann McAllister writes—Tearing down the walls that keep us from finding common ground: [...] We are once again in an era of large demonstrations that engage the public’s attention. This is good. Some of these events may help groups gain traction in establishing a campaign and building the next movement moment. As longtime organizer and Waging Nonviolence columnist George Lakey has pointed out, protests do not a social movement make. I contend that after the “trigger” events, after the mass demonstrations, and after the first flush of success, such groups will persist in the long struggle to facilitate change only if they are able to engage the “hearts, minds, and support of the majority of the populace.” That is, only if they are able to have a conversation about values and how current conditions violate widely held values. This conversation needs to take place with those with whom you marched, with those who did not march, with those who did not vote (over 42 percent of eligible voters), with those who do not participate in civic life at all, and even with those who voted for the other candidate. Despite the elation over mass turnouts at recent protests, beginning with the Women’s March, I fear that too little attention is being paid to the more nuanced and disciplined work of listening and learning that’s required to “win the hearts, minds, and support of a majority of the populace.” Unless we are determined to have real conversations — where we are not talking past each other because we are speaking a different language, while using the same words — I believe we will fail. “Still Doing Democracy!” takes the question of having authentic conversations seriously. Partisans on either side of the progressive/conservative wall use the same language in talking about democratic values. For example, “freedom” is a commonly expressed value that has widely divergent meanings depending on which side of the wall you are on. On one side, being free means to be able to choose to buy or not buy healthcare. On the other side, it means having access to healthcare that you can actually afford to buy. This is not a conversation; there is no common ground here. There is certainly not a shared belief in healthcare as a human right. The belief system and value differences are not only external to the progressive movement world. Jonathan Matthew Smucker’s analysis of Occupy Wall Street in “Hegemony, How-to: A Roadmap for Radicals,” shows how movement groups create walls that keep them from collaborating with natural allies. I look at the signs at the various marches since January and see a plethora of issues and value statements. But what do these value statements mean? Do people mean the same thing by the words “freedom,” “justice” or “fairness?” Do the people standing next to each other at demonstrations share the vision in “Doing Democracy” of a “civil society in a safe, just and sustainable world?” What kinds of personal and cultural characteristics would describe such a world? These are the questions we need to consider in our groups and in our efforts to engage the “majority of the populace.” The building blocks of metaphorical walls are the ideas and beliefs that reinforce them. They can be as impenetrable as brick and mortar. Thinking and feeling our way around — through, or over walls — is not always easy, but it is necessary to contribute to real change in a world characterized by diversity of beliefs, perspectives and life experiences. [...] • What’s coming up on Sunday Kos … They fought and died for freedom—Black soldiers in the U.S. Civil War, by Denise Oliver Velez CBO: Conservative Bulls**[...]

Scientists use data to contrast crowd size with Trump's original lie

Sun, 28 May 2017 02:01:02 +0000

Using actual data to derive the number of people in a crowd. What an alien concept that must be for so many exhausted Trump supporters. Bu that’s exactly what the March for Science organization did and the numbers are staggering:

As a result, it took organizers an unusually long time—three weeks—to come up with their estimate for how many people took part in the April 22 marches in Washington and 600 other cities worldwide. In a blog post published Monday, organizers approximated that nearly 1.1 million people had protested around the world, with the largest marches taking place in DC (100,000), San Francisco (50,000), Los Angeles (50,000), Chicago (60,000), and Boston (70,000). Their patience was a marked contrast to how President Donald Trump handled his inauguration. Trump spent his first weekend as president insisting that far more people attended his swearing-in than were actually there and attacking anyone who disagreed.

In a completely unforced error, the Trump WH started burning through their honeymoon credibility right out of the gate when the pr*sident sent his minions out to lie through their teeth about his bizarre egomaniacal claim that his inaugural crowd was the largest in history. That strange predilection would become all too common in the following days. The boss lies blatantly, aides try to spin and justify the lie in the face of overwhelming evidence that the lie is indeed a lie, and then worst of all, the boss himself then goes out, undercuts his lie, and his own aides retelling his original lie. It’s a recipe for disaster and it’s no surprise that that’s what this WH has turned into a mere 120 days in. It’s no wonder staff are said to be fearful about what Trump might do or say next and reportedly getting angrier with him by the day.


Nuts & Bolts: A guide to Democratic campaigns—rural America, the basics

Sun, 28 May 2017 01:00:54 +0000

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

If you’ve read my musings on Daily Kos beyond Nuts & Bolts, you know I spend quite a bit of time talking about rural America. This week, we’re going to take a bit to discuss some of the basics of a campaign in rural America, and what makes those campaigns different.

Too often, Democratic voices write off lower population rural areas and later find out those were the decisions that burned them in a statewide, congressional or even state Senate race. Years of neglect into rural communities, which exist in every state in America, has created a lack of direct knowledge of what it takes to start changing Democratic participation in rural America.


This week in science: the hot and the cold vs. the quick and the dead

Sun, 28 May 2017 00:01:04 +0000

Tabby’s Star is getting lots of attention, even SETI is getting in the game. But to get an idea of what more mundane explanations are making the rounds, there are two good papers out, and one posits a giant and no doubt very warm—possibly still roiling giant dusty gas-ball after a recent monster collision—with huge cold rings and two sets of very cold Trojans as seen in the image above: The first is by Ballesteros et al. (MNRAS, submitted) and they try to model the dips with a gigantic planet with a huge ring system and huge swarms of trojan asteroids. In other words, their model puts a lot of stuff in a 6 au orbit around the star, which is far enough away that it would be pretty cold.  They point out that the deep, asymmetric dip at Kepler day 793 occurs about half way in the middle of a pretty quiescent period for Tabby’s Star.  They associate the other dips with swarms of trojan asteroids—asteroids in the same orbit as the planet but leading or trailing the planet by 60 degrees. That does explain some things fairly well. It’s likely that something like this will eventually turn out to work. And the low odds of such an odd combination existing, and being oriented in such a way as to lie right between the star and our perspective, helps explain why we haven’t seen other stars behave this way. But it doesn’t explain everything perfectly. Maybe we’ll have a full article on that soon, if and when we know more. Is there anything chocolate can’t do? Don’t you know the sea level’s going up, up, Up, UP! (To live in those towns, you’ll have to be tough tough tough tough!) Star Wars was released 40 years ago this very weekend. And the Bad Astronomer, apparently with some excess time on his hands, reviews the film and its chief evilness: The Death Star! New research suggests whales reached dirigible size only in the relatively recent geological past and the reason may be related to a cooler climate beginning about three million years ago favoring the evolution of giant baleen whales: Ice sheets in the north develop a lot of cold water that sinks and is then transported around the globe. And what you get are intense upwellings that bring that nutrient-rich cold water back to the surface. That allows algae to go crazy and that allows krill to feed and to form really dense aggregations. [...]

This week in the war on workers: The Fight for $15 goes to Congress

Sat, 27 May 2017 22:55:54 +0000

It’s been 10 years since Congress raised the minimum wage and a raise can seem further away than ever. But congressional Democrats are pushing the issue despite the Republican stranglehold on the federal government that’s blocking any progress for working people. Democrats this week introduced a $15 minimum wage bill:

"Democrats have been working to put together a bold, sharp-edged agenda, and this bill will be a part of our agenda — that will be spoken about and lobbied for and pushed for from one end of the country to another," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference introducing the bill Thursday.

Schumer later introduced House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as his "comrade in arms."

The bill would raise the federal minimum to $9.25 an hour this year, with additional yearly increases until reaching $15 an hour in 2024. A rule allowing tipped workers to be paid less than the federal minimum would also be phased out over this period, and raises to the minimum would be indexed to inflation beginning in 2025.

Workers across the country put the $15 minimum wage on the agenda, with laws to make it an eventual reality in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. In Congress, Sen. Bernie Sanders has pushed his colleagues to embrace $15, after Democratic minimum wage goals rose from $9 to $10.10 to $12 before, now, meeting what workers have been organizing for since 2012.


Republicans claim that spamming your voicemail is their First Amendment right

Wed, 24 May 2017 15:40:23 +0000

There’s a reason your cell phone isn’t as inundated with telemarketing robocalls as your landline is (if you still have a landline): federal law doesn’t allow it—for now. The Federal Communications Commission is considering a proposal that would chip away at that protection by allowing organizations and companies to leave voicemail on your cell phone without ever making the phone ring. And the Republican National Committee is all for it.

In a comment filed with the FCC on Friday, the RNC said it felt the telecom agency should clear the way for organizations — including, apparently, itself — to auto-dial directly to voicemail inboxes with prerecorded pitches. Failing to permit the practice, the RNC warned, could threaten the First Amendment rights of political groups.

“Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations — including direct-to-voicemail messages,” the RNC told the FCC. “The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest.

It’s not clear why the First Amendment would be threatened by a ban on ringless voicemail spam if it’s not threatened by a ban on robocalling to cell phones, but maybe that’s a slippery slope the Republicans are trying to set up. Shoot, maybe a year or two down the road the Republicans will argue that it would threaten their First Amendment rights for the FCC to prevent them from installing malware on our computers that sends constant pop-up Trump ads.

The Republican Party joins the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and, of course, every damn spam telemarketer in pushing the FCC to allow ringless voicemail. Let’s hope that the engineers at cell phone companies are coming up with filtering technology to send all ringless voicemail straight to the trash.


Spotlight on green news & views: Greenland ice slip-sliding away; Cal Dems say no to oil money

Sat, 27 May 2017 22:01:06 +0000

This is the 501st edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views. Previously known as the Green Diary Rescue, the spotlight usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the May 24 Green Spotlight. More than 26,950 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.


Ohiodem1 writes—ALEC Restrictive Wind Farm Rules hold up $2B wind investment in Ohio: “An article in this morning’s Columbus Dispatch indicates that 2014 legislation, sponsored by Republicans Bill Seitz and Keith Faber, is holding up more than $2 Billion in investment in Ohio on clean wind power. Overly restrictive rules on wind-turbine placement have put billions of dollars of investment on hold, say government leaders from northwestern Ohio, who want to see the rules changed. The local-government officials teamed up with a wind-energy trade group today to call for the Ohio General Assembly to undo the restrictions that were put in place three years ago. A few years ago, 2014, I believe, ALEC proposed model legislation to impose highly restrictive setback requirements on the placement of wind turbines with the purpose of significantly reducing where wind farms could be placed.  Now we are seeing the impact of that legislation, which Bill Seitz, then the Ohio chairman of ALEC, sponsored, and in fact, because they couldn’t pass the legislation cleanly in a bill directly addressing the issue, they sneaked it into other legislation, a common ALEC trick to get bad legislation in through the back door.”


Budget committee approves Scott Walker's plan to drug test Medicaid recipients in Wisconsin

Fri, 26 May 2017 20:29:39 +0000

America has a hideous relationship with poverty and how we treat poor people. Evidence of this can be found in both political parties and Bill Clinton’s role in creating what is the welfare system today most certainly cannot be forgotten. Republicans, however, love trying to convince their base that there is a substantial portion of the population that receives government aid but doesn’t actually need it. They’ve built an entire discourse around the politics of poverty which includes stereotypes about welfare recipients as lazy abusers of the system who need to be policed at all times. And now, they’ve taken their dangerous “personal responsibility” narrative to new heights with their latest measure in Wisconsin. On Thursday, the state’s budget committee approved Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to require drug testing for Medicaid recipients. This makes Wisconsin the first state in the country to have such a law. The committee also approved of Walker’s proposals to require drug tests for adults without dependents who receive food stamps and are applying for coverage with the state’s BadgerCare program, which aims to insure people ineligible for Medicaid, and his proposal to expand the state’s food stamp work requirement to include individuals with children—but only to certain regions of the state at first, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Here we go again. More ridiculous punishments for poor people. According to Republicans, if you are poor and require government assistance, the government is thereby entitled to treat you like a child. Actually, no, not even a child. This is being treated like someone who has committed a crime and is now subject to random to drug testing. Why? Just because they can. And how exactly will they determine who gets tested? Will it be little old ladies with walkers? Veterans in wheelchairs? Let’s be clear—this is intended to impact people of color. But, here’s the critically important thing about drug testing people who receive public benefits. It has been proven time and time again that it does not work. At all. It’s a huge waste of time and money and it appears to be illegal. In 2014, courts in Florida found that drug testing welfare recipients without suspicion was a violation of their constitutional protection against unreasonable government searches.   In 2012, an attempt to drug test welfare in Florida was found to have cost more than it saved in denied welfare funds to drug users—and that was before the costly lawsuits that followed.  A 2015 analysis from ThinkProgress found that tested welfare recipients used drugs at lower rates than the general population. Being poor is not a crime. But being this stupid and careless should be. This is ineffective, a waste of money and does nothing but stigmatizes the poor. Scott Walker and everyone who voted to pass this proposal are the real criminals.  [...]

Trump broke his promise on Medicaid. Will media hold him to the standard they held Obama? Doubtful.

Thu, 25 May 2017 16:51:31 +0000

For all his crocodile tears, the media has always graded popular vote loser Donald Trump on a curve. Oh, he read a speech to Congress that didn’t include him spewing insults? How frickin’ presidential! The latest example of this relates to Zombie Trumpcare. As you may remember, on the campaign trail he flatly stated on many occasions that he wouldn’t touch Medicaid. It was in the speech where he launched his presidential campaign, for Pete’s sake.

Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.


Now, he’s going to not just cut it, he wants to gut it. The Zombie Trumpcare bill contains almost a trillion dollars in Medicaid cuts. His proposed budget would slash about $600 billion more, reducing overall financing by about half over the next decade.

When asked about this blatantly broken promise, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told John Harwood that the promise to protect Medicaid “had been overridden by the promise to repeal/replace Obamacare.” This reminds me of when Nixon Press Secretary John Ziegler said that previous statements had been made “inoperative” by a new one that completely contradicted them.

To get back to the matter of double standards, think back to when President Obama got called out for having promised that, even after healthcare reform took effect, “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” That turned out not to be true, and Obama got reamed across the media, including by left-leaning commentators. Politifact rated this quotation the “Lie of the Year” for 2013.

The Mulvaney statement became public on Monday. We’ve known for a while that Trump has already endorsed massive cuts to Medicaid. The question is this: why was Obama pilloried, and Trump largely given a pass for his broken promise? One answer is that Trump has done so many other awful things that this is just one more brick in the wall (pun intended). But that doesn’t make it right. Far from it.


Senate Intelligence Committee widens basis of investigation into Trump–Russia connection

Sat, 27 May 2017 19:41:49 +0000

Following the Friday night revelations that Jared Kushner had additional, previously-unrevealed communications with the Russian ambassador, and that Kushner had worked with the Russians in an attempt to set up a secret, back-door communications channel—one that was genuinely based on the idea that Trump’s people would come directly to the Russian embassy so they could connect to the Kremlin without being overheard—the Senate has decided to expand the scope of its investigation into Trump–Russia.

The Senate Intelligence Committee acted quickly to ask the Trump campaign to preserve all Russia-related documents going back to the start of the campaign. 

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request.

The reasoning behind this request appears to be not just that there were other communications with Russia over that period, but that the investigation is extending into other areas of the Russian relationship.

The Senate investigation is widening, beyond individual aides to the campaign’s paper trail. 

NBC also notes that this expansion is bipartisan, with Senate Republicans on the committee, led by chairman Richard Burr, also signing onto the request. On the House side, Congressman Jim Hines indicates that the House investigation should also take a broad approach. On both sides, this represents a definite expansion of the material being considered.


A 6-year-old St. Louis boy makes a passionate plea to end gun violence in a video that goes viral

Wed, 24 May 2017 14:30:13 +0000

Your probably don’t remember what your biggest fear was when you were six. Maybe it was losing your favorite toy, not getting to eat your favorite food, or getting separated from your parents in a crowd. For most of us, our biggest fear was likely not the fear of death from gun violence, though that is now a growing issue of concern for kids in certain parts of the country—and for one 6-year-old in particular.

Leanndra Cheatham of St. Louis posted a video of her 6-year-old son Jeffrey to Facebook last week that has now been viewed more than 130,000 times. In it, he makes a passionate plea for gun violence in the city to come to an end, and it is heartbreaking. 

"People need to stop killing each other around here because this is just making me feel bad," Jeffrey says in the video, while standing in what appears to be a kitchen.
"I'm really serious. I'm really scared to die, and I'm really scared for my family to die. I'm scared."

In an ideal world, Jeffrey would be sheltered from this horrible and painful reality. But unfortunately, it is an issue that has impacted his own family. Last month, his mother’s 16-year-old cousin was shot and killed outside of his school, making them one of the ever-growing number of families around the country affected by gun violence. 

"I'm a kid, and I don't supposed to be knowing all of this stuff," Jeffrey says in the video. "I don't supposed to be knowing about all of these guns." [...]

Cheatham also says Jeffrey is excited about the video being so widely seen.
"He said, 'Mommy, we're going to get people to stop killing each other.'"

Watching any 6-year-old make a well thought-out plea to adults not to kill each other would tug at your heartstrings, and it is especially poignant watching a little black boy do so. After all, gun violence impacts black Americans the most—and in 2013, Missouri had the second-highest number of black homicide victims in the country. 


This week at progressive state blogs: Killer budgets; the GOP's phony 'moderates'; dumb ads in GA

Sat, 27 May 2017 19:00:50 +0000

This week at progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Here is the May 20 edition.  Inclusion of a blog post does not necessarily indicate my agreement with—or endorsement of—its contents.

At Blue Oregon, Chuck Sheketoff writes—Small voices with a big stake in state budget outcome:

Poor children don’t have a megaphone. They can’t create a dark money-funded group to pay for TV ads that attack lawmakers for their ideas.


Yet, Oregon’s most vulnerable kids have an outsized stake in the current tax and budget negotiations in the legislature. Many children in families receiving rudimentary cash and job training assistance through Oregon’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program would pay a steep price with budget cuts, should a revenue solution fail to materialize.

Sadly, this is nothing new. Whenever the state faces a shortfall, the TANF program often ends up on a budget cuts list, for two reasons. First, unlike Medicaid, the federal TANF block grant structure provides little incentive for Oregon to maintain its own TANF investments. Second, there is no large, politically powerful industry with a financial stake in TANF to go to bat for them with the politicians.

Right now, the legislature’s budget writers have warned that, in the absence of new revenue, TANF is in the crosshairs. As the Oregon Center for Public Policy has outlined in a recent paper, the proposed cuts would drive 11,000 poor kids deeper into poverty, making their life prospects even bleaker.


View from the Left: Gianforte's win cements the GOP's electoral decline in years to come

Sat, 27 May 2017 18:00:44 +0000

We are now living in a country where a candidate earns $100,000 of goodwill in 24 hours for assaulting a reporter and is rewarded with a congressional seat.

Republican Greg Gianforte’s victory was undoubtedly helped by the fact that most voters had already cast their ballot by the time news broke of Gianforte’s reprehensible attack on a reporter Wednesday night. But it’s not as if Montanans hadn’t a clue about the GOP candidate’s moral fiber.

Gianforte’s a multi-millionaire who ran on promises to “drain the swamp!” and joked about ganging up on a reporter after one of his supporters declared, “Our biggest enemy is the news media.” Sound familiar? Gianforte also repeatedly refused to publicly state what he thought of the GOP healthcare bill that guts pre-existing condition protections and will cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their insurance. But dodging questions wasn’t good enough, he eventually just unloaded on a reporter who asked him one question too many (i.e. two questions) about the legislation. Be warned, journalists: No follow ups for Gainforte or you’ll get clocked.

Suffice it to say, the guy doesn’t have a lot policy finesse and the days of John McCain correcting a supporter who wrongly called Barack Obama an “Arab” in ’08 are clearly over. Now we have direct political descendants of Donald Trump—rich, unaccountable and above the law—being elevated as supporting cast members for Trump’s Oval Office freak show. An old saying comes to mind for every Gianforte voter along with the three major Montana newspapers that originally endorsed him: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

If those voters like what they are seeing in Washington—and they clearly do—they just voted for more of the same. And they will reap what they sow: complete and total governmental dysfunction.

The GOP trifecta of control over the executive and both Congressional chambers (not to mention their Supreme Court edge) has done nothing but highlight the leaderless Republican rabble now presiding over a paucity of ideas. Paul Ryan was exceedingly lucky to even push through a health care bill that’s turned out to be so politically toxic, GOP candidates are now attacking reporters who dare inquire about it.


Republicans are worried after months of failure. But it's not time to relax—resist harder.

Wed, 24 May 2017 18:07:09 +0000

May their bleak conclusion be the nation’s partial salvation:

Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with no major policy accomplishments. Privately, they realize it's political malpractice to blow at least the first nine of months of all Republican rule, but also realize there's little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome.

According to one of Axios’ many Republican sources:

They're going to go home and get the [stuff] kicked out of them because people think it actually was accomplished — and, by the way, people are likely going to be getting their premium increases that are going to occur regardless of whether they pass this bill or not. …

And now the president's threatening that he's not going to approve the money for the insurance subsidies — it is going to be a catastrophic political problem …

They are in this terrible box on healthcare and they're about to get blamed for it because they did what I've been calling that Bon Jovi rally at the White House — because they were halfway there.

This is prime “when your opponent is drowning, throw them an anchor” time. Show up at congressional Republicans’ town halls, and if they won’t hold town halls, show up at their offices, show up outside their fundraisers and their private talks to friendly audiences, write letters to the editor, register your neighbors to vote and while they’re filling out the voter registration form let them know how their representative voted on health care, join a group that’s organizing your community to resist. Resist, however and wherever you can. 

Here's one way to resist: Give $1 to each of these Democratic nominee funds to help win back a House majority.


Don't forget what Trumpcare really is all about—tax cuts

Fri, 26 May 2017 19:48:30 +0000

The big shocker in the second round of Trumpcare scoring by the Congressional Budget Office has been all about how people with pre-existing conditions are screwed by it, but don't lose sight of what the first CBO score pointed out—how the bill would destroy Medicaid. The CBO pegs the cuts in this version at $832 billion over ten years (not counting what the proposed Trump budget would cut), enough to force 14 million out of the program. The real reason for most of these cuts remains: the big tax cuts for the rich.

Like its predecessor, the revised AHCA has four distinct major components.

1. One would cut taxes paid by high-income individuals (lower taxes on capital gains, divided, and interest income for households with annual income over $250,000) and by companies in specific industries: health insurance, medical devices, prescription drugs, and indoor tanning salons.
2. The second is a grab bag of tax reductions, such as loosened rules for flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts, repeal of the tax on individuals who can afford but don’t buy adequate health coverage, and a further delay of the excise tax on high-cost health plans (the so-called “Cadillac Tax”).
3. The third restructures the tax credits that subsidize health care coverage, moving from existing income-related tax credits for purchasing health insurance on the ACA Marketplaces to age-related tax credits to purchase health insurance.
4. And the fourth cuts Medicaid spending reducing coverage and essentially paying for the tax cuts.

In other words, it's still all about the tax cuts. But those tax cuts are most definitely not distributed evenly.

In fact, TPC estimates that a $37,000 average annual tax cut will go to the 1 percent of the population with the highest earnings (annual income of over $772,000). The top 0.1 percent of the income distribution would receive an annual tax cut of over $200,000 (annual income over $3.9 million).  [….]

The bottom line: CBO estimates confirm the AHCA is largely a tax bill paired up with Medicaid cuts to offset the costs. And, as in the earlier version of the bill, almost all the benefits go to the highest income households in the country.

That's what this is all about. Punishing old, poor, and sick people is just the gravy.


Trump's declining linguistic skills laid bare

Sat, 27 May 2017 15:00:46 +0000

If you've never tried to punctuate/interpret a Donald Trump sentence in writing, you haven't lived. I took a whack at a questionable formulation here:

"There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign—but I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero," [Trump] said during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

On paper that quote looks a little muddy, but to the ear it was clear that he meant he could "only" speak for himself. In other words, I can't defend what the rest of my campaign did, nor will I.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's found Trump syntax challenging. STAT fixated on the very same sentence in a piece examining Trump's declining linguistic capabilities over the past couple decades, and it's quite revealing, writes Sharon Begley:

In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. This was so even when reporters asked tough questions about, for instance, his divorce, his brush with bankruptcy, and why he doesn’t build housing for working-class Americans.

Trump fluently peppered his answers with words and phrases such as “subsided,” “inclination,” “discredited,” “sparring session,” and “a certain innate intelligence.” He tossed off well-turned sentences such as, “It could have been a contentious route,” and, “These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated.” He even offered thoughtful, articulate aphorisms: “If you get into what’s missing, you don’t appreciate what you have,” and, “Adversity is a very funny thing.”


Trump's sabotage of Obamacare is going to cost us all

Fri, 26 May 2017 20:08:19 +0000

In the midst of an extremely busy healthcare-policy week—Trumpcare and the CBO, the Trump regime's decision to punt on cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers—there was some very bad Obamacare news. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced that it was going to hike premiums by 22.9 percent for 2018. They also announced they were doing it precisely because the Trump regime punted on the decision about those payments, and had no choice because of the uncertainty Trump's sabotage was creating. Greg Sargent followed up with the insurer. First, a reminder about those payments—the cost-sharing reductions. They're reimbursements to insurance companies which subsidized lower-income Obamacare customers to help pay deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses that would otherwise be unaffordable. Those payments are the subject of a pending lawsuit, brought by House Republicans in 2013, which neither the House nor the Trump regime wants to deal with. The result—turmoil, as Sargent details.

In an interview with me this morning, Brad Wilson, the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina, said flat out that the failure of the Trump administration and Congress to guarantee that these subsidies will continue is why rates are going to soar for hundreds of thousands of people in his state.

“The failure of the administration and the House to bring certainty and clarity by funding CSRs has caused our company to file a 22.9 percent premium increase, rather than one that is materially lower,” Wilson told me. “That will impact hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians.” The company says it has approximately half a million customers getting individual insurance via Obamacare.

“We filed a 22.9 rate increase for 2018 based on the assumption that the CSRs will not be in place,” Wilson also said. “The rate increase would be 8.8 percent if the CSRs were guaranteed for 2018. Because they are not, the rate is 22.9 percent.” […]

“The effect will be the same across the country,” Wilson predicted. “Rates will be materially higher if CSRs aren’t funded.” Indeed, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that insurers would likely boost premiums on average nationally by 19 percent on some plans to compensate for it if the CSRs are halted.


International tourism to America collapsing, thanks to Donald Trump

Sat, 27 May 2017 13:30:50 +0000

Now that Donald Trump and his various advisers have had a few more months to make asses of themselves and generally terrify the planet, let's check back in with the U.S. tourism industry. Yep, it's still collapsing.

America's share of international tourism has dropped 16% in March, compared to the same month in 2016, according to Foursquare data released Wednesday.

The decline began in October 2016, the month before the presidential election. From October to March, tourism-related traffic has fallen an average of 11% in the US, compared to the previous year. Meanwhile, tourism in the rest of the world has increased 6% year-over-year during the same period.

It turns out that government-backed hostility toward the rest of the planet makes the rest of the planet not want to visit here. Everyone has heard the stories of visitors being detained for hours or days at our airports; everyone has heard of the uptick in hate crimes and seen the tapes of Trump supporters picking out random ethnic-looking people on the street and publicly berating them for being "in our country." A lot of tourists would prefer to not risk any of that, and just go somewhere else.

"Proponents of President Trump’s new policies might argue that the President intended to reduce visitors from certain countries, and that the economic cost is outweighed by claimed security needs," [Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck] writes. "Critics of the administration may question the effectiveness of these new tactics. Either way, we believe that the direct economic impact from these policies should be in the conversation."

It's very likely that Trump supporters don't care in the slightest about the economic impact. But the tourism and retail industries care a lot. Donald Trump, who is supposedly a Hotel Guy, is quite possibly too stupid to connect the policy dots to begin with


Trump budget devastates science and research spending

Sat, 27 May 2017 13:01:09 +0000

Just in case you missed it, Donald Trump is no forward thinking JFK, urging us to reach for the moon and beyond “not because it is easy but because it is hard.” But if there was any remaining doubt about his integrity and decency among his remaining holdout supporters, Trump’s widely panned budget proposal should lay them to rest. Even the science and research portions are nothing short of revolting starting with the name, straight out of truth-speak:

President Trump's 2018 budget request, delivered to Congress on Tuesday with the title “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” has roiled the medical and science community with a call for massive cuts in spending on scientific research, medical research, disease prevention programs and health insurance for children of the working poor.

The people who will take those cuts on the chin include huge swaths of Trump’s own voters, the very people he promised time and time again to help. But aside from that betrayal, American Greatness Trump-style will carve a cool billion away from the National Cancer Institute and a half billion more from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Heart disease and cancer alone are responsible for almost half the deaths in the US, knocking off well over a million people per year, making them roughly ten-thousand times more deadly to US residents than terrorism. 

The CDC will see more than a billion gutted off the top and the National Science Foundation will have about three-quarter billion sliced away. The National Institute of Health overall will be “right-sized” from $31.8 billion to $26 billion. Environmental science is likewise being impacted while simultaneously being taken apart from the top down by industry-friendly appointees who hate the agencies they run.

You voted for hard times, Trump voters. This budget is just one of many ways the GOP is going to try and deliver.


Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Get Jared Kushner out of the White House

Sat, 27 May 2017 11:13:10 +0000

WaPo with a big story:

Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

By the way, Kushner is neither sophisticated nor experienced in international relations. He’s a small time operator playing on a big stage. And he’s really, really stupid. Let the hammer fall.


Without knowing whether he was a Greedy Gus or just a garden variety traitor, Kushner should be nowhere near the White House. He should have whatever security clearance granted to him pulled. Come to think of it, all of that is true for his father-in-law as well.


Open thread for night owls: Iraq and Afghanistan: $6 trillion for longest U.S. war remains unpaid

Sat, 27 May 2017 03:01:07 +0000

Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University is a former assistant secretary of commerce, and co-author with Joseph Stiglitz of "The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict." She writes—Iraq and Afghanistan: The $6 Trillion Bill for America’s Longest War Is Unpaid: On Memorial Day, we pay respects to the fallen from past wars – including the more than one million American soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war. The enormous figure reflects not just the cost of fighting – like guns, trucks and fuel – but also the long-term cost of providing medical care and disability compensation for decades beyond the end of the conflict. Consider the fact that benefits for World War I veterans didn’t peak until 1969. For World War II veterans, the peak came in 1986. Payments for Vietnam-era vets are still climbing. Linda Blimes The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades. But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits. A forgotten war While most Americans are keen to “support our troops,” we aren’t currently shouldering the financial or the physical burden of our nation’s warfare. Except for a short period between the two world wars, the percentage of the general population now serving in the U.S. armed forces is at its lowest level ever. What’s more, the war in Afghanistan barely features on our front pages. During the past two years it has not even made it into the top 10 news stories. There is not much pain in our pocketbooks either. In past wars, taxpayers were forced to cover some of the extra spending. During Vietnam, marginal tax rates for the top 1 percent of earners were hiked to 77 percent. President Harry Truman raised tax rates as high as 92 percent during the Korean War, telling the country that “this is a contribution to our national security that every one of us should stand ready to make.” In fact, taxes were raised during every American conflict since the Revolutionary War, especially for the wealthy. This time around we have borrowed the money instead. Thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, nearly all Americans now pay lower taxes than before the invasions [...]

Your Republican congressperson is literally Comcast's mouthpiece

Fri, 26 May 2017 18:40:17 +0000

Technology policy is complicated. Far too complicated for your average Republican House member, who has been really preoccupied anyway for the last month not having a clue how healthcare policy works. So you won't be surprised that House leadership leaned on an outside group to get talking points about net neutrality and the FCC so they don't sound stupid to their constituents. You also probably won't be surprised by who they got those talking points from—the lobby group representing Comcast, Cox Communications, Charter, and other cable industry companies. Over the last few weeks, as the FCC was preparing to begin dismantling net neutrality rules, House lawmakers received an email from GOP leadership educating them on how to best defend the agency's extremely unpopular decision. Included in that e-mail was an attached list of talking points (pdf) making all manner of disingenuous claims about the net neutrality debate. [...] Usually, Congress members cover their tracks well enough to obfuscate the fact they let lobbyists and campaign contributions do the thinking for them. But the Intercept noticed that metadata attached to the talking points clearly indicate they originated with the cable industry's biggest lobbying organization, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) [...]  As such, you'll surely be shocked to learn that many of the talking points included in the packet weren't remotely true, including one claiming net neutrality is somehow "anti-consumer," another regurgitating the repeatedly-debunked claim that net neutrality killed network investment, and several repeating the industry's favorite claim that net neutrality protections aren't necessary, because the broadband industry never does anything wrong. [...] Here on planet Earth, we've watched as large ISPs used usage caps to hurt streaming competitors, block users from using certain services unless they pay for more expensive data plans, intentionally congest their networks to drive up interconnection costs, throttle entire classifications of traffic then lie about it, and even group up to block competing mobile apps and services they didn't want to compete with. Anybody that thinks it's hyperbole to state that ISPs will use their size, leverage and the lack of broadband competition to engage in a rotating crop of anti-competitive behaviors simply has not been paying attention. It almost is enough to make you wonder if the NCTA might not also be behind the anti-net neutrality astroturfing of the FCC’s comment system leading up to their meeting to begin the process of undoing the open internet. Hundreds of thousands of identical comments coming from people who swear they did not write them had to be coordinated by somebody. The NCTA has had so much practice doing that for Republican lawmakers that it wouldn’t be a stretch for them. Sign to tell the FCC: Do NOT kill net neutrality. These rules protect our Internet and keep it free and open! [...]

Donald Trump's lack of concern for human rights gets a body count

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:19:55 +0000

Donald Trump’s disdain for human rights is never ending. Whether he’s cheering on mass murder overseas, or blaming the victims at home, Trump can be counted on to support any authoritarian regime ready to connect boot with throat. So when this shows up in the news

A raid by government forces in Bahrain against a pro-opposition stronghold has left at least five people dead and hundreds detained in one of the deadliest crackdowns since protests erupted in 2011 against the Persian Gulf nation’s Western-backed monarchy.

It’s a good guess that this isn’t far behind ...

The timing of the raid was striking, coming two days after President Trump publicly assured the king of Bahrain that their relationship would be free of the kind of “strain” that had occurred in the past — an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s periodic chiding of Bahrain over its human rights violations.

It’s not just Trump. Rex Tillerson skilled out on the State Department’s annual release of human rights information and has downplayed rights on his overseas trips. The United States is consistently sending a new message under Trump—our friends can get away with anything. And the world is listening.

Trump’s widely anticipated speech, ostensibly about Islam and extremism, included assurances to the gulf’s Sunni states that “our friends will never question our support.”

In Bahrain, the government’s opponents viewed the conference and Trump’s appearance with the Bahraini monarch as providing tacit approval for the raid on Tuesday.

That’s not true, of course. It wasn’t tacit. It was clear.


Jared Kushner had STILL MORE undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador

Sat, 27 May 2017 01:30:03 +0000

As if trying to set up a secret channel between Trump and Putin wasn’t enough, Reuters is reporting that Jared Kushner also had additional communications with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that were previously undisclosed.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser, Jared Kushner, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former U.S. officials told Reuters.

Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two of the sources said. By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, said two other sources - one current and one former law enforcement official.

The idea that Kushner was just a “witness” to wrongdoing can be completely discarded. Kushner was an active agent who withheld the scope of his connections to Russian officials and who attempted to set up a secret communication channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin. 

This is the man who Donald Trump charged with everything from Mideast peace, to creating a new trade deal with China, to overhauling government.

But there is one chore Trump assigned to Kushner that he can carry out — criminal justice reform. His actions have crossed so many lines that there are none left to cross. We’ve left Watergate somewhere way back in the rear mirror. It’s time to bring Jared Kushner home. In handcuffs.


Preet Bharara: If body-slammer Greg Gianforte were an immigrant, 'he’d face deportation'

Fri, 26 May 2017 16:52:55 +0000

Amateur MMA fighter Greg Gianforte won the special election to fill Montana’s lone House seat last night, despite being charged with criminal assault for bodyslamming a reporter the day before. As Daily Kos Elections noted, “with perhaps as much as two-thirds of the vote cast early,” it’s not clear how much the assault affected voters, if at all. Remember, this is a state that went by double digits to a racist after he confessed on tape to sexual assault. And, both got away with it, because Gianforte is now congressman-elect, and Donald Trump is now the president. Watch whiteness work, because if any brown folks tried that shit, they’d be calling someone for bail right now. It’s something that wasn’t lost on former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara—fired by the popular vote loser for perhaps being a little too good at his job—who tweeted that if Gianforte “were an immigrant … he’d face deportation”: xRepost in honor of alleged criminal Greg Gianforte's election. If he were an immigrant he'd face deportation; now he sets immigration policy— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 26, 2017 While Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order from last January made just about any undocumented immigrant here eligible to be swept up by his mass deportation force, on camera Trump was telling a very different—and untrue—story, claiming that he and ICE would target only criminals and “bad hombres” for arrest and deportation. The fact is the Trump regime has expanded the definition of “criminal” so broadly, that even undocumented immigrants with traffic infractions—like making an improper U-turn—can get torn from their families and shipped out of this country. But apparently, as long as you look like Gianforte, you can assault someone on tape, in front of witnesses, and it won’t stop you from getting elected to the United States Congress. [...]

Intelligence expert: Kushner's security clearance must be pulled 'right now'

Sat, 27 May 2017 01:10:13 +0000

Intelligence expert and author Malcolm Nance put Jared Kushner's alleged request to establish a secret channel with the Kremlin in perspective for average viewers Friday night. "Had any individual other than these individuals, who worked immediately for President Trump, performed these actions,” he told MSNBC's Chris Hayes, "they would have immediately had their clearances pulled. They would have had their jobs terminated." He called the report, if true, "so suspicious" that he said Kushner and his aides should "have their clearances pulled right now." He added that the FBI should "descend" on the White House immediately. Here's the full excerpt of Nance's remarks, but don't miss his impassioned reaction in the video below the fold. Had any individual other than these individuals who worked immediately for President Trump, performed these actions at any time in the SF-86 security clearance process, they would have immediately had their clearances pulled. They would have had their jobs terminated. Some of these contacts are so suspicious that they would have warranted their own counterintelligence investigation. This nation is in a counterintelligence investigation. They are in a spy hunt over at the FBI, and now we have this story—should it prove true—of an American citizen who is the senior adviser to the president of the United States, attempting to establish what we call in the intelligence community ‘covert communications’ with a hostile nation's potential intelligence agency or senior leadership. That brings you -- that crosses the line to the espionage act of 1917. This cannot be explained. Put aside the other 18 contacts with Moscow. This one incident requires Jared Kushner and all of his immediate staff to have their clearances pulled right now and to have the FBI descend on there and to determine whether this is hostile intelligence in the White House one step from the president. Saturday, May 27, 2017 · 1:21:00 AM +00:00 · Kerry Eleveld UPDATE: Another scoop, from Reuters—at least 3 previously undisclosed contacts b/w Kushner/Russians. FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official. [...]

Schools implement hair policies that punish black girls for wearing braids (and for being black)

Fri, 26 May 2017 00:43:42 +0000

If you are female in this society, you get used to having your appearance critiqued. And if you are black and female—because of the intersecting nature of racism and sexism, it seems as if you are forever being policed for everything. Sociology professor Patricia Hill Collins once wrote that “the black American woman has had to admit that while nobody knew the troubles she saw, everybody, his brother and his dog, felt qualified to explain her, even to herself.” Such is the life of the black girl/woman in America, that everything about us is up for debate and conversation, including how we wear our hair. And as young black girls around the country are finding out, natural hair styles are often unwanted in schools and considered a distraction. Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in Malden, Massachusetts, had a dress code which said that hair extensions are prohibited. But critics argue that this disproportionately impacts black girls, who often wear hair extensions for braids. The school made the national spotlight when two teenage girls refused to take out their braids and were kicked off their sports teams and not allowed to attend the prom. The controversial rule, which prohibits students from wearing “anything artificial or unnatural in their hair” including hair extensions used for braids, made national headlines after Mya and Deanna Cook, 15-year-old twin sophomores, were removed from their sports teams and banned from prom over their unwillingness to take down their braids. The girls also received daily detention for two weeks for refusing to change their hair style. Other students at the school faced suspension over the policy. This may seem like it’s not a big deal. But braids are an integral part of black culture across the world. Almost every little black girl wears her hair braided at one point or another. In Colombia, enslaved black women used braids to direct people to freedom—women would braid paths into their hair that represented the roads they used to escape. They also kept gold and hid seeds in their braids which helped them to survive after they left bondage. So braids are not just a part of our fashion, but intimately connected to who we are as a people. Punishing black girls for wearing their hair in braids is akin to punishing them for simply being black. And this is becoming a trend. [...]

In start of 'summer of resistance,' activists to gather in Texas to take on anti-immigrant agenda

Fri, 26 May 2017 18:44:02 +0000

Texas has become “ground zero” in Trump-era, state-level efforts to enact racist, anti-immigrant legislation, following Trump ally Greg Abbott signing “show me your papers” legislation, a bill that if successfully enacted later this year will turbo-boost racial profiling of anyone perceived to be an immigrant. This could become a constitutional disaster in a state where nearly half the population is Latino, leading one immigrant rights group to declare it “as the worst piece of anti-immigrant state legislation we’ve encountered.”

As part of a “summer of resistance” to the legislation, state activists are kicking off a Memorial Day convergence in Austin this weekend to not only strategize against the “show me your papers” legislation, but to also spark a national fight against anti-immigrant agendas like Senate Bill 4. According to one organizer who talked to Buzzfeed, this summer could be the start of a “new civil rights movement”:

“It’s terrible these things have to happen, but they’re a huge wake up call for people who’ve been standing around not engaged,” said Pita Juarez, communications director for One Arizona, which is sending 25 activists to Austin this weekend.

Immigration activists have had success building these sorts of coalitions in the past, albeit on a smaller scale, and are hoping to use those wins as a model for the new movement. For instance, in 2010 Arizona lawmakers passed SB 1070, a sweeping immigration measure that made being undocumented a state crime and required state law enforcement authorities to check the papers of anyone they suspected was undocumented.

The law touched off widespread protests in Arizona, and numerous small, local organizations were formed to fight the law. But it wasn’t until activists realized “everyone was fighting these little battles. Why don’t we fight them together?” 


The Senate Democrats' 'hell-no' caucus takes shape, laying groundwork for 2020

Fri, 26 May 2017 22:11:14 +0000

Six senators who caucus with the Democrats have set themselves apart from the rest of their caucus when it comes to telling Donald Trump to take a long walk on a short pier. Politico is calling it the "hell-no caucus" and it includes the following senators, listed in ascending order based on how many Trump nominees they’ve cast a "yes" vote for: Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, 1 Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 2 Cory Booker of New Jersey, 3 Kamala Harris of California, 3  Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent, 3 Jeff Merkley of Oregon, 6  Though the GOP Senate has been too dysfunctional to take up any major pieces of legislation, Democrats have been able to weigh in on Trump nominees to both his administration and the judicial branch. Gillibrand distinguished herself not only by voting for just one lonesome Trump nominee but also by being the only Democrat and indeed the sole senator in the chamber to vote against Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense. The only Republican she backed was Nikki Haley for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Of course, they all deny having 2020 aspirations, but some of them are just doing it with a little more verve than others: “Lost in all of the obvious concern about Russia is the fact that Trump is pushing an extremely, extremely right-wing, reactionary agenda: tax breaks for billionaires, throwing 24 million people off health insurance, and massive cuts to programs that working people need,” Sanders said in a brief interview. “And many of his appointees are pushing exactly that agenda, and I’m not going to support that.” [...] In an interview, Harris also dismissed any notion that her recurring “no” votes have anything to do with potential national aspirations. “Literally, I could go down the list in terms of on merit and on the issues, why I voted the way I did,” the freshman senator said. [...] As for Gillibrand, the New York senator gave a simple explanation for her “no” votes to New York magazine earlier this year: “If they suck, I vote against them. If they’re worthy, I vote for them.” “If they suck, I vote against them.” Words to live by. [...]

Jared Kushner and Russian ambassador discussed setting up a secret communications channel

Fri, 26 May 2017 23:34:35 +0000

The Washington Post is reporting that Jared Kushner proposed but seemingly failed to set up a secret channel so team Trump could have secure communications with the Russians without being detected. Oops. Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications. The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. The meeting itself—though not the line of discussion—was previously disclosed by the White House, but not until March. But here's the kicker: Kislyak was reportedly "taken aback" by the proposition of a U.S. administration using communications lines at a Russian embassy. In other words, this was so off the wall, reckless, and unusual that Kislyak—Kislyak!—was thrown by it. So Kushner, trying to find ways to disguise Trump & Co.’s communications with the Kremlin, manages to get outed by U.S. surveillance of Kislyak. Before this report surfaced, just imagine how compromised Kushner and Flynn both were based on that December conversation. Friday, May 26, 2017 · 11:48:01 PM +00:00 · Kerry Eleveld UPDATE: It’s Russia o’clock and the Senate Intel Committee has issued a bipartisan request to the Trump campaign (not just individual advisers) for documents. xScoop: Trump campaign committee has been asked by Senate to gather and produce all docs/records going back to 2015— Robert Costa (@costareports) May 26, 2017 [...]

Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Resistance FRIDAY!

Fri, 26 May 2017 23:30:11 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE… A Moment of Navel Gazing, If You Please Happy 15th blogiversary to the persnicketiest band of muckrakers and misfits in Blogger Land. It all started when a dirty fucking hippie named Markos Hemp Flower Rainbow Tesla Moonbat Benghazi Moulitsas emerged from his law-school cocoon, flapped his tie-dye wings on May 26, 2002, and proclaimed: “I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies.” "The" Daily Kos percolated for several months before I discovered it (via the Dean for America blog) and got addicted to the cattle calls.  After that, all hell broke loose and it's been a sprint for world domination ever since. (Latvia signed its surrender papers yesterday and, in keeping with our time-honored custom, we ransacked the presidential palace.) True fact: Daily Kos has jumped the shark 3,492 times, including twice today! Today we have an amazing (and nationally-celebrated) Elections team, a radio crew, an activism and community-building arm, amazing front-page and diary contributors, award-winning cartoonists who regularly draw a crowd, and groups within the community that focus on everything from environmental issues and labor to gardening and the day's top comments. Among our registered members: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and Stephen Colbert. Not bad, eh? Despite the booger flinging meta wars, sigh-inducing GBCWs, and the sheer crazy volume of information that gets posted every day, The 'The' "The" Daily Kos is still a kickass source of netroots-level analysis, opinion, issue-vetting, fundraising, snarking, storytelling and flying furniture, and only a fool would try to herd our breed of cats. So from all of me to all of you---especially you, Kos, our mighty Keyboard Kingpin and your “squadrons of rabid lambs”---Happy 15th blogiversary from user ID #2574.  May your hearts remain progressive...and your hands always be filled with freedom pies. P.S. Kos wrote a blogiversary post earlier today. You should read it. Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!] [...]

Trump voters hit by opioid crisis realize he doesn't care about them after seeing his budget

Fri, 26 May 2017 18:19:23 +0000

Donald Trump made a whole slew of campaign promises that he had no intention of keeping. Of course, this is completely obvious—kind of like saying water is wet. But for some of his voters, this is actually news. For many of the rural families hit hard by drug addiction, they saw hope in Trump. And when you are desperate and grieving, you want to believe anything. Unfortunately, the hope that they wanted will never come. After the Trump administration released its budget this week, they realize that all of his campaign promises to do something “bigly” about opioid addiction will never be realized. 

Trump’s budget proposal, released this week, would reduce funding for addiction treatment, research and prevention. The most damaging proposed cut, critics say, is the president’s 10-year plan to shrink spending for Medicaid, which provides coverage to an estimated three in 10 adults with opioid addiction. [...]

A Congressional Budget Office report on Wednesday said a patient’s cost of substance abuse services could increase by thousands of dollars a year in states that chose to weaken coverage requirements.

Some see the moves as a painful betrayal of Americans whose families have been devastated by addiction and trusted the president’s repeated pledges to make them a priority once in office. Trump’s budget priorities focus on tax cuts, military spending and border security with massive cuts to programs for the poor and disabled.

It is really super tempting to play the blame game here. But one thing that is hard to deny is that emotions are incredibly powerful. Trump was masterful at manipulating the emotions of people who already felt hopeless and backed into a corner. The very people most desperate for help will now get screwed because they got conned by the snake oil salesman. True, they screwed the rest of us in the process. And that feels unforgivable. But there is a strange mix of anger, sadness and pity when you realize that they are genuinely shocked and let down that he has no intention of doing what he said he was going to do. 


Four climate protesters arrested for disrupting rubber-stamp energy agency's confirmation hearing

Fri, 26 May 2017 20:09:13 +0000

Since February, with only two sitting members, the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been without a quorum. That has meant it can’t do its job, which is to approve and regulate interstate oil and natural gas pipelines, the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity, approve liquefied natural gas storage facilities and license non-federal hydro-electric plants. That paralysis suits anti-fossil-fuel activists just fine. They’d like FERC to remain hamstrung.  That’s because these climate hawks seek to keep most coal, oil, and natural gas in the ground as a means of reducing the impact of global warming. They have long viewed the 40-year-old commission as a rubber-stamp for pipelines and other projects that have benefited the nation’s boom in oil and natural gas production. That boom has grown rapidly in the past decade by means of hydraulic fracturing of underground shale formations. As long as there is no FERC quorum, it’s a “net positive for the climate,” according to the Oil Change International, an anti-fossil fuel research and advocacy group. Five protesters therefore were on hand Thursday at a confirmation hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for two new FERC commissioners, Robert Powelson and Neil Chatterjee. After chanting slogans such as “FERC is killing Pennsylvanians” and “Shut FERC down,” four of the five were arrested by Capitol police and charged with obstruction. One paid a fine and three were detained overnight for arraignment Friday. It was not the first such protest, but usually protesters are hustled out on the room and let go instead being arrested.  Mark Hand at ThinkProgress reports: Without an expanded pipeline network, companies would likely be forced to leave natural gas in the ground, according to the activists. Natural gas is mostly methane, a super-potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. “Their rubber-stamping of fracked gas permits disregards the harms such projects inflict on communities, towns, and the climate,” Lee Stewart, an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and one of the four arrested in the hearing room, said in a statement. “Until FERC is replaced with an agency dedicated to a just transition off fossil fuels and to an exploitation-free energy system based on localized, renewable energy, business as usual is unacceptable.” [...] During the hearing, Powelson, a member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, and Chatterjee, a senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), pointed to the continued use of coal, natural gas, and nuclear as good options for meeting the nation’s need for baseload power generation. [...]

Cartoon: Washington witch hunt

Fri, 26 May 2017 21:50:58 +0000

The persecutors of the Salem Witch Trials used more science that this administration.


Trump's attack on First Amendment press freedoms puts reporters at the tip of the spear

Fri, 26 May 2017 20:24:42 +0000

It's impossible to view Montana Republican Greg Gianforte's assault on journalist Ben Jacobs in isolation. As many outlets are now pointing out, the number of threatening incidents this month alone is startling. The AP writes:

— The editor of Alaska’s largest newspaper said a state senator slapped one of his reporters when the reporter sought the lawmaker’s opinion on a recently published article.

— A Washington-based reporter from CQ Roll Call said he was pinned against the wall by security guards and forced to leave the Federal Communications Commission headquarters after he tried to question an FCC commissioner after a news conference.

— A West Virginia journalist was arrested after yelling questions about the opioid epidemic at U.S. Health Secretary Tom Price.

We've all watched Donald Trump stoke this fire among his base for months—casting reporters as “the enemy of the American people” and news outlets as "evil" and hellbent on treating him unfairly.

On the campaign trail, Trump's ire had a trickle-down effect.

At one rally, a man was photographed in a shirt that read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.”

It should be little wonder now that $100,000 worth of donations poured into Gianforte's coffers as news of his attack and unrepentant statement following it spread across the country.


Trump has put incredible effort into trying to crush the investigation into his Russia connections

Fri, 26 May 2017 20:11:00 +0000

Maybe we should be glad the Trump White House is so intent on stopping the investigation into election mangling by Russia. First, because we’ve definitely reached that point where the cover-up is beginning to generate more heat than the crime—which is a considerable achievement when you consider the crime. However, the larger reason to be grateful for their obsessions is because if the Trump regime had put the same level of effort into their program of jack-booted kleptocracy that they’ve invested trying to knock down investigations, we’d be much further down Disaster Road.

In a way, Trump–Russia has served as a punching bag for America, absorbing the blows that we would have otherwise have taken in programs destroyed and national parks sold off. But seeing the blows land one at a time, it’s sometimes hard to recall the variety or extent of Trump’s war on the investigation.

The pattern is increasingly clear: As investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to and possible collusion with Russia have intensified, so too have efforts by the president and his staff to quash those probes or put pressure on US officials to publicly deny the validity of the swirling allegations.

No matter how many times Team Trump tries to pretend in public there’s nothing to this investigation, in private they are all too aware that there is very much something behind it—something that’s a serious threat to Trump and those around him. So they fight hard and dirty to end the investigation before it can roll to its inexorable conclusions.

And when you put it all together, the list of steps that Trump has taken in an attempt—a sometimes successful attempt—to derail the investigation is amazing.

From Devin Nunes to Daniel Coats, here’s Mother Jones’ summary of ways Trump has attempt to interfere with the Russian investigation.


Texas Republicans look to pass bill that could make driving a woman to an abortion a crime

Fri, 26 May 2017 15:50:29 +0000

If you’ve ever been to Texas, you know that Texans pride themselves on doing just about everything bigger. This dangerous obsession with size also extends to how far Republicans are willing to go to stop a woman’s right to access abortions. Earlier this month, Texas Republicans in the House and Senate passed a series of anti-abortion bills that are in the process of making their way to becoming law including a ban on insurance coverage for abortions. And now, since they simply refuse to untangle themselves from the inside of a woman’s uterus, they also want to make it legal to charge anyone involved with an unlawful abortion with a crime—including the receptionist in the clinic, the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the clerk she spoke to in the convenience store where she bought a bottle of water on the way to the clinic, nearly anyone who had contact with her while she was in the process of obtaining the abortion. Seriously.  The sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Texas House May 19 could allow nearly anyone involved in the process of an unlawful abortion to be charged with a state jail felony, [Rep. Joe Moody, a former prosecutor said]. That includes the doctor who performed the abortion, but also the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the receptionist who booked the appointment and even the bank teller who cashed the check that paid for the procedure. How truly Neanderthal is this? Rep. Moody, a Democrat, thought this had to be a mistake. It sounded so punitive that he wanted to give his fellow lawmakers an opportunity to amend it so that random people would not be caught in the crosshairs. On Friday evening, he introduced an amendment to the bill (abortion bans that subject doctors who performs abortions to felony charges punishable with prison time) so that it would limit who could be prosecuted. It turns out, it was not an accident. Republicans were perfectly happy with the bill as is. The amendment failed, 51-83 and only one Democrat, Representative Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, voted against. [...] The “law of parties” in Texas allows a person connected to but not actually committing a crime to also be charged. A person is criminally responsible under Texas law if he or she, acting with intent, “solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.” The law is intended to help take down criminal networks, Moody says, but can also be wielded against, for example, individuals loosely connected to the provision of an unlawful abortion. [...]

FBI probe of attempted hack on Trump Organization could pose problems for Trump

Fri, 26 May 2017 18:12:05 +0000

ABC News is reporting that the FBI opened an investigation into a potential cyberattack on the Trump Organization by overseas hackers. The probe included calling an "emergency session" with Trump sons Don Jr. and Eric, though Eric Trump claims they "absolutely weren't hacked." Law enforcement officials who spoke to ABC News on the condition of anonymity confirmed the attempted hack and said the subsequent meeting took place at the FBI’s New York headquarters on May 8, the day before Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Spokesmen for the FBI, CIA and Secret Service all declined to comment. [...] In addition to the meeting at the FBI's offices, FBI agents working on the cyber inquiry were also seen at Trump Tower during the week of May 8. Officials who spoke to ABC News would not say whether the subject of Russia’s hack of the 2016 election was raised during the discussions. Eric, who's an executive vice president at the organization, called the report "crazy," but his aversion to it may have less to do with an actual hack attempt than the scrutiny such an attempt might invite. Retired FBI official Richard Frankel and ABC News contributor explains how a hack inquiry could get sticky for the president. "If there was a hack or an attempted hack of ... the company that was owned by the president, that would be at the top of the list of investigations," Frankel said. "If the FBI saw that kind of hack, they'd have to track that. There's no telling what a hacker could get that's connected to the president, corporate records, financial records, even things that were going on during the transition.” [...] "There could be stuff in there that they do not want to become part of a separate criminal investigation," Frankel said. Comey's firing came a day after the May 8 "emergency session" and Trump himself has admitted to having the "Russia thing" in mind when he made his decision. In fact, that entire week was incredibly tense for the administration. The day before Comey's ouster, Sally Yates testified before Congress about her repeated warnings to the White House concerning then-national security adviser Michael Flynn. And the day after Comey's firing, grand jury subpoenas started finding their way to Flynn business associates, not to mention Trump's infamous Sergey-Sergey sandwich in the Oval. Quite a week, indeed, for an “emergency session” with the FBI. [...]