Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Night

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I spent much of the summer in the hospital getting stem cell transplants so that the cancer I was treated for since November-- now in remission-- doesn't come back. I still have peripheral neuropathy, but I'm feeling a lot better overall now, and my doctor at City of Hope seems astounded how rapidly I'm recuperating from the intense treatments. Brutalism's music (above) was part of my get-well therapy. I'd blast their songs, especially "Friday Night," in the hospital and the nurses would come in and dance. What more could anyone want?

Well... after a while I started wanting my hair and beard to start growing again. That's what I wanted-- that and my taste buds to start functioning again. Not that I love shaving, but after a couple of months of no facial hair growth, it starts to feel weird. I promised myself that I would switch the DownWithTyranny schedule back to five posts a day-- Ken had wisely cut it back to four while I was in the hospital-- as soon as I started shaving again. That happened yesterday-- both, the old schedule (with a first post at 6am PT and a last post at 9pm PT) and the shaving. Actually, some facial hair had started growing in on Monday, but when I washed it and dried my face with a towel, it just fell out. Now it's a little more substantial, although just a little.

Back to Brutalism's music for a moment. I know "Friday Night" sounds like dance music-- in fact, it is dance music-- but be sure to listen to the lyrics. Those lyrics are not what anyone usually hears in a dance club, as far as I know. They're subversive. But it makes sense when you know that one of the guys in the band is HuffPo writer Zach Carter.

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Will it matter to the anti-Planned Parenthood witch hunters that the frame job is even crookeder than we knew?

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It turns out that the "original" versions of the Planned Parenthood sting videos are already tampered with. What a surprise!

by Ken

The good news is that Planned Parenthood is fighting back against the crusade of lies being waged against it. The bad news is that the anti-Planned Parenthood witch hunters are the kind of people who not only don't care about but actively despise the truth when it comes in conflict with their ideological psychoses. And right now the right-wing sociopaths see an opportunity to destroy their enemy. Why should the truth matter to them more here than it does in any other aspect of their lie-based lives?

The startling disclosure here is that, according to the independent investigator hired by Planned Parenthood, the supposedly "full" versions of the videos that were so deceptively edited down to produce the bogus videos circulated by the witch hunters are themselves edited.  When you consider that the people who produced these videos are confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool liars, the discovery that the theoretically "unedited" versions are in fact edited leads inescapably to the conclusion that they're already bogus -- that what we're in fact dealing with here is literally lies upon lies. (And, oh yes, some of the "transcripts" circulated by the sting perpetrators are doctored. Ho-hum.)

But again, will it matter? It might if these people had any interest in the truth. I wouldn't hold my breath, though.
Videos deceptively edited, Planned Parenthood tells Congress


Antiabortion activists rally on the steps of the Texas Capitol in Austin, Tex., to condemn the use of tissue samples from aborted fetuses in medical research. (Eric Gay/AP)

By Sandhya Somashekhar | August 27 at 10:12 PM

Officials at Planned Parenthood mounted an aggressive defense in a letter to Congress on Thursday, offering evidence from an outside investigator that undercover videos targeting the women’s health organization were heavily edited and should be considered unreliable.

The letter, written by the ­organization’s president, Cecile Richards, comes as four congressional committees are pursuing investigations into allegations that Planned Parenthood sells ­fetal tissue for profit, which is prohibited by law, and that it has changed its abortion procedures to extract better specimens. The accusations stem from an elaborate undercover investigation by antiabortion activists, who recorded Planned Parenthood employees while posing as representatives of a tissue procurement company.

Planned Parenthood has repeatedly denied the allegations. On Thursday, the group attempted to go on the offense, with Richards accusing the activists from the Center for Medical Progress of acting “fraudulently and unethically — and perhaps illegally.”

Her letter was accompanied by a 10-page report commissioned by Planned Parenthood and penned by an independent investigator, former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson. Through his firm Fusion GPS, Simpson enlisted experts who analyzed both the short, highly produced videos publicized by the antiabortion group, as well as hours of “full” footage the group posted on YouTube.

The implication is that the longer footage was unedited. But Simpson said he found significant gaps.

“Anytime someone removes a piece of audio or video tape . . . that renders the file unreliable,” Simpson said during a teleconference for reporters.

Simpson said he also discovered discrepancies between transcripts posted by the antiabortion group and dialogue in the video. And he said he found instances in which the undercover actors goaded Planned Parenthood officials into making flippant remarks, and where inaudible dialogue was transcribed in a way that represented “wishful thinking” — for example, when a lab technician is said to have looked at a fetus and said, “It’s a baby.”

David Daleiden, project leader at the Center for Medical Progress, said the gaps in the longer video were bathroom breaks taken by the actors wearing hidden cameras, or long periods during which an actor sat silently in a waiting room.

He said the group has made that fuller raw footage available to law enforcement authorities as well as congressional investigators. A judge’s order in California, however, has restricted the release of some footage, he said.

Daleiden accused Planned Parenthood of skirting the heart of the issue: whether it is selling fetal tissue or participating in other illegal activities, such as employing an abortion procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion, which is outlawed in most circumstances.

“We’re now seven weeks into this news story. They spent 11 pages now talking about camera Number One or camera Number Two,” Daleiden said. “What they still haven’t spent any time addressing is the questions over their use of partial-birth abortion or giving any type of detailed accounting of the costs and how much they’re actually getting paid.”

In the letter, Planned Parenthood officials write that only two affiliates still participate in tissue donation, a service provided to women who decide to donate fetal material for medical research. Before the video sting, four other affiliates — all in California — participated in tissue donation but stopped because of threats or other issues.

The letter says the lone California affiliate that still donates tissue receives $60 per specimen, a “modest reimbursement” to recover costs. Such a charge is permitted under state and federal law.

Planned Parenthood officials acknowledge that doctors sometimes make minor adjustments to abortion procedures to extract specimens. However, Richards contends in the letter that the adjustments do not make the procedure more risky. Moreover, she said, there is no federal prohibition against making these adjustments as long as the research is not federally funded.

Still, she wrote, Planned Parenthood has adopted voluntary guidelines against any “substantive alteration in the timing of terminating the pregnancy or of the method used . . . for the purpose of obtaining the blood
and/or tissue.”

“Mr. Daleiden and his associates have sought to infiltrate Planned Parenthood affiliates and unsuccessfully to entrap Planned Parenthood physicians and staff for nearly three years,” Richards wrote. “Yet it is Planned Parenthood, not Mr. Daleiden, that is currently subject to four separate congressional investigations.”
This Daleiden thug apparently can't draw breath without lying. Planned Parenthood has repeatedly addressed its tissue-selling practices, which were not, in fact, illegal, and which don't appear to have been in any way unethical either, but simply reflect standard scientific research practice. But Daleiden is a lying sack of garbage, whose life is devoted to lies. Why would he be in any way embarrassed about conducting a crusade of lies?
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It Wasn't Enough For The GOP Clown Car To Alienate Latinos. Now They Want To Target Asian-Americans

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The last thing the Republican Party Establishment wanted was a raucous racist primary that highlights the disdain with which Republican candidates view minorities. But the party's angry, confused base had their own ideas-- and plenty of power-mad candidates to pander to them, one of whom is a celebrity TV reality star who knows how to command an audience and daily headlines.

It doesn't matter what Reince Priebus wants, or what the GOP's 2012 autopsy mandated, or even-- perhaps (we'll see)-- what the billionaire insurgent Koch family wants. After two Bushes and McCain and Romney, the base will not be denied; they want someone as crazy and bigoted and filled with hatred as they are-- or at least someone willing to make a spectacle out of themselves faking it-- and they have not just Trump, but a whole clown car filled with exactly what they want.


Tuesday Trump tweeted that "Asians are very offended that JEB said that anchor babies applies to them as a way to be more politically correct to hispanics. A mess!" Then he promptly pantomimed long-outmoded but still ugly Asian stereotypical speech patterns, proving, I suppose, to the base that no matter how racist Jeb goes, he'll never be able to catch up with the puerile Trump. 

Republican Establishment propagandist George Will was on the warpath against Trump again Thursday, bemoaning how he's ruining the party that Will remembers the GOP once being. He seems to have as much disdain for the unwashed Republican masses as they have for immigrants and minorities. "Every sulfurous belch from the molten interior of the volcanic Trump phenomenon," he wrote, "injures the chances of a Republican presidency. After Donald Trump finishes plastering a snarling face on conservatism, any Republican nominee will face a dauntingly steep climb to reach even the paltry numbers that doomed Mitt Romney."
The white percentage of the electorate has been shrinking for decades and will be about 2 points smaller in 2016 than in 2012. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first president elected while losing the white vote by double digits. In 2012, Hispanics, the nation’s largest minority, were for the first time a double-digit (10 percent) portion of the electorate. White voters were nearly 90 percent of Romney’s vote. In 1988, George H.W. Bush won 59 percent of the white vote, which translated into 426 electoral votes. Twenty-four years later, Romney won 59 percent of the white vote and just 206 electoral votes. He lost the nonwhite vote by 63 points, receiving just 17 percent of it. If the Republicans’ 2016 nominee does not do better than Romney did among nonwhite voters, he will need 65 percent of the white vote, which was last achieved by Ronald Reagan when carrying 49 states in 1984. Romney did even slightly worse among Asian Americans-- the fastest-growing minority-- than among Hispanics. Evidently, minorities generally detected Republican ambivalence, even animus, about them. This was before Trump began receiving rapturous receptions because he obliterates inhibitions about venting hostility.

...In 2011, when Trump was a voluble “birther”-- you remember: Obama supposedly was not born in the United States, hence he is an illegitimate president-- an interviewer asked if he had people “searching in Hawaii” for facts. “Absolutely,” Trump said. “They can’t believe what they’re finding.” Trump reticence is rare, but he has never shared those findings. He now says, in effect: Oh, never mind. If in November 2016, the fragments of an ever smaller and more homogenous GOP might be picked up with tweezers, Trump, having taken his act elsewhere, will look back over his shoulder at the wreckage he wrought and say: Oh, never mind.
Gregory Cendana, executive director of the AFL-CIO's Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, was disgusted by the Republican Party's recent verbal assaults against minority communities.
Trump’s sheer disrespect and prejudice coincides with the glaring racist ideologies that the GOP has exhibited throughout their campaigns. Jeb Bush’s derogatory comments and Donald Trump’s bigoted actions will serve as another reminder that the Republican Party does not represent the interest of communities of color and our country.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka backed them up with this video he put out Thursday morning.



And referencing Jeb's bungled outreach to minorities, L.A.-area Congressman Ted Lieu, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve who was elected president of the congressional freshman class, was equally mortified. This is the note he sent to his constituents Wednesday:
In the same breath that Jeb Bush calls for Americans to 'chill out' on political correctness, he accuses Asian immigrants of engaging in an 'organized effort' to have 'anchor babies.'

Anyone who has served in elected office knows they have a duty to lead by example. Jeb Bush’s comments about Asian immigrants are a dangerous mischaracterization of an entire minority, plain and simple. It clearly doesn’t reflect my story. My parents immigrated to the United States to achieve the American dream. My parents went from being poor to owning a thriving small business. Their journey of hard work, sacrifice, success and contribution is as central to the American story as any other.

Unfortunately, Jeb’s insulting remarks about immigrants are matched by equally-insulting policy ideas. He has no viable plan for comprehensive immigration reform. He wants to repeal our national health care law that's protecting millions of Americans and his big idea to grow the economy is to offer corporations more tax cuts.

It is sad to think this all comes from the moderate Republican presidential candidate. Jeb Bush is trapped by an influential Tea Party that continues to advocate for policies that help the few at the expense of the many. My fellow Democrats and I are fighting for something different-- an America that cherishes and works for everyone.

Bao Nguyen's Vietnamese mother was pregnant with him when she escaped to Thailand. He was born in a refugee camp, and they came to America when he was still an infant. Now he is the mayor of Garden Grove in Orange County and is the progressive candidate running for the congressional seat Loretta Sanchez is giving up. Like L.A.-area Asian-American congressmembers Ted Lieu and Judy Chu, he was shocked to feel the Republican candidates attacking immigrant communities, Hispanics as well as Asians. "As an American immigrant," he told us today, "it disgusts me when I hear how Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and the other Republican Presidential candidates have been talking about immigrants."
It’s despicable, and disgraceful. Immigrants are the backbone of this country. They built this country and continue to add to it in so many ways. I was born in a refugee camp, and came to this country when I was three months old. We didn’t have much-- let’s be honest, we were just poor. But we found a welcoming and supportive community of all nationalities and backgrounds, and with help and hard work, I was able to build a life here in California. But my story is no different from that of millions of immigrants who came to America in search of a better life-- who knew they needed to work hard and play by the rules in order to get a fair shot at the American Dream. We need to celebrate the accomplishments of our immigrant neighbors, and we need to bring everyone out of the shadows, so they can be full participants in the American Dream.



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Earthquakes, the "Big One" & the Pacific Northwest

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An earthquake preparedness film produced in Victoria, British Columbia (source)

by Gaius Publius

This is not quite a political story, but it's an important one. Most people west of the Mississippi and many people east of it assume that the so-called "Big One," the mother of all American earthquakes, will occur in southern California along the San Andreas fault.

Shaded relief map of California showing the location of SAFOD [San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth]. Major historical earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault are shown, with the creeping section of the fault in blue. (© USGS, click to enlarge) [source]

But scientists who study plate tectonics have come to a surprising, and relatively recent, conclusion — the "big one" is more likely to come in the Pacific Northwest, and it's likely to be the "really big one."

I can only give you a small part of this excellent recent article in the New Yorker by Kathryn Schultz, but if this interests you at all, it's worth reading it through. There's both good science and important warning here. And if you're a resident of the region, it may qualify as a must-read.

The problem in a nutshell, from just after the start of the article (my emphasis):
Most people in the United States know just one fault line by name: the San Andreas, which runs nearly the length of California and is perpetually rumored to be on the verge of unleashing “the big one.” That rumor is misleading, no matter what the San Andreas ever does. Every fault line has an upper limit to its potency, determined by its length and width, and by how far it can slip. For the San Andreas, one of the most extensively studied and best understood fault lines in the world, that upper limit is roughly an 8.2—a powerful earthquake, but, because the Richter scale is logarithmic, only six per cent as strong as the 2011 event in Japan.

Just north of the San Andreas, however, lies another fault line. Known as the Cascadia subduction zone, it runs for seven hundred miles off the coast of the Pacific Northwest, beginning near Cape Mendocino, California, continuing along Oregon and Washington, and terminating around Vancouver Island, Canada. The “Cascadia” part of its name comes from the Cascade Range, a chain of volcanic mountains that follow the same course a hundred or so miles inland. The “subduction zone” part refers to a region of the planet where one tectonic plate is sliding underneath (subducting) another. Tectonic plates are those slabs of mantle and crust that, in their epochs-long drift, rearrange the earth’s continents and oceans. Most of the time, their movement is slow, harmless, and all but undetectable. Occasionally, at the borders where they meet, it is not.

Take your hands and hold them palms down, middle fingertips touching. Your right hand represents the North American tectonic plate, which bears on its back, among other things, our entire continent, from One World Trade Center to the Space Needle, in Seattle. Your left hand represents an oceanic plate called Juan de Fuca, ninety thousand square miles in size. The place where they meet is the Cascadia subduction zone. Now slide your left hand under your right one. That is what the Juan de Fuca plate is doing: slipping steadily beneath North America. When you try it, your right hand will slide up your left arm, as if you were pushing up your sleeve. That is what North America is not doing. It is stuck, wedged tight against the surface of the other plate.

Without moving your hands, curl your right knuckles up, so that they point toward the ceiling. Under pressure from Juan de Fuca, the stuck edge of North America is bulging upward and compressing eastward, at the rate of, respectively, three to four millimetres and thirty to forty millimetres a year. It can do so for quite some time, because, as continent stuff goes, it is young, made of rock that is still relatively elastic. (Rocks, like us, get stiffer as they age.) But it cannot do so indefinitely. There is a backstop—the craton, that ancient unbudgeable mass at the center of the continent—and, sooner or later, North America will rebound like a spring. If, on that occasion, only the southern part of the Cascadia subduction zone gives way—your first two fingers, say—the magnitude of the resulting quake will be somewhere between 8.0 and 8.6. That’s the big one. If the entire zone gives way at once, an event that seismologists call a full-margin rupture, the magnitude will be somewhere between 8.7 and 9.2. That’s the very big one.

Flick your right fingers outward, forcefully, so that your hand flattens back down again. When the next very big earthquake hits, the northwest edge of the continent, from California to Canada and the continental shelf to the Cascades, will drop by as much as six feet and rebound thirty to a hundred feet to the west—losing, within minutes, all the elevation and compression it has gained over centuries. Some of that shift will take place beneath the ocean, displacing a colossal quantity of seawater. (Watch what your fingertips do when you flatten your hand.) The water will surge upward into a huge hill, then promptly collapse. One side will rush west, toward Japan. The other side will rush east, in a seven-hundred-mile liquid wall that will reach the Northwest coast, on average, fifteen minutes after the earthquake begins. By the time the shaking has ceased and the tsunami has receded, the region will be unrecognizable. Kenneth Murphy, who directs FEMA’s Region X, the division responsible for Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska, says, “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”.
I've bolded the parts that describe the geologic stress and what's likely to happen to the land when it releases. The upward bulge of the land includes the Cascades mountain region and land west to the sea (Mount Hood, in the Cascades Mountains, is only 80 miles east of Portland). A six-foot drop in elevation of land within "a few minutes" would destroy everything built on top of it. A similar drop beneath the ocean would create a tsunami that would wipe out everything living along the coast.

Here's a picture:

The northern part of the Cascadia Subduction Zone (click to enlarge; source)

Here's another, showing the extent of the affected area:

As the source states, "Subdiction of the Juan de Fuca plate beneath the North American plate results in the formation of the Cascade Range." Click to enlarge.

And another showing the elevations:

Portland sits between the Oregon Coast Range and the Cascade Range (click to enlarge; source).

If a full rupture occurs, the impact will be devastating: "that region will suffer the worst natural disaster in the history of North America" writes Schultz.
Roughly three thousand people died in San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake. Almost two thousand died in Hurricane Katrina. Almost three hundred died in Hurricane Sandy. FEMA projects that nearly thirteen thousand people will die in the Cascadia earthquake and tsunami. Another twenty-seven thousand will be injured, and the agency expects that it will need to provide shelter for a million displaced people, and food and water for another two and a half million. “This is one time that I’m hoping all the science is wrong, and it won’t happen for another thousand years,” Murphy says.
Devastation aside, the science on this is fascinating. Schultz writes, "Thirty years ago, no one knew that the Cascadia subduction zone had ever produced a major earthquake. Forty-five years ago, no one even knew it existed." If you want to skip to that part, find the sentence that starts, "Almost all of the world’s most powerful earthquakes occur in the Ring of Fire" and continue from there. The study of the "ghost forest" on the banks of the Copalis River and the tale it told to alert researchers makes terrific reading.

There's much more here than I can quote comfortably — the detective work that revealed the date of the last "really big one" ("approximately nine o’ clock at night on January 26, 1700"); the lack of preparation, and the cost of preparing properly to respond to an emergency of this scale.

FEMA, Disaster Preparation and Our Billionaires

Which is where I want to add a word of my own. Funding FEMA, of course, to an adequate level is a first priority. Yet we live in a time of pathological billionaires, rulers of both parties, who don't want to spend the first spare dime on any class of people but their own. The arrogance of this class, from Donald Trump to Sheldon Adelson to Jamie Dimon, is astounding — I may have some comparison video shortly. Left or right, they're mainly all the same. If you watched the Trump vs. Ramos video, you watched them all in action.

As with their arrogance, so their self-dealing. Americans are forced to use increasingly service-cutting, space-cutting airlines for long-distance travel because "our betters" say they can't afford to raise Amtrak to anything close to European standards. (Have you ridden an American passenger train lately along any but the DC–New England corridor?) Yet here's how the very very rich take to the air, financed, if they can get it, by corporate tax loopholes and compensation extras.

If they "can't afford" to give us good trains, bridges, or roadways, how will this class ever allow us to prepare for an emergency on the scale described here?

We seem to be stuck, until we don't want to be. Talk about a tectonic subduction zone — the rule of this class is a global "sticking point" of monstrous proportions. The pressure, on them and on us, to keep things as they are is enormous. I'm afraid the consequences — political, social, environmental, climatological — of coming "unstuck" from our own ruling class will be monstrous as well.

I guess this was a political story after all.

GP

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The Murderous NRA... And The Democrats

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92% of voters-- that's 98% of Democratic voters and 86% of Republican voters-- agree that there should be universal background checks for gun purchases. Even 92% of gun owners are on board with that. 91% of gun owners also say that there should be laws to prevent people with mental illness from buying guns. This week, PPP surveyed New Hampshire voters and found only 9% opposed to universal background checks on gun buyers. In New Hampshire 96% of Democrats, 82% of independents and 79% of Republicans want background checks. So why are Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Republican Rep. Frank Guinta so adamantly opposed to background checks?

Mike Thompson, a Napa Blue Dog and gun owner, says, "The only thing standing in the way of it passing is the Republican Majority in the House... [I]f the Republican Majority would allow a vote, my bill would pass." It didn't pass; Boehner, at the behest of the gun manufacturers' lobbyist group, the NRA, refused to allow it to come to a vote

In fact, there hasn't been a vote on gun legislation on the floor of the House since 2011, and that was to hamper the feds from investigating gun crimes committed with semi-automatic weapons, an amendment that was introduced by Oklahoma Blue Dog Dan Boren (who was subsequently forced to retire from Congress or face defeat). 41 mostly conservative Democrats voted for it along with all the Republicans, and it passed, 277-149

Most of the Democrats who did the NRA's bidding that day were, like Boren, driven out of Congress. But not all of them. Still in the House today:
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)
Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)
Pete DeFazio (OR)
Gene Green (TX)
Brian Higgins (NY)
Ron Kind (New Dem-WI)
Ben Ray Luján (DCCC Chairman)
Ed Perlmutter (New Dem-CO)
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)
Jared Polis (New Dem-CO)
Dutch Ruppersberger (MD)
Tim Ryan (OH)
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)
Adam Smith (New Dem-WA)
Tim Walz (MN)
Peter Welch (VT)
At the time, Boren justified his pandering to the NRA by saying:
Last December, ATF published an emergency request…It asked… for the power to collect information from firearms retailers on all sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles within five consecutive business days. This would include many of today's most popular rifles used by millions of Americans for self-defense, hunting, and other lawful purposes.…I strongly oppose granting ATF this information-collecting authority for three reasons: first, it would subject responsible firearms sellers who are often small business owners to burdensome reporting requirements. Second, ATF would catalog records on Americans who purchase rifles, thereby compromising their privacy. And, finally, ATF lacks legal authority to collect this information.
Judy Chu, a Los Angeles-area progressive, spoke for almost all Democrats when she explained why she opposed Boren's murderous NRA amendment:
Thirty thousand. That's how many people were violently slaughtered by the Mexican drug cartels in just 4 short years. One of them was Bobby Salcedo, an American citizen and rising star from my district. He was kidnapped and murdered last year with a semiautomatic rifle. I oppose this amendment because it makes it harder to stop these types of violent acts. This amendment will prevent the tracing of bulk sales of the military-style rifles, popular with cartels, that have resulted in tragic murders like Bobby's. Last year, the U.S. military announced that, if the drug war continues, it could cause the Mexican Government to collapse, and the cartel war could spread over the border into the U.S. This amendment makes the drug war worse. Every day, people are dying from this war, even American citizens. We must stop it, and we can by opposing this amendment.
Almost every Republican scored a ZERO from ProgressivePunch for their lifetime voting record on gun safety. No big surprise. But today there are 4 Democrats who score that same ZERO: Bill Foster (New Dem-IL), Gene Green (TX), Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) and Dina Titus (NV).

Last cycle alone, the NRA gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republicans in Congress and running for Congress. Again, no surprise. But the NRA also spent money on Democratic shills for their blood-soaked agenda. Many, like hideous Georgia Blue Dog John Barrow (in the video above), were defeated. But still in Congress today, taking NRA blood money and with their heads up the NRA's ass, are:
Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA)- $3,500
Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX)- $1,000
Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN)- $5,950
Kurt Schrader (Blue Dog-OR)- $2,000
Tim Walz (MN)- $2,000
Yes, it's easy to demonize Republicans for the gun violence in this country-- easy and appropriate-- but this is a somewhat bipartisan holocaust, even if Republicans in Congress are overwhelmingly more to blame.

Yesterday I got a frantic plea for money from conservative Arizona New Dem Ann Kirkpatrick. She's running for the Senate against the worthless John McCain. But she's pretty worthless herself-- another "Democrat" with an "A" rating from the NRA. And Schumer recruited her to run for the Senate. Why? So she can vote for the NRA's toxic, deathly agenda. Her e-mail missive said, "We could flip the Senate," but she didn't mention that she would be "flipping" it more in favor of the NRA. And she isn't the only Senate candidate Schumer recruited who is beloved of the NRA. In Ohio, Ted Strickland has been a forever supporter of the NRA, and unlike Kirkpatrick, who they rated "A," they gave Strickland an A+.

The NRA rarely endorses Democrats over Republicans but sometimes a Democrat is so subservient to them that they just go for it. And that was the case in 2010 when they backed pet Democrat Ted Strickland and his losing campaign over Republican John Kasich. Both the NRA and the Buckeye Firearms Association scored Strickland an A+ that year-- again, not an A, a much more coveted and rare A+.

What, exactly, did Strickland do to endear himself so to the gun lobbyists? Here are a few examples of his fealty to the murder machine:
Voted YES on prohibiting product misuse lawsuits on gun manufacturers
Voted YES on prohibiting suing gunmakers & sellers for gun misuse
Wrote that he opposes restrictions on the right to bear arms in a survey for the Christian Coalition in 2010
On the 1996 National Political Awareness Test, he indicated that he supports the principle of repealing all bans and measures that restrict law-abiding citizens from owning legally-obtained firearms.
And that barely touches the surface of the mutual admiration society between Strickland and the gun industry.
Ted Strickland has a pro-gun voting record in Congress. As such, he was endorsed by both the NRA and Buckeye Firearms Association in his party primary last May. In the early days of his gubernatorial campaign in Ohio, he spoke out against a Columbus ban on most semi-automatic rifles that cost the city $20 million in convention revenue, voiced support for Ohio's two year-old concealed carry law, and told legislators they should pass a bill which would prevent municipal gun control laws and make firearms laws uniform across the state.
The progressive Democrat running for the Ohio Senate seat held by Rob Portman is Blue America-endorsed PG Sittenfeld. This morning we asked him how he would differ from Portman and Strickland on issues around gun safety.
In the Senate, I will fight for common sense gun safety measures, starting with universal background checks with no gun show loopholes. Senseless killings by people who never should have had a gun in the first place must stop, and it's going to take more senators willing to stand up and do what's right  to make that happen.
If you'd like to help make sure Sittenfeld beats the NRA's Ohio Tweedle-Dum and Tweddle-Dee, you can do that right here. Needless to say, the big establishment money is all flowing to Portman and Strickland, so whatever you can spare would be immensely appreciated. Democrats can whine about gun violence till the cows come home, but as long as the party machinery is promoting NRA shills like Strickland and Kirkpatrick, nothing will ever change.


UPDATE: Report From Congress

A progressive Member of Congress read the post above and e-mailed me that I forgot to mention someone who deserved recognition for his efforts on behalf of the NRA, "Zach Space, who did far worse than vote for NRA stuff; he actually lined up votes for it." Now a lobbyist, Space was a 2 term Blue Dog from Ohio who "won" Bob Ney's seat after Ney withdrew from the race and pleaded guilty to taking bribes from Jack Abramoff (for which he went to prison). The NRA gave Space a rare A+ rating and endorsed his reelection campaign against eventual Republican victor Bob Gibbs.
As a member of Congress, Space has demonstrated his commitment to our Second Amendment rights by cosponsoring legislation to restore self-defense rights in our nation's capital, as well as signing the pro-gun congressional amicus brief to the Supreme Court supporting our individual right to keep and bear arms in the Heller case. Additionally, he is the lead sponsor of legislation to force much-needed reform of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and cosponsored the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity amendment, which would provide a national standard for carrying concealed firearms.  Space also signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder opposing re-enactment of the failed 1994 ban on semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines.

Furthermore, Space voted for an amendment that ensures access to federally-owned or administered lands for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting, as well as an amendment that allows carry permit holders to carry concealed in national parks and wildlife refuges. Most recently, he signed the pro-gun congressional amicus brief arguing that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that protects all Americans in the McDonald case.

Zack Space's commitment to preserving our right to keep and bear arms has earned him an "A+" rating and the endorsement of the NRA-PVF.
Although Space massively outspent Gibbs in the 2010 election-- $2,931,978 to $1,090,872-- Gibbs beat him 54-40% because Democratic base voters had gotten wise to Space's conservatism and refused to show up and vote for him again. Chris Hollen, then head of the DCCC was determined to save Space-- and the other pro-NRA Democrats-- and wasted $1,559,434 on the race, while allowing progressive incumbents to sink beneath the waves of a Koch brothers spending tsunami.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Are There Congressman As Insane And Racist As Trump? How About In Los Angeles?

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The GOP sure attracts the nut cases-- Steve Knight, Donald Trump

Lindsey Graham was one of the Republican presidential hopefuls yesterday who lashed out at Trump over his pandering to the racists who are celebrating his anti-immigrant mania. "If he becomes the nominee, we’ll get killed," he told CNN yesterday.
[T]he policies that Mr. Trump is proposing are demagoguery. His approach to describing legal immigrants are hurting us with Hispanics. The way he attacks women is going to be a death blow to the future of our party. Come to South Carolina and I’ll beat his brains out... Donald Trump is not going to be the nominee of the Republican Party. If he is, that’s the end of the Republican party... then we’ll lose. We’ll lose, and we should lose. 65 percent of the Hispanic community in this country, legal Hispanics, find Mr. Trump offensive. I find him offensive. When he attacks Megyn Kelly, a lot of young women think, well, why would you do that? I find that offensive? where is the party leadership? Is that our position as a party?
And Jeb tried his hand at undermining the Trump blitzkrieg too but didn't get too far; he's a low-energy guy, as you know. The problem with the Trump plan," whined Jeb, "is it’s not a conservative plan and it’s not practical. It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. It doesn’t embrace American values.

But in reality, Trump has dragged almost the whole party-- including Jeb-- along with him into the anti-Latino (and anti-Asian) camp. Candidates like Graham and Jeb, though, say Trump's crackpot proposal, largely written by Sen. Jeff Sessions (KKK-AL), can never get through Congress. They're probably correct. But there are, of course, more Republican congressmembers than just Steve King who are totally on board with Trump on his ugly racism. In fact, one of them is Steve Knight, a Republican freshman from Palmdale (CA-25).

Knight has been relatively quiet since getting to Congress last year. But he was a member of the California legislature from 2008 until 2015, and as an assemblyman and then a state senator he was very outspoken and proud to wave the racist flag whenever he could, even voting against the images of the Confederate flag being removed from state property in 2014. He was one of only three out-and-out racists in the whole California Senate--the other two crackpots being Tim Donnelly and Joel Anderson-- to vote no. (Only one member of the Assembly voted no.)

Knight's voting record would be ultra-conservative if he represented a backward district in Alabama or Mississippi. In suburban L.A., it's just bizarre and a throwback to another century. Widely considered a shill for the NRA and an automaton for the most extreme right-wing proposals that ever come up in Sacramento, Knight was one of only 11 senators who voted against increasing the minimum wage, and despite representing a district with a huge Hispanic population, he was one of only 8 senators who voted against driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. When the governor decided to expand Medicaid in line with the Affordable Care Act, only 7 die-hard right-wingers opposed it, Knight being one of them. He was also one of only 8 senators to fully back unregulated fracking in earthquake zones in California. He is vehemently anti-Choice and anti-gay and voted against every piece of legislation promoting equality that has ever come before him. For example, he was one of only 9 senators to vote against a bipartisan bill that prohibits tax-exempt status for organizations that discriminate against the LGBT community, and he was also one one of only 7 sociopaths who opposed an anti-bullying bill that passed the Senate with huge bipartisan support.

This cycle, Blue America has endorsed Lou Vince in CA-25, a former marine and LAPD officer. When he declared his candidacy he told voters in Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the Antelope Valley that as a congressman he will be committed to...
Protecting Social Security and Medicare
Making college affordable
Raising the minimum wage
Reforming the banking system to protect our economy
Fighting against unfair trade deals
Rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure
Protecting our local environment and passing legislation to curb climate change
Fighting for our civil liberties and civil rights
Protecting marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose"
The DCCC has shown little interest in winning in this newly blue district. They're doing squat for Lou, latest in a long series of Democrats running in the district who have been undermined and sabotaged by a clueless DCCC. But it's a winnable district in an area with an increasing Democratic voter registration advantage. Trump will probably never be President. Help Lou Vince replace a congressman who is at least as bad as Trump-- here on this page.

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Yeah, it's almost September, but still, let's hear it for the Good Humor Man!

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It's the Good Humor Man, c1950 -- practically a religious figure, or maybe a better-than-religious figure, depending on your perspective.

by Ken

Like the good folks at Inside the Apple, with their "Postcard Thursday," the folks at the Brooklyn Historical Society send out a weekly photo, in their case drawing on the august BHS photo archives. And while it seems as if there were some mighty hot times over the last couple of months when we could more specifically have thrilled to the magic of ice cream, in these precincts ice cream is something like a free pass -- it's good for anything and everything. And, as it happens, in my childhood the Good Humor Man was just this side of a religious icon. Actually, if I'd had the temerity then to feel about religion the way I've come to feel about, I would have rated the Good Humor Man a better-than-divine figure.

Come on, if you could shake some money out of your parents, the Good Humor Man gave you ice cream.

Here's BHS digitalization associate Tess Colwell on this week's photo:
I rarely see an ice cream truck around Brooklyn that isn’t Mr. Softee, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across this photograph from the Harry Kalmus collection. In this photo of the week, children are getting ice cream from a Good Humor truck, sometime around 1950. I love the moment in this photograph—all the children lined up along the curb with ice cream in hand, and one child carefully deciding from the list of options pictured on the truck.

This photograph comes from the Harry Kalmus photographs collection that features over 13,000 photographs taken by Kalmus from 1938-1987. Kalmus was a long time Brooklynite and professional photographer, documenting primarily weddings and bar mitzvahs in Brooklyn. Most of Kalmus’s photographs are not digitized, but if you visit the Othmer Library, you can see our online catalogue that showcases thousands of his photographs.
Visit the BHS website here.

The ice cream truck is not just for kids!
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Just 3 Days Left To Enter The Ice-T Gold Record Contest

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Blue America is at the tail end of a fundraising effort on behalf of Alex Law, the progressive Democrat running against South Jersey Machine incumbent Donald Norcross, brother of notoriously corrupt party boss George Norcross. Since being installed in Congress by his brother in 2014-- after the corrupt old Machine hack was driven out by scandal-- Donald Norcross has been a dependable vote for many of John Boehner's worst policies. His first vote in Congress was for the Keystone XL Pipeline. And after an AIPAC-funded trip to Israel, he returned to Cherry Hill in his district with GOP warmonger Tom MacArthur to announce he would vote with the Republicans against the Iran agreement.

Alex Law, the first Democratic congressional candidate anywhere in the country to endorse Bernie Sanders, is as different as a Democrat could be from Donald Norcross. He backs the Iran deal, opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline and is all about helping ordinary middle-class Jerseyites fulfill their legitimate aspirations while taking on the Big Money special interests that call the shots for the the Norcross brothers.

Blue America will thank one randomly selected donor to Alex's campaign (on this page) by sending them a rare, collectible RIAA-certified gold record for Ice-T's album, O.G., Original Gangster. Ice-T, a resident of New Jersey, is now best known as an actor, but in the '90s he was an inspirational rapper who was an early incarnation of what is now called the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

In Alex's own words,
The #BlackLivesMatter movement is something that expresses the continued frustration around the idea that some people in our society exist under different rules than other people. This is the same kind of frustration that Ice-T's music expressed 25 years ago. I am working to do everything I can to find real solutions to these problems, such as unfair drug policy, income inequality, and education disparity.

I think we need to legalize marijuana, as it is one of the biggest tools used by overzealous police forces to imprison young African-American males at a rate astronomically higher than young white males. I think we need to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour so that people can work at a livable wage. I think we need to make college more affordable for everyone, so that in America everyone, not just the privileged, has the opportunity to better themselves.

The frustrations expressed by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Ice-T are incredibly real and the problems are daunting. But I am going to work as hard as I can to help.
Any contribution for Alex Law's grassroots campaign on our Blue America ActBlue page that comes in before Sunday night at 9pm will make the donor eligible for the thank you gift from Blue America. As Alex told us last week,
I am running against Donald Norcross in next year's primary because he represents the worst in American politics: catering to special interests, machine political corruption, and voting with the Republicans constantly despite his Democratic district. We are lean and we are grassroots, but ultimately, we will win this election.
One more thing. If you want to enter the "contest," but find yourself a little strapped for cash, just send us a postcard and tell us you want the Ice-T gold record, and you'll have as much chance to win as anyone else. Send the card-- ASAP-- to Blue America, PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027. And meanwhile, learn more about the Norcross brothers and their predatory political machine, which has done so much to tarnish New Jersey's reputation, here:



 

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Windows 10: Spyware Disguised as an Operating System

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by Gaius Publius

If you're like me and work on a Windows-based system, you get these popups from time to time offering to "upgrade" you to Windows 10, Microsoft's latest and greatest, for free. Normally these upgrades cost $100 or so.

Me, I'm still on Windows 7, since like many I consider Windows 8 both half-baked for professional use and a data-suck for entertainment use. About the first, it was clear when Windows 8 first came out that you couldn't do serious work using that "tiles" screen, and the "Desktop" screen was so like Windows 7, why not just stick with Windows 7, which, after the Vista disaster, actually worked?

About the second, it was also clear that almost everything the casual user wanted to do from that "tiles" screen required (or strongly encouraged the use of) a "Microsoft account" — clearly an attempt to jump-start a massive Microsoft database to compete with Steve Jobs' "Apple account" database.

Most large businesses I work with have avoided Windows 8, and most new systems, like the one I'm using now, can even today be bought with Windows 7. In short, Windows 8, like Vista, was a failure. Windows 7 "fixed" Vista. Would Windows 10 "fix" Windows 8?

I decided to find out. And it didn't take long to discover that Windows 10 is not only worse than Windows 8, it is worse in a worse way. It's one thing to install an application that spies on you. It's another when that spyware application you just installed is the operating system, and controls the whole machine.

Is Windows 10 Worth Installing?

The answer is No, if you're asking me. In fact, it's worth never installing. I'd avoid it until the final minute you're forced to change, and even then, you should hesitate to upgrade. Reason? Under its default settings, Windows 10 is widely reported to be spyware, an operating system that watches you work, even offline, and reports back to Microsoft anything it feels like reporting. If you approve the licensing agreement — and how can you use any software without clicking "I Agree"? — you're giving Microsoft permission to collect any data they can get (based on your settings) and share it in any way they want.

Windows 10 is the ultimate privacy violator — an operating system that wants to watch everything you do and send back whatever it finds or figures out about you.

Windows 10: A Microsoft Spy That Runs Your Computer

I have no direct evidence of this, since I've not seen the OS, nor will I ever attempt to install or use it. But the reports are many. Here's one, posted to LinkedIn (a LinkedIn account may be required; my emphasis except where noted):
Windows 10 – Microsoft’s Big Data-grabbing (or spying?) OS

It’s been a couple of weeks since the launch of Windows 10 and the numerous voices raising concerns over privacy and how it uses personal data are not getting any quieter.

Many of the concerns stem from the fact that if users follow the software’s recommendations and stick to default settings while installing their free upgrade, they are effectively giving Microsoft permission to directly monitor pretty much everything they do on their machines. This includes offline activity such as editing files stored locally in private folders on your computer, as well as everything you do online.

It doesn’t stop there, though. As well as monitoring and storing records of this activity, people installing the upgrade are - perhaps unknowingly if like many they have become complacent about reading privacy policies – giving Microsoft permission to share it with unspecified “partners”, for unspecified reasons.

Although the terms and conditions are incredibly vague about why they are doing this, it’s become clear there are several reasons. These include collecting personal data for targeted advertising purposes (by Microsoft or their partners) as well as to gain a deeper understanding of how their products are being put to use by their millions of users.

Privacy in the cloud

Windows 10, running under its default settings, is clearly designed to learn as much about us as it can. The rapid spread of cloud-based software-as-a-service platforms, such as Microsoft’s own Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Suite, has introduced us all to the idea of software providers gathering data on how we use their products. However integrating this kind of monitoring into the core of the OS (Operating System) takes things to a whole new level. We might have got used to the idea that our activity within the container of a certain program or service is being analysed somewhere, by someone, for some reason. But the fact that this level of scrutiny is now applied to everything we do on our computers is causing many commentators and online security experts to issue warnings.

Even the contents of your emails and documents stored in private, offline folders can be subject to scrutiny and “disclosure” (to unspecified parties), according to the wording of Microsoft’s privacy policies. Of course, it’s quickly become apparent that this is why Microsoft, which has traditionally charged users around $100 to upgrade to the latest version of their OS has, in an uncharacteristic act of generosity, given it away for free. $100 multiplied by the 14 million who updated in the first day alone is clearly a lot of revenue for them to pass up on. However, while the strategical soundness of some of Microsoft’s recent actions have been questioned, this was far from a stupid move on their part. And there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Of course Microsoft want payment for using their services, only this time they are happy to take it in personal data rather than cash.
There's more, including information about the Personal Advertising ID, a unique identifier that will follow you onto any MS system you use, including Xbox:
One new concept users are becoming aware of is the Personal Advertising ID. Every user on every installation of Windows 10 is assigned one of these, and if you use other Microsoft devices such as a phone, tablet or Xbox games console, your data will be scooped up from those too. By default, details on every web site you visit, your physical location, every command you type or speak to the computer and countless other data points are recorded and uploaded to Microsoft. From there, they will be shared with producers of apps you download and give permission to run on your system, as well as advertisers.
And yes, there's even more bad news than that.

Windows 10 Wants to Share Your Wi-Fi Connection with Your Contacts

Here's another intrusion. Windows 10 wants to give users near you access to your Wi-Fi connection. This comes from Krebs on Security (emphasis in original; some links removed so as not to encourage upgrading):
Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi With Contacts

Starting today, Microsoft is offering most Windows 7 and Windows 8 users a free upgrade to the software giant’s latest operating system — Windows 10. But there’s a very important security caveat that users should know about before transitioning to the new OS: Unless you opt out, Windows 10 will by default prompt to you share access to WiFi networks to which you connect with any contacts you may have listed in Outlook and Skype — and, with an opt-in, your Facebook friends.

This brilliant new feature, which Microsoft has dubbed Wi-Fi Sense, doesn’t share your WiFi network password per se — it shares an encrypted version of that password. But it does allow anyone in your Skype or Outlook or Hotmail contacts lists to waltz onto your Wi-Fi network — should they ever wander within range of it or visit your home (or hop onto it secretly from hundreds of yards away with a good ‘ole cantenna!).

I first read about this over at The Register, which noted that Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense FAQ seeks to reassure would-be Windows 10 users that the Wi-Fi password will be sent encrypted and stored encrypted — on a Microsoft server. According to PCGamer, if you use Windows 10’s “Express” settings during installation, Wi-Fi Sense is enabled by default.

“For networks you choose to share access to, the password is sent over an encrypted connection and stored in an encrypted file on a Microsoft server, and then sent over a secure connection to your contacts’ phone if they use Wi-Fi Sense and they’re in range of the Wi-Fi network you shared,” the FAQ reads. ...
There's a yes-but noted further in the article — Yes, but you have to opt in on a network-by-network basis. However, as the original writer notes, "many users are conditioned to click 'yes' to these prompts, and shared networks will be shared to all Facebook, Outlook, and Skype contacts (users can’t pick individual contacts; the access is shared with all contacts on a social network)."

Here's my yes-but to Microsoft — Yes, but why in god's earth do you want this information in the first place?

The Functionality of "Cortana" Comes With a Privacy Price

"Cortana" is Microsoft's name for its Siri-like "digital assistant." The problem is, to "serve" you better, Cortana learns everything it can about you (my emphasis):
Cortana is a personal digital assistant, a kind of silicon secretary who can help make your life easier. Instead of searching for things you ask Cortana - so if you want to know what the weather forecast is, how many pounds are in a kilo, who's winning the football or when Jim's birthday is, you'll ask and Cortana will give you the answer. ...

Cortana is designed to learn about you and store what matters in her Notebook. That means she'll silence your phone during your favoured quiet times, warn you about travel issues and remind you that your friends owe you money. ...

Cortana won't just listen to you, she'll understand you, and she'll be aware of everything from your location to your personal preferences.

So when you ask her to book a hotel, she'll find the kind of hotel you like in the kind of area you like to stay in at the kind of price you want to pay. If you're in an airport she'll anticipate that you need a boarding card and will have it ready when you unlock your phone.
To disable all that data collection, you apparently have to disable Cortana, though I'm not sure even that will disable the spying — and given Microsoft's history, I would never trust them to tell me the truth anyway.

Edward Snowden's famous PRISM slide. Notice the date of Microsoft's collusion.

There were even stories, unsearchable now, of Microsoft using Windows 3 to spy on its beta-test customers, to read their hard disks and report what it found. I can't verify those stories today, but I can verify that I heard them at the time.

Paying a Price for the iHipster Life

Will the current generation of Steve Jobs–loving, faux-hipster iCool people surrender all that privacy for a little "convenience" and some implied in-crowd self-branding? According to the original article above, 14 million people updated to Windows 10 in the first day alone. At $100 per registration, Microsoft surrendered almost $1.5 billion to get something from them.

What did Microsoft give back? Something like this?

iHipsters working at a control-freak company. Apple's counter-factual self-branding is brilliant (source).

My entirely personal advice? The hipsters are paying a very heavy price. Never use Windows 10 until you know for sure it can never spy on you. And even then give it a second thought. Make Microsoft and the NSA work to find out every fact of your online and offline life.

If they want to know what days you sleep in and why, make them come to the door and ask.

GP

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The Republican Party's Newest War-- Against Megyn Kelly?

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Did they make a deal?

I have to admit that I don't know where Fox News is on my television set. I found it-- for the first time-- when they hosted the first Republican debate, but I've forgotten where it is. The debate was the first time I ever saw Megan Kelly too-- although I recall that when Rove was on Fox, still claiming Romney beat Obama on Election Night, she asked him if there was a special Republican math he was using to make himself and like-minded delusionals feel better. 

She used to be an attorney, and I thought she asked some pretty tough questions relative to the softballs I assumed all the hosts would be tossing at the candidates. But I didn't think much about her until Donald Trump launched his now infamous war against her. I remember reading-- on Crooks and Liars, I think-- that she had been making crackpot remarks about how Santa Claus and Jesus were white, and I assumed she didn't need to be paid any attention.

Foolishly-- I think, but who knows how strong the misogynistic impulse is within the Republican primary base?-- Trump couldn't just let it rest after his first dust-up with Fox over Kelly's aggressive questioning of him at the debate. He got right back into it when she returned from her unscheduled vacation, prompting Fox fuehrer Roger Ailes to demand, on Tuesday, that Trump apologize:
Donald Trump's surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing. Megyn Kelly represents the very best of American journalism and all of us at FOX News Channel reject the crude and irresponsible attempts to suggest otherwise. I could not be more proud of Megyn for her professionalism and class in the face of all of Mr. Trump’s verbal assaults. Her questioning of Mr. Trump at the debate was tough but fair, and I fully support her as she continues to ask the probing and challenging questions that all presidential candidates may find difficult to answer.

Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should. We have never been deterred by politicians or anyone else attacking us for doing our job, much less allowed ourselves to be bullied by anyone, and we’re certainly not going to start now. All of our journalists will continue to report in the fair and balanced way that has made FOX News Channel the number one news network in the industry.
Trump's clownish, childish response was, once again, that Kelly owes him an apology. But now it turns out that the fascist far right of the GOP is rallying around... Trump, not Kelly. The latest attack against her came from Trump's Texas suck-up, Ted Cruz. Soon after Ailes issued his demand for an apology from Trump, Cruz went after her for questioning him (Cruz) about his own extremist position on mass deportation-- and on her insistence that he just answer the question (which he refused to do).
“If you have a husband and wife who are illegal immigrants, and they have two children here who are American citizens-- would you deport all of them? Would you deport the American citizen children?” Kelly asked.


“Megyn, I get that that’s the question you want to ask,” Cruz said after repeatedly listing the steps Congress should take for addressing the issue. “That’s also the question every mainstream media liberal journalist wants to ask. They focus exclusively on 12 million people.”

Kelly then took issue with Cruz’s response, insisting that her question was fair.

“Is it an unfair question?” she asked the Texas lawmaker.

“It is a distraction from how we actually solve the problem,” Cruz responded. “You know, it’s also the question that [President] Barack Obama wants to focus on.”

“But why is it so hard? Why don’t you just say yes or no?” Kelly countered.
He told her he's "not playing that game." No, he has a far more crucial game he's playing-- how to add Trump's 40% to his own 7% in national polling. Cruz's need to stand behind Trump may win him favor from The Donald-- Trump always compliments him, some might say "pimps for him"-- but it could also get Cruz into trouble, not just with Fox News, but, as Greg Sargent pointed out in his Washington Post column Wednesday, with normal voters:
Trump’s GOP rivals should be pressed more on whether they agree with his vow to deport 11 million than on whether they agree with him on birthright citizenship, because the problem of what to do about the 11 million is the core dilemma underlying our impasse on this issue. Most of Trump’s GOP rivals continue to fudge on that core question.

But Kelly is absolutely right to note, in the context of the birthright citizenship debate, that Trump has answered questions “explicitly,” while Cruz won’t. This illustrates, once again, that Trump’s immigration plan, if you can call it that, has had the effect of making GOP evasions on the overall immigration issue much harder to sustain.
As for the right-wing bromance... "Cruz has been methodologically developing Trump’s support. The two candidates have met in person at least five times and talk by phone occasionally."
“In terms of Trump’s civility, if you’re nice to him, he’ll be nice to you. And Cruz has been nice. Cruz is playing the long game and hopes that if he survives and Trump doesn’t, the billionaire will swing to him. He’s the second choice for a lot of Trump voters,” said a source familiar with the inner workings of the Trump campaign.

“Cruz has been cultivating Donald for some time, declining to criticize him after the immigration flap or the McCain controversy, sending messages through operatives, dropping by Trump Tower when in New York,” the source continued.

The two draw from similar segments of the Republican primary electorate-- sometimes, almost too similar. In the video launching his presidential bid, Cruz made a passing reference to “make America great again,” which has since become the Trump campaign’s slogan. Trump applied for a trademark on the phrase shortly after the 2012 election.

The Texas senator’s use of the phrase, even in passing, prompted the Trump Organization to reach out and warn the Cruz camp in a friendly manner not to use it again, according to a Trump campaign insider.

The relationship has proved to be mutually beneficial for the two presidential candidates, but Cruz stands to benefit the most.

If Trump’s campaign were to flame out, it stands to reason that Cruz would be near the top of the list for potential endorsements. And even without an endorsement, Cruz would likely be a strong contender for Trump supporters looking for a new candidate to support. Cruz’s PAC also received money from Trump: a $5,000 donation in 2014.

“Cruz is being very sly,” the Trump campaign insider said. “[He] attracts the same types of voter. A lot of second-choice voters for Trump are Cruz people… Cruz wants those votes.” 

In Cruz, Trump has a prominent politician who is willing to defend his comments. He may even have, in his mind, a potential running mate.

After Trump said during his campaign launch that Mexican “rapists” and “killers” were migrating to the United States, Cruz stepped up to defend the comments.

“I like Donald Trump. I think he’s terrific, I think he’s brash, I think he speaks the truth,” Cruz said on Fox News.



UPDATE: Rickie Martin Weighs In On Trump

Latin music superstar Rickie Martin, born in Puerto Rico, is no fan of Trump's. He penned an OpEd, in Spanish for Univision. Here's part of the translation:
The fact that an individual like Donald Trump, a candidate for the presidency of the United States for the Republican party, has the audacity to continue to gratuitously harass the Latin community makes my blood boil.

When did this character assume he could make comments that are racist, absurd, and above all incoherent and ignorant about us Latinos?

From the beginning his intention was transparent: basically tell barbarities and lies to remain relevant in the public opinion, for votes or simply to stay on the media’s radar.

Yesterday’s episode against journalist Jorge Ramos, one of the most beloved and respected Latinos in world media, has gotten to the point of enough is enough.

...This action from Trump doesn’t surprise me, what does surprise me is that as Hispanics we continue to accept the aggressions and accusations of people like him who attack our dignity.

Enough is enough!

If we are united for some things we should be united for others. We have already shown the United States who we are and we cannot allow this behavior.

We have to defeat the power that Trump pretends to have over Latinos, anchored in low rhetoric and xenophobic speech, which his campaign team is convinced works for him.

Let’s show that our Latin race is to be respected, let’s not allow a political hopeful to plant his campaign in insult and humiliation. Let’s demand respect for those first generations of Latinos who came to the United States and opened a path for us. We have fought for every right that we have today.

Xenophobia as a political strategy is the lowest you can go in search of political power.

This is an issue that unites us and we need to battle it together, not just for us but for the evolution of humanity and those to come.
That will probably help the massive voter registration efforts going on in communities with big immigrant communities. This isn't only going to rebound on Trump, either, but damage the entire GOP ticket from top to bottom.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Let's not deprive the NRA of credit for the near-certainly that we won't have any serious debate about gun control

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[Click to enlarge.]

by Ken

I don't suppose there are champagne corks popping today at NRA HQ. They're too modest. But even though today's incident notched only two more casualties, the fact that it happened on live TV was a big win for gun nuttery. Just like the upcoming presidential election seems finally have to have been hijacked by the reality-substitute unreality of "reality TV," so now have the gun nuts invaded the tube.

I have no interest in looking at, and certainly no intention of reproducing, any images from this morning events. So instead I've given you the "title graph" from Georgetown poli sci Assoc. Prof. Danny Hayes's washingtonpost.com post this afternoon, "Why it's so hard to pass gun control (in one graph)."

Personally, I hate this whole miserable genre of "such-and-such explained in one graph" posts, because not only do they hardly ever explain such-and-such, they usually manage to obfuscate what we knew before their "one graph." So while what Professor Hayes has to say is all true enough, and I certainly agree with his conclusion that today's incident isn't likely to lead to any serious push for sanity in our gun policies, what's missing from his piece pretty well disqualifies his undertaking as a serious effort to "explain" why it's so hard to pass gun-control laws.

I'm sure you'll spot what's missing too (lots more links onsite):
With another shooting capturing the headlines today, the debate over gun control will once again make its way back into the news.

Indeed, within hours of the on-air killing of two Roanoke television journalists, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a call for stronger gun regulations. “We’ve got, in America, we’ve got to come together,” McAuliffe said. “There’s too much gun violence in the United States of America.”

Will this be the incident that leads to reforms that gun control advocates have for years pushed for? Will public support for tighter regulations translate into meaningful legislation this time?

Recent history says we should be doubtful. Not only do numerous political interests make it difficult to enact gun control legislation, but without major efforts by politicians themselves, the gun debate is likely to fade quickly from public view.

That’s because of what’s known as the “issue attention cycle.” Mass shootings often generate significant media coverage immediately after they occur. But as time goes by, journalists move on to other stories, leading the public to grow less concerned with gun control.

This is what happened in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. As the graph below shows, news coverage of gun control in the nation’s newspapers surged in the shooting’s aftermath, but declined quickly through 2013.

It was only executive action by President Obama and the U.S. Senate debate over a background check bill that kept the story in the news. Once politicians in Washington quit fighting, media coverage of the issue mostly disappeared. Not even a national tour by former representative Gabby Giffords or the Navy Yard shooting in Washington managed to hold the media’s attention.

This recent history – a pattern also evident in other mass shootings – suggests that a sustained debate over gun control after today’s shooting in Franklin County, Va., is likely only if McAuliffe or other politicians decide to take up the cause. Otherwise, the media and the public will turn their attention to other issues.

MISSING, OF COURSE, IS MENTION OF THE NRA

Technically, the NRA isn't entirely missing. It is, in fact, in the one link that I included -- the one where Professor Hayes remarks in passing that "numerous political interests make it difficult to enact gun control legislation." If you didn't follow that link, you may be surprised to learn that it's to another of those goddamn "such-and-such explained in one graph" posts -- a Sunlight Foundation post by Lee Drutman ("prepared in collaboration with Alexander Furnas and Amy Cesal") from Dec. 17, 2012 (three days after the Sandy Hook school gun massacre), "Explaining the power of the National Rifle Association, in one graph."

A quick graph count doesn't bolster the post's credibility. It came, not with "one graph," but with two bar charts, comparing "Election Spending" and "Lobbying Expenditures" by the NRA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The accompanying estimate was that the NRA has spent 73 times what the Brady Campaign has.

Nevertheless, Lee Drutman had his target squarely in sight. Here's how he began:
In the wake of the tragic shooting in Newtown, one of the emerging debates is whether there will even be a debate. Past mass shootings have come and gone without any action. Many argue that the reason for this inaction is simple:  politicians have been afraid to take on the National Rifle Association, the large and influential pro-gun lobby that spent at least $18.6 million this past election cycle - $11.1 million through its Political Victory Fund, plus $7.5 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action.

As CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer put it,  “Congress is literally afraid to take on the National Rifle Association because they know that if they make any kind of statement [that] even suggests some sort of limits on gun control, the NRA is going to pour, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars in a campaign to defeat them."

(Read about the 51 percent of lawmakers in the 113th Congress who have received campaign contributions from the NRA)

Here are the data: The NRA has spent 73 times what the leading pro-gun control advocacy organization, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has spent on lobbying in the 112th Congress ($4.4 million to $60,000, through the second quarter of 2012), and 3,199 times what the Brady Campaign spent on the 2012 election ($18.6 million to $5,816). (One caveat on the data is that the NRA itself does a very poor job of accurately reporting its spending, and we must rely on its self-reports.)
Note that the parenthetical link about "the 51 percent of lawmakers in the 113th Congress who have received campaign contributions from the NRA" was to a follow-up post that Lee wrote -- "in collaboration with Alexander Furnas and Amy Cesai" -- on December 18: "NRA's allegiances reach deep into Congress."

Note too that Lee himself saw a limitation in the explanatory power of the two bar charts.
What these numbers don't capture is that the NRA boasts a grassroots  list of millions of voters and the resources to mobilize these voters at even the slightest threat of gun control laws. Gun control advocates have nothing that comes close. In 2012, the NRA spent at least $682,595 on communication costs, that is, political messages to its own members.

When it comes to the debate on gun policy, Congress is only hearing from one side.
Lee also wrote that it's "important to note that the NRA is not the sole pro-gun group," and added numbers from the Gun Owners of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which continued to dwarf the amount spent by "the only other explicitly pro-gun-control group we can find, Mayors Against Guns."

What's more, important as the money obviously is, it's still not the whole story of the gun lobby's power, which includes a mind meld with a sizable chunk of the American public, whose impact seems to me to carry well beyond the merely monetary. (Did I just say "merely monetary"? Actually, yes.)

And speaking of Sandy Hook, my takeaway from the utterly predictable political non-epilogue to those horrific shootings is that not only does the gun lobby no longer fear the possible public impact of such incidents, especially given their long experience at jumping in with instant spin, but they've learned that such incidents can be turned to their advantage with fund-raising campaigns about the supposedly looming threat to their supporters' gun "rights." Not to mention the propaganda campaign claiming that the real tragedy was lack of guns -- that Sandy Hook should, for example, have been overflowing with guns to prevent such an attack. (No, not in the hands of students. But teachers? You bet.)


ARE GOP POWER-BROKERS SMART ENOUGH TO FEAR
PEOPLE EXERCISING THEIR GUN "RIGHTS"? YES!


By sheer coincidence, just yesterday Scott Keyes compiled a terrific piece for ThinkProgress Justice: "Republicans Say You Should Be Able To Carry Guns Everywhere. This Proves They Don’t Mean It." Scott began:
“Get rid of gun free zones,” Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump tweeted after a gunman massacred five in Chattanooga last month. “Gun-free zones an easy target for killers” an opinion headline on Fox News read after a white supremacist shot up a black South Carolina church and killed nine. Conservative sites also blamed gun-free zones after massacres at multiple movie theaters and other shootings.

If conservatives are so convinced that gun-free zones attract killers, then why do so many conservative places and events ban guns?

Across the country, from conservative confabs to Republican presidential libraries and even to gun shows, loaded weapons are frequently prohibited. When an explanation is given, the reason is invariably for the safety of visitors.
And he proceeded to offer an annotated "list of some of these conservative places that ban loaded guns" (again, they're all discussed onsite):
Gun Shows
Political Conferences
George W. Bush Presidential Library
Republican Conventions
Trump Hotels And Golf Courses
NRA Events
Town Halls
Presidential Campaign Stops
GOP Debates
Congress
"Of course," Scott concluded, "there’s a good reason why many conservatives don’t actually want to have guns in their own areas or events."
Contrary [to] the NRA’s claims, the vast majority of mass shootings don’t happen in gun-free zones. There’s also no evidence that a mass shooter ever chose his target because it prohibited firearms.

Instead, study after study has shown that more guns leads to more killings. In addition, even armed civilian bystanders with good intentions of stopping a shooter can wind up exacerbating already violent situations, as nearly happened in the Giffords shooting. [Links onsite.]
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