Monday, August 20, 2018

What will it take for Trump supporters to give him the boot?

Consider: the Access Hollywood video didn’t come close to putting a dent in Trump’s standing.

Consider: He rails against the First Amendment and his followers prove their adoration with chants against Trump’s claimed enemies like the press.

So, Max Boot asks What will finally turn Trump’s supporters against him? Here, from Boot’s Washington Post column are possibilities along with answers to the question: will this finally bring Trump down?

Let’s review what might have brought Trump down.

President Trump suffered the kind of body blows this week that would have felled any other politician. …Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman revealed she had taped conversations with [Trump and] other senior officials … Trump added to the damage by lashing out on Twitter [calling her “that dog” … hundreds of newspapers published editorials denouncing Trump as a threat to the First Amendment … After Trump vindictively revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance, Brennan hit back in a New York Times op-ed, writing that Trump’s denials of collusion with Russia are “hogwash.” … [and] provoked a powerful backlash from normally apolitical intelligence and military veterans …

Pow! Wham! Ka-pow! Any other president would have been knocked out. But for Trump, it was just another ordinary week. … [so …]

What might prevent Trump’s tried-and-true Don Rickles strategy from succeeding? It won’t be the criticism he gets from retired security officials, which only feeds his crackpot conspiracy theories about the Deep State. It certainly won’t be criticism from the press; in one recent poll, 43 percent of Republicans want Trump to have the power to shut down news outlets “engaged in bad behavior.” I fear that even if an n-word tape is discovered, it won’t do the trick. As Jonathan Last argues in the Weekly Standard, Republicans are more likely to normalize the n-word than they are to turn on Trump.

But at the end of the day, what would make the biggest difference would be an economic downturn. President Richard M. Nixon might never have been impeached were it not for the “oil shock” of 1973 and the resulting recession. While Trump might not care what newspaper editorial boards or even retired CIA directors think of him, he should care that two-thirds of business economists in a recent survey predicted a recession by the end of 2020. A growing economy has been the only thing saving Trump from a knock-out. He will hit the canvas for good if a bear market enters the ring.

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

About that “economic downturn”? Another conservative columnist, George F. Will warns that Another epic economic collapse is coming.

… according to the Financial Times’s Robin Wigglesworth and Nicole Bullock, “the U.S. stock market will officially have enjoyed its longest-ever bull run” …

… Sept. 15 will be the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank. History’s largest bankruptcy filing presaged the October 2008 evaporation of almost $10 trillion in global market capitalization.

The durable market rise that began March 6, 2009, is as intoxicating as the Lehman anniversary should be sobering: Nothing lasts. Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.

In reaction, “a contraction probably will begin with the annual budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion.”

Another hardy perennial among economic debates concerns the point at which the ratio of debt to GDP suppresses growth. The (sort of) good news — in that it will satisfy intellectual curiosity — is that we are going to find out where that point is: Within a decade, the national debt probably will be 100 percent of GDP and rising. As Irwin M. Stelzer of the Hudson Institute says, “If unlimited borrowing, financed by printing money, were a path to prosperity, then Venezuela and Zimbabwe would be top of the growth tables.”

I admit to being of Keynesian persuasion. Government has a role to play in managing the economy and controlling excesses of an otherwise unrestrained free market. However, there was no need for government borrowing to stimulate an already over-heated economy by a massive tax cut for the already overly wealthy.

Despite today’s shrill discord between the parties, the political class is more united by class interest than it is divided by ideology. From left to right, this class has a permanent incentive to run enormous deficits — to charge, through taxation, current voters significantly less than the cost of the government goods and services they consume, and saddle future voters with the cost of servicing the resulting debt after the current crop of politicians has left the scene.

Please don’t dismiss this analysis as some mere conservative complaint. Remember that starting 40 years after the 1929 crash, economic inequality started an historic rise that persisted regardless of who sat in the White House and who controlled congress. That rise continues today.

The only good thing there, as Boot predicts, is that a crash might be the only thing that will wake up, and wise up, the electorate to the excesses of this administration and it’s wanna-be king.

Themes, memes, and falemes in the illustrated news

GOP preps for wave
GOP prepares for the wave

Welcome to the Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus and other denizens of King Donald’s retinue revealed by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. Here are some themes, memes, and falemes.

noun: a combination word, false + meme, attributed to the Sky Island Scriber
Definition: a bit of fake news “copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users”, often with ill intent.
Usage: “Trump fans the falemes by calling the press ”the enemy of the people."

  • Will Trump take over daily press briefings? You are primed to believe that. He’s already doing it. It’s called Twitter.
  • Quote of the day defining truthmp: Truth isn’t truth. -Rudy Giuliani.
  • Interior Department plans to cut down all national forests to prevent forest fires. (Prove me wrong.)
  • Trump administration: consuming more oil is good for you. True (the quote, that is). “Conserving oil is no longer necessary for the economy” (headline from this morning’s Daily Star).
  • Quiz: which is a reality TV show lowlife with zero credibility? (A) Omarosa (B) Donald Trump (C) Both (D) neither. Check Twitter for correct answer.
Trump dines on 1st amendment
Paper trump ate exposed!
  • Citing insecurity needs, Trump cancels all security clearances but one.
  • “I can’t guarantee anything.” - Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She never could.
  • So …
  • Tomorrow: Trump to yank passes for WH press corps, fire press secretary, conduct his own press briefing in empty room. Says “I can’t guarantee anything.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Nixon White House Lawyer Advises Trump Staffers

There’s an old (or should be old) saying among scuba divers: You don’t have to swim faster than a great white shark. You just have to swim faster than your dive buddy.

So it is with people leaving a troubled organization: You don’t want to be the last rat to leave the sinking ship.

[John Dean to White House staffers: ‘Get out!’] reports “Aldous J Pennyfarthing” in the Daily Kos.

He should have said “Get out while you can!”

John Dean knows a little something about awful, criminal, paranoid presidents with berserk rage boners for the popular Democratic presidents who preceded them. As White House counsel under President Nixon, he was deeply involved in the Watergate coverup. Eventually he flipped on the president, cooperating with investigators and pleading guilty to a single felony count.

So if things seem a tad Watergate-y to you these days, imagine how Dean feels. He’s seen this movie before. Hell, he’s helped make this movie before. And now he’s saying to White House staffers, “Whatever you do, don’t be me”:

John Dean
Memo To Trump’s White House Staff: FYI. Very few people who worked at Nixon’s White House later included that fact on their resumes. It doesn’t do much for a career to be on the wrong side of history, nor to have worked for the worst president in American history.
10:19 PM · Aug 16, 2018

Come on, John. Worst in history? That’s … okay, yeah, you’re right. And unless we discover that James Buchanan nailed Stormy Daniels’ great-great-grandmother after she spanked him with a copy of Old Farmer’s Almanac, he’ll likely hold onto that status for a while.

But this tweet does raise an interesting question. What could be a worse job to list on your résumé than White House staffer during the Trump administration?

McDonald’s pink-slime wrangler?
Steve Bannon’s personal bathtub attendant?
Dick Cheney’s organ-donor clone?
KKK cross-oiler?
Death Star weapons technician?

I’d have to say those are all about on par with working for the Trump White House.

In other words, it’s better to be the first rat off the sinking ship than the last. Think about that, okay?

This week by the numbers - none of them good for Trump

  • 70+ intelligence officers and leaders denounce Trump’s revoking clearances
  • 100 Senators resolve that the press is not “the enemy of the people”
  • 200+ tapes claimed to have been secretly recorded by former WH staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman
  • 350+ newspapers denounce Trump for his calling the press “the enemy of the people”


Over 70 former intel officers and leaders denounce Trump’s threat to revoke clearances reports

In the 48 hours since President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, over 70 former intelligence officers and leaders have come forward denouncing the president’s decision to revoke or threaten to take away security clearances from former government officials, including a list of 60 former CIA officers who signed a statement today, obtained by Axios.

“All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure. But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”
— Statement From 60 Former CIA Officials

Among the additional 60 CIA officers named are:

Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD chief of staff
Bob Flores, former CIA chief technology officer
Kent Harrington, former national intelligence officer for East Asia and CIA director of public affairs
George Little, former chief spokesman, CIA and DoD
Phillip Mudd, former CIA analyst
John Nixon, former CIA analyst
Greg Vogel, former CIA deputy director for operations

Their statement goes on to explain, “Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them. What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Go to the article for the full list of former CIA officers signing that statement.

Two additional former officials, Admiral Denny Blair, former DNI, and VADM Bert Calland, former Deputy CIA Director also asked that their names be added to the list of former intelligence officials who signed a letter criticizing Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance.

The list of former intelligence leaders includes:
DNI - Clapper, Blair
DCI - Webster,Gates, Tenet, Goss
DCIA - Hayden, Panetta, Petraeus


Senate adopts resolution backing free press after Trump attacks.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution affirming support for a free press and declaring that “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

You can read the full text of the Senate resolution here.

The non-binding resolution approved by voice vote was a rebuke to President Donald Trump who for more than 18 months has frequently called reporters “the enemy of the people.”

The resolution “reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”

The vote comes after more than 300 hundred U.S. newspapers on Thursday launched a coordinated defense of press freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for denouncing some media organizations as enemies of the American people.

“A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press,” said the editorial by the Boston Globe, which coordinated publication among more than 350 newspapers.

Trump has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

He lashed out again on Thursday, tweeting “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

At a Senate hearing, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai again said he did not agree that the press was “the enemy of the people” but declined to offer a view of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat and an author of the resolution. “Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the Senate action.


And then there are the Omarosa tapes: Omarosa Might Have ‘As Many As 200’ Tapes, NY Times Reports reports the Huffington Post. The former aide to President Trump has released several audio recordings while promoting her new book.

Omarosa Manigault Newman may have an archive of up to 200 secretly recorded audio files from her time working in the White House, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The former aide to President Donald Trump has released several such recordings over the past week, which have reportedly left officials in the administration “rattled,” according to the Times. Manigault Newman on Thursday released the latest tape, which she said included a discussion in which the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, offered her a $15,000-a-month job with the 2020 Trump re-election campaign.

The clip was played on MSNBC, and Manigault Newman later suggested that the offer came after she was fired in December as an effort to buy her silence.

"It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out,” Lara Trump says in the recording. “Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can’t have, we got to…” She later says that things would need to stay “positive.”

Manigault Newman, in the midst of a press tour to promote her book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, says she did not accept the offer, which included a provision that she sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Other tapes released in recent days include audio of her being fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly and one of the president speaking to her after her dismissal. The Trump campaign has taken legal action against Manigault Newman over her release of the clips.

But it’s in his jeans (or genes): Trump sues people almost as often as he lies about them.

The president has lobbed several attacks at his former aide during her media tour, including a widely criticized Twitter message in which he calling her “that dog.”

Lara Trump said in a statement Thursday that she was “shocked and saddened” by what she called a “betrayal.”

“I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on,” she wrote.

Things like “that dog” perhaps? Priceless.


These are the newspapers telling Trump that journalists are not the enemy reports

About 350 newspapers in the United States had editorials Thursday decrying President Donald Trump’s description of the media as the “enemy of the people.”

Here are some of the newspapers blasting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

For example,
The Arizona Daily Star
The free press is not the ‘enemy of the people’
The Arizona Republic
Journalists, don’t let Trump’s attacks on media keep us from doing our job

Like I said, this has not been a good week for Trump.

The military parade cancelled and a dog writes a letter to Trump

The New York Times reported that Trump Cancels Military Parade, Blaming Washington Officials for Inflating Costs. Once again, the loud sounds emanating from the Scriber household, like combinations of hysterical laughter and gagging, were triggered by the last part of that headline.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday canceled plans for a military parade this fall in Washington, blaming local officials for inflating the costs and saying they “know a windfall when they see it.”

Washington’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, pushed back on Twitter, saying that she had “finally got thru” to the president to convey the “realities” of what it costs to stage events like military parades in the city.

Ms. Bowser put the number at $21.6 million, though the city’s costs are just a fraction of the total, with federal agencies also kicking in millions of dollars. A day earlier, the Pentagon said Mr. Trump’s parade to celebrate the military could be postponed to 2019, as officials acknowledged that the event could cost more than $90 million.

The Huffington Post reports that “The Pentagon said Thursday that it would postpone Trump’s parade indefinitely because of ballooning costs. The Defense Department estimated the cost at $92 million, including $50 million for the Pentagon and $42 million for other government agencies, a Pentagon official told CNBC.”

And what do vets think about this? The parade, originally planned for Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 10), never got a lot of support. From a email (h/t Mrs. Scriber):

Moments ago we got the news: Donald Trump’s military parade has been canceled.

We’ll learn more in the coming days about what the final straw was, but we know this: our pressure worked. We pushed tens of thousands of petitions, calls and letters to Congress from veterans and military families urging them to stop this international embarrassment.

And they felt your pressure. We stopped it! We did it! What a collective effort!

But here is the catch: the Pentagon is saying that this parade is only “postponed,” and our pledge to you is that we will not let up. We will only amp up the pressure. Because they felt it. We will continue to oppose this parade if and when it arises again. …

So will your Scriber (a Vietnam era vet, 3 1/2 years Army Security Agency - bone-spur free).

The Times winds up: “Mr. Trump’s dream of a military parade with tanks barreling down the streets and fighter jets flying above him has faced resistance. Critics have said these parades typically mark a victory in a war. Others have said it may not be the best use of the Defense Department’s money.”

But perhaps there is another way to sate Trump’s appetite for self aggrandizement.

Andy Borowitz, New Yorker satirist, reports that Military Refuses to Participate in Trump’s Parade, Citing Bone Spurs

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Pentagon has turned down Donald J. Trump’s request for a grand military parade in Washington, D.C., citing a sudden outbreak of bone spurs that would prevent men and women in uniform from participating.

Harland Dorrinson, a Pentagon spokesman, said that, within an hour of Trump’s request, more than a hundred thousand military personnel complained that they were suffering from acute cases of bone spurs that would make marching in such a parade a painful ordeal.

“In the history of the U.S. military, we have never experienced a bone-spur epidemic of this magnitude,” the spokesman said. “Regrettably, however, we have no choice but to issue thousands of deferments.”

A statement from the bone-spur sufferers said that they would continue to valiantly serve their country around the world in a non-marching capacity, and offered an alternative to their participation in Trump’s proposed pageant.

“President Trump is welcome to march in the parade all by himself if he would finally like to enlist,” the statement read.

Oops. I guess the military will not rescue Trump’s big, beautiful parade. But that last quote does suggest an alternative: a one-man parade dedicated to the proposition that Trump is the smartest and most lovable president ever. (More on that after this next report from Borowitz.)

Pence Stages One-Man Parade in Honor of Trump.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hours after the Pentagon announced that it would postpone a military parade that Donald J. Trump had requested, Vice-President Mike Pence staged a one-man parade in Trump’s honor.

Explaining his decision to mount the solitary parade, Pence told reporters, “It is the least I can do to pay tribute to the greatness and majesty of Donald Trump, a true American hero.”

Pence acknowledged, however, that marching alone “was a neat way to keep the budget down.”

“Obviously, if money were no object, I would have gone for a little more spectacle,” he said. “Maybe a flyover by Space Force.”

Marching proudly with his chest thrust forward and breaking out into a near-strut, Pence’s parade route took him down Pennsylvania Avenue, where he waved occasionally to confused-looking passersby.

“It was weird seeing him walking all by himself,” Carol Foyler, a tourist who witnessed the Pence parade, said. “I waved back because it was just so sad.”

Pence’s one-man march drew high praise from Trump, who took to Twitter to declare it the largest parade in history.

Now about Trump being the smartest and most lovable president in history. Gail Collins, columnist for the NY Times, considers Trump and the Politics of Arf. The president: still neurotically insecure after all these years … (h/t Sherry Moreau)

One thing that’s for sure is that the tweets tell us a lot about the president’s own miserable insecurities. He’s been shooting off insults about people’s intellect for years, from Robert De Niro to Arianna Huffington to Lindsey Graham, who not only got called “a total lightweight” and an “idiot” but also, in the cruelest cut of all “not as bright as Rick Perry.” We could go on and on. It’s pretty clearly all coming from a deep, deep fear that everybody else has a better mind than he does. “Trust me, I’m like a smart person,” he pathetically told the country shortly after his inauguration, when the country was already getting a pretty good idea that this wasn’t the case.

During the campaign Trump continually pointed out that he went to the Wharton School of Business. (“It’s like super genius stuff.”) That gave many people the impression he’d gotten the high-prestige Wharton M.B.A., but he was really just a transfer student into the undergraduate program. Skeptics suggested he only edged his way in because of family connections. He graduated without any honors or distinction, and went on to publish a best-selling memoir that was written by somebody else.

No reason to say he’s stupid. Maybe just a little dim by presidential standards.

And about him calling people a “dog.” This all goes back to the fact that Trump hates animals. Particularly friendly animals. (You don’t see him constantly saying an enemy is a “coyote” or “hyena” or “python.”) Trump has never even owned a goldfish, as far as anybody knows. No pets at all, except a poodle named Chappy that belonged to his first wife, and which he tried to evict. (Ivana Trump said in her recent autobiography that Chappy “had an equal dislike of Donald.”)

When he calls someone a “dog,” he’s just reacting to a pathological fear that he’s unlovable. Just as when he calls someone “dumb,” he’s trying to get past the fact that he’s not all that bright.

So, you see, Trump needs that parade even if it is only Mike Pence groveling his way down Pennsylvania Avenue.

And about that dog business? I commend to you this essay on dogs by Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke (reprinted this morning, 8/17, in the Daily Star: A dog’s letter to President Trump: Stop calling humans ‘dogs’. Here is a little bit of it from Zoe, smart and full of love, to a president who is neither.

A quick note of protest to President Donald Trump, from my large and very good dog. (She dictated, I typed, as the size of keyboard keys are discriminatory against large-pawed animals. More on that issue in another column.)

Dear Large Human President:

I do not usually pay attention to human politics. I prefer more pleasant things like sniffing my friends’ butts or rolling on a dead bird in the backyard or eating things that will make me throw up.

Anyway, I am writing because I have noticed that you keep comparing human beings to dogs.

… dogs are wonderful and intelligent and filled with love, and I do not think you were trying to call Omarosa or Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz or any of those other humans wonderful or intelligent or loving.

I think you were trying to be mean and insulting to them. And that makes me want to growl at you.

Bad large human president! Bad!

I understand you are the first president since William McKinley to not have a dog. That’s weird. You don’t have any animal friends, and that makes me suspicious.

In conclusion, and on behalf of all good dogs out there, I request that you stop referring to humans as dogs and start realizing that humans and dogs are both great and deserve respect …

Friday, August 17, 2018

My tribute to Aretha Franklin, my sunshine.

538’s significant digits email reports on the death of Aretha Franklin.

20 No. 1 R&B hits
Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul and widely regarded as the greatest postwar pop singer, died yesterday at age 76. Her talent and career generated any number of significant digits: 100 Billboard-charting singles, 20 No. 1 R&B hits, 17 Top 10 pop singles, 18 Grammys, three presidential inauguration concerts, and the best-selling gospel record of all time. Rest in peace. [The New York Times]

Back in the day I was a member of a rock-n-roll band playing gigs in the upper midwest. Our repertoire (never used that word!) consisted of pop hits song by white males. Elvis? sure. Roy Orbison? Never in doubt. Everly Brothers? Double down.

But toward the end of our band’s existence, I tried to get us to diversify (although none of us would have called it that). I heard Aretha Franklin’s version of the old song “You are My Sunshine.” I was blown away. We tried to do that on stage a couple of times, but it did not click. Why? Think of a gaggle of 19-year old white guys singing this song!

But here, as my personal tribute is a tape of her doing that song. Listen to Aretha singing You are my sunshine.

Enemies List for 2018, Part 2 - everyone else

John Brennan responds to Trump’s revoking of Brennan’s security clearance: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash. That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him.

But that may be just the surface of the story. Revoking the security clearance of Brennan and others on Trump’s enemies list interferes with their ability to provide relevant testimony before congressional committees and the special counsel. So, Rachel Maddow suggested last night, the reason for Trump’s action is really an intention to interfere with the Mueller investigation.

And Trump is going to take hit after hit on this one. For example, beyond Brennan’s brass knuckle response, a retired Navy admiral dares Trump to take his security clearance also.

William H. McRaven … was commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014. He oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Scriber FYI: McRaven is now Chancellor of the University of Texas.

In an open letter to President Trump, published by the Washington Post, McRaven asks Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:

Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him.

Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.

Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.

A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.

Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.

If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.

And, surprisingly, a reporter for Fox News read it verbatim on live TV.

Shortly after [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders made the announcement, CNN reported that the White House had not consulted Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, on the decision.

The president also said he was considering revoking the clearance of several other former intelligence and law-enforcement officials — many of whom have been critical of him — in the coming weeks.

In addition to the former CIA Directer John Brennan, those people include:

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence.
James Comey, the former FBI director.
Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency.
Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general.
Susan Rice, the former national security adviser.
Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.
Peter Strzok, a former FBI agent.
Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer.
Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official.

The first seven served during the Russian attacks and investigation of them.

I guess we now add McRaven to this list. Hey! Sign me up.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Enemies List for 2018, Part 1 - journalists

In a fit of petty vengeance, President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan. Trump followed on by listing what Rachel Maddow sees as a modern version of the “enemies list” John Dean prepared for Richard Nixon. Although Trump did not include them, I suspect that right at the top of Trump’s list are the members of the free press, the journalists he despises and denigrates. I’ll get back to Trump’s action against Brennan in Part 2, but for now I got to wondering about whether bloggers are on Trump’s sh!t list of enemies. Are we endangered because we are journalists? What’s a journalist?

Occasionally I do some introspection, asking what I do here and why. So I turn today to my font of wisdom (with apologies), Wikipedia. I began by asking it what journalists do.

A journalist is a person who collects, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the public. A journalist’s work is called journalism. A journalist can work with general issues or specialize in certain issues. However, most journalists tend to specialize, and by cooperating with other journalists, produce journals that span many topics.

That might be me. I certainly distribute news or other current information to the public. But am I more than that?

A reporter is a type of journalist who researches, writes, and reports on information in order to present in sources, conduct interviews, engage in research, and make reports. The information-gathering part of a journalist’s job is sometimes called reporting, in contrast to the production part of the job such as writing articles. Reporters may split their time between working in a newsroom and going out to witness events or interviewing people. …

Whoa! I don’t do that. Those journalists called reporters wander the globe, its nations, their cities, reporting on first hand observations practicing empiricism. They bring us the truth as it happens, from their immediate experience, as they see it unfolding. I just make “marks on mentionable media.” Reporters are a lot more courageous than I will ever be. And sometimes the search for truth costs them their lives.

So what kind of journalist am I? Wiki again:

Journalism has developed a variety of ethics and standards. While objectivity and a lack of bias are of primary concern and importance, more liberal types of journalism, such as advocacy journalism and activism, intentionally adopt a non-objective viewpoint. This has become more prevalent with the advent of social media and blogs,

I stopped there and said to myself, “Yes! That’s me.” But then the Wiki entry went on.

as well as other platforms that are used to manipulate or sway social and political opinions and policies. These platforms often project extreme bias, as “sources” are not always held accountable or considered necessary in order to produce a written, televised or otherwise “published” end product.

Oh, God, I hope not. I do try to triangulate, looking for corroborating reports. Sometimes I sneak in little educational tidbits that help you understand the news at a deeper level than usually reported. And I look to you all for tips about what else I should be opining on, and your critical communications to keep me from succumbing to unbridled bloviation.

But as a journalist, I am protected by the First Amendment of our constitution. I take it personally when the president of our country attacks journalists. So …

… all that rumination brings me to what will happen today, August 16th. The Boston Globe rallies newspapers to protect free press from Trump attacks. At last count, More than 300 newspapers join Globe effort on freedom of the press editorials. Here is the Globe’s editorial.

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston newspaper is proposing a coordinated editorial response from publications across the U.S. to President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the news media.

We are not the enemy of the people,’’ said Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor for the editorial page of The Boston Globe, referring to a characterization of journalists that Trump has used in the past. The president, who contends he has largely been covered unfairly by the press, also employs the term ‘‘fake news’’ often when describing the media.

The Globe has reached out to editorial boards nationwide to write and publish editorials on Aug. 16 denouncing what the newspaper called a ‘‘dirty war against the free press.’’

As of Friday, Pritchard said about 70 outlets had committed to editorials so far, with the list expected to grow. The publications ranged from large metropolitan dailies, such as the Houston Chronicle, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miami Herald and Denver Post, to small weekly papers with circulations as low as 4,000.

The newspaper’s request was being promoted by industry groups such as the American Society of News Editors and regional groups like the New England Newspaper and Press Association. It suggested editorial boards take a common stand against Trump’s words regardless of their politics, or whether they generally editorialized in support of or in opposition to the president’s policies.

‘‘Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,’’ the appeal said, acknowledging that newspapers were likely to take different approaches.

Pritchard, who oversees the Globe’s editorial page, said the decision to seek the coordinated response from newspapers was reached after Trump appeared to step up his rhetoric in recent weeks.

At an Aug. 2 political rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump told his audience that the media was ‘‘fake, fake disgusting news.’’

"What ever happened to the free press? What ever happened to honest reporting?’’ the president asked, pointing to journalists covering the event. ‘‘They don’t report it. They only make up stories.’’

Pritchard said she hoped the editorials would make an impression on Americans.

‘‘I hope it would educate readers to realize that an attack on the First Amendment is unacceptable,’’ she said. ‘‘We are a free and independent press, it is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.’’

Other newspapers respond

For example, in response, the New York Times issued its call for action in A FREE PRESS NEEDS YOU (caps in original).

In 1787, the year the Constitution was adopted, Thomas Jefferson famously wrote to a friend, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

That’s how he felt before he became president, anyway. Twenty years later, after enduring the oversight of the press from inside the White House, he was less sure of its value. “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” he wrote. “Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

Jefferson’s discomfort was, and remains, understandable. Reporting the news in an open society is an enterprise laced with conflict. His discomfort also illustrates the need for the right he helped enshrine. As the founders believed from their own experience, a well-informed public is best equipped to root out corruption and, over the long haul, promote liberty and justice.

“Public discussion is a political duty,” the Supreme Court said in 1964. That discussion must be “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open,” and “may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

In 2018, some of the most damaging attacks are coming from government officials. Criticizing the news media — for underplaying or overplaying stories, for getting something wrong — is entirely right. News reporters and editors are human, and make mistakes. Correcting them is core to our job. But insisting that truths you don’t like are “fake news” is dangerous to the lifeblood of democracy. And calling journalists the “enemy of the people” is dangerous, period.

These attacks on the press are particularly threatening to journalists in nations with a less secure rule of law and to smaller publications in the United States, already buffeted by the industry’s economic crisis. And yet the journalists at those papers continue to do the hard work of asking questions and telling the stories that you otherwise wouldn’t hear. Consider The San Luis Obispo Tribune, which wrote about the death of a jail inmate who was restrained for 46 hours. The account forced the county to change how it treats mentally ill prisoners.

Answering a call last week from The Boston Globe, The Times is joining hundreds of newspapers, from large metro-area dailies to small local weeklies, to remind readers of the value of America’s free press. These editorials, some of which we’ve excerpted, together affirm a fundamental American institution.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to your local papers. Praise them when you think they’ve done a good job and criticize them when you think they could do better. We’re all in this together.

Local responses

The Daily Star asserts that The free press is not the ‘enemy of the people’.

The Arizona Daily Star is participating in a nationwide effort by newspaper editorial boards to speak against President Trump’s demonization of the free press by calling us the “enemy of the people.”

We unwaveringly reject Trump’s slander. But this isn’t only about us, the press.

You have a dog in this fight.

Journalists hold dear the First Amendment, but it wasn’t written for us. It was written to protect the public from government officials — including presidents — who seek to hold power through secrecy and deception.

The First Amendment protects your right — your need — to know more than what your government tells you.

At a practical level, we journalists sit through boring government meetings and learn about public school financing formulas, so you don’t have to. It’s not as lofty a statement as the First Amendment, but it serves.

Why would you give that away?

When President Trump points to journalists and calls us the “enemy of the people,” when he wants you to believe that coverage of his own actions and his own words is “fake news,” Trump is asking you to join him in a grand charade.

When Trump weaponizes and perverts the very concept of truth and a free press by trafficking in bold lies with a smile on his face, he does so with a purpose:

To hold the American people hostage to his whim, to his control, to his reality. Don’t believe what the press tells you, he repeats.

“Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” Trump told a VFW gathering in Kansas City in June.

If this were a personal relationship, alarm bells would be going off.

And while Trump is often disparaging the New York Times, CNN and other national news outlets, the distrust he peddles doesn’t make a distinction for local journalism.

Local journalists, such as those at the Arizona Daily Star, view our job as a service to you — our community. We live here, some of us were born here, and we care deeply about Tucson and Southern Arizona.

We work so you’ll know how elected officials are spending your tax money and what they’re doing in your name.

Journalists talk to people, hunt down documents and ask questions so you’ll know if the charity soliciting you for donations is legitimate; if there’s a problem with 911 dispatching; if the public mental health system works.

If local government wants you to pay more for recycling, we’ll tell you why and how much. If water wells are contaminated, we’ll explain how it happened, and what’s next.

And, if you see a factual error in our reporting, tell us and we will check it out and correct it.

If you disagree with a Star opinion we share on the Star’s Editorial Page, tell us. Write a letter to the editor and explain your point of view.

It is vital that we not allow Trump, or anyone else, to sever the relationship between the American people and the press.

Journalists are not the “enemy of the American people.”

We, like you, are the American people.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Charting the Trump Economy

Center for American Progress summarizes The Trump Economy in One Chart.

Trump’s economic agenda has been relentlessly aimed at helping big corporations, the wealthy, and Trump himself at the expense of the rest of us—and it’s succeeding wildly.

New numbers show that for Americans, real wages are stagnant and even declining because consumer prices (costs for everyday spending) are rising. Americans are losing purchasing power: “A separate report released Friday (Aug. 10) showed average hourly earnings were flat in July, and average weekly earnings fell 0.2%”

At the same time, big corporations are stuffing their pockets thanks to Trump & Co.’s December tax scam, and making sure not one drop trickles down.

Profits vs. wages
Trumponomics in one chart

‘I don’t understand why the Democrats are not pounding on this chart every single day’ is the headline of a Daily Kos piece (authored by “Aldous J Pennyfarthing ”). This piece has more commentary and another revealing chart.

Donald Trump said the Republican tax bill would boost the average family’s disposable income by $4,000.

Donald Trump said wealthy people like him would lose big after the bill was passed.

Donald Trump says a lot of things. Hardly any of them are true.

And here’s the stark proof that, when it comes to the Republican tax scam, Trump’s critics were right, while Trump was just wanking off to an ‘80s pin-up of the Laffer curve … [See first chart.]

… it is quite the chart. It’s so eye-opening, in fact, it prompted equities analyst and Bloomberg Television contributor Barry Ritholtz to state: “I don’t understand why the Democrats are not pounding on this chart every single day from now until the midterm election.”

Productivity vs. wages
More Trumponomics in action

Coincidentally, the [first] chart looks eerily similar to a graph that shows a sharp divergence between wages and productivity since Ronald Reagan made the world safe for greedy assholes again: [Second chart]

Democrats, feel free to use any and all of these. Voters really need to see them over and over and over again until November 6 — and beyond.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

'A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion'

Why is Trump alienating our European allies?
Why did Trump support Brexit?
Why did the Republican party remove a plank advocating helping the Ukraine?
Why was a Trump server communicating with the Russian Alfa Bank?
Why has the top leadership of the FBI all (but one) been fired?
Why has Trump failed to execute the congress-approved sanctions on Russia?
Why was, and is, Trump having secret meetings with Putin?
Why has Manafort clammed up? Is he afraid for his life?
Why does Trump charge the free press as “enemy of the people”?
Why did Russia, Putin really, interfere with the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton?
Why is Trump ignoring his intelligence community’s conclusions about 2016? And 2018?

Is there a coherent explanation that ties these questions together?

Yes. As I blogged back in July, “There are just too many … pieces of verbal evidence, publicly available, that as a whole are consistent with the hypothesis that Putin has something big on Trump.”

Yesterday (Aug. 13th), at Blog for Arizona, Michael Bryan asked What if Trump Really is a Russian Dupe? The motivation for that question is this Daily Intelligencer piece by Jonathan Chait, Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler? A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion.

The above list of questions is a small sample of the ground covered by Chait. Below are teasers from the beginning of Chait’s essay.

The media has treated the notion that Russia has personally compromised the president of the United States as something close to a kook theory. A minority of analysts, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have promoted aggressively exculpatory interpretations of the known facts, in which every suspicious piece of evidence turns out to have a surprisingly innocent explanation. And it is possible, though unlikely, that every trail between Trump Tower and the Kremlin extends no farther than its point of current visibility.

What is missing from our imagination is the unlikely but possible outcome on the other end: that this is all much worse than we suspect. After all, treating a small probability as if it were nonexistent is the very error much of the news media made in covering the presidential horse race. And while the body of publicly available information about the Russia scandal is already extensive, the way it has been delivered — scoop after scoop of discrete nuggets of information — has been disorienting and difficult to follow. What would it look like if it were reassembled into a single narrative, one that distinguished between fact and speculation but didn’t myopically focus on the most certain conclusions?

Chait is on the right path. Consider three pieces of evidence, each explained by a unique “surprisingly innocent explanation.”

Evidence A is explained by W
Evidence B is explained by X
Evidence C is explained by Y

Then consider a simpler explanation of A, B, and C:

Evidence A is explained by Z
Evidence B is explained by Z
Evidence C is explained by Z

According to the principles of explanatory coherence, we should prefer the second case because of the explanatory breadth of Theory Z. The British Psychological Society asserts that “The criterion of explanatory breadth is the most important criterion for choosing the best explanation. It captures the idea that a theory is more explanatorily coherent than its rivals if it explains a greater range of facts.”

And that is what Chait aspired to in his essay.

Consider this one required reading. Set aside a half hour or so. Be prepared to be scared.

What's in your wallet? Not so much from the GOP tax cut if you are a wage earner.

Ask not for whom the closing bell tolls. If you are a working wage earner, it does not toll for thee.

The NY Times Editorial Board poses a question about Republican promises and performance: You Know Who the Tax Cuts Helped? Rich People.

When Republicans were pitching a massive tax cut for corporations and wealthy families last year, they promised voters many benefits: increased investment, higher wages and a tax cut that pays for itself. The tax plan, congressional leaders said, would turbocharge the American economy and provide a much-needed helping hand to working-class families.

“Most people, half the people in this country, live paycheck to paycheck, so there’s a lot of economic anxiety,” the House speaker, Paul Ryan, told The Times in November. “And I think just one of the key solutions is faster economic growth, more jobs. And I think the best thing we could do to deliver that is tax reform.”

So, more than six months since President Trump signed the tax cut into law, is it delivering on the promises Mr. Ryan and other leaders made?

Here are snippets providing evidence for an answer to that question. The short answer is NO!

The most notable outcome of the tax law is one that few Republicans talked about: Companies are buying back their own stock — a lot of it. Stock buybacks are expected to reach a record $1 trillion this year. After Congress reduced the top federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, businesses are flush with cash. Lawmakers also let companies repatriate foreign earnings that they have been amassing at a rate of 15.5 percent for cash and 8 percent for other assets.

By spending a big chunk of their tax windfall on buying back shares, businesses are boosting demand for and, thus, the price of their stock. It is no wonder then that the S&P 500 stock index is trading near its high.

Everyone in Washington knew companies would do the buy-back thing. The last time there was a tax cut, that’s what companies did. Well, maybe everyone except for Republicans knew what to expect.

But those buybacks do nothing for workers’ wages.

The idea that the tax cuts were going to line workers’ pockets was always a mirage. Most people will enjoy only a modest and temporary tax cut — families earning $25,000 or less will save on average just $60 on their federal tax this year, and those making between $48,600 and $86,100 will save $930, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Families in the top 1 percent, on the other hand, will save an average of $51,140.

The Times presents graphical evidence that spending on buybacks resulted in flat-lined investment and actual decline of real wages.

And we are experiencing a massive increase in national debt to pay for the corporate tax give-aways.

“Not only will this tax plan pay for itself, but it will pay down debt,” Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said. This statement was absurd when Mr. Mnuchin made it, but it looks even more ridiculous now. The deficit and the federal debt are growing — and at a stunning pace. In the current fiscal year, the federal government will spend $912 billion more than it collects in revenue, an increase of 39 percent from the 2017 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Thanks to the tax cut, the government will take in about 1 percent less in the 2018 fiscal year than it did the year before. Corporate tax revenue is plummeting — the C.B.O. predicts a drop of 27 percent this year. At the same time, the federal government will spend nearly 5 percent more, due, in large part, to Mr. Trump’s insistence on more defense spending.

Over the coming decades, the federal debt could nearly triple as a share of the gross domestic product if Congress makes the Trump tax cut and spending increase permanent, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Lawmakers have talked about extending the cuts in last year’s law beyond the next 10 years — something they did with some of the cuts passed during the George W. Bush administration. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to do that,” the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said in April.

The evidence presented here leads me to paraphrase McConnell: I don’t know why you WOULD want to do that.

One thing we now know for certain (although we have known it for some time already) is that the GOP is the party of tax gifts for the rich and deficit spending that will be born on the backs of workers like a cross of orange hair.

Today, many Republicans seem to realize that the tax cut has become a political liability, which is why they aren’t talking about it ahead of the November election. Even they realize that it doesn’t do any of what they promised.

Economic injustice

We should view this tax policy as a major contributor to the rising income and wealth inequalities. Not since just before the Great Depression has the 1% controlled this much wealth—what that means writes Leslie Salzillo at Daily Kos.

Via MarketWatch, a news group considered to be one of the most prominent in today’s financial industry, Karl Paul reports that in the last 20–30 years, the disparity between the rich and more as grown more than it did right before the devastating Great Depression. Paul adds:

“In 2015, ‘the top 1% of Americans made 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent — an increase from 2013, when they earned 25.3 times as much, according to a recent study released by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning Washington, D.C. think tank.’”

That means to become part of the 1% elite, a family needs to have an average annual income of over $420k with some states having a higher bar. “The top 1% took home more than 22% of al income in 2015—the highest share since the peak of 23.9%—just before the 1928 Great Depression.”

Paul mentions that in early August, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos became the richest person of today when his wealth surpassed $150 billion. To break that down, one would have to make $1 million dollars 150,000 times. Bezos fortune and those of the richest in Silicon Valley and Hollywood affects the country. The 1% grew faster than the bottom 99% in 43 states.

“Meanwhile, the median net worth of Americans currently hovers at $68,828 per household. One in five Americans says savings and less than 40% of Americans say they have enough savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair.”

“The EPI — a liberal nonprofit associated with the labor movement — recommends returning bargaining power to U.S. workers, increasing political participation by all citizens, and boosting public investments in child care, education, housing and health care. ‘Such policies will help prevent the wealthiest few from appropriating more than their fair share of the nation’s expanding economic pie,” Sommeiller said..”

So, where does this lead? Could there be another Great Depression? It seems if things don’t change, a real financial catastrophe for the rich could happen any day affecting the poor even worse. How do we remedy the problem? Perhaps one way would be by getting rid of the current illegitimate so-called president and his complicit and corrupt administration and Republican-led Congress. Not giving billions in tax breaks to the ultra rich and corporations, and having those billions of over at least 10 major taxes benefits, job cuts, and write-offs (via Mother Jones)—be distributed to the poor instead—might help. Imagine how the economy could change for the better if the poor could afford to buy more.

It’s hard to say if change will happen unless any time soon unless, as the EPI says, there is an increase in political participation by all citizens: unless less country’s Resistance grows.

11-year old hacks election website in less than 10 minutes. That and Illustrated Gnus for the week.

From 538’s significant digits email:
11 years old
Last week, at the hacking convention DEFCON, 11-year-old Emmett Brewer hacked into a replica of Florida’s election website, changing its voting results. It took him less than 10 minutes. … [PBS]

Will the Russians offer him a contract?


Here are a few more of the themes in this week’s Mournday Mourning’s Illustrated Gnus from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona.

  • GOP’s Trumpcare costs nearly nothing, whacks preexisting conditions
  • Melania’s melody: chain migration works … for my family
  • Trump chooses space force as a distraction: no cyber corps, no free press, no collusion, …
  • GOP enters Blue Wave surfing contest. Bookmakers taking bets on a 7% loss in November.
  • Trump blames California for wild fires. Actually, he blamed the trees but, you see, the trees are in California, so …

Monday, August 13, 2018

The real story on David Garcia's book, 'School Choice'

New Book by David Garcia, Arizona Candidate for Governor, is a Blueprint to Dismantle Public Education was posted to Blog for Arizona on August 9th by Larry Bodine. I read that review with a sense of disquiet. For one thing, Bodine’s quotes and comments run 180 degrees opposite to what Garcia has publicly stated in his plan for Arizona education. For another, the overall tone seemed more like a political hit piece rather than a dispassionate review of a scholarly work. As such, Bodine’s post was bound to elicit more emotional reactions than reasoned policy analyses.

Sure enough, “Disturbing book by Garcia against public education” was the title of a quick reaction. And, sure enough, it spawned emotionally charged to-and-fro.

In my estimation, what is disturbing is that title. Therefore I was glad to see that someone who knows about educational policy issues read the book and wrote an informed review of it.

Also from Blog for Arizona, Bob Lord posted David Safier, Former BfAZ blogger: Bodine Depiction of Garcia Book “Wrong”.

If there were a hall of fame for Blog for Arizona writers, David Safier certainly would occupy a premier space. David wrote over 3,000 posts here before moving on to his current gig at Tucson Weekly’s The Range. His posts here covered many topics, but mainly on his passion, education policy. His posts always were thoughtful.

After reading Larry Bodine’s hit piece on David Garcia’s book, “School Choice,” David reviewed the book himself and wrote his own piece at The Range, A Review of David Garcia’s Book, “School Choice”.

Here’s Safier’s take:


In other words, David agreed with Brahm Resnik’s characterization of Bodine’s piece as a “gross distortion.”

Safier went a bit further than Resnik:

Of the people who have had a chance to read the book and comment on it in the media, I probably have the most experience reading education books. I have amassed a significant number of postgraduate units in the field, and I’ve continued reading education works, ranging from blog posts to articles to books, on a daily basis. Though I have expressed my support for Garcia, I also know how to read these kinds of texts for content and possible political leanings without letting my personal opinions interfere.

What Garcia has written is a book on the history of school choice beginning in colonial days and continuing through 2017. It is meant to be an objective overview of the subject, and it succeeds in that regard. If I had never heard of David Garcia and read this book, I wouldn’t know his personal opinions on the subject. Though it is written for general consumption, it would be a valuable book to assign in any college course on the history of education, from Education 101 through graduate school.

Safier also noted that Maria Polletta at The Arizona Republic has reviewed Garcia’s book, and sees Bodine’s hit piece the same way he and Resnik do.

In my previous post regarding the Bodine hit piece, I was wrong about something as well. I suggested there that Blog for Arizona might owe Garcia an apology, and asked readers to comment. Mike Bryan appropriately corrected me in the comment section:

This blog does not owe anyone an apology. The author will do what conscience dictates, but the blog is merely a forum, not a monolith.

Well put, Mike.

But, you see, Mike missed something as well. The author, Larry Bodine, actually already had done what his conscience dictated. Upon seeing my post, Mr. Bodine reposted his hit piece, in order to enhance it’s visibility in relation to my post. That’s called doubling down. It’s something Trump often does after a clear mistake.

But perhaps after reading David Safier’s column Mr. Bodine will have a change of heart.

Here’s hoping.

FYI, here is some of Safier’s review:

… the book focuses mainly on private schools (specifically private school vouchers), charter schools and district schools. Garcia looks at them from a number of angles and includes the major arguments for and against all three types of schools. Anyone who wants to say Garcia is pro-voucher can cherrypick passages where he paraphrases pro-voucher arguments. But someone else can just as easily portray him as anti-voucher by cherrypicking other passages where he paraphrases anti-voucher arguments. He does the same thing with school choice research. He attempts to cover the main conclusions derived from all the serious research on the topic without picking favorites. (FYI, he comes to the conclusion that the differences between the achievement of students in the three types of schools, as measured by standardized tests, is minimal, and varies depending on grade level, subject, and the year the research was done.)

Bodine’s blog post claims that voucher and charter school advocates can use Garcia’s book as a tip sheet on how to set up voucher programs, and how to make pro-voucher arguments. I suppose he’s right. People reading the book for ideas supporting school choice can find arguments in their favor. But it would be a tedious process. Why bother when there are far easier ways to find material in favor of vouchers and charter schools? Just go to the Goldwater Institute, which has written elaborate voucher recipes listing all the ingredients and how to put them together. So have any number of privatization/“education reform” organizations and think tanks whose work is readily available. For legislators looking to enact school privatization legislation, ALEC has already written it. Just add the name of your state to their cookie-cutter bills and present them during the next legislative session. Readers of Garcia’s book with an agenda would have to dig through all kinds of material which would be extraneous to what they were looking for, and read lots of counter arguments to their positions.

Before forming an opinion (or voting), get informed. Read the rest of Safier’s review of Garcia’s book.

Safier says he voted for Garcia. Your Scriber voted for Steve Farley. Regardless, I completely agree with Safier’s conclusion:

Writers and political campaigns go after candidates all the time. That’s the name of the game. But attacks on Garcia based a gross misrepresentation of the contents of his book is dirty politics pure and simple. Democrats should leave that to the Republicans. They’re already sharpening their knives for whoever wins the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

The bad news and good news about cyber threats to our electric grid

Quote of the Day: “We’ll be living with cyber threats to the grid for the rest of our lives.” - Maggie Koerth-Baker, a senior science writer for FiveThirtyEight.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Hacking The Electric Grid Is Damned Hard and that competes for Quote of the Day #2: “Our electric infrastructure is chock-full of both redundancies and regional variations — two things that impede widespread sabotage.”

Koerth-Baker interviewed two experts on cybersecurity as it pertains to our power grid: Bill Lawrence, “vice president and chief security officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the regulatory authority that sets and enforces technological standards for utility companies across the continent.” and “Candace Suh-Lee, who leads a cybersecurity research team at the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit research and development lab."

It helps that the North American electric grid is both diverse in its engineering and redundant in its design. For instance, the Ukrainian attacks are often cited as evidence that hundreds of thousands of Americans could suddenly find themselves in the dark because of hackers. But Lawrence considers the Ukrainian grid a lot easier to infiltrate than the North American one. That’s because Ukraine’s infrastructure is more homogeneous, the result of electrification happening under the standardizing eye of the former Soviet Union, he told me. The North American grid, in contrast, began as a patchwork of unconnected electric islands, each designed and built by companies that weren’t coordinating with one another. Even today, he said, the enforceable standards set by NERC don’t tell you exactly what to buy or how to build. “So taking down one utility and going right next door and doing the same thing to that neighboring utility would be an extremely difficult challenge,” he said.

Meanwhile, the electric grid already contains a lot of redundancies that are built in to prevent blackouts caused by common problems like broken tree limbs or heat waves — and those redundancies would also help to prevent a successful cyberattack from affecting a large number of people. Suh-Lee pointed to an August 2003 blackout that turned the lights off on 50 million people on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada. “When we analyzed it, there was about 17 different things lined up that went wrong. Then it happened,” she said. Hackers wouldn’t necessarily have control over all the things that would have to go wrong to create a blackout like that.

In contrast, Suh-Lee said, scenarios that sound like they should lead to major blackouts … haven’t. Take the 2013 Metcalf incident, where snipers physically attacked 17 electric transformers in Silicon Valley. Surrounding neighborhoods temporarily lost power, but despite huge energy demand in the region, “the big users weren’t even aware Metcalf had happened,” she said.

“Difficult isn’t the same as impossible, Suh-Lee” said. “That’s why there’s a lot of effort going into research, monitoring and preparation for cyberattacks.” But that “preparation doesn’t mean we’ll eventually solve this problem, either.”

So, even in spite of the lack of leadership on cybersecurity from the White House, we might be OK. Come to think of it, that judgment might be true of lots of things.

The questions we might want to ask SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh ...

… will be asked by Sen. Mazie Hirono. Joan McCarter at the Daily Kos reports The Senate’s quietest rock star has some very tough questions for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Quietly and determinedly, Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii has become one of the fiercest voices among the still too-small cadre of women senators. She’s doing it in the nomination hearings of all five of the committees she sits on, starting with these questions.

“Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?”

“Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?”

Hirono started asking the questions—which she will also pose to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh—seven months ago. She spoke with Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery about how the Me Too movement has forced the issue into “a legitimate area of inquiry” for those who would serve in the highest levels of government. It’s particularly true given the man who is nominating them, a serial abuser and assaulter. She’s asked that question of nearly 100 nominees, according to HuffPo’s count, putting the nominees on the spot often in front of their spouses and children.

Awkward for them, perhaps, but for Hirono? “Not anymore,” she told Bendery. “The questions have never been asked before. And why is that? Because it would take a woman to ask questions like that, I would say.” She’s doing it because she knew there was “every potential” for her colleagues in the Senate to entirely ignore the Me Too movement roiling around them.

Those questions will have extra resonance when posed to Kavanaugh, for while he hasn’t been accused of abusing his power by any women, he clerked for and has remained close to former U.S. Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski, who retired last year after 15 women accused him of sexual harassment. Kavanaugh was there, working with Kozinski, during some of the alleged incidents. What did Kavanaugh know while he was there? What did he do in response? Another former clerk, law professor turned romance novelist Courtney Milan, says Kavanaugh had to know because of his close working relationship with the judge. “They worked together on hiring. Kozinski regularly used belittling and demeaning language in hiring with us as his clerks. I cannot attest to whether he used it in Kennedy screening, but it would surprise me if he didn’t.” (The “Kennedy screening” refers to Kozinski’s being basically a feeder of clerks to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.)

I think it’s a legitimate area of inquiry,“ Hirono said, answering whether she will ask this again in the Judiciary Committee hearing with Kavanaugh. ”It’s something that will get asked." She’s preparing herself well, with binders full of the documents that Republicans have so far deigned to release and copious notes and questions drawn from them. She also has serious questions for him about his hostility toward women’s reproductive rights, the Affordable Care Act, and environmental rules protecting clean air and water.

Hirono is going to be laser-focused on Kavanaugh, even though it’s highly unlikely Republicans will break ranks because, she says, “some battles […] are worth fighting, regardless of the outcomes. […] I’m hopeful the people in our country will realize these judges who are appointed for life are going to make decisions that affect their life every single day―and that this is the lasting legacy of Trump.” These hard questions will also put Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who have staked a good part of their careers on standing up for women’s rights, in the position of having to answer for themselves and their constituents.

An article in The New York Review of Books provides a broader list of Ten Questions Brett Kavanaugh Must Answer. ( The author, David Cole is the National Legal Director of the ACLU and the Honorable George J. Mitchell Professor in Law and Public Policy at the Georgetown University Law Center.)

… [because] Trump expressly vowed as a candidate to appoint justices who would overrule Roe v. Wade, it is incumbent upon the Senate to pose probing questions to Kavanaugh—and to require him to provide meaningful answers, not artful dodges. Nominees all too often avoid answering questions about their views by simply describing existing Supreme Court doctrine and then insisting they cannot say how they would vote on any particular matter that might come before them. But in speeches and writings while a judge, Kavanaugh has repeatedly expressed his own views on many matters that might come before him, including whether presidents should be subject to civil and criminal lawsuits; if he could express his views there, he should not be permitted to avoid expressing them on other topics in the Senate confirmation hearing.

Here, then, are ten questions I suggest the senators ask Kavanaugh. These questions avoid asking about any specific case, and seek the nominee’s own views, not a description of Supreme Court law. Senators will have to be insistent about getting responses, however, if the hearings are to have any value.

Scriber’s picks are
(1) “Are you committed to interpreting the Constitution as it was understood at the time it was written, or do you agree that its meaning evolves over time through Supreme Court interpretations?”
(4) “You have defended a robust conception of executive power. Recently, the Supreme Court said that its decision upholding the internment of Japanese Americans on the basis of race and national origin was wrong. Can you name other historical examples where you believe presidents acted unconstitutionally in the name of national security? Should the courts have rejected presidential assertions of national security in those cases, and on what basis?”
and (10) “President Trump has nominated you to the career opportunity of your lifetime. If presented with a case involving his personal interests, what standard will you use in deciding whether to recuse yourself from the case?”

I reason that much or all of disputes over civil rights (including reproductive choice, marriage choice, gender equality, contraception, and abortion) flow from how one regards (1). The other two picks, (4) and (10), address executive powers which will, I predict, be front and center as the Mueller investigation gets closer to Trump, his associates, and his family.

After the break, read the full list of questions and (lightly edited by Scriber) author’s comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

UPDATES to 'The Grifters' redux - NY Rep. Collins suspends re-election bid

UPDATE #1: Chris Collins calls insider trading charges “meritless”. A Congressman, a Financial Deal and an Intricate Web of Conflicts.

In his statement, Mr. Collins called the insider trading charges “meritless” and vowed to fight them to have his “good name cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reported other initial reactions from Collins: Despite arrest, Republican congressman expects to win re-election.

Given [the] details, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris Collins has been charged with, among other things, insider trading. What is surprising is that the New York Republican insists he’s innocent and expects to be re-elected in three months, while out on bail.

Indeed, watching Collins yesterday was a dizzying experience. In the morning, he surrendered to the FBI. In the afternoon, the congressman pleaded not guilty and issued a statement that read, “Because my focus is to defeat these charges in Court, after today, I will not address any issues related to Innate Immunotherapeutics outside of the courtroom.” Soon after, Collins announced he’d host a press conference, at which he said he looked forward “to being fully vindicated and exonerated.”

Oops. I guess not.

UPDATE #2: The New York Times reports that Representative Chris Collins Suspends Bid for Re-election After Insider Trading Charges

Days after federal prosecutors charged him with insider trading, Representative Chris Collins announced on Saturday that he was abandoning his re-election bid amid worries that his legal troubles could make vulnerable his otherwise solidly Republican district in western New York.

How exactly the suspension of Mr. Collins’s campaign would play out was not immediately clear, as the process to get off the ballot can be onerous in New York, and Mr. Collins did not say how he would remove himself.

Mr. Collins, who was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald J. Trump for president in 2016, had initially vowed to stay on the ballot this fall but said on Saturday that he had decided it was “in the best interests” of his district, “the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda” to suspend his bid.

Federal prosecutors have charged Mr. Collins with using his seat on the board of a small Australia-based drug company, Innate Immunotherapeutics, to tip off his son and others that the company had failed a critical scientific trial before that information was made public.

Friday, August 10, 2018

'The Grifters' redux

The Insiders

We learn from 538’s significant digits email over the last couple of mornings about goings on in DC (District of Crooks).

$570,900 in avoided losses
Christopher Collins, a Republican Congressman from New York, was arrested yesterday and charged with insider trading. According to the indictment, he learned a drug trial had failed thanks to his position on a biotech company board. He is said to have traded on the information, avoiding $570,900 in losses, while his son and another defendant did the same, avoiding $768,000 in losses. “We are confident he will be completely vindicated and exonerated,” Collins’s attorneys said. [AP]

Of course, they said that. Lawyers are paid to say such things. It does not mean that they are correct. In this case, quite the contrary.

What does a scandal cost a politician? 538 has the answer.

9-point scandals
In light of the arrest of Chris Collins, the Republican U.S. House member from New York, on charges of insider trading, my colleague Nate Silver looked into how much “scandals” hurt incumbents running for re-election. Quite a bit, it turns out. Since 1998, “scandal-plagued” incumbents won re-election by an average of 21.5 points, but this was compared to a projected margin of victory of 30.5 points. Scandals, therefore, cost about 9 points. [FiveThirtyEight]

The Grifters

In related news, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been signed as the star of a remake of the 1990 movie The Grifters. Aw, OK. Not really. But Dan Alexander at Forbes reports on how New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting. Here are tidbits.

… Over several months, in speaking with 21 people who know Ross, Forbes uncovered a pattern: Many of those who worked directly with him claim that Ross wrongly siphoned or outright stole a few million here and a few million there, huge amounts for most but not necessarily for the commerce secretary. At least if you consider them individually. But all told, these allegations—which sparked lawsuits, reimbursements and an SEC fine—come to more than $120 million. If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

Those who’ve done business with Ross generally tell a consistent story, of a man obsessed with money and untethered to facts. “He’ll push the edge of truthfulness and use whatever power he has to grab assets,” says New York financier Asher Edelman. One of Ross’ former colleagues is more direct: “He’s a pathological liar.”

In addition to a common disregard for the truth:

… his billionaire status was not lost on another person obsessed with his net worth. Donald Trump termed Ross a “legendary Wall Street genius” and named him to his cabinet. “In these particular positions,” Trump explained to a crowd of supporters, “I just don’t want a poor person.”

In a presidential cabinet plagued by ethical problems, it can be easy to forget about Wilbur Ross. Most of the attention tends to center around obvious abuses, like Scott Pruitt getting a $43,000 sound-proof booth in his office or Tom Price wasting $341,000 on jet travel. But while Ross’ antics are more complicated, they involve far more money.

On November 1, 2017, Ross signed a sworn document, attesting that he had divested all the assets he promised he would. That was not true. The commerce secretary in fact still owned somewhere between $10 and $50 million worth of stock in WL Ross’ parent company, Invesco. Ross sold his shares a month later, banking at least $1.2 million more than he would have if he sold in May, when he initially promised to divest. By falsely claiming he gotten rid of the shares earlier, Ross also put himself in legal jeopardy, since it is a crime to lie to federal officials. Representatives for Ross, a sophisticated investor, claimed the commerce secretary did not lie but instead failed to realize he owned the shares.

Sure he did. A remake of The Grifters would be fun to watch.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Who's got the money in the AZ primary

The simple fact is that when it comes to political contests money talks and walks. If you don’t have it, you are unlikely to win the contest. True, there are exceptions. Consider the case of Alexandria Ocasio-Cruz. But she is the exception. Thus who has got money, and who does not, is a question of interest as we approach the primary and general elections in 2018.

AZBlueMeanie has done the research for us and reports a snapshot of the finances of US House and US Senate candidates in Arizona in Who is winning the ‘money race’ so far in Arizona’s congressional and senate races? You probably know, or can guess, the answer. Here are results for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Flake and CD2 House.

US Senate

Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema is leading Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally in the money race. McSally, however, has and will be the beneficiary of copious amounts of “dark money” spending by outside conservative groups desperately trying to retain this Arizona Senate seat for the GOP. This may be one of the most competitive, and one of the ugliest Senate races in the country this fall. Rep. Sinema has one of the rare opportunities this election cycle for a Democrat to pick up a Senate seat. Whatever you may think about Rep. Sinema, the die is cast and this is a must-win election. I can’t bear the thought of six more years of Martha McSally. Let’s send her packing!

CD 2

Incumbent Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally is running for the Senate. Former Democratic Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, who previously represented District 1, is the Democratic Party’s “anointed” candidate for this open seat. She has attracted party insider money as a result. Dr. Matt Heinz, who previously was the Democratic candidate in CD 2, nevertheless is raising enough money to be competitive with the likely Republican Party nominee, Lea Marquez Peterson. If Heinz manages to win over Kirkpatrick the Democratic primary, the Democratic Party money will gravitate to him because CD 2 is a competitive seat and a likely Democratic Party pickup this November. The Democratic Party really wants this seat back and will spend whatever it takes to win.

BTW, when it comes to ugly, the CD2 race is competitive. Commenter Liza observes:

Ann Kirkpatrick has been posting on her Facebook page, nothing controversial, just benign stuff about canvassing, getting out the vote, etc…

AK is deleting comments, but she doesn’t delete the weird comments made by wingnuts. She deletes comments made by people who don’t like her especially her negative campaigning against Matt Heinz.

I wonder if this is predictive of how she will respond to CD2 constituents if elected in November.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve gotten five glossy, glitzy mailers from AK attacking Heinz. For me, it’s a total turn-off. Billy does not have the money but he does have my vote.

Creating the Dunning-Kruger generations, Part 2

Knowing what we don’t know

To introduce the Dunning-Kruger effect, here is John Cleese (of Monty Python fame).

I was reminded of the Dunning-Kruger effect by Daily Kos contributor “Shockwave” who reported on Trump’s base mindset/cult and the Dunning-Kruger effect. The effect can be visualized in this simple graph.

Dunning-Kruger effect
The Dunning-Kruger effect:
If you don’t know much
you think you know more than you do.

Bear in mind as you read on that the effect afflicts us all. Why? Because we are all not experts in everything. In those domains in which we are not experts, we will tend to overestimate our expertise.

The Dunning-Kruger President

Writing in The Cut Jessica Pressler names Donald Trump, the Dunning-Kruger President.

Ever since Donald J. Trump was elected president, David Dunning’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Dunning, a social psychologist, is one of the lead authors of “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,” an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology based on the results of a study he and a student, Justin Kruger, conducted at Cornell in 1999. As the title suggests, what they found was the existence of a cognitive bias in which the less able people are, the more likely they are to overestimate their abilities. Or as Dunning put it recently over the phone from the University of Michigan, where he now teaches: “People don’t know what they don’t know.”

The Dunning-Kruger effect, as it came to be known, was an immediate hit with armchair psychologists: Everyone knows someone they could diagnose as too dumb to even know it. …

… “During the campaign, Trump made a number of statements that didn’t seem well-considered,” Dunning says, citing Trump’s unconstitutional Muslim ban, his apparent unfamiliarity with the nuclear triad, and the time he suggested United States creditors “take a haircut” on Treasury bonds without seeming to understand the role of said bonds in the world economy. “It seemed, especially in contrast with Hillary Clinton, that this was one of the least prepared candidates in my lifetime, but also the most confident candidate. It seemed like the most public example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, or something that looked like the Dunning-Kruger effect, that I’d ever seen.”

Dunning was confident enough in this assessment that back in May he weighed in with a piece for Politico [see below], suggesting that not only was Trump a manifestation of the effect but that support for him was grounded in similar ignorance. “They might like some of what they hear from Trump,” he wrote, of Trump voters. “But they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes. They fail to recognize those gaffes as missteps.”

Of course, as the results of the election revealed, Trump supporters weren’t the only ones “suffering from Dunning-Kruger,” as goes the social-media j’accuse. As it turns out, we were all the deluded simpletons.

[Some of] what we know about the Dunning-Kruger effect

Dunning has more to say about the research on the Dunning-Kruger effect especially as it applies to Trump and his supporters. Back in 2016, before the election, David Dunning wrote about The Psychological Quirk That Explains Why You Love Donald Trump. The popularity of the GOP front-runner can be explained by the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Here are quick takes on the supporting research.

Psychological research suggests that people, in general, suffer from what has become known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. They have little insight about the cracks and holes in their expertise. In studies in my research lab, people with severe gaps in knowledge and expertise typically fail to recognize how little they know and how badly they perform. To sum it up, the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment.

We have found this pattern in logical reasoning, grammar, emotional intelligence, financial literacy, numeracy, firearm care and safety, debate skill, and college coursework. Others have found a similar lack of insight among poor chess players, unskilled medical lab technicians, medical students unsuccessfully completing an obstetrics/gynecology rotation, and people failing a test on performing CPR.

In voters, lack of expertise would be lamentable but perhaps not so worrisome if people had some sense of how imperfect their civic knowledge is. If they did, they could repair it. But the Dunning-Kruger Effect suggests something different. It suggests that some voters, especially those facing significant distress in their life, might like some of what they hear from Trump, but they do not know enough to hold him accountable for the serious gaffes he makes. They fail to recognize those gaffes as missteps.

… the key to the Dunning-Kruger Effect is not that unknowledgeable voters are uninformed; it is that they are often misinformed—their heads filled with false data, facts and theories that can lead to misguided conclusions held with tenacious confidence and extreme partisanship, perhaps some that make them nod in agreement with Trump at his rallies.

Trump himself also exemplifies this exact pattern, showing how the Dunning-Kruger Effect can lead to what seems an indomitable sense of certainty. …

On top of all that, Shockwave cited the story A Neuroscientist Explains How Trump Supporters Are Easily Hoodwinked Because of This One Psychological Problem (Bobby Azarian/Raw Story). Those who score low on political knowledge tend to overestimate their expertise even more when greater emphasis is placed on political affiliation. So the effect is really engaged when it comes to politics.

Creating the next Dunning-Kruger generation

The disturbing possibility that motivated these posts begins with this observation from Dunning:

… the key to the Dunning-Kruger Effect is not that unknowledgeable voters are uninformed; it is that they are often misinformed—their heads filled with false data, facts and theories that can lead to misguided conclusions held with tenacious confidence and extreme partisanship, perhaps some that make them nod in agreement with Trump at his rallies.

The lead photo in Part 1 of this series led me to wonder if children who attend Trump’s rallies were learning to be overly confident in what they think they know. Might they be in a perpetual environment of “false data, facts and theories”? Unfortunately, after a few hours on Google Scholar (and other searches), I could not get a fix on a body of research that might confirm (or disconfirm) my suspicion. If you know of relevant research, please let me know (at

So, anyway, here is my conjecture. Instead of “voters” in that passage, substitute “Trump voters’ children.” To be sure watching children ape their parents shouting “lock her up” with heretofore unimaginable vehemence is horrifying, but think about what else these kids might be learning that will dispose them during their lifetimes to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Filling their heads with “false data, facts and theories” might render them especially unable to accurately evaluate what misinformation is fed to them and thus leave them believing that they know more than they do.

The Dunning-Kruger President