Notes and Comment Blog

Sit right here in front, Al

Jun 23rd, 2017 3:20 pm | By

Eleven months ago, the Secret Service was investigating one Al Baldasaro.

The Secret Service is investigating a Donald Trump adviser who said in a radio interview that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should be “shot for treason” on a “firing line.”

Al Baldasaro, a New Hampshire representative who serves on Trump’s veterans’ coalition and as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, said in an interview with a Boston talk radio host that Clinton should pay for the 2012 Benghazi attack.

“She is a disgrace for any, the lies she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” he said on the Jeff Kuhner Show Tuesday. “She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back up security. Something’s wrong there.”

“Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason,” he continued.

Today Al Baldasaro had a front seat at a White House bill signing.

Baldasaro’s presence drew particular notice given recent calls by the administration, and across Washington, for dialing back partisan rhetoric in the aftermath of last week’s shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice in Virginia that left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., in critical condition. (He has since been upgraded to fair condition.)

Asked about Baldasaro’s presence at Friday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemned all comments suggesting violence against another person.

Unless, of course, they’re fans of Trump and the person they suggest violence against is a Democrat or a woman or a rival of Donald Trump’s. In that case they can sit in Donald’s lap; they can even have an extra scoop of ice cream.

Baldasaro’s attendance also comes at a time when the White House has condemned a series of incidents in popular culture in which violence against Trump has been made light of or otherwise depicted.

Earlier during the briefing, Spicer said he found it troubling that more outrage hasn’t been raised over the incidents, which most recently include a comment by actor Johnny Depp, who asked, “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” A representative for Depp later said Depp’s remark was a “bad joke.”

“It is, frankly, in my belief, a little troubling, the lack of outrage in some of these instances where people have said what they’ve said with respect to the president and the actions that should be taken,” said Spicer. “The president has made it clear that we should denounce violence in all of its forms.”

No, the president has not done that. Far from it. The president urged violence at some of his rallies. The president has expended no energy or breath denouncing rhetorical violence against his rivals or enemies.


Jun 23rd, 2017 12:00 pm | By

Via Barry Duke at The Freethinker, a story of a guy on a bus in Istanbul who told off a young woman for wearing shorts during Ramadan.

He said in a statement:

I warned the woman in shorts because it caught my attention that her clothes were too revealing and her crotch was visible; and, I was fasting [for Ramadan]. I said to her: ‘My friend, there is something called manners and morals. Getting on a public transportation like this is not proper.’

So, in response to this, the woman told me ‘not to look, then’… I told her that sometimes people cannot control their desires and told her that her way of dressing turned me on. She huffed … and began to talk to someone on her phone about me saying ‘Some man on the bus is giving me stupid advice on religion and so on’.

I heard this and I got angry; and, I told her to stop talking about me to the other person … and, I just pushed her face with the back of my hand slowly before getting out of the car …

But sadly for him there’s video. He gave her a hard backhanded slap as he walked past her.

He added that Saglam then got up and “attacked and cursed” him.

At that time, I thought the woman was an athlete because she attacked me with a great move and courage … The woman punched me on my left shoulder. Her punch was not very strong.

I pushed the woman just so I could prevent her from harming me. If the camera recordings are examined, it will be seen that I did not attack or batter the woman. Then, I got out of the vehicle just to not get into an argument with her. I have a complaint about her!

But again the video shows that he did attack and batter the woman.

Newsweek yesterday reported that Kizilates had been detained immediately after the incident, which took place on June 14, but he was released after he explained that he had been provoked. A warrant for his arrest was then issued after Turkish women’s activists reacted angrily to the attack.

I suppose next Kizilates will be giving lectures to young men on how not to be accused of attacking women on buses.

It wasn’t very stupid

Jun 23rd, 2017 11:33 am | By

The Post gives us the transcript of that Fox interview where Trump confirms that he tweeted about “tapes” and Comey in order to put pressure on him.

EARHARDT: Great. Big news today, you didn’t have — you said you didn’t tape James Comey. Do you want to explain that? Why did you want him to believe that you possibly did that?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I didn’t tape him. You never know what’s happening when you see that the Obama administration, and perhaps longer than that, was doing all of unmasking and surveillance and you read all about it. And I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness of the — and horrible situation with surveillance all over the place. And you’ve been hearing the word unmasking, a word you probably never heard before. So you never know what’s out there.

But I didn’t tape. And I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape. But when he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed. I mean you’ll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.

And my story didn’t change. My story was always a straight story. My story was always the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed. But I did not tape.

EARHARDT: So it was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings?

TRUMP: Well, it wasn’t — it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that. He was — he did admit that what I said was right. And if you look further back, before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that.

So you’ll have to do a little investigative reporting to determine that. But I don’t think it will be that hard.

Aaron Blake’s commentary:

This is Trump admitting what the White House apparently didn’t want to: That his tweet was meant to influence Comey (or at least that it had that [e]ffect).

There was little doubt that Trump’s initial tweet was a pretty thinly veiled threat to Comey, but it’s remarkable to see Trump admitting to his end-game here. And it harks back to that NBC News/Lester Holt interview in which Trump blurted out, after the White House spent two days arguing that he didn’t fire Comey over the Russia investigation, that Russia was on his mind when he did it.

He blurts these things out when he’s boasting…and he’s always boasting. The blurt about “the Russia thing” was when he was boasting that the decision was all his, it was his idea, he did, him him him, he’s the boss and he decides all the things. The blurt about the tweet is when he’s boasting about being not very stupid. Keep on boasting, Don.

Public service is not about sport or notching a political win

Jun 23rd, 2017 10:41 am | By

Obama on the Republican plans for the ACA:

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

Cosby to lecture on how to get away with it

Jun 23rd, 2017 10:33 am | By

You have got to be kidding.

Bill Cosby is planning a series of town hall meetings this summer to educate people, including young athletes and married men, on how to avoid accusations of sexual assault, two of his representatives said Wednesday.

Threats? Bribery? An excellent media strategy? Rohipnol?

“This issue is bigger than Bill Cosby,” his representative Andrew Wyatt said on “Good Day Alabama,” a show on WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham.

“This issue can affect any young person — especially young athletes of today,” he continued, “and they need to know what they are facing when they are hanging out and partying, when they are doing certain things they shouldn’t be doing.” Mr. Wyatt said the issue “also affects married men.”

Right? It can mess up their whole lives for a month or two. It’s tragic. Women are such bitches. Why can’t they just spread their legs and shut the fuck up?

The Cosby announcement drew immediate rebukes from several quarters, including the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.

“It would be more useful if Mr. Cosby would spend time talking with people about how not to commit sexual assault in the first place,” said Jodi Omear, an organization spokeswoman.

Oh don’t be silly. It’s a man’s right to grab some pussy if he can get away with it. The point is to get away with it. Cosby’s doing a public service explaining it to them.

One of the town halls will be held in Alabama in July, Mr. Wyatt said on the show. In a later email, he said Mr. Cosby had received “hundreds of calls from civic organizations and churches requesting for Mr. Cosby to speak to young men and women about the judicial system.” He said the program would include a critique of the decision by prosecutors in Pennsylvania to charge him last year.

Because the whole point is to get away with it.

Mr. Cosby later thanked the television station for having his publicists on the show. He is currently free on bail while he awaits a retrial of the criminal case in which he is charged with three counts of aggravated indecent assault in connection with a 2004 encounter with a woman at his home outside Philadelphia. The woman, Andrea Constand, says Mr. Cosby drugged and assaulted her.

Mr. Cosby and his lawyers say the sex was consensual.

Plus it was 2004 so he got away with it so the decision to charge him was deeply wicked.

The jury deliberated for 52 hours before a mistrial was declared because jurors were hopelessly deadlocked. On Thursday, The Associated Press and a Pittsburgh television station reported that jurors it spoke to had said the panel ended its deliberations almost evenly split between those supporting conviction and acquittal.

That depiction was at odds with that of a juror who spoke to ABC News earlier in the week and had said that 10 members of the panel had voted to convict Mr. Cosby but were unable to persuade two jurors who would not budge.

Some jurors were concerned about the 10-year delay in prosecuting Mr. Cosby, and that politics had been involved, The A.P. reported.

WPXI Channel 11 in Pittsburgh played a recording of a man it said was a juror who said the voting was evenly split.

“Whatever the man did, he has already paid his price, paid, suffered,” the voice in the recording said. “A case that was settled in ’05 and we had to bring it up in ’17.”

Such a long time after he got away with it.

The world narrowed to a single self

Jun 23rd, 2017 9:48 am | By

Trump goes on Fox and admits lying, bullying, pressuring, obstructing, you name it.

President Trump appeared to acknowledge on Friday in an interview that his tweet hinting of taped conversations with James B. Comey was intended to influence the fired F.B.I. director’s testimony before Congress, and he emphasized that he committed “no obstruction” of the inquiries into whether his campaign colluded with Russia.

The interview, with “Fox & Friends,” was shown one day after the president tweeted what most people in Washington had already come to believe: that he had not made recordings of his conversations with Mr. Comey.

He was talking about the possibility of tapes, you see, just as mobsters have always been talking about the possibility of this nice little place burning down, the possibility of something bad happening to a child or spouse or pet, the possibility of police being alerted to the presence of cocaine mysteriously planted by parties unknown.

“I’ve been reading about it for the last couple of months about the seriousness of the horribleness of the situation with surveillance all over the place,” the president said in the interview. “So you never know what’s out there, but I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape and I didn’t tape.”

That’s some eloquent shit right there.

When the Fox interviewer suggested that the possible existence of recordings might make sure Mr. Comey “stayed honest in those hearings,” Mr. Trump paused before responding, “Well, it wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.”

Hmm. That might turn out not to be true.

Referring to Mr. Comey, the president said that “when he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else and who knows, I think his story may have changed.”

He thinks Comey is as dishonest and corrupt as he is. Maybe he thinks everybody is. He’s obviously an extreme solipsist, so maybe that does translate to thinking everyone is morally on his level but he’s more skilled at it than anyone else.

A dozen terminological inexactitudes

Jun 22nd, 2017 5:14 pm | By

The Times tallied up Trump’s lies at his “rally” yesterday.

President Trump returned to familiar rhetorical territory during a raucous campaign-style rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, repeating exaggerations and falsehoods about health care, jobs, taxes, foreign policy and his own record.

Other than that, it was all aboveboard.

He lied about all insurance companies fleeing Iowa. He lied about his glorious reign so far.

He exaggerated his legislative accomplishments.

Mr. Trump has signed nearly 40 bills into law, but it’s hard to argue, as he did, that any were “really big.”

The 14 bills rolling back Obama-era rules did signal a significant shift in regulatory policy, but are not considered major pieces of legislation. Three others named federal buildings, four made symbolic gestures toward women and veterans, three appointed Smithsonian Institution regents, two set minor rules for federal employees, one affirmed NASA’s mission, one improved weather forecasting, and one aided Minnesota’s bid for a world’s fair in 2023.

He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.

That’s a huge and damaging lie.

He falsely claimed that an Obama-era rule applied to “a little puddle in the middle of their field.”

Mr. Trump rolled back a rule that limits pollution in the country’s waters. But that rule explicitly excludes puddles and most ditches, and it really only applies to streams and rivers that drain into major bodies of water.

He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.

Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.

Seeing as how the tax rate is not 100%.

He repeated inaccurate claims about the Paris agreement.

Mr. Trump misleadingly pointed to China’s compliance pledge to argue that the climate deal “puts us at a permanent economic disadvantage.”

Though China says it expects emissions to peak by 2030, that doesn’t mean the country is planning to ignore the pledge until then nor can it meet its goal overnight in 2029. It is already on track to beat that target and also pledged to get 20 percent of energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030.

And despite Mr. Trump’s protest “like hell it’s nonbinding,” there are no serious legal restraints or penalties for falling short of declared targets in the deal.

He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited.

The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.

Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.

And so on. He should be called Lyin’ Don.

To promote a free press

Jun 22nd, 2017 4:56 pm | By

The Committee to Protect Journalists increases its Washington staff by one.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has created the new position of Washington Advocacy Manager to lead efforts to advance press freedom around the world with the U.S. government and other policymakers in Washington, D.C. Michael De Dora will be the first to occupy the post.

“The United States plays an important role in promoting and protecting press freedom worldwide,” CPJ Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch said from Washington, D.C. “It is imperative that press-freedom norms are respected here and serve as a benchmark for other governments. We look forward to increasing our cooperation with partners, policymakers, and lawmakers to promote and protect a free press, in the United States and elsewhere.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists has four full-time staff based in Washington, D.C., including Radsch. The expansion of this team recognizes the role that U.S. organizations and policymakers play not only in the global struggle to protect journalists and to defend press freedom but also in enshrining these values in the United States. Michael De Dora joins CPJ from the Center for Inquiry, where he led domestic and international efforts to advance freedom of conscience and religious freedom. He managed a range of advocacy initiatives, including policy campaigns on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations and an assistance program for threatened writers, publishers, and activists. Michael has served as president of the UN NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and is a member of the international board of directors for the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom.

Michael does great work. I’m proud to know him.

So it was a threat then

Jun 22nd, 2017 1:50 pm | By

Trump tweeted today that nyah nyah he didn’t make any tapes of Comey haha fooled you.

Adam Schiff put out a statement saying what bullshit that is.

If he didn’t tape Comey, that tweet about tapes looks all the more like pure intimidation and thus obstruction of justice.


Few described him as frightening

Jun 22nd, 2017 1:25 pm | By

More from the Times on Darren Osborne.

He had family problems and was known by locals as belligerent and aggressive, with a drinking problem. He had Muslim neighbors, who described his behavior as fairly unremarkable, and his children had Muslim friends.

No one on the cul-de-sac in Cardiff, Wales, where Darren Osborne, 47, lived could readily explain what he is believed to have done: rented a van, driven it 150 miles to London and plowed into a crowd of Muslims as they finished prayers at the Finsbury Park Mosque early Monday.

Numerous residents here said that Mr. Osborne was often agitated, even disturbed, but few described him as frightening and none said he had expressed political sentiments, much less anti-Muslim or far-right ones — until last weekend, when he was kicked out of a local pub, the Hollybush, after a drunken tirade.

“My son was at the pub on Saturday night and said he got kicked out because he was scribbling all over the tables and shouting racist comments about Pakistanis and Muslims,” a resident, Ross Johnson, said Tuesday outside the pub.

So the next day he headed for Finsbury Park.

Several residents in and around Glyn Rhosyn, the street where Mr. Osborne lived in a semidetached two-story house, said he at times seemed disturbed and volatile.

Chris Peter, a car mechanic, said that he used to work with Mr. Osborne but that he had found Mr. Osborne to be “unreliable” and “erratic.”

“You just didn’t know what you’re going to get with Darren,” Mr. Peter said. “One minute he’s fine, the next he’s drunk, cursing and vile. He was a nut job.”

It’s odd that few people said he was frightening then. I find that kind of thing very frightening, because it seems to be on the edge of violence.

Mr. Peter added: “I stopped working with him because he had anger problems. One day, he came in stinking of booze and sweat and started shouting his mouth off, throwing tools. I haven’t seen him in a while, but my mate said he’s been sleeping out in the woods in a tent because his lady kicked him out the house.”

Jennifer Mears, who lived a few houses away from Mr. Osborne, said she considered him scary.

“My husband and I called him the ‘mad man,’ ” she said. “He would always zoom up and down the road in various cars that he would bring here. I think he bought and sold lots of cars, and it was annoying that he would park them all down the street.”

One resident described a time when Mr. Osborne had shouted at his family and thrown things around his garden.

“He threw a plastic swing, and it went over the fence and almost hit his neighbor,” said the resident, Laura Granger, who witnessed the episode. “When they complained about it, he swore at them and then went inside and started shouting at his children.”

She added: “We heard him scream at his wife, and he said, ‘Don’t make me get the cricket bat.’ ”

Frightening. Definitely frightening.

A raft in Hudson Bay

Jun 22nd, 2017 12:09 pm | By

Damn but misogyny is casual sometimes. Ben Mathis-Lilley lets it all hang out at Slate.

Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff lost a special House election in Georgia on Tuesday to Republican Karen Handel. It’s the fourth high-profile special election Dems have lost since November. California Rep. Nancy Pelosi is the leader of the House Democrats. Should she be replaced, as some rabble-rousers are starting to suggest?

Oh yeah, obviously, because the Speaker of the House is to blame when a same-party candidate loses.

Reasons to put Nancy Pelosi on a raft in the Hudson Bay (metaphorically):

Ahhh fuck you, dude. That’s “metaphorically” the way “die in a fire” is metaphorically.

  • She’s both unpopular and, for a congressional figure, relativelywell-known. (In other words, most people who have an opinion don’t like Mitch McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, but more people have an opinion on Pelosi than they do on McConnell.)

Might there be a reason for that, that’s not to do with some special Unpopularity Essence that Pelosi has and McConnell doesn’t? Might it be pervasive contemptuous knee-jerk misogyny, which this shitty piece is feeding right into?

It really comes down to the question of whether you think there’s something particularly problematic about Pelosi—maybe anyone in charge of leading congressional Democrats would become just as much of a villain as she is. On the other hand, when things aren’t working, it often helps to try a new thing instead of the old thing that hasn’t been working.


He loved strolling in parks with his grandchildren

Jun 22nd, 2017 11:44 am | By

The man who died in the Finsbury Park terror attack died of injuries from the attack, as opposed to dying of whatever had caused him to collapse on the pavement before the attack. He was Makram Ali.

Makram Ali moved to Britain from Bangladesh when he was 10. He and his wife raised four daughters and two sons. He loved strolling in parks with his two grandchildren. His family was about to take a vacation in Canada.

Mr. Ali, 51, was returning from Ramadan prayers early Monday morning when he collapsed on a street in North London; he was known to have a weak leg.

First aid arrived, and Mr. Ali was receiving medical assistance. He appeared to feel better, and said he wanted to go home. Then, a van suddenly crashed into a crowd of Muslims, including Mr. Ali, outside the Finsbury Park Mosque and the Muslim Welfare House, a community center.

Mr. Ali, who lived nearby in the borough of Haringey, died from multiple injuries, the Metropolitan Police said on Thursday, citing a postmortem examination.

Four people are still in hospital, two in critical condition.

“Our father was a quiet, gentle man,” his daughter Ruzina Akhtar said in a statement on behalf of the family on Thursday, after meeting with the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick. “He didn’t get involved in political or social discussion; he instead took comfort and enjoyment spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren, and he was always ready to make a funny joke when you least expected.”

The guy driving the van is not a quiet, gentle man.

Darren Osborne, 47, who lives in Cardiff, Wales, has been arrested on suspicion of committing, preparing or instigating terrorism including murder and attempted murder.

Neighbors have described Mr. Osborne as belligerent and aggressive, but have said that he did not express anti-Muslim sentiments — until this past weekend, when he was kicked out of a local pub after a drunken tirade.

From drunken tirade to terror attack in one weekend.


Jun 22nd, 2017 11:07 am | By

Max Ehrenfreund at the Post says Republicans have had good success at putting a halt to current progressive policies but not so much at reversing them. I think the 1994 Congress did a fair bit of reversing, but that may be an exception.

Throughout the modern history of Congress, lawmakers have inexorably expanded progressive social policies, and while conservatives have successfully forestalled expansions to the social safety net, they’ve had very little success in reversing them.

Right now, however, Republicans have a chance to buck that trend, as they prepare legislation aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Senate bill released on Thursday, coupled with the House bill passed earlier this year, would be exactly the kind of cuts to the welfare state that conservatives have consistently failed to achieve.

The repeal measure, which follows weeks of unusual secrecy in its drafting, would bring down taxes, eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in outlays on the social safety net, and curtail the federal government’s involvement in a crucial sector of the economy.

Thus leaving most people at the mercy of The Market. The Market doesn’t give a rat’s ass about people with low earnings and high medical bills. The Market shuts the door on people like that without losing an instant of sleep.

The Senate hates poor people too

Jun 22nd, 2017 10:25 am | By

The Times summarizes the Senate Republicans’ health insurance bill.

Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to cut Medicaid deeply and end the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.

The Senate bill — once promised as a top-to-bottom revamp of the health bill passed by the House last month — instead maintains its structure, with modest adjustments. The Senate version is, in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.

But the Senate measure, like the House bill, would phase out the extra money that the federal government has provided to states as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. And like the House measure, it would put the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.

The people who want to slash Medicaid are of course the same people who want to keep wages low so that they can have cheap house cleaners and gardeners and factory hands. They want an ample supply of poor people to draw on and they also want to punish poor people for being poor. That’s The Market.

It would also repeal virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to pay for itself, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent, paid for by billions of dollars sliced from Medicaid, a health care program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but almost two-thirds of those in nursing homes. The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.

Oh well. If Medicaid uses up its budget there’s always euthanasia.

Trump loves all people

Jun 22nd, 2017 10:10 am | By

In the least surprising news of the century, Trump told the people at his latest “rally” that he doesn’t want poor people working for him.

The US president told a crowd on Wednesday night: “Somebody said why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy? No it’s true. And Wilbur’s [commerce secretary Wilbur Ross] a very rich person in charge of commerce. I said: ‘Because that’s the kind of thinking we want.’”

Of course it is. He wants the kind of thinking that sees rich people as miraculous geniuses who deserve to be infinitely rich because of their massive talent and genius and hard work and genius and ontrapranooryal spirit. He wants the kind of thinking that sees poor people as lazy scum who deserve to be nibbled by rats in their beds because of their failure at ontrapranoorship.

The president explained that Ross and his economic adviser Gary Cohn “had to give up a lot to take these jobs” and that Cohn in particular, a former president of Goldman Sachs, “went from massive pay days to peanuts”.

Trump added: “And I love all people, rich or poor, but in those particular positions I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense?”

From the Trump point of view? Of course it does. From the point of view of a reasonable adult? It depends on how you’re defining “poor.” You don’t want a broke person who can’t get a job, because you want an actual working economist. Note that that means a professional, not a plutocrat.

The event underscores Trump’s comfort in a campaign setting. He laughed off the occasional heckler, repeated riffs from last year and appeared far more at ease when going after Democrats in front of adoring crowds than trying to push through his own legislative agenda from the confines of the White House.

Well that’s the thing, isn’t it. The guy loves performing. He’s addicted to it. He loves being the center of attention, he loves getting cheers and applause. (Don’t go thinking that’s just human nature. It’s not. Lots of people hate being the center of attention.) He loves babbling his repetitive stunted nonsense to a sea of adoring fans. He does not love the more sober activities that he has to perform as chief tenant of the White House. It’s a pity he didn’t realize where the campaigning would take him, but then few of us could believe it would.

We don’t hafta if we don’t wanna

Jun 21st, 2017 5:57 pm | By

Remind us how Kushner managed to get a security clearance? And why he still has it?

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee want to see White House records on the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his security clearance and his access to classified information.

In a letter to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, the oversight panel’s 18 Democrats question why Kushner’s security clearance hasn’t been revoked.

The Democrats say Kushner, one of President Trump’s closest advisers, had meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and the CEO of a Russian state-owned bank. They say he failed to disclose the meetings as he applied for security clearance and allowed administration officials to say he’d had no such meetings.

“It is unclear why Mr. Kushner continues to have access to classified information while these allegations are being investigated,” says the letter, which seeks similar records on former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn was asked to resign in February after misleading Vice President Pence about his contacts and conversations with Kislyak during the transition period.

Trump and his gang have blown off hundreds of congressional letters of inquiry.

It is also brandishing a legal opinion, crafted by the Justice Department, holding that most of Congress lacks the constitutional power to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

He thinks he has absolute power. He’s getting away with it.

The Justice Department’s legal opinion takes a dismissive view toward individual members of Congress. It says the Constitution limits oversight powers — the authority to ask executive branch agencies for information on what they’re doing — to committee chairs. That freezes out even most Republicans, the overwhelming majority of whom don’t chair committees — and every Democrat on Capitol Hill.

Under this policy, when your local representative writes a letter asking questions about some problem, the agency most likely blows it off.

House Democrats now keep lists of their letters ignored by the administration. The total so far: 260, on issues ranging from infrastructure priorities to possible records of Russian financial ties to President Trump and his family.

In an interview with NPR, [Charles] Grassley said the administration policy runs counter to “everything that every eighth-grade student has studied about checks and balances of government.” Citing language from the presidential oath of office, he said the policy “eliminates the check of most members of Congress to see that the laws are faithfully executed by a president.”

He’s a Republican.

Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., contrasts the administration’s position with Trump’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric last fall. He told NPR, “They certainly put an emphasis, with this idea of draining the swamp, on accountability and transparency. But so far, they seem to have moved in the complete opposite direction.”

The Trump administration may also stumble over the bipartisan institutional loyalties that run deep on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in an interview, “The idea that the legislative branch would willingly go along with this kind of an assault on its powers by the executive branch runs contrary to the interests of every senator.”

One would think.

More beryllium for the people

Jun 21st, 2017 2:47 pm | By

I saw Senator Warren warning us about a Trump de-protection move.

The Hill has more:

[The] AFL-CIO, a leading labor group, fears the Trump administration is planning to roll back a hard-fought worker protection finalized under President Obama.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed a review last week of a proposed rule that the Labor Department submitted on the occupational exposure to beryllium.

In January, just days before President Trump was sworn into office, the Obama administration issued a final rule reducing the permissible exposure limits of the toxic material from 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 0.2 micrograms of beryllium per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour period.

The Labor Department then pushed the effective date of the rule back to May 20 under Trump to give the administration time to review and consider the new standard. OIRA’s review could signal that the administration is planning to roll back or weaken the rule.

Workers don’t matter. They’re just ants toiling away, making the owners rich.

Beryllium, a lightweight metal used in foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics, composites manufacturing and dental lab work, is coveted for being lighter and stronger than steel, but it can pose serious health risks when it’s crushed to dust and enters the air.

You know, like coal dust and cotton fiber dust.

Bloomberg also reports, with tastefully muted enthusiasm:

Few Americans care about beryllium. Most have probably never heard of it.

But, it turns out, the metal — symbol Be on the periodic table — offers a case study on governing by President Donald Trump. With little fanfare earlier this year, the Department of Labor delayed and the White House began a review of limits on workplace exposure to the possibly toxic element used in cell phones and aircraft, handing industry a victory.

Across Washington, myriad rules are similarly being softened, mostly to the delight of corporate America. With executive orders, bureaucratic actions and unprecedented use of an obscure statute, the Trump administration has killed or postponed dozens of regulations. The controversies swamping the White House haven’t gotten in the way of an often under-the-radar, piece-by-piece realization of Trump’s pro-business campaign promises.

Pro-business and anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environment.

Some moves, such as relaxing Obama-era clean-water decrees, have made headlines. Many others, the beryllium deferment among them, have received scant attention outside a tight circle of agencies, businesses and often outraged public-interest groups.

They may seem minor, but they all add up. “He wants to free up as much of the economy from government regulations as possible and he’s found ways to do that outside the legislative process,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor and presidential historian at Princeton University.

To put it another way, he wants to free up as much of the economy from government protections as possible.

Chief executives may not see a clear path to the corporate tax cut they want, but they’re winning in a significant smattering of other ways. E-cigarette makers got a reprieve when Trump’s Food and Drug Administration pushed out the deadline for complying with tobacco laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration gave builders three extra months to slash laborers’ exposure to silica dust, which has been linked to cancer.

Companies bidding for big federal contracts don’t have to disclose serious safety and labor-law violations anymore. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt thwarted a push made under President Barack Obama to ban Dow Chemical Co.’s widely used pesticide Lorsban from food farming. The Department of Agriculture has twice delayed new standards for livestock labeled organic, which would require animals to have year-around access to the outdoors and enough indoor space to stretch their limbs.

Thank you, Donald Trump, for seeing to it that “livestock” will continue to live in such confined spaces that they can’t stretch their limbs. That way they’re happy to be killed.

Advanced displacement

Jun 21st, 2017 11:29 am | By

There’s this guy at a large Alabama high school who teaches AP (Advanced Placement) Economics and Government/Political Science. He has a summer reading list from which the students are supposed to choose one. Maybe they all have to read the separately listed John Stossel one? Not clear.

2014-2015: Summer Reading

No They Can’t: Why Government Fails-But Individuals Succeed, John Stossel


•1.  SuperFreakonomics, Steven Levitt & Stphen Dubner

2.  Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions, Michael Savage

3. The Political Zoo, Michael Savage

4. The Enemy Within, Michale Savage

5. The Dynamics of Working-Class Politics, Michael Savage

6. Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy, and Security,  Michael Savage

7. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto,  Mark Levin

8. Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America, Mark Levin

9. End the Fed, Ron Paul

10. Race & Economics:  How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination,  Walter Williams

11. The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, Robert Murphy

12. Who Killed the Constitution?, Thomas Woods & Kevin Gutzman

13. FairTax: The Truth,  Neal Boortz & John Linder
14. Flat Tax Revolution, Steve Forbes
15. Glenn Becks Common Sense, Glenn Beck
16. Guilty:  Liberal “Victims” and their Assault on America,  Ann Coulter
17. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, Christopher Horner
18. 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School), Larry Schweikart
19. Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, Ronald Reagan
20  It’s OK to Leave the Plantation: The New Underground Railroad, C. Mason Weaver
21. The MAGIC of Gun Control and The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope, Sheriff Richard Mack
22. Libertarianism In One Lesson – New 9th Edition, David Bergland
23. The Land of Fair Play, 3rd Edition, Geoffrey Parsons
24.  America’s Providential History, 3rd Edition, Stephen McDowell
25. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James Loewen
26. The Everything American Government Book, Nick Ragone
27. God & Government, Chuck Colson
28. On Two Wings, Kerby Anderson
29. Black Rednecks and White Liberals, Thomas Sowell
30. Climate of Corruption: Politics & Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax, Larry Bell
That’s just a bizarrely inappropriate list for a high school course. It’s a bunch of polemical hacks instead of serious scholarly work. I would consider it inappropriate even if the hacks were all lefty. AP exams are serious, and this pile of dreck is not what AP students need. His list for this year is no better.
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Don’t they have any administrators at that school?

Ford’s senior management were selected on their closeness to God

Jun 21st, 2017 10:11 am | By

Nothing like bringing an archbishop in to convince people to shut up about lethal corporate malfeasance.

Ford South Africa has been having a tiny issue over cars that burst into flames. (The Ford Pinto had that problem back in the 70s.) The family of a guy named Reshall Jimmy, who died in a Ford SUV that caught fire, have been battling Ford via social media.

Since his death over 50 Kugas have caught alight across South Africa with the National Consumer Commission placing the company under official investigation.

Police and private forensic investigators maintain that the fire was caused by an electrical fault behind the dashboard on the passenger side of the vehicle. Ford believes the fire started at the back of the car‚ but have been unable to explain what caused the blaze.

Reshall’s sister Renisha Jimmy told The Times that outgoing Ford SA CEO Jeffrey Nemeth had requested a meeting with her and her ailing mother Polly‚ overseen by Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

An archbishop? Why? The Jimmy family, by the way, are Hindus.

Renisha said: “My mother was initially reluctant‚ but the family persuaded her on the belief that Nemeth wanted to make amends and take responsibility for Reshall’s death.”

She said in the months leading up to the meeting‚ Nemeth had told her in Whatsapp messages that he was travelling to the US to seek a mandate from Ford Global to settle the matter and bring them closure.

The Times is in possession of Whatsapp messages sent between Nemeth and Jimmy which indicate how he wishes to meet her mother‚ how he has a mandate from Ford to settle the matter‚ that he felt a connection with the family‚ how the saga was taking an emotional toll on him and his children and how he “would be judged by my actions‚ my ethics and intent by my God“.

But surprise surprise, that’s not how the meeting went.

[Renisha Jimmy] said Nemeth had traumatised her mother through accusations that Jimmy was murdered and that the company was not responsible for his death.

“From the onset he led us to believe that he wanted to help and bring us closure before he returns to the US. We trusted him‚ especially when he suggested we meet the Archbishop.

“Initially at the meeting he seemed genuine‚ but it changed when he told us that they had additional information and that Reshall was murdered and that they had witness statements‚ which contradicted the post mortem report.”

It was all bullshit, contradicted by the police reports.

Jimmy said Nemeth’s settlement offer was to give the family another Ford and have the company pay off the money Reshall still owned on his car.

“In the meeting he told us he was coming to us as a human being not a company CEO‚ that Ford’s senior management were selected on their spirituality and closeness to God‚ but from what he told us‚ the lies that Reshall was murdered‚ and that Ford’s settlement offer was another Ford to pay off his car‚ was just an insult.”

Presided over by an archbishop.

No low too low, eh.

H/t Bruce Gorton

Felony Facebook posting

Jun 21st, 2017 9:18 am | By

The BBC reports a second arrest in connection with the Finsbury Park terror attack.

A man has been arrested on suspicion of posting an offensive Facebook post about the London Finsbury Park attack.

Police said a 37-year-old, believed to be the son of an owner of the Rhondda Cynon Taff company whose van was used in Monday’s attack, is in custody.

Richard Evans allegedly posted: “It’s a shame they don’t hire out steam rollers or tanks could have done a tidy job then.”


That’s a disgusting thing to say, and it should have been (and probably was) reported to Facebook, and Facebook should have removed it promptly and perhaps suspended the poster. But arrested?

It’s straightforwardly a crime in the UK to post “an offensive Facebook post”?

I post arguably “offensive” Facebook posts multiple times every day. There are whole large busy Facebook groups that post nothing but unquestionably offensive – and sexist, racist, homophobic, xenophobic etc – commentary and images. I wonder if the London police have found all the offensive posts about Finsbury Park, and considered charging all the perps.

No, I don’t really, because I’m confident they have far more urgent things to do. But then why this?