June 20, 2018

Federal judge strikes down Kansas voting restriction

Ballot Access - A U.S. District Court in Kansas struck down a law that was passed in 2011, requiring individuals who register to vote to produce documents, proving U.S. citizenship.

Canada legalizes recreational marijuana

11 states pull their national guard from border patrol

Business Insider - Eleven US states have canceled agreements to send members of the National Guard to the US-Mexico border as part of a growing backlash over the Trump administration's policy separating migrant families that illegally enter the US.

New York, Massachusetts, and Colorado were the first to pull their forces from current or planned deployments at the border, and they were soon joined by many more.

Most are states with a Democratic governor. Two — Massachusetts and Maryland — have Republicans in charge.

Most Americans disagree with Trump's separation policy at his concentration camps

CBS News-  Two-thirds of Americans oppose the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their families when they cross the border illegally, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.

A majority of Republican voters support separating these families (55 percent) -- this was the sole grouping of poll respondents to support the policy. Every other demographic included in the polling -- political party, gender, education, age or racial group-- opposes the policy.

Americans also overwhelmingly (79 percent) agree that "Dreamers," the children of immigrants brought to the United States at a young age, should be allowed to remain in the country and ultimately be able to apply for citizenship.

Minimum wage won't pay for a two bedroom rent in any state, city, or county

City Lab -There isn’t a single state, city, or county in the U.S. where someone earning federal or state minimum wage for a 40-hour work week can afford a two-bedroom home at fair market rent.

For most Americans, access to decent, affordable rental housing remains cruelly beyond reach. Only in 22 counties in the United States is a one-bedroom home affordable to someone working 40 hours per week at federal minimum wage.

That’s from the National Low Income Housing Coalition  report, which outlines the mismatch between wages and rent every year.

Poll finds Millennials favorable towards socialism

Portside - A new survey from the University of Chicago’s GenForward project suggests that these voters could pull the Democratic Party, and American politics, sharply to the left. The survey of 1,750 respondents found that “Majorities of Millennials across race and ethnicity believe a strong government rather than a free market approach is needed to address today’s complex economic problems.”

In the survey’s most striking finding, 61 percent of Millennial Democrats polled – nearly two-thirds – expressed favorable views of socialism. The report notes that 32 percent of independents and “only” 25 percent of Republicans say they are favorable toward socialism.

The study also shows that the “rising Democratic majority” of black and brown voters isn’t very fond of capitalism, for understandable reasons. Only 45 percent of Latinxs and 34 percent of African-Americans hold favorable views of capitalism.

These results suggest that Democratic leaders are ill-advised to insist, as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton both did recently, that theirs is a strictly capitalistic party. Clinton’s dismissive tone toward socialist-leaning Democrats seemed especially counterproductive.

Interesting question

Bob LeMay - I tend to watch people and there is something I have been regularly observing, and yesterday while watching my neighbor it came together:There seems to be a need of humans for facial / tactile contact reassurance...
She was taking out and using her cellphone and I saw the familiar gestures of smokers handling rectangular cigarette packs, and then one way or another, hands and fingers positioning near their faces and them then looking more comfortable after several minutes.
So I wonder... Has cellphone usage come at the right time period to help reduce cigarette smoking ? Is it now, the newer habit ?

Israeli military train US cops in extreme tactics

Institute for Policy Studies - .US police forces actually train extensively with the Israeli military. In fact, hundreds of federal, state, local, and even some campus law enforcement departments across the country have trained in some capacity with the Israeli forces now gunning down Palestinian protesters in droves.

U.S. police departments are sent to Israel, or sometimes Israeli forces come to the United States, under the pretense of counter-terrorism training.

Apparently that training includes learning the benefits of “skunk water”—a liquid developed by Israel that’s used to break up anti-occupation protests like the ones occurring right now. After protests in Ferguson, the St. Louis department started stockpiling the stuff.

And that now infamous NYPD Muslim surveillance program? The NYPD Intelligence Division Chief responsible for that one got the idea from a similar program used to spy on Palestinians.
The former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) Avi Dichter—who has advocated dropping heavy bombs on civilian-occupied Gaza apartment buildings—believes there’s “an intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists.” He calls these threats “crimiterrorists.”

But this isn’t a one-sided transfer of tactics. Dichter likes to think of the war on terror and the war on drugs in the same category. And when Israeli forces visit the United States, they also receive training from our police forces on the drug war tactics that have targeted Black and brown communities.

Veteran sports writer explains Trump's decades long grudge against the NFL

June 19, 2018

Woman running for New York Attorney General has Trump in her sights

Intercept - Zephyr Teachout twice pressed former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to lead the judicial challenge to President Donald Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, and both times he refused, she told The Intercept in an interview.

Teachout, who announced that she would be running to replace Schneiderman, formally launched her campaign . Within a week of her announcement, she had raised more than $100,000, with the average donation coming in at $31, her campaign told The Intercept. Schneiderman stepped down following allegations that he physically abused multiple former girlfriends.

“I called him in December and I sat down with him in the first week of January 2017, before Donald Trump took office, and I brought with me precedents from the Office of Legal Counsel, cases about standing, law review articles and said, New York should be leading the charge of bringing a lawsuit against Donald Trump the minute he takes office for violating the foreign and domestic emoluments clause of the Constitution,” Teachout said.

The emoluments clause is a once-obscure constitutional provision that prohibits certain government officials, like the president, from receiving gifts or other payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. Legal experts believe that Trump may be violating the Constitution by maintaining ownership of businesses that take in foreign profits.

Teachout’s argument for a legal challenge, she said, rested on the physical presence in New York of an enterprise involved in alleged ongoing criminal activity, the Trump Organization. “New York has to do that because it is the epicenter of the Trump empire,” she said. “Of the 500 or so Trump companies affiliated with the Trump Organization, they connect in New York state, and the New York attorney general — to protect the people of New York and to stand up for the people of the country — has to be the leading voice on this. Eric did not take action.”

... Teachout, known in legal scholar circles for her work on antitrust law, said that Trump would be a focus of her approach as New York’s top law enforcement official. She added that state law also gives the attorney general significant power in confronting monopoly concentration on behalf of consumers and workers, power that she plans to leverage.

Atrocities under Kim Jong-un

A survey of alternative sex

Buzzfeed - LGBTQ adults in the United States are mostly women, religious, and under 40 years old, according to a new survey conducted by Whitman Insight Strategies and BuzzFeed News.

The poll, taken by 880 LGBTQ Americans across the country, is one of the most thorough surveys of its type, asking more than 100 questions about gender, sex, politics, family, and discrimination.

...The poll finds that gay men also have more sex than lesbian women, while other findings may be more surprising: More than half of LGBTQ Americans are Christian, and nearly half of all LGBTQ people identify as bisexual or queer.

... Nearly half — 46% — of the LGBTQ population identifies as bisexual, which then skews heavily female, younger, and tends to be more racially diverse.

Overall, LGBTQ people are 67% white and 33% nonwhite, which is close to the national census figures.

....More than two-thirds of respondents across generations said coming out made them happier.

Urban middle neighborhood problems ignored

Governing - There’s a sense in Philadelphia, as in many major cities these days, that it’s divided between the affluent folks who are driving up condo prices in and around downtown, which is known as Center City, and those being left behind in parts of town plagued by blight and drugs. Philadelphia has received considerable attention in recent years as one of the nation’s top magnets for educated millennials. At the same time, it has the highest poverty rate of any major city, at 25.7 percent. But left out of the equation are places like Mt. Airy, where most people have decent-paying jobs as schoolteachers, as utility company workers or, like James, as nurses. Or they’re part of a generation that was able to retire with decent pensions. Neighborhoods are a little like seesaws. Some are rising to the top, while others seem to be stuck at the bottom. No one seems to pay attention to what’s in the middle.

Middle neighborhoods have been off the nation’s policy radar for decades. While many of them are relatively stable, others have become shaky in recent years, due to a lack of interest from governments and the private sector. That has left large shares of urban America at risk, particularly in older cities. In Philadelphia, 41 percent of residents live in what are defined as middle neighborhoods, where most people earn between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income, which in the Philadelphia region is $66,000. Nationwide, 48 percent of urban residents live in such neighborhoods, which tend to be more diverse than either wealthy or low-income areas. “There are huge chunks of our cities that are not seeing rapid growth, nor are they completely desolate, economically isolated places,” says Jeffrey Verespej, who runs a community development corporation in Cleveland. “They’re not as sexy as high-investment, high-growth neighborhoods and lack the moral imperative to help those who are truly needy.”

But they’re increasingly under threat. The reality is that no place stays exactly the same year after year. All neighborhoods evolve. The question is what direction they’re moving in, and what forces are pushing them that way. Middle neighborhoods have a lot working against them. Most are not especially close to downtown and lack the anchor institutions such as universities or hospitals that spur new investment. Residents of middle neighborhoods generally don’t receive assistance from poverty programs. At the same time, they don’t have access to capital, either. Half of the residents of Philadelphia -- and many in Mt. Airy -- have credit scores below 650, perilously close to the point where banks won’t even bother looking at a loan application. The city’s denial rate for home improvement loans is 62 percent, well above the national average of 37 percent.

Maps of how much the world has warmed since 1880

June 18, 2018

Washington Post workers demand pay raise

Supreme Court looks the other way on gerrymandering

Trump wants space wars

Reuters -President Donald Trump said he was clearing the way for the United States to exercise extra-terrestrial dominance by establishing a new, sixth branch of the military that he dubbed a “space force.”

“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said at a White House event attended by former astronaut Buzz Aldrin as well as executives of major aerospace companies.

“When it comes to defending America it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”

How Ohio used a junk mail trick to purge voters

The illogic of American distance definitions

Child separation is a health danger

NPR - Pediatricians and immigrant advocates are warning that separating migrant children from their families can cause "toxic stress" that disrupts a child's brain development and harms long-term health.

At the facility in South Texas, [Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics] says, the staff told her that federal regulations prevented them from touching or holding the child to soothe her.

While shelter managers and other experts say there is no such rule, Kraft says the confusion underscores why these shelters are not the right place for young children — especially kids who have fled dangerous countries and who have just been separated from their parents. "By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children.";;;;;

.... "Kids started appearing at the shelter who didn't 'know the drill.' They had just been separated from their parents, so they were experiencing an increased amount of trauma," says Antar Davidson, who worked for Southwest Key, a nonprofit that operates more than two dozen shelters for migrant children from Texas to California.

Davidson quit this week because the shelter where he worked in Tucson, Ariz., didn't have the trained staffing to handle the influx of younger, more traumatized children, he says.

The breaking point for Davidson came, he says, when he was asked to tell two siblings, ages 6 and 10, that they couldn't hug each other. "They called me over the radio. And they wanted to translate to these kids that the rule of the shelter is that they are not allowed to hug," he says. "And these are kids that had just been separated from their mom — basically just huddling and hugging each other in a desperate attempt to remain together." Southwest Key says it has a clear policy that allows touching and hugging in certain circumstances.

Alexia Rodriguez, the company's vice president of immigrant children's services, says Southwest Key's facilities are licensed and adequately staffed. And they have worked for years with migrant children, many of them traumatized. "We love the kids. We have experienced staff to provide comfort, counseling. And help the child feel more comfortable," she says.

Asked if that meant it's "absolutely OK to hug them," Rodriguez replies: "Absolutely. I was at one of our shelters last week that has babies and preschoolers, and I walked around holding a baby the entire time I was there. And that's what you would see." The Office of Refugee Resettlement says there are now more than 11,000 children in its shelters. Almost half of them are in facilities run by Southwest Key, including several hundred who are 12 or younger.

Washington Post -The Department of Health and Human Services said that it had 11,432 migrant children in its custody, up from fewer than 9,000 at the end of May.

Republicans nominate white nationalist for Virgnia senate seat

Alternet - On June 12, neo-Confederate Corey Stewart was elected to be the Republican nominee to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Stewart is an ardent defender of Confederate symbols and a staunch opponent of immigrants’ rights, and he has been affiliated with white supremacists...

... In January 2017, Stewart spoke out in support of Paul Nehlen, a white nationalist congressional candidate who holds and espouses deeply racist views, calling him one of his “personal heroes.” According to CNN, Stewart later paid almost $800 to the "pro-White" Nehlen as a “fundraising commission.” And in February 2017, Stewart attended an event put on by “Unity & Security for America,” a group run by Jason Kessler, the white nationalist who would months later organize the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.

Does your homeland feel more secure now?

From the Secretary of Homeland Security

House Democrats join right in anti-protest bill

Medium - With little attention, the House of Representative just passed the “Protect and Serve Act of 2018” sponsored by Representative John H. Rutherford (R-FL). The bill would make it a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for “knowingly causing serious bodily injury to a law enforcement officer, or attempts to do so.” It joins a host of others deemed “Blue Lives Matter” laws, which have been introduced and passed, in part as a reaction to rising defiance to documented brutality and racism practiced by law enforcement in this county.

Police departments across the country have justified brutality and murder by accusing their victims of assault, for actions as heinous as dodging a night stick or pushing back on a barricade that is crushing against a crowd. And we don’t need body cameras to know that law enforcement officials are not always honest about their actions that result in arrests and lethal force....

The Democratic support (162 voting “Yea”) for this bill is revealing, considering it includes “progressive champions” and Bernie Sanders allies Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX), who is currently in a tight race for the U.S Senate against Ted Cruz. Outspoken Sanders supporter, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who resigned from a party leadership seat due to her endorsement, abstained her vote on the bill.

June 17, 2018

60% of Puerto Ricans denied FEMA help

Slate - In March, lawyers and community groups said that [FEMA] had denied about 60 percent of household applications in Puerto Rico, often because families could not prove ownership of their homes. FEMA’s denial rate for individual assistance is always high— about 30 percent of Texans were rejected for Harvey-related requests by January. But as of March, FEMA grant denials in Puerto Rico after Maria nearly double that number. In a series of interviews, lawyers and residents told me that FEMA presided over a poorly managed process that failed to account for the island’s unique customs.

Des Moines Register warns Iowa farmers of effect of Trump tariffs

The Hill - The Des Moines Register is warning Iowa residents that newly announced tariffs from the Trump administration could cost farmers in the state as much as $624 million, blasting out the headline on the newspaper's front page. The newspaper, which reaches more than 140,000 Iowans in the state Trump won by just under 10 points, declares on its front page that the cost of Trump's moves to punish China for intellectual property theft would begin to "add up" for Iowa farmers.

Southern Baptists call off the culture war

Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic - America’s largest Protestant group moves to cut ties with the Republican Party and re-engage with mainstream culture.

It was immediately clear that change was afoot in Dallas. I’ve attended the annual gatherings of the Southern Baptist Convention dozens of times, but walking around the convention center this week, I was struck by how unfamiliar it all felt. When I was a child, the convention hall was a sea of silver comb overs and smelled of denture paste. While the older, more traditionalist crowd was still present in Dallas, the younger, fresh-faced attendees now predominated.

“The generational shift happening in the SBC has thrust the group into the middle of an identity crisis,” says Barry Hankins, chair of the department of history at Baylor University and co-author of Baptists in America: A History. “The younger generation thinks differently than the old guard Christian right about culture and politics, and they are demanding change.”

To enact this change, young Baptists nominated 45-year old pastor J.D. Greear from North Carolina to be president of the denomination. In a campaign video, Greear called for “a new culture and a new posture in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Refusing to cede power without a fight, fundamentalist Baptists nominated Ken Hemphill as an opposition candidate. But Greear won with nearly 70 percent of the vote, becoming the youngest SBC president in 37 years. More Stories

Greear has promised to lead the denomination down a different path, which, he has said, must include efforts both to repent of a “failure to listen to and honor women and racial minorities” and “to include them in proportionate measures in top leadership roles.” If the meeting in Dallas is any indication, his vision is resonating with a large number of the next wave of Baptist leaders.


Why journalism isn't a profession

Sam Smith, 1976 – It was nice to learn the other day that the National Labor Relations Board agrees with me that journalists are not “professionals .” The ruling came in a labor dispute over which union reporters and other newspaper workers should join. The NLRB probably didn’t mean to, but it nonetheless struck a small blow for freedom of the press — and the rest of the country as well. One of the most serious of the infinite misapprehensions suffered by reporters is that they are somehow akin to lawyers, doctors and engineers. They long for initial letters after their name.

As late as the 1950s more than half of all reporters lacked a college degree. Since that time there has been increasing emphasis on professionalism in journalism; witness the growth of journalism schools, the proliferation of turgid articles on the subject, and the preoccupation with “objectivity” and other “ethical issues.” There has also been an interesting parallel growth in monopolization of the press.

Among the common characteristics of professions is that they are closed shops and have strong monopolistic tendencies. The more training required to enter a field, the more you can weed out socially, politically, and philosophically unsuitable candidates; and armed with a set of rules politely known as canons or codes of ethics but also operating as an agreement for the restraint of trade, one can eliminate much of the competition.

The professional aspirations of such formerly unpretentious occupations as journalism, teaching and politics is one of the most dangerous of the numerous anti-democratic currents of the day. Professionals hoard knowledge and use it as a form of monopolistic capital. For example, one of the most constructive ways to improve health in the country is through preventive action and personal habits, which depend upon widespread information and education. Yet it has been largely through governmental intervention (the FDA, EPA, etc.), renegade doctors so few they are household words, investigating legislators, health nuts, and consumer groups that the country began to understand that health is not something that you buy from a doctor. The medical profession regarded this as a trade secret.

Lawyers have been more successful in withstanding the democratic spirit. The fact that there are ways of dealing with civil disputes and community justice other than in the traditional legal adversary system is still not widely known. Through semantic obfuscation, a stranglehold over our courts and legislatures, and an arcane collection of self-serving contradictions known as law, attorneys have managed to turn human disputation from a mere cottage industry into a significant factor in the gross national product.

The First Amendment says nothing about objectivity, professional standards, national news councils, blind quotes, deep backgrounders, or how much publicity to give a trial. Its authors understood far better than many contemporary editors and journalistic commentators that the pursuit of truth can not be codified and that circumscribing the nature of the search will limit the potential of its success. Nor can there be an institutionalization of the search for the truth; it always comes back to the will and ability of individuals.

Check a reporter’s bookshelf and you’ll find a dictionary, Bartlett’s, a thesaurus and, perhaps, Strunk & White and lots of junk reading. No stacks of maroon or blue texts with thin gold titles like “Compton on Trial Coverage.” Doctors need such tomes and lawyers have made it necessary to themselves to have them. But journalism does not depend upon the retrieval of institutionalized stores of knowledge, and won’t — until we presume to know as much, as definitively, about the working of human society as a doctor must know about the workings of the stomach.

Journalism has always been a craft – in rare moments- an art – but never a profession. It depends too much on the perception, skill, empathy and honesty of the practitioner rather than on the acquisition of technical knowledge and skills.

The techniques of reporting can be much more easily taught than such human qualities and they can be best learned in an apprentice-like situation rather than in a classroom. Too many reporters have nothing but technique. Trained not to take sides, to be “balanced,” they lose the human passion that makes up the better part of the world about which they write. They are taught to surrender values such as commitment, anger and delight that make the world go round and thus become peculiarly unqualified to describe the rotation. Disengaged, their writing is not fair but just vacuously neutral on the surface while culturally biased underneath.

All memory of the newspaper trade short of printing could be wiped out and in a matter of days someone would start publishing a newspaper again, and probably a good one. Someone would want to tell a story.

The institution of journalism functions like all large institutions; it is greedy, self-promoting, and driven towards the acquisition of power. The thing that has saved it has been the integrity and craft of individual journalists. Preserving that integrity and that craft is not only important to reporters but to everyone, for when reporters become merely agents of an overly powerful profession, democracy loses one of its most important allies, free journalists practicing their craft.

Word: The failure of trickle down economics

Robert Reich  - More evidence of the failure of trickle-down economics: 
1) Hourly earnings are down, adjusted for inflation.
2) Corporations have pumped billions into stock buybacks.
3) The deficit is up 66% from last year.
4) Wall St. profits have soared.

The right is purging voters

American Prospect - Voter purges are on the rise, thanks to a right-wing campaign to “clean up” voter rolls in places where Democrats and voters of color would be hardest hit.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling to uphold Ohio’s controversial voter purge law spotlights the growing clout of right-wing “election integrity” groups that have aggressively bullied and sued states and jurisdictions into kicking thousands of voters off their rolls.

Such groups, which include the deep-pocketed legal outfit Judicial Watch, and the Public Interest Legal Foundation, headed by J. Christian Adams, a leading proponent of voter fraud myths, hailed the high court’s ruling in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute as a major victory. Both Judicial Watch and the PILF called on states to follow Ohio’s lead and “clean up” their voter rolls—a practice that in Ohio’s case has meant blocking thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots.

Cheering from the wings was Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a key architect of the Trump administration’s voter-unfriendly policies. The Justice Department, having sided against Ohio in the Husted case under President Obama, reversed course under Trump. The courts have thus far blocked Kobach’s efforts to require proof of citizenship for voter registration in Kansas, but his goal is to take that policy nationwide. The DOJ also wrote 44 states last year, demanding to know how they plan to remove ineligible voters from the rolls. That could signal a coming federal push for voter purges.

June 16, 2018

Rebooting the Poor People's Campaign

Portside - Thousands of anti-poverty activists have launched a campaign in recent weeks modeled after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.

Like the push 50 years ago, advocates are hoping to draw attention to those struggling with deep poverty from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from the American Southwest to California’s farm country.

The case for reviving the Glass-Steagall Act

Costs California more to imprison someone than to send them to Harvard

LA Times - The cost of imprisoning each of California’s 130,000 inmates is expected to reach a record $75,560 in the next year

That’s enough to cover the annual cost of attending Harvard University and still have plenty left over for pizza and beer

... The price for each inmate has doubled since 2005, even as court orders related to overcrowding have reduced the population by about one-quarter. Salaries and benefits for prison guards and medical providers drove much of the increase.

Trump Foundation treasurer didn't know he had the job

The Week - Alan Weisselberg seemed to know he was the Trump Organization's CFO. But he could've listed another job on his resume, and he didn't even know it.

President Trump's longtime loyalist is also listed as the Donald J. Trump Foundation's treasurer, which would've held him accountable in a new lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general  accusing the nonprofit of illicit spending. But Weisselberg wasn't aware of his position until a New York state investigator told him, The Washington Post reports.

IQ scores dropping around the world

CBS Sacramento - IQ scores have been steadily falling for the past few decades, and environmental factors are to blame, a new study says.

Norwegian researchers analyzed the IQ scores of Norwegian men born between 1962 and 1991 and found that scores increased by almost 3 percentage points each decade for those born between 1962 to 1975 — but then saw a steady decline among those born after 1975.

Similar studies in Denmark, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia have demonstrated a similar downward trend in IQ scores, said Ole Rogeberg, a senior research fellow at the Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research in Norway and co-author of the new study.

....These environmental factors could include changes in the education system and media environment, nutrition, reading less and being online more, Rogeberg said.

Social mobility in richest countries has stalled since 1990s

Guardian - Income inequality has increased and social mobility stalled across the world’s richest countries since the 1990s, trapping families on low incomes at the bottom of the earnings ladder, according to an in-depth report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The Paris-based body, which counts 34 countries as members, said barriers to social mobility were harming economic progress by shutting out vital workers and undermining political stability as people became cynical about their prospects.

Toys R US shortchanges its employees

Boing Boing - [Toys R us] private equity owners borrowed more than $5 billion to buy the company (with a $400 million annual debt service plan). The new owners quickly took the company into bankruptcy, defaulting on that giant debt, after paying themselves $200 million (including tens of millions in performance bonuses to the C-suite in the same year the company declared bankruptcy).

Now the company has announced that it will also default on all severance payouts to the company's 30,000 employees, including employees who worked at the company for decades, skipping Christmas and Thanksgiving with their families to staff the stores, now slated to get literally not one penny.

June 15, 2018

Sessions uses biblical passage to defend abuse of children than was also used to defend slaverey

BBC- US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been criticised for citing Bible scripture to back up the Trump administration's immigration policy.

At an event in Indiana, Mr Sessions was defending the practice of separating undocumented immigrant families apprehended at the border.

He quoted the New Testament and said having children does not shield border-crossing migrants from prosecution.

The Bible verse was once used to justify US slavery, said critics.

... In 1855, the Richmond Daily Dispatch newspaper wrote that hundreds of passages proved "slavery has the divine sanction", citing Romans 13 as one.

The debate around Romans 13 dates back even further. During the American Revolution, both patriots and those loyal to England invoked Romans 13.

At that time, the arguments centered around whether the verse meant only just rulers were to be obeyed versus upholding existing law and order.

Stupid Scott Pruitt tricks

Daily Beast -     EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the Donald Trump favorite who is already the subject of multiple ethics investigations, ordered his agency staff to help his daughter get an internship at the White House and leveraged his status to get the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates to write a letter to the University of Virginia School of Law in support of his daughter’s admission there, The New York Times reports.

Aides told the Times that Pruitt “told them that he expected a certain standard of living akin to wealthier Trump Cabinet members. The aides felt as if Mr. Pruitt—who is paid about $180,000 a year—saw them as foot soldiers in achieving that lifestyle.”

Trump's war on workers

Trump regime to dump immigrant children in remote Texas tents

Independent, UK - The Trump administration has decided to house potentially hundreds of migrant children in tents in a remote area of Texas.

... With some existing facilities nearing capacity, the Department of Health and Human Services  - which has responsibility over unaccompanied immigrant children - has settled on constructing a temporary site in the border town of Tornillo, Texas.

Asked if the structures would be tents, Mr Wolfe said that HHS uses the term “soft-sided structures”.

He said the structures be able to accommodate 360 youths with “potential expansion for more” and confirmed they would be air-conditioned.?

Isolating immigrant children a profit center for defense contractors

Daily Beast - Separating refugee and immigrant children from their parents isn’t just an emotionally wrenching policy. It’s an enterprise that is benefitting intelligence and defense contractors.

Those contractors—including one with a history of scandals—have advertised a flurry of jobs in recent weeks to support the infrastructure surrounding undocumented children whom the Trump administration has taken from their families.

Canadiana boycotting American goods

NY Post - Canadians have taken to practicing pocketbook diplomacy in defense of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is caught in a trade war of words with President Trump, by boycotting American goods and canceling vacations to the United States, according to a report.

Shoppers are shunning Kentucky bourbon, California wine and Florida oranges, and avoiding American companies like Starbucks, Walmart and McDonald’s, Canadian network CTV News reported.

On Twitter, hashtags like #BuyCanadian, #BoycottUSProducts and #BoycottUSA are spreading as outrage over Trump’s trade tariffs grows.

Trump wants Americans to act towards him as North Koreans act toward Kim Jong-un

Daily Beast - President Trump observed that Fox & Friends was filming on the White House lawn and announced that he would make an “unannounced visit” down to speak with his favorite morning cable show.

During the resulting chat with host Steve Doocy, the president repeatedly and lavishly praised North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with whom he met earlier this week, remarking: “He’s the head of a country—and I mean he’s the strong head. He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.”

June 14, 2018

Jobless claims hit 44 year low

CNBC - New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell  and the number of Americans on jobless rolls declined to a near 44½-year low, pointing to a rapidly tightening labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 218,000 for the week ended June 9, the Labor Department said. Claims data for the prior week was unrevised.

Judge rules against federal kill list of US citizens

Common Dreams - In a major victory for all who believe the U.S. government should not have the power to sentence people to death in secret, a federal judge on Wednesday greenlighted a lawsuit brought by an American freelance journalist who claims he was placed on a classified "kill list" by the Obama administration and targeted by five separate drone strikes.

"Due process is not merely an old and dusty procedural obligation," U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer said in her ruling allowing the case to proceed. "Instead, it is a living, breathing concept that protects U.S. persons from overreaching government action."

The "kill list" lawsuit was initially filed last year by the human rights group Reprieve on behalf of American journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, who says he was erroneously deemed a "militant" by the Obama administration while reporting from Syria.

NY Attorney General accuses Trump and family of persistent violations of federal law

Slate - Donald Trump’s personal charity amounted to little more than a personal piggy bank he could use for his own financial and political gain, according to a lawsuit filed by the New York state attorney general after a two-year investigation.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed the suit in state court on Thursday accusing Trump and his three adult children of “extensive and persistent violations of federal law” that date back more than a decade and continued through the 2016 presidential campaign. Among the alleged illegal activity: Trump used foundation money to settle his business’ legal obligations, promote his hotels and clubs, and curry political favor for his presidential campaign.

States seeking ways to reduce gerrymandering

Christian Science Monitor - Ohio last month became the eighth state to turn to some form of a separate commission for redrawing US House of Representatives districts after the national census each decade to squelch gerrymandering. Thirteen states, including Ohio, use commissions for state legislature districts as well.

Clamoring for more fairness in elections, Ohio voters on May 8 approved with a 75 percent majority a state constitutional amendment to create a bipartisan commission to draw district boundaries if the state legislature fails to produce a plan acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats. The plan earlier won overwhelming support in Ohio's legislature.

If the Supreme Court rules against voters in Wisconsin and Maryland who challenged partisan gerrymandering in those states, legal experts said more states may consider efforts like Ohio's.

The justices in 2015 gave their stamp of approval to independent commissions to handle redistricting, upholding a voter-approved Arizona plan that stripped state lawmakers of their role in mapping congressional districts in a bid to remove partisan politics from the process.

About a quarter of US states have given a commission either full or partial authority in redistricting. These commissions vary in form, some allowing elected politicians as members and other more independent ones not allowing them. Some commissions merely advise lawmakers.

Taking druggies off of food stamps increased likelihood they'd go back to prison

Intercept -An often overlooked provision in the 1996 welfare reform act barred felons with drug convictions from obtaining welfare — including participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) — unless states actively waived those restrictions.

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, who was responsible for adding this provision to the bill, argued at the time that he was merely “asking a higher standard of behavior of people on welfare.”....

Twenty-two years later, a Ph.D student in the economics department at the University of Maryland has been able to test the actual effects of the ban. Cody Tuttle, whose paper was released earlier this spring, found that at least in Florida, the law had the opposite intended effect — increasing recidivism among drug traffickers, rather than reducing it.

Tuttle looked at a sample of around 1,000 Florida drug traffickers who committed offenses within 240 days of August 23, 1996 — the day the ban went into effect. His study focused on drug traffickers because in Florida, the ban was limited to that population. “What I find is that for those people that are banned from SNAP … they’re more likely to go back to prison,” Tuttle told The Intercept. In fact, his report shows that individuals who committed drug trafficking offenses after the SNAP cutoff date were “nine percentage points more likely” to return to prison.

Percentage of evangelicals in America isn't changing

It was 41% in 1992 and still is.

Maine's cop with lots of fans

Boston Globe - For someone who claims to know nothing about social media, Tim Cotton sure has a lot of Facebook fans. When he took over Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook page in 2014, it had less than 10,000 followers. Since then, the page has racked up nearly 173,000 “likes,” which is more than five times the population of Bangor.

Cotton’s posts, which range from retellings of some emergency calls the department receives to photos of the famed “Duck of Justice” mascot, are comedic musings often written in a stream-of-consciousness, tongue-in-cheek manner. The Sergeant—who says you can just call him Tim—began writing the type of page he would want to read about a police department, which is why he writes essays about his coworkers and makes up short stories about Mainers who break the law.

And now a recent post:

Tom Cotton, Bangor Police Dept - This is for the graduates of 2018- consider this your graduation card. Don't shake it because I did not insert any cash...

Graduation. Off to college, trade school, the military, a new job, or a road trip across America. I would personally opt for the latter. Let it be known that I have never been a true conformist. I think random travel with very few plans is the best thing for a headache. And believe me, the headaches are about to begin.

We know that high school is difficult. The thing is, as time goes by, you will look back and remember how great it was to have most of your days planned out for you. A list of classes and break times. Practice for sports or drama or whatever other sanctioned or unsanctioned endeavors you were involved in.

Ten years from now it will be remembered as a pretty good gig. Right now? Not so much.

You probably can hear the song, "I Believe I Can Fly?" The sad news is that it is not true. You can't. The song was overplayed anyway.

The truth is, you are going to really muck around a lot. I know that you think there are all kinds of fellow youth and adults who have it all figured out, no problems, no issues, and perfect lives. This is just not the case.

The people that you believe have perfect lives are sitting around this weekend thinking exactly like you are. It is a cruel joke which the human mind plays on all of us. No one has it perfect. No one has it all figured out. If someone says that they do, nod your head up and down and humor them -often those who say they have never been happier are not being entirely truthful. The power of positive thinking is actually a valid strategy to get through life. Don’t underestimate it, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Let me give you a few tips. You might never listen to me if you ran into me at a graduation party because I would be eating too much onion dip and might (would) have residue of your aunt’s ambrosia salad stuck stuck to the lapel of my leisure suit. Google -leisure suit- and make sure to select images. It will help you become more accepting of others.

On second thought you might want to Google -"ambrosia salad."

1. Gather up two- twenty dollar bills, two- ten dollar bills, and two- five dollar bills. Throw some one dollar bills in there as well. Overtipping is sometimes caused by poor planning and only having a ten-spot when you should have had four George Washingtons. Fold them very tightly and stuff them somewhere accessible. Not too accessible. Debit cards are fine but American cash will cajole someone to pull you out of a ditch, help get you get a cab, purchase pizza, a bottle of water from a vendor, or a great concert tee shirt.

It’s also nice to help someone who is down and out with cash. You’ll feel better, but don’t pull it all out in an alley in order to show your benevolence. This might get you robbed.

It is best to keep that cash for an emergency- not for day to day expenses. Try to "almost" forget that you have it. It gives you confidence when the power goes out and ATM’s don’t work. This will happen, you will have cash. American cash works very well. Go ahead, fold up a few Rubles and try to use that at the Piggly-Wiggly -you will thank me later.

2. Learn to check your own oil, windshield washer fluid, and the air pressure in your tires. Make sure you can change your own flat tire in low light and wet conditions. It will be dark and raining when you have to do it. When unscrupulous individuals are asked for help in some situations; they might try to take advantage of you. Better that you can do this on your own.

Hey! Check to see that you have a spare tire in the first place.

Piss-poor planning precipitates predicaments which could have easily been previously predicted, and proper preparation propels people to a pleasantly proud place upon a precipice.

Oh yeah, practice writing alliteration. Put it in college papers- professors like it. Well, some don't but as long as you are enjoying yourself, it's a win.

If you think people are only trying to screw you over through the Internet and annoying high pressure phone calls, think again. It has been going on (in person) for years. This is why I still have a job -people try to steal from you in many, many ways.

3. Hug your parents. It’s embarrassing sometimes, but just do it. Give your mother and/or father a kiss. Tell them that you love them. If you can do this in front of all your friends, you will be able to speak in public when the time comes. If someone makes fun of you for this -delete them from your friend’s list.

4. Learn to speak in front of groups. Hugging your parents in public will help you overcome the fear of public speaking. Public speaking will help you throughout the rest of your life. Ask around, I know what I am talking about.

I once gave a three-minute speech on the word,"thumb." It went over well. True story.

5. When someone says, trust me -back away slowly and reassess the situation. As a police officer with hundreds of interviews under my belt, here are a couple more phrases for you to remain cognizant of.

Be suspicious, but make sure you take into consideration the "totality of the circumstances" when someone uses the following phrases: “Trust me,” “Honest to God,” “I am going to give you a deal,” “If you are going to take it today I will give you a special price but you need to buy it right now.”

Also, these gems: “I’ll be right out,” “To tell you the truth,” "I don’t want to lie to you,” and “I think that’s all” (this is always a lie).

You get the idea. Be careful and don’t trust everyone. Not everyone is worthy of your trust. Pay attention and surround yourself with people you do trust.

6. Treat people kindly. Look for people who need your help, not just people that ask for help. Sometimes the people that need the help the most will not ask anyone. Pay attention.

7. When you meet someone for the first time and you don’t like them at all (this will happen) give them another chance. Some of my favorite people in the entire world are individuals that I did not like (at all) when I first met them. Most of my best friends did not like me at first. I fully understand. Some of them still have valid concerns.

8. Finally, treat the people that do the less desirable jobs better than the people doing the seemingly desirable jobs. Those are the people that make the rest of the world worth living in. Trust me. (just this time because that was one of my warning phrases in #5).

P.S. Read more books and listen to more music- sometimes at the same time.

Oh yeah, if you have a bad feeling about going somewhere with someone, stay home. Listen to music and read a book.

Additionally, you can trust MOST cops. When everything turns to crap and there is nowhere to go, find the police station. We tend to be helpful when people are in need. We won't ask for your secret stash of cash.

Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone and be kind to one another.

We will be here.

Have an awesome and safe graduation season and a safe and pleasant life.


Could Trump's car tariffs damage the car industry?

CNET - If The Donald does manage to get his 25 percent tariff imposed, foreign automakers have a few options. First, they could swallow the cost and continue selling vehicles at similar prices to what we have now. Naturally, this would totally hose their bottom lines and could have residual effects like the slower development of technology, etc., due to reduced budgets. Not ideal.

Next, these companies could pass the extra costs to the customers. That means that if you go to your friendly local Mercedes-Benz dealer and want to buy the E-Class wagon that you've been saving your pennies for, you'd have to shell out something like $78,000 for the base model, compared to $63,000 without the added tariff. Big bummer.

But it's still more complicated than that. If foreign-built cars were all of a sudden 25 percent more expensive to consumers, what would that mean for the industry in terms of lost sales? According to research firm LMC Automotive, it could cause a 10 percent reduction in total vehicle deliveries, which works out to around 2,000,000 sales.

Medicare financial outlook worsens

June 13, 2018

The threat of a Canadian invasion

Sam Smith - While I know many believe Donald Trump is using the national security excuse merely to find a legal justification for raising tariffs against Canada, readers need to  understand that the Progressive Review comes to you only slightly above two hundred miles from the Canadian border. That's close enough that the Canadians could easily wipe out this village even without denuclearization which I assume Trump will soon demand. And it will certainly will become harder to get cheaper prescription drugs from your remaining Canadian pals. So we will be following this threat in coming months  at least until Trump, after a summit with the Canadian prime minister, declares Trudeau almost as outstanding as Kim Jong-un.

Federation of American Scientist Secrecy News With exquisitely strange timing, the Department of Homeland Security today unveiled a "Northern Border Strategy" to protect the United States against threats originating in Canada.

The new Trump Administration
strategy acknowledges that "the Northern Border remains an area of limited threat in comparison to the U.S. Southern Border."

"However," it goes on to say, "the Northern Border is not without safety, security, and resiliency challenges.  The most common threat to U.S. public safety along the Northern Border continues to be the bi-directional flow of illicit drugs."

The strategy also warns of "homegrown violent extremists in Canada who are not included in the U.S. Government's consolidated terrorist watch list and could therefore enter the United States legally."

The case for invading AmericaScott Gilmore, McLeans, Canada -

Future historians will never be able to claim we didn’t try. As Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said at the end of the recent disastrous G7 summit (and while carefully avoiding the present tense) Canada is “the closest and strongest ally the United States has had.”

And it has not been easy; a more belligerent, loud and difficult neighbor would be hard to find. But we have remained unfailingly calm, helpful and even polite. We were there to accept their wayward American aircraft after 9/11. We fought and died beside them in Europe, Korea and Afghanistan. For decades, we’ve shared our intelligence, our maple syrup and our comedians. And in return we graciously took their draft dodgers, reality TV shows and light beer with nary a complaint.

Unfortunately, those days are past. Relations between Washington and Ottawa (and Mexico City, and Berlin, and London, and Paris, and Canberra, and Tokyo, and Seoul, and almost everywhere else except Moscow) have reached rock bottom.

Every effort has been made, through multilateral channels, bilateral visits, shuttle diplomacy and Broadway musicals to find a way out of this festering crisis. But none of these strategies have worked and we are now left with only one option: invade the United States in order to restore order and stability.

The case for military action is obvious, but nonetheless it deserves reviewing. First, America has become a failed state. The decades-long internecine conflict between the two main cultural factions, Republicans and Democrats, has led to the collapse of their political institutions. Laws cannot be passed. Ambassadors cannot be appointed. Even basic health care cannot be provided to all its citizens.

Corruption has reached third world levels. Congressmen and Senators spend so much time and effort collecting bribes (referred to as “campaign donations” in their local dialect) that they no longer have time to debate policy or legislation. Even the president has left himself wide open to allegations he is on the take, negotiating lucrative real estate deals for himself while he appoints family members to positions of power and influence.

As with other failed states, the United States is no longer able to control its own borders. Drugs and guns flow over their southern frontier and asylum seekers flee over their northern frontier. Due to an unchecked arms trade there are now more firearms in the United States than in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Syria combined. This has led to unbridled violence which has made many areas of the country “no go zones.” (The murder rate is twice Europe’s.)

The President himself has declared Afghanistan is safer than Chicago. Sadly, this also means the American government is not even able to protect schools, which now endure mass shootings on a nearly weekly basis.


Dumb tweet, even for Trump

Donald Trump - “Just landed – a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea"

Today's reason for firing Scott Pruitt

Political Wire EPA chief Scott Pruitt “last year had a top aide help contact Republican donors who might offer his wife a job, eventually securing her a position at a conservative political group that has backed him for years,” the Washington Post reports.

Judge approves ATT- Time Warner monopoly

CNBC - A federal judge said that AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon did not impose conditions on the merger's approval. He also urged the government not to seek a stay when issuing his decision in a closed-door room with reporters.

Governor polls


Democrat seat in doubt
Rhode Island: Raimondo D Fung R 3

Republican seat in doubt
Reynolds R Boulton D - 4

Republican loss
Illinois: 18%
Nevada 6%
Ohio 7% NEW POLL

California bans state travel to Oklahoma

Newsmax - California is continuing to ban state-funded travel to places with laws perceived to discriminate against gay or transgender people, adding Oklahoma as the ban's ninth state, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced.

The restrictions on Oklahoma were added after the state adopted new law in 2016 allowing adoption agencies to refuse to work with member of the LGBT community, reports The Sacramento Bee.

Internet use rises among lower income Americans

Slashdot - Internet use by Americans increased in 2017, fueled by a rise among people with lower incomes, a government report viewed  by Reuters found. From a report: 
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) also reported that for the first time tablets were more popular than desktop computers, and that more households had a mobile data plan than wired broadband service. The results were to be publicly released later on Wednesday. The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the internet in everyday communication as the way consumers access content changes. Among Americans living in households with family incomes below $25,000 per year, the survey found internet use increased to 62 percent in 2017 from 57 percent in 2015, while households earning $100,000 or more showed no change at 86 percent. The gain of 13.5 million users was "driven by increased adoption among low-income families, seniors, African Americans, Hispanics, and other groups that have been less likely to go online," the agency said.