Sep 25 2017

When All Else Fails, They Lie

The Republicans are determined to pass some form of health care bill by the end of this week when the time runs out to pass it with 51 votes. In a desperate move to get the needed votes from two of the three hold outs, Senators Lisa Murkowsky (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME), revisions were made over the weekend. When all else fails, resort to bribery and lies, a clear sign the Republican leadership has run out of options.

The revised version of the bill, written by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would provide extra money for an unnamed “high-spending low-density state,” a last-minute change seemingly aimed at Alaska and its holdout Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, who has yet to say how she will vote. It would also send money toward Maine, whose Republican senator, Susan Collins, had said earlier on Sunday that she would almost certainly vote no.

Mr. Cassidy circulated a table on Sunday showing the state-by-state impact of the revised bill from 2020 to 2026. It indicated that Alaska would receive 3 percent more money under the bill than under current law, while Maine would get 43 percent more.

However, the numbers and the calculations could not be independently confirmed. Similar estimates prepared by Mr. Cassidy’s office for the earlier version of the bill differed significantly from estimates by the Kaiser Family Foundation and health policy consulting firms, which said that most states would receive less money than under current law.

The basic premise of the bill still remains and it is horrendous:

The health bill’s authors scrambled to get back on track. The revised version of the Graham-Cassidy bill is generally similar to the original version unveiled on Sept. 13.

But it now would allow states to set many of their own health insurance standards without getting waivers from the federal government. States could, for example, allow insurers to omit some of the benefits they are now required to provide, like coverage for maternity care, mental health care and drug addiction treatment.

Under the revised bill, states could set their own limits on out-of-pocket costs that differ from the federal limits. Under the Affordable Care Act, the annual limits are now $7,150 for an individual health plan and $14,300 for a family plan.

The new version of the bill would give decision-making authority to the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, now Seema Verma. The initial version gave the authority to the secretary of health and human services, Tom Price.

Under the revised bill, it appears that a state could allow insurers to set higher premiums based on a person’s health status, though not on the basis of sex or genetic information. In applying for federal grants, state officials would have to describe how they would “maintain access to adequate and affordable health insurance coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”

The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act has long ago lost the premise that it had anything to do with helping Americans get affordable health care coverage.They had promised their base and big donors they would repeal “Obamacare”  and have no idea how to do it because of all the lies they have told. They spent the weekend making the rounds of talk shows lying about this bill and are finally getting called out by even FOX News

Paul Krugman, in his column today, noted that Republicans have lied so much over the last eight years about policies that won’t work they are now trapped by their own lies and it doesn’t stop with health care.

The next big item on the G.O.P. agenda is taxes. Now, cutting taxes on corporations and the wealthy may be an easier political lift than taking health insurance away from 30 million Americans. But Republicans still have a problem, because they’ve spent years posing as the party of fiscal responsibility, and they have no idea how to cut taxes without blowing up the deficit.

As with health care, the party has masked its lack of good ideas with lies, claiming that it would offset lower tax rates and even reduce the deficit by eliminating unnamed loopholes and slashing unnamed wasteful spending. But as with health care, these lies will be revealed once actual legislation is unveiled. It’s telling that Republicans are already invoking voodoo economics to justify their as-yet-unspecified tax plans, insisting that tax cuts will pay for themselves by leading to higher economic growth.

At this point, however, few people believe them. The Bush tax cuts didn’t create a boom; neither did the Kansas tax-cut “experiment.” Conversely, the U.S. economy did fine after the 2013 Obama tax hike, as has the California economy since Jerry Brown raised state taxes. Party apparatchiks will no doubt engage in an orgy of Reaganolatry, but the broader public probably won’t be moved by (false) claims about the wondrous results of tax cuts 36 years ago.

So tax policy, like health care, will be hobbled by a legacy of lies.

Wait, there’s more.

Foreign policy isn’t usually a central concern for voters. Still, past lies have put the Trump administration in a box over things like the Iran nuclear deal: Canceling the deal would create huge problems, yet not canceling it would amount to an admission that the criticisms were dishonest.

And soon the G.O.P. may even start to pay a price for lying about climate change. As hurricanes get ever more severe — just as climate scientists predicted — climate denial is looking increasingly out of touch. Yet donors and the base would react with fury to any admission that the threat is real, after all.

The bottom line is that the bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern.

Will the lies finally be the undoing of the Republican Party’s hold on congress and real progress? Saty tuned.

Sep 25 2017

Monopolies are Bad

I was under the impression that this thoroughly self evident concept had sort have become accepted as orthodox conventional Economic Theory back in 1776 when Adam Smith published Wealth of Nations. In that book he spends a good deal of time discussing how externalities, tax preferences, lobbying, and monopolies thwart the ability of the “Invisible Hand” of the Market to produce maximum efficiency.

Of course for the monopolist it’s great, they’re under no pressure by the “Invisible Hand” to price their wares at any kind of reasonable level or indeed achieve any particular quality. This is because there is no market.

Pretty elementary stuff.

Now the truth is that a business does not have to be the “sole provider” of a particular good or service to exercise monopoly power. If competition is sufficiently weak or they collude with other businesses you can create an effective monopoly even with a minority share of the item in question. I invite you to consider the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. At no time did they control a majority of the world’s oil, however because their share was sufficient and they were swing producers with low costs who could be profitable at price levels non-members could not sustain they were able to exert a great deal of influence over the entire market.

So call them oligopolies, trusts, cartels, or syndicates they are bad economically which is why we have anti-trust laws that unfortunately are not as vigorously enforced as they should be.

The Ultimate Anti-Competitive Mergers
by David Dayen, The American Prospect
September 21, 2017

When you need a new mortgage in the future, will your only options be AmazonWellsFargo or AppleChase? The prospect of a mash-up of banking and commerce keeps people like George Washington University law professor Arthur Wilmarth up at night. “This would mean an end to healthy innovation and startups and competition,” said Wilmarth. “I think it is that dire.”

Wilmarth sees the seeds of a new era of conglomerates in a series of actions by federal regulators and small firms to allow “fintech,” or financial technology companies, to become FDIC-insured banks. In June, SoFi, which offers student loan refinancing and wealth management services for high-income young people, applied for an “industrial loan company” charter in Utah, and early this month, the payment processing company Square followed suit. The Utah loophole has long been a back door for banks to get into ordinary commerce, and it keeps getting worse. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has also proposed a second route for fintech firms, through a “special purpose” national bank charter.

In principle, these maneuvers could inject competition into a banking industry controlled mostly by four Wall Street giants, making financial services more accessible and flexible to modern needs. But special charters also let fintech evade critical regulatory scrutiny. And the tentative steps by SoFi and Square seem like a dry run for the day Silicon Valley’s giants decide to get in the game, building sprawling businesses the government has aimed to prevent for decades.

It’s a well-established principle of efficient capitalism that commerce needs to be separated from finance. Banks get all sorts of privileges from the government—and if banks can also function as ordinary commercial enterprises, they have unfair advantages against other businesses (who are also their clients).

The Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 sought to prevent these advantages, as well as problems in the financial sector from spilling into the broader economy. It barred commercial firms from owning banks, much as the Glass-Steagall Act separated certain types of banking activities. But it included an exception for “non-bank banks” to either make deposits or issue loans. In 1987, Congress closed that loophole, so non-bank commercial firms couldn’t own any bank receiving FDIC deposit insurance.

“But Congress never closes a door without opening a window,” Wilmarth said. Utah Senator Jake Garn, then head of the Senate Banking Committee, added an exemption, allowing non-banks with state industrial loan charters (ILCs) to obtain FDIC insurance. Only seven states use ILCs, and the primary practitioner is, you guessed it, Utah. Garn wanted a cottage industry for his state, but he created an end-run around commercial/financial separation, one which major companies exploited.

Dozens of corporations set up shop by opening ILCs in Utah, enabling them to lend nationwide. GMAC became the financial arm of General Motors; GE Capital, for General Electric. This created a form of regulatory arbitrage. Because ILCs are chartered at the state level, they’re subject only to state monitoring. ILCs therefore avoid Federal Reserve supervision, or Bank Holding Company Act restrictions that limit banks to the business of banking. But through the FDIC, ILCs get access to safety net services like payment systems and the discount window. FDIC insurance also facilitates access to the cheapest capital funding around: deposits.

So ILCs derive all the benefits banks enjoy from the government, without being regulated as stringently. It’s what the Government Accountability Office called in 2012 a “supervisory blind spot.” That’s a recipe for systemic risk. Only GMAC needed government-supplied capital after the first round of post-financial crisis stress tests. GE Capital got an $18 billion Federal Reserve bailout on its commercial paper holdings.

The sums at issue today are even bigger. A recent study by the Bank for International Settlements, a consortium of central banks, reported that non-bank financial houses hold $14 trillion— that’s trillion— in off-balance-sheet debt using derivatives.

In 2005, Walmart applied for an ILC and community banks fiercely resisted, fearing an end to their existences. The FDIC, which needs to approve such applications, opted to delay, and Walmart eventually withdrew. No other ILC charters have been approved since then; Dodd-Frank even put a freeze on ILC bids from 2010-2013.

SoFi broke this streak, seeking to offer FDIC-insured bank accounts and credit cards. Square wants to extend its operations in small business and personal loans. An ILC allows fintech firms to avoid using a bank partner to engage in bank-like activities. By operating online from Utah or another ILC state, fintech companies can export relatively lax rules on interest rate caps and other banking rules nationwide. It also means companies wouldn’t have to divest other business lines; for example, Square sells appliances and owns a food delivery service called Caviar.

SoFi has imploded since June—its CEO resigned over sexual misconduct allegations, and the corporate culture appears even more corrupt and depraved than Wall Street’s. But Square could test the waters for the rest of the tech world, which is already immersed in banking. Amazon has lent $1 billion to small businesses in the past year. Apple Pay has a structure similar to Square. And the constant churn of tech startups getting bought by bigger players presumes that, sooner or later, a bank charter will fall into the heads of one of the giants. “You could have Google Bank,” said Mehrsa Baradaran, law professor at the University of Georgia. “The Trojan horse is a tiny fintech company but Google’s right behind them.”

Because of their size, large firms that can afford to operate a bank would enjoy competitive advantages over smaller rivals, because they can fund themselves with cheap deposits. Tech giants have absorbed or destroyed most of the industry’s startups; they don’t need more advantages. Plus, the stature of these firms make them indispensable to the greater economy, bringing back the spectre of “too big to fail” that policymakers have spent years trying to limit.

This will inevitably lead to even more consolidation, Wilmarth believes, citing the rapid development of financial sector conglomerates after Glass-Steagall got overturned. “We have an oligopoly of five in tech, five or six in banking,” Wilmarth said. “Do we really want to allow these guys to combine? Because they will.”

Sep 25 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Trapped by Their Own Lies

On Saturday pretty much the entire medical sector — groups representing doctors, hospitals, and insurers — released an extraordinary open letter condemning the Graham-Cassidy health bill. The letter was written in the style of Emile Zola’s “J’accuse”: a series of paragraphs, each beginning with the bolded words “We agree,” pointing out the bill’s many awful features, from the harm it would do to people with pre-existing conditions to the chaos it would cause in insurance markets.

It takes a truly terrible proposal to elicit such eloquent unanimity from organizations that are usually cautious to the point of stodginess. So how did Republicans come up with something that bad, and how did that bad thing get so close to becoming law? Indeed, it still has a chance of being enacted despite John McCain’s “no.”

The answer is that Republicans have spent years routinely lying for the sake of political advantage. And now — not just on health care, but across the board — they are trapped by their own lies, forced into trying to enact policies they know won’t work.

Charles M. Blow: A Rebel, a Warrior and a Race Fiend

Donald Trump is operating the White House as a terror cell of racial grievance in America’s broader culture wars.

He has made his allegiances clear: He’s on the side of white supremacists, white nationalists, ethno-racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. He is simpatico with that cesspool.

And nothing gets his goat quite like racial minorities who stand up for themselves or stand up to him.

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was asked about the annual rite of championship teams visiting the White House, and Curry made clear that he didn’t want to go because “we basically don’t stand for what our president has said, and the things he hasn’t said at the right time.”

Trump responded to Curry’s expressed desire not to go by seeming to disinvite the entire team, to which Curry responded with a level of class that is foreign to Trump. Curry said, “It’s surreal, to be honest.” Curry continued: “I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals, rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath a leader of a country to go that route. That’s not what leaders do.”

Of course, Curry is correct. Not only is this episode surreal, the entire Trump tenure is surreal. He is not a leader.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 25 2017

The Breakfast Club (Wave)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Nine black students escorted into Little Rock’s Central High School; President Woodrow Wilson collapses; Author William Faulkner born; TV’s Barbara Walters and movie actor-producer Michael Douglas born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

So much of life is what you roll and where you land.

Mark Hamill

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 24 2017

Rant of the Week: Seth Meyers – A Closer Look At Trumpcare 3.0

NBC’s “Late Night” host Seth Meyer takes a closer look at the Senate’s effort to pass any health care bill no matter how bad it is.

This latest version may well be dead in the water for the same reasons the last one’s failed, no Democratic support and Republicans insistence om doing it without them. As of today, five Republicans are saying they either won’t or most likely won’t vote for this version of Trumpcare 3.0. But have no fear, Senator Bill (I really am a doctor) Cassidy (R-LA) has another version waiting in the wings

Sep 24 2017

Bend The Knee Day

You see, I just want to load my pickup with the AK-47 in the gun rack and the Stars and Bars decals, bumper stickers, mud flaps, truck nuts, and flags on the back with 16 cases of ‘murika’ labeled Bud and go to the game so I can watch 44 mostly Black people bang their heads against each other for money until they’re comatose. Gets my energy up for the big Cross Burning social tonight.

I don’t need any of that political crap.

Players, owners unite as Trump demands NFL ‘fire or suspend’ players or risk fan boycott
By Abby Phillip and Cindy Boren, Washington Post
September 24 at 10:04 AM

The dramatic show of defiance comes hours after Trump on Sunday morning renewed his demand that NFL owners fire or suspend players who kneel during the national anthem in protest, again urging that fans should boycott the sport to force change.

“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast,” Trump wrote. “Fire or suspend!”

The tweets continue a three-day crusade by the president to pressure the league to fire players who have taken a knee to protest police violence against minorities. Trump has poured fuel on the flame of a simmering culture war and has further pushed sports deep into the political arena.

Among players, coaches and team owners, the public reaction has been sharply negative of his comments.

Even a close friend, Patriots CEO and Chairman Robert Kraft, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, issued a sharply worded statement Sunday morning that condemned his comments and supported the right of players to peacefully protest “in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

“I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” Kraft said. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities.

“Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger,” he added. “There is no greater unifier in this country than sports and, unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics.

“I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal,” Kraft continued. “Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

Patriots players have not protested during the anthem, and two of the team’s most prominent members — Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady — also have had ties to the president.

Trump read a supportive letter from Belichick during a campaign rally and Brady, while calling Trump a good friend and golfing buddy, has stopped short of saying that he voted for the president. His wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, was more definitive, saying, “NO!” when asked by an Instagram user whether she supported Trump.

Belichick and Kraft were among Patriots players who celebrated the team’s Super Bowl victory with a visit to the White House. Brady cited family plans as the reason he stayed away. During that visit, Kraft gave Trump a Super Bowl ring.

Trump has been animated by this issue for more than a year, telling his supporters at a campaign rally in October 2016 that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first player to kneel in protest, was partly responsible for the drop in ratings.

“The NFL is way down in their ratings, two reasons, number one is this politics they’re finding is a much rougher game than football and more exciting,” Trump said. “And the other reason is Kaepernick.”

NFL teams have been accused of blacklisting Kaepernick, who is now a free agent.

Trump seemed to suddenly fixate on the issue again during a rally in Alabama on Friday night, in which he suggested that coaches should get the “son of a b—-” players off the field if they continued to kneel. The comments prompted swift backlash from players, the league and coaches, many of whom condemned Trump’s comments.

On Saturday, the president didn’t back down, however. He continued to tweet his call for the league to discipline players for showing “total disrespect” for the country.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump said on Saturday.: If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

On ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin forcefully defended Trump’s comments about NFL players demonstrating during the national anthem, saying that NFL owners should vote on new rules prohibiting the practice.

“This is about respect for the military, the first responders,” he said. Mnuchin also declined to criticize the coarse language Trump used, saying, “I think the president can use whatever language he wants to use.”

Of the players, Mnuchin said: “They have the right to have their First Amendment off the field. This is a job.”

Another White House official, Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that Trump is standing with the “vast majority” of Americans who believe the flag “should be respected.”

He added that Trump plans to take more action on improving race relations.

Of course he will! He’ll send Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (noted racist) and a squadron of Cops to beat and kill all the African-Americans into submission, just like they tried to do with Michael Bennett of the Seahawks. It’s ok, they’re scary because they’re Black.

As Trump Takes On Athletes, Watch Them Rise
By MICHAEL POWELL, The New York Times
SEPT. 23, 2017

(I)n the surest and most striking sign of tectonic movements, N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell, as careful and conservative a leader as you’ll find in pro sports, felt compelled to call out the president on Saturday. (Trump, in an Emperor Nero complaining about the desultory quality of the gladiators moment, also lamented in Alabama that the N.F.L. had become insufficiently violent.)

“Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the N.F.L., our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” Goodell said in a statement.

It’s not clear how this plays with Goodell’s masters in N.F.L. ownership. They donated many millions to Trump’s presidential campaign; the New England Patriots’ owner, Robert K. Kraft, showered $1 million on the inaugural and has been a vocal ally; and the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick, wrote a letter endorsing him last fall.

To summarize this exquisite collision of sports, politics and business: The 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem last season, stirring a national debate about patriotism and the treatment of blacks by the police. For that, the N.F.L. owners appear to have blackballed him from the league this year. For that, more players have taken up Kaepernick’s cause. And for that, President Trump disparaged the league and challenged the owners to fire players for exercising their right to free speech — which they have effectively done to Kaepernick already.

And now Kaepernick’s once lonely protest suddenly has many more supporters.

“They’ll be the most popular person in this country,” Trump said, “because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage, that’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”

The president’s invocation of heritage has become his favorite dog whistle; it also deeply misconstrues our traditions. I’ll recruit my departed father into this scrum. Like many young men of his generation, he volunteered to fight in World War II, and he flew missions on a B-17 bomber. Years later, when Vietnam and civil rights and labor struggles bubbled, and protesters sat out anthems and even burned flags, his view was unwavering: He had fought for an America in which citizens could speak and dissent freely and act morally.

What’s notable is how measured the athletes have tried to remain, until poked and prodded. James appeared in a video for Michael Bloomberg’s global forum. “I hope and I pray that all of you know how much all of us need you now,” he told the assembled corporate and societal leaders.

Curry has not been as explicitly political as James in recent years, but he did not sidestep the moment. President Trump said he was barring Curry from the White House, but Curry had already made a case for not going.
“By acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change,” he said, “when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to.”

Hear, hear! I’ll not have someone disrespecting my God given 2nd Amendment right to drive my pickup with the AK-47 in the gun rack and the Stars and Bars decals, bumper stickers, mud flaps, truck nuts, and flags on the back with 16 cases of ‘murika’ labeled Bud and go anywhere I want!

And I roll coal. Suck on that.

Sep 24 2017

The Breakfast Club (You’re the Muppet)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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AP’s Today in History for September 24th

Patricia Hearst gets prison time; Author F. Scott Fitzgerald born; ’60 Minutes’ premieres; Baseball’s Dodgers play last Brooklyn game; Muppets creator Jim Henson born; Children’s author Dr. Seuss dies.


Breakfast Tune muppet bluegrass.mpg


Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept

IT WAS NOT the first time Muhammad Rabbani had problems when returning to the United Kingdom from travels overseas. But on this occasion something was different — he was arrested, handcuffed, and hauled through London’s largest airport, then put into the back of a waiting police van.

Rabbani is the 36-year-old international director of Cage, a British group that was founded in 2003 to raise awareness about the plight of prisoners held at the U.S. government’s Guantánamo Bay detention site. Today, the organization has a broader focus and says it is working to highlight “the erosion of the rule of law in the context of the war on terror.” Due to its work campaigning for the legal rights of terrorism suspects, Cage has attracted controversy, and Rabbani has faced the government’s wrath.

His trouble at Heathrow Airport in late November began with a familiar routine. Often, on his return to the U.K. from foreign trips, he was stopped by police and questioned under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act — a sweeping power British authorities can use at the border to interrogate and search people without requiring any suspicion of wrongdoing. People questioned under Schedule 7 have no right to remain silent, and they can be interrogated for up to six hours. Rabbani estimates that he has been stopped under Schedule 7 about 20 times. Usually, he was let free after a few questions without any charges or arrest. But not this time. …

Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU Sue Over Warrantless Phone, Laptop Searches at US Border
By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She now spends much of her time in Asia and is currently working on a book about textile artisans.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and US Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) last week on behalf of 11 travelers whose smartphones and laptops were subjected to warrantless searches at the US border.

As the EFF and ACLU spelled out in a press release announcing the suit:

The plaintiffs in the case are 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident who hail from seven states and come from a variety of backgrounds. The lawsuit challenges the government’s fast-growing practice of searching travelers’ electronic devices without a warrant. It seeks to establish that the government must have a warrant based on probable cause to suspect a violation of immigration or customs laws before conducting such searches.

The practice of searching electronic devices at the border did not originate with the Trump administration. The number of such searches began to climb in 2016, and has increased further during the Trump administration, as Table 2 below se EFF/ACLU hows. (I realize that the figures only cover a short period and would have liked to be able to present more comprehensive numbers; these were the best I was able to find. Some additional numbers can be found in the EFF/ACLU press release.) …

Lawyer urged prosecutor after Ferguson shooting: ‘Do the right thing’ for police
Jon Swaine, The Guardian

An attorney whose firm represented the policeman who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson urged the local prosecutor a day after the 2014 shooting to “do the right thing” and said officers were depending on him, newly released records reveal.

Jerome Simon emailed the message to the St Louis County prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, amid intense protests set off by Darren Wilson’s fatal shooting of Brown. McCulloch went on to preside over the controversial decision to not bring criminal charges against Wilson.

“Dude, WTF? Do the right thing,” Simon wrote. “All of St Louis County is counting on your seasoned judgment and innate sense of essential justice for all – especially County Brown police officers.” St Louis County police officers are nicknamed for their brown uniforms. …

Donald Trump poised to expand travel ban as review period expires on Sunday
Oliver Laughland, The Guardian

Donald Trump is poised to revisit his controversial travel ban over the weekend as a critical deadline is set to expire on Sunday, meaning the president could extend or even expand travel restrictions already imposed on six Muslim-majority countries.

In March, Trump issued a revised executive order that sought to suspend the US refugee programme for 120 days and limit for 90 days visa issuances to travelers from Iran, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Libya and Yemen, while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reviewed vetting procedures.

The supreme court allowed a restricted version of the ban to come into effect in June. That means the 90-day visa limit will be reached on Sunday. …







Something to think about over coffee prozac

Kim Jong Un Insulted Donald Trump And Taught America A New Word At The Same Time

President Donald Trump called Kim Jong Un “rocket man” earlier this week, and now the North Korean dictator has returned fire.

Kim gave Trump a nickname of his own ― and it’s one that sent Americans scrambling for a dictionary.

“I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged dotard with fire,” Kim said in a statement released by the North Korean government Thursday.

While the statement was full of choice words for Trump ― calling him “unfit,” “rogue” and “gangster” ― it was the word “dotard,” used twice, that seemed to catch everyone’s attention.

According to Merriam-Webster, a “dotard” is a “person in his or her dotage,” with “dotage” further defined as “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”

Freelance journalist Jihye Lee said the original statement in Korean used a term better translated as “old beast lunatic,” but it became “dotard” in the English version released by North Korea. …

Sep 24 2017

Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Pondering the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

On Sunday mornings we present a preview of the guests on the morning talk shows so you can choose which ones to watch or some do something more worth your time on a Sunday morning.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA); Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson; former Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright; and New Yorker staff writer Evan Osnos.

The roundtable guests are: NPR “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep; Politico Playbook co-authors Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman; and ABC News senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega.

Face the Nation: Host John Dickerson’a guests are: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME); Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO); Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); White House Legislative Affairs Director, Marc Short; and New Yorker writer Atul Gawande.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on this week’s “MTP” are: House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY); and White House Legislative Affairs Director, Marc Short.

The panel guests are: Politico‘s Eliana Johnson; Detroit Free PressStephen Henderson; Nation Review‘s Rich Lowry; and Precision‘s Stephanie Cutter.

State of the Union with Jake Tapper: Mr. Tapper’s guests are: Susan Collins (R-ME); Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin; and former US Attorney for the Southeastern District of NY Preet Bharara.

His panel guests are: Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner (D); former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA); former Obama WH communications director Jen Psaki; and Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN).

Sep 23 2017

Crap. I have to write another piece?


For weeks now I’ve been deferring my obligations and chores in the firm conviction that the coming Rapture and End of Times would make such mundane activities unnecessary (I don’t even want to talk about laundry).

You may not understand the impending doom to be visited on humanity when Planet Nibiru (or Wormwood or X) crashes into either the Earth or the Sun (I’m not quite clear). David Meade, noted author of Planet X – The 2017 Arrival, as well as The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving EMP Attacks, Solar Flares and Grid Failures, You Can Write a Best-Selling Info Book!, Fraud Prevention, and Own a Piece of Paradise In the Florida Keys does. I recommend against ordering any of these books since you’ll barely have time to read them and the few moments you have left are probably better spent at your local with a paper bag over your head (not that it will help).

How do we know about Planet Nibiru? Meade has seen it using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and… I believe him with all the surety I know that Joseph Smith “hefted” the plates of Nephi sealed by the hand of Moroni and born record to by words of soberness.

What do we know about Planet Nibiru? Well, it’s 3 and a third the size of Jupiter (roughly), rotates clockwise, orbited by 7 moons and an undetermined number of asteroids. It has an outer magnetic field of 16.3 AU (an Astronomical Unit is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun which is pretty big as far as local distances go, for instance light takes 8 minutes to cover and that’s as fast as it gets).

As far as we know it is not inhabited by Ming the Merciless-

Pathetic earthlings. Hurling your bodies out into the void, without the slightest inkling of who or what is out here. If you had known anything about the true nature of the universe, anything at all, you would’ve hidden from it in terror.


Every thousand years, I test each life system in the Universe. I visit it with mysteries, earthquakes, unpredicted eclipses, strange craters in the wilderness… If these are taken as natural, I judge that system ignorant and harmless – I spare it. But if the Hand of Ming is recognized in these events, I judge that system dangerous to us. I call upon the great god Dyzan, and for his greater glory, and for our mutual pleasure, I destroy it utterly.

You’re saying… it’s my fault the Earth is being destroyed?


You see, the effects of Nibiru are already being felt. That Climate Change due to Human injection of Carbon into the environment? Garbage. Nibiru’s magnetic field is heating up the Earth’s core! Hurricanes and Earthquakes! Super Volcanos! To quote Meade-

Planet X’s arrival will create an event that occurs on the surface of the Sun that releases a tremendous amount of energy in the form of a solar flare or a coronal mass ejection, which is an explosive burst of very hot, electrified gas that has a mass that exceeds that of Mount Everest. The event will bring down the electrical grid, and the shelves of the grocery stores will be cleaned out inside of a day. Banks and ATMs don’t work without electric current. Gas pumps won’t be functioning. Food transportation will stop. Rioting and looting will be unrestrained. Communications satellites will be down. The 911 function on your phone isn’t going to work. For as long as it lasts, until new transformers can be built or imported, society will be in chaos. This will be the calling card of Planet X upon its near approach to our Earth and Sun.

Well, 2 points. Sagarmāthā/Chomolungma is 29,000 feet high (5.5 miles), Olympus Mons (on Mars and generally considered the tallest mountain in the Solar System) 72,000 feet (13.6 miles). Your average Solar Flare kind of starts at 621,370 miles (give or take a magnitude) and goes up from there, but we get the metaphor. You mean big. The second point is, in this global catastrophe where exactly will you be importing your generators from?

ek, that sounds pretty bad. What should I do?

I advise you to buy and speed read The Prepper’s Guide to Surviving EMP Attacks, Solar Flares and Grid Failures or go to your pub and pound down as many pints as you are able as fast as you can (muscle relaxant you know) and put a paper bag over your head. Neither one will do any good.

Running away and hiding has always been an essential survival trait and should you choose a lingering death Meade has this advice-

Arizona is a good place, it “has withstood many a pole shift” (magnetic pole shifting being a consequence of the interference from Nibiru and the Coronal Mass Ejection (get your minds out of the gutter folks). Colorado is very safe because the CIA has relocated their domestic division (which they don’t have- shhh…) there. The Ozarks of Arkansas and Missouri should also do well because they have plenty of water and farmland.

Which will be of benefit when we are swallowed by a Gas Giant 953.5 times our size.

Bad places to be? California for the obvious reasons, the Hoover Dam watershed because it won’t survive, and Florida and the Keys (See! It’s already happening!).

Now I’ll spare you the astrological and numerological signs (no yellow bricks involved), but it’s supposed to happen today and yet here I am, slaving over a hot keyboard when I could be doing funnel shots (you pour a beer through a funnel and a tube as fast as you are able to drink it, alternatively you open a can at both ends) on the beach. Anyway it doesn’t all happen in one go so you have plenty of time for debauchery. After the power goes out you have until October 5th before Nibiru eclipses the Sun and the nuclear war doesn’t start prior to the end of October, beginning of November at the latest. Then it’s Rapture Time or 7 years of bondage to the anti-Christ, whichever comes first.

Who knows about Niribu? Well, you do… now, as well as NASA, the CIA, and just about every deep state acronym you can think of or make up out of the whole cloth (and it’s not as easy as you think, all the good ones are taken). This is why the Hubble was built and the Vatican has a large pair of Binoculars on the roof.

Besides, there was a Fatima like vision posted by some anonymous person on the Intertubz (a well known series of trucks that is always true)-

I was taken to the heavens above the earth and I could see the earth in a distance not so far but clearly. Suddenly I heard a very loud sound and vibration with a very heavy zoom sound coming my way, hundreds of times louder than that of a Boeing 747 jet. I then saw a very huge rock almost the size of the moon zooming past me at a very high speed with a large tail of fire besides and behind it.

I looked where it was headed. I knew it was headed for planet earth and thought well, I hope it lands in the ocean, not many people will die. However, it seemed targeted to the ocean and the United States. I was like, Lord no!

[Meanwhile], people were having their usual life, and for some reason I saw people going to get movies at Blockbuster and they did not seem to care about what was coming. …. I was then taken back to the Blockbuster place and people saw the object and heard the band and vibrations but seemed not to care about it, and some said, ‘I will die watching a movie.’

Man, I want some of that kush. Still, as Quartz (from whom I cribbed most of this) concludes-

Global coverup of massive red dwarf approaching our sun? Sure. A seven-year apocalypse overseen by a dapper CEO-like Satan? Of course. Blockbuster Video? I don’t know about all that.

Remember, DocuDharma and The Stars Hollow Gazette, trafficking in only the most scurrilous rumors since 2007 and 2010 respectively.

Oh, the title of the Quartz story (“To understand the end of the world, it helps to run Microsoft Windows 7 or 8”)? Meade used a program that’s called WorldWide Telescope which runs best under Windows 7 (SP1 Build 7601) or 8 (ugh).

Sep 23 2017

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt


What to Cook This Weekend


I was fishing out at the eastern end of Long Island the other day, getting in a session before Jose pushed his way north to crash and blow. When I was finished, I drove to Spicy’s BBQ in Riverhead for chicken because I like how they fry the birds there, how the skin is fantastically salty and crisp, how it reacts under lashings of the sweet-spicy barbecue sauce they serve on the side, yellow as a city cab, mustard-pungent and sticky. You’d think the skin would go soggy, but it doesn’t, really, not if you eat fast.

And fried chicken has been on my mind ever since. I’d like to make some this weekend, with cream gravy and mashed potatoes, or with sourdough waffles with a cup of Cheddar cut into the batter and a small pot of honey and red pepper flakes on the side, into which I’ve melted a few pats of butter. I’d like to eat it with braised greens, or pickleback slaw, with macaroni and cheese. That would be a really nice dinner to cook.

Sam Sifton, New York Times


Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Here is a basic yet delicious recipe for buttermilk fried chicken, with a crisp crust and luscious interior.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are very forgiving, and with a good masher, hot potatoes and enough butter and salt, cooks can accommodate religionists of the fluffy style and partisans of the creamy and dense.

Sourdough Pancake or Waffle Batter

If you have a sourdough starter, you will need to feed it to keep it alive. Many recipes call for doing so after discarding a cup or so of the starter you have, so as to maintain its equilibrium and prevent it from growing too large.

Braised Greens

Chicken stock, white wine and red pepper flakes add flavor to this side dish that can be made with whatever hearty green is in season.

Pickleback Slaw

Those artisanal pickles from the farmers’ market sure are expensive, so don’t throw out the juice in which they’re pickled.

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

This creamy version has one powerful advantage for the cook: it is made with dry pasta, so there’s no need for precooking. The pasta cooks in the oven, absorbing the liquid from the dairy products.

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