Thursday, May 31, 2018

Last Call For Television Rules The Nation

I'm old enough to remember when former VP Dan Quayle went after CBS sitcom Murphy Brown because the show "glorified" single motherhood and destroyed family values.  Meanwhile, a quarter-century later, Trump is now demanding TBS cancel late-night host Samantha Bee's show because she was mean to Ivanka.

The White House this morning blasted Samantha Bee and TBS over Bee having called White House staffer/ First Daughter Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t” in a segment about President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.

“The language used by Samantha Bee last night is vile and vicious. The collective silence by the left and its media allies is appalling,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. 
“Her disgusting comments and show are not fit for broadcast, and executives at Time Warner and TBS must demonstrate that such explicit profanity about female members of this administration will not be condoned on its network.” 
TBS has not yet responded, but has pulled the video.

Though it had mostly been conservative critics blasting away at Bee this morning, CNN joined in this morning. 
“Let me just say, one parent to another – parent of a daughter – no, no, no!” CNN’s John King said of Bee’s remark, shortly after the White House issued its statement.
“Criticize the president’s daughter, criticize the policy. Some things just aren’t funny,” King insisted. 
“Roseanne’s racism is not funny. Samantha Bee using that word is not funny. Sarah Sanders just called it vile and vicious language. I could not agree more,” he continued.

Bee is falling all over herself trying to save her show, but it looks like hers is the head that has to roll in "exchange" for Roseanne Barr.

“I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable,” Bee said in a statement. “I crossed a line, and I deeply regret it.” 
In a subsequent statement, TBS wrote, “Samantha Bee has taken the right action in apologizing for the vile and inappropriate language she used about Ivanka Trump last night. Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake too, and we regret it.”

Bee's language was inappropriate and yeah, she's probably going to get canned before the week is out, but I have to say that when the White House press secretary starts demanding TV shows are canceled and networks oblige, how long before the Trump Regime demands that news outlets that dare to run stories critical of Dear Leader have their plugs pulled too?  That's actual censorship by the government, folks.  If this does happen, and it will, we cross a huge line that we don't come back from.

And no, this is wholly different from Roseanne's racist rant on Twitter yesterday that got her show yanked, but that doesn't matter.  The High Church Of Both Sides Do It must be appeased. I hope Netflix picks her up after Sam Bee loses her show, she's very talented, funny, and informative.  If she had said this last week however, she would have been fine.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

The Powers The Be have decided that voters don't care about the Mueller probe or Trump's Russian collusion mess, and it's all about pocketbook issues in November.

Candidates barely mention it. TV ads don’t highlight it. Polls show Americans aren’t voting on it.

The Russia probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is barely registering in the campaigns by Democrats seeking to wrest control of Congress from Republicans in November -- even as the year-long investigation has consumed Washington and poses a threat to Donald Trump’s presidency.

Over the last year, the probe into possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia has extracted five guilty pleas and 17 indictments, and has involved some of the president’s senior advisers, personal lawyer and family members. It’s become a focal point of partisan fighting in Congress and is a frequent topic of the president’s tweets.

Yet six months before elections for every House seat and a third of the Senate, Democrats have concluded the topic lands on deaf ears.

“I don’t think it’s a big issue for voters,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democrats’ election arm that’s working to take control of the chamber from the GOP. 
He said Thursday at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast that it’s “important for the country” that the investigation continue until it uncovers the truth of the president’s role in any collusion. But he said voters are more attentive to pocketbook issues such as reducing health-care costs, confronting China over its trade practices and ending tax breaks for hedge-fund managers. 
Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said at a May 16 gathering of progressives in Washington that voters are “not asking me about Russian bots; they’re asking me about soybean exports.” 
In recent primaries -- including those in Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Indiana -- Democrats and Republicans seldom mentioned Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. 
“It’s a non-issue here in Indiana. I don’t think voters care one bit about it,” said Kyle Hupfer, the chairman of the Indiana GOP. “I never heard it come up one time.” 
As November elections draw closer, the Russia issue could take on more prominence, especially if there are significant developments in the investigation. But there’s no sign of that happening yet as many candidates focus on primary races.

Core Democratic voters are unified in disdain for the president and in support of the special counsel’s investigation. But the probe hasn’t dented Trump’s high popularity among Republicans. Polls show four in five GOP-leaning voters nationally approve of his job performance.

While I gladly admit that Democrats should be running on health care, gas prices, and pocketbook issues (and how the GOP has failed America repeatedly on the economy) it's interesting to note that all voters cared about in 2016 was Clinton's emails, and Trump's massive wrongdoing "barely registers a blip" among voters now.

There's a problem with that, and it directly involves our lousy media living in perpetual fear of losing access to Trump when it seems every White House staffer with a grudge is leaking freely to everyone they can find these days because of the crumbling, chaotic mess that is the Trump regime, but I don't buy that voters don't care.

Republican voters don't care, sure.  But if Mueller moves this summer like I expect with more indictments and grand juries, I'm betting people will suddenly start paying attention again.

And you know who cares about Mueller and the Russia probe?

Donald Trump won't shut up about it and has wanted control of it since it began.

By the time Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for dinner one Saturday evening in March 2017, he had been receiving the presidential silent treatment for two days. Mr. Sessions had flown to Florida because Mr. Trump was refusing to take his calls about a pressing decision on his travel ban.

When they met, Mr. Trump was ready to talk — but not about the travel ban. His grievance was with Mr. Sessions: The president objected to his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump, who had told aides that he needed a loyalist overseeing the inquiry, berated Mr. Sessions and told him he should reverse his decision, an unusual and potentially inappropriate request.

Mr. Sessions refused.

The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general.

The special counsel’s interest demonstrates Mr. Sessions’s overlooked role as a key witness in the investigation into whether Mr. Trump tried to obstruct the inquiry itself. It also suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions.

Investigators have pressed current and former White House officials about Mr. Trump’s treatment of Mr. Sessions and whether they believe the president was trying to impede the Russia investigation by pressuring him. The attorney general was also interviewed at length by Mr. Mueller’s investigators in January. And of the four dozen or so questions Mr. Mueller wants to ask Mr. Trump, eight relate to Mr. Sessions. Among them: What efforts did you make to try to get him to reverse his recusal?

The president’s lead lawyer in the case, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said that if Mr. Trump agreed to answer the special counsel’s questions — an interview is the subject of continuing negotiations — he should not be forced to discuss his private deliberations with senior administration officials. Talking about the attorney general, Mr. Giuliani argued, would set a bad precedent for future presidents.

Stay tuned.

Foot-Brawl Game, Or, Flag On The Play

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has taken the NFL to court over his very strong case that he was blackballed over his national anthem protests after 2016, and after depositions by NFL owners in the case, it seems that not only does Kaep have a winnable case, he may help bring down Donald Trump as well.

The first snippets of testimony have emerged from the depositions taken in the Colin Kaepernick collusion grievance. And it’s becoming even more obvious that the NFL changed its anthem policy at the direct behest of the President
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, while testifying in the Kaepernick collusion grievance, shared the details of a phone call with the President.

This is a very winning, strong issue for me,” the President told Jones, according to Andrew Beaton of the Wall Street Journal. “Tell everybody, you can’t win this one. This one lifts me.” 
The President was right. There was no way to win. Even by giving in. 
Per Beaton, the NFL declined comment on the matter, citing the confidentiality that applies to the grievance proceedings. A White House official did not dispute the testimony.

And as Kaep's lawyer pointed out last week, the Oval Office interfering in directly in business personnel decisions is a legal no-no.

As noted on Thursday by, attorney Mark Geragos suggested in a Thursday tweet that efforts of the top two members of the executive branch to pressure the NFL to force players to stand for the anthem potentially run afoul of Title 18, Section 227 of the United States Code. A violation of 18 U.S.C. 227 arises if the President and/or the Vice President intended “to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity” and “influence[d], or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another.”

A clear example of a prohibited action under 18 U.S.C. 227 would arise if, for example, the President pressures a news outlet to fire a reporter who asks too many tough questions, under threat of revoking access. While more murky as it relates to the NFL, it seems fairly clear that the President and/or the Vice President have pressured (successfully) the NFL to remove the pre-existing right of its players to protest during the national anthem. 
It feels too simple to be applicable, but the language is as plain as it can be. And the punishment feels too harsh, with imprisonment of up to 15 years and potential disqualification from holding office. 
But the law contains a bright line that potentially may have been crossed. The NFL is a private employer. The President and/or the Vice President successfully pressured the NFL to change its anthem policy to remove the right of players of protest during the anthem, which amounts to an employment practice.

In other words, Jerry Jones testifying that Donald Trump asked him and the other NFL owners to change their national anthem policy for players specifically because it helped Trump politically is kind of a big, big deal.

I'm betting I'm not the only person who noticed, either.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Last Call For Greitens Gets Gone, Con't

And the other shoe on the Greitens resignation story lands with a thud.  Yesterday I asked the obvious question:

It certainly seems like Greitens stepped down in order to drop the sexual assault charges, which is not exactly justice but the best you could hope for from a red state impeaching a Republican governor. Still, I have to wonder what becomes of the second batch of charges, mainly the campaign finance violations where Greitens allegedly used his veterans' charity as a donor list.

Today we got our answer, as those charges were dropped as well in exchange for Greitens's resignation.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens offered to resign as part of an agreement to dismiss a felony computer-tampering charge against him, according to the St. Louis prosecutor's office. 
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner announced Wednesday that she would dismiss the charge. The deal did not require Greitens to admit guilt. 
Gardner and Greitens' legal team started talking about a deal over the holiday weekend. A source close to the agreement told The Star that Greitens' legal team reached out to Gardner's office by telephone on Saturday to seek dismissal, raising the possibility of the governor's resignation as a bargaining chip. 
"Now it’s time for all of us to come together," Gardner said Wednesday. "It’s time to heal the wounds of our city and state and focus on building a place where people feel they are heard. Where victims, regardless of their station in life, know that we will do what is right regardless of the powers against them." 
The agreement settles a felony charge brought by Gardner based on evidence uncovered by the office of Missouri's Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley, who essentially accused Greitens of electronic theft for his use of a donor list belonging to a veterans charity he founded. 
Greitens committed "potentially criminal acts" by using the list without the charity's permission to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign, Hawley alleged at a press conference in April. Gardner responded by filing the computer-tampering charge a few days later. 
On Wednesday, Gardner disputed Greitens' past statements that she had been engaged in a politically motivated witch hunt against him. 
"There has been no witch hunt," Gardner said. "No plans to bring pain to him or his family. Quite the contrary. The consequences Mr. Greitens has suffered, he brought upon himself. By his actions. By his statements. By his decisions. By his ambition. And his pursuit for power."

But Greitens actually isn't off the hook yet.

Although the agreement between Gardner and Greitens resolves the tampering charge, a separate investigation will continue into allegations of wrongdoing by Greitens during his affair with his hairdresser in 2015. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker is leading that probe. 
Gardner said Wednesday that she can’t comment on what Baker will do. "Ms. Baker has complete authority to do what she believes is the just thing to do based upon her evaluation of the case," Gardner said. 
Baker took over the investigation into Greitens' alleged misconduct after Gardner dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against the governor. That charge stemmed from allegations that Greitens had photographed the woman while she was bound and partially nude in his basement. 
The woman later would testify to a bipartisan investigative committee of the Missouri House that Greitens also held her in a bear hug when she tried to leave the basement and coerced her into oral sex as she sobbed uncontrollably.

So he resigns to clear the campaign law violation charges that were a sure thing, and he figures he can fight the sexual assault charges in court.  We'll see what this holds in the future, but the Greitens saga is far, far from over.

Stay tuned.

Immigration Nation, Con't

House Republicans are in real trouble in 2018.  They don't want to mention the unpopular Trump too much these days, and their tax scam legislation is a bust with voters, so they're falling back on their default mode: racism.

House Republican candidates are blanketing the airwaves with TV ads embracing a hard line on immigration — a dramatic shift from the last midterm elections in 2014 when immigration was not on the GOP's political radar, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Kantar Media. 
Republicans have aired more than 14,000 campaign ads touting a tough Trump-style immigration platform so far this year. The barrage underscores why House GOP leaders worry that passing a legislative fix for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, referred to as DREAMers, would put GOP candidates at risk heading into the fall election. 
“I’ll end sanctuary cities to stop illegals from taking our jobs … and use conservative grit to build the darn wall,” Troy Balderson, a GOP state senator running for Congress in Ohio, promises in one such ad
Democrats, meanwhile, are bombarding voters with ads that promise to protect Obamacare, shore up Social Security, and expand Medicare, the data from Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG) shows.

“We need Medicare for all, to make absolutely certain that what happened to my family never happens to yours” California Democrat Paul Kerr says in on TV spot that begins by recounting how his family was financially devastated by medical bills after his mother was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders championed that kind of single-payer universal health care system in the 2016 election.

The competing messages demonstrate just how far apart the two parties are. They’re not just talking about key issues differently; they’re touting completely different issues to motivate activists and win hotly contested primaries.

“It sometimes feels like the two parties are talking to two different countries,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. 
And in many ways, they are, especially in primaries, Kondick said. He notes that Republicans are appealing to a whiter, older, more rural electorate, while Democrats are courting a more diverse, younger, urban constituency.

They're not even hiding it anymore.  This nonsense about House Republicans forcing an immigration vote?  I don't believe it for a second, not while House Republican candidates are freely running ads about "illegals taking jobs" and "building the wall".  If anything, the GOP will push a hardline bill that will have enough votes to pass.

Republican leaders are facing long odds as they scramble to thwart an internal rebellion over immigration just months before November’s midterm elections. 
The leaders are attempting to broker a deal that satisfies competing factions of their restive conference and defuses a push by mutinous centrists threatening to force action to protect undocumented immigrants in a series of head-to-head floor votes that would highlight deep GOP divisions over an issue that has long been radioactive within the party. 
The dispute has centered largely on what legal protections should be extended to those living in the country illegally, and to whom they should apply — thorny enough questions on their own. But the leaders’ effort was further complicated on Thursday, when President Trump warned that he'd veto any bill to shore up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if it fails to fund his favored wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Unless it improves a wall — and I mean a wall, a real wall — and unless it improves very strong border security, there’ll be no approvals from me, because I have to either approve it or not,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

It's going to get a lot worse for anyone who's not white in this country.  Count on it.  And never forget the person leading this effort to demonize and criminalize immigrants is Trump himself.

President Trump tried out his own midterm playbook Tuesday at a campaign rally in Tennessee by ramping up his rhetoric on illegal immigration and gang-related crimes. 
The president's main goal with the Nashville event was to campaign for GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who finds herself in a close Senate contest with former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen that could be pivotal in deciding control of the Senate. 
"I've never heard of this guy — who is he?" Trump chided Bredesen. "He's an absolute tool of Chuck Schumer, and of course the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi." 
It was a new moniker for the House minority leader, and Trump doubled down on controversial comments he'd made earlier this month about the drug gang. 
"What was the name?" the president prodded the crowd, who yelled back "Animals!" 
"They're not human beings," Trump added, saying that they use "glaring loopholes in our immigration laws" in order "to infiltrate our country" and rape, murder and "cut people up into little pieces."

It really won't be long before some Trump supporters decide that it's open season on "animals" and take the law into their own hands, folks.

It's going to get scary and bloody until we stop it.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

The path to getting red states back to some semblance of parity (and sanity) is being walked by America's public school teachers.  Walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma this year have been followed up by teachers taking to the political arena in 2018.  It was always going to be a grassroots local effort to get Midwest and Southern voters back, and the revolution is being led by teachers, especially in Oklahoma.

In 2016, when Oklahoma voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a thirty-six-point margin, one candidate for the state legislature flipped his district from red to blue. That was Mickey Dollens, who had just been laid off from his job as an English teacher at U. S. Grant High School, in south Oklahoma City, in a round of state cuts to education. “I was lucky—I had just enough savings so I was in a unique position where I could campaign each day,” Dollens said, expressing an idea of luck that I find particularly Oklahoman. Dollens, who grew up in Bartlesville, is thirty years old and blond, and looks as if he could rescue your cat from a tree, perhaps by uprooting the tree. In college, at Southern Methodist University, he was a defensive lineman; he tried out for the N.F.L., and, when that didn’t work out, he made the Olympic bobsledding team. Later, Dollens worked as a roughneck in the oil fields. His father had worked in the oil fields, as had his grandfather and his great-grandfather.

In the summer of 2016, Dollens knocked on around twenty thousand doors. “In the beginning, people weren’t answering, even though I could tell they were home,” he told me. One day, Dollens noticed that some four out of five doors were being opened. At one house, the resident laughed and said that he had opened the door because he thought Dollens was the mailman. Dollens was wearing dark-blue shorts and a white polo shirt. “I started dressing like that every day,” he said.

Dollens campaigned on raising the state income tax by a quarter of a per cent, introducing industrialized hemp to help the rural economy, and funding education. “I ran on raising taxes,” Dollens emphasized. “That worked.” He told voters that, for most of them, the increase would amount to thirty dollars a year. “They voted for that.”

It was not an easy year to run as anything but a Republican. The 2016 Oklahoma teacher of the year, Shawn Sheehan, ran for the State Senate—and lost by twenty-four points. Then he and his wife, who is also a teacher, moved to Lewisville, Texas, where they now earn forty thousand dollars more a year. Karen Gaddis, who taught for forty years in the Tulsa area, ran as well, and lost by nineteen points. Jacob Rosecrants, a single dad, a military-history fanatic, and a beloved geography teacher at Roosevelt Middle School, in southwest Oklahoma City, lost by twenty points.

Speaking with Democrats, I rarely heard anyone mention Trump. They preferred circumlocutions like “After November 8th,” or “In early 2017, I began to follow local politics more closely.” It was a good time to follow local politics. “Normally in a year there might be one special election,” Anna Langthorn, the twenty-four-year-old chair of the state Democratic Party, told me. Since the Presidential election, Oklahoma has had nine special elections for state legislative seats. One legislator resigned after being charged with engaging in child prostitution, one with sexual harassment, one with sexual battery, and one following an ethics-commission investigation; four went to other jobs; and one died. “That’s Oklahoma politics,” Langthorn said, with a shrug. The first special election, covering parts of Seminole and Pottawatomie Counties, didn’t get much coverage; Steve Barnes, the Democratic candidate, predictably lost. But, in a district that in 2016 had gone for Trump by a margin of thirty-six points, Barnes lost by only sixty-six votes. His opponent made border control a central issue; Barnes focussed on education spending.

Jacob Rosecrants decided to run again, in a special election on September 12, 2017. I followed his race closely; he had been three years behind me at Norman High School, and his House district included my childhood home. His high-school English teacher canvassed with him. He won by twenty per cent—a forty-point swing. Rosecrants told me that he lost sixty pounds knocking on doors. “I saw a photo of myself at my swearing in,” he said. “I was laughing because those clothes did not fit me anymore.”

The Democrats ended up winning four of the nine special elections, all in areas that had voted heavily Republican in 2016. Karen Gaddis ran again, and won by five points. In a red district covering west Tulsa, Allison Ikley-Freeman, a twenty-six-year-old lesbian and a mother of three, began a State Senate campaign with only eight weeks to go, because there was no Democrat on the ballot. Four years earlier, she had been sleeping in her car, homeless, while trying to finish a master’s degree. She won by twenty-nine votes. Two of the four victors were teachers, and if you guess what issue they ran on you’ll be right.

This is how we get our country back, one local school board election, one state House race, one US House race, one governor's seat at a time.   The journey has already begun. Red state austerity under one-party Republican rule is hopefully coming to an end.

We'll see. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

While Russian influence in the 2016 elections definitely played a part in Trump's win, let's not forget that the most widespread and effective meddling two years ago were the GOP voter suppression efforts to keep black voters home.  Now Bloomberg News is reporting that the Trump campaign was involved directly in these efforts along with Steve Bannon and Breitbart.

Breitbart News landed an election scoop that went viral in August 2016: “Exclusive: ‘Black Men for Bernie’ Founder to End Democrat ‘Political Slavery’ of Minority Voters… by Campaigning for Trump.”

If the splashy, counterintuitive story, which circulated on such conservative websites as Truthfeed and Infowars, wasn't exactly fake news, it was carefully orchestrated.

The story’s writer—an employee of the conservative website run by Steve Bannon before he took over Donald Trump’s campaign—spent weeks courting activist Bruce Carter to join Trump’s cause. He approached Carter under the guise of interviewing him. The writer eventually dropped the pretense altogether, signing Carter up for a 10-week blitz aimed at convincing black voters in key states to support the Republican real estate mogul, or simply sit out the election. Trump’s narrow path to victory tightened further if Hillary Clinton could attract a Barack Obama-level turnout.

Bannon’s deployment of the psychological-operations firm Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 campaign drew fresh attention this month, when a former Cambridge employee told a U.S. Senate panel that Bannon tried to use the company to suppress the black vote in key states. Carter’s story shows for the first time how an employee at Bannon’s former news site worked as an off-the-books political operative in the service of a similar goal
Carter’s recollections and correspondence, which he shared after a falling-out with his fellow Trump supporters, provide a rare look inside the no-holds-barred nature of the Republican’s campaign and how it explored new ways to achieve an age-old political aim: getting the right voters to the polls—and keeping the wrong ones away. 
“If you can’t stomach Trump, just don’t vote for the other people and don’t vote at all,” Carter, 47, recalls telling black voters. It’s the message he says the Trump campaign wanted him to deliver. “That’s what they wanted, that’s what they got.” 
The work Carter says he did, and the funds he was given to do it, also raise questions as to whether campaign finance laws were broken. 
The group Carter founded, Trump for Urban Communities, never disclosed its spending to the Federal Election Commission—a possible violation of election law. In hindsight, Carter says, he believed he was working for the campaign so he wouldn’t have been responsible for reporting the spending. 
His descriptions of the operation suggest possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and his nominally independent efforts. If there was coordination, election law dictates that any contributions to groups such as his must fall within individual limits: no more than $2,700 for a candidate. One supporter far exceeded that cap, giving about $100,000 to Carter’s efforts.

Another potential issue is whether the unusual role played by the Breitbart reporter amounted to an in-kind contribution.

“There are some real problems here,” says Lawrence Noble, who served as general counsel at the FEC during Republican and Democratic administrations and is now senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan advocacy organization. “I would think this is more than enough evidence for the FEC to open an investigation.” 
The Trump campaign and the White House didn't respond to repeated requests for comment. Bannon dismissed allegations that he sought to suppress the black vote, blaming their lower turnout on Clinton. “When you ask them why they didn’t vote for her or why they didn’t turn up, it’s because they didn’t like her policies,” he told Bloomberg in an interview last week. Bannon didn't respond to separate requests to explain his involvement with Carter.

This worked well enough that it helped cost Clinton the Rust Belt states she needed to win.   The dirty tricks from "Black Men For Bernie" to sink Clinton made a lot of waves, especially when people like Joan Walsh called them out.  And surprise, all this time they were part of Steve Bannon's propaganda machine.

It's still going on in 2018.  Believe it.  And Trump of course has done nothing to protect our election system from this type of meddling.  He never will.

Don't fall for the same nonsense in 2018, folks.

BREAKING: Greitens Gets Gone

Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens is resigning effective Friday amid twin scandals and almost certain impeachment and removal by the Missouri state legislature.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced on Tuesday he is stepping down effective at 5 p.m. Friday in the face of an impeachment effort, an adverse judicial ruling and and multiple criminal investigations.

"The last few months have been incredibly difficult for me, for my team, for my friends, and many, many people whom I love," he said, saying he was the victim of "legal harassment."

"I have not broken any laws or committed any offense worthy of this treatment," he asserted. "I love Missouri and I love our people. That love remains."

After the announcement, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, a Democrat who had lead the prosecution of felony invasion of privacy charges against the governor, said her office had reached a "fair and just resolution" with Greitens' attorneys.

While Gardner dropped the invasion of privacy charges earlier this month, Greitens still faces felony data tampering for using a charity donor list to raise campaign contributions.

"I have been in contact with the Governor’s defense team over the past several days," she said in a statement. "We have reached a fair and just resolution of the pending charges. We will provide more information tomorrow. "

The announcement came hours after damaging testimony by a former campaign aide to a House committee investigating Greitens, and a separate ruling by a judge forcing the governor's campaign and a dark-money group affiliated with Greitens to reveal fundraising information.

Greitens' decision means that Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, also a Republican, will become governor.

It certainly seems like Greitens stepped down in order to drop the sexual assault charges, which is not exactly justice but the best you could hope for from a red state impeaching a Republican governor.  Still, I have to wonder what becomes of the second batch of charges, mainly the campaign finance violations where Greitens allegedly used his veterans' charity as a donor list.

I guess we'll find out, this all happened pretty quickly this afternoon.

More as it develops.

The Maria Massacre

I'll make it simple for you.  The Trump White House lied about Hurricane Maria's death toll, and underestimated it by about 99%.  A new Harvard study found nearly 4,700 Americans in Puerto Rico died from the storm and the failure to provide relief and medicare care in the aftermath.

And those deaths are on Donald Trump's hands.

At least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria and its devastation across Puerto Rico last year, according to a new Harvard study released Tuesday, an estimate that far exceeds the official government death toll, which stands at 64.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that health-care disruption for the elderly and the loss of basic utility services for the chronically ill had significant impacts across the U.S. territory, which was thrown into chaos after the September hurricane wiped out the electrical grid and had widespread impacts on infrastructure. Some communities were entirely cut off for weeks amid road closures and communications failures.

Researchers in the United States and Puerto Rico, led by scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, calculated the number of deaths by surveying nearly 3,300 randomly chosen households across the island and comparing the estimated post-hurricane death rate to the mortality rate for the year before. Their surveys indicated that the mortality rate was 14.3 deaths per 1,000 residents from Sept. 20 through Dec. 31, 2017, a 62 percent increase in the mortality rate compared to 2016, or 4,645 “excess deaths.”

“Our results indicate that the official death count of 64 is a substantial underestimate of the true burden of mortality after Hurricane Maria,” the authors wrote.

The official death estimates have drawn sharp criticism from experts and local residents, and the new study criticized Puerto Rico’s methods for counting the dead — and its lack of transparency in sharing information — as detrimental to planning for future natural disasters. The authors called for patients, communities and doctors to develop contingency plans for natural disasters.

Maria caused $90 billion in damage, making it the third-costliest tropical cyclone in the United States since 1900, the researchers said.

That death toll equals the deaths from 9/11 (2,800 plus) and Hurricane Katrina (1,800 plus) combined.

These are Americans who died.

And eight months later Puerto Rico is still a disaster zone.  Donald Trump lied about it and they are still lying about it.

He is a monster.

Do we understand now what we're up against in November?  What the combination of the Republican pillars of austerity, racism, and government neglect leads to?  Do we get it now?

Are we going to go vote these assholes out before they kill us all or what?

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Yet another House Republican crashes and burns due to scandal as the House GOP caucus continues to disintegrate amid the blue wave.

Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) announced Monday that he is struggling with alcoholism and will abandon his run for a second term in Congress so he can focus on recovery and his family.

Garrett, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, is the 48th Republican to retire or announce they will not seek reelection to the House this year, according to a list maintainedby the House Press Gallery.

Many are leaving in anticipation of a strong Democratic performance in congressional races this fall and out of frustration with partisan politics in Washington.

Garrett, 46, was facing a robust challenge from his Democratic opponent, journalist and author Leslie Cockburn, who had raised more money and had more cash on hand than he had. In recent days, unnamed former staffers had accused him and his wife of mistreating staff who worked in his congressional office.

But in a videotaped statement, Garrett, a former Virginia state senator, said his departure from politics was spurred by his addiction.

“Any person — Republican, Democrat or independent — who has known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I’m an alcoholic,” Garrett said, fighting back tears. “This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made by far. It’s also the truth.”

His announcement caps a week of turmoil in Garrett’s Washington office, marked by the resignation of his chief of staff, Jimmy Keady; an online news report that Garrett was thinking about dropping his reelection bid; and a news conference Thursday in which he insisted he was running.

On Friday, a Politico report quoted four unidentified former staffers who accused Garrett and his wife, Flanna, of ordering staff to walk their dog, carry groceries or perform other personal tasks for the couple — a practice prohibited by House ethics rules.

We're coming up on a full fifth of the House GOP retiring this year in the wake of Trump.   And I'm convinced the majority of those now open seats will be going to Democrats in November.

The only way we start getting accountability for Trump is to win control of the House and Senate back.  Both would be excellent, but if we don't win at least one chamber, Trump is going to skate and most likely win re-election.

Should Republicans keep both chambers, Mueller and Rosenstein will be gone before Thanksgiving.  If anything, we have to win to force some semblance of oversight.  That means getting Millennials to vote, and that means Millennials running for office.

When Colin Allred, a 35-year-old former NFL linebacker-turned-congressional candidate, addressed two dozen student volunteers at a rooftop restaurant last week, he promised them that he knows millennials are more than avocado toast-eating social media obsessives.

“People think millennials just tweet … and complain, but you all are living proof that that’s not true,” Allred said. “You are the best part of this party.”

Allred — the newly minted Democratic nominee for a competitive House seat here— is part of a swell of young Democratic House candidates hoping to inspire higher turnout among fellow millennials in the midterm elections, when youth voting rates typically decline. At least 20 millennial Democratic candidates are running in battleground districts, a leap over previous cycles that could remake the party’s generational divide.

“I don’t recall a cycle with anything close to this number of younger candidates in recent times,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic consultant who served as the deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Notably, younger candidates who actually have a good shot at winning – raising money, running professional campaigns.”

Currently, the average age of a member of 115th Congress — nearly 58 years old in the House and nearly 62 years old in the Senate — is among the oldest of any Congress in recent history, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The youngest member of Congress, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), will turn 34 in July.

Stefanik was first elected at age 30. No woman has ever been elected to Congress in her 20s, but two 20-something Democrats — Sara Jacobs in Southern California and Abby Finkenauer in eastern Iowa — are serious contenders running in competitive districts. Illinois' Lauren Underwood, 31, and Ohio's Aftab Pureval, 35, have already won primaries to take on sitting GOP incumbents this fall.

“In my almost-decade as a pollster, I’ve had almost no clients younger than me," said Zac McCrary, a 37-year-old Democratic consultant. "Now I’ve got several this cycle."

“Right now, the instinct is to look for the antithesis of [President] Donald Trump, and so Democratic primary voters are defaulting toward women, younger rather than older,” McCrary added. “And those young candidates are more difficult targets because they don’t have decades’ worth of opposition research racked up.”

2018 and 2020 marks the torch being passed where more Millennials will be eligible to vote than Boomers.  Nothing was ever going to improve until Millennials got involved enough to vote.  It happened in 2006 and 2008 but hasn't happened since.  I hope it's a wake-up call.

Aftab Pureval is running here in Cincy to oust Republican Steve Chabot, and he has a real chance to win.  If America is going to break out of the Trump Era, it's going to start with Millennials going to the polls and winning primaries.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Last Call For We're All Working Poor Now

Now that corporate America has gotten their trillions in tax savings, they don't have to pretend any longer that the American workers matter in the least anymore.

Very few Americans have enjoyed steadily rising pay beyond inflation over the last couple of decades, a shift from prior years in which the working and middle classes enjoyed broad-based wage gains as the economy expanded.

Why it matters: Now, executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further.

Quick take: This was rare, candid and bracing talk from executives atop corporate America, made at a conference Thursday at the Dallas Fed. The message is that Americans should stop waiting for across-the-board pay hikes coinciding with higher corporate profit; to cash in, workers will need to shift to higher-skilled jobs that command more income.

Troy Taylor, CEO of the Coke franchise for Florida, said he is currently adding employees with the idea of later reducing the staff over time "as we invest in automation." Those being hired: technically-skilled people. "It's highly technical just being a driver," he said.

The moderator asked the panel whether there would be broad-based wage gains again. "It's just not going to happen," Taylor said. The gains would go mostly to technically-skilled employees, he said. As for a general raise? "Absolutely not in my business," he said.

Stagnating wages, steep cuts in employees as unskilled workers are replaced with AI, and a massive reduction in standard of living for most Americans from even a few years ago: that's what we're facing in the next ten to twenty years.  Steve M breaks it down:

I hope politics can mitigate this, but I fear it may be too late for a political solution -- the rich have too much money and too much power, and democracy is unresponsive to the rest of us. The non-rich are urged to fight among ourselves -- white vs. non-white, native-born vs. immigrant, union vs. non-union, Fox viewer vs. "cultural elitist" -- when we should recognize a common enemy and act accordingly. At this point I can't see a significant reordering of the way things are without violent social unrest, and I see no sign that that will happen anytime soon. For now, massive inequality is here to stay.

Long term, Steve is right. The GOP tax scam package will see to that.

Short term, as long as Trump can convince his base that "those people" still have things that Trump can take from them, that will remain the case.  Should however people get tired of the con, either through Trump's political power being broken by Mueller or by a economic recession on Trump's watch (both being very probable) then all bets are off.

Trump Cards, Con't

Just a friendly reminder that while Donald Trump, his two sons Donald Jr. and Eric, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner are all crooked and headed for a reckoning with the Mueller probe, Trump's daughter Ivanka is just as corrupt and dirty as dear old dad.

China this month awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses, including books, housewares and cushions.

At around the same time, President Trump vowed to find a way to prevent a major Chinese telecommunications company from going bust
, even though the company has a history of violating American limits on doing business with countries like Iran and North Korea.

Coincidence? Well, probably.

Still, the remarkable timing is raising familiar questions about the Trump family’s businesses and its patriarch’s status as commander in chief. Even as Mr. Trump contends with Beijing on issues like security and trade, his family and the company that bears his name are trying to make money off their brand in China’s flush and potentially promising market.

The most recent slew of trademarks appear to have been granted along the same timeline as Ms. Trump’s previous requests, experts said. But more broadly, they said, Ms. Trump’s growing portfolio of trademarks in China and the family’s business interests there raises questions about whether Chinese officials are giving the Trump family extra consideration that they otherwise might not get.

These critics say the foreign governments that do business with Ms. Trump know they are dealing with the president’s daughter — a person who also works in the White House.

“Some countries will no doubt see this as a way to curry favor with President Trump,” wrote Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, and Norman Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, two nonprofit watchdog groups. Mr. Eisen’s group reported on the trademarks on Saturday.

Trump's side deals, personally being enriched by foreign countries who wish to do business with the US, has been the play since the 2016 election, and the Trump family's business practices have been dirty for decades prior.  It's no wonder then that Ivanka follows in her father's footsteps, gaining new frontiers for the Trump Organization (that of course none of them are supposed to be involved in) while also running the executive branch of the US.

Graft and grift at its finest, while Americans continue to struggle paycheck to paycheck.

Economic Anxiety Watch 2018, Con't

The racism and intolerance at the core of Trump popularity has always been a case of his implicit and explicit promises to hurt black, Latinx and Asian folks in America and to make (white) America great again at our expense, and it should come as no surprise that much of white America is jumping at the chance to take advantage.

Since the founding of the United States, politicians and pundits have warned that partisanship is a danger to democracy. George Washington, in his Farewell Address, worried that political parties, or factions, could "allow cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men" to rise to power and subvert democracy. More recently, many political observers are concerned that increasing political polarization on left and right makes compromise impossible, and leads to the destruction of democratic norms and institutions.

A new study, however, suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M have released a working paper titled "White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy." Their study finds a correlation between white American's intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.

Miller and Davis used information from the World Values Survey, a research project organized by a worldwide network of social scientists which polls individuals in numerous countries on a wide range of beliefs and values. Based on surveys from the United States, the authors found that white people who did not want to have immigrants or people of different races living next door to them were more likely to be supportive of authoritarianism. For instance, people who said they did not want to live next door to immigrants or to people of another race were more supportive of the idea of military rule, or of a strongman-type leader who could ignore legislatures and election results.

The World Values Survey data used is from the period 1995 to 2011 — well before Donald Trump's 2016 run for president. It suggests, though, that Trump's bigotry and his authoritarianism are not separate problems, but are intertwined
. When Trump calls Mexicans "rapists," and when he praises authoritarian leaders, he is appealing to the same voters.

Miller and Davis' paper quotes alt right, neo-fascist leader Richard Spencer, who in a 2013 speech declared: "We need an ethno-state so that our people can ‘come home again’… We must give up the false dreams of equality and democracy." Ethnic cleansing is impossible as long as marginalized people have enough votes to stop it. But this roadblock disappears if you get rid of democracy. Spencer understands that white rule in the current era essentially requires totalitarianism. That's the logic of fascism.

Why anyone would be surprised that a country that was founded on slavery and created internment camps for Japanese-Americans is rapidly gravitating towards fascism under authoritarian rule is beyond me, but this path for America isn't new by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it's very much part of our country's history and obvious to anyone who has been paying attention.

Trump's rise is often presented as a major break with the past, and as a repudiation of American values and democratic commitments. But in an email, Miller pointed out that white intolerance has long served as an excuse for, and a spark for, authoritarian measures.

"People are fond of the Framers’ grand vision of liberty and equality for all," Miller says, "but the beauty of the Federalist papers can’t paper over the real measures of exclusion that were baked into their understanding of a limited franchise."

Black people, Asians, Native Americans and women were prevented from voting for significant stretches of American history. America's tradition of democracy (for some) exists alongside a tradition of authoritarianism (for some). The survey data doesn't show people rejecting American traditions, then, Miller says, so much as it shows "a preference for the sort of white-ethnocentrism that imbued much of the functional form of democracy for the better part of two centuries."

New era, new technology, same old story.  And at the end of this road is always the mass destruction of black and brown lives.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Last Call For The Ministry Of Truth

It's a race to see what happens first, whether a news organization will use the word "lie" to describe Donald Trump's actions, or whether Trump starts putting reporters in jail.

President Trump falsely accused The New York Times on Saturday of making up a source in an article about North Korea, even though the source was in fact a senior White House official speaking to a large group of reporters in the White House briefing room.

The president was referring to an article about the on-again, off-again summit meeting between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, which Mr. Trump had canceled Thursday.

The article, headlined, “Trump Says North Korea Summit May Be Rescheduled,” said that the United States was “back in touch with North Korea” and that the meeting might yet happen.

Mr. Trump posted on Twitter to denounce part of the article, which reported in the 10th paragraph that “a senior White House official told reporters that even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.”

In a tweet, the president took issue with that sentence, saying, “WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.”

Except all the journalists were on the same WH press conference call.  They all heard the same thing. Trump says it never happened. And our Village betters, terrified of losing access, continue to make excuses.

It is not clear whether the president was simply unaware of the actions of his own senior staff or if he knowingly ignored the truth. The source of that sentence was a White House official who held a briefing on Thursday afternoon in the White House briefing room that was attended by about 50 reporters, with about 200 or so more on a conference call.

Reporters often request such briefings to be on the record, which would allow the official to be named. But, in this case, the rules of the briefing imposed by the White House required that the official be referred to only as a “senior White House official.” The Times is continuing to abide by that agreement.

In the course of the briefing, the official was asked about the possibility that the summit meeting could be held on June 12, despite the president’s decision to cancel it a day earlier. The discussion was prompted by earlier statements from the president suggesting that the meeting might still happen.

The official noted that “there’s really not a lot of time — we’ve lost quite a bit of time that we would need” to prepare for the summit meeting.

“June 12 is in 10 minutes,” the official said.

The Village follows the rules, and they get attacked as enemies of the state anyway.  I guess it's going to take a reporter getting put either in prison, the hospital or the morgue before the WH press corps wakes up to their own complicity.

At least one of those is going to happen soon.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Another puzzle piece in the Trump/Russia collusion story falls into place as the FBI has evidence that Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., met with Russian crooks during the 2016 NRA National Convention in Louisville.

The FBI has obtained secret wiretaps collected by Spanish police of conversations involving Alexander Torshin, a deputy governor of Russia’s Central Bank who has forged close ties with U.S. lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, that led to a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the gun lobby’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in May 2016, a top Spanish prosecutor said Friday.

José Grinda, who has spearheaded investigations into Spanish organized crime, said that bureau officials in recent months requested and were provided transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Torshin and Alexander Romanov, a convicted Russian money launderer. On the wiretaps, Romanov refers to Torshin as “El Padrino,” the godfather.

“Just a few months ago, the wiretaps of these telephone conversations were given to the FBI,” Grinda said in response to a question from Yahoo News during a talk he gave at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. Asked if he was concerned about Torshin’s meetings with Donald Trump Jr. and other American political figures, Grinda replied: “Mr. Trump’s son should be concerned.

The comments by Grinda were the first clear sign that the FBI may be investigating Torshin, possibly as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Torshin — a close political ally of Vladimir Putin — had multiple contacts with conservative activists in the United States during the election, seeking to set up a summit between the Russian president and then candidate Trump. Although the summit never transpired, Torshin did meet briefly with the president’s son at a private dinner in Louisville during the May 2016 annual convention of the NRA. A member of the NRA since 2012, Torshin has been a regular attendee of the group’s conventions in recent years and hosted senior members of the group in Moscow.

Grinda said that the FBI, in its request for the evidence to the Guardia Civil, the Spanish National Police, provided no explanation as to why it was interested in the material and he didn’t ask for one. “I don’t have to ask them why they want this information,” he said. But Grinda added that if Mueller or any other U.S. prosecutor seeks to use the material as part of a court case, they would have to make a second, more formal request to do so to the Spanish government.

Spokesmen for the FBI and Mueller’s office did not respond to requests for comment. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., said he was in a meeting and was unable to comment when contacted by Yahoo News.

It's looking more and more like the NRA's contributions to Trump were part of a Russian money laundering scheme to put cash from Putin's circle of oligarchs directly into the Trumps' pockets.  The regime has been for sale to foreign powers since the campaign started, and Trump was taking dirty money for decades before.

These guys are so dirty that everything's pitch black, and they're hiding as long as they can.

The tell that this is getting serious, Mueller is getting close, and that Trump will move sooner rather than later to end the Russian investigation?

It's exactly what Putin wants.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that investigations swirling around President Trump are interfering with improved relations with Moscow, noting he has had little contact with the U.S. president.

“We are hostages to this internal strife in the United States,” Putin said at an economic forum in St. Petersburg. “I hope that it will end some day and the objective need for the development of Russian-American relationships will prevail.”

The sunlight is coming, but there's so much darkness out there that we still have to endure.

Sunday Long Read: One Hell Of A Racket

You might not think Minnesota would be the capital of high school badminton, but St. Paul Johnson High is home of the Governors, one of the most dominant sports dynasties in America today, and it's all about the Twin Cities' Hmong community and a 40-year reign of shuttlecock superiority.

Kevin Anderson, reporter, blogger, historian, and director of the Minnesota state badminton tournament, knows a lot about high school badminton in the state. Records about its start as a high school sport are scant, but apparently Minneapolis city schools first held a tournament in 1975, while St. Paul high schools held their own city tournament starting in 1978. According to those bare-bones records, Johnson High School has won 24 St. Paul city championships since 1978. (Neighboring Harding High has the second-most wins at 11.) The late-1970s timing indicates badminton was likely introduced to comply with Title IX; it’s a sport that can be played indoors in the spring when there’s less demand for gym space, and one that requires little investment in facilities or equipment.

“Since I’ve been around, badminton in St. Paul has been dominated by Hmong players. The St. Paul city conference generally has the best players and the best teams in the state,” Anderson said. “It’s serious business in St. Paul. Middle schoolers have hours of training before they even get to high school, and they probably play more in the off season. Their parents have either played or know of it, so it’s a more familiar sport than, say, basketball or track and field. For a lot of the girls on the C squad, badminton is the only sport they participate in.”

Hmong, an ethnic group that lived in the mountains of Laos and assisted the U.S. in fighting its “secret war” in the country during the 1960s and 70s, started arriving in Minnesota in 1975, the same year that badminton was introduced to high schools. Badminton enjoys great popularity in Asia, and Hmong refugees brought that enthusiasm with them. There are now more than 66,000 Hmong in Minnesota, the largest community in the U.S., concentrated in the Twin Cities metro area.

Many Hmong lived as farmers in Laos; some were illiterate in their native language. In 1990, only 19 percent of Hmong women in the U.S. had a high school diploma, and 44 percent of Hmong men. At that time, an estimated 65 percent of Hmong lived in poverty. Hmong women traditionally married young and had large families, limiting their educational and economic outlook. But as of 2010, more Hmong women than men earned bachelor’s degrees, and poverty in the Hmong community dropped to 31 percent (still staggering in real numbers). In 1991, Choua Lee was elected to the St. Paul School Board, the first Hmong elected to any public office in the United States.

Like their east St. Paul neighborhood, Johnson High School’s demographics do not speak to a gilded pathway: Thirty-one percent of students are English learners, and 82 percent are on free or reduced lunch. Fifty-four percent of students are Asian American, 24 percent African American, 10 percent Hispanic, 10 percent white. But 60 percent of this year’s 1,302 students took part in early college programs.

The top badminton players are also strong students—the varsity team includes three of Johnson’s top 10 academically. They’re involved in other sports and clubs, often holding down a part-time job on top of everything else. Unlike some other high-school sports stars, though, private coaches and expensive training camps are not part of these girls’ lives.

This is a pretty good story, and I remember hearing about badminton in the Twin Cities when I lived up there 15 years ago, but I had no idea it was at this level, and it's good to see.

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.

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