Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump Cards, Con't

Donald Trump really does think we're stupid: America as a whole, and black voters in particular.

On a “thank you” victory tour across the country Friday, President-elect Donald Trump claimed that low voter turnout among African Americans helped him win on Election Night.

“The African American community was great to us,” Trump said at an evening stop on his “USA Thank You Tour” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “They came through big league. And frankly, if they had any doubt, they didn’t vote. And that was almost as good. Because a bunch of people didn’t show up, because they felt good about me.”

Trump also thanked the Latino community and women.

“And women,” he said. “My goodness. We did great with women, so I want to thank women.”

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won African American voters over Trump, 89 percent to 8 percent, the Washington Post reported. In comparison, President Barack Obama won the group 83 percent to 6 percent in his 2012 reelection against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Clinton lost in part because voter turnout was low in urban areas and she received a lower margin of support from demographic groups that turned out to vote for Obama. At the same time, Trump received a boost in support from working-class white voters and won Michigan, a state that went for Obama in 2012.

Low Black voter turnout may be indirectly connected to Trump’s suggestion that his supporters commit voter suppression. In the months leading up to the election, Trump nudged his supporters to “watch” polling places in “certain areas” to make sure everything is on the “up and up.” He also appeared to encourage supporters to show up with friends to “go check out areas because a lot of bad things happen.”

Got that?  Some black voters stayed home because they were confident Trump was going to win.  He's gloating at we're the reason he won, specifically so that white liberals attack us and maybe start looking the other way when those nationwide GOP voting restrictions come down because it won't harm them, they think.

I am already desperately tired of this idiot and he's not even president yet.

Time To Cut The Nets

Republicans aren't stupid enough to cut Social Security, are they?  After all, the average Trump voter is on the older end of the scale of the American electorate and the oldest Boomers will be 72 starting next year, with millions retiring over the next four years of the Trump administration.  The famous Tip O'Neill political adage that "Social Security is the third rail of American politics, you touch it and die" still has to apply in the Trump era, right?

Funny story about Republicans, to "save" things they like to burn them down.

Amid all the hand-wringing over Republican plans to eviscerate Medicare and Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the GOP has the knives out for Social Security too. 
The latest reminder comes from Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Tex., chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security subcommittee. Johnson on Thursday uncorked what he termed a “plan to permanently save Social Security.”

Followers of GOP habits won’t be surprised to learn that it achieves this goal entirely through benefit cuts, without a dime of new revenues such as higher payroll taxes on the wealthy. in fact, Johnson’s plan reduces the resources coming into the program by eliminating a key tax --another way that he absolves richer Americans of paying their fair share, while increasing the burdens of retirement for almost everyone else.

Predictably, this plan has already been hailed by the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a billionaire’s front group that likes to portray itself as a neutral budget watchdog. (The foundation of hedge fund billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose hostility to Social Security is well-documented, provided $3.3 million in funding for the committee in 2015; that’s the equivalent of about half the group’s revenue of $7.1 million in 2014)

Johnson's bill is a disaster, and while it does cut benefits modestly for the wealthiest Americans, the massive SS payroll tax cuts on top earners would more than make up for it.  The people who get screwed the most? Gen Xers and older Millennials like myself as the plan would push the retirement age up to 69 for anyone under 50 right now, and we would receive significantly fewer benefits due to cost-of-living adjustments.

Johnson's bill also makes it easier to work for more than 35 years and accrue benefits up to 72 (The Wal-Mart greeter clause!) but harshly cuts benefits for people who haven't put in 35 years of taxable work (you know, like women who have left the work force to have families, grad/post-grad students who may not get started working until their 30's etc.) when they retire.

The big giveaway is the bait-and-switch on the benefit cuts for the richest Americans.  Instead, they'll make a boatload on lower taxes, particularly the wealthiest folks.  They'll try to sell this as "means-testing" to make sure "people who don't need benefits aren't getting the most" but it's a complete scam: the tax savings the richest Americans will get out of this guarantees they'll be the ones winning.

Oh and one more thing: current Social Security beneficiaries?  They'd get immediately hit by the COLA adjustments and other cuts. In fact the only people who aren't getting screwed right off the bat are Boomers between 50 and 67.

You know, the bulk of the Boomers.  Trump voters, even.

And let's remember, this plan has zero new revenue for Social Security....only big benefit cuts, and even bigger tax cuts for the rich.  Dems need to beat the GOP over the head on this scam on an hourly basis until it dies screaming...then introduce their own plan.

Russian To Judgement, Con't

A major Friday night news dump, and it's a doozy: the CIA straight up told members of Congress in a September briefing that they believed Russia was behind the hacks of the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and fed the information to WikiLeaks with the intent of not just causing irreparable harm to the legitimacy of US elections, but actually damaging Hillary Clinton's chances in the election in order to specifically help Donald Trump.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”
The Obama administration has been debating for months how to respond to the alleged Russian intrusions, with White House officials concerned about escalating tensions with Moscow and being accused of trying to boost Clinton’s campaign.

These are massively disturbing allegations, but it's clear at this point that the damage to the country from revealing this information is less painful than the damage Trump would do as President.  Republicans of course are screaming, and nobody is screaming louder than the man with Putin's hands in his pocket.

In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.

The Trump transition team dismissed the findings in a short statement issued Friday evening. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again,’ ” the statement read.

Trump has consistently dismissed the intelligence community’s findings about Russian hacking.

“I don’t believe they interfered” in the election, he told Time magazine this week. The hacking, he said, “could be Russia. And it could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.”

Sure it was, Don.  Because it's not like your financial ties to Russia aren't common knowledge.  You know what I'm not seeing in that three-sentence "statement" from Team Trump?  Anything even remotely resembling a denial. On top of that? Mitch the Turtle and the rest of the Senate GOP also sat on their hands and did nothing. And guess what?  The CIA still thinks Russia screwed Clinton in this election.

The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now “quite clear” that electing Trump was Russia’s goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. 
The CIA presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

For example, intelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees. Moscow has in the past used middlemen to participate in sensitive intelligence operations so it has plausible deniability.

So it's all but confirmed at this point.  An official and formal declaration would international crisis, and not the good kind.  And it gets worse.

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals.

And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.”

The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests.

According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.

Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

The White House wanted to make sure everyone was on board with this, but Mitch McConnell said no, as he has for eight years. More importantly this seriously thrown the legitimacy of Trump's win into doubt and Republicans like McConnell would have rather won with Russian help than a fair election.  Remember that.

And all of this above?  That's the shot.  Here's the chaser, from the NY Times.

American intelligence agencies have concluded with “high confidence” that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump, according to senior administration officials.

They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.

This just got potentially serious, guys.  History book serious.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Last Call For Climate Of Hostility

The Trump administration is preparing the Great Purge of the Unworthy from civil service positions, starting with (of course) Trump's Energy Department hunting down the scientists, policy experts and administrators behind the Obama administration's climate change initiatives.

Advisers to President-elect Donald Trump are developing plans to reshape Energy Department programs, help keep aging nuclear plants online and identify staff who played a role in promoting President Barack Obama’s climate agenda. 
The transition team has asked the agency to list employees and contractors who attended United Nations climate meetings, along with those who helped develop the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon metrics, used to estimate and justify the climate benefits of new rules. The advisers are also seeking information on agency loan programs, research activities and the basis for its statistics, according to a five-page internal document circulated by the Energy Department on Wednesday. The document lays out 65 questions from the Trump transition team, sources within the agency said. 
On the campaign trail, Trump promised to eliminate government waste, rescind "job-killing" regulations and cancel the Paris climate accord in which nearly 200 countries pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Trump, though, hasn’t detailed specific plans for federal agencies. The document obtained by Bloomberg offers clues on where his administration may be headed on energy policy, based on the nature of questions involving the agency’s research agenda, nuclear program and national labs.

Under Obama, the department played a major role advancing clean-energy technology through loan guarantees and incubators, while writing efficiency rules for appliances. The department leans heavily on tens of thousands of contractors, who supplement the work of its roughly 13,000 direct employees. 
Two Energy Department employees who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed the questionnaire and said agency staff were unsettled by the Trump team’s information request.

I would be too, because they will be the first heads to roll.  When I said that the Trump administration's official position on climate change is that it's a best bad science to be eliminated and at worst a dangerous hoax, either way Trump was going to claim that Obama cost the nation billions and that this "government waste" was always going to be purged.

"Science" in the era of Trump is whatever Trump and his billionaire corporate cabinet and junta council of generals wants it to be.

Dissent In The Age Of Trump

And the stifling of dissent in the age of Trump begins in earnest as Trump's inauguration committee is making sure no protesters are allowed anywhere near Washington DC landmarks in the first days of the Trump administration.

For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations. 
The Women’s March won’t be held at the Lincoln Memorial. 
That’s because the National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters.

The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Previously, Verheyden-Hilliard has led court battles for protest access on inauguration day itself.

But banning access to public land for protesters days after the inauguration is “extremely unique”, she said in a press conference held by the Answer [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] Coalition. 
“It hasn’t come up in any way previously, where you’ve had a groundswell of people trying to have access on the Saturday, January 21, and thousands of people want to come, and the government is saying we won’t give you a permit,” she said. 
“What they’ve done is take all of these spaces out of action,” she said, many of which, the Answer Coalition noted in its press release, are “historic spaces for dissent”. 
It’s partly a practical issue. Inauguration bleachers and viewing stands started being erected on 1 November and it will take until 1 March to completely clear the major public spaces from all of the inauguration works, said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the NPS. 
“They’re construction zones, effectively,” said Litterst. 
But the plan greatly limits the options for public protesting.

Now, if this is standard practice by the National Park Service to lock down the area around the National Mall for four months during a presidential inauguration for security that's one thing.  But in 2009 I remember the Mall being open to the public so millions could get seating, and while Barack Obama gave his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in the days before his inauguration I certainly don't remember the landmark being off limits for months after the inauguration.

But of course Trump isn't going to allow it.  That's something America will need to get used to. Bush's "free speech zones" where protesters were roped off miles away from Bush events were all too common in the man's second term disaster.  Trump is doing this from day one.

Or maybe we should, you know, not get used to it and fight it.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

It's safe to say at this point that Black Lives Matter is the catch-all boogeyman of racist Trumpmerica, and the fact of the matter is people will blame the movement for everything from hangnails to global conspiracies.  But it's blaming BLM (and by extension all black people in America) falsely for criminal acts that is going to end up causing bloody consequences.

A New York firefighter was arrested after allegedly setting fire to his own home in an apparent attempt to smear anti-police brutality activists. 
Jason Stokes pleaded not guilty Tuesday to arson in connection with the August fire at his house in Endicott, reported WBNG-TV
A family member said at the time that they believed their home was targeted because of the “Blue Lives Matter” flag flying out front. 
Investigators found the message, “lie with pigs, fry like bacon,” written on some siding outside the burned home. 
The slogan apparently referenced an incident from August 2015, when some demonstrators chanted, “pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon,” during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Minnesota State Fair that was widely reported by conservative media. 
Pro-police websites blamed the fire at Stokes’ home on “terrorists” associated with the civil rights group. 
Prosecutors now believe the 41-year-old Stokes wrote the message to help cover up his crime, although they’re not sure why.

Why a firefighter would burn down his own home?  Who knows?  Insurance fraud, domestic violence, job stress as a firefighter, there are reasons.  But the pre-meditated plan to blame Black Lives Matter was obviously because Stokes thought he could easily get away with it.  And in other places in America, he would have.  Nobody would have questioned his story.

As it is, investigators didn't charge Stokes for four months.  In the meantime, while all of these angry "Blue Lives Matter" folks were running around avenging an attack on one of their own, how many black people in Broome County, New York were questioned, harassed, surveilled?  How many were falsely connected to this crime?  They were more than willing to call Black Lives Matter "terrorists" here in this incident.

So what happens when the next white firefighter or cop or first responder commits a crime, and blames Black Lives Matter for it when Trump's Homeland Security is in charge?

What happens when that blood runs red in the streets?  Because that day is coming, and probably a lot sooner than you think.

What's to stop them?  Maybe this time the actual bad guy got caught.  As a black person in America, I'm betting my life on not "fitting the description of the suspect" on a daily basis.  What happens when the description and scene of the crime matches me?  It was bad enough before, but in the Trump era?

People are going to die.  That's a fact.  Another hashtag, another news story, another trial, possibly, but no justice.  That I know.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Last Call For Economic Anxiety Was Really Social

David Bernstein over at the Volokh Conspiracy argues that it wasn't race, it wasn't class, it wasn't demographics or jobs or Russia or misogyny against Hillary Clinton or "fake news" or any widely cited reason that handed the country over to the Republicans. No, his argument is that it was a massive social backlash against all those nasty sneering liberals who got same-sex marriage legalized.

The presidential election was so close that many factors were “but-for” causes of Donald Trump’s victory. One that’s been mostly overlooked is Trump’s surprising success with religious voters. According to exit polls, Trump received 81 percent of the white evangelical Christian vote, and Hillary Clinton only 16 percent. Trump did significantly better than the overtly religious Mitt Romney and the overtly evangelical George W. Bush. He likely over-performed among other theologically conservative voters, such as traditionalist Catholics, as well. Not bad for a thrice-married adulterer of no discernible faith.

To what can we attribute Trump’s success? The most logical answer is that religious traditionalists felt that their religious liberty was under assault from liberals, and they therefore had to hold their noses and vote for Trump.

All elections apparently come down to God, guns, and gays. Oh, and US Solicitor General Don Verrilli.

Let’s focus on one of these incidents, the time the solicitor general of the United States acknowledged that religious institutions that oppose as a matter of internal policy same-sex marriage may lose their tax exemptions. At oral argument in the Obergefell same-sex marriage case, there was the following colloquy:

Justice Samuel Alito: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­ sex marriage?

Soliticitor General Verrilli: You know, I ­, I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. ­ I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is ­­it is going to be an issue

With the mainstream media busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s ultimate recognition of a right to same-sex marriage, this didn’t get that much attention in mainstream news outlets. But in the course of researching my book, “Lawless,” I noticed that Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s answer was big news in both the conservative blogosphere and in publications catering to religiously traditionalist audiences. The idea that Regent University or Brigham Young University or the local Catholic university or the many hundreds of other religious schools — and potentially other religious organizations — could be put at a severe competitive disadvantage if they refused on theological grounds to extend the same recognition to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples struck many as a direct and serious assault on religious liberty.

In short, many religious Christians of a traditionalist bent believed that liberals not only reduce their deeply held beliefs to bigotry, but want to run them out of their jobs, close down their stores and undermine their institutions. When I first posted about this on Facebook, I wrote that I hope liberals really enjoyed running Brendan Eich out of his job and closing down the Sweet Cakes bakery, because it cost them the Supreme Court. I’ll add now that I hope Verrilli enjoyed putting the fear of government into the God-fearing because it cost his party the election.

Which is weird, because NC GOP Gov. Pat McCrory's re-election bid was the prime example of a test to see if Bernstein's theory is correct, and McCrory paid the price for signing a "religious liberty" bill, doing significantly worse than Trump or GOP Sen. Richard Burr, who both won in the state, while McCrory lost.

I don't buy it was Obergfell at all.  It's a convenient excuse like "economic anxiety" when white Americans did far better economically than black or Latino Americans over the last eight years and then screamed that the Democrats abandoned them when Hillary Clinton, due in no small part to the pressure of Bernie Sanders, had the most progressive platform in history.  No, I can see why white voters wanted to teach those people a lesson, but it wasn't same-sex marriage any more than it was atheist dudebros.

It's much more likely that Christian Dominionists were so horrified at the idea of a woman president who was nice to brown people that they revolted.  Joke's on them, they got a revolting president who's not even in office yet and he's already unleashing his brownshirts on union steelworkers who dare to criticize Dear Leader, complete with death threats for ordinary citizens who are guilty of thoughtcrime.

It's one thing to make excuses for Trump voters, that liberals somehow left them no choice but to vote for the monster, except we have these things called primaries, where Republicans made the choice themselves to nominate Trump.   But the real issue here is once again, it's everyone's fault but the actual people who actually cast votes for Donald Trump, that Donald Trump will be this nation's next president.  I'm tired of it.

Second, you guys keep calling yourselves Christians, and I have yet to see Christ-like behavior in acceptance, tolerance, humility or compassion from evangelical Christian Republicans.  What they see is a chance to settle centuries-old scores with people who aren't evangelicals, starting with "godless liberals" like myself.

Yeah, keep telling yourself it's an attack on "the right to be bigots" that lost the election, rather than the actual bigots themselves.  You're just as bad as he is.  Own it already.

The Deal On Repeal

Greg Sargent looks at the dilemma facing GOP senators over Obamacare repeal.

Some of the states with the highest populations of people getting subsidies are represented by GOP Senators. This includes Florida (more than 1.4 million); Texas (more than 913,000); North Carolina (more than 499,000); Georgia (more than 427,000); and Pennsylvania (more than 321,000). Many other states with GOP senators also have sizable populations getting subsidies. 
Keep in mind, this doesn’t even include the Medicaid expansion. By my calculations, more than 20 GOP senators represent states that have expanded Medicaid. (The ones that have expanded Medicaid and have one or two GOP Senators are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.) Many of those are red states. 
Now, in fairness, Republicans keep insisting they are going to replace the ACA in ways that minimize the disruptions for all these people. And it’s true that some of the GOP replace plans — such as the one offered by Trump’s pick for health and human services secretary, GOP Rep. Tom Price — offer their own subsidy schemes. But those plans tend to use criteria different from income level to determine eligibility for subsidies, and there is little indication that anywhere near as many people would get them. Republicans have also talked about keeping some form of the Medicaid expansion money while block-granting control to the states. But it’s unclear whether Republicans can unite behind any replace plan including all of these things in any case.

Right now, Republicans appear to be coalescing behind a strategy that would repeal the ACA but delay repeal’s implementation for a few years, to give Republicans time to work out a consensus replacement. But given that so many people might be left without coverage if they don’t, the question becomes: How many Republicans will vote for repeal if no replace plan has been determined yet? 
One GOP Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, is now saying she may not support repeal unless there is some replacement ready to go. There is no telling what she will actually do in the end. But it’s possible that this could indicate other GOP senators may grow increasingly uncomfortable with supporting repeal-and-maybe-never-replace. There are other problems with this strategy, too. With no certainty about what’s next, insurers might exit the market. Alternatively, if Republicans do keep the ban on discrimination against people with preexisting conditions (as they say they want to do; after all, it’s popular) while repealing the individual mandate, that could make the insurance pool a lot sicker and lead to a dreaded “death spiral.”

On paper this is where things get very, very bad for the GOP.  A repeal followed by "well we'll come up with something in 2019" plan is going to kill them in the states they need to win in, and they know it.  So how do they pull it off?

Meanwhile, conservative writer Philip Klein asks a good question: Why would it be any easier for Republicans to pass a replace plan heading into the next presidential election? If anything, it would probably be harder. 
The thinking among Republicans seems to be that, with a deadline looming for millions to lose health coverage, Democrats can be pressured into helping support a replace plan that is much more in keeping with GOP priorities, which is to say, it will spend and regulate far less, and cover far fewer people (while allowing them to say they have health care solutions). But as Brian Beutler notes, if anything, Democrats might be able to use this to leverage Republicans. After all, a sizable block of conservative Republicans may be resistant to passing anything that spends a lot of money to cover people. If so, Republicans would only be able to pass something with the help of a sizable chunk of Democrats, which could presumably give them a way to pressure into Republicans for a plan that’s somewhat more to Democrats’ liking.

So we're counting on a unified front under Chuck Schumer.

Of course, for all these reasons, it’s possible no replacement will ever materialize. Republicans might be fine with that outcome. I used to think that Republicans might pay a big price for yanking coverage out from under millions. I’m no longer sure. But if no replacement does materialize, it is true that we will be looking at a very big mess, heading right into the 2020 elections — including in a lot of red and swing states — and there’s no telling how that will play.

We know how this will play: it'll be Obama's fault and Republicans won't pay a price for it at all. It's worked for eight years.  There's no reason to believe it won't continue to work, at least for the next two. But hey, the Urban Institute finds that the GOP repeal plan will wreck the insurance markets badly enough to leave thirty million uninsured.

I'm sure they'll just blame Obama.

They'll get away with it too.

You Can't Fool Everyone All Of The Time...

...Just 75% of us, it turns out.

Fake news headlines fool American adults about 75% of the time, according to a large-scale new survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for BuzzFeed News. 
The survey also found that people who cite Facebook as a major source of news are more likely to view fake news headlines as accurate than those who rely less on the platform for news. 
This survey is the first large-scale public opinion research study into the fake news phenomenon that has had a sweeping effect on global politics, and that recently caused a gunman to threaten a DC pizza place. The results paint a picture of news consumers with little ability to evaluate the headlines that often fly toward them without context on social media platforms. They also — surprisingly — suggest that consumers are likely to believe even false stories that don’t fit their ideological bias. And the survey calls into question the notion — which Facebook has reportedlybegun testing — that consumers themselves can do the work of distinguishing between real and fake news. 
The new data comes from an online survey of 3,015 US adults conducted between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1. For more on the methodology, see the bottom of this article. A detailed summary of results to all questions can be found here. Additional calculations can be found here.

“The 2016 election may mark the point in modern political history when information and disinformation became a dominant electoral currency,” said Chris Jackson of Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the survey on behalf of BuzzFeed News. “Public opinion, as reflected in this survey, showed that ‘fake news’ was remembered by a significant portion of the electorate and those stories were seen as credible.” 
The survey found that those who identify as Republican are more likely to view fake election news stories as very or somewhat accurate. Roughly 84% of the time, Republicans rated fake news headlines as accurate (among those they recognized), compared to a rate of 71% among Democrats. The survey also found that Trump voters are more likely to rate familiar fake news headlines as accurate than Clinton voters.

We're in a world now completely governed by fake news and the conspiracy theories they perpetuate, and actual facts simply don't have a chance anymore.  Journalism is pretty much broken both from both ends with the sources of news being flooded by fake news garbage, and by news consumers who simply don't know the difference anymore and don't care to do the work to find out what truth or fact even means.

A body politic so completely disconnected from fact is not long for this earth.  We've gone from "All the news that's fit to print" to "I saw it on Facebook."  Trump and his clown crew can do and say whatever they want at this point, and three-quarters of the country will buy it as fact.

The best part?  Anything Trump doesn't like gets labeled as "fake news".

It was a nice run, the American republic, while it lasted.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Last Call For The Late Great Planet Earth, Again

Just in case there were still goofy-ass voters out there who voted for Trump because "He couldn't possibly be as cartoonishly evil as people make him out to be," please meet the incoming head of America's Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma GOP Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt’s selection, while not a surprise, signifies a complete rethinking of the EPA. 
Environmental groups were appalled by the selection, saying it was a win for polluters and a loss for the American public. 
As with so many of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet and transition staff, Pruitt does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. As attorney general, Pruitt has routinely backed fossil fuel interests over those of environmental regulators and has rejected the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to human-caused climate change. 
Pruitt’s ties to fossil fuel companies run deep. He received some $300,000 in fossil fuel money to support his campaign for attorney general. 
In one instance, Pruitt used talking points from an energy company in a letter to the EPA, opposing air pollution standards for natural gas production. According to reporting from the New York Times, Devon Energy, an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company actually wrote the 2011 letter, which Pruitt submitted on state letterhead.

In other words, the worst possible person for the job, somebody professionally dedicated to destroying the EPA.

“Every American should be appalled that President-elect Trump just picked someone who has made a career of being a vocal defender for polluters to head our Environmental Protection Agency,” Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said in an emailed statement. “He has fought Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits on toxic substances like soot and mercury that put us all at risk for increased cancer, childhood asthma and other health problems. He falsely claims that fracking doesn’t contaminate drinking water supplies.”

You know, Oklahoma, where the earthquakes come sweeping down the plain due to massive fracking that has so destabilized the geography there, that the state is now the new quake capital of the US and that it will take a decade to get things back to normal at the minimum.

But now the agency in charge of regulating fracking is under control of the state's point man on suing the EPA out of existence.  Energy companies have to be drooling in anticipation, and that's just the fracking part.  Wait until the EPA reverses or eliminates regulations on clean air and water too.

I sure hope you don't breathe or drink in 2017.

Obstruction Construction

As Politico's Michael Grunwald points out in this article, in 2008 Democrats had control of the federal government and a majority of states, and the GOP tactic of obstructing President Obama's agenda at every turn not only succeeded, but voters across the country rewarded Republicans for it with total control of the federal government and a majority of the states eight years later.

This strategy of kicking the hell out of Obama all the time, treating him not just as a president from the opposing party but an extreme threat to the American way of life, has been a remarkable political success. It helped Republicans take back the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016. This no-cooperation, no-apologies approach is also on the verge of delivering a conservative majority on the Supreme Court; Republicans violated all kinds of Washington norms when they refused to even pretend to consider any Obama nominee, but they paid no electoral price for it—and probably helped persuade some reluctant Republican voters to back Donald Trump in November by keeping the Court in the balance.

So the party’s anti-Obama strategy has ended up working almost exactly as planned, except that none of the Republican elites who devised it, not even Vice President-elect Pence, envisioned that their new leader would rise to power by attacking Republican elites as well as the Democratic president. President-elect Trump was really the ultimate anti-Obama, not only channeling but embodying their anti-Obama playbook so convincingly that he managed to seize the Republican Party from loyal Republicans. And in the process, he has empowered an angry slice of the GOP base that has even some GOP incumbents worried about the forces they helped unleash.

Still, for the most part, obstructionism worked. Americans always tell pollsters they want politicians to work together, but as Washington Democrats decide how to approach the Trump era from the minority, they will be keenly aware that the Republican Party’s decision to throw sand in the gears of government throughout the Obama era helped the Republican Party wrest unified control of that government—even though the party establishment lost control of the party in the process. Unprecedented intransigence has yielded unprecedented results.

Opposition parties always oppose, especially in a country as polarized as America. Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, and Democratic fury at George W. Bush helped pave the way for Obama. What has distinguished the opposition to Obama is not just the intensity—a GOP congressman shouting “You lie!” during a presidential address, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s admission that his top priority was limiting Obama to one term—but the consistency. Before Obama even took office, when official Washington was counseling cooperation and moderation for a party that seemed to be on a path to oblivion, Cantor and McConnell laid out their strategies of all-out opposition at private GOP meetings. And on just about every issue, from Obamacare to climate to education reforms that conservatives supported until Obama embraced them, Republicans have embraced that strategy.

Washington Republicans took plenty of abuse over their “Party of No” approach, especially when they flouted Washington traditions by threatening to force the government into default, or actually shutting the government down. Their approval ratings drooped to levels associated with crime lords, journalists and Nickelback. They endured plenty of setbacks, as Obama managed to enact much of his agenda over their dissent, won a comfortable reelection, and now enjoys the highest approval ratings of his tenure. But they can now claim victory, even though their maximalist no-compromise approach helped launch the anti-establishment GOP insurgency that cost Cantor his seat in a primary—he was accused of failing to fight Obama hard enough—and ultimately propelled Trump to the nomination over their preferred candidates.

No wonder then that Democrats in the Senate are starting to realize that the new game in town that needs to be played, starting with as much blanket opposition to Trump's cabinet picks as they can, and as often as possible.

Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.

But it’s not just about exacting revenge.

Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks — such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary — demand a thorough public airing.

“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”

Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments, which in all but one case need only 51 votes for confirmation. But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog.

Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

Good.  Make it take months to get these cabinet picks filled, if not longer.  Of course, it remains to be seen if Democrats can play the game as well as the GOP did when they were in the minority (and so far it's been a dismal failure in the House and Senate over the last two years of GOP rule.)

Still, it's the only real shot they have, and at least somebody's willing to go on record to say they are going to start fighting.

New tag: The Resistance.

The Heartbeat (Bill) Of America

Ohio Republicans in the Trump era are wasting no time in preparing to test both GOP Gov. John Kasich and possibly any Trump Supreme Court nominees on state restrictions on abortion.

An Ohio bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected is headed to the governor’s desk. 
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House voted to approve the so-called “heartbeat bill” Tuesday night after it passed in the Senate earlier in the day, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions. 
The legislation would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat
Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move would be constitutional. He has not said whether he plans to sign the measure. 
State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.

Asked if he expects the Ohio proposal to survive a legal challenge, Faber said: “I think it has a better chance than it did before.” 
The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger but not in cases of rape or incest, he said. 
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the move would block access to abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director.

So again, two questions here: One, will "moderate" Kasich sign the nation's most restrictive abortion law (or more likely just wait ten days and it will become law automatically) and two if he does, how will the Trump administration handle the almost certain injunction against the measure?  This would almost certainly come before Trump's new SCOTUS nominee if it went to the high court in a couple of years.  It's very possible the court will refuse to hear the case after it's struck down, as similar measures in Arkansas and North Dakota were left unconstitutional when SCOTUS refused to take up either state law.

But it's also possible that a new justice and a new court could want to take it up, too.

It's a stupid law designed solely to see if SCOTUS will let states get away with banning abortions after six weeks.  I don't know if Kasich will join this mess or not, or if it even matters because Republicans would only need three-fifths of both the Ohio House and Senate to override a veto and they'll almost certainly have to numbers to do that. Odds are even if this survives a Kasich veto that the fight will end up being a big embarrassment to the state and cost taxpayers millions.

That certainly hasn't stopped Republicans elsewhere.


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