February 14, 2016

Morning Line

Based on the average of recent polls:
  • Clinton is in a statistical tie with Trump and Cruz and loses by 5 points to Rubio. Sanders would beat Trump by 8, Cruz by 10 and is in a statistical tie with Rubio. Sanders does better against all these candidates than Clinton by 4-11 points
  • In South Carolina Trump leads by 19 and Clinton by 32
  • In Nevada Trump leads by 15, Clinton and Sanders are statistically tied
  • With 35 points, Trump has a 21 point lead ahead of Cruz who has 17. Rubio has 12. Trump's best lead so far: 26
  • Clinton's lead over Sanders is a record low of 6 points

Scalia notes

    A New Yorker article once commented that of all the members of the Supreme Court, “Scalia is most likely to offer the jurisprudential equivalent of smashing a guitar onstage”

    McConnell voted to confirm a Supreme Court justice in Reagan's final year

    A few reasons the corporate media isn't telling about why you shouldn't waste too many tears on Justice Scalia.

    Tip to mainstream journalists: Stop treating Scalia as if he was a great justice. In fact, he favored denial of Constitutional rights to over half the population, including women and gay.

    At least 14 Supreme Court justices have been confirmed during election years.

      February 13, 2016

      Debbie Wasserman Schultz's weird defence of super delegates

      Blaze - The DNC chairwoman explained that the unpledged delegates, or the superdelegates, are a completely separate category from the pledged delegates, which Clinton and Sanders were competing for in the Granite State.

      “Unpledged delegates exist, really, to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists,” Wasserman Shultz said, adding that the Democratic Party “highlights inclusiveness and diversity at our convention” and wants to give activists “every opportunity” to participate, which she says it what the superdelegates are for.

      [Jake] Tapper simply responded by saying, “I’m not sure that answer would satisfy an anxious young voter, but let’s move on.”

      Ryan: Not enuogh votes for TPP

      CBS - House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said that the landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal doesn't have enough votes to pass Congress right now.

      "I don't think the votes are there right now because of the concerns about what's in the TPP," Ryan told reporters at his weekly press conference. "The point is we shouldn't bring something up if we're not confident that we have the support there for it so I think the president and the administration has a lot more work to do to get support for this document because there are some legitimate concerns about it."

      The president formally signed the deal on February 3, calling it a "forward-looking trade deal that sets new, high standards for trade and investment in one of the world's fastest growing and most important regions." ...

      But there are still major concerns about the deal inside and out of Congress, including a carve-out that will prevent tobacco companies from suing nations with regulations aimed at reducing smoking, intellectual property issues relating to biologics, and some provisions dealing with dairy and financial services. There are also still major concerns among labor groups about whether the labor standards are up to snuff.Within 105 days of the signing of the agreement, the U.S. International Trade Commission will conduct an economic review and submit it to Congress, where the deal will be considered by relevant committees, and then the full House and Senate.

      News Notes

      Sanders endorsed Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988
      • What Clinton did not mention in the debate was that her bond with Kissinger was personal as well as professional, as she and her husband have for years regularly spent their winter holidays with Kissinger and his wife, Nancy, at the beachfront villa of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, who died in 2014, and his wife, Annette, in the Dominican Republic.
       Half the world suffers from water scarcity

      Cruz backed by minister who claims God will put in death camps Jews who don't convert to Christrianity

      Jewish Telegraphic Agency - Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign defended an endorsement from a controversial pastor who has said Jews will be hunted and put in death camps before Jesus returns.

      Kansas evangelical Pastor Mike Bickle, whose endorsement the campaign publicized last month, runs a project called Israel Mandate, one of whose goals is “partnering with Messianic Jews for the salvation of the Jewish people.”

      In a sermon in 2011, Bickle said God would give Jews a chance to convert to Christianity and “raise up the hunters” against those who refuse. Bickle called Hitler “the most famous hunter in recent history.” In 2005, Bickle said in a sermon that before Jesus’ coming, “a significant number of Jews will be in work camps, prison camps or death camps.”

      Nick Muzin, a senior adviser to the Texas senator’s campaign, said Bickle was referring to biblical passages.

      “Our campaign welcomes support from faith leaders across the country,” Muzin told Jewish Insider. “Mike Bickle is one of the hundreds who have endorsed us. My understanding is that he was paraphrasing the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah. I know that he has made support for Israel and the Jewish people a central part of his mission.”

      Would CIA refuse Trump's torture orders?

      Newsweek - Donald Trump would face huge resistance at the CIA if he were elected president and ordered the spy agency to resume waterboarding—or “worse,” as the Republican candidate has repeatedly pledged.

      John Rizzo, who was a top CIA lawyer during the time the agency used “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, on prisoners, predicts CIA officials would rather resign than obey orders to revert to “hard measures” like waterboarding and beatings.

      “I think certainly many of those who were connected to the EIT program over its six years’ span—and hundreds are still there—would resign or retire rather than have to go down that perilous road again,” Rizzo tells Newsweek. “Who could blame them?”

      Labor unrest increases

      District Sentinel - Industrial unrest in the United States was more frequent and widespread last year, according to annual data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

      There were twelve “major work stoppages” measured by BLS, up from eleven the year before. The disputes involved about 47,000 workers—a year-over-year increase of 13,000.

      It was the first year since 2011 that saw the number of major work stoppages increased in the US, and the first year since 2012 to see the number of workers involved in industrial disputes go up.

      The number of days lost to disagreements between management and unionized labor was also up by almost 400 percent. In 2015, 740,000 workdays were lost to strikes or lockouts–up from 200,000 in 2014.

      The increase in idle days can be attributed mostly to two disputes involving the United Steelworkers Union. A four-month strike by USW against Shell Oil saw all days lost to contract fights increase by 322,100. A lockout involving USW and the Pittsburgh-based steel manufacturer Allegheny Technologies accounted for 206,800 days idle. It started in August and is still ongoing.

      Kentucky legislator proposes enforced family values for men's sex life, too

      Bipartsan Report - Rep  May Lou Marzian sponsored Bill 396 which would force men to visit a doctor twice and require them to obtain signed permission from their wives before obtaining a prescription for Viagra or other such drugs for erectile dysfunction.

      The state legislator said it is simply an effort to protect men’s health and ensure that they are informed about a drug with potentially dangerous side effects, according to the Courier-Journal.

      “I want to protect these men from themselves,” said Marzian, who is a nurse.

      In addition, the bill also specifies that only married men may obtain the drug and requires “a man to make a sworn statement with his hand on a Bible that he will only use a prescription for a drug for erectile dysfunction when having sexual relations with his current spouse.”

      “This is about family values,” Marzian said.

      This headline appeared in the Washington Post, not some lefty journal

      The Democrats’ dilemma: Clinton may not be salvageable

      Airlines have slashed passenger space

      WCSH, Portland ME - According to SeatGuru, since the '90s, the average width of an airline seat has shrunk from 18.5 inches to 16.5. Meanwhile, the airlines have ratcheted down the average distance between seat rows from 35 inches to about 31 inches.

      Now, Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee has introduced the Seat Egress in Air Travel  to make the Federal Aviation Administration set minimum standards for how big seats have to be.

      "Consumers are tired of being squeezed both physically and fiscally by airlines," said Cohen in a press release.

      There's also a potential safety risk.

      "The Federal Aviation Administration requires that planes be capable of rapid evacuation in case of emergency, yet they haven't conducted emergency evacuation tests on all of today's smaller seats," said Cohen

      Single payer figures do add up

      At a recent debate, Hillary Clinton said, "So if you’re having Medicare for all, single-payer, you need to level with people about what they will have at the end of the process you are proposing. And based on every analysis that I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don’t add up, and many people will actually be worse off than they are right now.”

      Now for some facts from David Himmelstein Professor of Public Health at CUNY and Lecturer in Medicine at Harvard Medical School Steffie Woolhandler Professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College; Lecturer in Medicine, Harvard Medical School

      David Himmelman & Steffie Woolhandler, Huffington Post - Professor Kenneth Thorpe recently issued an analysis of Senator Bernie Sanders' single-payer national health insurance proposal. Thorpe, an Emory University professor who served in the Clinton administration, claims the single-payer plan would break the bank.

      Thorpe's analysis rests on several incorrect, and occasionally outlandish, assumptions. Moreover, it is at odds with analyses of the costs of single-payer programs that he produced in the past, which projected large savings from such reform (see this study, for example, or this one).

      We outline below the incorrect assumptions behind Thorpe's current analysis:

      1. He incorrectly assumes administrative savings of only 4.7 percent of expenditures, based on projections of administrative savings under Vermont's proposed reform.

      2. Thorpe assumes huge increases in the utilization of care, increases far beyond those that were seen when national health insurance was implemented in Canada, and much larger than is possible given the supply of doctors and hospital beds.

      3. Thorpe assumes that the program would be a huge bonanza for state governments, projecting that the federal government would relieve them of 10 percent of their current spending for Medicaid and CHIP -- equivalent to about $20 billion annually. No one has suggested that a single-payer reform would or should do this.

      4. Thorpe's analysis also ignores the large savings that would accrue to state and local governments -- and hence taxpayers -- because they would be relieved of the costs of private coverage for public employees.

      5. Thorpe's analysis also apparently ignores the huge tax subsidies that currently support private insurance, which are listed as "Tax Expenditures" in the federal government's official budget documents.

      6. Thorpe assumes zero cost savings under single-payer on prescription drugs and devices.Nations with single-payer systems have in every case used their clout as a huge purchaser to lower drug prices by about 50 percent. In fact, the U.S. Defense Department and VA system have also been able to realize such savings.

      In summary, professor Thorpe grossly underestimates the administrative savings under single-payer; posits increases in the number of doctor visits and hospitalizations that exceed the capacity of doctors and hospitals to provide this added care; assumes that the federal government would provide state and local governments with huge windfalls rather than requiring full maintenance of effort; makes no mention of the vast current tax subsidies for private coverage whose elimination would provide hundreds of billions annually to fund a single-payer program; and ignores savings on drugs and medical equipment that every other single-payer program has reaped.

      In the past, Thorpe estimated that single-payer reform would lower health spending while covering all of the uninsured and upgrading coverage for the tens of millions who are currently underinsured. The facts on which those conclusions were based have not changed.


      How Kasich and the Clintons joined to hurt the poor

      Intercept - Republican presidential candidate John Kasich has promoted himself both as a friend of the working poor and as a foe of Hillary Clinton, but as House Budget Committee chairman in the 1990s, he worked with the Clintons to roll back welfare programs, helping double extreme poverty in America.

      In 1996, the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans worked hand in hand to pass what they called the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, colloquially known as “welfare reform.”

      The legislation famously “ended welfare as we know it,” replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The newly-created TANF placed a time limit on how long the federal government would extend financial assistance to poor families.

      Kasich was one of the legislation’s prime movers. After clashes between Clinton and the Republicans over earlier versions of the bill, Kasich introduced what went on to become the final legislation in June 1996. By late July, the administration and the Republicans had solved their disagreements, and a conference bill coasted to passage by a 328-101 vote (Bernie Sanders, another presidential contender, opposed it).

      .... Bill and Hillary Clinton both advocated strongly for the changes.... Hillary Clinton was involved with publicly advocating for passage and implementation of welfare reform in her role as First Lady. In a Newsweek cover story in 1993, she weighed in on the upcoming welfare reform debate. “How do we as a society address the 15-year-old mother on welfare? What do we owe her? Can we demand a set of behavioral standards from her?” asked the interviewer. “Sure, I’ve been talking about that since 1973,” replied the First Lady. “You know, I am one of the first people who wrote about how rights and responsibilities had to go hand in hand.”

      “When you talk about moving someone to work from welfare in two years, what happens to people who don’t want to work? Would you impose sanctions?” followed up the interviewer. “Oh, I think you have to. What happened in Arkansas is that people who refused for whatever reason to participate had their benefits cut,” she replied.

      Hillary Clinton continued to defend the welfare cutback over the years. “Too many of those on welfare had known nothing but dependency all their lives, and many would have found it difficult to make the transition to work on their own,” she wrote in a 1999 op-ed. In a 2002 interview she said the policy has resulted in recipients “no longer” being “deadbeats — they’re actually out there being productive.” Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for welfare reform strained her relationship with her mentor and former boss, Marian Wright Edelman, the head of the Children’s Defense Fund. After the signing of the bill, Edelman wrote that “President Clinton’s signature on this pernicious bill makes a mockery of his pledge not to hurt children.”

      During an interview on Democracy Now in 2007, Edelman described her changed relationship with the Clintons, saying, “Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they are not friends in politics.”

      During her 2008 campaign for the presidency, Clinton defended the policy, saying, “Welfare should have been a temporary way station for people who needed immediate assistance. It should not be considered an anti-poverty program. It simply did not work.”


      A thinkers' guide to conspiracy theories

      From our overstocked archives

      From the Review, June 2006:

      - A conspiracy does not have to be illegal; it can merely be wrongful or harmful.

      - The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by elite media and politicians to denigrate questions or critical presumptions about events about which important facts remain unrevealed.

      - The intelligent response to such events is to remain agnostic, skeptical, and curious. Theories may be suggested - just as they are every day about less complex and more open matters on news broadcasts and op ed pages - but such theories should not stray too far from available evidence. Conversely, as long as serious anomalies remain, dismissing questions and doubts as a "conspiracy theory" is a highly unintelligent response. It is also ironic as those ridiculing the questions and doubts typically consider themselves intellectually superior to the doubters. But they aren't because they stopped thinking the moment someone in power told them a superficially plausible answer. Further, to ridicule those still with doubts about such matters is intellectually dishonest.

      - There is the further irony that many who ridicule doubts about the official version of events were typically trained at elite colleges where, in political science and history, theories often take precedent over facts and in which substantive decisions affecting politics and history are presumed to be the work of a small number of wise men (sic). They are trained, in effect, to trust in (1) theories and (2) benign confederacies. Most major media political coverage is based on the great man theory of history. This pattern can be found in everything from Skull & Bones to the Washington Post editorial board to the Council on Foreign Relations. You might even call them conspiracy theorists.

      - Other fields - such as social history or anthropology - posit that change for better or evil can come as cultural change or choices and not just as the decisions of "great men." This is why one of the biggest stories in modern American history was never well covered: the declining birth rate. No great men decided it should happen.

      - Homicide detectives and investigative reporters, among others, are inductive thinkers who start with evidence rather than with theories and aren't happy when the evidence is weak, conflicting or lacking. They keep working the case until a solid answer appears. This is alien to the well-educated newspaper editor who has been trained to trust official answers and conventional theories.

      - The unresolved major event is largely a modern phenomenon that coincides with the collapse of America's constitutional government and the decline of its culture. Beginning with the Kennedy assassination, the number of inadequately explained major events has been mounting steadily and with them a steady decline in the trust between he people and their government. The refusal of American elites to take these doubts seriously has been a major disservice to the republic.

      - You don't need a conspiracy to lie, do something illegal or to be stupid.

      Gay links

      LGBT news
      Gay marriage news
      Gay stats
      In defense of biblical marriage
      A gay history of the United States
      Gay historical sites
      Gay Star News
      Huff Post Gay Voices Lavender Magazine


      My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably. - George Bernard Shaw

      News Notes

      A study finds that more than 30% of teachers are telling students the evidence on climate change is mixed

      Jazz break

      February 12, 2016

      Morning line

      Based on the average of recent polls:
      • In South Carolina Trump leads by 12 and Clinton by 32
      • In Nevada Trump leads by 15, Clinton and Sanders are statistically tied
      • With 35 points, Trump has a 19 point national lead ahead of Cruz who has 17. Rubio has 14. Trump's best lead so far: 26
      • Clinton's lead over Sanders is a record low of 6 points

      News Notes

      Carrier Air Conditioner moving 1400 jobs to Mexico from Indiana. Video of workers being given the news

      PBS co-moderator in last night's debate, Judy Woodruff, has been a donor to the Clinton Foundation

      How Rubio's tax plan would increase the deficit by trillions

      Increase in marijuana use moderate

      Washington University School of Medicine:

      Marijuana use is on the rise, with an estimated 12.5 percent of adults living in the United States reportedly using the drug at least once in 2013, according to a new study that looked at drug usage over the span of a decade.

      But that research, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also shows that the rate of pot use did not double from 2002 to 2013 — as had been reported in the fall — and that the rate of problems related to the drug remained steady.

      The Washington University researchers found that rather than doubling, the increase in marijuana use among adults was closer to 20 percent over the same time period and that problems related to using pot, such as addiction, remained steady or even declined.

      How teens have improved over time

      Vox - You were 15 years old in 1991 and we’re sorry to say, chances are relatively high that you and your friends were up to no good.

      In 1991, 27.5 percent of teenagers smoked. Now, 15.7 percent do. That’s a 43 percent decline. Teenagers today are 34 percent less likely to binge drink than you and your classmates were. In fact, they’re 19 percent less likely to have ever tried alcohol at all. 56 percent fewer teen girls have babies now compared to you and your high school classmates. Teens today are also 45 percent less likely to have had sex before they turned 13.

      Today’s teenagers are not perfect, and there are some ways teen behavior has gotten worse. Obesity is higher now than it ever was, and high school students do eat fewer vegetables.

      If Clinton knows so much about foreign policy, why does she like Kissinger so much?

      Politico - Bernie Sanders needled Hillary Clinton for writing in her book that she sought the approval and advice of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

      But Clinton's mentions of Kissinger go beyond just one line she wrote in her book. In fact, they go back years.

      A week ago in a previous Democratic debate Clinton praised Kissinger and his tenure at the State Department: "I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better — better than anybody had run it in a long time. So I have an idea of what it’s going to take to make our government work more efficiently."

      In 2014 Clinton reviewed Kissinger's New World Order book and called him a "friend" whose counsel she has "relied on." Sanders: Kissinger 'not my kind of guy'

      In 2009 the two former top State officials sat down in an interview with historian and journalist Jon Meacham. Clinton had nice things to say there too.

      "Well, Henry's the expert on theory and doctrine. I'm someone who thinks that it could help provide a framework and direction and lessons from history," Clinton said.

      Warren asks CDC to examine marijuana as treatment in opiod epidemic

      Guardian - Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider the role legal marijuana could play in the prescription opioid epidemic.

      Warren asked for more research into medical marijuana and painkiller addiction in a letter to the CDC director, Thomas Friedan.

      “Opioid abuse is a national concern and warrants swift and immediate action,” Warren wrote.

      Under 30s like socialism better than capitalism

      You Gov Poll

      A public school for recovering druggies

      Phillly - A state lawmaker from Philadelphia plans to introduce legislation next week that would create Pennsylvania's first publicly funded "recovery high school" for students with drug addictions. The school would be located in Philadelphia.

      State Rep. John Taylor (R., Phila.), along with a Republican state senator from Allentown, is proposing a four-year pilot program for 30 students. They said the school would provide on-site intervention, support services, and academic curricula designed for students in early recovery.

      “It has been shown that students who return to their previous high schools following substance abuse treatment are much more likely to relapse than those students who participate in a school specifically designed to provide the assistance, support and intervention that is needed to prevent a relapse from happening,” said state Sen. Pat Browne, who will introduce the companion bill in the Senate.

      The estimated cost per student would be $20,000, Taylor spokesman Marty O’Rourke said, and students could come from districts throughout the Philadelphia region.

      Half the cost per student would be paid by the student's home district, and the other half would come from the state, O’Rourke said.

      The back story on Bernie

      Institute for Public Accuracy - In 2013, Greg Guma wrote the piece ‘One-Man Show: What Happens If Bernie Runs for the Presidency?” which tracked his rise from a third party candidate placing in single digits to a major force in state politics and projected a similar trajectory on the national stage.

      Guma said today: “Many people are now trolling around for dirt on Bernie, but it’s unlikely to stick. … It’s critical to understand that Bernie is not and never was a party builder, he was a candidate. He originally won because of low voter turnout but rose because of increasing voter turnout.

      “His campaigns in Vermont were based on the same thing as his current presidential campaign: If you repeat a strong core message enough, people will catch on. We ran on the same ticket in 1981 — both he and I were about to run for mayor of Burlington and we decided he’d run for mayor and I’d run for city council. He barely won that election — his first after many defeats — and that propelled his political career.

      “Power corrupts, but Bernie has become more human as he has risen. He had years with a hand-to-mouth existence — being elected mayor was I think his first real job.

      “He’s a natural born politician, but not out to build a cult of personality. He originally didn’t run as a socialist, but as an independent, which has a strong history in Vermont. And in office he focused on culture as much as anything else — creating an atmosphere of tolerance in Burlington, fostering the arts.

      “His campaign now is the largest overtly ideological national campaign in a long time and dovetails and contrasts with Trump in many ways. Sanders is an insurgent with the message to the Democratic Party of: ‘we are not of you, but we want to revive you,’ while with Trump, it’s more of a hostile takeover attempt. Trump is saying that Bernie can’t get things done, but Bernie has a certain conservative, cross cultural appeal. He’s gone along with the NRA at times and been targeted by them at times. He talks about democratic socialism, but in concrete terms is really re-asserting the New Deal. He know how to close a deal with the voters and make a deal with opponents. Even though his message is highly aspirational, as a populist, he’s a pragmatist.

      “Sanders was a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus, but he’s also been open to left-right coalitions.” Guma’s 2010 piece “What Makes Bernie Speak?” notes that: “One unusual aspect of Bernie’s approach in Congress has been to wage congressional battles with people whose stands on other issues he abhors. In fact, much of Bernie’s legislative success has come through forging deals with ideological opposites. An amendment to bar spending in support of defense contractor mergers, for example, was pushed through with the aid of Chris Smith, a prominent opponent of abortion. John Kasich … helped him phase out risk insurance for foreign investments. And it was a ‘left-right coalition’ he helped create that derailed ‘fast track’ legislation on international agreements pushed by Bill Clinton. The power of that strategy may have reached its apex in May 2010 when Bernie’s campaign to bring transparency to the Federal Reserve resulted in a 96-0 Senate vote on his amendment to audit the Fed and conduct a General Accounting Office audit of possible conflicts of interest in loans to unknown banks.” Guma’s recent pieces have included, “Is a Progressive/Libertarian Movement Possible?”

      “If it becomes a national security election, I doubt Bernie could adjust his campaign — his record is at best muddled on that. If the media were serious, they’d ask him about the military budget. Military contractors in Vermont have had a negative effect on the state and Bernie has been fine with that.”

      Fighting the dysestablishment

      From our overstocked archives

      Sam Smith, 2012

      Having challenged the establishment my whole life, I’m feeling a little down right now. It is one thing to take on an elite revered by presidents, academics, media and the public for their illusion of wisdom and knowledge and quite another to find oneself in the ring with a mob of fools, prevaricators and pathological bullies whose only claim to fame is their claim to fame.

      Allen Dulles has been replaced by Donald Trump, Katherine Graham by Sarah Palin, McGeorge Bundy by Lindsay Lohan. 

      To be sure, the old establishment was repeatedly cruel, hypocritical and wrong, witness the Harvard intellectuals who helped talk LBJ into entering and staying in Vietnam. But one could embarrass them, and with a strong enough anti-establishment convince the public that something was badly wrong. It was tough but – as the civil rights and peace movement discovered – you could win if you fought long enough.

      The current dysestablishment, on the other hand, makes little sense and possesses less. It shuns rational thought, words or action. And it is encouraged by a media that is content to speak in the same meaningless abstractions created by lobbyists for political marketing purposes.

      The real has been replaced by adjectives. Politics has become just another form of advertising. Which is why both major presidential candidates seem so removed from us. They move, speak and think in a way carefully designed to sell an image that will get them through one particular day. They are staged people being shown to voters like staged homes being shown for sale.

      And presidential kitchen cabinets these days are not composed of establishment figures in law, politics and foreign affairs but of clever hustlers in the techniques of Madison Avenue – as well as those seeking to parlay public service into later private profits.

      One turning point came when Clark Clifford - the classic presidential adviser  to Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Carter –– got caught at the till and was indicted in the early 1990s for his dealings with BCC and First American Bank. 

      A publisher’s plug for a Clifford biography gives a sense of how important he had been:

      As a powerful corporate attorney, he advised Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. As special counsel to Truman, Clifford helped to articulate the Truman Doctrine, grant recognition to Israel, create the Marshall Plan, and build the North Atlantic Treaty Organization…  Johnson named Clifford secretary of defense in 1968, but their warm relationship was strained when Clifford concluded that there was no plan for victory in the Vietnam War and that the United States was in a “bottomless pit.” Even Carter, who kept his distance from Washington insiders, turned to Clifford for help.

      There has not been anyone close to him since. And his sharp decline into a grand jury indictment is a good metaphor for what has happened to the designated “wise” of America. Clifford was both one of the last of the old wise men and one of the first of the new hustlers.

      If you think I’m exaggerating, I offer the view of perhaps the greatest establishment suck-up in Washington, Sally Quinn, who recently wrote: 

      In April, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, my husband, Ben Bradlee, and I found ourselves sandwiched between the Kardashians and Newt and Callista Gingrich. Heavily made up and smiling for the cameras, the reality TV family and the political couple were swarmed over by the paparazzi, who were screaming and shouting the celebrities’ names to make them look toward the cameras for that million-dollar photograph.

      It was telling that Vanity Fair had bought more tables at the dinner than most of the Washington news organizations. 

      On the way home … I suddenly realized that this grotesque event signaled the end of power as we have known it. That dinner — which seemed to have more celebrities, clients and advertisers than journalists and politicians — was the tipping point.

      Power in Washington used to be centered on the White House, the Congress, the Cabinet, the diplomatic corps and the journalists. Today, all of those groups depend on money for their very existence. The real power lies with the lobbyists, the money-raisers, the super PACs, the bundlers, the corporations and rich people. 

      It is not that America should be run by a squad of snobbily sanctified, but that a country without respected voices outside the direct political game is too vulnerable to the whims of chameleons, card sharks and the stupid. This is America today; there are just too few good answers in the sounds it hears. 

      Further, because rationality plays such a minor role in public thought, it is far more difficult to confront. It’s the difference between being just wrong and being plain crazy. And because so much of the country accepts the craziness as truth, it is much harder to fight.

      Food links


      Word: Steven Wright

      Last year I went fishing with Salvador Dali. He was using a dotted line. He caught every other fish.

      I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

      What if there were no hypothetical questions?

      I spilled spot remover on my dog. He's gone now.

      If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

      Is there another word for synonym?

      Where do forest rangers go to "get away from it all?"

      What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?

      Why do they lock gas station bathrooms? Are they afraid someone will clean them?

      If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

      Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machines?

      How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs?

      What was the best thing before sliced bread?

      One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

      Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

      If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?

      Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot at them?

      Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?

      Jazz break

      Benny Goodman: Memories of You
      Teddy Wilson on piano

      February 11, 2016

      Many would have to work for more than an hour for a cup of this San Francisco coffee

      Fox NY - Equator Coffees and Teas based in Marin County released their special Finca Sophia blend last month.

      The beans, which cost $75 per 1/2 pound sold out within 18 hours.

      You can still get it by the cup at a mere $15 each.

      So what makes this coffee so special?

      The Finca Sophia coffee farm is located in Panama at an altitude of 2,100 meters, making it one of the highest altitude farms in Central America.

      Akash Saini, with Equator Coffees and Teas says it took 8 years to grow these particular coffee beans.

      News Notes

      73% of GOP voters think torture can be justified against those suspected of terrorism.

      From 1995 to 2000, the number of individuals held in solitary increased by 40%

      College freshmen haven't been this liberal since the Vietnam War

      63% think the country is on the wrong track

      Cleveland apologizes for suing Tamir Rice's family for ambulance fees after cop fatally shot him

      General Ri Yong-gil, chief of the North Korean Army's general staff, has been executed for "factionalism, misuse of authority and corruption," a South Korean government official tells CNN.

      We first proposed an elected attorney general for Washington DC as far back as 1981. Here's a story on the city's first elected attorney general. We continue to think that large cities should have elected attorneys general and city auditors.


      TPP: Treason by another name

      Rivera Sun, Truthout - The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement usurps federal, state and local authority, and functions as a global corporate coup.

      Corporations aren't people - otherwise, we'd be trying them for treason. If it were known that a handful of powerful men and women were meeting in secret to overthrow the authority of the US government and make this nation submissive to external domination, the NSA, CIA, FBI, US president, Congress and the military-industrial complex would declare them "terrorists of the year" and bomb them back into the Stone Age.

      But corporations aren't people. They enjoy superhuman status, and are awarded privileges and protections well beyond what ordinary citizens of the United States can expect... Corporations are given preferential treatment by judges, laws, politicians, investigators, tax agencies, financial institutions and much of our consumer-capitalist society.

      So, when corporations spend years in secret negotiations to set up a trade agreement that gives them the legal power to overrule federal, state and local laws, subjugating not only the United States, but also the rest of the world to their control, our Congress lines up to help them.

      This is treason by another name. It's called fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


      Word: Trump in brief

      Ezra Klein, Vox - Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he's a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he's also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it's hard to know if he even realizes he's lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

      ...Trump's path to power has been unnerving. His business is licensing out his own name as a symbol of opulence. He has endured bankruptcies and scandal by bragging his way out of them. He rose to prominence in the Republican Party as a leader of the birther movement. He climbed to the top of the polls in this election by calling Mexicans rapists and killers. He defended a poor debate performance by accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period. He responded to rival Ted Cruz's surge by calling for a travel ban on Muslims. When two of his supporters attacked a homeless man and said they did it because "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported," he brushed off complaints that he's inspiring violence by saying his supporters are "very passionate."

      Behind Trump's success is an unerring instinct for harnessing anger, resentment, and fear. His view of the economy is entirely zero-sum — for Americans to win, others must lose. "We're going to make America great again," he said in his New Hampshire victory speech, "but we're going to do it the old-fashioned way. We're going to beat China, Japan, beat Mexico at trade. We're going to beat all of these countries that are taking so much of our money away from us on a daily basis. It's not going to happen anymore."

      Trump answers America's rage with more rage... Trump's other gift — the one that gets less attention but is perhaps more important — is his complete lack of shame. It's easy to underestimate how important shame is in American politics. But shame is our most powerful restraint on politicians who would find success through demagoguery. Most people feel shame when they're exposed as liars, when they're seen as uninformed, when their behavior is thought cruel, when respected figures in their party condemn their actions, when experts dismiss their proposals, when they are mocked and booed and protested.

      Trump doesn't. He has the reality television star's ability to operate entirely without shame, and that permits him to operate entirely without restraint. It is the single scariest facet of his personality. It is the one that allows him to go where others won't, to say what others can't, to do what others wouldn't.

      If Cruz's wife is correct, God is a rightwing anti-Christian nut like her husband

      Alternet - Sen. Ted Cruz catches a lot flak for his face, which has been variously described as disagreeable, creepy or disturbing — but his wife says the Texas Republican is running for president to show Americans the “face of God.”

      Heidi Cruz ... said the senator had an explicitly religious motivation for his White House bid, reported Right Wing Watch. Cruz’s father said the Holy Ghost had authorized the senator’s presidential campaign, and his wife said she and her husband were “doing it for our country.”

      “We are at a cultural crossroads in our country, and if we can be in this race to show this country the face of the God that we serve — this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country, our country was built on Judeo-Christian values, we are a nation of freedom of religion, but the God of Christianity is the God of freedom, of individual liberty, of choice and of consequence,” Heidi Cruz said.

      The military budget those Republican candidates want to increase

      Party for Socialism & Liberation