Recently, I was talking about words, and it reminded me of another interesting episode, which incidentally shows us how poorly the national news media has been performing.

Donald Trump, during transition, mentioned that "the President can't have a conflict of interest." This is completely, utterly, and blatantly false; it has absolutely no tether to reality. What is true, is that the Conflict of Interest laws we have on the books explicitly exempt the President from being prosecuted under them. This is, I assume, because it could be nearly impossible for the President to do anything that couldn't, in some way, be tied to some interest of his. The President could be put in a position where anything they do can get them in trouble with the laws - that's not a reasonable restriction on the chief executive; another way has to be found.

But "the President can't be charged, under federal law, with a conflict of interest" is a very, very different thing from saying "the President can be bribed, directly or indirectly, and no one should care about it." In fact, the Constitution is explicit that the President must not accept bribes - the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses cover that! So the President can (and does!) have many conflicts of interest, and those should be the subject of oversight. In normal times, Congressional Oversight would be the appropriate way to handle potential conflicts of interest regarding the President, but these are not normal times; the GOP controls Congress, and that means oversight is a weapon to be used against Democrats, and a shield to protect Republicans.

So you see: by failing to report all of the relevant facts - and simple, obvious, "clearly part of the story" facts, the news media lets a blatant falsehood live on. And that's the magic of words for the GOP. The right, magical words are out there; and while they're not true, it takes a moment to explain they're not true, which is plenty of time for Very Serious People to put on their Very Serious Face and say they disagree with that "opinion", knowing full well that it's a fact... but remember, it's no crime to lie to reporters or the American people!
Words matter, except when they don't. Generally, if they're coming from the GOP they don't mean anything. For example, in the GOP, a "deficit hawk" is someone who gladly hands over $1.5 trillion dollars to the wealthy, knowing it won't do anything good for anyone except the wealthy, and thus, cause the deficit to balloon. We know this. But still, words matter, and think about these words.

Trump, and his legion - as per the biblical reference, "our name is Legion for we are many", and I assure you the reference to demons is purely a coincidence! - have a new game to play. "The FBI planted a spy in our ranks, to entrap people!"

Of course, from one perspective, it's just another ploy, by a guilty person, trying to convince his base to hang by him, whatever crimes are uncovered. But let's think about those words.

First, think of the word "spy". A spy is an enemy - always. And the FBI was engaged in a counter-intelligence operation. They knew the Russians were trying to hurt America, and they were trying to find out how deep things went. Sure, they might find crimes, too... but their goal was not to arrest people; it was to figure out what was going on.

When the FBI is running a clearly legitimate counter-intelligence operation, if they have a "spy" - an enemy! - in your camp, it means that you are the enemy of the FBI. And remember, "not a criminal investigation (yet)" - a person trying to uncover Russian infiltration is an "enemy" only if there's Russian infiltration that you want!

"Entrap" is another great word. Entrapment is an affirmative defense to a crime - a claim that the state pressed you into the crime you committed. Republicans aren't fans of entrapment defenses (unless a prominent Republican politician is the one pleading entrapment!) because they point out that, "hey, you did the crime!" But I've always figured it this way: the state has no business caring why you didn't commit a crime. It might be that the one and only reason a person didn't commit a crime was fear of getting caught. If the state is pushing hard enough, long enough, to get someone to commit a crime, that violates that precept. You're not required to be a saint, who would never commit a crime no matter what; you're only required to be someone who will obey the law in your day to day life (i.e., when you don't have people constantly pressuring you to commit a crime).

So entrapment is an affirmative defense, and it's an interesting one because it requires there to be a clear, obvious crime. It's not like a plea of self-defense in a rational state, where you're saying "yes, I attacked someone, but only because I was in danger (and thus, it wasn't a crime after all!)." So the Trump legion is saying "okay, yes, there were serious crimes, but they wouldn't have happened without FBI SPIES!!!"

So if we take the Trump legion at their word, they were the enemies of the FBI's counter-intelligence operation, and are sure that the FBI is the only reason the Trumpies committed real, serious crimes. Of course, we can't do that - they aren't really trying to say anything useful, they're just trying to spin the news so that enough of the Trump legion will believe he was treated unfairly,

Still, it's good to think about what they would be saying, if what they were saying was remotely tethered to the truth. They'd be saying that the FBI was an enemy (because there were Russian contacts they didn't want the FBI to know about) and that there were serious crimes committed. Of course, it's unfair and partisan to point out the facts... as Colbert noted, "reality has a liberal bias."
The slant on this story is a bit heartbreaking. The GOP likes to pretend to like things like Harleys, and the people who build them. They like to pretend that we "snooty liberal elitists" hate Harleys and the people who make them. And so you have Paul Ryan - a bigger liar ain't been born nor whelped, 'cept Donald the T - saying that their one and a half trillion bucks given away to the big money boys will help save jobs, and make things better for workers. And,

Many Harley-Davidson workers wondered if the tax cut would trickle down to help employees.

Those poor, sorry people... no one with any understanding of the tax cut would think it would help employees. Look: employee salaries and benefits are tax deductible, okay? And that means that, if you pay a million bucks in salary and benefits, at a 35% tax rate, it only costs $650,000. But if the tax rate is lower - say, 21% - now it costs $790,000 - over 20% more! Workers are more expensive; they'll get screwed, because the GOP is all about the rich getting richer, and the poor getting told that us snooty liberal elitsts hate them, so vote for good "conservative" Republicans.

Sure, Harley Davidson would get a boatload of money from the tax cut. And sure, that would help the shareholders with dividends and buy backs. And sure, Paul Ryan and Donald Trump knew this with the intimacy of their love for the rich (which I will not describe here, for fear of having this blog rated NC-17!) But they knew that they wouldn't win elections if they said "vote for us, so we can give the wealthy fat, sloppy kisses, while you can be sure benefits will tinkle - I mean, 'trickle' - down on the workers." So they said that this would help workers, and there are so many people who believed it, what with Fox News and other winger outlets (many of whom profit greatly from the tax cut) pimping the idea.

And it's not true; it's not even tainted by breathing the same air as the truth. Everyone who knew how businesses work knew it would, at best, do nothing for working folks, because there wasn't enough demand to bring benefits for workers. But they could say it would; remember, it's not a crime to lie to reporters! And what are reporters going to say? They can't prove it's a lie - if a prominent Republican Senator thinks throwing a snowball makes a point about global warming, how can a reporter know if a GOPpie is too stupid to realize the tax giveaway bill will only help the rich?

So reporters need a story, and so they run the quotes. And then people hear a lot of Republicans saying that these tax cuts will help workers, and by the time the Harley plant is shuttered, no one's going to come out and say that the tax bill made shuffling the labor even more lucrative than it had been before, making the plant more likely to close. So the GOP will continue to run with the lies, because it helps get a lot of suckers - their words, not mine! - to keep voting Republican.

You can see this at work constantly. The GOP decided to make sure an employer could refuse to give you health insurance, so long as you worked 39.45 hours a week or less. What did they call that? "Restoring the 40 hour work week." Seriously: they say "if you work less than 40 hours, your employer can refuse to give you health insurance, but we're going to pretend it's a good thing, that we're 'restoring the 40 hour work week'." And no one will realize that their hours have increased to what should be "full time" but they're still not getting benefits. But didn't the Republicans pledge to restore the 40 hour work week? And don't those snooty liberals hate you because you like plain coffee, and not a half-fat, half-caff, iced, flavored, latte?

If you see the whole game play out, you realize they hate workers, but that's okay, for them, because most workers are too busy, you know, working, to see the whole game play out, and besides, didn't they say they love workers? They must have done their best, because who would say they love workers so often, if they didn't mean it? Well, a liar, obviously - but surely the Republicans aren't, you know, politicians>, a group of people who are known to lie, right? Um... wait....

This sort of thing works, because they've been studying what to say and how to say it for a long time. And, after all, you don't believe those snooty liberal elitists are trying to help, right? Like, if Hillary Clinton says that coal is a dead-end field, because other fuels are far more cost effective, which will put a lot of coal miners out of work, that doesn't mean she feels bad for the coal workers, just because she wants to help them find new jobs so they can support their families. That means she hates coal workers, that she wants to put them out of work!

Seriously: "I want to help the people who will lose their jobs because no one wants to buy much coal anymore" means "I hate coal workers" to suckers - again, their words, not mine! - who believe the GOPpies. Not a crime to lie to reporters; and GOPpies too stupid to realize they are among the suckers, and soon, you have people actually bouncing around the notion that a person who just said she wants to help is worse than the guy who's going to hand over fists full of taxpayer cash, to help the coal companies dump workers, and Harley Davidson to shutter plants.

Now, there's a lot that's been said about Trump voters, and there are some facts that Trump voters should keep in mind. Actual, honest-to-goodness Nazis, and Klansmen, support Trump. People who hate foreigners and queer folks and so forth support Trump. If we define a person who despises truth, and justice, as "deplorable" there are a lot of deplorable people who support Trump.

But let's everyone pause and remember, a lot of people support Trump because he says he's going
to improve the economy and bring about more jobs. They can't help it if he, and the rest of the GOP, think they're a bunch of suckers; they can't know it's all talk, with some smoke and mirrors thrown in. So show some sympathy for the Trump voters who are going to take it up the proverbial (Harley Davidson) tailpipe, because they believed a pack of poisonous lies, covered in honey-sweetness by a long running confidence game.
So, the memo is out, and this is interesting.

Nunes admits he didn't actually see the FISA warrant; so the complaints he makes in the memo about the warrant and the application process are entirely made up from notes from another congresscritter. This means that he actually has no idea whether or not the FISA application actually relied heavily on the Steele dossier; since he doesn't know that, all the remaining speculation is pointless. The entire basis of the memo is that there was some kind of abuse of the FISA process, because of the heavy reliance on the Steele dossier, and Nunes simply doesn't have any idea whether or not there was. It's a fantasy; it's meaningless.

Of course, the GOP is shameless in this arena; in the link above, you'll see him playing one of the Very Serious People saying that it's so sad that things got to the point where he had no choice but to release his fantasy memo about what might have happened, possibly, except he has no idea, really.

The media is also quite shameless here too, gleefully reporting on the "controversy" created when their own poor reporting creates it. Here's a great example. "In the weeks leading up to the release of the memo, where we played good little ratings whores, people got to push a bullshit story that we never bothered to correct. Of course, when the memo was released, to no one's surprise, it was a bullshit story - gosh, how could we have known that would happen? But now we get to play ratings whore about the aftermath, too. But don't blame us! See, we faithfully reported the doings of Trump and his allies, providing them with valuable advertising, but we didn't make them do anything. And besides... what do you think we are, anyway? Journalists?"

The USA is bleeding from many wounds, but the gleeful, incestuous relationship between rightwing attack dogs and the news media is probably one of the more serious ones. When the GOP is on the warpath, the pattern strongly suggests that the real journalism would be reporting on the corruption involved in misuse of government authority for partisan purposes. When it's the rightwing, not the GOP specifically, you'd still think there was a story in the baseless, ludicrous accusations being peddled. Except, of course, that might kill the flow of clickbait headlines! We can't have that!
The GOP has been spreading lies through the media, to the public, and, now, even to law enforcement, for a long time, and they have it down to a science. This one is particularly good. Trey Gowdy, who is Deeply Concerned about anything that can make a Democrat look bad, and is known for having wandering eyes for Republicans... what? No, I don't mean he's ogling Republicans, I mean, when there's visible corruption and wrongdoing, he just didn't happen to see it, even if it's right in front of his face.

Where was I? Oh, right. Gowdy points out that the FISA warrant against Carter Page wouldn't have been granted without the Steele dossier. Well, he doesn't think so, at least. And more importantly, you need to understand, it was granted based on three pieces of information.

Gowdy said the public will "never know" if the surveillance against Page was justified, saying the warrants relied on three pieces of information -- the dossier, a reference to a Yahoo News article and other information available to the FISA court judges who approved warrants.

Let me pause here a moment. I remember an old Hagar The Horrible comic strip, where Helga insists that she's got to catch a chicken, pluck a chicken, cook a chicken, and serve a chicken! Four things! What does Hagar have to do? "Invade England," to which she points out "That's *ONE*!!!"

See, the dossier is based on having to catch and pluck a chicken; and having to cook and serve a chicken, and "other information". Isn't that a great lie? There could be a hundred pages of carefully cross referenced data, all leading any objective reviewer to conclude a hundred damning things; but, technically, when you collect all that information together, it's valid to call it "a piece of information"... That's *ONE*!!!

You might think that this shows the Republicans are in trouble, they're backpedaling furiously over their memo flop. That's not true. They've taken attention off of the multitude of ways Trump is using his office to enrich himself; off of the huge amounts of evidence that the Trump-ets conspired with Russian interference; off the fears that Trump will again try to put himself beyond the law, because he's sure the GOP has his back; the willingness of the GOP to let big business poison the poor to give to the rich; the massive tax giveaway to the uber-wealthy, and how it will tinkle down - don't trust the GOP euphemism "trickle!" - to their constituents... okay, sure, there isn't a lot of attention paid to all of those, but, while the rightwing is providing the media enough clickbait, there won't be enough journos willing to do, you know, real work in digging into these things.
So, you may well have heard of the Nunes Memo, a "controversial" document. I use the scare quotes for obvious reason. Let's look at its history: Nunes is "recused" from the Russia investigation, so one of his staffers wrote up a document using certain facts to weave a fantasy - presumably, a fantasy showing that there were improper actions by the FBI.

Was this the result of a long, careful investigation? Well, no. Was it the result of sworn testimony, with a careful author pulling in all the pieces? No. So what it is, is a typical Republican press release that has self-serving goals, and uses the truth as nothing but a doormat, and facts the size of sand, which, as we all know, doesn't make a good foundation.

Ah, but, it's been talked about. See, it's been talked about by the right wing noise machine, which means it's "of interest" to a significant percentage of the population, known as "right wing rubes and players" - interesting note, most of the players are actually rubes, and the number of rubes who think they're players are far in excess of the actual players. See, you can't engage in wholesale defense of everything rightwing, from banning Muslim community centers to interfering in family health care decisions to starting pointless wars, to blaming Democrats for the harm of those wars, etc., without shutting down part of your brain, the part that listens to your conscience. And once you shut down your brain, you're a rube.

To be a real right wing player, one would have to be thoroughly evil. And it's a damn shame evil can look cool, or sexy, because that's what helps encourage the rubes.

Where was I? Right! The rubes are talking about it, so it's of interest. And you know how the news media works, right? If a Prominent Republican says something, it's brutally unfair to engage in good journalistic practice and point out its provenance... that it's a memo - you know, like the things that circulate in offices saying that whoever drains the coffee pot should start a new one - written for the sole purpose of attacking the people who have, for good reason, been watching the Trump-ets. Face it; three high ranking officials wanted to speak to Russian government officials to gain a benefit from a crime that was committed - I believe the term is "accessory after the act" - and one of those self-same officials spoke of setting up a secret back channel so as to avoid US eavesdropping, in spite of being part of the US government.

So, the media has to play it up, because, you know, marketing journalism! It's NEWS! It's Republican Attack Dog Bites Man, and we all know that "dog bites man" is... um... oh, right. That's the really boring stuff, the stuff that isn't really "news". It's the stuff that should be reported, but the real news is the stuff that sits beneath the surface, waiting for someone to find it and expose it.

So: are the news media companies trying to drag out the stuff that sits beneath the surface, that the Republicans are once again trying to use the levers of government unjustly, to attack their enemies, and protect their friends? No... they are making too much money off of the "Dog Bites Man". At least, that's my only reasonable explanation for this. There was no investigation performed, no new information gleaned, no expert analysis performed, and its purpose is purely self-serving, but... we should be "concerned" because someone wants to smear the FBI and NSA, and if someone wants to smear people, that means there might be wrongdoing, because... um... help me out here, Cillizza. No, wait - don't. Our brains don't work the same. I use reasoning, and try to figure out the truth; I don't care what ratings whores think.
So, the Republicans have a tax plan, and it really shows off their priorities. There's one provision in particular that I think tells us everything about what they care about.

They're changing the tax rate on what's called a "pass through entity". This is when a person is a business owner, or in a partnership, or in a special type of corporation where taxes are paid on earnings as regular income. Okay, but... they only have 1.5 trillion dollars in taxes to give away, so they had to cut the costs of this one. So, here's what they did.

If your earnings from the pass through are because you're a silent partner or stock owner, they get the special 20% rate. Okay, but, if you collect a salary, that's taxed as ordinary income. That is to say: they want to give away tax dollars to people do big, hard, important work like obtaining investment income, not from those lazy, freeloading good-for-nothings who earn money by the sweat of their brow. This is what they value; they've been whispering it where the working class isn't likely to hear it for years. "Tihs is a capitalist society; let's encourage people to earn money off of capital!"

You see, if you go to school, work hard, and make a lot of money; or if you learn a trade, like plumbing or auto mechanics, and work hard and earn a lot of money; or even if you're just a cog in the machine, but by golly, a shiny cog that gets the job done; those aren't worth rewarding. But if you are rich, and make investments, well, they sure want to reward that!

Of course, one could suggest that this isn't really about value and rewarding things of value. One could suggest that this is what all of their big money donors want, that the Republicans are just in service to their masters. But that would be terrible to suggest, because Republicans like ot use Christianity as a club, and didn't Jesus say you can't serve two masters, god and money? Nevertheless, I'll suggest it, terrible person that I may be for doing so.

I figured that this would be the end of this blog post, but then I found something even better, something that summarizes the modern GOP better than anything else, ever. The need to look like they care.

Money quote: "If we don't produce, it'll get worse," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina told CNN. "The antidote to this problem is to pass a tax cut that Americans believe helps them and their families...

Indeed, yes, they need to pass a tax cut that Americans believe helps them and their families. This maps to another great line I love to hear Republicans say: that (soandso) "demonstrated leadership". Because "demonstrating" leadership is easy; actually leading is hard. And similarly, helping American families would be very hard... especially if you're in service to the big money boys. But if you can just get them to believe, then, to quote an ancient SNL sketch, "yeah; yeah, that's the ticket."
It must be hard to be a soldier, or, in Kelly's case, a Marine, serving under a President. A good solider - and by "soldier" I'm including sailors and seamen, airmen, and marines, but naming all is quite a mouthful! - knows that there are more duties than military preparedness and action, and that sometimes, the best support one can give one's commander in chief is in other ways... like, Colin Powell being dishonored in spreading the Bush administrations lies about Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

I say "being dishonored" because to say he dishonored himself would be unfair. He was told to spout a pile of bullshit, but refused. He provided only the information that he could verify, and it was weak, but he knew that, because it was spoken by, if you'll pardon the expression, "Colin fucking POWELL," it would be accepted more widely than if it had been another pile of bullshit given by Bush, Cheney, Rice, or any of the other fearsome liars claiming Saddam had an active WMD program. And he was a good soldier, a good man, and yes, he participated in a dishonorable action, but I can't blame him for serving the President, the office of the commander in chief for his entire Army career.

Kelly told a blatant lie during his remarks, that Frederica Wilson stood up and talked money, and getting money from President Obama, and serving her constituents by getting money, when she spoke of the fallen, and of her work in getting the building named to honor them. What is really bothersome about this lie is, it's a classic dog whistle. Black congresswomen, who, you know, probably serve black constituents, they're all in it for the taking. Did Kelly not know this? Did he know and just not care? Whatever the circumstances, remember: this is a lie, and there's no way to work around it, because Kelly claims his memory based upon an intense emotional reaction: he was stunned by this behavior. He alludes to how he was already disappointed in her, for reasons he doesn't state, but nevertheless, in spite of low expectations, he claims he was stunned.

My hopes are that Kelly is too naive to realize he was repeating a dog whistle, that he was just repeating a speech made by one of Trump's speechwriters, who know how to blow the dog whistle really well. But I'm still upset, because when Colin Powell was told to spread a steaming pile before the UN, he refused - he insisted on telling the truth as best as he could, while Kelly is reporting an event that never happened, but nevertheless "stunned him".

He lied. He knows he lied, because he knows darn well he wasn't stunned by something that never happened. And it's awful, because I remember hearing how, at West Point, a graduate recounted how they were taught not to lie or cheat, and not to accept those who do. I know for a fact that Marine officers are given the same notions of honor, because I know some proud Marines.

But it's worse than that. First, he blames a Federica Wilson for listening in on a conversation on speakerphone, with the phone held by a sargent. He knows darn well that it's not her fault for hearing it, but he elided that, so that he could attack her, for the crime of making his boss look bad.

And what did she do that was so horrible? She was furiously angry that Donald Trump hurt a war widow's feelings, both by making a clumsy statement, and by never so much as mentioning the name La David Johnson... as if Trump didn't even know the name, and as if La David Johnson just didn't matter.

Now, I'll give Kelly, and even Trump, this much: if you make a call to send your condolences, there's nothing much worse than realizing you screwed it up. I can't imagine how painful it would be to have that sick feeling that I wanted to say how saddened I was, and ended up adding to the family's grief.

I'd like to think that, if I were President, and if I had been the one who made a call that clumsy, that I would have my staff call her, and say that if she's so eager to cuss out the President, he's ready to take her call, and I'd let her speak her piece. And anything she said that was accurate, I'd agree with - and anything where she was wrong, I'd do my best to calmly explain why I felt that way. And then I'd say "you're right. It went badly. I feel sick about that, and you know what makes me feel even worse? That there's not a god damned thing I can do to make it better. And it sure doesn't help that you're out there rubbing my face in a tragic, but human, mistake."

You never know what you'd do in a tense situation until you're there, of course. But that's what I'd hope I do. This is one of the biggest things that makes me different from Donald J. Trump: I can admit I make mistakes. I can admit that I failed. I can admit that it hurts when I fail, and that I want to learn to do better next time, and wish like hell that I could make amends, but that I realize, sometimes you can't. Trump can't do that. I don't know whether he's too immature to do so, or whether his public persona forbids it, but he can't. Instead, he chooses to send out the attack dogs.

Not just an attack dog to attack her, of course... one who wants to throw out numerous dog whistles: a man who would claim that "women" aren't sacred, which some people think is a swipe at Weinstein, as if the military hasn't had problems with sexual assault between enlisted men and women - a betrayal of trust on an epic scale, yet far too often ignored.

He said that life is not sacred, presumably because the GOP base likes to call their politically motivated assault on abortion to be a battle for "life". And that's true, you know? When you try to turn "life" into a club, to beat people with, just so you can score political points, it's not sacred. You have to care about actual people, living breathing people, rich, poor, all creeds, all colors, all nationalities, before anyone will believe you revere "life" now. There's nothing sacred about a cheap political talking point!

Similarly, he says that religion isn't sacred, and I agree, again: religion has been made into a club to beat people with; if you demand civil rights, you'll have soi disant Christians say you're attacking their religion, even though their free exercise of Christianity is entirely unconstrained. You'll have many in the GOP claiming that Islam isn't a real religion. Anti-semitism is pretty widespread in the GOP, though it's hushed up whenever the subject of Israel appears. And, of course, if you're not in an Abrahamic religion, the GOP doesn't want to hear about it! Yes, that does dilute the sanctity of religion.

And now, he say that he hopes military service, and the sacrifice made by soldier, sailors, seamen, airmen, and marines, will remain sacred, while demeaning them, while using those sacrifices as a club to score more political points for his boss. You're right, General Kelly: keep doing that, and you'll wring the sanctity out, and leave it as another empty shell.

I don't like Donald Trump, and I'm glad to admit it. I don't like how Frederica Wilson spread news of his horrible foul-up, because there's a chance, however small, that he feels terribly about it. Sure, he's the one who tried to proclaim himself the best "consoler in chief" for military families, so he's the one who politicized it, but she still could have refrained. She was angry, and justifiably so, but she was angry over a personal, and human, matter, and it should have been handled on a personal, and human, basis.

If Trump had come out to express his sadness that he hurt Myeshia Johnson, if General Kelly had come out to say that he felt the President had tried to express the same feelings that he, himself, appreciated when hearing of his son; had Kelly reported he feels awful for his boss and his friend, well, that would have brought shame to Representative Wilson, and I hope she'd have risen to the occasion, and admitted she was wrong to make a public fuss over a private matter.

But that's not what happened. Instead, Kelly takes a page from Trump's playbook, stating he was stunned that she heard a call that was played over cell on speakerphone; lying about her; and throwing around racist dog whistles. He says he was stunned. General Kelly, I wish I could say that your behavior stuns me. But I already know your boss, and while I hoped you were better, and I am disappointed, I won't pretend, for a moment, to be "stunned".
I'd been meaning to comment on this link for a while:

It's a pretty good illustration of what goes horribly wrong in a post-truth society. Gorsuch went on at length about how on earth could the Supreme Court stand up for voting rights?

In a sense, it's a good question - the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, so standing up for voting rights doesn't have recent precedent. However, as Ginsburg pointed out, "Where did 'one person, one vote' come from?"

But, while that incident shows why the Democrats were reasonable in filibustering Gorsuch - who, remember, thinks you should be fired if you choose to save your life when your employer would prefer you protect their property - it doesn't quite show the post-truth world. For that, you need Alito.

Make no mistakes here: Alito is a lawyer, and used to researching important things.

So, when he claimed:
“You paint a very dire picture about gerrymandering and its effects,” Alito said, “but I was struck by something in the seminal article by your expert, Mr. McGhee, and he says there, ‘I show that the effects of party control on bias are small and decay rapidly, suggesting that redistricting is at best a blunt tool for promoting partisan interests.’ So he was wrong in that?”

... we know this is not an accident.

McGhee was contacted after the arguments:

I called Eric McGhee, the expert, after the argument. The quote Alito pulled was not from the “seminal article” McGhee co-wrote proposing the legal standard for gerrymandering at the center of the case. It was from an earlier McGhee paper, using data from the 1970s through 1990s. In the paper at the center of the case, by contrast, “we used updated data from the 2000s,” McGhee told me, “and the story is very different. It’s gotten a lot worse in the last two cycles. . . . The data are clear.”

So Alito deliberately referred to an earlier paper, in order to make the patently false claim that the expert in question said the exact opposite of what he said.

Post-truth world, baby - facts don't matter! Not even in the highest court of the land.
So, the Republicans have a "tax reform" plan, which, like their "health care reform" plan is intended to funnel big bucks to fat cats via tax cuts, and ensure that, as soon as they're not in power, they'll have a huge deficit, and ever mounting national debt, to use to explain why they need to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and any other government program intended to help the working class. The plan will make jobs far more expensive for employers - a 33% increase in many cases! - so that employers can find new reasons for layoffs - more offshoring, more technology, and, of course, making those people who have jobs that much more afraid of losing them, so they better work harder, because there's someone else out there to take this job!

And they're living in a brave new world, where they don't have to worry about honesty or integrity while selling it! Donald Trump showed that you can get in front of reporters and throw out bald-faced lies, "this isn't going to be good for me!" when it's going to be good for him, and people like him, in a host of different ways.

The GOP wants to pretend that it's a bill to help the "middle class" but you have to remember, they consider "middle class" to be somewhere from the low six figures (which is still "working class" for them...) to 250k - okay, maybe as high as 400k. The bill is designed to be useful to people who run their own business, and take home fat cash, and the super-wealthy; working stiffs are, well, stiffed.

i don't mean that workers will all see their tax rates increase - after all, doctors and lawyers work too! - but the big takeaway is that your salary and benefits will cost your boss more money in take-home pay. Whereas before your pay may have cost your boss 60 cents on the dollar, it's now going to cost 80 cents on the dollar. It's been a long-standing, and highly revered truism - by which I mean "canard" - that this will cause your boss to want to pay you more, and to pay more people like you, a position that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Making something more expensive, with no other changes, means you expect to see less demand for it.

Given how obvious that is, you can imagine it takes some "alternative facts" to sell, and that's what has been done. The claim is, your boss would have a bit more folding cash because of lower taxes on income. Thus, regardless of demand for the company's goods or services, the boss will hire more people because that's what bosses do when they have money that they could take home instead. Remember: bosses are JOB CREATORS!

It's hogwash; demand is what creates jobs. But it doesn't even need to be defended any more. Just, you know, TAX CUTS! Economic growth! JOBS!!!!"

Still: just because the GOP claims that tax cuts are good during times of great economic growth, poor economic growth; during times of war, and peace; during times of high unemployment or low unemployment; when deficits are increasing or decreasing; when the moon is new, waxing, or waning, and, of course, when it's full; that doesn't mean you should question their reasoning. Hm. Oh, wait... yes, that's exactly what it means, sorry. I suppose I've been reading lapdog reporters too long.

The GOP loves to point to the Laffer curve, which is based on a not-stupid idea. Imagine if taxes were 101% (and yes, taxes greater than 100% on income have been attempted!); no one would deliberately earn anything that would actually cost them money; they would work to avoid it. Even when taxes are 90%, people won't work nearly as hard to earn a tenth of what they produce. Cut taxes here, and people will produce more and result in more, not less, revenue.

But the GOP never mentions that the Laffer curve tends to 0 on both ends: when marginal tax rates are too high, people aren't interested in earning that much, just to hand it to the government; and, when taxes are 0, there are no tax receipts. We are below the tax rate/revenue sweet spot of the Laffer curve; cutting taxes will increase the deficit and the debt, by reducing tax receipts.

So why does the GOP, which says they are in favor of fiscal responsibility, want to do this? Well, even pre-Trump, it was proven that lies don't matter. Now they can just be more blatant, and more important. Nothing's changed: fiscal responsibility would entail a tax increase today, and that's a non-starter. The wealthy don't support the GOP so they can have higher taxes, just to help balance the federal budget! They support the GOP for insisting always, in all circumstances, to cut taxes.

So the GOP doesn't even try to talk fiscal responsibility. Not with a Republican in the White House, not when tax cuts are possible. It's kind of interesting how a deeply held belief can be casually swept aside... yet the next time it's brought up, it will once again become a deeply held belief, and accepted at face value. So why not?

They have a once in a generation attempt to give a huge gift to the wealthy and the $400k "middle class"; lies don't matter, not now, and not in the future; so why not? The only people who get hurt are the working class... and they'll probably never know why, and, besides, hey, booga-booga, wedge issue! You don't want to vote for DEMOCRATS because they're icky on WEDGE ISSUE, amirite?
As you know, the US has several troubles. Three US territories have been struck by devastating hurricanes; North Korea has atomic bombs and may be able to place them on top of intercontinental ballistic missiles; they may be able to hit the west coast, and, in time, it's likely that they'll be able to reach all parts of the US. A military option to end this threat is made extremely difficult because millions of South Koreans are held hostage to the artillery sitting within shooting range of them.

Our nation is led by a man whose administration is under investigation for various criminal activities; we have a Republican Congress that doesn't care that those criminal activities could include plotting with an enemy against the US's interests. We have an EPA bound and determined to ignore science and safety; we have a Department of Education headed by a woman who wants to turn public education into a cash cow for her wealthy buddies to milk, regardless of whether children get educated; we have a Department of Energy headed by a fellow who wanted to eliminate it, because he couldn't be arsed to learn what it did....

There are many, many challenges facing us, so, as you know, the Trump Administration is going to do something to Demonstrate Leadership. I'm referring, of course, to whining about players dropping to one knee during the playing of the national anthem.

You probably heard, VP Pence went to a football game, knowing full well that there would be players taking one knee during the playing of the anthem, so he could leave in a huff. (Channeling Groucho, I'll suggest he could have left in a minute and a huff. Except he actually left in taxpayer-funded transport.)

This is how the GOP Demonstrates Leadership. And of course, they have their peons penning paeans to such Leadership Demonstration: currently titled) Why taking the knee stomps on my foot

The author intro states "Michael R. Caputo is a Buffalo-based public affairs consultant, a talk radio host on WBEN-AM and CNN contributor. A longtime Republican campaign operative, he served as a senior adviser to President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign", so, let's be honest: the bar isn't just low, it's underground! But still: we can hope that maybe, just maybe, Caputo will show just a shred of honesty, just a speck, and try to point to a way that football players are harming him so much that it's like "stomping" on his foot.

HAH! Just kidding. No, we can't hope for that. Funniest part of the story is the beginning:
This entire NFL National Anthem protest story has been provocative, but I like it when I'm made to think.

Then again, maybe it's not as funny as all that. Thinking is notably absent from this piece, but he didn't actually say this was a time he was made to think....

He goes on to claim pride in Pence's Demonstration of Leadership, and then goes on to make this statement:

The NFL players taking the knee don't intend to offend combat veterans, the fallen and their families. But here's what my experience tells me: To many people, they are doing exactly that, whether they intend to or not.

This brings up the crux of the argument. First, there's the bogus statement that this "offends combat veterans". You know something? This protest started with people refusing to stand for the national anthem, and I could maybe be convinced that a person could feel offended by that. Just a tad. But then, the protest was changed. Instead of staying seated, people are getting up, and dropping to one knee - a clear show of respect.

So: they're making a respectful gesture, to make a point about something that really matters to them, and should matter to everyone. But, let's bear with Caputo to see where he goes.

Let's summarize the next bit: his dad taught him to love football, it was a big connection to his dad, and they watched a lot of football together.

Okay, I suppose since taking one knee before the game ruins the players' ability to play? No? Hm. Well, let's keep going.

This part's especially good:

By then, the Bills were everything to me, and no matter where I wandered, I always came home and dropped in on the parking lot for games. When I lived in Washington and worked as a writer for Jack Kemp (yeah, that was supercool), I'd come home some weekends and pretend I was helping park cars. When I worked overseas, I made it home to some games.

But that's not my only connection to the anthem issue.

Um... may I please point out that you can't say "that's not my only connection" when you haven't mentioned a connection yet? I'm being nice here - I'll allow as how it might be hyperbole to say "the Bills were everything to me..." rather than insinuate a life must be awfully empty for a single sports team to be "everything." But loving football, and loving a football team, is not a connection to "the anthem issue". Not even if it's a connection to dear old dad (cue Augie Doggie).

He continues:

In high school, I enlisted in the Army and served in the 25th Infantry Division. I never went to war, but I served alongside some real heroes and grew deeply loyal to the service of those who fought and died. To me, as you might guess, the United States flag and National Anthem represent solemn reverence to combat veterans, the fallen and their families.

This is really good. "If I say it, you must believe it!" See, no one else can tell us if Caputo thinks the anthem is stupid and boring, or represents "solemn reverence". So: no one can say that's not how he feels. Thing is, while I can't prove otherwise, I can still say that I think he's making up an emotional appeal because he thinks it'll sell. I don't believe he feels any "solemn reverence", but really, I don't care.

See, this really is supposed to be a free country. And that means he can think the anthem represents solemn reverence or he can think it's a good chance to sneak out back and let out some of the pre-game beer he's been sipping; his feelings don't dictate anything but his feelings.

Here's the money shot (and I know that term is used in pornography sometimes, and that is, in fact, precisely why I chose that term; this is the climax of the wanking!)

So to me, even as a lifelong football fan, it seems pretty normal to find something offensive about players continuing to take the knee during the anthem, especially after so many people have made clear how uncomfortable it makes them feel. After all, if you walk up to me and stomp on my foot, I'll give you a pass if you say it was an accident. You don't even have to apologize. But the second time you do it, I know that you know that you hurt my foot when you stomped on it. Yet you've chosen to hurt my foot again and again, so that speaks volumes about you.

Since some people feel uncomfortable, taking one knee during the anthem is the same as a deliberate physical assault! This brings back memories of disparaging talk regarding the "reality based community." If people feel uncomfortable, then they feel uncomfortable. That's not assault. And protests can and should make people feel a bit uncomfortable. They should realize that these privileged athletes care about people who look like them getting killed by police, when other options existed. They should think about whether police officers are a bit too quick on the draw, a bit too quick to resort to lethal force, when they see a toy gun and a black male holding it - whether it's a 12 year old child, or a gentleman walking in the store, carrying one of the store's own toys!

But back to his wank. Here, we have the de-now-ment. (In literature, it's the "denouement" but this ain't literature!)

I say all this while acknowledging that I can't possibly understand a black man's perspective on racial issues. So I try to be mindful of these matters and I respect the NFL players' right to protest. In fact, there are some current and former players whose opinions on civil rights have helped shape mine over the years. But by the same reasoning, the majority of the kneelers must also acknowledge they cannot understand the perspective on the flag and National Anthem of a combat veteran. Yet still, they kneel.

Remember, this guy is not a combat veteran but still speaks for them! And he says that they're a bunch of wimps who can't handle the emotional turmoil of a man taking one knee, to show respect for the flag, while simultaneously making a statement, one that should hold no offense to anyone who is interested in justice. Because, after all: it's not the gesture of respect that other people have chosen!

I'm sorry - no. And I really wouldn't care if he was a combat veteran; once again, he'll swear up and down that he feels a certain way, and, of course, we can't quite prove that he doesn't. Still, he can show a pile of bullshit, and swear he produced it, and while I'll believe in his bullshit production, I don't have to believe he's a bull.

He continues on in the same way, with a weak wrap up - never showing how a show of respect for the flag is offensive, and certainly without any demonstration that it's akin to a physical assault!

The thing is, it doesn't matter. The point is, see, he said that this is a bad thing, because, you know, The Flag! America! Combat Veterans! He doesn't have to make a meaningful, or even coherent point, and he can get linked on the front page of CNN.

It doesn't matter that taking one knee is a show of respect; it doesn't matter that these athletes are making a statement about something that's important, nor that we all know what that statement is, and how it's completely inoffensive to any soldier who has fought for our freedom. It's a battle in the culture war, one that can be milked to snag some headlines and try to help America forget that there's a complete incompetent in the White House, and how it's the fault of the Republican Party.

So: bash on football players who make an inoffensive statement; insist that it's bad, because, hey, "Flag! America! COMBAT VETERANS! You don't HATE our COMBAT VETERANS, do you?" What the hey - it Demonstrates Leadership, which is a good thing, I suppose. Neither Trump, nor Pence, nor Caputo, can lead a person anywhere good!
This is something interesting in political reporting.

Here's the money quote:

President Trump has not committed to paying insurers the cost-sharing subsidies, which reduce deductibles and co-pays for low-income Obamacare enrollees. This has prompted many insurers to raise their premiums for 2018 to make up for the anticipated loss of the subsidies. The 2018 rates have already been finalized.

Johnson added that any such move to support continuing those payments would come with strings attached. "We should get something in return for that," he said. For example, he said, Congress should make it so anyone has the option to purchase a "catastrophic plan" -- insurance with relatively low premiums but high deductibles that provides fewer benefits.

Johnson also said they should make health savings accounts more usable.

So: Congress, and President Trump, have decided to hurt the poorest and most in need of help with health insurance. But they're graciously willing to do what the law requires, if, and only if, Democrats are willing to damage insurance markets, and provide bigger, better tax shelters for the wealthy!

Why isn't this called out in a supposed piece of journalism? I mean, this is not difficult to parse.

Part of the answer is that journalism is walking-wounded right now. The Republicans have helped make it so. They demand "balance" - by which they mean, if a Republican say something stone-cold stupid, or mean, it is to be uncritically reported. If you don't do that, you can lose access. The Republicans will stop talking to you.

Journalism used to have an answer for that. They'd explain, patiently, that they are not in the business of providing unpaid political advertising. Their job is to report *news*. And if the Republicans will deny "access", then the whole body of political journalism will stop providing them this powerful, unpaid platform. But that doesn't happen any more.

I'm not sure why not. Part of it is surely Fox News; they'll scoop other outlets on a variety of right wing stories if they're the only ones who have access. Part of it is surely the loss of revenue from journalism. The Republicans are very good at raising a ruckus to sell as clickbait, and journalists can't afford to fail to report on the ruckus. Part of it is also, surely, the loss of anti-trust protections. Time was, the federal government protected against media monoliths - they insisted on letting small business people own and run local media, rather than allowing a small bloc of wealthy elites to own huge swaths of various media markets, to manipulate to their heart's content.

But I'm not sure if that's the whole story. I think part of it is that the Republicans have been playing the media long game for a very long time, and a lot of nonsense has started to seem sensible. For example, I've recently this, by Bill Maher, where he starts off complaining that Democrats would like to have motion sensors in car back seats, to avoid young children's deaths in hot cars.

We could mock the utter stupidity of Maher's claim that hot car deaths are less likely than being struck by lightning. (Still: easily checked fact, Maher!) We could point out that people are tired, overworked, frazzled, and can forget that the quietly sleeping baby, or young child, is in the car with them, especially because front-car infant seats are banned, and that this can likely be done cheaply and easily - and, if not, it can be revisited. But let's not.

Are people angry about motion sensors in cars, or about taxes, or even bans, on Big Gulps? Sure, a bit. It's a petty annoyance, but, seriously: do you see soi disant "conservatives" say that this is the FORMER land of the free, because you can't have huge cups of soda? (I guess not - after all, we do have courts to protect rights! which is good when it hands a victory to soda companies and people who love huge soft drinks; but bad when it says that gay folks can have civil benefits equal to others. Republicans are big believers in

Justice, n: a judgement in your favor)

So: are people angry about a defeated attempt at regulation? If they are, it's not because they really give a rip about sodas in New York. (Oh: that's "pop" to you midwesterners. Or, as my midwest college agreed, "it's pop if bought by a pop-sayer, and soda if bought by a soda-sayer, if you're asking to have one they purchased - and its either if you're poking fun at the curious regionalisms of your friends. Life would be better if the world could run like a college social circle... ah well.)

They're angry because it became a cause cèlébre for soi disant conservatives. See, people don't care if a Democrat, or a Republican, does something dumb, so long as it gets stopped in a reasonable time, and doesn't cause them too much inconvenience in the meantime. People aren't upset because "Democrats are trying to micromanage people's lives" because Democrats aren't doing that. They're angry at a perception - a perception that is largely based on lies, endlessly repeated, making that claim, even on long-dead issues - that NYT article was from 2014, but it's still a living, breathing, cause to hate Democrats!

I'll grant you: a Democrat is far more likely to do something stupid like ban quart (and larger) fountain sodas; and a Republican is far more likely to say that women must do the Macarena, while playing Twister, and singing The Hut Sut song, on key, in rhythm, and without removing hands/feet from the appropriate colors, before they are permitted to have an abortion - just to make sure they understand the seriousness of ending a pregnancy, of course!

But mostly, Democrats want to press for regulations that prevent industries from poisoning the land, air, and water; prevent Big Business from hurting, killing, or stealing from their employees; and making sure people can get good food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

And sure, they'd love to do things that help people with their day to day concerns - like being able to work one, full time, decent paying job, with benefits, and being thereby able to get food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. But those things cost money, and the Republicans will fight tooth and nail against spending any money that helps people - look at their constant false claims about the ACA; and, of course, their recent fumbling attempts to cut hundreds of billions, or even trillions, out of health care spending, to fund tax cuts.

The Republicans will continue to rail against the ACA - they won't even spend the funds required by the law; they'll instead demand concessions, just for doing their jobs! - without mentioning that it's slowed the rise in health care costs, extended Medicare's solvency, and provided health insurance to millions and millions of people who hadn't had it, and saved hundreds of thousands, and likely millions, of lives.

And they'll be helped by people like Maher, and an untold number of lazy journalists, who complain that Democrats aren't doing enough to combat a narrative that that they, themselves, are helping to spread, even though it's clearly based on falsehoods, and peddled for profit - both financial, and political. That is one of the biggest challenges facing political journalism now: they've fallen down a Republican Rabbit Hole, and have started to believe it's how the real world really is.

Until they wake up and shake off the patterns of years of falsehoods; until they step out of their Republican-created bubble; they won't be up to the challenge.
I'm sorry if you need brain bleach after the subject line, but I assure you, the meaning of it will become clear, and appropriate.(This doesn't obviate the need for said brain bleach, but, oh, well.)

Recently, I saw this. Whoops! The "IRS Scandal" may not be a scandal!

It was, but bear with me. That story is linked to this one .

Now, this is very good news, for someone like me, because this second link mentions this:

The 2013 TIGTA report, they argued, was based on selective criteria that omitted numerous non-conservative groups that were also subjected to close IRS review.

Now, I'd seen that reported: that the TIGTA report was basically, the Republicans saying "find Republican, Tea Party, and other GOP-leaning groups that were singled out for scrutiny." It had been reported... I saw it. But I couldn't find it again. And why not? It makes no sense. Why didn't people continue to report that an explicit bias was used to invent a scandal?

Let's go back a bit - let's remember what this "scandal" was, so we can see the real scandal. The IRS is tasked with deciding who merits tax exempt status under certain articles of the tax code. Groups can be tax exempt under these rules if they don't engage in direct political activity - supporting specific candidates, etc.. The IRS saw groups with Tea Party in the name, and thought, "wow, I wonder if these guys might be interested in politics!"

The right wing loves to talk about profiling - "hey, look, let's demand extreme vetting of refugees from Muslim areas, because, hey, we know there are some bad people there!" So why do they get their knickers in a twist when the IRS says "hey, let's perform vetting of a group that seems obviously interested in politics, and see if they're going to engage in political activity!" Well, geez, isn't it obvious? It's politically useful to Republicans to harsh on Muslims, and to look the other way when anti-Muslim bigotry occurs (assuming they aren't bigots or engaging in bigotry themselves - an assumption that isn't safe!).

Still: it's true, the IRS should not be doing a word-grabbing algorithm to decide who deserves extra scrutiny. And they asked for information they shouldn't have asked for. They were wrong; and needed to be told they were wrong, and given better guidance on how to do things right. That's a bureaucratic SNAFU (which, I hope you all know, means, Situation Normal, All Fu,uh,FOULED Up). Bad things happen; they need to be caught, and corrected but they are not signs of a scandal.

There was no evidence, whatsoever, that the Obama administration tried to "sic" the IRS on Republican-leaning groups. There was plenty of evidence that this was precisely what it was: a government enforcement office, trying to do their jobs right, and making a mistake.

Remember, Republicans are okay when cops shoot a 12 year old black child who's carrying a dangerously-real looking toy gun, without even trying to assess the situation, or deescalate it. "Hey, it's just a mistake!" But woe to the IRS if it writes letters asking improper questions! In the IRS SNAFU, no one got killed, or injured; no one was charged with criminal activity, even though it was found that a lot of Tea Party groups did engage in electioneering, in defiance of tax regulations. But we shouldn't think of that as a mistake, because a "mistake" can't be used to attack the Obama administration and accuse them, quite falsely, of criminal activity!

And that, my friends, is the scandal. The Republican Party's leaders, with full consent of the Republican establishment, chose to use their powers, granted to them by the Constitution to serve the people, for personal, and political, gain. They chose to throw around accusations of criminal wrongdoing, and they chose to intimidate a government agency for, drum roll please:

Trying to do their job in a way that inconvenienced GOP supporters!

They sent a clear message: "if you mess with our people, causing them inconvenience, we will hound you! So lay off of our supporters!"

This is news. This is big news. This is a real scandal, and what's amazing is, no one cares, because it's become the new normal. Of course the GOP hounded the IRS and threw around false accusations of criminal wrongdoing. (Gee, I wonder where Trump got the idea to make criminal accusations about the Obama administration? And why he was sure such a thing would blow over?)

They spent years hounding Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton over Benghazi, repeatedly finding nothing wrong, but continuing to waste time and money over it, whether it was just to keep it in the news, or in hopes of finding something on their fishing expedition.

They then hounded Clinton, knowing full well that she was guilty of no crime, but trying to make it sound as if she was - as if using the wrong e-mail address is a crime! - to the point that they even managed to the get the FBI director to play their game and influence the election, all when there was not even a hint of evidence of wrongdoing.

All of these are scandals in and of themselves. This is a free country - we are supposed to be free to go about our day to day business without being threatened with criminal sanctions even if it happens to be useful to a political party with power to abuse.

But the worse scandal comes in when we see that they will not show the same dedication and suspicion when it's one of their own. Trying to embarrass a political opponent with an investigation is an unpleasant tradition, but it happens. Trying to bring criminal charges, well, that's a lot nastier, and a lot more corrupt.

But still: you can (and the GOP does) pretend to a pious concern for the good of the nation; you can pretend that you're merely thorough and determined to root out wrongdoing... right up to the point when it's clear you're shielding one of your own, from investigations of far worse suspicions: working with a foreign government, with no concern for US interests; colluding with a foreign government, hoping to undermine faith in our democracy, and democracy itself; obstructing justice; engaging in nepotism; currying bribes and favors... let me be clear, these are suspicions a reasonable person might have, not accusations. But they are reasonable suspicions, and items that merit investigation. We know that they would be investigated, with far less evidence, if the target was someone the GOP wanted to harm! But the targets are Republicans, so they are swept under the rug.

And thus, we see the emperor standing naked before us, claiming to be cloaked in a piety of concern for the nation; and hatred of wrong doing; and we have the lapdogs of the media gleefully praising the fine outfit they see.
The right wing is doing its damnedest to make hay out of "Antifa" which is not organized, has no spokespeople, and whose "diabolical activities" always seem to be recorded when perpetrated by people in black with black masks.

They'd have gotten pretty far with it, too, if there hadn't be a murderous terrorist attack at the Unite The Right rally, and even then, they couldn't let it go - which is why Trump (not realizing a terrorist attack changes the script) tried to talk about blame on 'many sides'."

Here's an important note: if we were all Americans, sure, opponents but not enemies, when one side is brutally attacked with deadly force, there's a natural, noble, human reaction: circle the wagons around your opponents, to declare that in this, we're on the same side, and denounce the horrible actions. That there was a rowdy protest, and a few scuffles, is irrelevant.

That didn't happen.

Let me emphasize something: this is what made me suspicious. The reaction, after a counter-protestor was murdered. At first, I'd have looked very quizzically at someone claiming black clad, black masked "Antifa" attacks could be a false flag attack.

But then I heard Trump's claims repeated - that Antifa attackers were "rushing in with clubs" and people were hit "with baseball bats" and something else struck me.

If you get hit with a baseball bat, you will have a photogenically ugly bruise to show for it. Why aren't these pictures showing up everywhere, with corroborating hospital or police reports?

That, coupled with the urgency I've seen of right-wing people trying to push the notion of vicious, baseless attacks, coupled with the attempt to blame all sides, makes me ask: "what evidence do we have of this? Besides pictures of people in black with masks?"

At this point, I won't be convinced by a mere report, even supported by pictures, of an assault by an unidentifiable person. Show me the injury and hospital report - you can make a good show of kicking someone around without hurting them, even if they're not wearing padding and if they are, you can make an "attack" look really good for the cameras. Oh, and claims of thrown bottles of urine are gross, but many a person will accept being peed on for a good purpose - urine is generally sterile and only a bit stinky, and can be washed off readily.

I will strongly advise anyone who is anti-fascist, who wants to go black bloc, that there may not be any safe way to do it - but it would be wise, if one does so, to keep records of who is "in" so that one can proclaim who *isn't*. You also need discipline, and a camera-carrier who understands that the initial encounter *must* be caught.

But better still would be to go with faces uncovered - it is black mask anonymity that would allow a false flag attack to be successful.
I saw this link:

... and I wanted to comment on it later. For now, I'll just mention that, if you think this makes sense, and you *still* don't understand how discrimination made the lives of black people in the US excruciatingly difficult, it strongly suggests a lack of either education or imagination.

One key point: even today, there are people who are insisting that the civil rights movement was a terrible thing because it damaged "free association" yet will agree with the basis of the article that Something Must Be Done here.
Parts of this bother me more than they should.

This part, especially:
During the campaign Trump's rhetoric introduced the kind of threat -- that he would seek the prosecution of his opponent -- long deemed unworthy of an established democracy.

See... here's the thing. Two Republican prosecutors proclaimed that their professional experience allowed them to say that Hillary Clinton had engaged in criminal conduct. They were lying, of course.

The FBI was investigating the possible spread of classified information, because the FBI does counter-intelligence work. In addition, if they'd found that Hillary Clinton had deliberately shared information that she should not have, they might have recommended prosecution. There was never any evidence of any criminal wrongdoing against Hillary Clinton, which is, no doubt, why the Attorney General suggested it be referred to as a "matter" (which suggests that it's an attempt to learn more about a subject) rather than an "investigation" (which suggests criminal wrongdoing).

Had the Republicans been in any way honorable, they would have refused to countenance accusations of criminal behavior against an enemy, no matter how much they hated her. They didn't. (As one Republican tool suggested recently, had the GOP been in any way honorable, they also would have shut down questions about President Obama's birth certificate, but they didn't. Note that for all his whining now, he didn't take any action then - what a Flake!)

The Republicans have long been engaging in behavior unworthy of an established democracy. They've been investigating people for pure partisan advantage; they've used the levers of government power for pure partisan advantage; they'd been insinuating Hillary Clinton was guilty of criminal behavior since the 90s, though notably only when it provided them with an electoral advantage.

This isn't new. And it's not at all surprising that Trump realized that if Republicans will "go there", but cautiously, that fans of the GOP would like to see a fellow "go there" full of swagger and braggadocio. He took their quiet, nasty insinuations, and made it loud and far more public.

Republicans have been "going there" on warfare, too. Remember, for all the lies told to establish support for the war in Iraq, the GOP thought it was going to be a cakewalk. It wasn't, which just goes to prove that pointing a gun at people's collective heads and saying "You're free to do what we want you to!" is not the best way to bring about freedom. Go figure!

Fire and fury is, in fact, precisely the equivalent of "lock her up". It's the precise same message of the rest of the GOP, only, rather than whispered with secret giggles about how it must "piss off the libtards", it's being shouted from the rooftops, where it might piss off a dictator with atomic bombs and ICBMs.

The Republicans have asked for this, and have courted this, and now they have it: a person proclaiming loudly that it's America first, longing for the days "when we were strong", and "not taking no shit from nobody". It's a bit late for buyer's remorse, and all the backpedaling in the world can't stop Trump from a stupid decision that could cause irreparable harm. Still, I wonder if it will take "fire and fury" for the Republicans to realize they've gone too far. I sure hope not.
So, this is a decent message and set of ideas.

But part of me wonders about where this idea was back in the 90s, when the norms were taken out and trampled upon... when the GOP decided that it was okay to refuse to do their jobs, because they saw a way they could gain a partisan (and political) advantage from it.

And where was it when the GOP invented causes for war with Iraq, and never paid any price for having falsified intelligence, much less torturing people? Where was it in repeated brinksmanship over keeping the government running, and the debt ceiling? Where was it when a Supreme Court nomination was literally stolen? When the GOP engaged in deliberate witch hunts, and as a whole, told lies about the criminality of Hillary Clinton?

If people are shocked, shocked to find that there's gambling going on here a refusal to abide by the rule of law, to abide by norms and ideals, they haven't been paying attention.

What's worse, that lack of attention over the past 20 years (yes, literally!) is what led us to a situation where Trump might just get away with unlawful behavior, conspiring with an unfriendly power against the United States, because he might continue firing investigators, pardoning people, and the like, and, the GOP might decide they don't want to impeach him.

Sure, the Democrats might retake the House - but if they do, impeachment will be claimed to be an unwillingness to accept the results of the 2016 election - or maybe revenge for Bill Clinton (whichever polls better). People will protest that Trump was attacked from the moment he took the oath of office, over all of this "Russia" stuff, you know, like his campaign (at the absolute least) conspiring to work with a foreign government to try to swing the election, like his release of classified information to Russians, and his admission that he obstructed justice, in spirit, even if it's not sure a prosecutor can meet the standard of proof.

And, alas, a lot of people will believe this.

I'm glad that there are people who are recognizing that the lawlessness of the Trump administration is unprecedented - but I'm really a bit miffed that the lawlessness of the GOP over the years has been ignored to the point that there was an opening for a Donald Trump.
Listening to Republican voters can be educational if you are able to break away from your assumptions, and if you're able to work your way through all the pieces of the puzzle.

A lot of them talk about the advantages people have due to race (as in: blacks and Latinos have it easier), and complain that the greater poverty is due to weaknesses in the moral character of individual minorities, not due to any inherent prejudice in the system. Why? Are they blind?

No. But a common refrain you'll hear is that there are programs to help everyone - EVERYONE! - except white men.

Well, that is true. Except, we all know that most programs that are there to help minorities are resource-starved and while they may provide invaluable help to some, they don't overcome the massive disadvantages that a lot of minorities face.

Again, are these people blind, then? No!

Here's where thinking becomes necessary. Think about messaging, and remember, the GOP is the party that were attracted to the case of Terri Schiavo, so they could ask "why do liberals want her to die?" while leading their followers to believe that 20 different judges all made fundamental mistakes in the law and in justice. For an attempt to gain an electoral advantage, they undermined faith in the law and in the courts, by spreading lies (of commission and omission) about the situation.

The GOP is certainly willing to use false messaging that gives them an advantage. Why not? It's not like anyone has ever been shamed for lying about the Schiavo case, or about insinuating her husband was guilty of vile crimes, or any one of a number of other dirty tricks.

They've done the same thing on affirmative action, and about race in general. You know this - you've surely seen this, and realized that this is what they were doing. But what you might not have realized is the depths of deviousness involved.

You see, ever since Reagan made it more expensive to create jobs for US workers, US workers at all levels have been getting squeezed harder and harder, seeing ever larger losses in wages, benefits, and their ability to believe things might someday get better.

Well - the GOP sure doesn't want to admit that, yeah, their deregulating, tax cuts, and battles against the minimum, and prevailing, wage laws, are what's squeezing the hell out of the American workers. They don't want to admit they've been negotiating away worker's rights and bargaining power with trade deals that can have US workers competing against slave labor.

So what do they do? They say that there are still good jobs, there are still good opportunities, there's plenty of both... but guess where these good jobs and opportunities go?

(If you have to ask, here's a sample.)

Now, I don't much like racism, even if it's based in ignorance. But it's important to remember that this same sort of messaging has been in use since the 70s... and it's likely become ever more effective as businesses get to squeeze the working class ever harder. It's also to remember that there are people in respected leadership roles - heaven help us, even the Presidency! - who will happily use this sort of messaging, knowing it's a pack of lies[1], but counting on their followers to believe it's the truth. After a message is repeated often enough, even people who aren't convinced will come to believe that there must be something to it, or surely it would have been debunked and denounced by now. And seeing things get worse and worse makes it easier for people to accept a cause that sounds plausible.

I'm not saying this to suggest that racism is okay, nor that it should be accepted... but to suggest that you remain aware that there are a lot of people being very carefully taught a pack of lies that explain their suffering, and push the blame away from the people who cause it.

[1] Technically, Trump may be one of the dupes who believes it - he's certainly not thoughtful or curious enough to sniff out the BS in anything - or, perhaps his nose is numb to the scent after the truckloads he dumps each speech....
The Republicans like to talk about running government "like a business". They do it, too.

Here's the thing, though: if you think you understand what they mean, you probably have it backwards. Businesses are supposed to make their customers' lives better in some way. Do the Republicans?

They don't want to spend money fixing roads and bridges, making efficient water, power, and data pathways, and thereby making U.S. infrastructure the envy of the world.

They don't want to provide excellent health care for the citizenry of the U.S., the way every other major nation does.

They don't want to provide security from a merciless world with physical and economic catastrophes.

Instead, they say that there are freeloaders, who don't pay Federal Income Tax. It doesn't matter if those people are good, hardworking folks who do good work for their employers and in their communities. What matters is, they're not bringing in revenue.

They want to cut all forms of the safety net, claiming that people are overusing them, and without them, those people would go out and work; they assume that people are lazy and undisciplined, and that's why they aren't wealthy, and that's why they need to suffer - to teach them to work harder! And if they're already working hard, well they must be doing something wrong, or why are they having problems?

Have you figured out yet what they mean by "government like a business?"

They want to cut Medicaid, changing it from benefits to contributions - they will only contribute, not promise that the contribution will do anything. They want to cut Medicare the same way - they'll define a contribution to provide, not a benefit. And they want to make people work harder, and longer, for fewer Social Security benefits.

Is the idea starting to rise up? Do you now realize what they mean, "government like a business"? Haven't you seen this behavior before, people complaining about folks who aren't producing enough, and insisting that everyone has to provide more for themselves, because benefits are being cut?

When Republicans realized that President Obama had the opportunity to fill a lot of federal court openings, they realized they could simply refuse to do their jobs, so they didn't. Is that a big clue for you? It should be....

See, the one thing people can't do, if they're running a business is anger their customers by refusing to do their jobs.

Now the Republicans are threatening the health of millions, and this will lead to thousands of deaths. You can't do that to your customers - taking away things that they value, and replacing them with items of far less value, that will cause massive harm through your customer base. You need to keep making improvements - or your customers will go somewhere else.

And if that doesn't sew up the argument, well, I don't know what else does. The Republicans are running government like a business. And they think that the American people are their employees. People to be used up, and tossed aside - people whose benefits are to be cut, and whose health and well being aren't concerns - if they don't like where they're "working", they can leave!

They think they're the bosses, and citizens are the workers, to be used, and abused, and fired whenever is convenient. No wonder they like Trump!
I imagine it would be on nice stationery, elegant looking, but, dare I say it, conservative in appearance, in an easy, sparse script. The wording is my own, and I'm sure were the actual letter written, it would be far better.

And I'm sure the imagined letter would never be sent, for the imagined author has class. Still:

"Dear Donald,

"I understand a lot about how you feel about the investigations surrounding you. To have the news media constantly speaking about this scandal, and that scandal, and raising the specter of charges being filed... you can't help but wonder if some of the people who voted for you, and believed in you, are starting to doubt that you are the man they thought you were.

"The constant scrutiny, and the frequent headlines are hard to put up with. I know - probably no one knows better than I. Even if you are innocent, and know that no charges could be brought against you by an honest prosecutor, it still rankles: both that you are being investigated, and that so many people are talking about it and speculating about what evil things you might have done.

"To this, I can only summon all of the wisdom I have gained through a long live facing many adversaries, and say:"

"SUCK IT DONNY BOY! You knew damn well I'd never committed a crime, but you loved pretending an investigation was a terrible thing. But don't worry: if you go to jail, I'll be sure to see you off to custody. Let's see how you like a few chants of 'Lock him up!'

"Most Sincerely,

"Hillary Rodham Clinton"
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