February 24, 2017

The Democrat's cost of ignoring the local

Washington Examiner - [Howard] Dean blamed the steep decline Democrats suffered under President Barack Obama on the party focusing more on holding the White House than on down ballot offices in Congress and the states. He also cited the challenge of keeping liberal voters engaged in midterm elections.

"The problem is, when you have an incumbent president, whether it's Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, the Democratic Party becomes the re-elect vehicle for the president and abandons its role as a grassroots organization," Dean told reporters. "That's not a bad thing to say about Barack Obama, it happens every time we have an incumbent president."

Under Obama, the Democrats lost their majorities in the House and Senate, several governorships, and nearly 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country. Some Democratic insiders have conceded it's a problem of the party's own making.

Famed Australian children's author interrogated for two hours by LA immigration officials

Daily Telegraph, Australia - Australia's best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.

Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.

En route to Milwaukee for a conference on February 9, where she was to deliver the opening keynote address at a literacy conference, Fox was ushered into an airport holding room and told she was traveling on the wrong visa. This was incorrect and the US Embassy in Canberra has since apologized. Fox, 70, said that by the time she checked in to her hotel she was shaking and sobbing.

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.

“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”

Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator.

Trump dump

The reclusive mastermind behind President Trump’s nationalist ideology and combative tactics made his public debut Thursday, delivering a fiery rebuke of the media and declaring that the new administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist and intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda, used his first speaking appearance since Trump took office to vow that the president would honor all of the hard-line pledges of his campaign.

Trump lie of the day - President Trump falsely claimed during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that lines to get in stretched back “six blocks.” It was a statement at odds with the quiet scene outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where CPAC is taking place. There were no lines getting into the Gaylord within the hour before Trump began speaking Friday morning. 

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions signaled  his strong support for the federal government's continued use of private prisons, reversing an Obama administration directive to phase out their use. Stock prices of major private prison companies rose at the news.

Meanwhile. . .

Federal judge blocks Texas from withholding Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood. 

Estonia is planning a musical instrument for every child

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect assault weapons 

Border patrol harasses domestic passengers at JFK Airport

Rolling Stone - Passengers of a domestic Delta flight from San Francisco to New York were told to show their identity documents to uniformed agents of the Customs and Border Protection agency upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy airport on Wednesday evening.  

CBP officers are border agents, whose statutory authority is generally limited to international arrivals.

CBP agents inspected passenger identifications on the jetbridge by the door of the aircraft. A CBP spokesman insisted to Rolling Stone that this action is "nothing new" and that there is "no new policy." But the unusual – and legally questionable – search of domestic travelers comes days after the Department of Homeland Security outlined its plans to implement President Trump's sweeping executive order targeting millions of "removable aliens" for deportation.

Upon deplaning from Delta Flight 1583 in New York, passenger Anne Garrett tweeted, "We were told we couldn't disembark without showing our 'documents.'"

Another passenger, Matt O'Rourke, snapped a similar picture. O'Rourke tells Rolling Stone that the Delta flight attendant alerted passengers, "You'll need to show your papers to agents waiting outside the door."

"She was weirded out by it," he says. The agents, O'Rourke says, said nothing to him, but took his ID and scrutinized it for nearly 30 seconds before letting him pass. He describes the experience as "a little bit alarming." Only later did O'Rourke find himself asking, "Why is a customs agent doing this search? The flight didn't enter from another country."

Trump's anti-immigrant policies threaten real estate market

Alternet - The effect of the mass deportations outlined in Department of Homeland Securities memos released this week may not only affect real estate values at the lower and middle end of the housing market, they warn: they could resonate up to the top of the housing chain, testing the entire system in ways that are both novel and not clearly understood.

“There are consequences for the economy and the whole of society, and the public doesn’t understand the value immigrants bring to the housing market,” warns Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California.

“They represent a large share of the demand supporting house values. If you were to subtract any part of that demand, it would jeopardize house values across the board.”

In a comprehensive 2013 study, Immigrant Contributions to Housing Demand in the United States, Myers estimated that in this decade, immigrants nationwide will account for 32.2% of the growth in all households, 35.7% of growth in homeowners and 26.4% of growth in renter households.

The study found that the volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during the period from 1980–1990 to 2.8 million in the current decade.

According to Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the Cato Institute, the effect of an immigrant crackdown on property values has already been seen, albeit on a small scale, after Arizona passed its controversial SB 1070 and Legal Arizona Workers Act.

“Two hundred thousand people left because of those immigration laws at the same time as we had a housing collapse. So Phoenix suffered more than any other city except for Las Vegas,” Nowrasteh says. “We saw a huge increase in rental vacancies and a decline in home prices immediately after these laws were passed.” Immigrants, he says, “have a disproportionate effect on the housing market because they rent property and buy houses. So now Trump wants to do nationally what the Arizona immigration laws did to the Phoenix housing market.”


How to reach voters for DNC chair

Trump wants more nuclear arms

BBC- President Donald Trump has said he wants the United States to expand its nuclear arsenal, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.

Mr Trump said it would be "wonderful" if no nation had nuclear arms, but otherwise the US must be "top of the pack".

He told Reuters that the US had "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity".

Critics say the US and Russia already have more weapons than necessary to deter a nuclear attack.

The US has 6,800 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,000, according to the US nonpartisan Arms Control Association.

The independent Arms Control Association non-profit group criticized Mr Trump's remarks.

"Mr Trump's comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons," the group said in a statement.

"The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on 'top of the pack' of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship."

Trump death the day

Guardian -A Mexican man has leaped off a bridge and killed himself near the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing hours after being deported. Guadalupe Olives Valencia reportedly screamed he did not want to return to Mexico before leaping to his death on Tuesday. The 44-year-old father of three had worked as a gardener in California.

Another reason to stay away from Arkansas

NPR - The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a local law that protected people in the city of Fayetteville from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Arkansas is one of a handful of states where it is illegal for local governments to pass anti-discrimination laws that cover classes of people not already protected under state law.A February 2015 Arkansas law made it illegal for "a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state" to adopt any law that "creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law."

Trump poliicies badly hurting tourism

Frommers: Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

“It’s known as the ‘Trump Slump.’... The prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

Trump has already hurt lower income homeowners

Guardian - One of the first things Trump did on becoming US president was to make a huge number of middle-income families considerably worse off. One of Barack Obama’s final decisions before leaving the White House was to cut Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance premiums by 0.25%, saving the average household about $500 (£400) a year if they have a mortgage. The effect was immediate: total mortgage applications fell 3.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. In addition, there was a 13% drop in FHA applications – a direct result of the Trump administration reversing Obama’s cut in FHA premiums just hours after the inauguration. This affects mainly lower-income families making their first steps from renting to home ownership: $500 may seem like a small amount to some, but in many cases, it is the difference between meeting a mortgage payment and not.

Trump plans to revive failed fedral marijuana enforcement

Reuters - The administration of President Donald Trump may ramp up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana use, a White House spokesman said, setting up potential conflicts in states where the drug is legal.

More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, and the administration of former President Barack Obama mostly looked the other way. But White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump Administration may distinguish between medical and recreational use of the drug.

Spicer's comments came on the same day that a nationwide poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, showed 71 percent of registered voters favored allowing states to decide whether marijuana should be legal.

The People's Party: What Americans really think

A McClatchy-Marist poll finds 58 percent of Americans are embarrassed by the new administration.

A nationwide poll from Quinnipiac  showed 71 percent of registered voters favored allowing states to decide whether marijuana should be legal.

Fifty-four percent of U.S. adults approve of the Affordable Care Act in the Pew Research Center survey released Thursday, while 43 percent disapprove and 3 percent have no opinion.

The Hill - A majority of voters in the U.S. are opposed to several policies proposed by President Trump and congressional Republicans, including building a border wall and repealing ObamaCare, according to a new poll.

Six in 10 say they oppose building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president's foremost campaign promise, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Only 37 percent support building a wall on the border. The percentage of voters opposed to the proposal increases to 65 percent if the U.S. has to pay for it, and 33 percent would support such a proposal.

Slightly more than half of respondents, 54 percent, are also against repealing the Affordable Care Act, and 43 percent support the repeal of former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation.

About half of voters are also opposed to restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

The poll finds majority opposition to reducing taxes across the board. Sixty-two percent oppose such reductions, even if it increases the deficit, and 31 percent support that proposal.

About three-quarters of respondents say they are against lowering taxes on the wealthy, and 54 percent are against removing regulations on businesses and corporations.

The poll found greater support for other areas of Trump's agenda.

A majority of voters, 54 percent, support "renegotiating trade deals with other countries, even if it means paying more for the products you buy" and 87 percent of voters support increasing federal spending for roads, mass transit and other infrastructure.

JC Penney joins list of downsizing chain stores

Portland Press Herald - J.C. Penney on Friday said it plans to close between 130 and 140 stores in the next several months, a move that makes it the latest retail stalwart to pull back from the mall amid the rise of online shopping.

J.C. Penney’s decision to close stores comes as many industry executives and analysts say that old-school chains are “overstored,” meaning they have too many locations for the era of online shopping. Macy’s is in the process of closing 100 stores and eliminating some 10,000 jobs. Sears said in January it would close 150 stores, some from its namesake chain, and some from the Kmart chain.

So much for states' slashing taxes.

Center on Budget & Policy Priorites - Five years ago, Kansas slashed income tax rates, eliminated income taxes entirely for many businesses, and enacted further income tax rate cuts to phase in several years into the future, aiming eventually to eliminate the income tax. Gov. Brownback called his efforts a “red state model” and claimed the tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.”

Rather than generate an economic boom, however, the tax cuts wreaked havoc on Kansas’ ability to invest in its people and infrastructure. To balance its budget, the state employed gimmicks and one-time revenue, delayed road projects, cut services, and nearly drained funds it had set aside to prepare for the next recession. Two bond rating agencies downgraded Kansas due to its budget problems. Meanwhile, job growth has lagged far behind job growth nationally, and the hoped-for economic boom shows no signs of materializing (see graph).

After Tax Cuts, Kansas' Economy Underperforming U.S.

The dirty fight for DNC chair

Jazz break

February 23, 2017