No, He Lied. Say it: HE LIED.

by Jim Wright

American journalism is dead.

Or it might as well be.

They just can’t do it. They just can’t use the word. Just can’t do it.

Trump openly brags that he “made up facts” in a meeting with a foreign leader and the press just plays along.

Made up facts.

Made up “facts.”

In the context of information, a fact is defined as: a piece of information used as evidence or as part of a report or news article, a thing that is indisputably proven to be the case, information based on evidence.

You can’t make up facts.

If you’re making it up and presenting it as fact, you’re lying. By definition.

The word is “lied.”

Not alternative facts.

Not made up facts.

Not facts.



Now, this morning, when I said something to that effect on Twitter, someone responded with, “They can’t! They can’t say ‘lied’ because libel laws.”

And you know what? That’s bullshit.

Look at how many times the conservative media has said, “Hillary Lied!” this week alone.

If you can safely say “Hillary Lied!” you can safely say “Trump Lied.”

More importantly, Journalism shouldn’t be about what you can and cannot SAFELY say.

And it’s not libel laws that prevent the press from using the words, from saying Trump lied.

It’s cowardice.

Then, somebody else asked, “does it matter?”

Does it really matter if the press says “lied?” Do you really think it would perceptibly move the needle [of public opinion]?

Does it matter?

Does it matter what terminology the press uses?

Yes. Yes it does. It matters a hell of a lot.


The press is the record of not only our time, of not only FACT, but how we as a people regard the world around us. The press is a record our views, our perception, our civilization in gestalt. It not only records our viewpoint, it helps to shape it. MOREOVER, it shapes history’s perception.

For context, look at how the press of the 1930s enabled Hitler and used vague euphemisms for genocide and fascism.

We ask ourselves, how could they have let Hitler happen? How could they have let the Holocaust happen? How could Germany have gone so insane? How? How is that possible?

How? Well, you’re looking at it. You’re looking right at it.

Do I think how the press records TODAY will alter our perception of Trump? Yes, no, maybe. It depends on the journalism, see Watergate for example. The truth, the ability to use the words, lied, stole, crook, directly moved the needle of public perception regarding Nixon — both in that time and IN HIS FUTURE. When we (that future) look back on that time, our judgement of our own nation in that moment is shaped in very large part by the press OF THAT TIME.

So, do I think how the press records TODAY will determine how future generations see US as a people?

Yes I very much do. Q.E.D.

This ongoing refusal to use the words, to describe Trump and this failed Congress in bald terms, reflects our inability as Americans to face our failure as citizens of the Republic.

It reflects a profound cowardice in not only the Press itself, but also in us as citizens, as a people, and as a nation.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

The Founders must have believed this too. They must have. Because the Press is the ONLY private institution, the ONLY private business, specifically called out in the Constitution and given enumerated rights.

That was for a very specific reason.

Because in a free society, the Press is THE watchdog of liberty.

This continued and repeated inability to use the words, to speak the truth no matter the cost, is an utter betrayal of that duty to the Republic.

This is cowardice pure and simple.

Cowardice of the press.

Cowardice of the people.

Cowardice of the nation.

And THAT is what the future will know of us.

Good People Don’t Defend A Bad Man

by John Pavlovitz

At times in this life it can be a challenge to figure out who the bad people are, but sometimes they help you.

Sometimes they do the work for you.

Sometimes with their every vulgar, bitter word from their mouth, they testify to their personal malignancy and they make it easy to identify them.

Generally speaking, there are things that good people do and things good people don’t do.

Good people don’t refer to entire countries as “shitholes”—most notably countries that have given birth to our very humanity; ones that for hundreds of years have been colonized and poached and mined of their riches by powerful white men; countries whose people have been enslaved and sold and forced to come and build your country. 

Good people by any measurement we might use—simply don’t say such things.

Of course good people also don’t say they could grab women by the genitalia, either.
They don’t defend racists and nazis and call them “fine people,” days after murdering a young girl and terrorizing an American city.
They don’t brag about their penis size during debates, or suggest protestors at campaign rallies should be roughed up, or crack jokes about captured war heroes, or make fun of the physically disabled.
They don’t.

Good people don’t tweet anti-Muslim rhetoric in the moments immediately following a bombing in order to bolster a position.
They don’t leave American territories filled with brown skinned people without power for months upon months, after publicly ridiculing their public servants and questioning their people’s resolve.
They don’t erase protections for the water and the air, for the elderly, the terminally ill, the LGBTQ.
They don’t take away healthcare from the sick and the poor without an alternative.
They don’t gouge the working poor and shelter the wealthy.
They don’t abuse their unrivaled platform to Twitter-bait world leaders and to taunt private citizens.

Good people don’t prey upon the vulnerable, they don’t leverage their power to bully dissenters, and they don’t campaign for sexual predators.

But this President is not a good human being, and there’s simply no way around this truth.

He is the ugliest personification of the Ugly American, which is why, as long as he is here and as long as he represents this nation, we will be a fractured mess and a global embarrassment. He will be the ever lowering bar of our legacy in the world.

And what is painfully obvious in these moments, isn’t simply that the person alleging to lead this country is a terrible human being—it is that anyone left still defending him, applauding him, justifying him, amening him, probably is too.

At this point, the only reason left to support this President, is that he reflects your hateful heart; he shares your contempt of people of color, your hostility toward outsiders, your ignorant bigotry, your feeling of supremacy.

A white President calling countries filled with people of color shitholes, is so far beyond the pale, so beneath decency, and so blatantly racist that it shouldn’t merit conversation. It should be universally condemned. Humanity should be in agreement in abhorring it.

And yet today (like so many other seemingly rock bottom days in the past twelve months) they will be out there: white people claiming to be good people and Christian people, who will make excuses for him or debate his motives or diminish the damage.

They will dig their heels in to explain away or to defend, what at the end of the day is simply a bad human being saying the things that bad human beings say because their hearts harbor very bad things.

No, good people don’t call countries filled with beautiful, creative, loving men and women shitholes.

And good people don’t defend people who do.

You’re going to have to make a choice here.

Normalizing the Unthinkable

Let’s play “what if?”


~an affair with a porn star

~paid off the porn star to buy her silence

~been accused by 19 credible women of sexual assault

~been accused by his former wife of rape

~been accused by a 13 year old of rape

~been caught on tape admitting how he enjoyed assaulting women

~cheated on three wives, once with a porn star three months after his son’s birth

~had kids by three women

~married an immigrant

~a father who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan

~spent one third of his time in office at golf resorts

~spent more on weekend and family vacations in his first year in office than the previous President did in two full terms—eight years

~taken money from a 9-11 fund claiming he was a victim

~been the first President in decades to refuse to release his tax returns, after promising he would release them after the election

~multiple bankruptcies, screwing thousands of businesses and vendors and investors

~been the subject of thousands of lawsuits

~connections going back thirty years to the Russian mafia

~bought the Plaza Hotel in NYC for $400 million and had it repossessed by the banks

~bought a yacht for $29 million and had it repossessed by the bank

~built 4 casinos at a cost of over $3 billion, filed for bankruptcies, stiffing contractors and employees

~started his own airline, never made a profit, planes and helicopters repossessed by the bank

~started companies dealing with mortgages, steaks, and vodka, all went out of business

~stiffed hundreds of suppliers, vendors, and contractors over the years in a host of projects and forced them to take him to court before he settled

~paid a $25 million fraud settlement to people who had “enrolled” in his phony University

~shifted kids cancer charity money into his business

~been sued by the federal government twice for housing discrimination, lost, and paid fines

~accused his campaign opponent of being “crooked,” even though the opponent had been investigated six times for “crooked” acts, with zero evidence found for each, resulting in no trials and no convictions; while he had gone to trial 1597 times in 30 years for “crooked” acts where evidence warranted a trial, and 236 times he was found guilty of “crooked” acts or settled cases when it was clear he would lose

~been sued over 3500 times over his 30 year career

~ignored security clearance warnings from the FBI about his daughter and son in law while giving them access to top secret files

~appointed an agent of a foreign power as the U.S. National Security Adviser

~invited top Russian diplomats into the Oval Office and gave them classified Israeli top secret info

~fired the head of the FBI and openly admitted he did it because that guy was getting too close to finding out how he had colluded with the Russians in throwing an American election

~threatened nuclear war with North Korea

~openly profited from his office by encouraging foreign government officials to stay at his hotels and resorts

~took millions from Russian oligarchs

~appointed one of his daughters an “adviser” and allowed her to make millions selling access to the White House with her line of foreign –made products and family hotels

~bragged about walking in on teenage girls naked at his beauty pageants

~bragged about wanting to sleep with his daughter

~campaigned openly for a Republican pedophile for the U.S. Senate

~insulted and ridiculed a Gold Star family

~attacked a Gold Star widow

~accused our troops of being thieves and “living the good life”

~attacked homeless veterans

~mocked, insulted and lied about Native Americans

~mocked and insulted a genuine American war hero and POW

~defended the KKK and the Nazis when they marched openly in Charlottesville, one of them driving his car into a crowd and killing a young woman

~went overseas and talked shit about America

~called America a hellhole

~attacked the judicial system, the DOJ, the CIA, the FBI and the State Department

~ignored reports from all 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies that the Russians had hacked an American election in his favor, and insisted there was no “proof”

~bragged about his “success” in Puerto Rico while people were still dying

~made it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns

~mocked and imitated a handicapped NYT reporter

~promised to hire only the “best people” and now has four of them facing federal indictments and pleading guilty to felonies with many more on the way

~proposed a budget that added $7 trillion to the debt and slashed safety net programs like Medicaid ($300 billion cut), SNAP ($213 billion), and disability programs ($73 billion), in order to provide his billionaire friends a trillion and a half dollar tax break

~criticized a security officer for not going into the Parkland school to face an AR15 with a pistol, and bragged that he would have gone in, with or without a gun—even though he claimed “bone spurs” as an excuse for avoiding the draft

~lied over 2000 provable times in the first year of his presidency

The Current Occupant has done ALL these things, with the list of jaw-dropping outrages growing daily. Yet 80% of Republicans still support him. Remember when Republicans and conservative pundits wrote long critical essays and went on TV to express their disgust with Obama when he had the temerity to put his feet up on the Oval Office desk? I do. 

We are in the process of normalizing this continuing shit show. The only way to stop it in its tracks is by showing up in force at the voting booth and saying, with overwhelming numbers, that THIS WILL STOP NOW.


When White Privilege Turns Lethal

[The ‘thing’ that nobody’s talking about in all the analysis of the Parkland school shooting is this: if the shooter had been black, brown, Muslim, or even living in a largely non-white community, he most likely would have been spotted, monitored, and stopped before he was able to carry out his deranged plan. But he was white, so the following piece about all the red flags and warnings makes us even more sick about this particular shooting than we usually are. It was preventable, all the way. But because law enforcement doesn’t focus as sharply on dangers emanating from the white communities, he was ignored, and 17 people are dead]

by Chauncey DeVega, SALON

White privilege can be lethal. On Feb. 14, in Parkland, Florida, it was channeled through toxic white masculinity when Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and wounded dozens more.

This mass murder by gun should not have occurred. It was almost entirely preventable.

In an extensive and chilling report, CNN details a litany of moments when Cruz’s murderous rampage could likely have been derailed. “An unidentified woman close to Cruz,” probably a relative, called an FBI tip line “to describe a young man with an arsenal of knives and guns who was ‘going to explode.’ She said she feared him ‘getting into a school and just shooting the place up.'”

The woman said Cruz had the mental capacity of a 12- to 14-year-old and had been kicked out of school for throwing chairs at students and teachers. She also provided the FBI with the user names for at least three of Cruz’s Instagram accounts, where he wrote that “he wants to kill people” and posted photos of mutilated animals.

The FBI admitted last week it had failed to act on that tip.

Separately, the FBI was warned in September about a YouTube commenter named Nikolas Cruz, who wrote: “Im going to be a professional school shooter.”

CNN also reported that the Broward County sheriff’s office had received 23 calls related to Cruz or his brother over the previous decade. These included “information from a neighbor’s son that Cruz planned to ‘shoot up’ an unknown school” and a different call from someone who reported that “Cruz was suicidal and could be a ‘school shooter in the making.'”

The many ways that white privilege and the color line intersect with guns and masculinity in the tragic case of the Parkland massacre could be a chapter in a textbook for an Introduction to Sociology course.

It has been repeatedly documented by social scientists and other researchers that police and other law enforcement officers are much more likely to be extremely aggressive, escalate to physical force, act in a more lethal manner and to be “proactive” when interacting with black and brown people as compared to whites. This pattern is true even when police interact with black people — especially black men — who are unarmed. In general, America’s police take perceived threats to public safety from whites much less seriously than they do from nonwhites (as well as Muslims).

Blacks deemed “mentally ill” are much more likely than whites to be institutionalized and otherwise monitored by the state, meaning the criminal justice system and social service agencies.

In America’s schools, black and brown children are more likely to be suspended or expelled, and to receive harsher punishments more generally, than are white children. This is true even when black and brown children behave the same way as white children.

It is almost so obvious as to not require comment that a Muslim or Arab who was accused of stockpiling weapons would have been immediately detained or arrested on suspicion of “terrorism.”

If Nikolas Cruz lived in a black or brown community he would have been much more likely to be under close surveillance and to have personally interacted with the police and other law enforcement agencies. Ultimately, black and brown communities — especially if they are also poor or working-class — are routinely over-policed in America. By comparison, white communities are in fact under-policed. This is a story of social control and power that can have a profound impact on a person’s life chances — and can also lead to tragic consequences for society at large, as in the case of Nikolas Cruz and what happened in Parkland, Florida.

Racism is a form of structural and interpersonal violence against nonwhites. But in fact racism and white privilege can have painful and devastating effects on white people too. The mass shooting in Parkland, and the other mass-shooting rampages by disaffected white men and boys with guns, offer numerous dreadful examples of that fact.

“See something, say something?” Total crap.

The meme that I was hearing over and over after the Florida shooting, and I was yelling at the TV, the meme that they kept promoting that was making me so crazy was, “oh, if you see something, say something – we should have been able to see this coming.” As if to say that only in the United States do we have people who have mental illness problems. This is just total crap.

New York City came up with this “see something, say something” slogan. In fact, they trademarked it. When Washington DC wanted to use that, they had to pay New York City. so they they came up with this thing. John Mueller writes about this for the Cato Institute of all things, back in 2012. But we’ve known about this for a long time. It began in 2006 in New York City, the “see something, say something” campaign in the New York subways and all over the city – call the police if you see something, particularly if it has to do with terrorism. In 2006 it had generated 9000 calls and by a year later it was 13,000 calls, in 2008 it was up to 27,000 calls. And by the way, every single one of those calls provokes a police investigation, so we’re talking probably tens to hundreds of millions of dollars spent.

So a reporter for the New York Times and then later a reporter for Cato asked, out of these thirty thousand calls about suspicious activity, how many produced an actual arrest or conviction for terrorism or any other crime?


I remember last year there was a story when I was living in Washington DC about how the DC Metro was averaging something like 18,000 calls a year. How many terrorists had they caught?


And so now we’re going to take this, which does nothing. The thing from previous years was “it’s too soon to talk about this, the emotions are too hot.” What crap. And everybody figured out it was crap. And everybody figured out this is just a way of avoiding a serious discussion while you continue to take your blood money from the National Rifle Association, Cory Gardner and Richard Burr. Richard Burr is at the top of the list. The NRA invested 7 million dollars in Richard Burr. You think he’s going to talk about gun control? You think he’s going to talk about an assault weapon ban, which by the way Ronald Reagan supported? Do you think he’s going to talk about bringing back the Brady Bill which Ronald Reagan supported?

These guys are not Republicans. These guys are shills for corporations. They go to whomever pays them the most. It’s just that simple. If you’re a deadly industry in the United States, if you produce pesticides that cause cancer, if you produce chemicals that kill people, if you work with petroleum products that foul the air and the water and kill our planet, the Republican Party will take your money. They’ll even pretend science doesn’t exist for you. That’s how sold are out they are.

And so the old meme was, “oh, our thoughts and prayers are with you and it’s too soon to talk about it.” Now after Newtown, we’re just not taking that anymore. So now they’ve come up with a new one and it’s all over the media. You see all these shills on TV over and over and over again and you need to be letting your networks know when you see these people how offended you are by this BS.

You see these people going, “oh well, if we had just had somebody report him.”

This idiot in Florida who shot these 17 kids, who murdered these 17 kids, he had already been reported to the FBI. There’s nothing you can do under the current law. At the very best you could adjudicate them mentally ill, but Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress passed a law – one of their very first pieces of legislation – that said even if somebody’s adjudicated mentally ill, and there are 75,000 people in America who fit that category, so severely mentally ill that they qualify for Social Security disability which is a multi-year process with multiple doctors certifying that you’re so badly impaired that you can’t work, that those people can now buy guns.

So calling up and saying, “I think this guy is a potential shooter,” it does nothing. But this is the new meme – do anything to avoid talking about gun control, anything to avoid talking about why the hell do we have weapons of war on the streets of America.

Congressman Tyler Tannahill from Kansas, this idiot congressman who the day before the shooting announced that he’s raffling off an AR-15 – yep if you want to support his campaign make a donation and your entered into the raffle for an AR-15, the weapon that killed those kids. These people are nuts.

No they’re not, they’re not nuts, they are sociopaths. They don’t give a damn about the United States of America. They don’t give a damn about our children. All people like Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio and Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst and Rob Portman and Todd Young and Bill Cassidy, all they give a damn about is the millions that the NRA gives them.

–Thom Hartmann

How The Republicans Stole the 2nd Amendment

by Rebecca Koza, Daily Kos

[What follows is a brief historical review of how the 2nd amendment has been interpreted through the years by a variety of supreme court decisions, and how the Republican Party, over the last thirty years, has waged an unceasing war on academic, legal and lobbying fronts that culminated in their long-sought victory in 2008, in the form of District of Columbia v. Heller, a convoluted opinion penned by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that was as thoroughly, indelibly politically motivated and saturated as any the Supreme Court has issued. It’s where we are today– the “legal” right of an individual to bear arms, completely at odds with what the framers intended. “There is perhaps no more dramatic proof of how critical judicial nominations are than the arc of the Second Amendment. The stakes are illustrated all too often, in Sandy Hook and Orlando and Parkland; in the 96 people who die each day as a result of gun violence”]


Republicans stole the Second Amendment.

Over the course of 30 years, the right waged a war on political, legal, and academic fronts to redefine that amendment, contrary to history, text, and precedent, as creating an individual right to bear arms. Of course, none of those efforts, nor their aggregate effect, would have been enough to accomplish the right’s aims without a far-right ideologue on the Supreme Court, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to codify them.

The right’s misappropriation of the Second Amendment ranks among the most stunning legal feats in U.S. history.

In the two centuries following the adoption of the Bill of Rights, in 1791, no amendment received less attention in the courts than the Second, except the Third. As Adam Winkler, a constitutional-law scholar at U.C.L.A., demonstrates in a remarkably nuanced new book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” firearms have been regulated in the United States from the start. Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed: Indiana (1820), Tennessee and Virginia (1838), Alabama (1839), and Ohio (1859). Similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida, and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas explained in 1893, the “mission of the concealed deadly weapon is murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting, law-abiding man.”

Although these laws were occasionally challenged, they were rarely struck down in state courts; the state’s interest in regulating the manufacture, ownership, and storage of firearms was plain enough. Judges took regulation as not only common sense, but wholly compatible with the Second Amendment. As Jeffrey Toobin recounted for The New Yorker six years ago: For more than a hundred years, the answer was clear, even if the words of the amendment itself were not. The text of the amendment is divided into two clauses and is, as a whole, ungrammatical: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The courts had found that the first part, the “militia clause,” trumped the second part, the “bear arms” clause.

In other words, according to the Supreme Court, and the lower courts as well, the amendment conferred on state militias a right to bear arms—but did not give individuals a right to own or carry a weapon.

So, what spurred the departure from the well-established, longstanding understanding of the Second Amendment and the adoption of the contemporary, hopefully temporary, interpretation? Politics.

Before the nineteen-seventies, the N.R.A. had been devoted mostly to non-political issues, like gun safety. But a coup d’état at the group’s annual convention in 1977 brought a group of committed political conservatives to power—as part of the leading edge of the new, more rightward-leaning Republican Party. The new group pushed for a novel interpretation of the Second Amendment, one that gave individuals, not just militias, the right to bear arms. It was an uphill struggle. At first, their views were widely scorned. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who was no liberal, mocked the individual-rights theory of the amendment as “a fraud.”

It’s worth noting that tensions remain within the NRA; its official positions are more extreme than those of its constituents. As Jill Lepore reported: Gun owners may be more supportive of gun-safety regulations than is the leadership of the N.R.A. According to a 2009 Luntz poll, for instance, requiring mandatory background checks on all purchasers at gun shows is favored not only by eighty-five per cent of gun owners who are not members of the N.R.A. but also by sixty-nine per cent of gun owners who are.

 Republicans’ long-sought victory came in 2008, in the form of District of Columbia v. Heller, a convoluted opinion penned by the late Justice Antonin Scalia that was as thoroughly, indelibly politically motivated and saturated as any the Supreme Court has issued.

Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid. If it seems bizarre that the statement concluding that a ban on gun ownership is unconstitutional hinges on the weapon’s popularity, that’s because it is. Former Justice John Paul Stevens, who also authored a dissent, spells out how egregious a deviation Heller is.

The Second Amendment plainly does not protect the right to use a gun to rob a bank; it is equally clear that it does encompass the right to use weapons for certain military purposes. Whether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case. The text of the Amendment, its history, and our decision in United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174 (1939), provide a clear answer to that question. More to the point, Stevens notes, there is no evidence of an intention to limit regulation.

Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms. Specifically, there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution. Although the right had approached its latest effort to argue for an individual right to bear arms with renewed enthusiasm, its reasoning and support hadn’t changed at all.

No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.

In understated but damning language, Stevens called out the majority’s relatively violent departure from stare decisis, the principle that a court should almost always adhere to precedent. (It’s Latin for “to stand by things decided.”) Even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court, and for the rule of law itself, would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s separate, slightly more pointed dissent goes even further than Stevens’. It appears to have made a terrific impression on Scalia, who refers to Breyer’s dissent 15 times in the majority opinion. The majority’s conclusion is wrong for two independent reasons. The first reason is that set forth by JUSTICE STEVENS—namely, that the Second Amendment protects militia-related, not self-defense-related, interests. These two interests are sometimes intertwined. To assure 18th-century citizens that they could keep arms for militia purposes would necessarily have allowed them to keep arms that they could have used for self-defense as well. But self-defense alone, detached from any militia-related objective, is not the Amendment’s concern. The second independent reason is that the protection the Amendment provides is not absolute. The Amendment permits government to regulate the interests that it serves. Thus, irrespective of what those interests are— whether they do or do not include an independent interest gun in self-defense—the majority’s view cannot be correct unless it can show that the District’s regulation is unreasonable or inappropriate in Second Amendment terms. This the majority cannot do.

Two years after Heller, conservatives went back to the Supreme Court to secure the enforcement of an individual right to gun ownership against the states. In other words, they wanted to minimize the potential for both federal and state gun control regulation. In 2016, the right convinced the Court to formally declare that this new, distorted version of the Second Amendment applies equally to all “bearable” arms.

There is perhaps no more dramatic proof of how critical judicial nominations are than the arc of the Second Amendment. The stakes are illustrated all too often, in Sandy Hook and Orlando and Parkland; in the 96 people who die each day as a result of gun violence.

The GOP Plot Against the FBI


[OK, If you haven’t been paying attention so far, it’s time to start. There is a conscious, serious plot to destroy institutions of the U.S. government, encourage distrust of our most essential bureaucracies, and establish an autocracy that once in place, will be hard to dislodge. The republican Party is a co-conspirator with the Trump administration in this effort, having just defied all long-established norms and released top secret classified information disguised as a “memo” written by the Trump staff and coordinated with republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. The purpose of this memo release is to create doubt about the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into the Russian collusion and conspiracy with Trump and his campaign to throw the election to him. It has no basis in fact, leaving out huge chunks of information from the underlying documents and destroying any context in which these classified docs were created. This is an opinion piece by nothing less than the NYT editorial board, the paper that’s on the desk of every world leader every morning. We’re very close to once more putting on our coats and getting into the streets en masse, people. If the Popular Vote Loser uses this memo as a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein, it will be pitchforks and torches time. Wish to fuck it wasn’t the middle of winter.]

So this is what a partisan witch hunt really looks like.

In a demonstration of unbridled self-interest and bottomless bad faith, the Trump White House and its Republican minions in Congress are on the cusp of releasing a “memo” that purports to document the biggest political scandal since Watergate. To pull it off, they are undermining the credibility of the law enforcement community that Republicans once defended so ardently, on the noble-sounding claim that the American public must know the truth.

Don’t fall for it.

Reports suggest that the three-and-a-half-page document — produced by the staff of Representative Devin Nunes (R-White House), who somehow still leads the House Intelligence Committee despite his own record of shilling for President Trump, and who is supposed to be recused from these matters — has nothing to do with truth or accountability. Rather, it appears to be misleading propaganda from people who are terrified by the Russia investigation and determined to derail it by any means necessary.

Mr. Nunes’s cut-and-paste job ostensibly shows that anti-Trump F.B.I. investigators conspired to trick a federal intelligence court into granting them a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, because of his Russian connections — in that way corrupting the entire Russia investigation from the start. How did the investigators manage this feat? By relying on a dossier prepared by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, but hiding from the court that Mr. Steele’s work was being funded by Democrats, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and thus was hopelessly biased.

There’s so much deception and obfuscation going on here that it’s hard to know where to start.

First, Mr. Nunes and his fellow Republicans have treated the dossier like the holy grail for the Russia investigation, but it didn’t reach the F.B.I. until the inquiry was already underway — prompted in mid-2016 by suspicious contacts between Russians and George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Mr. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying about those contacts and is now cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation.

Second, the F.B.I. didn’t zero in on Mr. Page for the hell of it. He has been in the government’s sights since 2013, when investigators learned he was being targeted for recruitment by a Russian agent. To obtain a warrant to spy on someone like Mr. Page, an American citizen, investigators must show probable cause that he is working as a foreign intelligence agent. This would require reams of documentary and other evidence gathered over the years, of which the dossier would have been only one part. In addition, the 90-day warrant for Mr. Page has already been extended at least once, which means investigators had to show the intelligence court new information, beyond the dossier, justifying the basis of the original warrant.

Third, even if Mr. Nunes shows that investigators did not tell the court who financed the dossier — which originated as a Republican-backed effort during the primaries — that is hardly a scandal. It’s not clear that the court, in Mr. Page’s case, relied on the dossier at all, but even if it did, courts rarely deny warrants on the grounds that an informant had some bias. They always assume some bias exists, as it frequently does, and then weigh the information in light of that assumption.

 Finally, the idea that investigators were out to fool a federal judge shows a profound ignorance of how the intelligence courts actually work, and of the degree of vetting that precedes every warrant application. As one former F.B.I. agent explained, a conspiracy to obtain a warrant based on bad information would have required the involvement of at least a dozen agents and prosecutors, a corrupt or incompetent federal judge and the director of the F.B.I. — all working in concert to undermine Donald Trump.

You could call it all a wild-eyed conspiracy theory, only there’s no real theory behind it. Instead, there’s a mad scramble to set off this latest smoke bomb, despite pleas to not do so from, among other people, Mr. Trump’s handpicked F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray. After Mr. Wray and Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, failed to persuade the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly, to withhold the memo, the bureau released a highly unusual statement expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

That Mr. Nunes and the other Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are happy to disregard this appeal shows how far down the rabbit hole they’ve gone. Mr. Nunes hasn’t even seen the classified documents underlying his memo, and has refused to show his work even to Republican senators. Is this the behavior of someone concerned with honesty, transparency and good government?

None of this is to say the F.B.I. and the rest of the federal law enforcement apparatus should be immune from criticism or reform. They should be subject to regular oversight and searching scrutiny. But that isn’t why Mr. Nunes is pushing his dishonest memo. As Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “It’s not that the government is always right or always wrong about secrecy. It’s that Americans would be right to see this release as proof that selective classification is used more often to deceive them than to protect them.”

It would be nice to treat Mr. Trump, Mr. Nunes and their cohort as the junior high school pranksters they resemble, but what they’re doing — cynically undermining the nation’s trust in law enforcement, fostering an environment of permanent suspicion and subterfuge — is far more dangerous.

The question is whether there are any adults left in the G.O.P. The evidence so far is not encouraging, notwithstanding a sporadic furrowed brow in the Senate. At some level, one hopes, a sense of shame and responsibility to the republic will finally kick in. But that, too, is unlikely. Republicans from the top on down have made it clear, expressly or otherwise, that this is all about winning the political fight directly in front of them, the consequences — and the rest of America — be damned.

–The Editorial Board, The NEW YORK TIMES – February 1, 2018

If The Poor Must Work to Earn Every Dollar, Shouldn’t the Rich?

[I just saw the brilliant new Spielberg movie, THE POST. In the spirit of journalism that doesn’t talk down to its readers, and isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, I’m re-printing this recent opinion piece by one of its writers. As we watch the daily destruction of the social safety net by the most corrupt, greedy and punitive administration in history, these ideas need to be examined anew, discussed, and brought out into the daylight. They do, that is, unless we all want to live in a shithole country.]


by Elizabeth Brewing, WASHINGTON POST

The argument over which poor people deserve aid has begun anew thanks to incipient Republican efforts to harshen work requirements attached to welfare programs. For conservatives and thus-inclined Democrats, work requirements are about making sure that people who receive federal aid aren’t lazy loafers living off the dole — “welfare queens” in Reaganite parlance.

It’s a badly mistaken point of view. Built into the claim that it’s only fair that poor people should be made to work for welfare are a few troubling assumptions: that poor people don’t or won’t work; that only compensated, market labor is real work; that society (and the state) always require work to precede income; and that each person is due to receive simply what they earn. Each of those is false.

According to 2013 congressional testimony from Lawrence Mead, who supplied much of the intellectual groundwork for our last round of welfare reform, “by requiring and promoting work, [welfare reform] integrated [recipients] into mainstream American life as never before.” In fact, though, the number of impoverished people who could work but are neither working nor seeking work is already vanishingly small. As the leftist think tank People’s Policy Project has shown, able-bodied adults who elected not to work or seek work in 2016 made up a scant 1.6 to 2.3 percent of America’s poor. (Disclosure: My husband, Matt Bruenig, is founder of the think tank.) A recent study likewise found that 87 percent of able-bodied adults covered by the Medicaid expansion are already working, in school or seeking work, and that about 75 percent of those not working are full-time caregivers.

The lion’s share of poor people are elderly, children or disabled persons; another chunk are caregivers. And while caregiving isn’t compensated as market labor, parents looking after children and people caring for elderly or sick family members are hardly shiftless layabouts. Being both a mother and a writer, I am well aware that the less compensated of my two jobs is the more demanding one.

 But what about that small number of people who could work but, for whatever reason, don’t? Shouldn’t they have to? Well, before deciding whether it’s morally right for them to receive income without working, consider a far larger group that takes in far more money without toil: the idle rich. They soak up plenty of unearned money from the economy, in the form of rent, dividends and capital income. Salaries and wages — that is, money paid for work — only make up about 15 percent of the income of Americans making $10 million per year or more; the rest is capital income from simply owning assets.

And yet rarely do politicians inveigh against the laziness of the well-off. In fact, the government shells out huge sums of money to the rich every year through tax breaks and subsidies. As Syracuse University professor Christopher Faricy points out in his book “Welfare for the Wealthy,” the federal government is hardly generous with the poor alone. In 2016, for instance, Social Security kept 26.1 million people out of poverty to the tune of $911.4 billion paid out in disability and old-age pensions; during that same year, federal tax subsidies for the pensions of the more affluent totaled $179.9 billion . Faricy observes that the same pattern holds in health care and education: While the government spent some $200 billion on Medicaid in 2012, it also spent $120 billion subsidizing employer-based health insurance; and while students whose families make under $20,000 per year are the main beneficiaries of federal Pell grants, households that earn between $100,000 and $200,000 receive roughly 50 percent of the benefits of college tuition-and-fee tax deductions.

In other words, the well-to-do already do what workfare advocates seem so nervous about: rake in money they haven’t earned through market labor and thrive off the government’s largesse. Perhaps that itself is unfair — so why duplicate it on the other end of the economy? Put simply, it seems ludicrous at best and sadistic at most to start one’s fairness policing from the bottom up. If we mean to transform our economy into one in which people earn precisely what they work for and no more, and receive nothing from the government lest their work ethic wither, it would be best to start from the top down, where nobody runs any risk of starvation or homelessness if they lose their benefits.

In fact, none of us live entirely on what we earn. We rely on the infrastructure, knowledge and technology developed by those who have come before us, and those contemporaneous with us. Instead of trying to mince each person’s life’s work into careful calculations of contribution and merit, it seems more sensible to pursue a fairer economy overall: one that directs its excesses not to the already rich, but to those who have the greatest need; one that recognizes in its distributive structure that every person is immeasurably valuable, deserving of life and dignity.

When A President Has No Empathy

[This is where we are at the beginning of 2018. An American territory, populated by American citizens, pleading for the basic necessities of survival while their President plays golf at one of his resorts and eats off gold plated dinnerware. Happy New Year, and may we be rid of this scourge before the end of this year. In Mueller we trust. Resist. Amen.]

by Mark E. Andersen, Daily Kos

The other night I watched an episode of The Profit, on CNBC. Normally this show is about Marcus Lemonis working with people in businesses that are failing. This past week’s episode was about his trips to Puerto Rico, and how much the people are suffering. This show is usually on as background noise for me while I am doing something else—this episode angered me. Not because of Lemonis and his actions, but for the lack of response to the disaster that Hurricane Maria wrought on this American territory.

During one segment of this show, there was a village that had lost the only bridge that connected them to the rest of the island. They had made up a jerry-rigged shopping cart with a cable and pulley system to bring supplies in and out of the village. In another segment the people living in another village dammed up the river so they could pour a homemade concrete mix to make a makeshift road through the river so they could come and go, albeit in four-wheel drive vehicles only. What made me so mad about this is that sitting in the United States are the resources to build temporary bridges, and do expedient road repairs—any U.S. Army combat engineer battalion has the manpower, and know how to do these repairs. In eight hours or less one platoon of engineers could have had Bailey bridges over these rivers giving these villages access to the rest of the island until a permanent structure could be built.

Potable water is another issue—people are using ingenious ways to collect water from mountain streams. Lemonis was amazed at the ingenuity used to collect this water. He did collect some and had it tested—it was contaminated with E. coli. Again, the U.S. Army has the capability to purify water:

“The 288th is a water purification unit. We have four pieces of equipment to purify 1,500 gallons an hour,” said Capt. Duane Fousie, a native of San Antonio, and 288th company commander, “If we run all our equipment, in one 24-hour period we can purify 200,000 gallons that can be used for laundry, showers, cooking, by the engineers as well as the civilian population.”

That is one company that can purify 200,000 gallons of water in a 24-hour period. There are many more of these units in the Army. Why are they not in Puerto Rico providing clean water?

I was no fan of President George W. Bush—his handling of the Katrina disaster was incompetent at best. But at least he showed some compassion toward those who were in her path.

You’ve seen the photo of Donald Trump meeting with victims of Hurricane Maria. He is tossing out paper towels as if they are T-shirts from a T-shirt gun at a minor league baseball game. That is not presidential, and sure as hell shows no empathy toward the people who survived a natural disaster.

I am not sure that the current White House occupant, or the Republican-led Congress is even aware that Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory, populated by U.S. citizens.

“The response and recovery effort probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.” — Donald Trump

I have never before questioned a sitting president’s grasp on basic geography before, but, then again, there are a lot of things I never questioned about a sitting president prior to Trump. Empathy toward others and your actions toward the less fortunate are how we should be judged. Many of you reading this are just one or two missed paychecks away from disaster. In Hubert H. Humphrey’s last speech he stated,

 “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

By that test, our nation has failed. A “victory” in getting tax cuts for the rich was far more important to the Republican cabal currently running our nation, than providing adequate aid and relief to Puerto Rico, the sick and the poor.

I am not a religious man; however, I have read just about every religious text I could get my hands on. The bible, a book that I doubt many of the so-called Christians on the right have ever read, contains some wonderful writing. One of my favorite quotes is from Matthew 19:24:

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The Republican Party has sold its soul in the pursuit of wealth. The evangelical leaders who support them have forgotten the words from the very book they preach from—in many ways they have become no better than then people who are twisting the words of the Koran to fit their twisted, violent vision of the world.

Perhaps President Trump views those living in poverty in Puerto Rico as rabble, if that is the case, then maybe he should watch It’s a Wonderful Life, in particular, this scene:

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you’re talking about… they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn’t think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle.

Denise Oliver Velez and Kelly Macias have done an amazing job of keeping Puerto Rico in the headlines on Daily Kos—the rest of the U.S. media, not so much, and for that they are to be commended. Now, if we could just get our nation’s leadership to pay attention to the plight of Puerto Rico, instead of crowing that they cut taxes for corporations, and the wealthy—if we had a leader who showed empathy, any empathy, our nation would be far better off than we will be with the tax cuts that will cripple our nation and cause even more people to suffer.

Why Americans Hate Paying Taxes

If Americans had larger political imagination and ambition, they would insist on getting more for their money

Aristotle defined politics as “matters relating to the city.” The Athenian philosopher used “city” as a substitute for the collective. In the United States, just as in any sophisticated society, one of the most important communal matters is the collection of money from the people, and the use, allocation and distribution of that money.

April 15 is not a day that most Americans circle on the calendar with the joy of anticipation. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes appraised taxes as “what we pay for civilized society.” It does not require much imagination or rigor to identify governmental examples of “waste, fraud and abuse,” as Republicans like to say, but Holmes’ wisdom remains resonant, even elementary.

In contemporary political discourse, any celebratory, or even nuanced, analysis of taxation would suffer a heretical inquisition. Even most liberals celebrate the nobility of “easing the tax burden” for working families, while leftists advocate escalating taxes on the rich, but refuse to acknowledge that, if America were to truly transform into a European-style social welfare state, middle-class income earners would also pay more in taxes, and rightly so.

Unlike citizens of Sweden or France, Americans feel that their taxes do not pay for much of anything, including civilized society. The conventional grievance against taxes is both legitimate and inaccurate.

Many states would not survive without federal subsidy. One of the rich and untold ironies of American life is that most of the states dependent on federal aid are Southern shades of red, full of inhabitants waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags while they argue for local control against big government tyranny. Big government tyranny helps to fund their highway systems, infrastructure, educational systems and social assistance policies. In my home state of Indiana, residents recently collapsed into conniptions of shock and rage upon discovery that cuts to Medicaid would remove essential money from special education programs in public schools.

The federal government, despite reports to the contrary, is not Satan’s operational headquarters.

It is, however, largely detached from its individual taxpayers. When most people consider their financial status, they do not pause to reflect on the local efficacy of a highway expansion project or even the crucial existence of a fully functional educational program for children with developmental disabilities. They think in terms of losses and gains for themselves and their own family.

The Norwegian, even the Canadian, can justify relatively high tax rates with the knowledge of access to excellent health care, opportunities at tuition-free public universities, and readily available and affordable childcare. She can consider her routine use of safe, efficient and comfortable public transportation, and she can recall the joy of a culture with a vibrant public arts program. She can feel grateful for civilization.

The American watches a percentage of his income vanish on every pay stub, but still has a high health insurance premium and an even higher deductible, makes a student loan payment every month and takes into account large fees for the private daycare center at the opposite end of town.

The lack of civilization in public policy encourages crassness and crudity in private behavior and discussion. Basic etiquette should forbid public discussion of personal earnings, but America has never allowed vulgarity to prevent the exercise of its impulses. Without asking, I myself have had to endure acquaintances informing me how much, or how little, they will save due to Trump’s tax cut. Is there any conversational topic more boring?

One can rationalize Americans forever double dipping their potato chips and putting their feet on the table by associating their uncouth outbursts with the tragedy of low political expectations.

If Americans had larger political imagination and ambition, along with more comparative knowledge, they would insist on universal health care, affordable universities and complimentary childcare. Instead, they endure the condescension of Paul Ryan smugly grinning as he promises that a family of four will save $1,182 because of the GOP’s tax beneficence. If we are going to tolerate vulgarity, we might as well fully commit. Ryan’s savings, averaged out, amount to $98.50 per month. This is not nothing, but neither does it come close to covering a month of daycare for one child and the parent’s student loan payment.

The Republican tax plan is the equivalent of giving a man with a 20-mile commute to work whose car has broken down a new pair of running shoes.

Polls currently indicate that the majority of Americans are not falling for the ruse, and by some miracle, the typically pitiful Democrats are actually winning the public debate. Republicans hope and predict that attitudes will change when Americans notice that their tax returns are slightly larger than the previous years.

They are also parading various banners of cynicism from corporate lords of the manor. AT&T, Comcast and several other companies have announced bonuses for employees, making the dubious claim that they were only made possible due to tax relief. Union representatives for AT&T employees were already in the process of negotiating holiday bonus payments before the passage of tax reform.

The political expectations of many Americans have fallen so far into the sewer that one of the nation’s two major political parties is now actually arguing that the best government can do is bribe modern day merchant princes into acts of charity and mercy.

How long before they, and more important, we, decide that mercy is for the weak?