Monday, October 23, 2017


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Last Call For The Age Of Austerity

As Stan Collender at Forbes does some back-of-the-napkin math on the Trump regime's budget, he comes up with the figure of one trillion dollars: the minimum yearly deficit that we'll run under the GOP's tax cut scam.  We're already looking at $940 billion gap just this year.

1. Congress appears to be ready to increase the amount it will appropriate for military and domestic programs by at least $50 billion a year above what Trump requested.

2. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Trump's executive order ending federal subsidies for the Affordable Care Act will increase the budget deficit by an average of about $19 billion a year.

3. Federal disaster assistance for Harvey, Irma and Maria will be at least $36 billion, with more expected both for additional relief for hurricane victims and for the victims of the fires in northern California. While most of this aid will be spent in fiscal 2018, disasters (hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, etc.) requiring a higher-than-budgeted federal response will occur every year and their costs should be included in the permanent projected deficit.

4. If the economy doesn't grow as fast as Trump is promising, additional Pentagon spending is needed for military reasons and interest rates rise more than anticipated because of the increased federal borrowing, consecutive deficits between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion are not out of the question.

In other words, a $1 trillion annual deficit should be considered the minimum of what will occur each year during the Trump presidency.

And that leads us to the optics of adding a trillion dollars a year to the national debt.  No doubt Republicans in Congress won't tolerate it, and that means a trillion or more in yearly cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and the safety net to balance the budget.

Of course, those cuts will be "necessary to save America" as a result.

Even if the Dems can win back Congress in 2018, it's going to be a rough road to recovery, and that's before the very real possibility of another housing crash and economic mega-recession or even full-blown depression.

The forecast doesn't look good, folks.  Not at all.

The Drums Of War, Con't

This Friday news dump story should be a massive alarm bell in the night as to what Trump is planning in the next several months as far as military action.

President Trump signed an executive order Friday allowing the Air Force to recall as many as 1,000 retired pilots to active duty to address a shortage in combat fliers, the White House and Pentagon announced.

By law, only 25 retired officers can be brought back to serve in any one branch. Trump's order removes those caps by expanding a state of national emergency declared by President George W. Bush after 9/11, signaling what could be a significant escalation in the 16-year-old global war on terror.

"We anticipate that the Secretary of Defense will delegate the authority to the Secretary of the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years," Navy Cdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

But the executive order itself is not specific to the Air Force, and could conceivably be used in the future to call up more officers and in other branches.

All of a sudden there's a "pilot shortage" in the war against Islamic State?  I don't buy that for a second.  A thousand more combat pilots won't make much of a difference when the goal is to secure land gains against an entrenched enemy.  We already have air superiority against ISIS, it's not like guys who use IEDs have a modern air force.

But I'll tell you who does have an air force, as well as plenty of targets for precision bombing that would require an immediate need to call up a thousand skilled fighter pilots or more.

Iran and North Korea.

This is the back-door draft in action, guys.  The notion that this is going to be only used or even primarily used to take on Islamic State in Africa is ridiculous.

But it makes perfect sense if you're ramping up military action against Tehran or Pyongyang.

Stay tuned.

Sunday Long Read: The Richest Drug Cartel In America

It's impressive what people start paying attention to when you have a drug crisis that starts killing a bunch of Midwestern white folks in small-town America.  The opioid crisis continues to burn through cities across flyover country, and it got its start with OxyContin, that you know.  What you didn't know is that the empire behind the most addictive drug in history is actually one multi-billionaire family, effectively the richest legal drug cartel family on earth.

The newly installed Sackler Courtyard at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most glittering places in the developed world. Eleven thousand white porcelain tiles, inlaid like a shattered backgammon board, cover a surface the size of six tennis courts. According to the V&A’s director, the regal setting is intended to serve as a “living room for London,” by which he presumably means a living room for Kensington, the museum’s neighborhood, which is among the world's wealthiest. In late June, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was summoned to consecrate the courtyard, said to be the earth's first outdoor space made of porcelain; stepping onto the ceramic expanse, she silently mouthed, “Wow.”

The Sackler Courtyard is the latest addition to an impressive portfolio. There’s the Sackler Wing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses the majestic Temple of Dendur, a sandstone shrine from ancient Egypt; additional Sackler wings at the Louvre and the Royal Academy; stand-alone Sackler museums at Harvard and Peking Universities; and named Sackler galleries at the Smithsonian, the Serpentine, and Oxford’s Ashmolean. The Guggenheim in New York has a Sackler Center, and the American Museum of Natural History has a Sackler Educational Lab. Members of the family, legendary in museum circles for their pursuit of naming rights, have also underwritten projects of a more modest caliber—a Sackler Staircase at Berlin’s Jewish Museum; a Sackler Escalator at the Tate Modern; a Sackler Crossing in Kew Gardens. A popular species of pink rose is named after a Sackler. So is an asteroid.

The Sackler name is no less prominent among the emerald quads of higher education, where it’s possible to receive degrees from Sackler schools, participate in Sackler colloquiums, take courses from professors with endowed Sackler chairs, and attend annual Sackler lectures on topics such as theoretical astrophysics and human rights. The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science supports research on obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. Meanwhile, the Sackler institutes at Cornell, Columbia, McGill, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sussex, and King’s College London tackle psychobiology, with an emphasis on early childhood development.

The Sacklers’ philanthropy differs from that of civic populists like Andrew Carnegie, who built hundreds of libraries in small towns, and Bill Gates, whose foundation ministers to global masses. Instead, the family has donated its fortune to blue-chip brands, braiding the family name into the patronage network of the world’s most prestigious, well-endowed institutions. The Sackler name is everywhere, evoking automatic reverence; the Sacklers themselves, however, are rarely seen.

The descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, a pair of psychiatrist brothers from Brooklyn, are members of a billionaire clan with homes scattered across Connecticut, London, Utah, Gstaad, the Hamptons, and, especially, New York City. It was not until 2015 that they were noticed by Forbes, which added them to the list of America’s richest families. The magazine pegged their wealth, shared among twenty heirs, at a conservative $14 billion. (Descendants of Arthur Sackler, Mortimer and Raymond’s older brother, split off decades ago and are mere multi-millionaires.) To a remarkable degree, those who share in the billions appear to have abided by an oath of omertà: Never comment publicly on the source of the family’s wealth.

That may be because the greatest part of that $14 billion fortune tallied by Forbes came from OxyContin, the narcotic painkiller regarded by many public-health experts as among the most dangerous products ever sold on a mass scale. Since 1996, when the drug was brought to market by Purdue Pharma, the American branch of the Sacklers’ pharmaceutical empire, more than two hundred thousand people in the United States have died from overdoses of OxyContin and other prescription painkillers. Thousands more have died after starting on a prescription opioid and then switching to a drug with a cheaper street price, such as heroin. Not all of these deaths are related to OxyContin—dozens of other painkillers, including generics, have flooded the market in the past thirty years. Nevertheless, Purdue Pharma was the first to achieve a dominant share of the market for long-acting opioids, accounting for more than half of prescriptions by 2001.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, fifty-three thousand Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, more than the thirty-six thousand who died in car crashes in 2015 or the thirty-five thousand who died from gun violence that year. This past July, Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, led by New Jersey governor Chris Christie, declared that opioids were killing roughly 142 Americans each day, a tally vividly described as “September 11th every three weeks.” The epidemic has also exacted a crushing financial toll: According to a study published by the American Public Health Association, using data from 2013—before the epidemic entered its current, more virulent phase—the total economic burden from opioid use stood at about $80 billion, adding together health costs, criminal-justice costs, and GDP loss from drug-dependent Americans leaving the workforce. Tobacco remains, by a significant multiple, the country’s most lethal product, responsible for some 480,000 deaths per year. But although billions have been made from tobacco, cars, and firearms, it’s not clear that any of those enterprises has generated a family fortune from a single product that approaches the Sacklers’ haul from OxyContin.

Even so, hardly anyone associates the Sackler name with their company’s lone blockbuster drug. “The Fords, Hewletts, Packards, Johnsons—all those families put their name on their product because they were proud,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine who has written extensively about the opioid crisis. “The Sacklers have hidden their connection to their product. They don’t call it ‘Sackler Pharma.’ They don’t call their pills ‘Sackler pills.’ And when they’re questioned, they say, ‘Well, it’s a privately held firm, we’re a family, we like to keep our privacy, you understand.’ ”

To the extent that the Sacklers have cultivated a reputation, it’s for being earnest healers, judicious stewards of scientific progress, and connoisseurs of old and beautiful things. Few are aware that during the crucial period of OxyContin’s development and promotion, Sackler family members actively led Purdue’s day-to-day affairs, filling the majority of its board slots and supplying top executives. By any assessment, the family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.

There's no racket quite like the legalized drug industry, is there?

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and his statements on what the Trump regime plans to do in order to prevent Russian interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections is heart-stopping.

The answer, as the Lawfare team points out, is "nothing whatsoever."

The headlines from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday focused on his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump and his declaration — dragged out of him with all the elegance of a tooth extraction — that he had not yet been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Lost in the back-and-forth and amid focus on his testy exchange with Sen. Al Franken about Russian contacts, however, was a truly damning moment about Sessions’s tenure at the Justice Department thus far.

That moment came not in the context of hostile questioning from a committee Democrat but in a perfectly cordial exchange with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse.

With Midwestern gentility, the Nebraska senator told Sessions that he wasn’t going to grill him about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rather, he said, “I would like to continue talking about the Russians but in the context of the long-term objectives that Vladimir Putin has to undermine American institutions and the public trust.… We face a sophisticated long-term effort by a foreign adversary to undermine our foreign policy and our ability to lead in the world by trying to undermining confidence in American institutions.”

Russia will be back in the 2018 and 2020 election cycles, Sasse argued. “We live at a time where info ops and propaganda and misinformation are a far more cost-effective way for people to try to weaken the United States of America than by thinking they can outspend us at a military level.… So as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and as a supervisor of multiple components of our intelligence community … do you think we’re doing enough to prepare for future interference by Russia and other foreign adversaries in the information space?”

You’d think this question would be a golden opportunity for Sessions. After all, if you’re a man who has had some — ahem — inconvenient interactions with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, you might relish the chance to answer a question about what you are doing to prevent Russian interference in the future, as a chance to go on offense and show how serious you are about tackling a problem that has undermined your reputation.

But Sessions’s answer did not inspire confidence: “Probably not. We’re not. And the matter is so complex that for most of us, we are not able to fully grasp the technical dangers that are out there.”

Sessions acknowledged “disruption and interference, it appears, by Russian officials” and noted that it “requires a real review.” But he said nothing about what the department is doing to ready itself.

Sasse followed up, giving him an explicit chance to spell it out. “So what steps has the department taken,” or should it take, “to learn the lessons of 2016 … in fighting foreign interference?” he asked.

Crickets from Sessions.

The department, he said, is specifically reviewing commercial, rather than political, interference from foreigners and the theft of trade secrets and data — an enforcement priority that in fact long predates the Trump administration. “We’ve got indictments that deal with some of those issues,” he said, perhaps not even realizing that he was not talking about the same subject Sasse was asking about. He noted that the department’s national security division has some “really talented people” — which is true but hardly constitutes a step he is taking to combat the Russia threat. And he touted the FBI’s experts, too. Then he acknowledged that, despite all this, the department’s capabilities are still not at the appropriate level yet.

As to a specific answer to Sasse’s question — that is, what has the department done or is planning to do to confront information operations threats from Russia in the future? Not a word.

Nor will there be.  The fix has been in on Russian collusion for months now, and Sessions has been in on the game since the start.  He's guilty as hell and nobody is more aware of that then Sessions himself.  There will be no defense from Russian interference in our elections going forward as long as the GOP remains in power.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Last Call For Trump's America

When the man in the Oval Office demands retribution against those who question authority, his cultists respond with brutal efficiency, even in blue strongholds like Massachusetts.

Last week, Kato Mele’s 23-year-old daughter said some things on Facebook that many people found appalling. She wrote that the White Rose Coffeehouse in Lynn, which her mother owns and where she worked, would never host a “coffee with a cop” event, klatches designed to build goodwill between police and the community.

“I will not be part of the false rhetoric that cops are just misunderstood good guys,” Mele’s daughter wrote, among other things. “They uphold an unjust system and murder without consequence.” 

For this opinion, the family business was targeted and destroyed.

The chief of police in Lynn responded beautifully.

“This is a non-story,” Michael Mageary told Lynn’s Daily Item on Sunday. “This young lady has the right to say whatever she wants and we respect that. We will continue to do our job every day. My sense is that most officers will avoid the establishment, but that is their choice.”

But by then, it was already too late. A mob had descended within hours of the Facebook post, whipped up by a website that specializes in (and makes money from) marshaling drooling goons for mass attacks, mostly on victims who express left-of-center views.

They got into the cafe’s Facebook page, leaving hundreds of bad reviews to drive its five-star rating down. Mele’s daughter received rape threats. On Monday, the cafe was slammed with abusive callers, saying horrific things: They hoped Mele and her daughter are ruined, that they never work again, that her daughter drowns. An especially charming bunch of them, parroting a line from the hateful website that played on “coffee with a cop,” said they wanted to have coffee with a c-word.

“These are people targeting us for the stupid opinion of a 23-year-old,” Mele said. “If I had social media when I was 23, I don’t know what I would have done. We’re all dumb at 23.”

Mele was sitting in her empty cafe Thursday morning. In the year since it opened, the White Rose had become a community hub — a place for locals to come get coffee or a beer, to see art or listen to music. She’d hosted events to raise money for victims displaced by a big fire in town; for RAW, a youth art program; to give school supplies to kids whose parents couldn’t afford them.

“We have done whatever we can,” she said. “We have no televisions here. We wanted it to be a place where people could just sit and talk to anybody.”

Now Mele is shutting it all down, and with it her dream. After she survived cancer, she sold her house and liquidated her retirement fund to start the White Rose, and despite its place in the community, this first year had been a financial struggle. The cafe was running week-to-week before this happened. On Monday, the cafe was mostly deserted. Many of the people who came in were friends, offering condolences and dropping $10 or $20 into the tip jar. She couldn’t survive more than a few days like that — especially without her daughter’s help. Worse, she no longer wants to.

“What I have here is a family business that has no family,” she said. “Maybe I could weather this. But this used to be a place of joy for me, and I don’t see a way that I will ever feel that way again.

The opinion that police shouldn't murder people is so unacceptable in America in 2017 that this is the result: internet Brownshirts burn a business to the ground and harass a family out of their livelihood in the space of a week.

Whenever you hear somebody complaining about "Social Justice Warriors" and "liberal intolerance", remember the story of the Mele family.  I've been personally targeted before for my opinions on this blog, and I've paid a price for those opinions in the past, but never like this.  The threat to do to me what was done to the Mele family has been made on several occasions, and so far I'm still here.

And yet these are the same assholes who will tell you every day, at length, on multiple media platforms, that they are being silenced every day of their lives.

A Gold Star Performance In Lying

Above all, Donald Trump lies whenever he feels it can benefit him, and because nobody on the right will hold him accountable, it always benefits him to lie about whatever he feels like lying about. Case in point: the entire Trump White House, from Trump to Chief of Staff John Kelly to spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders to various staffers are now fully invested in the lies Trump told this week about Gold Star families, and now they have to continue those lies in order to cover for Trump.

In the hours after President Donald Trump said on an Oct. 17 radio broadcast that he had contacted nearly every family that had lost a military servicemember this year, the White House was hustling to learn from the Pentagon the identities and contact information for those families, according to an internal Defense Department email.

The email exchange, which has not been previously reported, shows that senior White House aides were aware on the day the president made the statement that it was not accurate — but that they should try to make it accurate as soon as possible, given the gathering controversy.

Not only had the president not contacted virtually all the families of military personnel killed this year, the White House did not even have an up-to-date list of those who had been killed.
The exchange between the White House and the Defense secretary’s office occurred about 5 p.m. on Oct. 17. The White House asked the Pentagon for information about surviving family members of all servicemembers killed after Trump’s inauguration so that the president could be sure to contact all of them.

Capt. Hallock Mohler, the executive secretary to Defense Secretary James Mattis, provided the White House with information in the 5 p.m. email about how each servicemember had died and the identity of his or her survivors, including phone numbers.

The email’s subject line was, “Condolence Letters Since 20 January 2017.”

Mohler indicated in the email that he was responding to a request from the president’s staff for information through Ylber Bajraktari, an aide on the National Security Council. The objective was to figure out who among so-called Gold Star families of the fallen Trump had yet to call. Mohler’s email said that the president’s aides “reached out to Ylber looking for the following ASAP from DOD.”

Trump had said in a Fox News Radio interview earlier that day that he had contacted the families of “virtually everybody” in the military who had been killed since he was inaugurated.

“I have called, I believe, everybody — but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody,” Trump said.

Since then, the Associated Press contacted 20 families and found that half had not heard from Trump. It is not clear how many of the families that have heard from the president received the calls this week, since the controversy over his contacts with military families erupted. It is not clear when the White House first asked for data on Gold Star families, but it is clear that the answers had not been provided before Tuesday.

The Pentagon email indicates that 21 military personnel had been killed in action during Trump’s tenure, and an additional 44 had been killed by means other than enemy fire, such as ship collisions that took 17 sailors’ lives in the Pacific this summer.

Trump has clearly been active in reaching out to military families who have suffered the ultimate loss, as the AP reports show.

But the White House-Pentagon email scramble Tuesday undermines the veracity of Trump’s statement about his record of contacting all Gold Star families. The internal document also sheds light on how the White House staff, on this and other occasions, has had to go into damage-control mode when the president makes inaccurate statements.

Trump's default is to lie.  Our Village Media is finally learning this, so when they fact check they're no longer surprised to find out that he's not telling the truth.  They still haven't learned to call it lying however.  It's "made inaccurate statements" or "factual errors" still, but that is an improvement over the previous era of calling Trump's outright lies "controversial" or "disputed". 

That's progress at any rate.

Take A Knee To Take A Stand

Trump's clinical narcissism continues to damage the country on a daily basis. By making the NFL anthem protests all about himself (because he makes everything about himself, he can't help it) he's now taking aim at the tenet of freedom of expression, something that Trump can no longer tolerate as he views these protests as personal attacks.  When given the powers of the presidency, Trump will always use them to enforce loyalty and accolade by fiat.

President Trump is urging supporters to sign a petition declaring that they believe in standing for the national anthem — his latest effort to put pressure on the NFL over players who kneel in protest during the anthem.

"The President has asked for a list of supporters who stand for the National Anthem. Add your name below to show your patriotism and support," says the petition by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a fundraising group.

The petition was also promoted by the Republican National Committee on Twitter and its website. It does not say how many signatures it has garnered so far.

The petition came days after NFL team owners, executives and players met in New York, where they decided that the league would not implement a rule forcing players to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said after the meeting that, while players are encouraged to stand for the anthem, there would be no formal rule making it mandatory for them to do so.

Goodell said he understood the concerns of the players — who are seeking to draw attention to racial injustice and police brutality — but he hopes the league can bring the total number of protesters down to zero.

The decision came amid a prolonged feud between Trump and the NFL that began last month when he called on football teams to fire players who took a knee. The demonstrations began last year with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been unable to find a new team after leaving the 49ers.

To recap, Donald Trump's reaction to an NFL quarterback who lost his job because he exercised his right to free speech and silently demonstrated against brutal police violence against black bodies in the United States was to:

  • declare the protests offensive to the country and flag,
  • declare the protests disrespectful to veterans,
  • question the patriotism of protesters,
  • take the protests personally as an attack on himself,
  • encourage NFL fans to punish the league until the protests stop,
  • attack the demonstrators personally using social media,
  • demand himself that the demonstrations stop,
  • demand that the employers of the protesters make the protests stop or suffer financial consequences and now in the last 24 hours,
  • have his party create a loyalty pledge for his position on the protests, and
  • fundraise off the controversy he has created.

He has been doing this for several weeks now, and again his pathology over the years is to take protests by people of color as personal insults, to declare these insults as attacks on those who support him, and then encourage his followers to institute collective punishment as revenge.

He especially hates black and Latina women, but also famous black men, like Obama and Kaepernick. I'm a black man and I've accepted that the asshole in the White House hates me because I am black.  But it is exponentially worse for women of color.

Remember that.

Knocked For A Hyperloop

Elon Musk is at it again, this time getting his dig on for the proposed hyperloop route leg between DC and Baltimore.

The first Hyperloop tunnel on the East Coast will be built in Maryland.

Gov. Larry Hogan made the announcement in a video posted on Twitter. Electric car pioneer Elon Musk’s Boring Company will start digging a tunnel in the state for an ultra-high-speed connection between Baltimore and Washington that would transport travelers in a matter of minutes.

Get hyped. 🚄
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) October 19, 2017 

Musk teased the idea on Twitter over the summer, saying he had received verbal government approval to start building the Hyperloop, which Musk ultimately wants to connect New York and D.C.

So the tunnels will be dug at least.  What happens after, well who knows.  Cincinnati has had subway tunnels for decades that were never finished, and I'm betting the same thing will happen here.

I've been calling BS on Hyperloop since 2013, and I still haven't seen anything that makes me think this is anything but the Springfield monorail.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Last Call For Battle Of The Amazon

Like plenty of other North American cities, Cincinnati is prostrating itself to Jeff Bezos and Amazon for the lure of 50,000 potential jobs as the company plans a second HQ outside Seattle.  Cities had until yesterday to submit a bid and Cincy Mayor John Cranley threw the Queen City's hat into the ring with dozens of other metropolitan centers across the US, Mexico and Canada this week.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says the region can win the bid for Amazon's second headquarters. 
Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky submitted a joint proposal. They're competing against dozens of other cities and regions across the country. 
Cranley says this area has the best story to tell. 
"We have the best combination of assets that is looking for," Cranley says. "I'm not here to promise you that we will win, but I promise you that we will be taken seriously and that we have a real chance to win this bid." 
Cranley is providing few details about what's in the region's proposal. He says the city is offering Amazon the same tax incentive package General Electric received to locate a headquarters at The Banks.

Many of the bid details are protected by confidentiality agreements. The proposal was partly compiled by REDI Cincinnati, which is a private operation and not subject to state open records laws. 
City Manager Harry Black praised the regional proposal and the people who cooperated to put it together. He tells reporters Cincinnati is one of the most desirable destinations in the country. 
"We have higher ed, we've got medicine, we've got the arts and culture, we've got technology, we've got a dynamic and impactful business ecosystem here," Black says. "So if Amazon knows what's good for itself, it will select Cincinnati."

To be fair, the reasons Cranley and Black list are the reasons why Amazon opened a Midwest distribution hub here in NKY by the airport.  Cincy has always been a pretty good central location for reaching several East coast and Midwest states and cities.

But what makes sense for a distribution center operation doesn't really translate into a company HQ.  Cincy is home to some Fortune 500 heavy hitters like Kroger and Proctor and Gamble, but it's not a top ten population center like New York or Chicago or LA or even a second-tier US city like Miami or Denver or Atlanta.

I don't expect Cincy to make it through even the first round.  Amazon is going to go to whoever gives them the billions in tax incentives they are looking for, and that will be a city that has both the resources and the shamelessness to debase their economy to give it to them at the cost of taxpayers and voters.  Cincy's not that town.

I would expect Texas will win the day, or Florida.  Both have real need for immediate infrastructure investments after various hurricanes this year and it's a buyer's market for Amazon, and everyone knows it.  Texas seems to have their stuff together more in this regard.

My money's on Dallas/Houston/San Antonio, with Houston being a feel-good story of the year, even though I'm sure the deal Amazon will get from that city will be a disaster in the long-run. Let's not forget that Amazon is a major US corporation and will gleefully screw over anyone they can to make profit.

Cincy will come out ahead.

Listen All Y'All It's Sabotage, Con't

The Trump regime's sabotage of the Affordable Care Act is working.  New Gallup numbers show the ranks of the uninsured have grown by 1.4% since Trump took office in January 2017, meaning that 3.5 million adults have lost their health coverage through the first nine months of the year.

The percentage of U.S. adults lacking health insurance rose in the third quarter of 2017 to 12.3%, up 0.6 percentage points from the previous quarter and 1.4 points since the end of 2016. The uninsured rate is now the highest recorded since the last quarter of 2014 when it was 12.9%. 
The uninsured rate, measured by Gallup and Sharecare since 2008, had fallen to a record low of 10.9% in the third and fourth quarters of 2016. However, the 1.4-point increase in the percentage of adults without health insurance since the end of last year represents nearly 3.5 million Americans who have entered the ranks of the uninsured. 
Still, the uninsured rate remains well below its peak of 18.0% measured in the third quarter of 2013, prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) mandated healthcare exchanges and the associated requirement that all adults have health insurance or be subject to a fine. 
Several marketplace factors could be contributing to the growth of the uninsured rate since 2016. Some insurance companies have stopped offering insurance through the exchanges, and the lack of competition could be driving up the cost of plans for consumers. As a result, the rising insurance premiums could be compelling some Americans to forgo insurance, especially those who fail to qualify for federal subsidies. 
Uncertainty about the healthcare law also may be driving the increase. Congressional Republicans' attempts to replace the healthcare law may be causing consumers to question whether the government will enforce the penalty for not having insurance. 
The results for the third quarter of 2017 are based on more than 45,000 interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older from July 1 to Sept. 30, conducted as part of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Gallup and Sharecare have asked a random sample of at least 500 U.S. adults each day since January 2008 whether they have health insurance.

And remember, this is all before the end of subsidies to insurance companies in order to lower premiums, and before Trump's messy executive orders designed to drive insurance exchange markets into the ground that happened earlier this month.

Expect this number to be significantly higher, and soon.  Even without Republican in Congress repealing Obamacare and wrecking health coverage for tens of millions, Trump can do a lot of damage by enforcing the ACA so badly that it breaks.  We're already seeing 3.5 million examples of this.

More will be coming.  A lot more.

The Coming Blue Wave, Con't.

It's a brutal sign for the GOP that after running the House for all but four of the last 23 years in Congress that Republicans, now with complete control of the federal government, are running for the exits thanks to Trump.  And there's no bigger loser in this exodus than House Speaker Paul Ryan.

A number of the speaker's closest comrades in the House have called it quits in recent weeks because they're tired of President Donald Trump's antics, depressed over the GOP's dearth of legislative accomplishments this year or have personal reasons. Whatever the causes, the departures are certain to make Ryan's job as House speaker harder, depriving him of loyal lieutenants in a conference already riven by ideological and stylistic divisions.

Rep. Pat Tiberi, a loyal ally of Ryan, is the latest departure. The Ohio Republican announced Thursday that he will resign by the end of January to take a job in the private sector. House GOP leaders had hoped the senior Ways and Means Committee member would lead the powerful tax panel in the coming years, House GOP sources told POLITICO. But Tiberi, a longtime tax reform proponent, made other plans just as tax talks are kicking off in earnest.

Tiberi will hardly be the last to leave, multiple House GOP sources say.

Lawmakers have grown increasingly frustrated with Trump’s penchant for drama and inability to focus on the legislative agenda, numerous House GOP lawmakers and staffers said. While Trump and most Republican voters blame Congress for nothing substantial getting done, GOP lawmakers are privately exasperated that they don’t have a coherent leader who can help them deliver.

That’s part of what drove Republican Rep. Dave Trott to announce he'd head back to Michigan once his current term ends. Trott stood up at a late July House Republican Conference meeting to complain that the White House was so distracted by the scandal enveloping Anthony Scaramucci at the time that Trump failed to help the Senate pass its Obamacare repeal bill.

Six weeks later, after the health care repeal collapsed in the upper chamber, Trott announced his retirement.

The legislative letdowns under Trump have weighed heavily on House Republicans, said Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, another Republican who recently announced he won't seek reelection in 2018.

“It’s very difficult to achieve big-ticket items, not to mention just accomplish the basic items of governance — keeping the government open or not defaulting on our obligations — so that’s a source of frustration for me," said Dent, a leader of the faction of Republican moderates.

Dent added: “Congress should take a lot of the blame; but so should the president. The president doesn’t lay down his plans, his ideas, his policies, and he sure as hell didn’t try to sell it to the American people on health care — and that’s a function of leadership. Saying, ‘Send me a bill and I’ll sign it' — that’s not leadership.”

One recently departed House staffer had this to say about the challenges of legislating in the era of Trump: “The job isn't fun anymore. You get beat up in D.C. for everything Trump says or does, only to go home to get beat up for not defending Trump enough by the base. It's brutal.”

Look at these whiny, petulant kids.  They have everything they wanted, Congress, the White House, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court, almost two-thirds of the states...and they're complaining that they can't get anything done.

So much so that they're quitting in frustration.  Why?  They see what's coming.

The question is can the Dems capitalize on it?  That remains very much up in the air.  The Dems are making the kind of candidate moves they need to be at the ground level, but they're also not making the arguments for Democrats at the top level, either. 

There's no doubt that GOP voter suppression laws have played a major role in giving the GOP the level of single-party control they have now, and that's only going to get worse in 2018 and 2020, and so far Dems don't seem very interested in fighting back.

If they don't, and immediately, the GOP could still be running the country, only with the retiring crop of Republicans replaced by a new wave of mini-Trumps, interested only in the obliteration of Democrats and their voters.  Just because the GOP is about to lose dozens of veteran lawmakers to retirement doesn't mean they'll all be replaced by Democrats.

We'll see.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Last Call For Crossfire Hurricane

One month after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, millions of Americans remain in a dire humanitarian crisis, with hundreds of thousands lacking food, water, shelter, electricity, and access to basic services.  Maria by the numbers:

Here is a by-the-numbers account of how things on the island currently stand. 
  • More than a third of Puerto Rican households, or about 1 million people, still lack running water according to CNN.
  • FEMA says it has distributed 23.6 million liters (6.2 million gallons) of bottled and bulk water in Puerto Rico. That figure includes water for hospitals and dialysis centers
  • These deliveries equate to only 9% of the island's drinking water requirement, going by the World Health Organization's (WHO) assessment that each person needs at least 2.5 liters (2/3 of a gallon) per day. Some residents are so desperate for drinking water they have broken into polluted wells at industrial waste sites.
  • The shortfall is far greater when you consider the WHO also recommends 15 liters per person per day for basic cooking and hygiene needs. Dirty water ups the risk of diseases like cholera and at least one person has died as a result of being unable to get to dialysis treatment on time, CNN reports.
  • Some 86% of grocery stores have re-opened. But they are not necessarily stocked.
  • FEMA says 60,000 homes need roofing help. It has delivered 38,000 tarps.
Power and Personnel 
  • Less than 20% of Puerto Rico's power grid has been restored and around 3 million people are still without power, says CNN
  • The news broadcaster adds that 75% of antennas are down so even those able to charge phones are unlikely to have cellular service.
  • All of the island's hospitals are now up and running, with most using back-up systems, but only a quarter are being supplied with power from the grid, says Axios
  • According to CNN, FEMA has deployed 1,700 personnel in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were also ravaged by Hurricane Maria. That's 900 less that the 2,600 FEMA personnel reportedly still in Texas and Florida, but the agency told CNN that around 20,000 other federal staff and military have been deployed in response to Maria.
  • Thousands of people have donated money or volunteered to help Puerto Rico. Among them, celebrity chef José Andrés says he's serving 100,000 meals a day on the island.

Puerto Rico is a disaster area and remain so for months if not longer.  Look at Haiti in the wake of that devastating earthquake almost six years ago, and how the country is still struggling for even day-to-day functions.  There's good news, but at this rate Puerto Rico will get statehood before it gets power.

The disaster continues, and it remains Trump's fault.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

I've talked before about the multiple mistrials in the case of Shannon Kepler, a white former Tulsa cop who shot his daughter's 19-year-old black boyfriend, Jeremey Lake, in cold blood and claimed self-defense.  Lake didn't actually have a weapon on him as Kepler claimed, but juries deadlocked three times when it came to murder charges.

Oklahoma state prosecutors settled for manslaughter charges instead on the fourth trial, and this week a jury found Kepler guilty and recommended a sentence of 15 years.

Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding ex-Tulsa officer Shannon Kepler, 57, guilty of the lesser charge in the August 2014 killing of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who had just started dating Kepler's then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa. 
The jury recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for November 20. 
Lake's death occurred four days before a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, 2014. Michael Brown's killing touched off months of protests and became a catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, which decries police violence against minorities and calls for greater transparency from law enforcement officials, especially in cases of officer-involved shootings. 
The issue of race had also become an undercurrent in each of Kepler's previous three trials, with only one African-American being selected for each jury and accusations by civil rights activists that Kepler's attorneys were purposely trying to exclude potential black candidates. 
Another racial element had been recently added to the case when Kepler argued that he couldn't be tried by state prosecutors because he's a member of an American Indian tribe. A judge determined the fourth trial in less than a year could move forward in state court. Kepler says he's 1/128th Muscogee (Creek). 
Kepler's attorneys said the 24-year-police veteran was trying to protect Lisa Kepler because she had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Defense attorney Richard O'Carroll said Lisa had been in and out of a homeless shelter after her father forbade her from bringing men home into the house.

A white cop killed his daughter's black boyfriend because he knew he would never be convicted.  He was right on that as far of being convicted of premeditated murder, no Oklahoma jury would ever convict a white cop on murder one, a lifetime of police retaliation would be just the least of the jury's problems.

But manslaughter has a different burden of proof, and the jurors were willing to convict on that.  Whether or not Kepler ever serves a day in prison based on sentencing, bail and appeal, that's anyone's guess.
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