July 19, 2018

FEMA tells communitiies to handle their own hurricanes

New Republic - The Federal Emergency Management Agency was already supporting 692 federally declared disasters when hurricane season started last year. Then came the most destructive disaster season in U.S. history, causing $265 billion in damage and forcing more than a million Americans from their homes. FEMA was overwhelmed. Most Popular

So the agency has a novel suggestion for Americans as the 2018 disaster season heats up: Don’t rely on us.

In a report last week evaluating its response to last year’s disaster, FEMA details “how ill-prepared the agency was to manage a crisis outside the continental United States, like the one in Puerto Rico,” The New York Times reported. “And it urges communities in harm’s way not to count so heavily on FEMA in a future crisis.”

Israel apartheid update

Guardian - The passing of a law in Israel that affords exclusive rights to Jewish people and removes Arabic as an official language has rippled through the country’s Arab minority, who have decried the legislation as unabashedly racist.

....There are roughly 1.8 million Arabs in Israel, making up about a fifth of the state’s population. They are mostly Palestinians and their descendants who remained in place after the 1948 war between Arabs and Jews. Hundreds of thousands of others were displaced or fled.

Mondoweiss -  Critics of the Israel's occupation can now be banned from giving presentations to school children, according to a law passed Monday night by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. A spokesperson for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said he plans on ignoring the law.

Young lag way behind seniors is planing to go to the polls

As we have noted, one of the biggest political gaps in America is age. If the young were to turn out in sizable numbers the Trump era could end. Unfortunately, the tend does not seem to be there.

Vox -  A recently released poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic conducted in June showed only 28 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 say they are “absolutely certain” they’ll vote in midterms, compared to 74 percent of seniors.

.... There are other surveys with varied results; a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and University of Chicago’s NORC found that 32 percent of young voters would certainly vote and 56 percent were likely to. Another poll by Cosmopolitan magazine and SurveyMonkey found that 48 percent of young voters were “absolutely certain” they’d vote in the midterms.

And it’s actually a big improvement for Democrats compared to past midterms. In the 2014 midterms, when Democrats lost control of the Senate, only 23 percent of young voters participated, according to the census, which considers young voters as aged 18 to 34.

The cashless society is a con being pushed by big finance

70 infants under one year old summoned to immigration courrts

Department of Good Stuff: Food links


A brief guide to avoiding socialism

Given all the recent discussion of socialism, this article from our overstocked archives may be useful

Sam Smith, 2009 - Socialism is about the state running things on behalf of the public; fascism is about the state running things on behalf of corporations. Adrian Lyttelton in his book on Mussolini wrote that "fascism can be viewed as a product of the transition from the market capitalism of the independent producer to the organized capitalism of the oligopoly." It was a point that Orwell noted when he described fascism as being but an extension of capitalism. Lyttelton quoted Italian Nationalist theorist Affredo Rocco: "The Fascist economy is. . . an organized economy. It is organized by the producers themselves, under the supreme direction and control of the State."

This is the way we have been heading for some time. Still, all the talk got me thinking about what avoiding socialism in America would truly be about. What if we set out to rid ourselves of all intrusions of this purported political curse? Here are a few things we might do:

- Return to the old system of fire fighting in which blazes were handled by private fire brigades hired by private insurance companies. Brooke Harrington described the practice in Economic Sociology: "If you wanted a fire brigade to come to your aid in . . . emergencies, you had to join a kind of club with private membership fees. It worked like this: you ponied up the fees, the club gave you a plaque to put over your front door, and then if fire swept through the neighborhood, the club dispatched help, but they only assisted paying members. So if you didn't have that plaque over your door, the fire rescue teams would pass you right on by. It would not be uncommon to find that your house burned down while the one next door would be saved." Sounds a little like our health insurance system.

- End public education.
Public schools - which strongly aided the growth of America - are about as socialistic as you can get.

- Close down all federal highways or sell them off to the highest bidder so they can turn them into profit-making roads using tolls.

- Abolish Social Security, Medicare, food stamps and all other such welfare programs.

- End all government interference with the banking and financial industries. This would have recently saved us hundred of billions in bailout funds.

- End all veterans programs including closing veterans' hospitals.

- Sell off all public transportation to unregulated private interests.

- Close all public hospitals, end public subsidies to other hospitals and privatize all ambulance service.

- End all government regulation of food or health products.

- End the practice of government plowing streets after a snow storm.
As Boston mayor James Curly put it, "The Lord brought it; let the Lord take it away."


Feeling better yet?

Bet you never realized what a bunch of closet socialists we are.

We got there, though, because - instead of hurling theories and cliches at each other - we decided on a case by case basis who could do a particular job best. And the funny thing is, it's worked pretty well.

People who complain about the threat of socialism remind me of the man from Virginia who went to college on the GI Bill and bought his first house with a VA loan. When a hurricane struck he got federal disaster aid. When he got sick he was treated at a veteran's hospital. When he was laid off he received unemployment insurance and then got a SBA loan to start his own business. His bank funds were protected under federal deposit insurance laws. When he retired he went on Social Security and Medicare. The other day he got into his car, drove the federal interstate to the railroad station, parked in the public lot, took Amtrak to Washington and went to Capitol Hill to ask his congressman to get the government off his back.

Jobless claims at 48 year low

Reuters - The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell, hitting its lowest level in more than 48-1/2 years, as the labor market continues to strengthen. Other data on Thursday showed manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region accelerated in July, driven by a surge in new orders received by factories.

More Box Score

What you're paying for the Trump boys' business travels

Mother Jones - In January 2017, the Secret Service spent roughly $30,000 to accompany Eric Trump to the Dominican Republic, where he met with his father’s former business partners to explore reviving a collapsed resort project—despite a pledge from the president that his company would engage in no new foreign deals while he was in office.

According to the documents obtained by CREW, taxpayers shelled out more than $50,000 for a visit the brothers made to Vancouver, Canada in early February 2017 for the opening of a new Trump hotel there. More than half of those charges were paid to the Trump hotel. The documents also detail a trip to Uruguay by Eric Trump in January 2017, which cost taxpayers at least $97,000.


New cover of Time

Before meeting, Trump was informed that Putin was directly involved in cyberattacks

Alternet - A new bombshell report reveals intelligence officials showed President Donald Trump ironclad proof that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered cyberattacks against the U.S. election — and yet continues to cast doubt on the evidence.

MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller, a former spokesman for the Department of Justice and attorney general Eric Holder, explained the significance of the New York Times report and how that information was revealed to the public.

“One, the fact that the U.S. intelligence had obtained texts and emails of senior Russian officials and made it clear that Putin was involved,” Miller said, “and, two, even more importantly, that there was a human source close to Vladimir Putin who was cooperating with the intelligence community and providing information. That was key to this conclusion that Putin had directly ordered the intervention in the election.”

.... “I can’t believe this is something I’m saying about the president of the United States,” Miller said. “But it made me wonder if people are suspicious that he revealed sensitive, classified intelligence, including human source information, to the president of the Russian Federation. That is a real concern that I had after reading the story.”

Republicans happy with Trump being manipulated by Putin

The Hill - 80 percent of Republicans approve of President Trump’s performance during his press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll found.

Of Republicans surveyed, 79 percent said they approved of how the president handled the joint press conference. Only 18 percent said they disapproved.

Respondents who identified as Democrats overwhelmingly disapproved of the Trump's handling of the press conference with 91 percent saying they disapproved, while only 7 percent said they approved.

Overall, the majority of Americans — 58 percent — disapproved of Trump's handling of the joint press conference.

Accused Russian Spy’s Boy Toy

Daily Beast - This isn’t the first time Paul Erickson, the Republican political consultant at the center of a Russian espionage probe, has found himself in middle of some drama.

Erickson—who served as a media adviser to a famously emasculated porn actor, a producer for one of Hollywood’s schlockiest anti-communist movies, and a lobbyist for one of Africa’s most brutal dictators—has also been sued multiple times after two business partners say he defrauded them on investments in his company.

... “He is the single biggest phony I’ve ever met in South Dakota politics,” Lee Schoenbeck, a former Republican member of South Dakota’s House of Representatives, told the Rapid City Journal.

July 18, 2018

Voting machine maker admits installing hackable software

Daily Beast - The nation’s top voting-machine maker has admitted installing remote-access software on election-management systems that it sold over a period of six years, in what one U.S. senator described as “the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.” In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software admitted that it had “provided pcAnywhere remote connection software… to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.

.... The remote-access software created an opportunity for hackers to breach the machines. Election-management systems and voting machines are supposed to be disconnected from the internet and from any other systems that are connected to the internet for security reasons. ES&S customers who had pcAnywhere installed also had modems on their election-management systems so ES&S technicians could dial into the systems and use the software to troubleshoot.

What Kavanaugh's appointment could mean to health

Maine Beacon -  The Affordable Care Act is once again in the crosshairs of the Republican Party and this time the means of attack is the U.S. Supreme Court.

Advocates are warning that should nominee Brett Kavanaugh have a chance to rule on one of the pending challenges to the health care law, 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are at risk of losing coverage.

“Anybody who thinks [the ACA] is not going to be litigated sometime in the future is nuts,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) candidly told a reporter last week after meeting with Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the now empty U.S. Supreme Court seat.

Health care groups say that the conservative Washington, D.C. Circuit Court judge would not only move the court further right on many issues, but that he has a particularly troubling record when it comes to health care.

...One case that could invalidate the ACA entirely is Texas v. Azar, in which a group of 20 Republican attorneys general and governors, including Governor Paul LePage, are arguing that the repeal of the individual mandate penalty passed in the GOP tax law renders the ACA unconstitutional, and by extension protections for people with pre-existing conditions are also moot.

Sen. Susan Collins, who is seen as a pivotal swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, wrote to the Department of Justice in June expressing “concern” for individuals with pre-existing conditions should the lawsuit succeed.

“This is no small matter,” Collins wrote. “Fifty-seven percent of Americans responding to a poll said that they or someone in their household suffers from a pre-existing condition. These numbers include 590,000 Mainers, roughly 45 percent of the state’s population.”

Trump supporters greatly over estimate role of MS-13

Truthdig -  85 percent of Trump supporters surveyed believe, as Dana Liebelson and Ariel Edwards-Levy write in HuffPost, the gang “is a very serious or somewhat serious threat to the United States as a whole.” Approximately half of those supporters “are worried a great deal or somewhat that they or a family member will fall victim to MS-13 violence.”

Kavenaugh claims warrantless telecommunications spying is not banned by 4th Amendment

Activist Post - Although a Pew Research poll from 2014 found that roughly 54% of the public disapprove of warrantless surveillance, Brett Kavanaugh believes that the program “is entirely consistent with the fourth amendment.”

In a 2015 statement “concurring in the denial to rehearing en banc” in Klayman V. Obama, Kavanaugh concluded that the collection of metadata from telecommunications service providers is “not considered a search under the Fourth Amendment.”

Even if the bulk collection of telephony metadata constitutes a search, the Fourth Amendment does not bar all searches and seizures. It bars only unreasonable searches and seizures … In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program. – Brett Kavanaugh

Government paid $65K to Trump company for Scotland stay

July 17, 2018

A new reason for unveiling Trump's tax returns

Boomberg - In case you've forgotten about them, President Donald Trump's personal income tax returns still matter. So do the Trump Organization's business relationships and finances. If you ever doubted either of those things, consider the president's meeting in Helsinki on Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

During their press conference, the subject of "compromising" information arose at the very end of their briefing.

"Sir, do you — does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?" Jonathan Lemire, an Associated Press reporter, asked Putin.

Trump shook his head and smirked, gazing down at his lectern. Putin chuckled.

"Yeah, I did hear these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow," Putin replied, before noting that it was impossible to gather intelligence on the multitude of Western businesspeople who visit Russia. Trump was never important enough in his pre-presidency days to warrant the Kremlin's attention, he added.

"Well, it’s difficult to imagine utter nonsense on a bigger scale than this," Putin said. "Please disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again."

Trump then chimed in: "I have to say if they had it, it would have been out long ago." He added that the Justice Department's investigation of possible collusion between Trump's campaign and the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election was a "total witch hunt." Then he called an end to the briefing and walked away with Putin.

Word: Trump and Putin

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes that Trump“is either an asset of Russian intelligence or really enjoys playing one on TV.”

Activists seek congressional support against airline's seat legroom abuse

Telegraph, UK - The US Senate is under pressure to back legislation which would set a minimum size for airline seats.

Airlines have been relentlessly cutting seat size and pitch as they try to boost their bottom line.

Now FlyersRights.org, the main passenger advocacy group in the US, has said enough is enough, warning that the trend is posing a health and safety risk.

It wants Congress to prevent airlines shrinking seats even further and establish a minimum seat size. A measure has passed the House of Representatives but still needs Senate approval.

Departrment of Good Stuff: Education links

Education news
War on public education news
Bad Ass Teachers
Chicago Teachers Union
Student Voice
Larry Cuban
Ed Notes Online
Susan Ohanian
Diane Ravitch
Valerie Strauss

Latest indictment involves direct Russian collusion

Daily Beast - It’s the first time the Justice Department has explicitly claimed that a Russian spy working to influence the 2016 campaign had deliberate assistance with her efforts from a U.S. citizen. On Monday, the DOJ arrested and charged a Russian national who courted the NRA and the Republican Party with secretly working as a foreign agent.

The criminal complaint already has geopolitical implications, with the Russian Embassy calling for access to the alleged spy. And its implications for domestic politics also could be tectonic: The case is as close as it gets to collusion. According to the Justice Department, at least one American helped her with her influence operation.

How we helped to create Donald Trump

A quarter century ago, your editor wrote a piece - "Global Dumbing - The Politics of Entropy" which raised a little noted issue that helps to explain how we ended up with Donald Trump as president. As noted below, national entropy "is there in the increasingly childish rhetoric of our campaigns and in our own passivity in the face of it. And it is there in the increasingly likely possibility that we will have to choose between a Republican who doesn't know where he's going and a Democrat who doesn't care where he's going . . .

July 16, 2018

U.S. judge suspends deportations of reunited immigrant families

Definition of treason

18 U.S. Code § 2381 - Treason

Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)


Putin pet Trump more critical of FBI than of Russia

BBC - After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.

The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

"President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it should be," he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

MSN - Putin later confirmed that he did want Trump to win in 2016, “because he talked about normalizing relations” between Russia and the United States.

Best and worst big cities in which to buy your first house

Wallet Hub

Best big cities in which to buy your first house
  • Tampa
  • Colorado Springs
  • Raleigh
  • Columbus
  • Pittsburgh
  • Phoenix
  • Denver
  • Minneapolis
  • Las Vegas
  • El Paso
Worst big cities in which to buy your first house
  • Santa Ana
  • Houston
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Washington 
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • Oakland
  • San Francisco
  • Detroit

Tax cuts of $111 billion went to top one percent

NY Times -- The top-earning 1 percent of households — those earning more than $607,000 a year — will pay a combined $111 billion less this year in federal taxes than they would have if the laws had remained unchanged since 2000. That’s an enormous windfall. It’s more, in total dollars, than the tax cut received over the same period by the entire bottom 60 percent of earners, according to an analysis being published today.

The new confederacy

Hit & Run - An investigation into a false arrest has uncovered a former Florida police chief's scheme to boost his department's clearance rate by arresting innocent people.

The authorities are charging former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez, with conspiracy to violate civil rights. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Atesiano's department arrested a 16-year-old citizen for a series of burglaries, without evidence, all "to maintain a fictitious 100 percent clearance rate of reported burglaries." If convicted, the trio faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.

How the young could decide elections from now on

Not often discussed, but one of the biggest political divisions in our country is age. The voting age population under 50 years old is 55% of the nation's total. While that may seem slim, the division on issues is much greater, meaning that the young have far more potential influence than is generally realized. For example a recent Politico poll in Arizona found voters under 50 were 22% less likely to approve of Trump and 14% less likely to vote for a GOP candidate for the House. They are also 9% more likely to accept refugees.

The problem is that the young are less likely to vote, as this Election Project chart shows.
Thus a major goal for coming elections is to find ways to get more of the young to vote. 

Department of Good Stuff: Money links

The real economy
Corporate America
Housing & foreclosures
Labor news
Social Security
Trans Pacific Partnership

Word: Putin's pet

Jim VandeHei. Axios: “At today’s Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, you have an American president huddling alone with an enemy of the United States who infiltrated our election system.”

“They’ll do it on the first weekday after the president’s own government indicted a dozen Russian intelligence agents for carrying out the cyberattack. Also Friday, Trump’s top intel official declared that the current danger of more Russian cyberattacks is akin to warning signs before 9/11, when 3,000 were killed and terrorism reshaped the core of our country and lives.”

“You have an American president who publicly shrugs at the threat, and claims most of the coverage is fake — even as it echoes the precise warnings and conclusions of his own government officials.”