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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Tell me why: A therapeutic mixtape

By Dennis Hartley

In a 2016 piece about the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, I wrote:
But there is something about [Orlando] that screams “Last call for sane discourse and positive action!” on multiple fronts. This incident is akin to a perfect Hollywood pitch, writ large by fate and circumstance; incorporating nearly every sociopolitical causality that has been quantified and/or debated over by criminologists, psychologists, legal analysts, legislators, anti-gun activists, pro-gun activists, left-wingers, right-wingers, centrists, clerics, journalists and pundits in the wake of every such incident since Charles Whitman perched atop the clock tower at the University of Texas and picked off nearly 50 victims (14 dead and 32 wounded) over a 90-minute period. That incident occurred in 1966; 50 years ago this August. Not an auspicious golden anniversary for our country. 50 years of this madness. And it’s still not the appropriate time to discuss? What…too soon? 
All I can say is, if this “worst mass shooting in U.S. history” (which is saying a lot) isn’t the perfect catalyst for prompting meaningful public dialogue and positive action steps once and for all regarding homophobia, Islamophobia, domestic violence, the proliferation of hate crimes, legal assault weapons, universal background checks, mental health care (did I leave anything out?), then WTF will it take?
Well, that didn’t take. Which reminds me-remember what happened a year ago this month? Here’s a quick refresher (from the Washington Times-February 15th, 2017):
Congress on Wednesday approved the first gun rights bill of the new Republican-controlled Washington, voting to erase an Obama administration regulation that would have forced Social Security to scour its lists and report some of its beneficiaries to the firearms no-buy list. 
The Senate approved the bill on a 57-43 vote. The House cleared the legislation earlier this month. 
If President Trump signs the bill into law as expected, it will expunge a last-minute change by the Obama administration designed to add more mental health records to the national background check system that is meant to keep criminals and unstable people from obtaining weapons.
In case you missed it, President Trump did, in fact, sign the bill into law. As expected.

So how did that work out for us? Remember Vegas? Watched any news…this week?

You know what “they” say-we all have a breaking point. When it comes to this particular topic, I have to say, I think that I may have finally reached mine. I’ve written about this so many times, in the wake of so many horrible mass shootings, that I’ve lost count. I’m out of words. There are no Scrabble tiles left the bag, and I’m stuck with a “Q” and a “Z”. Game over. Oh waiter-check, please. The end. Finis. I have no mouth, and I must scream.

Something else “they” say...music soothes the savage beast. Not that this 10-song playlist that I have assembled will necessarily assuage the grief, provide the answers that we seek, or shed any new light on the subject-but sometimes, when words fail, music speaks.

As the late great Harry Chapin tells his audience in the clip I’ve included below: “Here’s a song that I could probably talk about for two weeks. But I’m not going to burden you, and hopefully the story and the words will tell it the way it should be.” What Harry said.

“Family Snapshot” – Peter Gabriel

“Friend of Mine” – Jonathan & Stephen Cohen (Columbine survivors)

“Guns Guns Guns” – The Guess Who

“I Don’t Like Mondays” – The Boomtown Rats

“Jeremy” – Pearl Jam

“Melt the Guns” – XTC

“Psycho Killer” – The Talking Heads

“Saturday Night Special” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Sniper” – Harry Chapin

“Ticking” – Elton John

Previous posts with related themes:

NRA Issues Statement on Latest Mass Shooting
Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot
America: A History of Violence
Defending Liberty!
Toddler Exercises His 2nd Amendment Rights
Small Popcorn, Medium Coke, and a Kevlar Vest, Please

More reviews at Den of Cinema
On Facebook
On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley

The wingnuts subtly change their excuses in light of the indictments

by digby

Nice try. There are dozens on damning statements but none more damning than this one:

Trump said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he had assured Trump that there was no interference in the campaign.
"I asked him again," Trump told reporters on a flight to Hanoi. "You can only ask so many times... He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did. 
"I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it... I think he's very insulted, if you want to know the truth."

Come on. How about this?

That was just last September.  He's not talking about his own alleged involvement. He's saying the whole Facebook thing was a hoax.

This is utter nonsense. But then, when it comes to this White House, what isn't?

During the debates he was clear that he didn't believe there was any Russian hacking.

October 2016:

"But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are — she doesn't know if it's the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they're trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia."

September 2016:
"I don't know if we know it was Russia who broke into the DNC. She keeps saying Russia, Russia, Russia. Maybe it was. It could also be China, it could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

He'd had national security briefings by this time. He knew. And he knew the government knew.


QOTD: Bernie Sanders

by digby

People thinking that Senator Bernie Sanders was happy to receive help from the Russian government in 2016 are on the wrong track. Sanders is a man of the left who understands what the Putin government is really all about and unlike Donald Trump, it's not anything that he admires or supports.

This quote
from his foreign policy speech last September is something I would hope everyone from the center to the far left could agree upon. If we don't, we are going to have even bigger problems than we already have:
Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable. They must be understood as part of the same system, and fought in the same way. Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.

Indeed. And it's happening all over the world. Our own demagogue is an f-ing moron so he's not quite as efficient as some of them but a little tutoring from his pals in the Party and maybe a few tips from his foreign despot friends and who knows? His pals in the congress are certainly getting the looting part of the job done.

People need to open their eyes about this.

Oh my. Kushner requests more top secret intelligence than anyone else in the White House

by digby

And he doesn't have a security clearance:

He holds a broad range of responsibilities, from overseeing peace efforts in the Middle East to improving the efficiency of the federal government. And he is the administration’s interlocutor with key allies, including China and Saudi Arabia, where he has developed a personal relationship with the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Kushner has been present at meetings with the president where classified information was discussed and has access to the President’s Daily Brief, a digest of intelligence updates based on information from spies, satellites, and surveillance technology, according to people with knowledge of his access.

And apart from staff on the National Security Council, he issues more requests for information to the intelligence community than any White House employee, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

Experts said it is rare to have such a high level of interim security clearance for such a long period of time. It is particularly striking access for someone like Kushner, who has never served in government and has a complex history of financial transactions, business ownership and contacts and dealings with foreigners.

Oh, by the way, he and his family are drowning in debt, about to go under.

Not that this would be any kind of motivation to, oh, provide a little info to some people who might help him with that problem.

Kushner is a serious national security threat. We don't know if he is actually doing anything untoward with all that intelligence. Maybe he's just using it for the cause of middle east peace.
But this isn't a risk anyone but Donald Trump would be willing to take.

I doubt anything will change. Kushner doesn't seem to have used a personal server for any of his non-classified correspondence.


Yes Houston. We have a big problem

by digby

The New York Times:

In 13 months in office, Mr. Trump has made little if any public effort to rally the nation to confront Moscow for its intrusion or to defend democratic institutions against continued disruption. His administration has at times called out Russia or taken action, and even Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, speaking in Germany on Saturday, called evidence of Russian meddling “incontrovertible.” But the administration has been left to respond without the president’s leadership.

“It is astonishing to me that a president of the United States would take this so lightly or see it purely through the prism of domestic partisanship,” said Daniel Fried, a career diplomat under presidents of both parties who is now at the Atlantic Council. He said it invariably raised questions about whether Mr. Trump had something to hide. “I have no evidence that he’s deliberately pulling his punches because he has to, but I can’t dismiss it. No president has raised those kinds of questions.

No, one cannot dismiss it. Indeed, it is the most logical explanation. The only other explanation for his behavior is that he is batshit crazy which is just as bad.

Either way, we have a president in the middle of a major counter-intelligence investigation and at the center of the most shocking presidential scandal in history. That's not hyperbole. The worst case scenario here is that the president conspired with a foreign adversary (and yes, they are an adversary if not an enemy) to win the presidential election, either for their mutual personal benefit or due to some form of blackmail.

The best case scenario is that the president of the United States was an unwitting dupe but is so deranged and ignorant that he refuses to take action to prevent this from happening in the future and is actively covering up the scandal to assuage his fragile ego. And in the process, he's implicating himself in the scandal after the fact.

There are no other explanations for this and it's terrifying.

Meanwhile his cynical, nihilistic party is either turning a blind eye or actively helping him so that they can raid the US Treasury, free their friends in business and industry to wantonly pillage and burn and offer their religious zealot supporters as many human sacrifices as possible. They seem to know the end is nigh and that they can take it all with them.

Uh, so yes. It's astonishing. And it gets worse every day.

And, by the way, people who think that things will get better on any front while this dynamic exists are kidding themselves. With this depraved political partyat the zenith of their lunacy, led by an unfit imbecile, we can hope that our democratic structure holds and we survive long enough to remove them from power. That's all we've got.

How many people do you suppose are blackmailing Donald Trump?

by digby

Eric Boehlert writes:
More evidence of Trump’s long history of reckless behavioremerged Friday morning, with the New Yorker reporting that Trump had an affair with a Playboy model while married in 2006.

More importantly, the woman, Karen McDougal, last year signed a $150,000 contract with the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, a close friend of Trump, who then made sure the story about the affair was never published. The contract also made sure the McDougal couldn’t discuss the matter publicly.

That payoff looks an awful lot like the $130,000 hush money payment Trump’s personal attorney made to a porn actress on the eve of the 2016 election. In 2011, she had discussed her affair with Trump. But the 2016 payment barred her from doing so going forward.

In the wake of Trump’s attorney conceding he made the $130,000 payment, the actress, Stormy Daniels, is now threatening to go public with her story.

For Trump, it all points to an elaborate system he and his handlers have in place to cover up embarrassing information about his past. However, it also exposes the possibility that Trump can be blackmailed because key players know embarrassing secrets about his past.

Indeed, at the National Enquirer, stockpiling dirt on famous people is a common practice. “Pecker also used the unpublished stories as ‘leverage’ over some celebrities in order to pressure them to pose for his magazines or feed him stories,” one former employee told The New Yorker.

“These dirty stories about high-profile individuals would be used as leverage over these individuals,” New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow told “Good Morning America” Friday. “Obviously, national security implications here when that happens to be the president.”

Incredibly, this is a White House drowning in blackmail possibilities.

Recall that the reason the White House recently became engulfed in controversy over a top aide who was accused of abusing his ex-wives is because he could not land a security clearance in part because of the fear that he could be blackmailed over the explosive allegations of abuse.

I've never placed a lot of stock in the "pee tape" thing. They've phonied up such things in the past and nowadays could probably make it look very real.

But isn't it obvious that this man is a walking blackmail target? Recall what Steve Bannon said:

"Look, Kasowitz has known [Trump] for twenty-five years. Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them."

And that's just the women. There's also the mob, both foreign and domestic, and God knows what financial shenanigans he's gotten into here and around the world.

I'm pretty sure the president of the United States couldn't pass a background check to become a school crossing guard much less get a full security clearance.

He sees everything and can classify and declassify any piece of intelligence he wants.



Anything but normal

by Tom Sullivan

New Yorker's David Remnick summarizes the blockbuster indictments issued Friday by the Justice Department:

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has now charged thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian organizations with meddling in the election. Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s Deputy Attorney General, told reporters on Friday that the people and entities charged intended “to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy.” The indictment focusses on the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in St. Petersburg, Russia, which, beginning in 2014, allegedly carried out an expensive and intricate influence operation concentrated on highly contested battleground states, including Florida, Virginia, and Colorado. Some of the defendants, it said, posed as Americans and communicated with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”
The 37-page indictment lays out in extensive detail how these thirteen and the three organizations went about setting American against American and tilting the field against Hillary Clinton to benefit Donald Trump. The disinformation operations began in 2014, the indictment states, as an attempt "to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016." Only later did the Russians opportunistically focus on helping Trump and hurting Clinton.

The level of detail in the document strongly suggests Mueller's team is fully prepared to prove its allegations in court. The quality of the intelligence revealed in it suggests there is much more to come. Mueller's move throws cold water on Trump's repeated assertions that the Russia investigation is a "total hoax," a "joke," a "ruse," "fake news," or a "political witch hunt." Documenting the Russian conspiracy in such detail also makes it more difficult for Trump to fire Rosenstein. Not that he won't anyway.

Rosenstein took care to remind the press that there is "no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity." Nor that the alleged conduct altered the outcome of the election. This indictment. This illegal activity. We have yet to see indictments for the DNC hacking or possible money laundering.

To which now-president Donald Trump responded in a tweet: "This is not normal" has become a mantra of the anti-Trump #Resistance. Trump's tweet yesterday reinforced that yet again. There was no normal presidential response to documented evidence of a criminal conspiracy by a foreign power to undermine American democratic processes. Instead, Trump's response echoed that of a cartoon character, "I didn't do it, nobody saw me do it, there's no way you can prove anything!"

A normal president would express outrage. A normal president would impose sanctions. A normal president would insist the U.S. Department of Justice press on and unwind the conspiracy. But our sitting president is anything but normal. "Putin attacked America. And yet no pushback whatsoever. Why?" Michael McFaul, U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014, wrote in response to Trump's tweet.

Members of the National Security Council have an unspoken agreement not to raise the Russia matter with the president. He does not treat Russian election meddling as his duty to address, but considers mentioning it a personal affront. The Washington Post reminds readers that Trump prefers to believe denials of interference made by Russian president Vladimir Putin:
“He said he didn’t meddle,” the president told reporters. “. . . Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
The Post's Editorial Board responds:
The grand jury’s indictment shows how far Russia is willing to go to manipulate and discredit our democracy. Mr. Trump’s own intelligence chiefs warned this week that the 2018 election is under threat. Given the baffling and inexcusable absence of presidential leadership, Congress must step up to defend the nation.
The man who swore an oath before the world that he would will not. He's too obsessed with himself to expend the energy.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday Night Soother: Welcoming the new baby

by digby

This will make your day:

Elephants are better than all of us...


Trump was making political speeches in New Hampshire in 2014. Even Russians knew what that meant.

by digby

Trump tweeted this today:

He wasn't running in 2014? Really? The press didn't take it seriously, of course, since they assumed he was a joke all the way up until election day 2016. Maybe the Russians were a little bit more optimistic.


Donald Trump is teasing his 2016 presidential run again.

“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said at a press conference during a fundraiser for Iowa Congressman Steve King on Saturday. “We’ll see what’s going to happen, first of all, in the next month because that’s going to be very interesting.”

He went on to slam President Obama for doing such a “poor” and “horrible job” during his term, but added that he wanted to see who the other potential candidates were before making any decision.

Back in July 2013, Trump told the National Review that he was “looking” to run because the country was being “stupidly and foolishly led.” He added that his business and economic reputation could help the United States take on China and put the U.S. back on top. Trump also told Reuters, in January, that running for president is something he “would certainly look at” because he is “unhappy with the way things are going in America.”

As for when, if ever, the real estate entrepreneur will actually make a concrete decision and stop dropping small, vague hints every few months, you may not want to hold your breath.

“We’ll make a decision, sometime after the beginning of the year,” Trump said.

QOTD: The White House

by digby

You can't make this stuff up:

Earlier today, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, which began in 2014 before the President declared his candidacy. President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates — that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.

President Trump says, “it is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”

They are saying that because this started before 2014 it means he won fair and square. Or something.

As for the lecture about stopping "partisan attacks" ... please.

Oh, and any word on when they plan to impose those sanctions mandated by congress with a nearly unanimous vote that Trump only signed because they would have over-ridden his veto?

No? Huh.

Remember when Jared was bragging about his brilliant cyber-campaign?

by digby

So a bunch of Russians were indicted today for meddling in the 2016 campaign.It turns out that they were here in the country in some instances and that they had a highly sophisticated cyber-operation. We knew all this, of course. There have been many reports over the past year about this campaign. But this is a new level of confirmation and it's important.

It says that there were Americans "unwittingly" involved but it also says there may be more Americans "known and unknown" involved in all this.

For some reason this came to mind as I read that:

It's hard to overstate and hard to summarize Jared's role in the campaign," says billionaire Peter Thiel, the only significant Silicon Valley figure to publicly back Trump. "If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer."

"Jared Kushner is the biggest surprise of the 2016 election," adds Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, who helped design the Clinton campaign's technology system. "Best I can tell, he actually ran the campaign and did it with essentially no resources."

No resources at the beginning, perhaps. Underfunded throughout, for sure. But by running the Trump campaign--notably, its secret data operation--like a Silicon Valley startup, Kushner eventually tipped the states that swung the election. And he did so in manner that will change the way future elections will be won and lost. President Obama had unprecedented success in targeting, organizing and motivating voters. But a lot has changed in eight years. Specifically social media. Clinton did borrow from Obama's playbook but also leaned on traditional media. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, delved into message tailoring, sentiment manipulation and machine learning. The traditional campaign is dead, another victim of the unfiltered democracy of the Web--and Kushner, more than anyone not named Donald Trump, killed it.
The decision that won Trump the presidency started on the return trip from that Springfield rally last November aboard his private 757, dubbed Trump Force One. Chatting over McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, Trump and Kushner talked about how the campaign was underutilizing social media. The candidate, in turn, asked his son-in-law to take over his Facebook initiatives.

Despite his itchy Twitter finger, Trump is a Luddite. He reportedly gets his news from print and television, and his version of e-mail is to handwrite a note that his assistant will scan and attach. Among those in his close circle, Kushner was the natural pick to create a modern campaign. Yes, like Trump he's primarily a real estate guy, but he had invested more broadly, including in media (in 2006 he bought the New York Observer) and digital commerce (he helped launch Cadre, an online marketplace for big real estate deals). More important, he knew the right crowd: co-investors in Cadre include Thiel and Alibaba's Jack Ma--and Kushner's younger brother, Josh, a formidable venture capitalist who also cofounded the $2.7 billion insurance unicorn Oscar Health.

"I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley, some of the best digital marketers in the world, and asked how you scale this stuff," Kushner says. "They gave me their subcontractors."
By June the GOP nomination secured, Kushner took over all data-driven efforts. Within three weeks, in a nondescript building outside San Antonio, he had built what would become a 100-person data hub designed to unify fundraising, messaging and targeting. Run by Brad Parscale, who had previously built small websites for the Trump Organization, this secret back office would drive every strategic decision during the final months of the campaign. "Our best people were mostly the ones who volunteered for me pro bono," Kushner says. "People from the business world, people from nontraditional backgrounds."

Kushner structured the operation with a focus on maximizing the return for every dollar spent. "We played Moneyball, asking ourselves which states will get the best ROI for the electoral vote," Kushner says. "I asked, How can we get Trump's message to that consumer for the least amount of cost?" FEC filings through mid-October indicate the Trump campaign spent roughly half as much as the Clinton campaign did.

Just as Trump's unorthodox style allowed him to win the Republican nomination while spending far less than his more traditional opponents, Kushner's lack of political experience became an advantage. Unschooled in traditional campaigning, he was able to look at the business of politics the way so many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have sized up other bloated industries.

Television and online advertising? Small and smaller. Twitter and Facebook would fuel the campaign, as key tools for not only spreading Trump's message but also targeting potential supporters, scraping massive amounts of constituent data and sensing shifts in sentiment in real time.

"We weren't afraid to make changes. We weren't afraid to fail. We tried to do things very cheaply, very quickly. And if it wasn't working, we would kill it quickly," Kushner says. "It meant making quick decisions, fixing things that were broken and scaling things that worked."

This wasn't a completely raw startup. Kushner's crew was able to tap into the Republican National Committee's data machine, and it hired targeting partners like Cambridge Analytica to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most: trade, immigration or change. Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions--say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration. Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface.

Soon the data operation dictated every campaign decision: travel, fundraising, advertising, rally locations--even the topics of the speeches. "He put all the different pieces together," Parscale says. "And what's funny is the outside world was so obsessed about this little piece or that, they didn't pick up that it was all being orchestrated so well."

For fundraising they turned to machine learning, installing digital marketing companies on a trading floor to make them compete for business. Ineffective ads were killed in minutes, while successful ones scaled. The campaign was sending more than 100,000 uniquely tweaked ads to targeted voters each day. In the end, the richest person ever elected president, whose fundraising effort was rightly ridiculed at the beginning of the year, raised more than $250 million in four months--mostly from small donors.

As the election barreled toward its finale, Kushner's system, with its high margins and up-to-the-minute voter data, provided both ample cash and the insight on where to spend it. When the campaign registered the fact that momentum in Michigan and Pennsylvania was turning Trump's way, Kushner unleashed tailored TV ads, last-minute rallies and thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and make phone calls.

And until the final days of the campaign, he did all this without anyone on the outside knowing about it. For those who can't understand how Hillary Clinton could win the popular vote by at least 2 million yet lose handily in the electoral college, perhaps this provides some clarity. If the campaign's overarching sentiment was fear and anger, the deciding factor at the end was data and entrepreneurship.

"Jared understood the online world in a way the traditional media folks didn't. He managed to assemble a presidential campaign on a shoestring using new technology and won. That's a big deal," says Schmidt, the Google billionaire.

Yeah. He had a little hlp...

Oh, by the way, Kushner's greatest enemy, Steve Bannon, just spent more than 20 hours with Mueller this week. Bannon, you'll recall, was associated with the Mercers who financed both Breitbart and Cambridge Analytica.

Just saying.

Oh look who helped with the "lock her up!"

by digby

I have posted that picture a dozen times over the past year. I found it to be the perfect example of the disgusting tactics gleefully e employed by the Trump campaign. If you look at the whole series of photos people in the crowd were throwing things at the "Hillary" character as it drove by.

According to the Mueller indictments today, this was part of a Russian tactic.

Interesting, if true. They really understood how to tickle the wingnut lizard brain. Be crude and disgusting they would respond.

But the Russians didn't come up with this concept. This came directly from the Republican convention and then grew from that:

Maybe they weren't directly working together. But they were certainly inspired by each other.


Lindsey, Donald and the DREAMers

by digby

I posted yesterday
about the bizarre statement from the Department of Homeland Security regarding the pending Immigration compromise which sounded as if it had been drafted in the Breitbart mens room. Apparently Lindsey Graham thought it was a little bit weird as well:

“Who the hell wrote this?”

That’s how Sen. Lindsey Graham described his furious reaction to a Department of Homeland Security statement condemning a Senate immigration plan carefully crafted by Republicans and Democrats.

Graham has been working for months on writing a proposal that could win Senate approval. He’d spoken to President Donald Trump just days earlier, warning him, “I want to work with (you), but I'm not going to tolerate ... some of the things coming out of this White House.”

Once a Trump favorite, Graham found Thursday he was seen as an “obstacle” by at least some senior members of the administration.

The unprecedented crosstown rhetorical battle began in the morning, when DHS blasted out a press release saying a Senate Democrat-Republican agreement to protect 1.8 million undocumented immigrants from deportation “would effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.”

Graham fired back with his own statement saying he was “disappointed” with DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for sanctioning the release.

At a news conference a few hours later, Graham later revealed the department screed was penned by a one-time press secretary to Tom Tancredo, who as a Colorado GOP congressman sought to derail comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation in the mid-2000s.

“You've got the two most extreme characters in town running the show,” Graham said of the former Tancredo aide and Stephen Miller, a senior White House adviser who has spent years as a congressional staffer fighting expansions of legal immigration.

By the early afternoon, a senior White House official was telling reporters on a phone briefing that Graham was a deterrent to landing a deal to codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump will end on March 5 unless Congress extends it.

“If you look at the history of failed immigration reform bills, at some point you have to ask yourself the question whether Lindsey Graham’s involvement in drafting those bills means that instead of being the solution to the problem Lindsey Graham’s presence on those bills is the problem,” said the official, who later sniped, “I'm not aware when Lindsey Graham became the chair of the Democratic conference.”

The official would not put a name to the remarks.

“I don’t know who it is. All I can say is, they’re brave enough to be anonymous,” Graham said in response to the call. “So here’s what I can say: Stephen Miller is an outlier on immigration, he’s an extremist and the president who has turned the keys of the car over to him will never get anywhere.”
It looks like Lindsey's in the dog house. And his influence on the immigration issue is over:
After Trump won the 2016 election in part by campaigning to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, conservative hardliners are questioning whether Graham is the right person to lead immigration talks on Capitol Hill, asking whether someone who is more in line with the president’s base should be running point — someone like Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

Cotton has spent the past month demeaning Graham’s participation in immigration negotiations.

“I think it’s embarrassing for a senator to punch down and attack a staffer,” Cotton told reporters. “It impugns the president for any senator to say a president is being led around by his staff.”

But the criticism lodged against Graham on Thursday from White House officials went beyond typical verbal sparring. And immediately after the exchanges, few fellow Republicans were eager to enter the fray to defend him.

White House legislative director Marc Short, at the Capitol for meetings with lawmakers, told reporters he “obviously” didn’t know who the unnamed official was. Short refused to comment on the remarks.

“I still feel like I’ve had a good relationship with Sen. Graham and appreciate the chance to work with him on lots of things. I don’t happen to agree with him on this particular issue but I’ve found he’s been a good help for me on a lot of issues,” Short said.

I'm sure Graham will find a way to help. He's already working the Christopher Steele angle with everything he's got. He'll be back on the golf course with his Dear Leader any day now.

Senators on both sides of the aisle agreed Graham had been an instrumental in trying to find an immigration compromise. As he headed to the Senate floor to take a procedural vote on the Republican-Democrat proposal that was ultimately doomed — it failed to advance, falling six votes short of the 60 needed — he said he wasn’t looking to sugarcoat the situation, or his position.

“I have no interest in lying to the American people about what’s going on at the White House,” Senator Mike Rounds said. “I’m a proud Republican who believes in more immigration, not less.”

Proud Trumpists, which includes the vast majority of the GOP today, want to deport as many Latinos, Muslims and Asians and members of African shithole countries as they can. Not to worry. They'll let "hard working" Norwegians in.

That is the official position of the Republican Party in 2018. Let's not kids ourselves. Any hope that "only Trump can go to Mexico" for the DREAM kids the way Nixon went to China was always a joke. He's a stone cold racist and most of his followers are too.

As the New York Times' David Leonhart wrote today:
[F]orget for a minute about what President Trump keeps saying about the Dreamers — that he cares about them — and focus on his actions: First, he went out of his way to cancel their legal protection from deportation, a cancellation scheduled to take effect in March. Then Trump rejected an emerging bipartisan deal to restore those protections. And this week he announced that he wouldn’t restore the protections unless Congress passed a long list of other fairly radical immigration changes, like a border wall and sharply reduced legal immigration. 
The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent has put together a more detailed version of this timeline
Vox’s Ezra Klein wrote: “Trump doesn’t want a fix for Dreamers but he does want a suite of unpopular changes that he’s holding Dreamers hostage to pass. This is his crisis, and he shouldn’t be allowed to confuse that.” 
What can Democrats do? They are the minority party, and they can’t force Trump to change his policy, as I’ve argued before — frustrating as that may be. They also shouldn’t give into his demands for radical immigration changes and encourage more political hostage-taking. (Greisa Martinez Rosas, a prominent advocate for Dreamers, makes the same point in Sargent’s piece.) 
In the end, the choice is Trump’s. Democrats and Dreamer advocates can lobby him and other Republicans, hoping to put political pressure on them, as happened on health care last year. But Trump will ultimately have a decision to make. Sometime in the next few weeks, he will have to decide whether he is really willing to allow federal law enforcement to begin deporting people from the country they call home. 
I'm going to guess yes. But that's just because I have been closely observing this sociopath for the last couple of years  and I see no evidence that he will ever do the right thing. Ever.

The best hope now lies with the courts. God help them. 

Is Nunes showing Trump the evidence against him?

by digby

I wrote about Donald Trump's classification gambit for Salon this morning:

Ever since the House Intelligence Committee voted to release Rep. Devin Nunes' now-legendary "memo," and then sent it up to the White House for presidential permission to declassify it, I've been wondering: How is it possible that the subject of an investigation gets to look at the evidence against him and decide whether or not it sees the light of day? There's no appeal of President Trump's decision in a case like that. He has the ultimate and unquestioned power to do it. Is there any other situation in our society where this could happen?

There's been surprisingly little discussion of this bizarre circumstance. It came up briefly during this week's annual assessment of global threats before the Senate Intelligence Committee, when Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., quizzed FBI Director Christopher Wray on the subject:
According to the White House statement, the president was the one that authorized the memo’s declassification. Do you believe there’s an actual, or at least appearance, of a conflict of interest when the president is put in charge of declassifying information that could complicate an ongoing investigation into his own campaign?
Wray demurred from offering an opinion on that, merely stating that it was within the president's authority to decide on declassification. Harris pressed further, asking if he would hand over sensitive information on the Russia investigation if the president asked. Wray replied, "I'm not going to discuss the investigation in question with the president, much less provide information from that investigation to him." That's pretty unequivocal.

Then Harris got the real issue into the discussion by asking whether the president had the right to declassify information if he received it from a member of the Congress. She wondered whether the president should recuse himself from making decisions regarding his own case. Wray declined to answer, saying the president would have to review all these questions with the White House counsel.

Anyone who's following this story closely knows exactly what Harris was getting at. From the moment the House Intelligence Committee decided to investigate foreign interference in the 2016 election, Nunes -- who was a member of the Trump transition himself -- has been coordinating with the White House. He was caught red-handed last summer, making an utter fool of himself by holding a press conference in which he pretended to be delivering recently discovered information to the president, which was later revealed to have been provided to him by the White House in a midnight caper worthy of Inspector Clouseau.

Nunes then claimed to "recuse" himself from the probe, but although Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is now supposed to be in charge, Nunes remains involved up to his eyeballs, often working in secret and without consultation with the committee. It's extremely likely that he's still coordinating with the White House and sharing information about the case.

That is, unfortunately, not illegal. As Wray told the committee, the president has the right to classify and declassify any information the government produces and there's nothing that says members of Congress cannot provide him with whatever sensitive evidence they turn up that implicates him. Nobody ever expected members of a congressional oversight committee, even those of the president's party, to be so servile that they would willingly give up their own prerogatives in order to protect a president suspected of conspiring with a foreign government.

Trump was advised by White House counsel Don McGahn at the beginning of his term that the president "cannot have a conflict of interest," which he has repeated on a loop whenever he's asked about his myriad financial and business conflicts. Perhaps Trump believes he similarly "cannot have a conflict of interest" in terms of his legal exposure in the Russia investigation. McGahn should know better. This is the sort of assumption that got Nixon into trouble.

Natasha Bertrand at the Atlantic spoke with several experts on this subject, all of whom were troubled by the unprecedented situation. On the question of whether or not Trump should recuse himself from making decisions about classified documents pertaining to the investigation, some said he absolutely should, while others pointed to difficulties regarding the president's duties as commander in chief. David Kris, a FISA expert who served as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, told Bertrand that Trump should be careful:
Nixon showed us that level of intimacy between politics and law enforcement with his infamous "enemies list," which outlined ways to "use the available federal machinery," like IRS audits, "to screw our political enemies." Since then, every presidential administration, from Carter to Trump, has adopted policies limiting interactions between the White House and the Justice Department to protect the independence of prosecutorial decisions.
Trump doesn't understand that and he never will. As recently as last month he was telling the press that he likes to "fight back" and they "call it obstruction" -- pretty much admitting that he has tried to obstruct justice. He is the last person on earth who would recuse himself from an investigation into his own conduct. He would consider that to be just plain stupid. If he can declassify sensitive information that makes him look good and keep secret that which could incriminate him, he'll do it without a second thought. He will push the boundaries as far as possible and they are very far indeed.

But the problem goes far beyond Donald Trump. The classification system in the Unites States is a mess. It's been more than 20 years since the Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, chaired by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was released, showing that over-classification actually harms national security by making it more difficult to accurately assess threats and share information. The Brennan Center offered an updated study showing the same thing in 2011.

If we manage to get through the Trump years in one piece, perhaps one of the salutary effects of his blatant abuse of power will finally be a serious attempt to revise these rules. This is no way to run a modern democracy. Look where it's gotten us.

A bullet in the head

by Tom Sullivan

In this week's post-school-shooting clutter, this tweet from Full Frontal correspondent Ashley Nicole Black stood out:

So in response to a threat to health and safety, some political leaders are prepared to act quickly. Like they did in Australia in three and a half months:

On this side of the Pacific, the president says we need to "tackle the difficult issue of mental health." Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) president Philip Van Cleave agrees. The problem with mass shootings, he tells John Oliver in the video, is people.

The Washington Post's Max Boot agrees too. He reminds readers that just last year, Congress passed and the president signed a bill revoking an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for people with a mental illness to obtain firearms.

Boot writes, "No other country experiences this kind of terror on an ongoing basis — save places such as Afghanistan and Syria that are actually at war." Boot continues:
It simply beggars the imagination that Republicans, in thrall to the National Rifle Association, continue to insist there is no relationship between gun ownership and gun crime. Instead of effective regulations, they offer “thoughts and prayers,” as if mass shootings were acts of God like earthquakes and hurricanes that mere mortals are powerless to prevent. This was Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R.-La.) after the Las Vegas shooting: “I just hate to see this issue politicized. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but they do in this world, and what happened in Las Vegas was terrible. But we can’t legislate away every problem in the world.”
Nor do we. Instead, we put in place regulations to help protect consumers, communities and the environment, rules that make capitalist acts between consenting adults predictable and less risky. We pass laws to make food and cars safer. We hire police to enforce traffic laws, not believing law enforcement can stop every speeder, but because their presence and the threat of punishment tamps down speeding. We just refuse to do the same with firearms.

Boot writes:
Politicians, primarily but not exclusively Republicans, are turning their idolatrous worship of the Second Amendment into a suicide pact. If the United States had been under assault from Muslim terrorists, they would have acted long ago. But apparently homegrown mass murderers are of scant concern even though they kill far more people than terrorists do.
To casual observers, especially to those in more civilized countries, a societal suicide pact might fall under the colloquial definition of crazy.

And yet mutual suicide appears to be Kimber Firearms' recommendation for a romantic way to celebrate Valentine's Day, his and hers hammers thoughtfully pre-cocked for a light, final trigger pull.

The NRA pulled down its retweet after the Florida school shooting on Wednesday. Kimber Firearms did as well.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pro-gun, anti-immigrant Americans are our rulers. Get used to it.

by digby

For all the talk about gun control today, by Monday nobody will be talking about it. Immigration reform stalled today in the Senate when only 34 Republicans voted for Trump's atrocity of a bill and they couldn't get 60 votes to break the filibuster of the bipartisan legislation Trump promised to veto anyway.

Mitch McConnell blamed the Democrats for not really wanting reform (even though 47 of them voted for the bipartisan compromise) and said it's time to move on. I don't know what will happen from here. Maybe the courts will buy some time. Maybe Trump will decide not to be a total asshole for one and will fulfill his promise to protect "the kids." All he has to do is extend DACA. It's that simple.

Anyway, here we are. No gun control. Again. No immigration fix. Again.

Ron Brownstein explains why:

The likelihood that Congress will ultimately stalemate on both issues—refusing to adopt any new restrictions on access to firearms and deadlocking over extending new protections to young people brought to the country illegally by their parents—is particularly striking given the overwhelming public support in polls for at least some action on both fronts. In polling last summer by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, 84 percent of adults said they supported background checks for all gun purchases (65 percent strongly), and 68 percent said they supported a ban on assault weapons (53 percent strongly).

Depending on the poll, up to about 85 percent of Americans say they support legal status for the so-called Dreamers, who have received temporary protection from deportation under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And while three-fifths of Americans in an ABC/Washington Post poll last fall said they opposed building President Trump’s border wall with Mexico, nonetheless about two-thirds of respondents said they would accept a legislative deal coupling protection for the Dreamers with increased border-security spending. Support for such a deal was even greater among Republican-leaning voters than Democratic-leaning ones. Despite this public support for legislation on both issues, it appears likely that Congress will pass nothing.

The predictability of deadlock testifies to the power of the intertwined cultural, demographic, and economic divide now separating urban and non-urban America—and how closely the nation’s partisan split follows the contours of that larger separation. It also shows how population-distribution patterns that concentrate Democratic strength in the House of Representatives into the largest urban areas, combined with the small-state bias that accords each state two senators regardless of population, elevate rural over urban priorities in these polarized debates.

Republicans represent what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration” centered on the older, blue-collar, evangelical, and non-urban whites most uneasy about the tectonic cultural and economic forces reshaping American life. That means that compared with the nation overall, most Republicans are representing areas with more guns and fewer immigrants.

Forty-two of the 51 Republican senators, for instance, were elected from one of the 30 states where immigrants represent the smallest share of the population, according to Census data. Republicans hold just nine of the 40 Senate seats in the 20 states with the highest immigrant-population share. Likewise, 26 of the states Trump carried in 2016 were among the 30 lowest in immigration-population share; he won just four of the top 20.

Continuing the pattern, over four-fifths of House Republicans represent districts where the immigrant share of the population lags the national average. But, conversely, gun ownership is much more common among Republican-leaning constituencies and communities than in the nation overall. Pew last summer found that only about two-fifths of all Americans lived in a household with a gun in it; that result was similar to long-term Gallup polling and represents a measurable decline from the 1980s and early 1990s, when about half of households had a gun.

But at the same time, Pew found that nearly three-fifths of Republicans (and those who leaned toward the party) either owned a gun (44 percent) or lived in a house where someone else did (12 percent). Gun ownership was also higher than the national average among adults without a college degree, and especially elevated among those who lived in rural areas—two critical constituencies for the modern GOP. In the South, Midwest, and West—basically, everywhere outside the strongly Democratic-leaning Northeast—the percentage of rural households with a gun spiked to around 60 percent.

Across all of these measures, Democrats present an inverse picture. They now rely on a heavily urbanized “coalition of transformation”: minorities, Millennials, and college-educated and secular white voters, especially women. With that profile, the party is rooted in the places most touched by immigration. Sixteen of the 20 states Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 ranked in the top 20 for the highest share of immigrants. Thirty-one of the 49 Democratic senators, or nearly two-thirds, represent those 20 states. Nearly an identical percentage of House Democrats hold seats with a higher share of immigrants than the national average.

The gun divide is equally sharp. Just one-fifth of Democrats (and Democratic-leaners) said they owned a gun in the Pew survey; only another one in 10 lived in a house where someone else did. That’s roughly half the percentage among Republicans.

Only about one in four adults in two key Democratic constituencies, African Americans and those with a college degree or more, said they owned a gun. That number was about one in five for people living in cities and less than one in six for Hispanics—two other important constituency groups to Democrats.

Economic contrasts reinforce these cultural and demographic divides. Republicans dominate the states with higher per capita carbon emissions because they tend to be the places engaged in energy production and manufacturing; Democrats win most of the states with lower emissions because they tend to be the places, primarily along the coasts, that have transitioned furthest into the post-industrial information economy. Clinton, similarly, won 17 of the 20 states with the highest share of college graduates, while Trump won 27 of the 30 with the fewest.

The trends all track together. The interior states with few immigrants and more gun owners also tend to be more blue-collar, and more connected to manufacturing and the resource-extraction economy. The largely coastal states with many immigrants and fewer gun owners also tend to be more white-collar, and more connected to global markets and the digital economy. The contrasts are even more pointed when viewed at the metro and non-metro level within states.

With this hardening political divide, the few swing votes in Congress typically belong to the legislators caught, in effect, behind enemy lines: the Democrats representing mostly white, non-urban constituencies and the Republicans in diverse metro areas. That explains why West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin was a leader in efforts to forge a bipartisan consensus on background checks for all gun sales after the Sandy Hook school shooting. It also explains why Arizona Republicans Jeff Flake and John McCain have been central to efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise on immigration in the past several weeks.

And yet in recent years, as the conflict between the coalitions of restoration and transformation has grown more intense, even most of those outlier legislators have been pulled toward their party’s side in this fight. In 2013, every Senate Democrat, even those from red states, voted for an immigration-reform bill that included a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. And on Thursday, most of the Senate Republicans from the 20 high-immigrant states—including Georgia’s David Perdue, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Nevada’s Dean Heller, and Texas’s Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—opposed the bipartisan compromise on immigration amid intense resistance to the plan from Trump and many conservative media voices.

On guns, the general pattern over the past 15 years has been that gun-control opponents have succeeded somewhat more than gun-control advocates in pressuring the legislators behind enemy lines to cross over. When Congress last year voted to overturn an Obama regulation making it tougher for people with mental illness to obtain guns through the national background-check system, virtually all of the House Republicans from metropolitan areas sided with gun-control opponents to back the repeal. (That included many of the Republicans from blue-state metro areas who top the Democratic target list in 2018, such as Steve Knight and Mimi Walters near Los Angeles, Barbara Comstock in Northern Virginia, Leonard Lance in New Jersey, Carlos Curbelo in Miami, and Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick outside of Philadelphia.) And while few House Democrats crossed party lines to support the repeal, it did win backing from five Senate Democrats facing reelection this year in states Trump carried (including Manchin).

The structure of congressional representation in both the House and Senate tilts the scales in these arguments toward rural interests, even as population growth tilts more emphatically toward urban centers. If you assigned half of every state’s population to each senator, the supporters of the 2013 background-check bill represented 194 million people, while the opponents, who were centered on sparsely populated Plains and Mountain states, represented only 118 million, according to my calculation at the time. But, using a filibuster, the opponents were able to block action. (The proposal would have faced uncertain prospects anyway in the House, which then, as now, was controlled by Republicans mostly representing non-urban areas.)

These Trump voters trump everything. They rule us.

The United States is not an actual representative democracy.It wasn't designed to be. It's a nation in which rural white men and the wealthy decide for everyone else. The rest of us get what they deign to give us. Same as it ever was.

Jeez Louise

by digby

The Washington Post's Helaine Olen addresses Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's wife Louise Litton's pathetic excuses for behaving like the rich spoiled trophy wife she is and notes some data that sheds light on why these people are so awful:

The more money we are surrounded by, the more likely we are to act as though it is a norm and not an exception. In a 2015 paper, “Why Wealthier People Think People Are Wealthier, and Why It Matters,” researchers at Britain’s University of Kent and New Zealand’s University of Auckland discovered that the more money someone possessed, the wealthier they believed their peers to be.

Other research shows lower-income people spend more time looking at their surroundings and pick up on emotional cues better than their wealthier peers. This, in turn, seems to give the wealthy permission to act in a way that, to put it kindly, forever prioritizes No. One — themselves.

And then there is one of my favorite studies, the one in which researchers discovered the higher the self-described social rank, the more candy the subjects took from a jar of candy designated for children. They also discovered the more prestigious the make of car, the more likely a driver would cut off a pedestrian in a crosswalk or fail to yield to others at a four-way stop. As I’ve previously argued: “There’s a body of psychological and behavioral-economics research suggesting that wealthy people are generally less caring, generous, and aware of how others think, feel, and live.”

Well, hello Louise Linton!

But hello Donald Trump and the rest of your Cabinet, too!

Not only is Trump our wealthiest president ever, the same is true of the Cabinet he selected. Empathy? Trump turned the situation involving the “dreamers” into a hostage situation. His administration just released a budget that calls for severe cuts in the social safety net. It would slash Medicaid and housing assistance, completely eliminate funding for a program that offers after-school classes for children living in poverty and end loan forgiveness for people who choose to work in the public or nonprofit sectors.

As for Congress, which is also well-stocked with wealthy people, the news broke yesterday that even as the United States is facing the worst flu season in about two decades, the Republican majority is considering doing away with the Affordable Care Act requirement that employers with 50 or more full-time employees offer them health insurance. Because, apparently, nothing shows you care like contemplating making it harder for people to access medical services during a flu epidemic.

This comes mere weeks after Republicans in Congress passed and Trump signed into law deficit-busting tax cuts that lavish most of their benefits on wealthy Americans.

Not all rich people are like this, of course. Some are decent people who care and other are pragmatic realists and understand that it's in everyone's best interest for there to be a strong middle class and a generous safety net which means that wealth must be fairly redistributed through taxation. But they aren't numerous.

I recall reading somewhere that one of the reasons the European democracies have a stronger safety net is because they draw their politicians from a wider variety of jobs --- teachers, union workers etc instead of so many from the legal profession and big business. That might make a difference. It will be interesting to see if all this grassroots energy that's getting Democrats to run for offices throughout government will result in a bit more class diversity in our politics. It can only help.


The disabled aren't exempt from their cruelty

by digby

Propelled by years of lobbying by a group that represents shopping malls, the House [approved] a new law that removes businesses' incentive to comply with the ADA. Disability activists unanimously argue that the bill will reverse nearly 30 years of progress, but the lobbying efforts of the International Council of Shopping Centers keep pushing it forward.

H.R. 620, the "ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017," restructures the enforcement mechanism for the ADA. The means of enforcement have always been unusual. Most regulations that affect commerce are enforced by local, state, and federal agencies. While there is a small division in the Department of Justice (DOJ) doing some oversight, the ADA generally depends on private citizens bringing complaints through damages-free lawsuits (though with legal fees attached) in order to command technical compliance in commercial spaces. Think about how this differs from most other regulatory situations. You aren't required to check whether the local restaurant complies with health codes, labor standards, or other safety features; the government does that for you. When it comes to disability, though, most enforcement starts with a personal lawsuit.

Apparently there are some shyster lawyers out there who game this system which can be dealt with by other means. But the shopping mall money has been pushing to get these regulations changed so that they can evade the necessity to accommodate the disabled.

The GOP House passed it today with the help of 12 Democrats.

This congress is basically a full blown spending spree for wealthy political donors. They worked and waited for years and now they have a super-rich president and a compliant GOP congress and they're getting their reward all in one go.


QOTD: Tom Cotton

by digby

Speaking about the bipartisan bill that's coming up for a vote in the Senate:
Sen Cotton on the Rounds-King Commonsense Coalition bipartisan immigration bill: "If the Republicans have simply acquiesced to the Democrats' position, it's a Democratic bill, calling it bipartisan doesn't make it so."

Actually having many co-sponsors from both parties and Independents is the very definition of bipartisan. He seems to think that unless a bill is passed by a majority of Republicans it isn't. He is wrong. In fact, historically speaking, this used to happen all the time.

But he's not the only one having a total meltdown over this. Look at what your taxpayer dollars are paying for today coming from the Department of Homeland Security:

The Schumer-Rounds-Collins proposal destroys the ability of the men and women from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to remove millions of illegal aliens. It would be the end of immigration enforcement in America and only serve to draw millions more illegal aliens with no way to remove them.  By halting immigration enforcement for all aliens who will arrive before June 2018, it ignores the lessons of 9/11 and significantly increases the risk of crime and terrorism. 
It is an egregious violation of the four compromise pillars laid out by the President’s immigration reform framework. Instead of helping to secure the border as the President has repeatedly asked Congress to do, it would do the exact opposite and make our border far more open and porous. It would ensure a massive wave of new illegal immigration by exacerbating the pull factors caused by legal loopholes.  By keeping chain migration intact, the amendment would expand the total legalized population to potentially ten million new legal aliens – simultaneously leading to undercutting the wages of American workers, threatening public safety and undermining national security. 
The changes proposed by Senators Schumer-Rounds-Collins would effectively make the United States a Sanctuary Nation where ignoring the rule of law is encouraged.
I sure hope nobody put this in a text message to his girlfriend or somebody might think there was a political bias at the Department of Homeland Security.

It continues in equally heated language.

One more time: shut down the pump

by digby

My own contribution to the horrific mass shooting rituals we all endure is this post, which I've sadly reprised more times than I can count:

Shut down the pump: a little parable for our time

Here is an interesting story for you to read today:

British doctor John Snow couldn’t convince other doctors and scientists that cholera, a deadly disease, was spread when people drank contaminated water until a mother washed her baby’s diaper in a town well in 1854 and touched off an epidemic that killed 616 people.
Dr. Snow believed sewage dumped into the river or into cesspools near town wells could contaminate the water supply, leading to a rapid spread of disease.

In August of 1854 Soho, a suburb of London, was hit hard by a terrible outbreak of cholera. Dr. Snows himself lived near Soho, and immediately went to work to prove his theory that contaminated water was the cause of the outbreak.

“Within 250 yards of the spot where Cambridge Street joins Broad Street there were upwards of 500 fatal attacks of cholera in 10 days,” Dr. Snow wrote “As soon as I became acquainted with the situation and extent of this irruption (sic) of cholera, I suspected some contamination of the water of the much-frequented street-pump in Broad Street.”

Dr. Snow worked around the clock to track down information from hospital and public records on when the outbreak began and whether the victims drank water from the Broad Street pump. Snow suspected that those who lived or worked near the pump were the most likely to use the pump and thus, contract cholera. His pioneering medical research paid off. By using a geographical grid to chart deaths from the outbreak and investigating each case to determine access to the pump water, Snow developed what he considered positive proof the pump was the source of the epidemic... Snow was able to prove that the cholera was not a problem in Soho except among people who were in the habit of drinking water from the Broad Street pump. He also studied samples of water from the pump and found white flecks floating in it, which he believed were the source of contamination.

On 7 September 1854, Snow took his research to the town officials and convinced them to take the handle off the pump, making it impossible to draw water. The officials were reluctant to believe him, but took the handle off as a trial only to find the outbreak of cholera almost immediately trickled to a stop. Little by little, people who had left their homes and businesses in the Broad Street area out of fear of getting cholera began to return.

It took many more years before it was widely accepted that cholera came from the water. (In fact, it took a priest trying to prove that it was God's will to finally do it!)

But here's the relevant takeaway: they didn't need to cure the disease to end the epidemic. What ended it was shutting down the pump.

Here's another story for you to think about today:

From 1984 to 1996, multiple killings aroused public concern. The 1984 Milperra massacre was a major incident in a series of conflicts between various 'outlaw motorcycle gangs'. In 1987, the Hoddle Street massacre and the Queen Street massacre took place in Melbourne. In response, several states required the registration of all guns, and restricted the availability of self-loading rifles and shotguns. In the Strathfield massacre in New South Wales, 1991, two were killed with a knife, and five more with a firearm. Tasmania passed a law in 1991 for firearm purchasers to obtain a licence, though enforcement was light. Firearm laws in Tasmania and Queensland remained relatively relaxed for longarms. In 1995, Tasmania had the second lowest rate of homicides per head of population.

The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. Thirty five people were killed and 21 wounded when a man with a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, this mass killing at the notorious former convict prison at Port Arthur horrified the Australian public and had powerful political consequences.
The Port Arthur perpetrator said he bought his firearms from a gun dealer without holding the required firearms licence.

Prime Minister John Howard, then newly elected, immediately took the gun law proposals developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence and forced the states to adopt them under a National Firearms Agreement. This was necessary because the Australian Constitution does not give the Commonwealth power to enact gun laws. The proposals included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.

Some discussion of measures to allow owners to undertake modifications to reduce the capacity of magazine-fed shotguns ("crimping") occurred, but the government refused to permit this.

Surveys showed up to 85% of Australians supported gun control,but some farmers and sporting shooters strongly opposed the new laws.

This did not solve the problem of mental illness or end the primitive capacity of human beings to commit murder and mayhem. Those are huge problems that their society, like all societies, is still grappling with every day. But it did end the epidemic of mass shootings. They have not had even one since then. 

The lesson is this: End the epidemic and then we can --- and must --- talk about root causes, extremist ideology, mental health facilities and our violent culture. But first things first --- shut down the damned pump.