Sunday, June 30, 2019

Last Call For the Death Of The Village

I can't help but notice while the American media continues to cede more and more ground to Trump on facts, on coverage, and on propriety, local newspapers are dying at such a rate that ten years from now they won't be around.  The latest victims: the Youngstown (OH) Vindicator and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, as Philly Inquirer columnist Will Bunch observes.

On Friday night, the Vindicator stunned the journalism world when the family that owns Northeast Ohio’s largest newspaper (having resisted the chain ownership that’s gobbled up many similar news orgs) announced it will stop printing in late August, killing off 144 full-time jobs and also delivering a blow to 250 part-time news carriers. It’s another hit for a region that’s suffered 40 years of industrial job losses and is still reeling from GM’s shutdown of its giant Lordstown assembly line, but there’s a much deeper significance to this news.

Ever since the rise of the internet sped up declines in print newspaper circulation and blew up that business model in the 2000s, media pundits have speculated when and where a significant American city will no longer have a daily newspaper, and now we know the answer: Youngstown, Ohio, in 2019. It’s hard to imagine a worse place or a worse time.

Even sadder, the grim announcement from Youngstown was the exclamation point on a Black Friday for journalism in the United States. On the same afternoon, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, one of the most iconic nameplates in American journalism history, was absorbed into the rival Advocate, a move that will also shrink the number of journalists covering a city coping with poverty, murder and climate change. But scores of other news orgs -- including the one you now hold in your hands -- are also coping this year with job losses, and this is in the so-called good economy.

But journalism’s problems transcend mere dollars. Friday was also a painful day for American journalists because it marked the one-year anniversary of the newsroom shooting by an angry local resident that claimed five lives at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. — highlighting the rising threats to a free press in this country. Halfway around the world, President Trump chose this day to joke with Russia’s Vladimir Putin — who’s had more reporters killed than the monster of Annapolis — about “getting rid of” journalists who produce what these two autocrats both call “fake news.”

All of this is a reminder that the closing of Youngstown’s only daily paper is a blow not just to a struggling city that needs information, but to American democracy.

As more and more news sources are lost and replaced by deliberate disinformation, corporate PR and Trump state news, we run the risk of a populace that falls below a critical threshold of being able to maintain anything resembling a democratic state.

Of course, that's the point.

Korean Off The Track

After his G20 Summit checkin with his boss Vladimir, Trump decided to etch his name into the history books with a stunt to visit the DMZ and to become the first US leader to set foot in North Korea, a massive coup for Pyongyang and an embarrassing nadir for America.

With wide grins and a historic handshake, President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un met at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone on Sunday and agreed to revive talks on the pariah nation’s nuclear program. Trump, pressing his bid for a legacy-defining deal, became the first sitting American leader to step into North Korea.

What was intended to be an impromptu exchange of pleasantries turned into a 50-minute meeting, another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the two technically warring nations. It marked a return to face-to-face contact between the leaders after talks broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February. Significant doubts remain, though, about the future of the negotiations and the North’s willingness to give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons .

The border encounter was a made-for television moment. The men strode toward one another from opposite sides of the Joint Security Area and shook hands over the raised patch of concrete at the Military Demarcation Line as cameras clicked and photographers jostled to capture the scene.

After asking if Kim wanted him to cross, Trump took 10 steps into the North with Kim at his side, then escorted Kim back to the South for talks at Freedom House, where they agreed to revive the stalled negotiations.

The spectacle marked the latest milestone in two years of roller-coaster diplomacy between the two nations. Personal taunts of “Little Rocket Man” (by Trump) and “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” (by Kim) and threats to destroy one other have given way to on-again, off-again talks, professions of love and flowery letters.

“I was proud to step over the line,” Trump told Kim as they met in on the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjom. “It is a great day for the world.”

Naturally, Minister of Propaganda Tucker Carlson was there to record the event for Trumpsterity.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson was spotted with Donald Trump at the Demilitarized Zone on Sunday during the president’s historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. The American contingent for the trip also included Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both senior White House advisers. Carlson was present when Trump walked into the pariah nation, and became the first sitting president to set foot into North Korea. The controversial host is reportedly a guest of the White House press pool on the trip, and will interview the president at some point on Sunday for a segment that is scheduled to air Monday night.

FOX News is state television, let's get this out of the way first.  Imagine how fast the impeachment would come if a Democratic president dragged Rachel Maddow around as a "special guest" of the WH press pool and repeatedly gave her interview access.

We accept whatever Trump does as the new normal and shrug.

Sunday Long Read: Labor Pains

Adjunct professors in Florida are paid a pittance, because here in America we believe that actually paying academics to teach only encourages the horrible sin of more academics.  But these ivory tower types got together and applied some history to form a brand new union in today's Sunday Long Read from Splinter's Hamilton Nolan.

“Two half-time adjunct jobs do not make a full-time income. Far from it,” Ximena Barrientos says. “I’m lucky that I have my own apartment. I have no idea how people make it work if they have to pay rent.”

We are not sitting on a street corner, or in a welfare office, or in the break room of a fast food restaurant. We are sitting inside a brightly lit science classroom on the third floor of an MC Escher-esque concrete building, with an open breezeway letting in the muggy South Florida air, on the campus of Miami Dade College, one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the United States of America. Barrientos has been teaching here for 15 years. But this is not “her” classroom. She has a PhD, but she does not have a designated classroom. Nor does she have an office. Nor does she have a set schedule, nor tenure, nor healthcare benefits, nor anything that could be described as a decent living wage. She is a full-time adjunct professor: one of thousands of members of the extremely well-educated academic underclass, whose largely unknown sufferings have played just as big a role as student debt in enabling the entire swollen College Industrial Complex to exist.

As Barrientos chatted with another adjunct in the empty classroom, the conversation turned to horror stories: the adjuncts forced to sleep in their cars; the adjunct who was sleeping in classrooms at night; the adjunct who had a full mental breakdown from the stress of not being able to earn a living after all of the time he had put in getting his PhD. Such stories are common, from campus to campus, whispered by adjuncts who know deep down that they themselves are living constantly on the edge of personal, professional, and financial disaster. Other than academic credentials, most adjunct professors don’t have much. But recently, Ximena Barrientos, and her 2,800 colleagues at Miami Dade College, and thousands of others just like them throughout the state of Florida, have acquired, at shocking speed and on a grand scale, something of great value—a union. And they want nothing less than dignity.
When thinking about the struggles of thousands and thousands of people who are both employed as college professors and hardly able to pay their own bills, it is useful to keep in mind the fact that, as a rule, none of these people are supposed to exist. The accepted story of what an “adjunct professor” is—the myth that has drawn so many hopefuls into the world of professional academia—is that adjuncting is not a full-time job at all. It is something that retirees do to keep themselves busy; something that working professionals do on the side to educate people in their field; something that, perhaps, a young PhD might do for a year or two while looking for a full-time professorship, but certainly nothing that would constitute an actual career in itself.

In fact, this is a big lie. The long term trend in higher education has been one of a shrinking number of full-time positions and an ever-growing number of adjunct positions. It is not hard to see why. University budgets are balanced on the backs of adjunct professors. In an adjunct, a school gets the same class taught for about half the salary of a full-time professor, and none of the benefits. The school also retains a god-like control over the schedules of adjuncts, who are literally laid off after every single semester, and then rehired as necessary for the following semester. In the decade since the financial crisis, state governments have slashed higher education funding, and Floridais no exception. That has had two primary consequences on campus: students have taken on ever-higher levels of debt to pay for school, and the college teaching profession has been gutted, as expensive full-time positions are steadily eliminated in favor of cheaper adjunct positions. Many longtime adjuncts talk of jealously waiting for years for a full-time professor to die or retire, only to see the full-time position eliminated when they finally do.

Students at Florida’s enormous community colleges (Miami Dade College alone has more than 165,000 students) may not be conscious of this dynamic, but they sit at its center, and they pay the price—not only in their student loan bills, but by sitting in classes taught by teachers who are overworked, underpaid, given virtually no professional resources or continuity of scheduling, and who are often forced to rush from job to job in order to make ends meet, leaving little time for helping students outside of classroom hours, much less for publishing work in their fields to advance their careers. Now, Florida’s higher education system sits at the center of another trend as well: the unionization of those well educated but miserably compensated adjunct professors.

It has long been common for full time college faculty members to be unionized. Over the past decade, adjuncts (and grad student workers) across America have begun unionizing in earnest as well, as they come to realize that their stories of woe are not unique. In just the past few years, one union has organized close to 10,000 Florida adjuncts, in what is one of the most remarkable and little-noticed large scale labor campaigns in the country.

College professors aren't making six figures to sit around and eat lotuses.  They're paid less than McDonald's managers.  And now they're fighting back.

Village Idocy, Or The Hit Dog Hollers

NY Times columnist Bret Stephens goes full white nationalist in his latest piece, screaming Trumpian dog whistles at rock concert loudness after last week's debates in Miami.

In this week’s Democratic debates, it wasn’t just individual candidates who presented themselves to the public. It was also the party itself. What conclusions should ordinary people draw about what Democrats stand for, other than a thunderous repudiation of Donald Trump, and how they see America, other than as a land of unscrupulous profiteers and hapless victims?

Here’s what: a party that makes too many Americans feel like strangers in their own country. A party that puts more of its faith, and invests most of its efforts, in them instead of us.

They speak Spanish. We don’t. They are not U.S. citizens or legal residents. We are. They broke the rules to get into this country. We didn’t. They pay few or no taxes. We already pay most of those taxes. They willingly got themselves into debt. We’re asked to write it off. They don’t pay the premiums for private health insurance. We’re supposed to give up ours in exchange for some V.A.-type nightmare. They didn’t start enterprises that create employment and drive innovation. We’re expected to join the candidates in demonizing the job-creators, breaking up their businesses and taxing them to the hilt.

This is full-on Trump rally racism that could have been written by Stephen Miller or Steve Bannon or Sean Hannity.  What prompted this tirade?

Sen. Kamala Harris daring to stand up to former VP Joe Biden.

Throughout the debates, I kept wondering if any of the leading candidates would speak to Americans beyond the Democratic base. But Joe Biden seemed too feeble, oratorically and intellectually, to buck the self-defeating trend. Pete Buttigieg was, as always, fluent, knowledgeable and sincere. But his big moment — a mea culpa for a racially charged policing incident in South Bend — felt like another well-mannered white guy desperate to put his wokeness on display.

Harris, meanwhile, came across as Barack Obama in reverse, especially with her scurrilous attack on Biden for the sin of having had a functional political relationship with two former segregationist senators in the 1970s. This was portrayed as a clever debate move but it will come to haunt her.

Obama’s political genius was to emphasize what Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, authors of ‘The Coddling of the American Mind,” have called “common-humanity identity politics”— he made you feel comfortable no matter the color of your skin. Harris’s approach, by contrast, is “common-enemy identity politics.” Making white Americans feel racially on trial for views they may have held in the past on crime, busing and similar subjects is not going to help the Democrats.

None of this means that Democrats can’t win in 2020. The economy could take a bad turn. Or Trump could outdo himself in loathsomeness. But the Democratic Party we saw this week did even less to appeal beyond its base than the president. And at least his message is that he’s on their — make that our — side.

Democrats!  Don't you dare make white voters uncomfortable or they'll vote for Trump so that you suffer!

Of course, that's true.  Stephens's message is clear and he is correct.  White voters will vote for Trump just to hurt those people.

2014 and 2016 showed us that.  Black Lives Matter showed us that.  Barack Obama saying "If I had a son he'd look like Trayvon Martin" infuriated millions of white voters.

We have to turn out more than they do in 2020.  Period.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Trump Gets Walled Off

A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction against the Trump regime, blocking use of military funds for Trump's border wall vanity project.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam issued the permanent injunction in a California federal court after initially ruling last month to temporarily halt the administration’s use of military funds for the border wall.

President Trump declared a national emergency earlier this year in order to divert roughly $6 billion in Defense Department funds toward border wall construction. Friday's ruling blocks the administration from using $2.5 billion in military funds for a border wall.

The injunction halts border wall construction at different sites in New Mexico, California, Arizona and Texas, expanding Gilliam's previous ruling.

Gilliam, an Obama appointee, made the ruling on the military funds in a lawsuit brought forward by several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Sierra Club, challenging the diversion of the military funds under the scope of the national emergency order.

The Trump administration had argued that the use of the military funds was lawful under the scope of the national emergency, as the need for the funding was "unforeseen." And the lawyers claimed that if they are unable to award the federal dollars to contractors by the end of the fiscal year, they may lose the funding.

In his ruling Friday, Gilliam wrote that the administration lawyers "present no new evidence or argument for why the court should depart from its prior decision, and it will not."

"Because no new factual or legal arguments persuade the court that its analysis in the preliminary injunction order was wrong, [the groups’] likelihood of success on the merits has ripened into actual success," the ruling reads.

The judge also found that the groups suing to block use of military funds for the wall would suffer "irreparable harm" over border wall construction because it "will harm their ability to recreate in and otherwise enjoy public land along the border."

This was always going to head to the Supreme Court, but at least in the meanwhile Trump won't be able to build a couple of miles of "wall" and then claim that he's already done it and that he has to be allowed to finish.

Well, I take that back, HE'LL DO THAT ANYWAY.

The RIse Of Birtherism 2.0

You can tell Kamala Harris did well in the debate earlier this week because of the vile and near-instant counter-attack on her race by trolls, bots, and of course, Trump's dipstick racist son.

Kamala Harris broke out from the other nine Democrats onstage during the second Democratic presidential primary debate on Thursday, calling on her personal experiences of racial injustice as a black woman.

“As the only black person on this stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race,” Harris said.

That’s when she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours.

Harris, 54, was born in Oakland, California to a father from Jamaica and a mother from India. She spoke of her experience growing up black in the debate, recalling a story about neighbors who wouldn’t let their children play with Harris and her sister because of the color of their skin.

The attacks on Harris’s background started Thursday when Ali Alexander tweeted she is not an “American black.”

“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” Alexander wrote. “I'm so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It's disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.”

Alexander’s claim was picked up by Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted it to his nearly 3.6 million followers.

“Is this true?” Trump Jr. wrote. “Wow.”

Trump Jr., who later deleted his tweet, wasn’t the only one using Alexander’s tweet to question Harris’s ethnicity.

Harris’s team denounced the comment as racist. “This is the same type of racist attacks his father used to attack Barack Obama. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now,” a Harris spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

More Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander’s message verbatim and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by writer Caroline Orr. Some of those accounts, like “@prebs_73,” have copy-pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-wing references in their usernames and biographies piled on, accusing Harris of not being black.

“Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are NOT BLACK. you are Indian and Jamaican,” wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word “CONSERVATIVE,” a red “X” emoji (a right-wing Twitter trope), and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username.

Some of these racist attacks incorrectly claim that Harris was born in Canada (and therefore not eligible for the presidency) on top of the attacks on her race and of course, the laeft-wing Sanders attacks of "Kamala is a cop" that the right has picked up.

It's the same thing as 2008, with the same goal as 2016: to depress black turnout and drive black voters away from caring enough to vote.

And yes, Trump's family is immediately jumping in on this.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Last Call For The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Rhode Island Congressman Ted Kennedy III is the latest blue-state, safe-district Democrat to openly support an impeachment inquiry, as the push to change America's mind continues.

Congressman Joe Kennedy III announced Friday he now supports opening an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, becoming one of the most high-profile House Democrats yet to break with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the charged question.

Kennedy, D-Mass., revealed his change of heart during a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. He said he saw no other choice based on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, arguing the report clearly shows Trump committed obstruction of justice.

“Times have changed and I think Congress has to begin those impeachment proceedings,” Kennedy said during the interview.

“I know it’s divisive, I know there are strong feelings about this, but I believe that when you have a president that’s willfully broken the law repeatedly to try to evade justice for various illegal acts, Congress has to hold him accountable,” he said.

A White House spokesperson offered no response on the record to Kennedy’s comments.

Pelosi has spent months warning House Democrats that impeachment proceedings are a treacherous political path that could strengthen Trump in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. But she has faced increasing resistance from the party’s left flank. Congressman David Cicilline, D-R.I., has already come out in support of an impeachment inquiry.
Kennedy said Pelosi is right about the politics, but added, “I’m not sure it matters. … It’s time to step up and execute the oath we swore to take — to protect the Constitution and protect the country.” He also said he hadn’t told Pelosi about his position yet. 

The trick here is of course that there are no Democrats going from the position to open an impeachment query back to "well, no, Trump has to get away from this."  Eventually it will reach critical mass.

I hope, anyway.  All of Joe's arguments are correct.

Why #MeToo Doesn't Work On Trump

You can't splatter a pig with mud and expect the pig to be upset about it, after all.  Accusations of sexual assault against Donald Trump by over a dozen women simply doesn't matter.

“What was she, like, the 28th or something?” one former White House official pondered to me. In a separate conversation, another offered a different guess: “Twenty-two? Twenty-three?”

They were talking about E. Jean Carroll, the longtime Elle advice columnist who, for the first time last week, publicly accused Donald Trump of assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room more than 20 years ago. And what they were trying to do was locate the latest number of women who have accused the president of sexual misconduct. (The answer: at least 22.)

For these former officials, the apparently incalculable magnitude of this number did not cause them to reconsider Trump’s every denial of the varied allegations—to wonder, for example, about the likelihood that 22 or 23 or 28 women were all lying in their stories of harassment, groping, unwanted kissing, and, in Carroll’s case, sexual assault.

Rather, for them, the increase in the number of women seemed to mirror the increase in their indifference. Another accusation, they seemed to say, was like another dollop of numbing cream. “I didn’t read it,” the second former official told me, referring to Carroll’s written account in New York, which was an excerpt from her forthcoming book. “We’re just kind of numb to it all at this point.”

One current White House official said that “the only thing” that “caught my eye” was Trump’s dismissal of Carroll’s claim. Speaking to reporters from The Hill on Monday, the president addressed her allegation from behind the Resolute desk: “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, okay?”

“Like, what are you gonna do?” the official said. “This is the guy you got.”

Only one of the half-dozen officials I spoke to, who currently work in or have worked in the White House and on the Trump campaign, had read Carroll’s essay, and none agreed to go on the record with their comments. Taken together, the officials’ quick willingness to dismiss the allegation, not to mention their disinterest in learning more, reflects several of the defining factors of the Trump administration: an under-siege mentality, distrust in the press, and an unwavering loyalty to the president they’ve aligned themselves with. But there’s another reason their assessment is noteworthy. The private reactions of Trump’s top allies reveal how, inside the president’s orbit, the gravity of words such as sexual assaultno longer seems to register. And that attitude—call it a collective shrug—could inform how the government responds to sexual-misconduct claims for, potentially, the next six years.

If you can't get the country to respond to sexual assault by the man in the Oval Office (and no, don't bring up Bill Clinton, because there was a response to him and it was impeachment) then nobody's going to care. Sexual assault is now 100% okay if you're powerful enough.

I know that's always been true, but having that confirmed is pretty grim.

Certainly House Democrats don't seem to care about rectifying it.

The Mask Slips Once Again

And this time, it's Trump's boss, Vladimir Putin, who lets slip the truth about where he is taking America.

Vladimir Putin has trumpeted the growth of national populist movements in Europe and America, crowing that liberalism is spent as an ideological force.
In an FT interview in the Kremlin on the eve of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, the Russian president said “the liberal idea” had “outlived its purpose” as the public turned against immigration, open borders and multiculturalism.
Mr Putin’s evisceration of liberalism — the dominant western ideology since the end of the second world war in 1945 — chimes with anti-establishment leaders from US president Donald Trump to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini in Italy, and the Brexit insurgency in the UK.
“[Liberals] cannot simply dictate anything to anyone just like they have been attempting to do over the recent decades,” he said.
Mr Putin branded Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to admit more than 1m refugees to Germany, mainly from war-ravaged Syria, as a “cardinal mistake”. But he praised Donald Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico.
“This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done. That migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected.”
He added: “Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population.” 

Normally, I'd be happy to see a Russian autocrat gangster like Putin get his comeuppance from an American president putting Putin's cynical proto-fascism into the dumpster, but our own leaders are also autocrat gangsters, and they like what they see in Putin's philosophy, a country of one-third of a billion people ruled by a handful of petty tyrants.

Putin sees a world where countries cower from might and the strong rule all.

In 2019, he's not wrong.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Last Call For A Supreme Split

The final day of the 2018-2019 SCOTUS term landed with three massive decisions, and it was largely a wash.  First, Chief Justice Roberts ruled in a 5-4 split that the federal courts have no business whatsoever dealing with state gerrymandering issues, giving a massive, permanent structural win to Republicans.

In a 5-4 decision along traditional conservative-liberal ideological lines, the Supreme Court ruled that partisan redistricting is a political question — not reviewable by federal courts — and that those courts can't judge if extreme gerrymandering violates the Constitution.

The ruling puts the onus on the legislative branch, and on individual states, to police redistricting efforts.

"We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts," Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the conservative majority. "Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions."

Roberts noted that excessive partisanship in the drawing of districts does lead to results that "reasonably seem unjust," but he said that does not mean it is the court's responsibility to find a solution.

Now just two years away from the redrawing of new districts at the start of the next decade, legislators in states that have control of all levels of governments after the 2020 election may feel emboldened by the ruling, said Justin Levitt, an election law professor at Loyola Law School.

"We are in Mad Max territory now; there are no rules," Levitt said. "I think you'll see more legislators in more states [where there is unilateral control] taking up the mantle of extreme partisan aggression against people who disagree with them."

Republicans now have unlimited authority to redraw districts as they see fit.  Expect states like NC, Florida, Texas, Ohio and Wisconsin to redraw districts concentrating black voters into one or two districts, and leaving all other districts majority white and Republican. 

The prime result of this ruling, combined with demographics, could very well mean a permanent GOP Congress as state legislatures will simply keep themselves in power.

Democrats will try to keep up in states like Florida and Illinois, but I would suspect that entire states could become one-party affairs.

The good news:  Republicans won't be able to use the 2020 Census to force citizenship questions on everyone.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's liberal justices, saying the administration did not provide adequate justification for the question.

The reason provided by the White House seem "contrived", the justices wrote in a 5-4 ruling.

The White House argued the question would help protect minority voters.

But the Census Bureau's own experts say it would lead to a major undercount.

Though the ruling deals a blow to the Trump administration, the complicated decision does not bar the question for either its language or the underlying premise.

Instead, by sending the case back to a lower court, Justice Roberts left open the possibility that the Trump administration could provide the necessary justification to add a question on citizenship to the census.

This battle will be back again before the court next June.  Count on it.

But don't get pulled over by cops though.  Not even your blood is safe from police search and seizure.

The Supreme Court has ruled that police may, without a warrant, order blood drawn from an unconscious person suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Fourth Amendment generally requires police to obtain a warrant for a blood draw. But in a 5-4 vote on Thursday, the court upheld a Wisconsin law that says people driving on a public road have impliedly consented to having their blood drawn if police suspect them of driving under the influence. It also said that "exigent circumstances" permit police to obtain a blood sample without a warrant.

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh joined Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority vote.

The decision conflicts with previous court rulings in which the justices ruled that a blood draw is a significant bodily intrusion into a person's privacy and that there are less intrusive ways of enforcing drunken driving laws against unconscious motorists — getting a warrant, for instance, which in these tech-savvy days can be done relatively easily and quickly.

In 2013, for instance, the high court ruled that police violated the Constitution when they ordered a nonconsensual blood draw without a warrant in a routine DUI case. The vote then was 5-4, but two of the justices in that majority, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, are no longer on the court.

A court that can rule the state has a right to your bodily fluids can rob you of consent for a lot of things, guys.

It's not a good day for America.

Not at all.

The Road To Gilead, Con't

Her name is Marshae Jones.

In 2018 she was five months pregnant in Birmingham, Alabama and was shot in the stomach with another woman during a fight over the child's father.  The fetus died as a result.  A grand jury refused to indict the shooter because of the state's castle laws concerning self-defense, but now Jones is being charged with manslaughter in the death of her own unborn baby.

A woman whose unborn baby was killed in a 2018 Pleasant Grove shooting has now been indicted in the death. 
Marshae Jones, a 27-year-old Birmingham woman, was indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on a manslaughter charge. She was taken into custody on Wednesday. 
Though Jones didn’t fire the shots that killed her unborn baby girl, authorities say she initiated the dispute that led to the gunfire. Police initially charged 23-year-old Ebony Jemison with manslaughter, but the charge against Jemison was dismissed after the grand jury failed to indict her
The shooting happened about noon on Dec. 4, 2018, outside Dollar General on Park Road. Officers were dispatched to the scene on a report of someone shot but arrived to find the shooting victim – later identified as Jones - had been picked up and driven to Fairfield. Police and paramedics then found the Jones at a Fairfield convenience store.
From Fairfield Jones was taken to UAB Hospital. She was five months pregnant and was shot in the stomach. The unborn baby did not survive the shooting. 
“The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby,’’ Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid said at the time of the shooting. “It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby.”

For the crime of being shot, Masrhae Jones is looking at up to 20 years in prison.  Not the person who actually shot her, but the woman who was shot.  Even without Alabama's awful abortion law, the legal notion that a woman can be charged with felony manslaughter for the death of a fetus is utterly insane, and the only possible societal reason to do that is to selectively use the law to incarcerate women of color and black women in particular.

This is repugnant.  It's precisely what people said would happen with this stupid notion that fetuses have the same rights as people, that miscarriages and injuries would become reasons to lock women up for decades for the crime of getting pregnant and failing to deliver a child.

This is what these ghouls want, women scared and pliant and existing only to reproduce or go to prison, non-citizens who fear their own goddamn wombs.

I hate this nonsense.

The Silence Of The Gun Nuts

In the end, the malevolent evil that came to silence right-wing NRA gun nut Dana Loesch and her stochastic terrorism broadcasts at NRATV were not the Democrats or the media or the Clintons or the gun safety advocates, but her own employers pulling the plug because of all the legal trouble they are drowning in.

The National Rifle Association has shut down production at NRATV. 
The N.R.A. on Tuesday also severed all business with its estranged advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, which operates NRATV, the N.R.A.’s live broadcasting media arm, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times. 
While NRATV may continue to air past content, its live broadcasting will end and its on-air personalities — Ackerman employees who included Dana Loesch — will no longer be the public faces of the N.R.A. It remained unclear whether the N.R.A. might try to hire some of those employees, but there was no indication it was negotiating to do so. 
The move comes amid a flurry of lawsuits between the N.R.A. and Ackerman, and increasing acrimony that surfaced after two prominent N.R.A. board members first criticized NRATV in an article in The Times in March. The separation had become inevitable: The two sides said last month that they were ending their three-decade-plus partnership. 
“Many members expressed concern about the messaging on NRATV becoming too far removed from our core mission: defending the Second Amendment,” Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, wrote in a message to members that was expected to be sent out by Wednesday. “So, after careful consideration, I am announcing that starting today, we are undergoing a significant change in our communications strategy. We are no longer airing ‘live TV’ programming.” 
In a notice to Ackerman’s chief executive, Revan McQueen, sent Tuesday night, the N.R.A. said it “regrets that a longstanding, formerly productive relationship comes to an end in this fashion.” 
Ackerman, in its own statement, said it was “not surprised that the N.R.A. is unwilling to honor its agreement to end our contract and our long-standing relationship in an orderly and amicable manner.”

I think when the full story of the NRA's collapse comes out, it's going to be a key moment for the dismantling of the Trump regime.  I think they're going to talk, they're going to absolutely say they tok Russian money to help Donald Trump, and that they did it with Trump's blessing.

Dana Loesch and her hateful little band of gun-toting terrorists will land on their feet somewhere, but God I'd love for her to be indicted.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Last Call For Another #MeToo Moment, If Anyone Noticed

I talked about the accusations of author E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump over the weekend.  Carroll has accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1996.  As I said, only the Washington Post even bothered to put the accusation on the front page.  As a result, half of America was unaware the story even happened, because it wasn't reported.

In an excerpt of her memoir published Friday, Carroll wrote that Trump assaulted her in a department store dressing room in the mid-’90s. Trump denied the accusation, saying in one statement that he had never met Carroll (a photograph included in the story showed otherwise) and in a later interview claimed she was “not my type.”

The accusation generated significant coverage. But in a news cycle already saturated with other stories, including tensions with Iran, it got relatively short shrift in newspapers like The New York Times and on Sunday morning talk shows.

“The day that [Carroll’s allegation] dropped it felt like it was very much a part of the conversation on Twitter,” Shani Hilton, deputy managing editor for news at the Los Angeles Times, told CNN on Sunday. “It was really blowing up ― I mean all day long … Two days later, it kind of feels like it’s faded away.”

In a HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted Friday night and Saturday, just 11% of Americans said they’d heard a lot about Carroll’s allegations. About half those polled, 53%, hadn’t heard anything at all. (Because survey respondents tend to be more politically engaged, these numbers are, if anything, probably a little high.)

For the sake of comparison, polling this year found that respondents had heard more about the renewed debate over the Hyde Amendment, the mass shooting in Virginia Beach, the new Alabama abortion law, the release of the Mueller report, the blackface controversy involving Virginia’s governor and the end of the government shutdown.

“In the case of Trump, the sheer number of sexual misconduct allegations seems to have had a desensitizing effect,” Vox’s Anna North wrote, “with the press and the public beginning to treat an account of sexual assault by the US commander-in-chief as simply business as usual.”

That ― along with the general stability of Trump’s ratings ― may help to explain why views have changed so little since Trump’s time on the campaign trail.

Trump sexually assaulting women is now the new normal.  It's no longer news.  And America no longer cares.  More people heard about Joe Biden's Hyde Amendment flip.  More people heard about the Virginia Beach shooting (another news item category we've become 100% desensitized towards).

Trump simply normalizes his evil, and our broken media shrugs and plays along.

The Hunter And The Hunted, Con't

A couple of weeks ago I noted that California GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter was already facing indictment on campaign fraud and embezzlement.  He won re-election in 2018 because he was able to paint his Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, as a Muslim terrorist and ended up winning by 9,000 votes.

Earlier this month Hunter's wife plead guilty to conspiracy with her husband to misuse campaign funds in order to cooperate with the feds.  And now the other shoe has dropped: Hunter allegedly spent those campaign funds on multiple affairs with mistresses...among other things.

Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with lobbyists and congressional staffers, prosecutors in California alleged in a court filing Monday. 
The salacious revelation joins a host of other charges levied against the California Republican, who pleaded not guilty last year on counts of wire fraud, falsifying records and campaign finance violations. 
Hunter's wife Margaret, who also faced federal charges, pleaded guilty earlier this month and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Rep. Hunter has denied the previous allegations against him. 
The filing, submitted as part of a series of motions by California prosecutors on evidence they hope to use in a trial scheduled to begin in September, provides detailed accounts of five different affairs, including one with a woman who worked in Hunter's congressional office
According to the filing, Hunter and the unnamed staffer "occasionally spent nights together at his office" and went on dates funded by campaign cash. One night, at a Washington, DC, bar known for indoor mini golf, Hunter spent $202 in campaign funds for drinks and snacks, the filing says. 
Prosecutors describe another affair, with a lobbyist, that included a rendezvous at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, paid for in large part by campaign funds. 
Hunter also went on a "'double date' road trip" with the lobbyist and another couple, which included another congressman. He spent $905 in campaign funds on a hotel bar tab and the room he shared with the woman, the filing says.

Oh, but it gets worse.

Another mystery in the case remains unresolved. At the end of the filing, prosecutors mentioned a mysterious “clearly non-work related activity during (Duncan Hunter’s) get-togethers with his close personal friends.” 
The document didn’t disclose what exactly that “potentially sensitive evidence” is because prosecutors said doing so “runs the risk of improperly tainting the jury pool before the trial begins.”

Duncan's been a naughty boy with taxpayer money.

Stay tuned.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

It looks like Oregon Republicans and their white supremacist terrorist allies have won, as terrified Oregon Democrats are apparently now folding on the climate change cap and trade bill that set off this mess in the first place.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said on Tuesday morning that the climate change bill at the center of Republicans’ walkout lacks the votes necessary to pass, because not enough Democrats support it.

"House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor,” Courtney, D-Salem, said after Democrats assembled on the floor Tuesday. “That will not change.”
He then ticked off a lengthy list of pending policy and budget bills that he said have bipartisan support.

Senate Republicans fled the state last week to block a vote on the carbon capping plan. Courtney appeared to be laying groundwork for Republicans to return, but it was not immediately clear that Republicans would agree to return to vote on other bills. Oregon lawmakers face a June 30 deadline to wrap up work under the state Constitution.

Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said as of around 10 a.m., he had not yet heard of Courtney’s announcement. However, he said there would be a lot of concern about a possible head fake by Democrats, and a variety of procedural issues that would have to be addressed before Republicans would likely agree to come back to the Capitol.

Democrats also took time to react to Courtney’s statement Tuesday. Two hours after Courtney’s statement, Gov. Kate Brown issued a statement in which she appeared to acknowledge the bill was dead.

“Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that provides a better future for our state and for our children, and the tactics they employed to do so are not just unacceptable, but dangerous,” Brown said, adding that Republicans were “moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, DC.”

“It’s now up to Republicans to prove me wrong," Brown said. "Are they against climate change legislation or are they against democracy? If they are not back by Wednesday afternoon, we will know the answer.”

Brown declared on Monday that she would not negotiate with Republicans until they returned to Oregon.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, of Portland, weighed in on Twitter just before noon Tuesday, saying of Courtney’s statement that the climate bill was dead, “I believe him.” 
“This has been a dark week for the integrity of the Legislature,” Kotek wrote. “Senate Rs have been threatening our democratic institution and subverting the will of Oregon voters who know we need to act now. Their walkout has come at immense cost to our institution and potentially the planet.”

It's entirely possible that this is a fakeout to trick Republicans into showing back up and then getting steamrolled.  If so, it's both ballsy and stupid, but it might just work.

But if it's not a fakeout, then Republicans just proved political terrorism and threatening violence against Democrats works. Expect Republicans in other blue states to start reacting to Democratic legislation in the same way.

If Republicans realize that they can use the open threat of violence and the repressive power of government to keep Democrats from ever passing any legislation at all, even in states where Democrats have a supermajority plus the Governor's office as with Oregon, then we've lost our small-d democracy, representative or otherwise, permanently.

There's plenty of evidence that the problem here is personal and not systemic, and that Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney has completely lost control of the chamber and that Oregon Senate Republicans are taking full advantage.

But why should Oregon Republicans not pull this stunt every time the Democrats want to pass a bill?  They're already playing the victim card here, saying that being linked to domestic terrorists like the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers in the state is an insult so grave that it means they'll never return, and never allow another vote.

So what happens if one party is willing to break a functioning government beyond repair?  What is the other party prepared to do in order to restore that government?

We've asked this question before in the past, and the answer has never been without a great cost to the country.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Last Call For Deportation Nation, Con't

We've now reached the "heads will roll" part of the latest "kids in concentration camps" news cycle, where somebody gets fired for the only real offense in the Trump regime: making Donald Trump look like a bad guy on TV news. I predicted it would be Acting DHS Kevin McAleenan a few days ago, and that still might happen over ICE raids, but apparently Trump has found somebody to fall on their sword for him, and that's Acting Border Patrol head John Sanders, who is now "retiring".

President Donald Trump sought to put distance between himself and the retiring acting Border Patrol chief John Sanders, saying that he doesn’t think he ever met him, though he’s heard good things.

“I didn’t speak to him. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him actually,” Trump said when asked if he had a hand in the ouster. “We have some very good people running it. And, you know, I don’t know anything about it. I hear he’s a very good man, a good person. I don’t know him. I don’t think I ever spoke to him.”

Sanders’ impending resignation comes as the outcry grows over the conditions immigrants, especially underage ones, have been living in at the border. Children at the station in Clint, Texas were reported to lack clean clothes, access to showers and sufficient nutrition. Though most of the children were removed from the dire situation after reports were published, 100 of them were recently shunted back.

Sanders has held the post in an acting capacity since Trump tapped former Customs and Border Protection commissioner Kevin McAleenan to replace ex-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

So for now, Trump has his head to mount on the wall and plausible deniability.  He can point at Sanders, say that it was all his failure, that he's leaving, and people might even believe him.

Of course things will get much worse, but as along as Trump has an endless supply of Acting executive agency heads to spit and roast in public, nothing will actually change.  Sanders will be replaced by former Border Patrol head Mark Morgan, who was forced out 30 months ago just after Trump took office.

Now Morgan is leading Trump's camps for kids.  Fun.

America's Race To The Bottom, Con't

Jennifer Rubin is still an awful human being who has enabled Republicans into the Trump era and bears more than a little responsibility for the people she now rails against as a "Never Trump" Republican.  She's of course shocked to discover that nearly half of Republicans are now in favor of open discrimination against black folk, LGBTQ, Jews, and Muslims.

In a disturbing new poll, the Public Religion Research Institute finds that “while at least two thirds of Americans oppose allowing small business owners to refuse products or services to minority groups based on their religious beliefs, a small but increasing proportion of Americans think it should be permissible to turn away customers based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, or race.”

As one might expect, the big uptick in those willing to refuse service comes among Republicans, but Democrats aren’t immune from the trend to declare that one’s religion permits discrimination against others. “From 2014 to 2019, the partisan gap on this issue has dramatically increased. Nearly half (47%) of Republicans favor such a policy, which is more than double the 21% who favored the policy in 2014. By contrast, today only 18% of Democrats and 24% of independents support these kind of religiously based service refusals. These numbers are also an increase from 2014, when only 11% of Democrats and 16% of independents agreed.” 
The difference between the parties is stark:

More than one in five (22%) Americans say small businesses should be able to refuse to serve Muslims on religious grounds. Men are more likely than women to agree (25% vs. 20%). Around three in ten white evangelical Protestants (32%) and white mainline Protestants (28%) say small businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve Muslims for religious reasons, compared to around one in five nonwhite Protestants (21%), Catholics (19%), and the religiously unaffiliated (17%) who say the same.

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to support religiously based refusals to serve gay or lesbian people (47% vs. 18%), transgender people (44% vs. 19%), atheists (37% vs. 17%), and Muslims (32% vs. 14%).

And now 19 percent (up from 12 percent) say it is fine to deny service to Jews, and 15 percent (up from 10 percent) say it is acceptable to deny service to African Americans.

Donald Trump made it okay to be a racist, a homophobe, a transphobe, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic.  Not only did he make it okay, he made it American legal policy.

We are at the point where the majority of the GOP openly favors discrimination, and the end of the Civil Rights era.  A second Trump term will seal America's fate on this.

The Road To 2020

Boston Globe columnist John Ellis reminds us that for all intents and purposes, the Democratic nominee will be decided by Super Tuesday in March, months before the convention and it's the media, not the voters, who will choose a winner.

Major media coverage of a presidential campaign breaks down into four parts: the preprimary season, the primary season, the summer conventions, and the general election season (including the debates and the expensive election night broadcast). 
What happens every four years, without fail, is that major media organizations blow through their preprimary budgets. In the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, they have already begun eating into the budget for primary coverage. 
By the time the Iowa caucus results are reported and the campaign caravan decamps to New Hampshire, the CFOs of the various news organizations (and their parent companies) are apoplectic, muttering darkly about “wild overspending.” Word quickly comes down from on high: It has to stop.

And stop it does. After New Hampshire, the coverage of many candidates becomes the coverage of two (maybe three, but probably not). Costs are cut by relying on affiliates and local news outlets to provide video and text from “the campaign trail,” which is then stitched together by producers and editors in New York. 
The real campaign plays out in Manhattan and Washington television studios. Cable news outlets (especially) make every effort to push the “campaign” into television studios and away from “the campaign trail.” 
Because of budget concerns, the pressure to anoint a winner increases as the early March Super Tuesday primaries near. We saw this in 2016. Hillary Clinton was declared the winner long before she actually won the nomination. This time, California will be deemed decisive. Whoever wins there, it will be said, wins the nomination. 
The rationale for this projection will be financial fact: Every losing candidate will have spent his or her last dollars on advertising in frightfully expensive Super Tuesday media markets. Reality will say they cannot carry on (without money). Reports of the winner’s post-Super Tuesday fund-raising windfall will reinforce this analysis. 
In the meantime, coverage of the Democratic presidential nomination campaign will be framed by a “brackets” narrative. The semi-finals bracket narrative has already commenced. 
Joe Biden, for the moment, leads in the “most-likely-to beat-Trump bracket.” (Pete Buttigieg is moving up.) Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck in the “street fight” bracket, although it appears that Warren has gained the upper hand. 
The finalists will be chosen by Iowa and New Hampshire. The finals will play out against the backdrop of electability. If surveys show that Warren is just as likely to beat Trump as, say, Biden, she’ll win Super Tuesday and, in all likelihood, be the nominee. 
Which brings us to one last point about the Democratic primary and caucus electorate. They want the nomination process over quickly. Preferably, they’d like a nominee by mid-March. Whether it’s Biden or Warren or Buttigieg or Sanders, at some level, doesn’t matter. They just want to drop the gloves and start the brawl, with or without an agenda.

I think Buttigieg is going to crash, possibly replaced by Harris.  But we're already effectively down to five while for some insane reason more Democrats are entering the field.

I am going to be very glad when primary season ends.  We need a candidate and to solidify behind them and go take Trump and the GOP down ASAP.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Last Call For The Con Way

The lawlessness of the Trump regime continues as Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, tagged earlier this month by the Office of Special Counsel for violating Hatch Act prohibitions on using the power of a government position to campaign in her many TV appearances, now refuses to testify before a House committee on the matter.

The Trump-appointed ethics official who called for Kellyanne Conway’s firing last week is set to defend that decision in congressional testimony on Wednesday.

Henry Kerner, the chief of the White House’s Office of Special Counsel, has submitted testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in which he criticizes Conway for allegedly breaking the law by politicizing her post as White House Counselor.

“Her conduct hurts both federal employees, who may believe that senior officials can act with complete disregard for the Hatch Act, and the American people, who may question the nonpartisan operation of their government,” reads Kerner’s testimony, which The Daily Beast obtained.

“Ms. Conway’s conduct reflects not a misunderstanding of the law, but rather a disregard for it,” the testimony adds.

Kerner’s plan to appear at the hearing, which was confirmed by a senior Democratic committee aide, is a significant move, given that a host of administration officials have recently stiff-armed congressional testimony requests and subpoenas. The committee invited Conway as well, and plans to subpoena her if she does not appear, per Politico.

On June 13, Kerner’s office called on President Donald Trump to fire Conway for violating the Hatch Act, a federal law that prohibits government employees for doing political work while on the job. Kerner’s report charges that Conway repeatedly broke this law by publicly criticizing Democratic 2020 contenders in her capacity as a senior White House official.

Conway's response is that the Hatch Act violates the First Amendment free speech clause, so she will not testify before Congress, which is bit like saying "I don't believe that gravity should apply to me, so I'm going to jump out of this airplane."

In all seriousness, this is ridiculous.  The House should subpoena her and actually follow through with civil contempt.

A Prescription For Disaster

It's that time of year again where Americans camp out for days in order to see a pop-up rural clinic nurse because we have the most ridiculously expensive "health care" on earth and a system absolutely designed to keep it that way.

They were told to arrive early if they wanted to see a doctor, so Lisa and Stevie Crider left their apartment in rural Tennessee almost 24 hours before the temporary medical clinic was scheduled to open. They packed a plastic bag with what had become their daily essentials after 21 years of marriage: An ice pack for his recurring chest pain. Tylenol for her swollen feet. Peroxide for the abscess in his mouth. Gatorade for her low blood sugar and chronic dehydration.

They took a bus into the center of Cleveland, Tenn., a manufacturing town of 42,000, and slept for a few hours at a budget motel. Then they awoke in the middle of the night and walked toward the first-come, first-served clinic, bringing along a referral from a social worker for what they hoped would be their first doctor’s checkup in more than four years.

“Urgent needs from head to toe,” the social worker had written. “Lacking primary care and basic medication. They have fallen into the gap.”

Only when Stevie and Lisa arrived at the clinic a little after 2 a.m. did it occur to them how large that medical gap has become in parts of rural America. Dozens of people were sprawled out in sleeping bags on the asphalt parking lot. Others had pitched tents on an adjacent lawn. The lot was already filled with more than 300 cars from all over the rural South, where a growing number of people in medical distress wait for hours at emergency clinics in order to receive basic primary care. Tennessee has lost 14 percent of its rural physicians and 18 percent of its rural hospitals in the past decade, leaving an estimated 2.5 million residents with insufficient access to medical care. The federal government now estimates that a record 50 million rural Americans live in what it calls "health care shortage areas," where the number of hospitals, family doctors, surgeons and paramedics has declined to 20-year lows.  
What’s arrived in their place are sporadic free clinics such as the one in Cleveland, where a nonprofit agency called Remote Area Medical brought in a group of doctors, nurses and other volunteers for the weekend to transform the local high school into a makeshift hospital. There would be a triage station in the entryway, bloodwork in the science lab, kidney scans in the gym, dental extractions in the cafeteria, and chest X-rays in the parking lot — a range of medical care that would be available for only two days, until the clinic packed up and moved on to Hazard, Ky., and then Weatherford, Okla.

“We’ll do as much as we can for as many as we can,” a clinic volunteer promised as she patrolled the parking lot late at night and handed out numbers to signify each patient’s place in the line. No. 48 went to a woman having panic attacks from adjacent Meigs County, where the last remaining mental-health provider had just moved away to Nashville. No. 207 went to a man with unmanaged heart disease from Polk County, where the only hospital had gone bankrupt and closed in 2017.

With the Supreme Court and Republicans doing everything they can to break the Affordable Care Act and then refusing to fix it, we now have the direct results of that disaster.  Rural hospitals are closing, people have no health care out in rural counties, and they are lied to and told to blame Democrats because Obamacare forced doctors to go treat those people in the dirty cities and not real Americans out in the heartland.

The reality of course is that Republicans have cut funding for the programs to keep red state rural clinics and hospitals operating, because dead poor people stop being such a drain on red state budgets.

The Adventures Of Pete's Dragon, Con't

Pete Buttigieg remains in the running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, but his political fortunes took a turn for the worse last week as a shooting in South Bend revealed the tensions in the city, and it seems the one thing everyone agrees on is that Buttigieg should get his ass back to South Bend and work on fixing the city that he's Mayor of before he worried about being President.

A town hall featuring Mayor Pete Buttigieg broke into near chaos Sunday afternoon as the Democratic presidential candidate tried to respond to community concerns over a white police officer killing a black man in the city.

Buttigieg was solemn, somber and circumspect as he tried to explain the procedures of how officials will review the shooting, while saying that he didn’t want to prejudice the investigation. He also said he would ask the Justice Department to review the case and for an independent prosecutor to decide whether to prosecute.

“We’ve taken a lot of steps, but they clearly haven’t been enough,” said Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind.

The largely black audience of hundreds was having none of it. “We don’t trust you!” a woman hollered at the mayor.

The tragedy unfolded in Buttigieg’s city on June 16, and it would be difficult to imagine a domestic crisis more nightmarish for a mayor and a presidential candidate who has enjoyed a largely carefree rise to the top tier of Democratic contestants.

Buttigieg’s lack of popularity among black voters nationally — a crucial demographic for winning the Democratic primary and then the presidency – was already one of his biggest weaknesses in a contest dominated by racial justice issues like never before. Buttigieg had recently been laying the groundwork to win over some of those skeptical voters in states such as South Carolina.

But now the shooting has highlighted the racial tension right on Buttigieg’s home turf, revealing for a national audience the pain and anger that has long festered among South Bend’s black residents.

“I’m not surprised,” said Mario Sims, 67, the pastor of the nondenominational Dolos Chapel, who is black.

“This was a trail of gasoline that was waiting to be ignited, and last week it ignited,” Sims said of the hometown strife now surrounding Buttigieg.

Until now, Buttigieg had enjoyed a charmed and improbable role in the presidential primary as the mayor of a Rust Belt city whose population barely tops 100,000, a 37-year-old in a field dominated by two 70-somethings.

He’d been lifted in the polls — and into television green rooms — by his gifts as a communicator and by his singular biography as an openly gay veteran who reads James Joyce and speaks several languages.

His mere existence as a liberal force in conservative Indiana suggested an alternative path for Democrats fighting to rebuild support in the nation’s heartland. 
But at home, Buttigieg is a much more common figure in American politics: a white politician struggling to connect with his black constituents, whose lives are plagued by grinding poverty and violence that their wunderkind mayor has been unable to repair after seven years in office.

And this has always been his weakness.  He just doesn't get it, he doesn't understand the party and keeps telling Democrats that we're the ones who have to change to accommodate Republicans.  But he blew it.  If black residents of South Bend think Buttigieg is a failure, and I gotta agree with them here, then he needs to drop out of the race.

Pete's nowhere near ready yet.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Last Call For The Last Week In June

Just a gentle reminder that the true bill for the "principled opposition" to Hillary Clinton comes due starting Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court, approaching the end of its current term, is due to issue rulings in the coming days in major cases including the Trump administration’s bid to add a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 census and efforts by voters to curb the partisan manipulation of electoral district boundaries.

The court, which has a 5-4 conservative majority, has 12 cases left to decide during its current term, which began in October and is expected to conclude by the end of June, with some rulings scheduled to be issued on Monday.

Eagerly awaited rulings in legal challenges to the proposed census question and a practice called partisan gerrymandering could have enduring effects on elections for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures.

Critics have called the move by President Donald Trump’s Commerce Department to add a citizenship question to the census a Republican scheme to deter immigrants from taking part in the population count for fear of deportation. The aim, these critics have said, is to engineer a deliberate undercount of places with high immigrant and Latino concentrations, costing Democratic-leaning areas seats in the House to the benefit of Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.

The justices are hearing the administration’s appeal of a judge’s January ruling in New York blocking the question as a violation of a federal law called the Administrative Procedure Act. Two other courts subsequently blocked the question. During April’s argument in the case, the court’s conservative majority appeared to be inclined to rule in favor of Trump.

The administration has argued that adding a question requiring people participating in the decennial population tally to declare whether they are a citizen is needed to better enforce a voting rights law, a rationale that opponents called a pretext for a political motive.

A group of states including New York and immigrant rights organizations sued to prevent the question.

Separate cases from North Carolina and Maryland focus on whether the justices will empower courts to impose restrictions on partisan gerrymandering, the practice in which electoral districts are drawn purely to amplify the political power of the party already in control of a state’s legislature.

If, as I expect, both these rulings are 5-4 in favor of the conservatives on the Roberts Court, then tens of millions of people will eventually be disenfranchised in order to give the Republican party near permanent power.  Demographics as destiny means nothing if black and brown people lose the right to vote or to even exist in the country.

Of course, the people who three years ago said that they could afford to not vote for Hillary are the people who won't be hurt directly by SCOTUS this week, and in future Junes to come in the post-Kennedy Roberts Court era.

The rest of us get the bill starting tomorrow.

It's About Suppression, Con't

If you were expecting Florida's new state constitutional amendment to actually grant voting rights back to some 1.4 million convicted felons who served their time, you don't know the GOP very well.

Florida’s reputation as America’s tightest -- and wildest -- swing state should stay intact, as a battle over felons’ voting rights seems destined for the courts. At the least, it’s increasingly looking like Florida’s 1.4 million disenfranchised ex-convicts won’t be the potent voting bloc they might’ve been.

Seven months ago, almost two-thirds of voters approved Amendment 4, which restores registration rights to many felons. Florida had been one of three states, along with Kentucky and Iowa, where those convicted of a felony were permanently prohibited from registering without going through a lengthy clemency process, and many saw Floridians’ vote as bringing the state into the U.S. mainstream. Only those convicted of murder and sexual offenses still are excluded.

However, Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign a bill within days that critics say will blunt much of Amendment 4’s impact. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require felons to pay off restitution, court fees and fines before registering -- a move that voting rights advocates say could have a chilling effect. So far, the number of former inmates who have visited a local supervisor of elections office to register has been a modest 2,000, according to one estimate.
“There’s just no way to get around the fact that the Legislature did everything it could to undermine Amendment 4,” Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “I don’t think it’s consistent with the will of the voters, and it’s not consistent with the text of Amendment 4.”

Voting rights and civil liberties advocates mounted a well-funded campaign ahead of last year’s midterm elections to pass the voting rights amendment. A group called the Second Chances Florida campaign won over Floridians with stories of how ex-convicts -- renamed as “returning citizens” -- were eager to move beyond their troubled past. Behind the scenes, a political committee called Floridians for a Fair Democracy collected almost $27 million in checks and in-kind donations, according to state election records. 
Several progressive groups and individuals gave six or seven figures to the cause, including the ACLU, the Washington-based Sixteen Thirty Fund and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. It also won the endorsement of some conservative-leaning groups, including the Koch brothers-linked Freedom Partners, while a small group of critics gave Amendment 4 only token opposition. 
Despite an overwhelming victory at the polls, supporters face major obstacles in carrying out Amendment 4’s promise if DeSantis signs the bill. And, while some political scientists thought Democrats would see a boost from having more than a million felons eligible to register, that, too, looks questionable.

Forget "questionable".  With only 2,000 out of 1.4 million voters so far getting their right to vote back., and DeSantis about to sign a law into effect that will force every one of these felons to repay Florida thousands of dollars in order to be enfranchised, Republicans will easily be able to tangle up this mess until after 2020.

Republicans just recreated the modern poll tax, and in all likelihood they are going to get away with it.  For the vast majority of the state's felons who have served their time, they will never be able to vote, and since that accounts for a massive percentage of black and brown citizens in the state, that's fine with Florida Republicans. Only a handful of felons will ever get that right back.

It's vile and awful and racist, because Republicans are vile and awful and racist.

And they are winning.

Sunday Long Read: Another #MeToo Moment

In an excerpt from her memoirs being published next week, author and columnist E. Jean Carroll describes her life of writing for well over 50 years and brings us a list of her awful encounters with sexual assault, from a classmate at Indiana University, to a Girl Scout camp director, to former CBS head honcho Les Moonves, and also one more hideous slug of a cretin who assaulted her in a department store bathroom in 1996, a man by the name of Donald J. Trump.

Which brings me to the other rich boy. Before I discuss him, I must mention that there are two great handicaps to telling you what happened to me in Bergdorf’s: (a) The man I will be talking about denies it, as he has denied accusations of sexual misconduct made by at least 15 credible women, namely, Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Cathy Heller, Temple Taggart McDowell, Karena Virginia, Melinda McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Jessica Drake, Ninni Laaksonen, Summer Zervos, Juliet Huddy, Alva Johnson, and Cassandra Searles. (Here’s what the White House said: “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”) And (b) I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.

His admirers can’t get enough of hearing that he’s rich enough, lusty enough, and powerful enough to be sued by and to pay off every splashy porn star or Playboy Playmate who “comes forward,” so I can’t imagine how ecstatic the poor saps will be to hear their favorite Walking Phallus got it on with an old lady in the world’s most prestigious department store.

This is during the years I am doing a daily Ask E. Jean TV show for the cable station America’s Talking, a precursor to MSNBC launched by Roger Ailes (who, by the way, is No. 16 on my list).

Early one evening, as I am about to go out Bergdorf’s revolving door on 58th Street, and one of New York’s most famous men comes in the revolving door, or it could have been a regular door at that time, I can’t recall, and he says: “Hey, you’re that advice lady!”

And I say to No. 20 on the Most Hideous Men of My Life List: “Hey, you’re that real-estate tycoon!”

I am surprised at how good-looking he is. We’ve met once before, and perhaps it is the dusky light but he looks prettier than ever. This has to be in the fall of 1995 or the spring of 1996 because he’s garbed in a faultless topcoat and I’m wearing my black wool Donna Karan coatdress and high heels but not a coat.

“Come advise me,” says the man. “I gotta buy a present.”

“Oh!” I say, charmed. “For whom?”

“A girl,” he says.

“Don’t the assistants of your secretaries buy things like that?” I say.

“Not this one,” he says. Or perhaps he says, “Not this time.” I can’t recall. He is a big talker, and from the instant we collide, he yammers about himself like he’s Alexander the Great ready to loot Babylon.

As we are standing just inside the door, I point to the handbags. “How about—”

“No!” he says, making the face where he pulls up both lips like he’s balancing a spoon under his nose, and begins talking about how he once thought about buying Bergdorf ’s.

“Or … a hat!” I say enthusiastically, walking toward the handbags, which, at the period I’m telling you about — and Bergdorf’s has been redone two or three times since then — are mixed in with, and displayed next to, the hats. “She’ll love a hat! You can’t go wrong with a hat!”

I don’t remember what he says, but he comes striding along — greeting a Bergdorf sales attendant like he owns the joint and permitting a shopper to gape in awe at him — and goes right for a fur number.

“Please,” I say. “No woman would wear a dead animal on her head!”

What he replies I don’t recall, but I remember he coddles the fur hat like it’s a baby otter.

“How old is the lady in question?” I ask.

“How old are you?” replies the man, fondling the hat and looking at me like Louis Leakey carbon-dating a thighbone he’s found in Olduvai Gorge.

“I’m 52,” I tell him.

“You’re so old!” he says, laughing — he was around 50 himself — and it’s at about this point that he drops the hat, looks in the direction of the escalator, and says, “Lingerie!” Or he may have said “Underwear!” So we stroll to the escalator. I don’t remember anybody else greeting him or galloping up to talk to him, which indicates how very few people are in the store at the time.

I have no recollection where lingerie is in that era of Bergdorf’s, but it seems to me it is on a floor with the evening gowns and bathing suits, and when the man and I arrive — and my memory now is vivid — no one is present.

There are two or three dainty boxes and a lacy see-through bodysuit of lilac gray on the counter. The man snatches the bodysuit up and says: “Go try this on!”

“You try it on,” I say, laughing. “It’s your color.”

“Try it on, come on,” he says, throwing it at me.

“It goes with your eyes,” I say, laughing and throwing it back.

“You’re in good shape,” he says, holding the filmy thing up against me. “I wanna see how this looks.”

“But it’s your size,” I say, laughing and trying to slap him back with one of the boxes on the counter.

“Come on,” he says, taking my arm. “Let’s put this on.”

This is gonna be hilarious, I’m saying to myself — and as I write this, I am staggered by my stupidity. As we head to the dressing rooms, I’m laughing aloud and saying in my mind: I’m gonna make him put this thing on over his pants!

There are several facts about what happens next that are so odd I want to clear them up before I go any further:

Did I report it to the police?


Did I tell anyone about it?

Yes. I told two close friends. The first, a journalist, magazine writer, correspondent on the TV morning shows, author of many books, etc., begged me to go to the police.

“He raped you,” she kept repeating when I called her. “He raped you. Go to the police! I’ll go with you. We’ll go together.”

My second friend is also a journalist, a New York anchorwoman. She grew very quiet when I told her, then she grasped both my hands in her own and said, “Tell no one. Forget it! He has 200 lawyers. He’ll bury you.” (Two decades later, both still remember the incident clearly and confirmed their accounts to New York.)

Trump denies ever meeting Carroll.

The picture included in the excerpt is Trump meeting Carroll.  The only newspaper that even put this story on the front page this weekend was the Washington Post.

Here endeth the lesson.
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