Steve Phillips of The Nation has an interesting analysis on the prospects of the Democratic Party in 2018
If 84 percent of the people who voted Democratic in 2016 come back out and vote Democratic again in 2018, Democrats should be able to reclaim control of the House of Representatives. There is also a narrower path to recapturing control of the Senate, but that’s a topic for a future column (spoiler alert, the Senate path requires massive investment in and mobilization of Latinos in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas).
The results of the special elections in Kansas and Georgia have highlighted the path to victory in House races, but in order to seize this opportunity, progressives must focus their time, energy, and money on organizing and mobilizing core Democratic voters rather than squandering precious time and resources trying to convince Trump voters of the error of their ways.
Democrats need a net pickup of 24 House seats to re-take control, and there are 23 Republican incumbents in Congressional districts that were won by Hillary Clinton in November. There are another 5 seats where Clinton came within 2 percent of winning. Those 28 districts hold the key to retaking control of that chamber.
(click here to continue reading Democrats Can Retake the House in 2018 Without Converting a Single Trump Voter | The Nation.)
As somebody said on the internets (sic), the corporate media and the political chattering classes are treating the Trump base as if they are superdelegates. These reactionaries who voted for Trump despite all the warning signs of Trump’s incompetence are never going to be convinced to vote for progressive policies, why do we need to devote so much effort trying to cater to them? Are the Deplorables the only citizens who matter? Why not spend resources convincing the sometime voters who lean left to come to the polls instead?
More from Steve Phillips:
The essential mathematical concept that a shockingly large number of people in politics fail to understand is the difference between percentages and raw numbers. Reporters see that Tom Price, a Republican, received 60 percent of the vote in 2016 in the Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district and quickly conclude that the district is conservative. Percentages, however, are only of limited analytical utility (for example, if a stock price increases by 10 percent, that means a whole lot more to somebody who has a billion dollars of that stock—a $100 million increase in wealth—than it does to somebody who only has $100 and just gets a bump of just $10).
What the percentages masked in Georgia is that while the Democrat only received 38 percent of the vote in that district in 2016, that 38 percent equals 125,000 people. If Jon Ossoff had gotten 97,000 votes in the first round, we would now be calling him Congressman (and we may yet have that pleasure if his campaign mobilizes the core Democrats in the district in June). As it was, Ossoff received 92,000 votes and nearly pulled off the outright win.
This situation of high Democratic turnout making seats competitive enough to flip will replicate itself across the country heading into the 2018 midterm elections. If Republican turnout does fall significantly—as it has in the special elections and as it did during the last Republican presidential administration—then Democrats have a golden opportunity. Presuming a Republican decline of 36 percent—as occurred in 2006 during Bush’s presidency—then Democrats only need to get, on average, 84 percent of those who came out in 2016 to vote again in 2018.
While I am often frustrated by the Democratic Party’s centrism and lack of fire, I realize that the only way Trump’s corruption can get exposed is if the Democrats take control of chairmanships of major committes, which means the Dems have to win control of the House (and maybe the Senate too). Otherwise, the Republicans will continue stymie any real oversight of the Trumpies.
Everything If You Want Things
The Cheeto-in-Chief’s shoot from the hip governing style has struck again, this time screwing his big time buddies, the US coal industry. I giggled.
On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”
Today, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark dropped a bombshell tweet, saying, “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.” In a letter to Trudeau, she wrote:
For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.
Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.
Clark goes on to note the success of the Beyond Coal movement in shutting down coal terminals on the U.S. Pacific Coast:
As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.
Due to the lack of U.S. terminals, Clark says, U.S. exports through Canada have been increasing. Last year, she says, 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal moved through the Port of Vancouver, and the number was expected to increase in the future.
(click here to continue reading D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports | Sierra Club.)
a little background about the lumber dispute which led to the imposition of tariffs: doesn’t seem like it is that clear of a “win”.
The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply.
As a lumber producer, Canada enjoys a basic advantage over the United States: a timber inventory that’s 13 times greater, per capita, according to Daowei Zhang, a professor of forest economics and policy at Auburn University who has made a career of his own studying this never-ending kerfuffle. Canada’s resource endowment, plus exchange rates and many other economic factors, helps explain the rise of Canadian softwood-lumber imports from a mere 7 percent of the U.S. market during the Korean War to 30 percent or so in recent years.
U.S. producers emphasize the fact that Canada’s forests are government-owned, whereas most U.S. timber stands are on private land. Provincial agencies set the price loggers must pay — delightfully known as the “stumpage fee” — for cutting down pines and other conifers, a.k.a., “soft” wood. U.S. producers say that this results in below-market stumpage fees for Canadian loggers — or, as the U.S. industry contends, a subsidy.
A 2105 Congressional Research Service report called evidence on this point “widespread, but inconclusive.” The U.S. side has not fared well in international arbitration. Even so, Canada has agreed to a series of temporary market-sharing agreements, the most recent of which expired in the waning days of the Obama administration, thus freeing the Trump team to take its new position, whether in earnest or as posturing ahead of a NAFTA renegotiation remains to be seen.
The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!
Certainly, limiting imports of Canadian lumber, whether through tariffs or by negotiated agreement, will make U.S. housing more expensive, since Canada supplied roughly 31 percent of the U.S. market for softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood lumber accounts for about 7 percent of the construction cost of a home, according to the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
The NAHB, another D.C. lobby that the softwood-lumber dispute periodically activates, estimates that the jobs that Trump’s latest move saves in American saw mills would be offset elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of 8,241 U.S. jobs, $498.3 million in wages and salaries, and $350.2 million in taxes and other government revenue.
No doubt the housing lobby is a dubious proxy for the public, given its own dependence on government market manipulation and subsidies. Yet, in this case, the NAHB study illustrates a valid point: The Trump administration is not proposing to protect America from Canada; it’s proposing to protect certain American special interests from certain Canadian special interests.
(click here to continue reading Trump has set out to protect lumber workers. Instead, he’s helping lobbyists. – The Washington Post.)
So Trump purses his lip, imposes a tariff on Canadian lumber to show how “tough” he is against those meanie Canadians, and ends up screwing his coal producing buddies. Doh! Coal is a dirty, dying business, and shouldn’t be propped up in any circumstance.
Oh, and since I had to look it up: thermal coal is coal used for power generation, as opposed to metallurgical coal used mostly for steel production.
I got an email this morning, which read, in part:
I’ve just looked through your photostream and think your photos are awesome!
Is there any chance you’d be interested in licensing some of them to me for a couple of months?
I’d pay cash and the photo would remain in your account. You will still own it 100%. All you would need to do is add/change the attribution link in the description for the month or two.
The reason I am interested in this is to get some clicks and links back to my site. Please reply if this sounds ok to you or you’d like some more details.
Hmmm. That sounds a bit sketchy, no? How would this contract work, exactly? If I requested $100,000 in cash, how would this guy provide it to me? He would send me unmarked bills in the mail? or more likely, rubles? And while I have accumulated nearly nine million views of my photos on Flickr, I doubt much of that traffic would be redirected to this dude’s sketchy website.
I’d be honored if you attended, but I realize many people have other things to do, like washing their individual hairs in a custom built sink, or alphabetizing their sock drawer. So I forgive you in advance if you don’t make the opening. Or the 30 or so other days in April when the gallery will have my images on display without strangers gawking and pushing each other to gain a better view.
If you actually cannot make it to Texas on such short notice, the prints I’ve chosen to display are also available to view at Flickr, or at a dedicated photoblog I created for the occasion – UrbanSeens.com (still a work in progress at this time)
Hope to see you there, or there, or there…
As an aside, deciding what images to display and print was a crazily complicated process. I’ve been taking photographs for a long time, decades in fact, and while I consider myself more adept these days, photos taken when I was first seriously exploring the photographic medium have a certain nostalgic gravity. Also as I scrolled through the nearly 13,000 photos processed and uploaded to Flickr (12,903 at this moment not to mention the nearly 100,000 total photos in my Lightroom catalog), I kept finding images I liked or wanted to include, but could not. Maybe in the next show? Or I could print them just for you?
Toronto’s City Hall
embiggen by clicking
I took Iron Cock Head on September 09, 2013 at 06:07AM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 10, 2017 at 05:28PM
embiggen by clicking
I took Ready To Flee The Room on September 18, 2012 at 02:17PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 09, 2017 at 10:03AM
embiggen by clicking
I took Crumbling Institutions on June 25, 2012 at 03:35PM
and processed it in my digital darkroom on March 09, 2017 at 09:40AM
Another addition to the Trumpistan regret file…
For some of the businesses and government agencies that surround President Trump’s “Winter White House,” the effects of his frequent weekend getaways to Mar-a-Lago can best be told in numbers.
■ $200,000 in lost fuel sales at a large local airport in a single four-day visit this month.
■ 75 no-shows at a new restaurant in just one night.
■ $60,000 a day to pay overtime to sheriff’s deputies who guard the many closed roads, a tab that is about $1.5 million over all since the election.
■ 250 private flights grounded every day.
A month into his presidency, Mr. Trump arrived at Mar-a-Lago, his private club here, for a third weekend in a row this Presidents’ Day weekend. For the locals, that’s at least three days of clogged roads and strict security protocols that hurt local businesses and frustrate residents.
(click here to continue reading Mar-a-Lago Neighbors Discover Costs of Trump’s Visits – The New York Times.)
The Secret Service closed Lantana Airport on Friday for the third straight weekend because of the president’s return to his Palm Beach resort, meaning its maintenance companies, a banner-flying business and another two dozen businesses are also shuttered, costing them thousands of dollars at the year’s busiest time. The banner-flying company says it has lost more than $40,000 in contracts already.
The airport, which handles only small, propeller-driven planes and helicopters, is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago, well within the 10-mile circle around the resort that’s closed to most private planes when he’s in town. Trump flies into Palm Beach International Airport, which is 2.5 miles from Mar-a-Lago, and remains opens as it handles commercial flights.
The airport and its 28 businesses have an economic impact of about $27 million annually and employ about 200 people full-time, many of them making about $30,000 a year. They don’t get paid when the airport is closed.
Miller is already losing a helicopter company, which is moving rather than deal with the closures. That will cost him $440,000 in annual rent and fuel sales.
Trump family’s lavish lifestyle could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions over 4 years
Jorge Gonzalez, owner of SkyWords Advertising, a banner towing service, said his company lost four contracts totaling $42,500 because of Trump’s visits. He wants exceptions made for three pilots to fly within the restricted zone when the president visits because it is where thousands of residents live and tourists stay.
“We have spent 10 years building this business,” said Gonzalez’s wife, Hadley Doyle-Gonzalez. “We just can’t pick up and move.”
(click here to continue reading Small airport businesses to Trump: Your Florida visits hurt – Chicago Tribune.)
In New York City, businesses near Trump’s Dark Tower are suffering too, even such iconic stores as Tiffany’s. I’d guess a non-zero number of Tiffany’s clientele were reluctant or enthusiastic Trump supporters; convinced that no matter the costs to the world, at least Trump and Paul Ryan’s gang would enact tax cuts, specifically reduction in estate taxes. And yet…
Donald Trump is bad for Tiffany’s bling business.
Security barricades, protesters and a perpetual media encampment in and around Trump Tower since the election has sent sales plunging at the jeweler’s flagship store just steps from Trump Tower.
Tiffany said Tuesday that sales at its store on Manhattan’s Fifth Ave. tumbled 14% in November and December, compared with the same period last year, partly due to “postelection traffic disruptions.”
Businesses around Trump Tower have complained that the security zone around the president-elect’s building has cut back on foot traffic, made deliveries difficult and warded off customers.
(click here to continue reading Trump Tower security hurting sales at Fifth Ave. Tiffany & Co. – NY Daily News.)
America is a wealthy country, but less than six months ago, conservative yammers were constantly harping on how expensive President Obama’s travel costs were, and yet, now that So-Called President Trump is spending more in a month than Obama did in a year, silence. Strange, no?
New York Senator Chuck Schumer has ramped up pressure on Donald Trump and the federal government to accept the mounting costs of protecting the president, the first family and their extended entourage.
Missile crisis by candlelight: Donald Trump’s use of Mar-a-Lago raises security questions Read more Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, inserted himself into the debate on Sunday, saying it costs $500,000 per day for nearly 200 police officers to protect Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, which houses the Trump family business headquarters and serves as the home of the first lady, Melania Trump, and the couple’s son, Barron. The senator estimated the cost could rise to as much as $183m annually.
At current estimates, even a four-year Trump administration could be heading for a billion dollars in taxpayer-borne costs – an eight-fold increase of the $97m Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group, estimates it cost to protect Barack Obama over the two terms of his administration.
The estimated costs of guarding Trump Tower have varied from $1m a day (during daily protests before the inauguration) to around $100,000 for the first lady and Barron, 10, who are staying in New York until at least the end of the school year.
Schumer urged Trump to include the costs in the federal budget, noting that New York City has only been reimbursed $7m of $35m requested for the cost of protecting the tower for the period between election day and the Inauguration.
(click here to continue reading Cost of Trump family security vexes New York and Florida officials | US news | The Guardian.)
As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”
“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.
(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)
Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:
Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.
The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.
Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.
(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)
Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:
Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.
Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.
What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.
Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.
(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)
You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.
Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:
Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.
Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”
That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.
While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?
The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.
A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.
(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)
Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…
Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…
I’ve laughed at this article a few times now, might as well record some of the jollies for your pleasure as well. With the caveat that since the report is based on “ interviews with dozens of government officials, congressional aides, former staff members and other observers of the new administration, many of whom requested anonymity.”, some of the revelations might be more truthy than fact…
Anyway, imagine, if you will, Lord Emperor Tiny Hands wandering around an empty White House in his robe, partially sashed, as his daily drug cocktail of Propecia, tetracycline and whatever else wears off…
Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
All this is happening as Mr. Trump, a man of flexible ideology but fixed habits, adjusts to a new job, life and city.
Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day — too much in the eyes of some aides — often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon.
Before he was ousted in November as transition chief, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, the Trump adviser with the most government experience, helped prepare a detailed staffing and implementation plan in line with the kickoff strategies of previous Republican presidents.
It was discarded — a senior Trump aide made a show of tossing it into a garbage can — for a strategy that prioritized the daily release of dramatic executive orders to put opponents on the defensive.
Visitors to the Oval Office say Mr. Trump is obsessed with the décor — it is both a totem of a victory that validates him as a serious person and an image-burnishing backdrop — so he has told his staff to schedule as many televised events in the room as possible.
To pass the time between meetings, Mr. Trump gives quick tours to visitors, highlighting little tweaks he has made after initially expecting he would have to pay for them himself.
Flanking his desk are portraits of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. He will linger on the opulence of the newly hung golden drapes, which he told a recent visitor were once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt but in fact were patterned for Bill Clinton. For a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.
(click here to continue reading Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles – The New York Times.)
Paging through books of interior design options is fun for Donald, policy memos, not so much.
and my favorite paragraph:
But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president’s dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump’s anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.
Yes, Donald is mad because the Executive Order he signed and showed off wasn’t explained to him. Most people when they sign such documents read them first, especially short documents, but Donald is too busy padding around the White House in his robe to be bothered with such minutia. Perhaps in the future, staffers should make a mock television news show where they read the text of important Executive Orders aloud so that Lord Emperor Tiny Fists can grasp the “details”.
Maybe Samantha Bee is correct, and Donald is functionally illiterate?
As you’ve probably heard, there was another poorly thought out Executive Order signed by the Lord Emperor Tiny Hands, suddenly banning travel to the US from several countries, quickly stayed by federal judges. One wonders how much thought went into the ban, was it crafted on the toilet using a non-secured Android phone?
Around the country, people gathered at airports to protest the travel ban. The Chicago Tribune reported that protesters gathered at O’Hare International Airport after more than a dozen travelers were detained. The Star Tribune reported some 100 people protesting at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport although there were no reports of people detained there. In San Francisco, The Mercury New reported hundreds gathered at San Francisco International Airport as three travelers were detained. And at Kennedy International Airport in New York, The New York Times reported that thousands protesters spread along the parking apron and on three floors of a parking deck shouting their protests.
(click here to continue reading Federal judge bars US from removing legal residents detained at Dulles | WTOP.)
A federal judge in Brooklyn came to the aid of scores of refugees and others who were trapped at airports across the United States on Saturday after an executive order signed by President Trump, which sought to keep many foreigners from entering the country, led to chaotic scenes across the globe.
The judge’s ruling blocked part of the president’s actions, preventing the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the presidential order. But it stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions.
The high-stakes legal case played out on Saturday amid global turmoil, as the executive order signed by the president on Friday afternoon slammed shut the borders of the United States for an Iranian scientist headed to a lab in Massachusetts, a Syrian refugee family headed to a new life in Ohio and countless others across the world.
Mr. Trump — in office just a week — found himself accused of constitutional and legal overreach by two Iraqi immigrants, defended by the American Civil Liberties Union. Meanwhile, large crowds of protesters turned out at airports around the country to denounce Mr. Trump’s ban on the entry of refugees and people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
(click here to continue reading Judge Blocks Part of Trump’s Immigration Order – The New York Times.)
The Executive Order didn’t go through normal vetting channels, so people were on flights that were perfectly legal when they began, but became forbidden by the time they landed. Incompetent White House, or chaos by design? Only Steve Bannon knows.
It wasn’t until Friday — the day Trump signed the order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and suspending all refugee admission for 120 days — that career homeland security staff were allowed to see the final details of the order, a person familiar with the matter said. The result was widespread confusion across the country on Saturday as airports struggled to adjust to the new directives. In New York, two Iraqi nationals sued the federal government after they were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport, and 10 others were detained as well.
The policy team at the White House developed the executive order on refugees and visas, and largely avoided the traditional interagency process that would have allowed the Justice Department and homeland security agencies to provide operational guidance, according to numerous officials who spoke to CNN on Saturday.
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Department of Homeland Security leadership saw the final details shortly before the order was finalized, government officials said.
Friday night, DHS arrived at the legal interpretation that the executive order restrictions applying to seven countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.
The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.
…Before the President issued the order, the White House did not seek the legal guidance of the Office of Legal Counsel, the Justice Department office that interprets the law for the executive branch. A source said the executive order did not follow the standard agency review process that’s typically overseen by the National Security Council, though the source couldn’t specifically say if that included the decision to not have the order go through the Office of Legal Counsel.
Separately, a person familiar with the matter said career officials in charge of enforcing the executive order were not fully briefed on the specifics until Friday. The officials were caught off guard by some of the specifics and raised questions about how to handle the new banned passengers on US-bound planes.
Regarding the green card holders and some of the confusion about whether they were impacted, the person familiar with the matter said if career officials had known more about the executive order earlier, some of the confusion could have been avoided and a better plan could be in place.
But even after the Friday afternoon announcement, administration officials at the White House took several hours to produce text of the action until several hours after it was signed. Adviser Kellyanne Conway even said at one point it was not going to be released before eventually it did get sent out.
Administration officials also seemed unsure at first who was covered in the action, and a list of impacted countries was only produced later on Friday night, hours after the President signed the document at the Pentagon.
(click here to continue reading Inside the confusion of the Trump executive order and travel ban – CNNPolitics.com.)
As an aside, usually I am content to read my news rather than some television talking head read it out loud to me; yet certain stories benefit from seeing live footage of the event as it unfolds. Natural disasters, perhaps, and certainly protests. Last night I flipped through all the news channels I could think of, and none had any live coverage of the raucous protests in airports around the country. Not MSNBC, PBS, CNN, BBC even. I didn’t try Fox, they were probably suggesting the protestors should all be rounded up into camps. Ironically, CNN was broadcasting its documentary on the 1980s, and as I flipped it on, Ted Turner was talking about what a disruption having a 24 hour network would be. Ironic since there was a genuine news story going on at that very moment, and CNN wasn’t broadcasting any live coverage.
Also, I was pleased that the ACLU jumped into action, and planned to give them another donation (even though I just had given them some money in December). Apparently, I wasn’t alone, as their website was being hammered by traffic…
ACLU 2017-01-28 at 9.06.21 PM
I’ll have to donate to them later in the week.
The American Civil Liberties Union announced Saturday evening that a federal court in New York had issued an emergency stay on President Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The court’s decision, which will affect people who have been detained in airports, came after the ACLU and other activist groups filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of two Iraqis who were held at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as a result of the order.
“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing,” ACLU national political director Faiz Shakir told Yahoo News shortly after the decision was announced.
(click here to continue reading ACLU wins legal challenge against immigration ban: ‘Hope Trump enjoys losing’.)
It seems I had the same thought as many people.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is among several classic dystopian novels that seem to be resonating with readers at a moment of heightened anxiety about the state of American democracy. Sales have also risen drastically for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984,” which shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list this week.
Other novels that today’s readers may not have picked up since high school but have landed on the list this week are Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, “Brave New World,” a futuristic dystopian story set in England in 2540; and Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” a satire about a bellicose presidential candidate who runs on a populist platform in the United States but turns out to be a fascist demagogue. On Friday, “It Can’t Happen Here” was No. 9 on Amazon; “Brave New World” was No. 15.
The sudden boom in popularity for classic dystopian novels, which began to pick up just after the election, seems to reflect an organic response from readers who are wary of the authoritarian overtones of some of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. Interest in “1984” surged this week, set off by a series of comments from Mr. Trump, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, and his adviser Kellyanne Conway, in which they disputed the news media’s portrayal of the crowd size at his inauguration and of his fractious relationship with American intelligence agencies. Their insistence that facts like photographs of the crowd and his public statements were up for interpretation culminated in a stunning exchange that Ms. Conway had on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when she said that Mr. Spicer had not lied about the crowd size but was offering “alternative facts.”
To many observers, her comment evoked Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society in which language becomes a political weapon and reality itself is defined by those in power. The remarks prompted a cascade of Twitter messages referencing Orwell and “1984.” According to a Twitter spokesman, the novel was referenced more than 290,000 times on the social network this week. The book began climbing Amazon’s best-seller list, which in turn drove more readers to it, in a sort of algorithm-driven feedback loop. It amounted to a blizzard of free advertising for a 68-year-old novel.
(click here to continue reading Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics – The New York Times.)
1984 was out of print, but I bought a copy of it from Amazon that will arrive whenever. Of these eight books, I have read several, but it had been years and years. For whatever reason, I have not ever read Sinclair Lewis’s, “It Can’t Happen Here”, nor Czesław Miłosz’s,”The Captive Mind”, nor more than a couple of excerpts of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origin of Totalitarianism”.
In comments to the above photo of dystopian books on Flickr, I asked what other books I should add to the list, commenters suggested “We”, by Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, completed in 1921 as well as “The Road” by American writer Cormac McCarthy. Any others you can think of?
So if I’m grimmer than normal about Trumpism, you’ll know I’ve been reading from this pile…
There is a new-to-me plugin that exports photos from Lightroom to a WordPress blog. It seems the plugin won’t automatically create a new post, but it does simplify adding images to the WordPress Media Gallery.
I don’t think Trump can even figure out how to get to the White House without whining about something or other. Meanwhile, one of the nation’s best political orators is leaving office after eight years, and the majority of the nation is mourning already.
Obama’s farewell address from Chicago last week was one of the very best speeches of his Presidency. He had one overriding message: that American democracy is threatened—by economic inequality, by racial division, and, above all, by the erosion of democratic habits and institutions. Its urgency gave the speech an unusual rhetorical punch: “If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life”; “If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves”; “We sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” Lines like these might not prove deathless, but because of their bluntness, and because the times are desperate, they hit hard.
Politicians are always letting the public off the hook—it might be the most unforgivably dishonest thing they do. Obama was more candid than most, reminding Americans that the quality of our democracy depends on us—on our capacity to reason and to empathize, our attachment to facts, our willingness to get our hands dirty even when the political game seems sordid or futile. The key word of the speech was “citizen,” which Obama called “the most important office in a democracy,” one that he’ll embrace in his post-Presidency. His exhortations and implications of blame were nonpartisan: conservatives might have heard their denial of science called out, while liberals might have been stung by the allusion to fair-weather activism. Whites and non-whites alike were urged to imagine inhabiting a different person’s skin.
Most Presidential farewell addresses are quickly forgotten. Hardly anyone knows that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both gave one, as did Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Those which endure are memorable for their warnings. When the new republic was still taking shape, in 1796, George Washington cautioned against domestic factionalism and foreign entanglements. At the height of the Cold War, in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower described a new “military-industrial complex” and a “scientific-technological élite” that were taking over public policy. Obama’s warning in Chicago—owing to its context, ten days before the Inauguration of President Donald Trump—felt even more dire. He quoted from Washington’s address, but not its most obviously relevant passage, on the danger of partisan demagoguery: “It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”
(click here to continue reading President Obama’s Memorable Parting Words – The New Yorker.)
I was going to respond to the unsigned Chicago Tribune editorial titled, “Clemency for Leonard Peltier? Never”, but James Reynolds, former U.S. attorney did a better job, with less swear words.
In response to your Monday editorial “Clemency for Leonard Peltier? Never,” I was the United States attorney who supervised the prosecution of Leonard Peltier during the critical post-trial period. In December 2016, I wrote to President Barack Obama to support his clemency petition “as being in the best interests of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved.”
Although no trial is perfect, Peltier’s was unusually troublesome, particularly when viewed with the benefit of hindsight. The case against Peltier was a moving target, which shifted from a “deliberate ambush” theory in the earlier trial of Peltier’s co-defendants (who were found not guilty) to a “deliberate execution” at Peltier’s subsequent trial before a different judge, and then to an “accomplice” theory on appeal.
As an “aider and abettor,” according to the government’s theory, Peltier was guilty of the murders because he was present, and he had a weapon. It was a very thin case that likely would not be upheld by courts today. It is a gross overstatement to label Peltier a “cold-blooded murderer” on the basis of the minimal proof that survived the appeals in his case.
Following the conclusion of the appeals, Judge Gerald Heaney, an Eighth Circuit judge who sat on two of the appeals, took the extraordinary step of writing to the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs urging it to grant clemency to Peltier in 1991.
Considering all of the surrounding factors, including the prevailing worldview of the time, the FBI’s role in the creation of dangerous conditions on Pine Ridge, the manner in which the case was investigated and prosecuted and the extraordinary length of time already served, in my opinion, Peltier should be released in the interests of justice.
The government has gotten almost 41 years, and 41 pounds of flesh; Peltier is old and sick, and in my opinion, any more time served would be vindictive.
— James Reynolds, former U.S. attorney, Naples, Fla.
(click here to continue reading Leonard Peltier should be released in the interest of justice – Chicago Tribune.)
Exactly, Leonard Peltier has served long enough for a crime he probably didn’t even commit.
A little neutral-esque background from Wikipedia:
Peltier fled to Hinton, Alberta, where he hid in a friend’s cabin. On February 6, 1976, he was arrested. In December 1976, he was extradited from Canada based on documents submitted by the FBI that Warren Allmand, Canada’s Solicitor General at the time, would later state contained false information.
One of those documents was an affidavit signed by Myrtle Poor Bear, a local Native American woman. She claimed to have been Peltier’s girlfriend at the time and to have witnessed the murders. But, according to Peltier and others at the scene, Poor Bear did not know Peltier, nor was she present at the time of the shooting. She later claimed that she was pressured and threatened by FBI agents into giving the statements. Poor Bear attempted to testify about the FBI’s intimidation at Peltier’s trial; however, the judge barred her testimony on the grounds of mental incompetence.
Peltier fought extradition to the United States, even as Bob Robideau and Darrelle “Dino” Butler, AIM members also present on the Jumping Bull compound at the time of the shootings, were found not guilty on the grounds of self-defense by a federal jury in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Peltier returned too late to be tried with Robideau and Butler, and he was subsequently tried separately. Peltier’s trial was held in Fargo, North Dakota, where a jury convicted Peltier of the murders of Coler and Williams. Unlike the trial for Butler and Robideau, the jury was informed that the two FBI agents were killed by close-range shots to their heads, when they were already defenseless due to previous gunshot wounds. They also saw autopsy and crime scene photographs of the two agents, which had not been shown to the jury at Cedar Rapids. In April 1977, Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Doubts about legal proceedings
Numerous doubts have been raised over Peltier’s guilt and the fairness of his trial, based on allegations and inconsistencies regarding the FBI and prosecution’s handling of this case:
- FBI radio intercepts indicated that the two FBI agents had been pursuing a red pickup truck; this was confirmed by the FBI the day after the shootout. Red pickup trucks near the reservation were stopped for weeks, but Leonard Peltier did not drive a red pickup truck. Evidence was given that Peltier was driving a Suburban vehicle; a large station wagon style sedan built on a pickup truck chassis with an enclosed rear section. Peltier’s vehicle was red with a white roof—not a red, open-tray pickup truck with no white paint. The FBI agents’ radio message said that the suspect they were pursuing was driving a red pickup truck, with no additional details. At Peltier’s trial, the FBI testified that it had been searching for a red and white van, which Peltier was sometimes seen driving. This was a highly contentious matter of evidence in the trials.
- Testimony from three witnesses placed Peltier, Robideau and Butler near the crime scene. Those three witnesses later recanted, alleging that the FBI, while extracting their testimony, had tied them to chairs, denied them their right to talk to their attorney, and otherwise coerced and threatened them. Robideau said during an interview in the Robert Redford/Michael Apted film Incident at Oglala (1992), that “we approached” the agents’ cars.
- Unlike the juries in similar prosecutions against AIM leaders at the time, the Fargo jury was not allowed to hear about other cases in which the FBI had been rebuked for tampering with evidence and witnesses.
- An FBI ballistics expert testimony during the trial asserted that a shell case found near the dead agents’ bodies matched the rifle tied to Peltier. He said that a forensics test of the firing pin, which would have more definitively matched the gun to the cartridge case, was not performed because the gun was damaged in the fire. A less definitive test indicated that the extractor marks on the case and rifle matched. Years later, after an FOIA request, the FBI ballistics expert’s records were examined. His report said that he had performed a ballistics test of the firing pin and concluded that the cartridge case from the scene of the crime did not come from the rifle tied to Peltier. That evidence was withheld from the jury during the trial.
- Though the FBI’s investigation indicated that an AR-15 was used to kill the agents, several different AR-15s were in the area at the time of the shootout. Also, no other cartridge cases or evidence about them were offered by the prosecutor’s office, although other bullets were fired at the crime scene.
- During the trial, all the bullets and bullet fragments found at the scene were provided as evidence and detailed by Cortland Cunningham, FBI Firearms expert, in testimony. (Ref US v. Leonard Peltier Vol 9).
- According to Peltier, when he appealed his first-degree murder conviction in 1992, the charge was illegally changed to aiding and abetting.
- The U.S. Parole Commission denied Peltier parole in 1993 based on their finding that he “participated in the premeditated and cold blooded execution of those two officers.” But, the Parole Commission has since stated that it “recognizes that the prosecution has conceded the lack of any direct evidence that [Peltier] personally participated in the executions of the two FBI agents.”
(click here to continue reading Leonard Peltier – Wikipedia.)
Obama seems unlikely to commute Leonard Peltier’s sentence or pardon him, however, he should.