Fresh trouble for Arvind Kejriwal: Now, FIR against AAP MLA Narayan Dutt for abusing lady officer over phone
by FE Online @ The Financial ExpressThe Financial Express
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA from Badarpur Narayan Dutt Sharma has been booked by the Delhi Police for allegedly threatening a lady officer over the phone. According to police, the woman filed a complaint against Sharma, alleging that he used abusive and threatening language.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 20:30:02 PDT 2018
The designer of 17-story waterslide at a Kansas amusement park, once the tallest in the world, was arrested on Monday and charged with second degree murder for the death of 10-year-old boy who was decapitated on the ride in 2016. The charges were filed against the two designers of the Verrückt ride (translated as “insane” in German), including the owner of the Schlitterbahn water park Jeff Henry, after investigators uncovered shoddy design, a faulty safety record, and overall negligence in the rushed construction of the hybrid rollercoaster-waterslide.
Conceived in 2012 “in a spur-of-the-moment bid to impress producers of the Travel Channel’s Xtreme Waterparks series,” the 17-story Verrückt was guided from design to completion by Henry and [John] Schooley—neither of whom “possessed any kind of technical or engineering credential relevant to amusement ride design or safety,” the indictments say… “Verrückt suffered from a long list of dangerous design flaws; however, the most obvious and potentially lethal flaw was that Verrückt’s design guaranteed that rafts would occasionally go airborne in a manner that could severely injure or kill the occupants,” the indictments assert, alleging that video recordings depict even Henry and Schooley going airborne on a personal test run of the prototype.
Despite their lack of experience, the ride went live after just 20 months and the injuries began to pile up: 13 injuries, including two concussions and one case of temporary blindness. “On Verrückt, groups of riders first zoomed down a nearly vertical, 168-foot main descent. Then they ascended 50 feet above the ground, propelled by inertia and ‘a series of high-pressure water blasters,’” the Washington Post reported on the indictment. The problem was that riders would often go airborne when careening down the ride’s chute, exposing riders to dangerous looped metal poles overhead. In August 2016, that’s exactly what happened to the 10-year-old boy, who was thrown from his raft while riding with two older women and decapitated on a metal pole.
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 08:31:56 PDT 2018
Update, 2 p.m.: He signed it.
After much “begging, pleading, and cajoling” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday afternoon and into the late evening, the Senate was able to follow the House’s example and pass the 2,232-page, $1.3 trillion government-funding bill one day after it was made publicly available. Members and senators could get, are getting, and have gotten out of town for the two-week recess, squired far away in their home districts and states, hundreds or thousands of miles from the March for Our Lives descending on the Washington this weekend.
This morning, however, a fatal technical glitch was discovered in the process. The issue, according to Beltway insiders and sources familiar, is called “President Donald Trump.”
The president went through an episode of pissy muttering earlier in the week over the bill’s lack of wall funding and boosts to interior immigration enforcement, as well Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s successful effort to obtain funding for the Gateway tunnel project, an issue over which Trump had previously threatened a veto. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday raced to the White House to reassure Trump that the bill fulfilled all of Trump’s priorities, and that Trump had defeated Schumer. After the meeting, both Ryan’s team and the White House press operation hastily released statements indicating that Trump had committed to supporting the deal, before the president could change his mind.
“Let’s cut right to the chase,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said at a Thursday press conference. “Is the president going to sign the bill? The answer is yes.”
Is Trump just screwing around here?
Many elements of a screwing-around are present. If he really wanted the deal killed, he would have issued this threat before the tight-as-a-tick House procedural vote on Thursday morning, giving a few more Republicans cover to vote against it. He probably saw some bad conservative press over the deal, of which there is plenty, and wanted to distance himself rhetorically from its swampiness. There’s not much political guesswork that needs to be done about how a veto would play out, either. The government shutdown would be wholly attributable to Trump’s demand for a wall, an unpopular political project. He would eventually have to surrender, on terms much friendlier to Democrats, and would eliminate the prospects of any further wall funding in the future, having wholly poisoned the project with this stand. It would not help Republicans’ efforts to protect their House majority this fall.
So yeah, good chance he’ll veto it. The government runs out of funding at midnight.
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 13:48:59 PDT 2018
On Saturday, 800,000 Americans gathered in Washington to participate in what they expected to be a gun control rally. What they saw was a transformative moment in American politics. March for Our Lives was, of course, a demonstration for stronger gun safety laws, fortified by delightfully specific policy proposals and replete with far-too-clever homemade signs. But it was an awakening of sorts, an introduction to the next generation of political activism. The kids who spoke—and they were virtually all kids, age 18 or younger—had no trace of cynicism or exhaustion or resignation. Nor did they pretend that the epidemic of gun violence can be isolated from the broader issues that plague our society and our ailing democracy. The mass shooting generation already has a plan to stop mass shootings. Now it’s working on a plan to fix everything their predecessors broke.
Almost as soon as the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, formed a movement, a nagging question arose: Just how sweeping and inclusive would this movement be? Parkland is a wealthy community, previously rated the safest in the state. Mass shootings are a singularly horrific tragedy, and any effort to stop these massacres is a noble one. But the majority of American gun violence occurs in places very different from Parkland. Most children traumatized by guns live in places like Detroit and Baltimore, usually in lower-income minority neighborhoods. The overarching problem here is guns; easier access to guns leads to more gun deaths, full stop. Yet other factors clearly contribute—systemic poverty, institutional racism, broken drug laws, poor school funding, police brutality, to name just a few.
Thus, the question posed to Parkland activists was a fair one: Will you address only school shootings—a nightmare that cuts across socioeconomic lines—or will you also tackle routine gun violence and the myriad policy failures that have allowed it to proliferate? On Saturday, the kids gave their answer. They would not limit their focus to the kind of massacres that can devastate in a “safe” community like Parkland. That became apparent as soon as Trevon Bosley, a Chicago teenager whose brother was shot to death while leaving a church, took to the podium. “I’m here to speak for those youth who fear they may be shot while going to the gas station, the movies, the bus stop, to church, or even to and from school,” Bosley said. He then led the crowd in a chant: “Everyday shootings are everyday problems.”
Later, Naomi Wadler, an astonishingly eloquent 11-year-old, spoke on behalf of “black women and girls” killed by guns. And Zion Kelly, a high school senior in D.C., described the fatal shooting of his twin brother in September. “I’m here to represent the hundreds of thousands of students who live every day in constant paranoia and fear on their way to and from school,” Kelly said, noting that six students under the age of 19 were killed by guns in D.C. just this past January. Fighting back tears, he closed his speech with a proclamation: “My name is Zion Kelly, and just like all of you, I’ve had enough.”
Enough of what, exactly? Enough shootings, to be sure, but also so much more: Enough of politicians ignoring the cries of help from neglected communities; enough of lawmakers pretending that America’s problems are unsolvable because they’re too cowardly to solve them; enough condescension from older generations who view young people as entitled brats. Parkland survivor David Hogg’s speech captured this sentiment with both concision and a kind of charming orotundity that reminds us that he really is a novice—suddenly convinced, perhaps correctly, that he can change the world. Here’s what he said:
Today is the beginning of spring, and tomorrow is the beginning of democracy. Now is the time to come together, not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans. Americans of the same flesh and blood, that care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s the future of this country and the children that are going to lead it. Now, they will try to separate us in demographics. They will try to separate us by religion, race, congressional district, and class. They will fail. We will come together.
Hogg’s repeated declarations that his movement transcends politics might seem dubious at first. It’s no secret that most Democrats support March for Our Lives’ policy platform, while most Republicans oppose it; no one seriously claims that the parties are equally complicit in our gun crisis. But Hogg meant something altogether different from the familiar No Labels drivel, and he obviously has no interest in pleading with the Democratic Party to prioritize his movement’s proposals. Instead, he wants to overhaul the terms of the debate so that Democrats, and eventually Republicans, have no choice but to evolve. As fellow Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky put it: “To the leaders, skeptics, and cynics who told us to sit down, stay silent, and wait your turn: Welcome to the revolution. Either represent the people or get out.”
The Parkland kids recognize that they cannot resolve America’s gun emergency without fixing its democracy, as well. On Saturday, they spoke about the vital importance of the right to vote, to demand access to the ballot and fair representation. Many kids affected by gun violence do not get to confront their representatives face to face, because those representatives feel they can ignore them with impunity. Their communities have often been gerrymandered into political irrelevance or effectively disenfranchised by voter suppression laws. Much like the gun lobby’s outsize influence in Congress warps democracy, so do routine attacks on suffrage. Some Americans may have grown numb to the attack on voting rights, or skeptical about the power of their vote. But the Parkland kids refuse to relinquish their democracy.
These teens have also given the gun control battle a welcome intersectional twist. The concept of “intersectionality” has been both maligned and abused lately, but at bottom it expresses the idea that all oppression is connected, that identities overlap and struggles interlink in complex and instructive ways. It’s no coincidence that Emma Gonzalez, in particular, has emerged as an icon of the movement: She is Latina and bisexual, two identities she draws upon to fuel her fire. “They’re definitely linked for me personally,” Gonzalez has said of her sexuality and her gun safety activism. When she speaks about gun violence, Gonzalez appears to draw upon wisdom and experience that predate the massacre she survived. She became a fighter well before tragedy compelled her onto the national stage.
As my colleague Osita Nwanevu pointed out on Saturday, the Parkland teens debunk the canard that “identity politics” is inherently divisive. If there was an underlying theme to Saturday’s signs and speeches and chants and poems, it was the simple notion that no matter where we came from, we are in this together. A black preteen, a white teenager, and a bisexual Latina can discuss their contrasting encounters with gun violence, informed by their radically distinct backgrounds and experiences of America—and still be united by the same cause. Gonzalez and her classmates seem to view identity as fundamentally unifying. They belie the fiction that our differences will divide us if we dare to celebrate them.
The Parkland generation inherited a mess of a country. And while Saturday’s rally was galvanized by gun massacres, its organizers indicated that they don’t plan to stop there. Young people in every state loathe Donald Trump, but they seem to recognize that he is both a cause and a symptom of our current crisis. To leave the country in better shape than they found it, today’s teens will need to do more than vote out Trump and end mass shootings; they must restore democracy and ensure that victims of gun violence are heard just as loudly no matter their race or community. Here’s the good news: They appear poised to do just that. The Parkland teens have seen the consequences of pessimism and prejudice and inaction. And they have had enough.
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 13:25:20 PDT 2018
Congress is not going to pass universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, or any other gun control legislation opposed by the National Rifle Association this year. If that’s how those participating in, or supportive of, the various gun control marches across the country this past weekend measure their success, they will be disappointed. But if they view the marches as a marker in the long and arduous process of inverting gun politics toward increasing regulation, then they might be onto something.
One of several reasons that Congress won’t pass any further, polarizing gun control legislation later this year is that Congress is just about done legislating until the midterms. Last week’s omnibus spending bill was seen as lawmakers’ last opportunity to enact their top priorities. The next 7½ months will be consumed with the following, in order: posturing for primary elections, August recess, posturing for the general election, and October recess.
It would be easy to mock organizers of the March for Our Lives for scheduling their rally one day after Congress had finished legislating for the year. Whether it was intentional or not, though, the timing did affect what made it into the bill. The omnibus included the Fix NICS Act, a piece of modest legislation aimed at shoring up the federal instant background check database, as well a bill from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch offering federal money to improve school safety. Some language was added alongside the Dickey Amendment noting that nothing bars the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from studying gun violence.
It is probably not a coincidence that these items made it into law just as Republican communications teams in Washington began brainstorming their statements ahead of the march and before members had to return home to face their constituents over the next two weeks.
“Keeping our children safe is a top priority of the President’s, which is why he urged Congress to pass the Fix NICS and STOP School Violence Acts, and signed them into law,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a White House statement on Saturday. Walters also noted that the Department of Justice, at the president’s urging, had issued a rule on Friday to ban bump stocks.
To the marchers on Saturday, these measures amount to little more than legislative face-saving. The NRA supported Fix NICS as well as administrative action on bump stocks, and likely still feels comfortable in its ability to pressure the CDC away from ambitious projects researching gun violence.
The most significant accomplishment of the recent anti-gun activism hasn’t been additional regulation—it’s been the successful blocking of additional deregulation. When House leaders chose to put Fix NICS into the omnibus, but not legislation that would require states to honor concealed-carry licenses in other states, which leaders had previously demanded be lumped together, they essentially conceded defeat on the NRA’s top legislative priority. And if the NRA isn’t getting it done in this Congress, it’s probably not getting it done in any Congress for the foreseeable future.
But what would it take for Congress to pass legislation that the NRA actively opposes?
Last month, after President Trump backed away from his all-too-brief flirtation with gun control legislation following a couple of meetings with the NRA, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy told reporters that he wasn’t surprised. Murphy said he believes “it will likely take an election where they pay a price for their fealty to the gun lobby” before NRA-inclined legislators oppose the group’s priorities.
The March for Our Lives is a step toward creating such an election. The surge in gun-related activism is something that students, many of whom will be of voting age for the first time this fall, will hold as a formative political experience that catalyzes them into both voting and urging their friends to vote. And many of the key pickup opportunities for Democrats this fall will be in suburban districts, where voters are already turning against the GOP. Those voters are less likely to be NRA members and more inclined to be angry that Congress hasn’t done more to reduce gun violence. Suburban parents could be especially important, if they blame lawmakers for not protecting children following the latest massacre in a classroom.
With seven months until Election Day, that scenario is still a far-off hypothetical. But if Republicans wake up on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and have data showing that their inability to consider universal background checks cost them seats—and possibly even the House majority—then you might see some action.
If Democrats do take the House and can pass a background checks bill, enough vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 might join Democrats to provide 60 votes in the Senate.
The Republican response to previous bursts of gun control activism has always been “prove it.” Gun control activists never have. Is this the year?
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 15:06:21 PDT 2018
Shortly before the 2016 election, Mary Saucedo sat down with her husband of 52 years, Gus, to fill out her absentee ballot. Mary, a resident of Manchester, New Hampshire, is currently 95 years old and legally blind. She has voted consistently since 1944. Federal and state law both permit Gus to help his wife cast her vote, but Mary wanted to sign the ballot herself, so he guided her hand to the affidavit and she affixed her signature. Gus mailed her ballot to the Manchester clerk’s office. She had every reason to believe her vote would be counted.
It wasn’t. On Election Day, a local official compared the signature on Mary’s ballot to the one on her absentee ballot affidavit, a document she’d signed to attest that her disability prevented her from voting in person. The official determined that the two signatures didn’t match and tossed out her ballot. There was no opportunity for appeal. Mary didn’t know she’d been disenfranchised until the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire informed her in 2017.
That election cycle, an estimated 275 New Hampshire voters suffered the same fate, losing their right to vote because an official with no expertise in handwriting analysis decided that two signatures didn’t match. In the 2012 election, as many as 370 voters in the state were disenfranchised through this scheme. It’s not clear that a single one of these voters knew what happened to their ballots—at least not until the ACLU of New Hampshire told them. The organization is now suing the state in federal court for flagrant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. It will very likely win in a rout.
Why are so many New Hampshire voters disqualified on the basis of their handwriting? The answer to that question is oddly elusive. Voters’ signatures are analyzed by “moderators” at each polling place. The number of ballots rejected by moderators due to signature “mismatch” varies wildly from town to town. In 2016, all such rejected ballots came from just 26 percent of New Hampshire’s 318 polling places; the remaining 74 percent of polls rejected zero ballots for mismatch. It thus appears that a minority of overzealous moderators are responsible for this disenfranchisement.
These moderators’ analysis of ballot signatures is shockingly amateurish: They briefly compare the two names, decide whether they match, and either accept or reject the ballot based on their subjective determination. There are no objective standards to guide the process. Dr. Linton A. Mohammed, a forensic document examiner, testified to the ACLU that effective signature comparison—which is difficult even for experts—requires 10 signature samples “at a minimum” to account for variability. Moderators only have two: the signature on the affidavit requesting a ballot and the signature on the ballot itself. With this limited sample, Mohammed explained, any analyst—and especially one with no training—is “likely to erroneously conclude that two signatures from the same voter do not match.”
Voters are not informed directly when their ballots are rejected due to a signature mismatch. Instead, municipal clerks add their names to a website days or weeks after the election. Then, 90 days after the election, the information is scrubbed from the internet. The state does virtually nothing to educate voters about the existence of this site. Voters also have no way to resolve the issue; they are not allowed to prove their identities after the fact. Once a vote is discarded by a moderator, it’s lost forever.
Making matters worse, New Hampshire only allows residents to vote absentee if they have a legitimate impediment to voting at the polls, such as a disability. For this reason, a disproportionate number of absentee voters are disabled. The ACLU found that many of those whose votes were tossed out because of a supposed signature mismatch lived in assisted-living facilities, including a number of retired service members in veterans’ homes. Presumably, age and disability prevented them from affixing perfectly consistent signatures to their ballots. Sadly, a number of them died following the 2016 election. The last vote they cast was not counted.
In light of this problem, the New Hampshire Legislature recently adjusted its voting laws to clarify that disabled voters may receive help filling out their ballots so long as an assistant submits a statement declaring he helped out. Yet, even under this new law, a moderator can still reject the ballot for signature mismatch. And of course, individuals who cannot obtain effective assistance, or have no disability, are not helped by this tweak at all. The Secretary of State’s Office even acknowledged to the legislature that this putative fix does not “allay” the New Hampshire ACLU’s lawsuit.
That suit alleges, quite plausibly, that the state’s mismatch scheme is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires states to enact voting procedures that grant equal access to disabled residents. It also claims that the scheme violates procedural due process under the 14th Amendment by depriving voters of any recourse to cure the loss of their vote. And it argues that New Hampshire infringes upon its residents’ fundamental right to vote as protected by the Equal Protection Clause. Any law that severely burdens the franchise, as this scheme clearly does for hundreds of voters each election, must survive strict scrutiny to pass constitutional muster. In this case, New Hampshire plainly cannot put forth a legitimate interest to justify its stringent mismatch rule aside from a generalized (and empirically unsupported) fear of voter fraud, which cannot satisfy heightened scrutiny.
No other state employs a scheme as draconian as New Hampshire’s, though some have tried. Judges have struck down mismatch laws in Florida, California, and Illinois that do not give voters notice or an opportunity for remedy. A federal judge found that Florida’s rule would’ve disqualified as many as 23,000 ballots in the 2016 election; the ACLU estimates that California’s disenfranchised 40,000 voters that same year. Plenty of other states also compare signatures, but they all provide notice and a chance to fix any purported mismatch. New Hampshire’s stringent rule seems to be singular.
The ACLU filed its first complaint in this case in May. Since then, the Republican-controlled legislature has had ample opportunity to fix the glaring legal infirmities in its mismatch scheme. Instead, legislators have forged ahead with voter suppression laws targeting lower-income residents and college students. So, on Monday, the ACLU filed for summary judgment, asking the court to rule in its favor without a trial. It hopes to win the case in time for the 2018 midterms so people like Mary Saucedo can ensure their votes are counted. Saucedo testified that she plans to cast an absentee ballot once again in the next election—as long as “I’m still here.”
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 15:03:06 PDT 2018
For several weeks, President Donald Trump has insisted that he wants the federal government to execute drug dealers as a way to combat the opioid crisis. He reportedly got the idea from countries like the Philippines, where grisly extrajudicial assassinations of suspected drug criminals have become routine. The United States is not the Philippines (yet), and there is essentially no chance that Trump’s scheme will succeed. But on Wednesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions played along, issuing a memo in which he “strongly encourage[d] federal prosecutors” to seek capital sentences “for certain drug-related crimes,” including those that do not involve murder.
Sessions’ memo might be disturbing if it weren’t so pathetic. He must know that his entreaty will not lead to a single execution, but instead—at most—to millions of taxpayer dollars spent litigating appeals. But ever since Trump turned on Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation, the attorney general has operated as the Justice Department’s own Devin Nunes, feverishly transforming the president’s whims and ad-libs into policy proposals with a sheen of legitimacy. While it might look good in a press release, Sessions’ plan to put drug dealers on death row is about as plausible as Nunes’ short-lived claim that the Obama administration spied on Trump.
To be fair, Sessions is much more adept at turd-polishing than Nunes has ever been. His memo cites a handful of federal statutes that allow a sentence of death, including ones governing the lethal use of a firearm in drug trafficking and “murder in furtherance of a continuing criminal enterprise.” Fair enough; in theory, homicidal dealers are certainly eligible for capital punishment. But Sessions then cites another statute that prescribes capital punishment for leaders of lucrative drug rings. His directive is clear: U.S. attorneys who bust up opioid cartels should charge their organizers under this law and seek the death penalty.
There are a few threshold problems with this policy. First, the federal government has not proved to be an especially efficient or competent executioner. The overwhelming majority of capital cases arise in the states, under state law, and virtually all executions are carried out by state officials in state prisons. Since Congress reinstated the federal death penalty in 1988, there have been exactly three federal executions. (The last one occurred 15 years ago.) Only 61 people currently sit on federal death row; their executions have been delayed by myriad appeals as well as an ongoing shortage of lethal injection drugs. U.S. attorneys don’t have much incentive to bring capital charges and don’t usually succeed when they do: Judges and juries opt for a life sentence in two-thirds of federal trials at which prosecutors seek death.
Even if a U.S. attorney somehow secured a capital conviction for a drug boss, the Justice Department would immediately encounter constitutional problems. In 2008’s Kennedy v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment’s bar on “cruel and unusual punishments” generally forbids a sentence of death for crimes other than murder. Even the gruesome rape of a child, the court held, could not be punished by death. Society’s “evolving standards of decency” require capital punishment to be “reserved for the worst of crimes”—that is, homicide.
Kennedy might seem to irrefutably prohibit the death penalty for drug criminals. Yet in one odd passage, the court left the door open for other applications. “Our concern here is limited to crimes against individual persons,” it noted. “We do not address, for example, crimes defining and punishing treason, espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses against the state.”
This passage has been criticized for inexplicably lumping in “drug kingpin activity” with traditional “offenses against the state” where it’s an obvious outlier. And it doesn’t decide whether execution for such conduct would be lawful; it merely leaves the question open. Regardless, the federal statute Sessions cites is not limited to “kingpins”; it also allows a death sentence for a dealer who occupies “a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position of management” in a cartel that moves huge quantities of drugs. Most “supervisor[s]” in a drug syndicate are not kingpins, even if they help move thousands of kilos each day. (Perhaps that’s why the Justice Department has never used this law to seek the death penalty.) And if the DOJ did secure a capital conviction for a bona fide opioid kingpin, it remains entirely possible that the Supreme Court would rule that our “evolving standards of decency” since Kennedy forbid his execution.
Yet you wouldn’t guess from Sessions’ memo that he is asking U.S. attorneys to achieve the impossible. His memo is dry and technical, conveying the sense of business as usual. The same is true of his March announcement proposing a ban on “bump stocks,” which allow shooters to fire more bullets more quickly. In February, following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Trump asserted that he would impose a ban on such devices. “Bump stocks, we are writing that out,” the president said. “I am writing that out.” He promptly passed the buck to Sessions, directing his attorney general to draft a federal ban.
Can Sessions actually do that? Nah. Under federal law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can determine that a piece of firearm equipment qualifies as a “machine gun conversion device,” at which point the DOJ can outlaw it. But the bureau had previously studied and tested bump stocks for months and concluded they do not fit into this category. Still, Sessions pushed forward with his ban, knowing full well that it is bound to fail. Sessions isn’t helping Trump to faithfully execute the law: He’s indulging the president’s fantasy.
Indeed, the attorney general has become quite adept at appeasing the president. Remember, in May, when Trump signed a mostly meaningless executive order instructing Sessions to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law”? Sessions did just that in October, sending 25 pages of guidance to federal agencies. Progressive groups worried that the guidelines would legalize discrimination against women and LGBTQ people. But in reality, they’ve done basically nothing—and for good reason: Sessions doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally undermine federal civil rights law. All that fanfare amounted to little more than a prolix proclamation of principles with no apparent legal force.
Sessions has not yet gone quite so far as Nunes, concocting facts and colluding with the White House to further Trump’s favored narratives and policies. But he does appear to be scuttling in that direction. In a desperate bid to regain favor with the president, Sessions is pretending to check off the top items on Trump’s wish list. It’s a fun ride for now. But as Nunes learned the hard way, no fantasy can last forever.
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 14:58:26 PDT 2018
November is still a long way away, but all signs seem to suggest Democrats can expect to do quite well in the midterms. FiveThirtyEight’s average of generic ballot polling currently gives Democrats a lead of over 6 percentage points over the GOP. Major forecasters have been shifting their race ratings in the Democrats’ favor for months and the party has consistently outperformed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers in the special elections that have happened over the past year. The idea that the Democrats have a real shot at actually winning a majority in the House, specifically, is so strong that the rank-and-file are already threatening upheaval in the party’s leadership should they fall short. “It will be an intraparty war,” Rep. Alcee Hastings told Politico in February. “That’s what you can expect.”
To win a majority, the Democrats will need to keep the 194 seats they hold currently and flip at least 24 Republican seats. As the New York Times pointed out Monday, there are 25 Republican-held districts where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016. That’s promising. The popular vote arithmetic is not. It took a 5.4-percentage-point lead in the national congressional vote for Democrats to gain the 31 seats they won in the last Democratic wave in 2006. Republicans held over 55 percent of the seats in the House after 2016’s elections despite winning only 49.9 percent of the popular vote.
This mismatch is nothing new. It’s a function of not only partisan redistricting processes, but also the fact that Democratic and Republican voters wouldn’t be evenly distributed even absent gerrymandering. Still, the Republican redistricting that took place after the 2010 census has had a serious impact. In a December post for Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan Abramowitz explained the results of a regression analysis on the relationship between Democratic vote share since 2010 and the number of seats Democrats hold. “In these three elections, Democrats won an average of 21 fewer seats in the House than they would have won in earlier elections given the same share of the national vote,” he wrote.
On Monday, a report from the Brennan Center for Justice reignited the debate over exactly how much Democrats would need to win by, in order to retake control of the House. “To attain a bare majority,” Brennan’s Laura Royden, Michael Li, and Yurij Rudensky wrote, “Democrats would likely have to win the national popular vote by nearly 11 points.”
As gerrymanders become ever more sophisticated, generic ballot leads no longer effectively predict how many seats a party might pick up. Some state maps are carefully designed to withstand significant electoral swings while others respond more nimbly to shifting political preferences. Thus, even if 2018 sees a fairly consistent — and even sizable — national shift in favor of Democrats that is replicated in the states, the party’s seat yield is likely to vary significantly between gerrymandered and non-gerrymandered states.
Again, there have been quibbles about the actual numbers. Abramowitz thinks the Democrats will need to win by at least 4 points, Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report thinks that Democrats will need to win by 7. The bottom line, though, is that Democrats will need to absolutely run the table to take the House back in November, and will likely continue to need to do so until a real movement to beat back Republican redistricting heats up.
The courts offer a few glimmers of hope. In January, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down a district map that, according to the Brennan Center, required Democrats to win over 55 percent of the state’s popular vote to win a third of its seats. The Supreme Court will have two opportunities this year to take up the question of whether partisan redistricting is even constitutional. And Democratic leaders and donors have invested in the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group fronted by former Attorney General Eric Holder and endorsed by Barack Obama is putting money into state races that could break Republican hegemony in the 26 states where they currently control government completely. Incidentally, Democrats control state government in only eight states. In the near term though, Democrats will have to content themselves with galvanizing voters and hoping, specifically, for the best— nothing less will really do.
Good News! Wall Street Bonuses Are Back to the Size They Were Before the Financial Crisis. Which Means … Wait. Uh Oh
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 19:02:50 PDT 2018
The American economy is thriving! From the Wall Street Journal:
The average banker bonus in New York City was $184,220 last year, the biggest annual haul for Wall Street employees since before the financial crisis. … The jump, the largest in percentage terms since 2013, continues a long rebound for New York City securities-industry bonuses from their postcrisis nadir in 2008, when they averaged just over $100,000, according to the annual report by the Office of the New York State Comptroller. Last year’s average payout was just shy of the high of $191,360 in 2006.
Hmm—almost as big as they were before the catastrophic economic meltdown? Seems like that could be a bad sign! Still, the relatively symbolic issue of bonus totals aside, there’s no way financial institutions would already be repeating the substantive mistakes they made during that era—i.e. massive institutional overexposure to the risks of complicated, poorly understood financial derivative products. There’s simply no way.
In a Blast From a Financial Crisis Past, Synthetic CDOs Are Back
Market for collateralized debt obligations is on the rise again after years on the decline
The synthetic CDO, a villain of the global financial crisis, is back.
A decade ago, investors’ bad bets on collateralized debt obligations helped fuel the crisis. Billed as safe, they turned out to be anything but. Now, more investors are returning to CDOs—and so are concerns that excess is seeping into the aging bull market.
Well, gee whiz. And—now that I’m thinking about it—I also seem to recall periods of notorious Wall Street exuberance and profligate compensation preceding giant crashes in the 1980s and 1920s. But surely, with the wisdom afforded by both recent and distant history, our leaders are keeping a close eye on the financial sector via federal regulatory bodies. At the very least, we can expect that the Democratic Party is using the power of the filibuster in the Senate not to roll back the oversight regime put in place by the Obama administration after 2007-2008’s disaster.
What’s that you say, March 14 Politico article?
Senate passes deregulation bill scaling back Dodd-Frank
The bill, which was years in the making, was a rare bipartisan accomplishment at a time when Congress is gridlocked on almost all major issues.
The Senate on Wednesday passed a milestone bank deregulation bill that would mark the biggest rollback of financial rules since the 2008 market meltdown.
Ah … gah. [Tugs collar.]
The thing is—here’s a thought—you have to realize that 2008 was a uniquely vulnerable time for the United States. The country was led by a low-functioning, unpopular president who had wasted both literal and political capital—capital that could have been used to strengthen the fundamentals of the economy—on on a tragic, unnecessary war in the Middle East. In 2008, the Iraq War had left the U.S. unprepared both psychically and fiscally to handle an economic crisis, but this time will be different.
Hang on, it sounds like a Monday CNN article has something to say:
The Trump era has been very good to Iraq War hawks
Fifteen years and a few days after the war began, the Iraq hawks are flying high again—thanks mostly to President Donald Trump, who has called the invasion a mistake but on Thursday night made one of its leading proponents, John Bolton, his national security adviser.
Last Year, Andrew McCabe Launched a FBI Perjury Investigation Into Jeff Sessions. This Year, Sessions Fired Him.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 17:26:25 PDT 2018
Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, who was symbolically and summarily fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions hours before his official retirement last week, authorized a criminal investigation into Sessions in the aftermath of his misleading testimony during his confirmation hearing in January 2017, ABC News reported Wednesday. The investigation of Sessions for perjury was previously unknown to the public, although according to ABC’s reporting, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were briefed on the investigation last year by McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Details on the exact timing and extent of the investigation remain sketchy, but NBC News reports the inquiry was ultimately subsumed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe after Rosenstein named him May 17, 2017. From ABC News’ report it sounds as if the investigation remained active until as recently as two months ago when Sessions was interviewed by Mueller’s investigators. Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller’s team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions.
“The Special Counsel’s office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress,” Sessions attorney Chuck Cooper said in a statement Wednesday. That remains to be confirmed. “It’s unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions’ interview with Mueller’s investigators,” according to ABC News. “It’s also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress—or others—since his confirmation.”
One other point of interest with potential legal ramifications is whether Sessions was aware he was under investigation for his confirmation testimony where he said he had not met with any Russians during the Trump campaign despite meeting with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak multiple times. If Sessions was aware he was the target of an investigation initiated by McCabe that would change the context of McCabe’s last-minute dismissal, robbing McCabe of his pension benefits, for vague claims of wrongdoing. McCabe has said he believes he is the subject of smear campaign by the Trump administration—that has been spearheaded by the president himself—as part of an effort to brand him as partisan and untrustworthy in order to discredit his potential testimony against Trump. McCabe would likely be a key witness in any investigation into Trump obstructing justice given his high profile role at the FBI during James Comey’s tenure and dismissal. In that context, McCabe’s departure, minimally, could be seen as a parting reprisal by a jilted boss. ABC News cited one source saying that Sessions was unaware of the investigation when he sacked McCabe, but Sessions’ attorney declined to confirm to the network that the attorney general was unaware of the investigation.
by Jaime Dunaway @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 14:21:35 PDT 2018
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called on supporters of tighter gun-control legislation to fight for more permanent reform: repeal of the Second Amendment.
“That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform,” Stevens wrote in a New York Times op-ed column published Tuesday, just days after hundreds of thousands of people protested in March for Our Lives rallies across the United States.
Stevens, who retired in 2010 and was nominated by President Gerald Ford in 1975, called the Second Amendment a “relic” stemming from an 18th-century concern that a national military could pose a threat to the security of the states. As states no longer consider a takeover by the national government an imminent threat, the amendment isn’t necessary in modern America.
The turning point in the amendment’s reinterpretation came in 2008 with the landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. In the case, the Supreme Court overturned the Second Amendment’s limited reach and ruled that it protects an individual’s rights to bear arms, even for people unaffiliated with a militia. Since then, the NRA has warped it into a powerful propaganda tool, the 97-year-old said.
Stevens, who wrote the dissenting opinion in Heller, said in Tuesday’s op-ed, “Overturning that decision via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would do more to weaken the NRA’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.”
Although mass shooting deaths have increased in recent years, there has never been a serious movement to repeal the Second Amendment as a way to reduce gun violence. One obstacle is the process required to repeal a constitutional amendment, which has been extremely rare in U.S. history. Since the document was signed in 1787, repeal has been accomplished only once—in 1933 when the 21st Amendment retracted the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. Repealing an amendment requires the passage of another amendment—an intentionally complicated process. Proposing an amendment requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress and approval in three-fourths of state legislatures. The process is so difficult, only 27 amendments have been ratified out of 11,000 attempts.
But perhaps the greatest deterrent to dumping the Second Amendment isn’t legal; it’s political. Any movement to repeal it would probably backfire and play into conservative narratives that liberals want to take away Second Amendment rights. The suggestion is so controversial, only a handful of politicians and activists have even suggested it.
In 1991, former conservative chief justice Warren Burger said in an interview with PBS Newshour that if he were writing the Bill of Rights today, the Second Amendment wouldn’t be included. He went on to say that it had become “one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word fraud—on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The sentiment was echoed in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre by filmmaker Michael Moore—who said in a Facebook post that the amendment should be more specifically applied to state militias—and again after the Parkland, Florida, shooting by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who wrote a column titled “To Repeat: Repeal the Second Amendment.”
The calls for repeal, however, have never gained traction. Instead, activists have taken a more pragmatic approach and continued pushing for the same decades-old proposals: banning assault-style weapons, requiring universal background checks, and restricting bump stocks and high-capacity magazines.
Radical approaches like Stevens’ have often received pushback online. Tuesday’s op-ed drew criticism from UCLA law professor Adam Winkler and one Parkland student-activist, Cameron Kasky, who reiterated that repealing the Second Amendment is not what the movement is trying to accomplish.
But years of advocacy for common-sense restrictions have been met with limited success. In light of that reality, we shouldn’t expect a radical movement to rewrite or repeal the Second Amendment anytime soon.
by chetan solanki @ FH Blog
Fri Mar 16 02:33:39 PDT 2018
Balancing all one’s expenses, desires and goals comfortably with one’s income seems to have become a never-ending and exhausting task. No matter what one is earning, it never seems to be sufficient to take care of everything. Yet if we look back, we will realise that our parents always seemed to be a lot more […]
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 12:54:41 PDT 2018
Sen. Richard Shelby, a senior appropriator who did much of the spade work on the $1.3 trillion appropriations bill now rushing its way through Congress, still has no idea when the Senate will take its vote on the bill. The only person who knows whether senators will vote on Thursday, or be forced to stay until Sunday, is the enigmatic junior senator from Kentucky.
“You guys talked to Sen. Paul?” Shelby asked reporters after Thursday’s caucus lunch. “Did you all feel his pulse?”
Not even Paul’s Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had a read on his junior partner, whose objection to a unanimous consent request during the budget debate in February led to a brief government shutdown.
“We’ll find out in the next few hours how quickly we’ll be able to move this,” McConnell told reporters, in a rare acknowledgement of their existence in the hallway outside his office.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, meanwhile, said that he hopes Paul got it all out of his system during the February Paul-ibuster and would want to get home like the rest of his colleagues. Senators are never eager to stay in Washington beyond Thursday afternoon. But Republican senators especially don’t want to be here this weekend when a march for gun control descends on the Capitol.
The outrageous, absurd concern being expressed by Paul is that senators should have more than 20 or so hours to digest a 2,232-page, trillion-plus dollar bill that doesn’t just fund the entire federal government at new levels for the next six months but also touches policy ranging from gun background checks to the labor rights of minor league baseball players. After all, the House made quick work of the bill, passing it around 1 p.m. in a blitz that included Republicans gaveling a procedural vote closed before all Democrats could cast their votes. It’s a little harder to railroad something through the Senate, where one dissatisfied member can slow the process to a crawl.
“It’s just a question of if he delays the vote,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune said. “It’s doesn’t change” the outcome. And it’s not like Paul, who has philosophical objections to the existence of discretionary spending, is ever going to flip to a “yes” no matter how many times he reads through the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2018.
When asked what he plans to do early Thursday afternoon, Sen. Paul said that he was only on Page 56 of the bill and refused further comment.
by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 13:18:45 PDT 2018
In two tweets, both posted on Wednesday afternoon, President Donald Trump revealed, as clearly as ever, just how utterly clueless he is about the most basic aspects of foreign policy.
Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing…
…They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!
Each of these five sentences contains a distinct misunderstanding of how international politics works—and sends a signal, to friends and foes alike, that whenever Trump enters negotiations with foreign leaders, he steps into waters way over his head.
So let’s parse them, one by one.
“Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.” Yes, all things equal, getting along is better than not getting along, but all things are not equal, and, in any case, “getting along” is not the goal of any foreign policy. Getting along might smooth the rough spots in a relationship between two countries, but the nature of the relationship is set by whether their interests converge or collide.
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill got along splendidly during World War II, but their friendship would have been worthless if they didn’t share a vital interest in defeating Nazi Germany—and, even so, their generals disagreed in major ways over how best to wage the war. Trump has tried to get along with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Xi has pushed all of Trump’s buttons to encourage his misconception of how the world spins. But a slice of “beautiful chocolate cake” at Mar-a-Lago did little to push Xi toward pressuring North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to dismantle his nuclear arsenal—and if Xi ever did decide to take a decisively harder line, it would stem from a recalculation of Chinese interests, not from some desire to do Trump a favor.
In general, good relations stem from shared interests, not the other way around.
“They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race.” True, if any of these problems can be solved, Russia will have to play a part in the solution, and this is why maintaining diplomatic relations is important. But there are a few problems with this notion.
First, when it comes to Syria, Ukraine, and “the coming Arms Race” (if there is one), Russia is the problem—or at least a fair part of it. Good relations alone won’t solve these problems; diplomacy has to be aligned with pressure.
Second, even in good relations, leaders have to confront each other candidly. Washington and Moscow have long cooperated in areas where cooperation might lead somewhere while still acknowledging—and sometimes clashing over—their differences. When Trump called Putin to congratulate him for winning his rigged re-election, and said nothing about Putin’s meddling in American elections or assassinating Russian exiles on British soil, he was giving Putin tacit permission to keep subverting our democracy and violating our allies’ sovereignty. Trump was, among other things, tagging himself as an easy mark.
Third, there is clear hypocrisy here. One could make an equally valid case that Iran could help solve problems with Syria and ISIS, that ISIS could help solve problems with Syria, and that Syria could help solve problems with ISIS. Yet Trump isn’t cuddling up to them. Hypocrisy by itself isn’t necessarily a problem; all nations engage in it, to some degree. But this sentence is soaked in it so thoroughly that anyone who reads it can figure it’s not meant to be taken seriously.
“Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the ‘smarts.’ ” Regardless of his “smarts,” George W. Bush didn’t have as many problems with Russia, because Russia was still reeling from its Cold War defeat: Its economy was tanking, its military was crumbling, Putin—the former KGB officer who would later describe the collapse of the Soviet empire as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”—was in a state of deep resentment, poised for revenge when he could take it.
Whether or not Bush thought he had good relations with Russia, Putin viewed America as a trampling aggressor, starting with Bill Clinton’s policy of “enlarging” NATO right up to Russia’s borders. It’s debatable whether a more sensitive U.S. policy might have drawn Russia into European civilization. The point here is that, whatever caused the renewed rupture in East-West relations, “getting along” and “smarts” had nothing to do with it.
“Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET).” Here Trump is referring to Hillary Clinton, who, as Obama’s secretary of state, coined their stab at improving U.S.-Russian relations as a “reset.” But Trump is off the mark in at least two ways.
First, while Dmitry Medvedev was Russia’s president, from 2008 to 2012, the reset accomplished quite a bit. He and Obama signed the New START nuclear arms treaty, which both countries still honor. Medvedev canceled the sale of advanced air-defense missiles to Iran, even refunding the cash, which Tehran had paid upfront. (Without those missiles, U.S. or Israeli jets could easily have attacked Iran’s nuclear reactors, a fact that may have driven Tehran to negotiate the nuclear deal.) The reset screeched to a halt, then went into reverse, after Putin regained control of the Kremlin—and this happened not because Medvedev got along better with the Americans, or because Putin got along worse, but rather because the two Russian leaders had different concepts of their country’s interests.
Second, and more to the point, the idea that Obama and Clinton failed (to the degree they failed) because they lacked “energy or chemistry” is absurd on two levels. On the matter of “energy,” whatever one thinks of Obama’s time in office, no one could fault him for fatigue or laziness; he worked as hard as anyone, and in his eight years as president, he made 52 foreign trips to 58 countries. Clinton visited 112 countries, more than any secretary of state in history.
As for “chemistry,” Trump comes full circle to his assumption that international relations and personal relations are one and the same—that negotiations and policies succeed or fail because the two leaders do or do not click. This is Trump’s biggest fallacy. And it could get him—and all of us—into serious trouble. Does he believe his forthcoming talks with Kim Jong-un will succeed if they get along—if Trump’s charms throw him into a spell or, conversely, if Trump’s brazen power makes him quake in the knees? If so, he should figure out some excuse to cancel the trip.
Finally, “PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!” This is a Republican bromide, but in this context, it’s even more vague than usual. Where is the “strength” in Trump’s nice-talk with Putin? And strength spawns peace only if the strong leader knows what kind of peace he or she wants and how to use force as a diplomatic lever to get there. Trump shows no signs of knowing how to do this. Like many sentences that he tweets in all caps with an exclamation point, it’s a bit of empty theater, nothing more.
Trump is the Willy Loman of foreign policy. He thinks, as does the tragic traveling salesman of Arthur Miller’s play, that “personality always wins the day” and “a smile and a shoeshine” are more important than having something to sell that customers want. And unlike Willy, who at least used to be the No. 1 man in his neck of the woods, Trump has never known the territory of global politics—and he doesn’t know that he needs to learn its contours. He doesn’t even know what he’s selling. He doesn’t know the values or interests of his own nation.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Tue May 25 18:29:46 PDT 2010
Starting today, you can preview your incoming postal mail envelope images right inside your email notification quickly and securely.
The post See Your Postal Mail Envelope Images in Your Email appeared first on Virtual Post Mail.
by William Saletan @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 18:09:39 PDT 2018
Is John Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, an anti-Muslim bigot? Bolton, unlike Trump, has shown that he understands the nuances of Islamic world. But he also ignores these nuances when it suits him. That’s unacceptable. Before he takes the job, Bolton must account for his past.
The caricature of Bolton as an overt Muslim-baiter is misleading. Several news and political organizations, including Buzzfeed, Vox, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, have published erroneous accounts of a speech he gave in 2016. Vox says that during the speech, Bolton told a joke in which the “punchline was that President Obama was a Muslim.” Buzzfeed quotes Bolton as calling Obama the “Muslim king of the Muslim world.” That’s not true. In the speech, Bolton said that “King Abdullah of Jordan, who is not simply the Muslim king of a Muslim country, unlike our president,” had spoken of the fight against radical Islam as “a civil war within Islam.” Bolton wasn’t saying that Obama was Muslim. He was saying that Obama wasn’t a Muslim king, and that this gave Abdullah greater insight and credibility than Obama. The reference to Obama’s religion was tasteless, but it was also ironic, and Bolton was making a serious point.
Another report, published several days ago on Alternet, says, “During the Bush administration, [Bolton] regularly railed against the infiltration of Islamists in the U.S. legal system.” But the report offers no link or citation, and I’ve seen no evidence to back it up.
On several occasions, Bolton has sharply rejected anti-Muslim bigotry. In 2014, during a Fox News interview, Greta Van Susteren asked him: “Are we being too soft on radical Islam, in terms of how we speak about them?” Bolton said yes, but he drew a distinction. He said that Obama was mistaken to think that references to “radical Islam and Islamic terrorism” were “insulting all of Islam.” Bolton explained: “There is no such thing as ‘the Islamic world.’ It makes no more sense to talk about that than it does to talk about ‘the Christian world.’ People have different views, and they have different experiences.” He chastised Bill Maher for indicting Islam as a whole. It’s “fundamentally flawed,” said Bolton, to posit that Muslims or members of any other group “all think alike.”
A year later, in December 2015, Trump called for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The next day, on Boston Herald radio, Bolton was asked about Trump’s idea. “That’s certainly completely wrong,” he replied. “That’s just not consistent with our views about America and how we should operate.” Bolton said Trump was “playing on the frustration and the fear” among Americans. Bolton faulted Obama for not fighting terrorism strongly enough to assuage the public’s fear. But he cautioned: “Our problem is the radicals, the terrorists. It’s not an entire religion. I think we absolutely have to make that clear—not because I care what the rest of the world thinks, but because I care about what we think about ourselves.”
In the 2016 speech that’s been widely misquoted, the context of Bolton’s remark about Obama and Abdullah has been lost. He began by telling the audience that when discussing radical Islam, “It’s important that we try and say at the outset, every time this subject comes up, that we are talking about politics and ideology here. This is not a question of religion. … It’s actually Muslims themselves who have felt the worst effects of Islamic terrorism and who suffer under its rule.” Then Bolton made his point about Abdullah’s message: that “this is a civil war within Islam. It’s a struggle for how the religion is perceived around the world.”
So Bolton understands Islam’s complexity. But that raises a question: Why, in that case, does he consort with, coddle, and promote Islamophobes?
Vox, Buzzfeed, CAIR, and other critics of Bolton get one thing absolutely right: He has a foul record of collaborating with Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney, and other career Muslim bashers. In 2013, Bolton wrote a glowing foreword to a book by Geller and Spencer, ignoring their incendiary ravings. On Gaffney’s radio show, when Bolton was asked about a McCarthyesque campaign to hunt for Muslim Brotherhood agents in the Obama administration, he defended it as procedurally routine.
The three Bolton statements most worthy of interrogation aren’t the ones that have circulated widely. The first is from a July 2009 interview with Geller. She asked Bolton about the view, which she attributed to Mitt Romney, that “jihadism has nothing to do with Islam.” Bolton replied: “As the saying goes from the Franklin Roosevelt era … ‘Not all Democrats are horse thieves, but all horse thieves are Democrats.’ Taking that forward, the terrorists today are Islamic fundamentalists. That’s where the threat lies worldwide.”
The clear implication of Bolton’s retort was that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. That claim is false and pernicious. Why would he say this, when he knew better? Because in the interview, Bolton was sitting on a couch with Geller. His guard was down, and he was playing along. He was thinking about her, not about the people he was insulting.
A year later, Geller recruited Bolton to speak at a rally against construction of an Islamic center in Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attack. She called it the “Ground Zero Mosque,” though it wasn’t a mosque and wasn’t at Ground Zero. Speakers at the rally, backed by Republican politicians, argued that because the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims, no mosque should be built near the site. Bolton delivered a speech by video, in which he falsely described the imam behind the project as a radical and an apologist for terrorism.
But Bolton added a second objection that took issue with Islam, not terrorism. He accused the project’s advocates of telling their opponents: “We want to increase religious tolerance and understanding, and if you don’t agree with that, we’re going to increase religious tolerance and understanding whether you like it or not.” Bolton said the project should be transferred to a site “that doesn’t cause the emotional pain that this particular location … has aroused.” At no point did he offer a principled reason for excluding peaceful Islamic worship from the vicinity of the attack. He simply postulated that it was wrong to impose religious tolerance on anyone who doesn’t want it.
If Bolton had dropped that line of argument after the “Ground Zero mosque” debate, you could speculate that his more recent comments showed he had learned not to accord prejudice such respect. But in 2016, after the terror attack in Orlando, Bolton returned to the same theme. President Obama avoided references to Islam when describing the Orlando attack, which had been committed by a Muslim who was also a second-generation American. Obama reasoned that to speak of such attacks as Islamic would help terrorists recruit Muslims and would feed prejudice against Muslim Americans. Bolton called Obama’s response outrageous. On Fox News, he accused Obama of delivering “a lecture … about what’s wrong with the rest of us who don’t have the tolerance that he does for people that he thinks are being unfairly criticized.”
What exactly was Bolton saying? Did he not agree that Muslims were unfairly criticized? Was he defending intolerance? If so, against whom?
I can’t answer these questions. Nor can I tell you which man—the exponent of Islamic diversity, or the exploiter of sectarian fear—is the real John Bolton. But Bolton can. He needs to be publicly interrogated. He needs to explain what appears to be, even on a charitable interpretation, a pattern of deference to people who reject tolerance of Muslims. If he can’t explain it, or if he won’t, then he shouldn’t be the national security adviser. You can’t protect a country you don’t understand.
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 02:57:06 PDT 2018
Anthony Ray Hinton, age 61, now lives as a free man in the state of Alabama, where he was born and raised. When he was 29, Hinton, who is black, was tried in Birmingham for the murders of two fast-food managers and sentenced to death. It didn’t matter that he had a good alibi. It didn’t matter that he passed a polygraph test. A racially biased prosecutor presenting faulty evidence that Hinton’s mother’s gun was used in the crimes, and aided by Hinton’s own contemptuous and incompetent defense counsel, won a conviction anyway.
Due to his own perseverance, and eventually with the help of the Equal Justice Initiative, Hinton was able to show that the gun evidence was flawed. And yet he still had to remain in prison for more than another decade. He was finally freed and exonerated in 2015 after serving 30 years for crimes he didn’t commit.
Hinton spent years watching other men proceed to the death chamber, which was only yards away from his cell. Now, he has written an account of his experiences, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom On Death Row, which describes how his faith and commitment to public service—even when incarcerated—helped him emotionally persevere. Throughout the book, he draws portraits of his fellow prisoners—some racists, some murderers, some men who were also almost surely not guilty, many men who never received the legal or emotional help they deserved—and in doing so, paints a disturbing picture of America’s punitive and racially biased legal system.
I recently spoke by phone with Hinton, who has become a criminal justice activist. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed the most difficult aspects of being a free man, why forgiveness is so important to his own happiness, and facing up to the realization that people don’t like you because of the color of your skin.
Isaac Chotiner: There’s a phrase that tends to get repeated when someone gets sick or they go through hard times: “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m curious what you think of that phrase.
Anthony Ray Hinton: Well, to be honest with you, I think of this phrase as, “Whatever God bring you through, it makes you stronger.” My faith got stronger. There’s no way that I believe that one can go through what I went through without having a strong faith in God.
When every court was saying “no,” I believe God was still saying yes. I had to somehow find that faith and reach deep down in my soul and believe in the teaching that my mother taught me as a young boy, that God can do everything but fail. He sits high, and he looks low. That’s how I really survived that 30 years of pure hell.
If you feel like God helped you survive this, how do you understand God putting you in this situation in the first place? How does your faith reconcile that?
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: When all this was taking place, I kept wondering, “Why me?” I knew I was innocent, and when I got convicted and once they said, “I sentence you to death,” and I went to death row, I took that same Bible that I believed in and had the faith in. I took that Bible and throwed it up under the bed, not to open for three years. Actually, going into the fourth year.
I believe God at that time had let me down, had disappointed me. I felt that God couldn’t do everything. I wondered, “Why would God allow an innocent man to go to death row? Why would God allow an innocent man to die for something that he knows that I didn’t do?” I was so angry with God, til I didn’t want to hear God’s name. That was the human side of me, that was so angry with God and everyone else because I was innocent.
When I went to prison, for three years I didn’t say a word to another human being, until going into the fourth year, when I realized, you know what, I have to find a way to live. The state of Alabama can take my future. The state of Alabama can take my freedom. But the state of Alabama can’t take my joy. The joy that I had when I went there, if the world didn’t give it to me, the world couldn’t take it away, but I had allowed the world to take it away, and I wanted to pick it back up.
I can say that God might have put me in prison to save my life. He might have put me in prison for me to listen to him, in order to write this book, to help change people’s hearts and souls and to help them understand what true forgiveness is all about, to understand what his true friendship is all about, to make people understand what the legal system is all about. I have to believe that God allowed me to go there in order to show me all of these things.
You had to deal with your own lawyers being disrespectful to you. Judges and law enforcement officers were disrespectful to you. Is there anyone that you found it hard to forgive, that you still struggle with to this day?
I spent the first three years in silence. All I could think about was trying to escape. I wanted to escape not to be on the run, but to choke the life out of the police officer that lied on me. I wanted to choke the prosecutor. I didn’t think these men deserved to live, knowing that they had sent an innocent man to prison.
Those three years was the years that I just couldn’t conceive of forgiving these men for what they had done to me. Do you realize that they didn’t just take me away from my freedom? They took me away from my mother, who I loved more than life itself. They took me away from my friends. They took me away from my community. They took me away from the things that I loved doing. How do you forgive people that honestly take you away from these things, knowing that you’re innocent and telling you, “We know that we didn’t get the right person, but you will do”?
After a period of three years, I began to look at myself, and I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror. I didn’t like the person that didn’t smile and didn’t laugh anymore. That’s the type of person I am. I believe in laughter. I believe laughter is good for the soul. I believe in making other people laugh to make them feel good. And so once I looked in the mirror, going into the fourth year, I decided that I would take my life back. The only way that I could take my life back was that I knew I had to forgive. I knew this. There was no doubt about it, but I knew I needed help in forgiving these racist white men that had did this to me.
How do you forgive somebody that don’t like you just because of the color of your skin? I prayed that God would remove the hatred that I had in my heart for these racist white men. I prayed daily that he would remove this hatred from me. I will not sit here and tell you that he did it overnight. All I can tell you, eventually, at some point, in some time, I began to smile again, and I forgave those racist white men that did this to me.
Once I could feel that forgiveness, I realized one thing: They had to give an account for what they did to me to their creator. I knew that I wanted to live and I wanted to be the person that my mom brought me up to be, and that is a loving, kind, generous person. I just couldn’t live with that anger anymore.
Do you ever still feel angry today, even if you know that forgiveness was the best thing for you as a human being?
There’s not a day that go by that I even think about these men, unless I’m asked about them. One of them is, two of them is already dead, and I want to tell you, I truly believe that they are in hell for what they did. But I’m telling you, I forgave them, and once God removed that hatred from me, I haven’t thought about those men at all.
If they had reached out to you, would you have spoken to them, before they passed?
Oh absolutely. Absolutely. If I could meet any one of them today, the first thing I would say, “I want you to know that I forgive you again for what you did to me. Now, you have to find a way to forgive yourself.” Then if I had the money, I would say, I would love to treat you to a cup of coffee and maybe we could talk. And I would just like to know what was it that I did, as a black man that didn’t know, never gave them one ounce of trouble, what was it that you hated me so much for that you was willing to take my life for something you knew that I didn’t do? I would love to sit down and ask them the question. If they could answer it, I would appreciate it. If they say they can’t answer it, I can live with that as well.
What besides the Bible helped you get through death row?
The fact that I was there with 200 more men who shared their stories, shared their belief, shared their nonbelief. There was the guards there, that eventually learned to talk to you about their personal life. They’d tell you about how easy they could have been on death row. There was time when you would just get true pleasure out of going outside for 15 minutes, to smell the fresh air, to see the sunshine. I wish I could tell you that I enjoyed the rain, but they didn’t allow us to be outside on rain, but reading a good book brought me joy. Indulging in a conversation about the Lord brought me joy. Indulging in the way that I was brought up as a boy brought me joy. But the most thing that brought me joy, more than anything, was trying to mentor and be a mentor for those men who had lost their hope. Once I regained my hope, was trying to give them hope. That brought me, absolutely, joy.
Once you got a better legal team—people I know you’re still close to now—I’m sure that you started imagining what it would be like the day you were freed. I’m wondering what you imagined the first day of freedom would look like.
Once I got Bryan Stevenson and EJI, I knew I finally had a lawyer and a team that was going to fight for me day and night, and fight for the truth to come out. I imagine the day that I walked out of prison, I could see it just as plain as day. I was going to be able to just stay outside, all day and all night if I wanted to. I imagined being able to go anywhere that I wanted to go. I imagined eating whatever I wanted to eat. I imagined seeing whoever I wanted to see.
But more than anything, I imagined that I didn’t have to live behind wire mesh that I had seen every day. I didn’t have to wake up to all the noise, and I didn’t have to wake up and be told what to do and what to eat and when to eat it and how fast to eat and what to wear and not to wear. I just imagined being free. Freedom sends you wherever you want to go. I imagined going places. I imagined going to England and meeting the queen. I imagined going to New York to see my beloved Knicks play. I imagined going to New York and seeing my beloved Yankees play. In my mind, I imagined all of these beautiful things that I had missed all of these years, and I kept saying, “I can’t wait to go and see what a $15 hot dog tastes like at Yankee Stadium.” Just to bite down on this hot dog, to see how it tasted, the onions and stuff. I mean, I even imagined throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium.
They should let you do that. But I’m sorry that the Knicks aren’t better. I wish I could help you out there.
Well I need to be the coach of the Knicks, and I guarantee you, I’d bring a championship to the Knicks in two years’ time.
I don’t know, I think you need a whole new management, team, owner, everything.
Let me tell you, since we’re talking about my beloved Knicks. The Knicks pay more money out than anybody. They just don’t get the benefit from them. As a coach, I won’t be afraid to get in their face and tell them, “You either produce, or you’re gone.” I would make the Knicks a winner. [Laughs.]
What’s been the biggest challenge since you got out, and what has been the nicest surprise?
The biggest challenge for me, and still is today, is modern technology. These cellphones, these computers, internet, everything about the way modern technology have just took over since I was locked up. We didn’t have the phone that we have. Didn’t have computers. Everything seems simple, but for me, it’s complicated. I’m trying my best to get on board and learn as much as I can. Every time you learn something, there’s more to learn about it. That is the thing that’s giving me fits.
The thing that I find fascinating and more pleasing is that people genuinely are sorry. They hear what I went through. I thought people wouldn’t care, but people generally do care. I get letters all the time from people that tell me that they care, and that they wish that there’s something they could do. They’re sorry that I went through this. I find that striking because I believe that we live in a world where people only care about themselves, but I have been proven wrong.
You mentioned your mom. What was your mom’s name?
Beulah Hinton. Beulah.
Was she able to forgive people the way you did?
Well you know that’s where I learned forgiveness—from my mother. My mother used to sit me down for whatever reason, and she used to always tell me, always remember, you are not responsible for how people treat you. But you are responsible for how you treat others. My mom would tell me, there are going to be some people. She didn’t say white. She didn’t say black. She didn’t Mexican or whatever. She said, “There will be people that dislike you simply because of the color of your skin. You haven’t done anything to them. They just don’t like you because of the color of your skin. These are the people that you are still to pray for. These are the people that you are still to love, regardless of how they treat you.”
And I couldn’t understand that as a young boy, but as I got older and older and as I sat on death row, I finally understood what my mother was saying. I have learned in the years that I’ve been on this earth, you don’t have to do anything to people. You just have to be of a different race, of a different gender, and people will dislike you. But you have to go on, and you have to live your life. You can’t worry about why this person don’t like you. You just have to continue to believe in the words that my mother gave me. Pray for them.
When was the last time you saw her?
The last time I saw my mom was in 1997. My mom started getting sick, and my mom finally passed away in 2002.
My mom was my world. My mom was everything to me. We didn’t have money. We didn’t have a whole lot of materialistic things, but one thing I can truly say, that my mother loved me and all of her children unconditionally. There was nothing that I couldn’t talk to my mother about. There was nothing that I couldn’t tell my mother. I just feel that if everybody in this world could have a mother the way my mother was, this would be a better world.
Thank you for taking the time.
Thank you, and let me say that I give all credit for who I am and what I am to my mother. I just want the world to know that my mother didn’t raise and bring up a killer.
by Jordan Weissmann @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 10:38:02 PDT 2018
Jeffrey Goldberg knows that he hired a troll. But he thinks readers should give him a second chance.
The Atlantic editor in chief issued a memo to the magazine’s staff this week, explaining his decision to hire conservative writer Kevin Williamson as a columnist for the magazine’s new ideas section. In addition to making the thought leader’s now-familiar case for ideological diversity, Goldberg wrote that he likes to “give people second chances and the opportunity to change.” This is an odd justification for a terrible and high-profile hire at one of the country’s most venerable political magazines.
A longtime correspondent for the National Review, Williamson is, at his best, a right-wing provocateur who writes enjoyable, if slightly retro, prose. At his worst, he’s a verbose and hateful troll. Describing a 2014 visit to the impoverished city of East St. Louis, Illinois, Williamson compared a black child to a “primate” and a “three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg” before likening his own trip through Illinois to Marlow’s journey up the Congo River in Heart of Darkness, all within the space of a single paragraph. (He later denied, unconvincingly, that the three-fifths reference was a slavery joke.) In a column that same year about Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, Williamson compared trans people to voodoo doll worshippers. “Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman,” he wrote. He accused Bernie Sanders, a secular Jew, of leading a “nationalist-socialist movement” in a too-cute-by-half bid for rage clicks. And perhaps most notoriously, he once opined on Twitter that women who had abortions should be hanged. “I believe abortion should be treated like any other premeditated homicide,” he later clarified, in case anybody doubted his sincerity. “I’m torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means.”
These are not views one would typically associate with the Atlantic, which has a long, unique history in American intellectual life that’s partly bound up with the advancement of civil rights—it was founded by abolitionists, published Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” and helped make Ta-Nehisi Coates a leading American voice on race. In February, the Atlantic released a special issue marking the 50th anniversary of MLK Jr.’s assassination. (Full disclosure: I worked at the Atlantic for two years and probably imbibed some institutional Kool-Aid.) All of this makes Williamson, with his frequent sneer, dearth of empathy, and dicey treatment of race, a bit of a weird fit for the publication. He reacted to Black Lives Matter with an O’Reilly-esque rant about “race-hustling professionals” and black-on-black crime that I have a hard time picturing sharing space with a TNC essay.
So why did the Atlantic hire him? Goldberg and Ideas editor Yoni Appelbaum did not respond to my request for an interview, but it appears Williamson despises Donald Trump, and Never Trump conservatives have a lot of cachet these days among left-leaning media outlets that want to show a commitment to publishing a range of views. The New York Times op-ed section, not incidentally led by former Atlantic editor James Bennet, gave Bret Stephens a lifeboat away from the ever-more Trumpy Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post recently brought on Megan McArdle. The Atlantic, already home to former George W. Bush speechwriter and Trump antagonist David Frum, recently hired reform-conservative Reihan Salam away from Slate. All of these people consider themselves conservative. None of them like Donald Trump.
In the memo Goldberg sent to his staff (the full memo, which a spokeswoman said had been lightly edited to remove internal “housecleaning” material, is pasted below), he makes it clear that he was deeply familiar with Williamson’s work, warts and all—“I have probably read a few hundred thousand of his words”—and considered him an intellectually engaging stylist, albeit one whose writing and tweeting could be “trollish.” According to Goldberg, after one of their chats, Williamson decided that “Twitter was a bad place for him to be” and deleted his account. “I took this to be a positive development and a sign of growth,” Goldberg writes.
From there, Goldberg suggests that despite some of Williamson’s past missteps, he deserves an opportunity to redeem himself.
I don’t think that taking a person’s worst tweets, or assertions, in isolation is the best journalistic practice. I have read most, or much, of what he has written; some of his critics have not done the same. I would also prefer, all things being equal, to give people second chances and the opportunity to change. I’ve done this before in reference to extreme tweeting (third chances, too, on occasion), and I hope to continue this practice.
This is not exactly the way you typically hope to introduce a prominent new writer to his colleagues—sure, he can be a troll, but let’s give him a chance to do better—and also not generally why you hire someone. But Goldberg does eventually move on to his affirmative case for hiring Williamson:
The larger question is this: What am I trying to accomplish by having Kevin write for us? The first answer is this: He’s an excellent reporter who covers parts of the country, and aspects of American life, that we don’t yet cover comprehensively. I happen to think that conservatives made ideologically homeless by the rise of Trump are some of the most interesting people in America, and I want to read them whenever I can.
As our staff knows, because I go on about this ad nauseam, I take very seriously the idea that The Atlantic should be a big tent for ideas and argument. It is my mission to make sure that we outdo our industry in achieving gender equality and racial diversity. It is also my job is to make sure that we are ideologically diverse. Diversity in all its forms makes us better journalists; it also opens us up to new audiences. I would love to have an Ideas section filled with libertarians, socialists, anarcho-pacifists and theocons, in addition to mainstream liberals and conservatives, all arguing with each other.
There is a lot to admire here, in the abstract. Second chances are good. Monocultures are bad. Socialists and theocons often make for fun reading. It’s also not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that things could work out the way Goldberg hopes; Williamson once managed to carry on a respectful dialogue about reparations with Coates, who wrote at the time, “I’ve always been an admirer of Williamson’s writing, if not his ideas.” Perhaps we’ll see more of him in that mode.
But it feels like a stretch. Williamson isn’t a novice who made some early career mistakes, after all. He’s a 45-year-old professional with firm, carefully thought-out beliefs he writes for publication. We’re not just talking about a mulligan after a few bad tweets, as Goldberg seems to imply.
Williamson is also a questionable choice to cover the forgotten corners of America that presumably backed Trump—given that he loathes them as much as he loathes the president. “The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die,” he wrote in one especially controversial piece. Above all else, Williamson is something fairly rare in U.S. media: an explicit, unrepentant elitist. As he tells it, his rough and financially deprived childhood in Texas taught him that the struggling American “underclass” is largely responsible for its own bad luck. Today, he worships high culture (he’s a former theater critic who once grabbed a woman’s cellphone and hurled it away when she wouldn’t stop talking during the performance) and rich, talented men. Williamson spent a whole column urging Mitt Romney to flaunt his wealth “like a boss” during his presidential run, suggesting that from “an evolutionary point of view” the Republican “should get 100 percent of the female vote” because of his pure, alpha-male magnetism. “We don’t do harems here, of course, but Romney is exactly the kind of guy who in another time and place would have the option of maintaining one,” Williamson added, tongue hopefully planted somewhere near his cheek. He views Trump—not incorrectly, or uniquely—as an ignorant, vulgar poseur who caters to the worst tendencies of white identity politics.
Which is why Goldberg’s appeal to intellectual diversity also rings a bit hollow. After all, the Atlantic doesn’t seem to be making any effort to hire pro-Trump writers, who would represent the views of approximately 40 percent of the American population. (You could say the same about Bennet’s opinion page at the Times.) That’s a justifiable choice—just try reading the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page these days—but it suggests that Goldberg has some intellectual red lines he isn’t willing to cross in the name of diversity, one of which happens to cordon off the entire contemporary Republican Party. Other editors might pick different red lines—like transphobia, or history of racial insensitivity—that would rule a writer like Williamson out. Goldberg is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in large part because he’s a conservative who opposes Trump, which makes him “interesting.”
In a lot of ways, that encapsulates the frustrations some liberals have with the elite media’s fascination with Never Trumpers. While they may have minimal pull in their own party, many are essential reads who are good at challenging progressive cultural and policy ideas. (I don’t agree with him on much, but Ross Douthat might be the most talented columnist on the Times staff right now.) But at points, the label can also seem like a giant ideological washing machine that lets fairly abhorrent writers and thinkers launder their careers, provides them an unearned sheen of legitimacy, and just gives them a bigger audience to troll. In announcing his decision to leave the National Review, Williamson did not express any regret for his past musings, or excitement to cover new ground for the Atlantic, or relief to be given this Goldberg-blessed shot at redemption. Instead, he described his decision to leave as grabbing an opportunity to really piss people off. “I will be an apostle to the Gentiles,” he wrote. “I am very much looking forward to raising a brand new kind of hell.”
Editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg’s memo to staff:
I first came to know Kevin’s work several years ago; he’s incredibly prolific, and, over time, I have probably read a few hundred thousand of his words. I have disagreed with him more than I have agreed with him (an irrelevant metric when you’re the editor; not when you’re a reader), but I recognized the power, contrariness, wit, and smart construction of many of his pieces. I also found him to be ideologically interesting: anti-abortion, pro-gun rights, anti-death penalty (his anti-death penalty writing, of course, shaped my understanding of his most objectionable tweet). I was struck, as many people are, by the quality of his prose. I was also struck by the fact that many people I admire on the Left have expressed admiration for his writing on issues of race and class. Over the past couple of years, I’ve also read carefully his critical coverage of Donald Trump and the people who voted for him.
I was also aware of Kevin’s judgmental, acerbic, polemical style, and when we started talking about writing possibilities at The Atlantic, I raised my concerns about the trollish qualities of some of his writing and tweeting. A couple of months ago, in one of our conversations, I mentioned some of his more controversial tweets, and in the course of that conversation, he himself came to the conclusion that Twitter was a bad place for him to be, and he spiked his account. I took this to be a positive development and a sign of growth.
I don’t think anyone should try to defend Kevin’s most horrible tweet. I expect that Kevin will explain this tweet himself when he gets here. He will also have the opportunity to explain other controversial aspects of his writing. But I don’t think that taking a person’s worst tweets, or assertions, in isolation is the best journalistic practice. I have read most, or much, of what he has written; some of his critics have not done the same. I would also prefer, all things being equal, to give people second chances and the opportunity to change. I’ve done this before in reference to extreme tweeting (third chances, too, on occasion), and I hope to continue this practice.
The larger question is this: What am I trying to accomplish by having Kevin write for us? The first answer is this: He’s an excellent reporter who covers parts of the country, and aspects of American life, that we don’t yet cover comprehensively. I happen to think that conservatives made ideologically homeless by the rise of Trump are some of the most interesting people in America, and I want to read them whenever I can.
As our staff knows, because I go on about this ad nauseam, I take very seriously the idea that The Atlantic should be a big tent for ideas and argument. It is my mission to make sure that we outdo our industry in achieving gender equality and racial diversity. It is also my job is to make sure that we are ideologically diverse. Diversity in all its forms makes us better journalists; it also opens us up to new audiences. I would love to have an Ideas section filled with libertarians, socialists, anarcho-pacifists and theocons, in addition to mainstream liberals and conservatives, all arguing with each other. If we are going to host debates, we have to host people who actually disagree with, and sometimes offend, the other side. Kevin will help this cause.
Let me close with a statement of the obvious: Anyone who joins The Atlantic agrees to submit his or her writing to our skilled editors. Everyone here is compelled to follow our standards.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Fri Apr 16 18:57:15 PDT 2010
We're excited to announce that you can now deposit checks received in your online postal mailbox without having to deposit them yourself. Virtual Post Mail Check Deposit Service (CDS) will do all the legwork for you and help save you time, money, and gas. Here's a quick overview about how it works.
by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 08:20:42 PDT 2018
The U.S. has joined with more than a dozen other countries to retaliate against Russia for the nerve agent attack in Britain earlier this month. The Trump administration has expelled 60 Russian diplomats from the U.S. and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. The order includes 12 spies that the U.S. believes are working at Russia’s U.N. consulate in New York. According to the AP, the Seattle facility was a counterintelligence concern because of its proximity to a U.S. naval base.
Fourteen EU member states—more than half of the members—as well as Canada are also expelling Russian diplomatic staff, EU chief Donald Tusk announced Monday. Britain had already expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the attack that hospitalized ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 in Salisbury, England. Russia, which denies involvement in the attack and accused Britain of orchestrating an anti-Russian campaign, expelled 23 British diplomats last week in response and is likely to further retaliate against Monday’s expulsions.
The United States’ actions follow its decision two weeks ago to slap new sanctions on 19 Russian individuals and five organizations. While those sanctions were in response to interference in the 2016 presidential election and various cyberoperations, the British attack was also mentioned in the Treasury Department announcement. The Obama administration had expelled 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” and shuttered two Russian-owned facilities in December 2016 in response to election interference. After a six-month delay, President Vladimir Putin responded to that move by ordering the U.S. to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 employees.
As the investigation into Russia’s role in the election continues, President Trump himself has often been reluctant to criticize Russia. Just last week, he defended his call to congratulate Putin on his election victory—a gesture made against the advice of his aides and reportedly without mentioning the nerve agent attack—by saying that “getting along” with Russia is a good thing and that the Russian government “can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race.”
But despite this posture from Trump, U.S.-Russian relations have continued to deteriorate precipitously in recent months. For what it’s worth, Trump’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, is a longtime, reflexive Russia hawk.
Trump is right about one thing: Deteriorating overall relations between the U.S. and Russia aren’t good for anyone and will make resolution of the conflicts he mentioned more difficult. But in response to Russia’s recent actions abroad—most notably what was essentially a chemical weapons attack on the soil of a U.S. ally and NATO member state—the U.S. can’t do nothing, whatever the president’s personal feelings about Putin or Russia might be. Will these latest measures actually change the Russian government’s behavior? Probably not. But what’s more significant than the expulsions themselves is the coordination involved. It’s encouraging that even in a post-Trump, post-Brexit world, these allies can still get on the same page when they need to.
by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 08:09:59 PDT 2018
An unarmed black man who was shot and killed by Sacramento police in his backyard Sunday night after officers said he advanced toward them holding out an “object” was found to have been carrying a cellphone, Sacramento police said Monday.
The man, 22-year-old Stephon Clark, was killed outside the home he shared in south Sacramento with his grandmother, grandfather, and siblings, the Sacramento Bee reported. Police said that officers were responding to a report of a man fitting Clark’s description breaking car windows. According to the Bee, sheriff deputies in a helicopter spotted Clark in a backyard and told police he had shattered a house’s window with a toolbar, then looked inside a car in front of that home. Police said later they believe he broke the windows of three or more nearby cars. The deputies in the helicopter directed officers on the ground to where Clark was.
The officers ordered Clark to stop and show his hands, police said. According to their account, Clark fled to the back of the property, then turned around and came toward them with an object, now known to be a cellphone.
The officers shot multiple rounds and hit him several times, according to the Bee. The two officers held their position for around five minutes before approaching Clark, who was then pronounced dead. Those two officers have been placed on administrative leave pending an external investigation.
Clark had two young sons named Cairo and Aiden, his family told the Bee. On Monday night, Black Lives Matter activists led more than 100 people, including family members, in a vigil and protest.
The department has said it will release body camera footage of the incident within 30 days.
Post Office Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) Account: Interest Rates 2018 , Maturity Calculator, Premature Withdrawal Rules
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Wed Mar 07 10:07:20 PST 2018
Post Office Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) is a Govt. backed scheme for the girl child in India. It is targeted to empower and secure the future expenses like education and marriage. This post office small savings scheme was first launched in 2015 under Beti Bachao Beti Padao campaign. Since then, Post Office SSY scheme has become very popular among the parents of girls throughout the country. Every parent of a girl child in India can open this account and build a significant fund for the prosperity of the child. The current post office Sukanya Yojana interest rate 2018 is 8.1% per
by Sreekanth Reddy @ ReLakhs.com
Tue Mar 27 03:22:37 PDT 2018
ELSS or Equity Linked Savings Scheme of Mutual Funds are one of the best tax saving cum long-term wealth creation investment tools. Your investments in ELSS schemes are eligible for income tax deduction under Section 80c. Tax saving is one of the most important investment objectives of many investors. In the next few days, the current […]
by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Fri Jan 27 13:10:03 PST 2017
By Dave Johnson, October 27, 2016, in The Huffington Post. Millions of Americans can’t get bank accounts, so they can’t even cash a check. Many millions more might have an account but can’t get even a small loan. The numbers (below) are just outrageous. These millions are forced to turn to predators like the payday […]
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Wed Jan 11 21:17:35 PST 2017
Post Office Savings Account is similar to a savings account in a bank. It is specifically designed to keep your liquid cash in safe place, while earning some interest on it. You can liquidate your money anytime (fully or partially) as per your need. Savings account is a good option for people living in rural and semi rural areas where the reach of banks is somehow limited. Many tax free post office deposits are available, that you can choose to suit your need. And for all of them, you need to have a savings account there to operate your accounts smoothly. Also, it will
The post Post Office Savings Account: Interest Rates 2018, Account Opening Form appeared first on Post Office Small Savings Schemes.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 20:35:28 PDT 2018
The extent and exact timeline of the Trump campaign’s association with under-fire British data firm Cambridge Analytica remains hazy, but Trump’s data operation has been on the radar of special counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller’s team has been sorting through the ties between the campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and the Republican National Committee, ABC News reports. A Trump campaign spokesperson, however, denied that the campaign used Cambridge Analytica’s data at all, saying the Trump operation instead relied on the RNC voter data. “Using the RNC data was one of the best choices the campaign made,” the spokesperson said. “Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false.” This contradicts the previous statements of Trump officials.
“Cambridge began courting the Trump campaign early on, making at least three unsuccessful overtures in early 2015 and 2016, according to a source familiar with the conversations,” according to CNN. “In the meantime, Cambridge inked deals with the presidential campaigns of Carson, now the secretary of housing and urban development, and Texas Sen.
Ted Cruz, according to Federal Election Commission data and campaign operatives.” Cambridge Analytica was officially brought into Trump World in June 2016 by Brad Parscale, who was then a digital advisor to the Trump campaign. But not everyone was sold on the company, CNN reports, including Trump campaign head Paul Manafort, who thought the company was “full of shit.”
From ABC News:
Three Cambridge Analytica employees, including two data scientists, immediately moved to San Antonio to embed with Parscale’s firm and by August, the number of fulltime staffers in Texas ballooned to 13. The team led by Matt Oczkowski, who served as the data firm’s chief product officer, was divided into three groups focusing on data science, research and polling and marketing. Parscale would eventually leave Texas to move into Trump Tower in September, and the data firm sent a mid-level employee with him to interpret daily polling reports, according to sources.
“Cambridge Analytica was one entity involved in creating the voter information and fundraising database now known as Project Alamo, built jointly by staffers from the RNC, the Trump campaign and Parscale’s firm with data supplied by the RNC and the campaign, sources said,” according to ABC News. “Overseeing that effort was Parscale, [who] coordinated work with Cambridge Analytica executives to identify voters who were undecided and use social media to motivate them to support Trump over Hillary Clinton.”
by Pratik Rakte @ FH Blog
Fri Mar 16 05:16:15 PDT 2018
Both ULIPs and mutual funds have many similarities which is why they are often compared against one another. Investors have an unending debate on the benefits of mutual funds over ULIPs and vice versa. Some say mutual funds are better while others say ULIPs are. What do you think? If seen in depth, if you […]
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 16:27:58 PDT 2018
The White House is investigating two loans totaling $500 million given to senior Trump advisor and professional in-law Jared Kushner, according to a letter released Monday from the head of the Office of Government Ethics. The disclosure came in correspondence between the acting head of the federal government ethics agency and a Democratic lawmaker on the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) requested advisory input from the ethics office earlier this month on the ethical and legal implications of Kushner’s White House meetings with executives from Apollo Global Management and Citigroup and the subsequent $184 million and $325 million loans (respectively) Kushner’s real estate company, Kushner Cos, received from the two financial institutions.
“I have discussed this matter with the White House Counsel’s Office in order to ensure that they have begun the process of ascertaining the facts necessary to determine whether any law or regulation has been violated,” David Apol, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote on March 22nd. “During that discussion, the White House informed me that they had already begun this process.”
“After Mr. Trump won, Mr. Kushner resigned from the company and sold his personal stake in some projects and assets to family members and others, but he retains a stake in multiple Kushner Cos. properties, including those that received the Apollo and Citigroup loans,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “The White House’s examination of the loans to Kushner Cos. comes as the company is being investigated by the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission over its use of a federal investment-for-visa program known as EB-5.”
by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 09:23:43 PDT 2018
Update, 8:30 p.m.: China confirms to South Korea that Kim Jong-un is visiting the country.
Original Post: The arrival of a mysterious train in Beijing on Monday sparked reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was in town for talks with the Chinese government. The Chinese government had no comment, but Bloomberg cites three sources claiming that Kim was on the train as part of a high-level North Korean delegation. South Korean media reported that he had met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday before leaving for an unknown “third location” on Tuesday.
If Kim was really on the train, it’s significant for a few reasons. For one thing, it would be the first time he’s left North Korea—that we know of—since taking power in 2011. (A planned trip to Moscow was called off in 2015.) This is extremely unusual for any head of state, even one as unpopular internationally as Kim. Even Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir manages to travel pretty regularly despite a 2010 International Criminal Court indictment for genocide. A few years ago, Kim’s position looked precarious, with rumors of infighting and instability within the regime. Perhaps he’s now feeling a bit more confident that he can leave town for a few days without a rival seizing power. The Associated Press also notes that Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, took his first trip abroad in 2000, “six years after his father’s death. It’s now been six years since Kim Jong Il’s death.”
The mode of transportation is definitely in keeping with family tradition. Kim Jong-il, who reportedly had a deep fear of flying, made about a dozen trips abroad, almost always by train to China. Often these visits happened with the kind of secrecy and plausible deniability that surrounds this trip. There was one epic transcontinental journey to Moscow in 2001 that took several weeks.
The train photographed Monday looks a lot like the one Kim Jong-il used to travel in. According to South Korean reports, North Korea has 90 special carriages in total for Kim’s use, and his trains are equipped with flat-screen TVs and communications equipment allowing the leader to give orders and communicate with officials. During the Moscow trip, the elder Kim reportedly had lobster and wine flown in from Paris. According to North Korea’s official account, Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack while riding the train, and there’s a mock-up of the carriage at his mausoleum near Pyongyang.
Though viewed as North Korea’s most important ally, China has been extremely frustrated with Kim’s government’s nuclear provocations and erratic behavior. After years of dragging its feet, Beijing’s sanctions on trade with North Korea are finally starting to bite, and Xi and Kim reportedly view each other with contempt. It doesn’t help that Kim executed China’s main point of contact, his uncle Jang Song-thaek, in 2013. There are also rumors that the assassination of Kim’s brother Kim Jong-nam had something to do with a Chinese-backed coup plot.
Since the beginning of 2018, Kim has shown signs that after having developed what he considers a crude but effective nuclear deterrent, he’s interested in restarting limited diplomatic engagement with the rest of the world. But his outreach to South Korea’s Moon Jae-in during the recent Winter Olympics and his invitation to President Trump to hold direct talks, were read as a sign that he was looking to cut Xi out of the process. This visit to Beijing—whether it included Kim himself or just a high-level delegation—may be a sign he’s looking to shore up relations with longtime ally and trading partner China as well.
The visit also comes amid speculation about the location of the planned Trump–Kim summit, which is supposed to happen by the end of May. Beijing has been one widely discussed potential venue for the talks, and this trip is likely to raise more speculation of that possibility. Others include the heavily fortified DMZ between North and South Korea, where talks between the two sides often take place, and where Kim and Moon are due to talk in late April; or Pyongyang itself, which would raise headaches for the American side given Trump’s susceptibility to the kind of pomp and pageantry at which the North Koreans excel. There’s also been talk of Kim coming to Washington or the two leaders traveling to a neutral site in Europe—North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho made a quiet trip earlier this month to Sweden, one of the few European countries to maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea. Those scenarios, however, would require something highly unusual for a North Korean leader: getting on a plane.
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by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 08:25:23 PDT 2018
President Donald Trump vehemently denied Sunday morning that he is having any trouble finding a lawyer who would want to represent him in the continuing Russia probe. Yet shortly after he sent a defensive series of tweets, his attorney made official that there is trouble in Trump legal land as the president decided not to hire two lawyers who had been announced as new additions to his team less than a week ago.
Although Trump didn’t outright say it, his series of tweets implied that the biggest obstacle to finding attorneys was conflicts of interest. Plus he also tapped into the popular narrative of lawyers as crooks, noting that any new lawyer would do his or her best to rack up billable hours.
“Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case…don’t believe the Fake News narrative that it is hard to find a lawyer who wants to take this on,” Trump said on Twitter. “Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted.”
The whole point is moot anyway because it would take any new lawyer or law firm “months to get up to speed (if for no other reason than they can bill more)” and the president insists he is “very happy with my existing team.”
Trump sent out the tweets shortly before it became official that Trump won’t actually hire a lawyer that his attorney had said on Monday would be joining his legal team. The lawyer, Joseph diGenova, who is often a guest on Fox News, where he has frequently blasted the Russia probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, apparently has insurmountable conflicts that prevent him from joining the president’s team. Although Trump didn’t know DiGenova he tried to get him on his team because he liked the way he sounded on television, according to the Washington Post.
DiGenova’s hiring was announced Monday and there was talk that he could join Trump’s team with his wife and law partner Victoria Toensing. But the whole thing apparently began to unravel after a Thursday meeting with the president. And on Friday, Jay Sekulow, the counsel to the president, hinted at trouble ahead by saying htat DiGenova’s hiring was waiting for a review of potential conflicts of interest.
“The President is disappointed that conflicts prevent Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing from joining his Special Counsel legal team. However, those conflicts do not prevent them from assisting the President in other legal matters. The President looks forward to working with them,” Sekulow said in a statement Sunday morning.
This latest news on Trump’s legal team comes mere days after his former lead lawyer, John Dowd, quit on Thursday at a time when the president has to decide whether to sit with Mueller for an interview. Dowd reportedly got tired of the president increasingly ignoring his advice. Earlier in the week, the Washington Post reported that former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who is perhaps best known for representing George W. Bush in Bush v.
Gore, made it clear he wasn’t interested in joining the president’s legal team.
When Trump took to Twitter Sunday morning, the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman wrote that the president’s tweets were a “prelude” to the news about DiGenova and Toensing, noting that she “represents other witnesses,” including Mark Corallo.
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by Dahlia Lithwick @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 12:18:57 PDT 2018
On last week’s episode of Slate’s Supreme Court podcast Amicus, Dahlia Lithwick spoke with Bob Bauer about the relationship between presidents and their lawyers, and between this president and his lawyers. Bauer, who was White House counsel to President Barack Obama during 2010 and 2011, is a professor at New York University School of Law, a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, and the author of the books United States Federal Election Law and Soft Money Hard Law: A Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law. A transcript of their discussion, which has been condensed and edited for clarity, is below.
Dahlia Lithwick: I thought we could start with the very basic question of what the White House counsel does all day, and how is that different from the other lawyers who are in the president’s orbit?
Bob Bauer: The White House counsel represents the executive office of the presidency or to put it more simply, he represents the presidency. Now of course he’s appointed to the position by a particular president with a particular program, and so in some respects it’s impossible to say that the White House counsel doesn’t represent the particular president who appointed him and whom he serves on a day-to-day basis. But he’s a government lawyer. For someone like Don McGahn, his obligation is to represent the institution, and that’s tricky because he represents an individual who almost certainly thinks of himself as the client. But he’s a government attorney. He represents the interests of the public.
Can you give me a concrete historical example of how that tension manifests?
When John Dean was President Nixon’s White House counsel, he wrote a memorandum in which he talked about various functions the White House counsel could perform, most of which—for example, helping provide clearances for executive branch appointments—are fairly standard and continue to this day. But he also volunteered the White House counsel’s support for the enterprise of looking into the backgrounds of Nixon’s potential opponents in his re-election campaign in 1972. Now that was very important to Nixon, but the White House counsel doesn’t function as a support to the president in his political capacity. He functions in support of the president and advises the president solely in his official capacity.
But that requires a president who understands the difference between his personal attorney and his divorce attorney and his White House counsel and his attorney general. One of the things that you wrote this week that was striking to me was, this is a president who just—maybe in part because he comes up through New York real estate—wants all his attorneys to be guys who just fix stuff, right?
Yes, I think there’s a decent amount of evidence to support the view that the president views his lawyers as he views every single other member of his staff, which is as individuals who are supposed to deliver the goods. They’re supposed to give him the answer that he wants and clear away the obstacles he doesn’t want to have to deal with. To put it in its crudest terms, he wants “yes people” in that job.
Now, I’m not saying he never listens to a lawyer. I suppose that if a lawyer were to say to him, “If you do X, you’re almost certainly going to land in jail for the rest of your life,” you know, the president might pay attention to that. But overall, the sense that you have is that the president doesn’t have any appreciation of the professional responsibility of the lawyer to advise him as an independent professional, which means just by definition the lawyer can’t give the president what he wants. It’s not bona fide legal advice if it’s tailor made to the president’s wishes.
In your column, you compared the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who couldn’t say no when he was asked to deflect and lie for the president, to Don McGahn, who refused when he was asked to put out a false statement about Robert Mueller’s possible firing, which he was evidently asked to participate in. Is that a function of who those people are or is that a function of their role as lawyers, one as a personal lawyer for the president and one who answers at some level to the responsibilities of being White House counsel?
Without speaking to how Michael Cohen views his job, because I don’t know Michael Cohen, I would say the problem occurs on two levels. The first is that even a lawyer to someone in their personal capacity has to draw certain limits—has to be prepared to say no. And then the second problem is managing the pressures from somebody who doesn’t understand the role of a lawyer and not yielding to that client’s demand for a “yes” answer.
In McGahn’s case, he has to meet the additional requirement of being a public servant. Michael Cohen isn’t. Although again, even as a personal lawyer it’s not as if Cohen is entitled to throw everything out the window to get the president what he wants. The canon of ethics certainly call on lawyers to be zealous in the representation of their clients, but there are canons. There are ethical limits even on the zealousness of the representation, on the lengths to which lawyers will go to satisfy their clients.
You wrote this in your piece, and I’d like you to unpack it: “Trump’s attitude toward law, and his use and abuse of lawyers, are distinguishing features of his presidency, which may well help bring it down. While prosecutors such as Robert Mueller investigate crimes and not people, they also consider whether the individuals who come into their sight in the course of an investigation have illicit intent or motive. Character unavoidably enters in this judgment. By now it is clear, to the special counsel among other others, that this president has a purely instrumental view of lawyers and of the law.”
Clearly, to the extent that Mueller is investigating actions by Donald Trump, he’s looking at the facts that raise questions about whether those actions comply with the law. In every case, there’s a question of intent. Was there willfulness? Was there mens rea?
Prosecutors develop a picture of the person whose conduct is being investigated. And when the time comes to think about those questions of intent—to make the close calls or to try to decide between Version A and Version B—that picture becomes relevant. It shades or colors in some way how they’re going to interpret the behavior of the person whose actions they’re investigating.
What we have is a president who had his White House counsel threatened for not lying publicly about whether or not he’d been given an order to fire Bob Mueller. We have a president who has publicly berated his attorney general for complying with the requirement that he recuse himself under DOJ regulations from the Russia investigation. We have a president who has openly pressured his attorney general to undertake investigations into his 2016 political opponent Hillary Clinton.
So you have a president whose respect for law is—I’ll put it kindly—very much in doubt. It’s just hard to see how in a case where the president’s motives and intent are inevitably going to be presented, that this isn’t going to work very much against him in the final assessment by prosecutors.
You talked in your piece about Leonard Garment. He was Richard Nixon’s longtime political associate, and he eventually became a member of the Watergate legal defense team. You talk about him deciding to stay on because he thinks of Nixon as an “extraordinary leader” and a friend. How do you balance the tension between your love of this office, your dedication to the executive branch, and your dedication to this person? How do you slip and slide your way through that tension when you genuinely believe that you’re doing this because of some higher calling?
It’s not easy. We’re all human. I suppose the term that comes to mind and the trap you wouldn’t want to fall into is being an enabler. At some point, a lawyer has to be very honest with himself or herself and ask the question, am I, by hanging on, actually accomplishing something that is productive and consistent both with the interests of the institution and with my professional responsibility, or have I become an enabler? Am I simply here 75 percent of the time to basically allow something I don’t approve of to go on—that’s inconsistent with the public interest to go on—even if 25 percent of the time I express some concern, I take the White House chief of staff aside and I tell him I’m worried about it and then I let it drop if nothing happens? So, I’ve satisfied myself that I’ve expressed my concerns, by being open that I’m worried about something, but then I just go on with an institution, with an arrangement, with a culture, and with frankly an employer who is engaged in activities that I as a lawyer should not be enabling. And that’s a very hard issue to face.
Where it really collapses in the White House is if the White House itself suffers from a rancid culture. So that not only do I have the problem that I have with the president, but I have nowhere else to turn—no other allies in the building like the chief of staff to bolster my efforts to maintain a professional posture toward the president.
If a lawyer looks at all of that and recognizes that the role has become fundamentally an enabling role, then I honestly don’t believe that he or she can defend staying there any longer. I don’t know the facts right now of the different wars that the current White House counsel has fought—how many he’s won that we don’t hear about, how many he’s lost that we do hear about—so I don’t know what his batting average is. Those are the questions that I’d be surprised if he wasn’t asking himself. And I think that at the end of the day that’s what lawyers cannot ultimately be and remain good lawyers: They cannot become their clients’ enablers.
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 14:36:14 PDT 2018
Republicans have struggled mightily at the ballot box since Donald Trump took office. They lost a U.S. Senate seat in dark-red Alabama last December and a House seat in heavily conservative western Pennsylvania earlier this month. In those races, the usual rhetoric about abortion and immigration did little to buoy Republican candidates, and even a recent tax cut failed to rally GOP voters. So, to reverse that trend, Republicans are turning back the clock to 2016.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee on Monday unveiled a new ad campaign that focuses on—who else?—Hillary Clinton. The ads hope to use the former presidential candidate as a weapon against 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election in states that went for Trump two years ago. The ads, which the NRSC says will run on Facebook for two weeks, highlight a pair of remarks Clinton made about Trump voters that she felt compelled to later walk back: her “basket of deplorables” comments last year and similar ones she made this month about Trump appealing to voters by “looking backwards.”
“She’s called you ‘deplorable,’ ” the ads declare. “Now she’s called you ‘backwards.’ ” The state-specific spots then go for the kill by reminding viewers that their home-state senator backed Clinton over Trump in 2016.
Even after 25 years and two failed presidential campaigns, Clinton remains a bête noire of the conservative establishment. Trump makes frequent, near-compulsive mention of her on his Twitter account. House Republicans have done all they can to keep alive her past scandals, both real and imagined. And conservative media rarely misses the chance to make Clinton a foil for the president.
This marks the first time this cycle that the NSRC has featured Clinton in one of its ads, and the attack echoes one made by Josh Hawley just last week in Missouri as part of his bid to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill there. The ads could help test how much potency the Clinton name still has with voters, two years after her name was last on the ballot. At the very least, it makes for an uncomfortable wedge issue for Democrats in red states, who may risk alienating some of their own voters as they try to distance themselves from Clinton.
To see how awkward this dance can be, just watch McCaskill’s appearance on MSNBC last week. Asked if Clinton’s comments were helpful to her, McCaskill said, “No, probably not” and then defended Missourians who voted for Trump. “For those of us that are in states that Trump won, we would really appreciate if she would be more careful and show respect to every American voter and not just the ones who voted for her,” McCaskill said.
Clinton has somehow become even more unpopular since the campaign ended, giving Republicans hope that reminding Trump-inclined voters just how much they hate her will close the enthusiasm gap with Democrats, who have found special-election success, at least in part, by harnessing the anti-Trump resistance. It wasn’t that long ago, mind you, that nearly half of Trump supporters said their primary motivation was not putting Trump in the White House but instead keeping Clinton out of it.
At the same time, Trump’s approval rating has ticked back up into the 40s—still dismal, yes, but up from the historic lows of his first year in office—while the Democratic lead in the generic congressional ballot has been eroding lately. A new Fox News poll, taken during the first half of last week and released Sunday, found Democrats up just 5 percentage points on Republicans, 46 percent to 41 percent. That’s quite the drop from the 15-point cushion they had in the same survey back in October.
While the phrase Fox News found doesn’t necessarily instill confidence on its own, the conservative cable network’s pollsters are well-respected in their field, and their latest findings line up with the major polling averages, which have a generic Democrat up between 5 and 6 points on a generic Republican. That’s about as small as the gap has been at any point this year and less than half what it was at the start of it. Making matters worse for Democrats is that partisan gerrymandering, geographical quirks, and the advantages of incumbency tilt the House playing field in the GOP’s favor considerably. By some estimates, they’ll need to win by somewhere in the neighborhood of 5–8 percentage points nationally to flip the House.
The odds are even longer in the Senate, where Democrats need to gain two seats to take control of the upper chamber. That seems easy enough until you remember there are only nine GOP seats up in November, four of which look about as safe as they can get. Campaign handicappers currently believe that, at best, there are only three places Democrats have a legitimate chance to pick up a seat: Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee. But that’s only half of the equation; Democrats also need to protect the 26 seats they have that are up in the midterm, as many as seven of which are expected to be competitive. If Republicans can use Clinton to pick off a vulnerable Democrat or three in states Trump won, they could put control of the Senate safely out of reach.
Put another way, then, Democrats could significantly outperform Republicans on Election Day and yet still fall short of what they are hoping to accomplish in November. Now that is something Hillary Clinton can tell them all about.
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 10:15:44 PDT 2018
Jaelynn Willey, the 16-year-old girl who was shot in the head with a handgun by a 17-year-old male high school classmate on Tuesday in Great Mills, Maryland, has died. Her injuries rendered her brain-dead and her parents decided on Thursday to remove her from life support. She died at approximately 11:30 p.m.
A 14-year-old boy who was shot in the leg during the same incident was treated at a hospital and discharged Wednesday. The shooter, who was reportedly involved in a relationship with Willey that ended prior to the shooting, was killed during an exchange of fire with the school’s “resource officer.” It’s not yet clear who fired the fatal shot.
The gun used in the shooting was owned legally by the shooter’s father.
Student-led “March for Our Lives” gun-violence protests are planned for Saturday in Washington, D.C. and around the country.
by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 13:10:58 PDT 2018
So it finally happened. Despite the support of a U.S. senator and a legion of immigration rights activists, a U.S. Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan has been deported to Mexico, where he hasn’t lived since he was 8. Miguel Perez Jr., 39, was escorted across the border to Mexico and handed over to local authorities Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Perez’s plight has captivated Chicago for months but it seems the campaign to help the father of two who suffered from PTSD after returning from Afghanistan didn’t persuade immigration officials to give him another chance. Perez, who has a green card, thought he automatically became a citizen when he joined the military in 2001. But he was wrong about that and then when he tried to apply for citizenship he was denied due to a felony drug conviction.
“After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs,” Perez said last month. “But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable.” He was sentenced to 15 years of prison after he was convicted on charges related to delivering more than two pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. Earlier this year, Perez made the headlines when he started a hunger strike as a form of protest. He said his life would be in danger in Mexico because drug cartels target veterans with combat experience and force them to work.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois took on Perez’s plight and wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, asking her to personally review the case. “Beyond the injustice that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has laid on Perez … in his deportation, I would find it shocking to learn that he will potentially be leaving with nothing but the clothes on his back,” Duckworth wrote. “This is a deplorable way to treat a veteran who risked his life in combat for our nation.”
After the deportation, Duckworth didn’t mince word, releasing a strongly worded statement in which she accused the country’s immigration policies of being “based more in hate than on logic.” Duckworth said she was “appalled” that Nielsen didn’t respond to her request to review the case “and decide for herself whether deporting this brave combat veteran was a good use of DHS’ limited resources.”
by Christina Cauterucci @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 13:08:33 PDT 2018
Rep. Dan Lipinski, one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in Congress, narrowly defeated a political newbie in the Illinois primary on Tuesday night, dashing the hopes of progressives who believe the seven-term congressman is too conservative for the modern-day Democratic Party. Lipinski’s opponent, Marie Newman, had the endorsement of several major unions, reproductive rights groups, and big-name Democrats (Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders), while the incumbent could barely get his own colleagues to mutter their support. But Lipinski still won, outpacing Newman by about 2.5 percentage points.
He may owe his victory, in part, to Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion advocacy group that made a six-figure investment in Lipinski before Election Day. The organization marshaled 70 canvassers—staff members and college-student volunteers—to knock on the doors of 17,000 homes where voters tagged as anti-choice Democrats live. Susan B. Anthony List also bought Facebook ads claiming that “Marie Newman supports painful late-term abortions of healthy babies—paid for by taxpayers!” and sent out direct mail that encouraged voters to “Imagine someone killing a 7-pound baby for any reason, or no reason at all.” That mailer also framed the issue with left-leaning rhetoric to appeal to Democratic voters. “[Lipinski] believes the human rights championed by Democrats should be extended to unborn babies,” it said.
Though Susan B. Anthony List’s endorsement history heavily favors Republicans, it is a nonpartisan group, and Lipinski is one of its longstanding favorites. “Dan Lipinski is a pro-life hero of legendary courage and integrity,” said president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement after he won. “He’s not just a pro-life vote in Congress. He is a leader on this issue.” For a single-issue advocacy group, Lipinski is as reliable as they come: He co-chairs the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, speaks at anti-abortion rallies, and regularly sponsors legislation that seeks to restrict or roll back access to women’s health care.
The organization’s longtime love for Lipinski only intensified in 2010, when he voted against the Affordable Care Act. Back then, a coalition of anti-abortion Democrats, led by Bart Stupak, held out against the bill because it allowed people to use federal subsidies to purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion care. Many of them, including Stupak himself, ended up making a compromise with Barack Obama to get the bill through. Lipinski didn’t. He said the implications for abortion funding were part of his decision to oppose the bill, though he also called it “financially unsustainable.” His vote on the ACA became a major sticking point among the prominent Democrats who turned against him this election cycle, and a major rallying cry for anti-abortion advocates who came to his aid.
“His story, and the story of the Affordable Care Act—the growth of SBA has been really intertwined with the whole Affordable Care Act fight,” said Susan B. Anthony List’s communications director, Mallory Quigley, of Lipinski. The group got a lot of press for campaigning against the anti-abortion Democrats in Congress who voted for the ACA; Stupak was set to accept a “Defender of Life” award at a Susan B. Anthony List gala in 2010, but was cut three days before the event due to his change of heart on the bill. “Any representative, including Rep. Stupak, who votes for this healthcare bill can no longer call themselves pro-life,” said Dannenfelser at the time, promising that her organization would never again support any candidate who helped pass the ACA, even if their opponents were pro-choice.
“We told [Lipinski] then that we would always be there to fight for him if he ever came under fire,” Quigley said in a video of the organization’s canvassing efforts. This was his first highly contested primary, and only his second primary ever. As proof that its loyalty can last at least as long as its grudges, Susan B. Anthony List kept its promise.
The group will continue to support Lipinski over his Republican opponent, Arthur Jones, a Nazi and Holocaust denier. Quigley hopes Lipinski will embolden other Democrats to vote against abortion rights—without a strong anti-abortion voice in the party, she believes, it will be much harder to get any Democratic legislators to vote the way Susan B. Anthony List wants them to. “We just think it’s important that the issue remains bipartisan,” she said. “[Lipinski] is the model for how we want pro-life Democrats to act in Congress, to choose pro-life principles over party when those two things clash. And he’s really the only one that’s been a consistent pro-life vote.”
by Jamelle Bouie @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 14:06:28 PDT 2018
The past week has offered a case study in how race shapes empathy and blame.
Take Mark Anthony Conditt, the 23-year-old who terrorized Austin, Texas, with a series of bombings. After listening to his confession tape, local police have ruled out hate as a motive in a set of attacks that took two lives and injured several others. Conditt’s message, police chief Brian Manley explained, was “the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his personal life.” Conditt wasn’t a terrorist—the term we usually affix to people who organize bombings—he was simply lashing out.
Or consider Austin Rollins, the 17-year-old shooter at a school in southern Maryland. He shot two students, one of them his ex-girlfriend, before he was killed. Police say “the shooting was not a random act of violence.” The girl, Jaelynn Willey, was likely the target. Relaying this information, the Associated Press led with a small bit of editorializing: “Tuesday’s school shooting in southern Maryland that left the shooter dead and two students wounded increasingly appears to be the action of a lovesick teenager.” Not an attempted murderer or someone acting on a poisonous amount of masculine entitlement. A lovesick teenager.
Look to last month and even Nikolas Cruz—the teenage gunman who killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—was quickly identified as an “orphan” with a “troubled past,” a surprisingly sympathetic way to describe a deadly shooter responsible for one of the worst school massacres in American history. Beyond these recent examples are a litany of times where white suspects of violence are presented as full individuals. “Soft-spoken, polite, a gentleman” is how local media described Elliot Rodger after he killed seven people in a 2014 murder spree near the campus of UC–Santa Barbara.
Now compare this to the now-infamous New York Times story on Michael Brown, described as “no angel” for his occasional delinquency and dabbling in drugs and alcohol. Brown was killed in a confrontation with police. He was unarmed.
To be white, male, and suspected of a serious crime is, in the eyes of police and much of the media, to still be a full individual entitled to respect and dignity. Your actions are treated as an isolated incident, not indicative of a larger pathology shared by others who occupy your social position or hold your religious beliefs. To be black (or to be Muslim or undocumented) is to lose that nuance, even if you’re the victim. After Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman in 2012, NBC News ran a story announcing one fact: that Martin had been suspended three times from school. In Austin, the same police who could present Mark Anthony Conditt as suffering from angst were, just a week earlier, treating his first victim—a 29-year-old black man named Anthony Stephan House—as a suspect in his own death. “We can’t rule out that Mr. House didn’t construct this himself and accidentally detonate it,” APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon told reporters at the time.
A 2017 study commissioned by the advocacy organization Color of Change found that news media consistently portrayed black families and individuals as criminal, with that criminality flowing from the “internal disposition of Black people” versus an “external problem with historic roots.” This is racism, but it’s not the crude hatred of the white supremacist. It’s rather a “broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others,” as the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has put it. The only way to understand that skepticism is to grasp the ways racism has shaped definitions of personhood and citizenship over the course of 400 years. In particular, it’s important to understand how whiteness—defined as “a status conferring distinct … social, political, and economic freedoms across an unequal property order”—is tied to American ideas around freedom and liberty.
Thomas Jefferson, to use one prominent example, understood the American project as requiring either racial domination of indigenous people and enslaved Africans or their outright removal. “Why not retain and incorporate the blacks into the state,” wrote Jefferson after describing his plan to remove free blacks in the event of emancipation, before answering with a litany of reasons: “Deep rooted prejudices entertained by the whites; ten thousand recollections, by the blacks, of the injuries they have sustained; new provocations; the real distinctions which nature has made; and many other circumstances, will divide us into parties, and produce convulsions which will probably never end but in the extermination of the one or the other race.” He simply couldn’t imagine an American democracy that wasn’t fully white.
This understanding, that one cannot be black and American—or rather that one must be white to be American—continued into the 19th century and was expressed succinctly by Chief Justice Roger Taney in his Dred Scott opinion. “They are not included and were not intended to be included,” he wrote of black Americans. To the contrary, they are “considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race … and had no rights or privileges but such as those … the Government might choose to grant them.”
Even after emancipation and the Reconstruction amendments granted citizenship and civil rights to the former slaves, the twin engines of capital accumulation and race prejudice drove the creation of a racial caste system, with whiteness distinguishing the bottom from the top. W.E.B DuBois famously called it a “public and psychological wage” that gave “deference” and flattery to whites, in addition to material benefits and opportunities for advancement. In turn, entrance to mainstream society required whiteness or an ability to perform it through assimilation. The nativist panic of the early 20th century—during which the United States barred Asian immigration entirely—reflects both a fear of foreign influence and a belief in America as a white country.
The casting of black Americans as outside the protection of law and the boundaries of citizenship—as inherently criminal and disordered, as a group whose very presence is inimical to republican society—is a constant thread in American life. It’s an elemental part of the American experience that continuously expresses itself, taking on, as scholar George Lipsitz wrote in The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, “different forms and serving different social purposes in different eras.” It’s both a legacy of our history and something we re-inscribe through our choices. The housing discrimination, subsidized suburbs, and urban renewal of the mid-20th century turned various European Americans into “whites” who could co-exist and intermarry while also creating the segregation and racial wealth inequality we live with today.
Despite narratives of colorblindness and post-racialism, the United States remains a racial polity, structured, as philosopher Charles Mills writes in The Racial Contract, “to maintain and reproduce this racial order, securing the privileges and advantages of the full white citizens and maintaining the subordination of nonwhites.”
Which brings us back to this question of race and empathy. You no longer need whiteness to vote or participate in civil society (although, given attacks on voting rights, it doesn’t hurt), but it continues to mark boundaries of citizenship and belonging, even if the borders aren’t as firm as they were in the past. There are important exceptions, but looking at the broad sweep of American society, to possess whiteness is still to receive, as one of its benefits, recognition as a full person even in the face of criminal behavior.
When we see a police chief defer to the self-spun narrative of a serial bomber or watch news outlets attribute misogynistic violence to lovesickness—while denying the same interiority and full humanity to black victims or offenders—we’re watching this pattern play out. When black communities are pathologized for facing violence, but white communities escape similar treatment after producing mass killers, we are watching this pattern play out. And when whiteness appears to shift even the usual blame for state violence, we are watching this pattern play out.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Mon Dec 14 20:50:40 PST 2009
Getting a PO Box in the US is a fairly simple procedure. Location, size, and price are just some factors you should consider when renting a postal box in the US. USPS has also made the process easier by allowing you to reserve and pay for a postal box over the Internet.
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 09:50:45 PDT 2018
The Alabama attorney general’s office has agreed not to seek a new execution for Doyle Lee Hamm, a death row inmate who experienced a botched lethal injection in February, Hamm’s attorney announced on Tuesday.
Hamm was sentenced to death in 1987 for killing a night clerk in a motel robbery. Today he is 61 years old and suffers from lymphatic cancer, carcinoma, and Hepatitis C. His cancer treatment, combined with his age and past drug use, have made his veins difficult to access. Bernard Harcourt, his lawyer, has long argued that lethal injection would be impossible, and two U.N. human rights experts called on Alabama to delay the execution to avoid what “may amount to torture.” But the state wanted to try, and on Feb. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7–2 to let his execution proceed. Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented.
For several hours, executioners attempted to locate a usable vein, sticking needles all over his body and allegedly puncturing his femoral artery and bladder, causing blood to gush from his groin. He remained conscious the entire time. Eventually, the executioners gave up, and Hamm became one of only four men in 70 years to walk out of an American execution chamber. Shortly thereafter, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told reporters that “I wouldn’t necessarily characterize what we had tonight as a problem.”
Alabama initially intended to attempt a second lethal injection. But Harcourt argued that another execution would violate the Constitution’s bar on “cruel and unusual punishments” and constitute double jeopardy, illegally placing him “in jeopardy of life or limb” twice for the same offense.
The Supreme Court has ruled that attempting a second execution does not automatically violate the Constitution. But it has permitted a do-over only in cases that involved an unexpected equipment failure rather than a state’s deliberate ignorance of probable complications. A “single, cruelly willful attempt” at execution, in contrast, may infringe on the inmate’s constitutional rights and prohibit the state from trying again. Harcourt asserted that Alabama had plenty of notice that Hamm’s lethal injection would fail but tried anyway, thereby subjecting him to “cruelly willful” torture. In doing so, Harcourt wrote, the state forfeited its right to a second execution.
Alabama may have decided that Harcourt’s argument was too strong to counter in court—or it may simply be eager to end this publicity nightmare as quickly as possible. (The terms of the settlement are secret.) Regardless, Hamm will now be allowed to live out his remaining years in prison, though Harcourt notes that he is severely traumatized by his botched execution. The prison will presumably have to resume treatment for Hamm’s large-cell lymphoma; he had been scheduled for surgery to remove a cancerous lesion under his left eye in December, but the state canceled the operation on the same day that it issued his death warrant. Thanks to Harcourt’s settlement, there will be no more death warrants in Hamm’s future.
Interest rate of 4% per annum; free ATM facility
by Danny Buerkli @ Centre for Public Impact
Thu Nov 02 21:13:16 PDT 2017
“It’s a new way of looking at really entrenched problems,” says Derval Usher, head of office for Pulse Lab Jakarta. You can say that again. She sits down with CPI’s Danny Buerkli to explain how she and her team help facilitate the adoption of new approaches for applying new, digital data sources and real-time analysis techniques […]
Post Office Fixed Deposit Account: Interest Rates 2018, Maturity Calculator, Premature Withdrawal Rules
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Wed Jan 11 21:28:11 PST 2017
Post Office Fixed Deposit/ Time Deposit (POFD) Scheme is similar to a bank fixed deposit, where you can deposit money for a fixed time period and earn a guaranteed return on that. This is a good investment option for those who want to deposit a lump sum for a fixed tenure. You will get the deposited amount along with the interest earned on it at the time of maturity. In rural and suburban areas, Post Office FD schemes are more preferred compared to Bank FDs. You have the option to choose from 1, 2, 3 and 5 year post office time
Time to end postal savings, article in Sentaku, June 2, 2001, by Edward lincoln, senior fellow, foreign policy studies
by Sreekanth Reddy @ ReLakhs.com
Tue Mar 20 02:31:34 PDT 2018
We receive income through different ways, it can be your Salary, Dividend income from mutual funds or stocks, commission, rent, interest on your Bank Fixed Deposits / Securities etc., The providers of these incomes (like your company / bank) can deduct a certain percentage of income as TDS (Tax Deducted at source) based on certain […]
by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 06:03:37 PDT 2018
Remington Outdoor, one of the oldest gun manufacturers in the country, has filed for bankruptcy after experiencing a slump in sales some are attributing to the Trump presidency.
The company, which was founded in 1816 and remains one of the largest producers of guns in the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday. According to NPR, the company had been experiencing financial difficulties for some time. But Remington’s chief financial officer said in the filing that over the past 12 months, the company’s sales fell off dramatically because gun enthusiasts were not concerned that any gun control legislation would pass during the Trump era, according to USA Today.
A pattern of declining sales during Republican administrations and increased demand for guns during Democratic administrations has long been observed, though there are no federal statistics for gun sales.
A private equity firm acquired Remington Outdoor in 2007. According to the New York Times, at that time, the demand for guns was high, and the gunmaker flourished. Remington took a hit in 2012, when the gunman in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting was found to have used a Remington AR-15-style rifle, according to the Times, and families of the victims sued the company. Some investors then divested, according to the Times, before sales once again boomed as buyers fretted about the possibility of gun control measures in the wake of the tragedy.
According to the Times, once Trump was elected, Remington’s sales decreased by more than 27 percent—the “Trump slump.” It will continue to operate while under bankruptcy protection.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Sun Dec 11 16:56:32 PST 2016
USPS, UPS, and FedEx have all announced their upcoming 2017 price increases. Learn what this means for you.
The post USPS, UPS and FedEx Announce Price Increases for 2017 appeared first on Virtual Post Mail.
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 15:08:04 PDT 2018
Panicked by recent results and fearing another national embarrassment, Republicans are spending big in hopes of holding on to a district Donald Trump won in a landslide. Sound familiar? It should. After high-profile losses in Alabama and Pennsylvania, Republicans are now desperate to win next month’s special election in Arizona.
According to Politico, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC are spending a combined $270,000 in Arizona in support of Debbie Lesko, the former state senator running to fill the House seat that opened up when GOP Rep. Trent Franks resigned from Congress in disgrace late last year. That’s on top of the roughly $280,000 the Republican National Committee has already reported spending on field operations on Lesko’s behalf. Add it all up, and that’s more than a half-million dollars in a district that would be well under the radar in any normal year.
This is the first time Democrats have even bothered to field a candidate in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District since 2012, when their nominee got blown out by Franks in the first election after the state’s congressional map was redrawn. Franks had already served five terms in Congress, and he went on to win his second and third in his new district by even wider margins over third-party candidates. The district, which includes a mix of small towns and western Phoenix suburbs in Maricopa County, also went for Trump by 21 percentage points in 2016 and by 25 percentage points for Mitt Romney four years before that. It has nearly 80,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, good for about a 17-point edge for the GOP.
Politico reports that GOP officials claim that the recent spending is merely “precautionary” and that “they fully expect to prevail” in the April 24 special election, but that can be true and still be remarkable. In a vacuum, this seat would be considered safe, even after Franks’ scandal. That Republicans feel the need to spend so much and so early in the race is one more sign of just how nervous they are about a blue wave this November.
But no race happens in a vacuum. The special election will be held a little more than a month after Conor Lamb flipped a GOP congressional seat in western Pennsylvania, and a little more than four after Doug Jones did the same to a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. On paper, neither of those races should have been competitive either. And like in Pennsylvania, where Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a local newspaper reported that he had encouraged a woman he had an affair with to have an abortion, and in Alabama, where Moore was credibly accused of being a child sex predator by multiple women, this special election comes with a sex scandal of its own, one that qualifies as salacious even in an era where porn stars—plural—are claiming to have slept with the man now in the Oval Office. Franks resigned after it became public that he offered a female employee $5 million to have his baby—and that woman apparently believed Franks wanted to impregnate her the old fashion way.
What followed was a second sex scandal in the primary to replace Franks. The co-favorite for the Republican nomination, Steve Montenegro, a minister and recent state senator, had the backing of both Franks and disgraced-in-his-own-way Joe Arpaio. But his campaign was derailed in the final days of the primary when he was forced to admit to sexting with a junior staffer who worked in his state office. Lesko won, but not before she got hit with a scandal of her own, when one of her then-challengers filed a campaign finance complaint alleging she had moved money between her state Senate campaign account and a super PAC.
Still, there’s good reason to doubt that Democrat Hiral Tipirneni will pull off the upset in Arizona. Polling has been hard to come by, but a survey from the start of this month found Lesko up 14 percentage points on Tipirneni, 48 percent to 34 percent. The Democratic firm that conducted it, Lake Research Partners, concluded that Tipirneni would need double-digit support from registered Republicans to win next month. Meanwhile, the nonpartisan handicappers reworked their predictions following Pennsylvania, but they still expect the Arizona seat to stay red.
Tipirneni, an emergency room physician, has not yet found a way to turn on the small-donor spigot from the grass-roots left or the anti-Trump resistance that fueled both Lamb and Jones’ upset victories. At last count, she’d raised only about $300,000—Lamb brought in more than $3.8 million; Jones nearly $22 million in his statewide race—though she does have more cash on hand than Lesko.
Like Lamb, Tipirneni proudly labels herself a moderate, but she’s had less success than he did walking that fine line in her conservative-leaning district. Lamb, for example, offered a general defense of Obamacare, but rarely went into specifics; Tipirneni backs a public option. Lamb’s first campaign ad showed a photo of him at a gun range and declared, “he still loves to shoot”; Tipirneni talks about the “devastating loss of life from gun violence” that she’s seen firsthand in the ER. And then there’s Trump’s beloved border wall: Tipirneni, like Lamb, is against it, but in Arizona, unlike Pennsylvania, the issue of whether to build it takes center stage.
For Republicans, the race offers a chance to dent the narrative that Democrats can win anywhere they want in November. Arizona will be the only federal race on the ballot in April and the last special election until August. For Democrats, who have already demonstrated they can win in western Pennsylvania and Alabama, it’s not exactly imperative. Even if they can’t pick off another GOP seat next month, keeping the Arizona race close and forcing Republicans to open their wallets should count as a victory.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 19:35:14 PDT 2018
Austin bomber Mark Anthony Conditt made a 25-minute video confessing to the string of deadly explosive attacks that terrorized the city for weeks, police announced Wednesday.
The 23-year-old made the recording on his phone Tuesday night as police were closing in on him. Acting Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said Conditt appeared to be aware that his time was limited while making the recording, which outlined how he built the bombs. “It was a confession. He didn’t call it one. But he was admitting to what he had done,” Manley said.
While Conditt gave more context in the recording to how he orchestrated the serial bombing attacks, he did not give a motive for the attacks that began with a package bomb left on the doorstep of an Austin home on March 2nd. Conditt did not mention any terror or hate groups on the video.”It is the outcry of a very challenged young man talking about challenges in his life that led him to this point,” Manley said. “I know everybody is interested in a motive and understanding why. And we’re never going to be able to put a (rationale) behind these acts.”
More than 500 local, state, and federal law enforcement were involved in tracking Conditt down. Authorities got a break in the case when Conditt was picked up on surveillance video dropping off a package bomb at FedEx and were able to track him to a motel Tuesday night. When officers approached his car, he detonated the bomb that killed him.
Post Office Recurring Deposit Scheme: Interest Rates, Maturity Calculator, Premature Withdrawal Rules
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Wed Jan 11 21:20:54 PST 2017
Post Office Recurring Deposit (PORD) Scheme is a systematic savings plan, where you can deposit your money for a definite time period and earn interest on that. You need to invest an equal amount of sum for a minimum period of 60 months. 5 years post office recurring deposit scheme allows you to earn fixed yet guaranteed interest on your investment. Though banks also offer recurring deposit accounts, however, Post Office RD is a more popular saving tool in rural and suburban areas. The interest is compounded quarterly in a PORD account. As a result, you get a higher interest rate
by Dana Gold @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 11:29:21 PDT 2018
One might expect the Trump administration’s escalating chaos to prompt more federal employees to blow the whistle on illegality and abuses, rather than waiting for Twitter-firings or special counsel Robert Mueller’s advancing probe. But widespread awareness of Trump’s eagerness to enforce nondisclosure agreements to silence unwanted speech, from Stormy Daniels to Steve Bannon, is one likely reason more workers are not speaking out.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus reported that Trump had senior White House staff members sign lifetime nondisclosure agreements barring them from revealing “confidential” information from their time in government.
This is not idle background noise. In January, the president’s personal lawyer sent former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon a cease-and-desist letter after Bannon told Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff that he viewed the actions of Trump’s son, Donald Jr., to be “treasonous.” This cease-and-desist was only one of the Trump administration’s most overt efforts to curtail the speech of federal employees.
There have also been repeated efforts within federal agencies to chill employee speech, including increased investigations against “leakers” and mandatory agency “anti-leak” trainings. Other efforts, like the NDAs, illegally violate laws that supersede gags on employees’ rights to blow the whistle.
The Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, the National Park Service, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency have sought to ban employees from making statements or providing documents to the public or journalists. Last fall, the EPA barred three of its scientists from speaking at a press conference and workshop about the effects of climate change on the health of the Narragansett Bay. At the end of 2017, the Washington Post reported that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials implemented a “word ban” allegedly prohibiting policy analysts from using certain terms, including “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based,” in budget documents given to the CDC’s partner organizations and to Congress. (The agency denied the accusations.) Most recently, the Department of Justice issued a memo prohibiting its employees from communicating with members of Congress or their staff without first consulting with the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
These gags are shameless legal bluffs. Without explicit reference to the primacy of employees’ whistleblower protections, none are legal or appropriate.
In 1978, 1989, 1994, and 2012, Congress unanimously affirmed or reaffirmed civil servants’ right to report information they reasonably believe shows mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, or a violation of any law, rule, or regulation.
Anti-gag laws have an even deeper mandate. Federal law requires that any nondisclosure policies, forms, or agreements include explicit language noting that an employee’s statutory right to blow the whistle supersedes any free speech restrictions. Without that language, any federal activities to implement or enforce gags are illegal spending for illegal censorship.
The Lloyd–La Follette Act of 1912 also outlaws denial or interference with the right of employees to communicate with Congress, and appropriations law long has required future salary forfeiture for violators. If the rule of law matters, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memo barring employees’ communication with Congress and President Trump’s forcing his staff to sign an NDA also barring such communication, should trigger the loss of both their salaries.
Despite being unenforceable and illegal, these suppressive acts create a profound chilling effect on federal employees’ speech, counter to the intent and letter of the nation’s whistleblower protection laws.
Any effort to chill government employees from speaking hampers Congress’ ability to engage in oversight and threatens citizens’ right to know about abuses of power that betray the public trust. The administration must clarify that legal whistleblower rights trump its threats. Failure to do so will sow repressive confusion among federal agency employees about their free speech rights. It could also silence those employees who might otherwise choose to blow the whistle. Both outcomes are unacceptable.
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Wed Jan 11 21:52:03 PST 2017
PPF account in post office is a very popular savings scheme. This is a good long term investment that can give you financial security even after retirement. Many people choose public provident fund scheme due to its higher interest rate and tax saving nature. Post office PPF account is one of the best tax saving instrument where the maturity amount is also tax free. You can invest for longer time period of 15 years and above. So if you are employed in private sector and are not backed by any pension facility, then opening a PPF account is surely a wise decision. In this article
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 15:04:07 PDT 2018
A lot will need to go right for Democrats to flip a U.S. Senate seat this fall in Mississippi. Already, though, a few things are starting to break their way.
On Wednesday, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant officially named Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state’s agriculture and commerce commissioner, to replace Sen. Thad Cochran, whose pending retirement next month for health reasons set this particular chain of events in motion. Hyde-Smith will become the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress, serving as an interim senator until voters decide this fall who will finish the remaining two-plus years on Cochran’s term. Hyde-Smith says she plans to run in that special election, and that’s where things get dicey for Republicans. The White House reportedly opposed her selection, meaning Donald Trump might not help sort out what could be a messy intra-party fight that stands to benefit Democrats.
The special election will take place alongside the November midterms, but there won’t be any primaries to winnow the field before Election Day. Instead, all of the candidates in the special election will be on the same ballot, which means multiple Republican candidates could split the conservative vote. In a quirk that could complicate things for the GOP, the ballots themselves won’t list a candidate’s party affiliation, which will make it difficult for some people to vote their preferred party line. And, one more twist, if no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 6 special election, the top two finishers, regardless of party, would proceed to a runoff the following month.
Those aren’t theoretical problems for the GOP, either. Chris McDaniel, a state senator and long-time GOP gadfly, jumped into the race last week. McDaniel is a proud Tea Party type who narrowly lost a nasty primary run-off against Cochran four years ago, and he still has plenty of conservative hardliners as friends and more than a few establishment enemies as a result.
McDaniel’s presence in the race makes a runoff far more likely. Republican leaders fear that his penchant for saying controversial things and alienating those in his own party means that, if he does make the run-off and is up against a centrist Democrat, it could lead to a repeat of Alabama, where Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in a special election last year. (Unlike Moore, McDaniel has not been accused of being a child predator; like Moore, he has a long history of incendiary remarks.)
The White House and Mitch McConnell were so wary of this possibility that they urged Bryant, who will soon be term-limited out of office, to appoint himself to the Senate, believing he could dispatch McDaniel in the special election without too much trouble. Bryant rebuffed those requests and instead set off looking for someone else who could beat McDaniel. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann were believed to be on his short list, but ultimately the governor went with the lesser-known Hyde-Smith.
Just last week, Bryant promised to campaign hard for whoever he appointed, and against McDaniel in the special election, and he suggested that Donald Trump would likely do the same. But seeing the president on the stump in Mississippi no longer looks so likely. According to the New York Times, the White House urged Bryant not to go through with selecting Hyde-Smith, and according to Politico and CNN, they went as far as to suggest that Trump may sit out the special election rather than risk backing another special-election loser.
The White House’s concern, shared by many in the GOP establishment, is that Hyde-Smith is ill-suited for a campaign against McDaniel, given she served in the state senate as Democrat before switching parties in 2010. McDaniel seems to agree. He issued a statement after Bryant’s announcement saying that Mississippi voters will now have a choice “from among the Democratic candidates or they can vote for a lifelong conservative Republican.”
So where does this leave Democrats? For starters, still looking for the right candidate to thread this particular needle. They’ll want to consolidate around a single one in hopes of pushing him or her into a runoff against whichever Republican survives what is sure to be a bruising campaign. Even then, though, it will remain an uphill battle. The state went for Trump by 18 points in 2016, hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter, and hasn’t sent one to the Senate since the 1980s. Plenty more will need to break Democrats’ way for them to pull off this surprise. More striking, though, is just how many things already have.
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 15:34:25 PDT 2018
The Minnesota Star-Tribune has the scoop about a driver’s test gone very wrong in Buffalo, Minnesota, a town of 15,000 some 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis:
The 17-year-old from Monticello inadvertently put the 2014 Chevy Equinox in drive instead of reverse as the test began about 2 p.m. bringing the test to a halt.
When she stepped on the accelerator, the vehicle lurched forward, jumped the curb and plowed through the front of the station in a strip mall on 1st Avenue S., said Buffalo Police Chief Pat Budke.
That’s “station” as in “driver’s license exam station,” as in the very first thing this unfortunate teenager did during her driver’s test was crash through the wall of the office where she had just arrived to take her driver’s test.
Her examiner, a 60-year-old woman, was taken for treatment, but police described her injuries as “non-life threatening” and posted the funny picture above online, so we assume everything is OK. The crazy-drivin’ teen was not injured.
In conversation with… Noah Raford, chief operating officer and futurist in chief of the Dubai Future Foundation
by Danny Buerkli @ Centre for Public Impact
Tue Nov 07 21:49:35 PST 2017
So, what does a ‘Futurist in Chief’ do all day? Noah Raford tells us about his role looking up to 50 years in the future as part of his role with the Dubai Future Foundation. He sits down with CPI’s Danny Buerkli to discuss how he identifies emerging opportunities and trends, and work with partners […]
by Sreekanth Reddy @ ReLakhs.com
Thu Mar 22 04:25:39 PDT 2018
Life is an unpredictable journey. It can take sharp, fatal turn at moments, which are capable of leaving one physically, mentally, emotionally and financially bruised. Many of us ignore buying a personal Health Insurance plan (Mediclaim). Most of us also think that the mediclaim coverage provided by the employer (if salaried) is sufficient enough to […]
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 14:41:54 PDT 2018
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday added nine congressional candidates to its Red to Blue program, highlighting those the party believes are particularly well-suited to flip high-priority House seats this fall. The selections send a clear signal to party allies and donors where to focus their time and money in the midterms, and the chosen candidates will also get an additional boost from the DCCC in the form of training and strategic guidance. It’s not an official endorsement, mind you, but it’s close.
Among the new additions: Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Colin Allred of Texas, who were the first black candidates to make the cut this cycle; Betsy Londrigan of Illinois and Nancy Soderberg of Florida, who along with Underwood were among five women in this new crop; and Randy Bryce of Wisconsin, the mustachioed steelworker who has become a progressive darling in his bid to unseat House Speaker Paul Ryan.
But there was one notable name missing: Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, the Houston attorney running to unseat GOP Rep. John Culberson in Texas.
Her absence was most striking not because Culberson appears vulnerable, although he does. And not because Fletcher already has the support of a handful of establishment-friendly Democratic groups like EMILY’s List, although she does. But instead because the DCCC already made a show of opposing the candidate Fletcher needs to beat in a May runoff to win the Democratic nomination: Laura Moser, an anti-Trump activist and progressive journalist (who has written for Slate, among other national outlets).
The DCCC made it clear in the lead-up to this month’s Texas primary that it is no fan of Moser. In hopes of knocking her out of the race early, the group dumped its opposition research file calling her a “Washington insider.” While the DCCC says the decision had nothing to do with ideology, its stated case against Moser was rather weak, based largely on a joke she once made in print while living in Washington about not wanting to move to a rural Texas town that isn’t even in the district she is running in.* Regardless, it was nonetheless a remarkably aggressive attack on a fellow Democrat made all the more so by the fact the group published the memo on its own instead of trying to launder it through a third-party group or the press. And yet, the DCCC has so far decided against offering Fletcher additional help.
That could be because its anti-Moser effort seemed to backfire, somewhat spectacularly. According to Moser’s campaign, she raised more than $100,000 in the week following the DCCC attack, a significant slice of which came from small donors outside of her district. Our Revolution, an outside group aligned closely with Bernie Sanders, jumped to her defense with a formal endorsement, and other progressives rallied behind her as well. Moser went on to clinch a spot in the runoff, finishing 5 points back of Fletcher but ahead of a pair of other serious challengers by that same margin or more.
Fletcher’s absence was made even more conspicuous because two of the new Red to Blue additions are also Texans who need to win runoffs next month: Allred, a former NFL football player turned civil rights attorney, and Gina Ortiz Jones, a retired Air Force intelligence officer who worked as an Obama trade official. Others on the list, like Bryce, will also have to defeat a Democrat before they can move on to a general election against a Republican incumbent.
The omission, then, appears to be a quiet but clear sign that the DCCC wants to back away quietly from Moser’s race, at least for the time being. It also suggests the Democratic establishment is still grappling with how to harness the anti-Trump energy of its grassroots without angering the base, and helping the candidates they’re trying to hurt.
Meanwhile, the candidates who were passed over by the DCCC are trying to catch the same anti-establishment lightning in a bottle that Moser did. Lillian Salerno, who is facing off against Allred in a Texas runoff, and Cathy Myers, who has largely been overlooked in Wisconsin in favor of Bryce, each sent out fundraising requests highlighting the DCCC’s endorsements. Meanwhile, Rick Treviño, who is up against Jones in a Texas runoff of his own, sounded downright thrilled that the move would bolster his outsider bona fides.
Salerno and Myers even went one step further and accused the DCCC of sexism. “Texas hasn’t elected a new woman to Congress in twenty-two years, and we’re not taking it anymore,” Salerno said in a statement. “The DCCC would do well to remember: Don’t mess with Texas women.” Myers struck a similar note: “[We] will not be deterred by the DCCC’s latest attempt to silence a Democratic woman.”
The criticism that House Democrats are favoring men over women is hard to square with the actual numbers. Five of the nine new additions to the program were female candidates, and the overall list now includes 18 women and 15 men. Likewise, Jones made the DCCC cut, and she is up against a male candidate in Treviño.
More likely, the DCCC is simply backing candidates who are already running downhill. Bryce has an endorsement from Sanders and has raised more than $1.2 million, while Allred beat Salerno by a 2-to-1 margin in the primary and has the support of Julián Castro and Wendy Davis. Gender may have played a role in why both Allred and Bryce have gained more traction than their female opponents, but there’s no denying the two men were already the favorites before the DCCC got involved. (Treviño, like Moser, has an endorsement from Our Revolution, though he finished 24 points behind Jones in the primary and has raised only a fraction of the cash.)
Where does this leave House Democrats back in Washington? Still trying to sort out how best to engineer victory for their preferred candidates. The DCCC promised it would make “more targeted and frequent additions to the Red to Blue program” than it has in years past, but it’s not clear whether the party will stick to backing front-runners, or if it will make some Moser-like gambles to clear the field. In California, where the crowded primaries are threatening to cost the party winnable seats, the right move could be the difference between winning and losing the House.
Correction, March 24, 2018: An earlier version of this post misstated that the DCCC “made it clear” it believes Moser is too far left to win in a general election. The group says the decision had nothing to do with ideology.
by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 06:41:36 PDT 2018
It’s awfully fitting that John Bolton has been named national security adviser just a few days after the 15th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. Bolton was one of the staunchest advocates for the war within the George W. Bush administration, and, as under secretary of state for Arms Control and International Security, one of the most prominent voices making the case that Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction. That someone with Bolton’s dangerous views and unimpressive record has been appointed to this critical position is not only a galling next turn in the increasingly frightening Trump years, but also the latest sign of a national failure to grapple with the legacy of the Bush years.
As the Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon wrote in a widely-read New York Times op-ed this week, Americans have been able to comfort themselves over the last 15 years with the notion that the war was a “blunder” or “mistake” rather than an immoral act or crime. (Though, as my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted, 43 percent of Americans, like Bolton, don’t even think it was a mistake.) Certainly, the central architects and advocates of the war have paid little professional price for its consequences.
Bolton has continued to publicly expound on international affairs, not just as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and from his perch at Fox News, but in the pages of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Often, despite the dismal results of preemptive war in Iraq, he has been invited by these outlets to make the case for a similar course of action in Iran and North Korea—policies he is now in a position to set in motion.
Bolton’s ascension to his new position comes as part of a larger reshuffling of Donald Trump’s national security team that includes Gina Haspel—who oversaw a black site in Thailand and advocated destroying video evidence of torture—being named as the president’s choice to run the CIA. When Haspel was named deputy director in February, the Times gently described it as a sign that “the agency is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.”
In 2015, an Amnesty International report accused Barack Obama, who, once elected, was generally reluctant to “refight old arguments” about what had occurred under his predecessor, of effectively granting impunity to practitioners of torture. The report warned that this the lack of legal consequences, or the kind of truth and reconciliation process used by other countries to address past human rights abuses, “not only leaves the USA in serious violation of its international legal obligations, it increases the risk that history will repeat itself when a different president again deems the circumstances warrant resort[ing] to torture, enforced disappearance, abductions or other human rights violations.” Today, 48 percent of Americans believe there are circumstances where the use of torture is justified.
As far as we know, techniques like waterboarding have not returned under Trump, despite his campaign pledges to bring them back. And while Trump announced during his state of the union that he would be keeping the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay open and has effectively halted detainee transfers out, no new inmates have been sent there. In both cases, this may have quite a bit to do with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who famously talked Trump out of the idea that torture works with a quip about beer and cigarettes. But at this rate, who would put money on Mattis remaining in his post indefinitely? And while recently passed legislation would make torture legally tricky to reinstate, it’s not as if these techniques were entirely legal before. If you can oversee torture and still be named director of the CIA one day, why would anyone fear the consequences, either legal or professional, of doing the same now?
In 2008, Americans elected a president who ran on a platform of opposing the Iraq war, Guantanamo, and the use of torture. In 2016, they elected one who distinguished himself from his Republican rivals by describing the Iraq war as a blunder and Bush’s foreign policy as catastrophic. And yet, this month’s appointments suggest we haven’t even begun to reckon with what happened during those years.
by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 09:42:40 PDT 2018
Facebook is continuing its apology tour for its “breach of trust” with full page ads in several U.S. and British newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Observer, and Sunday Times, among others. The message? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is sorry.
“You may have heard about a quiz app built by a university researcher that leaked Facebook data of millions of people in 2014,” noted the ads signed by Zuckerberg. “This was a breach of trust, and I’m sorry we didn’t do more at the time. We’re now taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The plain ad that largely consists of text on a white background and a tiny Facebook logo notes that “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.” Moving forward, Zuckerberg says Facebook is now “limiting the data apps get” and was also “investigating every single app that had access to large amounts of data before we fixed this.”
The scandal involving Cambridge Analytica plunged Facebook into crisis and the company lost more than $50 billion in market value since the allegations. But, as Slate’s April Glaser wrote on Friday, there are signs that the worst may be over for the firm. “While public scrutiny of the major internet companies has grown steadily over the past two years, it’s unclear whether this past week’s revelations will leave an indelible mark in anyone’s memory—or more importantly, lead to more regulations of or substantive new policies at Facebook,” wrote Glaser.
One bit of irony is that by placing the full page ad in the Observer, which is published by the Guardian, Facebook is essentially giving money to the company it had threatened to sue just as it was about to publish its story on Cambridge Analytica. Threatening to sue one of the biggest newspapers in England was “not our wisest move,” noted Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 17:11:33 PDT 2018
President Trump appears to contemplating a new ploy to get his pet wall built—have the military pay for it. Since Trump is a walking, talking Ponzi scheme of a man, his willingness to fudge the numbers to get his way shortly after he signed a $1.3 trillion budget shouldn’t come as surprise. Trump’s frustration with the spending bill is that it basically stiffed him on the “big, beautiful wall” that he promised voters in 2016. The Republican-led Congress only doled out $1.6 billion for the wall. The Trump administration was asking for $25 billion.
To make matters worse for the wall, most of that billion-plus is earmarked for fencing and levees, which is not exactly the red meat Trump delivered on the campaign trail. “Only $641 million is earmarked for new primary fencing in areas that currently have no barriers, and most of the money can be spent only on ‘operationally effective designs’ that were already deployed as of last May,” the Washington Post reports. “That means the prototype designs the Trump administration is exploring cannot be built, except along a stretch of the border near San Diego where a barrier is already in place.”
Almost completely hamstrung on his most high-profile and divisive campaign promise, Trump has turned to the Pentagon to fill the gaps. The Post reports Trump has casually suggested to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and House Speaker Paul Ryan that maybe, just maybe the military could build him a wall because not having one is a “national security” risk. “The Pentagon has plenty of money, but reprogramming it for a wall would require votes in Congress that the president does not seem to have,” the Post notes. “Taking money from the 2018 budget for the wall would require an act of Congress, a senior Pentagon official said. To find the money in the 2019 defense budget, Trump would have to submit a budget amendment that would require 60 votes in the Senate, the official said.”
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 12:12:44 PDT 2018
So many Donald Trump lawyers in the news! What’s the deal? What do they all do? Let’s run it down.
• Jay Sekulow and friends. An experienced appellate litigator who has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of conservative causes, Sekulow is also a known hustler whose side gigs include radio hosting and running nonprofit organizations that pay him and his family members huge salaries. He represents Trump on Russia and Mueller matters as well. It seems his main role is as a spokesman and media surrogate, though the Daily Beast and Politico have reported that four attorneys who’ve been involved in Sekulow’s activist work are helping him on the Trump case, which could suggest more substantive contributions, though only one of the four appears to have a background in criminal work.
• Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing. White-collar defense attorneys and former federal prosecutors who are married and own a firm together. Sekulow announced March 19 that diGenova had been hired to become part of Trump’s Mueller defense team, perhaps because POTUS saw him on Fox News claiming that the entire Russia investigation is a frame-up, and Toensing was reportedly set to come on board as well. But this weekend Sekulow backtracked, explaining that diGenova and Toensing would not be able to work on the Russia case because of the potential conflicts of interest created by their firm’s past work representing other Mueller witnesses. CNN adds, for what it’s worth, that its sources say “the President … was not convinced [diGenova and Toensing] are right for the legal jobs” and that diGenova was hired “to engage with the media,” so it’s not clear how much nuts-and-bolts work they would have actually ended up doing anyway.
• Ty Cobb. Cobb is also a veteran white-collar defense lawyer who’s working exclusively on the Mueller case. He’s employed by the White House, though, rather than Trump personally, which means his professional obligation is to defend the legal prerogatives of the executive branch rather than to worry about Trump’s potential criminal liability as an individual. (Recall that the Mueller investigation concerns a number of events that took place before Trump was inaugurated.) Cobb also appears to be handling the responses of other White House staffers to Mueller’s inquiries.
• Don McGahn. He’s the head of the White House Counsel’s Office, so his orientation is the same as Cobb’s, but he doesn’t work exclusively on Mueller issues because he’s also responsible for jobs like reviewing legislation and overseeing the nomination of judges. McGahn reportedly talked Trump out of firing Mueller in June.
• Marc Kasowitz. Kasowitz was Trump’s lead lawyer on Mueller matters but was demoted after being caught calling a random (male) stranger a “bitch” in a threatening late-night email. He still represents Trump in the suit brought by Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her and then sued for defamation when Trump said that she (and the rest of his accusers) were fabricating their stories. There have been reports that Kasowitz is in line to resume his role in the Mueller case now that Dowd is gone; as Ian Millhiser notes, though, Kasowitz’s career has largely involved corporate financial litigation, not criminal defense.
• Michael Cohen. The longtime top legal figure at the Trump Organization, Cohen has been in the news recently for his role in litigation involving Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who say they had sexual affairs with Trump while he was married to Melania Trump. Daniels said on 60 Minutes Sunday that she was threatened physically in 2011 by an individual who told her not to make her alleged affair with Trump public; she and her new lawyer also say that she felt “intimidated” by Cohen into signing recent statements recanting her past claims to the affair. (Cohen denies ever threatening Daniels or employing anyone to do so.) A similar accusation has been made by McDougal, a former Playboy model who says Cohen collaborated with her former lawyer to convince her to sign a nondisclosure agreement under false pretenses.
• Jill Martin. A Trump Organization lawyer whose name appears on paperwork related to the Daniels case, which is noteworthy because Cohen has claimed that “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford.”
Donald Trump is surrounded by an impressive number of attorneys whose jobs consist largely of defending him from the consequences of reckless personal and professional activities that date back more than a decade. He nonetheless regularly still behaves in ways that put him at further legal risk. His attempt to hire diGenova on the basis of bombastic Fox News appearances, and his apparent endorsement of Cohen’s aggressive legal response to Stormy Daniels, suggest moreover that Trump wants his lawyers to be reckless too. It’s a strategy that has, frankly, worked fine for him so far—he is, after all, the president. Some recent reports say this attitude is making it hard for him to find a top-flight replacement for Dowd; Trump currently doesn’t appear to have a qualified white-collar-crime attorney working for him in a regular capacity despite being the main subject of the highest-profile criminal investigation in the world. Whether this cavalier approach will ever precipitate a comeuppance is, really, the big question not just of Trump’s legal position but of his entire life.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Wed Mar 17 19:08:47 PDT 2010
Starting today, all postal mail PDF files you download from your mailbox are now searchable! You can now store all your downloaded PDF files on your computer and search through them like you would a normal Microsoft Word document. See how you can take advantage of this.
Austin Chief Baffled by What Could’ve Motivated White Right-Wing Survivalist Bomber to Kill Two Black People
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 09:45:38 PDT 2018
Austin police chief Brian Manley told reporters Wednesday that serial bomber Mark Conditt recorded a 25-minute video confession on Tuesday while being pursued by police. (Conditt died before being apprehended when an apparently self-detonated bomb went off in his car.) Manley’s comments about Conditt’s motive were curious:
I know everybody is interested in a motive and understanding why. And we’re never going to be able to put a ration behind these acts. He does not at all mention anything about terrorism nor does he mention anything about hate. But instead, it is the outcry of a very challenged young man, talking about challenges in his personal life that led him to this point.
Here’s some of what’s been reported about Conditt:
• He participated in what an acquaintance described to BuzzFeed as a Christian survivalist youth group for home-schooled children whose members carried knives and practiced archery and shooting. The group was reputedly called “Righteous Invasion of Truth,” whose acronym is RIOT.
• He stated in a blog post that gay marriage should be illegal because homosexuality, like bestiality and pedophilia, is “not natural.” Wrote Conditt: “I do not believe it is proper to pass laws stating that homosexuals have ‘rights.’”
• Another individual who knew him told the Austin American-Statesman that he was lonely, argumentative, and “rough around the edges.”
• The first two individuals targeted by his bombs were black—39-year-old Anthony Stephan House and 17-year-old Draylen Mason. (Both died.)
This isn’t to say Conditt’s case is open-and-shut or doesn’t require further investigation. A Latina woman was injured by another bomb, but authorities say she may not have been the one targeted by it. Two white men were injured by a bomb Conditt apparently placed outdoors. And we don’t yet know the intended destination of the device that exploded at a FedEx shipping center or another that was found and disposed of in a controlled detonation at a different FedEx facility. But should it really be impossible for a law enforcement official in 2018 to imagine that violence committed by a young, angry white man—one who was apparently trained to prepare for cataclysmic events by adults in a weapons-fixated, insular right-wing community—might speak to issues beyond his personal life alone?
The first depositors at the New York Postal Savings Bank. Once upon a time, in a not-so-far-away land, working people were able to safely deposit and withdraw their hard-earned dollars, with no excessive fees or fuss. Everyone had access to safe savings accounts, regardless of how much money they made or where they lived.
by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Tue Nov 14 09:04:01 PST 2017
Delegates to the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention unanimously passed Resolution 46 to “Support Postal Financial Services and Postal Banking.” The resolution states that “the AFL-CIO endorses and supports the ‘Campaign for Postal Banking,’ including the ongoing efforts to compel the Postal Service to provide basic financial services such as paycheck cashing and electronic funds transfer, as […]
Interest Rates of Small Saving Schemes w.e.f. 1.4.2017. PPF, Sukanya Smariddhi Account, MIS, RD, Time Deposits, NSC....
by Nilesh Patel @ FH Blog
Thu Mar 22 20:30:56 PDT 2018
With every Union Budget, the average tax-payer looks at different amendments in the income tax slab rates or other exemptions and deductions. This year’s budget was no different. Though there was no change in the income tax slab rate (which happened in the last budget), there were various proposals which impact your taxes. Do you […]
by Dahlia Lithwick @ Slate Articles
Sat Mar 24 15:51:58 PDT 2018
Since it’s very hard to hate child victims of school shootings, the best available critique that could be mustered for Saturday’s March for Our Lives was the familiar refrain that “these children are puppets.” What began in the days immediately after the shootings as a widespread internet claim that the victims were paid crisis actors morphed rapidly into the allegation that student leader David Hogg had been “coached” on what to say during his TV interviews. That was followed by former Rep. Jack Kingston demanding on CNN, “Do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” CNN was accused, falsely as it turned out, of “scripting” student questions during a town hall. On Saturday, the NRA said on Facebook, “Today’s protests aren’t spontaneous. Gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites are manipulating and exploiting children as part of their plan to DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones.”
The notion that the whole operation was choreographed by George Soros and Hollywood meant that if, as I did, you watched Saturday’s event on Facebook Live, you were barraged by comments that the entire event was “fake,” and that the sheep-like students had been unwittingly conscripted into a vicious liberal fake media stunt.
If this had been tightly scripted, made-for-TV viewing it’s unlikely Samantha Fuentes, one of the Parkland survivors— overcome with emotion and nerves—would have stopped halfway through her poem, titled “Enough,” to throw up behind the podium. She then managed to finish the poem and stick the landing by grinning into her microphone that “I just threw up on international television, and it feels great!”
Were it all made for TV, the unannounced and uncomfortable 4 minutes and 25 seconds of silence led by Emma González as tears dripped down her face would have been cut after a half-minute.* It took all those stretched-out moments of awkward silence for the crowd to even register what was happening.
And had it been scripted by Soros, these students wouldn’t have been onstage barefaced, scuffed, and in pain. “There might be musicians of this stage, but this is not Coachella. We might have movie stars in the crowd … but this is not the Oscars. … This is real life,” said Parkland survivor Ryan Deitsch. “People have said that I am too young to have these thoughts on my own,” added 11-year-old Naomi Wadler of Virginia. “People have said that I am a tool of some nameless adult. It is not true.”
We may now be living through a reality-show presidency, but American high schoolers don’t watch much TV. They Instagram and Snapchat, watch Netflix and YouTube. Fifty percent of American millennials don’t watch any television at all. Members of Generation Z—the kids who organized the rally Saturday in Washington D.C.—watch even less. One study shows only about 36 percent of them watch traditional programs. That means these kids aren’t influenced by standard reality television tropes and probably explains why they would not bother to perform them, as they’ve been accused of doing.
What we saw on Saturday afternoon in Washington, D.C., was stunningly original media, as far removed from the hackneyed conventions and archetypes of cable television as you could imagine. The irony is that great masses of adults who have been brainwashed by television believe that young people behaving like genuine young people can only have been scripted and staged. What seems “real” these days is a president with handwritten instructions telling him to remember to say “I hear you.” Spontaneous outpourings of grief or even uncomfortably long silences must be fake and staged, because the sort of emotional behavior that currently resonates as authentic is a person raving about the “WITCH HUNT!” against him.
If you want to understand the way TV flattens real people into angry and irrational caricatures, watch the NRA’s Dana Loesch.
Now contrast Loesch with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s Sarah Chadwick and ask yourself who’s genuine and who’s reading hackneyed lines for a paycheck.
The irony of the not-made-for-TV nature of the March for Our Lives is that the president and Fox News and Conspiracy Television Incorporated would in fact like nothing better than to brainwash an entire generation of young people. Their entire future depends on ensuring that the generation that comes after Jeanine Pirro and Alex Jones consumes canned television narratives uncritically. The whole project of Trumpism demands that young people parrot received truths about the immutability of American exceptionalism and the fixed necessity of arming everyone, everywhere, always. The children who marched for their lives Saturday are only dismissed today as “sheeple” because they steadfastly refuse to sheeple along behind the desired shepherd.
Emma González’s extraordinary, uncomfortable, unexplained silence was one of the most transformational political moments of my lifetime precisely because it was impossible to understand in the moment what exactly was taking place. The TV script that’s narcotized us for decades tells us that women are all white and thin and paid for sex and children are silent and pure and built to deliver the punchline and the good guys with guns are expert marksmen who always save the day. For this generation of activists, all of that is as fake as the Love Boat was to their parents. And the script in which a “powerful” “sexually attractive” “billionaire” who is none of the above gets to make and destroy lives in 10-minute segments between commercials for stuff that nobody needs? That script is over, too. These children are awake. We can choose to meet them where they are or go back to sleep in front of the big screen.
Correction, March 24, 2018: An earlier version of this post misstated the length of Emma González’s silence. She stayed silent for 4 minutes and 25 seconds.
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 15:11:22 PDT 2018
It only took a week for Pennsylvania Rep. Ryan Costello, a moderate Republican representing suburban Philadelphia, to recognize the headwinds that Donald Trump’s presidency would create for him and members in similar districts.
“After the travel ban,” Costello said in an interview Tuesday. It wasn’t just the overwhelming protests at airports but all the protesters who gathered at his office, too. They were linking him, their Republican member of Congress, with the decisions of the new Republican president. He remembered “the expectation that, somehow, I needed to issue a statement within X number of minutes or somehow I was complicit, or whatever they were trying to accuse me of.”
“And what that told me,” he continued, “is that they were very engaged, and there was a lot of anger, and they were just waiting for Trump to do something so that they could express their outrage.”
Costello, a 41-year-old serving in only his second term, announced over the weekend that he will not run for re-election. What would have been a challenging race became near-impossible when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the state’s congressional lines, turning the state’s 6th Congressional District from an R+2 to a D+2 seat, and one that Hillary Clinton would have won by 10 percentage points in the 2016 election. Costello has called for the Pennsylvania judges behind the new map to be impeached.
Costello has explained his frustration with the congressional maps. I was more interested to hear a newly liberated Republican member of Congress, if we can call him that, talk about what it’s been like the last 15 turbulent months.
He gamely rattled off some of the difficult events from the past year: “Charlottesville. Firing of Comey. Then there’s been a couple of tweets. The Mika Brzezinski tweet was something. Didn’t he say Kirsten Gillibrand would do anything for money?” (He did.)
“Things like that were little bumps in the road,” he said. “It was stormy before there was Stormy.”
I asked him how Republican members in swing districts thread the needle when the president makes one of these remarks.
“There’s no threading the needle,” Costello said. “The more people think you’re trying to thread the needle, the more they’re actually going to be critical.”
Anytime he spoke out against one of the president’s comments, he knew exactly where the responses would fall: It would never be enough for Democrats and other truly anti-Trump constituents, but it might pass muster with the persuadable Republican or independents he needed to keep on board. “And when you do that, you need to be prepared for the really pro-Trump Republicans to come at you for not sticking up or defending the president.
“It’s a zero-sum calculation,” he said.
He emphasized throughout the interview that he had no complaints about the way he’s been treated by partisans on either end of the spectrum. “You’re fair game as an elected official,” he said. And though many members complain endlessly about reporters bugging them with questions about the latest Trump tweet, Costello understood why constituents would want to hear an on-the-record response from their representative in Washington. He didn’t enjoy the process, but he became more comfortable with it as time went on. He could give reporters his statement on whatever Trump had said, and then try to move on to discussing whatever policy he was working on.
Costello described the health care fight as the most “intense” experience of his brief political career, “period.” He remembered being one of the 15 or so members who would decide the fate of the House GOP health care bill and “getting it from all angles.” (He voted against it.) When you’re serving in a swing district in this environment, he said, “you have to know every single issue, and why you’re voting the way that you are, and to be able to explain it. Because you will get asked about it by everyone.”
“The way that these bots work”—“B-O-T-S,” he spelled it out to me, presumably referring to those deluging him with talking points—“and these Indivisible people, it’s not like they think for themself, they’re just told what to say,” he said. “They’ll take what some other expert told them to say, like Topher Spiro, or whatever that guy’s name is.” That is indeed the name of the excitable Center for American Progress policy fellow who built up quite the Twitter presence during the health care fight by imploring his followers to flood congressional phone lines.
“It’s not as though the criticisms or questions are illegitimate, but you are on the spot for answering them,” Costello said. “And so you have to be very well-prepared, and you just have to accept that no matter what you say, it’s not going to be good enough, the next criticism’s going to come at you. Which is fine.”
When you’re a Republican member of Congress, he said, all of the anger that anti-Trump voters feel toward the president is “directed at you.” You are the front lines facing those with whom Trump has never, and will never, personally interact. And though he believes that tax bill will still serve as a “net positive” for members in competitive districts—and he thinks that if any president besides Trump had signed that bill, it would have been much more popular—the tax bill alone will not save members from the anti-Trump energy. You have to “differentiate” yourself from the president on some issues.
“People in any district, but especially in [suburban] districts, they want to know that their member of Congress is looking out for them, not for any particular party,” he said. “It could be trying to get EPA funding for the remediation site, it could be a public transportation project.
It could be forcefully fighting for DACA, or pushing back against getting out of the Paris accord. Or trying to stabilize the health insurance marketplace.”
The last of those items, stabilizing individual health insurance markets, was something Costello had worked on last week. The bill that he co-authored with Sens. Lamar Alexander and Susan Collins, as well as Rep. Greg Walden, didn’t make it into the omnibus spending package as talks between Democrats and Republicans fell apart, largely over abortion politics. I asked him if that experience soured him on Congress and contributed to his decision to leave.
Not at all, he said.
“I wish more of my days were spent at press conferences talking about” health care policy, he said, “rather than talking about Stormy Daniels or whatever Trump said or tweeted. It’s the latter stuff that just wears on you.”
Centre for Public Impact
In the 19th century there was a movement to enable all citizens to be able to invest their savings in an accessible and secure institution.
Market regulator Sebi on Saturday proposed to bring more classes of financial instruments, including insurance policies and fixed deposits, under the ambit of asset categories that can be held in demat or electronic form.
What is the latest Post Office Small Saving Schemes Interest rates for Jan-March 2018? Let us see the interest rate for PPF, Sukanya Samriddhi, NSC, KVP Interest Rates Jan-March 2018.
by Sreekanth Reddy @ ReLakhs.com
Wed Mar 21 03:55:31 PDT 2018
Buying a property (home/plot/flat) is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. It involves a lot of money and is a serious money decision. It is an emotional one too! There can be instances where you had to sell a property due to various reasons. In case, you wish to sell an already constructed […]
by Fabio Chiusi @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 09:56:26 PDT 2018
It was the last day of Italy’s earthshaking electoral campaign. Rome’s Piazza del Popolo was crowded, and balloons were hovering over the heads of thousands of MoVimento 5 Stelle (Five Star Movement) supporters as their 31-year-old leader, Luigi Di Maio, took the stage. The anti-establishment party, born a decade earlier from the mind and blog of comedian Beppe Grillo, is no stranger to rallies. And yet, the tone on March 2 was entirely different from the gatherings the party was known for. Gone were the obscene insults to the Italian political establishment that used to gather disenfranchised, voiceless citizens by the thousands to hear the party’s message.
Di Maio chose to tell a different story instead. It was an exemplary tale of redemption and hope. That of a generation that grew up with the broken promise of a society in which “a degree would have been enough to get a job, make money, get a mortgage, and raise a family” and that instead had to face the nightmarish instability of “a world which we haven’t been prepared to tackle.” It is a generation, he said, that has a chance to finally gain power and change things for the better.
How? By voting for him, of course. And beyond that, by adopting the unique political stance that the Cinque Stelle represents. Di Maio touched upon it in his last words, accompanied by startup-like musical theme and scenery reminiscent of a TV show: “Connection is strength is our motto. Collective wisdom is our solace. And participation our stimulus.”
Two days after the rally, Italians finally got out to vote. For the Cinque Stelle it was no less than a triumph: a stunning 32.7 percent. More than the whole center-left coalition, previously in government, and just 4 percent shy of the center right. In Southern Italy, it was a landslide, with 50 percent voting for the upstarts. In recent days, it has appeared more likely that the upstart, difficult-to-categorize political movement will form an alliance with the far-right League to govern the country, bringing an end to decades of rule by the center left or center right. In a world first, a movement borne out of the internet, whose central tenet is the prospect of a “platform” government based on digital, direct democracy, could rule a country.
Ultimately, what M5S is selling is a peculiar variant of populism that hinges on techno-utopianism. Profoundly post-ideological at its core, the party has mastered both online and offline propaganda, seducing progressives with quasi-Obamian messages on social welfare and stoking the right’s sense of insecurity with a strong rhetoric on migrants.
But that’s not how it started out.
* * *
One night in April 2004, a man approached Italy’s most prominent comedian, Beppe Grillo.
Grillo had just finished a performance at the Goldoni Theater in Livorno. The stranger was tall and lean, with a hawkish face hidden behind round glasses. He introduced himself as Gianroberto Casaleggio, a programmer and owner of an e-commerce company from Milan. He wanted to talk about a plan he had, which included Grillo. It was about new forms of power, about building community, about the internet.
Grillo’s and Casaleggio’s own versions of that meeting differ—each claiming the other made contact first—but the comedian recalls a man with no doubts in his mind, explaining notions such as “webcasting,” “direct democracy,” “chatterbot,” “wiki,” “social network,” and “copyleft,” and more generally resembling “either a wicked genius or a sort of St. Francis who, instead of speaking to wolves and birds, spoke to the internet.”
A comedian and TV fixture, Grillo’s act had been getting more political throughout the 1990s, and by the time of the meeting between the two men, he was about to transform from satirizing Italy’s politics to participating in them.
But Grillo wasn’t an obvious audience for Casaleggio’s pitch. In 2000, right when the burst of the dot-com bubble seemed inevitable, Grillo famously used computers onstage as part of his act. With a hammer in his hand, dressed in black and speaking like a combination jester and prophet, he would invite members of the audience onstage to join him in this neo-Luddite redemption. Behind the internet there’s nothing, he had said, “this is an absurd technology that only fools us.” Grillo was clearly as disillusioned about the internet’s early promises as his new friend was euphoric.
Casaleggio had just published a book titled Web Ergo Sum in which he envisioned the future role of the internet for society. He admired the entrepreneur and thinker Adriano Olivetti for whose company he had been building operating systems, and shared Olivetti’s ambition of using innovation to foster “Community.”
Casaleggio was thinking in much grander terms, however. In a 2008 video for his web strategy firm, Casaleggio Associati, he predicted a “Third World War” beginning in 2020 among the “two main areas” that by then would have already dominated the globe: “the West, with direct democracy and free access to the internet” on one side and “China, Russia, and the Middle East, with Orwellian dictatorship and controlled access to the internet” on the other. The war would last 20 years, reduce the world population to 1 billion, and ultimately result in the triumph of “Net democracies,” the birth of “grassroots movements” linked through the web to solve local problems, and in 2054, the rise of a world government called Gaia elected through the “first world elections on the net.” It’s not quite clear how serious he was.
At the time of their meeting, Italy was sliding toward a much less futuristic dystopia, with media baron and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owning or influencing most TV channels and the press. To actually enter the political arena and make some noise, Grillo needed a way to be louder than the ruling populist. To Casaleggio, the answer was obvious: the internet.
In his books, Casaleggio predicts a world with no political parties, in which newspapers and other traditional media would have soon died at the hands of “online disintermediation.” In his “hyperdemocracy,” no one would need to delegate anymore: consensus on efficient, “smart” solutions would have been brought about through the wisdom of online crowds.
In a world without media companies to fact-check, there would be no “fake news”: “The first time you are wrong or say something incorrect, you’re out of the net,” he stated repeatedly. Traditional political leaders? Obsolete, a nonsensical remnant of the past. In the networked age, elected representatives would be nothing more than speakers collecting the voice of popular will, as expressed through the internet.
In January 2005, in a spectacular intellectual U-turn, internet skeptic Grillo was convinced by Casaleggio to start a blog, beppegrillo.it. It was the beginning of the end of Italian politics as we knew it.
For four years, the blog served as the hub of a new wave of internet political activism. One million emails were sent to the head of state through the “Via dall’Iraq!” mail-bombing campaign, aimed at stopping Italy’s intervention in the Iraq war. More than 350,000 signatures were collected for an event called V-Day, where the V stands for vaffanculo, or “fuck off.” Through it, Grillo advanced his “Parlamento pulito” campaign, which advocated a law prohibiting convicted politicians from running for office again. The blog also established what would later become one of the core policy proposals of the Cinque Stelle: a two-term limit for each elected official.
Local groups of activists also emerged, organizing through the use of meetups, a technique inspired by Howard Dean’s 2004 U.S. presidential campaign. Some of these activists went on to run for office in Civic Lists called Amici di Beppe Grillo, or “Grillo’s friends.”
In 2009, the time was ripe for a transition into a nationwide, all-out political movement. On Oct. 4—chosen because it is the feast day of the “anti-capitalist” St. Francis—the Five Star Movement was born.
The Cinque Stelle movement was unimaginable without the internet. In the beginning, it had no official physical headquarters, just a website. The only way to subscribe was through an online form. Even expulsions from the party were regulated through online consultations that, critics charged, more closely resembled plebiscites to confirm the will of the founders than actual exercise of digital democracy.
As for the rules, there was only a brief online “non-Statute” with a handful of core principles to be strictly respected by all activists, on pain of exclusion. Grillo would be the “Garante,” the only officially recognized authority overseeing that operations were fairly conducted within the movement. Endless debates and quarrels ensued as his role, together with that of Casaleggio’s shadowy “staff,” operating from his own company’s Milan headquarters, soon clashed with the self-organizing method of the beginnings. After all, if “one counts as one,” why should anyone count more than one?
And yet, nothing could slow the movement’s seemingly unstoppable rise. In its first general election, on Feb. 24–25, 2013, the Cinque Stelle gained a spectacular victory, with almost 9 million votes. Before the 2018 election, it counted 2,200 elected representatives at all levels of government, from the local to the national, to the European Parliament. The party also governs important cities like Rome, Turin, and Livorno.
Its digital operations evolved, too, according to the needs of such a gigantic and ambitious enterprise. Some 150,000 online subscribers can interact daily on a dedicated online platform—in reality, a sum of web applications, each with a precise function—called “Rousseau,” on which new candidates are selected, laws can be proposed by anyone, amendments can be discussed and made to proposals from elected MPs.
But is Cinque Stelle’s digital deliberation system really as nonhierarchical and democratic as it claims?
* * *
In 2016, after a long sickness, Casaleggio passed away. His company was taken over by his son, Davide, a longtime employee. By this point, the company and the M5S political movement were inextricably entwined, and the dynastic passage, one that no activist voted on, profoundly changed the very functioning of the movement.
Those who know him describe Davide as a shy, result-oriented, rigorous manager. In interviews, he’s quick to portray himself as a figure devoid of any real political power within the movement.
And yet, a chess champion since he was 12, he knows how to plan his moves. While less ideologically inventive and much less charismatic than the father, the son seems to have gained absolute power over the infrastructure and the trove of data that the party now possesses—far more influence than his father ever wielded.
He’s done this, ironically, by separating Casaleggio Associati from the Cinque Stelle, through the creation of the “Associazione Rousseau,” an association, of which he is now president, that promotes the digital democracy efforts of the movement.
Marco Canestrari, a former Casaleggio Associati member and author of the book Supernova, claims that Davide can now personally access user data contained in the Rousseau platform, which means “all the registries” of what might become Italy’s next ruling party. Also, the platform is where all data on preferences expressed through online consultations and votes is held. This is data that should be encrypted but, notes Canestrari, actually isn’t, as shown by the extensive hacks—a first by white-hat hacker and bug hunter, Evariste Gal0is, and a second by an unknown black-hat hacker that goes by the nickname “r0gue_0”—the platform suffered in the summer of 2017, later confirmed by the Italian Data Protection Authority. There is a possibility, the authority wrote in a long report published in December, of a “constant profiling of subscribers based on every choice or preference expressed through the platform.”
And yet, Rousseau’s creators continue to tout it as “one of the most advanced participatory systems in the world,” in the words of Enrica Sabatini, an academic on digital democracy who was often at Davide’s side to explain the platform, both in Italy and outside the country.
Sabatini has been touring the world in recent months together with Davide, bringing word of the M5S method for digital democracy to academics, activists, and pundits in countries including Brazil, Portugal, Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands, and Japan.
And that is just the beginning. “Our objective is not a technological revolution,” she says, “but a cultural one that is able to put the citizen at the heart of society.”
But even as M5S’s electoral success has grown, participation on Rousseau, write political scientists Cristian Vaccari and Lorenzo Mosca, has “severely diminished” over time, possibly due to the “dissatisfaction” of participants “for the practical results” obtained through it.
On Dec. 30, 2017, without any prior warning and to the surprise even of core members of Cinque Stelle, a post on Grillo’s blog announced a complete overhaul of the fundamental rules of the movement, suddenly turning it into something much more similar to a traditional party than before. The party’s new statutes—no anti-political non- prefix, this time—were missing one key sentence from the previous one: “The Five Star Movement is not a political party, nor is it even intended to become one in the future.”
Di Maio—a former vice president of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies who had long been the moderate face of the Cinque Stelle in the media—was suddenly assigned whole new powers, typical of a normal, hierarchical “capo politico,” or political boss. These include the rights to simultaneously run for prime minister, be in charge as political leader for 10 years, vet candidate selection, and even obtain the consensus of all the elected representatives of the movement, were he ever to ask for a vote of confidence to a hypothetical government. This is precisely the sort of top-down leadership that was supposed to be left behind in the elder Casaleggio’s post-political future.
But there’s more. Control over Cinque Stelle members’ behavior has become nearly absolute. To risk sanctions, a member now needs only to be accused of “omissions that caused or risked to cause harm to the image” of the Cinque Stelle. This can mean “a loss of consensus,” or even just “hindering its political action.”
Not that all of this seemed to matter to voters, who in the latest election actually seemed to appreciate the more moderate tones the party had adopted and its abandonment of flat-out insults to the political establishment.
Davide Casaleggio has continued to sell the myth of direct democracy to outsiders. In a Washington Post op-ed written after the party’s election triumph, he wrote, “Direct democracy, made possible by the Internet, has given a new centrality to citizens and will ultimately lead to the deconstruction of the current political and social organizations. Representative democracy—politics by proxy—is gradually losing meaning.“ This message seems a lot less compelling when you realize that deconstruction he has in mind is one that gives him and the party’s leaders ultimate power over the movement.
Cinque Stelle promised a new way of organizing online participation, translating consensus into real-world action, and ultimately providing a method to take power from a corrupt political class and give the voiceless a voice.
But there’s a more sinister way of looking at it: as a secretive, closed political power center sustained by the resemblance of participation through insecure and ultimately pointless constant online deliberations, and more and more with self-imposed rules that cement the power of the center over the margins.
As Grillo himself used to say, this absurd technology only fools us.
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 11:32:01 PDT 2018
On Monday, the Commerce Department declared that it would ask people in the upcoming census whether they were American citizens. Long rumored, this decision—assuming it survives the legal challenges that are already arising—has the potential to reshape our politics to the advantage of Republicans. To discuss why, as well as the other implications of this decision, I spoke with Andy Beveridge, a professor at Queens College and the CEO of the demographics research company Social Explorer. An edited and condensed version of our conversation is below.
Isaac Chotiner: Why exactly was Monday night’s announcement such a big deal?
Andy Beveridge: It’s very important for a number of reasons. I think a large concern in the advocacy community, particularly the immigrant-rights community, is that this, along with the hostile environment created by the Trump administration towards immigrants, is going to deter immigrants from responding to the census. If that’s the case, either not responding to this question or not responding to the census at all will make the census less accurate.
Who do we expect will be undercounted and why?
The groups that get undercounted or that don’t respond to the census very well are recent immigrants, to some extent undocumented immigrants, and people who are living in kind of odd household situations. It would mean recent Hispanic immigrants, recent Asian immigrants might be less likely to answer the census.
Let’s say that there’s massive undercounting of recent immigrants. How will that manifest itself politically?
Well, it would affect reapportionment. In other words, let’s say states such as Florida and Texas have a larger undercount. They might end up with fewer congressmen, along with like California, Arizona, probably New York, states like that.
OK, so there are two separate issues that are related. One is how electoral votes are divided on the map of 538, and the second is within states where people are located, which could warp state legislative districts, which could then in turn warp congressional redistricting, correct?
Yeah. Congressional districts have to be exact. It might mean that areas with high concentrations of immigrants will lose out to areas with low concentrations of immigrants. Basically, the urban areas would be likely the places [where this happens], but also the valley in California where there are a lot of agricultural workers that are immigrants, and Los Angeles, along the Texas border, cities like Houston and Dallas. All of those places could have a lower count than they should, and therefore they would lose a proportion of representation to the rest of the state, which would likely be more rural, more likely affluent, far-flung suburbs, that sort of thing. [Social Explorer has a tool to let you view how different areas might be affected.]
That’s really one of the major things that could happen, and that would affect any set of statewide legislative districts, including Congress. It also could affect some of these larger areas, like when you have a big county or something like you do in, say, San Diego County. Then it could affect the distribution of representatives in that county, the City Council of Los Angeles and so forth and so on.
Then the other thing, which I think is hovering here, is the Supreme Court case called Evenwel, which was decided a couple of years ago, but that case [could be reopened to allow] states to try to base their distribution of seats not on total population, which is the general way it’s done now, but on the basis of citizen voting-age population. And so that would disadvantage both the areas with high numbers of noncitizens, and it would also disadvantage the areas with lots of kids, so that would have a huge effect.
We did a tool to look at what impact that would have, and it would push the balance in several states much more towards the Republicans. In fact, one reporter for the Washington Post told me at one point when this first came up that he had talked to some Republican redistrictors and they felt they’d gone as far as they could with partisan gerrymandering, and so they needed something like Evenwel to push further.
I know the judges in that case ruled that districts did not have to be divided in terms of eligible voters, rather than total people, but they said that states could make that decision in the future. Are you saying the reason that this would open up the case again is that it would offer states the data to do this?
Well, better data. If you’re going to use citizen voting-age data to divide districts, as opposed to use it to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which is the way people use it now, it probably would be [easier] if you had data that was collected at the same identical time that the census collected on citizenship.
What other problems are there with undercounting?
The census data is the baseline, really, for every single survey that’s done by the federal government, by private industry. It’s something that’s very important really for commerce, because you want to know how many people there are. It also is used to divide up government appropriations. I always tell my students that the census is really only about two things: power and money. It’s a way to divide power up, and it’s also a way to divide money up, and so if it’s screwed up for 10 years, it’s a real problem.
The 1920 census was rejected by Congress, so it was never used, so there’s a history of having a situation where the census was rejected. There is also the horrible situation, and I think that some of the immigrants are concerned about this, when they used the block-level data after the 1940 census to figure out where to round up the Japanese and intern them. I think there’s some concern in the immigrant community about the whole idea, that since there’s such interest in deportation now, that these data could be used to help target where to go find immigrants to deport. I’m sure it’s gone through people’s heads.
by Scott Pilutik @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 13:10:21 PDT 2018
Karen McDougal filed a lawsuit in the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday against the parent corporation of the National Enquirer, seeking to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement that would prevent the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year from discussing an alleged affair with Donald Trump. McDougal joins Stephanie Clifford in the ranks of women seeking to get out of poorly constructed contracts hashed together in the waning days of the 2016 campaign and meant to protect candidate Trump, but a key part of her story is different. Instead of Trump’s personal attorney trying to silence her with a contract put together in possible violation of Federal Election Commission rules, it’s the media company American Media Inc., which bought her “life rights” with the intention of killing her story. One potentially critical common thread, though, is that the two women shared an attorney: Keith Davidson.
Indeed, the most disturbing parts of McDougal’s lawsuit are those involving her and Davidson. McDougal’s suit depicts Davidson as a lawyer with compromised loyalties, and she has some evidence to back it up. She says that she didn’t know that Davidson was negotiating similar deals, didn’t know that Davidson was allegedly communicating with Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen about her own deal, and relied on Davidson’s interpretation of the agreement, which she claims didn’t accurately reflect what the parties had negotiated in their discussions. Not long after the deal between McDougal and American Media Inc. was signed, Davidson emailed Cohen to say “Michael, please give me a call at your convenience,” according to the New York Times. The Times also reported that a person familiar with that conversation said Davidson told Cohen the deal was done. Cohen and Trump were not a party to McDougal’s agreement in any way, so Davidson’s discussion with Cohen raises troubling questions, most obviously: Why was his client unaware of it? Davidson may have lost a client in McDougal, but he still has a fan in his ostensible adversary Cohen, who has publicly vouched for Davidson as a “tireless advocate for his clients” and “professional, ethical and a true gentleman.” It’s perhaps noteworthy that Davidson was suspended by the California State Bar in 2010 for three months over a number of blown filing deadlines and missed court appearances.
Davidson responded to news of the lawsuit with a terse statement to the Times saying that he had “fulfilled his obligations and zealously advocated for Ms. McDougal to accomplish her stated goals at that time.” He cited attorney-client privilege as barring him from discussing the matter further.
It’s not just the shady relationship between Davidson and Cohen that potentially jeopardizes this deal. In seeking to invalidate her contract, McDougal makes three varyingly persuasive arguments. She first claims there was fraud in the contract’s execution because she was misinformed as to key elements. Specifically, she says she didn’t understand paragraph one of the Aug. 5, 2016, agreement, which purportedly grants American Media Inc. the right to use McDougal’s name, likeness, and image in connection with columns that would appear in Star magazine and Radar Online but doesn’t require America Media Inc. to publish any of them. McDougal says that she was promised that these columns would be published and that this is how Davidson represented the contract to her.
Sure enough, only a small handful of columns ran under McDougal’s name. This begs the question of why this paragraph exists at all if it only provides America Media Inc. an option. The clause, in fact, is written in a way that it appears to be offering McDougal some benefit, when all it does is give America Media Inc. that option. It simultaneously uses binding-sounding language such as “AMI shall provide to McDougal … a so-called ghost-writer … ” and “McDougal shall have the absolute right to approve any image … ” (bolding mine). It’s not entirely surprising that McDougal thought she was getting a career boost, and it was Davidson’s duty to explain the agreement (which, to be fair, the evidence may ultimately show he did). Obviously, other parts of the contract do bind American Media Inc., which makes this paragraph feel conspicuously incongruous.
Likely relevant to McDougal’s claims would be any communications between McDougal and Davidson. American Media Inc. may argue that the dispute here isn’t between McDougal and American Media Inc. but rather McDougal and Davidson. McDougal is only seeking an injunction with respect to her agreement with American Media Inc., not damages with respect to her allegations against Davidson. But assuming fraud can be shown, the question of whose fraud may be relevant, and Davidson may be deemed a necessary party to sort through that question. From McDougal’s vantage, if Davidson and American Media Inc. were working in concert—and particularly if Trump or his legal team were involved in any way—it shouldn’t matter that Davidson isn’t a party to the lawsuit—she only wants to invalidate the agreement with American Media Inc. Whether she’s saving a separate lawsuit or bar complaint for Davidson remains to be seen.
The next claim echoes another aspect of the Clifford affair, with McDougal arguing that the contract is invalid inasmuch as its purpose was to make an illegal in-kind donation to the Trump campaign in violation of 52 U.S. Code 30118(a). Contracts formed for an illegal purpose are void by definition. Some evidence does appear to indicate that the deal was being done to benefit Trump, perhaps even on behalf of Michael Cohen and the Trump campaign. Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article from July includes this telling exchange with American Media Inc. owner David Pecker:
“Once she’s part of the company, then on the outside she can’t be bashing Trump and American Media.”
I pointed out that bashing Trump was not the same as bashing American Media.
“To me it is,” Pecker replied. “The guy’s a personal friend of mine.”
If Pecker views American Media Inc.’s interests as indistinguishable from Trump’s, and to the extent Trump’s interest at the time was to protect his campaign from stories like McDougal’s, that information was relevant to McDougal. The lawsuit claims that McDougal only learned that Davidson phoned Cohen to report that the agreement had been signed by reading the Feb.
18 New York Times article. An agreement made months prior to the end of the presidential campaign to remain silent about a relationship that took place a decade earlier strongly suggests an intent to benefit the campaign, especially in light of Clifford’s agreement, made more or less simultaneously and on eerily similar facts. What muddies this argument somewhat is that the agreement contained multiple provisions, such as those relating to McDougal’s career, some aspects of which have been performed—for instance, McDougal did appear on the cover of an American Media Inc. publication as promised in the agreement.
Finally, the lawsuit seeks to invalidate the contract on public policy grounds, arguing that it coerces the silence of an unsophisticated party who is nevertheless a much-discussed figure in a newsworthy debate concerning the character of a public elected official. Like Clifford’s situation, we already know the broad parameters of McDougal’s Trump story. Depriving her of the right to talk about the horses when they’ve clearly left the barn harms not only McDougal, she argues, but the First Amendment, due not only to Trump’s involvement but also to Cohen’s. Further bolstering McDougal’s argument is that she recently received a document-preservation request from BuzzFeed, which is defending a defamation lawsuit filed by Cohen, rendering her contractually enforced silence even less fair and reasonable. In December, during Trump’s president-elect tenure, after seeing her name appear in one news article after another and being unable to respond, McDougal approached American Media Inc. again (this time with new counsel) and the parties signed an amendment to the contract. The rider granted McDougal the right to respond to “legitimate press inquiries” in consultation with American Media Inc.., but she claims that American Media Inc. has refused every opportunity she’s brought to them, including articles by the New Yorker’s Toobin and Ronan Farrow.
While nondisclosure agreements like McDougal’s and Clifford’s are relatively common, rarely do the underlying facts become so public as to render the agreements themselves a farce, where the entire country is discussing the salacious details of an extramarital relationship between one participant who is legally prohibited from discussing it and one participant who is the president. That this has happened not once, but twice in the past few months only serves to further demonstrate what an embarrassment our national politics has become in the age of Trump. Given the convoluted circumstances underlying each nondisclosure agreement, not to mention shoddy legal drafting, both women would appear to have a decent shot of being able to offer their own stories in their own words in the days to come.
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 11:20:37 PDT 2018
After being embarrassed by progressives at her own state convention, Sen. Dianne Feinstein keeps chugging along toward re-election in California. A new poll this week has the five-term senator up 26 points on state Senate leader Kevin de León, the only thing standing between her and re-election this November.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll, released Wednesday, found Feinstein with the support of 42 percent of likely voters in the state, compared with only 16 percent for de León, the only other candidate listed on the survey (margin of error: 3.4 points). Both of those numbers are down slightly from January, when the same pollsters found Feinstein up 46 percent to 17 percent, and from this past November, when Feinstein was up 45 percent to 21 percent. Those splits aren’t great for an incumbent, but they look pretty good given the near-constant criticism Feinstein has faced from the left. Their case against her is a long one, and includes her vote in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq, and her current opposition to single-payer health care.
California’s unique “jungle primary” advances the top two finishers to the general election, regardless of party, but Republicans were unable to recruit a big-name candidate of their own. That has made Feinstein both the moderate and the conservative in what is effectively a two-person primary, one that is little more than a dry run for an all-Democratic general election.
If there is a silver lining for de Léon, it’s a small one: 39 percent of likely voters—and 71 percent of Republicans—say they have not yet made up their mind. But if de Léon is going to mount a serious challenge, he is going to have to start changing some minds, and soon. In theory, some slice of conservative voters could pull the lever for de Léon on Election Day, if for no other reason than they’ve been conditioned to view Feinstein, a bold-faced name in California politics for four decades, as the enemy. But that’s a stretch given de Léon’s campaign is built specifically on the premise that he’s the progressive in the race. Meanwhile, convincing the left to donate their money and time to help him oust a sitting Democratic senator, as moderate as Feinstein is, is a serious challenge today; it’s going to be a far bigger one after the primary, when everyone’s focus will turn to those races that will determine control of Congress—or perhaps the one for California governor’s mansion, which may not be an all-Democratic contest after all.
The new poll suggests Gavin Newsom, the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, has padded his lead in the gubernatorial race, but the real action is happening behind him. The survey found Newsom with the support of 28 percent of likely voters, up five points from January, suggesting he’s been unharmed by a recent attempt from a long-shot candidate to remind voters of a decade-old sex scandal in which Newsom, then the mayor of San Francisco, had an affair with a staffer who was married to his campaign manager and friend. (Newsom admitted to the affair in 2007 and has since won statewide office twice.)
The pollsters found that Republican John Cox, a San Diego venture capitalist, has moved into second place with 14 percent, barely ahead of Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor at 12 percent. The second-place finisher would earn a head-to-head showdown with Newsom in November. Another Republican, Travis Allen, was in a relatively close fourth with 10 percent, followed by two other Democrats in the single digits. That’s quite a change from January, when Villaraigosa was in a virtual tie with Newsom for first, and Cox was well back in single digits with the rest of the field.
Unlike elsewhere in the state, where Democrats fear the combination of a jungle primary and a bunch of Democratic congressional candidates will be a recipe for an all-GOP general election, that doesn’t appear to be a problem in the gubernatorial race. Newsom remains safely out in front, as he has been since pollsters began tracking the race this past fall, likely ensuring Democrats at least one spot in the general election. The big question between now and the June 5 primary is whether they can snag the second as well—or if Republicans will rally around either Cox or Allen and push him clear of Villaraigosa and into the general.
Post Office Small Savings Schemes
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by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Mon Mar 19 13:25:26 PDT 2018
By Ellen Brown, March 16, 2018, TruthDig. The U.S. banking establishment has been at war with the post office since at least 1910, when the Postal Savings Bank Act established a public savings alternative to a private banking system that had crashed the economy in the Bank Panic of 1907. The American Bankers Association was […]
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 10:48:41 PDT 2018
On Jan. 24, it was announced that former White House adviser and Breitbart chairman Steve Bannon had accepted an invitation from University of Chicago business school professor Luigi Zingales to participate in a debate on campus. “I can hardly think of a more important issue for new citizens and business leaders of the world than the backlash against globalization and immigration that is taking place not just in America, but in all the Western World,” Zingales wrote in a statement. “Whether you agree with him or not (and I personally do not), Mr. Bannon has come to interpret and represent this backlash in America.”
Zingales and university administrators have, predictably, spent the past several weeks dealing with a backlash of their own. Over 1,000 alumni, more than 100 faculty members, the executives of student government and nearly a dozen student groups have voiced their opposition to the event in various mediums. “[W]hen speakers who question the intellect and full humanity of people of color are invited to campus to ‘debate’ their worthiness as citizens and people, ” a faculty open letter read, “the message is clear that the University’s commitment to freedom of expression will come at the expense of those most vulnerable in our community.” Off-campus, many have scorned those protesting the invitation. “The school has a long tradition of valuing free speech and thought, recognizing that a university is — wait for it — a place of ideas and learning,” the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board wrote after the announcement. “The ‘cure’ for repellent ideas, school President Robert Maynard Hutchins said generations ago, ‘lies through open discussion rather than through inhibition.’ ”
As both the faculty letter and the Tribune alluded to, the University of Chicago has for many years cultivated a reputation as a bastion of free speech and academic freedom, which, in its rendering, encompasses both a right to free expression in academic settings and a professed commitment to political neutrality in nearly all matters. University officials have long taken immense pride, for instance, in the university’s refusal of student demands to divest from South Africa during apartheid in the 1980s. In 2014, the university convened a Committee on Freedom of Expression, which issued a report that declared “it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.” Two years later, the university brought that stance to bear on the national debate over political correctness on America’s campuses when Dean of Students John Ellison sent a letter to incoming students affirming both the university’s commitment to free expression and its opposition to ideological “safe spaces.”
The letter was met with broad and ecstatic praise from prominent voices in the press, who—like the Tribune—have come to see Chicago as a corrective to the protest movement that reputedly rules over other college campuses. The Wall Street Journal named Chicago “the free speech university” in a February profile of University President Robert Zimmer, who was himself called “America’s Best University President,” in an October New York Times column by alumnus Bret Stephens. Readers expecting a piece so named would make reference to research or academic work accomplished under Zimmer’s tenure were surely disappointed—it did not. Such an omission would have been odd 10 years ago. It’s unremarkable today amidst a discourse that suggests the sum total of a university’s value as an intellectual institution is reducible to its willingness to host controversial speakers like Bannon, or the white nationalist Richard Spencer, who Zimmer said was welcome to speak at Chicago in the months after the “safe spaces” letter.
By that standard, the University of Chicago has excelled under Zimmer, having burnished its image as a free speech redoubt at a time when colleges are asking students to plunge themselves into ever-increasing debt to attend putatively unique institutions. The free-speech ethos has become a central part of the university’s branding to prospective students and has been cited by donors as they shower the school with hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding. That image has also managed to overshadow changes afoot in both campus and academic life at the university, and it has signaled a shift in our collective understanding of what it means to be an intellectually serious university.
The elevation of Chicago’s free speech posture has come, perhaps not coincidentally, on the heels of a remarkable leap in the university’s prominence and prestige. Ten years ago, the University of Chicago was ninth in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of American universities. Today, it’s ranked third—tied with Yale and a notch above Columbia, MIT, and Stanford. This constitutes a remarkable jump into the very top tier of a list characterized by and respected primarily for its stability. The story of its climb begins in 2006, when the university announced it would begin accepting applicants through the Common Application system used by hundreds of colleges nationwide. At the time, the decision was taken by many students, faculty, and alumni as indicative of a shift in the university’s culture. Chicago had until that point exclusively taken submissions through a form that had been called the “UnCommon Application” which featured light-hearted and notoriously odd essay questions: In 1997, for instance, applicants were asked to propose a theory of Elvis sightings incorporating “the metric system, the Mall of America, the crash of the Hindenburg, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, lint, J.D. Salinger, and wax fruit.” Chicago’s retention of the UnCommon Application as a supplemental form did little to quell protests on campus and in the pages of student paper the Chicago Maroon, where an editorial that fall warned that the adoption of the Common Application could signal Chicago’s transformation into a “generic elite private university.”
These changes took place under Robert Zimmer, who became president of the college in the summer of 2006 and spoke frequently about bringing in new applicants. For years, the university’s academic reputation stood as a challenge to the notion that the selectivity of peer colleges such as Harvard and Yale said anything meaningful about the quality of education being offered. During the early 1990s, the university accepted over 70 percent of applicants willing to brave Midwestern winters and a Core curriculum dense with Great Books to join the university’s community of scholars. Boosting the rate of applications has lowered Chicago’s acceptance rate, one of the metrics U.S. News & World Report uses to determine its rankings. By 2007, the rate had declined to 40 percent. Two years later, the school hired a direct-marketing firm to overhaul its outreach to prospective students, and by 2017, the incoming class included over 27,000 applicants, who were accepted at a rate of just 8.7 percent. (Full disclosure: I was a member of the undergraduate Class of 2015.) Granted, the university’s move to the Common App has diversified its incoming classes, which have also grown in size in tandem with Chicago’s reputation amongst high school counselors and administrators at other institutions. The opinions of both collectively constitute over 22 percent of U.S. News’ ranking score. “You listen to cocktail parties in certain circles,” higher education analyst Jeffrey Selingo told Chicago magazine in 2013, “and you’ll hear ‘The University of Chicago is really on the rise.’ ”
Those same circles have been talking up Chicago’s messaging on speech in recent years. As of January, thirty-four colleges and universities have adopted or affirmed the statement on free expression drafted by the school’s Committee on Freedom of Expression, thanks in part to the work of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a campus speech advocacy group that has campaigned for colleges to sign on to Chicago’s resolution since 2015. In October, the university hosted 66 college presidents and provosts for a conference on free speech. According to documents obtained by the Maroon, the university initially planned to extend an open invitation to the “presidents and provosts from all US colleges and universities” and have former law professor Barack Obama deliver the keynote speech. The conference was closed to the press.
At other institutions, the need to grab the interest of potential applicants, high school counselors, and peer administrators alike has also fueled the proliferation of wild and costly projects like lazy rivers and spas at major colleges across the country. Chicago’s ambitions in this regard have been more modest but no less expensive. In 2016, the university shuttered five dormitories and moved residents to a new, $148 million megadorm called Campus North. It has since has rolled out plans for a new 1,200-student megadorm with another dining hall and a new high-rise conference center. In 2016, the university projected a cost of $3.9 billion in total for its capital projects in Chicago and on its campuses overseas. Much of the recent spending has been financed by debt, which has attracted the scrutiny of credit ratings agencies. The university’s credit was downgraded by Moody’s in 2014 and by Standard & Poor’s in 2016. Efforts at cost control led to cuts to academic budgets in 2016, and internal budget documents published by the Chicago Maroon included a warning that tuition dollars should not be “mismanaged” with excessive investments in “innovative” and “small” classes.
On campus, the administration’s financial management has been sharply criticized by both faculty and students, including activists behind the campaign for a graduate student union. That unionization drive succeeded last year after an arduous fight in which the university contested the idea that graduate are employees with the right to unionize in the first place. Its case, simply put, was that the teaching, tutoring, and research graduate students do—all functions absolutely central to the academic life of any major university—aren’t actually work. In fact, during National Labor Relations Board hearings, the university’s attorneys issued a standing objection to every use of the word “work” to describe the labor of graduate students. “They are not working,” university attorney Zachary Fasman interjected at one point. “They are teaching.” In another exchange, Fasman argued that the graduate students couldn’t be considered a real asset to universities because their research experiments often failed—as valuable and informative experiments obviously often do. In another, current executive vice provost David Nirenberg claimed that graduate students grading papers for professors was “not a relief” that could be considered helpful labor.
It seems reasonable to ask given all this—the rankings chase, the building spree, the devaluing of academic labor—whether the University of Chicago is, as some fear, turning into something rather like a ”generic elite private university.” More would likely be asking if the university weren’t so successful in maintaining, in spite of it all, its reputation as a distinctive intellectual haven.
The school’s free speech messaging has been central to that success, cementing a distinct identity for the university not just in the press and among the broad public, but among donors as well. “People I know really feel proud that Zimmer articulated those views so eloquently,” billionaire alumnus and donor Joe Mansueto—namesake of one of the university’s library buildings—told Crain’s Chicago Business last month. “These are bedrock principles for the University of Chicago.” After Ken Griffin announced a $125 million gift to the university in November, Quartz’s Oliver Staley reported that the hedge fund CEO made the donation in part “because the university has been outspoken in its resistance to safe spaces and trigger warnings, eschewing policies on other campuses which Griffin sees as threatening free speech. In September, the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin advised readers against making contributions to any other elite university. “[T]hose wishing to support universities’ core missions can donate instead to institutions such as the University of Chicago,” he wrote, “whose president has stood firm against the social and political trends buffeting so many other elite campuses.”
Q&As with professional bigots like Steve Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos, or Richard Spencer have not, traditionally, been experiences considered central to American college education, but they are increasingly what America’s responsible adults—philanthropists, pundits, and parents of students—seem to want. The Ellison letter decrying “safe spaces” has proven particularly seductive in that regard. “You could call it a letter of warning: At Chicago, dear students, we put freedom of expression above tender feelings,” read an editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times shortly after the letter was published. “You might also call it an invitation: Join us in a thrilling, if not always comfortable, exchange of ideas.”
But, as is generally the case in national coverage of campus controversies, the flurry of articles and op-eds that followed the missive didn’t sweat the details. When Ellison sent his letter, the university ran, and continues to run, a safe space program that, according to the university’s Office of LGBTQ Student Life, “challenges oppression and provides support for LGBTQ students” in “welcoming physical spaces.” Luckily for the university, the generally unremarked upon existence of its safe space program, and initiatives like the creation of a Bias Education and Support Team responsible for addressing “expressions that cause hurt or discomfort,” suggest that P.C.-critical students, parents, pundits, and others can be wooed and wowed without ditching politically correct policies that have helped it reel in minority and activist students in its drive for applications. The latter group has, naturally, been put off somewhat by the university’s recent posturing, but Chicago has done a rather impressive job thus far of having things both ways.
Even the university’s speech advocates harbor a hazy, rarely admitted intuition that there are, in fact, practical and ethical reasons to turn away certain speakers and ideas. Last February, President Zimmer told the Wall Street Journal that he would undoubtedly permit white nationalist and university alumnus Richard Spencer to speak on campus if he were invited. In August, Spencer emailed law professor Geoffrey Stone—a First Amendment scholar and prominent free speech pundit—asking for an invitation. Stone had chaired the 2014 Commission on Freedom of Expression and had written previously that the “core obligation of a university is to invite challenge to the accepted wisdom.” But Spencer—a walking, talking challenge to accepted wisdom if ever there was one—had his request for an invitation denied. “From what I have seen of your views,” Stone replied, “they do not seem to me at add anything of value to serious and reasoned discourse, which is of course the central goal of a university.”
In refusing Spencer, Stone said he would have defended the right to host such an event if someone else had taken Spencer up on his offer. But if it is true, as Stone has also written previously, that “spirited debate is a vital necessity for the advancement of knowledge,” then educators at a university clearly have a responsibility not only to reject censorship but to strive to actively bring in, for discussion and debate, people advancing ideas the majority might consider unserious or unreasonable. The discursive rhetoric of speech advocates routinely implies that students can find, in views they deem ugly or distasteful, either learning opportunities or opportunities to strike argumentative blows against their moral opponents. Surely, both would have been true of an event featuring Spencer.
A similar hedge can be found in Zingales’ response during a town hall in February to a student who asked whether he would have invited Adolf Hitler. “I think I would distinguish early Hitler from later Hitler,” he replied. “I think it would have been very useful to know ahead of time what he was about.” If it is true that there may have been good strategic or intellectual reasons for students to hear the views of an early Hitler and additionally true, as Zingales has said, that inviting Bannon is worthwhile because his views have gained wide currency, then it obviously follows that Hitler would have also merited an invite during a period when his ideas and his regime were actually upending and reshaping the Western world. Zingales’ distinction can only be explained by a moral rejection of what “late Hitler” was doing—namely, slaughtering 6 million Jews. But the rules of the corner Zingales, Stone, and other critics of speech restrictions have painted themselves into frowns upon rejecting speakers simply because they are distasteful in some way. Zingales might not want to believe his arguments would have allowed Hitler to stage a Nuremberg on Lake Michigan. But that is precisely the logical extension of the arguments he’s advanced in the case of Steve Bannon.
These equivocations reveal both opaque ethical boundaries and a sense that universities have a stake not only in the proliferation of ideas in the abstract, but also in the content of those ideas. That stake not only permits, but necessitates certain restrictions on speech—in classrooms, in journals, and throughout the academy, as the legal scholar and literary theorist Stanley Fish argued last year in an essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education. But the requirements of academic life are increasingly being overshadowed, in our notions about higher education, by the spectacle of controversial, high-profile speakers and other parts of what Fish called in his essay “the extracurricular scene.”
“It’s show business,” wrote Fish. “A university would still be one if all it contained were classrooms, a library, and facilities for research. A university would not be one if all it contained was a quad with some tables on it, a student union with a food court, an auditorium and a bowling alley, a gymnasium with a swimming pool and some climbing walls.”
Openness to professional racists and provocateurs, just as extraneous to academic life traditionally conceived as all the rest, remains the preoccupation of pundits who know very little and care still less about the actual state of American higher education—education here meaning not making students party to grunts and belches of white nationalists and contemporary phrenologists, but teaching, studying, research, and yes, debate amongst credentialed peers and students being trained in academic discourse. In his column on Robert Zimmer, Bret Stephens argued that free speech is “our salvation from intellectual mediocrity.” Really, one could do considerably worse, in crafting a picture of “intellectual mediocrity,” than sketching the puffy visage of Steve Bannon, a man whose primary accomplishment has been his work elevating a reality television star to leadership of the free world. Whatever else is happening to the university administratively, Chicago is still an institution that employs some of the best professors, lecturers, researchers, and former professionals in the world. Bannon’s last conceptual heavy lift was devising a cockamamie conspiracy theory to defend a pedophile running for United States Senate.
Of course, Bannon and his former site Breitbart are best known as entry points into the ideology of the alt-right, whose missionaries have been stepping up efforts to recruit new followers on campus. A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League found that white supremacist propaganda had been distributed at 216 colleges between September 2016 and January 2018. In December 2016, University of Chicago officials announced that neo-Nazi stickers had been found on campus at locations including the Center for Identity and Inclusion, a meeting place for minority and LGBT students. A few days later, the group Atomwaffen Division claimed that it had visited and placed the stickers on campus. The group has, in recent months, been connected to five murders and a planned bombing. A more politically correct university might have, in light of this, questioned the prudence of publicly welcoming events that could draw a far-right element looking to fight with protesters or seeking recruits to their cause—like a Richard Spencer gig or, with Bannon, an appearance from a man whose primary contribution to American political discourse has been the promotion of a kind of soft-focus white nationalism. But the University of Chicago has clearly risen above such concerns.
In January, Zimmer reiterated his opinion on allowing Spencer and speakers like him to come to the university, during a CBS Sunday Morning segment on political correctness that aired just days before the Bannon invitation was announced. “Part of the way we operate is that we’re a place where there’s constant open discourse, constant expression, constant argument,” he said. In a statement about the Bannon event, the university has declared it will uphold “the values of academic freedom, the free expression of ideas, and the ability of faculty and students to invite the speakers of their choice.” The show must go on.
by Yascha Mounk @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 11:39:54 PDT 2018
Vladimir Putin is a dictator.
In recent years, his regime has neutered Russia’s judiciary, jailed political opponents, killed investigative journalists, and taken firm control of formerly independent television and radio stations. In recent months, it has arrested Putin’s most serious challenger, Alexey Navalny, and banned him from running in the presidential election. In recent days, it has pressured state employees to go to the polls and shuttled groups of supporters from one polling station to the next. “With loyalist security forces, a subservient judiciary, a controlled media environment, and a legislature consisting of a ruling party and pliable opposition groups,” Freedom House reported in its most recent update on Russia, “the Kremlin is able to manipulate elections and inhibit genuine opposition.”
Why am I rehashing all of this widely known information? Because both our political leaders and our most important newspapers have, for the past week, been pretending that they didn’t know all of this.
Unsurprisingly, one of the worst offenders has been Donald Trump. Though his advisers reportedly pleaded with him to “NOT CONGRATULATE” Putin on his supposed victory, he did it anyway. When he faced loud criticism for doing so, he doubled down on his stance, emphasizing that “getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing.”
I am usually deeply resistant to anti-anti-Trumpist commentators, on both the left and the right, who are desperate to downplay how unique this president is: A lot of people on the right squint so hard that they manage to blind themselves to the utterly aberrant way in which Trump is undermining basic democratic norms and attacking the independence of key institutions like the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, a lot of people on the left are so committed to the view that America has always been irredeemably evil that they see Trump as standing in a neat line of descent from George W. Bush (or for that matter, Barack Obama).
Both stances dangerously underplay the unique threat that authoritarian populists like Trump pose to liberal democracy. And yet, this is one of those rare instances in which Trump really is more typical than atypical. In fact, European leaders with perfectly moderate views have behaved just as cowardly over the past days. “Congratulations on your re-election, President #Putin,” Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, tweeted. “I warmly congratulate you on your reelection,” Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, added in a message released by her office.
Many journalists and editors have, depressingly, been guilty of a similar lack of clarity. “Putin Wins Fresh Six-Year Term in Russian Elections,” the Wall Street Journal headlined on the day of the election. Other media outlets were not much better. “Putin Wins Russia Election, and Broad Mandate for 4th Term” a headline on the New York Times website read. “Putin cruises to victory in Russia, tells supporters: ‘Success awaits us!’” the Washington Post repeated.
The coverage in Europe has, if anything, been even worse. “Vladimir Putin secures landslide victory,” the Guardian announced. “Putin triumphs,” La Repubblica reported. Putin has been “strengthened by the presidential election,” the German Press Agency, DPA, gushed.
To be sure, most of the articles under these headlines do acknowledge that the Russian election was neither free nor fair. And most of the journalists who write these articles do not count among the ranks of the—sadly ever more prevalent—pro-Putin trolls who are willing to flatter him for his supposed achievement and explain any of his misdeeds away with increasingly distasteful conspiracy theories.
And yet, these media outlets are unwittingly doing Putin’s bidding. By framing the election as though it was a legitimate democratic enterprise, they are adding to the dictator’s domestic legitimacy and boosting his international popularity. No wonder, then, that Putin has an increasingly vocal fan club in most North American and Western European countries—or that Germans are now much more worried about the policies of Donald Trump than they are by those of Vladimir Putin.
The alternative is not too difficult: Media outlets should make sure that they convey the fraudulent nature of the Russian elections in their headlines, not just buried deep into the articles they write. This is easy for outlets that pride themselves on having a clear editorial tone: “Shocker: Vladimir Putin Easily Wins Re-Election by a Huge Margin” my Slate colleague Daniel Politi wrote with deservedly dripping sarcasm. New York magazine took a similar tack, going with “Vladimir Putin Wins Russian Election in Stunning Upset.”
Newspapers that cultivate a more neutral tone have found it more difficult to report the Russian news without furthering Putin’s propaganda. But they can find a model for how to navigate this problem closer to home: When Donald Trump started to tell blatant lies on the campaign trail, legacy media slowly deviated from old standards to reflect new realities In a famous headline, for example, the New York Times reported “Trump Remarks on London Rile the British” but then added, directly underneath, “Claims With No Proof.” Now, it’s time for them to make a similar shift on foreign news, going with factual hard-nosed headlines like “Vladimir Putin Extends Lease on Power in Unfree Elections.”
Even more importantly, democratic leaders should finally refrain from congratulating Vladimir Putin—or other dictators who hold sham elections—on his supposed victory. This doesn’t mean that they have to break off contact with him or appear hostile to the Russian people; sadly, it is a reality of international politics that you sometimes need to keep up decent relations with not-so-decent leaders—and of course we should always remember that many ordinary people are not responsible for the thugs who suppress their freedoms. But as I’ve written before, there’s a clear distinction between engaging an adversary in a distantly respectful manner and treating him like a friend.
Emanuel Macron, the French president, has trodden this thin line carefully. Like other political leaders, he called Putin on the day after the election. But unlike them, he pointedly refrained from congratulating him on an election victory. Instead, he addressed his wishes to the Russian people, wishing them “success in the country’s political, democratic, economic and social modernization.”
Oddly enough, Trump expressed a rather similar principles rather well in his latest tweet: His motto, he explained, is “PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH.” Despite the Orwellian ring and Reaganite origins of that phrase, it does capture something important: We will never be able to contain adventurers like Vladimir Putin if we continually bow to their will. On the contrary, it is only if we show that we are willing to stand up for our principles that we can actually improve our relations with countries like Russia. And that, of course, is precisely why it is such a scandal that the president of the United States should be willing to pretend that the fraudulent election that enthroned Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin for another six years was the real deal.
As democracies come under threat in their traditional heartlands, and authoritarians around the world wield their influence more and more boldly, politicians and journalists need to become more courageous and purposeful about how to defend their values. This doesn’t require reporters to turn into moralists or statesmen to turn into social activists. But it does require that we speak our truth at least as boldly as the Kremlin spreads its lies. And the truth about the Russian “election” is unambiguous: Far from being free and fair, it was a cynical effort to legitimize the rule of Russia’s long-standing dictator, Vladimir Putin.
by Christina Cauterucci @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 14:34:28 PDT 2018
Stormy Daniels appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, delivering the program its largest audience—21 million viewers—since a post-election interview with Barack and Michelle Obama in November 2008. In conversation with Anderson Cooper, Daniels detailed how her affair with Donald Trump began (bland, unenthusiastic sex), why she is speaking to the media now (to clear her name, pre-empt an expensive lawsuit, and boost her own career), and the lengths Trump’s team went to in order to keep her quiet (a threat to her life and livelihood).
In spite of the nondisclosure agreement she signed in October 2016, Daniels has successfully kept herself in the headlines of major news outlets for months. But, with her 60 Minutes interview, she finally found the right venue for her story. The program did right by Daniels, questioning the adult film star with the solemnity and tough-but-fair posture it would any other source. At the Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg called Cooper’s respect for Daniels “radical” in a society that typically treats sex workers as immoral, flighty, and fundamentally untrustworthy. His treatment may have made a measurable difference in public perception: My colleague Willa Paskin wrote that Daniels appeared more credible than ever in her Sunday night appearance, in part because the show allowed her to flesh out the complexity of her motivations and showcase her charisma without having to be the punchline of a sex joke.
Compare that to her treatment on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show in January, where the host unveiled several of her bikini-shoot photos, purportedly from his personal “library,” to compare her signature on the pictures to one on a statement she made. It was the first of several unsophisticated gags Kimmel deployed to remind the audience that Daniels was famous for having sex. When Daniels said the internet was full of hurtful rumors, including one that accused her of being a man, Kimmel quipped, “Well, we’ll have to do a full examination,” to fervent applause. Later in the show, he asked her to choose which of three carrots best resembled Trump’s penis and tried to get her to re-enact sex with the president by way of anatomically accurate dolls.
Daniels deflected Kimmel’s insulting capers with the dignity of a person accustomed to navigating unwelcome surprises on camera. She was kind and deferential as she refused to give Kimmel what he was looking for, quick to offer him an elegant way out of an awkward segment with a giggle and a joke. The closest she came to actually confronting him about his childish games was when he guessed that she could describe Trump’s “junk” in perfect detail. “What is wrong with you?” Daniels asked, smiling in disbelief. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Kimmel stammered. “What is wrong with you is the question.”
This off-the-cuff comeback revealed the subtext of much public discussion of Daniels up to now: the idea that there is something deeply suspicious about a conventionally beautiful woman who would willingly have sex with Donald Trump. Daniels’ decision to go that route was complicated, and she has done an admirable job leaning into that complexity. On 60 Minutes, Daniels explained that when she emerged from a hotel bathroom to find Trump sitting on the bed, she felt like she had taken their flirtation too far and had little choice but to have sex with him, even though she didn’t entirely want to. Money was also a factor: Trump would later promise Daniels fame and fortune by way of a spot on Celebrity Apprentice while trying to wheedle her into bed. It should come as no surprise that money was on Daniels’ mind when she began her affair with Trump—like many women, she has found it profitable to make herself attractive and available to men. Her experience is not so far from that of, say, Melania Trump, or any other gorgeous women who explicitly or implicitly trade their desirability for wealth by giving older, decrepit men marriage, sex, or companionship.
But Trump and the right wing are anxious to discredit money as an honorable motivation, even as they seek to augment their wealth by ever-skeevier means. “So much for the porn performer on 60 Minutes who’s story doesn’t stack,” wrote Bill O’Reilly on his website. “She says she didn’t want money to attack Donald Trump but accepted money. She doesn’t want money now either. So why are you on national television with all this garbage?” The implication is that someone telling the truth about a sexual encounter would reject all monetary compensation for discussing it, an impractical ask for anybody outside the 1 percent. Daniels has built her whole career on the commodification of her sexuality—why shouldn’t she profit from a sexual relationship with a reality show host–cum-president? It would be nearly impossible not to, as she works in one of the few industries that rewards rather than punishes sexual recklessness. Trump himself might admire her business chops—“She likes to maximize her profits,” her agent told the New York Times of her Trump-themed stripping tour—if he wasn’t so busy trying to shut her up.
Still, Daniels has realized that a money-hungry stripper is less likely to inspire public support than a concerned mother, even if their stories are the same, even if they’re the same woman. On Kimmel’s show, Daniels wore a cleavage-baring minidress and struck a coy pose, answering Kimmel’s questions with questions of her own. (“Do you have a nondisclosure agreement?” “Do I?”) She made oblique references to her porn career: “I know a lot about dirty and even I wouldn’t do that,” she said of Trump bringing Bill Clinton’s sexual assault accusers as his guests to a 2016 presidential debate. She was performing, as written, the role of a tabloid-cover porn actress in a political scandal. It’s how she has interacted with the public for her whole life, and it’s made her a ton of money. She had no reason to play any other part.
With Trump’s threats of a lawsuit looming and a new wave of online hate to consider, Daniels has changed her approach. She brought up her daughter more often than her career in her 60 Minutes interview, for which she wore a button-down shirt and uncharacteristically subtle eye makeup. She occasionally tried to lighten the mood with a joke, but she didn’t fill dead space with girlish giggles as she did on Kimmel. If Daniels appears more believable on 60 Minutes than she did on Kimmel, it’s because, for women, the distance between being a trustworthy victim of threats and being a greedy liar can be as narrow as a modest blouse and some good PR advice.
Cooper lent another layer of credibility to the broadcast. Unlike Kimmel, he approached Daniels with empathy, as someone with smarts and legitimate concerns. His unflustered lines of questioning drained the blood out of the sex parts of Daniels’ story, even the spanking bit, leaving viewers to focus on the disturbing threats made against her and the Trump team’s possible violations of campaign finance law. (The studiously dull, highly edited production style of 60 Minutes helped set the sober tone too.) One could argue that the sex part of Trump’s sexual indiscretions is extremely germane, because he and a major portion of his base have a demonstrated interest in regulating sex and punishing people for having it. But, as Kimmel and the hubbub around Trump’s “pee tape” have shown, a little bit of sex talk can easily drown out other critical points of a narrative.
And, critically for Daniels, sex talk is often used to drape a cover of scuttlebutt or disgrace over women’s narratives, camouflaging truths with prurience. Cooper and the 60 Minutes producers resisted that impulse. The interviewer becomes a proxy for the audience in a televised conversation like the one the program aired Sunday night. Sometimes, viewers need to watch a trusted man take a woman seriously before they can do it themselves.
The statistic shows the percentage of families having a bank account or a postal deposit in Italy in 2014. According to data, 93.8 percent of families owned a bank account or a postal deposit, while 22.1 percent owned a saving account.
by Smithsonian National Postal Museum @ National Postal Museum
Thu Feb 22 08:43:53 PST 2018
By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern 1903 Bright Angel Hotel cover; loan from Marjory J. Sente. In today’s day and age, hotels are inextricably linked to vacationing and travel. Hotels not only provide travelers with overnight lodging but also with amenities and entertainment services at famous locations around the world. At the same time, hotels can also be tourist destinations, using their lavish accommodations to supplement the more remote attractions found in nature. The current exhibition “Trailblazing: 100 Years of our National Parks,” contains hotel covers and stationary that highlight the Grand Canyon’s early years of tourism in connection...
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 11:06:02 PDT 2018
Donald Trump’s lawyer John Dowd quit.
Dowd was Trump’s lead personal lawyer for Russia/Mueller stuff; the other Trump-related lawyers you’ve likely heard about in the news, Don McGahn and Ty Cobb, technically work for the White House rather than Trump personally. POTUS also still retains the legal services of Jay Sekulow, who seems to act as more of a pundit/spokesman for Trump than an attorney, and Joseph diGenova, who Trump hired earlier this week and who has asserted on Fox News that Robert Mueller and the Deep State have conspired to frame the president.
But, anyway, apparently Trump got tired of Dowd telling him not to run his mouth at the same time that Dowd got tired of telling Trump not to run his mouth, more or less. So Dowd quit.
He’s done. He’s out!
More of Trump’s lawyers will probably quit, in the future.
by Brietta Hague @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 07:05:04 PDT 2018
Katalin Cseh, a 29-year-old opposition parliamentary candidate, has learned the perils of challenging Hungary’s ruling party the hard way.
In September, while visiting France with fellow members of her party, she was photographed with the French president’s wife, Brigitte Macron. Almost immediately, she was labeled a foreign agent.
“State media did a five-minute story about the photo on the national television news,” she said incredulously. “Local media portrayed it that we were playing to French powers and we are part of a conspiracy against the Hungarian people. How do you respond to that? Often we feel it’s better not to respond, it’s not a real debate.”
Cseh is a member of Momentum, a new party trying to take on the entrenched rule of Hungary’s strongman prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and stop what they see as Hungary’s slide into xenophobic dictatorship. Its core leaders are younger than 35, university-educated, and have studied or worked abroad. They use sophisticated social media strategies and consult successful political strategists, including veterans of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche and the Obama campaign.
The government labels them tools of Hungary’s enemies, especially the Hungarian-born currency speculator and philanthropist George Soros, who has poured much of his fortune into liberal causes and become the favorite boogeyman of Orbán’s government. The government has pinned the blame on Soros for opposition to its controversial anti-immigrant policies and consolidation of power.
“It’s just nonsense, absurd accusations, that we are the puppets of George Soros who is an evil overlord who wants to occupy Hungary,” said Cseh. “He’s an 87-year-old man, it’s crazy. We want to put out positive messages as a means to combat propaganda.”
The issue of migration looms over the campaign. In 2015, more than 600,000 refugees flooded into Europe mainly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; the majority of them heading for Germany and Northern Europe. Orbán responded to the crisis by immediately rejecting claims for asylum and building a razor-wire fence on the border of Serbia to keep out what he called “Muslim invaders.” Today, only two asylum seekers per day are permitted to cross into Hungary.
Ahead of the April 8 parliamentary elections, the government’s heavy-handed propaganda is on display across the capital, Budapest. Billboards depict Soros standing with opposition leaders holding scissors. The message is that they’re ready to cut the fences keeping out hordes of migrants.
“They are pushing this hysterical campaign against perceived enemies of the state,” she said. “The only way Momentum can effect change is to be there and talk to people, hold forums, be a bit rebellious, use common advertising methods. We have to get around traditional media and find a common ground to express our message.”
Like his close ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Orbán has proved a master at playing up the idea of a nation under attack. On March 15, he addressed a crowd of up to 100,000 supporters outside Parliament House. The occasion was the 170th anniversary of Hungary’s uprising against Austrian rule, sparked by a young poet named Sándor Petofi, who called on his countrymen to “rise up” against their enemies.
“We are fighting an enemy that is different from us,” the prime minister said. “Not open but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money.” It’s not the first time Orbán has criticized the Jewish philanthropist with language that critics say is thinly veiled anti-Semitism.
Just as Hungary had expelled the Ottomans, Austrians, and Soviets, he assured the crowd he would get rid of “Uncle George.”
Across town at a Momentum rally, party chairman András Fekete-Gyor said that actually Soros wasn’t doing enough to help them.
“He needs to be more visible, this would be my criticism of him,” he said. “He’s almost completely disappeared from the public relations side of things in recent years. He should come back and defend himself and defend his organizations.”
Momentum denies getting any money from Soros. But it’s trying to mobilize the support of institutions he has funded. Since 1984, Soros’ philanthropic group, the Open Society Foundations, has donated $400 million to promote civil society in Hungary. In the words of its website, the money is to “support Hungarian partners working on issues that include promoting independent journalism, fighting corruption, supporting civic participation, and combatting discrimination.”
Orbán in contrast has vowed to end liberal democracy, proclaiming in a 2014 speech that he wanted to build an “illiberal state” along the lines of Russia and China. During his two terms in office, he has seized control of the judiciary and state media and cracked down hard on civil society. Last year the government moved to shut down the Soros-founded Central European University in Budapest, seen by many on the right as a breeding ground for liberals. The university grants scholarships to underprivileged youth across Central Asia and the former Soviet Union.
Daniel Berg, a young Hungarian American whose mother was a political dissident under communism, was one of the leaders of a popular campaign to defend the university that saw thousands take to the streets of Budapest. He’s now a candidate for Momentum in the April elections.
“We were a social movement then we transitioned into a party. Originally there were like, 30 people—a friend group basically—then it went to 240, then 500, then 1,000, and then over 2,000, so we’re a 2,000-strong political community. Our opinion polls are steadily going up. We’re currently polling at 4 percent and the threshold [for parliament] is 5.”
Orbán’s vows to protect Hungary from a migrant invasion have played much better in the rural heartland than in Budapest. His party, Fidesz, controls two-thirds of the Parliament. But the irony is that ever more Hungarians are now looking to escape their country.
“It’s a critical issue that the youth are planning to live their lives somewhere else in Europe,” said Cseh, a doctor. “It’s not just a brain drain. Nonprofessionals are leaving too because they can’t earn a living.”
Despite its immense power, Fidesz has done little to tackle Hungary’s economic problems. Cseh, Momentum’s health spokeswoman, recently installed a large-scale photo exhibition outside the Ministry of Health showing the appalling conditions of Hungary’s public hospitals.
“Basically in the last 28 years none of the governments have managed to undertake a substantial reform of the major social services. Not education nor health care. The country is really divided into two halves, the lucky ones and the unlucky ones. And no one is really taking care of the unlucky ones because they have a lower tendency to vote, so therefore there’s no incentive for helping them.”
Appeals to nationalism have proved an effective distraction from everyday problems. Despite Hungary’s membership in the European Union, the Fidesz government has simply ignored many EU directives. After U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called Orbán a racist and xenophobe on March 6, the government proclaimed it would not be dictated to. Alongside the anti-Soros billboards, authorities have now erected signs declaring: “The U.N. wants to accept migrants on a continuous basis. HUNGARY DECIDES, NOT THE U.N.”
And Orbán enjoys unqualified support from the Kremlin and Poland’s new conservative government. His mass rally was attended by thousands of flag-waving Polish nationalists bused in to show solidarity.
It might seem a hopeless cause to take on a leader who has consolidated so much power. But Momentum sees itself as the true heir of the young poet Sándor Petofi.
“In 1848, a handful of young people in Budapest decided to take their fate in their own hands,” András Fekete-Gyor said. “The country we want to be proud of somehow does not function as it’s supposed to. You should vote for someone you believe in who can bring you hope.”
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 18:28:08 PDT 2018
A Daily Beast report Thursday says there is new evidence tracking Guccifer 2.0, the online persona of the hacker that swiped DNC emails and provided them to WikiLeaks, back to an officer in Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU). Confirming this link to Moscow, which aligns with what American intelligence agencies have believed “with high confidence” would likely have geopolitical ramifications for the U.S., as well as legal implications for the Trump presidency.
Throughout 2016, Guccifer claimed to be a “lone hacker,” but the consensus view among security experts was that the persona was a composite. An investigation into emails from Guccifer, who communicated with people on social media, through blog posts, and elsewhere, provided investigators the break they needed to track down who was behind the account that wreaked havoc on the 2016 election. From the Daily Beast:
…an investigation at ThreatConnect that tried to track down Guccifer from the metadata in his emails. But the trail always ended at the same data center in France. [An intelligence researcher] eventually uncovered that Guccifer was connecting through an anonymizing service called Elite VPN, a virtual private networking service that had an exit point in France but was headquartered in Russia. But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation. Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow. (The Daily Beast’s sources did not disclose which particular officer worked as Guccifer.)
Guccifer was born on June 15, 2016, shortly before the release of the DNC emails, and made occasional appearances online throughout the campaign. Trump adviser Roger Stone interacted with the hacker via direct messages on Twitter. “Sometime after its hasty launch, the Guccifer persona was handed off to a more experienced GRU officer, according to a source familiar with the matter,” the Daily Beast reports. “The timing of that handoff is unclear, but Guccifer 2.0’s last blog post, from Jan. 12, 2017, evinced a far greater command of English that the persona’s earlier efforts.”
by Shivam Shrivastava @ FH Blog
Mon Mar 19 22:00:30 PDT 2018
Mutual funds are not guaranteed investment avenues which provide a promised return after a specified tenure. They are linked to the capital markets and their movements can be predicted by the stock market movements. The benefit of mutual funds stems from the fact that they depend on the market. They provide inflation-adjusted returns keeping in […]
by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Mon Jan 29 11:16:39 PST 2018
By Jordan Weissman, Slate, Jan. 23, 2018. This week offered a small but vivid reminder that we can’t expect banks to serve anybody except their shareholders. On Monday, Bank of America ended a free checking service used by some of its lower-income depositors called e-banking, which it had been gradually winding down for several years. The final […]
Postal Recurring Deposits Vs. Mutual fund SIPs ? which one you should go for in this article you will see differences Between both RD Vs MF
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 18:49:26 PDT 2018
Few topics have roiled political discourse since the 2016 election more than the question of what the Democratic Party and the left, broadly speaking, ought to do with identity politics. In his book, The Once and Future Liberal, and in the pages of the New York Times not long after the 2016 election, Columbia University’s Mark Lilla argued that the embrace of factional identities, particularly among younger Americans, might spell doom for America’s liberals. “The fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life, Lilla wrote in his essay “The End of Identity Liberalism.” In the New York Times last week, David Brooks confessed befuddlement about how to address the problem. “I’m a columnist and I’m supposed to come to a conclusion” he wrote, “but I’m confused.”
Now we are at a place where it is commonly assumed that your perceptions are something that come to you through your group, through your demographic identity. How many times have we all heard somebody rise up in conversation and say, “Speaking as a Latina. …” or “Speaking as a queer person. …” or “Speaking as a Jew. …”?
Now, when somebody says that I always wonder, What does that mean? After you’ve stated your group identity, what is the therefore that follows?
As a philosophical matter, the question of how we might locate the individual beneath the thicket of our entwined, often competing identities—as members of a particular race, gender, sexual orientation, class and so on—is genuinely a complicated one. Politically, grappling with identity is a much simpler task. It requires little more than understanding that that those long ignored within, or sidelined from, the political process are going to want and ought to be given a voice, that their communities have particular needs that ought to be reflected in the policymaking process, and that even problems shared in common have disparate particular impacts on different groups.
The weekend’s March for Our Lives was a master class in accomplishing all of the above. The post-Parkland gun control movement has most closely identified with a mostly white group of Stoneman Douglas students. Those students have taken every opportunity to say they’re aware of this. Before the March, David Hogg, one of the more prominent Parkland activists, criticized the media for not spotlighting the school’s African American students. “My school is about 25 percent black,” he told Axios, “but the way we’re covered doesn’t reflect that.” In her speech Saturday, Stoneman Douglas junior class president Jaclyn Corin attributed the attention the media has given to the Parkland shooting’s survivors to the wealth of her community. “We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence,” she said, “but we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.”
Indeed, speeches from Stoneman Douglas students during the march were generally followed immediately by speeches from minorities hailing from communities like the South Side of Chicago, South Central Los Angeles and the rougher neighborhoods of the nation’s capital—places where shootings are a daily reality. Edna Chavez, a student from Los Angeles whose brother was gunned down outside her home in 2007, was among those who spoke about the need to address poverty and disinvestment in minority communities as part of efforts to combat gun violence and warned additionally against turning to policing as a solution.
It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of black and brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet. How can we cope with it when our school district has its own police department? Instead of making black and brown students feel safe, they continue to profile and criminalize us […] We need to tackle the root causes of the issues we face and come to an understanding on how to resolve them.
I am here to honor the Florida students that lost their lives and to stand with the Parkland students. I am here today to honor Ricardo. I am here today to honor Stephon Clark. I am here today to uplift my South LA community.
There was nothing in this speech, or in the speeches of the other teens who extended a hand to Parkland’s victims while memorializing those lost in their own communities and families, to support the idea that young people in tune with their particular race or class identities are “narcissistically unaware” of the things happening to distant communities of strangers. There was moreover little evidence that many have found the efforts of Parkland’s activists to zoom in on minority communities divisive or alienating.
Instead, it’s likely that the diversity of the march will build solidarity with the movement going forward—not just because its speeches made clear the stakes different communities have in curbing gun violence, but also because they made clear to all the true scale of the issue. A problem large enough to touch those in communities vastly different and distant from each other makes greater demands on the individual conscience than a problem more narrowly conceived and defined. None of this should be terribly hard to grasp for those who, as Brooks does, imagine themselves as wizened observers of society. But the need to loudly recognize the needs of minority communities is going to be rendered as a mystifying ask for as long as they’re around to express their bewilderment.
by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 12:51:37 PDT 2018
A story this week on Task & Purpose, a military-affairs website, brings news that L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer—the first proconsul of the American occupation in post-Saddam Iraq and the man who signed what may be the most catastrophic orders in U.S. diplomatic history—is living out his days as a professional ski instructor in Vermont.
The invocation of Bremer’s name, following the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, stirs up the single biggest enduring mystery of the war: Who wrote the orders Bremer signed? Who is responsible for the one decision that—more than any other, except the decision to go to war in the first place—wreaked such horrendous damage to human life and geopolitical stability?
On May 15, 2003, one day after he arrived in Baghdad to head the Coalition Provisional Authority, Bremer issued CPA Order No. 1, which barred members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, which disbanded the Iraqi army.
With those two orders, the future of Iraq was doomed, the already-likely failure of the American mission was sealed, and the prospect of a sectarian civil war—enveloping not only Iraq but the entire Middle East—became nearly inevitable. Not only did the orders remove the country’s two main indigenous institutions of authority, they also put 50,000 civil servants and a quarter-million soldiers out of a job, many of them with access to weapons. In other words, Bremer’s orders amounted to a recipe for resentment, anarchy, and violence.
President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had sent a small invasion force to Iraq—enough troops to crush the Iraqi army and oust Saddam from power but way too few to restore stability after his fall. This decision was deliberate: Rumsfeld had no interest in keeping 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq to do “nation-building.” That would be left to the Iraqis themselves. But Bremer’s orders, which left them without an army or a government, rendered the task impossible.
One remarkable thing about these orders is that they surprised almost everyone back in Washington, including the president. On March 10, one week before the invasion, the National Security Council had held a principals’ meeting, attended by Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, the national security adviser, the director of the CIA, the secretaries of state and defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and their top aides. They decided that, after the war, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be set up—similar to such panels in post-Apartheid South Africa and post-Communist Eastern Europe—to ferret out the undesirable Baath Party members from those who could reliably work for a new government. Intelligence analysts figured that only about 5 percent of the party—the leaders—would have to be removed, and even they would be given the right to appeal.
On March 12, another principals meeting took place to decide what to do about the Iraqi military. They decided to disband the Republican Guard—Saddam’s elite corps—but to call the regular army’s soldiers back to duty and to reconstitute their units after a proper vetting of their loyalty to a new Iraqi leadership.
Both decisions were unanimous. NSC staff members had briefed officials on the plans before the meeting, up and down the chain of command, and they encountered no dissent. In other words, Bremer’s two orders violated decisions made at the highest level of government—decisions of staggering importance that would shape every aspect of the war’s aftermath.
So who wrote the orders?
In his memoir, Bremer wrote that Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, handed him the documents and told him to sign and implement them as soon as possible after arriving in Baghdad. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” he remembered Feith saying. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”
But Feith was little more than an avid errand boy for Rumsfeld. And Rumsfeld told journalist Bob Woodward that the orders didn’t originate in the Pentagon, that they came from “elsewhere”—which must have meant the White House and probably meant, specifically, Vice President Cheney.
Cheney’s culpability must remain a theoretical matter until the archives are fully opened (and even then, we might never know for certain), but the evidence is compelling.
First, there is the matter of what Sherlock Holmes would call “the dog that didn’t bark.” Cheney’s office, which he’d enlarged and transformed into a parallel NSC, was famously the most tight-lipped clique in Washington. The fact that no one has leaked the full story of Bremer’s orders, even after 15 years, points a finger at Cheney and his crew.
Second, Cheney was very close to an Iraqi exile named Ahmad Chalabi, and Chalabi (who died in 2015) had a vested interest in both of those orders. In the years leading up to the war, he had been one of the most fervent lobbyists for ousting Saddam with U.S. military force, and in his pitches for “regime change,” he particularly stressed the need to strip Baathists of all power. After the combat phase of the war, Chalabi quickly put himself in charge of a de-Baathification commission—which he saw as an efficient route to taking power himself.
In the run-up to the invasion, Chalabi also formed a militia called the Free Iraqi Forces, which he envisioned as the nascent army of the new Iraq—as long as the existing army was disbanded. In NSC meetings, Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense (who had also long been friends with Chalabi), pushed for supporting this militia, but Bush rejected the idea. The CIA, which had once backed Chalabi in an attempted anti-Saddam coup that went horrifically wrong, also warned against getting mixed up with his schemes. Wayne White, the top regional expert in the State Department’s intelligence bureau, described him as a “used-car salesman.” Gen. Tony Zinni, the head of U.S. Central Command, dismissed Chalabi and his entourage as “silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London” who had no real constituencies in the cities and villages of Iraq.
Nonetheless, as Saddam deserted his palace, Wolfowitz supplied a military cargo-transport plane to fly several hundred of Chalabi’s militiamen to Iraq. They all vanished into the streets upon landing; they never had comprised an organized alternative military; like most of Chalabi’s enterprises, the whole business was a scam. A few years later, evidence mounted that Chalabi had been, all along, a spy for Iran, which wound up gaining the most from the instability spawned by the invasion.
In his memoir and in this week’s interview with Task & Purpose, Bremer not only disclaimed credit for the orders he signed but also disputed the notion that they had such dire consequences. “There was no Iraqi army to disband,” he said, noting that all the soldiers had gone home; even the barracks were empty.
But this wasn’t true. In Baghdad, a U.S. Army colonel named Paul Hughes spent weeks contacting officers of the Iraqi regular army, paying them to call up their troops to rejoin the new government—just as the NSC had directed and his commanders in the field had ordered. Many of these officers were waiting for the signal—and were as flabbergasted as Hughes when Bremer’s orders came down.
Why didn’t Bush rescind Bremer’s orders after reading about them in the newspaper? This is another mystery. When journalist Robert Draper posed the question, Bush replied, “The policy had been to keep the [Iraqi] army intact; didn’t happen.” Draper asked how he reacted to Bremer’s reversal. Bush replied, “Yeah, I can’t remember. I’m sure I said, ‘This is the policy, what happened?’ ”
Since Bush has recently emerged as such a charming guy, a philanthropist, an impressive amateur painter, precisely the sort of person you’d like to have a beer with (if he drank beer, which he stopped doing a long time ago). He’s so much more appealing than the current tenant in the White House we tend to forget that he was, by and large, such a terrible president.
According to recent opinion polls, many Americans also seem to have forgotten that invading Iraq was such a terrible idea. It would probably have been terrible even without Bremer’s orders. There would likely still have been a sectarian power struggle over a weakened state, siring a civil war and brewing regional tensions. But if the army and the government had stayed intact, the fighting may have been less chaotic and deadly; there might even have been a small chance that it could have been contained.
Yet Bremer whooshes down the slopes of the Okemo Mountain Resort. His erstwhile higher-ups, those who made the decisions, are still gainfully employed or basking in comfortable retirement. John Bolton, another enthusiast for the war and one of the few who has no misgivings about it, is about to become the president’s national security adviser. No one has been held accountable, no one has had to pay a price, except for the 100,000 or so Americans and Iraqis who died—and the untold numbers maimed or otherwise damaged—in the struggle to clean up the mess or simply got trapped in the crossfire.
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 14:11:24 PDT 2018
Over the past week, Donald Trump has escalated his attacks on Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia. (On Wednesday, Trump’s attack took the form of tweeting out a quote from Alan Dershowitz about how Mueller should never have been chosen for the role.) Amid rumblings that Trump might move to fire Mueller, and with Democrats warning that such a decision could spark a constitutional crisis, many congressional Republicans have been silent. Those who have been critical have mostly refused to spell out the consequences of what a Mueller firing would cause them to do. And the House and Senate leadership still say they see no need for a bill protecting Mueller’s job.
To talk about the relationship between the president and his party, I spoke by phone with Tom Cole, a Republican congressman for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, and the House deputy whip. He has criticized Trump for things like falsely claiming to have been wiretapped by his predecessor, and for his remarks after Charlottesville, but he has also overwhelmingly supported Trump’s agenda. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed whether Trump is a threat to democracy, how to understand the president’s psyche, and why congressional Republicans just refuse to put pressure on him.
Isaac Chotiner: How would you define the 14 or 15 months of this Congress, during the first part of the Trump presidency?
Tom Cole: I would call it actually productive, but also divisive. Productive in the sense that we’ve got, frankly, the most significant tax reform, tax reduction, in a generation. You have to go back to the 1980s. It’s also been a Congress, working with the administration, that’s done more on the deregulatory front than any other Congress, frankly, in modern American history.
I think Democrats are very entrenched and find it difficult politically to cooperate with this president. In that sense, it’s not unlike Republicans dealing with Obama.
How do you think the Republican Party has dealt with this president?
I think probably they’ve dealt with him in a very guarded way, in some senses. They by and large agree on agenda items, but not in all areas. You’ve seen some Republican rebellion, for instance, on the Russian sanctions. You see it on discussions about tariffs. The president has one view. Most Republicans in Congress are free traders.
The president ran as an outsider, very much so, and I think that still remains. This is actually part of his appeal and strength, an outsider to the ways of Washington and the traditional Republican political establishment. He beat that establishment in the campaign. There’s a certain amount of tension there. You can argue that sometimes it’s creative tension. Sometimes it just makes legislating very difficult.
What do you think about the Mueller investigation?
Well first of all, I think it needs to continue. If there’s no “there there,” in the sense of collusion—and I don’t think there is; I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest it—I think ultimately it will work to the president’s advantage. Mueller is seen as a guy of enormous personal integrity and a guy of enormous professional competence. If you get to the end of this, and the president’s not seen to have colluded or done anything wrong, the campaign has not done anything wrong, then that will be the ultimate vindication. If something is there, and again I don’t think that’s the case, but if there were, then that’s going to be extraordinarily dangerous for the president.
I’ll go back to something Trey Gowdy said this Sunday, which I thought was the line of the day. Speaking about one of the Trump lawyers: “If your client’s innocent, act like it.” So I don’t think undermining this does well. Now again, do I understand why the president’s irritated? Yeah. If you’re going through something like this—and remember this investigation began before Donald Trump was even president; it began in July—and you see some things like the emails that came out between FBI agents involved in the Clinton investigation that clearly were pro-Clinton and anti-Trump, you kind of wonder about this, and you see people spending enormous amounts of money in a very intrusive investigation.
I don’t think they shaped the election. I really don’t believe that. I don’t see any evidence that the election was driven by them, but I do recognize they tried to interfere. So it’s legitimate to try and understand how and why, and make sure that they can’t—that people have confidence in elections going forward.
The president seems to be someone who likes testing the limits of his office. Well, limits of all sorts, let’s say. It seems like there are a lot of Republicans who are worried that he might fire Mueller. But there have been bills proposed by Democrats to protect Mueller’s job, and Republicans have said no. “No, he’s not going to fire Mueller,” even though we know that he at one point tried to, and then the White House counsel threatened to resign. It seems to me that you’d want to set limits for him because he wants to push those limits. Congressional Republicans don’t want him to do certain things, but there’s no desire to actually enforce certain limits and enforce certain checks. And I don’t really get that.
I think sometimes you count on the institutions themselves. For instance, we know the president has been a lot slower to acknowledge the extent of Russian efforts, whether they succeeded or not, to impact the election. But none of the people around him have been that way. Pompeo, for instance, has been very forthright about this.
I think we don’t think he will go there. And I’m not sure, frankly, that a law is going to make much difference. There are executive powers here that are pretty firmly established. But I think the message has been sent pretty directly, and I mean pretty clearly. Look, I don’t know a single Republican, OK I’m sure there’s some, but most of them have said, “Look, don’t mess with the Mueller probe.”
So again, we’ll see. I don’t pretend to be able to predict what the president will do. I think to a degree he is unpredictable. And I think that’s been part of his M.O. his entire career, not just as the president of the United States.
Do you have any concerns about the state of American democracy, and would that answer change if Trump fired Mueller?
In terms of American democracy, I don’t have any concerns about the institution or the robustness of the democracy at all. Look, I think obviously we have a very free press, and it’s very aggressive. I think we have a very good, brisk political system. It moves back-and-forth between the two parties. I think it’s very hard for any politician to be held unaccountable. So when I see the president described as authoritarian, or people suggesting that we’re moving in that direction, I don’t see that at all. I do worry about our democracy in the sense that I do think the two bases, the respective parties, have, No. 1, become so antagonistic to one another. I think that’s been developing, by the way, long before Donald Trump. I think he just saw it and used it more effectively than any politician in the ’15, ’16 cycle. That does worry me.
In terms of democracy, I think Don McGahn gave the president very good advice if the stories that we hear are true. It would be a catastrophic mistake, in my opinion, to fire Mueller. The truth, whatever it is, is going to come out. If it’s to your advantage, you should want this to happen quickly. Now again, I understand being irritated. I understand investigations going off the lane.
I think a lot of prosecutors and investigators like high-profile politicians. Again, I understand that sort of concern, but in this case we’ve got witnesses. They’ve got cooperating witnesses. That is people who have pled guilty to things. They’ve got 13 Russians charged, which is, I think, totally independent of the president, but tells you—
The president’s former campaign manager and former national security adviser.
Yeah. So, let this play out.
If it’s a tainted investigation, I think we’ll be able to tell that. At this point, I don’t have any reason to believe it is.
If you take things like the House Intelligence Committee’s probe, there are a lot of signals coming from Republicans that they are OK with his behavior. The president is potentially going to get the Republican Party in a lot of trouble in 2018, and there will be more trouble if he fires Mueller. I just don’t understand the psychology of not trying to set more limits for him, in terms of your own political interest, or in terms of proper checks and balances.
President Obama got Democrats in a lot of trouble in 2010. I’m not equating the two; I’m just saying midterms are midterms. You’re going to have bad midterms. Almost everybody does. Actually, it tells me the system’s working the way it traditionally does. Again, we are going into tough headwinds. We’ve differed with the president on trade. We’ve differed with him on sanctions to Russia. But most of the time, look, if you’re pursuing traditional deregulatory policies, that’s where Republicans [are].
I mean more about issues of democracy and separation of powers, and things like that.
Yeah, the elections we’ve had, which suggest democracy’s working … It’s not like the president’s had a bunch of good off-year elections. I mean, Virginia was Virginia, New Jersey was New Jersey, Alabama was Alabama. I would suggest the democracy’s quite healthy, and the opposition is extremely energized.
I just don’t see the danger—
I meant about passing a law to protect Mueller. It just seems like it would be in everyone’s self-interest, and that’s the sort of thing I just have trouble understanding.
Well, you know, I think if people are worried about that, I guess they could. But I think the president would create a far bigger problem for himself by firing Mueller than by letting him run through. And I think that’s kind of the thinking because we know there’s resistance inside the White House itself. We know there are people there that are telling him, “Don’t do this. It’d be a huge mistake for you to do this.” And I think that sentiment has been expressed pretty uniformly by Republicans. That doesn’t mean that you have to go and … look, I think the consequences of firing him politically would be far, far greater. If you’re running a risk, it’s the risk that he might actually do it because I think the backlash would be tremendous.
I mean, let’s look at Comey. Had the president fired Comey on his first day in office, Democrats would have been cheering from the rooftops because I think he did intervene in inappropriate ways in the 2016 election, and he may well have cost Hillary Clinton the election with the last intervention a few days out before the ballot. That stuff was unbelievable to me. And most Democrats were calling for his head. Now, he’s being treated like a martyr. I’m not sure that he is. I think he’s a much more complex figure than either side has portrayed him.
OK, if the president fires Mueller, you’ll come back on for an interview with me, and I get to say, “I told you so.” And if in four years democracy’s in great shape, you’ll come on for an interview with me and you get to say, “I told you so,” to me.
Look, I think your concern, and it’s a legitimate concern it seems to me, is that one man is threatening democracy. I’m much more worried about the divisions inside the country that preceded Donald Trump and that I see playing themselves out in the legislative process every day. I see Democrats who want to compromise but can’t because they’ll be punished if they do. We had 151 Republicans vote against the fiscal cliff in the House because it was a “tax increase” and it was a deal with the devil. It was no such thing. Really stupid politics to do that. Really dumb. So there’s something wrong inside our system.
Look, I understand concerns, but again to me, we’ve got a deeper cultural problem politically in the country than Donald … Donald Trump is much more an expression of some of the challenges we have than the cause, in my view.
I notice you didn’t say anything about the House Intelligence Committee investigation when I mentioned it. Did you have any thoughts about that?
Well in my view, I think we’ll see because we’re going to have everything from an IG’s opinion to, at some point, a Mueller opinion and whatever. I think this is one where the report is broadly correct, in terms of the areas they looked at. I think what you’re seeing there, and what you may yet see on the Senate side, because I think the pressures are starting to manifest themselves there, is people reflecting the opinions of their respective political bases. I don’t have a problem with what the conclusions are here. I haven’t seen any reason to doubt them at this point, but there’s plenty of other evidence to come. Obviously, this is part of a process. On the plus side, they did say, “Yeah, look, the Russians were massively trying to get involved in our elections.”
Dozens of Wisconsin High-Schoolers Are Marching 50 Miles to Paul Ryan’s Hometown to Demand Gun Control
by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles
Mon Mar 26 08:50:21 PDT 2018
On Saturday, teenagers across the country came out in force to demand gun control to protect them from gun violence. Led by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, high-schoolers bearing angry signs warning legislators of their impending right to vote rejected the claims from the right that they were not old enough to have their own informed opinions or that they were being used by adult activists.
The next day, one group of Wisconsin high-schoolers gave further proof of the teens’ dedication to the cause with a planned 50-mile spring break march to the hometown of Paul Ryan.
More than 40 students from across the state set off on what is planned to be a four-day march from Madison to Janesville, according to their website. “It is directed at Paul Ryan for his lead role in blocking and burying any chance of gun reform again and again,” the group says on its website. “We are ready to keep the pressure on our nation’s top leaders until gun reform is a priority for Republicans and Democrats.”
The website cites the 54-mile civil rights march from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, in 1965 as their inspiration. Students at Shorewood High School near Milwaukee organized the event, according to the Washington Post. They are calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons and bump stocks, a four-day waiting period for firearm purchases, universal background checks, and an increase in the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21.
According to the Post, the chanting, sign-holding group has grown since it started, and teenagers and other young people reached out to the group on social media to find out how to join. On Sunday, they walked 17 miles in near-freezing weather, posting about a different victim of gun violence at each mile. They were accompanied by parents and occasionally law enforcement, according to the Post. On Sunday night, they slept on a high school gym floor.
Ryan has not spoken publicly about the topic since the demonstrations, but in February, about a week after the Parkland shooting, he told reporters that “we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens” and that Congress should instead ensure that “people who should not get guns don’t get them.” He called the idea to arm teachers—a widely unpopular one among Sunday’s demonstrators—a good one that should remain a matter of local legislation, and he praised a bill that would reinforce background checks but loosen laws around concealed-carry permits.
Elements of that bill were ultimately wrapped into Congress’ giant spending bill, which passed Wednesday. The bipartisan Fix NICS bill—a meager step compared with the broad national debate demonstrators were calling for, but a step all the same—incentivizes background check reporting and provides additional funds for school safety. In a section that pleased Democrats, the bill lifted restrictions placed on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blocking the agency from conducting research on gun violence. The NRA-favored measure that would have allowed for concealed-carry reciprocity was booted from the package.
The Wisconsin students, for their part, are demanding more from their representatives. “We commit to taking the fight to Congress, the White House, state legislatures, and the ballot box,” the group says on its website. “We will demand reform. And if our leaders fail to deliver, there will be a reckoning on Election Day all across the country.”
by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 06:04:26 PDT 2018
The state of California sued the Trump administration Monday night over the administration’s decision to include a question about citizenship in the upcoming census, according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The state’s lawsuit argues the question violates the Constitution because the census is required to obtain an “actual Enumeration” of every person in each state, according to the Washington Post.
More practically, opponents to the question argue it would deter undocumented immigrants from responding to the census, ultimately leading to undercounts that would mean states with significant numbers of immigrants would stand to lose seats in Congress, electoral votes, and federal funding. According to Politico, Democrats worry the question would cost California a Congressional seat.
In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Becerra and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called for an end to the “politicization” of the census. “If the bureau is ill-prepared for the job or a count is faulty, every state, every neighborhood, faces the risk of losing its fair share of federal funding for its people and its taxpayers,” they wrote. “This request is an extraordinary attempt by the Trump administration to hijack the 2020 census for political purposes.”
The Commerce Department announced its decision to include the question in the 2020 census Monday night. According to a press release, that decision was made to “help enforce the Voting Rights Act,” which protects minority voting rights. According to a press release, the department decided more accurate information about the population actually able to vote could help more effectively identify potential voter rights violations. “Secretary Ross determined that obtaining complete and accurate information to meet this legitimate government purpose outweighed the limited potential adverse impacts,” the press release said.
In a memorandum, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross wrote that the department had conducted a “comprehensive review” before making the decision and admitted that, while “a significantly lower response rate by non-citizens could reduce the accuracy” of the census, “neither the Census Bureau nor the concerned stakeholders could document that the response rate would in fact decline materially.”
In a statement, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi argued that the question “will inject fear and distrust into vulnerable communities, and cause traditionally undercounted communities to be even further under-represented, financially excluded and left behind.
“The Trump Administration put politics over the Constitution and, in so doing, ignored the consensus views of former Census Bureau directors of both parties and the conclusions of the Census Bureau’s own recent study, which warns of ‘an unprecedented groundswell in confidential and data sharing concerns, particularly among immigrants or those who live with immigrants,’” she said.
Becerra also argued the inclusion of the question violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which prohibits “arbitrary and capricious” agency action, according to the Post.
The citizenship question has not been asked on the census since 1950.
If tax has not been cut at source, mention this income in income tax return
by Pratik Rakte @ FH Blog
Tue Mar 13 05:38:36 PDT 2018
Fintoo is a premier online platform by India’s leading Financial and Tax Consultancy Firm, Financial Hospital. Fintoo makes mutual fund investments easy and effective. This online portal allows individuals to easily invest and track their entire portfolio. A tie-up with 22 leading AMCs (Asset Management Company) ensures that investors don’t have to take a chance […]
The post Invest easily with Fintoo – An Online Investment Platform appeared first on FH Blog.
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 17:01:37 PDT 2018
The Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census could mark the beginning of a radical shift in American democracy. If the question survives a court challenge, it will fundamentally alter the composition of government, exacerbating overrepresentation in predominantly white regions while diminishing representation of immigrants and minorities. The question will tilt political power to the right in both Congress and state legislatures while depriving cities of vital funds for public health, schooling, and other social services. And it opens the door to a new kind of gerrymandering that will further suppress minority votes. The addition of this question may be Donald Trump’s most lasting move as president, one with vast ramifications that will harm communities disfavored by the Republican Party through at least 2030.
How did we get here? The census is meant to be a politically neutral tool designed to ensure that Congress is truly representative of the country it serves. Every 10 years, the federal government must conduct a census to determine the “actual enumeration of the people,” and then mandates congressional redistricting based on its findings. From the start, the Constitution required the counting of people rather than just citizens—though it notoriously counted individual slaves as three-fifths of a person. The 14th Amendment remedied this shameful exception by apportioning representatives “according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state.”
The language of the Constitution couldn’t be clearer: Congress represents people, not citizens or voters or legal residents. Indeed, the framers of the 14th Amendment considered and rejected the notion of counting citizens alone. Ohio Rep. John Bingham, the principal author of the amendment, explained that it would be foolish to “strike from the basis of representation the entire immigrant population not naturalized.” Why? Because “under the Constitution as it now is and as it always has been, the entire immigrant population of this country is included in the basis of representation.” The census counts all people, immigrants included, and all people receive representation in Congress.
In 1950, the federal government stopped asking about citizenship on the decennial census. But in recent years, Republicans have crafted various theories designed to justify restoring the citizenship question. Some have argued that including undocumented immigrants in the census is illegal, an absurd claim that contravenes the original understanding of the 14th Amendment. Others assert that Congress must represent voters, not people—a theory the Supreme Court rejected in 2016’s Evenwel v. Abbott, holding that states may count the overall population to satisfy the Equal Protection Clause’s “one person, one vote” principle.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross added the citizenship question to the census at the behest of the Department of Justice. In December, the DOJ told the Census Bureau, which is part of the Department of Commerce, that it needs a “reliable calculation of citizen voting-age population” to enforce the Voting Rights Act, which bars the dilution of minority votes.
The DOJ is full of it. There is zero chance that Attorney General Jeff Sessions legitimately cares about VRA compliance given that he has abandoned the law in court. And the DOJ’s theory doesn’t even make sense. As the attorneys general of 19 states and the District of Columbia pointed out in a letter, the Supreme Court has never measured vote dilution by simply asking whether a majority of citizens in a district are minorities. To be clear, plenty of conservative lawmakers want the court to do so. Texas, for instance, created multiple districts that contain a majority of Hispanic citizens but relatively few reliable Hispanic voters. In 2011, the DOJ took the position that this method did not satisfy the VRA.
Sasha Samberg-Champion, a former attorney with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division who now practices at the firm Relman, Dane & Colfax, told me the DOJ’s justification for a citizenship question may indicate the agency will soon flip positions and side with Texas. The Justice Department looks poised to embrace the theory that the state can satisfy the VRA by packing a majority of Hispanic citizens into a district even if they do not consistently vote. If courts accepted this position, states like Texas could effectively sidestep the VRA’s goal of empowering minority voters.
There are two equally ominous reasons why the Trump administration would ask for citizenship data. First, in Evenwel, the Supreme Court did not rule out the possibility of drawing districts based on the population of citizens or voters rather than overall population. Citizen-based apportionment would deprive immigrants of representation, shifting power toward white rural voters at the expense of minorities and city-dwellers.
A Brennan Center analysis found that counting citizens instead of people would disproportionately affect “booming metro areas” like Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles given their large populations of immigrants. It would also dilute the votes of Latinos and make it more difficult to draw VRA-compliant districts. Harvard political scientist Carl E. Klarner found that apportionment by citizen population would substantially reduce Latino representation in state legislatures and the House of Representatives. An analysis by Andrew A. Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College, reached the same conclusion.
In Evenwel, the Supreme Court didn’t address the legality of such a scheme because it was, at the time, theoretical. By soliciting data on the nation’s immigrants, the Trump administration seems to be laying the groundwork for Texas and other states to use citizen population in the next cycle of redistricting. The upshot would be fewer Democratic representatives in Texas; Beveridge estimated that Republicans would gain at least seven seats in the state House (which has 150 members) and one in the state Senate (which has 31). He also found that Republicans would win one to two more congressional districts in the state.
Second, adding a citizenship question to the census will almost certainly suppress responses from both legal and undocumented immigrants. These individuals may fear that the government will use their information to target them for deportation or investigate their family’s citizenship status.
How large might this effect be? Unfortunately, the Census Bureau did not model the impact of a citizenship question. But after the 2010 census, the bureau noted that Hispanic communities were already difficult to count, in part because immigrants are understandably wary of government officials who knock on their doors asking questions. In September 2017, the bureau’s Center for Survey Measurement found that Hispanics and immigrants were mistrustful of census-takers. It found that fears of the census, “particularly among immigrant respondents, have increased markedly this year,” with immigrants expressing concerns about the “Muslim ban” and the dissolution of DACA. Some immigrants were uncomfortable “registering” members of their household; others were told by “community leaders” not to open the door without a warrant signed by a judge.
That was before the census featured a citizenship question. Civil rights advocates believe that the addition of such a question will compound distrust in the census among immigrants, lead undocumented individuals to refuse to participate altogether, and push those with legal status to lie out of fear that they will inadvertently report undocumented family members. During the Evenwel litigation, several former directors of the census told the Supreme Court that a citizenship question would “invariably lead to a lower response rate,” particularly among noncitizens.
A significant majority of immigrants live in blue states; if they don’t respond to the census, these states’ populations will be undercounted. As a result, the states could lose seats in the House of Representatives as well as funding for Medicaid, food stamps, transportation, and education. The problem would stretch well beyond the Trump era; the numbers collected in 2020 will be in use until the 2030 census.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appears to recognize this threat; on Monday, he filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the citizenship question. Becerra argues that the addition violates the Constitution’s Census Clause itself: By “diminish[ing] the response rates of non-citizens and their citizen relatives,” the question will interfere with the “actual enumeration of the people” required by the Constitution. The strength of this claim is difficult to gauge given the novelty of the question. It seems possible that the courts will find that a citizenship question does not infringe on “actual enumeration” because immigrants can still respond to the census if they want to, even if the question has a disparate impact on their response rate.
Becerra also argues that the new question violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal statute that bars any “arbitrary or capricious” agency action. This claim is quite strong. The citizenship question was added at a very late stage over the objection of career attorneys and with no field testing to estimate its effects. That marks a dramatic departure from the bureau’s standard procedures, implying a political motivation that may be unlawfully “arbitrary” under the APA.
There is thus a decent chance that the courts could block the question. But there is also a good possibility that it will remain in place, redrawing the country’s political map for at least 10 years, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of disenfranchisement. Trump will eventually leave office. But the dire consequences of this move could stay with us for a long time to come.
by asans @ Virtual Post Mail
Tue Dec 15 20:03:48 PST 2009
A post office box, or commonly known as a PO Box or a Postal Box, is a lockable mailbox located in a post office station. PO Boxes are traditionally used to receive mail when you live in areas where mail is not delivered directly to you home. It is also good for protecting your privacy and an affordable choice as a permanent mailing address solution.
Post Office Small Saving Schemes Interest rates for Oct to Dec-2017 Two days back, the Ministry of Finance announced latest and revised interest rates for post office saving schemes applicable for the period October-2017 to December-2017 (3rd Quarter of FY18). They have indicated that there would not be any change this time for 3rd Quarter which would be big relief
by Dahlia Lithwick @ Slate Articles
Fri Mar 23 15:55:12 PDT 2018
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have come to Washington. You can admire them, berate them, dismiss them as fake humans, or feel just slightly terrified by their energy and single-mindedness, but any way you look at it, they plan to be heard. These kids plan to name and shame members of Congress who have been bought and sold by the NRA, and they’ll be backed up by more than 800 student-led demonstrations planned in the United States and internationally this Saturday. Their actions and protests have already resulted in private companies, among them Delta, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Hertz, reordering their own relationships with the gun lobby. They’ve also stood behind a new gun bill in Florida that passed a Republican-dominated Legislature.
These students know the next step is to translate all this energy into votes. There are plans to register thousands of young voters this weekend, with a goal of having 4 out of 5 young people sign up to vote in the upcoming midterms. The marchers are buoyed by the fact that almost three-fifths of millennial voters—a group that’s a bit older than the demographic represented by these high school–age marchers—identify as Democrats. But young people are consistently unreliable voters, especially in midterm elections. And so, the question is, will any other groups follow the students’ lead this November?
Female voters are an obvious choice. A Quinnipiac University poll released in December revealed a “wide gender gap” with respect to gun control, with 69 percent of women supporting stricter gun laws and 26 percent opposing. The split for men: 47 percent in support and 47 percent opposed. If these young people can manage to activate older women, and especially their mothers, to vote on this issue, there could be reason to believe that meaningful change will follow.
There’s been some confusion in recent weeks over the interplay between Moms Demand Action, the Brady Campaign, MoveOn, the Women’s March, and the student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The Women’s March, for instance, had put its weight behind the national school walkout on March 14. Other groups are supporting an action on April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School. But despite this lack of clear consensus, the truth is that the Parkland, Florida, students have benefited tremendously from the pre-existing machinery that these other groups have created. As Rolling Stone reports, “the day after the shooting, members from the Tallahassee chapter of Moms Demand Action were already on the ground protesting at the state capital. The next day, Everytown had rolled out a five-point plan to remove NRA-backed politicians from office. Days after that, [shooting victim and former member of Congress Gabrielle] Giffords had rolled out a six-figure ad buy targeting Governor Rick Scott for his coziness with the NRA.” And in the weeks following the Parkland attack, Shannon Watts, who heads up Moms Demand Action, had launched Students Demand Action, adding 115,000 new volunteers.
Indeed, the “crisis actor” contingent has been quick to point out that Everytown and Moms Demand Action were suspiciously early supporters of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students. This, notes the fever swamp, makes the students “pawns” in George Soros’ well-financed gun control machine.
Maybe. Or perhaps these kids are surprisingly effective messengers who have managed to direct a whole lot of big money both to their own actions and to those of existing gun groups. They have managed to use those groups in ways that amplified their own words and have also raised awareness of other gun control projects. The Stoneman Douglas organizers have accepted help from established organizations when their agendas align and allowed for adult leadership where it was needed. But the truth is women’s groups have been right behind them from the start. According to the Washington Post, since Parkland, about 1.7 million new people have signed up with Moms Demand Action or its umbrella group, Everytown for Gun Safety, to receive emails or text messages or to make a donation. Meetings that usually garner a few dozen participants have drawn hundreds. Everytown is now launching a massive voter registration drive in concert with Saturday’s march. That group has also launched an initiative, “Throw Them Out,” to elect pro–gun control leaders.
Perhaps the most symbolic effort to recruit adult voters to the Parkland agenda was launched by a pair of Stoneman Douglas students, juniors Adam Buchwald and Zach Hibshman. The boys started an initiative called Parents’ Promise to Kids, which has children and their parents sign a contract in which the adults pledge to vote for candidates dedicated to gun control. The contract is pretty simple. Parents simply pledge that “I/We [parent name(s)] promise to [child name(s)] that I/We will vote for legislative leaders who support our children’s safety over guns!”
Moms are obvious recipients of the Parkland kids’ message. Millions of American parents have watched in fear as their children have gone off to schools that are at the mercy of lockdown drills and daily fear, without hope of government action. As Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action has written, “as parents, our kids are the center of our world and the future of this country. Their lives are on the line every day in our schools and communities—and their voices deserve our full attention.”
The March for Our Lives was explicitly modeled on the Women’s March because the underlying concerns—about violence, the Trump administration, and the ways in which Washington is captive to special interests—are so similar. And indeed, the line through #MeToo and #TimesUp and #NeverAgain is a straight one. All of these are messages about frustration and citizen action, about seizing power back from an apparatus that protects corporations and the wealthy at the expense of victims. But more pointedly, they’re all about giving voice to those who feel that they have been unheard, marginalized, or condescended to for too long.
But perhaps the real reason female voters, and mothers in particular, will be moved and activated by the March for Our Lives stems from the poignant reality of what it means to raise children and watch them separate as they grow: If anything can motivate a mom, it’s the complicated stew of guilt and pride that allows us to recognize that we have wholly failed to protect our own children, and also that we somehow raised them adeptly enough that they’re capable of fighting for themselves.
by Sreekanth Reddy @ ReLakhs.com
Tue Mar 27 07:45:22 PDT 2018
The interest rates on Bank fixed deposits may have touched the lowest levels and the interest rates on popular small savings schemes are not very attractive either. Also, Tax Free Bond Issues are not available now. This is inducing many small investors to look out for better fixed income products which can give decent fixed rate […]
by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 15:01:21 PDT 2018
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called on Congress to give President Trump a line-item veto saying that it is the only way to avoid Democrats filling a budget bill with discretionary spending. The only problem? The line-item veto was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court 20 years ago and Fox’s Chris Wallace said exactly that, leading to a bit of a tense exchange on Fox News Sunday.
“I think they should give the president a line-item veto,” Mnuchin said. Wallace answered: “That’s been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.” At that point Mnuchin seemed to dismiss the concern and said, “Well, again, Congress could pass a rule, okay, that allows them to do it.” Wallace quickly corrected him: “No, it would be a constitutional amendment.” At that point an evidently exasperated Mnuchin ended the discussion: “Chris, we don’t need to get into a debate … there’s different ways of doing this.”
To be fair, Mnuchin was only following his boss’s lead after President Donald Trump specifically called on Congress to give him “a line-item veto for all govt spending bills.” Trump made the call after expressing anger over signing a $1.3 trillion omnibus government spending bill even though he opposed much of it but insisted it was necessary on national security grounds.
The Supreme Court ruled six-to-three in Clinton v. City of New York that the line-item veto was unconstitutional because it gave too much power to the president to amend laws approved by the legislative branch. “There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes the president to enact, to amend or to repeal statutes,” noted the majority opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens.
by Smithsonian National Postal Museum @ National Postal Museum
Fri Mar 16 12:11:31 PDT 2018
By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern The exhibition, “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks,” displays a number of objects connected to the parkland and national monuments in the Washington, D.C., area, including patriotic covers from World War II and blocks of the Iwo Jima (Marines Issue) stamp. The 3-cent stamp features Joseph Rosenthal’s famous photograph of the second Iwo Jima flag raising, an image from 1945 recently in the news after research concluded that one of the photo’s six men had been misidentified Raising the US flag for the second time atop Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal; Iwo...
by Josh Voorhees @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 11:24:34 PDT 2018
About $130. That’s what Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner spent for each of the roughly 361,000 votes he received on Tuesday, as he barely held off an insurgent challenger in the Republican primary. Comparatively speaking, billionaire J.B. Pritzker got a bargain on the Democratic side of things. Pritzker spent a mere $60 or so for each of the roughly 574,000 votes he got in his primary.
The two campaigns combined to spend more than $80 million in the primary alone—Rauner $46.4 million, Pritzker $34.3 million—and by the time November rolls around, the race has a legitimate shot of topping the most expensive gubernatorial contest to date: California’s 2010 match-up between Jerry Brown and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman. Total spending in that one reached $280 million, roughly half of which came from Whitman’s personal bank account.
Pritzker is an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and is worth an estimated $3.5 billion, roughly comparable to Whitman. He seems to share her spend-it-all approach to campaigning, having already given roughly $70 million to his campaign. Asked how much he’d be willing to spend to win in November, he replied, “whatever it is, I would say Illinois is worth it.” Meanwhile, Rauner, a former equity investor worth a meager half-billion-dollars or so, has given his campaign nearly $58 million of his own cash. Unlike Pritzker, who is completely self-funding, Rauner is also happily taking donations from his rich friends, who have given him $45 million so far, roughly half of which came from a single Republican billionaire.
By state law, there is no limit to what individual donors can give since the candidates are technically self-funding, having both exceeded the quaint $250,000 threshold. There is no way of knowing just how big the two campaign war chests will grow between now and November. But insiders were predicting this would be a $300 million race as far back as last summer—and that was before the two frontrunners had to spend more than anyone expected to secure their nominations.
One factor might be how much Rauner actually wants to win this, and whether he’s willing to sink a quarter of his personal fortune into the race if the trendlines are against him. His unimpressive showing against a relatively unknown opponent on Tuesday demonstrated how much hostility he’s incurred on the Republican side—he was pilloried by both National Review and Laura Ingraham—and the path won’t get any easier in a general election where Democrats outnumber Republicans.
As Will Jordan, a research associate at the Global Strategy Group, points out, with a few votes still left to be counted, Democratic turnout this year was nearing a high-water mark for the past two decades. It was also nearly triple what it was in 2014, when then-Gov. Pat Quinn coasted to the nomination, and up nearly 40 percent from 2010, when Quinn won in a squeaker in the last Democratic primary without an incumbent before this one. Compare that to the GOP side of things, where turnout this year was down 14 percent from four years ago, when Rauner won a competitive four-man race, and down about 8 percent from 2010, when the top five GOP finishers were all within six points of one another.
This year’s turnout numbers, meanwhile, line up with what we’ve been seeing across the country in special elections and primaries since Trump’s been in office: Democrats are turning out at levels closer to how they have in presidential years than Republicans have been. If that enthusiasm gap continues into the fall, Democrats should be on pace for major gains, and Rauner could be forced to try and blunt the momentum with even more spending.
The reward for spending all that money? An intractable pension problem, and a four-year battle with the immensely powerful speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan. May the best man win.
by POSSS @ Post Office Small Savings Schemes
Fri Mar 16 12:30:54 PDT 2018
Post office Aadhaar enrolment/ update facility is now available in more than 6,500 post offices. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has recently shared that very soon there will be over 13,000 post office Aadhaar card centers. According to the UIDAI, authorised post offices and banks are seeing more than 70,000 Aadhar enrolment/ update everyday. To set up and operation of Aadhaar registration in Post Office, the Govt. has allotted Rs. 200 crores. And, this facility will be available in 13,466 post offices throughout the country. Also, to make the local crowd aware of this Post Office Aadhaar card facility,
The post Post Office Aadhaar Enrolment/ Update: Locate Aadhaar Card Center Near You appeared first on Post Office Small Savings Schemes.
Report: CEO of Trump Campaign Data Firm Told Staff to Use Hacked Emails to Influence Nigerian Election
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Wed Mar 21 14:37:22 PDT 2018
The political consulting/data firm Cambridge Analytica—whose services were employed by the Trump campaign in 2016 and which has long-standing connections to Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon—has been in the soup in recent days over revelations that it took Facebook data involving 50 million users without authorization and that CEO Alexander Nix and other top officials were caught on tape boasting about their willingness to use bribes, blackmail, and secretly distributed propaganda to win elections.
It’s a pretty hot soup, and it’s getting hotter: The Guardian is now reporting that multiple Cambridge Analytica employees say Nix and other executives instructed them to search what they believed to be a file of stolen emails for “incriminating” information about the opponent of a client in the 2015 Nigerian presidential election. The firm was working to secure the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan his race against Muhammadu Buhari, and the Guardian reports that at one point during the campaign Israeli subcontractors brought what appeared to be stolen data involving Buhari to Cambridge Analytica’s offices in London:
The Guardian and Observer has been told the Israelis brought a laptop from their office in Tel Aviv and handed employees a USB stick containing what they believed were hacked personal emails.
Sources said Nix, who was suspended on Tuesday, and other senior directors told staff to search for incriminating material that could be used to damage opposition candidates, including Buhari. … One member of the campaign team told the Guardian and Observer that the material they believed had been hacked included Buhari’s medical records. “I’m 99% sure of that. Or if they didn’t have his medical records they at least had emails that referred to what was going on.”
The Guardian’s piece does not make clear whether any employees followed Nix’s instructions; Jonathan ultimately lost his race. Cambridge Analytica’s parent company “denied taking possession of or using hacked or stolen personal information,” the Guardian writes.
To state the obvious, the data firm’s alleged willingness to exploit illegally obtained emails seems like it may have some relevance to a certain other election in which its client (Donald Trump—I’m talking about Donald Trump) benefitted from the distribution of illegally obtained emails. And if you’ll recall, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos was reportedly told about Russian email “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in April 2016, while one of the Russians involved in the infamous June 2016 meeting with Trump’s top aides—which also involved alleged “dirt” on Clinton—has been accused in the past of orchestrating hacking attacks. Nix, for his part, has admitted that he contacted WikiLeaks in June 2016 to ask if it would share the Clinton-related emails it ultimately released the next month. (To be clear, this would have been after reports of their existence began appearing in the press, and he claims his offer was rejected.)
Will any of these suggestive facts ever coalesce into a clear picture of “collusion” or criminal malfeasance? No one knows! And that’s what makes it fun.
by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Wed Nov 29 11:09:51 PST 2017
By Meagan Day, Jacobin, Nov. 20, 2017. Bluff, New Zealand is the southernmost inhabited city in the Eastern Hemisphere. The post office there looks over the Foveaux Strait — if you were to sail south from the harbor, the next landmass you’d encounter would be Antarctica. Fewer than two thousand people live in Bluff, but any one […]
The Financial Express
If you want to save tax without taking any market risk, then post office schemes may be a good option for you. Post office schemes are much secure investment options than those available in the market today. You will not get high returns compared to the market linked investment products, but the returns are assured which are subject to change as per government policies
by Anna @ Campaign for Postal Banking
Tue Oct 25 07:29:42 PDT 2016
By Katrina vanden Heuvel, Oct. 4, 2016, in The Washington Post. Wells Fargo’s abuse of its customers — its employees opened some 2 million accounts and credit cards for depositors who may not have wanted them — has sparked deserved outrage. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.-Mass.) charged Wells Fargo chair and chief executive John Stumpf with […]
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by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 15:56:09 PDT 2018
It’s time to push the panic button.
John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser—a post that requires no Senate confirmation—puts the United States on a path to war. And it’s fair to say President Donald Trump wants us on that path.
After all, Trump gave Bolton the job after the two held several conversations (despite White House chief of staff John Kelly’s orders barring Bolton from the building). And there was this remark that Trump made after firing Rex Tillerson and nominating the more hawkish Mike Pompeo to take his place: “We’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things I want.”
Bolton has repeatedly called for launching a first strike on North Korea, scuttling the nuclear arms deal with Iran, and then bombing that country too. He says and writes these things not as part of some clever “madman theory” to bring Kim Jong-un and the mullahs of Tehran to the bargaining table, but rather because he simply wants to destroy them and America’s other enemies too.
His agenda is not “peace through strength,” the motto of more conventional Republican hawks that Trump included in a tweet on Wednesday, but rather regime change through war. He is a neocon without the moral fervor of some who wear that label—i.e., he is keen to topple oppressive regimes not in order to spread democracy but rather to expand American power.
In the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney finagled Bolton a job as undersecretary of state for arms control—an inside joke, since Bolton has never read an arms-control treaty that he liked. But his real assignment was to serve as Cheney’s spy in Foggy Bottom, monitoring and, when possible, obstructing any attempts at peaceful diplomacy mounted by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
When Powell got the boot, Cheney wanted to make Bolton deputy secretary of state, replacing Richard Armitage, who resigned along with his best friend Powell. But Powell’s replacement, Condoleezza Rice, who had been Bush’s national security adviser, blocked the move, fully aware of Bolton’s obstructionist ideology.
As a compromise, Bush nominated Bolton to be United Nations ambassador, but that move proved unbearable to even the Republican-controlled Senate at the time. It was one thing to be critical of the U.N.—it’s a body deserving of criticism—but Bolton opposed its very existence. “There is no such thing as the United Nations,” he once said in a speech, adding, “If the U.N. Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a lot of difference.”
More than that, he was hostile to the idea of international law, having once declared, “It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so—because over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.”
These might be quaint notions for some eccentric midlevel aide to espouse, but the United Nations is founded on international law, Security Council resolutions are drafted to enforce international law, and—as even Bush was beginning to realize by the start of his second term, around the time of Bolton’s nomination—some of those resolutions were proving useful for expressing, and sometimes enforcing, U.S. national security interests. How could someone with these views serve as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.?
In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bolton put on a dreadful show, grumbling and scowling through his walrus mustache. Finally, in a tie vote, the committee sent Bolton’s nomination to the full Senate “without recommendation.” Properly fearing that this foretold a rejection on the floor, Bush gave Bolton the job as a “recess appointment” after Congress went on holiday. But the law allowing this evasion gave the Senate a chance to take a vote 18 months later. In the second round of hearings, Bolton behaved even more obnoxiously than in the first. When one Republican senator asked him whether his year and a half in the U.N. had altered his ideas about the place, Bolton, rather than seizing the chance to mollify skeptics, replied, “Not really.” The head counters in the White House withdrew the nomination, and Bolton headed back to neocon central at the American Enterprise Institute.
During Trump’s presidential transition, Bolton made the short list of candidates for deputy secretary of state, but Tillerson—who would soon get the nod for secretary—expressed misgivings about working with the guy. (Trump might have recalled that conversation earlier this month, when he decided to fire Tillerson.) After Michael Flynn flamed out as national security adviser, Bolton was also on the short list to replace him. Gen. H.R. McMaster got the nod, but Trump publicly said he liked Bolton and that he too would soon be working for the White House “in some capacity.”
And now, here he is.
In his one year and one month on the job, McMaster, who is still an active-duty Army three-star general, proved a deep disappointment to his friends and erstwhile admirers. He’d made his reputation 20 years ago, as the author of a dissertation-turned-book, Dereliction of Duty, which lambasted the top generals of the Vietnam era for failing to give their honest military advice to President Lyndon Johnson. And now, in his only tour as a policy adviser in Washington, McMaster has wrecked that reputation, committing his own derelictions by pandering to Trump’s proclivities and tolerating his falsehoods.
But at least McMaster assembled—and often listened to—a professional staff at the National Security Council and insisted on ousting amateur ideologues, several of them acolytes of Flynn.
Bolton is not likely to put up with a professional staff, and the flood of White House exiles will soon intensify. One subject of discussion at Bolton’s Senate hearings, back in 2005, was his intolerance of any views that differed from his own. He displayed this trait most harshly when, as undersecretary of state, he tried to fire two intelligence analysts who challenged his (erroneous) view that Cuba was developing biological weapons and supplying the weapons to rogue regimes.
Nor is Bolton at all suited to perform one of a national security adviser’s main responsibilities—assembling the Cabinet secretaries to debate various options in foreign and military policy, mediating their differences, and either hammering out a compromise or presenting the choices to the president.
Then again, there may now no longer be many differences to mediate in this administration. The last of the grown-ups is Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Marine four-star general, who got that job mainly because Trump had heard his nickname was “mad dog.” He didn’t know that Mattis regularly consulted a personal library of some 7,000 volumes on history and strategy, that (like most generals) he’s not too keen to go to war unless he really has to, and that (also like most generals) he takes the Geneva Conventions seriously and opposes torture.
In recent weeks, Trump was said to be tiring of aides who kept telling him no. He might soon tire of Bolton, who, whatever else he is, can’t be pegged as a yes man. But in the short term, Bolton may be just the man to excite Trump’s darker instincts, to actualize the frustrated he-man who raged about pelting Kim Jong-un with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” or fomenting “the total collapse of the Iranian regime,” which he somehow believes was about to happen, if only Obama hadn’t signed the nuclear deal and lifted sanctions.
With Tillerson out, Bolton in, and Pompeo waiting in the wings for confirmation, Trump is feeling his oats, coming into his own, like Trump is free to be Trump. Finding out just who that is may make the rest of us duck and cover.
by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles
Sun Mar 25 14:11:29 PDT 2018
Some awkwardness will be avoided at the White House Sunday night as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump won’t be anywhere near each other when the highly anticipated 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels airs. While the commander in chief will be back in the White House Sunday night, Melania Trump is scheduled to stay behind in Mar-a-Lago.
Knowing full well that the arrangement could raise some eyebrows, the White House insisted there was nothing strange about this. “The First Lady will be staying in Florida as is their tradition for spring break,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a late Sunday morning statement.
Although so far no one has said whether Trump will actually tune in to the interview with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, it does seem clear that the president is, at the very least, slightly worried. Trump complained to friends in Florida about all the attention Clifford has been receiving and he even asked a friend whether the whole controversy could affect his poll numbers, according to the Washington Post.
Even as he expresses some concern, the president is also making an effort to act a bit nonchalant about Clifford, who claimed she had an affair with Trump in 2006. Chris Ruddy, the founder and CEO of Newsmax told ABC’s This Week that Trump “said he thought that, that much of the Stormy Daniels stuff was a political hoax.” Ruddy emphasized that “those were his words.”
That interview prompted Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenetti, to write a response on Twitter. “Ms. Clifford’s claims are yet another “hoax”— similar to other infamous ‘hoaxes’ like the moon landing, 9/11, etc,” Avenetti wrote. “Is this, along with claims that I worked on some campaigns 25 yrs ago, the best you guys can come upon with to discredit us?”
A New York Times profile of Clifford describes how she worked her way up in an industry that is notoriously unfriendly to women and moved up from stripping to writing, directing, and starring in her own pornographic movies. Little wonder many have recognized her as a force to be reckoned with. “To many in the capital, Ms. Clifford, 39, has become an unexpected force. It is she, some in Washington now joke, and not the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who could topple Mr. Trump,” notes the Times.
On Twitter, Avenatti made clear that he and Clifford don’t know what CBS will choose to include in the broadcast but emphasized that “tonight is not the end—it’s the beginning.”
Michigan State Dean Who Supervised Larry Nassar Charged With Groping, Soliciting Nude Photos From Female Students
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Tue Mar 27 09:34:18 PDT 2018
William Strampel was the dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University until taking medical leave in late 2017. In his role as dean, Strampel supervised Larry Nassar, who has been effectively sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing minors and possessing child pornography. Now Strampel, who is 70 years old, has been arrested on charges of groping, harassing, and soliciting sexual material from female students.
Strampel is charged with “misconduct in office” and criminal sexual conduct based on the testimony of four female medical students who say he made crude, suggestive, and threatening sexual comments to them during one-on-one encounters and, in two cases, groped them. Here’s a police affidavit’s account of what happened to the first alleged victim, who was meeting with Strampel to appeal a test score:
8. During this meeting, Strampel told V-1 that she would not perform well enough to continue in medical school and denied her appeal. Strampel then spoke about meeting with 20-to-30-year-olds and said that some of his friends had sexual relations with women that age. According to V-1, who was 26 years old at the time, Strampel then suggested that 26-year-old women can “put out” for 20 minutes with an old man, after which he would fall asleep, and in return the women would get the benefit of a free vacation. V-1 felt intimidated, not only by the sexual nature of the conversation, but by the fact that Strampel had begun referring to 26-year-olds, women her very age.
9. During that meeting, Strampel also commented without prompting on the difficulty of sending nude photos. He told V-1 that if he ever caught her taking nude photographs, she would be in trouble. V-1 interpreted these statements as a request to send him nude photographs in exchange for special consideration with respect to her education at the College.
Strampel allegedly asked a second female medical student to “turn around in a circle twice so that he could observe her body” during one-on-one meetings in which he also instructed her to dress more provocatively and “to be submissive and subordinate to men.” He is also alleged to have groped the second victim’s “left buttock” during a school event and to have referred to her as “eye candy” after staring noticeably at her crotch and chest during a luncheon.
Here’s part of the account of the third alleged victim, who met with Strampel to discuss a failed exam:
18. V-3 retook the exam and, when she fell one point short of a passing grade, was required to meet with Strampel again. He … asked her what her “Plan B” was since she could not cut it in medical school. He suggested that she become a centerfold model, telling her about another female medical student who became a stripper to pay for medical school.
19. On the subject of her test performance, Strampel agreed to do what he called a “favor” and let her take the exam a third time. In return, Strampel said, V-3 would be required to do anything for him. If he called on the weekend and told her to come to his house, she would have to do it. If he asked her to come “weed the garden,” she would have to do it. Given the context, V-3 understood that she was being asked to do anything he wanted sexually in exchange for the favor.
A fourth alleged victim says Strampel groped her “right buttock” at a school event.
The affidavit filed against Strampel says sexual material was discovered during a “forensic examination” of his Michigan State computer:
That forensic examination uncovered approximately 50 photos of bare vaginas, nude and semi-nude women, sex toys, and pornography. Many of these photos are what appear to be “selfies” of female MSU students, as evidenced by the MSU clothing and piercings featured in multiple photos. … Also discovered on Strampel’s work computer were pornographic videos and a video of Dr. Larry Nassar performing “treatment” on a young female patient.
(The affidavit doesn’t state what grounds prosecutors have to believe that the Nassar video was kept for prurient purposes, as seems to be implied.)
Strampel is also accused of a “neglect of duty” charge related to his failure to enforce conditions that were imposed on Nassar after a 2014 Title IX investigation conducted by Michigan State. That investigation (incorrectly) concluded that Nassar had not abused patients but stipulated that he should follow a set of rules for “sensitive” treatments that included working in the presence of an observer. Strampel did not follow up to make sure the rules were followed, and several female patients of Nassar’s say they were abused during the period in which Strampel failed to exercise this oversight.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in March that two individuals who met with Strampel in 2016 to discuss a student disciplinary issue took notes on the meeting that indicate Strampel diverged from the topic of the meeting to defend Nassar. “Patients lie to get doctors in trouble. And we’re seeing that right now in the news with this Nassar stuff,” Strampel is alleged to have said. “I don’t think any of these women were actually assaulted by Larry, but Larry didn’t learn that lesson and didn’t have a chaperone in the room, so now they see an opening and they can take advantage of him.”
Interim Michigan State president John Engler announced in February that he had initiated the administrative process of firing Strampel over his failure to protect “student and patient safety” and over allegations of personal misconduct that were not detailed at the time.
by Jamelle Bouie @ Slate Articles
Thu Mar 22 14:16:11 PDT 2018
Joe Biden’s allies say the former vice president hasn’t decided yet whether to run for president again in 2020. But we know the interest is there. “If, in a year from now, if we’re ready, and nobody has moved in that I think can do it, then I may very well do it,” said Biden on The View in December. Since then, the former vice president has recruited donors for his political action committee and made several stops on the campaign trail, including a recent triumph in Pennsylvania, where he stumped on behalf of Conor Lamb, the latest Democrat to win a special election in Trump country. He has lent his time to statehouse candidates in Florida and Nevada, and his staff is fielding surrogate requests from candidates across the country, in every conceivable kind of race. On Thursday, Biden laid out his three-part vision for the country, “A Plan to Put Work—and Workers—First,” which calls for commitments to job training, fair pay, and government support for middle-class families.
If all that wasn’t enough, Biden has also been pushing the narrative that he would have won last time around. “Although it would have been a very difficult primary, I think I could have won,” he said during a lecture at Colgate University in New York, where he explained his decision not run. He was grieving. “At the end of the day, I just couldn’t do it. So I don’t regret not running. Do I regret not being president? Yes.” Biden is older than most of the party’s rumored contenders—he’ll be 78 on Inauguration Day 2021—but none of them can match his stature as a former vice president and a friend of the most popular Democrat in the country, Barack Obama. He even tops early polls of potential candidates. Biden was a long-shot candidate in 2008 and derailed his own campaign in 1987. This is his last chance, yes, but is it also his moment?
The short answer is no. Choosing Biden smacks of the same thinking that put John Kerry on the ticket against George W. Bush. Back then it was a decorated veteran to challenge a wartime president; now it’s a white working-class fighter to combat a president who fancies himself the same.
Biden seems to think this is his angle, answering the president’s schoolyard taunting with a boast of his own. “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere, and she likes it,’ ” said the former vice president during a speech at the University of Miami on Tuesday. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’ ” The president, of course, relishes this kind of fight. “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy,” said Trump on Twitter. “Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”
The real problem with Biden’s challenge, though, is his record. Before his reinvention as an avuncular and friendly foil to the stoic Obama, Biden was known as a centrist Democrat with an active role in the Reagan-era turn against both New Deal liberalism and “identity politics,” part of a larger effort to recapture those white working-class voters who left Democrats for a previous celebrity cum politician who both stoked and harnessed white racial resentment.
To that end, Biden was a drug warrior and incarceration hawk, representing the concerns of his suburban Delaware constituency. In 1984, he worked with Sens. Ted Kennedy and Strom Thurmond to produce a bill—the Sentencing Reform Act—which abolished parole for most federal crimes and toughened sentencing guidelines for a variety of offenses. In 1986, Biden co-sponsored the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which created new mandatory minimum sentences for drugs, including the crack-versus-cocaine sentencing disparity. He helped craft the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which strengthened mandatory minimums for drug possession, enhanced penalties for people who transport drugs, and established the Office of National Drug Control Policy, whose director was christened “drug czar” by Biden himself.
In 1991, Biden introduced a bill that established 51 death-eligible federal crimes in an effort to outdo a similarly punitive Republican proposal from President George H.W. Bush and Sen. Thurmond. Touting his proposal, Biden bragged that “the Biden crime bill before us calls for the death penalty for 51 offenses. A wag in the newspaper recently wrote something to the effect that Biden has made it a death penalty offense for everything but jaywalking.” Under President Bill Clinton, he played a major role in crafting the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. As recently as 2008, Biden praised and touted that law—even those elements that rewarded states for building more prisons.
Yes, the history behind mass incarceration is complicated. Crime was at epidemic levels and politicians, black as well as white, responded with punitive policies. And in the present, Biden has embraced criminal justice reform, joining most Democrats in the turn against tough-on-crime policies. Still, his record will demand a better explanation should he make another run for the Democratic nomination.
It’s not just Biden’s record on criminal justice that is out of step with much of the Democratic base. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden ushered Clarence Thomas to a seat on the Supreme Court, despite credible accusations of sexual harassment. He did little to stop attacks on Thomas’ accuser, Anita Hill, and he refused to call witnesses who would have echoed Hill’s charges of abuse. Biden now says he owes Hill an apology for his inaction—“my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends”—but given the new salience of sexual harassment and assault in American culture, that may be too little, too late.
Democrats will field a football team’s worth of candidates in 2020, from high-profile names like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and (possibly) Bernie Sanders to rising stars like Julián Castro and unexpected contenders like Eric Holder (currently playing coy at a run) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with outsider candidates like liberal billionaire Tom Steyer.
Joe Biden has as good a chance as anyone of emerging from this crowded field. If Donald Trump can become president, then a well-liked former vice president with a controversial past can do the same. But it will be hard. Given the shape of the Democratic electorate—with its growing share of liberal voters—Biden would do well to consider whether his reputation as a beloved party elder would survive another run.
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