October 19, 2017

THe hidden costs of the GOP tax cuts

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - As the Senate continues debating a budget plan that paves the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over ten years, the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) law remains on the books, with potentially big implications for key budget programs.  Under PAYGO, which policymakers first enacted in 1990 and, after it expired, restored in 2010, the President and Congress must offset a tax cut or entitlement expansion with a compensating tax increase or entitlement cut.  A failure to do so triggers automatic spending cuts.

Under the law, were policymakers to enact a $1.5 trillion tax cut this year, as the Republican majority hopes, it would trigger automatic spending cuts to Medicare and a host of other programs by no later than January 15.  While policymakers will likely waive the PAYGO requirement and prevent such automatic cuts from taking effect, PAYGO is a timely reminder that tax cuts aren’t free.

Although many entitlements are exempt from PAYGO’s automatic spending cuts, many are not.  To offset the cost of a $1.5 trillion tax cut, Medicare payments to doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans would be automatically cut 4 percent for each of the next ten years, on top of the 2-percent cuts that those payments are already experiencing under the sequestration triggered by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

In addition, the automatic cuts would bring the complete elimination of more than 150 mandatory payments for farmers, health insurance, the military retirement trust fund, housing, social services, victims of crime, child nutrition, and many others, all lasting a decade.

Jazz break: Jimmy Rushing

October 18, 2017

Four Ann Arbor city council members knelt during Pledge of Allegiance

Polls: Most Americans support backgrund gun checks

 Gallup finds 96% of Americans support background gun checks.

Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) leads Republican Ed Gillespie by 14 points in the race to be the next Virginia governor, according to a Quinnipiac University survey ...An earlier Monmouth University poll in the Virginia governor's race shows Gillespie with 48 percent of support from likely voters compared to Northam's 47 percent - a statistical tie. 

A Morning Consult/Politico poll found 46 percent of registered voters think large outlets fabricate news about Trump, while 37 percent disagree. Three-in-four Republicans think the media creates fake news about the president.

The Republican and Democratic candidates in the Alabama Senate special election are in a dead heat, according to a new Fox News poll  ...with 42 percent of the vote each, the poll found. Eleven pecent of respondents to the poll said they were unsure who they were supporting in the race

Trump's big lie about Reagan

President Donald Trump said  that the Republican tax plan would lift the U.S. economy to heights not seen since the administration of Ronald Reagan, delivering a speech filled with economic optimism to a receptive audience of donors to the Heritage Foundation.

Now from our archives:


Robert Brent Toplin, History News Network - Ronald Reagan promised to take government off the backs of enterprising Americans. He told voters that government was not the solution to the nation's problems; it was the problem. "The nine most terrifying words in the English language," said Reagan, are, " 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' " His speeches contained numerous warnings about the chilling effects of bureaucratic regulation. Government leaders think, he said, "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.". . . The main problem with Reagan's outlook was a failure to recognize that government regulation can serve business interests quite effectively. Many of the regulatory programs started by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s aimed to promote fairness in economic competition. That legislation required greater transparency so that investors could more intelligently judge the value of securities in the stock market. The reforms mandated a separation of commercial and investment bank activities, since speculative investments by commercial banks had been one of the principal causes of the financial crash. Roosevelt's New Deal also created a bank insurance program, the FDIC, which brought stability to a finance industry that had been on the verge of collapse.

These and other improvements of the 1930s worked splendidly. For the next half century American markets operated with impressive stability. There were periods of boom and recession, but the country's financial system did not suffer from the kinds of shocks that have upset the American economy in recent years. The turn away from rules that promote fair business practices fostered dangerous risk-taking. An early sign of the troubles occurred on Reagan's watch. When the requirements for managing savings and loan institutions became lax in the 1980s, leaders of those organizations invested money recklessly. Many institutions failed or came close to failure, and the cleanup cost more than $150 billion. Yet blame for that crisis did not stick to the Teflon President. Recent troubles in the American economy can be attributed to a weakening of business regulation in the public interest, which is, in large part, a consequence of Reagan's anti-government preaching. In the absence of oversight, lending became a wildcat enterprise. Mortgage brokers easily deceived home buyers by promoting sub-prime loans, and then they passed on bundled documents to unwary investors.
Executives at Fannie Mae packaged both conventional and sub-prime loans, and they too, operated almost free of serious oversight. Fannie's leaders spent lavishly to hire sixty Washington lobbyists who showered congressmen with campaign funds. Executives at Fannie were generous to the politicians because they wanted to ward off regulation. Meanwhile, on Wall Street, brokerage firms became deeply committed to risky mortgage investments and did not make their customers fully aware of the risks. The nation's leading credit rating agencies, in turn, were not under much pressure to question claims about mortgage-based instruments that were marketed as blue chip quality. Government watchdogs were not active during those times to serve the interests of the public and the investors. . . Reagan's views of the relationship between government and business helped to put the nation and the world into a good deal of trouble. It is time to recognize that the former president's understanding of economics was not as sophisticated as his enthusiastic supporters often claimed.

How Reagan got our disaster going

Iran leader says Tehran will shred nuclear deal if US pulls out

Reuters - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran would stick to its 2015 nuclear accord with world powers as long as the other signatories respected it, but would “shred” the deal if Washington pulled out, state TV reported. .. “I don’t want to waste my time on answering the rants and whoppers of the brute (U.S.) president,” Khamenei said in a speech to students in Tehran quoted by state television. “Trump’s stupidity should not distract us from America’s deceitfulness ... If the U.S. tears up the deal, we will shred it ... Everyone should know that once again America will receive a slap in its mouth and will be defeated by Iranians.”

At least now presidents have time to call the war dead

Sam Smith - Missing from the debate over how recent presidents have handled the families of the war dead is a cheerful fact: we are having this debate.

As recently  as George Bush, there were enough war dead that most families got letters (and presumably thinly disguised form letters) rather than phone calls. Go back to the Vietnam war and imagine if Lyndon Johnson had called the famlies of each of the war dead. Assuming he did nothing else during a 16 hour day, it would take 302 days  to have accomplished this with a five minute call.

In other words, the very fact we are having this debate indicates a positive change in our perception of war, including the assumption that deaths will be few enough to  require a phone call to the families of its victims.

The failure of No Child Left Behind

Diane Ravitch - he Washington Post editorial board chastised Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam for admitting that the NCLB reforms have failed, and Virginia needs to find a new paradigm for school improvement.

...The Post is dead wrong. A new book by the eminent Harvard testing expert Daniel Koretz says in no uncertain terms that NCLB test-based accountability was a failure that seriously damaged American education. The high-stakes testing mandated by NCLB and now the Every Student Succeeds Act, produced, in Professor Koretz’s words, score inflation, cheating, and teaching to the tests. Any “gains” are an illusion, because they represent test prep, not learning.

Lt. Gov. Northam is right. The Washington Post is seriously out of step on education. It supported Michelle Rhee’s punitive, test-focused regime and never admitted its error, long after John Merrow revealed the D.C. cheating scandal and long after Rhee slipped quietly into oblivion.

What’s the ideal accountability system? Northam admitted to the editorial board that he doesn’t know. Professor Koretz admitted he doesn’t know either. He throws out some ideas drawn from Finland, the Netherlands, and Singapore. There may be others as well, but frankly no one knows. For sure, the Washington Post editorial board doesn’t know, and the little it knows is wrong.

What doesn’t work is one-size-fits-all standards like Common Core. What doesn’t work is promising rewards or threatening punishment to teachers and principals, tied to test scores. Yet that is what the Washington Post advocates.

Does patent licencing depend of the weather?

Improbable Research- Inventors have reason to squirm a bit over the weather, suggests this new study about the granting — or rejection — of  patents. The study is:

Too hot to reject: The effect of weather variations on the patent examination process at the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” Balázs Kovács [pictured here], Research Policy, vol. 46, no. 10, December 2017, Pages 1824-1835.

The author, at Yale University, explains:

“This paper documents a small but systematic bias in the patent evaluation system at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): external weather variations affect the allowance or rejection of patent applications. I examine 8.8 million reject/allow decisions from 3.5 million patent applications to the USPTO between 2001 and 2014, and find that on unusually warm days patent allowance rates are higher and final rejection rates are lower than on cold days. I also find that on cloudy days, final rejection rates are lower than on clear days. I show that these effects constitute a decision-making bias which exists even after controlling for sorting effects, controlling for applicant-level, application-level, primary class-level, art unit-level, and examiner- level characteristics. The bias even exists after controlling for the quality of the patent applications. While theoretically interesting, I also note that the effect sizes are relatively modest."

October 17, 2017

Before Harvey Weinstein there was Bill Clinton

Clips from our stories about Bill Clinton much of it ignored by the mainstream media 


Juanita Broaddrick, a volunteer in Clinton's gubernatorial campaign, will later claim she was attacked by by Clinton and her lip almost bitten off.

According to Roger Morris in Partners in Power, a young woman lawyer in Little Rock will later claim that she was accosted by Clinton this year and that when she recoiled he forced himself on her, biting and bruising her. "Deeply affected by the assault, the woman decided to keep it all quiet for the sake of her own hard-won career and that of her husband. When the husband later saw Clinton at the 1980 Democratic Convention, he delivered a warning. 'If you ever approach her,' he told the governor, 'I'll kill you.' Not even seeing fit to deny the incident, Bill Clinton sheepishly apologized and duly promised never to bother her again."


According to journalist Philip Weiss, "In 1988, Bill Clinton chose not to run for the presidency, in part out of fear of personal disclosure about his sex life. The story goes--and now we are into rumor/recollection, but it's persuasive--that Hillary Clinton was angry that he had bowed out and wanted a divorce. She compiled a divorce file with her friend, lawyer Vince Foster, involving a number of women in Arkansas. Ultimately she dropped the plan.


A Washington, DC, political fundraiser will later claim presidential candidate-to-be Clinton invites her to his hotel room during a political trip to the nation's capital, pins her against the wall and sticks his hand up her dress. She says she screamed loud enough for the Arkansas state trooper stationed outside the hotel suite to bang on the door and ask if everything was all right, at which point Clinton releases her and she flees the room. When she reports the incident to her boss, he advises her to keep her mouth shut if she wants to keep working.


A massive "bimbo" patrol is established to threaten, buy, or otherwise disarm scores of women who have had sexual encounters with Clinton. The campaign uses private investigators in an extensive operation that will be joked about at the time but later will be seen as a form of blackmail as well as psychological and physical intimidation.

Gennifer Flowers records her last conversation with Bill Clinton. On the tape Clinton says, "If they ever ask if you've talked to me about it, you can say no." Clinton describes Mario Cuomo as a "mean son of a bitch" and when Flowers says, "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have some Mafioso connections," the reply is: "Well, he acts like one," followed by a chuckle. Of the press, Clinton advises, "If they ever hit you with it, just say no and go on. There's nothing they can do. I expected them to look into it and come interview you. But if everybody is on record denying it, no problem"

Many papers, including the Washington Post and the New York Times, fail to let their readers know what is on the tapes. In 1997 Gennifer Flowers, interviewed by Penny Crone and Curtis Sliwa on New York's WABC, will claim that she had received threats -- including death threats -- around the time of her tape recorded conversations with Bill Clinton and that this was why she had made the recordings. Asked whether she thought Clinton was behind the threats, Flowers replies, "What I thought, after my home was ransacked, was that he was behind that -- simply because I had called to tell him about it and it was his reaction it. I mean, he acted, he was aloof. Her didn't act that concerned. He said, 'Well, why do you think they came in there?' And I said, 'Well, why the hell do you think?' He said, 'Well, do you think they were looking for something on us?' I said, 'Well, yes.' And at that moment I thought, well, maybe you're behind this because he would have as much interest to know what evidence I might have as anyone else would." Flowers also said, "One thing that Bill said on those tapes that I think has run true throughout his presidency. He told me, 'If we stick together and we continue to deny it, everything will be OK."

Major media censor a second alleged sex scandal involving Bill Clinton that breaks in a supermarket tabloid just days before the New Hampshire primary. The story, in the Globe, charges that Clinton had a relationship with a woman who claimed that Clinton was the father of her child. The woman also claims she attended group sex sessions with Clinton. The woman is now reportedly in Australia.

Former Miss Arkansas Sally Perdue goes on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show and says she had an affair with Bill Clinton. She will later tell the London Sunday Telegraph that state troopers often dropped Clinton off at her place in his jogging gear: "He saw my Steinway grand piano and went straight over to it and asked me to play. . . When I see him now, president of the United States, meeting world leaders, I can't believe it. . . I still have this picture of him wearing my black nightgown, playing the sax badly. . . this guy tiptoeing across the park and getting caught on the fence. How do you expect me to take him seriously?"

After the TV show, Perdue says she was visited by a man who described himself as a Democratic Party operative and who warned her not to reveal specifics of the affair. "He said there were people in high places who were anxious about me and they wanted me to know that keeping my mouth shut would be worthwhile. . . If I was a good little girl, and didn't kill the messenger; I'd be set for life: a federal job, nothing fancy but a regular paycheck. . . I'd never have to worry again. But if I didn't take the offer, then they knew that I went jogging by myself and he couldn't guarantee what would happen to my 'pretty little legs.'"

Perdue says she later found a shotgun cartridge on the driver's seat of her Jeep and had her back window shattered.

Wikipedia - According to Jones's account, on May 8, 1991, she was escorted to Clinton's (then Governor of Arkansas) room in the Excelsior (now Little Rock Marriott) Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he propositioned and exposed himself to her. She claimed she kept quiet about the incident until 1994, when a David Brock story in the American Spectator magazine printed an account. Jones filed a sexual harassment suit against Clinton on May 6, 1994, two days before the three-year statute of limitations, and sought $750,000 in damages.

. . . On November 13, 1998, Clinton settled with Jones for $850,000, the entire amount of her claim, but without an apology, in exchange for her agreement to drop the appeal. Robert S. Bennett, Clinton's attorney, still maintained that Jones's claim was baseless and that Clinton only settled so he could end the lawsuit and move on with his life.


Monica Lewinsky speaks to White House staffer Linda Tripp about telling Clinton that she wants to break up with him:
TRIPP: Well, let me put it to you this way. By hanging up and saying
you're telling your parents and then hanging up the phone, you're saying a whole hell of a lot more than you could ever do in a 20 minute

LEWINSKY: I know (tape skip) (inaudible) my mom will kill me if I don't
tell him - make it clear at some point that I'm not going to hurt him,
because - see, my mom's big fear is that he's going to send somebody
out to kill me.

TRIPP: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.


TRIPP: Shut up.

LEWINSKY: Well, that's what she thinks.

TRIPP: Oh, my God. Don't even say such an asinine thing. He's not that
stupid. He's an arrogant....but he's not that stupid.

LEWINSKY: Well, you know, accidents happen.

The Lewinsky affair story breaks in the Washington Post. President Clinton appears on television and says that he "never had sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," and that he "never told anyone to lie."

Hillary Clinton goes on the Today Show and blames her husband's problems on a "vast right wing conspiracy."

Linda Tripp is sequestered in an FBI safe house because of threats against her life.

Monica Lewinsky tells Linda Tripp that if she would lie under oath, "I would write you a check. " Also: "I mean, telling the truth could get you in trouble. I don't know why you'd want to do that." Also: "I would not cross these -- these people -- for fear of my life." Several reports have Lewinsky saying on another occasion that she didn't want to end up like former White House intern Mary Caitrin Mahoney, killed in the Starbucks execution-style murders.

Monica Lewinsky talks with Linda Tripp about filing a false affidavit in the Paula Jones case:
TRIPP: You - you are - are you positive in your heart that you want to do
that? I mean -


TRIPP: I'm only saying - I'm only saying that in case you should change your

LEWINSKY: No. I - I - I - first of all, for fear of my life. I would not – I would not cross these - these people for fear of my life, number one.
Wikipedia - Kathleen Willey (born June 2, 1946) is a former White House volunteer aide who, on March 15, 1998, alleged on the TV news program 60 Minutes that Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted her on November 29, 1993, during his first term as President.

Prior to her testimony in the Clinton investigation, Kathleen Willey claims that the tires on her car were mysteriously punctured with dozens of nails and the cat she had for many years suddenly disappeared. Reports ABC's Jackie Judd, "Then just days before she testified in the Paula Jones lawsuit in early January, Willey was out jogging near her home when a stranger approached her. . .The man knew what had happened at her home and that he asked her if the tires had been fixed and if the cat had been found." The man then allegedly asked Willey, 'Don't you get the message?' and jogged off."


Federal judge Susan Wright holds Clinton in contempt for "intentionally false" statements under oath and "willful failure" to testify truthfully in the Paula Jones sexual harrasment case. This is the only time a president has been found in contempt of court.

Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of having raped her, is being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Among others involved with the president who have been audited: Elizabeth Ward Gracen; Billy Dale (fired in travel office affair); Fox News critic Bill O'Reilly; Kent Masterson Brown (brought lawsuit compelling Hillary's health care task force to reveal its members); and Paula Jones. Also: National Review, American Spectator, Christian Coalition, Citizens for a Sound Economy,Freedom Alliance, Heritage Foundation, National Rifle Association, Western Journalism Center, National Center for Public Policy Research, Fortress America and Citizens Against Government Waste.


October 16, 2017

Puerto Rican recovery hurt by incomplete maps

Portside - While pre-Maria maps of Puerto Rico were fairly complete, their level of detail was nowhere near that of other parts of the United States. Platforms such as Google Maps are more comprehensive on the mainland than on the island, explains Juan Saldarriaga, a research scholar at the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University. This is because companies like Google often create maps for financial reasons, selling them to advertisers or as navigation devices, so areas that have less economic activity are given less attention.

This lack of detail impedes recovery efforts: Without basic information on the location of buildings, for instance, rescue workers don’t know how many people were living in an area before the hurricane struck—and thus how much aid is needed.

Nearly half of Republicans want war with North Korea

A Quinnipiac University Poll showed 46 percent of Republicans favor striking North Korea before it strikes the U.S.

Young losing interest in freedom

NY Times- According to the World Values Survey, only about 30 percent of Americans born after 1980 believe it is absolutely essential to live in a democratic country, compared with 72 percent of Americans born before World War II. In 1995, 16 percent of Americans in their late teens and early adulthood thought democracy was a bad idea; in 2011, the number increased to 24 percent.

Young Americans also are disproportionately skeptical of free speech. A 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) believe the government should be able to regulate certain types of offensive speech. Only 27 percent of Gen-Xers (ages 35 to 50), 20 percent of baby boomers (ages 51 to 69) and 12 percent of the silent generation (ages 70 to 87) share that opinion.

A 2016 Gallup survey found that a majority of both Democratic and Republican students believe colleges should be allowed to restrict speech that is purposely offensive to certain groups. A survey of students’ attitudes concerning free speech released on Wednesday by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 66 percent of Democratic and 47 percent of Republican students believe there are times a college should withdraw a campus speaker’s invitation after it has been announced. And a survey published by the Brookings Institution in September found that 20 percent of Democratic and 22 percent of Republican students agreed it was acceptable for student groups to use violence to prevent a person from speaking.

Trump spends $1.1 million of campaign funds on personal legal fees

Salon - The Trump campaign spent more than one-fourth of the nearly $4.1 million in expenses incurred from July 1 to Sept. 30 on legal fees, according to USA Today. ... While these expenditures were legal — campaigns are permitted to use funds for legal expenses related to the campaign itself — the amount of money spent reflects the ongoing troubles faced by the Trump camp over its alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

GOP pol of the day

Miami Herald - A congressional candidate from Miami ... Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera says she’s been aboard a spaceship ... crewed by aliens.

Three blond, big-bodied beings — two females, one male — visited her when she was 7 years old and have communicated telepathically with her several times in her life, she says.

Rodriguez Aguilera, 59, a Republican who is running to replace retiring Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, recounted her experience with the ETs during a 2009 television interview.

She described “going up” inside the spaceship — though whether it went into space or just hovered around town was left unclear.

“I went in. There were some round seats that were there, and some quartz rocks that controlled the ship — not like airplanes,” Rodriguez Aguilera said.

Among the things she said she found out from the aliens:
- There are 30,000 skulls — “different from humans” — in a cave in the Mediterranean island of Malta.

- The world’s “energy center” is in Africa.

- The Coral Castle, a limestone tourist attraction South Miami-Dade, is actually an ancient Egyptian pyramid.

- “God is a universal energy.”
She also said that the aliens had mentioned Isis, though she didn’t clarify if they meant the terrorist organization or the ancient Egyptian goddess.

Major labor case before the Supreme Court

Governing - The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will add a case critical to the future of public-sector unions to its docket. With President Donald Trump's appointment of conservative-leaning Justice Neil Gorsuch, many expect the court to rule against the unions.

Such a decision would energize the recent resurgence of state laws that effectively reduce the power of unions in both the public and private sector. Expecting the worst, unions are already preparing for a potential exodus of members and a loss of revenue.

Illinois is currently one of 22 states where nonunion members still have to pay so-called agency fees to unions that negotiate on their behalf.

If the Supreme Court rules that making agency fees mandatory is unconstitutional, unions in those states fear the loss of revenue from existing nonunion members and the loss of more members, who could quit unions if granted the right to avoid the paycheck deduction. Such a scenario would weaken unions' bargaining power and their political clout.

Public-sector union membership has already been on the decline. Between 2000 and 2016, it dropped about 8 percent, to 34.4 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, that's far greater than in the private sector where only 6.5 percent of employees belonged to a union in 2016, according to the BLS.

The shrinkage of unions can partially be attributed to the recent rise of "right-to-work" laws, which prohibit unions -- private or public sector, depending on the state -- from forcing people to pay dues. Of the 28 states that have passed right-to-work laws, six did it in the last five years. (Most of the rest passed this legislation in the 1940s and 1950s.) In general, the states with the lowest union membership have right-to-work laws.

Films produced by Harvey Weinstein

October 15, 2017

Hurricane Donald damage report

An interesting question is what has caused more damage: natural hurricanes or Hurricane Donald. To help calculate, here are some facts on the latter storm

Trump shuts down halfway houses

Trump budget would cut $2.5 trillion from programs for low and moderate income Americans

66 federal programs that Trump wants to kill

Millions of children could be hurt by Trump's plans

Trump administration arrests of noncriminal immigrants up 150 percent

Trump wants to starve millions of poor Americans

Trump's latest victims: hibernating bears

Trump's Florida vacations may force Palm Beach to raise its taxes

Alternative sex

Trump used anniversary of military desegregation to ban transgender persons in military


Trump's arts defunding would hurt communities

The Trump war against the arts

Civil liberties

Trump wants Christian extremist Sharia law

Civil rights

Trump's quiet war against civil rights

Climate change

Trump regime demotes climate scientist who spoke out

Trump undoes climate change rules

Trump thinks dealing with climate change is "a waste of your money"

Trump to emasculate NASA climate change research

Civil rights

Trump regime slashes civil rights enforcement


Trump has already hurt lower income homeowners


Education programs Trump wants to eliminate


48 environmental rules the White House is working to undo

Pruitt wrecking EPA

List of Trump's anti-environmental actions

27 national monuments that could be dismissed by Trump

Trump freezes all EPA grants


Trump may send your cable and internet bills soaring

Food stamps

How Trump plans to hurt the food stamp program


Trump finds new way to kill people helped by Obamacare

How Trump is damaging Obamacare

Trump's proposed mass health manslaughter more deadly to Americans than Vietnam war

Trump plans to damage American healthcare even if Obamacare survives

Trump regime using Obamacare funds to attack Obamacare


Trump slashes housing support for millions. . . but not for himself

Trump makes it harder for low income home owners & first time buyers


Trump regime killing tourism


The anti-labor plans of Trump and allies


Trump's Mexico wall will cost about $115 per American taxpayer

Trump's wall will cost billions


Trump wants to cut off heating aid to the poor

Trump's latest victims: low income Americans who need legal aid


How Trump's budget would hurt older Americans

He wants to cut your Social Security


Trump wants to kill train service for 140 million Americans

Trump wants to privatize highways and charge more tolls


Trump limits women's access to birth control

Trump ready to restrict women's right to abortions

Trump regime slashes $210 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs


DeVos acts to protect colleges from students defrauded by them

Stat of the day

Harper's Magazine - Percentage of US pet-custody cases that involve dogs : 96 That involve cats : 1

Travelers in nine states will need passports to fly effective January 22

Forbes - Nine states will no longer allow travelers to board an airplane with just their state issued driver’s licenses as of January 22, 2018. To get past TSA security checkpoints, another form of identification will be required: passport, permanent resident card/green card or a military ID.

The Real ID Act of 2005 states that state-issued IDs from these nine states do not meet the minimum security standards of the federal government:

Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington

Oscar Peterson's drummer denied entry into US

Mount Vernon, New York native Alvin Queen was recently notified that U.S. Homeland Security will not allow him to enter the United States to perform at a prestigious, long-planned concert in Washington.

Mr. Queen, the former drummer for Oscar Peterson, whose career includes memorable collaborations with a veritable who’s who of music royalty, including Nina Simone, Horace Silver, George Benson, Ruth Brown, Buddy DeFranco, Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor, Wild Bill Davis, George Coleman, George Braith, Larry Young, Harry Sweets Edison and Johnny Griffin, was set to perform at a concert in Washington, DC on November 15th, 2017, at the behest of The French-American Cultural Foundation.

The evening, has Wynton Marsalis as its honorary chairman, and Dr. David Skorton , Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution , is master of ceremonies. The event marks the centenary of the US entry into WWI and specifically honors the Harlem Hellfighters . Ironically, these were the African-American soldiers who served in WWI, and who introduced jazz music to France and the rest of Europe, yet whom were never officially honored, until now.

Mr. Queen, who has held a Swiss passport for thirty years, was informed this week that, due to a run-in with the law as a youth, a half century ago, while a minor, he would have to apply for a Waiver from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, despite the fact he was born in the USA. This would take months, making it virtually impossible to participate, barring Presidential decree, and we know that’s unlikely. But this is not “fake news.”

“Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me one bit,” comments Mr. Queen, 67, from his home in Geneva. “Funny thing, I gave up my U.S. passport to make life simpler at tax time. I never dreamed I would one day be denied entry, and with such ridiculous reasoning. I am frankly disgusted to be disrespected in this way, after a half century devoted to music.”

Latinos now largest minority in Chicago

National Institute for Latino Policy - Latinos have surpassed other minorities in Chicago, including African Americans, in population, making it the second largest racial and ethnic group in Chicago after U.S. Whites, according to the most recent Census data.

"Hispanics", the label invented and applied by the U.S. Census-which includes Latinos and Latin American descendants-now make up nearly a third of the city's total population of 2.7 million residents.

The driving force behind the Hispanic growth are births and not immigration, as had traditionally been the case.

The African-American population, which has lost about 250,000 residents since 2000, has also declined considerably.

Tillerson: Staying in the Iran deal in best interest of the US

The Hill - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he believes staying in the Iran nuclear deal is in the best interest of the U.S. During an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Tillerson was asked whether he agrees with Defense Secretary James Mattis that he would not want Congress to immediately impose sanctions that would end the multilateral deal. "I do agree with that," Tillerson said. "And I think the president does as well."

Psychologists march through NY to call for Trump's removal

The Hill - A group of psychologists and mental health professionals on Saturday marched through New York calling for President Trump to be removed from office. The group — which included more than 100 psychologists and mental health professionals — are pushing for Trump to be ousted from his post, according to The New York Post.  “We can sense the power of Trump’s underlying fear that he is worthless and weak by how intensely he resists and retaliated against any criticism,” said Harry Segal, a Cornell University psychologist.

Blasphemous Christians curse Jesus with Trump

Huffington Post - At the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington this weekend, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who serves on Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said in an interview on SiriusXM Progress that Donald Trump is now a “committed believer” of Jesus Christ and a “man of faith” who has “asked God for help and wisdom.”

"We were in a meeting with the vice president and the president, about 25 of us. I know the vice president. I served with him in Congress, and he is a vocal, committed believer of Jesus Christ himself. And he said, ‘I want all of you to know that the president is a committed believer. He is a man of faith.’

Bachmann also said that Trump “understands who put him into the White House, and that is people of faith,” and that “he’s asked God for help and for wisdom” and wants prayer.

Attendee Joel Brind of New Hamburg, New York, a college biology professor, explained that Jesus would have tweeted like Trump.

“If there were twitter then, [Jesus] would have used it in a similar way, I think,” Brind said.

"I wouldn’t restrict it to just [Trump’s] tweets. His communications in general are tactically [emulating Christ]. I don’t want to be misinterpreted to say that everything he says is equivalent to gospel. I mean, he’s on the right side, and his tactics are more reminiscent of Christ, of the tactics that Christ used when he walked the earth and which he admonished his followers to use also."

Trump was the first sitting president to speak at the anti-LGBTQ Values Voter Summit, where a pamphlet titled, “The Hazards of Homosexuality,” was included in promotional materials given to all attendees.

October 14, 2017

Pro life vs. pro choice license plates

Harper's Magazine -Number of states that offer pro-life license plates : 29 That offer pro-choice license plates : 3

The case for expanding electric rail

Word: Gorbachev's Plea to the Presidents of Russia and the United States:

About those statues

Sam Smith - I've been trying to figure out why statues of history's bad guys don't bother me as much as they do younger Americans. What I've come to realize is that for at least half my life history kept getting better and many, including myself, just assumed that we would  - and in fact were put on this earth to - continue to make things better. The unspoken assumption was that those statues were a reminder of how things had improved. History was just full of bad stuff and my own reaction was typically "glad I didn't live back then."

But if you are under 60 years old, that is not the case. History has been overwhelmingly the story of the deterioration of American politics and culture.  Thus there is far less hope concealed in it. The Confederates have returned as a part of today's story, as in Charlottesville, and the statues are too close to today.

But before you get too judgemental across the board, bear in mind that even otherwise good people once accepted slavery just as otherwise good people today accept war. What if in a few generations, war inspires a new abolition movement that is eventually successful.What will those generations have to say about us?

As Barbara Tuchman noted, "To understand the choices open to people of another time, one must limit oneself to what they knew; see the past in its own clothes, as it were, not in ours."

Weinstein had contract that protected his sex attacks

TMZ - Harvey Weinstein may have been fired illegally by The Weinstein Company, a company that wrote a contract that said Weinstein could get sued over and over for sexual harassment and as long as he shelled out money, that was good enough for the Company.

TMZ is privy to Weinstein's 2015 employment contract, which says if he gets sued for sexual harassment or any other "misconduct" that results in a settlement or judgment against TWC, all Weinstein has to do is pay what the company's out, along with a fine, and he's in the clear.

According to the contract, if Weinstein "treated someone improperly in violation of the company's Code of Conduct," he must reimburse TWC for settlements or judgments. Additionally, "You [Weinstein] will pay the company liquidated damages of $250,000 for the first such instance, $500,000 for the second such instance, $750,000 for the third such instance, and $1,000,000 for each additional instance."

The contract says as long as Weinstein pays, it constitutes a "cure" for the misconduct and no further action can be taken. Translation -- Weinstein could be sued over and over and as long as he wrote a check, he keeps his job.

The contract has specific language as to when the Board of Directors can fire Weinstein -- if he's indicted or convicted of a crime, but that doesn't apply here.

How Israel has abused the Gaza Strip

Abby Smardon, Mondoweiss - I’ve visited the Gaza Strip for each of the past six years, including in 2014 a few months after Israel’s devastating military assault. And yet, I’ve never seen Gaza like I did when I had the privilege of visiting this summer.

I call it a privilege because, due to the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel (with the support of Egypt), which is part of Israel’s now 50-year-old military rule over Palestinians in the occupied territories, internationals allowed in and out of Gaza are few, and Palestinians even fewer. This illegal land, air, and sea blockade, which has just entered its tenth year and amounts to collective punishment, as has been noted by the UN and human rights groups, has decimated the economy of Gaza and allowed for the near complete destruction of critical infrastructure. Experts use the term “de-development” to describe this once-bustling Mediterranean coastal enclave of two million Palestinians.

Nearly half the population are now unemployed and 80% rely on humanitarian assistance from organizations like UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Nearly one million refugees require UNRWA food assistance now, up from 80,000 people in 2000, before the blockade was in place. At its heart, UNRWA is a human development agency, running the largest and one of the best performing public school system in the entire Middle East, 10 times the size of DC Public Schools. But due to decades of Israel’s dispossession, occupation, and systematic oppression of Palestinians, UNRWA is forced to prioritize emergency interventions like food assistance and emergency protection. It’s an affront to humanity.

Health and consumer groups not funded by medical industries

Pharmed Out- Here is a list of health advocacy and consumer groups in the U.S. and Canada that take no funding from pharmaceutical, medical device, or biotech companies. The voices of independent groups that truly represent patients and consumers are drowned out by the thousands of groups that take money from industry and push industry viewpoints – or stay silent on drug safety, drug costs, and other issues vital to patients. This list is meant to be a resource for media and consumers who want to listen to – and support – independent groups whose opinions are not swayed by industry.

Word: Winnie the Pooh

Via Sharon & Peter Childs

Delaware's suburb, artist colony and radical political experiment.

Trump victims: Halfway houses

Reuters - The administration of President Donald Trump has been quietly cutting support for halfway houses for federal prisoners, severing contracts with as many as 16 facilities in recent months, prompting concern that some inmates are being forced to stay behind bars longer than necessary.

EU says Trump can't cancel Iran accord

Politico - The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said Friday that the United States had no right to unilaterally terminate the Iran nuclear accord. She called the agreement “effective” and said there had been “no violations of any of the commitments” in the deal.

“More than two years ago, exactly in July 2015, the entire international community welcomed the results of 12 years of intense negotiations on the Iran nuclear program,” Mogherini said, adding: “It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country. And it is not up to any single country to terminate it. It is a multilateral agreement, which was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.”

Joining Mogherini in what amounted to extraordinary isolation of the U.S. president, French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the accord, which they described as “in our shared national security interest.”

October 13, 2017

From our overstocked archives

I started out as a political reporter. Now I’m a crime reporter. The kind of people I cover hasn’t changed, only what they do. - Sam Smith

What Donald Trump has in common with Kaiser Wilhelm

69 House Republicans voted against aid to Puerto Rico

The Hill  -Legislation to provide $36.5 billion in aid for communities affected by recent wildfires and hurricanes, including Puerto Rico, secured widespread support in the House osave for 69 Republicans. The votes in opposition included many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who believe government spending should not add to the deficit.

Paris to ban non-electric cars by 2030

Common Dreams -  Paris officials announced a new goal to ban gas-powered cars from its streets by 2030.

The proposal would accelerate existing efforts to reduce air pollution in the city after French President Emmanuel Macron promised to ban the sale of vehicles with combustion engines by 2040.

Under the rule, only electric cars would be allowed in the city. Paris is already home to an electric car-sharing service, Autolib, which has become wildly popular since its launch in 2011 with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent over a decade.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo also said that diesel vehicles would be banned in the city by 2024. She has established bike paths and new bus lanes in an effort to reduce the city's dependence on cars.

Roy Moore fought to keep segregation in Alabama constitution

Talking  Point Memo - In 2004, a bipartisan coalition of Alabama leaders moved to eliminate sections of the state constitution mandating school segregation and poll taxes. They assumed it’d be an easy feat — until Roy Moore got involved.

Democrats and Republicans led by then-Gov. Bob Riley (R) worked together on an amendment to remove language in the state constitution mandating “separate schools for white and colored children” and allowing poll taxes, Jim Crow-era requirements that people to pay to vote that disenfranchised most black people.

The changes were purely symbolic — all of the state constitutional language had already been struck down by state and federal courts — but civil rights and business leaders saw it as a way to heal old wounds and make the state more attractive to big business.

The opposite happened instead, and Moore’s fierce opposition likely made the difference.

When conservative evangelical activists including the Alabama Christian Coalition began warning about adverse effects of the segregation amendment he stepped up to be the amendment’s most prominent foe — a move that kept his name in the headlines and sent the amendment down to a narrow defeat.

“This amendment is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the people of Alabama should be aware of it,” Moore told the Birmingham News in 2004, warning it would “open the door to an enormous tax increase” — one of many broadsides he issued.

His argument worked. The statewide measure failed by about 2,000 votes, out of 1.4 million cast. Every subsequent attempt to remove the language since that initial failure has failed, most recently in 2012.

Joan Baez to retire from touring

Variety - Joan Baez was one of several singer-songwriter luminaries to appear Tuesday night(Oct. 11) at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles for a benefit concert supporting the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service). The folk icon and recently inducted Rock And Roll Hall Of Famer was joined by Lucinda Williams, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, and Brandi Carlisle, and revealed to Variety shortly before taking the stage, that she’s winding down live performances in the near future.

“Next year is my last year of formal touring,” said Baez. “There will be four different tours, one month each, and then that’s it. I can choose if I want to go sing at a protest, or do something like this. The voice is so difficult to deal with now that having a point where I don’t have to do it anymore will be wonderful.”

Sam Smith - Mount Auburn 47, which opened in 1958 and later known as Club 47, was a coffee house located just around the corner from my entry of Harvard's Adams House. The current owners of what is now called Club Passim, described the early days:
"The first few months were rocky as the club was shut down by the Cambridge police. The local blue laws at the time prohibited more than three stringed instruments in a place that served food and beverages. So they got a non-profit educational charter and reopened as a private club, making people members at the door. It wasn't long before it earned a reputation for good music, coffee, and company. And it was here that a friend of then unknown 17-year-old Joan Baez rented the club out just to get her on stage. Baez quickly built a worshipful following and became a regular feature. Here, she introduced Bob Dylan who played between acts. The Club was shut down by Cambridge police once again, but the performers rallied and held their own hootenannies to keep the music going."
The club [for which I still have my membership card] would become increasingly famous with time, eventually becoming more important for folk singers than similar spots in New York. Bruce Springsteen was refused a gig there, Bonnie Rait hung out there, and Muddy Waters attracted the Cambridge police who, according to one account, "couldn't believe that the loud music could be coming from a place that only plays 'folk' music." Other musicians who cut their teeth at the club over the years included Tom Rush, Peter Wolf, Taj Mahal, Judy Collins, Suzanne Vega, Nanci Griffith, and Shawn Colvin

There was also Eric von Schmidt, with whom I even played a couple of practice sessions when he was wondering how guitar and just brushes on snare would sound together. And Joan Baez made

And Lew Waling, a friend of Joan's, who was the guy  her first radio appearance on WHRB, the Harvard radio station where I was news director.

A few years later, Lew's luck would turn. He was part of a classified Air Force mission in Vietnam. His plane went down and according to an accoun,, "Dawn found the SAR team getting off a Vietnamese Army helicopter on a dirt road several miles from the crash site. The team, led by Colonel Gleason, hiked across the side of a mountain where they found the C-47 had plummeted into a ravine and burned almost completely." Walling's name is one of the first forty on the glazed black wall of the Vietnam Memorial.

Gun laws that most Americans favor

New polls shows 80% of Americans, including 70% of Republicans and 76% of Independents, favor laws banning "assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines and bump stocks".

Interior's egomanical boss

When Queen Elizabeth visits Buckingham Palace a flag is raised to mark her visit—President Donald Yahoo - Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has been getting similar pomp and circumstance every day when he heads to work.

When Zinke enters the Department of the Interior in Washington, a member of the security staff heads to the roof to raise a special flag, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The flag—depicting a bison—is then lowered when Zinke leaves for the day. It also travels with him when he heads anywhere in the U.S. on official business.

“If we had a secretarial flag at the Obama Labor Department, we never bothered to locate it or use it,” Chris Lu, Deputy Secretary of Labor in the Obama administration told The Post. The practice, Lu said, mirrors exactly how Queen Elizabeth is treated. Other Trump Cabinet officials, and even President Donald Trump, have not adopted similar practices.

Former Wharton Professor: 'Trump Was the Dumbest G*dam Student I Ever Had'

Frank DiPrima, Alternet -  Late Professor William T. Kelley taught Marketing at Wharton School of Business and Finance, University of Pennsylvania, for 31 years, ending with his retirement in 1982. Dr. Kelley, who also had vast experience as a business consultant, was the author of a then-widely used textbook called Marketing Intelligence -- The Management of Marketing Information (originally published by P. Staples, London, 1968). … Dr. Bill was one of my closest friends for 47 years when we lost him at 94 about six years ago.  Bill would have been 100 this year. 

Donald J. Trump was an undergraduate student at Wharton for the latter two of his college years, having been graduated in 1968.

Professor Kelley told me 100 times over three decades that “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.” I remember his emphasis and inflection — it went like this — “Donald Trump was the dumbest goddam student I ever had.” Dr. Kelley told me this after Trump had become a celebrity but long before he was considered a political figure.  Dr. Kelley often referred to Trump’s arrogance when he told of this — that Trump came to Wharton thinking he already knew everything.

Supreme Court knocks down private prison secrecy

Shadowproof- The Supreme Court ruled against two private prison corporations, GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America, which sought to block the release of records related to government contracts with them.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court has finally put an end to private prison contractors’ relentless attempts to keep their secrets buried,” declared Mary Small, the policy director of Detention Watch Network. “With this decision, the Supreme Court has signaled agreement that private prison contractors must not act with impunity and dictate government secrecy.”

“This victory is especially important as we face a presidential administration committed to mass privatization, as well as mass detention and deportation,” Small added.

Flavors of Oreos over time


The down side of writing Winnie the Pooh

How ICE rips off immigrants' property

Intercept -  An internal handbook obtained by The Intercept provides a rare view into the extensive asset seizure operations of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, an office that trains its agents to meticulously appraise the value of property before taking it.

HSI’s 71-page “Asset Forfeiture Handbook,” dated June 30, 2010, underscores the role seizures play in “helping to fund future law enforcement actions” and covering costs “that HSI would otherwise be unable to fund.” It thus offers an unprecedented window into ICE’s wide-ranging asset forfeiture operations and the premium the agency places on seizing valuable property. Forfeiture proceeds can bolster ICE’s partnerships with local police departments, which are now the subject of heightened debate given the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration agenda.

ICE confirmed to The Intercept that the handbook reflects the agency’s most up-to-date guidance on asset forfeiture. Agents under its instruction are asked to weigh the competing priorities of law enforcement versus financial profit and to “not waste instigative time and resources” on assets it calls “liabilities” — which include properties that are not profitable enough for the federal government to justify seizing. “As a general rule, if total liabilities and costs incurred in seizing a real property or business exceed the value of the property, the property should not be seized,” the document states.

The handbook also instructs ICE agents on the various ways laws can be used to justify the seizure of a property, and devotes a significant portion of its pages to the seizure of real estate. The manual instructs agents seeking to seize a property to work with confidential informants, scour tax records, and even obtain an interception warrant to determine whether “a telephone located on the property was used to plan or discuss criminal activity” in order to justify seizing the property.

The handbook acknowledges that civil forfeiture can be used to take property from a person even when there’s not enough evidence for a criminal indictment. There “may be third party interest that would prevail in a criminal case, but would not survive in a civil proceeding, making the civil proceeding essential to forfeiture,” the handbook states, referencing a property owner not officially implicated in a crime. “Those situations generally occur when a property owner is not convicted of a crime but is also not an innocent owner. Under criminal forfeiture, that property owner would be entitled to the return of the property. Under civil forfeiture, however, the owner would lose his or her interest to the government.

Bringing food to the Detroit desert via a co-op

Yes Magazine - A decade ago, researchers reported that more than half of Detroit residents live in a food desert—an area where access to fresh and affordable healthy foods is limited because grocery stores are too far away. Efforts since then to bring more grocery stores—and food security—to predominantly Black neighborhoods haven’t worked.

But that’s looking to change.

Malik Yakini is executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, a coalition of people and groups that promotes urban agriculture, co-operative buying, and healthy eating. His organization is helping Black people in the city take matters into their own hands by creating their own grocery store, The Detroit People’s Co-op. The grocery will sit in the city’s North End neighborhood, where about 92 percent of residents are Black and nearly 40 percent have a household income less than $15,000.

“We found that a co-op grocery store was imperative,” says Yakini, adding that the members began to conceptualize the co-op in 2010 after they surveyed hundreds of Detroiters on their dietary eating habits, wants, and needs. “This new store will give the people more control over the food they eat and its production and preparation,” he says.

More evidence of a generational shift

We have argued for some years that we are suffering from the last gasps of America's older generations, unwilling to accept inevitable changes such as shifts in ethnicity. That this culture is on its way out doesn't mean it can't cause a lo tof damage on the way, but it is important - especially for younger Americans - to realize who ultimately controls the future.

Some recent evidence of this is found in a Pew Trust poll which reported that 57% of millennials described themselves as liberal while only 46% of the silent generation and boomers did. Most striking is that the millennial liberal percent is up 20 points since 2004.

Times are achangin'.

Child poverty falls to record low thanks to safety net programs

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities - The child poverty rate fell to a record low of 15.6 percent in 2016, a little more than half its 1967 level.

This robust progress against child poverty is largely an unheralded development. So is the role of government programs in driving this progress.

The data show that near-halving of the child poverty rate since the late 1960s is largely attributable to the creation or expansion of various safety net programs, particularly SNAP and two major refundable tax credits.

Bookshelf: Community organizing in radical times

Richard Moser, Conterpunch - The long-lost story of anti-racist, radical white working class activism has been restored by Amy Sonnie and James Tracy in their invaluable book: Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times. Get it and read it now.

During the 1960s and 1970s, radical activists set out to organize the white working class. They linked the pursuit of working class interest and economic democracy with anti-racist organizing. They discovered, and helped others realize, that white supremacy and racism are not a friend to white people but one of the main obstacles to fulfilling our own destiny as a free people.

The context was the last revolution. The civil rights, black power, feminist, student movements and community organizing set the stage for working class whites to make important contributions to the democracy movements of the time. While these efforts were initiated by various groups, the Students for a Democratic Society, radicalized working class youth, and the Black Panthers, they all eventually depended on the leadership of working class communities.

Study: Universal basic income would grow the economy

Fortune - A team of economists from the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute conclude in a new research study that implementing a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for all Americans would accelerate U.S. economic growth by an additional 12.56% over eight years if it were financed by increased federal debt.

If the same program were financed by increased redistributive taxes, the growth impact would be smaller, producing an additional 2.62% of GDP growth over 8 years. But the federal deficit would also, according to the model, shrink by 1.39%. In both scenarios, unemployment would also decrease.

A universal basic income, or UBI, is a once-fringe policy proposal that has gained increasing public support in the U.S., including from many tech business leaders including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. In part, the idea is appealing because it would help insulate workers against labor market shocks likely to be produced by innovations like self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

October 12, 2017

Trump tries to screw up Obamacare

Politico - Fed up with Congress' plodding efforts to repeal Obamacare, President Donald Trump took the matter into his own hands Thursday — signing an executive order that he pledged would quickly remake the nation's health markets.

But his impatience to quickly unravel Obamacare is set to collide with the slow grind of the federal bureaucracy, complicating the White House's plans to singlehandedly put its stamp on the health care system.

That means it could be months before the administration is able to follow through on Trump's vows to create a raft of new "great, great health care" options — and even that timeline assumes the agencies can navigate legal and regulatory dilemmas and fierce insurance industry opposition that could stop the plan dead in its tracks.

"This thing doesn't do anything on its own," said John Gorman, a consultant who works with several insurance companies. "What it is is the most wrongheaded, stupid list of policies that I've seen in recent memory."

Trump to address extremist group

Independent, UK The US president will become the first sitting president to address social conservative activists and elected officials at the Value Voters Summit in Washington DC on Friday.

President Trump has addressed the event which is hosted by the Family Research Council three times in total and did so last year as the Republican presidential candidate.

The Family Research Council opposes and actively lobbies against equal rights for LGBT persons. The conservative Christian group campaigns against same-sex marriage, same-sex civil unions, LGBT adoption, abortion, embryonic stell-cell research, pornography and divorce.

Polls: GOP leads Democrat in Alabama

In the Alabama Senate race the GOP's Moore leads the Democrat Jones in the latest poll by 8 points

America leaves UNESCO

Boing Boing - UNESCO is about as good as it gets in the world of UN Specialized Agencies, responsible for designating and protecting world heritage sites, running literacy for the poorest people on Earth, supporting potable water programs, protecting fragile and endangered ecosystems, running disaster preparedness plans for all to use, protecting indigenous knowledge, protecting the free press, and digitizing the world's libraries.

Today, the US resigned from UNESCO, citing "anti-Israel bias." UNESCO has designated the old city of Hebron a Palestinian World Heritage Site.

Though the State Department requested to still be a non-member observer state in order to advocate for these ideas, the US will no longer be supporting or actively participating in any of these global programs.

What the Village Voice taught us about speaking truth to power

Word: The Kurds should be independent

Bernard Henri-Levy, Foreign Policy - The timidity of the international community in the face of the Sept. 25 referendum on an independent Kurdistan is a trifecta of shame, absurdity, and historic miscalculation.

We are talking about a people who have been deported, Arabized by force, gassed, and pushed into the mountains where, for a century, they have mounted an exemplary resistance to the tyranny their Baghdad masters successively imposed on them in defiance of geography and of the Kurds’ thousand years of history.

Theirs is a region that finally gained autonomy with the fall of Saddam Hussein — a region that, when the tsunami of the Islamic State crashed over Mesopotamia in 2014 and the Iraqi Army took flight, was the first to organize a counteroffensive. Since then, over a front 600 miles long, the Iraqi Kurds held off the barbarians and thus saved Kurdistan, Iraq, and our shared civilization.

And it is the Kurds again who, in the run-up to the battle of Mosul, went on the offensive on the Plains of Nineveh, opened the gates to the city, and, through their courage, enabled the coalition to strike at the heart of the Islamic State.

But now that the time has come to settle up, the United States remains stubbornly opposed to the referendum, urging the Kurds to put off their aspirations for independence to an indeterminate date in the future. Instead of thanking the Kurds, the world is telling them, with thinly veiled cynicism, “Sorry, Kurdish friends, you were so useful in confronting Islamic terror, but, uh, your timing is not so good. We don’t need you anymore, so why don’t you just go on home? Thanks, again — see you next time.”

8% of state and federal prisons are privately owned

Sentencing Project - Private prisons in the United States incarcerated 126,272 people in 2015, representing 8% of the total state and federal prison population. Since 2000, the number of people housed in private prisons has increased 45%.

States show significant variation in their use of private correctional facilities. For example, New Mexico and Montana incarcerate over 40% of their prison populations in private facilities, while states such as Illinois and New York do not employ for-profit prisons. Data compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that in 2015, 28 states and the federal government incarcerated people in private facilities run by corporations including GEO Group, Core Civic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), and Management and Training Corporation.


Top 1 percent gets $207,000 tax cut; bottom 20 percent get $420 tax cut

Economic Policy Institute -  An analysis by the Tax Policy Center  confirms that the Republican tax plan amounts to nothing but an enormous tax cut for rich people—just like every single Republican plan before it. TPC found that by 2027, the Republican tax cut would deliver 80 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent, households that currently have incomes of roughly $730,000 or more. The top 1 percent of tax filers would receive a $207,060 average tax cut. In comparison, the bottom 20 percent of earners will receive only a $50 average tax cut.

And hidden behind the crumbs thrown toward the middle-class is significant variation. If you’re middle-class, maybe you’ll get a small tax cut—the middle 20 percent of tax filers will receive a $420 average tax cut. Or maybe you’re part of the 30 percent of taxpayers making between about $50,000 and $150,000 that TPC found would see your taxes increase.  Any claim that Republicans were ever genuinely planning a “middle-class tax cut” should be thoroughly dismissed. Far from it, Republicans appear dead-set on cutting taxes for the ultra-rich.

The healthy power of ballot initatives

Evan Ravitz, Quora -If Democrats want to be democratic, in touch with youth, and effectively promote a better world, they should back what The Economist magazine called back in 1993 “the logical next step for the West”: direct democracy as the ultimate check and balance to representative democracy.

The most important reason is that direct democracy in the US (practiced by 24 states that have ballot initiatives is the source of most progress in this country, with Congress and State legislatures copying popular initiatives. Colorado where I live has a far better recent record of legislation by the people than the record of any state legislature or Congress:

In 2000 we passed Amendment 20, legalizing medical marijuana, Amendment 22, closing the gun-show loophole and Amendment 23, raising K-12 spending. In 2002 we passed Amendment 27, enacting campaign finance reform. In 2004 we passed Amendment 37, the country's first renewable energy mandate for utilities. In 2006 we passed Amendment 41, the country's strongest Ethics in Government law. In 2008 we passed Amendment 54, which prohibits government contractors from making campaign donations. In 2012 we passed Amendment 64, the country's first legal marijuana, and we voted 3 to 1 for Amendment 65, asking our Congressional Representatives to work to reverse Citizens United. (Only 1 of 7 did anything, showing how poorly they represent us.) And in 2016 we passed Amendment 70 for a $12/hr. minimum wage.

The worst ballot initiatives are nothing compared with the evil done by legislators, too. The worst ballot initiatives I know of were Colorado and California’s anti-gay initiatives. But they never went into effect, as all the courts declared them unconstitutional. Contrast this with all 50 state legislatures criminalizing sodomy, and jailing people for decades -and worse. Congress persecuted Communists and socialists and their friends during the McCarthy era. And Congress and all 50 state legislatures criminalized marijuana and destroyed millions of lives of smokers during almost eight decades.

October 11, 2017

Majority think Trump not fit to be president

By a 55% to 43% margin,  voter say Trump is not fit to serve as president.

Allegations against Harvey Weinstein so far

Americans oppose Trump's immigration plans

Christian Science Monitor - Only 1 in 5 Americans want to deport young immigrants brought to the United States as children and now here illegally, the focus of a politically fraught debate between the White House and Congress.

Americans also have largely negative opinions about President Trump's signature immigration pledge to build a wall along the entire US-Mexico border, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Just under half – 49 percent – oppose construction, while 32 percent support it.

October 10, 2017

Jimmy Carter offers to meet with Kim Jong Un

The Hill - Former President Jimmy Carter (D) reportedly offered to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in an attempt at peace talks.

A University of Georgia professor detailed Carter’s offer to Korea JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper.

“Carter wants to meet with the North Korean leader and play a constructive role for peace on the Korean Peninsula as he did in 1994,” Park Han-shik told the newspaper.Park, who met with Carter, is the professor emeritus at the university's School of Public & International Affairs.

“Should former President Carter be able to visit North Korea, he would like to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and discuss a peace treaty between the United States and the North and a complete denuclearization of North Korea,” Park told the paper.  Park said Carter wants “to prevent a second Korean War.”

From our overstocked archives: The death of liberalism

Sam Smith, 2011

As I was listening recently to a Bob Edwards interview with Kirsten Downey, biographer of the New Deal labor secretary, Frances Perkins, it struck me that the first woman ever to hold cabinet office in American history had played a key role in getting more accomplished than the last three decades of American liberalism combined - things like the Civilian Conservation Corps, Public Works Administration, Social Security, federal insurance for bank accounts, welfare, unemployment insurance, child labor laws, bargaining rights for labor, restrictions on overtime, a 40 hour work week and a minimum wage.

Perkins’ colleagues in the New Deal also brought us legal alcohol, regulation of the stock exchanges, the Soil Conservation Service, national parks and monuments, the Tennessee Valley Authority, rural electrification, the FHA, a big increase in hospital beds, and the Small Business Administration.

Add to that the numerous achievements of the Great Society including bilingual education, civil rights legislation, community action agencies, Head Start, job Corps, the national endowments for arts and humanities, Teacher Corps, anti-poverty programs, nutrition assistance, Medicare and Medicaid.

Next to this, post-1980 liberalism seems at best pathetic and at worst a major betrayal of its own past. Even the otherwise crummy Nixon administration did better – bringing us EPA, affirmative action, the Clean Air Act, the first Earth Day, indexing Social Security for inflation, Supplemental Security income, OSHA, and healthcare reform.

Future historians seeking to learn why America so easily surrendered its democratic traditions and constitutional government to a rabid right will find plenty to study in the rise of a liberal aristocracy that became increasingly disinterested in its own historic values. Like all aristocracies, it came to exist primarily to protect itself, had an impermeable faith in its own virtue, and held in contempt those who did not share its values or accept its hegemony.

For many years, 20th century liberalism was saved from becoming an aristocracy because of the dominance of constituencies such as labor, European socialists and ethnic minorities. By the 1980s, however, these constituencies - thanks in no small part to successful liberal policies - had advanced socially and economically to the point that they no longer functioned as a massive reminder of what liberalism was meant to be about.

Among the greatest victims of this retreat have been economic decency, social democracy and civil liberties. It was not that the new liberal aristocrats actually opposed them; it just didn't matter much to them. Liberalism was no longer a matter of masses yearning to breathe free, but of boomers yearning for an SUV and millennials for a new I-Something.

While there were still repeated expressions of faith in a declining number of icons such as diversity, abortion, and the environment, the fact was that the liberal elite had become far more characterized by its capacity for self-defense than by its concern or action for others.

Most striking was the disappearing interest in those at the bottom. Liberal city councils went after the homeless, pandered to developers, and engaged in other forms of socio-economic cleansing. The Clinton administration attacked welfare in a manner once limited to the Republican right; prison populations soared without a murmur from the liberals; Democrats supported without question a cruel and unconstitutional war on drugs; they joined the war on two centuries of public education; and liberal media aristocrats prided themselves in faux realpolitik and patronizing prescriptions for the masses. Obama gave freely to the banks but hardly noticed the foreclosed.

The trend produced remarkable twists of liberal values. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus backed the war on drugs; the leaders of NOW repeatedly defended a sexually predatory male in the White House. And liberal academia provided all purpose justification through the magic rationalization of postmodernism.

Through it all, the liberal aristocracy was the dog that didn't bark. Just as Sherlock Holmes' creature failed to warn of an intruder, so America's liberal leadership failed repeatedly to warn of infringements of civil liberties, of unconstitutional acts and legislation, or to rise to the defense of people beyond its own class.

When the liberal aristocracy backed the war on drugs, happily sacrificed national and local sovereignty to multinational corporations, yawned as the Clintons disassembled their own former cause, and looked the other way as Obama expanded the police state, it was clear that this atrophied elite would not handle a real crisis.

Thought without action is the coitus interruptus of the mind, which may be why liberals produced so few progeny. A politics so heavily grounded in intellectual considerations as opposed to human experience, runs the constant risk of losing its bearings. A wiser approach was espoused by Julius Nyerere who argued that the true revolutionary acted as one of thought and thought as one of action. Another great African activist, Nelson Mandela, credited cattle farming rather than universities as his inspiration. Moving herds around, he explained, had taught him how to lead from behind.

Too great an intellectual bias turns citizens into data -- economic or sociological aggregates rather than human organisms. Politics involves real people and it helps to speak real people talk. Many liberals have a tin ear for their presumed constituency.

This involves more than a choice of words; the over-refined language is clouded with abstractions while disdaining the anecdotes and metaphors that every good preacher knows is the easiest way to propel a message.

I sometimes think that liberalism died when, in the last few decades, its advocates started talking about “infrastructure” instead of public works. The language of obfuscation added to the divide between liberals and others.

Thomas Jefferson said that people "by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:

“1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.

“2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests."
There is little doubt as to which of these parties many liberals belong. Rhetoric notwithstanding, too often those leading liberal America believe they were born to rule. In fact, their profound self-assurance on this score helps to explain another anomaly of liberals and leftists: the frequency with which you will find them -- Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are names that spring to mind -- cavorting with those whose politics should be an anathema. The reason is simply that the blood of their entitlement is thicker than that of their ideology. What really ties Washington together and unites it against the rest of the country is not policy but a common understanding of the sort of person who should be in charge.

Now the economy has fallen, our world status collapsed, our Constitution tattered, and our civil liberties deteriorating by the day. And in the place of a quietly incompetent alliance between conservative and liberal elites, we now find a rabid Republicanism rising unlike anything seen before – the most extremist mainstream party in our history.

The collapse of liberalism, of course, is only one cause – less important, to be sure, than the cult of Reaganism, reckless capitalism or Citizens United, perhaps the worst Supreme Court decision ever. But this much we know: you cannot win in the eighth or ninth round if you give up in the first or second. At the very least, liberal disintegration opened doors sooner and wider through which the rabid right could easily enter.