Saturday, May 26, 2018

Dems Bungle In The Cali Jungle

California's top-two "jungle" primary system was put in by Democrats years ago as a way to maintain party power.  The top two candidates in a primary are put on the ballot, regardless of primary.  Democrats were okay with it because it meant that in heavily blue districts, two Dems could run against each other, while in more competitive districts, Republicans would still more often than not get on the ballot in November, even in moderately blue districts, where they could get behind a single candidate and dominate like they have in the Orange County.

But California politics have now reached the point where so many Democratic primary candidates are running against vulnerable Republicans that the Dems could very well end up taking each other out, splitting the vote to the point where two Republicans could come out on top in June primaries and essentially lock Dems out of multiple House districts completely.

With so many Democrats running, the party’s fear is that the vote will be splintered, allowing Republicans — who have fewer candidates — to dominate some primaries. The party and allied groups are spending more than $4 million on just three campaigns, intervening in one contest to prop up a favored candidate; attacking a Republican from the right in another; and even reminding people not to waste their votes on “ghost candidates” who have dropped out yet remain on the ballot.

As any progressive activist will explain through gnashed teeth, the head-snapping scramble is because of the state’s “top two” open primary system, which allows the two leading vote-getters — regardless of political parties — to advance to the general election.

The “top two” system was meant to create incentives for political moderation in a state where about a quarter of the voters are independents, but it has created immense stakes for Democrats: They need to win 23 seats to take back the House, and party officials believe the path runs through the seven competitive California districts, all of which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.

“It’s a disaster,” Gail Reisman, a retired gerontologist and Toronto native who lives in Representative Dana Rohrabacher’s district, said after attending a candidate forum Tuesday. “If we have two Republicans running I think I’m going back to Canada.”

The situation would be your standard comically "inept Democrats stupidly blowing it at the national party level" that's happened in almost every election I've been alive for if it wasn't the whole "threatening to keep Russian-bought traitors like GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the House" part.

Nowhere is the danger more acute than in a pair of contiguous districts that stretch from Orange County’s Seal Beach down the Pacific coastline to the cliffs of La Jolla.

It is here where national Democrats, deeply concerned their voters are scattered among little-known House candidates, are staging a rescue mission to ensure they are not locked out this fall in Mr. Rohrabacher’s district and the one farther south held by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican who is retiring.

Opposition research and hard-edge direct mail pieces are flying between candidates, too, some of them tinged with accusations of #metoo impropriety. But surveys show many of the candidates bunched together in the teens and few operatives have a firm grasp for what will unfold.

Actual policy issues are largely secondary: The differences between the Democratic hopefuls are a matter of degree, with all of them vowing a progressive agenda on health care, the environment and gun control while taking aim at Mr. Trump. The Republicans are focused on gains in the economy, a gas tax repeal measure and warning the largely moderate and center-right voters in the districts that Democrats are turning sharply to the left.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s arm in House races, is most concerned that two Republicans might prevail in the primary for Mr. Rohrabacher’s seat. The committee has broken with the state Democratic Party to endorse a candidate, Harley Rouda.

Meanwhile, the main House Democratic “super PAC” is pouring over $600,000 into commercials in the Los Angeles market, which reaches 27 congressional districts, to try to drive down Republican candidate Scott Baugh’s share of the vote against Mr. Rohrabacher, in hopes that a Democrat can finish in the top two and face the incumbent in November.

And the national campaign committee is supplementing the air attacks with a ground game that includes alerting voters about five “ghost candidates” who remain on the 16-person ballot.

What worries Democrats in a primary season where female candidates are having great success, though, is that two of the former candidates are women and could draw latent support from voters eager to support them. So paid canvassers are handing out pamphlets that cross out the names of some of the candidates who have withdrawn while noting two of them have endorsed Mr. Rouda.

It's a train wreck, and with the primary just ten days away,  there's a good chance that Democrats will find a way to lose both these districts to Trump and the GOP through their own massive, massive incompetence.

There's a reason I've switched a decade ago to making individual donations to candidates in specific races and never to national Democrats, especially the DCCC, and this is a prime example of why.

Dems should have anticipated and adjusted for this contingency, and instead they're just making things worse.  What a surprise, right?

Russian To Judgment, Con't

I hear and read the argument from Trump regime supporters that if there were any actual evidence of collusion that we would have heard about it by now, but I guess that at this point, now that we have evidence of Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen meeting with one of Putin's oligarchs in Trump Tower a week and a half before the inauguration it won't matter to them.  Especially the part where Cohen then later received a million-dollar consulting contract after the inauguration, that's totally innocent and everything's fine and what about that Hillary botch though, right?

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting. 
In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said. 
Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

Mr. Intrater said in an interview that Mr. Vekselberg, his cousin and biggest client, had no role in Columbus Nova’s decision to hire Mr. Cohen as a consultant. When asked about the meeting at Trump Tower during the presidential transition, Mr. Intrater described it as a brief and impromptu discussion, and said that Mr. Vekselberg had not originally planned to attend. 
“Obviously, if I’d known in January 2017 that I was about to hire this high-profile guy who’d wind up in this big mess, I wouldn’t have introduced him to my biggest client, and wouldn’t have hired him at all,” Mr. Intrater said. He agreed to be interviewed about his dealings with Mr. Cohen, he said, because he had done nothing wrong. 
The disclosure sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin. The meeting came months after Mr. Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., met at Trump Tower during the campaign with a Kremlin-linked lawyer claiming to have damaging information on his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and a former campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, met with Russian intermediaries in Europe. During the campaign, Mr. Cohen himself was pursuing a deal to build a Trump high-rise in Moscow, which did not come to fruition. 
Mr. Cohen’s meeting with Mr. Vekselberg happened during his final days as a Trump Organization employee, at a time when his position in Mr. Trump’s orbit seemed uncertain. Although Mr. Cohen told some associates that he expected a high-level White House job, that role never materialized, and he instead struck out on his own to drum up business from companies that wanted advice and access to the Trump administration, including AT&T and Novartis.

Cohen was selling access to Donald Trump's White house, plain and simple.

He was selling that access to multiple parties, including Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

This alone should warrant impeachment and removal from office of Trump, but this is actually a drop in the bucket of both the global corruption of the Trump Orgnaization and of Russian influence in Trump winning the election, something that former National Intelligence Director James Clapper has admitted happened.

Russians not only affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — they decided it, says James Clapper, who served as the director of national intelligence in the Obama administration, and during the 2016 vote
“To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it,” he told the PBS NewsHour anchor Judy Woodruff on Wednesday. 
Clapper, who chronicles his life and career in his new book, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” said Russians are “are bent on undermining our fundamental system here. And when a foreign nation, particularly an adversary nation, gets involved as much as they did in our political process, that’s a real danger to this country.”

Trump sold us out before the election, during the election, and after the election to the Russians.  He is not a legitimate president and he never will be. The Trump regime continues to sell access to a number of foreign countries, not just the Russians.

China’s second-largest state-owned bank offered wealthy clients the opportunity to have dinner with the American president for $150,000 a ticket, spurring a complaint from Donald Trump’s re-election campaign to the U.S. Department of Justice.

A branch of China Construction Bank Corp. invited high-net-worth clients willing to pay the ticket price to a May 31 dinner in Dallas, according to an invitation seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed with bank staff. Chinese participants would have the opportunity to communicate with U.S. “tycoons,” take photos with Trump and get his autograph, according to the invitation.

While Trump was expected to host a $50,000-a-head fund-raising dinner with the Republican National Committee in Dallas that night, it’s illegal for U.S. political campaigns to accept donations from foreign nationals or from corporations. That means only the Chinese bank’s customers with U.S. passports would be eligible to attend.

Officials with Trump’s campaign and the RNC said they had no knowledge of the Chinese bank’s advertisement before Bloomberg News asked about it. The campaign alerted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office about the solicitation, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing a potential law enforcement matter.

Do we finally understand, people? 

Soccer It To Me, Cincy, Con't

With all the political craziness going on in the world, it looks like in local Cincy/NKY news that Major League Soccer will be coming to Cincinnati after all, despite the West End stadium deal sill being very much up in the air. Pat Brennan at the Enquirer:

Major League Soccer is coming to Cincinnati next week, and league officials are likely bringing with them an invitation for Futbol Club Cincinnati to join their ranks. 
Sources confirmed to The Enquirer that a major club announcement is coming Tuesday at Fountain Square and MLS commissioner Don Garber will be in attendance.

Team and league officials declined to comment further on the nature of the announcement. 
Perhaps there's nothing for officials to add, though, as Garber's presence for an announcement in Cincinnati points an invitation for FC Cincinnati to join MLS. 
"Major soccer announcement" was the phrasing used as a not-so-subtle heads up prior to the December expansion announcement in Nashville.

The announcement is expected Tuesday afternoon and the club is expected to start playing next season using the U of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium until their own venue can be built.  I guess things with keeping the Columbus Crew just an hour and change up the interstate must be going far worse than previously thought for MLS to cave like this to Cincy without a specific venue deal in place.

The stadium deal, as I said, is still in the proposal stage.

FC Cincinnati last week signed a benefits agreement with a group representing West End residents, paving the way for a soccer stadium in the neighborhood. But exactly what's in it? 
Right now, there is no single document spelling out the details of the community benefits agreement (CBA). 
A final document is being worked on between the lawyers of all the parties, but officials said it would not be complete for at least another week. So The Enquirer compared both documents to get a full list of promises and arrangements, to see what additional benefits the neighborhood got after nine hours of negotiations. 
The big question: How much will FC Cincinnati spend in West End? A total of $6,170,000 over the 30-year deal. Here's how it breaks down:
  • $100,000 annually for a West End Youth Soccer Program
  • $100,000 annually for West End community building initiatives
  • $100,000 one-time payment for a housing study
  • $50,000 one-time payment for a communication consultant related to affordable housing
  • $20,000 one-time payment support entrepreneurship training for West End residents

I guess the CBA agreement was enough for the MLS. A 30-year deal makes me laugh, because neither the team nor MLS will be around in 30 years the way things are going in this country right now (hell, *I* might not be around in 30 years.)

My prediction:  neither the Columbus Crew nor an FC Cincinnati stadium groundbreaking will be in Ohio by Election Day 2020, but a lot of pissed off voters will be.

We'll see.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Last Call For The Friday Night News Dump™

That three day holiday weekend when America is heading to the beach or that summer cookout is the perfect time for the Trump regime to crap out bad news, and they didn't disappoint this Memorial Day weekend.  First up, Trump attacks federal workers' unions, something not even they would do on Labor Day weekend, I guess.

The Trump administration unveiled a set of executive orders late Friday afternoon aimed at weakening unions that represent federal workers and making it easier for agencies across the government to fire their employees.

Senior administration officials told reporters on a call Friday afternoon that the executive orders will do the following: 
  • Shorten the length of time federal workers have to improve their performance after receiving a bad review, from 120 days to just 30.
  • Encourage federal agencies to terminate poor performers rather than suspending them.
  • Direct federal agencies to renegotiate their union contracts, and make those contracts publicly available online “so American people can see them.”
  • Encouraging agencies to conclude labor negotiations in less than a year.
  • Severely restrict the use of federal worker unions’ “official time”— which elected shop stewards currently use to mediate workplace grievances. Going forward, federal workers can spend no more that 25 percent of their time on union or other non-agency business.
  • Charge unions rent for the use of federal office space for that “official time” work.

Andrew Bremberg, the director of Trump’s Domestic Policy Council, said the changes would “advance merit system principles and accountability” and “make it easier for agencies to remove poor performing employees and ensure taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used.” He and other White House officials claimed the rule changes would save taxpayers at least $100 million each year.

But Jacque Simon, the political director of American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), warned that the new rules weaken the ability of federal workers to protect themselves from politicized employment decisions.

“When you do this, you open the door to a situation where, if you don’t toe the party line, you’re out the door,” she told TPM. “Ultimately, these agencies are run by political appointees, and if employees don’t have these rights and the opportunity to defend themselves, then anybody is at risk who is questioning the administration’s denial of climate change, or the health benefits of a particular drug, whatever the hell else these people come up with next.”

Citing an uptick in reports of politically-motivated firings and reassignments at the State Department, Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal offices, Simon said the new executive orders will make it easier for managers to make decisions based on “political loyalty.”

“Do you want scientists at the EPA who are providing objective data and information about the air we breathe or do we want political hacks?” she asked. “If you’re not with the program, if you’re not cooperating with the political agenda, you’re out the door. Out you go.”

I'm honestly surprised they FND'ed this one.  You figure Trump would be proud of this, except for the part where the vast majority of federal workers affected by this will be Virginia and Maryland voters who would on a normal news weekday be in range of a DC news crew looking for a reaction.

Second, the Trump regime is no longer hiding the whole "obstruction of justice" thing.

President Donald Trump’s legal team wants a briefing on the classified information shared with lawmakers about the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and may take it to the Justice Department as part of an effort to scuttle the ongoing special counsel probe.

Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, told The Associated Press on Friday that the White House hopes to get a readout of the information next week, particularly about the use of a longtime government informant who approached members of Trump’s campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election. Trump has made unproven claims of FBI misconduct and political bias and has denounced the asset as “a spy.”

If the spying was inappropriate, that means we may have an entirely illegitimate investigation,” Giuliani said of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. He then invoked the material compiled by former FBI Director James Comey before he was fired.

Coupled with Comey’s illegally leaked memos, this means the whole thing was a mistake and should never have happened,” Giuliani said. “We’d urge the Justice Department to re-evaluate, to acknowledge they made a mistake. It’s a waste of $20 million of the taxpayers’ money. The whole thing is already a waste of money.”

Rudy publicly calling for the Justice Department to end the Mueller probe is a big, big step.  Up until now Mitch McConnell could use the "nobody's calling for the end of the Mueller investigation" excuse to not do anything.

Now the White House is openly calling for it to end.

The move against Mueller has been staved off a couple times, but this time, I expect will be different.  We've gone in just a couple weeks from "We expect the investigation to wrap up" to "This never should have happened and the DoJ should end it." all while Trump is screaming lies about spies in his camp.

I'm not saying the Saturday Night Massacre is coming this weekend, but don't be surprised if it does.

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is A Useful Idiot

I'm pretty sure worthless "Never Trump but we support 99% of his policies" Republicans and "bi-partisan but really we're Republicans" Third Way Democrats deserve each other in the Trump era, so it's no wonder then that both groups are joining forces to make sure the GOP obtains total power in 2018.

Since Donald J. Trump began dominating American politics more than two years ago, Democrats concerned about his policies and behavior have taken solace in a group of influential Republicans who have consistently assailed the president as anathema to the values of their party, and the country more broadly. 
In the past year, however, influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances aimed at helping neutralize President Trump, and preventing others from capitalizing on weaknesses in the political system that they say he has exploited. 
While this network has mostly eschewed electoral politics, some involved see the potential for it to help form an ideological — and possibly financial — platform to back candidates, including a centrist challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020, possibly from within the G.O.P. or even a third party. 
The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.

If you’re a Republican who is concerned about the health of the liberal order and alarmed over the destruction of the norms of American democracy, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be willing to work with a Democrat who is equally concerned about those same matters,” said Jerry Taylor, a Republican who is president of the Niskanen Center, a moderate think tank that grew out of the libertarian Cato Institute.

"Trump is a bad man yes, but I'm not sure that those dirty liberals who want health care, criminal justice reform, affordable housing and schools not getting shot up are a real answer either!" is a hell of a position to take while Rome is burning, but OK.

Let's face it, a "centrist third-party challenger" is exactly what these assholes want, splitting the resistance to Trump to the point where he just so happens to get 400 electoral votes and a second term "mandate" despite getting 40-45% of the popular vote.

If that happens (I fully expect the Mueller probe to have been dismantled or otherwise politically neutralized by the end of 2018) then we're done, and that's if we're not in the middle of a shooting war with North Korea or Iran or goddamn Mexico or something by November 2020.

Ugh, I can't with these guys today, I really can't.

First They Came For The Undocumented Kids

The Trump regime's immigration brownshirts at ICE continue to find ways to reach new lows, as if that's even possible, but here we are in America in 2018 being Germany in 1938.

Alma Jacinto covered her eyes with her hands as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The 36-year-old from Guatemala was led out of the federal courtroom without an answer to the question that brought her to tears: When would she see her boys again?

Jacinto wore a yellow bracelet on her left wrist, which defense lawyers said identifies parents who are arrested with their children and prosecuted in Operation Streamline, a fast-track program for illegal border crossers.

Moments earlier, her public defender asked the magistrate judge when Jacinto would be reunited with her sons, ages 8 and 11. There was no clear answer for Jacinto, who was sentenced to time served on an illegal-entry charge after crossing the border with her sons near Lukeville on May 14.

Parents who cross the border illegally with their children may face criminal charges as federal prosecutors in Tucson follow through on a recent directive from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute all valid cases, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Cosme Lopez.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection started referring families caught crossing illegally for prosecution several weeks ago, Lopez said. Those prosecutions unfold both in Streamline cases and through individual prosecutions.

On Thursday, Efrain Chun Carlos, also from Guatemala, received more information than Jacinto when he asked Magistrate Judge Lynnette C. Kimmins about his child during Streamline proceedings.

“I only wanted to ask about the whereabouts of my child in this country,” Chun said.

Kimmins responded she didn’t know where his child was and suggested he ask officials at the facility where he will be detained.

Christopher Lewis, the federal prosecutor at the hearing, told Kimmins that children from countries that are not contiguous to the United States will be placed in foster care with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“When they will be reunited, I cannot say because that’s an immigration matter,” Lewis said.

The yellow bracelet is a nice historical touch, right?  It's not a dehumanized chattel processing plant where parents are forcibly split from their children possibly forever, it's a fun, all-inclusive club where you get this cool wristband and can go on all the rides and enjoy all the food and entertainment for one low price!

And let's remember that the Trump regime doesn't exactly have a sterling record when it comes to actually keeping track of those children separated from their parents by the Immigration Gestapo, either.

A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

That was in April, and a month later, we still don't know where those 1,500 kids are. Nobody in this regime seems to give a damn, either.

If you ever wondered how you would react to the rise of European fascism 80 years ago, look in a mirror.   Are we the baddies?

At this point?  Yeah.  Yeah, we are.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Last Call For The Drums Of War, Con't

I say "North Korean summit", you say "high-level diplomatic meeting with Pyongyang", let's call the whole thing off.

President Trump has notified Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that he has canceled their much- anticipated meeting, which was set for June 12
In a letter dated Thursday to Mr. Kim, the American president said he would not attend the summit due to “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement.” 
He was referring to recent comments from a North Korean official who described Vice President Mike Pence as “ignorant and stupid.” 
“Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you,” Mr. Trump concluded.

The letter is pure Trumpian hogwash.

We greatly appreciate your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. l was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.

It's kind of funny for somebody other than the North Korean leader to be the childish, petulant little pissant in this oft-repeated scenario over the last couple decades where that denuclearization summit never happens, but there you are.

Sadly, this is where we are now. America under Trump is very much an untrustworthy, unreliable, and unstable nuclear rogue state that's far more of a global threat and even more dangerous than the North Koreans are.

The prospect of a diplomatic miscalculation leading to deadly shooting war before the end of the year just became exponentially more real with two belligerents facing off rather than just one, yes?

Everything I said 12 weeks ago is still 100% true.

The Evolution Of Weaponized Ignorance

In the Trump era, where science is the enemy (but only where it disagrees with "Christian" Dominionist theocracy) and we're all living in the religious "Handmaid's Tale" hell where everything and everyone should submit to white guys awesomeness, the dismantling of America's public education system continues a to play a huge part in all of that.

That brings us to Arizona, where the state is now removing evolution from schools.

In Arizona, the state's superintendent of public instruction has led a campaign to remove evolution from the state's science education standards. Diane Douglas has taken the standards, written by educators, and selectively replaced instances of the word "evolution" with euphemisms like "change over time." The alterations come less than a year after Douglas publicly advocated for introducing religious ideas into biology classrooms. Arizona residents still have roughly a week to submit comments on the changes.

Most states develop educational standards that define their expectations for what students should know at different stages of their time in school. These standards then govern things, from the mass purchase of textbooks to the design of instructional plans by individual teachers. For large states like California and Texas, the decisions involved in the formation of educational standards can dictate the structure of textbooks that are released nationwide, as publishers try to develop one book that they can sell everywhere. 
Arizona doesn't have this level of influence, but it has more than a million students enrolled. The science standards would govern the textbooks that could be available to them, how they'll be instructed, and the content of any standardized testing they receive.
The new standards were developed by a team of more than 30 educators, after which they were submitted to the Arizona Department of Education. And that's where things started to go wrong. According to some of the teachers that wrote these standards, the state normally edits for clarity and grammar and makes changes to document formatting. The changes that were put in place this time were far more substantial. 
For example, the original standards instructed students to "Gather and communicate evidence on how the process of natural selection provides an explanation of how new species can evolve." That was changed to providing evidence on "the processes by which a species may change over time in response to environmental conditions." Instead of being expected to "Obtain, evaluate, and communicate evidence that describes how inherited traits in a population can lead to evolution," students are now asked to discuss how they can lead to "biological diversity." Similarly, the instruction to "Gather, evaluate, and communicate multiple lines of empirical evidence to explain the mechanisms of biological evolution" was altered to mechanisms of "change in genetic composition of a population over successive generations." 
Evolution wasn't gone entirely; in any cases where it remained, the references were changed so that it was discussed as the "theory of evolution." Even though evolution is both a fact and a theory, this language is often favored by those who hope the public views "theory" as taking its common meaning as conjecture, rather than its scientific meaning as a well-supported and validated explanation for observations. 
Evolution wasn't alone. The standards' lone reference to the Big Bang was also altered, from "Analyze, interpret, and critique supporting evidence for the Big Bang theory and the scale of the Universe" to focus on evidence for "theories related to the scale and expansion of the Universe." 
The changes were enough to cause the Department of Education's director of K-12 science education to resign.

In an increasingly dangerous time of weaponized ignorance in America where the Holocaust is being glossed over to the point where it's being forgotten and where lessons on slavery in the US are now more concerned with making white students and parents feel good rather than portraying the hard truth, the country is careening down the path of revanchist gaslighting, the core of which remains a regime and political party wholly dedicated to the pursuit of white supremacy in all its gruesome forms.

In other words, this is the Stupid I an here to be Versus.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

The NFL is trying to head off any kneeling controversies this fall with new league rules requiring all players to stand if on the field for the national anthem, and precisely nobody on the left or the right is happy about it.

At their spring meeting on Wednesday, NFL owners caved to President Donald Trump’s relentless criticism of players protesting racial inequality and police brutality during the national anthem, approving a new policy to fine teams if players or staff refuse to “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”

According to a new rule unanimously approved by owners (San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York abstained from voting)*, team personnel are no longer required to stand on the field during the national anthem. In other words, the league would like players who plan to protest to do so in the locker room, out of sight—or else likely face the backlash from their organizations.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. He noted: “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”

The league’s new rule is aimed at stopping a movement that began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Kaepernick’s silent kneeling during the anthem set off a wave of demonstrations and activism among players and drew the ire of the president, who criticized owners for not punishing players.

At a league meeting in October, owners seemed hellbent on figuring out how to prevent Trump from blasting the league again. “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, according to audio obtained by the New York Times. Kraft, whose Kraft Group contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, called the president’s rhetoric “divisive” and “horrible.”

The new policy allows teams to come up with their own rules for players who fail to comply, leaving open the possibility that teams could fine players, coaches, and other personnel for not abiding by the rule. At least one owner, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Art Rooney II, says he thought that other types of protests, like raised fists or linked arms, could also fall under the league’s new policy.

The NFL players’ union noted in a statement that it wasn’t consulted before the policy was put into place, and that it would “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

The new policy is already a disaster.

The New York Jets say they won't enforce the rule, Jets owner and chairman Chris Johnson says he'll pay any fines for players that kneel and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York abstained from the vote saying he wants to hear more from players.  The players weren't consulted at all and the players' union is furious.

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

“Our union will review the new “policy” and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

At a brief press conference after the release of the statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there was “incredible engagement” with players about the anthem issue and said any response to the union would come in direct conversation with them. He was also asked who would be the arbiter of what it means to “show respect” and said the “general public has a very good feel” for what that is without delving into a detailed discussion of what that might mean beyond kneeling.

It's a mess.  Trump and the deplorables will "claim a win" and they right will continue to attack black NFL players and those who support them, and this policy is tantamount to First Amendment censoring, so the NFL really does deserve what's coming to it.  I don't feel bad for the billionaire owners at all, they literally voted to do this to themselves.

It was never about the "disrespecting the flag".

"Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Guy in the White House suggesting that residence and citizenship be taken from those people for protesting is something authoritarian dictators do, and yet this will slide right by as Trump continues to push us towards a fresh new hell where the majority of Americans agree with him and that maybe he should follow through.

Maybe the players union can put a stop to this, maybe they can't, but if Commissioner Roger Goddell could have made the worst possible policy here, he did it this week.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

At this point, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should probably be shopping for orange jumpsuits as his business partner in New York has just flipped and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Under the deal reached with the New York attorney general’s office, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. 
The broadened scope of Mr. Freidman’s cooperation may prove worrisome not only to Mr. Cohen, who is the target of a continuing federal investigation, but also Mr. Trump. 
The president’s lawyers are already resigned to the strong possibility that the inquiry into Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That likelihood may now be greater, with Mr. Freidman potentially sharing what he knows with federal prosecutors in New York and the special counsel.

Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen’s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. 
Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, declined to comment on Tuesday. 
President Trump’s lawyers sought to distance their client from the case.

Like jujitsu, it's all about leverage. Get an advantage against your foe's weak spots, and you can turn that into a move that brings them crashing down.  Friedman flips Cohen, and Cohen turns on Trump...and that's the ball game.

Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison. 
Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he will avoid jail time and receive five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding. 
Later Tuesday, Mr. Freidman texted a New York Times reporter about the article that had been published about his guilty plea, calling it “shameful” and comparing it to a tabloid story. “Michael is dear dear personal friend and a passive client! That’s it!” he wrote. “I am humbled and shamed!” he said, adding that the guilty plea represented “me taking responsibility for my actions.” 
“I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years and now I am a felon!” he wrote. “I hate that I have been grouped in this runaway train that I am not a part of!” 
But asked if he was cooperating with the authorities, Mr. Freidman would not respond.
After Mr. Freidman’s guilty plea, his lawyer, Patrick J. Egan of Fox Rothschild, declined to comment. But earlier this year he said his client “considers Michael a very good friend and a great client.”

This guys was facing the rest of his life in the slammer, and he's getting probation and a pocket change fine because of what he has on Cohen.  And Cohen, if he's got an ounce of common sense left in his skull, will look to use what he knows as leverage to avoid a similar multi-decade stay in substandard federal housing.

And that leaves Trump, high and dry.  If Manafort and Flynn somehow don't bring Trump down, Cohen definitely will, as the evidence of Cohen's wrongdoing continues to pile up.

Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved. 
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law. 
The meeting at the White House was last June. 
Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House. 
Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks". 
This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help. 
He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000. 
There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.

Now, how happy do you think Donald is going to be there when he realizes Cohen made 400 grand and didn't cut him in on the finders' fee?  What else is Cohen doing that Trump didn't know about?

Stay tuned.

The Path For McGrath

Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath was victorious yesterday in her primary against Louisville Mayor Jim Gray, and as Mother Jones election correspondent Tim Murphy reports, the reason is because she was able to sweep all the rural counties along the Bourbon Trail.

In the end, it happened just like Amy McGrath said it would. When I asked the recently retired Marine Corps fighter pilot last month why she thought she had a shot at winning the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, she pulled out a map and started highlighting the counties surrounding Lexington, the district’s population hub. 
“We’ve got to get somebody that can get these counties back—I can do that,” she said. “Everywhere I go, all these counties are hugely patriotic—huge fans of military and service—and there’s an instant connection there. I’m not gonna be able to win them all, maybe, but people are listening to me in ways that they’re not going to listen to Jim Gray.” 
Gray, the mayor of Lexington, was her seemingly formidable opponent. The wealthy, popular, former US Senate candidate had been encouraged to run—much to McGrath’s frustration—by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, DC.

But McGrath’s campaign believed turnout would spike in the rural counties because of local races for offices like jailer and judge. So she invested heavily in rural field offices, billboards, and advertisements in small-town weekly newspapers. She mailed out a 32-page economic plan that leaned hard on the rural development—everything from broadband access to turning tobacco into a bio-fuel. When the results came in on Tuesday night, McGrath won her primary by 8 points, winning everything but Lexington. 
And then something funny happened. McGrath, who had spent much of the last six months trashing the DCCC, was suddenly being promoted as one of the organization’s rising stars. DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, heralded McGrath as “battle-tested in more ways than one” and stated that “there is no question that Amy can flip this district.” It pushed out an internal poll showing McGrath leading the Republican incumbent, Andy Barr, by 15 points. 
This is how Washington-based campaign committees say, “Uh…sorry?” 
It was a pretty good metaphor for how the much-hyped Democratic civil war has gone so far this year. In races across the country, outsider candidates have turned the DCCC into a piƱata, accusing the national organization of butting into primaries and picking winners and losers. But it’s not always so clear cut.

It's not, but there's two factors here: one, McGrath is yet another Democratic veteran running on their service record, in McGrath's case, as America's first female Marine F-18 combat fighter pilot.  Veterans do well in rural America, especially in the Midwest, and the one thing Democrats have done well this cycle is recruit veterans from all walks of life and all branches of the Armed Services.

Second, the DCCC is still terrible and Ben Ray Lujan is only slightly less incompetent than Steve Israel was before him.  McGrath should steer clear of letting them try to run her campaign, because they will definitely try to take over.  She knows what she's doing, and she knows how to win in this district.

I only wish she was running in KY-4 instead of Seth Hall, but I'd take a moldy ham sammich over Thomas Massie at this point.

Primary Motivations, Con't

Last night's primaries made for some interesting results here in Kentucky, with two big national stories.  First, in KY-6, Amy McGrath easily defeated Lexington Mayor and former Senate candidate Jim Gray, winning every county in the district except for Gray's home of Fayette.

Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath surged to victory over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, setting up a November election that will attract national money and attention as Democrats try to make Kentucky part of a possible blue wave in 2018.

"Can you believe this?" McGrath asked the crowd at her victory party in Richmond. "What happened tonight was amazing. I couldn't be more humbled and more honored to be standing here tonight as your nominee."

She is a candidate who fits the Democratic moment. The former fighter pilot — the first woman Marine to fly into combat in an F-18 — is a political newcomer at a time Democrats across the country are looking for a fresh response to the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

There are no women in Kentucky's congressional delegation.

Gray was widely perceived as the front-runner when he entered the race last December after months of encouragement from national Democrats. That encouragement was quickly used by McGrath’s campaign to paint Lexington's first openly gay mayor as the establishment candidate, a definition he was never able to shake.

Andy Barr, R-Lexington, coasted to victory over his primary opponent, Chuck Eddy, a self-defined moderate Republican who ran a limited campaign, setting up what’s expected to be a competitive and expensive general election in the fall.

A truly competitive House race in Kentucky is pretty amazing stuff, especially in an R+9 district.  It won't be an easy battle for McGrath but I honestly think she has a real shot, especially if Lexington turns out to support her.

As far as the General Assembly, looks like Kentucky will be getting a new House Majority Leader either way.

As upset teachers across Kentucky Tuesday tried to flex their political muscle, Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House, according to unofficial results.

Brenda tried in the Republican primary election for the 71st House District seat to capitalize on teacher anger against legislators who backed a controversial pension bill in this year's law-making session. It was Brenda's first bid for public office.

Shell, a farmer who has occupied the seat since 2012 and had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as a potential rising star in the GOP, played a prominent role in handling the pension bill in the legislature.

The measure sparked a backlash of frustration by thousands of teachers who held protests at the Capitol.

An ebullient Brenda said Tuesday night that Shell called him about 8:10 to congratulate him. "He was very gracious," said Brenda.

Brenda said he had to thank God fiirst and then all his supporters. He said he not only got help from teachers but from state workers who were upset with the legislators and Gov. Matt Bevin "for what they did on the pension bill."

Shell, who was pondering a bid for House speaker next year, could not be immediately reached for comment.

I'm sure Shell will be back in the future, the guy is only 30 and has a long career ahead of him in the state of trying to make people miserable.  But the teachers won a round here and took Shell out for now, and that's got to give a lot of lawmakers who voted for Matt Bevin's awful pension and tax plans pause.

The Democrat in the race is Mary Renfro, by the way.  Here's hoping she comes out on top.

Here in my neck of the woods, Democrat Seth Hall will be taking on national embarrassment Thomas Massie.

Northern Kentucky's congressman, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Garrison, hasn't faced much opposition since he first won election to Congress in 2012.

The closest the Democrats came to defeating Massie was in 2012 when Bill Adkins got within 27 percentage points.

Democrat Seth Hall hopes to do better in this solidly Republican district. He beat Bellevue resident Patti Piatt and Trimble County resident Christina Lord in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. Hall had 41 percent of the vote and a comfortable 1,000-vote lead over Piatt with 515 of the 531 precincts reporting among the 20 counties of 4th Congressional District.

Hall's victory may have come as a surprise to many Northern Kentuckians who backed Piatt. She ran a very visible campaign on social media and with mailers.

Piatt won the three Northern Kentucky counties but lost most of the rural counties. The 4th District extends from a western tip of Jefferson County in the west and goes east to Lewis County.

"We were in all the districts," Hall said. "Patti spent most of the time in Northern Kentucky. We worked every county."

Hall hails from La Grange, located outside Louisville. He served as a member of the Democratic National Committee and as treasurer for the Oldham County Democratic Executive Committee, according to the Henry County Local paper.

He has his work cut out for him. President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 39 percentage points in the district.

"Our people are going to be organized," Hall said.

It may not be enough.  This is an R+18 district that loves, loves, loves Donald Trump.  Even I hold no illusions that a blue wave will be enough to wash Massie away.

But if there were ever a year where a Democrat could get lucky, this is it.  I'll be phone banking for Hall this year and knocking on doors.

I hope you get involved in your district too, even if it's blood red like mine.


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