Apr 21 2018

The Breakfast Club (Something Wild)

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 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) 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

Writer Mark Twain dies; Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II born; German flying ace Manfred ‘The Red Baron’ Rictoften killed in action during World War I; The musical ‘Annie’ opens on Broadway.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

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Apr 20 2018

Comey Is No Hero

One of the most frustrating things this past week has been watching James Comey make the rounds of Stephanopoulos, Maddow, The View, along with other outlets and be lauded as some paragon of moral rectitude and virtue.

Jim Comey is a lifelong Republican who willingly and enthusiastically signed off on Torture (a War Crime in case you’ve forgotten) and who, immediately after his oh so so brave and principled stand at the bedside of John Ashcroft, personally approved a barely modified program of blanket electronic surveillance on United States Citizens THAT PERSISTS TO THIS DAY!

Thanks for nothing Barack.

Oh, and because of his “credibility” he’s as responsible as any single person except Hillary Clinton and her pathetic team of overpaid and ineffectual crony campaign consultants for Donald John Trump’s unexpected victory.

Yep, more than Vladimir Putin.

He is, unfortunately, a Deep State piece of slime, just as Donald Trump describes him which does not make Donald Trump any less loathsome or guilty either.

Of all the hagiographic interviews the one that came closest to holding Comey’s feet to the fire as they deserve to be is Stephen Colbert who at least made him aware that Stephen knew about his record and wasn’t buying everything Comey was peddling.

That awkward sip of Pinot in the middle? That was Stephen letting Comey know he was made.

Want to be loved by the Left? Get fired by Trump
By Michael Graham, CBS News
April 2, 2018

How do you go from being a government hack to a progressive hero? It’s easy: Get fired by Donald Trump.

From FBI Director James Comey to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Veteran’s Affairs chief David Shulkin, it turns out there’s no surer route to redemption among liberals than a “You’re fired!” from President Trump. Even better if it comes via tweet.

But perhaps the most shocking example is the curious case of James Comey.

In November of 2016, then-FBI-Director Comey was political enemy #1 of the Democratic Party. Before the election, Democrats like Senator Harry Reid were denouncing his handling of the Clinton email case, going so far as to suggest he had broken the law. Nancy Pelosi compared his last-minute letter to Congress on the matter to a political “Molotov cocktail.”

After Hillary’s loss, it was even worse. “Donald Trump owes him a big thank you” said Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Democrats far and wide blamed Hillary Clinton’s election debacle on Comey.

Today, Comey’s book— A Higher Loyalty— Truth, Lies, and Leadership – is on the best-seller list before it’s even been released; He’s scheduled to be feted on the Left’s favorite cable news shows; and enthusiastic partisans are paying up to $850 a ticket to see him on his book tour.

It’s as if Newt Gingrich suddenly became the golden boy of MSNBC. How did it happen? He’s the ultimate EOT: He was fired by Trump in the midst of the RussiaGate scandal and then leaked information to wage war on the White House. The anti-Trump trifecta.

There are more examples. Notorious “neocon” Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, once hated for promoting the Bush Doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq, is now a liberal darling for leading the #NeverTrump movement. Mitt Romney, once smeared by Democrats as a misogynist with “binders full of women,” is now the responsible GOP good guy they can respect, etc. etc.

What it all points to is the political gravitational pull of the Trump presidency. Every policy and (especially) every person is measured by their relationship to Donald Trump. Simply being Trump’s enemy can suddenly make you every Democrats’ best friend.

These are resistance heroes? Democrats now exalt the guys who abused government power
By Matt Welch, Los Angeles Times
April 19, 2018

During his half-century spent defending Americans’ civil liberties, here’s what has changed, according to lawyer Alan Dershowitz: “Now conservatives have become civil libertarians, and liberals have become strong supporters of law enforcement, the Justice Department and the FBI,” the professor and pundit said after dining with President Donald Trump last week.

That snorting sound you hear? That’s a thousand libertarians shooting coffee through their noses at the notion that the GOP is newly sympathetic to issues of law enforcement overreach and intrusive investigative tools.

Republicans had an opportunity as recently as three months ago to rein in warrantless snooping under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. What did they do? They voted overwhelmingly to reauthorize the practice for another six years: 191-45 among GOP members in the House, 43-7 in the Senate.

It’s unfortunate how wrong Dershowitz is about the Republican Party. But what’s also depressing is that he may be right about the Democrats. In their efforts to oust a potentially lawless president, they are exalting a rogue’s gallery of surveillance-state officials who have abused their power.

Take James Clapper. The man who oversaw a vast surveillance apparatus as director of national intelligence under President Obama is now the toast of left-leaning media outlets including Salon, the Guardian and the Huffington Post for questioning Trump’s “fitness to be in office,” saying that Watergate “pales” in comparison to the current crisis, and quipping that Russian President Vladimir Putin treats Trump “like an asset.”

California Democrat Rep. Adam B. Schiff tweeted his Clapper endorsement last year: “James Clapper is a patriot who served his country for 50 years & knows dangerous bluster when he sees it. So yes, he’s an authority on DJT.”

But as Schiff certainly knows through his work on the House intelligence committee, Clapper straight-up lied to Congress and the American people in March 2013 when asked by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) whether the National Security Agency collects “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. “No sir. Not wittingly,” Clapper replied. Three months later, after the revelations of phone logs and email data collected by the NSA made front pages, Clapper characterized his lame answer as the “least untruthful” way he felt he could respond. If Trump and his B-movie gang of hangers-on are eventually to be tripped up on a series of lying and obstruction-style charges, surely there are better character witnesses for the prosecution than a perjurer.

It’s difficult these days to get the latest #resistance news without encountering some of Clapper’s partners in government malfeasance. One of MSNBC’s latest contributor hires, for example, is former Obama-administration CIA Director John Brennan. Like former FBI director James B. Comey, Brennan is one of the more melodramatic voices on Twitter, delivering stern lectures to a presidential interloper who dares impugn our noble intelligence state.

“When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known,” Brennan tweeted at Trump last month in a characteristic effort, “you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America. … America will triumph over you.”

(McCabe, the FBI deputy director who got fired the day before his planned retirement, raised a quarter-million dollars for a legal defense fund within six hours, helped out by retweets from the likes of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.)

Brennan’s moral compass has not always been so prominently displayed. During his tenure as CIA director, the agency got caught spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers. When confronted by then-Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about it, Brennan used the same how-dare-they tone he now reserves for the president: “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said at first. “We wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s just beyond the scope of reason.”

By uncritically cheering on such flawed actors, the Trump opposition is sending a clear if unwitting message to future abusers of power: To rehabilitate your image, simply oppose the president with enough flowery adjectives. I predict we will hear more such performances — complete with applause from progressives — during the upcoming book tours of Comey and former CIA Director Michael Hayden.

To the extent that these former officials have direct knowledge of matters relevant to the Trump/Russia investigation — and Comey, at least, certainly does — we need to hear from them. But if in these fraught political times we’re taking our moral cues from a gang of former intelligence officials, then our problems run deeper than — and will outlast — the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now I come from an entirely different direction, the Libertarian Left. I’m an Anarcho-Syndicalist and a Populist of the non-racist/nativist type, an inclusive small “d” democrat. But these people aren’t wrong.

The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Apr 20 2018

Dispatches From The War On Truth

Being our occasional journey to an alternate reality where the sky is sort of écru plaid.

Comey

Ruining Smoking

Cohen

Awards

Punks

Nikki Nikki You’re So Fine

Teachers Suck

Facebook Sucks

Actually that last one is a fact.

Apr 20 2018

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: The Great Snake Oil Slump

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. A G.O.P. presidential candidate loses the popular vote, but somehow ends up in the White House anyway. Despite his dubious legitimacy, his allies in Congress take advantage of his election to ram through a huge tax cut that blows up the budget deficit while disproportionately benefiting the wealthy. While the big bucks go to the big incomes, however, the tax bill does throw some crumbs at the middle class, and Republicans try to sell the bill as a boon to working families.

So far this account applies equally to George W. Bush and Donald Trump. But then the story takes a turn. The Bush sales job was effective: While the 2001 tax cut wasn’t overwhelmingly popular, more people approved than disapproved, and it provided the G.O.P. with at least a modest political boost. But the Trump tax cut was unpopular from the start — in fact, less popular than past tax hikes.

And this tax cut doesn’t seem to be winning more support over time. Most Americans say they don’t see any positive effect on their paychecks. Public approval of the tax cut seems, if anything, to be falling rather than rising. And Republicans have pretty much stopped even mentioning the bill on the campaign trail.

Which raises the question: Why doesn’t snake oil sell like it used to?

Vincent M. Southerland and Johanna B. Steinberg: Boehner Benefits From Weed. Blacks Are in Prison for Using It.

If you want to see an example of staggering hypocrisy in the criminal justice system, consider the contrast between Fate Vincent Winslow, a prisoner in Louisiana, and John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who is a former speaker of the House of Representatives.

A decade ago, an undercover police officer approached Mr. Winslow, a homeless black man, and asked for help buying marijuana. Mr. Winslow desperately needed the money, so he helped the officer buy two dime bags for a $5 profit. For that, he is serving life without parole for distribution of marijuana in the infamous Angola prison.

Last week, Mr. Boehner announced that he will join the board of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana cultivation and distribution company, citing the drug’s therapeutic benefits for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the same John Boehner who declared himself “unalterably opposed” to legalization in 2011 and who voted to prohibit medical marijuana in the District of Columbia in 1999. [..]

The problem here is not Mr. Boehner’s evolution in thinking on marijuana. Drug policies should be informed by science, and Mr. Boehner’s shift on marijuana mirrors that of a majority of Americans who now support legalization.

The problem is with race. As white people exploit the changing tide on marijuana, the racism that drove its prohibition is ignored. So are the consequences for black communities, where the war on drugs is most heavily waged.

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 20 2018

The Breakfast Club (Neverland)

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 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) 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.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler born; Gunfire erupts at Columbine High; Cubans in the Mariel boatlift arrive in the U.S.; Ted Williams makes his baseball debut; Singer Luther Vandross born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?

Willie Nelson

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Apr 19 2018

A Car, But With Black People In It

Police: Trust us, the black man we gunned down outside a Walmart deserved it
by Alan Pyke, Think Progress
Apr 19, 2018

Barstow Police Department officers shot and killed 26-year-old Diante Yarber on April 5 in his cousin’s black Ford Mustang. Yarber and three others were parked outside a Walmart in the southeastern California city when, police say, he and his vehicle were deemed suspicious.

Police say that Yarber tried to pull his car out of its parking space when officers approached, colliding with a patrol car then shifting gears and striking a second car. It was only then, the police narrative states, that officers opened fire. But the city has yet to release any video footage to support those claims or verify that officers were in harm’s way.

It is unclear if the original police attention was prompted by a 911 caller or simply by officers’ observations, but the department says officers thought Yarber looked like a suspect in a recent car theft.

“I would love to hear that call,” said Lee Merritt, an attorney for Yarber’s relatives. “They weren’t doing drugs, there was no reports of loud music, it’s a car sitting in front of a Walmart as cars often do. But with black people in it.”

“Looked like a suspect in a recent car theft.”

Well duh.

He was Black.

Apr 19 2018

Love Your Suit

“Why does Sean Hannity, the guy who made $36 million last year, retain a graduate of the actual worst law school in the country?”

You see a lot, Doctor. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you – why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.

What I want is a view where I can see a tree, or even water.

Garden-variety Manic Depressive. Tedious, very tedious. Best thing for him, really, his therapy was going nowhere.

First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?

Apr 19 2018

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: Scam I Amn’t: Voters and the Tax Cut

I don’t know what will happen in the midterm elections. But if Republicans pull it out – that is, if they lose the popular vote by a small enough margin that gerrymandering and the geographic concentration of nonwhite voters frustrate the public’s will – it will be the result of tribalism. It won’t be because the G.O.P. won voters over with a tax cut.

That’s not what they expected. The people who rammed through a massive tax cut without hearings or analysis thought they could sell it to voters as free money for everyone; never mind the big bucks for corporations and the wealthy, look at the extra cash we’re putting in your pocket.

And history suggested that they might be right: the Bush tax cuts, like the TCJA, offered big breaks to the wealthy but only what amounted to loss leaders for the middle class. Yet as Larry Bartels famously documented in his paper “Homer gets a tax cut,” most people focused on their direct gains, and were unmoved by or unaware of the indirect implications of bigger deficits for government programs they depended on. As a result, the Bush tax cuts were popular – not hugely popular, but more people approved than disapproved, and they were probably a net electoral plus.

But not this time. Polling suggests that only a minority – and probably a declining minority — of the public considers the Trump tax cut a good idea. Most people don’t see any benefits from the tax cut in their paychecks. And Republicans have pretty much given up campaigning on the tax cut.

Richard Eskow: We Need a Housing Revolution Now

Here’s an experiment: If you’re not downtown as you read this, go there now and find some homeless people. They probably won’t be hard to find. Now, look at their faces.

If you can’t get downtown, look at their photographs online.

Now, imagine these same faces – just the faces – without anything to tell you that they’re homeless. They’re not that different than anyone else, are they?  Still, you may notice some differences. There may be more signs of ill health than you would find in a random sampling.

There will definitely be more people of color.

Housing Apartheid

Homeless people are, in fact, nearly four times more likely to be African American. They are eight times as likely to be Native American.

Half a century ago, the United States committed itself to housing justice. We’re not even close.

April 11, 2018 was the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act, which was designed to eliminate discrimination in housing. But signs of economic discrimination in housing are everywhere: in Black communities devastated by foreclosure, a “highly racialized” process, in the continued “redlining” of Black neighborhoods, in the long-term loss of Black wealth, in the higher lending rates charged to African-American and Hispanic home buyers…

…and in the faces of the homeless.

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Apr 19 2018

The Breakfast Club (Masters of War)

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 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) 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.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Oklahoma City bombing; Battle of Lexington and Concord; Pope Benedict XVI elected; Branch Davidian siege near Waco, TX ends.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.

P. J. O’Rourke

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 18 2018

Problems in Tortureland

You see, the thing to remember about Gina Haspel is that she’s a murdering, torturing War Criminal who not only supervised those acts herself at the CIA Black Site in Thailand but also, when returned to Langley, advocated, performed, and wrote the justification for destroying the evidence of her crimes.

She is no better than Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, or Lavrentiy Beria, in fact she is exactly the same.

Haspel confirmation hearing for CIA chief put off until May
By ELANA SCHOR, Politico
04/18/2018

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Wednesday that Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing will take place next month, additional time that could help the CIA director nominee assuage bipartisan concerns about her record on brutal interrogation practices.

President Donald Trump nominated Haspel last month, but her paperwork formally arrived in the Senate just this week. Senators in both parties are continuing to press the CIA to reveal more details about Haspel’s involvement in the George W. Bush-era “enhanced interrogation techniques” program, in which she played a key role in the use of harsh tactics tantamount to torture on detained terrorist suspects.

Burr said in a brief interview Wednesday that he would wait to hold Haspel’s confirmation hearing until after a recess scheduled for the last week in April.

That allows the Trump administration more time to schedule in-person meetings for the nominee, who has served as the CIA’s deputy director since last year. The agency has not indicated what, if any, new information it intends to share with senators about Haspel’s record.

Oh, and Mike Pompeo, current head of the CIA, may not be able to be confirmed as the new Secretary of State.

The Humbling of Mike Pompeo
by Russell Berman, The Atlantic
Apr 17, 2018

CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s nomination to serve as secretary of state is facing opposition from most Democrats and a key Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, raising the possibility that he could become the first top diplomat in the nation’s history to win confirmation without the public endorsement of the panel that oversees the State Department.

No Democrats have come out in support of Pompeo, who has failed to win any converts since he testified at his confirmation hearing last week. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who voted to approve Pompeo as CIA director a year ago, announced on Sunday that he would oppose his bid to replace Rex Tillerson, and early Tuesday evening, Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire followed suit. Fellow Democratic Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon have also announced their opposition, while Senator Chris Coons of Delaware is publicly undecided.

The first indication that Pompeo could face a tricky confirmation battle came almost immediately after Trump announced his nomination, when GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky declared his opposition based on Pompeo’s previous defense of torture and support for the NSA’s government spying programs. Paul gave no indication that he relented on Pompeo when he questioned him during last week’s confirmation hearing; he jousted with the CIA director over the constitutionality of Trump’s military strikes on Syria and over the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

“My biggest problem with your nomination is I don’t think it reflects the millions of people who voted for President Trump who actually voted for him because they thought he’d be different,” Paul told him.

Republicans have just a 51-49 majority in the Senate overall, and in the Foreign Relations Committee, Paul could hold the decisive vote. If he sides with all Democrats against confirmation, Pompeo would become the first nominee for secretary of state not to win approval from the panel since it began keeping records of such votes in 1925. Interestingly, the last senior diplomatic nominee to fall short in the Foreign Relations Committee is now Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton. The panel rejected President George W. Bush’s nomination of Bolton to serve as U.N. ambassador in 2005, and Republicans failed to defeat a Democratic filibuster to confirm him on the floor. Bush ended up installing Bolton as a recess appointment, and he served in the post for nearly a year and a half.

Senators in both parties expect Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a full floor vote on Pompeo’s nomination regardless of how the Foreign Relations Committee votes. If Paul and all 49 Democrats voted no, Pompeo would go down unless Senator John McCain of Arizona made an unlikely return from his months-long absence due to brain cancer. McCain hasn’t voted in the Senate at all in 2018.

But the assumption is that vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in red states this fall—like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana, among others—will vote to confirm Pompeo and save him, and Trump, from an embarrassing defeat. Those three voted along with 14 other Democrats to confirm him as CIA director, but they have yet to take a position on his nomination for secretary of state.

Should that happen, Pompeo would become only the second Cabinet officer on record to win confirmation by the full Senate after an unfavorable committee vote, according to the Senate Historical Office. The only other example was former Vice President Henry Wallace, who was nominated by President Franklin Roosevelt to serve as secretary of commerce in 1945 after he had dumped him as his running mate in favor of Harry Truman the year before. The last time the Senate actually rejected a presidential Cabinet nominee was in 1989, when President George H.W. Bush’s nomination of John Tower for secretary of defense went down in defeat. (Many other nominees have withdrawn once it was clear they wouldn’t secure enough votes on the floor.)

Not to mention Pompeo’s outspoken and unrepentant Islamophobia.

The only Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who are publicly undecided are “Democrat” Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Jeff Flake of Arizona.

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