December 10, 2016

Sexual abuse charges in the Trump gang

Trump names bankruptcy vulture as Commerce Secretary

PBS - President-elect Donald Trump has picked billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. If confirmed by Congress, Ross will be responsible for implementing Trump’s promises to toughen U.S. trade policies and promote economic growth.

Ross, who made his fortune by buying distressed businesses and turning them around for profit, is known as “the king of bankruptcy.” He is the chairman and CEO of the private equity firm WL Ross & Co., and has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Ross got to know Trump in 1990 when he helped the real-estate mogul avoid financial collapse. Trump borrowed heavily to help finance the Taj Mahal Casino — he’d spend more than $1 billion on the Taj. The 1,250 room hotel with $14 million worth of chandeliers was meant to be the crown jewel of his growing real estate empire. But the Taj Mahal failed to turn a profit. Trump and his companies owed $3 billion to its lenders.

Ross, who at the time worked at Rothschild & Co., represented bondholders who helped finance the Taj Mahal. He met with Trump and struck a deal to take over part of his failing business.

“We could have foreclosed [on the Trump Taj Mahal], and he would have been gone,” Ross said in an interview with The New York Post earlier this year.

As is common in the high-stakes world of private equity, some of Ross’ acquisitions made him a fortune, while others brought controversy and second-guessing. He drew praise for buying struggling steel mills owned by companies in Ohio and Pennsylvania and selling them to Mittal Steel, the world’s largest steel and mining company, for a $2.5 billion profit in 2004. The year after the sale, Ross faced criticism when 12 miners died in an explosion just weeks after he invested in Sago Mine in West Virginia.

In 2008, as the global financial crisis loomed, Ross began putting together a list of small, struggling banks that he could invest in. Over the next few years, he poured more than $1.8 million in failing banks, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The spending spree would lead some to call Ross a “vulture investor,” but when he sat down with Frontline producer Martin Smith in 2011 for the documentary Money, Power & Wall Street, he described his work differently.

“It should be called a phoenix, because a vulture just eats carrion flesh. Phoenix is the bird that arises again from its ashes,” Ross said. “To me, a vulture is the right word for a liquidator. We’re not a liquidator. We try to rebuild things. So it’s a popular slang term, but I don’t think it’s very accurate for what we do.”

Trump outdid Romney with druggies and alcoholics

Rural Blog - Trump over-performed Romney most in places with high substance-abuse mortality and suicide rates Donald Trump improved the Republican presidential vote "in counties with the highest drug, alcohol and suicide mortality rates," says a study by rural sociologist and demographer Shannon Monnat of Penn State, which compared Trump's vote with that of Mitt Romney in 2012. "Much of this relationship is accounted for by economic distress and the proportion of working-class residents," Monnat writes.

The guy who attacked Clinton's Goldman Sachs connections has a problem

Slate - President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly name Gary Cohn, the longtime chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs, the director of the National Economic Council. If you’re keeping count, that would be another Goldman alum in Trump’s orbit, in addition to: former Goldman banker (and former Breitbart honcho) Steve Bannon, set to be a key White House adviser; former Goldman partner-turned-bubble-surfer Steven Mnuchin, who will head the treasury; and former Goldman banker Anthony Scaramucci, now a key transition adviser.

Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton for giving highly compensated speeches to the investment bank and trashed Sen. Ted Cruz because his wife worked there, and a closing campaign ad scaremongering about current Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein looked as if it might have first run in the Völkischer Beobachter.

Big Russian business pal in lead for Secretary of State

Chicago Tribune- ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has emerged as the top candidate for secretary of state, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

Tillerson and former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were two of the finalists, along with former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani withdrew his name from contention Friday.

Tillerson ... has extensive business dealings and ties to Russia, which could pose a potential problem for his nomination. Top Republicans in the Senate and President Barack Obama are pushing for increased scrutiny of Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

As CEO of the world's largest publicly traded company, Tillerson has brokered deals with Russia for drilling rights, which had been imperiled by U.S. sanctions against Moscow after Russia's invasion of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine.

Multi-billionaire energy investor vetted Trump's EPA choices

Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog - Missed in most tales about Scott Pruitt being Trump’s nominee at EPA is that a multi-billionaire energy investor, Carl Icahn, actually vetted and interviewed finalists for the Trump EPA job. And Icahn, a business partner of Trump and a donor to his campaign, owns significant assets which would be and have been impacted by EPA regulations. This is not what ‘draining the swamp’ looks like, but more like what a Banana Republic looks like.

Asked for his take on President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Icahn told Bloomberg that Pruitt is ‘going to really be a breath of fresh air.’ Given Icahn’s business ties, that statement is steeped in accidental irony. … A DeSmog investigation shows that Icahn Enterprises owns oil industry assets based in Oklahoma, which are involved in EPA enforcement violations, and does business with TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline system.

The problem with anonymous sources

While we're not opposed to anonymous sources, we quote them as seldom as possible. Thus we have been extremely careful about citing reported CIA revelations about Russian interference in the US election. This is not because we think this impossible or unlikely but simply because the evidence relies too much on the reported anonymous views of highly skilled liars in American intelligence. This is not to say the reported information should not be thoroughly investigated, only that it should not be accepted without back up evidence.

Glenn Greenwald writes instructively on this matter   and while in this case he may be unduly cautious, he makes points that are useful considering whether in this case or not the anonymous revelations are accurate. As he notes:
Needless to say, questions about who hacked the DNC and Podesta email accounts are serious and important ones. The answers have widespread implications on many levels. That’s all the more reason these debates should be based on publicly disclosed evidence, not competing, unverifiable anonymous leaks from professional liars inside government agencies, cheered by drooling, lost partisans anxious to embrace whatever claims make them feel good, all conducted without the slightest regard for rational faculties or evidentiary requirements.

December 9, 2016

Trump's NBC job is more troublesome than it seems

It's not just Donald Trump short cutting his employment at the White House by keeping a job with NBC, the double booking also brings up some other questions:
  • Should NBC staffers be allowed White House press passes?
  • Should NBC and MSNBC report on Trump without indicating their ties at the end of each story?
  • Is it legal for companies that are regulated by the federal government - such as NBC and its owner Comcast - to pay a federal employee?
Just asking. - Sam Smith

Trump launches witchhunt against government climate experts

Sierra Club - According to reporting from Politico and Bloomberg, President-elect Donald Trump's Energy Department transition team has asked the agency for the names of employees and contractors who worked on climate policy during the Obama administration.

A questionnaire asks for a list of DOE workers who have attended United Nations climate change meetings, as well as those who have worked on the "social cost of carbon.”

Earlier reports from Trump’s NASA transition team indicate that his administration will try to dismantle America’s world class earth and climate science research programs in an effort to undermine the world’s ability to even monitor changes to our climate.

In response, Sierra Club Global Climate Policy Director John Coequyt released the following statement:

“It looks like Trump and his administration are planning a political witch hunt which has no place in American government: purging or marginalizing anyone who has worked on the issue of climate change. And that’s at the same time they are looking for ways to eliminate the very scientific infrastructure we need to monitor changes to our planet and its climate. You can’t purge physics from planet earth, and seas will keep rising regardless.”

As we were saying 13 years ago

In keeping with our efforts to provide the news while there's still time to do something about it, thirteen years ago we not only reported on the collapse of the first American Republic, we apologized for it. In short, Donald Trump is the grim result of our problems, not the cause of them. 

Sam Smith, 2003 - In observance of the approaching 66th anniversary of my arrival on this planet I would like to apologize to you on behalf of my generation. Even members of Confederacy had the grace to secede from the union; my generation has remained within like a deadly virus, subverting it, shaming it, screwing it, stealing from it, and finally strangling it. It will likely be known as the worst generation - the one that brought the First American Republic down - unmatched in the damage it has done to the Constitution, the environment, and a two century struggle to create a society democratic and decent in its politics, economics, and social concourse.

To be sure, when we were young we were, as we said then, somethin' else. We launched the civil rights, women's, gay, and environmental movements, not to mention creating some memorable music before descending into disco. Soon other things started to go downhill rapidly. We became not only the generation that invented the phrase, 'never trust anyone over thirty,' we proved it. My lawyer assures me that my personal liability in all this is limited to a few missteps including energy inefficiency, chronic ineffectiveness, owning a minivan, and occasionally listening to Don Imus. But he agrees that a public apology would be helpful in the event of a war crimes tribunal or in determining reparations owed by my heirs to future generations.

Besides, it is unlikely that any of my cohorts will apologize as it is against their principles to do so absent pending court action or especially poor media. And as my attorney notes, there are plenty of things worthy of contrition, such as the New York Times publishing Tom Friedman, which do not actually constitute a criminal offense.

For purposes of public remorse, incidentally, I define my generation as consisting of anyone who reached 40 after Watergate and who was at least 40 on September 11, 2001. I choose these dates because the resignation of Nixon was about the last good thing to happen to America and September 11 ended most hope that anything good would happen soon again. And so, on behalf of all my fellow members of America's crummiest generation, I make this humble confession, begging forgiveness from those who follow:

I apologize for Bhopal and Three Mile Island and, in advance, for all the biological, chemical or nuclear disasters that will occur thanks to economic rapaciousness and without the slightest help from a terrorist.

I am truly sorry for Martha Stewart, the Washington Post, Howard Stern, the Brookings Institution, and Bill O'Reilly,

I regret any lasting infirmities - such as the loss of the republic - that occurred unnoticed while the country's elite was sedated by "Morning Edition," C-SPAN, Jim Lehrer, and Ted Koppel.

I am profoundly embarrassed by the way we destroyed the public school system of our country.

I regret that we got the Muslim world so mad at us and that we couldn't come up with any better solution than to get it madder.

I am sorry about all the extra hurricanes, tornadoes, and heat waves that have occurred while we continued to debate whether there was anything called global warming.

I apologize for any inconvenience, such as prison time, that may have occurred as a result of criminalizing the use of marijuana while keeping legal the far more dangerous drugs we enjoyed such as vodka and Marlboros.

I also regret that the war on drugs helped lay the groundwork for the end of constitutional government and proved more deadly to young black urban males than serving in Vietnam was to their fathers.

I am sorry that the so many leading graduates of our leading universities seem mainly to have learned an arrogance that gives theory invulnerability to fact.

I apologize for those scientists who thought that coming up with new ways to destroy humanity was a good use of their time.

I am sorry about increasing crowding on the roads, at events, and while getting services, but overpopulation was one subject we just didn't want to talk about.

I regret that we helped to redefine 'cool' from being an inner state of grace and rebellion to being an outward display of consumption and compliance.

I would like to say how sad I am about your increased likelihood of getting skin cancer because of the environmental changes we created in the atmosphere.

I am really sorry that we inflicted upon you the likes of George Bush and Bill Clinton.

I apologize for the Council on Foreign Relations and the ten percent of its members who pretend to be objective journalists. And I apologize for any other 'objective journalists' moonlighting for the CIA.

My deepest apologies for paying more attention to our Humvees on the Tigris and Euphrates than to our levees on the Mississippi.

I really feel remorse for having replaced movie plots with multiple explosions, and for using sexual attractiveness as a substitute for all other forms of acting talent.

I apologize for the Harvard Business School and the Yale Law School and all the deplorable effluvia from the same, including the transformation of the Organization Man into a sex symbol.

I apologize for managerial revolutions, mission statements, synergy, cutting edges, proactive and world class entrepreneurs, strategic planning, bottom lines, and exit interviews.

I am truly sorry we could make no greater contribution to philosophy than the justification of greed in the guise of free market economics, the sanctification of imperialism in the name of nation building, and the notion that it takes only 12 steps to solve all your problems.

I apologize for the damage we have done to the English language including the use of nouns as verbs, abstractions as replacement for facts, the pointless compoundingofwords, and placing CapiTaLs and EliminatingSpaces wherever we feel like it.

I regret our having passed more new laws in the past three decades than during the first two hundred years of the American nation.

I regret that you are now regarded as a potential terrorist, addict, or sexual predator more often than you are considered a valued citizen.

I am truly sorry for what we have done to childhood, including over-scheduling it, replacing Kermit with Barney, teaching children excessive fear and absurd competitiveness, diagnosing them into drug dependency, and punishing them for drawing 'inappropriate' pictures in the margins of their textbooks.

And now that we've gotten all that out of the way, it is time to move on and put it all behind us. After all, while we may have created this mess, it is your task to clean it up. Of course, if you need any advice, don't hesitate to ask.


Trump's chief strategist would like to limit voting to property owners

Independent, UK - Donald Trump’s new chief strategist once suggested only property owners should be allowed to vote in US elections, according to reports.

Steve Bannon, who was appointed the President-elect’s senior adviser and chief strategist last month, also told former colleagues he believed some people were genetically superior, according to an interview in the New York Times.

A change to allow only homeowners to vote would mean millions of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities would lose the right to cast their ballot – something Mr Bannon allegedly said was not a bad thing.

Julia Jones, a screenwriter who worked with Mr Bannon on a documentary about former US President Ronald Reagan, told the New York Times the senior Trump aide had discussed his beliefs on voting reform with her.

When challenged about the impact restricting the vote would have on racial minorities, Mr Bannon is said to have been relaxed.

“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans’”, Ms Jones recalled.

"He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.'

"I said, ‘But what about Wendy?’” - a reference to Mr. Bannon’s black executive assistant. "He said, ‘She’s different. She’s family.’”

According to US Census Bureau data, only 41 per cent of black Americans own their home compared to 72 per cent of whites.

Young people would also lose out if the vote was restricted to homeowners; only 35 per cent of Americans under the age of 25 own a property compared with 79 per cent of over-65s.

Trump's labor secretary choice wants machines to replace workers

Mother Jones - It's t's not surprising that [Andy] Puzder, who has been CEO of CKE Restaurants since 2000, would have strong opinions about overtime. Back in 2004, the company agreed to pay $9 million to settle claims that it had not paid overtime to store managers. In 2013, CKE was hit with a class-action suit for "allegedly failing to pay its general managers overtime, even while requiring them to be on call 24 hours a day," reports Law 360. The suit is still pending, with a hearing scheduled for Dec. 14 in Los Angeles.

In response to widespread efforts to boost the minimum wage at the state and local levels, Puzder vowed earlier this year to replace workers with machines. "They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," he gushed to Business Insider.

A frequent writer of opinion pieces, Puzder argued in an October 2014 Wall Street Journal article that rather than raise the minimum wage, policy makers should look to North Dakota and its booming shale oil fields as a model for generating high wages. Not long after Puzder penned those words, the North Dakota oil boom went bust; jobs evaporated and wages plunged.

As labor secretary, Puzder will certainly not be able to ignore the industry he will leave behind. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the restaurant industry employs 10.6 million people—accounting for for 9.9 percent of all private-sector employment among women, and 8.4 percent among men. The pay, to use a technical term, sucks:

The median hourly wage in the restaurant industry, including tips, is $10.00, compared with $18.00 outside of the restaurant industry. After accounting for demographic differences between restaurant workers and other workers, restaurant workers have hourly wages that are 17.2 percent lower than those of similar workers outside the restaurant industry. This is the “wage penalty” of restaurant work. ... One in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, live below the official poverty line. The poverty rate for workers outside the restaurant industry is more than 10 percentage points lower, at 6.3 percent.

Trump already suppressing protests

Guardian - For the thousands hoping to echo the civil rights and anti-Vietnam rallies at Lincoln Memorial by joining the women’s march on Washington the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration: time to readjust your expectations.

That’s because the National Park Service, on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee, filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters.

The NPS filed a “massive omnibus blocking permit” for many of Washington DC’s most famous political locations for days and weeks before and after the inauguration on 20 January, said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a constitutional rights litigator and the executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund.

Previously, Verheyden-Hilliard has led court battles for protest access on inauguration day itself.

But banning access to public land for protesters days after the inauguration is “extremely unique”, she said in a press conference held by the Answer [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] Coalition.

“It hasn’t come up in any way previously, where you’ve had a groundswell of people trying to have access on the Saturday, January 21, and thousands of people want to come, and the government is saying we won’t give you a permit,” she said.

“What they’ve done is take all of these spaces out of action,” she said, many of which, the Answer Coalition noted in its press release, are “historic spaces for dissent”.

Millenials earn less than their parents did at their age

A new study from a team of economists and sociologists at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of California  has found that only half of American 30-year-olds today earn more money than their parents did at the same age. That’s a steep drop from the early-1970s, when 30-year-olds were virtually guaranteed to outpace their parents’ generation in earning power.

Quartz - According to research from the Equality of Opportunity Project, led by Stanford economist Raj Chetty, 91.5% of 30-year-olds in 1970 earned more than their parents did at the same age, adjusted for inflation. By 2014, just 50.3% of 30-year-olds in the US were in a similar position.

The researchers attribute the trend in part to a slowdown in GDP growth, but more specifically point to a significant uptick in income inequality. Because increases in wealth are more frequently concentrated among the rich, the middle class is not benefiting from economic growth.

“Wages have stagnated in the middle class,” Chetty told the Wall Street Journal. “When you’re in that situation, it becomes very hard for children to do better than their parents.”

Some critics point out, however, that 30-year-olds in the 1970s faced significantly better circumstances than their parents because they weren’t embroiled in a massive war, which may have had an impact on the data.

Trump's latest conflicts of interest

Don Kaplan, NY Daily News - No, it's not OK for Donald Trump to continue to be paid as an executive producer of "The Celebrity Apprentice" while serving as the President of the United States.

It's kooky and it stinks. The most powerful man in the world will have a big financial, egotistical and emotional stake in the success of the high-visibility, prime-time show, according to Variety. Worse, it's a program on one of the world's biggest networks — that just happens to boast one of the most recognized news organizations on the globe.

The sprawling, 4 million-strong, fertile morning show audience of the "Today" show is the perfect platform to reach potential viewers, to come see "Terminator" star Arnold Schwarzenegger (oops, former Governor of California!) play the role of the big orange cheese who fires people after they humiliate each other on TV.

Huffington Post -  Donald Trump’s presidential campaign sent Donald Trump’s businesses $2.9 million in the final days prior to and the weeks following his election.

Trump’s Miami golf club, where he staged an Oct. 25 news conference to showcase his employees who like him, received $13,015. Trump’s hotel in Las Vegas received $176,933 for lodgings from his presidential campaign and $60,442 more from a joint fundraising committee for Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Trump Tower in Manhattan, meanwhile, received a whopping $462,011 in rent, including $283,500 on Nov. 28 – nearly $114,000 more than the campaign had been paying for its headquarters space for the previous several months.

The president-elect’s transition team did not respond to a Huffington Post query regarding the higher rent payment.

The burst of spending brings to more than $12 million the total Trump has funneled back to his businesses since the start of the campaign. It continues his pattern of choosing to spend donors’ money at his own properties for events and on his own airplane for travel, even though it meant spending considerably more than comparable alternatives.

Trump paid his West Palm Beach, Florida, golf resort $29,715 in May following a “victory” party he held there March 5. He sent $35,845 to his club in nearby Jupiter after a March 8 party. In both cases, the attendees were mainly dues-paying members of the clubs rather than campaign staff or volunteers. And in both cases he could have held his party at the West Palm Beach Marriott for less than half of what he spent.

Also in May, Trump paid his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach $423,372 in campaign funds even though he had held only two victory parties and a news conference there two months earlier.

Trump similarly chose to rent office space at New York’s Trump Tower at about $100 per square foot ? about three times the rate the Clinton campaign had been paying for its headquarters in Brooklyn. Trump’s rent ? $169,758 a month ? jumped nearly five times higher once he secured the nomination and was spending donor money rather than his own.

North Dakota's 85 pipeline spills

Take Part - An analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity found that pipelines in North Dakota have spilled crude oil and other hazardous liquids at least 85 times since 1996.

Those spills—an average of four a year—caused more than $40 million in property damage, the center said, citing data from the United States Department of Transportation.

In the largest accident, in July 2013, some 840,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline in Tioga, North Dakota, and contaminated a wheat field. The spill, which was not reported for two weeks, cost $17.5 million to clean up.

The analysis was released just days after the Obama administration denied an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline for construction under Lake Oahe, the drinking water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which has been on the ground with supporters protesting the pipeline for months.

Instead, the Corps will conduct a review of alternate pipeline routes and complete an environmental impact statement for the project.

How repealing Obamacare would affect your state

December 8, 2016

Some new pages for the Trump era

Our Trump page
Paul Ryan   

Questions about Sessions' civil rights cases

In a new report at, senior editor Adam Serwer investigates a 2009 claim made by Senator Jeff Sessionsand repeated recently by Trump transition spokespeoplethat he championed school desegregation when he was a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, filing “20 or 30 civil-rights cases to desegregate schools and political organizations.” The investigation by The Atlantic failed to find evidence that Sessions filed any new school desegregation lawsuits.

Serwer interviewed attorneys who worked on three of the four cases the Trump transition team used to support Sessions’s civil-rights record; all three said they did not recall Sessions playing a major role in any of the cases. And in interviews, those attorneys and former Justice Department officials and civil-right experts suggested it’s far more likely Sessions’s name appeared on any such cases out of standard practice to list the sitting U.S. attorney at the time. In fact, Serwer reports that it would be unusual for any desegregation case to be filed by a U.S. attorney rather than the civil rights division.
Serwer reports that searches of legal databases found no evidence that any new school-desegregation lawsuits were filed in Alabama’s Southern District by Sessions between 1981, when he became U.S. attorney in Alabama, and 1995, when he became Alabama attorney general, though it is possible that the records exist but are not in those databases. The Atlantic could find no reference to the claim in the transcripts of his 1986 confirmation hearing.
The Trump transition team offered The Atlantic a list of Sessions’s “top civil rights enforcement cases.” That list included 10 filings in four separate cases, three of them voting rights cases, and one in the ongoing Davis school desegregation case in 1986. But as Serwer reports, the record raises more questions than it answers. For example:
  • The list states that Sessions "brought the first anti voter suppression lawsuit in the history of the Department of Justice," in the 1983 case U.S. v. Conecuh County, when "Sessions sued white Conecuh County election officials, including the Chair of the local Republican Party." Sessions is indeed listed on the filing. But John Tanner, a former Bush-era Justice Department appointee and main attorney on that case, said that while he discussed the case with Sessions, who seemed "interested" and "supportive," most of the work was done out of the civil rights division.
  • Sessions is also listed on filings in the U.S. v. Dallas County Commission voting rights case, because it took place in his district. But Gerald Hebert, who was the lead civil rights division attorney on that case, said Sessions had little to do with the case itself. The case was a challenge to the county's at-large method of electing members to the county board of education, contending that it violated black voters' rights.

Trump chooses major critic of minimum wage increase as labor secretary

Washington Examiner- President-elect Donald Trump will reportedly tap Andy Puzder, chief executive of the company that owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. franchises, to be the next secretary of labor.

Puzder, a proponent of free-market economics, was one of Trump's staunchest advocates in the business community during the election.

Trump has not officially announced Puzder's nomination, but the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg have reported based on anonymous sources that it will be announced as early as Thursday. The fast-food magnate has long rumored to be the top candidate for the Cabinet post.

Puzder abandoned a career in law to take charge of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee's and Carl's Jr., in 1997 and is often credited with saving the then-faltering company.

Puzder has been a major critic of higher minimum wage laws, the administration's efforts to make franchise companies legally responsible for their franchisees, and the president's signature domestic achievement, Obamacare.

Meanwhile. . .

For the third day in a row, air pollution blanketed Paris, which authorities called the worst bout for at least 10 years. The city imposed driving restrictions and made public transit free.

The story of ranked choice voting 

Ben Carson doesn't tell the truth either

SF Gate - Pulitzer Prize-winning website Politifact examined 28 public statements from neurosurgeon/former Presidential candidate/future Sec. of HUD Ben Carson and found that none of them are 100 percent true.

Occasionally touching upon "mostly true", Carson's claims generally garner a Politifact ranking of "mostly false" to "pants on fire."

For example, Carson quoted Communist dictator Joseph Stalin as saying, "If you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: our spiritual life, our patriotism and our morality."

There is no evidence of Stalin ever saying anything like that — ever.

In defense of his lack of political experience, Carson took to Facebook to claim, "Every signer of the Declaration of Independence had no (federal*) elected office experience."

[*Carson edited his original post to add "federal" in the hopes that it might make his claim more accurate.]

Actually, 28 of the 56 signers had elected office experience. And none of them could have had federal experience because there was no federal government before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Beginning January 20, 2017, Ben Carson will be the United States' Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Last month, a Carson representative told Reuters that the doctor wouldn't be joining President-elect Trump's administration due to his lack of government experience.

Politifact has yet to update their website with that Carson untruth.

John Kelly still believes in failed drug war

Jonn Kelly is Trump's Homeland Securty nominee

Reason - "Kelly is a big-time drug war zealot," says Michael Collins, deputy director of the Drug Policy Alliance's national affairs office. "He is true believer in the drug war, and it's incredibly worrying that he could now head up Homeland Security."

The Department of Homeland Security includes Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration, all of which play a direct or indirect role in the war on drugs. Kelly, a former Marine Corps general with an unrealistic notion of what can be accomplished by ships, aircraft, and men in uniform, is well-qualified to oversee these doomed antidrug activities, which apply military logic to a project that has nothing to do with foreign aggression or national defense.

As head of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command for three years, Kelly witnessed the failure of drug interdiction and concluded that more interdiction was the answer. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2014, he complained that budget cuts had forced him to dial back drug interdiction in the Caribbean. "Because of asset shortfalls, we're unable to get after 74 percent of suspected maritime drug smuggling," Kelly said. "I simply sit and watch it go by." Later that day he told reporters, "Without assets, certain things will happen. Much larger amounts of drugs will flow up from Latin America."

Kelly apparently thinks interdiction reduces the total amount of drugs reaching the United States. But that is not how interdiction works, to the extent that it works at all. Given all the places where drugs can be produced and all the ways they can be transported to people who want them, the most that drug warriors can hope to accomplish is to impose costs on traffickers that are high enough to raise retail prices, thereby discouraging consumption.

Trump names anti-enviromentalist to head EPA

Business insider - Donald Trump has picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during his administration.

The Sierra Club, at 124 years old, is one of the most venerable environmental groups in the US. The group released a statement calling Pruitt unfit to serve as EPA Administrator, and comparing the choice to "putting an arsonist in charge of fighting fires."

Pruitt, 48, has served as Attorney General for Oklahoma since 2011. In that time he's stood out among state-level politicians for his sharp opposition to EPA regulations — a position cited as a badge of honor on his official biography on his office's website.

He is part of a lawsuit designed to tear up the EPA's Clean Power Plan, a signature Obama administration effort to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

He's also part of a state administration that has taken a favorable stance toward fossil fuel extractors. During his five-year tenure as Oklahoma attorney general, a method of oil extraction that involves pumping saltwater into the ground became much more common in the state. The result was a sharp increase in earthquakes.

Before his term as State Attorney General, he served eight years in the Oklahoma State Senate, where, according to his official biography, he focused on "fiscal responsibility, religious freedom and pro-life issues."

Eco Watch = Pruitt, who was elected as Oklahoma's top legal officer in November 2010, states on his own LinkedIn page that he "has led the charge with repeated notices and subsequent lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for their leadership's activist agenda and refusal to follow the law."

Although the president-elect will not be able to completely cancel Obama's historic carbon emissions standards for power plants, having a legally experienced EPA head can help "substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them," the New York Times reported.

Pruitt was among a handful of other attorneys general that began planning as early as 2014 a coordinated legal effort to fight the Obama Administration's climate rules. That effort has resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. The case is now pending in federal court, but likely to advance to the Supreme Court, the New York Times said.

Trump's latest appointee falls in line with his other cabinet picks who deny the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change. Pruitt once wrote an editorial questioning "the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind."

The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit that questions the reality and import of climate change, celebrated Trump's EPA appointment. H. Sterling Burnett, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, said in response, "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!"

Keith Gaby, the senior communications director of the Environmental Defense Fund, noted that since 2002, Pruitt has "received more than $314,996 from fossil fuel industries." In 2014, Pruitt was infamously caught sending letters to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. Turns out, the letter was by lawyers for one of state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Harold G. Hamm, the chief executive of Continental Energy, was also co-chairman of Pruitt's 2013 re-election campaign.

"By appointing Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Trump is putting America at risk," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said. "Pruitt is a pure product of the oil and gas industry, installed in successive government posts to sell out his constituents at every turn. He will push this country far behind the rest of the world in the race for 21st century clean energy. With Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the people and the environment will be in the hands of a man who cares about neither."

December 7, 2016

Great thoughts of Paul Ryan

House Paul Ryan on 60 Minutes said that the veracity of Trump’s tweets doesn’t matter. All that matters is he won. “It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election,”



Allies of Clinton talking with advocates of anti-Trump electoral college move

Politico - Advocates of the long-shot bid to turn the Electoral College against Donald Trump have been in contact with close allies of Hillary Clinton, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions, but the Clinton camp — and Clinton herself — have declined to weigh in on the merits of the plan.

Clinton's team and the Democratic National Committee have steadfastly refused to endorse the efforts spearheaded by a group of electors in Colorado and Washington state. But, as with the ongoing recounts initiated by Green Party nominee Jill Stein, the Clinton team has not categorically rejected them, leaving the collection of mainly Democratic electors to push forward with no explicit public support from the failed Democratic nominee or any other prominent party leaders.

Trump reportedly promises anti-gay action

Independent, UK - Donald Trump has reportedly given “assurances” that he will take action to undermine laws that are seen as protecting the rights of gay people in the US.

A Republican Congressman, Steve Russell, says he has been led to understand the new administration will back his drive to allow federal contractors “religious freedom”.

Critics say allowing federal contractors religious freedom means they can discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of at-times arbitrary religious beliefs, and still receive public money.

In 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that banned LGBT discrimination by federal contractors across the board.

Mr Trump could simply act to scrap Mr Obama’s order, Mr Russell suggested. “The vagueness was created by the executive branch, so the executive branch [under Trump] could un-create the vagueness,” he said. “You reverse it by clarifying a bad executive order with a good one.”

Jazz break