Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Consumer Financial Extortion Bureau

Trump's head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and former Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney knows he has one job: to keep the CFPB from laying a glove on banks and mortgage lenders while openly shilling for filthy lucre to grease the wheels of commerce.

Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who receivednearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his congressional campaigns.

Mr. Mulvaney, who also runs the White House budget office, is a longtime critic of the Obama-era consumer bureau, including while serving in Congress. He was tapped by President Trump in November to temporarily run the bureau, in part because of his promise to sharply curtail it.

Since then, he has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable.

But he wants Congress to go further and has urged it to wrest funding of the independent watchdog from the Federal Reserve, a move that would give lawmakers — and those with access to them — more influence on the bureau’s actions. On Tuesday, he implored the financial services industry to help support the legislative changes he has requested.

At least he's being honest.  After all, Trump's tax scam bill got the six largest US banks more than $3 billion in tax savings so far this year alone, and it will be tens of billions more in the future.  Mulvaney's straight up telling the banks to use that money to buy Congress to have them do everything they can to defund the bureau he's been tasked to run.

This is how America works now in the Trump era.  Unless we get rid of the GOP, it will be the way America works forever.

The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Democratic candidate Dr. Hiral Tipirneni came up a few points short in last night's special election in Arizona's 8th to replace Trent Franks, Republican Debbie Lesko won 52-47.  Nearly three-quarters of votes were early ballots, and they heavily favored Lesko.  On election day however, Tipirneni greatly narrowed the gap.  But there are plenty of reasons for the GOP to be terrified, as this race should have never been close.

The Arizona seat opened up in December, when Republican Representative Trent Franks resigned amid allegations that he offered $5 million to a female employee to be a surrogate mother for him and his wife (she was unclear on how involved he intended to be in the conception process).

The front-runner to replace him is Debbie Lesko, a former Republican state senator. She’s run a typical GOP campaign, voicing her support for President Trump, his tax cuts, and his border wall. Her opponent is Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a former doctor who has focused largely on health care and Social Security.

That seems like a wise move in a district where 24 percent of residents are 62 or older, but the area’s other characteristics don’t work in Tipirneni’s favor. As FiveThirtyEight notes, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by 41 to 24 percent among active voters in the Eighth District, and they haven’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 1980. The district includes a large chunk of the Phoenix suburbs, which comprise Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s base of support, and Trump won the district by 21 points in 2016, while his lead over Hillary Clinton in the state overall was only 3.5 points.

Arizona’s early voting also makes the district much harder for Democrats to flip. The state has a permanent early-voting list, so people are automatically mailed a ballot for the election. Of the 150,000 Arizonans who voted by April 20, 48.6 were Republicans, 27.7 were Democrats, and 23.3 were independents. Unless Tipirneni won over a large number of Republicans and independents, her chances aren’t looking good.

Yet, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee have together pumped $900,000 into the race, and both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy have held fundraisers for Lesko. Meanwhile, Democratic groups have mostly stayed out of the race.

In other words, Lesko had every possible advantage. This is a gerrymandered R+13 district that Trump carried by 21 after it was redrawn to keep Democrats out (AZ-08 used to be Gabby Gifford's district), a district where Franks won his three previous House races by 28, 51, and 37 points respectively.  For Lesko to win by only 5 and change is a heart-stopper.  Democrats didn't even bother to put up an opponent after losing in 2012, it was Franks smacking around third-party candidates.

Tipirneni should have been crushed by 20 points plus.  She wasn't.

Republicans should be very, very scared, because once again they have lost support in every special election since Trump took office.

And the next special election is OH-12 in August, a much more competitive district than AZ-08 at R+7.

Stay tuned.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

Just in case there's still anyone other than Donald Trump who actually believes there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government in 2016, Mueller basically has everything and has had it since he raided Paul Manafort's home back in July.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and FBI agents seized tens of thousands of items from the home of Paul Manafort last July and have also reviewed testimony that he gave in a civil lawsuit about a protracted business dispute with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, disclosed his review of the Deripaska-related testimony in a court filing Monday that defended an FBI raid on the home of Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. The disclosure shows the depth of Mueller’s interest in the links between Manafort and Deripaska.

Manafort once worked as a political consultant for Deripaska, who was considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska then invested $18.9 million with Manafort in a cable-television venture in Ukraine, and paid him $7.35 million in management fees. The deal ultimately soured, and Deripaska sued to try to get an accounting of the money.

Deripaska, the billionaire founder and majority shareholder of En+ Group, was among the most prominent tycoons penalized with sanctions this month by the Trump administration. The moved followed passage of a law last year to retaliate against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Prosecutors have reviewed the 2015 testimony by Manafort and his former right-hand man, Rick Gates, according to a Dec. 1 letter attached to a filing late Monday in federal court in Washington. The letter broadly listed thousands of items handed over by prosecutors to lawyers for Manafort and Gates in the pre-trial exchange of evidence. 
The testimony, which is sealed, wasn’t disclosed. It came in a lawsuit filed by two KPMG LLP partners, Kris Beighton and Alex Lawson, appointed to wind up a Cayman Islands partnership formed to invest in the Ukrainian venture. Beighton and Lawson asked a federal judge in Virginia for permission to seek documents and testimony from Manafort, Gates and a third man, Richard Davis. The ultimate resolution of the case is unclear from court filings.

It's really hard to know who's in more trouble on the Trump campaign collusion front, Manafort because of Gates and Deripaska, or Michael Flynn because of Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.  But both paths lead right to Donald Trump, and everyone knows it.

And that's all without Cohen's treasure trove from the SDNY's raid earlier this month.

Also, we now know that the release of James Comey's memos by Congressional Republicans have fully backfired, because Comey's memos show that Trump lied to the FBI about his 2013 trip to Moscow.

Late last January, at a private White House dinner attended only by Donald Trump and Jim Comey, the president steered the conversation to a sensitive topic: “the golden showers thing.” 
He wanted the then-FBI director to know, Comey later wrote in a memo, that not only did he not consort with hookers in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, it was an impossibility. Trump “had spoken to people who had been on… the trip with him and they had reminded him that he didn’t stay over night in Russia for that," Comey recalled
Trump made the same claim a second time, telling Comey in a later Oval Office meeting "that he hadn’t stayed overnight in Russia during the Miss Universe trip,” as Comey wrote.

But flight records obtained by POLITICO, as well as congressional testimony from Trump's bodyguard and contemporaneous photographs and social media posts, tell a different story—one that might bring new legal jeopardy for the president, legal experts say. 
In fact, Trump arrived in Moscow, where he attended the Miss Universe pageant, which he owned at the time, on a Friday. He left in the early morning hours the following Sunday—spending one full night and most of a second one in the Russian capital—in contradiction to the recollections of Comey, who wrote about his early 2017 meetings with Trump minutes after they concluded.

Trump lied several times in fact about spending the night in Moscow, the night that the Steele Dossier says that the infamous "pee tape" was made as Trump was allegedly blackmailed by Putin by Russian hookers during his stay for the pageant.

It's a very specific lie that only would serve to damage the allegations of the pee tape existing, as an alibi for Trump.  We've known for a while that Trump lied about his trip to Moscow in 2013, but now we know he lied to Comey about it too.

Mueller of course knows all of this and has for some time.  I'm betting this means the Steele Dossier's most salacious details are in fact true.

Stay tuned.

They Can't Even Get The Basics Right

Colorado GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn's team is so inept, that apparently he forgot to get all the proper signatures he needed to be on the ballot for June, meaning that the six-term Congressman could very well be out of a job come January.

The congressional career of six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs was thrown into jeopardy after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday that he should be kept off the primary ballot in June.

While the decision — that Lamborn’s re-election campaign improperly gathered voters’ signatures to land a spot on the ticket — is unlikely to mean his 5th Congressional District seat leaves GOP hands, it injects the very real prospect that a fresh face will take over after years of unsuccessful challenges to Lamborn’s reign.

Reached by phone on Monday, Lamborn said “we’re still digesting the opinion” and then he hung up.

Contacted a second time, Lamborn said “we’re still looking at the language,” urged a reporter to contact his press secretary and then hung up again.

His campaign later issued a statement that indicated he would challenge the ruling in federal court.

So what happened?

Candidates can make the primary ballot in two ways in Colorado: either by gathering signatures from voters in their party or by winning the support of party insiders through a caucus and assembly process.

Lamborn took the former route, needing 1,000 signatures from registered Republicans in Colorado’s 5th Congressional District to make the ballot. He turned in 1,783 signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, 1,269 of which were deemed valid.

Shortly thereafter, a lawsuit was filed by five Republicans from the congressman’s district challenging whether two of the signature gatherers hired by his campaign were Colorado residents as required by state law.

The Denver District Court ruled that one of the gatherers was not a resident, and invalidated 58 signatures he collected. It found that the other — who had gathered more 269 signatures — was.

But the Colorado Supreme Court, which reviewed the case upon appeal, rejected the lower court’s ruling on the residency of the second gatherer, Ryan Tipple, which was based off the legal theory that he intended to move to the state.

“Tipple’s stated intent to live in Colorado in the future is relevant only if he has a fixed habitation in Colorado to which he presently intends to return,” the Supreme Court’s ruling said. “The record reveals none. … All of the objective record evidence regarding his residency at the time he circulated the petition for the Lamborn Campaign indicated that his primary place of abode was in California.”

The ruling left Lamborn 58 signatures short of 1,000.

And since federal courts are notoriously unwilling to interfere in state election matters, Lamborn's almost certainly done.  It doesn't mean Dems have a shot here, this is still a wildly blood-red district in central Colorado covering Colorado Springs and several ranching, mining, and farming towns to the west of it.  CO-5 has never elected a Democrat in its 46-year history and isn't going to start now.

But Lamborn's done, and good riddance.

School Of Hard Time

Ahead of this week's planned teacher walkout in Colorado (a tactic successful in West Virginia and less so here in Kentucky) Republicans in Denver are quickly pushing legislation that would allow local school districts to immediately ask for court-ordered injunctions to stop teachers and cost them their jobs and six months in jail for contempt if they violate the order and walk off the job

As Colorado teachers prepare to walk out on Thursday and Friday to call for higher wages and increased school funding, some state lawmakers are working to make sure any plans to strike don’t go unpunished by introducing a bill in the Senate that could put teachers in jail for speaking out. 
The bill, SB18-264, would prohibit public school teacher strikes by authorizing school districts to seek an injunction from district court. A failure to comply with the injunction would “constitute contempt of court” and teachers could face not only fines but up to six months in county jail, the bill language reads. 
The bill also directs school districts to fire teachers on the spot without a proper hearing if they’re found in contempt of court and also bans public school teachers from getting paid “for any day which the public school teacher participates in a strike.” 
The bill, which was introduced this past Friday, is sponsored by State Rep. Paul Lundeen and Sen. Bob Gardner, both Republicans. 
Mike Johnston, a Democrat eyeing the gubernatorial seat in 2018, has spoken out against the bill, calling it a “tactic designed to distract from the challenges facing Colorado’s education system rather than solving them.” 
“Teachers across the country, from West Virginia and Oklahoma to Arizona and here in Colorado, are speaking up for themselves and their students. We need to listen to teachers now more than ever. This legislation attempts to silence their voices rather than working to address their concerns. As Governor, I will make sure that teachers are heard, not thrown in jail for exercising their rights,” Johnston said in a statement sent to Denver7.

I mean the bill is obvious strike-breaking 101, I can't see how it would pass in an election year, let alone get Gov. Hickenlooper's signature, but I guess it shows Republicans are willing to throw teachers in jail for the sake of the kids or something.

This is cartoonishly evil nonsense even for Republicans.  They're really willing to take a teacher's career and their freedom if they strike?  How does that help students in any way?  How does that help to alleviate already serious teacher shortages in the state?

No, it's just Republicans using their power to punish those who don't agree with their austerity policies, literally, with actual jail time and job loss.  It's authoritarian garbage, and this is what Republicans will try to do in every state if given the chance.


Monday, April 23, 2018

Last Call For A Claire Winner In Greitens's War

As embattled Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens refuses to resign as Governor, blaming the liberal media for his problems despite felony sexual assault charges for essentially kidnapping his mistress and felony computer tampering charges for stealing his veterans' charity donor list for his own campaign's use, state GOP AG Josh Hawley has his hands full fighting calls for his own resignation for breaking Reagan's 11th Commandment.  The bigger problem for Hawley is that furious Republicans are turning on each other as his race to replace Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is heating up.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill is up for reelection. And, like clockwork, the Republican Party of Missouri is in complete turmoil again. 
McCaskill won a second term term in 2012 when GOP Rep. Todd Akin’s campaign imploded in the wake of his comments about “legitimate rape.” Now, Republicans worry GOP Gov. Eric Greitens’ mounting scandals will inundate McCaskill’s likely Republican opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, and bestow another term on one of the most endangered incumbent senators in the country.

Greitens was indicted in February for allegedly taking a nonconsensual nude photograph of a former lover, and the woman testified under oath that Greitens had a forced sexual encounter with her. As if that weren’t bad enough for the GOP, Greitens is refusing to step down, thrusting two of the most prominent Republican elected officials in the state into open warfare. 
Hawley demanded that Greitens resign and triggered a new investigation into the governor’s fundraising, resulting in a second indictment last week. Greitens has fired back by seeking a restraining order against the attorney general, saying that Hawley’s call for resignation meant he could not conduct an impartial investigation of the governor. 
The scandals are damaging the GOP at the most critical interval of its six-year wait to unseat McCaskill. 
"[Greitens] is jeopardizing the whole Republican Party of Missouri," said Rob Jesmer, a top Republican consultant who was executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee when Akin made his infamous comments about rape and abortion during McCaskill’s last campaign.

It's funny here that the victim is the Missouri GOP and not, you know, the woman Grietens allegedly assaulted or the donor list to the vets' charity the Greitens founded whose data Greitens allegedly stole.  We're supposed to feel sorry for the Republicans because they are losing the opportunity to beat Claire McCaskill.

There's an easy solution if the problem is Greitens: impeach and remove him from office.  Republicans control nearly three-quarters of both the state House and Senate and could basically get rid of him without a Democratic vote, not that the Democrats aren't eager to get rid of the guy.

But Missouri Republicans are dragging their feet on impeachment and want to wait until the legislature's investigation is complete despite the felony charges from Hawley's office.  That could mean that the legislature would have to call a special session themselves (not like Greitens will do it) to impeach, and for that they would need some Democratic votes.  Democrats aren't committing to that because there's not a reason to delay the process until after the current legislative session.

Frankly, I hope the Missouri GOP keeps up with the self-inflicted wounds.  Some of the state's biggest GOP donors do want Greitens gone, but others are making it clear that moving against Greitens will close their checkbooks, and Hawley's senate campaign funding is their leverage.  Pulling the plug on Hawley's war chest, or at least not filling it, is a real possible result from this mess.  Meanwhile, Senate Dems are flush with cash.

And the winner?  Justice, of course.  Claire McCaskill having a much easier time in November is a bonus, but the reality is that Greitens needs to be punished for his crimes regardless of the election result in Missouri.

Trump Cards, Con't

I've long said that Trump's ego and fixation on petty revenge against slights both real and perceived drives every action he does.  Chief among his actions is moving to punish the Obama voting coalition in order to tear it apart, specifically moving against the black, Hispanic, and Asian communities.

But there's another group that is often overlooked in this coalition, Native Americans, who overwhelmingly voted Democratic and for Obama in 2012 and 2016.  It's no surprise that Trump is now choosing to go after them as well.

The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections. 
Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance.

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers
The Health and Human Services Department confirmed it rebuffed the tribes’ request on the Medicaid rules several times. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, conveyed the decision in January, and officials communicated it most recently at a meeting with the tribes this month. HHS’ ruling was driven by political appointees in the general counsel and civil rights offices, say three individuals with knowledge of the decision. 
Senior HHS officials “have made it clear that HHS is open to considering other suggestions that tribes may have with respect to Medicaid community engagement demonstration projects,” spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, using the administration’s term for work requirements that can also be fulfilled with job training, education and similar activities. 
The tribes insist that any claim of “racial preference” is moot because they’re constitutionally protected as separate governments, dating back to treaties hammered out by President George Washington and reaffirmed in recent decades under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations. 
“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Trump won't stop at that.  If the regime's position is that tribes have no separate governmental authority, then that destroys centuries' worth of legal protections, something Republicans have long wanted to accomplish.

It looks like Trump is moving to make that happen, as if the federal government of this country hadn't already caused tribes enough grief and sorrow.

The Bernie Sanders Show

Don't look now, but while people in both parties seem to be too busy screaming at Hillary Clinton to just go away and die or something because nobody likes a political loser while simultaneously running against her in November, it seems that political loser Bernie Sanders is getting accolades for pulling a Trump TV.

The Vermont senator, who’s been comparing corporate television programming to drugs and accusing it of creating a “nation of morons” since at least 1979 — and musing to friends about creating an alternative news outlet for at least as long — has spent the last year and a half building something close to a small network out of his office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

He understands, but resents, the comparison to the man who’s described the news media as the “enemy of the people.” His take is different, and he has his own plans. “[Am I concerned] that people might see me and Trump saying the same thing? Yes, I am,” Sanders conceded, leaning back in a leather chair in a conference room in his office on a recent Tuesday, as footage of Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony one building over played on TVs throughout his office. Wearing his standard uniform — long tie, jacket in need of a few swipes with a lint roller — he launched into the critique now familiar to anyone who’s watched one of his rallies. “My point of view is a very, very different one. My point of view is the corporate media, by definition, is owned by large multinational corporations: their bottom line is to make as much money as they can. They are part of the Establishment. There are issues, there are conflicts of interest in terms of fossil fuel advertising — how they have been very, very weak, in terms of climate change.” Needless to say, the content he produces is not sponsored by advertisers.

Sanders hosts an interview show (“The Bernie Sanders Show”) that he started streaming over Facebook Live on a semi-regular basis after his staff got the idea in February of 2017 to film the senator chatting with the activist Rev. Dr. William Barber. After they posted that simple clip and it earned hundreds of thousands of views with no promotion, they experimented with more seriously producing Sanders’s conversation days later with Bill Nye.

The chat with the Science Guy ended up with 4.5 million views. Sensing an opportunity, the next day Sanders’s aides turned down multiple network TV requests and took his response to Trump’s first address to Congress directly to his Facebook page.

Things escalated. Audio recordings of his conversations, repackaged as a podcast, have since occasionally reached near the top of iTunes’ list of popular programs. Sanders’s press staff — three aides, including Armand Aviram, a former producer at NowThis News, and three paid interns — published 550 original short, policy-focused videos on Facebook and Twitter in 2017 alone. And, this year, he has begun experimenting with streaming town-hall-style programs on Facebook. Each of those live events has outdrawn CNN on the night it aired.

“The idea that we can do a town meeting which would get a significantly larger viewing audience than CNN at that time is something I would not have dreamed of in a million years, a few years ago,” Sanders says.

The result is a growing venue for Sanders’s legions of backers, and other curious progressives, to take in tightly curated lefty takes on policy news — one that, increasingly, competes directly with more traditional news outlets for eyeballs. There’s little room for minute-by-minute analysis of White House drama or Robert Mueller’s probe — and no panels full of opining “strategists” — but also little room for dissent
. The scale is unmatched by any other politician, inviting obvious questions about whether Sanders plans to pivot it into a massive primary campaign-mobilization machine come 2020. But the mainstream media criticism implicit in the venture also invites obvious comparisons — if equally stark contrasts — to the man crying “Fake news” at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

It's weird how Sanders is not only allowed to do this but encouraged to do it, something that if Hillary Clinton had tried would be trashed by approximately 90% of America as "fascist propaganda" and "hate speech" by 60% of America.  If Hillary went online to do this, we'd have GOP legislation regulating political speech on the internet by the end of the month.

And yes, there's the problem where Sanders freely admits that American media should be viewed as the untrustworthy enemy "establishment" and bypassed completely in favor of Sanders getting his "direct message" out to the people. 

There's a fair number of people who want to hear Bernie's message, but it seems that on the Left, only he's allowed to have a message.  Everyone in the Democratic party is already automatically suspect, and that's his real message.  You can't trust the party, you can't trust the media, you can only trust me.

That's also Donald Trump's current message.

I do not care for it.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Last Call For The Snowiest Of Snowflakes

Silicon Valley techbros are asking "what about us white guys?" and want safe spaces away from all that horrible non-whiteness and vagina-having where they can finally feel included in America.

Paul Mann wants to create a safe space for white men.

Mann, a white man who has spent years in the education industry, has begun leading workshops in San Francisco that encourage people in his demographic to explore feelings about race and gender and think about how to better assist women and nonwhites in their workplaces.

Most diversity training is inclusive of all races and genders. But Stepping Up, Mann’s program that began in January, is unusual because the workshops are designed for white men and led by a white man.

It’s an approach that has inevitably stirred controversy. It’s not something that Starbucks, for example, will pursue when it closes its stores in Mayfor a half-day diversity training in the wake of the arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia coffee shop. And creating a “safe space,” a stated goal of Stepping Up, is a concept traditionally associated with people who feel marginalized or victimized.

But Mann says some white men are afraid of saying the wrong thing or worry they’ll be put on the defensive — and Stepping Up allows them to express themselves openly and practice language without hurting anyone.

“All this attention has been paid to tech companies not having enough women and not being racially diverse,” Mann said. “It just seems obvious to me that we are ignoring the whole half of the equation, which is white people and men.”

Kim Scott, a former Google executive and author of the leadership book, “Radical Candor,” strongly disagrees with the approach, saying it’s important to learn from people with different backgrounds and perspectives.

“I am glad they care enough to discuss the issue,” Scott said. “I’m very sorry to hear that white men feel so fearful that they feel they have to have this conversation without inviting women and minorities to join.”

I have to say, if you feel the need to have a diversity workshop without any actual diversity in your diversity workshop, it's not a diversity workshop.  Sure, asking white men to think about gender and race is definitely needed, but when your first criteria is "needing to limit the space for the discussion on diversity to white men" you're not just missing the point, you're butchering it.

On purpose.

Mitt-igating Circumstances

Mitt Romney finished second in yesterday's Utah GOP primary caucus yesterday, meaning he now faces a June runoff primary against state Rep. Mike Kennedy for Sen. Orrin Hatch's seat.

After a wild and raucous day of voting at the Utah GOP convention, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee was unable to win the 60% that he needed to head to the November ballot unopposed. When none of the 12 candidates were able to cross that threshold, the party continued with successive rounds of caucus voting until one candidate reached 40%. 
On the second round of voting, Utah state representative Mike Kennedy emerged in the lead with 50.88%. Romney came in a close second with 49.12%. 
Romney and Kennedy will now compete in a primary set for June 26. 
After the vote, Romney said he was looking forward to a primary race. 
"This is terrific for the people of Utah, and I really want to thank the delegates who stayed so late to give me the kind of boost that I got here today," Romney said, standing on the convention floor after the proceedings were adjourned. "We're going to have a good primary." 
Kennedy, who had framed the race as David vs. Goliath, said when asked why he had edged out Romney in the vote that he wasn't sure. 
"I don't know," Kennedy said when asked why he thought his message appealed more to delegates than Romney's. "I don't know -- it's just my message."

Or it could be that nobody actually likes the guy.  Still, Romney was able to navigate Utah's byzantine GOP primary rules and if he does win the primary would have to be considered a frontrunner for Hatch's seat.  Hatch is retiring after his 7th term, a whopping 42 years in the US Senate.

Then again, Sen. Mike Lee won the other Utah Senate seat by driving Sen. Bob Bennett out of the party in 2010 as not conservative enough.  Utah Republicans can be weird.

What I do know is that the leading Democratic candidate, Salt Lake City Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, doesn't have much of a chance.  We could be stuck with Mittens in the US Senate for a while if he wins the primary as he's 71, but if Kennedy wins, well, he could be in there for 42 years too.

No real good news here for Dems unless Utah goes through a major demographic change towards purple/blue like the rest of the US Southwest.  It may happen, but not soon enough to help this time around.

Sunday Long Read: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes

As the data privacy debate over social media and online services rages on, it already may be a moot point.  The federal government and many state and local governments are already customers of data analysis giant Palantir, and odds are Palantir knows everything about you already, consent or not.

High above the Hudson River in downtown Jersey City, a former U.S. Secret Service agent named Peter Cavicchia III ran special ops for JPMorgan Chase & Co. His insider threat group—most large financial institutions have one—used computer algorithms to monitor the bank’s employees, ostensibly to protect against perfidious traders and other miscreants. 
Aided by as many as 120 “forward-deployed engineers” from the data mining company Palantir Technologies Inc., which JPMorgan engaged in 2009, Cavicchia’s group vacuumed up emails and browser histories, GPS locations from company-issued smartphones, printer and download activity, and transcripts of digitally recorded phone conversations. Palantir’s software aggregated, searched, sorted, and analyzed these records, surfacing keywords and patterns of behavior that Cavicchia’s team had flagged for potential abuse of corporate assets. Palantir’s algorithm, for example, alerted the insider threat team when an employee started badging into work later than usual, a sign of potential disgruntlement. That would trigger further scrutiny and possibly physical surveillance after hours by bank security personnel. 
Over time, however, Cavicchia himself went rogue. Former JPMorgan colleagues describe the environment as Wall Street meets Apocalypse Now, with Cavicchia as Colonel Kurtz, ensconced upriver in his office suite eight floors above the rest of the bank’s security team. People in the department were shocked that no one from the bank or Palantir set any real limits. They darkly joked that Cavicchia was listening to their calls, reading their emails, watching them come and go. Some planted fake information in their communications to see if Cavicchia would mention it at meetings, which he did. 
It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched, and what began as a promising marriage of masters of big data and global finance descended into a spying scandal. The misadventure, which has never been reported, also marked an ominous turn for Palantir, one of the most richly valued startups in Silicon Valley. An intelligence platform designed for the global War on Terror was weaponized against ordinary Americans at home
Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence. It helped planners avoid roadside bombs, track insurgents for assassination, even hunt down Osama bin Laden. The military success led to federal contracts on the civilian side. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir to detect Medicare fraud. The FBI uses it in criminal probes. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it to screen air travelers and keep tabs on immigrants.

Police and sheriff’s departments in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles have also used it, frequently ensnaring in the digital dragnet people who aren’t suspected of committing any crime.
People and objects pop up on the Palantir screen inside boxes connected to other boxes by radiating lines labeled with the relationship: “Colleague of,” “Lives with,” “Operator of [cell number],” “Owner of [vehicle],” “Sibling of,” even “Lover of.” If the authorities have a picture, the rest is easy. Tapping databases of driver’s license and ID photos, law enforcement agencies can now identify more than half the population of U.S. adults.

Increasingly in America, Palantir's systems tell cops, fraud investigators, immigration officials,  and employers who to suspect, and once you get into the system, you're trapped there for good.  Never committed a crime?  Too bad: if you have any sort of relationship to anyone who has, you're in Palantir's digital gaze.  Your life is a series of data pages, and Palantir turns it into an open book for the right bidder to read.

We can talk about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica all day, but it's Palantir and data analysis firms like it already involved in every aspect of your life that are the problem outside the voting booth.

Who watches the watchmen?

Nobody knows.  But they are sure as hell watching all of us.

Farming Up Some Votes

Rural Trump voters in red states are coming to terms with what Trump's trade war with China means: already damaged farm economies are only going to get worse. Democrats think there's fertile soil here to grow something strong.

Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat and longtime farmer who is running in another of the nation's most hotly contested races, said that he would support subsidies over nothing at all if Trump doesn't back away from the tariffs.

"I think as a last-ditch effort, yeah," Tester said. "Short of putting people out of business, I'd support them."

But Democrats say Trump's trade agenda has gone in exactly the wrong direction for American farmers.

"What he really needs to do instead of contracting trade markets is expand them, and he's not doing that," Tester said. "Farmers would much rather get their payments from the marketplace, so he needs to expand the markets."

Many Democrats see political opportunity in the treatment the agricultural community has gotten from Trump, who said recently that farmers will "understand that they're doing this for the country" and that he would "make it up to them."

Kristen Hawn, a Democratic strategist who is working with several House candidates, said Trump's message won't land well in the heartland.

"Anyone who tells these hardworking Americans that they should take it on the chin is not just wrong," Hawn said. "They do it at their own political peril."

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said his party was already well positioned to take advantage of a Trump backlash among suburban Republicans and that White House trade policy could help expand the map of politically competitive districts.

"He’s not looking too good in the rural areas either right now," Pallone said. "If [we] start winning seats in Iowa and some of the farm areas, then they are really in trouble.”

Trump's actions forced the debate over tariffs and subsidies, but many Republicans and Democrats — and their rural voters — would like to see him simply walk back the proposed tariffs.

"He brought [subsidies] up but really the whole focus of the discussion shifted to markets and trade and fair trade and not having tariffs," Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said after meeting with Trump last week.

But the president also told lawmakers repeatedly that he has his finger on the pulse of rural America.

"He said multiple times he’s very focused [on] getting something that’s very good for agriculture and good for farmers and ranchers, and that farmers and ranchers supported him in his election," Hoeven said.

But even among those farmers, support for the president doesn't automatically translate into support for his agriculture policy.

Raybould, running against Fischer in Nebraska, has endorsed a bill introduced by Sens. Jeff Flake, Ariz., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., that would nullify Trump's proposed action on steel and aluminum imports.

"We need more trading partners, not fewer trading partners," she said.

In a statement released after last week's White House meeting, Fischer said she told Trump "how critical it is that we work together to protect markets" both domestically and internationally.

These issues are "causing anxiety and uncertainty" among her constituents, she said.

I don't have very high hopes for Democrats winning back states like Iowa or Indiana or Kansas, because I don't think for a second that the real issues people vote on in red states have much to do with economics.  Republicans will put together enough of a farm bill package to keep farmers and ranchers loyal, I'm sure.

But the reality is while Trump's trade war may depress GOP turnout, there's a wide chasm between "I'm not going to vote Republican" and "I'll vote for the Democrat in the race instead".  It's not going to be bridged anytime soon.  Trump's approval rating among Republicans remains upwards of 80-85%.

As long as he can prove that his policies are hurting urban Democrats and those people more than farm country, they'll applaud him while their economies burn, if not gladly hand him the matches and the gasoline.
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