Thursday, December 31, 2015

Zandar's 2016 Predictions

Welp, prognostication time again.  Let's see if I can stay above 60% two years running.

1) No beating around the...well...Bush.  Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States in 2016.  I'll take the half-point if it's Bernie somehow, but if a Republican wins?  We all lose.

2) 2016 in economics?  Unemployment under 5.5%, oil under $50, and the Dow Jones will close above 16k.  Yes, 2015 was the first negative year in the markets since 2008 and the Fed raised rates, but we were due, and I think the country will stay on track.

3) Movies, I see a good year for both Marvel with Captain America: Civil War and DC with Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Both will break $200 million domestically.  How will Deadpool, Suicide Squad, Doctor Strange and X-Men Apocalypse do?  Less sure about those, but they'll all do $100 million a piece.  I'll take the split if I get at least 3 right.

4) Half-a-dozen massive Supreme Court cases in 2016 could change everything.  I'll call it 5-4 that SCOTUS will side with the Obama administration on Texas's abortion laws being too strict...

5) ...but you can kiss Affirmative Action goodbye.  Kennedy has repeatedly sided against it, as have the court's other four conservatives.

6) As with 2014's Sochi Winter Games, I predict the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics will be an absolute disaster.  There is no way Brazil is going to be ready for this, and I expect the games will be a nasty, disjointed affair with barely functional venues.

7) I think it's a safe bet that turnout in the 2016 election will be under 50%.  The last time that happened was in 1996 (49%) when Bill Clinton was re-elected and 8 million angry Americans turned to Ross Perot, ironically proving a major third-party candidate reduces turnout.

8) The Oculus Rift and other virtual reality headset systems will bomb.  We're talking "Google Glass" level of bomb here.  Ironically, the rebranded, industrial/commercial version of Google Glass will return in 2016 and probably do better.

9) The 2016 GOP nominee will not be Trump.  Somehow, the voters will nominate either Cruz or Rubio instead, I don't know how but...hey, we shouldn't have gone down this far anyway. I'll hedge my bet and say that I hope he is.

10) ZVTS will still be here going into 2017.  Here's hoping we make it through.

Have a safe and happy 2016, folks. 

Zandar's 2015 Scorecard

So how did I do in 2015?  Let's run the numbers:

1) Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, and Jeb Bush will make it all official in 2015.  All of them will be in the race for the White House.  How far they get, well, that's for this time next year, isn't it?

RIGHT:  All four are running for President.

2) Obama will have 25 or more presidential vetoes by the end of 2015.  Figure that's two a month, plus one for good measure.  Do not be surprised if it's less than this.  Mitch is not going to be able to get passed what he wants in the Senate.

WRONG: President Obama vetoed a GOP defense spending bill in October and a GOP bill to kill Obamacare in December.  Two is, you know, not 25.

3) The Supreme Court will strike down Obamacare subsidies in federal exchange states.  I'm not a lawyer by any stretch, but I know vindictive political backstabbing when I see it coming.  King v. Burwell is going to sorely test the GOP however.

WRONG: And I'm very glad that I was.  6-3 decision in favor of the Obama Administration here as Chief Justice Roberts gave us a solid decision sparing Obamacare once again.

4) Having said that, SCOTUS will also rule in favor of national same-sex marriage.  Hedge here that the decision may not come in 2015, but they'll take up a case to decide it before 2016. I just think Justice Kennedy wants this to be what he's remembered for.

RIGHT: Justice Kennedy for the win, 5-4.  And he will always be remembered for this decision, certainly.

5) Oil will close 2015 at under $60 a barrel.  Pretty huge hedge too, it'll probably be a lot lower.

RIGHT: Boy, was I right here.  Oil went from $55 a barrel in December 2014 to $35 a barrel in December 2015.  A major slowdown in Chinese demand cratered the oil market along with multiple other commodities,

6) Still feeling good about Marvel movies, so I'll say Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron will break $200 million

SPLIT:  The second Avengers movie easily topped that mark, but Ant-Man came up about $20 million short domestically.  Both crushed the $500 million mark worldwide, however, prompting a planned Ant-Man and The Wasp sequel. 

7) Google Glass will officially get the plug pulled.  At least on the home version.  Watch for the business model to stay viable, however.

RIGHT: Hell, this actually happened in back in January.

8) Apple iWatch will be huge.  Morgan Stanley says it could do anywhere from 30 million to 60 million, I'll peg my guess at 40 million worldwide in 2015.

WRONG:  Not even close!  At best, Apple moved only 7 million watches.  It doesn't mean the device is a failure, not when you sell seven million of the the things at $349 or more a piece...but I was definitely stupid to believe the hyped predictions on this one.

9) My off the wall projection:  A US embassy in Havana will be in place, with ambassador, before the end of 2015.  It'll also be the end of Marco Rubio, but hey.

RIGHT:  Pleasantly surprised at this one, with the embassy made official between President Obama and President Raul Castro in July, and Republicans were unable to block the promotion of diplomat Jeffrey DeLaurentis from Chief of Mission to interim Ambassador.  Wisely, President Obama hasn't picked a fight yet by naming a permanent Ambassador, meaning unless he did, I really wasn't going to lose this one.  Thanks Obama!

10) ZVTS will be here for another year.  Haven't lost on this one yet...

RIGHT:  Here I am.  Again.

6-3 and 1 is a pretty good record, frankly.  I'll take that any year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Money Can't Buy Everything

If Jeb! (more like Jeb?) can't buy a win in Iowa with all his hundreds of millions in Super PAC cash, then exactly what can he win?

Jeb Bush's campaign is canceling its Iowa television advertising buy and shifting money to double staff on the ground in January, the final month before the high-stakes Iowa caucuses.

The news will raise questions about whether the former Florida governor might pull out of Iowa given his fifth-place status here, with just 6 percent support of likely GOP caucusgoers.

That's not the case, Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz told The Des Moines Register.

The number of Iowa paid staffers who make personal contact with voters will be boosted from 11 to more than 20, including its Hispanic outreach director, he said.

Bush returns to campaign here Jan. 11-13 with stops in Iowa City, Grinnell, Des Moines and Ankeny.

The larger context is that Team Bush is making similar shifts from TV ads to its ground game in other early states, too. In January, they'll deploy 60 staffers from the Miami headquarters to the early states, including about 10 to Iowa.

And Bush's presence will still be prominent on voters' TV screens: A pro-Bush super PAC has reserved more than $19 million in ads across the first three states in coming days.

The Bush campaign itself has spent tens of millions on television ads to date, yet his candidacy has failed to catch on, something rival Donald Trump has mocked him for.

Diaz said the campaign is removing $3 million in previously reserved TV time: an Iowa buy of about $1 million and a January buy in South Carolina of about $2 million. It's instead increasing direct voter contact with a total of 60 additional staffers.

My question is this: why is Jeb? unable to do both?  The answer is that more and more, this is now the party of Trump and Cruz, of mean, inchoate rage against the dying of the, well, white.

Bush's aides acknowledged that Iowa can be a very tough state for mainstream GOP candidates. The three Republicans who have consistently led polls here since late summer, Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, are outsider tea party candidates.

You don't say.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Operation Payback

GOP operative Frank Luntz crunches the numbers on Trump and finds that the chief motivating factor of Trump supporters is -- surprise! -- Raging hatred of Barack Obama and everyone who voted for him. Rich Barry at The Moderate Voice:

Unfortunately, the Financial Times is behind a paywall and I don’t have access, but this snippet below provided by Politico is interesting.

Republican pollster, and political consultant Frank Lutz writes that Trump voters “want revenge.”

Trump’s bile is a healing balm for spurned Americans”: “The phenomenon of ‘The Donald’ is rooted in a psyche far deeper and more consequential than next November’s presidential election. … These individuals do not like being told by Washington or Wall Street what is best for them, … and disdain President Barack Obama and his (perceived) circle of self-righteous, tone-deaf governing partisans. Trump voters are not just angry — they want revenge.

Gosh, you mean that that there's millions of aggrieved, mostly white voters who want to see everyone who helped put Barack Obama in the White House to be smashed, broken, and obliterated?

Hoocuddanode. Rich Barry again:

Directing public anger is a very dicey thing, but so far Trump has proven very good at it. Consider the name calling and the gutter politics that has characterized so much if his run to date. His appeal to baser instincts is truly breathtaking.

Still, public anger is a difficult beast to ride and things can go badly in a hurry. Assuming Trump does not win the nomination, will there ever be a time when he embraces the eventual nominee and his supporters choose to be okay with that? Perhaps that could work with Sen. Cruz, but for Sen. Rubio or Gov. Christie? Maybe not.

Luntz is probably right. There is a lot of anger out there and it could have outsized consequences in November and beyond. Does the rage dissipate, or are we seeing the start of a political movement that will make the Tea Party movement look like, well, a tea party?

You mean a movement that decides that "by ballet or by bullet" is an actual plan?  The folks who have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition so that they can terrorize the rest of us?  The folks who see Democrats and the people who voted for them as not only anti-American, but not even human?

You mean these people might actually be dangerous and their rhetoric mat become something far bloodier and far worse?

Well holy crap, welcome to America.  Where the hell have you guys been?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bernie Goes After The Don

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, faulted Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for converting voters' legitimate concerns into hatred and said he can win over some of those voters with his message about improving the economy. 
"Many of Trump's supporters are working-class people and they're angry, and they're angry because they're working longer hours for lower wages, they're angry because their jobs have left this country and gone to China or other low-wage countries, they're angry because they can't afford to send their kids to college so they can't retire with dignity," Sanders said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." 
"What Trump has done with some success is taken that anger, taken those fears which are legitimate and converted them into anger against Mexicans, anger against Muslims, and in my view that is not the way we're going to address the major problems facing our country," he said. 
He suggested there was a certain irony about the fact that Trump does not want to raise the minimum wage, and is looking at ways to give millions in tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the country. 
"I think for his working class and middle class supporters, I think we can make the case that if we really want to address the issues that people are concerned about...we need policies that bring us together that take on the greed of Wall Street, the greed of corporate America, and create a middle class that works for all of us rather than an economy that works just for a few," Sanders said.

The problem with taking this at face value is that Trump supporters aren't the least interested in working to solve the problems of the country, they are looking out for themselves and blaming Muslims, Mexicans, black people, anyone who isn't white, male, and Christian is a lot easier and in the short run a lot more effective.

The question is whether or not Bernie Sanders believes his own reasoning.

If he does, he's far too naive to be in politics.  Considering he's been in politics for four decades, I'm discounting that right off the bat.

That leaves why he's feeding people a line about Trump supporters when the sole motivation for Trump is outright racism.  Trump. Supporters. Are. Racist. Assholes.  Period.  Sanders doesn't believe the line.

So why does he think other Democrats, or even Trump supporters, will?  There's one reason, and that it's a nice excuse to provide cover for bigotry.

Bottom line, why does Bernie want Trump supporters, and why does he think he can win them?

My suspicions are pretty cynical if not ugly.

Jobapalooza Reminder

From the Kroog:

Is it any wonder why the right is trying to scream THE CHARTS ARE LYING OBAMA FAILED US as loudly as possible?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What To Do With Garbage

Martin BooMan Longman reminds us exactly what we should do with all the excremental existential whining from the "I won't support Hillary if she's the nominee" dudebro crowd thinkpieces, which is ignore them and the people who write them looking for attention.

I’m not sure whether it’s more accurate to call it clickbait or troll bait, but there’s a genre of political writing that’s good at getting everyone’s blood pressure up despite being almost completely worthless. Basically, these pieces are debates on take-my-ball-and-go-homism. The latest is by Ben Spielberg and can be read at theHuffington Post.

Mr. Spielberg assures us that he is well aware that any Democratic president would be preferable to any Republican president, but he wants us to know that he will not be voting for Hillary Clinton if she is the nominee. If you care, you can go check out his reasoning, but I’m not interested in his reasoning.

I’m only interested in the timing.

And Spielberg isn't alone,  Salon's Walker Bragman is as bad or worse.  They have two things in common: one, only Bernie can save the country, and two, if he's not the nominee, they will stay home.  Martin points out the idiocy in that logic in December, 11 months before the election:

In his mind, at least, Mr. Spielberg’s solitary vote is something candidates will bargain for. If he threatens to withhold his vote, it will increase his influence.

This is absurd, of course. Literally no one gives a crap whether Ben Spielberg votes or doesn’t vote. For his decision to have any meaning at all, he must persuade people of the merits of his case. He must universalize it. If everyone used his logic, then progressives would have more leverage over the Democratic nominees. In this way, he can satisfy himself that his threat of non-participation satisfies the Golden Rule.

But, here’s the key, only if he’s being dishonest about not voting. If everyone threatens to not vote, they increase their power and can get some positive change (maybe), but if people actually follow through, stay home, and enable the Republicans to win, they’ll have done real damage to their cause.

That’s why Spielberg pays lip service to the idea that losing in 2016 is worth it so that the left doesn’t lose in 2020. But that’s a throw-away line. No one intelligent actually believes that you can do better by losing the presidency than by winning it. That may sometimes be the result, but it’s too speculative and low-percentage to ever be a rational strategy.

So, when you read these take-my-ball-and-go-homism pieces, remember, they’re so stupid and dishonest that you don’t need to respond to them.

If this were October 2016, that kind of rhetoric might merit a rebuttal. In December of 2015, it’s not worth worrying about.


The Return Of The Wicked Webb

Silly me.  I've been grousing that maybe Bernie would do something colossally stupid and pull a 3rd party Ralph Nader stunt, when all this time I should have been keeping an eye on former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb as the agent of rodent fornication.

When Jim Webb quit the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 20 amid low poll numbers and a minimal debate presence, the former Virginia senator left open the possibility he'd return for a White House run in a different political guise. Now he appears to be edging closer to making good on it.

On Saturday morning, Webb used Twitter and his Facebook page to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her handling of Libya during her time as secretary of state.

The lengthy condemnation on Facebook, which said, among other things that "Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya," came just days before the end of the year, which his team had previously told CNN would be reasonable time for them to make a decision about an independent bid.

Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his Webb2016 website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a #WebbNation hashtag.

A run by Webb, who often manages his own social media accounts and has also used them recently to promote a petition in favor of his run and to deliver kudos to Bernie Sanders in his battles with the Democratic National Committee ("nothing more than an arm for the Clinton campaign," Webb tweeted), could further complicate the already unpredictable 2016 election.

While observers typically have analyzed the prospect of a third-party or independent run by Republican front-runner Donald Trump — or even one from Sanders — Webb could still alter the dynamics of the race even with his smaller profile.

A recent CNN poll, for instance, forecast tight races between Clinton and several Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Webb's campaign has told Bloomberg it would concentrate on mobilizing voters in the ideological middle, along with people who have become dissatisfied with politics.

In a tight race, even a small base of support could make him a factor. Ralph Nader, for instance, famously won only small percentages of the vote in many states in the 2000 presidential election, yet that arguably helped tip the Electoral College vote to then-Texas Governor George W. Bush, denying Democratic Vice President Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote, the presidency.

Unlike Trump's whining about going third party, Webb is already out of the race.  For him to start attacking Clinton like this after departing the field is bad from, but to do so while using assaults lifted from the GOP playbook makes it clear he's trying to hand the country over to the Republicans and that he expects something in return.

No, this is truly odious, and it's too bad Jim Webb is ending his career like this.

Sunday Long Read: Tom Clancy's The Syrian Connection

Sy Hersh is at it again in this week's Sunday Long Read, where after "exposing" the Obama administration's "coverup" of supposedly knowing exactly where Osama Bin Laden was for years and having that debunked at light speed, he's back for another helping of garbage, this time claiming the same Pentagon that supposedly helped Obama cover for Pakistan at the cost of thousands of US troops recently engineered a coup to keep Bashar al-Assad in power by giving Turkey all our intel on Syria.

Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that Bashar al-Assad must leave office – and that there are ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria capable of defeating him – has in recent years provoked quiet dissent, and even overt opposition, among some of the most senior officers on the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. Their criticism has focused on what they see as the administration’s fixation on Assad’s primary ally, Vladimir Putin. In their view, Obama is captive to Cold War thinking about Russia and China, and hasn’t adjusted his stance on Syria to the fact both countries share Washington’s anxiety about the spread of terrorism in and beyond Syria; like Washington, they believe that Islamic State must be stopped.

The military’s resistance dates back to the summer of 2013, when a highly classified assessment, put together by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then led by General Martin Dempsey, forecast that the fall of the Assad regime would lead to chaos and, potentially, to Syria’s takeover by jihadi extremists, much as was then happening in Libya. A former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs told me that the document was an ‘all-source’ appraisal, drawing on information from signals, satellite and human intelligence, and took a dim view of the Obama administration’s insistence on continuing to finance and arm the so-called moderate rebel groups. By then, the CIA had been conspiring for more than a year with allies in the UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to ship guns and goods – to be used for the overthrow of Assad – from Libya, via Turkey, into Syria. The new intelligence estimate singled out Turkey as a major impediment to Obama’s Syria policy. The document showed, the adviser said, ‘that what was started as a covert US programme to arm and support the moderate rebels fighting Assad had been co-opted by Turkey, and had morphed into an across-the-board technical, arms and logistical programme for all of the opposition, including Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State. The so-called moderates had evaporated and the Free Syrian Army was a rump group stationed at an airbase in Turkey.’ The assessment was bleak: there was no viable ‘moderate’ opposition to Assad, and the US was arming extremists. 
Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, director of the DIA between 2012 and 2014, confirmed that his agency had sent a constant stream of classified warnings to the civilian leadership about the dire consequences of toppling Assad. The jihadists, he said, were in control of the opposition. Turkey wasn’t doing enough to stop the smuggling of foreign fighters and weapons across the border. ‘If the American public saw the intelligence we were producing daily, at the most sensitive level, they would go ballistic,’ Flynn told me. ‘We understood Isis’s long-term strategy and its campaign plans, and we also discussed the fact that Turkey was looking the other way when it came to the growth of the Islamic State inside Syria.’ The DIA’s reporting, he said, ‘got enormous pushback’ from the Obama administration. ‘I felt that they did not want to hear the truth.’

In other words, instead of saying "Hey, we don't have a solution to who would follow Assad if he was deposed", the Pentagon's reaction was then to commit the largest and most egregious example of military espionage-based treason in recent world history and give our intelligence on Syria's rebels and ISIS to Assad so he could fight both, stay in power, and hopefully hurt the Islamic State.

This is what Sy Hersh is claiming.

It gets worse.

In July 2013, the Joint Chiefs found a more direct way of demonstrating to Assad how serious they were about helping him. By then the CIA-sponsored secret flow of arms from Libya to the Syrian opposition, via Turkey, had been underway for more than a year (it started sometime after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011).​* The operation was largely run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department acquiescence. On 11 September 2012 the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed during an anti-American demonstration that led to the burning down of the US consulate in Benghazi; reporters for the Washington Post found copies of the ambassador’s schedule in the building’s ruins. It showed that on 10 September Stevens had met with the chief of the CIA’s annex operation. The next day, shortly before he died, he met a representative from Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company which, the JCS adviser said, was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments. 
By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdo─čan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’ 
The flow of US intelligence to the Syrian army, and the downgrading of the quality of the arms being supplied to the rebels, came at a critical juncture. The Syrian army had suffered heavy losses in the spring of 2013 in fighting against Jabhat al-Nusra and other extremist groups as it failed to hold the provincial capital of Raqqa. Sporadic Syrian army and air-force raids continued in the area for months, with little success, until it was decided to withdraw from Raqqa and other hard to defend, lightly populated areas in the north and west and focus instead on consolidating the government’s hold on Damascus and the heavily populated areas linking the capital to Latakia in the north-east. But as the army gained in strength with the Joint Chiefs’ support, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey escalated their financing and arming of Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State, which by the end of 2013 had made enormous gains on both sides of the Syria/Iraq border. The remaining non-fundamentalist rebels found themselves fighting – and losing – pitched battles against the extremists. In January 2014, IS took complete control of Raqqa and the tribal areas around it from al-Nusra and established the city as its base. Assad still controlled 80 per cent of the Syrian population, but he had lost a vast amount of territory.

And we did this all because apparently President Obama was too stupid to realize he was being played in Syria by the Saudis and Erdogan, and that our generals had no choice but to save him from himself.

It's amazing stuff, Hersh has three-quarters of a Tom Clancy novel here, and I don't believe a word of it. Understand that Hersh is flat out saying that the Joint Chiefs knowingly went behind President Obama's back and worked with a foreign power in direct contravention of the Commander-in-Chief.

Again, this is treason, actual, literal and legal treason and not the screamy figurative stuff here.

It's insane and if true, it's a massive military scandal and people need to go to prison for a very, very long time.

But again, only if true, and Hersh's recent track record leaves much to be desired in the realm of credibility.  I'm sorry.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Year End Stuff: We're The Kids Of America

On vacation until 2016, so I have a couple of pieces to put up for the next week or so, nothing major.

Year end predictions and scorecard are coming on the 31st as usual.

For today, news that the kids are not all right.

Fortune reports that Generation Y Americans (those born after 1980) lag behind their overseas peers in literacy, numeracy and problem-solving in technology-rich environments. Researchers at the Princeton-based Educational Testing Service (ETS), who conducted the study, administered a test called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, to measure the job skills of adults in 23 countries.

Here's how we fared, according to ABC Chicago:

Top 5 scores in literacy:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Netherlands
4) Australia
5) Sweden

The United States placed at #17 out of 23.

Top 5 scores in numeracy:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Flanders (Belgium)
4) Netherlands
5) Sweden

The United States placed at #21 out of 23.

Top 5 scores in PS-TRE:
1) Japan
2) Finland
3) Australia
4) Sweden
5) Norway

The United States placed #18 out of 20.

The results were shocking to researchers as American millennials were found to be the most educated generation ever, according to the study.

"We really thought [U.S.] Millennials would do better than the general adult population, either compared to older coworkers in the U.S. or to the same age group in other countries," Madeline Goodman, an ETS researcher who worked on the study, told Fortune. "But they didn’t. In fact, their scores were abysmal."

The study concludes that a more expensive and expansive education "may not hold all the answers."

You mean the rest of the world has passed us by in education?

You don't say.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Any Deport In A Christmas Storm

I'm not sure who's brilliant idea it was for this trial balloon to go up on Christmas Eve, but if the Obama administration really wanted to look like a bunch of of Trump-like Grinches this Christmas, they couldn't have done a better job than this.

The Department of Homeland Security has begun preparing for a series of raids that would target for deportation hundreds of families who have flocked to the United States since the start of last year, according to people familiar with the operation.

The nationwide campaign, to be carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as soon as early January, would be the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America, those familiar with the plan said. More than 100,000 families with both adults and children have made the journey across the southwest border since last year, though this migration has largely been overshadowed by a related surge of unaccompanied minors.

The ICE operation would target only adults and children who have already been ordered removed from the United States by an immigration judge, according to officials familiar with the undertaking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because planning is ongoing and the operation has not been given final approval by DHS. The adults and children would be detained wherever they can be found and immediately deported. The number targeted is expected to be in the hundreds and possibly greater.

The proposed deportations have been controversial inside the Obama administration, which has been discussing them for several months. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been pushing for the moves, according to those with knowledge of the debate, in part because of a new spike in the number of illegal immigrants in recent months. Experts say that the violence that was a key factor in driving people to flee Central America last year has surged again, with the homicide rate in El Salvador reaching its highest level in a generation. A drought in the region has also prompted departures.

The pressure for deportations has also mounted because of a recent court decision that ordered DHS to begin releasing families housed in detention centers.

Now, deporting in the hundreds is not exactly news, the Obama administration does that regularly.  But whoever thought of running this story on December 24th needs to be fired, as Greg Sargent points out.

In a preview of more to come, a leading immigration advocate, Frank Sharry of America’s Voice, told me that there will be intense pressure on the Democratic presidential candidates — particularly likely nominee Hillary Clinton — to denounce the new policy. Sharry pointed out that this could force Clinton to decide whether to align with immigration advocates and Latinos, as she’s been doing in hopes of winning the Latino vote by a huge margin in the general election, which would mean breaking with the Obama administration and adopting a position that Republicans will attack as weak on immigration enforcement.

“This will be a political nightmare for the Democrats,” Sharry told me. “The specter of raids picking up families and sending them back to violent countries is going to put Hillary Clinton in a difficult position. She’ll have to choose between protecting refugees from Central America, a demand of the Latino community, or standing with the law-and-order position of Obama and Republicans.”

That's exactly what all three Democratic 2016 candidates have done, Sanders and O'Malley more than Clinton.

We'll see how it's going.  If I didn't know any better, I'd say this was done on purpose to help Hillary recover from her disastrous and absolutely insulting "Hillary is like your abuela" campaign from Monday, which backfired completely as the #NotMyAbuela hashtag on Twitter.

Maybe I'm just thinking like Karl Rove again.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Last Call For Silly Conned Valley

Looks like the same game of musical chairs that era tech companies played fifteen years ago when I was a college puke haven't changed a bit in the age of the "sharing economy". Meet the suckers employees of Good Technology, a mobile security tech firm bought out by Blackberry. While the founders and investors made millions, the employees paid in common stock were destroyed, because after all, some games are just that old.

What Good’s employees experienced is an example of who loses out when a company backed by venture capital goes south. While plenty of people — including founders, top executives and investors — are involved in the rise of a start-up, those hit the hardest during a company’s fall are the rank-and-file employees. 
Investors and executives generally get protections in a start-up that employees do not. Many investors have preferred stock, a class of shares that can come with a guaranteed payout. Executives frequently get special bonuses so they will not leave during deal talks. 
In Good’s case, the six investors on the board had preferred shares worth a combined $125 million. After the sale to BlackBerry, Ms. Wyatt, who has since left the company, took home $4 million, as well as a $1.9 million severance payment, according to investor documents. 
In contrast, start-up employees generally own common stock, whose payout comes only after those who hold preferred shares get their money. In Good’s case, the board’s preferred stock was worth almost the same as all 227 million common shares outstanding. 
Missing out on the upside of the sale was bad enough, but that wasn’t the half of it. Some Good employees actually lost money when BlackBerry bought the company. Good was a “unicorn,” that is, a private company with a valuation of more than $1 billion. The high valuation increased the paper value of employee shares — and thus the income tax bills levied on their stock when they received the stock grants, or when they bought and sold shares. To pay those taxes, some employees emptied savings accounts and borrowed money. 
Some of Good’s common shareholders have sued most of the board for a breach of fiduciary duty, asserting that directors looked only after the interests of preferred shareholders. 
“It’s not unusual for employees to be wiped out while venture capitalists make money,” said Dennis J. White, a partner in Boston at the law firm Verrill Dana, who has studied deals like Good’s.

So yes, the rules were that they paid capital gains taxes for shares that were at the time valued at ten times what they ended up being worth when the company was bought out, and since these were the little peons, they didn't have the loopholes and tax shelters.

Imagine paying taxes on 100,000 common shares being valued at $4 a share. That's $400,000 in stock value, automatically putting you at the top 15% capital gains tax rate for a healthy chunk of it.  No big deal, so you pay $60,000 in taxes now on $400,000 worth of stock that will go up up up when the company goes public.  Even if the stock only goes from $4 to $5, you've more than made that money back and you're pretty well off.  Should the stock shoot up to $20, $40 or more, you're a tech multi-millionaire.

But the employees at Good paid 15% taxes on $4 a share and the company was sold out from under them for a tenth of that price, meaning basically everyone lost money.

And in some cases, they lost tens of thousands of bucks or more.  Imagine you actually owed 20 cents in taxes for every share you had.  Now imagine you had a million shares.  $200,000 in the hole, bam.

Saw a lot of that 15 years ago.  People didn't learn then.  They know even less now.

Merry Christmas, right?

White America, Black President, Green Lantern

Isaac Bailey is a black columnist for the Myrtle Beach Sun-Times, and he takes to Politico Magazine to give us yet another hot take on why Obama is the one who has to fix racism of Trumpmerica.

This task can’t be left to pundits, academic experts or even preachers, rabbis and imams—particularly as long as Trump continues to tap into the darkest recesses of people’s souls. Destructive groupthink can overcome even the most sincere efforts of community leaders. It cannot be left up to other 2016 presidential candidates, either. They’re far too busy trying to win the White House to be healers. 
There is only one person who can unite the country again, and he works in the White House. Yes, President Barack Obama—ironically, the man who is the personification of the fear Trump is exploiting—is the one in the best position to quell the anger being stirred up. 
This is not something the president can do from the Oval Office, or from a stage. What he needs to do is use the power of the office in a different way, one that matches the ruthless effectiveness of a demagogue with a private jet. Obama needs to go on a listening tour of white America—to connect, in person, with Americans he has either been unable or unwilling to reach during his seven years in office. 
I know the difficulties of such outreach, and also its unique payoff. I‘m a black man who has spent the past decade listening to white Southern conservatives—people who many assume would hate me. Because of that, I’ve been able to get through to people others wouldn’t dare try to reach. I have the battle scars and rare friendships to prove it, including one with a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who may help me in a criminal-justice reform push. 
The conventional wisdom might say the current U.S. president should visit places like Chicago and Ferguson, where decades-long racial disparities are at the heart of recent bouts of unrest. Or that he should visit San Bernardino and offer condolences in person (which he did before going on vacation), as he’s done so many times after so many mass shootings. Or maybe Detroit, a city still struggling even after a massive bailout saved the domestic auto industry. 
I say, instead, he should first go to places like Conway, South Carolina, where a Democratic president has nothing to gain, a place whose residents daily drive by an electric plant that is now empty in part because of environmental policies that may indeed be necessary to save the planet but hurt real people in real time, nonetheless. 
Or maybe he can map out a path along the Appalachian Trail and visit cities and small towns full of people who believe they’ve been left out of the American dream and forced into a nightmare they are convinced they can survive only by clinging to their God and their guns, which is why they balk at the emergence of legalized same-sex marriage and talk of gun control, not because they hate—even if the words they sometimes use sound hateful—but because they still need something to call their own. 
Let them see their president. Let them speak directly to their president. Let them shout, cuss, fuss and unload if that’s what they need to do. Because no matter how you slice it, the country they’ve long known is dying, and a new one is taking shape. Obama’s presence in the White House, while heartening to many, is the tip of the spear to those fretful about what’s to come.

To Mr. Bailey, who no doubt has good intentions, and in a perfect world would have a point, I say this:

After seven years of this, what on God's green Earth makes you think angry white America wants to listen to our President?

You say the President needs to go places where he has nothing to gain.  I say that if there was something to gain, to educate people, to assure people, to help people, these folks would not accept any of that.  All they know is hatred, anger and fear, and pablum like this enables that hatred, anger and fear.

Worse, it blames this conscious decision by racist assholes on the President, and absolves them of the responsibility of their actions.  It's infantile and stupid.  These folks don't like same-sex marriage being the law of the land?  I can understand that, but guess what?  They still have to follow it.

What these people want is to bully, threaten, and even kill their way into having "their" country back.  I got news for them, it's our country collectively, not yours alone.

No, we don't have to listen to racist cracker assholes.  The country has moved past them.  They're sad and angry and hateful they've been left behind?

Screw em.  I have better things to do than worry about the tender feelings of racist idiots.

Look, here in Kentucky, we just had an election where these same people rejected health care for their families for tens of thousands of people. Our governor just disenfranchised tens of thousands more voters and made sure thousands more would continue to earn just $7.25 an hour.  They voted against Obama, plain and simple.

They actively harm themselves and others just to not listen to Obama.  That is how deep their hatred goes.

And you want Obama to reach out to them?

Go to hell.

Naming The Elephant

Slate's Jamelle Bouie asks the obvious question about Donald Trump: is he benefiting from the Republican's massive racist backlash against President Obama directly, or is the media narrative of "working-class populism" the truth?

There is no question that Trump has run the most unapologetically racist and nativist campaign since George Wallace made his first national play in 1964. And, like Wallace before him, it’s been successful, drawing tens of thousands of people to massive rallies across the country. Trump probes their fears, excites their passions, and gives them voice in a way they love and understand. “We have losers. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain,” Trump declares.

These voters may feel anxious about their economic status. But they also hold racial and cultural resentments. They’re worried about their futures and they dislike immigrants, Muslims, and blacks.

On Monday, the Washington Post looked at the white supremacists and white nationalists who cheer Trump as an asset to their movement. Trump has opened “a door to conversation” and “electrified” some members of the movement, says one leader in the Ku Klux Klan. “I think a lot of what he says resonates with me,” says David Duke, a “Grand Wizard” in the Klan and former Louisiana politician.

In a similar piece for the New Yorker, writer Evan Osnos spoke to Jared Taylor, a prominent white nationalist who described the situation as such. “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me,” said Taylor, “but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.

These voices are self-serving, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. Trump has shot to the top, fueled by vicious rhetoric against Latino immigrants and Syriain refugees. He has shared racist memes about black Americans and called for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. And each time, his support ticks higher.

Economic anxiety plays a part here. But maybe Trump has discovered something we all like to deny: That in the 21st century, the racist vote is larger, louder, and more influential than we ever thought.

Not racist, the joke goes, just number one with racists.

And after years of racism and bigotry being directed at Barack Obama, of course whoever wins the GOP nomination in 2016 would be the heir to this 50-state Southern Strategy.  Romney wasn't able to dog whistle his way into it, being too cute by half got him into trouble with his campaign-ending "47 percent" remark.

Donald Trump does not have this problem.  He's outright racist, overtly disgusting, loudly and proudly bigoted, and he knows our media will bend over backwards showcasing him as a regular guy, they have no choice. He knows the game better than they do.

But yes, the last remnants of the Confederacy have long been with us and always will be.  Trump tapped into them on purpose and by some measures he's above 40% in the crowded GOP field, and every awful weekly tirade only adds another two or 3 points to his total.

If you're suddenly expecting "undecided" Republicans to stand up to him after he starts winning primaries, you're deluded.  Trump is looking more and more like the GOP pick, and he will absolutely get 45% of the vote, minimum, against any Democrat next November.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Last Call For We Don't Need No Education

The failure of the Democrats at the local and state government level during the Obama years in America has given us a unique breed of lawmaker: the embarrassingly unqualified Republican nutjob in a state legislature leadership position. Today's example is in Arizona.

An Arizona lawmaker who believes the earth is only 6,000 years old and that the U.S. government regularly sprays its citizens with mind-controlling chemtrails has been selected to lead an Arizona legislative committee overseeing education.

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), was selected by fellow Republican and Senate president Andy Biggs to chair of the Arizona Senate Education Committee, according to 12News. The committee acts as a gatekeeper for education-related laws, including Common Core and spending.

“She understands what Arizona students and parents need in our education system,” Biggs told reporters in a prepared statement. “She is a very experienced legislator and I know she will do a wonderful job.”

According to AZCentral, Allen attended high school but did not go to college. She helped found a charter school in her home town of Snowflake.

In March, Allen made national news when she derailed a discussion about gun legislation to suggest a law that forces Americans to go to church on Sundays.

In March 2013, she wrote an addled Facebook post about her belief the government was purposely poisoning its citizens with chemicals sprayed by airplanes, confusing white contrails left by aircraft with chemical trails.

“Ok, I do not want to get into a debate about weather. However, I know what I see weekly up here on the flat where I live outside of Snowflake. The planes usely (sic), three or four, fly a grid across the sky and leave long white trails streaming behind them. I have watched the chem-trails move out until the entire sky is covered with flimsy, thin cloud cover,” she wrote. “Things are happening all around us that we see everyday and just don’t get what it is. I think we throw the ‘conspiracy theory’ at people when we don’t understand or have the information they have so we try and explain it that way.”

This woman should not only be disqualified from this committee, but public office as well and should probably seek a mental health professional. Yet, a Young Earth Creationist who believes the government is poisoning its citizens has been elected and re-elected by people who clearly have no problem with that, and is now in charge of Arizona's educational legislation.

It used to be people this staggeringly ignorant were relegated to a trailer out in the middle of nowhere and ignored at family holiday gatherings.  Now they make state laws for schools.

We have to get more Democrats running for local and state government in all 50 states, or we're going to lose the place to these assholes.

Dead To Rights In Missouri

You know what they say, "Guns don't kill people..."

Of course, making it much easier to obtain a gun as Missouri did in 2007 means that the state now has a significantly higher rate of people using guns to kill people, so there's that.

In the past decade, Missouri has been a natural experiment in what happens when a state relaxes its gun control laws. For decades, it had one of the nation’s strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff’s office.

But the legislature repealed that in 2007 and approved a flurry of other changes, including, last year, lowering the legal age to carry a concealed gun to 19. What has followed may help answer a central question of the gun control debate: Does allowing people to more easily obtain guns make society safer or more dangerous?

We now have a pretty clear and tragic answer in Missouri.

Research by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, found that in the first six years after the state repealed the requirement for comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, the gun homicide rate was 16 percent higher than it was the six years before. During the same period, the national rate declined by 11 percent. After Professor Webster controlled for poverty and other factors that could influence the homicide rate, and took into account homicide rates in other states, the result was slightly higher, rising by 18 percent in Missouri. 
Federal death data released this month for 2014 showed a continuation of the trend, he said. Before the repeal, from 1999 to 2006, Missouri’s gun homicide rate was 13.8 percent higher than the national rate. From 2008 to 2014, it was 47 percent higher. (The new data also showed that the national death rate from guns was equal to that from motor vehicle crashes for the first time since the government began systematically tracking it.) 
Other measures suggested that criminals had easier access to guns after the permit law was repealed. Professor Webster analyzed data from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and found that the share of guns that were linked to crimes soon after they were bought doubled in the state from 2006 to 2010. The portion of guns confiscated by the police in Missouri that had been originally bought in the state — ordinarily a very stable statistic — rose to 74 percent last year, from 56 percent before the law changed.

The firearms industry would like you to believe that this is a case where correlation has nothing to do with causation, but the statistics are difficult to reconcile otherwise.

Missouri made it much easier to get a gun.  As a result, more people used them for their intended purpose.  There's now several years of data backing this up...but remember, according to Republicans, science is all a lie, so why bother?

This Week In Dispatches From Bevinstan, Con't

Somehow, I think I'm going to be writing a Stupid Shit My Governor Does column enough so that I should just make it a weekly "all in one place" kinda thing.

Anyway. now that ol' Matt has had a few weeks in house, he's starting to warm up to this whole "executive order" thing when it comes to those pesky same-sex mariage licenses that cause trouble over the fall.

To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, Executive Order 2015-048 directs the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks. The name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the form.

So a win for Kim Davis.  Who else can Bevin make happy?  You remember Steve Beshear signing an order to restore voting rights to felons?


While Governor Bevin has been a strong advocate for the reinstatement of non-violent felony offenders’ voting and civil rights, Executive Order 2015-052 suspends the provisions of Executive Order 2015-871 as that order is contrary to the Kentucky Constitution and undermines the very right it seeks to restore by circumventing elected representatives in the state legislature and the voice of the people at the ballot box. The Office of the Governor will continue to utilize the processes and procedures under current law in the same manner as the previous administration pending further study and consideration by the Kentucky General Assembly. This Executive Order does not affect anyone whose rights have already been restored by the previous Executive Order.

Also gone, higher minimum wages for state employees and vendors

Executive Order 2015-049 relieves executive branch agencies and vendors of the obligation to comply with the higher minimum wage established by Executive Order 2015-370, except as to classified employees with status who have already received increases as a result of the Executive Order. Their remuneration will not be affected.

...and a new permanent hiring freeze on state positions.

Executive Order 2015-050 prioritizes effective and efficient management of state government operations by implementing a new moratorium on hiring. This order removes all oversight of the merit system hiring from the Governor’s Office. Unlike Gov. Beshear’s Executive Order, which had the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet approve all personnel actions regarding merit employees, this Executive Order transfers that responsibility to the Personnel Secretary. Approval of non-merit employees will remain the duty of the Secretary of the Governor’s Executive Cabinet. Furthermore, effective immediately, all vacant positions in any agency will be reviewed to determine if they are necessary to the maintenance of essential government services.

Going to be real fun when Bevin determines that current employees are no longer essential to government services and fires tens of thousands of state workers.

The fun's just beginning here in Bevinstan, folks!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Last Call For Liar, Liar

I know I've long sworn off Politifact's "fact checking" as a source for viable research, but I will note that Donald Trump told so many ridiculous whoppers on the campaign trail this year that the outfit couldn't pick just one as its infamous "Lie of the Year".

Remember, this is a group that once called Obama's "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it" the biggest lie in 2013 when somehow, former Bush press secretary Dee Dee Myers wrote a book on Benghazi claiming that Ambasaador Chris Stevens's body had been dragged through the streets and in 2011 ripped Democrats for daring to attack Paul Ryan's Medicare block grant scheme as the biggest political whopper of that year when in May 2011 Romney called Obamacare a government takeover of healthcare.

So take their determination of Trump with an entire salt mine.  No doubt in 2016, a Democrat will be found as liar of the year so Republicans ca tell whatever whoppers they want starting in January.

Helping Those People Again

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you want to know why Republicans are so eager to sabotage Obamacare, there's a method to the madness.

Whatever Obamacare's shortcomings, a new paper shows one place where the law has been a clear success: narrowing the race gap in health insurance. So why aren't more Democrats shouting that from the rooftops? 
In 2013, the year before most of the law's provisions for subsidized insurance took effect, non-elderly blacks were 47 percent more likely than whites to be uninsured. For American Indians, that figure was 93 percent; for Hispanics, 120 percent. 
In 2014, not only did the share of whites without insurance fall; the share of blacks and Asian Americans fell by more. The difference between whites and Hispanics shrank, from 14 percentage points to 11.8 percentage points.

So yes, Obamacare is helping minorities.  If you want to know why Democrats aren't saying more about that, well, ask Kentucky Governor Jack Conway sometime.

The point of the paper, written by Algernon Austin at the Center for Global Policy Solutions, isn't just to celebrate those gains, but also to show how much room remains for improvement. One of the biggest obstacles to reducing the number of uninsured blacks is the refusal of many states with large black populations to accept federal money to expand their Medicaid programs. Some of those states may come around eventually, but don't hold your breath
What's odd about the race gap isn't its persistence, but that its narrowing isn't more celebrated as one of the law's accomplishments. When asked why he thought the gap doesn't get more attention, Austin noted that Obama has spent less time than his predecessors talking about race. "It's been a stance of the administration to really emphasize that President Obama is the president for all Americans," Austin said. 
Perhaps the administration worries that emphasizing the benefits of Obamacare for minorities might make whites think the law isn't so much about them, jeopardizing already tepid public support. In that sense, not harping on race might be good strategy: Maybe the country's fraught relationship with race means the only way to close the gap in health insurance is, in effect, by stealth.

It's okay, Republicans are making the emphasis that Medicaid expansion would help those people more than it would help white Americans for the President and Democrats, which is exactly why red states and Republicans are doing everything they can to stop Medicaid expansion.

Funny how that works.

Trump's Rump, Con't

So where do Donald Trump supporters live, and where does he have the strongest support?  He does well in rural and Christian conservative counties, for sure...but his strongest support comes from Republicans who live in counties with large black and/or Hispanic populations.

The celebrity businessman does particularly well in counties that the American Communities Project calls Minority Centers. Data from the last three polls show Mr. Trump has the support of 34% of Republican primary voters who live in those communities, the highest share seen in any of the seven county types that the communities project is studying for the 2016 campaign. 

You can see a map of all the 2016 county types as designed by the communities project here. Note the green Minority Center counties running through North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Many of those states vote on March 1; South Carolina votes even earlier. March 5 brings Kentucky and Louisiana. On March 8 is Mississippi
With polling scarce in most of the Southern states, Mr. Trump’s strength in the Minority Center counties is one of the few available signals of how he might perform in the region. 
Moreover, the analysis suggests that Mr. Trump has pockets of strength that could prove valuable in states, some of them beyond the South, that award delegates to the top vote-winner in each congressional district. Districts with a large minority population may not include large numbers of Republicans, but they award delegates, nonetheless. Winning those districts could yield Mr. Trump a sizeable cache of delegates in states such as South Carolina and California.

Trump is doing the best among Republicans who live in counties in the South with a lot of non-white people?

You don't say.  WHOCUDDANODE?

I never would have imagined.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Call For Trump's Rump

Fellow liberals, we should be ashamed of thinking Trump supporters are anything other than working-class real Americans who are simply tired of a broken political system and an increasingly difficult economic future for those without college degrees, I mean it's not like they're listening to Trump's rhetoric and trying to blow up Muslims as a result or anything.

A Donald Trump supporter was arrested after police detonated an explosive device they believe he planned to use against Muslims. 
Police received a tip Thursday that 55-year-old William Celli, of Richmond, California, was making explosive devices and threatening to harm Muslims, reported KPIX-TV.
Officers evacuated his neighborhood Sunday morning and detonated a suspicious device found in Celli’s home. 
Police have not yet determined if the homemade device was inert or active, but they said the reported threats greatly concerned law enforcement officers. 
Celli posts frequently on his Facebook account, where he complains about Syrian refugees, Democrats and insufficiently conservative Republicans. 
He appears to be a strong admirer of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump — who has been fanning the flames of anti-Muslim hysteria in the wake of mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, California. 
“Donald trumps on again I’m happy leaders okay but this guys a great point man I’ll follow this MAN to the end of the world,”Celli posted Oct. 21.

Yep, rock-ribbed, salt-of-the-earth conservatives here.  Nothing to worry about.

Domestic terrorism?  What's that?

Huckleberry Hounded Out

Sen. Lindsey Graham is smart enough to take his Christmas vacation early, it seems.

Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is dropping out of the presidential race. 
“While we have run a campaign that has made a real difference, I have concluded this is not my time,” he said in a statement Monday 
Graham, who first told CNN of his decision in an interview, faced the deadline Monday to be removed from the ballot in his home state of South Carolina. Graham has been mired at the bottom of polls - both nationally and in his home state - and could have faced an embarrassing showing in the state’s February primary. 
The hawkish South Carolina senator had been the Republican field’s most vociferous early critic of Donald Trump.

Which is true, and being the "Hey guys, Trump is goddamn crazy on immigration and Muslims but let's send tens of thousands of US troops into Syria" candidate got him a whopping 0% at the polls and seriously threatening to break the crucial 1% mark.

I'm thinking since we're in effectively in election news dump mode until January, we're going to see a few folks drop out over the next week or two anyway.

Time to catch up on your Netflix queue, man.

The New Gunmerican Workplace

More and more companies in the US are responding to the Age of the Active Shooter not with lockdown and shelter-in-place procedures, but by training employees to team up and fight back to overwhelm and incapacitate.

The paradigm shift in response — from passive to active — has been endorsed and promoted by the Department of Homeland Security. Last month, it recommended that federal workplaces adopt the training program “Run, Hide, Fight,” which it helped develop. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier used the same phrase on a recent episode of “60 Minutes.”

“Your options are run, hide or fight,” Lanier said last month. “I always say, if you can get out, getting out’s your first option, your best option. If you’re in a position to try and take the gunman down, to take the gunman out, it’s the best option for saving lives before police can get there.”

Gun rights proponents have a much different view of what works. They say that if more law-abiding citizens were armed, more mass shootings could be prevented. But most employers ban guns from the workplace, even in states that embrace concealed-carry permits.

At NeighborWorks, almost three dozen employees were taught to throw things at a shooter — chairs, books, purses, pens, phones, anything — and swarm. Those items don’t seem all that threatening compared with an AR-15, but that’s not the point.

“If you can move him from offense to defense, you have changed the outcome of the event,” said Greg Crane, a former SWAT officer whose company, the ALICE Training Institute, trained workers at NeighborWorks as well as at Facebook and Apple. “He’s thinking about what you are doing to him, not what he’s doing to you. Mentally, he’s going through a whole different process.”

ALICE, based near Cleveland, has been teaching these methods since about 2001. But in the past few years, as mass shootings have killed moviegoers, congressional constituents, first-graders, Navy Yard workers, TV journalists and college students, hundreds of competitors have sprung up, charging thousands of dollars for classroom lectures and intense simulations

In other words, the new cost of Second Amendment "freedom" is paying experts to teach your employees how to disorient a somebody armed with an AR-15 with a thrown object.  Lots of money for training they will almost certainly never have to use, but why should gun manufacturers and ammo makers be the only folks profiting from Gunmerica?

Call it the cost of doing business in the US.  Part of me is upset that corporate America has resigned themselves to a workplace that will at some point include an armed employee on campus willing to kill.  The other part is impressed that the American way is to find a way to make money off of tragedy, and this looks like a solid growth industry for the economy, right?


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Last Call For Screaming Into The Abyss

Washington Post columnist Caitlyn Dewey got a year and a half out of her weekly feature fighting The Stupid before hanging it up this week and correctly arriving at the conclusion that you can't beat confirmation bias in the age of the internet.

We launched “What was Fake” in May 2014 in response to what seemed, at the time, like an epidemic of urban legends and Internet pranks: light-hearted, silly things, for the most part, like new flavors of Oreos and babies with absurd names.

Since then, those sorts of rumors and pranks haven’t slowed down, exactly, but the pace and tenor of fake news has changed. Where debunking an Internet fake once involved some research, it’s now often as simple as clicking around for an “about” or “disclaimer” page. And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case. Headlines like “Casey Anthony found dismembered in truck” go viral via old-fashioned schadenfreude — even hate.

There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

The primary feature of the internet is, not to put too fine a point on it, the Speed Of Total Bullshit.  It's a feature, not a bug.  It directly results in things like fewer than half of Iowa Republicans believe President Obama was born in the US.  It's demonstrably true that he was, but the people who need facts the most are the least swayed by them.

This is America, a country where quite literally the facts no longer matter.

Lone Star Gunmen

Texas, like many other red states, is in the process of putting open carry laws into effect.  Starting in 2016 the state will allow people to carry handguns in holsters.  The challenge now is for as few people to die from this law as possible, I guess.

Experts predict that open carry will most likely take place in small numbers in rural areas, but unlike Oklahoma, six of the most populous cities in the country are in Texas: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso. And that’s not taking into account the political climate around gun control in Texas this year. There have been number of demonstrators openly carrying rifles in large cities, the most recent being a group of armed protestors in front of a mosque in Irving and demonstrators who marched with rifles near UT-Austin and later held a mock mass shooting to protest “gun-free zones.” It’s still unclear why they felt the need to protest what would soon be law.

But one of the biggest concerns of law enforcement is establishing the fine line between respecting the rights of someone legally carrying a handgun and protecting the general public. “What happens when an officer sees someone openly carrying a handgun in a holster, in accordance with the law, what can an officer legally do?” Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told theHouston Chronicle. “We keep getting more questions than answers.”

The fear is that open carry will make it harder for police officers to tell the difference between a law-abiding citizen legally carrying a gun and someone with criminal intentions carrying a gun. In the Houston Chronicle, comments like these from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, don’t really help to clarify things.

Houston police, he said, will not “be doing random stops of people simply to see if they have a CHL,” but they also will not “sit back for 30 minutes” if they have a reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

So, what will they do?

My guess is police in Texas are going to be much, much more likely to open fire on people carrying weapons, not less...especially if the people carrying weapons aren't white.

It's going to be tragic when it happens...and of course, for Texas, the solution will be -- all together now -- MORE GUNS.

Trapped In A Hell Of Our Own Making

The NY Times editorial board takes on Republican TRAP laws designed for one purpose: to make legal abortions impossible to get for as many women as possible. 2015 was a banner year for TRAP legislation, and the only thing preventing national versions of these ridiculous laws was a Democrat in the White House (which may not be the case in 2017.)

In many states, including Texas, these laws have resulted in the shuttering of all but a few clinics that perform abortions, forcing women to travel hundreds of miles for the procedure. Among other burdens, this increases the chance that a woman will try to end her pregnancy on her own. This is extremely risky, and in some states it is even grounds for a charge of attempted murder. One study, based on a recent survey, estimated that 100,000 to 240,000 Texas women ages 18 to 49 have attempted a self-induced abortion without medical assistance. These women, the study found, were significantly more likely than average to have less access to basic reproductive-health services like birth control.

TRAP laws are the only ones currently before the Supreme Court, but they are far from the only roadblock to reproductive health care put up in 2015.

Just a few examples: Five states enacted or extended waiting periods for abortions, joining the more than two dozen states that already had such laws. Some of these laws also require a woman to undergo in-person counseling, which means two separate trips to a clinic or hospital. Two states, Arizona and Arkansas, passed laws requiring doctors to give women misleading information about the possibility of “reversing” a medication-induced abortion. Arkansas also became the third state to ban the use of the modern, evidence-based drug protocol for medication abortion, which is cheaper and more effective than what the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2000.

And then there is the unrelenting, but politically unpopular, campaign by Republicans in Congress, in statehouses and on the presidential campaign trail to deny funding to Planned Parenthood. The organization, which is the only reproductive-health service provider for millions of poorer women, is already prohibited by law from using federal funds for almost all abortions.

We're one election away from the outlawing of legal and safe medical abortions across the country, period.  Either the GOP will impose a national ban, or a Republican president will appoint enough conservatives to make it happen.
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