Sunday Reads: Twenty Years

 

Good Morning?

It is never a good morning with that asshole in office. That headline above could seriously be used for tRump…with all the crimes he has committed. That he is getting away with… it is infuriating. These last two days I had to stay away from the news. I could not subject myself to the horrors anymore.

Last night while I was looking up a few things to post for today, I was listening to my album of Omara Portuondo…this song was so emotional for me, it is talking about a breakup, but there is a line that seems so poignant with today’s standard. The tRump standard.

How mournfully we watch
A love that ebbs away
Heartlessly a part of the soul
Is torn away

That part about “Heartlessly a part of the soul…Is torn away”… That is what tRump and Sessions and the rest of these assholes are doing. And let us not forget, on this Father’s day, that so many of these “men” are “fathers” themselves.

 

Heartless and cruel. Calculated and precise. I don’t give a fuck about Godwin’s Law…these people, tRump, his top brass…”generals” or head accomplices and or advisors, administration and his devoted cult like followers, they are all Nazis.; in the purest sense of the word.

 

 

 

Spanish:

¿Qué te importa que te ame,
Si tú no me quieres ya?
El amor que ya ha pasado
No se debe recordar

Fui la ilusión de tu vida
Un día lejano ya,
Hoy represento al pasado,
No me puedo conformar.

Si las cosas que uno quiere
Se pudieran alcanzar,
Tú me quisieras lo mismo
Que veinte años atrás.

Con qué tristeza miramos
Un amor que se nos va
Es un pedazo del alma
Que se arranca sin piedad

English:

What does my love mean to you
If you no longer love me?
We should not dwell
On love that is past

I was your life’s desire
One day long ago
Now I’m history
I can’t face the change

If only we could make
Our dreams come true
If only you would love me
As you did twenty years ago

How mournfully we watch
A love that ebbs away
Heartlessly a part of the soul
Is torn away

Written by:

Felipe Valdes Leal

 

 

I only have a series of Tweets and Instagram links for you today. I cannot manage any comments. My head is to overwhelmed with disgust.

 

 

 

 

The bottom line:

 

And while all this shit is going on…it isn’t just little brown children tRump and the GOP despise:

A few other tweets to take a look at:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the crimes against humanity:

 

 

 

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To commemorate World Refugee Day, we’ll be sharing stories of women displaced by conflict and war in the communities where Women for Women International works. Today we celebrate the courage and resilience of Rose, an internally-displaced woman who is rebuilding her life against all odds. Read her story on our blog. Link in bio. #With Refugees #SheInspiresMe #WomensRights #Feminist

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They say people who have sadness issues have a stronger awareness of reality. Maybe. @okayyesfine no one understands monsters like u do…

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Day 511: In which a fashy fanboy shows his dictator daddies he’s ready for the big leagues with some killer kiddie concentration camp stats. #resist #magaisformorons #cartoon #dumptrump #donthecon #kidjailer #shitholepresident #notmypresident #dailydrawing #thedailydon

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"With everything that is happening, it's a great reminder that there is no excuse for separating children from their parents. Not biblical, not legal, not moral. The only reasons are hate, xenophobia and white supremacy."—@vamos_juntos_ #Resist #ChingaLaMigra #DismantleICE (🎨@lazy.beam)

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Updates on bills put forth in Congress to stop the atrocious tRump policy of stealing children from their parents:

 

 

I believe the first GOP congress critter is speaking out on the “FamiliesBelongTogether issue…

 

 

Happy Father’s Day:

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Sunday Reads: Happy Motherhood is a Pre-existing Condition Day!

Happy Mother’s Day….

Or as one person in the Twitterverse puts it:

 

(If you aren’t following @OhNoSheTwitnt you should…)

 

 

It is a strange Mother’s Day for me, I am not sure how to approach the day. My mom’s results from her latest CT scan were not good. The chemo treatment has not been working, there is new tumor and it looks like she has run out of options. So today, on this Mother’s Day, I am faced with the reality that eventually I will be spending a Mother’s Day without my Mama. I don’t want that. And this sense of eminent loss is so overwhelming, that my days are becoming a cycle of playbacks. When she is up, I want to watch a movie with her…whatever she wants to watch. I want to spend that time laughing at funny scenes, or enjoying a film that we both appreciate. It is the same thing daily, and believe me…we have seen some of these films many times, but I want to capture those feelings once more. I don’t want to lose them. That is what it comes down to this Mother’s Day. Grasping those hours so that I can recycle them later…it is all I can do.

So, with all that being said, the disasters of the day seem to pass by me…until I watch Maddow, then I am back into my mood where I am unable to focus on anything. Here are some news stories for you this morning, my commentary on them will be minimal at best. Basically, the shit has gone beyond my comprehension of what kind of corruption and scandal it takes to bring a politician down. tRump could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, and get away with it…and still remain in the White House as President. I don’t think anything is going to happen, it is over. We are all fucked.

Now for the news:

 

Take a look at this thread on twitter:

 

 

 

Now, check this out:

Trump Compared to Cyrus the Great – Talking Points Memo

Fox Host Jeanine Pirro says Donald Trump fulfilled biblical prophecy by moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Full video at the link.

Here is the quote:

Trump fulfilling ‘Biblical prophecy’ by moving embassy to Jerusalem says Judge Jeanine Pirro in bonkers rant

The move, she said, “Sent a huge signal to Iran, and Shiite Muslims, that we stood with the more moderate Sunnis.” (ISIS and Al Qaida are both Sunni; there has never been a major terrorist attack on the United States led by a Shiite group.)

“Trump has assured the world that his word is worth more than any former U.S. president,” she said. “His word is more than any treaty, and stronger than any UN resolution.”

And then she got Biblical.

“Jerusalem is the one and only capital of Israel,” she said. “By Trump putting his impermada on what has been history for the last 3,000 years—and that’s it has been the people’s capital of one people’s country or one kingdom. That people is the Jews and that country is Israel.”

She said that Israel is the foundation of our Judeo-Christian nation.

“Donald Trump recognized history, he like King Cyrus before him, fulfilled the Biblical prophecy of the God worshipped by Jews, Christians and, yes, Muslims, that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state and that the Jewish people finally deserve a righteous, free and sovereign Israel.”

With Fox peddling these “coins” that have the tRump is King Cyrus symbolism propoganda…it adds to the rest of the big picture.

 

Former Trump campaign aide is helping Russian firm shed sanctions – CNNPolitics

A former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch’s conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month.

Bryan Lanza, who is in regular contact with White House officials, is lobbying on behalf of the chairman of EN+ Group, an energy and aluminum firm presently controlled by Oleg Deripaska, according to several sources. Deripaska is a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was the target of US sanctions imposed last month. Lanza is also a CNN contributor.
Lanza is representing the chairman of EN+ Group, but not Deripaska directly. The company is seeking to reduce Deripaska’s ownership in the company enough to be freed from US sanctions. Deripaska is expected to maintain a substantial stake in the company.

You can read about more tRump lobby connections at the link. Names like Corey Lewandowski, Brian Ballard, Jason Miller have all opened up their own DC firms. All the while, keep in mind:

 

 

 

But…it is all just a normal day in Washington:

Oh, this also happened on the quiet:

Perry Halts Nuclear Arms-Into-Fuel Project

Energy Secretary Rick Perry has formally ended construction of a facility meant to reprocess weapons-grade plutonium and uranium into fuel for reactors, a key element of the nation’s commitment to containing the global nuclear threat.

Perry executed a waiver Thursday to terminate construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

A day earlier, Perry called it a “historically questionable” expenditure in testimony before Congress about the Trump administration’s 2019 budget proposal, which includes $220 million toward closing the project, and $59 million toward replacing it with a so-called “dilute and dispose” approach to surplus nuclear material.

Yeah, King Cyprus…I mean tRump is gonna need all those nukes to “dilute and dispose” of over there in Iran…right?

Iran nuclear deal: Iranians worry about impact of US sanctions | Iran News | Al Jazeera

Iran’s parliament is expected to debate emergency legislation, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull America out of the nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign minister is in China as part of a whirlwind diplomatic tour, to rescue the agreement.

Inside Iran, people are bracing themselves for the possibility of more hardship from sanctions.

Video report at the link.

 

Just one more thought on hardship…and motherhood…

 

John Kelly’s ‘Family Separation’ Recalls Slave Era Practice of Selling Parents Down the River – Truthdig

John Kelly, White House chief of staff, is an immigrant-hating bigot, as demonstrated by a long series of Draconian statements and measures that would have embarrassed most normal people into a lifetime vow of silence in their wake.

Kelly bizarrely defended Confederate slave drivers of the 1860s as having lived at a time before the evils of slavery were apparent to moral people. Haiti abolished slavery in 1804, Mexico in 1824 and Tunisia in 1846. But Kelly’s assertion becomes a little more understandable in view of his NPR interview on May 11.

On undocumented immigration, Kelly’s interview went like this:

Kelly: “But a big name of the game is deterrence.

NPR: “Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.”

Kelly: “It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

NPR: “Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?”

Kelly: “I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

Kelly’s doctrine of “deterrence” of undocumented immigration into the US through family separation is undergirded by a special kind of sadism and ignorance combined. First of all, villagers in Honduras are not going to know about Kelly’s policy. Second, they are so desperate that many will take the risk anyway. Third, it is wrong to pounce and take US citizen children away from their mothers and fathers all of a sudden, giving them no time to make alternate arrangements. As for foster homes, with all due respect to the dedicated people who often run them, social science has proven that they are the biggest producer of a criminal class in the US. Children growing up without strong parental role models have a much greater chance of ending up in prison. Yes, that’s right. Social science says that if you want a safe society, don’t deport the parents of US citizen children.

Under Trump, ICE (which was only created recently and should be decommissioned) has been routinely doing things like traumatizing families by arresting undocumented parents when they come to pick up their children at school, in front of the eyes of the children, and leaving the latter unattended. The agents are not wrong to enforce the law, but this sort of tactic is clearly the result of instructions from Kelly and his successor, and is deliberate psychological warfare on American citizens.

Kelly’s self-satisfaction with getting rid of unwanted adults and putting their children, our fellow US citizens, in “foster care or whatever” (!!!) can only be compared to one phenomenon in American history.

Back in the days of slavery, white slave owners in the mid-Atlantic states like Kentucky used to separate fathers and sometimes mothers from their children and “sell them down the river” to the big plantation owners of the deep south.

Brown and black slaves were, like undocumented immigrants, not citizens and so they were not conceived by white elites as fully human persons. Hence, their families could be divided at will and parents could be sent far away, never to see their children again. They were treated like thoroughbred animals.

Kelly went on to slam these immigrants for not knowing English and for being unassimilable and having no skills. In fact, as conservative godfather Milton Friedman argued, they wouldn’t come here if they weren’t finding jobs that locals would not or could not fill. As for language and assimilation, Kelly’s own Italian-American side of the family came without English and remained here without citizenship for decades.

Cole then proceeds to quote the tweets showing Kelly’s own family background, which proves John Kelly’s own family members is one of those “illiterate” immigrants “and could not speak English 10 years after arrival.”  Yeah, these people…wtf is it with them?

And while all that is sinking in…this tweet should really be the icing on the Mother’s Day cake:

I don’t want to end on a bad note…

So, I have pictures.

First some fun ones:

DragCon is happening this weekend:

Those kick ass heels…a bit of marginalia to ring in the occasion? Quinn Cummings has been posting some awesome pictures on her Instagram feed:

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@bufffaye #dragcon2018

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So please click the link up top and enjoy!

Sticking with the Medieval times a bit:

Elvis…he was a style icon…before he became a style icon!

 

Smooth huh?

 

And lastly, I wanted to share a few pictures from my daughter’s wedding, they are in a slideshow below.

 

Have a good day, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you!

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Friday Reads: Crazy go Nuts News only because of Crazy go Nuts White People

It’s Friday Sky Dancers!  It’s the day of the week when the news cycle goes bonkers. But, of course, it’s only because what’s going on in our country makes it so.  WTF is wrong with White People?  Haven’t we learned anything? If any of our Sky Dancers of Color would like to start actively writing on the front page please let us know! I can write about all of this but only as some one who watches and learns. That’s not the vantage point that needs to be heard.  We know of all the white supremacist activity that’s been happening around the country.  So, why is the FBI focused on this?

This is horrifying:  From the Guardian: ‘Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance.  Exclusive: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a secretive US effort to track so-called ‘black identity extremists’ ‘

Rakem Balogun thought he was dreaming when armed agents in tactical gear stormed his apartment. Startled awake by a large crash and officers screaming commands, he soon realized his nightmare was real, and he and his 15-year-old son were forced outside of their Dallas home, wearing only underwear.

Handcuffed and shaking in the cold wind, Balogun thought a misunderstanding must have led the FBI to his door on 12 December 2017. The father of three said he was shocked to later learn that agents investigating “domestic terrorism” had been monitoring him for years and were arresting him that day in part because of his Facebook posts criticizing police.

“It’s tyranny at its finest,” said Balogun, 34. “I have not been doing anything illegal for them to have surveillance on me. I have not hurt anyone or threatened anyone.”

Balogun spoke to the Guardian this week in his first interview since he was released from prison after five months locked up and denied bail while US attorneys tried and failed to prosecute him, accusing him of being a threat to law enforcement and an illegal gun owner.

Balogun, who lost his home and more while incarcerated, is believed to be the first person targeted and prosecuted under a secretive US surveillance effort to track so-called “black identity extremists”. In a leaked August 2017 report from the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, officials claimed that there had been a “resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity” stemming from African Americans’ “perceptions of police brutality”.

The counter-terrorism assessment provided minimal data or evidence of threats against police, but discussed a few isolated incidents, notably the case of Micah Johnson who killed five officers in Texas. The report sparked backlash from civil rights groups and some Democrats, who feared the government would use the broad designation to prosecute activists and groups like Black Lives Matter.

Balogun, who was working full-time for an IT company when he was arrested, has long been an activist, co-founding Guerrilla Mainframe and the Huey P Newton Gun Club, two groups fighting police brutality and advocating for the rights of black gun owners. Some of the work included coordinating meals for the homeless, youth picnics and self-defense classes – but that’s not what interested the FBI.

Then, watch this:

From Elle Magazine: ‘A Dusty Congressman Tried to Reclaim Rep. Maxine Waters’ Time; It Didn’t Go Well’.

Hello and welcome to another edition of America’s favorite game show, They Really Tried It, with your host, Representative Maxine Waters. Today’s contestant is Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania (R) who, on Tuesday, took it upon himself to point his finger at Rep. Waters, shake it like a Polaroid picture, and tell her to stop talking about discrimination.

I’m already exhausted. In a video that comes from @FCSDems, an informational service that also doubles as a Maxine Waters fan account, Kelly attempts to call Waters out but it goes straight to voicemail. Waters, in turn, reminds him and all of us, just who she is. In so doing, she also coins a new catchphrase for the kids, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Rep. Kelly, who in the video of the exchange is the kind of hype you imagine Twitter trolls with three followers are, really thought that he could take it upon himself to tell Rep Waters, well, anything. Well, audience, we have the results and it turns out, he could not.

The dispute started, as most basic misunderstandings of intersectionality do, with a discussion of auto lending. The Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are trying to roll back Obama-era legislation (how many times has that phrase been written) that prevents auto lenders from discriminating against potential buyers. The legislation, S.J. Res. 57, seeks not only to repeal the guidelines and permanently prevent Congress from ever again enacting anything similar.

Trump seems hellbent on rolling back everything that President Obama did. Tomorrow he’s outlawing tan suits and next week he’s rolling back the death of Fidel Castro and putting Cuba back on the no-no list. It’s amazing to witness the work of a president whose policy handbook comes straight from Biff Tannen of Back to the Future. I would not be surprised to find out Trump is working on a time machine so that he can go back and prevent Obama’s birth. I’m fine with that, actually, because he’d send himself back to Kenya in 1961 and spend the rest of his days fruitlessly nosing around hospitals like a low-rent Herod.

Back in the present, Rep. Kelly wasn’t satisfied to just make whatever point he had about keeping all the Whos in Whoville from enjoying Christmas, and thought it was a good time to lecture Waters. “We’re making America great,” he said, apparently without irony. “And the best way to do that is to stop talking about discrimination.”

 

Don'T Come For Me Maxine Waters GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Lest we forget how bad white male privilege can get, let’s wander on down into the swamp of the local level in states like mine. Here’s The Advocate showing how one state Representative from Louisiana managed to offend every woman representative in the entire body.

An effort to describe how Louisiana’s female prisoners should be treated sparked testy exchanges in the House, as a male lawmaker criticized the measure as offering unequal treatment to women and men.

The bill would require female prisoners to have access to feminine hygiene products at no cost, amid concerns some women have been forced to pay for them. The measure also would limit when male prison guards can conduct a pat-down or body cavity search on a woman and add guidelines for how male guards enter areas of a prison where women are undressed.

Rep. Kenny Havard responded with an amendment to place similar limits on how female prison guards deal with male prisoners. It provoked an outcry from female lawmakers, who called it disrespectful. Havard withdrew the proposal.

Havard. R-St. Francisville, made international news in 2016 when he attempted to amend legislationaimed at setting a minimum age for strippers with weight restrictions. Havard, at the time, said his stripper amendment was a misfired criticism about bills that are too intrusive.

That’s the Cliff Notes version. Here’s some details from my friend Melinda DeSlatte who covers the lege for AP.

Louisiana lawmaker sparked complaints Thursday that he disrespected women by criticizing legislation that recommends how female prisoners should be treated.

The bill up for debate would require female prisoners to have access to feminine hygiene products at no cost, amid concerns some women have been forced to pay for them. The measure would limit when male prison guards can conduct a pat-down or body-cavity search on a woman. And new guidelines would describe how male guards should enter areas where women may be undressed.

Rep. Kenny Havard, a St. Francisville Republican, responded with an amendment to place similar limits on how female prison guards could deal with male prisoners. The proposal provoked an outcry and some shouting from female lawmakers, and Havard withdrew the amendment before the House ultimately approved the bill.

“Rep. Havard, have you ever been a woman?” Rep. Julie Stokes asked during the debate.

“I was at Halloween one time,” Havard replied.

Stokes, a Kenner Republican, then told him that women have “biological things” that make life “a bit harder.”

“In my opinion, you’re disrespecting women,” Stokes told Havard.

Rep. Patricia Smith, a Baton Rouge Democrat, echoed the complaints, citing rapes of female inmates.

Men get raped in prison, too, Havard replied.

Havard said he was merely trying to make a point that men and women should be treated equally. He also raised concerns that the bill could make it harder to monitor female prisoners for contraband and other improper activities. And he complained about news coverage of earlier comments he made about having too many female prison guards for male prisoners.

“My point that I’m trying to make here is we have to find a way to fund these prisons so we aren’t short-handed,” Havard said.
After Havard withdrew his amendment, the bill sponsored by Sen. Regina Barrow, a Baton Rouge Democrat, passed with a vote of 86-0.

Republican House Speaker Taylor Barras chastised his colleagues: “OK, members, we’re getting to the end of the day. The decorum is falling apart.”

So, this is part of a nationwide Trumpsterfire to dismantle anti-discrimination laws that aggrieve white men and their captive wives, it seems. The ACLU is “Suing Ben Carson for Trying to Dismantle the Fair Housing Act”. That one is of particular interest to KKKremlin Caligula since Daddy and junior were successfully found guilty of violating it many times over.  It also has an Obama link and of course, Hair Furor has to actively destroy all things Obama.

It is no accident that much of the United States remains segregated. Decades of slavery, Jim Crow laws, discriminatory lending practices, and intentional policy choices at the federal, state, and local level — most of which were enacted within the last 80 years — helped make it so.

The Fair Housing Act, passed in 1968, just a week after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, was meant to address the decades of discrimination that led to such segregation. The FHA made it illegal to discriminate against anyone buying or renting a house because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (it’s since been amended to include family status and disability, too). But it also sought to replace segregation in America with “truly integrated and balanced living patterns” by requiring agencies to “affirmatively” further fair housing in all programs related to housing.

The FHA brought about a sea change with respect to individual housing discrimination — Americans today would be shocked to find an apartment listing that indicated Black people or women with children could not apply. But its promise of integrating neighborhoods has been left largely unfulfilled. As former Vice President Walter Mondale, who co-authored the legislation, pointed out recently in a New York Times op-ed, the FHA is the “most ignored” of the era’s civil rights laws.

It seems like Secretary Ben Carson, head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would like to keep it that way. In January, the agency suspended the only regulation to ever give the FHA real leverage in ending segregation. The move puts housing integration in serious jeopardy, so we’re challenging it in court.

Since it was enacted, successive presidential administrations largely ignored their affirmative obligations to create fair housing, allowing federal government dollars to flow uninterrupted to cities and towns that have policies in place that maintain segregation. Then, in 2015, the Obama administration finally began to seriously address this issue by putting in place a regulation called the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing (AFFH) Rule. The rule required cities and towns to create a plan to address segregation and discrimination and to lay out concrete goals for bringing fair housing and opportunity to members of all the groups protected by the FHA before receiving government money. Examples of these goals include building affordable housing in areas well-served by transit and prohibiting landlords from discriminating against people who use a government subsidy to pay part of their rent.

Shall we head on up to the head of the beast?  This is from Think Progress: White House chief of staff demonizes immigrants in racist rant.  Xenophobia doesn’t get more hackneyed than this.’ 

In a wide-ranging interview with NPR, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly shared some rather racist views to justify the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings.

Defending an approach that will split up families, Kelly explained that he thinks these immigrants don’t really fit in with United States culture anyway:

Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS13. … But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States, into our modern society.

Concerns about immigrants’ ability to assimilate with American society have been used repeatedly throughout the country’s history to justify barring different groups from immigrating. For example, the Chinese Exclusion Act, a law that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers from 1882 until 1943, was passed because Chinese immigrants were blamed for the depressed wages that followed the Gold Rush and Civil War. In 1890, the New York Times printed an article that explained that while “the red and black assimilate… not so the Chinaman.”

Let’s just head back to an article from The Atlantic from 2016.  We’ve known all along that Make America Great Again and all Donald Trumps associated rhetoric harkens back to the KKK and to anti immigrant fever from times not as far back as we thought.  “Make America White Again? Donald Trump’s language is eerily similar to the 1920s Ku Klux Klan—hypernationalistic and anti-immigrant.”

This has happened before. As The Atlantic’s Yoni Appelbaum pointed out, the Republican front-runner’s refusal to repudiate white supremacists’ support as well as the bombast in his campaign are both echoes of the Ku Klux Klan. As a historian of the 1920s Klan, I noticed the resonances, too. Trump’s “Make America great again” language is just like the rhetoric of the Klan, with their emphasis on virulent patriotism and restrictive immigration. But maybe Trump doesn’t know much about the second incarnation of the order and what Klansmen and Klanswomen stood for. Maybe the echoes are coincidence, not strategy to win the support of white supremacists. Maybe Trump just needs a quick historical primer on the 1920s Klan—and their vision for making America great again.

In 1915, William J. Simmons, an ex-minister and self-described joiner of fraternities, created a new Ku Klux Klan dedicated to “100 percent Americanism” and white Protestantism. He wanted to evoke the previous Reconstruction Klan (1866-1871) but refashion it as a new order—stripped of vigilantism and dressed in Christian virtue and patriotic pride. Simmons’s Klan was to be the savior of a nation in peril, a means to reestablish the cultural dominance of white people. Immigration and the enfranchisement of African Americans, according to the Klan, eroded this dominance and meant that America was no longer great. Simmons, the first imperial wizard of the Klan, and his successor, H.W. Evans, wanted Klansmen to return the nation to its former glory. Their messages of white supremacy, Protestant Christianity, and hypernationalism found an eager audience. By 1924, the Klan claimed 4 million members; they wore robes, lit crosses on fire, read Klan newspapers, and participated in political campaigns on the local and national levels.

To save the nation, the Klan focused on accomplishing a series of goals. A 1924 Klan cartoon, “Under the Fiery Cross,” illustrated those goals: restricted immigration, militant Protestantism, better government, clean politics, “back to the Constitution,” law enforcement, and “greater allegiance to the flag.” Along with the emphases on government and nationalism, the order also mobilized under the banners of vulnerable white womanhood and white superiority more generally. Nativism, writes historian Matthew Frye Jacobson in Whiteness of a Different Color, is a crisis about the boundaries of whiteness and who exactly can be considered white. It is a reaction to a shift in demographics, which confuses the dominant group’s understanding of race. For the KKK, Americans were supposed to be only white and Protestant. They championed white supremacy to keep the nation white, ignoring that citizenry was not constrained to their whims.

This was the movement that attracted Donald’s Daddy Dearest.

Every day, a monumental 20th century stride towards making our union more perfect with the goal of inclusion is being torn down.  Voting while we can has never been more important.

Oh, and Don’t forget!  If you’re black and you stay at an Air BNB be sure to smile and wave and maybe shuck and jive so the white people know you’re not a Black Panther!!!

And if you’re a black graduate student who falls asleep in your own dorm … well, I don’t know what you have to do for this little white girl. She calls the cops on every black person around her …

It’s a familiar story. A black person is minding their own business. A white woman notices them and calls the cops.

The latest event in a long historical pattern took place at Yale University this week (paywall). A black graduate student, Lolade Siyonbola, was taking a nap in her dorm’s common room on Monday night after an evening writing papers. A white woman who also lives in the dorm noticed Siyonbola sleeping, told her she was not supposed to be there, and called campus security. “I have every right to call the police. You cannot sleep in that room,” the woman said in the first of two Facebook videos posted by Siyonbola.

The fallout is captured in a 17-minute Facebook video posted by Siyonbola, which now has more than 600,000 views. She shows the campus officers her room key and unlocks her apartment; the officers press her to produce identification, while Siyonbola questions whether the request is justified. Once the officers verify her identity, they leave.

The incident is the latest in a string of high-profile incidents that have exposed a troubling, often-overlooked truth about racial discrimination in the US. The Black Lives Matter movement intensified focus on police brutality in black communities, which tends to involve white male police officers’ violence against black men, sometimes with deadly results. But Siyonbola’s experience highlights the fact that white women play a role in encounters between the police and black Americans, too. Again and again, the news cycle highlights stories of white women who felt threatened by the mere presence of a black person in a public space, and called the cops.

And don’t go any here near your local Neighborhood phone Ap Nextdoor because it will be an endless stream of black people sightings including kids just trying to walk home from school even in my 9th ward New Orleans neighborhood.

You may want to read this and think on it. From the Guardian: “How white women use strategic tears to silence women of colour” by 

At the Sydney writers’ festival on Sunday, editor of Djed Press, Hella Ibrahim, relayed the final minutes of a panel on diversity featuring writers from the western Sydney Sweatshop collective. One of the panellists, Winnie Dunn, in answering a question about the harm caused by good intentions, had used the words “white people” and “shit” in the same sentence. This raised the ire of a self-identified white woman in the audience who interrogated the panellists as to “what they think they have to gain” by insulting people who “want to read their stories.”

In other words, the woman saw a personal attack where there wasn’t one and decided to remind the panellists that as a member of the white majority she ultimately has their fate in her hands.

“I walked out of that panel frustrated,” Ibrahim wrote. “Because yet again, a good convo was derailed, white people centred themselves, and a POC panel was told to police it’s [sic] tone to make their message palatable to a white audience.”

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  And the offer to extend the front page is open to really any one.  We’re having a hard time keep up with things here since so much of what we care about is basically under fire.

I was thrilled to find so many local governments running kids’ art projects for Fair Housing themes.  These are some selections from Greensborough, NC,  and Portland, Oregon.


Friday Reads: Death Spirals Real and Imagined

Good Afternoon!

It’s getting really difficult to find anything upbeat these days out there on the news front. Usually,there are several areas with persistent messes.  Today, things folks never thought we’d have to worry about are suddenly in play. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day nor did it fall in day. It seems like the US is on a downward spiral that rivals the speed of light or at least a hefty meteor.  Bets on how long we last at this rate?

Suggestions on how can we stop this?

Much of the destruction is going on inside the federal government while Kremlin Caligula puts on a show. We’ve learned that Trump and cronies are planting lobbyists and ideologues to cripple agencies.  The State Department appears to be one of the major functions of government that is in a death spiral. The Russian Connections between Trump and his cronies run deep. There’s no longer a need to connect the dots. It’s a four lane highway between Trump Tower with off ramps all over the place.
It appears that the Trump Syndicate may have been laundering money for Russian Oligarchs.  Here are some links to get caught up on the Russia fiasco.  Many of these are updates from stories that BB wrote about yesterday.

From CNN: “The super-secret division in charge of the Russia investigation“.

From the Palm Beach Post: “Trump in Palm Beach: Why did Russian pay so much for his mansion?”

From The American Interest: “The Curious World of Donald Trump’s Private Russian Connections”

By the late 1990s the actual chaos that resulted from Yeltsin’s warped policies had laid the foundations for a strong counterrevolution, including the rise of ex-KGB officer Putin and a massive outpouring of oligarchic flight capital that has continued virtually up to the present. For ordinary Russians, as noted, this was disastrous. But for many banks, private bankers, hedge funds, law firms, and accounting firms, for leading oil companies like ExxonMobil and BP, as well as for needy borrowers like the Trump Organization, the opportunity to feed on post-Soviet spoils was a godsend. This was vulture capitalism at its worst.

The nine-lived Trump, in particular, had just suffered a string of six successive bankruptcies. So the massive illicit outflows from Russia and oil-rich FSU members like Kazahkstan and Azerbaijan from the mid-1990s provided precisely the kind of undiscriminating investors that he needed. These outflows arrived at just the right time to fund several of Trump’s post-2000 high-risk real estate and casino ventures—most of which failed, since people doesn’t go to casinos that much anymore, people prefer to play and gamble online in different sites, for example here is a List of Betfred’s bonus codes for all their products. As Donald Trump, Jr., executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the “Bridging U.S. and Emerging Markets Real Estate” conference in Manhattan in September 2008 (on the basis, he said, of his own “half dozen trips to Russia in 18 months”):

[I]n terms of high-end product influx into the United States, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

All this helps to explain one of the most intriguing puzzles about Donald Trump’s long, turbulent business career: how he managed to keep financing it, despite a dismal track record of failed projects.4

According to the “official story,” this was simply due to a combination of brilliant deal-making, Trump’s gold-plated brand, and raw animal spirits—with $916 million of creative tax dodging as a kicker. But this official story is hokum. The truth is that, since the late 1990s, Trump was also greatly assisted by these abundant new sources of global finance, especially from “submerging markets” like Russia

Paul Ryan power point meme1
Rex Tillerson is incapable of doing an actual job.  The State Department is in disarray and it’s hard to see how Tillerson is doing anything to change that.  Here’s some analysis from David Ignatius writing for WAPO.

Tillerson’s State Department has been in idle gear these past two months. He doesn’t have a deputy or other top aides. His spokesman can’t give guidance on key issues, because decisions haven’t yet been made. Tillerson didn’t attend important meetings with foreign leaders.

As a former chief executive of ExxonMobil, Tillerson is accustomed to a world where a visible display of power is unnecessary, corporate planning is meticulous and office politics are suppressed. But this is Washington

“I am an engineer by training. I seek to understand the facts,” Tillerson said at his confirmation hearing. That sounds reassuring, but it doesn’t fit the glitzy, backstabbing capital that spawned the television series “House of Cards.”

“He may pay some cost up front for not meeting Washington expectations,” notes Stephen Hadley, national security adviser for President George W. Bush and a Tillerson supporter. “The short-term buzz was that he’s out of the loop, but Tillerson is playing for the long game.”

Tillerson couldn’t even get his choice for a deputy pass President Bannon.

The Republicans in the House and Senate are using the chaos to cover up their end game. Obamacare replacementThey’re trying to dismantle everything from Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA, the EPA, Social Security, Dodd Frank, and just about anything used to protect citizens from the malfeasance of of short sighted, profit-oriented business practices which rule the US commerce landscape.  The GOP is planning a full scale assault on Federal Regulations.

There is a flurry of anti-regulatory legislation floating around Capitol Hill, but it is becoming clear that the key Republican vehicle to rein in rulemaking will be Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act. A 16-page draft of the legislation obtained by POLITICO was significantly less radical than several aggressive bills recently passed by the House of Representatives, but industry groups have pinned their hopes on this one attracting support from enough moderate Democrats to overcome a Senate filibuster and make it to Trump’s desk. And even if the Portman bill won’t automatically ensure “the deconstruction of the administrative state” promised by White House adviser Steve Bannon, it could still dramatically curtail the power of government regulators in the long run.

Portman has not yet introduced the bill, but behind the scenes in Washington it is already the subject of furious lobbying by more than 150 public interest groups that oppose it as well as more than 600 business groups that support it. It is much narrower than a bill the House passed last month with the same name, but would still revamp and insert new bureaucratic hurdles into the federal regulatory process, which the Obama Administration used to enact tough new restrictions on coal plants, Wall Street banks, for-profit colleges and other corporate entities. The Portman bill would add new obstacles for agencies to overcome before enacting economically significant rules, require them to choose the most cost-effective alternative, and give judges more discretion to block regulations when the regulated interests object.

“When I visit a factory or small business in Ohio, one of the complaints I hear most from employers is that there are too many costly and unnecessary regulations that limit their ability to invest in their business,” Portman said. “We need a smarter regulatory process that promotes job creation, innovation, and economic growth.”

Portman and the Washington business community are portraying his reforms as a pragmatic approach to burdensome red tape, hoping to distinguish them from more extreme Republican bills that would give Congress a veto over all major rules, eliminate the deference that courts traditionally give to federal agencies, and even forbid those agencies from implementing rules until every lawsuit against them is resolved. House Republicans have passed five regulatory reform bills this year, and have introduced a dozen more, but insiders say most of them are doomed to die in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster. That’s why Portman is now negotiating over his more temperate language with Democratic senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, who are both up for reelection in 2018 in states Trump won easily. Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bill Nelson of Florida and independent Angus King of Maine have supported similar bills in the past.

Trump has not outlived his usefulness to the Republican Agenda of installing a warped Christian Theocracy and a kleptocracy capable of ruining the environment and killing people.  Portman obviously decided Trump was the way to sneak a lot of things through.

And then there’s Paul Ryan who thinks the only thing that should occur right now is decimation of the ACA regardless of the results.  It’s right there on his Power Point.  It pretty much looked like the Republican version was DOA yesterday but now Senate Republicans are actually talking about changing the Senate rules to get it shoved through one way or another.  This is despite the massive outrage about the repeal.

A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.

Such a gambit would require the unlikely buy-in of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a noted institutionalist who earlier this year avoided talk of changing his chamber’s rules to kill the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

If the Senate changes precedent for what can be passed under reconciliation now, a future Senate — whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats — could enact a wide range of legislation with just a simple majority.

“There are limits to what we can do” on Obamacare while complying with the Senate rules, Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, the longest-serving Senate Republican, said in a Thursday floor speech. Under reconciliation guidelines, bills can be passed in the Senate with a simple majority and cannot be filibustered, as long as their provisions have a direct impact on spending or tax levels.

I wake up every day in fear of what’s coming next.  It seems that everything I’ve ever planned my old age around is now collapsing around me.  The Republican Plan is a massive DumpsterFire. 53_192516Paul Krugman has some great analysis.

 Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy

Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.

Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.

Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.

And the tax on those who don’t sign up becomes a small surcharge — paid to insurance companies, not the public — on people who sign up after previously letting coverage lapse.

Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.

For the combination of price hikes and weakened penalties would lead many healthy Americans to forgo insurance. This would worsen the risk pool, causing premiums to rise sharply — and remember, subsidies would no longer adjust to offset this rise. The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.

How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity?

The only thing that’s been fun about this is the Twitter Attack on Paul Ryan and his Power Points.

So, I know a few people that have been basically kidnapped by their families and put into conversion therapy.  This story of a survivor is chilling reading.

TC, a 19-year-old gay man who spoke to The Huffington Post anonymously for this article in order to protect his safety, is a survivor of conversion therapy practices.

TC was subjected to conversion therapy in 2012 when he was 15 years old after his parents discovered he was gay. The conversion therapy practices took place in the basement of a church after school hours, and were explained to TC and his parents as having two separate components. He told The Huffington Post:

The first step ― which usually lasted six months ― [is] where they “deconstruct us as a person.” Their tactics still haunt me. Aversion therapy, shock therapy, harassment and occasional physical abuse. Their goal was to get us to hate ourselves for being LGBTQ (most of us were gay, but the entire spectrum was represented), and they knew what they were doing…. The second step of the program, they “rebuilt us in their image.” They removed us of everything that made us a unique person, and instead made us a walking, talking, robot for Jesus. They retaught us everything we knew. How to eat, talk, walk, dress, believe, even breathe. We were no longer people at the end of the program.

TC said that the conversion therapy sessions would take place every weekday, with shock therapy treatments lasting approximately an hour, and aversion therapy lasting three.

This is torture. Pure and Simple.

So, this is what they’d fund while getting Insurance 101 wrong.

Paul Ryan actually said “The whole idea of Obamacare is…the people who are healthy pay for the…sick. It’s not working, & that’s why it’s in a death spiral.”

No Speaker that’s a risk pool and it’s how insurance works.

011917coletoon

Everyone pays into the pot and draws on it when they’re sick. Younger people, who tend to be healthier than older people, pay for health insurance like everyone else. They’ll rely on it when when they need it, probably more when they’re older and there are younger, healthier people filing in behind them. It’s the same with car insurance

. Some people pay for decades and never get into an accident and never collect on their coverage (though the likelihood of anyone never using health insurance is unlikely).That’s what actuarial figures are all about, so an insurance system can assess the risks of segments of customers to determine what everyone needs to put into the pot so there’s enough to pay out when someone needs the money.

Ryan has perhaps been on taxpayer-paid health insurance for so long that he has forgotten how the concept works. He believes that’s only the way it works for Obamacare. “The conceit of Obamacare,” he said at his press conference on Trumpcare, is that “young and healthy people are going to go into the market and pay for the older, sicker people.” That’s why Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” he noted.

Twitter had a pretty predictable response to Ryan’s summary of health insurance: Duh.

Meanwhile, every one except the stupid, the greedy, the mean, and the crazy resist.

Well, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads

17022314_10154505890203512_1051292543946394533_nGood Afternoon!

Our Federal Government continues to morph into something hostile, xenophobic,and corrupt as we look at yet another weekend where taxpayer money will be filtered into a private resort owned by Kremlin Caligula.  The Cabinet is now filled with corrupt and unqualified people. Entire Departments are being defunded and destroyed.  First among them is the State Department.  This all appears to part of Bannon’s crusade to “deconstruct the administrative state”.

This week began with reports that President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will drastically slash the State Department’s funding, and last week ended with White House adviser and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon telling the attendees of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that what he and the new president were after was a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” At the State Department, which employs nearly 70,000 people around the world, that deconstruction is already well underway.

In the last week, I’ve spoken with a dozen current and recently departed State Department employees, all of whom asked for anonymity either because they were not authorized to speak to the press and feared retribution by an administration on the prowl for leakers, or did not want to burn their former colleagues. None of these sources were political appointees. Rather, they were career foreign service officers or career civil servants, most of whom have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—and many of whom do not know each other. They painted a picture of a State Department adrift and listless.

Sometimes, the deconstruction of the administrative state is quite literal. After about two dozen career staff on the seventh floor—the State Department’s equivalent of a C suite—were told to find other jobs, some with just 12 hours’ notice, construction teams came in over Presidents’ Day weekend and began rebuilding the office space for a new team and a new concept of how State’s nerve center would function. (This concept hasn’t been shared with most of the people who are still there.) The space on Mahogany Row, the line of wood-paneled offices including that of the secretary of state, is now a mysterious construction zone behind blue tarp.

c59rpxrvuaa0eisUnder Trumps Slash and Burn Budget, everything loses but the military.  The EPA will be decimated.

A wide slew of Environmental Protection Agency programs could be under the knife to meet President Donald Trump’s budget proposal requirements, a source told CNN Wednesday night.

The source spelled out details of an Office of Management and Budget proposal that would cut the EPA’s budget by 24% and reduce its staffing by 20%. Some of the EPA’s most longstanding and best-known programs are facing potential elimination — including initiatives aimed at improving water and air quality as well as a number of regulations tasked with reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Other programs include the Environmental Justice program, which is meant to help local communities grapple with environmental concerns, and Global Change Research, a program funded by several agencies, including the EPA, which reports humans’ impact on the planet.

The Clean Power Plan, which could also be recommended for cuts, was an initiative by former President Barack Obama meant to reduce carbon emissions from each state. Fourteen separate EPA partnership programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could also be on the chopping block.

Also among the programs up for elimination are multi-purpose grants to states and tribes, Energy Star grants, Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowships, the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and initiatives aimed at environmental protections along the US-Mexico border.

Some of the grants recommended for elimination could be matching grants for local projects around the country, the source added.

Ken Cook, the head of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy and research organization, told CNN in a statement: “The Trump administration has decided fence-line communities across the country, whose residents already bear an outsized burden from pollution, are on their own to take on big polluters.”

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

The American Heritage Foundation has been out for the EPA for a long time.  Its even had a plan that may be part of the Adminstration’s vision for letting go of any kind environmental controls and regulation.

Right now, the Trump administration is crafting a budget proposal that envisions steep cuts to a number of federal agencies — including, reportedly, a 24 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency that would eliminate one-fifth of its 15,000 jobs.

There aren’t yet any final decisions on exactly which environmental and energy programs will be targeted for elimination; the White House is still discussing with the relevant agencies. But one place to look for clues is this budget “blueprint” put out by the Heritage Foundation, a major conservative think tank. According to multiple reports, Donald Trump’s team has been using Heritage’s blueprint as a rough guide in its search for $54 billion in domestic spending cuts for fiscal year 2018.

The Heritage budget explains how to get cuts of that magnitude — spreading them out across every agency. And it goes particularly hard after energy and environmental programs. The EPA’s climate-change programs? Gone. Federal research into wind, solar, electric vehicles, nuclear, and other clean tech? Gone. Environmental justice programs? Gone. There are cuts to pollution enforcement and EPA programs that deal with surface water cleanup to diesel truck emissions. Plus cuts in aid to poor countries that help deal with ozone depletion and global warming. Taken together, the blueprint’s cuts would amount to a stark change in US environmental policy.

These cuts won’t all necessarily fly with Congress — a few Republicans are already balking at some of the numbers Trump’s team is tossing about. But it’s a useful read as an aspirational document, a look at the programs that some influential conservatives with Trump’s ear would like to see rooted out of the federal government (and why)

11darcy-carson1jpg-c9d65932f15d4e86It isn’t clear at all that the Pentagon needs that much money or wants it for that matter.  It traditionally gets pretty much what it wants already.  The nation has been on a war time footing since 9/11 so it isn’t even clear that there’s been any kind of “depletion” of anything.

Defense spending accounts for almost the same proportion of the federal budget as all non-discretionary domestic spending, meaning that the Trump administration’s proposal will result in a roughly 10 percent across-the-board cut in all other federal spending programs.

Budgets for most federal agencies would be reduced substantially, said an OMB official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a call with reporters to discuss the proposal.

The announcement marks the beginning of a process in which the OMB will coordinate with agencies to flesh out the plan.

Trump said his budget, which will be submitted to Congress next month, will propose “historic” increases in spending to bolster the country’s “depleted military,” and he said it will support law enforcement in an effort to reduce crime.

court-of-donald-i-sans-text-300b

I really don’t think that any one in the administration has a clue what they’re doing in any kind of conventional sense since nearly all of them have no experience in governance at any level. Bannon’s slash and burn the state ideology appears to be driving much of this.  The cabinet appointees will have difficulty doing much of anything at this rate because staff is fleeing already.

The career executives who staff and run the approximately 250 federal departments and agencies not only formulate and implement executive orders, they also make choices every day that influence large swaths of public policy — from immigration to law enforcement to education to the environment. They use their legal authority to do what all executives do: interpret the power given them by their board of directors (in this case, Congress), set organizational priorities in formal guidance or memorandums and make decisions about where to allocate people and dollars.

The recent enforcement actions by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) illustrate how agency choices about what to prioritize and how to enforce the law can produce a dramatic policy change.

Trump’s success as president depends in part on his ability to get agencies to behave like ICE and choose to use their power in the ways he would prefer.

trump-cabinet-1170x864A number of agencies have already gone literally rogue on him with employees undermining him every chance they get.  This is even true of some of the agencies that are to be used to purge the country of whatever it is Trump fears.  Bannon has even indicated that the Cabinet picks were part of the Deconstruction plan.

President Trump’s critics have noted that at least some of his Cabinet picks seem uniquely unsuited to their roles. Scott Pruitt, recently confirmed as head of the EPA, had previously challenged its regulations in more than a dozen suits. Trump’s initial pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, operated a company that depended on low wages and faced allegations of labor abuse. Puzder’s nomination was scuttled by the discovery that he had employed at least one undocumented immigrant.

Trump’s FCC chairman and energy secretary have also been critics of the very agencies they’re now tasked with managing. Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for energy secretary, famously called to eliminate the department while running for President in 2011.

Putting anti-regulation chairs at the top of regulatory bodies is nothing new for conservative administrations—George W. Bush’s EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, for instance, pushed back against staff recommendations and slackened enforcement. As the saying goes, elections have consequences, and lightening the regulatory load on businesses is a pillar of modern Republican doctrine.

What’s remarkable here, though, is Bannon’s framing of these moves as more anti-state than pro-business. The CPAC comments about ‘deconstruction’ are a toned-down version of startling statements made last August to the Daily Beast. Bannon impishly declared himself a “Leninist,” saying that the Soviet leader “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

It’s not a stretch to see Bannon’s comments reflected not only in Trump’s cabinet picks, but in his slow progress in filling hundreds of lower-level cabinet positions. Until they’re filled, those positions are staffed by temporary administrators with reduced power, leaving enforcement and other matters in limbo.

December 18, 2016

This is perhaps though why Paul Ryan–on top of Putin–find the Trump minions to be “useful fools”.  Ryan is known as the nation’s premier granny starver and all this chaos and cutting is pretty much right up his ally.  This is analysis by Jonathan Chait.

What is the substance of the supposed schism between Trump and the regular GOP? The Times depicts the president and the House Speaker as split over whether to cut “Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.” But, while Ryan has made it known that he would like to cut Social Security (a position that has won him immense inside-the-Beltway Establishment credibility), he has not persuaded his party to go along. The “Better Way” plan crafted by Ryan and endorsed by House Republicans makes no mention of Social Security at all. It does propose privatizing Medicare, but only for workers who are not retired or are near retirement — which means, despite its long-term significance, it has no impact on the budget over the next decade. And both Trump and Ryan are planning deep cuts to Medicaid.

The similarities continue. Both favor increases in defense spending and dramatically weaker enforcement of labor, environmental, and financial regulation. Both favor deep cuts to anti-poverty spending. Trump is more enthusiastic than the regular GOP about infrastructure spending, but he has decided to postpone that issue until next year and use it as an election messaging vehicle rather than a real legislative priority. Most important, both agree that large, upper-income tax cuts are the party’s highest priority. Trump has even endorsed Ryan’s legislative strategy of sequencing Obamacare repeal first in order to grease the skids for bigger tax cuts. (“Statutorily and for budget purposes, as you know, we have to do health care before we do the tax cut,” he said this week.)

It is true, as conservatives say, that Trump’s budget numbers do not really add up. But he is relying on the same voodoo economics assumptions that are de rigeur in his party. “The money is going to come from a revved-up economy,” Trump said on Fox & Friends. “I mean, you look at the kind of numbers we’re doing, we were probably GDP of a little more than 1 percent. And if I can get that up to 3, maybe more, we have a whole different ballgame.” Remember that ultra-Establishment Republican Jeb Bush promised tax cuts and deregulation would produce 4 percent growth, so Trump’s 3 percent growth promise is actually moderate and realistic by Republican fiscal standards.

The illusion that Trump has radically altered his party’s agenda is convenient for all sides.

Democrats have already sent out a battle cry as have a few Republicans.  Lindsey Graham is having none of  the cuts to State.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that President Trump’s first budget was “dead on arrival” and wouldn’t make it through Congress.

“It’s not going to happen,” said Graham, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster.”

Graham, a frequent Trump critic, expressed concerns with Trump’s proposed cuts to the State Department budget, especially the targeting of foreign aid.

These are trying times.  Let’s just hope we have enough leaders in the District with other patriotism or deep seated interests in some of these agencies or our country will never look the same again.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Blue Blue Monday Reads and Yes! Let’s politicize homophobia and gun fetishists!

Good Afternoon!

Once again we see the results of toxic religious zealotry and resentment whipped up to the point that some nutter feels compelled to kill in the case of the Orlando massacre.  This occurs all too frequently in this country.  You may recall the images (14)Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting where we saw Robert Dear go on a shooting spree with the same deadly combination of anger whipped up by right wing politicians and preachers, mental illness, and easy access to weapons.  One claimed ISIS inspiration and Islamofascism.  The other was inspired by Christofascists in the US that bring you terror in the name of Fetus Fetishism.

We still haven’t heard about the motives of the Indiana man–a 20 year old white guy–in terms of why he was going after participants and viewers of a California Gay Pride parade.  Suffice it to say, the politicization of the private lives of the GLBT community by Republicans, their presidential candidate, and the various religious whackos that they court likely will come into play at some point.

Harassing and encouraging anger is just one political tool used regularly by Republicans these days.  I have noticed that the silence is deafening right now on James Wesley Howell.  The press can is clearly focused on the bloodbath and the sensational background of the Pulse Shooter rather than wondering why we manage to get bigger and badder displays of hatred and anger these days.  I’m not sure that most people realize that any Abrahamic-based religion is going to beget violence in some folks.  It goes with territory.  A few of them take retribution and strict commandments from their angry sky fairy way too seriously. This is especially the case if they have some kind of severe emotional or mental disorder.

(Spoiler Alert)  It’s the easy access to guns of all kinds in this country. The irresponsible and cynical use of anger and outrage to gain power and money is out of control.  Religion is just another vehicle to whip up the anger and the outrage and it frequently turns deadly.

obama1-703x406The weapon of choice for mass shooters is the AR-15 rifle.  This is one of the weapons that was included in the assault weapons ban signed by Bill Clinton in 1994 that expired in 2004.  The rifle was used in Orlando, Aurora,  Newton, and San Bernadino. It’s easily obtainable and the latest shooter–who had a history of Domestic Violence and was under the eye of the FBI for terrorist rantings–had a license to carry it and to obtain it legally.  Let that sink in.

There were calls to ban the weapon after the Newtown shootings, which led to a spike in sales. Gun manufacturers have called the AR-15 one of the most popular weapons in the U.S., with more than 3 million estimated to be in circulation.

“It was designed for the United States military to do to enemies of war exactly what it did this morning: kill mass numbers of people with maximum efficiency and ease,” lawyer Josh Koskoff, who’s representing Newtown families in their lawsuit against the gun industry, said Sunday.

Regulations on magazine capacity for the weapon vary from state to state, but it can fire 45 rounds a minute.

Most forms of the gun had been prohibited under the 1994 federal assault weapons ban that was allowed to expire in 2004, following ferocious lobbying by the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has used its lobbying might in the years since to bury attempts to revive the ban.

“During the decade of the ban, there were half as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade before, and a third as many casualties in mass shootings as the decade after,” said Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, a strategist involved in the original legislation.

920x920 (1)Hillary Clinton has called for a renewal of the Assault Weapons Ban that her husband signed in his first term.  This is one of the reasons that I am so happy she is the nominee.  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has some extremely neoconfederate views of gun control that he reiterated yesterday.  He believes it is a state and local issue, voted against the Brady Bill many many times, and has supported relieving gun manufacturers and stores of any liability for the damage done by their product.

Hillary Clinton has called for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban in the wake of the worst mass shooting in American history that left 49 people and the gunman dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In forthright comments a day after the massacre at the Pulse Club, the presumptive presidential nominee for the Democratic party issued a call for a return to “commonsense gun safety reform” and lambasted the Republican-controlled Congress for what she called a “totally incomprehensible” refusal to address the country’s lax gun laws.

“We can’t fall into the trap set up by the gun lobby that says if you cannot stop every shooting you shouldn’t try to stop any,” she said.

Clinton’s tough stance on gun control sets up a torrid fight with her Republican rival for the White House Donald Trump, who has positioned himself as a champion of the second amendment and dismissed any calls for greater gun controls as weakness. She insisted that while she did believe that law-abiding American citizens have the right to own guns, it was also possible to see that “reasonable, commonsense measures” could be taken that would make people more safe from guns.

One of the things that stuns me is the ease with which a guy on the FBI threat radar could get a permit to carry and purchase a rifle that no civilian should own.

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in US history, questions are mounting over why the shooter Omar Mateen was legally able to buy an assault rifle and handgun despite having been investigated twice by the FBI for suspected terrorist sympathies.

Mateen, 29, launched his attack on Pulse club, an LGBT venue in downtown Orlando celebrating its popular Latin dance night, at 2.02am on Sunday morning.

Twenty minutes into the spree he took the bizarre step of making a 911 call in which he reportedly referred both to Islamic State and the Tsarnaevs, the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013.

Sunday’s attack – which left 49 clubgoers dead and 53 injured – was launched by Mateen using a .223-caliber assault rifle and 9mm semi-automatic pistol with multiple rounds of ammunition that had been purchased quite lawfully in the week before the rampage using Mateen’s firearms license. Mateen was shot dead by police.

He also held a permit to work as a security guard, which he did at a courthouse in Port St Lucie, Florida, even though he was interviewed three times by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 following separate reports of extremist behavior and connections to terrorism that were in the end deemed insubstantial.

Mateen was released because no evidence of wrongdoing was found by the FBI.  He’s a natural born American so that provides him the usual 4816protections.  This is something that appears to have blown completely pass Donald Trump whose rhetoric and bragging were dialed up to 11 yesterday. He revisited his call to ban all Muslims from entering the country despite the fact that all three of the shooters claiming support for Islamofascim–Nidal Hassn (Fort Hood),Syed Rizwan Farook, (San Bernardino) , and Mateen (Orlando)–were American citizens. Only Farook’s wife–Tashfeen Malik–was foreign born.

The presumptive Republican nominee pulled no punches in a lengthy statement yesterday, going so far as to call for Barack Obama to resign and reiterating his call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States (despite the fact that the shooter was born in New York).

“In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam’. For that reason alone, he should step down,” Trump said in his press release. “If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words ‘Radical Islam’ she should get out of this race for the Presidency. If we do not get tough and smart real fast, we are not going to have a country anymore. Because our leaders are weak, I said this was going to happen – and it is only going to get worse. I am trying to save lives and prevent the next terrorist attack. We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.”

“We admit more than 100,000 lifetime migrants from the Middle East each year. Since 9/11, hundreds of migrants and their children have been implicated in terrorism in the United States,” Trump added. “Hillary Clinton wants to dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East, bringing in many hundreds of thousands during a first term – and we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing.” (To be fair, this mischaracterizes Clinton’s position.)

The statement followed a stream of self-congratulatory tweets.

Clinton  has decided to adopt the use of radical Islam.  Let’s hope she will also be brave enough to point out radical Christians like Ted Cruz’s “Kill the 1024x1024Gays” pastor or the horrid group at Westborough Baptist Church.   She used the term on several morning news shows today.

Hillary Clinton on Monday broke from President Barack Obama in referring to the terrorist attack as “radical Islamism,” countering Donald Trump’s accusations that both she and Obama are weak on tackling terrorist threats.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” on Monday morning, Clinton said words matter less than actions, but that she didn’t have a problem using the term.

“And from my perspective, it matters what we do, not what we say. It matters that we got Bin Laden, not what name we called him,” Clinton said. “But if he is somehow suggesting I don’t call this for what it is, he hasn’t been listening. I have clearly said we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism, and we will.”

Both terms “mean the same thing,” Clinton continued, adding, “And to me, radical jihadism, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.”

“I have clearly said many, many times we face terrorist enemies who use Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them and we will. We have to defeat radical jihadist terrorism or radical Islamism, whatever you call it,” Clinton said later on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reiterating, “it’s the same.”

The U.S. cannot, on the other hand, she added, “demonize, demagogue and declare war on an entire religion.” Clinton also said she could assure Americans that she is equally committed to fighting Islamic extremism as well as protecting law-abiding Muslims.

The President spoke on the radicalization of Mateen several hours ago.

President Obama said Monday that the Orlando mass murder was “inspired” by violent extremist propaganda on the internet and there’s no evidence the killing spree was ordered by ISIS.

“We see no clear evidence that he was directed externally,” Obama said from the Oval Office, using another name from the Islamic State terror group. “It does appear that at the last minute he announced allegiance to ISIL.”

Obama said investigators are tracing Omar Mateen’s “pathway” to murder by reviewing his internet searches and other materials.

“It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet,” Obama said.

“All those materials are currently being searched … so we will have a better sense of pathway that the killer took in the making a decision to launch this attack.”

Obama made the brief remarks after meeting with FBI Director James Comey, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other security officials.

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The Orlando shooting and the shooting that might have been in California both are rooted in hate and easy access to guns. Both shooter and potential shooter had histories of mental illness. The Orlando shooter had a history of Domestic violence which in many states would stop him from getting access to any gun. Clearly, we have a problem in this country with hate and guns turned on the hapless population. One of our political parties has weaponized hatred and bigotry then enabled shooters by catering to all the whims of the most radical elements of the NRA gun lobby.

Clinton is right. This has to end on all accounts.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Of Dismal Differential Equations and angry old men

backgroundGood Morning!

I’m still trying to get my thoughts together about the number of bomb throwers in both political parties that seem to want all levels of government to go to wreck and to ruin. They are being led by some of the most ignorant politicians I’ve ever had the displeasure to observe.   Some folks are angry and eager for easy and very wrong answers.

It’s really easy for most people to confuse their personal pet experience with reality for the rest of the country as a whole. I get really tired of having anecdotal information put on the same level of seriousness as a peer-reviewed, published study. As an economist, I can tell you the number of people ignorant of generally well-known outcomes discovered through research and built up into theory in my field is highly limited. I shared this article by economist Greg Mankiw down thread over the weekend. I thought it was worth highlighting its main points.

I’ve said this a lot of times but the entire Sanders/Trump shtick on trade and the Sanders shtick on “big” banks is seriously out of step with reality. Mankiw succinctly writes about a few things that economists know that populist, anger-spewing office seekers don’t take time to learn. Now, Mankiw worked on the CEA for Dubya.  He’s not the least bit politically Democrat but what he’s written here are things that economists and policy wonks know to be true from decades of study. Economists generally don’t argue on the facts on the ground or on theory.  It’s how the policy should reflect that information that is usually a source of contention. There’s a lot of myths out there this election cycle. Here’s a few of them.

American manufacturing has disappeared.

The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, says, “We don’t make things anymore.” Judging from the surprising success of Mr. Trump’s campaign, this theme apparently resonates with many voters. But it is just not true.

When do you think manufacturing output reached its peak in the United States? The answer: right now. Manufacturing output achieved a record high in the most recent quarter of data. The nation’s manufacturers are now producing 47 percent more than they did 20 years ago.

What has declined is manufacturing employment, which is 29 percent lower than it was 20 years ago. Producing more output with fewer workers is called higher productivity, which in turn is driven by technological innovation. This change is hard on displaced workers, but it is good for the economy over all. Rising living standards are possible only if productivity increases.

Bad trade deals are what ails the economy.

Mr. Trump says he would negotiate better trade deals. Bernie Sanders brags about voting against the trade deals of the past. Hillary Clinton has split with President Obama and withdrawn her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The experts have a different view. Among those who devote their lives to studying the economy, there is a broad consensus about the overall benefits of free trade and trade deals. Of course, trade hasn’t been a boon for people who have lost their jobs because of foreign competition. But in 2014, the University of Chicago’s IGM Panel surveyed prominent economists about whether “past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.” A few respondents were uncertain, but most said yes. Not a single economist responded in the negative.

The economy is rigged.

To be sure, we live in challenging times. Meager growth and rising inequality have resulted in stagnant incomes for much of the working class and declining incomes for those with the lowest levels of education.

But to say that the economy is rigged, as Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton have done, assumes that some small group of oligarchs planned this outcome. Clearly, the wealthy and powerful try to protect their interests, and they sometimes succeed. But the economy is a complex, decentralized system. Many outcomes are under no one’s control.

The biggest problem is that the devil is very much in the details which is where the challenges of policy exist.  It usednontraditionalstudent-vintage to be–back in the day when I entered the business which is 1980 if you don’t count my undergrad stint as a teller–that every list of the top largest banks in the world had nothing but US banks.  That hasn’t be the case for some time.  China has now replaced Japan in the list but you’ll see that US banks have a presence on the list but don’t comprise the entire list. Australia, Canada and the UK also have some very large banks.

Countries and multinational corporations are huge and the amount of money they need to bank, borrow and use transactionally can only be handled by huge banks.  The thing that makes them systematically dangerous is not their size.  It’s the amount of ownership vs. deposits and their investing behaviors all of which are regulated internationally through the Bank of International Settlements and the Basil Committee recommendations. 

Nationally, we have the Federal Reserve Bank where I have actually worked with regulating huge regional banks in the south.  We have a number of laws on the books–most notably Dodd-Frank–that reflect international standards and our own goals for keeping systemic risk down in the financial system. It’s certainly not perfect and we do see many banks fighting some changes.  We need to build on all of that and we need to pay better regulatory attention to the shadow banking industry.  I’ve written extensively about that here since the Financial Collapse.  Any one that suggests that it’s only size that matters needs to go back to school. We’ve discussed this before but the Clinton policy is subtle, nuanced, and up to the job if her administration can get it through a belligerent congress. I have more faith that she can do that than the bomb throwers who have challenged her for office.

Same with trade deals.  There are many many aspects to trade that are good and it far outweighs the damage it can do to a few domestic industries.  It’s a form of progress.  Really.  Every single consumer on the planet gets access to things cheaply that they never would which helps every one’s standard of living. I don’t think it’s a good idea to argue that jobs should only exist within your borders and every one else can just starve trying to make a living.  We’re all better off through trade but there are people that are hurt by it. Again, it’s policy details that can see that trade does not ruin folks’ lives who are on the losing end.. It’s similar to what Clinton argues about transitioning Kentucky coal miners to clean energy industries.  Technology is still a huge factor in job lose.  Those folks in industries that lose domestically need to be helped by all levels of government.  Even they will eventually see their paychecks access more  as long as we can ensure they can still earn livings.

The problem that we see here is that we have a party that does not believe in a role for any form of government in anything and it stymies the kinds of policy details that ensure stability in big banks and ensure that our workers can find jobs and are trained properly for new industries if need be. None of this will happen if we elect politicians who are insurrectionists of one type or another.

Paul Krugman’s Op Ed today in the NYT calls Donald Trump an Ignoramus.

Last week the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — hard to believe, but there it is — finally revealed his plan to make America great again. Basically, it involves running the country like a failing casino: he could, he asserted, “make a deal” with creditors that would reduce the debt burden if his outlandish promises of economic growth don’t work out.

The reaction from everyone who knows anything about finance or economics was a mix of amazed horror and horrified amazement. One does not casually suggest throwing away America’s carefully cultivated reputation as the world’s most scrupulous debtor — a reputation that dates all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

The Trump solution would, among other things, deprive the world economy of its most crucial safe asset, U.S. debt, at a time when safe assets are already in short supply.

Of course, we can be sure that Mr. Trump knows none of this, and nobody in his entourage is likely to tell him. But before we simply ridicule him — or, actually, at the same time that we’re ridiculing him — let’s ask where his bad ideas really come from.

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Well, read the answer because it’s easy.  It comes from republican lawmakers like Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz.  Some of these Trumpisms even come from Romney.  Krugman states that Trump’s “blithe lack of knowledge largely follows from the know-nothing attitudes of the party he know leads.”  He concludes by being very complimentary to Clinton who’s economic policy is the only one rooted in reality and in accepted economic theory.

One of the wackiest things I’ve read in a long time is this story about how American Airlines handled an economist working on one of its flights.  I fully admit to doing pretty much the same thing on long flights.  I drag out my work.  I’ve never thought you could be considered terrorizing a seat mate will doing Differential Equations, but I guess you can in the paranoid world of angry white people.  Here we have an Ivy League economist of Italian descent causing panic in the skies. 

What do you know about your seatmate? The agent asked the foreign-sounding man.

Well, she acted a bit funny, he replied, but she didn’t seem visibly ill. Maybe, he thought, they wanted his help in piecing together what was wrong with her.

And then the big reveal: The woman wasn’t really sick at all! Instead this quick-thinking traveler had Seen Something, and so she had Said Something.

That Something she’d seen had been her seatmate’s cryptic notes, scrawled in a script she didn’t recognize. Maybe it was code, or some foreign lettering, possibly the details of a plot to destroy the dozens of innocent lives aboard American Airlines Flight 3950. She may have felt it her duty to alert the authorities just to be safe. The curly-haired man was, the agent informed him politely, suspected of terrorism.

The curly-haired man laughed.

He laughed because those scribbles weren’t Arabic, or another foreign language, or even some special secret terrorist code. They were math.

Yes, math. A differential equation, to be exact.

Had the crew or security members perhaps quickly googled this good-natured, bespectacled passenger before waylaying everyone for several hours, they might have learned that he — Guido Menzio — is a young but decorated Ivy League economist. And that he’s best known for his relatively technical work on search theory, which helped earn him a tenured associate professorship at the University of Pennsylvania as well as stints at Princeton and Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

So, here’s a few other policy issues that you may want to read about today.  More and more cities are realizing that 5357244573ac6fb624e4476099eb2082AirBnb is just a way to get around local zoning and commerce laws.  It’s pushing up rent and creating homelessness in all the major tourist destinations of the world.

A 20-year resident of San Francisco, Tarin Towers lived in a rent-controlled apartment in the Mission District. Her building, a six-unit Victorian, was home to people who had stayed in the Mission for decades as the neighborhood changed around them. Some of her neighbors were multigenerational families, some were elderly, some were disabled. As long as the building remained rent-controlled, they should have been protected from the city’s skyrocketing housing market. But in 2013, the building was bought by well-known real estate speculator Fergus O’Sullivan, who saw he could make more — a lot more — with new tenants. But first, he had to get the old ones out.

In some ways, San Francisco renters are lucky. Their city has rent-control laws, unlike most places in the U.S., where your landlord can get rid of you as soon as the lease ends. In San Francisco, in many cases, a landlord must pay for the privilege of kicking you out — sometimes handsomely. As Towers’ landlord started renovations on her building, turning it into an all-day construction site, her neighbors started taking buyouts — some as high as six figures. But when Towers looked around at San Francisco real estate, she realized that after splitting a buyout with her housemates and paying taxes and lawyers’ fees, the amount she would get for leaving wouldn’t enable her to pay higher rent elsewhere in the city.

Towers held out as her old neighbors left and new tenants started moving in. Unlike the old neighbors, these new people were young, mobile, transient. And there were a lot of them. O’Sullivan, it turned out, had leased the building to a startup called the Vinyasa Homes Project. Towers soon discovered that Vinyasa had listed her building on Airbnb, advertising it as a “co-creative house.” The listing made it sound almost like a commune. “You want to join a community of like-minded peers who are doing inspirational things?” it read. “This is the place for you.” Unlike in the communes of yesteryear, however, each bed is going for more than $1,500 a month — and these are bunk beds in shared rooms. That means each apartment could now be bringing in $10,000 a month in rent.

ca. 1958, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA --- Dr. Norbert Wiener Standing at Blackboard --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

ca. 1958, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA — Dr. Norbert Wiener Standing at Blackboard — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ben Rhodes has been under fire this election for his role in negotiating the Iran Deal.  Here’s his response.

In recent years, few things have been as exhaustively debated or written about than the Iran deal.

That debate reignited this week after a long article about me included a section about the Iran deal. There are many issues raised in an article of this length, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to respond to those topics in the weeks and months to come.

However, given the importance of the questions raised about the Iran deal over the last few days, I want to make several points about one issue: how we advocated for the deal.

First, we never made any secret of our interest in pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama campaigned on that position in 2008. We pursued several diplomatic efforts with Iran during the President’s first term, and the fact that there were discreet channels of communication established with Iran in 2012 is something that we confirmed publicly. However, we did not have any serious prospect of reaching a nuclear deal until after the election of Hasan Rouhani in 2013. Yes, we had discussions with the Iranians before that, but they did not get anywhere. After the Rouhani government took office, our confidential negotiations with the Iranians accelerated, and quickly led to public negotiations within the P5+1 process that began at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2013. Whatever your analysis of the relative weight of moderates or hard-liners in the Iranian system, there is no question that we were able to achieve a deal only after a change in the Iranian Administration.

Second, we did aggressively make the case for the Iran deal during the congressional review mandated by statute last summer, as it was imperative that the facts of the deal be understood for it to be implemented. Opponents of the deal had no difficulty in making their case — through commentary, a paid media campaign, and the distribution of materials making a variety of arguments against the deal. Tough and fair questions were raised; sometimes, there were also inaccuracies about the nature of the deal.‎ Given our interest in making sure that any misinformation was corrected, and that people understood our policy, we made a concerted effort to provide information about the deal to any interested party, including to outside organizations and any journalists covering the issue. This effort to get information out with fact sheets, graphics, briefings, and social media was no secret — it was well reported on at the time. Of course the objective of that kind of effort is to build as much public support as you can — that’s a function of White House communications.

You can read more about Ben Rhodes and the controversies at these links.  The NYT link at the top is the article that 4606kicked off the latest controversy.

From the NYT: “The Aspiring Novelist who became Obama’s Foreign-Policy Guru”.

From Politico: “White House aide Ben Rhodes responds to controversial New York Times profile

Jaws dropped in Washington’s tight-knit foreign policy community when Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser and one of President Barack Obama’s closest aides, was quoted in the New York Times Magazine deriding the D.C. press corps and boasting of how he created an “echo chamber” to market the administration’s foreign policy.

Marbled with the kind of overly candid observations that sank Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the wartime general who was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden in a 2010 Rolling Stone profile, the article, written by David Samuels, hit like a bomb. It portrayed Rhodes as a real-life Holden Caulfield, a prep-school brat with literary pretensions whose greatest work of fiction was crafting the White House’s “narrative” to defend the Iran nuclear deal from its critics.

It’s really a shame that you can’t write analysis of complex policies like these on the back of a cereal box and expect every one to have enough background in the material to actually grasp it.  It does seem to me, however, that as responsible voters in a democratic society that people could at least try to get better information. It’s not like it’s not easily accessible these days.

So there’s a few things on wonky policy to get us started today.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?