Monthly Archives: April 2016

Trump’s Foreign Policy: Bad, Incoherent But Not Novel

Trump gave a rambling, incoherent and contradictory speech on Wednesday on foreign policy, that was notable because it was a prepared speech which he read off the teleprompter.  That means he actually thought about what he was going to say, and it still came out horribly.  And almost everyone agrees.  Here’s Lindsey Graham’s tweets:

Lgram1Lgram2

Trump’s theme was “America First”, a slogan which history does not paint well.  It was the slogan of Charles Lindburgh and others who advocated keeping out of World War Two.  Later, it was taken up by anti-semites.

Fred Kaplan summarizes the many other problems with the speech:

He said that, because of President Obama’s policies, our friends and allies feel they can no longer depend on us—then said that a Trump administration would quit NATO and abandon our allies in Asia entirely unless they started spending more on defense.

He said that his No. 1 national-security goal would be to defeat ISIS—then said that he would work with other nations to do so only if they “appreciate what we’ve done for them,” because for us to be good to them, “they also have to be good to us.” (There’s something childish, even narcissistic, about this demand, which he recited in the tone of a desperately firm parent.)

He said, as he has many times, that our trade deficit has severely weakened America and strengthened China—then said that we have enormous economic leverage over China and that we should use it to get China to rein in North Korea.

He said we should not help any country that isn’t our friend—then proposed easing tensions with Russia. (It’s possible to hold one view or the other, but not both.)

He said he would strengthen America’s economy in order to shrink the deficit—then said he would use the extra wealth to boost jobs, then said he would use it to increase the military budget, without the slightest recognition of possible trade-offs or the need to set priorities.

Then there are the statements, many of them reprised from debates and campaign speeches, that are simply untrue. He claimed that Iran has violated the nuclear agreement, when in fact it’s abided by the terms. He added that, because of the deal, Iran has become “a great, great power”—which must come as news to Iran’s leaders, who are frustrated that, despite the lifting of sanctions, they still can’t get much trade going with the West. He said Obama has “snubbed” Israel, when in fact many Israeli military and intelligence officers credit Obama with providing more security assistance than any recent president.

Trump added that Obama has let our nuclear arsenal atrophy, when in fact the Pentagon is spending $20 billion a year to maintain and modernize it. He said Obama’s proposed defense budget for next year (which, by the way, amounts to $608 billion) is 25 percent smaller than his budget for 2011—when, in fact, it’s larger. He said that, since 1991, the active-duty U.S. Army has shrunk from 2 million troops to 1.3 million, that the Air Force is one-third smaller, and that the Navy’s force of ships has declined from 500 to 272—which may sound alarming, until you consider (which Trump hasn’t) that the Cold War ended in 1991: It would be strange if the military hadn’t shrunk since then.

And there were the bombastic pronouncements with no basis whatsoever. “The world is more dangerous than it has ever been.” (Think about that claim for one minute, and you’ll see how absurd it is.) About ISIS, he said, “They’re going to be gone if I’m elected president, and they’ll be gone very, very quickly.” (What does this mean? Is he going to scowl at them? Nuke them?) “No one knows how to reduce debt, but I do.” (One way he reduced debt in the private sector was to buy debt-ridden companies, then abandon the creditors or offer them dimes on the dollar or nothing. International debt doesn’t work this way.) He also said, as he has before, that he opposed the Iraq war because it would destabilize the Middle East—when, in fact, he supported the invasion not long before it took place.

While conservatives hated the speech, they are themselves to blame for much of it.  Many of these “facts” and bromides rolled out by Trump (the lower military budget, Obama apologizing for America on the world stage) — these are staples in the conservative line of bullshit that just ain’t so.

What conservatives used to say with a wink and a nod, Trump lights it up with neon.  His foreign policy speech — disjointed, full of false patriotism, and simply impossible — was more of that.  No wonder the U.S. allies hated it….. and Russia loved it.

Serious Ratf*cking

Wikipedia:

Ratfucking is an American slang term for political sabotage or dirty tricks. It was first brought to public attention by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their book All the President’s Men.

Here’s what The Hill is reporting:

Multiple Facebook pages supporting Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders were abruptly removed from the social media network late last night following an apparent coordinated cyberattack.

The pro-Sanders pages — which include Bernie or Bust, Bernie Believers and Bernie Sanders is my HERO — were collectively followed by over a quarter-million supporters of the Vermont senator, and many had been operating continuously since Sanders launched his campaign last year.

The attack began around 9 p.m. EDT and lasted until just after midnight, when most of the pages recovered their accounts.

According to eyewitness reports, the pages were flooded with pornographic images in coordinated fashion and then flagged for obscene content, prompting Facebook to remove them.

“We had what looked like a kiddie porn posted in one of our groups today,” said Sanders supporter Erica Libenow, according to Heavy.com. “I reported that one. Seriously made me want to vomit.”

At least one Facebook user linked to the pro-Hillary Clinton group Bros 4 Hillary was reported to have participated in the attacks.

The Bros 4 Hillary team disavowed the user in a statement posted Tuesday morning, which condemned any “harmful or offensive rhetoric or harassing behavior targeting supporters of any other candidate in the race.”

Several websites and online forums and website attempted to draw a connection between the attacks and Clinton ally David Brock’s social media initiative, Barrier Breakers 2016, after noting that the former Bros 4 Hillary member had recently “liked” the initiative on Facebook.

According to U.S. Uncut, Brock’s super PAC Correct the Record has “earmarked $1 million for the effort … which aims to ‘correct’ Sanders supporters who criticize Hillary Clinton on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram.”

In a statement to The Hill, Correct the Record denied any involvement in the attacks.

This doesn’t sound like anything Clinton would condone, not does it sound like a pro-Clinton group.  Or a Brock’s group either.

Either this is self-sabotage by a Sanders person, or, more likely, someone on the right trying to draw a wedge between Sanders and Clinton people.  (After all, if Sanders people refuse to vote for Clinton, that offsets all the Republicans who will not vote for Trump).

Five Primaries Today

Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, and Rhode Island.

The delegates in each state are distributed proportionately on the Democratic side.  Expect Clinton to widen her lead in each state and overall.

On the Republican side, the states delegate count methods vary, but this will be a good evening for Trump.

The media is breathless about Cruz and Kasich creating an alliance (in reality show parlance) by both agreeing to let Cruz concentrate his resources in Indiana, while Kasich aims his resources at Oregon and New Mexico.  It won’t make any difference.  Trump, I believe, is on his way to 1,237, and tonight will move him much closer.

I guess what I am trying to tell everyone is that it is over.  Get ready for the general election.

God knows I am.

UPDATE:

Tonight’s races—RCP average

PENNSYLVANIA Trump +22  Clinton +16
MARYLAND Trump +21  Clinton +24
CONNECTICUT Trump +27  Clinton +6
RHODE ISLAND Trump +29  Clinton +3
DELAWARE Trump +37  Clinton +7

UPDATE #2:

Kudos to William Saletan at Slate for this article (the headline says it all though):

Bernie polls

Is Trump Being Himself? Or Is It An Act?

As the New York Times reported on Friday:

Donald J. Trump’s newly installed campaign chief sought to assure members of the Republican National Committee on Thursday night that Mr. Trump recognized the need to reshape his persona and that his campaign would begin working with the political establishment that he has scorned to great effect.

Addressing about 100 committee members at the spring meeting here, many of them deeply skeptical about Mr. Trump’s candidacy, the campaign chief, Paul Manafort, bluntly suggested the candidate’s incendiary style amounted to an act.

“That’s what’s important for you to understand: That he gets it, and that the part he’s been playing is evolving,” Mr. Manafort said, suggesting that Mr. Trump was about to begin a more professional phase of his campaign.

I wonder if Trump’s supporters know that they are watching Trump playing a part.  I suspect not.

By the way, I don’t buy into the notion that Trump will ever “pivot” and become presidential.  He’s not disciplined enough to do it anyway, and his success comes from being an asshole.

Also, Trump slowed down 50% sounds like a complete drunk.

Tim Robbins Needs A Time Out

So there’s that.  Tim Robbins thinks there is voter fraud because exit polls don’t match with actual results.

Never mind that historically, exit polls are usually pretty inaccurate.  And never mind how 10% of Democratic votes in almost every states are fraudulent (just how does one organize fraud on that scale involving so many people?)

He’s also promoting the ridiculous idea that the Correct the Record PAC, formed to push back against anti-Hillary smears circulating on social media, is a diabolical conspiracy to harass and attack Bernie’s supporters. And he’s not the only Bernie supporter going ballistic over this

It’s pretty depressing to see so-called liberals and progressives doing the right wing’s job for them, and sounding almost exactly like the much crazier loons at Breitbart “News.” I really don’t like to see people like Robbins, whose work I’ve admired and who seems like a pretty good person normally, be manipulated by deceptive right wing propaganda.

If this is a Trump-Clinton contest, as I expect to be, the only way Clinton could lose is if lunacy like this takes off.

Voter ID Upheld In NC

The New York Times reports:

“North Carolina’s voter identification law requires people to display one of six credentials, such as a driver’s license or passport, before casting a ballot. Those who cannot may complete a “reasonable impediment declaration” and cast a provisional ballot.

“Although critics of the law said that the voter identification standard was a cloaked effort to disenfranchise black and Hispanic voters, Judge Schroeder, who presided over a highly technical trial that began in January, dismissed such arguments.

“‘Plaintiffs’ contention that North Carolina’s requirement is one of the strictest in the country ignores the reasonable impediment exception,’ Judge Schroeder, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote. ‘If North Carolina is an outlier, it is because it is one of only two states in the nation to accommodate voters who wish to vote in person but for whatever reason face an impediment to acquiring qualifying ID.'”

The Raleigh News & Observer reports civil rights organizations condemned the ruling:

“‘The sweeping barriers imposed by this law undermine voter participation and have an overwhelmingly discriminatory impact on African-Americans,’ Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. ‘This ruling does not change that reality. We are already examining an appeal.’

“An appeal is likely and many expect the U.S. Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of the constitutionality of a law that has been monitored by many.

“‘We’re confident that the voters in this state will eventually be vindicated,’ said Allison Riggs, a senior staff attorney at Southern Coalition for Social Justice, which represented challengers to the law.”

In a statement, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said the ruling affirms that requiring a photo ID to vote is “not only common-sense, it’s constitutional.”  He added: “Common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and thankfully a federal court has ensured our citizens will have the same protection for their basic right to vote.”

McCrory keeps intoning “common sense”, as he did with HB2.  Apparently, to him “common sense” means fixing a problem that doesn’t exist, like voter fraud (the court opinion even acknowledges that there hasn’t ever been any voter fraud in North Carolina), and like men pretending to be transsexuals in public restrooms.

I am not confident this will be overturned on appeal.  However, I think the minority community will mobilize to register and take it out against the Republicans who pass these kind of laws in the first place.

A net plus.

Breaking: Today’s Mass Murder

Peeples OH:

Several fatalities have been reported in shootings at multiple locations on Union Hill Road in Pike County just northeast of Peebles, according to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Two adults and five children have been shot to death, according to Pastor Phil Fulton of the nearby Union Hill Church.

The number of fatalities is unconfirmed.  Also unconfirmed is whether there is someone in custody.

pikecounty

UPDATE:  Seven confirmed dead.  Apparently all in a family.  Bodies found in multiple locations throughout county.

Not two adults and five children, but five adults and two children.  Found shot “execution-style”.  No news on the suspect, but he must be either caught or dead since there is no news of a manhunt or lockdowns.

UPDATE #2:  Make that right dead.  Another adult found at a fourth location.

Breaking: RIP Prince

Shock.

Prince was 57.  Police are investigating the death at his estate in Carver County, Minnesota.

Earlier this month, he said he wasn’t feeling well, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and canceled at least one concert in the city. Some days later, he took the stage in Atlanta to perform. After that concert, the singer’s plane made an emergency landing, the singer’s spokesperson Yvette Noel-Schure told CNN. At the time she said, “He is fine and at home.”

Prince Rogers Nelson owned the year 1984 — in fact most of the mid-80s — in many ways more so than Michael Jackson.  During the week of July 27, 1984, Prince’s film Purple Rain hit number one at the box office. That same week, the film’s soundtrack was the best-selling album and “When Doves Cry” was holding the top spot for singles.

He also wrote songs for other people: “Manic Monday” for the Bangles, “I Feel For You” for Chaka Khan, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” for Sinéad O’Connor.

Here are Prince’s 40 biggest Billboard Hot 100 hits:

Rank, Title, Hot 100 Peak Year, Position (Weeks Spent at No. 1)
1, “When Doves Cry,” 1984, No. 1 (5)*
2, “Kiss,” 1986, No. 1 (2)*
3, “Let’s Go Crazy,” 1984, No. 1 (2)
4, “Cream,” 1991, No. 1 (2)**
5, “Batdance,” 1989, No. 1 (1)
6, “Raspberry Beret,” 1985, No. 2*
7, “U Got the Look,” 1987, No. 2
8, “Purple Rain,” 1984, No. 2*
9, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” 1994, No. 3
10, “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” 1987, No. 3
11, “Little Red Corvette,” 1983, No. 6
12, “Diamonds and Pearls,” 1992, No. 3**
13, “Thieves in the Temple,” 1990, No. 6
14, “Pop Life,” 1985, No. 7*
15, “Delirious,” 1983, No. 8
16, “I Would Die 4 U,” 1985, No. 8*
17, “7,” 1993, No. 7**
18, “Alphabet St.,” 1988, No. 8
19, “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” 1988, No. 10
20, “1999,” 1983, No. 12
21, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” 1980, No. 11
22, “Partyman,” 1989, No. 18
23, “Gett Off,” 1991, No. 21**
24, “Mountains,” 1986, No. 23*
25, “Take Me With You,” 1985, No. 25***
26, “The Arms of Orion,” 1989, No. 36****
27, “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” 1992, No. 23**
28, “I Hate U,” 1995, No. 12
29, “LetItGo,” 1994, No. 31
30, “America,” 1985, No. 46*
31. “The Morning Papers,” 1993, No. 44
32. “Anotherloverholenyohead,” 1986, No. 63*
33. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married/Irresistible Bitch,” 1984, No. 52*
34. “My Name Is Prince,” 1992, No. 36**
35. “Hot Thing,” 1988, No. 63
36. “Pink Cashmere,” 1993, No. 50
37. “Controversy,” 1981, No. 70
38. “Call My Name,” 2004, No. 75
39. “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold,” 2000, No. 63
40. “New Power Generation,” 1990, No. 64

Forget the eccentricity and vanity. Fantastic guitarist and writer and showman.  Like the late David Bowie, he was another gender-bender and barrier breaker.

Prince sold 100+ million records, won 7 Grammys and destroyed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004 at a tribute to George Harrison.  Some call this the greatest live guitar solo performance of all time (it starts around 3:25)

For my money, his best song was Raspberry Beret, and the video was awesome.  The long version.  Which hard to find.  But here is the link.  The part where he coughs up a furrball within this shiny production number gives me pure joy.

Prince’s unreleased catalog is nearly as expansive as his official discography.  Because of his protectiveness, plus ongoing copyright and distributor disputes, there’s not a lot of Prince stuff out there.  But here’s a rarity — a Prince cover of Honky Tonk Woman:

UPDATE:  Poor Wolf Blitzer on CNN.  I guess he’s thinking Hendrix died (again).  Keeps referring to “Purple Haze” instead of “Purple Rain”.

NEXT DAY UPDATE:  All the tributes…

Why I Am An Elitist

I’ve been called an “elitist”, which is a nice way of saying “snob”.

And I totally fess up to being an elitist.  I do.  I think the masses are dolts.  Look at the Republican Party.  The candidates being thrown up as the leaders did not come from a bunch of party regulars smoking cigars in the back room.  They were elected by the people.  And what did the masses give to America?

Donald Trump.

And Ted Cruz.

For president.  President.

So no, I don’t have much faith in the people.  And if that makes me an elitist, then yup.  I am one.

Titanic Sinks In Real Time

It’s hard to imagine what it felt like to be on the RMS Titanic after the ship struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean more than a century ago. But a new game aims to put you as close as possible. The game, called “Titanic: Honor and Glory,” follows a fictional character named Owen Robert Morgan,…

Pity Ted

Ted Cruz sent out the fundraising letter a couple of days ago:

cruzletter

Poor poor man  He wants to be the most powerful man in the world, and it’s HARD!

Elizabeth Warren laid into him:

Honestly, Cruz could not have teed it up better if he tried.

The Tubman Freakout

Seriously?

That’s Fox’s Greta Van Susteren saying that Obama is needlessly “dividing the country” by replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20, with Harriet Tubman.

Has this woman lost her mind?  Dividing the country between who and who?

Or is it personal (she does resemble Jackson)?

e6b26c78e3194337bbc5f12c2f060419

Then, Van Susteren had a suggestion as to how the Obama administration could have avoided “dividing the country”:

Give Tubman her own bill. Like a $25 bill. We could use a $25 bill. Put her picture on that and we could all celebrate. That’s the smart and easy thing to do. But no, some people don’t think and would gratuitously stir up conflict in the nation. That is so awful, and yes, dumb.

Right.  Because that worked so well the Susan B Anthony coin.  It flopped, the US Treasury ended up with 520 million surplus coins after halting production. A $25 bill would be even more contrived, and it would end up creating more work in retail stores, banks, and so on in separate handling of the currency from $20s and $50s.  There’s simply no NEED for it.

Van Susteren isn’t alone in this.  Trump has called it political correctness.  Ben Carson thinks Tubman should go on a $2.

But here’s the thing: the all LOVE that she is on our money.  It’s the OTHER people who are offended by Treasury Secretary Lew and Obama.

Anyway, time to learn about Tubman:

Trump Shouldn’t Talk About Things

He took questions on the Today show today:

Q: Tell us your views of LGBT and how you plan to be inclusive. Please speak about the North Carolina bathroom law.

A: ”North Carolina did something that was very strong and they’re paying a big price and there’s a lot of problems,” said Trump, who would have left things as they were. “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate, there has been so little trouble.” He said that instead, the new law has brought tremendous economic “strife” for the state, including various boycotts by entertainers and major businesses. “Leave it the way it is.”

Okay, kudos.  It was the right answer, and in stark contrast to Ted Cruz, who actually defended HB2 last week. During an MSNBC town hall, Cruz said, “As the father of daughters, I’m not terribly excited about men being able to go alone into a bathroom with my daughters, and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable determination for the people to make.”

I am not confident that Trump supporters will agree with him on this.

But then this….

Q: Regarding news that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill: Was the move an act of political correctness or a long-overdue gesture?

A: Trump hailed Jackson as a president with a “great history of tremendous success” and said he would rather leave Jackson on the bill. “I think it’s pure political correctness. Been on the bill for many, many years and really represented somebody that was very important to this country,” he said. He suggested putting Tubman on the $2 bill or creating a new one altogether. “I would love to see another denomination, and that could take place, I think it would be more appropriate.”

Jackson had a “great history of tremendous success” if that means successfully relocating the Native Americans and laying the groundwork for the Civil War.  Seriously, Trump has no clue what Jackson did.  And if you ask around (or Google), the truth is that nobody has the slightest idea how Jackson got on the $20 bill in the first place.

No really, we checked. The Treasury Department, which has the authority to determine who appears on what bills (so long as that individual is already dead), says on its Web site that its own historical records “do not suggest” why certain presidents ended up on certain bills during a blitz of portrait selections in 1928.

In fact, Jackson was opposed to the creation of paper money.

But I digress.

Let me return to Trump.  The slam on “political correctness”?  Listen, even I believe we can go too far sometimes in pointing out and correcting perceived social slights.  But political correctness means nothing more than showing respect for, and occasionally honoring, minority viewpoints.  And when rich white men like Donald Trump take a slam at political correctness, you know what they are talking about.  It’s the death cry of the white American male, seeing his power and influence diminished by the rise of (oh, the horror!) women and minorities.  For some, slamming political correctness offers an excuse for blatant bigotry.

Consider the contrast between the two questions put to Trump above,  He is clearly capable of seeing discrimination — he has no problem letting Kaitlen Jenner use whatever bathroom she wants in Trump Tower.  And yet, put a black woman on the $20?  Why, that’s political correctness gone awry.

What’s the difference?

Speaking of Trump, I came across this, which I clip from the Baltimore Sun:

trumpsupporter

Hey nineteen.  STFU.

New York Primary

It went as I said. Clinton and Trump victories.

The average poll had Clinton winning by 12 points. She won by 16 points.

The Bernie upset never materialized. It never had a chance.  Let’s hope Bernie doesn’t burn the house in the next few weeks.

The average poll had Trump by 32. He won by 35.  Kasich, not Cruz, came in second.

Trump won every New York county — except Manhattan, where he lives and works and where he is best known.

Court Opinion: 4th Circuit Sides with Transgender High School Student Suing School Board for Access to Boy’s Bathroom

The Fourth Circuit just reversed a lower Virginia court, which had tossed a lawsuit by a transgender boy against the school district which barred his access to the boy’s room.

Not a final decision on the merits — the case was handed back down to the Virginia federal court.  But a good harbinger, since on other federal appeals court has weighed in on the issue.

I should also mention that my city did a good thing last night, if only symbolic:

The Winston-Salem City Council approved Monday night a resolution highly critical of much of the new House Bill 2 legislation that has set off controversy in the state and beyond over transgender restroom use and LGBT rights.

On a 6-1 vote, the council approved a resolution drawn up by Council Member Dan Besse calling on the city’s representatives in Raleigh to work toward undoing “inadequately considered and damaging legislative changes” that opponents see in the law.

The Besse resolution doesn’t mention the Charlotte restroom ordinance that provoked the General Assembly into action, one that would have given transgender people the right to use the restroom corresponding to their chosen gender identification. In fact, Besse said all along he wouldn’t ask council members to take a stand on that issue.

But Besse’s resolution does fault HB2 for taking away the ability of local governments to enact local ordinances concerning discrimination. As well, the resolution criticizes the law for preventing local governments from influencing private employer worker benefits by making the benefits a condition for getting a city contract.

The resolution carries no legal weight, but adds Winston-Salem to the growing list of N.C. cities voicing opposition to the new law.

The one Republican who voted against even has some problems with HB2:

Council Member Robert Clark, the board’s only Republican, was also the sole member to vote against the resolution. But Clark voiced concerns about some aspects of HB2 that he believes should be reconsidered, although he said he shares the concerns voiced by lawmakers about “male genitalia in female locker rooms” that were voiced when the bill was passed.

“At the same time, I recognize the difficulty a transgender person would have navigating a very private dilemma,” Clark said, adding that a third restroom might be a solution but isn’t one that has been proposed.

“We must, as a state, develop policies that protect civil rights of all persons while equally protecting the privacy rights of all as well,” Clark said.

And our AG made this point:

Besse’s resolution and Clark both took issue with the provision of HB2 that prevents someone from suing in state court for any kind of discrimination.

And one of Clark’s objections isn’t mentioned in Besse’s resolution but was pointed out as a problem with the legislation by Angela Carmon, the city attorney.

Carmon recently said the state law’s anti-discrimination measures — which do not mention sexual orientation or gender identity — could, if applied to the city’s own employment practices, put the city at odds with federal civil rights regulations that are increasingly being interpreted as covering sexual orientation and gender identity.

So. Yeah.  Good thing.

Start Spreading The Non-News

It’s the day of the New York primary, y’all!!

And while the media has been trying its darnedest to make this an interesting primary day, the results are obvious to anyone paying attention:  Trump wins, Clinton wins.

Twas ever thus.  Seriously.  They were ahead when all eyes turned to NY, and they’re still ahead now.

NYPrimary

But now you can enjoy a post-New York spate of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump comeback stories.

I’ll save you the trouble.  Here are the headlines of these stories?

“Does Bernie Have A Realistic Path To Victory?”  [Answer: No]

“Should Bernie Drop Out?”  [Answer: No]

“Does Trump’s NY Victory Stave Off A Contested GOP Convention?”  [Answer: Not completely, but it helps]

As to this last point, Sam Wang at Princeton University thinks a Trump win in New York of 54% gives him 86 out of the 95 NY delegates.  And so the probability of getting to 1237 or more delegates is at 64 percent.  Here’s his work, and here’s the key chart with assumptions:

GOP update  pre New York

But then Wang adds this caveat:

Alternate scenarios: Trump’s Meta-Margin is +1.5%; if he falls by that much, then the probability of clearing 1237 pledged delegates falls to 50%. This calculation excludes uncommitted delegates and assumes all assigned delegates remain faithful to their voters. Under uncertain conditions (I regard 20-80% probability as uncertain territory, and 64% is right in there), within a limited range, each additional (or removed) delegate alters the probability by approximately 0.5%.

For example, this survey of Pennsylvania delegates suggests that 20% of district-level delegates would be likely to defect – usually because they are Cruz supporters. That would cost Trump an average of 11 delegates (assuming he sweeps all districts). If 11 Pennsylvania delegates are faithless, then the probability of getting to 1237 or greater drops from 64% to 59%. At this rate of defection, the calculation gives a median of 1255 delegates, interquartile range 1199-1294. However, I note that we do not know if Trump voters will willingly vote for Cruz-committed delegates.

Conversely, if 20 uncommitted delegates are recruited, then the probability goes up to 74%. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide how much to add or subtract.

Yeah, I don’t know what that means either.

BUT, the point of this post is to say that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will win their home state of New York.  Clinton supporters will breathe (another) sigh of relief as Sanders’ ultimate doom looms closer.  And the Sanders campaign, and his supporters, will get more petulant and desperate, adding to the unnecessary tribalism that will hurt Democrats in the general.

Concept Creep And Why We Suddenly Are All Made Of Candy Glass

When I grew up, third graders could walk to school, play alone at the park, or bike 10 minutes to a friend’s house without anyone worrying or objecting, so long as they came home for supper or before the street lights came on.

Today, though kidnapping is just as rare, a parent who allows that same behavior is at risk of arrest or even losing custody of their children to their state’s child protective services bureaucracy.

Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s…

For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied. The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.

Then there’s the high school senior complains to her Facebook friends about a teacher and is suspended for “cyberbullying.”

Or students at Wellesley who start a petition calling for the removal of a statue of a man in his underwear, claiming that the art piece caused them emotional trauma.

Or the residents of Santa Monica, California, claim to need emotional support animals that the local farmer’s market warns against service dog fraud.

What the hell is this?

I think a psychologist named Nick Haslam may have nailed it.  He calls it “concept creep”.  Basically, he argues, concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena than before. This expansion takes “horizontal” and “vertical” forms: concepts extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena and downward to capture quantitatively less extreme phenomena.

So, as we become educate (and educate others) to the concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, addiction, sexual harassment, prejudice, etc., the behaviors that constitute abuse, bullying, etc. become watered down.

Haslam suggests this happens as a result of a liberal moral agenda.  I don’t know if agree, but I certainly don’t want to suggest that we shouldn’t address — in a progressive way — certain societal problems.  I just think that when we talk about, say, parental abuse — a serious problem — we should not define it so broadly so as to include what happened to Debra Harrell who let her kid play in a park.

It’s like when Ainsley Hayes on The West Wing explains about feminism, and how there are “honest-to-God” problems facing women and calling out the petty stuff gets in the way of addressing the real problems.

So to the extent that concept creep has society tied up in knots, making everyone a whiny victim of [name your poison] , maybe we need to buck up and address REAL bullying, REAL abuse, REAL prejudice, etc.

Here’s the Haslam monograph:

MAB 370 Update

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board when it disappeared from radar shortly after takeoff on March 8, 2014. Radar tracking showed the plane made at least three unexpected turns without the pilots signaling an emergency, and hourly satellite signals suggested the plane headed to the remote Indian Ocean before running out of fuel.

An international search effort to find the aircraft turned up nothing — no debris, no bodies, no oil slick.

However, on December 27, 2015 and February 27 2016, two items of debris were independently found, approximately 220km apart, on the Mozambique coast.  Assistance from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) was requested by the Malaysian Government in the formal identification of the items to determine if they came from the Malaysian Airlines Berhad (MAB) Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO, operating as MH370.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is investigating the disappearance of flight MH370, concluded in its report today the following:

Part No. 1 was a flap track fairing segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

Part No. 2 was a horizontal stabiliser panel segment, almost certainly from the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft, registered 9M-MRO.

The key to the findings surround some stenciled code on the parts — the stencils make it clear that these are like;y parts associated with a Malaysian Arilines Boeing 777 craft.  Some details (click to embiggen):

mabparts

At the time of writing, ongoing work was being conducted with respect to the marine ecology identification as well as testing of material samples. The results from these tests will be provided to the Malaysian investigation team once complete.

Until now, the only other confirmed piece of debris from the Boeing 777 was a wing part that washed ashore on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion last year.  Authorities could not confirm the Reunion debris was from Malaysian Air (but it was pretty likely).

Taken together, the debris findings are consistent with the belief that MAB 370 crashed somewhere in a remote stretch of the southern Indian Ocean about 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) east of Mozambique. Authorities had predicted that any debris from the plane that isn’t on the ocean floor would eventually be carried by currents to the east coast of Africa. However, given the vast distances involved, the variability of winds and the time that has elapsed, it is impossible for experts to retrace the parts’ path back to where they first entered the water.

Love me some airplane forensics.

Anyone Can Whistle

And it’s not hard to hear the dog whistle Trump is sending to his supporters:

“I hope it doesn’t involve violence. I hope it doesn’t. I’m not suggesting that,” Trump told reporters on Sunday here in Staten Island. “I hope it doesn’t involve violence, and I don’t think it will. But I will say this, it’s a rigged system, it’s a crooked system. It’s 100 percent corrupt.”

One could argue that he’s just, you know, blabbing, but honestly, I do think that Trump knows exactly what he is saying.  He is sending a tacit message, maybe in the form of wishful thinking aloud, and knows that some of his supporters will actually make good and bring about violence.  Trump wants that.

Or at least the threat of it.  It’s kind of shot across the bow to the RNC as well as Republicans: support me at the convention… or else!

This is starting to get real.

Palin Broaches The Subject Of Science And Fails

Oh, honey.  Don’t go there:

“Bill Nye is as much a scientist as I am,” Palin said at a Capitol Hill event held to roll out a film that aims to discredit climate scientists. “He’s a kids’ show actor; he’s not a scientist.

Bill Nye is a kids’ show host AND a scientist.  I mean,he’s not a PhD, but he has a BA in mechanical engineering and he teaches astronomy and ecology at Cornell.

And as for Palin’s scientific creds? Umm….

After graduating from high school in 1982, Palin enrolled at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, Palin transferred to Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu for a semester in the fall of 1982 and then to North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d’Alene, for the spring and fall semesters of 1983 She enrolled at the University of Idaho in Moscow for an academic year starting in August 1984 and then attended Matanuska-Susitna College in Alaska in the fall of 1985. Palin returned to the University of Idaho in January 1986 and received her bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in journalism in May 1987

So, like five colleges in five years for a B.A. in communications (with an emphasis in journalism — odd for a woman who couldn’t name a newspaper in front of Katie Couric).

Pretty sure Bill Nye is the go-to guy on science.

The Yahoos Get Their Day In Court

Remember that 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge that finally ended with one dude getting killed?

Yeah, it’s still a rallying cry for the lunatic right, who love to carry around the Constitution but haven’t bothered to have it read and explained to them (except by other lunatics).

Seven men are facing federal charges of conspiracy, weapon, theft and damaging government property charges in Portland, Oregon.  Five of them appeared in court Friday and not surprisingly, it was a circus.  I guess they don’t recognize the authority of the court over them.

Two sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and three other men refused to enter pleas in federal court in Las Vegas to charges in an armed confrontation with government agents two years ago.

Magistrate Judge George Foley Jr. entered not guilty pleas on behalf of each man during a sometimes contentious arraignment that featured cat-calls and cheers from about 30 Bundy backers and defendants’ family members, under watchful eyes of about a dozen U.S. marshals.

“We don’t need any outbursts,” Foley warned from the U.S. District Court bench Friday. Twice he told the restive audience, “This is not a show.”

Oh, it will be.  Here’s how I know (emphasis mine)

His brother and co-defendant, Ryan Bundy, professed to understand his rights but not the charges against him. He also said he wants to serve as his own lawyer.

Yup.  Bundy is going to put The United States Government (a federal corporation) on trial!!

“You’re out of order!  You’re out of order!  This whole country’s out of order!”

Payne told the judge it was “preposterous, sir,” to have to defend himself against federal charges in two jurisdictions at the same time.

“I don’t understand the pretense of this level of government to bring forth such charges,” he added.

Brian Cavalier finished his arraignment — “I will not be entering a plea today,” he said — by offering federal prosecutors a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution.

Jesus wept.  Madison too.

 

The Science Behind HB2

Well, what do you know.

It turns out that there are people who actually know a thing or two about gender determination from a scientific and factual point of view.  They’re called “scientists”.  And they have to educate the Governor and the North Carolina General Assembly, who don’t bother to educate themselves before passing laws.

Here’s a letter from twenty pediatric endocrinologists explaining that gender is not binary.

April 17, 2016

Dear Governor McCrory:

As North Carolinians and Pediatricians with specialty training in Endocrinology, we respectfully request that you reconsider Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (HB2).

A law that defines biological sex as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate” is inherently flawed and potentially harmful to a group of children that we care for in our pediatric practices. As professional experts in the field of chromosomes and genital anatomy, we provide professional consultation to our colleagues on babies in whom assigning sex may not be possible at the time of birth. For example, there are babies born in whom chromosomes suggesting one sex do not match the appearance of the genitalia. This can be due to multiple biological causes such as chromosome abnormalities, abnormalities in anatomic development, environmental exposures during pregnancy, genetic mutations in the synthesis and actions of adrenal and gonadal hormones, and tumors that make sex hormones. For these children, gender assignment at birth is challenging and takes substantial time- sometimes requiring re-evaluation over months to years.  Severe hormonal imbalances at birth may also result in gender assignments at the time of the birth that may require reassignment later in life.

Our patients already face major medical and social challenges and HB2 creates unnecessary hardship for these vulnerable youth. We respectfully ask you to repeal this hurtful bill.

Respectfully,

Deanna W.Adkins, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
Evelyn Artz, MD
Pediatric Endocrinology
Mission Children’s Specialties
Mission Children’s Hospital
Robert Benjamin, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
Ali S. Calikoglu, MD
Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cathrine Constantacos, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Section of Pediatric Endocrinology
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Brenner Children’s Hospital
A. Joseph D’Ercole, MD
Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Estrada, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Chief, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Michael Freemark, MD
Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Professor of Pediatrics
Chief, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
 Nancy E. Friedman MD
Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
Pinar Gumus Balikcioglu, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
Nina Jain, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology|
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Kateryna Kotlyarevska, MD
Pediatric Endocrinology
New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Jennifer Law, MD, MSCR
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Nancie MacIver, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics,
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes
Duke University Medical Center
Shipra Patel, MD
Adjunct Faculty of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Elizabeth Sandberg, MD
Incoming Fellow
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Robert Schwartz,MD
Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics
Section of Pediatric Endocrinology
Wake Forest Baptist Health
Brenner Children’s Hospital
Maureen A. Su, MD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Bradly Thrasher, DO
Fellow
Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Lory Wagner, MD
Pediatric Endocrinology
Mission Children’s Specialties
Mission Children’s Hospital

Yup.  Let’s set aside transgender people and consider this, from Slate story from 2004 which highlights another issue — the intersex birth. Step too far outside established lines and you’ve become a “disorder” (emphasis mine):

Approximately 10 times a year in Houston, at the birth of a certain type of baby, a special crisis team at Texas Children’s Hospital springs into action. Assembled in 2001, the unusual team includes a psychologist, urologist, geneticist, endocrinologist, and ethicist. Its mission: to counsel parents of infants sometimes referred to as “intersex” babies—that is, babies of indeterminate physical gender.

That such a team exists—and that it often counsels deferring surgery for infants who are otherwise healthy—reflects a radical new thinking among doctors about gender identity and outside efforts to shape it. Instead of surgically “fixing” such children to make them (visually, at least) either male or female, a handful of U.S. specialists now argue that such infants should be left alone and eventually be allowed to choose their gender identity. The approach challenges decades of conventional wisdom about what to do with infants whose genitalia don’t conform to the “norm.” Until very recently, such children were automatically altered with surgery, often with tragic consequences.

Oh, The Tone!! It Burns!

I haven’t bought into the media narrative about the alleged acrimony between Clinton and Sanders.  I thought it was media hype — sort of wishful thinking to boost ratings by making the Dems seems as “entertaining” as the Republicans.

I know it exists among the supporters of Clinton and Sanders.  I know many of the Sanders supporters are just plain belligerent, and naive.  I guess because Hillary came on the scene before they were born, some of the millennials — who know shit about politics (yeah, I went there) — think she is like Trump and the rest of them.

But listening to most of last night’s debate, I admit there is animosity, and it goes right to the top. A very different tone than most of the other debates. Last night’s debate was nasty, sarcastic and personal.  Others noticed:

Okay, mercy! Make it stop already.

For months I remained relentlessly cheerful about the overall quality of the Democratic primary competition. The contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders offered such a bright and bracing contrast to all those professional wrestlers emerging from the RNC’s clown car. Hillary and Bernie spoke so nimbly of policy and differing approaches to implementing change. They both evinced competence, intelligence, respect, and even affection for one another. (I’m sick and tired of hearing about your emails, Hillary! Let’s move on from that time your campaign stole my data, Bernie!)

In fact, my biggest complaint, for lo those many months, was: not enough debating.

***

Thursday brought Democrats, including me, our fondest wish and dream: another debate!

And from the start it was clear that this whole civil, respectful race had just deteriorated into some kind of nerdy Punch & Judy show, in which everyone screamed at each other, and over each other (and over the moderators) about 501c4s and Dodd Frank.

I think Sanders realizes New York is his last stand, and I don’t blame him for trying to win.

And every time Sanders came after Clinton, she reflexively fought back, instead of neutralizing him by agreeing with him.  Why, for example, couldn’t she simply agree that our friend Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been, at times, disproportionately brutal?  Does she really lose votes by saying that?

But generally, the debate left me a little concerned that we might be rending the party in a way that will hurt us in the general.  I’m not suggesting that Bernie Sanders needs to drop out — even if his shot is a long shot, he is still entitled to run.   But as far as debates go, we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns and are running the risk of damaging the eventual nominee in the upcoming general election.

Bernie needs to die with a whimper and not a bang.  This last ditch acrimony (and Clinton playing into it) is a very bad development.

Good News From Newtown

conn_school_shooting

The lawsuit survives:

BRIDGEPORT – In a shot heard around the nation’s gun makers and dealers, a Superior Court judge Thursday refused to toss out the lawsuit by the families of the Sandy Hook victims against the manufacturer of the gun used by Adam Lanza to kill the 26 school children and teachers in December 2012.

Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that the federal law protecting gun makers from lawsuits does not override the “legal sufficiency” of the claims by the Sandy Hook families that the gun used by Lanza should never have been made available for sale to civilians.

The judge ruled the lawsuit will go on and all sides are to report to her courtroom on April 19 for a status conference.

In January 2015, the families of 10 victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy filed suit against the Remington Arms Company, the maker of the Bushmaster AR-15, used by Lanza, Camfour Holding LLC, the gun’s distributor and Riverview Sales, the store where Lanza’s mother bought the gun. They claimed the gun maker and sellers knew that civilians are unfit to operate the assault rifle and yet continue selling it to civilians disregarding the threat the gun poses.

The lawsuit also alleges that Remington and the other defendants “Unethically, oppressively, immorally and unscrupulously marketed and promoted the assaultive qualities and military uses of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.”

On Dec. 11, 2015, Remington, Camfour and the gun store asked Judge Bellis to throw out the lawsuit, claiming they are immune from the families’ claims under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. A hearing on the defendants’ motion was held on Feb. 22.

PLCAA bars lawsuits against manufacturers and sellers of a product that is used in a criminal action.

However, in analyzing the federal law, Bellis points out that a federal court previously ruled that PLCAA states a lawsuit against a manufacturer may not be brought and the statement, “May not,” is not a clear statement from congress limiting the power of courts in the cases.

“The court concludes that any immunity that PLCAA may provide does not implicate this court’s subject matter jurisdiction,” Bellis ruled in her 18-page decision. “Accordingly, the defendants’ motions to dismiss, in which they claim that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, cannot be granted on the basis of PLCAA.”

It’s important to understand that this is a ruling on subject matter jurisdiction, i.e., whether the court has the power to decide the case at all.  It has nothing to do with the merits of the case.  Still, the PLCAA was, and still is, a huge obstacle in this lawsuit.  Nice to have it beat out once.

Not Mincing Words

Must be hard to be a true conservative these days.  Conservative blogger Jeff Goldstein blows a gasket:

If you are a Trump supporter you learned nothing from this site, nothing from me, nothing from conservatism, nothing from Classical Liberalism, nothing from constitutionalism, nothing from the entrenched establishment dominance over our vote and our lives, nothing about federalism, nothing about a party system, and nothing about morality, ethics, or consistency. You missed every point about the necessity of retaking language and tethering meaning to its source.

Instead, you’ve embraced the most vulgar form of progressive populism and paranoid isolationism. You’ve embraced the very anti-foundationalism and Alinsky tactics that animate and enable the leftist epistemological paradigm, all in the service of a fraud. You have thrown in — whether you like it or not — with people who have repeatedly accused me of being a puppet of the establishment, a “kike,” a “cuck,” and a race traitor, despite my having worked for years to upend the GOP establishment, to fight the scourge of anti-assimilationist multiculturalism and immigration, to expose the fraud of the diversity project and academic leftism dressed up as pragmatism, to expose the political cynicism of racialism, and to detail the mechanisms behind identity politics’ infiltration into our political orthodoxies at the level of established “truths.”

I have fifteen years worth of archives to speak to my intellectual honesty and commitment to principle. I am proud of those efforts.

It doesn’t sound like he’s the victim of “Alinsky tactics” (I don’t even know what that means), but the tactics of the right — i.e., identity politics. Goldstein and his ilk have, for years, reduced political viewpoints to simplistic labeling..  Now that he finds those labels applied to him (“cuck” etc), suddenly he sees it from a different angle.

Classic case of the chickens coming home to roost.

He then goes on to explain he is being attacked by Trump supporters for being a part of the machine that is “stealing” this election from Trump.  Which, admittedly, is a bullshit accusation against him… or anybody for that matter:

Here’s the truth: Trump has received 45% of the delegates with 36% of the vote. He’s won several caucus states and didn’t complain then. I’ve heard not one of his supporters argue that winner-take-all races in Florida, or full delegate takes in South Carolina — in neither of which state did he get a majority — disenfranchised those who voted for someone other than Trump and who will have no representation on the first ballot at a contested GOP convention. The truth is, the “system” has helped him, as it does most front runners who aren’t total incompetents and phony Republicans.

Yup.

You Trump backers are dishonest shills praying at the altar of a false god. You are fine with populist authoritarianism so long as you believe it is you who will benefit from the king’s beneficence. You are, in short, Obama voters with Rs attached to your names. You are the problem.

So. Here’s my message: Get the fuck out. I don’t want you around. You are my fault, in part — and for that I apologize to thinking people and actual Constitutionalists and TEA Party conservatives everywhere and forever.

THAT is amazingly refreshing.  I don’t get or agree with this guy’s politics, but it is nice to see him acknowledge how his tactics led (in part) to Trumpism.

Anyway, he concludes:

Donald Trump is everything I’ve spent years condemning.

Fuck him, and fuck every last one of you who would even consider casting a vote for this gauche, tin-plated con man — no matter how much gold leaf he deploys to elevate his needy, narcissistic facade among cultists, morons, and the easily taken.

Go.

The end.

That’s pretty epic.

I left out some of the best parts — specifically, the part where he describes how Trump is not a conservative.  Which is undeniably true.  He’s not a progressive either.  He’s just…. Trump.  Yes, in many ways, he is unconventional — certainly in his approach to politics.  But in many ways, he has the worst features of what everybody hates about politicians –he is in it for himself and on many issues — not all, but many — he just puts his finger up in the air to see which way the prevailing wind blows.

So at the end of the day, I have to feel bad for conservative bloggers like Goldstein.  Some schadenfraude, but most sadness.  And relief that it didn’t happen on the Dem side.

Distracted Driving

Put it down:

BERLIN — A railway dispatcher apparently caused the deadly collision of two trains in the German state of Bavaria on Feb. 9 because he was playing a game on his cellphone until just before the accident, according to state prosecutors.

Breaking: Governor McSmarmy Doubles Down But Also Retreats

Feeling the heat:

RALEIGH, N.C. – Governor McCrory signed an executive order Tuesday that clarifies existing state law and provides new protection for North Carolina residents.

According to the Governor’s Office, Executive Order 93 does the following:

  • Maintains the common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and schools.
  • Affirms the private sector’s right to establish its own restroom and locker room policies.
  • Affirms the private sector and local governments’ right to establish its own non-discrimination employment policies for its own employees
  • Expands the state’s employment policy for state employees to cover sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Seeks legislation to reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination

According to a statement released by McCrory’s office, North Carolina is now one of 24 states that have protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for its employees.

“After listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina,” said Governor McCrory. “Based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”

Governor McCrory released the following statement in a video with the announcement of the executive order:

North Carolina proudly welcomes all people to live, work and visit our great state.

We didn’t become the ninth most populous state in the nation by accident. We have long held traditions of both ensuring equality for all of our citizens and our visitors, while also respecting the privacy of everyone.

We are also a state that strives to allow our people and businesses to be as independent as possible without overreaching government regulations.

These North Carolina values of privacy and equality came into conflict recently when the Charlotte City Council passed a new mandate that forced on businesses a city-wide ordinance of bathroom and locker room regulations, something frankly we had never seen or had before in that great city or in North Carolina.

Simply put, this government overreach was a solution in search of a problem.

In fact, the Charlotte City Council rejected this proposal less than a year ago.

In a letter prior to the most recent vote, I notified the Charlotte City Council that this unnecessary and intrusive mandate conflicts with basic expectations of privacy in the most private of settings.

Therefore, as I expected, the state took action on what was seen as government overreach.

You know, after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina.

But based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.

To that end, today I have signed an executive order with the goal of achieving that fine balance.

This executive order accomplishes the following:

First, it maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and in our schools, and when possible, encourages reasonable accommodations for families and those who have unique or special circumstances.

Second, the private sector can make its own policy with regard to restrooms, locker rooms and/or shower facilities. This is not a government decision. This is your decision in the private sector.

Third, I have affirmed the private sector and local government’s right to establish its own non-discrimination employment policies.

And fourth, as governor, I have expanded our state equal employment opportunity policy to clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity are included.

And fifth, I will immediately seek legislation in the upcoming short session to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina state courts.

Simply put, I have listened to the people of North Carolina, and the people of North Carolina are entitled to both privacy and equality. We can and we must achieve both of these goals.

Now I know these actions will not totally satisfy everyone, but the vast majority of our citizens want common sense solutions to complex issues.

This is the North Carolina way.

Thank you very much, and may God continue to bless the great state of North Carolina.

The Charlotte Chamber President and CEO, Bob Morgan, released the following statement:

“Today’s action by Governor Pat McCrory sends a positive message to businesses across North Carolina and to our economic development clients throughout the country and world that North Carolina and Charlotte understand the need to attract and retain diverse talent in our workforce.” 

I guess the takeaway from this is that he is feeling the pressure to do something, but he’s not willing to admit he fucked up.

Part of this is the continued bad publicity coming from HB2.  Springsteen, for example, cancelled his concert in Greensboro.  And here’s the latest from the leading convention and visitors bureau in Wake County, the second most populous county in the state:

A report released by Wake County’s leading tourism agency on Mondaysays that the county has lost more than $700,000 in response to the controversial House Bill 2 – and could lose millions more.

The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that four groups have canceled plans to hold events in Wake because of HB2…

 

But based on sourcing from one local Charlotte reporter, the damage appears to go far beyond those four groups, potentially including 29 groups overall. … UPDATE:

UPDATE: Here’s what the loss of just 16 more groups could mean according to the CVB:

The visitors bureau reported that 16 other groups, the names of which it didn’t disclose, also are reconsidering plans to hold events in Wake County. The groups would bring a combined 73,500 people to the area and infuse an estimated $24 million into the local economy, the report says.

How Does A “Error” Like This Happen?

Answer… it doesn’t.  I’m talking about the Spanish-language voter guides from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office include two errors about registering to vote in the state, while the English guides do not include the same errors.

Duke On Trump And Other Thoughts

I am listening to Annie Duke on the Smerconish show, talking about Trump.  You may wonder why her opinions matter.  Annie Duke (a childhood friend of mine, but that’s not relevant) is known as “the Duchess of Poker”, being one of the highest ranking female poker players ever.  And she was on Celebrity Apprentice for that, although that’s not why she’s talking about Trump.  Annie, now retired from poker, is also an expert on decision-making (and sure, the two are related).  She’s also eloquent and smart as a whip.

Annie is pointing out that this is an emotional election and she credits Trump’s success to confirmation bias.  Trump is saying what his supporters believe to be true, and that’s why he has the supporters that he has.  Smerconish asked what is to me the $64,000 question of the Trump campaign — and I am paraphrasing: “Is Trump saying things that he believes to be true, or is saying things that he knows his supporters believe to be true?”  Annie went with the first one (for the most part) — Trump believes what he says.

I think that’s right.  I think Trump gets his information from sources that aren’t interested in the truth, but in what people want to believe.  And he simply repeats it, and in doing so, he augments its “veracity”.

I think that explains his appeal. The problem is that his appeal is limited.  It will get him a plurality of Republicans (especially in a large field of candidates), but we’re seeing that it really cannot get him a majority within his own party.  He is, as Nate Silver says, shaping up to be the weakest non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate in the modern era:

enten-aggregate-11

As you can see, at this point in the process, all the non-incumbent GOPs who went on to win (Reagan in 1980, Bush 41 in 1988, Bush 43 in 2000) had acquired 50% or more of the vote within the GOP during the primaries.  Trump has yet to see 40%.

This bears out the limitation of Trump’s outsider approach to politics.  Speaking with a populist message to people who aren’t interested in facts, and getting free press with his firebrand antics, are apparently not enough.  He actually needs to use old fashioned campaign strategy.

Let me put it another way: if Cruz wins the nomination, it will be because he saw the delegate rules of the convention, he got a team together, they looked at the delegation-selection rules of each state, and they worked within the rules to make sure it worked to his advantage.

At some point — it’s already starting actually — Trump will start crying foul about “the rules” and claim that delegates are being “stolen” from him, but the undeniable fact is this:

Trump is, and has been, operating under the same rules as Cruz.  They are rules that were in existence before BOTH of them got into the race.

That Trump has not bothered to find out those delegate rules, or to work them to his advantage, says a lot about not only Trump as a candidate, but Trump as a president.

One thing is for sure — when it comes to “the art of the delegate deal”, Cruz is taking Trump to school.

This is Trump’s flaw.  For all his apparent genuineness and populist defeatism, you just can’t show up and rely on whatever shit comes out of your mouth to get you into the White House.  He have to plan and prepare and know how things work:

“The nuts and bolts of presidential politics is an archaic language and very few people understand it. Outsiders need insiders to be successful,” said Republican political strategist Ford O’Connell. “If you want to crack the Da Vinci code, you need insiders.”

Trump is doing just that. Last week, he hired Paul Manafort, a master of insider politics, to run his convention strategy.

A little late, don’t you think.  Over the weekend, Trump was even losing candidates from states that he already won.

And his lately elected team dropped the ball:

Trump’s last-minute organizing effort did not go well. The leaflet his campaign handed out listed a slate of 26 delegates. But in many cases the numbers indicating their ballot position — more than 600 delegates are running for 13 slots — were off, meaning that Trump’s team was mistakenly directing votes toward other candidates’ delegates.

When the balloting results were announced Saturday evening, Cruz picked up the 13 statewide at-large delegates chosen during Saturday’s convention, with the final three appointed automatically by the Colorado Republican Party, giving him all 34 of Colorado’s elected delegates (Trump did win six of the 34 alternate spots).

It is kind of like the revelation this morning that his wife and kids won’t be voting for Trump in the NY primary… because they are not registered.  Probably should have thought of that before.

So we see this erosion slowly eating in the Trump campaign.  And we start to learn more about him, too.  I think people are starting to see he is not the man of the people he claims to be:

Since the first day of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump has said that he gave more than $102 million to charity in the past five years.

To back up that claim, Trump’s campaign compiled a list of his contributions— 4,844 of them, filling 93 pages.

But, in that massive list, one thing was missing.

Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money.

Instead, according to a Washington Post analysis, many of the gifts that Trump cited to prove his generosity were free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles.

The largest items on the list were not cash gifts but land-
conservation agreements to forgo development rights on property Trump owns.

Trump’s campaign also counted a parcel of land that he’d given to New York state — although that was in 2006, not within the past five years.

In addition, many of the gifts on the list came from the charity that bears his name, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which didn’t receive a personal check from Trump from 2009 through 2014, according to the most recent public tax filings. Its work is largely funded by others, although Trump decides where the gifts go.

Some beneficiaries on the list are not charities at all: They included clients, other businesses and tennis superstar Serena Williams.

This list produced by Trump’s campaign — which has not been reported in detail before — provides an unusually broad portrait of Trump’s giving, and his approach to philanthropy in general.

It reveals how Trump has demonstrated less of the soaring, world-changing ambitions in his philanthropy than many other billionaires. Instead, his giving appears narrowly tied to his business and, now, his political interests.

His foundation, for example, frequently gave money to groups that paid to use Trump’s facilities, and it donated to conservatives who could help promote Trump’s rise in the Republican Party. The foundation’s second-biggest donation described on the campaign’s list went to the charity of a man who had settled a lawsuit with one of Trump’s golf courses after being denied a hole-in-one prize.

So Trump has a yuuuge problem now on many levels.

This is getting good.

Why Keep An Embarrassing Law On The Books If You Can’t Even Enforce It?

So happy Mother Jones did this:

Two days after North Carolina enacted one of the country’s most sweeping anti-LGBT laws, The New Yorker‘s Andy Borowitz imagined the scene at the state capitol in Raleigh: In a “historic ceremony,” he wrote, “North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory swore in a thousand officers charged with enforcing the state’s new public-bathroom regulations.” The new law bars people from using public restrooms that don’t align with the sex on their birth certificates—a measure proponents say protects privacy but critics describe as a thinly veiled attack on transgender people.

Borowitz continued: “Speaking to the newly graduated bathroom-enforcement cadets, McCrory impressed upon them the gravity of their responsibility. ‘You are the thin blue line charged with protecting the gender sanctity of North Carolina’s bathrooms,’ he said. ‘Be careful out there.'”

Of course, North Carolina hasn’t really unleashed an army of “bathroom-enforcement cadets” to guard public restrooms like bouncers at a club. But Borowitz’s satire got me thinking: How will the state try to enforce its new law, which is the first of its kind to be enacted in the United States? So I picked up the phone and started calling some North Carolina police departments to find out.

“That’s a very interesting question. We don’t have police officers sitting at public bathrooms all day long,” a spokesman at the Raleigh Police Department told me with a laugh. Over in Greensboro, the state’s third-most-populous city, I received a similar answer. “We would respond if we received a complaint. It’s not like we would be standing guard at bathrooms,” said Susan Danielsen, a spokeswoman for the local police department, also suppressing a laugh. At the Wilmington Police Department, spokeswoman Linda Rawley said the law struck her as strange. “So that means people have to go to the bathroom with birth certificates? Yeah, that was curious to me.” At the Asheville Police Department, spokeswoman Christina Hallingse noted, “We’re not checking birth certificates. We just don’t have the police power to be able to do that in bathrooms.”

Since the law was enacted March 23, police departments across the state have been working to determine how they will enforce it. In addition to restricting bathroom use, it bans anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation. “Our staff, particularly our attorney’s office, is trying to figure out what it all means,” says Damien Graham, another spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department. “We haven’t mobilized our police force in any kind of different way. We’re still digesting.” Public universities like Western Carolina University and the University of North Carolina are also assessing the law to determine how it will affect university policies, spokespeople from both universities said.

Can police patrol public restrooms? Can they demand birth certificates, or some other form of identification, from those accused of violations? In the law, “these are all completely open questions,” says Cathryn Oakley, a senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group.

And critics of the law say police officers and universities may struggle to find answers within the text of the legislation. “The bill was passed by the state legislature in less than 10 hours and then signed by the governor that very same night with very little debate,” Oakley says. “And so it’s incredibly poorly drafted, leading to all kinds of consequences.” The lack of enforcement guidance in the legislation also suggests “it’s not motivated by solving a real problem,” she says. “If it was, they would have spent more time understanding and actually addressing a problem. Instead they passed a law that is a political statement.”

Some police departments were still checking with their attorneys this week to determine whether they could arrest an individual who used the wrong bathroom. Because it’s a civil law, using the wrong bathroom wouldn’t be considered a criminal violation in itself, Hallingse from the Asheville PD points out. But the law doesn’t lay out civil penalties for the violation, either, says Oakley, so police officers will have to use their best judgment when responding to complaints. Danielsen, the spokeswoman from the Greensboro PD, says officers there will try to respond with the “lowest degree of interaction” possible. “Not every response needs to result in an arrest,” she says.

But even before police officers are called to the scene, there may be room for mishap. Without law enforcement on guard, it will likely be up to bathroom goers to report a problem if they see someone enter the room who doesn’t appear to belong there—and appearances can be deceiving. As the Chapel Hill and Carrboro news site Chapelboro points out, hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery allow many transgender women to look like biological women, even if they don’t have female birth certificates. “There are blurry lines,” writes Chapelboro‘s Aaron Keck.

North Carolina is the first state to pass a law restricting bathroom use by transgender people, but lawmakers are considering similar bills in several other states, including in South Carolina, where a Republican state senator introduced a so-called “bathroom bill” on Wednesday. This week, Mississippi’s governor also enacted a law that allows businesses to deny service to gay customers on religious objections, prompting New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to ban nonessential state travel there. The backlash has been greater in North Carolina, where PayPal announced it was canceling a $3.6 million investment. More than 120 business leaders around the country have signed a letter objecting to the state’s new law.

“It is catastrophic to the business community and public perception of North Carolina,” said state Rep. Rodney Moore, a Democrat who voted against the measure. “There is absolutely no way to enforce this law, as it relates to the enforcement of the bathroom provisions. It is an utterly ridiculous law.”

Republican state Rep. Dan Bishop, a co-sponsor of the legislation, did not respond to requests for comment. But he has said he never intended for the legislation to lead to bathroom policing. “There are no enforcement provisions or penalties in HB2. Its purpose is to restore common sense bathroom and shower management policy in public buildings, not to pick out people to punish,” he wrote in a statement to WBTV.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t be affected. Oakley of Human Rights Campaign says some transgender people in the state have stopped using public restrooms altogether. They’re “terrified,” she says, and that’s enough to keep them away even if it means enduring physical discomfort. The law, she says, “really puts a fine point on this concern that you are not safe in a bathroom.”

This statement by Dan Bishop — “its purpose is to restore common sense bathroom and shower management policy in public buildings” — makes absolutely no sense.  There is no common sense behind a law which forces, for example, manly-looking ex-females into a womens’ restroom.  HE doesn’t want to be there, and I’ll bet the women in the restroom don’t want HIM there.  Not that you can enforce it anyway, obviously.

So it doesn’t protect privacy, it doesn’t make sense, you can’t enforce it.  But the state is being a laughing stock and seriously losing money because of it.  Make sense of that!

For THIS, I Finally Appear In Playbill

Sigh:

In a new statement provided to Playbill.com by Schwartz’s team, the composer-lyricist takes a hard line against North Carolina Governor McCrory and encourages citizens of the stage to turn their anger into activism.

It can be read in full below:

First of all, I think it’s important to remember that this is not just me, this is a collective action by a great many theatre artists, as well as those from other fields. For instance, I saw this morning that 269 authors and illustrators of children’s books are declining to attend conferences and festivals in North Carolina as long as the law is in force.

I have received a great number of responses. Not a single one was in support of the law or attempted to justify it in any way. The majority of them were supportive of the action I and my colleagues have taken, but several from North Carolina, while expressing sympathy with the goal, took exception to the means. Their arguments were twofold: that it unfairly targeted those who were already opposed to the law, that is people involved in the arts, and that it deprived people of the chance to raise the sensibilities of their audiences by exposure to works that promote tolerance. I received one particularly poignant letter from a mother who asked how she would explain it to her son, who was learning so much from his involvement in community theatre and now would be unable to do one of my shows.

While I don’t deny there is merit to these arguments, I continue to feel that the only way to bring about a quick reversal is for people in North Carolina to become angered enough that they put pressure on the governor and legislature. This may be cynical of me, but I believe that the only thing Governor McCrory and his cronies in the legislature understand is the threat they may not be re-elected. As long as they feel that the bigots in their state are going to support them, while the rest don’t consider it an important enough issue to become exercised about, they are not likely to change anything. As I wrote to one of those who responded to me, “In a democracy, I think we all have to take responsibility for the policies of the states we live in. If my home state of Connecticut were to pass such a law, I would absolutely expect consequences that would affect me, even though I would be personally opposed to it. As I have seen demonstrated in the past, the most effective way to fight legal bigotry such as HB-2 is through real consequences that bring about the anger of the electorate and threaten the re-election of the perpetrators.”

In support of this view, yesterday I heard from a local North Carolina attorney, one of those who had argued against my methods, that “the outpouring of disgust from CEOs has, I think, taken the NC General Assembly and Governor by surprise, so much so that many local newspapers are writing that a repeal of the law is no longer a question of ‘if’, but of ‘when’. To that end, I thank you and other artists who have spoken out against HB2.” I hope he’s right, not only because it will mean the end of this reprehensible law, but because it demonstrates that each individual speaking out and acting against bigotry and injustice, in whatever small way he or she can, is able to have a big cumulative effect.

One last thing: I have seen some of the news media report the intent of HB-2 as being about the use of bathrooms by transgender people, as if that were the only content of the bill. This is sloppy reporting, and a parroting of the disingenuous line of Gov. McCrory and those who passed the bill. This bill forbids any municipality in the state from passing any protections whatsoever against discrimination towards LGBT citizens. There are other heinous things in it as well. It is masquerading as only having to do with bathrooms, and the news media should not fall for it.

Thanks for your attention to this, Stephen Schwartz

The North Carolina attorney he was referring to in the highlighted paragraph above?  C’est moi.  We’ve been having a little back-and-forth on this – Stephen and I.

Look, Schwartz is not the enemy.  McCrory and his cronies are.  It’s unfortunate that Schwartz thinks that, by withholding rights from schools and non-profits, this will compel the Republicans to change their mind about HB2 or create a groundswell of outrage that Republicans will have changed forced on them.  Regrettably, neither is true.  But… this is the best weapon that Schwartz has in his Bat-utility belt, so you can’t blame him for using it.  Better than those who are not speaking out at all.

P.S.  Also made the Hollywood Reporter.

Post-Wisconsin Thoughts On This Election Thing

Can we get back to politics, please?

So after a two-week hiatus, we had another primary last night.  In Wisconsin.  On the GOP side, this happened:

WIGOP

and on the Dem side, this:

WIDEM

Let’s start with Sanders and the Dem side.

Yes, he “won” in that he got more delegates.  But who cares about a win when you’re so far behind?

Required reading at this point, if you’re a Democrat or care about the Dem primaries, is this from Nate Silver: It’s Really Hard To Get Bernie Sanders 988 More Delegates.  The title of the piece says it all.  Silver bent over backward to conjure what Bernie needed and his most likely path to actually getting a majority.  Check this out:

SAnderspath

Now, be assured…. this is not a prediction.  This is merely looking at the states and saying that if Bernie needs to get to 988, then what happens in the right hand column must happen from now on.  And if he falls short, he has to make it up somewhere else.

Last night Bernie won Wisconsin by +13.  Silver said he needed to win by +16.  So, pretty close.  At best, Bernie is on track to beat Hillary….  provided he keeps this up everywhere.  Including a win of +48 in Oregon.

Don’t hold your breath.

Also, you’ve likely heard that Bernie Sanders’ interview with the New York Daily News editorial board did not go well. You can read it for yourself here.  That was a crash-and-burn.

On the GOP side, I think there’s a lot of hype and breathlessness about Cruz’s win.  Yes, it does make an open convention more likely, but I’m not convinced there isn’t some “wishful thinking” in the media, who would obviously love an open convention. The next primaries, mostly in the Northeast, are Trump-friendly.  He needs to average about 60% of the remaining delegates.  That’s still do-able.

Paypal Pulls The Plug

HB2, the very discriminatory “anti-discrimination bill in North Carolina” (Why do Republicans always name laws the opposite of what they actually do — like the Clean Water Act?  Do they think we are idiots?) wasn’t supposed to result in any job loss to North Carolina.  The opposition to the bill was all “political theater” Governor McCrory said.

Nnooope.

The Charlotte Observer broke this story this morning:

In a move that will cost the city hundreds of jobs, PayPal on Tuesday scrapped plans for a new Charlotte operations center in the most dramatic corporate response yet to a new North Carolina law that limits the legal protections of LGBT individuals.

The payment processor’s decision led to renewed calls for Gov. Pat McCrory and the state legislature to overturn a law that has drawn criticism from big companies such as Bank of America and American Airlines as well as sports organizations such as the NBA. The CEO of Red Ventures, a prominent Charlotte-area marketing and technology firm, on Tuesday said he would “seriously reconsider” adding jobs in the state because of the legislation approved last month.

Oh, well.  I guess that lie (and those jobs) are gone.

This has the Republicans opening their Aesop’s Fables to “The Fox and The Grapes”:  North Carolina’s GOP Vice-Chairman Michele Nix questioned whether PayPal was ever even worthy of North Carolina.

So after PayPal was forced to settle after violating economic sanctions on Cuba, Sudan, and Iran, and even processed payments for someone looking to buy nuclear-weapon technology on the black market, the California-based company now has a problem doing business in North Carolina?

Unlike those good corporate citizens like Duke Energy, you mean?

Then the GOP leaders of the state House and Senate, Speaker Tim Moore and Leader Phil Berger, went full-on delusional, blaming the PayPal loss on Charlotte’s mayor for passing the pro-LGBT ordinance state lawmakers overturned with their new statewide law.

“When Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts teamed up with a convicted child sexual predator to pass a radical bathroom policy allowing men to use girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, the Governor warned her the legislature would take immediate action to protect North Carolina families. If Jennifer Roberts, [Attorney General] Roy Cooper and the far-left Political Correctness Mob she’s unleashed really care about the economic future of her city, they’ll stop the misinformation campaign immediately and start telling the truth about this commonsense bathroom safety law before more damage is done to the city she was elected to lead and the state Cooper was elected to protect.”

That’s a desperately evil spin.  Paypal knows what the law says.  We know this because they’ve THOUGHT IT THROUGH. Here’s PayPal CEO Dan Schulman:

“We have been deliberating this decision for the past week or so,” Dan Schulman told the [CharlotteObserver. “But with the passage of the bill, it really goes against the values of our company and we just couldn’t proceed forward.” […] “We hope that the governor will reconsider and repeal HB2, and if he does so that Charlotte is obviously a community that we were looking forward to becoming an employer in,” he said.

So, in summary, Paypal is being evil or misguided, says the GOP.   Which is odd, since just a couple weeks ago, McCrory was singing PayPal’s praises:

“North Carolina is the ideal destination for innovation-based, worldwide companies like PayPal,” said Governor McCrory. “Today’s announcement means that we can add another prominent name to the state’s growing list of technology businesses with major operations here.”

What’s The Panama Papers All About?

The leak amounts to 2.6 terabytes of information — perhaps the largest whistleblower leak in history.  Also, it might topple a country or too.

So it might be interesting to learn what the Panama Papers leak is all about.

It starts with a company called Mossack Fonesca.  That’s a Panamanian law firm that has long been well-known to the global financial and political elite.  The firm’s operations are diverse and international in scope, but they originate in a single specialty — helping foreigners set up Panamanian shell companies to hold financial assets while obscuring the identities of their real owners. Since its founding in 1977, it’s expanded its interests outside of Panama to include more than 40 offices worldwide, helping a global client base work with shell companies not just in Panama but also the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, and other notorious tax havens around the world.  The Panama Papers are leaks from that law firm.

What’s a shell company?  Well, sometimes a person or a well-known company or institution wants to buy things or own assets in a way that obscures who the real buyer is. For example, companies don’t like to tip their hand to what they are doing, and the use of shell companies to undertake not-ready-for-public-announcement projects can be a useful tool.  Shell companies are often used for simple privacy reasons. Real estate transactions, for example, are generally a matter of public record. So an athlete, actor, or other celebrity who wants to buy a house without his name and address ending up in the papers might want to pay a lawyer to set up a shell company to do the purchasing.

Here’s another way to put it, thanks to a Reddit user:

When you get a quarter you put it in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is on a shelf in your closet. Your mom knows this and she checks on it every once in a while, so she knows when you put more money in or spend it.

Now one day, you might decide “I don’t want mom to look at my money.” So you go over to Johnny’s house with an extra piggy bank that you’re going to keep in his room. You write your name on it and put it in his closet. Johnny’s mom is always very busy, so she never has time to check on his piggy bank. So you can keep yours there and it will stay a secret.

Now all the kids in the neighborhood think this is a good idea, and everyone goes to Johnny’s house with extra piggy banks. Now Johnny’s closet is full of piggy banks from everyone in the neighborhood.

One day, Johnny’s mom comes home and sees all the piggy banks. She gets very mad and calls everyone’s parents to let them know.

Now not everyone did this for a bad reason. Eric’s older brother always steals from his piggy bank, so he just wanted a better hiding spot. Timmy wanted to save up to buy his mom a birthday present without her knowing. Sammy just did it because he thought it was fun. But many kids did do it for a bad reason. Jacob was stealing people’s lunch money and didn’t want his parents to figure it out. Michael was stealing money from his mom’s purse. Fat Bobby’s parents put him on a diet, and didn’t want them to figure out when he was buying candy.

Now in real life, many very important people were just caught hiding their piggy banks at Johnny’s house in Panama. Today their moms all found out. Pretty soon, we’ll know more about which of these important people were doing it for bad reasons and which were doing it for good reasons. But almost everyone is in trouble regardless, because it’s against the rules to keep secrets no matter what.

The leaked documents provide details on some of these piggy banks — uh, shell companies. They reveal shocking acts of corruption in Russia, hint at scandalous goings-on in a range of developing nations, and may prompt a political crisis in Iceland.

Here are a few of the highlights, with links to the full stories where you can read the details:

CfN7DrLXIAEwYTH

In a way, the fact that people use shell companies is not new, and it’s always been somewhat understood that there’s some underlying shenanigans behind these accounts.  Some of the shenanigans revealed by the Panama Papers involves nothing more than legal avarice.The name of Ian Cameron, the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron, shows up in the Panama Papers, for example. Mossack Fonseca helped him set up his investment company Blairmore Holdings (named after his family’s ancestral country estate) in the British Virgin Islands, where, marketing material assured investors, the company “will not be subject to United Kingdom corporation tax or income tax on its profits.”

This particular kind of move is perfectly legal and doesn’t even involve any secrecy. It is entirely typical for investment companies whose employees all work or reside in New York, London, or Connecticut to be domiciled for tax purposes in someplace like the Cayman Islands.  Although when Bernie Sanders talks about this stuff, this is what he means.

On the other hand, there is shadier stuff.  One wealthy client, US millionaire and life coach Marianna Olszewski, was offered fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities. This is in direct breach of international regulations designed to stop money-laundering and tax evasion.

An email from a Mossack executive to Ms Olszewski in January 2009 explains how she could deceive the bank: “We may use a natural person who will act as the beneficial owner… and therefore his name will be disclosed to the bank. Since this is a very sensitive matter, fees are quite high.”  (It’s not clear with Ms. Olszewski has broken the law).

Meanwhile, as I write this, Iceland is going ballistic.  Protests throughout (below is a live YouTube stream) as the Prime Minister there refuses to resign:

Anyway, to be continued.

SCOTUS Strikes Down Texas Voting Suppression Attempt

They saw what you did there, Texas.

Since the 1960s — the case of Wesberry v. Sanders – to be specific — we have had a “one person, one vote” which says that state legislative districts must be drawn so they are equal in population.

But the Republican asshole legislature in Texas (of course) wanted legislative lines to be drawn based on eligible or registered voters instead of total population as measured by the US Census Bureau, thus not counting children, immigrants (documented and undocumented), prisoners, and other nonvoters. They claimed the current system, by including nonvoters, denies “eligible voters their fundamental right to an equal vote.”

Which is bullshit.  What they were really trying to do was a transparent attempt to dilute the vote of minorities in urban areas by not counting people, but counting registered voters instead.  Combined with conservative purges of voter roles, this would shift power to more rural areas. In other words, while the population of a city might have 1 million people, if only 200k were voters, the district would be apportioned to the voter rolls. This would shift power to more rural districts, and thus give conservatives an advantage, much like how the Senate inflates power in the hands low population states.

SCOTUS saw through this.  The Notorious RGB wrote the opinion, which was — believe it or not — UNANIMOUS.

ginsberg

Bad Week For Trump To Culminate In Likely Wisconsin Loss

Women.  Turns out THEY are the Donald’s Achilles Heel.

Trump’s campaign was rocked last week by the fallout from his suggestion that women be punished for getting abortions if the procedure is banned.  Trump dialed that back in Trump style — basically he did a 360 on it, saying OF COURSE women should not be punished, and that his views on that have been inconsistent since the Reagan era (but never explaining why he said what he said in the first place)

Also, Trump also acknowledged that he made a mistake retweeting an attack on Cruz’s wife, according to the New York Times.  That was interesting in that he simply acknowledged it as a mistake.  Maybe even he could not make up some justification.

The there was his campaign manager who was caught on tape (after denying it many times) committing misdemeanor battery against a female reporter.  Trump stood by his manager out of loyalty, but then – very quietly over the weekend when nobody was paying attention — he rolled back some of the campaign manager’s duties.

He also drew some fire last week for saying he would not rule out using nuclear weapons in Europe, and that Japan and South Korea might need their own nuclear arsenals to ease the U.S. financial commitment to their security.  Yup.  He thinks a nuclear arms race in Korea would be a good thing for us.

Tuesday is another primary day and the prize is Wisconsin.  A blue collar state, it should be a Trump haven.  But it isn’t.  Cruz is up in all the recent polls…

Wiscpolls

… and even Kasich does well.  The fact that Kasich is still in the race prompted Trump to make the odd claim to the RNC Kasich should “not be allowed to run” because he is taking “his” (meaning Trump’s) votes.   Apparently, Trump wants the RNC to make up rules on the fly — rules which favor Trump.

Hmmm.  The response from the Kasich campaign was nice.

And speaking or rules, there has been a lot of talk about the rules of the RNC (Republican National Convention), for the obvious reason that there may not be a Republican candidate with a majority going in to the election.

So what are the RNC rules?  Well, that’s the fun part.  Nobody knows.  Not even the RNC.  Here’s what the RNC says:

Convention Facts   GOP

You see, the rules are decided by the convention delegates themselves.

A week before the Convention, the 2016 Convention Rules Committee must convene to put together a package of rules to recommend for consideration by all delegates.

Delegates from each state and territory elect two representatives from within their own delegations to the Convention Rules Committee – 112 delegates in total.

The Convention Rules Committee, after debate and discussion, adopts by majority vote a package of recommended rules that moves to the convention floor.

Once a majority of the convention delegates adopt the report, the rules become the permanent rules governing that Convention.

That package, called a Rules Report, is adopted by the Convention Rules Committee by majority vote.

It’s the 2016 Convention Rules Committee Meeting — the hotel ballroom or whatever — THAT’S the room where it happens.

You can be sure that Cruz will be trying to get “his people” on that committee.  So would Trump, if he has even thought about this and has the ground game to do the same.

Put another way, whoever gets the delegates on the rule committee is the one who ultimately gets the nomination, IF it is an open convention.  112 delegates are going to become VERY important.

Anyway, this might be moot if Trump gets the 1237 delegates needed.  Wisconsin could be bad for him, but after that comes New York and Pennsylvania, where he is expected to trounce Cruz (and Kasich of course).