December 16, 2018

The hazards of highway spike strips

Politics at the top: Reaction rather than action

Sam Smith – One of the great myths about American politics is that change comes from the top. The truth of the matter is that change typically starts at the bottom and slowly works its way up to the top. As I wrote some years back:
As late as 1992, the one hundred largest localities in America pursued an estimated 1,700 environmental crime prosecutions, more than twice the number of such cases brought by the federal government in the previous decade. As Washington was vainly struggling to get a handle on the tobacco industry, 750 communities passed indoor no-smoking laws. And, more recently, we have had the local drives towards relaxing anti-marijuana laws, permitting gay marriage and the major local and state outcry against the Real ID act.
Having been covering, and participating in, this frustrating racket for about six decades, I take this for granted but I repeatedly come across the assumption by noble advocates of good causes that we must reject national politicians because they are not up to speed.

Of course not. By the time politics reaches the national level what we get from its participation is largely reaction to unavoidable trends rather than action instigated by themselves.

This is an important fact to keep in mind as the Democrats move awkwardly towards choosing a presidential candidate. We must remember that the truly virtuous in this land represent a small minority and the chances of their favored candidate winning the nomination and election is minute. What we get is a national reaction to everything that has been worked on, tried, succeeded or failed in the recent past. If you as a voter are not willing to compromise at this point, you do everything you’ve been advocating no favor because you have increased the chance that a really bad guy will win.

As I have noted several times in the past, at the national level we are choosing a battlefield not a candidate. For example, despite regarding her as dishonest and too conservative, I voted for Hillary Clinton because I would rather have fought her troops than the ones we currently combatting. The virtue of my own beliefs had nothing to contribute on that particular day except to cast a ballot for the candidate who would be least dangerous to my cause.

If this seems cowardly, I apologize. I am merely a citizen not a saint. Besides I’ve been around long enough to learn how many years progress can take. For example, in 1970 I wrote the first article explaining how DC could become a state without a constitutional amendment. Today, the DC Statehood Green Party still represents less than 1% of voters but in 2016 86% of those in the city voting cast a ballot in support of DC statehood.

Similarly, one of the first meetings of the current ranked choice voting movement was held in our living room back in 1992. Only this year did RCV pass at the state level, thanks to an vote in Maine.

My own efforts have been directed at the level at which there is most chance of change. Politics is not a religion, but a challenge in which you do the best with what you’ve got. So as we watch the Democratic presidential effort unfold, look for signs of candidates who can reach people not like you yet still favor at least some major good policies. The good folks already have your support It’s the others that are going to count. And as a guy who learned his politics in places like Phillly and Boston, you’ll find me backing not just the best candidate, but the best one who can also win folks not like me.


San Smith - What we need is a TRexit

Some problems with DNA

62 percent say Trump isn't telling the truth in Russia probe

Stupid Trump tricks

Trump auctions off 150,000 acres of public lands for fracking near Utah national parks 

In a single week, one Republican senator killed a Vietnam veterans benefits bill while the Republican president planned to deport Vietnam war refugees who have lived here for 40 years.

"REAL scandal is the one sided coverage, hour by hour, of networks like NBC & Democrat spin machines like Saturday Night Live,” Trump tweeted. “It is all nothing less than unfair news coverage and Dem commercials. Should be tested in courts, can’t be legal?”

Trump update

Image may contain: 1 person, text 

Hypocrite of the day: Paul Ryan

Politico -House Speaker Paul Ryan is leaving Congress with a grateful nod to his Irish ancestors. A bill pushed by Ryan, whose family fled famine-ravaged Ireland in 1851, could provide Irish nationals with thousands of additional U.S. work visas each year. The legislation cleared the House Nov. 28 on an uncontested voice vote and is increasingly likely to clear the Senate next week, a GOP aide told Politico.

Pocket paradigm

In the end, it is not the culture from which we came but the one each of us is helping to create that will matter. It is our common fate rather than our disparate pasts that will ultimately describe, redeem, or destroy us. - Sam Smith

Mideast links

Council on American Islamic Relations
Jewish Voice for Peace

Al Jazeera
Electronic Intifada
Tikum Olam

December 15, 2018

Less than half of Republicans think being honest is extremely important for a presidential candidate

Denver Post -In 2007, an Associated Press-Yahoo poll found 71 percent of Republicans saying it is “extremely important” for presidential candidates to be honest, similar to 70 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents. The new Post poll shows identical shares of Democrats and independents prioritizing honesty in presidential candidates, but the share of Republicans who say honesty is extremely important has fallen to 49 percent, 22 points lower than in the AP-Yahoo poll.

Biden leads Iowa Democrats


Biden: 32%
Sanders: 19%
O'Rourke 11^
Warren 8%
Harris 5%
Booker $%
Bloomberg 3%
Brown 1%

Stupid Trump tricks

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump's border wall, The Guardian reported.

The best black history books of 2018

Food groups

Latinos gain clout in new Congress

Collapse of the Republican Party update

Milwaukee Journal -As his last major act in office, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation Friday that scales back the authority of his successor, diminishes the power of the incoming Democratic attorney general and limits early voting.

The move came a day after Walker announced a $28 million incentive package for Kimberly-Clark Corp. using powers the legislation strips from incoming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. If Walker had signed the legislation earlier, he wouldn't have been able to cut the deal with Kimberly-Clark without permission from lawmakers.

Huffington Post -Outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Friday signed off on legislation gutting paid sick leave and minimum wage provisions in the state, the culmination of his party’s strategy to keep the popular measures off the ballot last month.

Passed by a lame-duck GOP state Legislature, the bills are meant to replace stronger measures that hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters had pushed for in a grassroots effort this fall. The new laws provide mainly a cosmetic lift to the wage floor and a gutted paid sick leave measure that leaves out an estimated 55 percent of the state’s workers.

What Trump's new chief of staff had to say about him a few years ago

Daily Beast -Mick Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director who President Donald Trump tweeted Friday would serve as acting chief of staff after John Kelly departs in January, has been a loyal Trump supporter—but he didn’t always like him so much.

During a debate with his then-congressional challenger, Democrat Fran Person, on Nov. 2 of 2016, less than a week before Trump was elected president, then-congressman Mulvaney was blunt with those gathered at York Middle School in York, South Carolina.

After decrying the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as a liberal who would take the country in the wrong direction, Mulvaney said he was supporting Trump, essentially by default.

“Yes, I am supporting Donald Trump, but I’m doing so despite the fact that I think he’s a terrible human being,” he said, according to a report in The State newspaper.

Trump Organization fleeced Trump inaugural committee

Slate -The eleven-billionth Trump corruption story of the last 48 hours involves the Trump inaugural committee (which was a freestanding non-profit entity that raised money from corporations and rich folks) getting fleeced by the Trump Organization’s D.C. hotel:
During the planning, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s eldest daughter and a senior executive with the Trump Organization, was involved in negotiating the price the hotel charged the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee for venue rentals. A top inaugural planner emailed Ivanka and others at the company to “express my concern” that the hotel was overcharging for its event spaces, worrying of what would happen “when this is audited.”
That’s from ProPublica and WNYC, which obtained emails between Ivanka, inaugural official Rick Gates (who’s since pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators in another matter being investigated by Robert Mueller), and inaugural event planner Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Wolkoff, a friend of Melania Trump’s, was flabbergasted at the price that the Trump hotel had quoted for potential use of its event space—and her previous experience includes events like the Met Gala mega-celebfest, so it’s not like she’s a Puritan when it comes to luxe party spending. The Wolkoff email that ProPublica obtained, moreover, was sent after Ivanka had already interceded to lower the Trump Org’s proposed price—and Wolkoff thought the new price was still twice as high as it should be.

What happens now to Obamacare

Washington Post -A federal judge in Texas threw a dagger into the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that the entire health-care law is unconstitutional because of a recent change in federal tax law.

The opinion by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturns all of the sprawling law nationwide.

The ruling came on the eve of the deadline Saturday for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created under the law. If the ruling stands, it will create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system – from no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to the expansion of Medicaid in most states, to the shape of the Indian Health Service – in all, hundreds of provisions in the law that was a prized domestic achievement of President Barack Obama.

A spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, D, who leads a group of states opposing the lawsuit, said that the Democratic defenders of the law are ready to challenge the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.

December 14, 2018

Federal judge in Texas wrecks Obamacare

Washington Times -Obamacare is no longer valid because of the GOP-led Congress‘ changes to the law, a federal judge said late Friday in a bombshell ruling that sides with state Republicans who argue the’ decision to gut the “individual mandate” rendered the rest of the program null and void.

President Trump, who lambasted his own party for failing to repeal and replace the law as promised, applauded the decision.

The decision is a huge swipe at the 2010 law and sets the stage for a bigger fight in appeals courts. It will also reverberate on Capitol Hill, where Democrats are set to retake the House majority after running on a pro-Obamacare platform and criticizing GOP candidates for failing to devise a fallback plan if the lawsuit is upheld in the end.

“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA for healthcare, and on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of all Americans.”

The American Medical Association decried the ruling as “an incredible step backward” for the U.S. health care system.

Layoffs increase

Labor 411 With layoffs on the rise, and the Dow Jones negative for the year to date, an economic slowdown could be on the horizon.

CBS Moneywatch reports:

“General Motors’s recent decision to close five plants and lay off tens of thousands of workers came in a month that saw U.S. employers slash more than 53,000 jobs — and more are likely to follow suit. The trend is an indication that an economic downturn may be in the works, according to a consultancy that tracks layoffs.

‘Announcements like GM’s will not be the last, as companies adapt to shifting consumer behavior,’ Andrew Challenger, vice president, Challenger Gray & Christmas, said in in a statement. ‘We’ve already seen major plans in the U.S. from Verizon, Wells Fargo and Toys R Us for exactly those reasons.’

By Challenger’s tally, U.S. companies this year have cut nearly 495,000 jobs — 28 percent higher than in the same period a year ago. The current 11-month tally is the highest since 2015, when Challenger counted 475,000 jobs lost through November.

Steele dossier holds up so far

Lawfare - The Mueller investigation has clearly produced public records that confirm pieces of the dossier. And even where the details are not exact, the general thrust of Steele’s reporting seems credible in light of what we now know about extensive contacts between numerous individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian government officials.

However, there is also a good deal in the dossier that has not been corroborated in the official record and perhaps never will be—whether because it’s untrue, unimportant or too sensitive. As a raw intelligence document, the Steele dossier, we believe, holds up well so far. But surely there is more to come from Mueller’s team.

Biden takes Democratic lead in latest poll

Latest poll at right

Biden 26, 23, 30, 27, 33, 26, 25, 28, 15, 30%
Sanders 18, 19, 28, 16, 13, 19, 15, 21, 13, 14%

O'Rourke 8, 9, 7, 16, 9%
Harris 4, 5. 5, 5, 9, 4, 10, 4%
Booker 2, 4. 8, 4, 5, 3, 5% 
Kerry 5, 2 4%
Warren 33, 14, 6, 11, 7, 8, 5, 6, 3%
H Clinton 13%
Brown 3%
Klobuchar 3%

Bloomberg 4, 2, 3%
Holder 4, 1%

Record number of gun deaths in 2017 - majority suicides

Web MD - Gun deaths in the United States reached a record high of nearly 40,000 in 2017, according to a CNN analysis of federal government data.

The new analysis revealed that 23,854 people died from suicide by gun in 2017, the highest number since 1999, when there were 16,599 suicide deaths by gun.

Senate votes to end support for war in Yemen, makes history

Trump's inauguration funding now under criminal investigation

NY Times -Federal prosecutors are examining whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to President Trump’s inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of buying influence over American policy, according to people familiar with the inquiry.

The inquiry focuses on whether people from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — used straw donors to disguise their donations to the two funds. Federal law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees and inaugural funds.

The line of questioning underscores the growing scope of criminal inquiries that pose a threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is focusing on whether anyone in the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to tip the 2016 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, while prosecutors in New York are pursuing evidence he secretly authorized illegal payments of hush money to silence accusations of extramarital affairs that threatened his campaign.

How Trump could get away with it

Newsweek -   In the wake of Robert Mueller's release of key court filings in the Russia probe , conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin said that President Donald Trump would pull an unusual last-minute move to protect himself from potential legal action.

“I would predict here on MSNBC that when Trump leaves office he will resign the presidency 10 minutes before Mike Pence leaves office, allowing Pence to pardon him if there is not a Republican president to follow him,” Rubin told the network’s AM Joy program.

Education links

Bad Ass Teachers
Chicago Teachers Union
Student Voice
Larry Cuban
Ed Notes Online
Diane Ravitch
Valerie Strauss

December 13, 2018


Immigration cases boosting federal prosecutions

Union made vehicle buying guide

Muslim born in Somalia wins Maine city council seat

Almost 15,000 children in immigrant concentration camps

Mueller looking at Mid East involvement in elections

Muslim born in Somalia wins Maine city council seat

Press Herald -An experienced social worker soundly defeated a longtime local business owner in Tuesday’s citywide special election for the District 5 City Council seat.

Deqa Dhalac, intercultural program manager at the Center for Grieving Children in Portland, beat Donald “Cookie” Cook, owner of Rolando’s Redemption on outer Main Street, 1,418 to 700. Deqa Dhalac, left, defeated and Donald Cook 1,418 votes to 700 in the District 5 City Council contest. D

Dhalac, 52, is believed to be the first African-American and the first Muslim to be elected to the council, said Kathy DiPhilippo, a city historian.

“This is absolutely wonderful,” Dhalac said after hearing the results Tuesday night. “I am so proud and humbled that the voters of South Portland have placed their trust in me. It’s a privilege and a responsibility, and I’m ready to go to work for them.”

A single mother of three, Dhalac said her campaign was a labor of love and she would have been proud of her effort even if she had lost. But she admitted to a particular sense of satisfaction having succeeded as an immigrant and a woman of color at a time when hateful political rhetoric is common.

“I’m glad that a little girl who looks like me will see me and think, ‘I can do that, too,’ ” said Dhalac, a native of Somalia who became a U.S. citizen in 1998 and moved to South Portland in 2008.

South Portland is 92% white and 1% African American

Immigration cases boosting federal prosecutions

TRAC -The total number of federal criminal prosecutions for FY 2018 was 165,070, the highest since 2013, and representing a 35 percent increase over FY 2017 when federal criminal prosecutions totaled 122,492. Approximately 61 percent of all federal criminal prosecutions in FY 2018 were immigration-related. Relative to its population size - and focusing just on filings in U.S. district courts that typically handle more serious offenses - New Mexico experienced the highest per capita number of prosecutions during October than any other federal judicial district. Immigration and drug-related prosecutions are the two largest categories of cases brought before federal district courts.

Union made vehicle buying guide

Almost 15,000 children in immigrant concentration camps

NPR-The number of immigrant children being held in government custody has reached almost 15,000, putting a network of federally contracted shelters across the country near capacity.

The national network of more than 100 shelters are 92 percent full, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The situation is forcing the government to consider a range of options, possibly including releasing children more quickly to sponsors in the United States or expanding the already crowded shelter network.

Most of migrant children are teenage boys from Central America who travel to the border alone. Many are escaping poverty or gangs, and they plan to ask for asylum and ultimately find work or go to school in the U.S.

Mueller looking at Mid East involvement in elections

Daily Beast -Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is preparing to reveal to the public a different side of his investigation. In court filings that are set to drop in early 2019, prosecutors will begin to unveil Middle Eastern countries’ attempts to influence American politics, three sources familiar with this side of the probe told The Daily Beast.

While one part of the Mueller team has indicted Russian spies and troll-masters, another cadre has been spending its time focusing on how Middle Eastern countries pushed cash to Washington politicos in an attempt to sway policy under President Trump’s administration. Various witnesses affiliated with the Trump campaign have been questioned about their conversations with deeply connected individuals from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to people familiar with the probe. Topics in those meetings ranged from the use of social-media manipulation to help install Trump in the White House to the overthrow of the regime in Iran.

Economics links

Flotsam & Jetsam: Me and the National Enruirer

Sam Smith, News of the Trump-National Enquirer scandal suggests that I should admit to my connection - albeit extremely brief - with the Enquirer.

The 1960s was a time for trying things. I even seriously considered working for the National Enquirer. A friend at the highly respectable Congressional Quarterly called with news that a mutual acquaintance -- a deputy editor at the tabloid -- was looking for a Washington column. The Enquirer was willing to pay $800 a week -- an enormous sum at the time albeit some of it intended for loosening lips.

My friend's scheme was brilliant. Four of us would write under a single pseudonym. Thus we could all keep our day jobs while writing one quarter of a column.

For five hours, we sat in the dark, dignified dining hall of the Mayflower Hotel discussing the project with the tabloid's chief editor, a small, dapper Englishman who moved from national politics to the importance of dog stories in perfect segue. We sold each other on ourselves and the three other conspirators -- all of whom worked for Congressional Quarterly -- returned to broach the subject with their publisher, Nelson Pointer. Pointer pointedly responded that they could either work for CQ or for the Enquirer but not for both. The scheme disintegrated. I did get paid $100 for a one paragraph item the Enquirer published, but afterward I felt a little tawdry and never submitted anything else.

December 12, 2018

Fact checking the wall situations

A new melting disaster in Antarctica

Eco Watch -Ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica have been melting at alarming rates in recent years, but at least the glaciers of East Antarctica were believed to be relatively stable. Until now. National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists have discovered that glaciers covering one-eighth of Antarctica's eastern coast have lost ice in the past 10 years. If the region keeps melting, it has enough ice in its drainage basins to add 28 meters (approximately 92 feet) to global sea level rise, BBC News reported.

"That's the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice," Catherine Walker from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who presented the new findings at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union , told BBC News.

32 cities oppose Trump regime immigrant welfare rules

The Hill -A coalition of 32 cities led by New York and Chicago have come out in opposition to a Trump administration proposal that would link welfare and immigration benefits.

In the multi-city comment, representatives argued that the proposed rule from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services iolates the Administrative Procedure Act, among other federal laws.

The dozens of cities joined advocacy groups in filing public comments against the USCIS proposal. The proposed rule received 210,889 public comments before the comment process closed late Monday.

Under the rule, USCIS –– the agency that processes visas, permanent residency and naturalizations –– would take into account applicants' use of welfare programs in deciding if they are eligible for immigration benefits.

San Jose building tiny homes for homeless

Mercuty News -If everything goes according to plan, San Jose should have 80 tiny homes ready by the summer to house formerly homeless people while they get back on their feet.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday, as the city unveiled a prototype showing how the homes will look.

Most of the hard-sided cabins will have 80 square feet of interior space, while several will have 120 square feet for people with mobility challenges. Each will have windows, a light and at least one power outlet, along with a smoke detector and lockable door.

The prototype, which will be on display outside City Hall through Wednesday, featured a twin bed on one side with drawers underneath and a bench on the other side with more storage below it.

Residents of what are officially known as bridge housing communities will share bathrooms, showers, laundry facilities, kitchen space and common areas with computers, internet access and job boards.

Survey: 91% of Millenials use cellphone while driving

As part of the Travelers Insurance “Every Second Counts” campaign, a new survey of Philadelphia drivers found that 75% of drivers admit to using a mobile device while driving.

Here’s how it breaks down by age:

Millennials 91%
Gen Xers 79%
Baby boomers 64%

Top activities included reading texts or emails (48%), updating or checking social media (23%), and recording video (18%).

Mike Pence provides tie breaking vote for judge the ABA is not fit to serve

New NY State Attorney General going after Trump and his businesses

NBC News -New York Attorney Gen.-elect Letitia James says she plans to launch sweeping investigations into President Donald Trump, his family and "anyone" in his circle who may have violated the law once she settles into her new job next month.

"We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well," James, a Democrat, told NBC News in her first extensive interview since she was elected last month.

James outlined some of the probes she intends to pursue with regard to the president, his businesses and his family members. They include:
  • Any potential illegalities involving Trump's real estate holdings in New York, highlighting a New York Times investigation published in October into the president's finances.
  • The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian official.
  • Examine government subsidies Trump received, which were also the subject of Times investigative work.
  • Whether he is in violation of the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution through his New York businesses.
  • Continue to probe the Trump Foundation.
James campaigned on passing a bill to change New York's double jeopardy laws with an eye on possible pardons coming out of the White House. James told NBC News she wants to be able to pursue state charges against anyone the president were to pardon over federal charges or convictions and whose alleged crimes took place in the state. Under current New York law, she might not be unable to do that.

Pocket paradigms

The fraud, the huckster, the salesman are not new phenomena in America; what is new is that they now so strongly control every estate of our society. They are a generation filled with postmodern versions of Willy Loman: “He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.”  America once made things people wanted, said things that needed to be said and fixed things, including itself, that needed fixing. Now it is out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. - Sam Smith

Poll Update: O'Rourke in top three

Most recent poll to right

O'Rourke 8, 9, 7, 16%
Biden 56, 26, 23, 30, 27, 33, 26, 25, 28, 15%
Sanders 46, 18, 19, 28, 16, 13, 19, 15, 21, 13%
Harris 4, 5. 5, 5, 9, 4, 10%
Warren 33, 14, 6, 11, 7, 8, 5, 6%
Brown 3%
Klobuchar 3%
Booker 2, 4. 8, 4, 5, 3% 
Bloomberg 4, 2, 3%
H Clinton 13%
Kerry 5, 2%
Holder 4, 1%

Ecology links

Climate Progress
Daily Climate
Eco Watch
Energy News
Environmental News Network
Environmental Working Group
Inside Climate News

Negative Populaton Growth
Solar Energy Guide
Tree Hugger

December 11, 2018

How an unconstitutional law against Israel boycott could pass

Electronic Intifada - US lawmakers could rush two bills into law that aim to silence and criminalize Palestine rights advocacy.

The legislation – the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act – could be tacked on to a spending bill, evading debate on the House and Senate floors.

End-of-year spending bills are usually thousands of pages long and include legislation that could not pass earlier by regular means.

Both bills have been stalled in Congress amid First Amendment concerns, but sponsorship and support from Democratic and Republican representatives has been climbing.

If passed, the bills would have a chilling effect on students and scholars who criticize Israel and bolster efforts by Israel lobby groups to blacklist, surveil and harass supporters of Palestinian rights.

Federal judge rules Massachusetts. law prohibiting secret audio recording of police, government officials is unconstitutional

Mass Live -A federal court judge ruled a Massachusetts General Law prohibiting the secret audio recording of police or government officials is unconstitutional.

Chief United States District Judge Patti B. Saris made the ruling on two similar cases -- one involving two Jamaica Plain residents who frequently record police officers and a second case involving Project Veritas, the undercover organization founded by conservative political activist James O'Keefe.

Both cases involved defendants who had not secretly recorded police but claimed that the Suffolk District Attorney's office and the Boston Police Department were interpreting state law in such a way that was preventing them from doing so without the risk of legal repercussions.

Passings: Foreign policy critic William Blum

Getting over and under Trump's wall

The Democratic race

Sam Smith - The Democratic presidential race is complicated and there's plenty of time to shake it down. But for starters, I would note:
  • The best president might be Bernie Sanders, but at a time when progress is increasingly being defined in generational terms the time for folks like Sanders  and Joe Biden may be over. As a 81-year old journalist just four years older than Sanders I can assure you that age does make a difference. But if the nation swells for him, I'll be there, too.
  • Remember the primary rule of thumb for politics: You're not choosing a religion or its leader, you are choosing a battlefield. Your choice is going to be imperfect, but if he or she can beat Trump or his replacement you can do a lot of forgiving.
  • Hillary Clinton should be at the bottom of the list. Her true history is bad and she not only is a huckster, but - unlike her husband - is lousy one and so she doesn't even get away with it.
  •  Elizabeth Warren might make a great president but she's too serious to get there. You not only need smarts to win but some comfortable soul as well.
  •  Harris, Brown and O'Rourke are at the top of my list of newbie possibilities. Brown and O'Rourke are especially good because they don't come from traditionally liberal states.
  • If the women's vote becomes dominant, then Harris is the one. 
As I said those are just notes for starters

Watchdog groups say Trump and NRA illegally coordinated during campaign

A Russian spy infiltrates conservative American politics

A memo from Starr investigation says a president is indictable

NY Times, 2017 -  A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Comedians have to promise to be nice to appear at University of London

Reason -Comedians invited to perform for charity at the University of London were required to sign a behavioral agreement that stipulated "love, joy, and acceptance" would be themes of the performance.

"This comedy night...aims to provide a safe space for everyone to share and listen," read the form, as reported by PJ Media's Toni Airaksinen. One of the invited comedians, Konstantin Kisin, also posted the full document on Twitter.

"By signing this contract, you are agreeing to our no tolerance policy with regards to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia or anti-religion or anti-theism," the form continued.

The event in question was organized by the University of London's UNICEF on campus chapter. Kisin told the group that he supported their cause, but could not perform under such conditions, according to Airaksinen:
I understand that gratuitous cruelty may not be funny, and that student audiences are increasingly unwilling to hear anything that might offend them (see: Nimesh Patel). Even so, it seems odd to prohibit comedians from making fun of various religions. Is the questioning of religious dogma no longer a fundamental purpose of the university?

Drug policy links

Pocket paradigms

Thought without action is the coitus interruptus of the mind   - Sam Smith

December 10, 2018

Trump shuts down HIV cure research

LBGTQ Nation - Scientists are speaking out against a directive by the Trump administration that has shut down research into a cure for HIV.

A scientist who was supposed to supply mice that have been modified with human fetal tissue for an HIV study emailed researchers that the Department of Health and Human Services “has directed me to discontinue procuring fetal tissue.”

“This effectively stops all of our research to discover a cure for HIV,” he wrote.

Congressional Republicans have tried to ban all fetal tissue research for years to appease the religious right. 85 Republican House members wrote a letter to the head of the FDA asking for a ban on fetal tissue research shortly before the “pause” was announced.

Minneapolis becomes first city to do away with single family zoning

Slate =Minneapolis will become the first major U.S. city to end single-family home zoning, a policy that has done as much as any to entrench segregation, high housing costs, and sprawl as the American urban paradigm over the past century.

The City Council passed Minneapolis 2040, a comprehensive plan to permit three-family homes in the city’s residential neighborhoods, abolish parking minimums for all new construction, and allow high-density buildings along transit corridors.

Single-family home zoning was devised as a legal way to keep black Americans and other minorities from moving into certain neighborhoods, and it still functions as an effective barrier today.

How Mike Pence could be indicted

Politiicus USA - Mike Pence thought he could avoid controversy, and stay far enough away from Trump’s criminal scandals to inherit the presidency after Trump’s ouster. He even thinks that is God’s will.

The problem with this thinking is that it would mean Pence had to avoid not just controversy, but also criminal behavior. But it seems it hasn’t worked out that way.

[When] Special Counsel Mueller released his heavily redacted 13-page sentencing memo for Michael Flynn on Tuesday night, he did not redact one key piece of information. The memo clearly states that the Trump transition team was heavily involved in Flynn’s illegal dealings with Russia.

And, as everyone now remembers, the person in charge of that transition team was none other than vice president-elect Mike Pence.

Supreme Court rebuffs state bids to cut Planned Parenthood funds

Reuters -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dealt a setback to Louisiana and Kansas, turning away their appeals of lower court rulings that blocked their efforts to end public funding to Planned Parenthood, a national women’s healthcare and abortion provider, through the Medicaid program.

The justices’ decision to turn away both states’ appeals leaves intact lower court rulings that prevented them from stripping government healthcare funding from local Planned Parenthood affiliates. The case, which did not challenge the constitutionality of abortion itself, is one of a number of disputes working their way up to the Supreme Court over state-imposed restrictions on abortion.

Clintons forced to slash tour ticket prices

Daily Mail, UK -Bill and Hillary Clinton have been forced to resort to selling half price tickets for their 13-city tour on Groupon in a desperate bid to put bums on seats. The former president and first lady launched their tour in a Canadian hockey arena last Tuesday to an underwhelming crowd and swaths of empty seats. Ticket prices were plummeting shortly before the event, with the cheapest seats selling on Stubhub for single-digits – $6.55 Canadian Dollars, or less than $5.”

One thing Scott Pruitt and Hillary Clinton have in common

Guardian -Donald Trump’s first Environmental Protection Agency administrator repeatedly violated agency policy to use personal email for government business, according to newly released public records.

Scott Pruitt – who left the administration this summer after months of controversy over his spending, travel and ties with industry – used his private email account for work over a period of months, according to records recently made available to the Sierra Club.

Word: Law as king

“In America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”  - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Chicago charter school strike ends with agreement

Governing -Hundreds of elated Acero charter school educators decked out in union red cheered, chanted and danced at a rally to celebrate their historic victory: a tentative contract agreement with management that ended the nation's first charter school strike.

More than 500 teachers and support staff will return to 15 Acero campuses across the city  after walking off the job and missing four days of school last week. The workers will vote in the coming weeks to approve the contract, which promises better pay and hours for teachers as well as smaller class sizes and sanctuary school protections for the majority Latino student body.

Pocket paradigms

Conservatives believe in the sanctity of life from conception until exit from the birth canal. Progressives believe in the sanctity of life from birth to death.  -  Sam Smith

More Trump history