Monthly Archives: November 2017

This Is Not Just A Bad Tax Bill; This Is A Bill That Will Make America Worse In Many Ways

NY Times:

The tax plan has been marketed by President Trump and Republican leaders as a straightforward if enormous rebate for the masses, a $1.5 trillion package of cuts to spur hiring and economic growth. But as the bill has been rushed through Congress with scant debate, its far broader ramifications have come into focus, revealing a catchall legislative creation that could reshape major areas of American life, from education to health care.

Some of this re-engineering is straight out of the traditional Republican playbook. Corporate taxes, along with those on wealthy Americans, would be slashed on the presumption that when people in penthouses get relief, the benefits flow down to basement tenements.

Some measures are barely connected to the realm of taxation, such as the lifting of a 1954 ban on political activism by churches and the conferring of a new legal right for fetuses in the House bill — both on the wish list of the evangelical right.

With a potentially far-reaching dimension, elements in both the House and Senate bills could constrain the ability of states and local governments to levy their own taxes, pressuring them to limit spending on health care, education, public transportation and social services. In their longstanding battle to shrink government, Republicans have found in the tax bill a vehicle to broaden the fight beyond Washington.

The result is a behemoth piece of legislation that could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.

This bill is what Republicans wanted for years, if not decades. Not just changes to benefit their donors, but social changes in ways that have little to do with tax policy (i.e. gifts to the religious right).  It hopes to undo the social safety net in FDR’s programs. For instance, it could trigger rules mandating cuts to Medicare, the government health care program for seniors, the Congressional Budget Office warned. Some 13 million people could lose health care via the elimination of a key plank of Obamacare. Insurance premiums are also expected to rise by 10 percent.

I think this has to do with Trump, who the Republican elites are tolerating only because they had hoped that they could push this agenda through. Many of them might think (with good reason) that Trump’s days are numbered, and so they are trying to do a ‘Hail Mary’, squeeze a 4 to 8 year agenda into one bill.  Never mind that (as we just learned seconds ago) it will increase the deficit by $1 trillion dollars (that’s for future generations to worry about).And they might pull it off.

White House Shake-up

“I’ll hire the best people, believe me” – Trump, many times on the campaign trail

“Tensions escalate after Tillerson calls Trump ‘moron'” – CNN headline, October 5, 2017

The New York Times is reporting that the Trump Administration has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director.

Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters. Reportedly, Cotton said that he would accept the job if offered.

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials. Under his plan, the shake-up of the national security team would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward.

The ouster of Tillerson would end a turbulent reign at the State Department for the former Exxon Mobile chief executive, who has been largely marginalized over the last year. Trump and Tillerson have been at odds over a host of major issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the confrontation with North Korea and a clash between Arab allies. The secretary was reported to have privately called Trump a “moron” and the president publicly criticized Tillerson for “wasting his time” with a diplomatic outreach to North Korea.

Here’s why Tillerson is on the way out:

  • Trump can’t stand him and has contradicted him on many major policy issues — from North Korea, to Iran, to Qatar, to Saudi Arabia.
  • He has no allies in the White House, few if any in the State Department beyond his innermost circle and he’s managed to alienate even his tiny number of supporters on Capitol Hill.
  • His natural constituency would’ve been Democrats and moderates who view him and General Mattis as restraints on the president, but he lost that crowd because of what he’s done to the State Department — a bungled reorganization and a failure to appoint people to top jobs.
  • He never had favor among mainstream Republicans in foreign policy circles because he’s got a history of ignoring the human rights agenda to get business done.
Most damning of all: When foreign leaders and diplomats hear Tillerson speak, they know he’s not speaking for the president. They know this because Trump makes it abundantly clear, in public.

Since It Is Sexual Harassment Day

Matt Lauer and Garrison Keillor have joined the ranks of men getting fired for sexual harassment.  That’s just TODAY… so far.

So I thought I would up a recent Washington Post article about our President:

President Trump and accusations of sexual misconduct: The complete list

Here’s a list of 13 women who have publicly come forward with claims that Trump had physically touched them inappropriately in some way, and the witnesses they provided. We did not include claims that were made only through Facebook posts or other social media, or in lawsuits that subsequently were withdrawn.

We also did not include the accounts of former beauty contestants who say Trump walked in on them when they were half nude because there were no allegations of touching. Trump had bragged on the Howard Stern show of his “inspections” during the pageants: “You know they’re standing there with no clothes. Is everybody OK? And you see these incredible looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Two or more contemporary corroborators

Natasha Stoynoff

Allegation: While she was interviewing Trump in 2005 for an article for People magazine about the first anniversary of his third marriage, Trump lured her into a room at Mar-a-Lago, forced her against a wall and abruptly kissed her, forcing his tongue into her mouth. He then said they were going to have an affair.

Corroborators: 
Marina Grasic, who has known Stoynoff for more than 25 years. She said she got a call from her friend the day after the alleged attack, detailing exactly how Trump pushed Stoynoff against a wall.
Liz McNeil, at the time a reporter for People (she is now an editor). She said that she heard about the incident the day after Stoynoff returned from her assignment. “She was very upset and told me how he shoved her against a wall,” she said.
Mary Green, another People reporter (now editor) who had just returned to New York. “In an early conversation we had in her office, she told me about what happened with Donald Trump,” Green said. “She was shaky, sitting at her desk, relaying that, ‘He took me to this other room, and when we stepped inside, he pushed me against a wall and stuck his tongue down my throat. Melania was upstairs and could have walked in at any time.’ ”
Liza Hamm, part of a “tight-knit’ group of friends. “Natasha has always been a vivacious person who wants to believe in the best of people, and this experience definitely messed with that outlook,” she said.
Paul McLaughlin, Stoynoff’s former journalism professor. He said Stoynoff called him at the time of the alleged incident seeking advice on how to handle it: “She didn’t know what to do, she was very conflicted, she was angry, she was really confused about how to deal with this.” After a discussion, he said, Stoynoff decided it would be best if she kept the incident to herself.

Response: Anthony Senecal, Trump’s former butler, denied the incident: “No, that never happened. Come on, that’s just bull crap.” Trump said: “Why didn’t she do this 12 years ago? She’s a liar. … It never happened. It’s a lie.”

Rachel Crooks

Allegation: Trump in 2005 kissed her directly on the lips after she introduced herself and said she was a receptionist who worked for a company that did business with Trump.

Corroborators: 
Brianne Webb, her sister. She said Crooks called her about the incident as soon as she returned to her desk. “Being from a town of 1,600 people, being naive, I was like, ‘Are you sure he didn’t just miss trying to kiss you on the cheek?’ She said, ‘No, he kissed me on the mouth.’ I was like, ‘That is not normal.’ ”
Clint Hackenburg, her boyfriend at the time. After he asked her that evening how her day had gone, “she paused for a second, and then started hysterically crying.”

Response: Shouting at the New York Times reporter who called for comment, Trump said, “None of this ever took place.” He then told the reporter, “You are a disgusting human being.”

Cathy Heller

Allegation: While having Mother’s Day brunch at Mar-a-Lago in 1997 or 1998, her mother-in-law introduced her to Trump. She extended her hand to greet him and he grabbed her and kissed her on the mouth. She did turn her head slightly and so he wasn’t able to “get my whole mouth.”

Corroborators:
Lloyd Heller, her husband. He said that she immediately told him. He said he told her that “you should have punched him” and he remembers being “puzzled” by why Trump would do something like that in a public space.
A relative who was there, but wanted to stay unnamed. This person said Heller was immediately shocked and asked whether he or she had seen what happened. The two then talked about the incident asking, “Who does he think he is?”

Response: Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller told People Magazine: “There is no way that something like this would have happened in a public place on Mother’s Day at Mr. Trump’s resort.”

One contemporary corroborator, one additional witness

Kristin Anderson

Allegation: While she was at a Manhattan nightclub in the early 1990s, Trump slid his fingers under her miniskirt, moved up her inner thigh and touched her vagina through her underwear.

Corroborators: 
Kelly Stedman, a friend. She said she was told about the incident at a women’s brunch a few days later. The women found themselves “laughing at how pathetic it was” on Trump’s part.
Brad Trent, a New York photographer. He says he heard the story from Anderson at a dinner in 2007. “It was just girls saying stories about how they got hit on by creepy old guys,” Trent said of the conversation around the table.

Response: The Trump campaign, in an emailed statement, said Anderson had fabricated the story: “Mr. Trump strongly denies this phony allegation by someone looking to get some free publicity. It is totally ridiculous.”

One corroborator

Summer Zervos

Allegation: Trump kissed Zervos on the lips when he met her in his New York office, which upset Zervos, who had been a contestant on Season 5 of Trump’s “The Apprentice.” She then met Trump at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 for what she thought would be dinner; instead, she was escorted to his private bungalow. “I stood up and he came to me and started kissing me open-mouthed as he was pulling me toward him,” she said. “He then grabbed my shoulder and started kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast.” He kept pursuing her, she said, at one point “thrusting his genitals” against her as he tried to kiss her. She said she again rebuffed him.

Corroborator:
Ann Russo, friend: She said that Zervos told her in 2010 that Trump had been “verbally, physically, and sexually aggressive with her” but that she had rebuffed his advances. “It was apparent she was conflicted with what Mr. Trump had done to her,” she said, adding that Zervos was torn between her admiration for Trump and Trump’s behavior.

(In her lawsuit against Trump, Zervos says that in 2007 she “spoke to a friend and her parents about [the initial kiss], all of whom concluded that this must just be the way that Mr. Trump greeted people.” She then told her father about the hotel incident, the lawsuit says.)

Response: Trump issued a statement by John Barry, a cousin of Zervos’s: “I think Summer wishes she could still be on reality TV, and in an effort to get that back she’s saying all of these negative things about Mr. Trump. That’s not how she talked about him before. I can only imagine that Summer’s actions today are nothing more than an attempt to regain the spotlight at Mr. Trump’s expense, and I don’t think it reflects well.”

Mindy McGillivray

Allegation: McGillivray said she was groped by Trump at Mar-a-Lago in 2003, when she was 23, at a photo shoot during a concert by Ray Charles.  “All of a sudden I felt a grab, a little nudge. I think it’s Ken’s camera bag, that was my first instinct. I turn around and there’s Donald. He sort of looked away quickly. I quickly turned back, facing Ray Charles, and I’m stunned.’’ She told the Palm Beach Post she was certain it was not an accident. “This was a pretty good nudge. More of a grab,’’ she said. “It was pretty close to the center of my butt. I was startled. I jumped.’’

Corroborator:
Ken Davidoff, photographer: He vividly remembers when McGillivray pulled him aside moments after the alleged incident and told him, “Donald just grabbed my ass!’’ He did not witness the incident himself.

Jill Harth 

Allegation: In the early 1990s, Jill Harth and her boyfriend at the time, George Houraney, worked with Trump on a beauty pageant in Atlantic City, and later accused Trump of inappropriate behavior toward Harth during their business dealings. She said that Trump pursued her and groped her; she alleged attempted rape in a sexual harassment suit that was withdrawn as a condition for settling a contract dispute. (We are including her account here because she gave interviews making these charges even after the lawsuit was withdrawn.) Trump had “his hands all over me,” Harth told the New York Times. “He was trying to kiss me. I was freaking out.”

Corroborator:
George Houraney, her boyfriend and later husband. The two are divorced but he confirmed her account in an interview with Nicholas Kristof: “Houraney and Harth haven’t spoken in years, but they offered almost identical accounts when I interviewed them separately, and their stories match Harth’s deposition and her sexual harassment lawsuit from the time.”

Response: Trump said it was Harth who had pursued him, and his office shared email messages in which Harth thanked Trump for helping her personally and professionally. The campaign said she was a “pawn” in a lawsuit created by her ex-husband.

Jessica Leeds

Allegation: Trump attacked her while seated next to her on an airline flight. More than three decades ago, when she was a traveling business executive at a paper company, Leeds told the New York Times in 2016, she sat beside Trump in the first-class cabin of a flight to New York. They had never met before. About 45 minutes after takeoff, Trump lifted the armrest and began to touch her. Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt. “He was like an octopus,” Leeds said. “His hands were everywhere.” She fled to the back of the plane. “It was an assault,” she said.

Corroborator: Leeds told the story to at least four people close to her, who also spoke with the New York Times. But most appear to have heard about it more recently. Linda Ross, a neighbor and friend, heard about it six months before Leeds went public, for instance.

Reaction: The Trump campaign offered the perspective of a British man who claimed to have sat near the two on the plane and three decades later remembered the incident in detail. “She was the one being flirtatious,” he said.

Other accusers

Temple Taggart McDowell: The 1997 Miss Utah USA said Trump kissed her directly on the lips, at a time he was married to Marla Maples and McDowell was 21. Later, when she visited Trump Tower to discuss a modeling contract, she says Trump again embraced and kissed her on the lips, this time in front of two pageant chaperones and a receptionist. The New York encounter made one of the chaperones so “uncomfortable” that she advised McDowell not to go into any rooms with Trump alone, McDowell told NBC News.

Karena Virginia: A yoga instructor said Trump harassed and groped her during a chance encounter at the U.S. Open in 1998. Virginia said Trump, a total stranger, then grabbed her arm and touched her breast. “I was in shock,” Virginia said. “I flinched. He said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ I felt intimidated and powerless. I said ‘yes.’”

Jennifer Murphy: A former Apprentice contestant said Trump in 2004 kissed her on the lips. “He walked me to the elevator, and I said goodbye. I was thinking ‘oh, he’s going to hug me,’ but … he pulled my face in and gave me a smooch.”

Ninni Laaksonen: A former Miss Finland said Trump in 2006 grabbed her bottom shortly after he had married Melania. “Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt. He really grabbed my butt.”

Jessica Drake: A porn star and sex educator said that during a 2006 golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, Trump “grabbed” her and two other unnamed women tightly and kissed them on the lips “without asking permission.” He then offered Drake $10,000 and the use of his private plane, she said, if she would agree to come back to his room and accompany him to a party.

Today Feels Like A Test

I don’t know. Everything really is awful.

Matt Lauer, long-standing host of the Today Show, was abruptly fired last night, after execs at NBC received notice of a credible claim of sexual harassment.  This #MeToo reckoning, as I’ve said before, but it really is disappointing to see otherwise good people go down.  Perhaps even more disappointing is that the only segment of society that isn’t holding its icons in line are GOP politicians and their followers.

But NBC handled it in a way that Fox didn’t. Fox let O’Reilly settle a lawsuit for $32 million and then kept him on, despite repeated allegations. Which makes this video from only three months ago pretty ironic.

Not one to miss an opportunity to be a grade-A asshole, the president tweeted the following:

Pretty ironic since Trump engaged in pussy-grabbing himself. And speaking of “unsolved mysteries”, he’s STILL going around questioning Obama’s birth certificate.

But the Lauer posts from Trump were nothing compared to these retweets:

The first video (bottom) is captioned: “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches.”

The second post (middle) features a clip showing a Muslim man appearing to destroy a statue of the Virgin Mary.

The third and final tweet re-posted by the US President (top) claims to show a group of men killing a youngster and is titled: “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death.”

Who is this Jayda Fransen that Trump retweeted?  A racist.

Fransen is the deputy leader of far right group Britain First, an anti-Islam, anti-immigration and nationalist political party. It is known for its anti-Islam political stunts, including “invading” mosques and launching “Christian patrols.”

The group has used social media to disseminate its message, posting anti-Islam and anti-immigrant propaganda on Twitter and videos of provocative stunts designed to antagonize Muslims on YouTube and Facebook.

She is on bail facing four charges of causing religiously aggravated harassment as part of a Kent Police investigation into the distribution of leaflets and the posting of online videos during a trial held at Canterbury Crown Court in May.

London-born Fransen was arrested earlier this month and flown to Belfast over an anti-terrorism speech made in Northern Ireland in the summer.

Fransen will also appear in court in Northern Ireland in December charged with using threatening and abusive language in connection with a speech she made at an anti-terrorism demonstration in Belfast on August 6.

Here’s an interesting observation:

No kidding. But the guy who tweeted this (Paul Watson) is editor-in-chief of the nutso far-right-wing Infowars! And even he has a problem with Trump’s islamophobic tweets.

Full statement from the Anti-Defamation League:

UPDATE: Speaking of Matt Lauer behaving badly…

 

O’Keefe Creates Fake News In Order To Expose WaPo As A Purveyor Of Fake News And The Whole Thing Blows Up

Another lame gimmick, a HUGE PUBLIC bellyflop:

James O’Keefe is a celebrated right-wing pseudo-journalist whose job consists largely of attempting to prove various conservative conspiracy theories but, instead, accidentally disproving them. O’Keefe’s most recent fail is an attempt to help alleged child molester Roy Moore by tarnishing the Washington Post. O’Keefe recruited a fake source, who attempted to lure the Post into reporting her false accusations and “admitting” on camera that their reporting would affect the outcome of the election.

The scam collapsed for a number of reasons. His fake source provided a flimsy cover story with odd details — she claimed to have only spent a few summers in Alabama, but provided a cell phone with an Alabama area code. The supposed place of employment that she provided did not have any person by that name working there. A search of her name turned up a social-media post in which she explained that she was going to “work in the conservative media movement to combat the lies and deceipt [sic] of the liberal MSM.”

If you’ve ever watched a spy movie, you’ll probably recall that the spies never get caught because they left a social-media post under their real name declaring “I’m enrolling in espionage school to become a spy!”

Another reason O’Keefe’s plot collapsed again is because it is premised on a ludicrously false worldview. The Washington Post does not, in fact, publish unverified accusations just because they’re against Republicans. His various attempts to prove rampant voter fraud have failed in part because voter fraud is not rampant.

But this larger conceptual problem with O’Keefe’s enterprise creates a secondary problem, which is that the people who are dumb enough to believe these conspiracy theories are not generally smart enough to carry out a competent entrapment scheme.

The plan went like this: A woman named Jaime Phillips, who was aligned with Project Veritas, approached several Washington Post reporters claiming that she had engaged in a sexual relationship with Moore that led to an abortion when she was 15. (Sidebar: It’s worth an entire separate piece about what would lead someone to make up an abortion in order to entrap reporters.)

The goal was simple: To reveal that The Washington Post, which broke the initial story about Moore’s alleged pursuit of intimate relationships with teenagers, was willing to publish anything from any source as long as it made a conservative Republican look bad.

The problem — if O’Keefe knew anything about how large media organizations like the Post work  — is that neither of these organizations would ever simply run with a story from one woman about an alleged forced abortion without doing the most basic fact checking.

So it blew up in his face. Now, O’Keefe has demonstrated that the Washington Post does NOT, in fact, run with thinly-sourced accounts in furtherance of journalistic bias.  QED, the deeply-sourced accounts of child molestation by Roy Moore are likely to be true.

This video is precious. About halfway through, the woman hired by O’Keefe realizes the jig is up:

Commentary from The Atlantic:

O’Keefe’s choice of targets over the years has displayed a less-than-keen understanding of what has news value and what doesn’t.

“O’Keefe has terrible judgment at times, but his news judgment is even worse,” said a former O’Keefe employee who spoke on condition of anonymity for professional reasons. “His sense of what is legitimately of public interest really is as bad as it looks given some of the trash he publishes. It might help with fundraising from the diehard Bannon wing, but pieces like the Clinton Campaign T-Shirt story also badly water down his brand. Earlier high risk/no reward stunts like the attempted Landrieu and Abbie Boudreau debacle nearly finished him before NPR resurrected him. Even Andrew Breitbart was close to cutting ties.”

And this poses a good question: