February 2018 Archives

NYT's Mark Landler looks at Trump's "treason" comments:

President Trump on Monday accused Democrats who did not clap during his State of the Union address of being un-American and even treasonous. His remarks came in a rambling, discursive speech at a factory in Ohio, during which he celebrated his revival of the American economy as the stock market plummeted by more than 1,000 points.

"Can we call that treason?" Mr. Trump said of the stone-faced reaction of Democrats to his speech. "Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

Towleroad's Andy Towle discusses Trump's whining about the lack of adulation, and responds that "Treason is colluding with Russians to win an election."
Similarly, Crooks and Liars snarks:

"Collaborating with Russia to steal an election? THAT'S treasonous. Objecting to a despot's behavior? Not so much."

UPDATE: Senator Tammy Duckworth has a thing to say about that.

We don't live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath--in the military and in the Senate--to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap

-- Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) February 6, 2018

WaPo's Robert Barnes discusses the upcoming Pennsylvania redistricting process, noting that SCOTUS refuses to block the PA high court's ruling:

The Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to delay redrawing congressional lines, meaning the 2018 elections in the state will probably be held in districts far more favorable to Democrats. [...]

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the congressional map drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011 "clearly, plainly and palpably violates" the commonwealth's Constitution. It demanded a quick redrawing of the lines so that 2018 elections could be held in fairer districts.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court justices are elected, and with Democrats in the majority, voted along party lines in demanding a change to the districts. Republicans hold 13 of the 18 congressional seats in what is usually considered a swing state. The ruling gives Democrats a chance to win more of those seats as they try to tip the balance in the House.

PA's League of Women Voters, who challenged the plan, commented of the GOP that: "Their stay applications are just a ploy to preserve a congressional map that violates Pennsylvania's Constitution for one more election cycle." Politicus USA reminds us that the GOP-controlled state legislature has until 9 February to redraw the map, or the state Supreme Court will draw one for the 15 May primary:

A new map would make Democrats competitive or favored in 5-7 seats that are currently controlled by Republicans. The Sixth District, Seventh District, Eighth District, Eleventh District, 15th and 16th Districts could all move to the left with a non-gerrymandered map. Considering that Democrats were already looking at favorable situations for House seat pickups in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California, a redrawn map in Pennsylvania could wipe out Republican control of the House.

In a time when the good news keeps coming for Democrats ahead of the midterm election, the end of the gerrymandered map in Pennsylvania could go down as some of the best news of all.

Jon Chait writes about the Nunes memo and the GOP plot to undermine neutral authority, noting that "Once again, as the facts have emerged in full, the underlying conclusions hyped by conservatives have melted away:"

The memo does not discredit the Russia investigation. It charges that one of the figures in the investigation, Carter Page, had been surveilled in part on the basis of a dossier that had been funded by Democrats, and that the FBI had not adequately disclosed this to the judges who approved the surveillance. If true, the accusation would be legally unimportant (courts frequently approve surveillance on the basis of biased sources), and in any case, the FBI had been investigating Page for years before. The miniscule claim turns out not to be correct anyway -- as the Washington Post reports, the court that approved the surveillance of Page "was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrant request was paid for by a political entity."

But, also like in Climategate, the collapse of the factual underpinnings beneath the conservatives' claims left no impression on them whatsoever. There is no sense of chastening or remorse on the right. To the contrary, Republicans retain all of their initial fervor to use the memo to prosecute their targets in the deep state.

"It might seem perverse," Chait continues, "that Republicans would respond this way in the wake of a high-profile humiliation:"

Yet, from their perspective, it is not a humiliation at all. Republican voters have absorbed the intended message. The rank and file, which once considered support for law enforcement a definitional trait, has quickly turned against the FBI:

20180205-fbi.jpg

"Cultivating distrust in institutions that are designed to play a neutral, mediating role," he reminds us, "is one of the central functions of conservative politics:"

It is a game that conservatives know how to win, because they are waging asymmetric warfare. There is no good way for an institution to withstand partisan attack when its existence relies upon maintaining some distance from partisanship. [...]

Indeed, the FBI finds itself in its current straits in part because it's already attempted to placate conservative distrust. In 2016, the bureau broke its policy and publicized its investigation of Hillary Clinton because the leadership feared the withering attacks they would face from the congressional GOP after a presumed Clinton victory. (They had no such fear of Democrats, which is why they kept their investigation of Trump's connections with Russia secret before the election.) Trump even used the FBI's demonstrated unfairness toward Clinton as a pretext to fire its director last year.

At best, the Republican attacks will clear the way for Donald Trump to close down the Mueller probe or turn federal law enforcement into a weapon of partisan control. At worst, they will supply his followers (including a critical mass of congressional Republicans) with a rationale for ignoring any incriminating conclusions the investigation yields.


the GOP's budget

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Forbes explains the real reason the GOP doesn't want to do a budget this year:

The White House and congressional GOP insisted the big tax cut bill would pay for itself so there would be no negative impact on the federal deficit or national debt. They also said the Trump/GOP economic plans would result in a balanced budget within 10 years. The fiscal 2019 budget resolution -- the one Congress is supposed to debate and adopt this year -- would be the first one considered since the tax bill was enacted and, therefore, the first with projections that should validate and confirm those promises.

That means House and Senate Republicans should be rushing to get it done, take another victory lap and prove themselves to be budget seers, sages, oracles and truth tellers.

But the GOP is doing the exact opposite.

"So," wonders Forbes, "why isn't the GOP going to do a budget?"

Because the vote on the 2019 budget -- the last one Congress will consider before the 2018 midterm elections -- will reveal that all the Republican promises on the deficit and debt, including its blind belief on dynamic scoring, were completely bogus. [...]

But no budget resolution will mean no hearings in the budget committees, no floor debate, much less media attention and, most importantly, no votes. That makes it a great..and maybe the best...way for congressional Republicans to avoid talking about or taking responsibility for the spiking deficit and debt they said wouldn't occur.


Trump called the idea of $1000 bonuses "a lot of money" for employees, while Nancy Pelosi noted the disparity between "the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers," [and got pilloried for it] and later remarked that "it's not a question of $1,000, it's a question of the billions of dollars, the banquet that they have put for the top 1 percent." [For example, consider AT&T's $1,000 bonus for 200,000 employees, which "is only 6 percent of the $3 billion tax windfall."]

In a related incident, Samuel Warde quotes Paul Ryan's since-deleted tweet, where he suggested that $1.50 per week is some sort of windfall for the working class,

A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year. https://t.co/yLX1Bod1j0

-- Paul Ryan (@PRyan) February 3, 2018

and then remarks:

Now, I don't really know which planet Paul Ryan comes from; but on the planet where he dwells at the moment, a $1.50 raise per week is more likely to bring tears of sorrow than ones of the kind of joy that Ryan seems to be experiencing.

NYT provides a higher-level view:

According to an analysis of the bill by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, "in general, higher income households receive larger average tax cuts as a percentage of after-tax income." Middle-income taxpayers would receive an average tax cut of $930 this year, and those in the top 1 percent would receive an average cut of $51,000.

Open Source turned 20 today, and I'd like to point toward Christine Peterson (Foresight Institute co-founder) and her
personal account
of being "the originator of the term 'open source software':"

On February 2, 1998, Eric Raymond arrived on a visit to work with Netscape on the plan to release the browser code under a free-software-style license. We held a meeting that night at Foresight's office in Los Altos to strategize and refine our message. In addition to Eric and me, active participants included Brian Behlendorf, Michael Tiemann, Todd Anderson, Mark S. Miller, and Ka-Ping Yee. But at that meeting, the field was still described as free software or, by Brian, "source code available" software. [...] Between meetings that week, I was still focused on the need for a better name and came up with the term "open source software." While not ideal, it struck me as good enough. [...]

Later that week, on February 5, 1998, a group was assembled at VA Research to brainstorm on strategy. Attending--in addition to Eric Raymond, Todd, and me--were Larry Augustin, Sam Ockman, and attending by phone, Jon "maddog" Hall. [...]

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned "freely distributable" as an earlier term, and "cooperatively developed" as a newer term. Eric listed "free software," "open source," and "sourceware" as the main options. Todd advocated the "open source" model, and Eric endorsed this. I didn't say much, letting Todd and Eric pull the (loose, informal) consensus together around the open source name. [...] There was probably not much more I could do to help; Eric Raymond was far better positioned to spread the new meme, and he did. Bruce Perens signed on to the effort immediately, helping set up Opensource.org and playing a key role in spreading the new term.

For the name to succeed, it was necessary, or at least highly desirable, that Tim O'Reilly agree and actively use it in his many projects on behalf of the community. Also helpful would be use of the term in the upcoming official release of the Netscape Navigator code. By late February, both O'Reilly & Associates and Netscape had started to use the term.

"Coming up with a phrase is a small contribution," she demurs, "but I admit to being grateful to those who remember to credit me with it. Every time I hear it, which is very often now, it gives me a little happy twinge." ZDnet's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols discusses Open Source and its impact, starting with Richard M. Stallman's "The GNU Manifesto" and the Free Software Foundation (FSF):

This went well for a few years, but inevitably, RMS collided with proprietary companies. The company Unipress took the code to a variation of his EMACS programming editor and turned it into a proprietary program. RMS never wanted that to happen again so he created the GNU General Public License (GPL) in 1989. This was the first copyleft license. It gave users the right to use, copy, distribute, and modify a program's source code. But if you make source code changes and distribute it to others, you must share the modified code. While there had been earlier free licenses, such as 1980's four-clause BSD license, the GPL was the one that sparked the free-software, open-source revolution.

In 1997, Eric S. Raymond published his vital essay, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar." In it, he showed the advantages of the free-software development methodologies using GCC, the Linux kernel, and his experiences with his own Fetchmail project as examples. This essay did more than show the advantages of free software. The programming principles he described led the way for both Agile development and DevOps. Twenty-first century programming owes a large debt to Raymond.

"Open source has turned twenty," concludes Vaughan-Nichols, "but its influence, and not just on software and business, will continue on for decades to come."

Slate's Rob Gunther wants cops to apply broken-windows policing to their own behavior. A good place to start would be the cards distributed by New York City's police union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association:

Each year, cops get a stack of these "get out of jail free" cards to give out to family and friends. If you get pulled over for speeding and flash one of these cards, the cop who flagged you down will likely let you go with a warning instead of a ticket.

The Post story quoted an unnamed "NYPD cop who retired on disability" who was extremely perturbed by the fact that PBA President Patrick Lynch had cut back the outlay from 30 to 20 cards each for current police officers and from 20 to 10 for retirees. "They are treating active members like shit, and retired members even worse than shit," this anonymous officer said.

While police officers can't believe that they're getting treated so shabbily, the bigger scandal is that they get any special treatment at all. Maybe it's naŃ—ve to believe in justice wearing a blindfold, but the boldness of institutionalizing a leniency policy via an official card makes a mockery of the notion that police try to operate on a level playing field.

Gunther continues, "it's time to start holding police accountable for minor offenses. Think of it as turning "broken windows" policing around on the police:"

If the police are determined to continue advocating for a hard-line approach, perhaps it would be worthwhile to see how these ideas played out if used on police officers themselves. That would mean no more PBA cards, for starters. If it's OK for one person to get away with a speeding ticket just because she happens to know a police officer, we've already decided that a just society is more a suggestion than a rule. [...]

While it's probably unrealistic to expect favoritism among officers to go away completely, getting rid of those PBA cards would be an extremely heartening move--a step toward realizing our ideals of blind justice and a level playing field.


"their own facts"

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Kellyanne Conway claims that "the American people [by which she means GOP voters] have their own facts," writes Salon's Charlie May. Mark Simone (from a New York radio station) started things off by claiming that "liberals seize more and more control of the infrastructure, they control the newspapers, they control the networks:"

He added, "In the last few years, they've taken total control of the fact checking sites, and they're very slanted. Something's got to be done about this." [...] "Americans are their own fact checkers," Conway said. "People know, they have their own facts and figures, in terms of meaning which facts and figures are important to them."

"Conway's bizarre interviews may make for appealing soundbites and headlines," May continues, "but it is also truly stunning to see how disconnected the Trump administration, and pro-Trump media punditry are from reality:"

American politics have become increasingly, and dangerously, polarizing in recent years, but Conway's doublethink Orwellian rhetoric has made it near impossible to get people to even agree on an establish set of facts in order to have a productive debate or conversation about the issues. Instead, we have opinions masquerading as truths in a dialogue where even simple math is beginning to be denied in order to fit into a political agenda.

Forget "alternative facts" the Trump administration is establishing their own alternative reality through it's own Ministry of Truth.


K is for kink

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Alexander Kacala suggests adding K for kink to the alphabet-soup-acronym of LGBTQQIAAACPPF2K:

L - lesbian
G - gay
B - bisexual
T - transgender
Q - queer
Q - questioning
I - intersex
A - asexual
A - agender
A - ally
C - curious
P - pansexual
P - polysexual
F - friends and family
2 - two-spirit
K - kink

If we Include every non-het, non-cis, non-vanilla possibility, then it would be a community for sexual (and ace!) outcasts of every stripe--a worthy goal.

Steve Benen has exposed the GOP's deficit scam at MSNBC:

Up until fairly recently, federal officials believed the nation would have to raise the debt ceiling by late March or early April. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office said action will be required even sooner - because the Republican's $1.5 trillion tax cut is already starting to affect U.S. finances.

[The effect is negative, as expected.]

A separate New York Times report added this week that annual budget deficits "are creeping up to $1 trillion and the national debt has topped $20 trillion." The Treasury Department "will need to borrow $441 billion in privately held debt this quarter," which is the largest sum in eight years.

And yet, Republicans - ostensibly, the nation's fiscal hawks and stalwarts of fiscal responsibility - have nothing to say about this. The issue has largely disappeared.

"The underlying issue here," he continues, "is one of the most cynical political scams Americans have ever seen or will ever see:"

Remember the Tea Party movement? According to many of its leaders, one of its principal goals was deficit reduction: annual budget shortfalls, they said several years ago, threatened the future of the nation, its families, and its security.

And because Republicans have an amazing ability to dictate the public conversation, everyone played along, taking the deficit seriously throughout the Obama era. To reject the fiscal argument was to condemn our children and grandchildren to future misery.

Under Obama, however, the deficit shrunk in his first seven years by a trillion dollars - that's "trillion" with a "t" - at which point the issue quietly lost its potency.

At least in theory, for those who care about the deficit, the issue should be back with a vengeance. But it's not: even as the deficit gets significantly larger, due entirely to deliberate Republican choices, the public conversation largely ignores the issue.

It's almost as if--to provide yet another example--the allegedly "liberal" media is in actuality a generally conservative presence in our lives.

Trump's ratings

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Well, that didn't take long: Politico points out that Trump is already lying about the size of his SOTU audience, claiming that its 45.6 million people was "the highest number in history." However, the facts are somewhat different:

Obama's early speeches before Congress significantly outdrew Trump's: his first address to a joint session of Congress, in 2009, drew 52.3 million viewers and his first State of the Union address, in 2010, attracted 48 million.

Former President George W. Bush also delivered State of the Union addresses that attracted more viewers than Trump's. Bush's 2003 speech, which took place weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, drew 62 million viewers, while his 2002 speech, months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, attracted 51.7 million.

Former President Bill Clinton's 1993 joint address to Congress, meanwhile, drew 66.9 million viewers.

TPM snarks that "Trump may have been confused while watching the "Fox and Friends" morning broadcast:"

Co-host Steve Doocy noted that Trump pulled in more viewers than Obama's final state of the union, but he offered the caveat that "fewer people watch" the longer a president is in office. He then boasted about Fox News' ratings for the speech, which were the network's highest ever. Trump also noted this in his tweet.

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