February 27, 2017

17 of our commanders in Afghanistan said we were making "real progress"

The past 17 commanders of international forces in Afghanistan, as well as other US leaders, say the coalition is making “real progress” towards defeating the Taliban insurgency and stabilizing the country, sources confirmed today.

More on what they said

Trump wants to increase funding for the least effective federal department

Sam Smith - Before the debate begins over Trump's plan to increase spending by the Defense Department it is worth noting that the Pentagon is about the least effective agency in the federal government. Since World War II it has fought only one clearly effective war - the invasion of Grenada in 1983,a Caribbean island with a population of about 91,000. Even in this case, however, the The United Nations General Assembly, subsequently voted 108 to 9 that the invasion was a "a flagrant violation of international law".

Some might add the overthrow of Panama's Noriega to this exceedingly short list but as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair pointed out, "The US put the bankers back in power after the invasion. Noriega's involvement in drug trafficking had been trivial compared to theirs... The greatest irony of all is that, under the US-installed successor to Noriega, Guillermo Endara, Panama became the province of the Cali cartel, which rushed in after the Medellin cartel was evicted along with Noriega. By the early 1990s, Panama's role in the Latin American drug trade and its transmission routes to the US had become more crucial than ever."

Spicer invades staffers cellphones

Fox News - As the Trump administration hunts for the source of a series of politically embarrassing leaks that have plagued the young administration, dozens of White House staffers have had their phones searched in what is being termed “recess” compared to what may be planned, two top administration officials told Fox News.

One official told Fox that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called nearly two dozen staffers into his office and demanded the staffers’ cell phones in order to check for evidence of leaks. Spicer warned that the initial search would be “recess” compared to what awaits staffers in round two of the investigation, if the leaker – or leakers – aren’t discovered.

A second senior administration official confirmed the first official's account to Fox, adding that staffers were instructed to place their phones on a desk as soon as they walked in.

Spicer also deleted the Confide app from his phone to show that high-ranking officials weren’t immune to rules and regulations, Fox News learned.

Confide is an encrypted messenger app that does not allow forwarding of a message or for screenshots to be taken of messages. It also deletes a message after it’s been sent. According to CNN, Spicer told the group of aides that using the app for White House communications violates the Federal Records Act.

Staffers had not only their work phones searched, but also whatever other electronics were on them when they entered Spicer’s office, according to Politico.

Ironically, Spicer’s warning about leaking quickly leaked to the press.

Relax, Oscar picks are an inside job

Cinemaspot - According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 5,722 Academy members voted with secret ballots sent through the mail.

Academy members select nominees in their respective branches (acting, directing, etc.), while all members select the Best Picture nominees. Then the Academy's entire active and life membership votes to pick winners in each category.

Membership in the Academy is by invitation of the Board of Governors and is limited to those who have achieved distinction in the arts and sciences of motion pictures.

Thus it's a bit like asking supermarket staffers to pick the best food of the year

There was more to Trump's anti-trans move than bathroom rules

Truthout - The most well known part of the now-rescinded guidance addresses bathroom access for trans students. The guidance improved safety and bathroom access by clarifying that schools may not prohibit trans girl students from using girls' bathrooms, trans boy students from using boys' bathrooms or trans students from using multi-occupancy bathrooms.
But that is not all it did. It also pointed out the following:
  • Schools may not exclude students from school activities, like graduation, because they are trans.
  • Schools may not punish students for not conforming to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.
  • Schools must give current and former students an opportunity to update their records with accurate name and gender information.
  • Schools may not violate a current or former student's privacy through disclosing the student's trans identity to others.
The Trump administration's joint letter rescinded the entire guidance, not only the portion about bathrooms.


Trump spoiling Canadian school trips

Canadian Press - Schools across Canada are grappling with the uncertainty of U.S. travel restrictions and how that affects upcoming student trips across the border.

A travel ban instituted by President Donald Trump on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and Syrian refugees may be on hold as it works its way through the U.S. justice system, but Canadian schools remain concerned with how foreign-born students will be treated at the border.

Jim Cambridge, superintendent of the Sooke School District in British Columbia, said there are a number of trips planned for sports, music and educational purposes in the coming months that are being reconsidered.

While the refugee population among students in the Vancouver Island district is small, Cambridge said the board must make a decision based on safety and also ethical considerations.

One of the board's concerns is fairness to students who may not be allowed to cross the border, he said.

Even if specific trips may not involve students affected by the ban, Cambridge said the board will have to decide whether to take a stance on the ban anyway, recognizing there are students within the district who are being discriminated against due to new U.S. travel policies.

Twice as many employed in solar than in coal industry

Fast Company Magazine - As solar power keeps getting cheaper—and more and more of it is built as a result—the industry is also an increasingly important source of new jobs, adding workers at a rate nearly 17 times faster than the overall economy. Twice as many people now work in solar than in the coal industry, according to a new survey from the nonprofit Solar Foundation.

While 40 coal plants were retired in the U.S. in 2016, and no new coal plants were built, the solar industry broke records for new installations, with 14,000 megawatts of new installed power. Many of the jobs came from constructing massive solar plants like the Springbok Solar Farm, which is being built on a site that sprawls over 12 miles in the Mojave Desert. ... Sales, manufacturing, and other solar industry jobs are also growing throughout the country. Overall, 44 of 50 states doubled (or more than doubled) the number of solar jobs in 2016, according to the report. One in 50 new jobs in the country last year was in solar.

Southern California religious leaders seeking safe space for immigrants

Truthdig - A group of religious leaders in Southern California called the Rapid Response Team is preparing a network of private homes to provide refuge for people who lack required documents as President Trump’s immigration crackdown broadens.

CNN - The goal is to offer another sanctuary beyond religious buildings or schools, ones that require federal authorities to obtain warrants before entering the homes. ... The idea is not necessarily a new one, according to Reverend Zach Hoover, executive director of the interfaith community organization LA Voice.

Hoover, 37, wasn’t an active member during the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s when US congregations across faiths resisted federal law and provided shelter for Central Americans fleeing violence in their home countries. Many congregations offered direct sanctuary, housing the undocumented immigrants, while others offered food and legal assistance.

The Rapid Response Team mirrors that structure, but goes one step further by also incorporating private homes, which offer a higher level of constitutional protection than houses of worship and an ability to make it harder for federal agents to find undocumented immigrants.

February 26, 2017

The power at the bottom

Sam Smith, Shadows of Hope, 1993 - The ill effects of Washington influence peddling presents one of the strongest arguments for devolving power from the capital to the fifty states and their localities. While corporate lobbyists function at all levels, it is often easier and cheaper for citizen action groups to fight them locally than it is to take them on nationally. Even the environmental movement, with its major presence in Washington, has benefited enormously from the impact of local action and pressure. In 1992 alone, for example, the 100 largest localities pursued an estimated 1700 environmental crime prosecutions, more than twice the number of such cases brought by the federal government between 1983 and 1991.

Another example has been the drive against smoking. While the tobacco lobby ties up Washington, 750 cities and communities have passed indoor smoking laws. And then there is the Brady Bill. By the time the federal government got around to acting on it, half the states had passed similar measures. So powerful is the potential for decentralized action that pressure groups sometimes demand that federal or state laws prevent lower levels of government imposing their own restrictions. In one case, the North Carolina legislature passed anti-smoking legislation that, under tobacco industry pressure, preempted local action on the matter. The bill, however, had a six-month delay before it took effect; during this interim some 30 communities passed their own laws.

Richard Klemp, vice president for corporate affairs for the Miller Brewing Company -- that is to say their chief lobbyist -- laid out the stats of the problem in a 1993 speech. Klemp noted that the firm had to deal with 7600 state legislators, 535 members of Congress, 50 governors, one president, hundreds of regulatory officials, and thousands of mayor and city councils. "At each biennium," he said, "there are more than 200,000 bills introduced in the state legislatures and 12,000 bills introduced in Congress, any one of which could have a limiting or potentially devastating effect on the brewing industry.”

Bizarre GOP claim of the day

CNN contributor and former GOP senator Rick Santorum suggested that it was a mistake to guarantee health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions because "millions" of them were scamming insurance companies.

NYT editor: Every time Trump tweets 'it drives subscriptions wildly"

The Hill - “Trump is the best thing to happen to the Times’ subscription strategy,” [NY Times executive editor] Dean Baquet said in an interview with CNN’s "Reliable Sources." “Every time he tweets it drives subscriptions wildly.”

Baquet said Trump has revitalized reporters who may have been pessimistic about the future of the industry.

"There was a long time when the press wondered about its place in society, the last several years as newspaper subscriptions dwindled, as particularly local newspapers worried about their future," he said. "What’s happened in the last couple of months I have to say has been tremendous for news organizations."

"Our mission is clearer than it's ever been — we’re covering a dramatic revolution in government and how the country is governed, and it feels like all of the things that sort of bothered us and made us lose a little bit of confidence in the last few months have sort of gone away."

NAACP announces North Carolina boycott

The NAACP Board of Directors announced a resolution calling for an international economic boycott of the state of North Carolina in response to actions of an all-white legislative caucus, which unconstitutionally designed racially-discriminatory gerrymandered districts, enacted a monster voter suppression law, passed Senate Bill 4 stripping the incoming Governor of power and passed House Bill 2. HB 2 is anti-transgender, anti-worker and anti-access to the state court for employment discrimination.

“True democracy remains a distant ideal that the racist actions of members of the NC state legislature continue to disgracefully push further and further out of the reach of the African-American community,” said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.

“The NAACP refuses to accept this attack on democracy or the commoditization of bias against people due to racial or gender identity here in North Carolina or anywhere else around the nation. This we will fight against with all of our resources until we win.”

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, stated, “The actions of the all white caucus of extremists in our legislature and the former Governor are out of control. They have consistently passed legislation that is a violation of our deepest moral values, voting rights, civil rights and the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.”

High ranking Trump official had ties to European neo-fascists

Think Progress - A deputy assistant to President Donald Trump has spent years working closely with members of Hungary’s anti-Semitic hard right, according to a Friday report from The Forward, a publication for American Jews. The report says Sebastian Gorka, who advises the White House on national security, co-founded a political party with former members of Jobbik, which is frequently described as a fascist party. Gorka, who once said it would be “national suicide” to admit Muslim refugees, also spent time working for the Hungarian National Committee, a Jobbik-linked coalition led in part by the head of the ultra-nationalist 64 Counties Youth Movement, according to The Forward.

French historian latest Trump travel victim

BBC - A French historian on his way to a conference in Texas was detained for 10 hours by US border officials and threatened with deportation.

Officials at Texas A&M University said Henry Rousso was going to be returned to Paris as an illegal alien "due to a visa misunderstanding".

The university stopped the deportation with help from a law professor, local news website The Eagle reported.

President Donald Trump has pledged to tighten US border controls.

"I have been detained 10 hours at Houston International Airport about to be deported," Mr Rousso, 62, confirmed in a tweet on Saturday.

"The officer who arrested me was 'inexperienced'," he added.

The Egyptian-born Jewish scholar, a senior researcher at the French National Center for Scientific Research, is a specialist on French World War Two history.

Texas A&M University had announced to the conference on Friday that Mr Rousso had been detained upon arriving at Houston airport on Wednesday.

Senior official Richard Golsan said there had been a misunderstanding regarding the parameters of his visa, The Eagle reported.

"When he called me with this news two nights ago, he was waiting for customs officials to send him back to Paris as an illegal alien on the first flight out," Mr Golsan told the meeting.

He said the university enlisted the help of law school professor and immigrant rights expert Fatma Marouf.

"Due to her prompt and timely intervention, Rousso was released," Mr Golsan said.

Ms Marouf described the behavior of customs officials as an "extreme response".

"It seems like there's much more rigidity and rigor in enforcing these immigration requirements and the technicalities of every visa," she said, quoted by The Eagle.

Mr Rousso went on to attend the conference and thanked his supporters in a post on Twitter.

"Thank you so much for your reactions. My situation was nothing compared to some of the people I saw who couldn't be defended as I was," he said.

February 25, 2017

Trump dump

The only real political - as opposed to bureaucratic - post that new DNC chair Tom Perez has held was as a member of the Montgomery County Council in Maryland - the 11th wealthiest county in America.

Homeland Security report challenges Trump's Muslim ban

Star Tribune - Analysts at the Homeland Security Department's intelligence arm found insufficient evidence that citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries included in President Donald Trump's travel ban pose a terror threat to the United States.

A draft document obtained by The Associated Press concludes that citizenship is an "unlikely indicator" of terrorism threats to the United States and that few people from the countries Trump listed in his travel ban have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011.

...The Homeland Security report is based on unclassified information from Justice Department press releases on terrorism-related convictions and attackers killed in the act, State Department visa statistics, the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment from the U.S. intelligence community and the State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.

The three-page report challenges Trump's core claims. It said that of 82 people the government determined were inspired by a foreign terrorist group to carry out or try to carry out an attack in the United States, just over half were U.S. citizens born in the United States. The others were from 26 countries, led by Pakistan, Somalia, Bangladesh, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iraq and Uzbekistan. Of these, only Somalia and Iraq were among the seven nations included in the ban.

Democrats choose same old, same old

Sam Smith - The Democratic National Committee has elected Tom Perez, an Obama-Clinton loyal lawyer and bureaucrat, as its chair, narrowly turning its back on the opportunity to rebuild the party. Another sign that positive change is going to have to come from the outside

Intercept - Haim Saban, the entertainment tycoon who is one of the Democratic Party’s largest donors, called Ellison both “anti-Israel” and antisemitic. The Anti-Defamation League called on Democrats to reject him.  On the eve of the vote, prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz proclaimed that he would leave the party if Ellison was elected chair; Jack Rosen, who leads the American Jewish Congress, emailed DNC members the day before the vote decrying Ellison’s views on the Middle East, concluding that he threatened the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Common Dreams -  Ellison had the backing of lawmakers like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and groups including National Nurses United and the Communications Workers of America; Perez was backed by "many from former President Obama's political orbit," as ABC News writes, and "is viewed—with good reason—as a reliable functionary and trustworthy loyalist by those who have controlled the party and run it into the ground," journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote this week.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth Action, which supported Ellison, said the outcome showed "the DNC is out of touch with the American public and their needs. Democratic leaders were at a crossroads and today they chose to continue the failed Clinton strategy of prioritizing wealthy donors over the activist base."

"This incredibly disappointing result is another missed opportunity for a Democratic Party desperately trying to regain relevance and proves, once again, how out of touch party insiders are with the grassroots movement currently in the streets, on the phone, and at town halls nationwide," added Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America.


Estimated portion of Americans born in 1980 who will go on to earn more than their parents did : 1/2 Of those born in 1940 who did : 9/10

Another reason liberals have bombed: guns

Sam Smith - Living in the state of Maine, which has a low murder rate and a high gun ownership rate, I am reminded of yet another issue liberals don't want to face: they treat gun owners as the enemy.

This comes in no small part because liberals seem to think all gun owners believe the same thing as the NRA. Bust as Huffington Post pointed out last year:
According to Pew Research, 85 percent of people with guns in their home support universal background checks. Another more recent poll puts that number at 92 percent. A third poll found that 74 percent of NRA members supported mandatory background checks....A majority of gun-owners also support outlawing the sale of semi-automatic weapons and online sales of ammunition. Again, the NRA and their gun industry benefactors vehemently oppose these reasonable gun safety measures.
To get a different perspective on guns, we recommend our previously cited NY Times interview with Dan Baum, author of Gun Guys.

I've never owned a gun, but I've had relatives and friends who have and they are, on the whole, just as nice and rational as other folks.

Our gun issue archive

Temperature records in Boston, Buffalo

NPR - Shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, the temperature in Buffalo, N.Y., hit 71 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, in the latest sign of the mild, even warm, winter that much of the Eastern U.S. is experiencing.

By midday, Boston had also hit 71 — also a record. Both temperatures equal or set new benchmarks for record highs in the month of February.

"That surpasses the 70 degrees reached on Feb. 24, 1985" in Boston, member station WBUR reports. "Records go back to 1872, according to the National Weather Service."

In Buffalo, 70-degree temperatures broke the Feb. 24 record shortly before 1 p.m., according to the NWS office at Buffalo International Airport. It then rose further to 71, equaling a mark set in 2000.

New security advisor breaks with Trump talk

The Hill - President Trump’s new national security adviser doesn't find the term "radical Islamic terrorism" helpful, the New York Times reported on Friday, while the president has insisted on using such language. Individuals who attended Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster's first National Security Council meeting on Thursday told the Times that the newly appointed adviser thinks the term is not beneficial because terrorists are “un-Islamic.”

Muhammad Ali's son questioned by customs for nearly two hours

Political Wire  “The son of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was detained for hours by immigration officials at a Florida airport,” a family friend told the Louisville Courier-Journal. Officials held and questioned Ali Jr. for nearly two hours, repeatedly asking him, ‘Where did you get your name from?’ and ‘Are you Muslim?’ When Ali Jr. responded that yes, he is a Muslim, the officers kept questioning him about his religion and where he was born. Ali Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1972 and holds a U.S. passport.”

Some Washington media learning to unembed itself

Washington Post - This year’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is going from fizzy to flat faster than a glass of warm champagne.

As celebs stay home and some media organizations give the dinner a pass under the media-hostile Trump administration, Bloomberg just decided to cancel its annual after-party — long considered one of the weekend’s most exclusive bashes.

The move, first reported by Axios, came after Vanity Fair, which had co-hosted it for years, dropped its sponsorship. ... The New Yorker earlier scrapped its dinner-eve bash, with editor Graydon Carter saying he plans to go fishing rather than help toast Trump, who routinely slams the media as “FAKE NEWS.”

Plenty of parties are still goes, though. CNN is expected to host its day-after “hangover” brunch, where bleary-eyed journos can rehash (or attempt to remember) the evening’s highlights. Capitol File magazine and the Hill newspaper are planning to party on as usual. So is The Washington Post, which is sticking with its usual pregame reception at the Washington Hilton.

Study finds no relationship between immigration and increased crime

Science News Journal - Politicians often claim that there is a relationship between immigration patterns and increased crime. In a study done at the University at Buffalo however, no links were found between the two. According to the findings, immigration instead appears to be linked to reductions in some types of crimes instead.

Robert Adelman, an associate professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s lead author, says that the results are very clear and that the research shows stable and strong evidence that, on average, immigration and crime are not linked across U.S. metropolitan areas. The study found that immigration does not increase assaults and that serious crimes such as burglaries, larceny, robberies and murder are in fact lower in places where immigration levels are high.

According to Adelman, research previously done was based on arrest and offense data. That research showed that overall, native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than foreign-born individuals are.

Closing hours at Standing Rock

Word: Where the Democrats went wrong

This anonymous comment on another post summarizes one of the great mistakes the Democrats made:

[Howard] Dean is absolutely correct is his assessment, and it was heartening to see him advocate the fifty state strategy while he led the DNC. I remember the difficulties in attempting to persuade his staff in the 2004 presidential campaign that a progressive message could be highly resonant in the heartland and that it would be a dire mistake to succumb to the stereotypical condescension Easterners hold for the so-called fly over states. The MoveOn factions that invaded his campaign diluted his populist message and placed entirely too emphasis on email solicitations for cash---turned his into a conventional effort of which the results could be predicted. Had Iowans the opportunity to have heard the Howard Dean of the early months of May/June 2003 the outcome would have been quite different for the governor. The Democratic establishment set out to crucify him and in particular his message, which was not so very much different than that Sanders would present 12 years on.

Private prison stock soars under Trump

NY Times - Few profited more immediately from Donald Trump’s election than the private-prison industry. On Nov. 9, the day after Mr. Trump won, the Corrections Corporation of America (now CoreCivic), the nation’s biggest operator of private prisons, saw its stock price jump 43 percent; its leading competitor, the GEO Group, rose 21 percent. Stocks in those companies are up more than 100 percent since Election Day.

Melania would have been deported if Trump has been president when she arrived in US

Independent, UK - Melania Trump could have been deported and banned from the US if Donald Trump had been president when she was working as a model in the 1990s, immigration attorneys have said.

In 1996, Ms Trump—then Knauss—was paid for modelling work undertaken in the United States while travelling on a visitor—or tourist—visa, violating the terms of entry, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press.

The first lady allegedly earned more than $20,000  in the seven weeks before she acquired legal permission to work in the country.

She went on to apply for a green card in 2001 and became a naturalised US citizen in 2006 without disclosing any past indiscretions.

Under new rules brought in by Mr Trump last month, immigration officials are now required to prioritize the removal of any foreign national who has “engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a government agency”.

Ms Trump put herself into this category when she violated her visa and did not disclose the indiscretion when applying for future travel and residency permits, a pair of immigration lawyers told the Slate website.

She would likely have faced deportation under Mr Trump's 25 January executive order if it had been in effect and she had been caught in the 1990s, or in fact at any point before becoming a naturalized US citizen in 2005.

February 24, 2017

The Democrat's cost of ignoring the local

Washington Examiner - [Howard] Dean blamed the steep decline Democrats suffered under President Barack Obama on the party focusing more on holding the White House than on down ballot offices in Congress and the states. He also cited the challenge of keeping liberal voters engaged in midterm elections.

"The problem is, when you have an incumbent president, whether it's Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, the Democratic Party becomes the re-elect vehicle for the president and abandons its role as a grassroots organization," Dean told reporters. "That's not a bad thing to say about Barack Obama, it happens every time we have an incumbent president."

Under Obama, the Democrats lost their majorities in the House and Senate, several governorships, and nearly 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country. Some Democratic insiders have conceded it's a problem of the party's own making.

Famed Australian children's author interrogated for two hours by LA immigration officials

Daily Telegraph, Australia - Australia's best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.

Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.

En route to Milwaukee for a conference on February 9, where she was to deliver the opening keynote address at a literacy conference, Fox was ushered into an airport holding room and told she was traveling on the wrong visa. This was incorrect and the US Embassy in Canberra has since apologized. Fox, 70, said that by the time she checked in to her hotel she was shaking and sobbing.

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.

“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”

Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator.

Trump dump

The reclusive mastermind behind President Trump’s nationalist ideology and combative tactics made his public debut Thursday, delivering a fiery rebuke of the media and declaring that the new administration is in an unending battle for “deconstruction of the administrative state.” Stephen K. Bannon, the White House chief strategist and intellectual force behind Trump’s agenda, used his first speaking appearance since Trump took office to vow that the president would honor all of the hard-line pledges of his campaign.

Trump lie of the day - President Trump falsely claimed during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that lines to get in stretched back “six blocks.” It was a statement at odds with the quiet scene outside the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where CPAC is taking place. There were no lines getting into the Gaylord within the hour before Trump began speaking Friday morning. 

Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions signaled  his strong support for the federal government's continued use of private prisons, reversing an Obama administration directive to phase out their use. Stock prices of major private prison companies rose at the news.

Meanwhile. . .

Federal judge blocks Texas from withholding Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood. 

Estonia is planning a musical instrument for every child

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect assault weapons 

Border patrol harasses domestic passengers at JFK Airport

Rolling Stone - Passengers of a domestic Delta flight from San Francisco to New York were told to show their identity documents to uniformed agents of the Customs and Border Protection agency upon their arrival at John F. Kennedy airport on Wednesday evening.  

CBP officers are border agents, whose statutory authority is generally limited to international arrivals.

CBP agents inspected passenger identifications on the jetbridge by the door of the aircraft. A CBP spokesman insisted to Rolling Stone that this action is "nothing new" and that there is "no new policy." But the unusual – and legally questionable – search of domestic travelers comes days after the Department of Homeland Security outlined its plans to implement President Trump's sweeping executive order targeting millions of "removable aliens" for deportation.

Upon deplaning from Delta Flight 1583 in New York, passenger Anne Garrett tweeted, "We were told we couldn't disembark without showing our 'documents.'"

Another passenger, Matt O'Rourke, snapped a similar picture. O'Rourke tells Rolling Stone that the Delta flight attendant alerted passengers, "You'll need to show your papers to agents waiting outside the door."

"She was weirded out by it," he says. The agents, O'Rourke says, said nothing to him, but took his ID and scrutinized it for nearly 30 seconds before letting him pass. He describes the experience as "a little bit alarming." Only later did O'Rourke find himself asking, "Why is a customs agent doing this search? The flight didn't enter from another country."

Trump's anti-immigrant policies threaten real estate market

Alternet - The effect of the mass deportations outlined in Department of Homeland Securities memos released this week may not only affect real estate values at the lower and middle end of the housing market, they warn: they could resonate up to the top of the housing chain, testing the entire system in ways that are both novel and not clearly understood.

“There are consequences for the economy and the whole of society, and the public doesn’t understand the value immigrants bring to the housing market,” warns Dowell Myers, director of the Population Dynamics Research Group at the University of California.

“They represent a large share of the demand supporting house values. If you were to subtract any part of that demand, it would jeopardize house values across the board.”

In a comprehensive 2013 study, Immigrant Contributions to Housing Demand in the United States, Myers estimated that in this decade, immigrants nationwide will account for 32.2% of the growth in all households, 35.7% of growth in homeowners and 26.4% of growth in renter households.

The study found that the volume of growth in foreign-born homeowners has increased each decade, rising from 0.8 million added immigrant homeowners in the United States during the period from 1980–1990 to 2.8 million in the current decade.

According to Alex Nowrasteh, a policy analyst for the Cato Institute, the effect of an immigrant crackdown on property values has already been seen, albeit on a small scale, after Arizona passed its controversial SB 1070 and Legal Arizona Workers Act.

“Two hundred thousand people left because of those immigration laws at the same time as we had a housing collapse. So Phoenix suffered more than any other city except for Las Vegas,” Nowrasteh says. “We saw a huge increase in rental vacancies and a decline in home prices immediately after these laws were passed.” Immigrants, he says, “have a disproportionate effect on the housing market because they rent property and buy houses. So now Trump wants to do nationally what the Arizona immigration laws did to the Phoenix housing market.”


How to reach voters for DNC chair

Trump wants more nuclear arms

BBC- President Donald Trump has said he wants the United States to expand its nuclear arsenal, in his first comments on the issue since taking office.

Mr Trump said it would be "wonderful" if no nation had nuclear arms, but otherwise the US must be "top of the pack".

He told Reuters that the US had "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity".

Critics say the US and Russia already have more weapons than necessary to deter a nuclear attack.

The US has 6,800 nuclear weapons and Russia has 7,000, according to the US nonpartisan Arms Control Association.

The independent Arms Control Association non-profit group criticized Mr Trump's remarks.

"Mr Trump's comments suggest, once again, that he is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and has a poor understanding of the unique dangers of nuclear weapons," the group said in a statement.

"The history of the Cold War shows us that no one comes out on 'top of the pack' of an arms race and nuclear brinksmanship."

Trump death the day

Guardian -A Mexican man has leaped off a bridge and killed himself near the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing hours after being deported. Guadalupe Olives Valencia reportedly screamed he did not want to return to Mexico before leaping to his death on Tuesday. The 44-year-old father of three had worked as a gardener in California.

Another reason to stay away from Arkansas

NPR - The Arkansas Supreme Court has struck down a local law that protected people in the city of Fayetteville from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Arkansas is one of a handful of states where it is illegal for local governments to pass anti-discrimination laws that cover classes of people not already protected under state law.A February 2015 Arkansas law made it illegal for "a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state" to adopt any law that "creates a protected classification or prohibits discrimination on a basis not contained in state law."

Trump poliicies badly hurting tourism

Frommers: Though they may differ as to the wisdom of the move, the travel press and most travel experts are of one mind: They are currently drawing attention to an unintended consequence of the Trump-led efforts to stop many Muslims from coming to the U.S., pointing to a sharp drop in foreign tourism to our nation that imperils jobs and touristic income.

“It’s known as the ‘Trump Slump.’... The prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an ‘official’ travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

Trump has already hurt lower income homeowners

Guardian - One of the first things Trump did on becoming US president was to make a huge number of middle-income families considerably worse off. One of Barack Obama’s final decisions before leaving the White House was to cut Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance premiums by 0.25%, saving the average household about $500 (£400) a year if they have a mortgage. The effect was immediate: total mortgage applications fell 3.2% on a seasonally adjusted basis from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. In addition, there was a 13% drop in FHA applications – a direct result of the Trump administration reversing Obama’s cut in FHA premiums just hours after the inauguration. This affects mainly lower-income families making their first steps from renting to home ownership: $500 may seem like a small amount to some, but in many cases, it is the difference between meeting a mortgage payment and not.

Trump plans to revive failed fedral marijuana enforcement

Reuters - The administration of President Donald Trump may ramp up enforcement of federal laws against recreational marijuana use, a White House spokesman said, setting up potential conflicts in states where the drug is legal.

More than two dozen U.S. states have legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, and the administration of former President Barack Obama mostly looked the other way. But White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the Trump Administration may distinguish between medical and recreational use of the drug.

Spicer's comments came on the same day that a nationwide poll from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, showed 71 percent of registered voters favored allowing states to decide whether marijuana should be legal.

The People's Party: What Americans really think

A McClatchy-Marist poll finds 58 percent of Americans are embarrassed by the new administration.

A nationwide poll from Quinnipiac  showed 71 percent of registered voters favored allowing states to decide whether marijuana should be legal.

Fifty-four percent of U.S. adults approve of the Affordable Care Act in the Pew Research Center survey released Thursday, while 43 percent disapprove and 3 percent have no opinion.

The Hill - A majority of voters in the U.S. are opposed to several policies proposed by President Trump and congressional Republicans, including building a border wall and repealing ObamaCare, according to a new poll.

Six in 10 say they oppose building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the president's foremost campaign promise, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

Only 37 percent support building a wall on the border. The percentage of voters opposed to the proposal increases to 65 percent if the U.S. has to pay for it, and 33 percent would support such a proposal.

Slightly more than half of respondents, 54 percent, are also against repealing the Affordable Care Act, and 43 percent support the repeal of former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation.

About half of voters are also opposed to restarting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

The poll finds majority opposition to reducing taxes across the board. Sixty-two percent oppose such reductions, even if it increases the deficit, and 31 percent support that proposal.

About three-quarters of respondents say they are against lowering taxes on the wealthy, and 54 percent are against removing regulations on businesses and corporations.

The poll found greater support for other areas of Trump's agenda.

A majority of voters, 54 percent, support "renegotiating trade deals with other countries, even if it means paying more for the products you buy" and 87 percent of voters support increasing federal spending for roads, mass transit and other infrastructure.

JC Penney joins list of downsizing chain stores

Portland Press Herald - J.C. Penney on Friday said it plans to close between 130 and 140 stores in the next several months, a move that makes it the latest retail stalwart to pull back from the mall amid the rise of online shopping.

J.C. Penney’s decision to close stores comes as many industry executives and analysts say that old-school chains are “overstored,” meaning they have too many locations for the era of online shopping. Macy’s is in the process of closing 100 stores and eliminating some 10,000 jobs. Sears said in January it would close 150 stores, some from its namesake chain, and some from the Kmart chain.

So much for states' slashing taxes.

Center on Budget & Policy Priorites - Five years ago, Kansas slashed income tax rates, eliminated income taxes entirely for many businesses, and enacted further income tax rate cuts to phase in several years into the future, aiming eventually to eliminate the income tax. Gov. Brownback called his efforts a “red state model” and claimed the tax cuts would act “like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.”

Rather than generate an economic boom, however, the tax cuts wreaked havoc on Kansas’ ability to invest in its people and infrastructure. To balance its budget, the state employed gimmicks and one-time revenue, delayed road projects, cut services, and nearly drained funds it had set aside to prepare for the next recession. Two bond rating agencies downgraded Kansas due to its budget problems. Meanwhile, job growth has lagged far behind job growth nationally, and the hoped-for economic boom shows no signs of materializing (see graph).

After Tax Cuts, Kansas' Economy Underperforming U.S.

The dirty fight for DNC chair

Jazz break

February 23, 2017