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Speaker Paul Ryan retires: his legacy is debt and disappointment

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Romney Ryan Rolls Royce Hood

From the Department of Headlines I Agree With

Vox:

Paul Ryan’s long con. He betrayed his promises and left a legacy of debt and disappointment.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s legacy can be summed up in just one number: $343 billion.

That’s the increase between the deficit for fiscal year 2015 and fiscal year 2018 — that is, the difference between the fiscal year before Ryan became speaker of the House and the fiscal year in which he retired.

If the economy had fallen into recession between 2015 and 2018, Ryan’s record would be understandable. But it didn’t. In fact, growth quickened and the labor market tightened — which means deficits should’ve fallen. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened in each of the five years preceding Ryan’s speakership; from 2011 to 2015, annual deficits fell each year.

As he prepares to leave office, Ryan says that debt reduction is one of those things “I wish we could have gotten done.” Ryan, the man with the single most power over the federal budget in recent years, sounds like a bystander, as if he watched laws happen rather than made them happen.

(click here to continue reading Speaker Paul Ryan retires: his legacy is debt and disappointment – Vox.)

Bedtime Story - drawing by Barry Blitt

Ryan was always a fake wonk, and a full-on Koch Brother acolyte. For some reason, many in political media gave Ryan a pass, even when his economic policies never, ever had the outcome of stabilizing the government’s finances, and always always increased income inequality.

History will not be kind to Paul Ryan’s legacy, but that is of little comfort right now.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 10th, 2018 at 10:47 am

Posted in politics

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Trump Fires National Security Aide Mira Ricardel

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Tarzan Poster

WSJ:

The president has also decided to remove Mira Ricardel, the top deputy for national security adviser John Bolton, officials said. A National Security Council spokeswoman declined to comment.

The president became involved in that decision at the urging of Mrs. Trump, whose staff battled with Ms. Ricardel during the first lady’s trip to Africa last month over seating on the plane and requests to use National Security Council resources, according to people familiar with the matter.

The first lady’s team told the president that they suspect Ms. Ricardel is behind some negative stories about Mrs. Trump and her staff.

The first lady’s office issued a statement on Tuesday calling for Ms. Ricardel to be dismissed. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump.

(click here to continue reading Trump Weighs Replacing Chief of Staff John Kelly, Fires National Security Aide – WSJ.)

Ouch. Don’t crimp Melania’s style if she wants to go on safari in Africa…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 13th, 2018 at 3:11 pm

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Trump’s Nafta Plan Could Be Upended by Democrats’ House Takeover

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The Trade Union Vow 

The New York Times reports:

Democrats, emboldened by their midterm win and eager to outshine Mr. Trump as defenders of the American worker, are unlikely to sign off on any deal that does not include significant changes that labor leaders and newly elected progressives are demanding. That could involve reopening negotiations with Mexico, although American and Mexican negotiators have both publicly ruled out that possibility.

“Trump made it seem like this was a done deal, but there is a long, long way to go,” said Representative Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who is likely to be named chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade.

The House will consider the agreement first under the Constitution’s provision mandating that revenue bills originate in the lower chamber. A vote could take up to nine months or longer, according to senior administration officials.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Nafta Plan Could Be Upended by Democrats’ House Takeover – The New York Times.)

Bears paying attention to – can Trump ram this through in a lame duck Congress? Or will he be able to manipulate Democrats somehow?

Written by Seth Anderson

November 12th, 2018 at 12:04 pm

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Midterm Election Results: Trump Constrained, Democrats Take House

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 Forgive Yourself Trump Tower

Bloomberg reports:

Donald Trump, who spent the past two years wielding the powers of the presidency unbound by party or political convention, is now constrained.

The Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives cripples his conservative agenda and opens the way for unfettered investigations into his scandal-plagued administration, his presidential campaign and his family’s business empire.

His personal tax returns may fall into the hands of his opponents. His re-election — always far from certain — may be even more dependent on the economy remaining at full steam.

(click here to continue reading Midterm Election Results: Trump Constrained, Democrats Take House – Bloomberg.)

Weird, like there are different branches of government or something…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2018 at 10:24 am

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A Best-Selling Conservative Author Spread A False Claim About Non-Citizens Being Paid To Vote For Beto

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 I voted! Did you?

Buzzfeed:

A Best-Selling Conservative Author Spread A False Claim About “Illegals” Being Paid To Vote For Beto “Hey, fake news, right?” said Larry Schweikart when asked about his false tweet.

(click here to continue reading A Best-Selling Conservative Author Spread A False Claim About “Illegals” Being Paid To Vote For Beto.)

The funny (almost) thing about this fake story is that a bus of non-citizens voting wouldn’t be enough to swing even a percentage point of place as big as Texas. How many people are on the bus? 50, 100? Texas has 30,000,000 people, and somewhere around 10,000,000 registered to vote. Would have to be a damn big bus to swing even one county’s total…

And would seem like someone would notice at the polling location, perhaps post a photo?

Written by Seth Anderson

November 6th, 2018 at 3:46 pm

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Electoral College confusions | National Popular Vote Compact

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Times Have Changed
Times Have Changed

Lawrence Lessig on why the Electoral College should be reformed or eliminated:

Yet this debate is much more interesting—and important—than a typical left/right fight. For the college, as it is, gives no one what they should want. It certainly does not give us what the Framers expected. And if we’re going to reform what everyone should recognize as a broken institution, we need strategies beyond amending the Constitution. (Any amendment from Congress would require 2/3ds of Congress to support it, and then 38 states to ratify it. That’s not even conceivable in the current political climate.)

The Electoral College today is defined by a choice that all but two states have made to allocate their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state. If a candidate gets even a single vote more than the others, he or she gets all of the Electoral College votes in that state. 

This is the “winner-take-all” system. And the consequence of winner-take-all is that candidates for president focus their campaigns exclusively on the so-called “battleground states.” In 2016, 99 percent of campaign spending was in just 14 states — states representing 35 percent of America, and an older and whiter America.

The most plausible alternative to the Electoral College as it is is the National Popular Vote Compact. If states representing the equivalent of 270 electoral college votes commit to this plan, then those states would select electors committed to the winner of the national popular vote — regardless of who wins in the state. This change could happen without an amendment to the Constitution. It is certainly constitutional under the framers’ design.

The advantage of this alternative is that it would end the exclusive hold that the battleground states have on our presidential elections, and hence, on the president. Candidates would have an interest in getting votes from wherever they could get them. That might be New York or Texas (states that now just don’t matter). It might be Missouri or Kansas. The National Popular Vote Compact would make every vote in America count equally — and thus end the possibility that a president would be selected by a minority of American voters.

(click here to continue reading Electoral College confusions | TheHill.)

It is time to ring some changes…

The Change In Your Pocket Won t Buy You A Dream
The Change In Your Pocket Won’t Buy You A Dream

From their website:

 

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Explanation  It has been enacted into law in 12 states with 172 electoral votes (CA, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA). Map showing status in states.  The bill will take effect when enacted by states with 98 more electoral votes.  It has passed at least one house in 11 additional states with 89 electoral votes (AR, AZ, CO, DE, ME, MI, NC, NM, NV, OK, OR)  and has been approved unanimously by committee votes in two additional states with 26 electoral votes (GA, MO).

The bill has recently been passed by a 40–16 vote in the Republican-controlled Arizona House, 28–18 in Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate, 57–4 in Republican-controlled New York Senate, 34-23 in Democratic-controlled Oregon House, and 26-16 in the New Mexico Senate.

State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions.

Also, because of state winner-take-all statutes, five of our 45 Presidents have come into office without having won the most popular votes nationwide.  The 2000 and 2016 elections are the most recent examples of elections in which a second-place candidate won the White House.  Near-misses are also common under the current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes.  A shift of 59,393 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of over 3,000,000 votes. 

The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, the national popular vote winner would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states.

The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.

 

 

(click here to continue reading National Popular Vote.)

Written by Seth Anderson

October 31st, 2018 at 11:32 am

Posted in politics

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Donald Trump praises Gianforte for assault on Guardian reporter

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Donald Trump Is A Swine

The Guardian reports:

A crew of Fox News reporters witnessed the attack on the Guardian’s correspondent in Bozeman. According to their firsthand account, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands as the reporter was posing questions to him.

The crew wrote: “He then slammed [Jacobs] into the ground behind him. [We] watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.”

Jacobs was taken by ambulance to a hospital and treated for an elbow injury.

Gianforte pleaded guilty to a charge of assault and was sentenced to four days in jail as a misdemeanor. The sentence was later changed to 40 hours of community service, a fine and a compulsory anger-management course.

In a statement, the Guardian US editor, John Mulholland, said: “The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian. To celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job is an attack on the first amendment by someone who has taken an oath to defend it.

“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and across the world where they often face far greater threats. We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them.”

(click here to continue reading ‘He’s my guy’: Donald Trump praises Gianforte for assault on Guardian reporter | US news | The Guardian.)

What a thug. As a long time student of American history, I cannot recall any president ever praising a violent criminal like this, especially 

Probably a good day to donate a couple of bucks (or more) to the Guardian. I did.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 19th, 2018 at 10:11 am

Posted in crime,politics

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Judge Denies Trump’s Request to Dismiss Emoluments Lawsuit

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Emolument Man 

The New York Times:

Congressional Democrats cleared a key hurdle on Friday in their effort to sue President Trump over whether he is illegally profiting from business dealings with foreign governments, in a case that could give the lawmakers access to the Trump Organization’s finances.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the United States District Court in Washington ruled that the lawmakers have standing to sue Mr. Trump for accepting payments and other benefits from foreign governments without obtaining permission from Congress, which would violate the Constitution’s clause that bars federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.

Judge Sullivan dismissed the Justice Department’s claim that the legislators did not have standing to sue and denied its request to dismiss the lawsuit.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs have standing to sue the president for allegedly violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Judge Sullivan wrote in his opinion. Mr. Trump “has neither asked for their consent nor provided them with any information about the prohibited foreign emoluments he has already allegedly accepted.”

(click here to continue reading Judge Denies Trump’s Request to Dismiss Emoluments Lawsuit – The New York Times.)

Well, a glimmer of hope is better than utter despair.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2018 at 4:44 pm

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Russia’s Fancy Bear Hackers Have a Clever New Trick – A UEFI rootkit Called LoJax

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Computer Consultants

WIRED:

THE FANCY BEAR hacking group has plenty of tools at its disposal, as evidenced by its attacks against the Democratic National Committee, the Pyeongchang Olympics, and plenty more. But cybersecurity firm ESET appears to have caught the elite Russian team using a technique so advanced, it hadn’t ever been seen in the wild until now.

ESET found what’s known as a UEFI rootkit, which is a way to gain persistent access to a computer that’s hard to detect and even harder to clean up, on an unidentified victim’s machine.

If “LoJax” sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because you might recall LoJack—formerly known as Computrace—security software that lets you track your laptop in the event of theft. LoJack turns out to be potent stuff. It sits in a computer’s firmware, making regular calls back to a server to announce its location. Crucially, that also means you can’t get rid of it by reinstalling your operating system or swapping in a new hard drive.

Fancy Bear figured out how to manipulate code from a decade-old version of LoJack to get it to call back not to the intended server, but one manned instead by Russian spies. That’s LoJax. And it’s a devil to get rid of.

“Whenever a computer infected with a UEFI malware boots, it will place the LoJax agent on the Windows file system, so that when Windows boots, it’s already infected with the LoJax agent. Even if you clean LoJax from Windows, as soon as you reboot, the UEFI implant will reinfect Windows,” says Alexis Dorais-Joncas, ESET’s security intelligence team lead.

It is possible to remove LoJax from your system entirely, but doing so requires serious technical skills. “You can’t just restart. You can’t just reinstall your hard drive. You can’t replace your hard drive. You actually have to flash your firmware,” says Richard Hummel, manager of threat intelligence for NetScou

(click here to continue reading Russia’s Elite Fancy Bear Hackers Have a Clever New Trick | WIRED.)

Great. Too bad the US Government doesn’t have a Cyber Czar anymore.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 28th, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Posted in politics

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Ted Cruz is a Serpent Covered In Vaseline

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Brett Stevens is a reliably irritating neo-con newly hired columnist for the NYT, formerly of the WSJ, but this is a spot-on description of Ted Cruz.

Asp door handle- Schoenhofen Pyramid Mausoleum

The New York Times:

I share your enthusiasm for the Texas Senate race, for a couple of small reasons and one very big one. Small reasons: I like Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit and a human touch.

The big reason is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is “D-e-s-p-i-s-e,” in case I haven’t spelled out my loathing clearly enough. Would you like to know why?

…Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.

Otherwise, you might say I’m his No. 1 fan.

(click here to continue reading Opinion | Supreme Confusion – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 26th, 2018 at 9:12 am

The Many Mysteries of Brett Kavanaugh’s Finances

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 More Spare Change

Mother Jones reports:

Before President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he had a lot of debt. In May 2017, he reported owing between $60,004 and $200,000 on three credit cards and a loan against his retirement account. By the time Trump nominated him to the high court in July 2018, those debts had vanished. Overall, his reported income and assets didn’t seem sufficient to pay off all that debt while maintaining his upper-class lifestyle: an expensive house in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, two kids in a $10,500-a-year private school, and a membership in a posh country club reported to charge $92,000 in initiation fees. His financial disclosure forms have raised more questions than they’ve answered, leading to speculation about whether he’s had a private benefactor and what sorts of conflicts that relationship might entail.

During his confirmation hearing last week, he escaped a public discussion of his spending habits because no senator asked about it. But on Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Kavanaugh 14 pages of post-hearing follow-up questions, many of which involved his finances. On Thursday, Kavanaugh supplied answers, but he dodged some of the questions and left much of his financial situation unexplained.

(click here to continue reading The Many Mysteries of Brett Kavanaugh’s Finances – Mother Jones.)

Super PAC money? Koch dollars? NRA/Russian rubles?

All of the above?

Written by Seth Anderson

September 20th, 2018 at 8:21 am

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Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies

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Perched
Perched

The New York Times reports:

The woman who has accused President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault all but ruled out appearing at an extraordinary Senate hearing scheduled for next week to hear her allegations, insisting on Tuesday that the F.B.I. investigate first.

Speaking through lawyers, Christine Blasey Ford said she would cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee and left open the possibility of testifying later about her allegations against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. But echoing Senate Democrats, she said an investigation should be “the first step” before she is put “on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident.”

Republicans signaled Tuesday night that they would not negotiate an alternative date and would go ahead with the hearing without her or declare it unnecessary if she refuses to appear, then possibly move to a vote.

(click here to continue reading Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies – The New York Times.)

Yes, much more important to speedily nominate Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment than take a couple of days to investigate her claims and his counter-claims. The GOP motivation is transparent – make sure there is a conservative majority in the Supreme Court in the last few months before they lose their upcoming election. Disgusting.

Rule of law, ha.

 Would You Believe

Unfortunately, if Ms. Blasey doesn’t agree to the bullies’ terms, they will just skip the testimony part and go right to the vote, depending upon reliable Republicans like Susan Collins to vote Kavanaugh in.

NYT:

In the letter to the Judiciary Committee, Dr. Blasey’s lawyers said that she has been the target of “vicious harassment and even death threats” since her name was made public on Sunday in an interview published in The Washington Post. Her email has been hacked, she has been impersonated online and she and her family have been forced to relocate out of their home, according to the lawyers, Ms. Banks and her partner, Debra S. Katz.

“While Dr. Ford’s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. Senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident,” the lawyers wrote to Mr. Grassley. The hearing “would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is ‘mistaken’ and ‘mixed up.’”

 

(click here to continue reading Christine Blasey Ford Wants F.B.I. to Investigate Kavanaugh Before She Testifies – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 19th, 2018 at 7:12 am

Posted in crime,politics

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It’s not just Trump — California voters can thank themselves for the state’s relevancy in this November’s midterm election

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Can't Remember What I Was Thinking Of

LA Times reports some good news:

Fed up, and urged on by do-gooder organizations like Common Cause, California voters in 2008 passed Proposition 11, taking redistricting away from lawmakers and handing responsibility for drawing legislative boundaries to an independent citizens commission.
Two years later, voters passed Proposition 20, which gave the commission power to draw the state’s congressional lines as well.

But injecting competition into California’s moribund House races has been the rare election reform that has worked just as reformers said it would.

“I’m proud of it,” said Kathay Feng, a longtime champion of more politically representative districts who was instrumental in passing the redistricting measure as head of California Common Cause. She was especially proud, she said, of the 14 commissioners who set aside partisanship and ignored the personal interests of incumbent lawmakers in drawing new lines that stood up to repeated legal challenges.

California has even become a model for other states, said Feng, who also oversees redistricting reform efforts nationwide for Common Cause, a political watchdog group.

Voters in Colorado, Michigan, Missouri and Utah will consider ballot measures in November that would take redistricting away from self-interested lawmakers and place it in the hands of an independent commission. Earlier this year, Ohio voters passed a similar proposal.

(click here to continue reading It’s not just Trump — California voters can thank themselves for the state’s relevancy in this November’s midterm election.)

Hmm. Gerrymandering is certainly a foot on the neck of true democracy, especially as practiced by modern political operatives. We as a nation would be well served if more states removed the ability of politicians to create their own districts.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 13th, 2018 at 8:07 am

Posted in politics

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Bob Woodward book: Trump confused about federal debt, printing money

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An Investment In Knowledge Always Pays the Best Interest - Ben Franklin

INSIDER:

Bob Woodward book: Gary Cohn was ‘astounded at Trump’s lack of basic understanding’ about the federal debt

During the meeting at Trump Tower in November 2016, Cohn touched on a series of economic issues, including the Federal Reserve. Cohn told Trump that the Fed would most likely increase interest rates during his term. Trump then offered an idea of how to deal with the rising rates.

“We should just go borrow a lot of money, hold it, and then sell it to make money,” Trump said, according to the book.

But according to Woodward, Cohn’s message did not seem to connect.

“It was clear that Trump did not understand the way the US government debt cycle balance sheet worked,” Woodward wrote.

(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward book: Trump confused about federal debt, printing money – INSIDER.)

At this point, can anyone seriously be astounded at Trump’s lack of knowledge about any subject? 

Written by Seth Anderson

September 10th, 2018 at 7:58 pm

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Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers

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Protestors Headed Towards Trump International Tower
Protestors Headed Towards Trump International Tower

Buzzfeed:

More than one-fifth of Donald Trump’s US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders.

Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. Treasury’s financial-crimes unit has, in recent years, launched investigations around the country into all-cash shell-company real-estate purchases amid concerns that some such sales may involve money laundering. The agency is considering requiring real-estate professionals to adopt anti-money-laundering programs.

(click here to continue reading Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers.)

That’s a lot of Kompramat for Putin’s gang to have over the Resident in the White House, don’t you think?

Trump condo sales that match Treasury’s characteristics of possible money laundering totaled $1.5 billion, BuzzFeed News calculated. They accounted for 21% of the 6,400 Trump condos sold in the US. Those figures include condos that Trump developed as well as condos that others developed in his name under licensing deals that pay Trump a fee or a percentage of sales.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 9th, 2018 at 11:43 am

Posted in crime,politics

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