California Prepares For Nuclear Attack

You know, normally I’d think this was just California being its normal, goofy self, but given the current tensions between us and the North Koreans and Trump’s inability to think before he speaks (or tweets) and lack of comprehension that his words can have serious consequences, I’m thinking they may just have the right idea.

California is prepping for the possibility of a nuclear attack, citing tensions with North Korea and a propaganda video by the country that showed the city of San Francisco in ruins. A 16-page memo issued by the Los Angeles-area Joint Regional Intelligence Center urges officials in the state to “familiarize themselves with their agency’s radiological and… Continue reading “California Prepares For Nuclear Attack”

Comments on the New York Times’ Open Letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

The New York Times Editorial Board has written an open letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the daunting task he faces now that James Comey has been fired and Mr. Trump has muddied the investigative waters that much further. I wanted to add my own voice to the chorus in hopes that if enough people speak up, it might help with fortifying the courage it will take to see this done right,

First, an excerpt from the NYT Editorial Board’s letter:

Given your own reputation for probity, you must be troubled as well by the broader pattern of this president’s behavior, including his contempt for ethical standards of past presidents. He has mixed his business interests with his public responsibilities. He has boasted that conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to him as president. And from the moment he took office, Mr. Trump has shown a despot’s willingness to invent his own version of the truth and to weaponize the federal government to confirm that version, to serve his ego and to pursue vendettas large and small.

When Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes, for instance, he created a Voter Fraud Task Force to back up his claim that the margin resulted from noncitizens voting illegally (the task force has done nothing to date). When there was no evidence for his claim that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower, Mr. Trump demanded that members of Congress put their work aside in order to dig up “facts” to support it.

Firing Mr. Comey — who, in addition to leading the Russia investigation, infuriated Mr. Trump by refusing to give any credence to his wiretapping accusation — is only the latest and most stunning example. The White House can’t even get its own story straight about why Mr. Trump took this extraordinary step.

My comments:

This is an excellent letter, and I can only pray to the gods of Justice that Mr. Rosenstein will take his responsibility seriously and serve the country with dignity and honor.

It is just as important for the country to know if, as Mr. Trump insists, there is nothing to be found in any communications, business relations or other ties with Russia that are illegal or inappropriate, as it is to learn if there are. Finding the truth, whatever it may be, is the only way for the nation as a whole to have confidence that our government is working on our behalf and not the behalf of a nation that has long been hostile to us and our democratic aims.

Mr. Trump does no one – least of all himself – any favors by constantly trying to block investigations, distract people with accusations for which he can offer no support, shifting blame to others who clearly bear no responsibility or any of the other disruptive tactics he’s used. Mr. Rosenstein must find a way to neutralize Mr. Trump’s interference, and the best and most fair way would be to bring in an independent investigator and provide him or her with whatever support or resources are needed to finally answer the very valid and important questions that have been raised by the actions taken and attempts to explain those actions made by Mr. Trump’s campaign staff and administration .

Students Promised Help with Student Loans May Not Get It Due to Agency Error

Image of students at graduation. Photo by: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Photo by: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

This is a truly rotten – and inexcusable – situation. Thousands of students entered a government program in which the remainder of their student loans would be forgiven if certain conditions were met after they’d worked in public service jobs and made 120 monthly payments (which would take 10 years.) Be sure to remember that last part – it’ll be important in a couple of paragraphs.

Anyway, they had to use a specific kind of loan and have their job approved through the agency administering the program. Whether a job qualified or not depended on the nature of the organization, and not all non-profit corporations were eligible. They were also told to re-submit their job each year for recertification of eligibility in case anything changed. Even with the red tape, for many, the possibility of having the balance of the loans forgiven was an attractive offer – attractive enough that several took jobs they would have otherwise passed over because they qualified for the program.

Or so they thought.

According to the New York Times

In a legal filing submitted last week, the Education Department suggested that borrowers could not rely on the program’s administrator to say accurately whether they qualify for debt forgiveness. The thousands of approval letters that have been sent by the administrator, FedLoan Servicing, are not binding and can be rescinded at any time, the agency said.

The filing adds to questions and concerns about the program just as the first potential beneficiaries reach the end of their 10-year commitment — and the clocks start ticking on the remainder of their debts.

FedLoan claims that in some cases, students had been told their job qualified in error and that the denial of certification was retroactive. And here’s where those 120 monthly payments become important. Those payments had to be made while they were working at a qualified job, so when their previously approved job suddenly became retroactively un-approved, none of the monthly payments they made during that time could be counted toward the total 120 monthly payments they had to make for the balance to be forgiven. Worse, they were given no avenue to appeal the decision. As you can imagine, there’s now a lawsuit that’s been filed.

This is a program that started in 2007 and while it may sound like the kind of horror story likely to be told many times and in many ways as long as the Trump administration is in office, but it’s not. This year is the first year any students could receive the promised forgiveness of the balance of their loans, and the announcement that the certifications participants have been getting may be worthless came out in December. The Trump DoE isn’t helping matters by sticking to the decision that the wrongful approvals are retroactive and the documents can’t be relied on, but it’s actually a sad legacy that the Obama Department of Education has left behind.

I hope this situation is worked out fairly – and quickly. I wouldn’t even want to imagine how bewildering – not to mention infuriating – it would be to have worked as many as 10 years at a job that wasn’t my ideal job, but one which I had taken as part of an agreement to provide public service in exchange for the forgiveness for a portion of my loans, only to find out I may have essentially wasted all of that time. These weren’t people looking for a handout or a free ride on the taxpayers dime. They’ve made 10 years of payments on their loans, and they held up their end of the bargain. Now the government needs to do likewise.

More details can be found at this NYT article from when the news first broke in December.

Priorities

Trump’s Campaign (already??) Rally…

Craigslist ad purporting to offer payment for people going to Trump rallySome common sense thoughts on the Craigslist ad floating around purporting to pay people for showing up at Trump’s Florida “campaign event.”

In particular:

First off, there have been a tremendous amount of unverified claims from both the left and the right that supporters/protesters are being paid to show up to political events. These claims have been made since the beginning of the last election, since Donald Trump descended down his escalator, and not one instance has been proven.

[…]

However, in this case, overtly saying they’re going to pay supporters with gift cards and cash vouchers, at a very public event, is so incredibly dumb it can’t possibly be real.

Most importantly, it’s impossible to know if this ad is real or fake without attending this Saturday’s rally, which we will be doing. And if we see people getting paid to go this rally, we’ll let you know. To be honest, that would be an amazing story.

There are also rumors being circulated that this rally is actually a plot to make Trump protesters look like violent thugs with agitators prepared to attend the rally and stir up trouble. Unless someone has actually seen evidence of such plotting, though, it’s hard to know if it’s true or not. I think skepticism is warranted here as well.

The suggested way of dealing with this is for peaceful protesters to hold their counter-event some distance from the rally itself. While that certainly sounds reasonable, it won’t do anything to stop agent provocateurs from causing trouble in the name of the Resistance movement, and it could render any protest more-or-less invisible, since it will be out of sight of both the Trump supporters and the media. If one were given to conspiracy-style thinking, one might be concerned that this could be propaganda from Trump supporters to help minimize the appearance of dissent, but I wouldn’t know about that…

Don’t Panic

Mental illness and gunsI’ve been seeing this article getting passed around on social media, but the situation isn’t as alarming as some think. The bottom line is that the rule they want to repeal went into effect in December of last year – only 10 weeks ago. Even if the regulation is repealed, anyone who would would have been blocked from buying a gun 3 months ago will still be blocked from buying one.

As for the rule itself, what it did was require Social Security to notify the FBI of anyone receiving disability checks who had been determined to be too mentally ill to manage their own affairs, so that they could be flagged during background checks. While this would make it easier to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks, we will still have all of the other ways we’ve used to screen out the mentally ill from gun ownership. That won’t be changing.

So, yes, it’s a good regulation, but it’s repeal won’t mean that we’ll suddenly be flooded with mentally ill people buying guns unchecked or anything like that. It’ll just be going back to how we handled it as of November.

Bowling Green “Massacre” was no slip of the tongue

Kellyanne Conway has been trying to blame her claim of a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on a slip of a tongue, but today we learn that it wasn’t the first time shed made mention of it. So, either the comment was a pre-planned lie, or Conway needs to see a doctor about all the excess oil in her mouth that keeps making her tongue fall off-track.

I’m betting it’s the former option, personally.

As I mentioned previously, neither of the excuses Conway has made for her verbal banana peel make any sense. First she said that she meant to say they were the “masterminds behind the BG Massacre” but how does one “mastermind” a terrorist? You don’t. You mastermind the plot. Her second excuse – that they were the masterminds of the BG Massacre plot” – doesn’t work either as there was no plot by these guys to kill anyone in Bowling Green.

Getting caught in a lie won’t do anything goes to deter her, though. Lying is her natural language, and it helps her client boss by tossing convenient – if false – excuses to his base so they can better ignore the actual facts.

While some journalists have been saying they have to keep interviewing Conway – that they have to take what the White House gives them. I strongly disagree.

If journalists refuse to interview Conway, Trump will eventually have to start sending out someone else because he needs the mainstream media, whether he likes them or not. If he truly believed he didn’t, he’d stop sending anyone out to speak with them. So legitimate journalists have some leverage here. “Give us some one else, or you’re side of the story goes untold.” Granted, whoever came next might be no better, but s/he could hardly be worse.

Kellyanne Conway said she misspoke “one word” on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last week. But it turns out that she had mentioned the made-up “Bowling Green massacre” at least once before.

Cosmopolitan’s Kristen Mascia reported Monday that Conway brought up the “masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre” in a January 29 telephone interview. Cosmo didn’t print the quote at the time.

 […]

“I was trying to mow through a list of fact checking and follow-up questions that day and had little time to follow her down her usual rabbit holes,” Mascia wrote on Facebook Monday.

Later, working with her editors, “we made an editorial choice not to churn out misinformation into the atmosphere without doing proper digging,” she wrote.

Subtle, eh?

Humpty-Donnie Sat on a Wall…

Wall photo is for illustrative purposes only. This is not the actual wall.

It seems that there are a number of Republicans who aren’t all that eager to spend money on Trump’s wall, and not just because it’ll be expensive and it’s highly unlikely Mexico would ever “repay” us for it.

One big problem is that not many in Texas actually want the wall. For one thing, it’s not clear how useful it would be, and for another, the “squiggliness” of the border presents its own challenges. As Vox notes:

Trying to literally conform a border wall to this fractal terrain would be ridiculous. Any feasible construction project is going to need to be straighter than the actual border, which is going to mean using the federal government’s eminent domain powers to take privately owned land and basically redraw the border. This has been a flashpoint between Trump and elements of the ideological right in the past, since he’s an enthusiastic proponent of using eminent domain to benefit private economic development projects, which many conservatives regard as unconstitutional.

A border wall — unlike a parking garage for an Atlantic City casino — is pretty clearly meant to serve a public function, so the constitutional issue wouldn’t necessarily arise. Nonetheless, it’s generally the case that people don’t like it when the government comes in and takes their land. And it’s easy to imagine they particularly wouldn’t like it if the government came in to take their land so that the president of the United States could avoid admitting that one of his campaign promises was kind of dumb. Moreover, it’s questionable it even would serve its stated purpose . Unauthorized immigration from Mexico has already slowed to a trickle (indeed, by most estimates more people are leaving than arriving), and the un-walled area in particular has almost no border crossings since it’s in the middle of nowhere.

It’s worth noting that the sections of Texas where fences have been built in the past report that it’s inflicted hardship on the area, and when the Texas Tribune surveyed the state’s 38-member congressional delegation it found that none of them wholeheartedly supported the border wall scheme. (Emphasis their’s)

It’s good to see some members of Congress actually listen to their constituents, and that there are some who recognize what an utter folly Trump’s wall plan is.

The article also discusses some of the financial challenges the wall project will face. Since Trump promised that Mexico is going to pay for it, Representatives and Senators from both parties may be able to use that in varying ways to justify not voting to fund the wall or to balk at using deficit spending to do so.

The Problem with Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway

 

In a recent Reliable Sources e-mail from CNN Money, Brian Statler asked for feedback on whether journalists should continue interviewing Kellyanne Conway or not. Here is the response I sent him:

Networks should *absolutely* quit interviewing Conway. While it is common for most politicians and their surrogates to try and spin anything negative or controversial to minimize any repercussions, Conway – and to a great extent Sean Spicer – take it to new levels of malignancy, creating false scenarios and impressions that will far outlive any effect a correction might have.

The problem with giving Conway more airtime is that she never contributes anything to understanding a situation, policy or action. Her comments serve only to mislead the American people. Given that the goal of journalism is to expose and clarify the truth, journalists have an obligation to avoid spreading information that seeks to confuse or mislead the public. Since this is essentially the only think Conway does, interviewing her actively thwarts the purpose of journalism and violates the duty of the journalist.

I have little doubt, for example, that within a couple of months – if not sooner – well be hearing from conservative extremists (a better description of what they are than ” alt-right” which really doesn’t mean anyrhing) about the Bowling Green Massacre and how it was so thoroughly covered up to avoid making “Muzzies” look bad that you can hardly find any coverage of it at all.

The proffered excuses for her “mistake” make no sense. The first one I heard was that she meant “Bowling Green terrorists,” but she had called the two men the “masterminds” of the massacre – saying they were the “masterminds of the Bowling Green terrorists” makes no sense, since they were the only two involved. Calling someone a mastermind implies that the person came up with the idea for a larger group. You just don’t call *every* member of a group the “masterminds.” And aying, as she said later, that they were the masterminds behind a Bowling Green massacre plot is even more ridiculous since no such plot existed.

Continuing to give Conway a platform only rewards her for her lies and gives Trump’s followers an excuse to dismiss concerns about his actions, policies and beliefs. Given the administration’s complete disregard for the truth, journalists should be doing all they can to counter the spin, not help spread it.