Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

My mom just called me to find out why MSNBC is hyping the Republicans’ Benghazi! report. I’m not watching; but I guess we can just assume that the so-called “liberal” cable channel is going to continue rooting against Hillary even if it means electing a completely unqualified, ignorant racist who hates the media and wants to take away press freedoms. Ugh.

Even The New York Times admits the report contains nothing new, even though they fail to note until way down in the story that the “committee report” released today comes only from the Republican members. They didn’t even let their Democratic colleagues read it. The Democrats on the committee released their report yesterday. Here’s a quick read on what’s in the report.

Vice News: Two years and $7 million later, the Benghazi report is finally out.

After two years and $7 million, Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee have released their long-awaited report on the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi — a report that concludes then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was not directly at fault for the events that led to the death of four American citizens.

The report did slam the Obama administration for its handling of the aftermath of the attacks, citing a combination of bureaucratic inefficiency, personal error and willful ignorance of intelligence for the bungled response. But the committee’s findings do not directly indict Clinton for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, or found that she willfully ignored calls for security, charges that Republicans have continuously leveled at her.

In fact, the report barely focuses on Clinton at all, but rather reveals a more comprehensive timeline of events based on interviews with eyewitnesses and senior intelligence officials.

Among the revelations in the Committee’s 800-page report is that the CIA missed real-time intelligence about the situation on the ground that led the agency to bungle its response to the violent protests that led to the deaths of Americans at the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The government then misled the public about what had happened in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

“It is not clear what additional intelligence would have satisfied either [State Department aide Patrick] Kennedy or the Secretary in understanding the Benghazi mission compound was at risk — short of an attack,” the report says.

There’s not much new in that article either, but you can check it out for yourself.

 

Protesters wave Mexican flags and signs on the road leading into Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, June 25, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Protesters wave Mexican flags and signs on the road leading into Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen, Scotland, June 25, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Some pundits have assumed that terrorist attacks would help Donald Trump in his sad run for the presidency. It doesn’t look that way so far. The Washington Post reports: Donald Trump’s big, bold response to terrorism is a big bust with Americans.

Hillary Clinton has reestablished her advantage over Donald Trump on dealing with terrorism following the candidates’ very different reactions to the nation’s largest-ever mass shooting in Orlando, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

By a 50-to-39 percent margin, more say they trust Clinton than Trump to handle terrorism — similar to her 54-40 edge in March but wider than her narrow three-point edge in May after Trump became the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee….

The latest shift stands in stark contrast to political impact of the last major terrorist attacks that colored U.S. politics. After the Paris and San Bernardino attacks in late 2015, Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims entering the U.S. received wide support among fellow Republicans, and it helped bolster his support heading into the GOP nomination contest.

The latest poll numbers, of course, show how the larger electorate feels about Trump’s handling of foreign policy and terrorism — not just GOP voters. And it’s yet another bad sign for Trump’s presidential aspirations come November.

Clinton isn’t the only Democrat to get a boost. President Obama’s approval for handling terrorism went from 45 percent in June to 50 percent this month, ending a stretch of underwater ratings (more disapproval than approval) since early 2015. After the Paris attacks, Obama’s approval mark on the issue dropped to a record-low 40 percent.

Read the details and check out the charts at the WaPo.

Trump has finally started sending out fundraising emails, and apparently he isn’t aware that he can’t accept donations from foreign nationals. He sent emails to Scottish MP’s last week asking them to donate. One recipient wrote a response.

The Scotsman: Natalie McGarry publicly rebuffs Donald Trump fundraising plea.

Independent Scottish MP Natalie McGarry

Independent Scottish MP Natalie McGarry

McGarry, who is the MP for Glasgow East, wrote a sharp reply to the Presidential hopeful’s son, and shared her response with her 15,000 Twitter followers.

In her letter she wrote: “Quite why you think it appropriate to write emails to UK parliamentarians with a begging bowl for your father’s repugnant campaign is completely beyond me.

“Given his rhetoric on migrants, refugees and immigration, it seems quite extraordinary that he would be asking foreign nationals for money; especially people who view his dangerous divisiveness with horror.

“The US elections are a matter for the American people, but I do send my warm hope that they reject your father fundamentally at the ballot box.”

She added: “The thought of his reactionary type of politics and apparent ignorance of world affairs having access to a seat at the world table is both surreal, and terrifying.

“The above is a long way to say No, and do not contact me again.”

ROFLOL!

Josh Marshall on the way things are going for Trump: “How Does It Feel To Be Losing So Badly?”

In the Trumpian world of pure alpha dominance no failure or state of existence is more total, hopeless, unmanning or unbearable. He is now living there, in public, each day, for all to see, even helpfully enumerated on most days in new poll numbers. A brittle narcissistic ego, coddled for decades by armies of yes men and a generally fawning business and tabloid press, won’t hold up well under that kind of strain.

Losing is always hard. Few of us have ever been candidates for public office. But we all know this from our own lives. But it is uniquely hard for Trump’s campaign because the campaign’s entire premise is “winning” and on a slightly less literal level on what I’ve called dominance politics. Losing is hard for any campaign both emotionally for all involved but also because losing is demoralizing and can trigger a self-perpetuating cycle. But most campaign’s have issue agendas, goals that provide an emotional and aspirational ballast to the effort. You may be losing but that doesn’t invalidate what you believe or the substance of your proposed policies. That’s not true for Trump because “winning” isn’t just the goal it’s the raison d’etre and premise of the whole effort. A candidacy based on “winning” which is in fact losing and perhaps losing badly isn’t just on the ropes; it begins to look ridiculous.

Read the rest at the link.

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From New York Magazine, a sad story about another sad sack: The Sanders Campaign Tried to Rig Caucus Tiebreakers With Double-Sided Coins.

The Democratic primary wasn’t rigged — despite the best efforts of Bernie Sanders’s staffers in Nevada. On Monday, CBS News published a postmortem on the Vermont senator’s campaign, which includes this anecdote about how Sanders’s Silver State director Joan Kato prepared her team for caucus day:

At one point shortly before the caucuses, she instructed staff to buy double-sided coins — in case coin-flips were needed to decide any of the caucuses in the event of a tie, according to staffers.

All that yelling about Hillary being “corrupt” was just projection.

And how are things going for Hillary? Great! Here’s Ruby Cramer on Clinton’s joint appearance with Elizabeth Warren in Cincinnati yesterday: Elizabeth Warren Finally Opens Her Arms To Hillary Clinton. Cramer notes that two years ago when these two famous women campaigned on the same stage in Massachusetts for then candidate for Governor Martha Coakley, Warren “barely mentioned Clinton.” But now it’s different between them.

Two years later, the 2016 election has forged a vastly different Clinton–Warren alliance.

Here on Monday, beneath the painted dome of the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, they emerged for their first joint appearance, unveiling a powerful new partnership aimed at Donald Trump, with none of the old distance and unease.

The pair arrived together, Clinton leading the way onto a circular platform in the middle of the hall. Around the stage, 2,600 crowded into the historic atrium. Warren threw out both hands, palms to the ceiling, as if in awe of the scene around her.

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Clinton motioned Warren toward the podium, then stood near the back of the stage and took a breath. “Woo!” she mouthed. Over the sound of the crowd, Warren leaned into the microphone with the same surprised look: “Whoa!” she said. Thank you!”

“I’m here today because I’m with her. Yes, her!”

Later, as Clinton spoke, Warren stood to the side and listened intently, reacting to each line along with the voters below. To a mention of infrastructure investment, Warren nodded fiercely and let out a “yes!” To a promise of student loan relief, she jumped up and down on her toes. To a dig at corporations, she pumped her fist in the air. And when the candidate led the crowd into one of her favorite lines — about playing the “woman’s card” — Warren chanted along on cue: “Deal me in!”

More than most of the campaign’s surrogates on the trail, Warren took the stage for Clinton with a distinct mission, taking a high-energy and unapologetic approach to the job of attack dog, with a speech that complemented Clinton’s, not simply introduced it.

Well you probably saw the speech–if you didn’t please be sure to watch it. And read much more about it at the Buzzfeed link.

Bernie Sanders could have done what Warren has done. He probably could have been another good attack dog against Trump. But he chose a different path, and now it’s too late. I really hope he doesn’t campaign for Hillary, and I couldn’t care less if he endorses her. His followers have mostly jumped on her bandwagon, and those who are still wallowing in self-pity won’t be needed. I dread the thought of Bernie campaigning at this point, because I’m convinced he would only find underhanded ways to damage her. I just hope he continues to fade from public view.

What stories are you following today? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Friday Reads: It Has Been A Historic Week

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Good Morning!!

Well, it’s been quite a week in politics.

On Monday, the AP and NBC News separately announced that Hillary Clinton had the requisite number of pledged delegates and super delegates to be the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party–the first woman in history to accomplish this.

On Tuesday, Hillary won more than enough votes to hold a majority of pledged delegates and make it impossible for her opponent to do so. She won primaries in New Jersey, California, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Her opponent won only North Dakota and Montana.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed Hillary’s campaign for President and vowed to campaign hard for her. Next Wednesday, President Obama will appear with Hillary at an event in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Obama released his endorsement in a video.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal: Barack Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton for President.

No sitting U.S. president in recent history has campaigned for his party’s nominee as much as Barack Obama plans to for Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Obama endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee on Thursday in a video posted on social media. Her campaign also announced plans for a joint appearance with the president next Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis., kicking off a marathon push to retain Democratic control of the White House.

“I’m fired up,” Mr. Obama said in the video, echoing a chant from his 2008 campaign.

The announcements came just 90 minutes after Mrs. Clinton’s primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, emerged from a White House meeting with Mr. Obama, where the Vermont lawmaker gave his strongest signal yet that he wouldn’t try to block her nomination at the July convention in Philadelphia….

“It means something for him to say she is everything she says she will be, because he was a doubter,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, noting that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton were not natural allies.

Mark Mellman, a Democratic polling expert, said that for Mr. Obama, the potential reward is greater than any risk. “The peril for any president is you get too involved and lose and have it tarnish your legacy,” he said. But if Mr. Obama stayed idle and Mrs. Clinton lost, he would take a hit anyway, Mr. Mellman added, and the president’s policy would be at risk, too.

Mr. Trump said last week that Mr. Obama shouldn’t get involved in the race, warning that “if he campaigns, that means I’m allowed to hit him.”

Go ahead and try, Donald.

Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren quickly threw their public support behind Mrs. Clinton after Mr. Obama’s endorsement. Mr. Biden, in an off-the-cuff comment during a speech Thursday night, said “God willing” the next president will be Mrs. Clinton.

Michelle Obama also said she will campaign for Hillary.

Here’s Warren demolishing Donald Trump yesterday.

 

 

The Boston Globe reports: Elizabeth Warren ‘ready to jump in this fight’ for Hillary Clinton.

“I’m ready,” Warren said in an interview with The Globe. “I’m ready to jump in this fight and make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president of the United States and be sure that Donald Trump gets nowhere near the White House.”

She added: “I’m supporting Hillary Clinton because she’s a fighter, a fighter with guts.” ….

Warren, a champion of the left who passed up a presidential bid of her own, despite the urging of legions of followers, is uniquely positioned to serve as a bridge between the establishment candidacy of Clinton and Sanders supporters, who are being forced to come to terms with the Vermont senator’s loss.

Democrats view the freshman Massachusetts senator as a path of sorts to party unity, which helps explain an upsurge in buzz about Warren as a potential vice presidential pick. Senators and top staff say talking up Warren for vice president is a way to show Sanders and his millions of followers that the party establishment heard them loud and clear.

Warren appeared on the Rachel Maddow show last night to endorse Hillary. Watch or rewatch that appearance at the link.

Last night, Joe Biden warned of the danger of Donald Trump’s attacks on the federal judge who is hearing a case against Trump “university.”

 

 

Warren will meet with Clinton this morning, according to James Hohmann of the Washington Post.

Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton will meet privately Friday morning, according to two knowledgeable Democrats.

The sit-down, coming just hours after the Massachusetts senator formally endorsed the presumptive Democratic nominee, will fuel speculation about her prospects as a potential vice presidential pick.

The women have had several conversations over the past month, including one that lasted around half an hour, sources told The Washington Post. The conversations were broad and focused on large topics and issues, rather than the nitty-gritty of the campaign. Their staffs have been engaged in more tactical discussions.

The two women do not have a particularly deep relationship, but that could change as Clinton rallies Democrats around her in the wake of winning the Democratic nomination in recent days. There were three big endorsements that could have meaningfully helped Clinton wrap up the nomination battle: Warren, President Obama and Vice President Biden. Clinton secured all three on Thursday.

Clinton, a Yale-educated lawyer, like Warren, a Harvard Law professor until she was elected in 2012, is a policy wonk at heart. So the two might talk in more detail about how Clinton could embrace pieces of the progressive agenda that allowed Bernie Sanders to win more than 20 states.

Or maybe she could help educate Sanders’ supporters about Hillary’s already very progressive policy proposals and explain that her plan to take on Wall Street is quite a bit stronger than Sanders’ vague ideas about “breaking up the banks.”

Hillary

Let’s hope we’re close to seeing the back of Bernie Sanders. He held a rally in Washington DC last night, and he plans to compete in the DC primary on Jun 14. I hope by then Democratic leaders will have convinced him to stand down and go back to Vermont. I honestly don’t see how he can campaign for Hillary after he has so poisoned his supporters against her, but maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.

The Washington Post: How Bernie Sanders’s day in Washington got eclipsed by Democratic unity.

Shortly after Sanders emerged from his meeting with Obama, word got out that the president was going to trumpet an endorsement of his former secretary of state in a video. And then it became clear that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a darling of the political left and Sanders’s ideological soulmate, had also chosen Thursday to throw her support behind Clinton.

The theme of the day soon became Democratic unity, drowning out the conversation about what policy changes and other concessions Sanders might exact in exchange for exiting the race….

By the time Sanders arrived on Capitol Hill for a series of afternoon meetings, Clinton’s campaign had released the video of Obama endorsing her, in which he says of Clinton’s pursuit of the presidency : “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”

After arriving on the Hill, Sanders headed to the suite of Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Sitting on a chair across from Reid by a bookshelf, the Democratic presidential hopeful sat silently as reporters asked him about the six states that voted on Tuesday. Sanders had posted victories in only two.

“Okay you guys, we’re not going to take any questions,” Reid said as Sanders stared straight ahead with his hands on his knees. “That’s kind of the deal that I made.”

Gabriel Debenedetti at Politico: The Sanders wind-down begins.

The walls are crumbling, and Bernie Sanders knows it.

Barack Obama made his support for Hillary Clinton official on Thursday. So did Vice President Joe Biden and liberal hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The major political groups surrounding Sanders are saying it’s time to unify.

The campaign is rapidly winding down around Sanders, the Senate gadfly-turned-unlikely revolutionary who outperformed everyone’s expectations, and he finally began to acknowledge it Thursday.

“We need real change in this country. And what people also understand is that no president, not Bernie Sanders, not anybody else, can do it alone,” he told roughly 3,000 supporters gathered near Washington’s RFK stadium on a hot evening, returning to his original stump speech about billionaires, the “corrupt campaign finance system,” and “the broken criminal justice system” without once mentioning Clinton or the Democratic Party’s convention….

The signals that he now accepts the fact that he won’t be the party’s nominee were unmistakable.

The courtship letters his campaign had planned to send superdelegates have been put on hold. His go-to argument — that he polls better against Donald Trump than Clinton — has been scrubbed from his public statements. There are mass staff departures, and his digital firm set up a new site to help laid off staffers find their next gig.

Even his Senate relationship rebuilding effort has begun.

It’s a swift denouement for a campaign that had been bleeding money and staff for weeks, hastened by the surprising margin of Sanders’ loss in California on Tuesday night — which his aides hadn’t anticipated partly because they stopped polling in California days earlier due to the cost.

I really hope Sanders can keep his exit dignified.

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Meanwhile, Ruby Cramer reports at Buzzfeed: Clinton Looks To Add Young Voters To Her Coalition Against Trump.

On Friday, just three days after securing the Democratic nomination, Clinton launched a new “millennial engagement” program, targeting voters under the age of 35 with three new hires — including one from the Bernie Sanders campaign.

The new team comes together after a long-fought primary against Sanders, the Vermont senator whose campaign was able to peel away students and twenty-somethings in large numbers. Clinton aides, now preparing for a general election against Donald Trump, view young people as a crucial piece of the electorate, building on an existing coalition of women, older voters, and people of color.

The program expands on the Clinton’s campus outreach effort, an endeavor that largely failed in primary states against Sanders. Campaign operatives now hope to widen their reach to voters under the age of 30, while keeping a focus on winning back college-age voters.

Kunoor Ojha, a former Sanders aide set to join the millennial engagement program, is the first member of the senator’s staff to join the Clinton campaign, an aide said.

The campaign plans to send the youth outreach team around the country to “listen directly to millennial voters,” according to a Clinton official. The team of three operatives will also work directly with staffers in battleground states to create local outreach programs and hold “working group” meetings with voters under 35.

Read more details at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a fabulous weekend!


Thursday Reads: Preventing a Trump Presidency

Henri Matisse, Girl with a black cat

Henri Matisse, Girl with a black cat

Good Morning!!

President Obama spoke at a press conference today in Japan, and he talked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

NBC News: Obama: Trump Candidacy Has ‘Rattled’ World Leaders.

During a press conference in Japan, Obama said the American presidential election is being “very” closely watched oversees. He told reporters that “it’s fair to say” world leaders are “surprised” Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee.

“They are not sure how seriously to take some of his pronouncements but they’re rattled by him — and for good reason, because a lot of the proposals that he’s made display either ignorance of world affairs or a cavalier attitude,” Obama added.

He suggested Trump’s controversial proposals were more about “getting tweets and headlines” than “actually thinking through” what’s needed to keep America safe or the “world on an even keel.”

Woman with a Cat c.1880 Edouard Manet

Woman with a Cat c.1880 Edouard Manet

Trump has made China a frequent target of his attacks — such as saying the country will “suck the blood” out of the U.S.

He also has said he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., called the Iran deal “horrendous,” pledged to “build a wall” along the Mexican border and that he’d have “no problem speaking to” North Korea’s dictator.

Such a conversation would mark a major shift in U.S. policy towards Pyongyang — a country Obama earlier Thursday said was a “big worry.”  ….

Trump also said he was unlikely to have a “very good relationship” with the U.K. — one of America’s strongest allies — though later walked those comments back.

Obama will visit the Hiroshima Peace Park Memorial tomorrow.

President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima is stirring conflicting emotions on both sides of the Atlantic.

Some 140,000 people were killed when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city on Aug. 6, 1945. Countless others suffered after-effects that endure to this day.

The White House has stressed Obama will not apologize for America’s use of the bombs when he visits the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park on Friday — the first sitting president to do so….

“Of course everyone wants to hear an apology. Our families were killed,” Hiroshi Shimizu, general secretary of the Hiroshima Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations, told The Associated Press.

Woman with a cat, Auguste Renoir

Woman with a cat, Auguste Renoir

However, it would risk alienating Americans back home — especially giving the trip’s timing just ahead of Memorial Day.

Retired Army Staff Sgt. Lester Tenney, 95, spent more than three years in Japanese prison camps, and still has the blood-stained, bamboo stick Japanese troops used to beat him across the face.

“If you didn’t walk fast enough, you were killed. If you didn’t say the right words, you were killed, and if you were killed, you were either shot to death, bayoneted, or decapitated,” he told The Associated Press. “I’ll never forget it. And so for that reason … there’s no reason for us to apologize to them, not any reason whatsoever.

I have mixed emotions too. I’ve written here before that I probably wouldn’t be here today if Truman had not dropped the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My father was on a ship to Japan when the news came, and he and the rest of his companions celebrated, because it meant they would be going home instead of to their likely deaths. How can I not be glad that my father survived?

When I worked at M.I.T., the head of my department was a man who had survived the Bataan Death March and then spent years in a Japanese prison camp. He was lucky to come through that alive; hundreds of Americans and Filipino prisoners did not.

Pablo Picasso, Reclining female nude playing with a cat

Pablo Picasso, Reclining female nude playing with a cat

From the LA Times: Obama can’t endorse during the Democratic primary, so he’s just pointing out how hard the job is instead.

…Obama’s week abroad not so subtly serves a purpose beyond foreign relations: how he can help Democrats’ looming campaign against the billionaire GOP presidential candidate.

Pledging to stay neutral in the Democratic primary, Obama has instead struck a middle ground to help the party’s likely nominee, Hillary Clinton. He has engaged in a twist on the so-called Rose Garden campaign strategy where incumbent presidents lean on the trappings of their office to remind voters of their power and achievements. Obama is instead reminding voters of the seriousness of the job and, by extension, his belief in Clinton’s readiness for it.

On Friday, this president who has repeatedly pointed to the heady challenges on his desk as an argument against making a former reality show star the next commander in chief travels to Hiroshima, where one of two nuclear bombs ever used in warfare was dropped, to underscore the horrors of war and the life-or-death decisions that presidents face.

He doesn’t plan to talk about presidential politics at all in proximity to his trip to a memorial for victims of the atomic blast that killed about 140,000 people, a grim reminder of the devastating impact of a military attack that Obama finds defensible.

But the trip nonetheless provides a vivid illustration for the question Obama wants voters to ask themselves as they consider a presidential candidate — can you trust this person with the nuclear codes?

“We are in serious times, and this is a really serious job,” Obama said from behind the seal of the president at the White House lectern this month. “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show.”

White House officials say that the president is eager to begin making a case to voters about the stakes of the race to replace him in the Oval Office, and will do so vigorously once the primaries are over.

Lilla Cabot Perry, Woman with cat

Lilla Cabot Perry, Woman with cat

I can’t wait until President Obama hits the campaign trail for Hillary! One thing we Democrats have over the Republicans is some very powerful surrogates who will work hard to hold onto the White House and save the country from Trump: Elizabeth Warren, John Lewis, Joe Biden, Elijah Cummings, John Kerry, Barbara Boxer, and so many more.

Warren has been getting under Trump’s skin for awhile now, and on Tuesday she attacked him in a high-profile speech.

Greg Sargent: Elizabeth Warren just absolutely shredded Donald Trump. There’s a lot more like this to come.

Elizabeth Warren delivered an extensive, blistering speech last night about Trump that will serve as a template for how Democrats will attack him — both in terms of how they’ll prosecute his business past and how they’ll try to undercut his central arguments about the economy….

The line that is driving all the attention this morning is Warren’s suggestion, in the context of Trump’s 2006 comment that a housing crash might enrich him, that the Donald is a “small, insecure money-grubber.” But Warren isn’t merely dissing Trump’s manhood. Warren — who went on to note that Trump “roots for people to get thrown out of their house” because he “doesn’t care who gets hurt, as long as he makes a profit” — is making a broader argument. Trump is not just a small, greedy person, but a cruel one, too.

That theme is also threaded through Warren’s broadside against Trump on taxes. He isn’t just paying as little as possible — and openly boasting about it — because he’s greedy. He isn’t just refusing to release his returns because he doesn’t want to reveal he’s not as rich as he claims (another shot at Trump’s self-inflated masculinity). All this, Warren suggests, also reflects a larger moral failing: Trump plays by his own set of rules, engorging himself, while simultaneously heaping explicit scorn on social investments designed to help those who are struggling in the same economy that made him rich. Warren notes that Trump recently likened paying his taxes to “throwing money down the drain” — i.e., he is reneging on the social contract — after “inheriting a fortune from his father” and “keeping it going by scamming people.” Thus, Warren is making a broader argument about Trump’s fundamental cruelty.

Here’s a video:

 

It’s time for the media to stop helping Trump and start dealing with the danger he poses to the country. If nothing else, they should be motivated by his attacks on the reporters who cover his campaign and on the the First Amendment. A few days ago, Jake Tapper gave a clinic for journalists on how to handle Trump’s outrageous lies.

Raw Story: Jake Tapper hammers Trump’s Vince Foster murder conspiracy mongering as ‘fiction born of delusion.’

CNN host Jake Tapper laid into GOP candidate Donald Trump for dredging up a debunked conspiracy theory that his likely opponent in the general election, Hillary Clinton, was somehow responsible for the death of then-Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster.

Foster’s 1993 death was ruled a suicide.

Tapper called Trump out for saying in an interview that the circumstances around Foster’s death were “very fishy,” adding, “I don’t bring [Foster’s death] up because I don’t know enough to really discuss it. I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder. I don’t do that because I don’t think it’s fair.”

“Except of course you just did that, Mr. Trump,” Tapper said. “But you’re right, it’s not fair that you did that, certainly not to Mr. Foster’s widow or their three children.”

Watch the video:

 

We need much more of this kind of fact-checking of Trump from the media and a whole lot less obsessing about Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Another good treatment of Trump from CNN: Donald Trump has a woman problem — 3 of them.

The presumptive Republican nominee spent the past 24 hours blasting his likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, and his most provocative antagonist, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
But he didn’t stop there. He also slammed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the nation’s only Latina governor and a Republican. Martinez might be seen as an obvious choice for diplomacy, or even intensive courtship, given Trump’s standing among women and Hispanics.
Trump chose a different approach: He told the residents of New Mexico to get rid of her.
In all three cases, the clashes were classic Trump. Slight him, diss him, hit him — and he’ll hit back harder. Much harder.
But they also could play right into Democrats’ plans to brand Trump as a serial misogynist as he goes up against a rival who could become the first female president in history. His poor standing with women — a CNN/ORC poll in March found he was viewed unfavorably by 73% of registered female voters — is one of his biggest liabilities heading into the fall.
“He makes a habit of insulting women,” Clinton said Wednesday afternoon as a campaign stop in California. “He seems to have something about women.”

Let’s hope Don the Con keeps this up. If Republican women vote against Trump, he could lose all 50 states.

Giovanni Boldini, Woman with cat

Giovanni Boldini, Woman with cat

Finally, folks in Cleveland are getting nervous about the upcoming Trump convention: “Will Cleveland’s GOP convention be a mistake by the lake or a moment in the sun?”

Amid recurring violence at political rallies held by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, many local officials and activists are increasingly worried that this lakeside city is ill-prepared to deal with tens of thousands of protesters and agitators expected to descend on the Republican National Convention here in July.

Some worry that police might be overrun or that the city has not stockpiled enough water to hydrate the masses in the mid-summer heat. Others, particularly on the left, oppose new restrictions that will be placed on demonstrators and object to the kind of military-style equipment law enforcement authorities may use to control the crowds.

There is also unhappiness among groups on both sides over the slow progress the city has made in approving parade and demonstration permits with less than two months to go.

On Wednesday, under the threat of a federal lawsuit by some groups upset by delays, city officials finally unveiled an official parade route and speakers’ platform in a major downtown park. Parades and protests will be allowed, but plans by some groups to bring in trucks, horses and, in one case, a giant bomb-shaped balloon might need to be rethought.

A bomb-shaped balloon?! So classy.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!


Thursday Reads: Wacky Politics, Right and Left

americas-entitlement-crazy-politics

Good Morning!!

It’s another wacky news day in the battles for the major party presidential nominations. In the Republican race, Donald Trump basically has already won; and now that it’s too late, some GOP leaders are trying to stop him. Today it’s 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who plans to denounce Trump today in a speech in Utah.

The Washington Post: Mitt Romney: ‘Trump is a phony, a fraud’ who is ‘playing the American public for suckers.’

In a forceful, top-to-bottom indictment of Trump, Romney will call on fellow Republicans to reject the billionaire businessman’s candidacy in an election “that will have profound consequences for the Republican Party and more importantly, for the country.”

“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud,” Romney will say, according to a speech prepared for delivery Thursday at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. “His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat.” ….

Several of Romney’s friends, allies and former donors are involved in efforts to stop Trump, launching and funding super PACs airing ads against the businessman, in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere….

According to Romney’s Thursday remarks, Trump’s “domestic policies would lead to recession. His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgement to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

Trump, Romney is expected to say, “relishes any poll that reflects what he thinks of himself. But polls are also saying that he will lose to Hillary Clinton.”

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Naturally, Trump hit back. From the LA Times: 

Trump, in turn, dismissed Romney as “a stiff” who “didn’t know what he was doing” as the party’s candidate in 2012 and blew a chance to beat President Obama. “People are energized by what I’m saying” in the campaign and turning out in remarkable numbers to vote, Trump told NBC’s “Today.”

In ratcheting up the rhetoric, Romney cast his lot with a growing chorus of anxious Republican leaders — people many Trump supporters view as establishment figures — in trying to slow the New York real estate mogul’s momentum.

But it was unclear what effect his words would have with voters deeply frustrated by their party’s leaders. Trump questioned whether the party rank and file would listen to “a failed candidate” for whom “nobody came out to vote.”

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Unfortunately for the Republican “establishment,” the Koch brothers aren’t going to help them bring Trump down, according to a Reuters exclusive: Koch brothers will not use funds to try to block Trump nomination.

The Koch brothers, the most powerful conservative mega donors in the United States, will not use their $400 million political arsenal to try to block Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s path to the presidential nomination, a spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday.

The decision by the billionaire industrialists is another setback to Republican establishment efforts to derail the New York real estate mogul’s bid for the White House, and follows speculation the Kochs would soon launch a “Trump Intervention.”

“We have no plans to get involved in the primary,” said James Davis, spokesman for Freedom Partners, the Koch brothers’ political umbrella group. He would not elaborate on what the brothers’ strategy would be for the Nov. 8 election to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama.

Three sources close to the Kochs said the brothers made the decision because they were concerned that spending millions of dollars attacking Trump would be money wasted, since they had not yet seen any attack on Trump stick.

The Koch brothers are also smarting from the millions of dollars they pumped into the failed 2012 Republican presidential bids of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the sources said.

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders supporters are attacking Elizabeth Warren and threatening to primary her because she didn’t endorse their candidate before the Massachusetts primary.

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TBogg at Raw Story: Elizabeth Warren fails to endorse Bernie and his fans freak the hell out on her Facebook page.

After Sanders of Vermont secured a primary win in the neighboring state of New Hampshire, progressives turned their starstruck eyes to Progressive Goddess Warren figuring she could seal the deal for Bernie in her home state primary with a Bernie endorsement.And then she didn’t. In fact, she stayed silent.

Cue Progressive Rageface

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So they expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with Warren on her Facebook page on a perfectly anodyne post celebrating the appearance of the Fisk Jubilee Singers who performed “traditional spiritual and black American religious music” at Boston’s Symphony Hall back on Feb. 21.

Whatever, stupid singers. Facebook is made for ranting.

And rant they did, ripping into the implicit heresy of Warren’s failure to endorse Sanders by letting her know in no uncertain terms that they are really really really REALLY disappointed. And worse.

As in:

Your unwillingness to endorse Bernie prior to Super Tuesday indicates to me that your fear of pressure from Hillary friends on Capitol Hill “trumps” your commitment to the progressive cause. I have lost faith in you and the DNC.

Elizabeth – is there ANY reason on God’s green earth that you’re sitting quiet in the corner while Bernie is awaiting your endorsement? Am I missing something here???

Is she really part of the establishment? How can she, as a representative of the people, as a self proclaimed progressive, not publicly endorse Bernie Sanders? Do you think she owes Clinton some political favors? hmmmm.

Read more lovely examples of Bernie-discourse at the Raw Story link.

As if that wasn’t enough, yesterday a Sanders supporter from Chicago posted a petition on Change.org to have former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrested for . . . something. More than 80,000 angry Bernie fans have signed it so far.

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The Boston Globe: Did Bill Clinton violate election rules in Mass.?

Bill Clinton’s presence inside a polling location in Boston on Super Tuesday raised concerns about whether the former president violated state rules on election campaigning.

While stumping for his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton entered a polling station at the Holy Name Parish School’s gymnasium in West Roxbury early Tuesday.

It was there that he spoke with workers, bought a cup of coffee, and apparently took a photo with one woman, according to press pool reports.

A video clip showing Bill Clinton shaking hands with election clerks at Holy Name, alongside Mayor Martin J. Walsh, had some people on Twitter questioning the former president’s appearance indoors.

“Aren’t there rules about electioneering at the polling location?” one person wrote on Twitter, after seeing the video.

Hmmm . . . should the mayor be arrested too? He endorsed Hillary. Of course Secretary of State Maura Healy did too. Oh the unfairness of it all!

“He can go in, but he can’t approach voters,” Galvin said. “We just took the extra precaution of telling them because this is not a usual occurrence. You don’t usually get a president doing this.”

According to the Election Day Legal Summary on Galvin’s website, certain activities on Election Day are prohibited within polling locations and within 150 feet of polling places, including the “solicitation of votes for or against, or any other form of promotion or opposition of, any person or political party.”

Of course Bill wasn’t actively campaigning. He probably shouldn’t have done this, but he was accompanied by mayors in the places where it happened. Presumably, the mayors are the ones who brought Clinton inside. Maybe Bernie bros should make a citizens’ arrest. Or alternatively, maybe Sanders should just run a better campaign. Just a thought.

GOP debate

There’s another Republican debate tonight in Detroit, and we’ll of course have a live blog for discussion. The event begins at 9PM and will be hosted by Fox News. Moderators will be Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace.

More stories to check out, links only:

The Guardian: Donald Trump releases his healthcare plan in campaign statement.

The Washington Post: Pandemonium in the GOP: Some embrace Trump while others rush to stop him.

The New York Times: Debate Prep: Fact-Checking the GOP Candidates on Health Care.

Peter Beinart at The Atlantic: The Violence to Come: With Donald Trump on the brink of the GOP nomination, America is hurtling toward a schism unlike anything since the 1960s.

This is a great article by David Cay Johnston on Donald Trump’s income, wealth, and what might be in his tax returns: 9 Key Points About Trump’s Income Taxes (And Many More Questions).

Fortune: Why Donald Trump’s Tax Returns May Prove He’s Not That Rich.

Time: White House May Be Vetting Appeals Judge for Supreme Court Vacancy.

Christopher D. Benson at the Chicago Tribune: In ‘Spotlight,’ a lesson on covering race.

Shakesville: Hillary Sexism Watch Part Wev in an Endless Series.

Politico: Sanders campaign: What losses? There’s a unified message from the Vermont senator on down: They’ll fight on until the Democratic convention.

Ugly story out of Boston:

The Boston Globe: US to investigate racial allegations at Boston Latin and Family of student threatened with lynching wants consequences in the case.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: The American Dream

The American Dream - post-war abundance

The American Dream – post-war abundance

Good Morning!!

What is the American Dream? Is it prosperity for everyone? Is it access to nature and a clean environment? Is it a good job, a house, a family? Is it a good education and the chance to be upwardly mobile? Is it a better future for your children and grandchildren? Is whatever it once was dead? Is it even worth talking about?

This morning there’s a Washington Post op-ed in which Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio describe their vision of “How to revive the American Dream.”

In this land of big dreams, there was never a dream bigger or more important than the one so deeply rooted in our values that it became known as the American Dream. Across generations, Americans shared the belief that hard work would bring opportunity and a better life. America wasn’t perfect, but we invested in our kids and put in place policies to build a strong middle class.

We don’t do that anymore, and the result is clear: The rich get richer, while everyone else falls behind. The game is rigged, and the people who rigged it want it to stay that way. They claim that if we act to improve the economic well-being of hard-working Americans — whether by increasing the minimum wage, reining in lawbreakers on Wall Street or doing practically anything else — we will threaten economic growth.

They are wrong.

That thinking is backward. A growing body of research — including work done by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute — shows clearly that an increasing disparity between rich and poor, cronyism and an economic system that works only for those at the top are bad for the middle class and bad for our economy.

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Warren and de Blasio are correct that the dream went terribly wrong after Ronald Reagan became president.

When the economy works for everyone, consumers have money to spend at businesses, and when businesses have more customers, they build more factories, hire more workers and sell more products — and the economy grows. For decades, our economy was built around this core understanding. We made big investments in the things that would create opportunities for everyone: public schools and universities; roads and bridges and power grids; research that spurred new industries, technologies — and jobs — here in the United States. We supported strong unions that pushed for better wages and working conditions, seeing those unions improve lives both for their members and for workers everywhere.

And it worked. From the 1930s to the late 1970s, as gross domestic product went up, wages increased more or less across the board. As the economic pie got bigger, pretty much everyone was getting a little more. That was how the United States built a great middle class.

Then in the early 1980s, a new theory swept the country. Its disciples claimed that if government policies took care of the rich and powerful, wealth would trickle down for everyone else. Trickle-down believers cut taxes sharply for those at the top and pushed for “deregulation” that hobbled the cops on Wall Street and let the most powerful corporations far too often do as they pleased.

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All very true. But how do we return to fairness and prosperity for everyone, not just the wealthy few? Warren and de Blasio offer a familiar list of government policies that could turn things around–read them at the link–but they don’t explain how to accomplish these goals in the age of Citizens United, a Republican-controlled congress, and a Supreme Court that favors the rights of corporations over those of individuals. How do we get past the hopelessness and inertia and get Americans to get out and vote for candidates who will stand up for the bottom 99%? How do we even find those candidates?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m basically an optimist and I always have hope for change. But how do we get there from here?

I do think there are some positives signs.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to convince some folks that she’s really a separate person from her husband–a more liberal candidate than he was in the 1990s. In fact Bill Clinton might be more liberal now too. Despite what the Villagers preach, people can change and grow and develop new ideas an opinions. Imagine that Chris Cillizza!

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One journalist who seems to be catching on is Charles Pierce. Here’s what he had to say yesterday: One Of These Is Not Like The Others: Two Clintons, No Waiting.

For all the noise about e-mails and honoraria, and all the passive-aggressive nostalgia for the Great Penis Chase of the 1990’s, something very interesting has been going on with Rodham Clinton’s campaign since she announced its official launch….

All during her husband’s administration, HRC was considered to be the more progressive of the two. She supported the accommodations he made to get re-elected, some of which were pretty damned ghastly. She also was one of the most vocal in defense of that administration against the organized ratfking that sought to destroy it. (The only mistake she made, as Calvin Trillin pointed out at the time was that she referred to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” rather than a creepy little cabal.) I once had a long conversation with a former Clinton lawyer. He told me that, if there were 1000 people in a room, and 999 thought Bill Clinton was a direct descendant of Jesus Christ, and one of them thought he was the spawn of Satan, Clinton would seek out that one person and spend the rest of the night and all the following day trying to change that person’s mind. That is not something anyone ever has said about Ms. Rodham Clinton. The edges of her triangulations are all sharp ones.

All of this is to point out that not only is the whole “two for the price of one” trope beloved of people whose politics came of age in the 1990’s outdated and inadequate, but so is the political strategy of the first Clinton Administration. Clinton herself seems to be acknowledging this political reality. She started talking on economics like Elizabeth Warren. Her speech on criminal justice reform was aimed at excesses many of which have roots in her husband’s law-and-order compromises in the mid-1990’s. (So, it should be noted, do many of the Patriot Act’s more controversial provisions.) For the moment, I choose to believe this is not merely a bow to political expedience, but something genuine and, if progressives are smart, infinitely exploitable.

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Most of them will never get it, but maybe, just maybe Hillary can get her message out to the people who count–voters–and get them fired up enough to go to the polls in November 2016.

I also think it’s a good sign that Bernie Sanders has decided to run for president. No, he has no chance in hell of getting the nomination, but he might be able to get the media to publicize some of his ideas. He could also be a foil for Hillary, giving her an opportunity to draw attention to her more innovative and liberal ideas. Some of the latest news about Bernie’s efforts:

Reuters: Why socialist Bernie Sanders may just shake up the 2016 presidential race, by Robert Borosage.

Sanders is a funhouse mirror image of Clinton. She has universal name recognition (by her first name), unlimited funds, national campaign experience and a powerhouse political operation. He has scant name recognition, paltry funds, no national campaign experience and hasn’t begun to build a campaign staff. With a net-worth ranking among the lowest in the Senate, Sanders can be an authentic populist — the real deal. As one supporter said, he is the candidate of the “12-hour filibuster and the $12 haircut.”

Sanders’s announcement was treated with respect by a press corps eager for any kind of race on the Democratic side. Pundits dismiss his chances in part because Clinton is expected to raise a billion dollars or more for her campaign. Sanders hopes to raise $50 million.

But Sanders is likely to do far more than exceed low expectations. His candidacy could have a dramatic effect in building an already growing populist movement inside and outside the Democratic Party.

As Sanders made clear in his announcement, his focus will be on the central challenges facing this country: an economy that does not work for the vast majority of its citizens and a politics corrupted by big money and entrenched interests.

Sanders refuses to take part in politicians’ usual, incessant pursuit of large donations. So he is a political rarity: Someone free to speak forcefully to the often insidious connection between the two.

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Will people pay attention? I think it’s possible. So does David Horsey of the LA Times: Bernie Sanders’ ‘socialism’ may have mainstream appeal.

Finally, conservatives have a real socialist to go crazy about. Instead of concocting dark fairytales about how Barack Obama, a very conventional liberal Democrat, is a secret Marxist who wants to destroy the American way of life, they can shriek about Bernie Sanders, the independent Vermont senator who has never shied away from the socialist label.

Sanders is now the first person to challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race to win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton, though, is not his real adversary, Sanders says. He refuses to make disparaging comments about Clinton and insists he has never run an attack ad in any campaign and will not do so against her. Sanders wants to take on the billionaires, not Hillary.

Nobody gives the 73-year-old Sanders a chance of stopping the Clinton political juggernaut, but some think he could make it veer to the left. If the Vermonter gets traction in debates and primaries with his unabashedly progressive positions, Clinton might be forced to match at least some of his rhetoric. Would that be a bad thing for Democrats? Not if enough beleaguered middle class voters get a chance to consider what Sanders’ version of “socialism” entails and like what they see.

Go to the LA Times link to read Horsey’s list of Sanders’ ideas that could interest voters.

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Sam Stein at Huffington Post: Bernie Sanders Raises $3 Million In Four Days.

With the help of a crew of former aides to President Barack Obama, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign has raised $3 million in four days for his presidential campaign — a dramatic indication that he won’t be confined simply to a long-shot role in the Democratic primary.

Sanders, who is running for president as a Democrat, announced on Wednesday that he has retained the services of the firm Revolution Messaging to run digital ads and online fundraising. The staffers with the firm who will be working on Sanders’ campaign include Revolution Messaging’s founder, Scott Goodstein, who ran the 2008 Obama campaign’s social media and mobile programs; Arun Chaudhary, who was the first official White House videographer; Shauna Daly, who served as deputy research director on Obama’s 2008 campaign; and Walker Hamilton, who was a lead programmer for that campaign.

“Like a lot of Obama supporters, we were looking for a candidate with a track record of doing the right thing — even if it meant taking on Wall Street billionaires and other powerful interests. A candidate who could inspire a movement,” said Goodstein. “Bernie Sanders is that candidate.”

Due to his long-standing criticism of the influence of big-money interests on government, Sanders has strong online and grassroots appeal, which he hopes to leverage to raise the money needed to fund a presidential campaign. And so far, the strategy looks savvy. The campaign has received roughly 75,000 contributions, and the average amount is $43. According to a campaign adviser, 99.4 percent of the donations have been $250 or less, and 185,000 supporters have signed up on the website BernieSanders.com.

Not bad.

What do you think? What does the American Dream represent for you?

As always, this is an open thread. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and have a terrific Thursday!


Monday Reads: “Christmas Is At Our Throats Again.”

Matisse woman reading2

Good Morning!!

It’s only 10 days until Christmas, and I really can’t wait until the whole dreadful thing is over and we can go back to normal life. Even though I generally ignore “the holidays,” no one can really avoid being affected by the insanity of it all.

On Sunday, The New York Times published a piece about the empty feeling so many people have at this time of year. The author is Arthur C. Brooks of the {gag!} American Enterprise Institute, but I’m trying to ignore that too for the moment. He opens with a supposed quote from Noel Coward: “Christmas is at our throats again.” I can’t believe I’ve never heard it before.

Abundance Without Attachment

“Christmas is at our throats again.”

That was the cheery yuletide greeting favored by the late English playwright Noël Coward, commemorating the holiday after which he was named. Less contrarian were the words of President Calvin Coolidge: “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

Which quotation strikes a chord with you? Are you a Coward or a Coolidge?

If you sympathize more with Coward, welcome to the club. There are many more of us out there than one might expect. A 2005 survey by the Pew Research Center found that more than half of Americans were bothered “some” or “a lot” by the commercialization of Christmas. A 2013 follow-up confirmed that materialism is Americans’ least favorite part of the season.

Call it the Christmas Conundrum. We are supposed to revel in gift-giving and generosity, yet the season’s lavishness and commercialization leave many people cold. The underlying contradiction runs throughout modern life. On one hand, we naturally seek and rejoice in prosperity. On the other hand, success in this endeavor is often marred by a materialism we find repellent and alienating.

Read the rest if you’re interested. I have some issues with the author’s point of view; if he’s really into nonattachment, why is he employed by the AEI?

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I also came across this piece from last December 20 in The New Republic. It’s a reprint of an essay from 1990 by James S. Henry.

Why I Hate Christmas

Although for many years Christmas has been justified on the grounds that it is “merry,” rigorous quantitative analysis establishes that the opposite is the case. Despite claims advanced by proponents that the holiday promotes a desirable “spirit,” makes people “jolly,” etc., the data show that the yuletide time period is marked by environmental degradation, hazardous products and travel, andperhaps most importantinefficient uses of key resources. The holiday is an insidious and overlooked factor in America’s dwindling savings rates, slack worth ethic, and high crime rates. Nor does Christmas truly fulfill its purported distributional objective: the transfer of gifts to those who need them. Moreover, the number of people rendered “joyous” by Christmas is probably equaled or excelled by the number made to feel rather blue. In short, as shown below, although Christmas is an important religious observance that provides wintertime fun for children (who would probably be having fun anyway), it fails the test of cost-effectiveness.

Christmas consumes vast resources in the dubious and uncharitable activity of “forced giving.” First, it is necessary to factor in all the time spent searching for “just the right gifts,” writing and mailing cards to people one ignores the rest of the year, decorating trees, attending dreary holiday parties with highly fattening, cholesterol-rich eggnog drinks and false cheer, and returning presents. Assuming conservatively that each U.S. adult spends an average of two days per year on Christmas activities, this represents an investment of nearly one million person-years per season. Just as important is the amount that Americans spend on gratuitous gifts each year$40 billion to $50 billion, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s monthly retail trade sales. Extra consumer spending is often considered beneficial because it stimulates the economy, but the massive yuletide spike creates numerous harmful externalities.

Mistargeted giving is one indication of this waste. According to New York department stores, each year about 15 percent of all retail dollar purchases at Christmas are returned. Allowing for the fact that many misdirected gifts are retained because people feel obliged to keep them (such as appliances, tablecloths, etc., which must be displayed when the relative who gave them to you comes for a visit), and allowing for the widespread inability of children to return gifts, this indicates that up to a third of purchases may be ill-suited to their recipients. Christmas is really a throwback to all the inefficiencies of the barter economy, in which people have to match other people’s wants to their offerings. Of course, money was invented precisely to solve this “double coincidence of wants” problem. One solution would be to require people to give each other cash as presents, but that would quickly reveal the absurdity of the whole institution.

“Forced giving” also artificially pumps up consumption and reduces savings, since it is unlikely that all the silly and expensive presents given at Christmas would be given at other times of the year. One particularly noxious aspect of Christmas consumption is “conspicuous giving,” which involves luxury gifts such as Tiffany eggs, crystal paperweights, and $15,000 watches that are designed precisely for those who are least in need of any present at all (“the person who has everything”). Most such high-priced gifts are given at Christmas; the fourth quarter, according to a sampling of New York department stores, provides more than half the year’s diamond, watch, and fur sales.

Read the rest at the link. The points are actually more relevant today in the era of the new Robber Barons than it was in 1990.

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Now to the news of the day.

A hostage crisis developed in Sydney Australia yesterday and it is still going on. One armed man was holding as many as 15 hostages inside the Lindt Chocolat Cafe. There appears to be some connection with Islamic terrorism, but it’s not clear yet if this is a lone wolf or or someone actually connected to the Islamic State. From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Efforts by police to negotiate a peaceful end to a siege of a cafe in the heart of Sydney’s CBD are continuing well into the night.

Police said they are dealing with an armed man, who has been holding an undisclosed number of hostages at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Martin Place since about 9.45am.

Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione told an evening media conference that police were in contact with the suspected gunman, adding that “we are only dealing with one location”.

“Our plan, our only goal tonight is to get those people who are currently caught in that building, out of there,” Mr Scipione said. “Rest assured, we are doing all we can to set you free.”

Some hostages have now escaped. There’s lots more information at that link.

More from the LA Times:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed late Monday that the gunman appeared to have “a political motivation,” and local media reported that the gunman was trying to obtain an Islamic State flag in exchange for some of the hostages.

Two people inside the cafe had been seen pressed up against the window holding a black flag with Arabic writing early in the siege, which began about 9:45 a.m. local time. The flag appeared to say: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

The gunman claimed to have planted four bombs, two inside the cafe, and two elsewhere in Sydney, local media reported. Authorities declined to “speculate” about reports of explosives.

“I can’t speculate on what may or may not be, and that would be very unhelpful at the moment,” Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn said at an evening news conference. “At the moment we know that the person we are dealing with is armed.”

She declined to call the incident a terrorist act. “We still don’t know what the motivation might be,” she said, adding that authorities “want to resolve this peacefully.”

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Sony Pictures is warning media outlets not to publish their hacked e-mails. From The Washington Post: 

After days of silence, Sony Pictures Entertainment acknowledged a voluminous, embarrassing leak of internal e-mails and other materials on Sunday, warning numerous media outlets in a strongly worded letter against publishing or using the “stolen” corporate data exposed by unidentified hackers.

The materials, particularly e-mails, provided an extraordinary glimpse inside one of the world’s best-known corporations. The initial stories based on the materials went viral and absorbed days of coverage last week, illuminating the high-powered dealings, petty squabbling and ego that can define Hollywood.

The company threatened legal action against news organizations that failed to heed its request, a strategy some legal scholars say would have a rough time passing muster under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press. Though no one has accused any news organization of participating in the theft, the letter appears to be a gambit to stop news outlets from reporting the documents.

Sony’s action came just as the hackers, who call themselves the “Guardians of Peace” reportedly threatened another dump of stolen data. The hackers have demanded the company withdraw an upcoming comedy based on a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

So the rumors that the hackers are from North Korea is true then?

The contents of the leaked data, which some analysts suspect may be linked to a North Korean regime furious over the release of Sony’s movie “The Interview,” included information on Sony’s salaries, business dealings, private health records and executive correspondence. Those letters revealed what’s been described in media reports as a racially insensitive conversation involving President Obama and disparaging remarks about some of Hollywood’s biggest actors, including Angelina Jolie and Leonardo DiCaprio.

There’s much more at the WaPo link.

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After Elizabeth Warren’s speech in the Senate last week, many in the media are stepping up their efforts to get Warren to challenge Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination. It’s truly horrifying–almost an exact repeat of what happened in 2008 when the progs who now hate Obama’s guts–and eventually the Democratic establishment and the meda–handed the nomination to Obama, a candidate with only two years’ experience in the Senate. Obama at least had some political experience as a state legislator; Warren doesn’t even have that. And where would the money come from?

Some links to explore:

Wonkblog: Elizabeth Warren was told to stay quiet, but she didn’t – and it’s paying off.

WBUR Boston (NPR): Sen. Warren Warns That Spending Bill Sets Dangerous Precedent.

Huffington Post: The Speech That Could Make Elizabeth Warren the Next President of the United States.

Don’t get me wrong; I applaud what Warren is doing. But do we really want to nominate another presidential candidate based on one speech?

There’s been another police involved shooting of an unarmed black man–this time in Houston.

From the Houston Chronicle: Police: Man shot during traffic stop in southwest Houston.

Two police officers opened fire on an apparently unarmed man during a traffic stop in southwest Houston Friday night, allegedly shooting him three times for not following commands.

HPD officers pulled over the car the man was a riding in for an illegal lane change around 9:30 p.m. on Buffalo Speedway near West Fuqua.

According to authorities, the male passenger — identified by family as 38-year-old Michael Paul Walker — failed to obey orders and started to reach under his car seat.

“They saw the doors open up, one of the officers gave repeated verbal commands to stay inside the vehicle, then the officer went to brace the door to keep him (the passenger) inside,” said Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties. “At one point he had his arm all the way under the seat, right up to the elbow, as if he was trying to grab something … The officer gave him commands to show his hands … at that point the officer was in fear of his life and that of his partner.”

The officer fired at the man. Initial reports suggest that Walker then got out of the car and was walking around the parking lot of a convenience store before he was shot again.

“The suspect got out of the vehicle … he was digging into his pockets and waist band,” said Senties, adding that the second officer also shot the suspect.

Yeah, whatever. I don’t believe anything cops say anymore.

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Raw Story has a report from a witness to the shooting: Bystanders plead with unarmed black man to ‘lay down’ after Houston police repeatedly shoot him.

Laquesha Spencer told Local 2 that she was yelling at Walker, “‘Lay down, they are going to shoot you. They are going to kill you.’ And I guess he was in shock, he had already been shot three times, because I heard multiple gunshots.”

As Walker was stripping down, the partner of the officer who first shot him opened fire, striking him again. Police then charged and handcuffed Walker, who was taken to the hospital where he is listed in serious, but stable, condition.

Walker’s sister, Laura, said she believes the police used excessive force and is already pursuing legal action. “He didn’t even have a gun,” she said, “he’s never owned a weapon.”

At least this police shooting victim is in the hospital, not dead.

Also from Raw Story, an update on events surrounding the police shooting of John Crawford for holding a toy gun in an Ohio Walmart store: Ohio cop threatens sobbing girlfriend with jail after police gun down man in Walmart.

Police aggressively questioned the tearful girlfriend of a young black man they had just shot dead as he held a BB gun in an Ohio supermarket – accusing her of lying, threatening her with jail, and suggesting her boyfriend had planned to shoot the mother of his children.

Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.

“You lie to me and you might be on your way to jail,” detective Rodney Curd told Thomas, as she wept and repeatedly offered to take a lie-detector test. After more than an hour and a half of questioning and statement-taking, Curd finally told Thomas that Crawford, 22, had died.

“As a result of his actions, he is gone,” said the detective, as she slumped in her chair and cried.

I’ll end there. I have a few more links for you that I’ll post in comments. What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Serious and Silly Boston News

Harbor view of Boston

Harbor view of Boston

Good Morning!!

I’m going to imitate Dakinikat and “go local” today. I’m so sick and tired of the national news–school shootings, the campus rape problem, big banks controlling Congress, and “journalists” trying to force Elizabeth Warren to run for president so they can spend the next two years humiliating Hillary Clinton. Oh, and calling Warren the “Ted Cruz of the left”?!

Maybe you heard about this already, but I just think it’s so cool. The old Massachusetts State House in Boston (built in 1713) has been undergoing renovations recently. In October, workers found a time capsule dating from 1901 inside the head of a copper lion statue that, along with a statue of a unicorn was perched on top of the old building.

From CNN: 113-year-old time capsule found in Boston.

The Bostonian Society didn’t — or couldn’t — fully divulge the 113-year-old time capsule’s contents, explaining that “the process of extracting documents that are old and probably fragile will need to be slow and careful.” But a Boston Globe article from February 24, 1901, detailed what went into the box, which the story predicted would “prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence.”

According to the Globe, the box included the photographs and autographs of local statesmen such as Massachusetts Gov. Winthrop M. Crane and Boston Mayor Thomas Norton Hart, as well as news clippings of the day from several city newspapers and even a “letter to posterity from the reporters of the Boston Daily newspapers assigned to City Hall.”

It also included a photograph of the “5th Massachusetts Regiment on its way to Framingham to be mustered in as U.S. volunteers for service in the war against Spain,” as well as “campaign buttons for McKinley, Roosevelt and John D. Long for vice president.”

The box was sealed inside the lion’s head by Samuel Rogers, a local coppersmith who was part of the crew renovating the nearly 200-year-old State House. Although the occasion was detailed in the city’s largest newspaper, the Bostonian Society said its current staff was unaware of the time capsule until they received a letter from a descendent [sic] of Rogers alerting them to it.

The lion and unicorn statues, now freshly coated in gold and palladium, were returned to their posts of more than 100 years. Pictured: The unicorn statue. (h/t The Boston Globe)

The lion and unicorn statues, now freshly coated in gold and palladium, were returned to their posts of more than 100 years. Pictured: The unicorn statue. (h/t The Boston Globe)

The lion and unicorn statues were restored and returned to the top of the old State House in November.

On Thursday, another time capsule was unearthed in Boston–this at the new State House–and it was put there more than 200 years ago.

From The Boston Globe:  Revere-Era Time Capsule Uncovered at The State House.

The 219-year-old capsule— a green box believed to contain Revere-era items— was concealed by Governor Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay when the building was constructed in 1795….

Museum of Fine Arts Conservator Pam Hatchfield was chipping away at the stone block concealing the capsule this morning when the coins fell from the cornerstone. Reporters at the site described one of the coins as “silver-colored” but “not legible.” The box, which was discovered during building maintenance, is expected to be completely unearthed by Thursday afternoon.

But this isn’t the first time the capsule has surfaced. The Boston Globe reported that the box was discovered amidst emergency repairs to the building in 1855, and was returned to its spot following the construction, remaining unopened.

Massachusetts officials worked to remove a time capsule in the cornerstone of the State House in Boston, on Dec. 11, 2014 (h/t The Boston Globe).

Massachusetts officials worked to remove a time capsule in the cornerstone of the State House in Boston, on Dec. 11, 2014 (h/t The Boston Globe).

More details from another Globe article from Thursday:

After a full day spent lying on her back on a muddy wooden plank, chipping with painstaking care at the underside of a stone block to free the time capsule hidden within, Museum of Fine Arts conservator Pam Hatchfield sat up in front of the State House to a round of applause, a green box held delicately in her hands.

“I feel happy and relieved. And excited. And really interested to see what’s in this box,” she said Thursday night, after posing for a selfie with the capsule for her mom. The extrication took more than seven hours and involved about a dozen workers….

“Hopefully there will be no damage and we will be able to observe the artifacts that trace us back to the history not only just of this building, but of our Commonwealth and our country,” said Secretary of State William Galvin, who was on hand for the capsule’s first appearance in more than 150 years.

The capsule is believed to include a collection of silver and copper coins dating from between 1652 and 1855; an engraved silver plate; newspapers; the seal of the Commonwealth; cards; and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, according to Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.

Hatchfield, who is head of Objects Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts, said the corroded copper alloy box that holds the collection was undamaged by the removal process, and appeared to be in good shape. It was a little smaller than a cigar box and, she said, heavier than she expected.

The box was taken by State Police escort to the Museum of Fine Arts, where Hatchfield said it will be X-rayed to determine the contents.

There’s much more at the link if you’re interested. We should learn more about what is in the box next week. The box will eventually be reburied, perhaps with a few items from 2014 included.

See lots more photos at The Daily Mail: America’s oldest time capsule unearthed at Boston statehouse after being buried in 1795 by Sam Adams and Paul Revere. Below is a photo of Pam Hatchfield holding the box after she unearthed it.

1795 Time Capsule

 

A few more Boston stories–hope I’m not boring you too much.

Here’s why only rich people can afford to live in downtown Boston these days: Boston real estate assessments eclipse $100 billion for first time.

It’s official. Boston is a $100 billion city.

With the real estate market surging, the total estimated value of its residential and commercial property jumped over that threshold for the first time and has climbed to a total of $110 billion, according to a new city assessment.

The increase will mean significantly higher tax bills for many property owners next year, although the extent of those increases will not be known until tax rates are set in the coming days….

In total, the assessed value of the city’s real estate has more than doubled in 12 years.

Although Boston has some of the highest-priced property in the country, its total value remains much lower than larger cities such as New York, where assessors tabulated more than $900 billion in property last year.

Still, Boston is growing at a rapid clip, with millions of square feet of buildings under construction. Commercial and residential real estate markets have come alive. More than $10 billion in commercial buildings changed hands during the first nine months of the year, according to the real estate firm JLL. That’s already more than double the $4.7 billion sold last year.

A similar pattern has occurred in the residential market, with prices rising sharply in many neighborhoods. The average selling price of condominiums in the downtown Boston area rose to $830,000 this fall, a 16 percent increase from a year earlier.

So for the superrich, the economy is surging in Boston, but it will be difficult for small businesses to keep paying their rising property tax bills.

Prof. Ben Edelman, Harvard Business School

Prof. Ben Edelman, Harvard Business School

Here’s really silly Boston story–so ridiculous that it made the national news.

From USA Today: Harvard prof flips over $4 Chinese food overcharge.

A Boston-area Chinese restaurant charging $1 more per plate than it advertises on its online menu may have served the wrong guy — a Harvard Business School professor specializing in online advertising fraud who wasted no time in pulling out the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute and threatening legal action. According to a lengthy e-mail exchange published by the Boston Globe, Ben Edelman is seriously agitated, and though the mom-and-pop shop only overcharged him $4, he says it’s the principle….

The restaurant, Sichuan Garden, appears to have thus far complied with Ben Edelman’s requests, including refunding him $12 (three times what he was overcharged) and updating the online menu to reflect actual prices. Ran Duan, who tends bar at the restaurant for his parents, recently told Boston.com:

“I personally respond to every complaint and try to handle every situation personally. … I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business. [This exchange] just broke my heart.”

This battle actually escalated to the point where Edelman threatened a lawsuit against the restaurant unless they refund three times the amount they had overcharged him.

Ran Duan at Sichuan Garden II

Ran Duan at Sichuan Garden II

Globe columnist Hilary Sargent published the exchange of e-mails between Edelman and Duan in this article: Ben Edelman, Harvard Business School Professor, Goes to War Over $4 Worth of Chinese Food. Next, Sargent found out that Edelman “Did This Before, And Worse.”

Boston.com received a tip from a “former manager” of a “Back Bay sushi restaurant,” who stated that he had read the Edelman email exchange published on this site, and that when “it sounded familiar” he realized he had seen a similar email exchange several years prior.

The restaurant manager declined to give his name or the name of the restaurant, but described both emails and phone calls with Ben Edelman over a dispute related to the use of a Groupon promotion.

We were then sent copies of several emails exchanged in August 2010 between Ben Edelman and Osushi Restaurant management.

Boston.com confirmed the authenticity of these emails with Tim Panagopoulos, one of three partners who owned and operated Osushi, which has since closed.

Check out those e-mails at the above link.

Edelman has now apologized to Ran Duan for his snit fit and Duan says he’s ready to “forgive and move on.”

Next, Hilary Sargent ran into trouble. From BostInno on Thursday: The HBS Professor Chinese Food Saga Took a Weird Turn Last Night.

Harvard Business School Professor Ben Edelman may have gone way, way too far over a $4 billing mistake at Brookline Chinese restaurant Sichuan Garden. But on Wednesday evening, Boston.com posted an article claiming it appeared that Edelman—after apologizing for his actions on his website—may have taken things into far more shameful territory by sending a message to the restaurant containing a racial slur.

boston-coms-hilary-sargent-is-suspended-for-harvard-t-shirt-incident

Ooops! Turns out Sargent hadn’t actually confirmed that the slur came from Edelman. On top of that Sargent (who is somewhat young and inexperienced) had a T-shirt made that mocked the HBS prof. That was apparently too much for the Globe, and Sargent has been suspended for a week.

Boston.com deputy editor Hilary Sargent has been suspended for one week in connection with a T-shirt she designed—and then tweeted about—that mocked a Harvard Business School professor at the center of an ongoing story she was covering.

That’s the word from multiple sources familiar with the decision.

Word is that the suspension isn’t related to an article that Sargent retracted on Wednesday with an acknowledgment that its facts couldn’t be verified. Details weren’t immediately available about whether the suspension comes with pay or not.

Both the retracted article and the T-shirt pertained to Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman and his long-winded reaction to a billing mix-up at a Brookline restaurant, Sichuan Garden. Sargent posted the initial story on the incident as well as a series of follow-up articles, which have had wide readership.

One more silly Boston story and then I’m done. Actress Amy Poehler, who grew up in the Boston area, told Buzzfeed that she thinks Boston accents are “just disgusting.”  Well, they are kind of grating, but after living here for close to 50 years, I’ve developed an affection for them. I think it’s interesting how each people in different sections of the city have slightly different accents. The same is true of people in the various cities and towns in Massachusetts. There is a distinctive Cambridge accent that differs slightly from the accents found in Somerville, Medford, or Malden.

According to The Boston Globe (via Medium), the Boston accent also won a “worst accent” competition at Gawker. 

I’ll be honest. I never heard of Amy Poehler until I read about this; and I don’t think I’d like her that much, because she also hates Halloween. She’s dead to me now.

I know there’s plenty of horrible news out there. Feel free to link to your favorite horror stories, and I’ll share a few of my own in the comment thread.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!