Friday, December 09, 2016

Labor Secretary-designate Putz-der signals grim future for unions

Washington Post header: "Trump era confronts organized labor with gravest crisis in decades".  That is not an understatement.

President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter attack this week on a union official, followed by his choice of a labor secretary who has criticized new worker protections, has rattled leaders of the American labor movement, who fear unions may be facing their gravest crisis in decades.

On Thursday, Trump announced that he would nominate as his labor secretary Andrew Puzder, a fast-food executive who has opposed additional overtime pay for workers and expressed skepticism about increasing the minimum wage. That followed a pair of Twitter messages Wednesday evening in which Trump attacked an Indiana union leader who had criticized him, saying the official had done a “terrible job representing workers.”

The actions, coming just four weeks after Trump won the presidency in part by wooing union voters with promises of better trade deals and a manufacturing revival, fed fears among national labor leaders that Trump was now planning a broad assault on unions.

“The president-elect campaigned on reaching out to working people, and this is one of a string of nominations that run counter to that,” said Eric Hauser, the AFL-CIO’s strategic adviser and communications director.

Indeed, it was labor's rank-and file in the Upper Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania -- Hillary Clinton's so-called firewall -- who defied their bosses (and their union's PACs) and swallowed Trump's line about "bringing jobs back".  They appear to be the ones most severely duped.  But we're just to the holiday season's halfway point and there's a lot of duping yet to be revealed.

The crisis for unions is a combination of direct threats from Trump’s agenda and the knowledge that many rank-and-file workers are sympathetic to his populist message. Exit poll data from the Nov. 8 election shows that Hillary Clinton’s smaller margin of victory among union members, along with Trump’s unusually strong performance, helped him win the White House.

The last time unions faced such an environment was when President Ronald Reagan slashed regulations, named a con­­struction company exec­utive as labor secretary and took on the air traffic controllers union. But, even during that onslaught, unions were in a much stronger position than today — representing 20 percent of private-sector workers compared with 7 percent today.

The list of potential setbacks for the labor movement is daunting. Some union leaders are worried that a Trump administration would attempt to introduce a national right-to-work law — allowing any employee anywhere to exempt themselves from participating in a union — and block unions from deducting dues from paychecks.

Trump also will be able to fill two of the five spots on the National Labor Relations Board, which adjudicates disputes between unions and corporate management.

Some union leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for the unions, said that labor leaders also fear that a Republican Congress and Trump White House would launch investigations of union finances­ while failing to enforce labor laws when employers underpay workers or violate occupational safety rules.

“The assault on unions, as institutions, is indeed unprecedented in scale,” Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin said in an email. “Even in the 1920s, conservative Republicans did not argue against their very legitimacy.”

This comes on the heels of the Obama administration's setback in a Texas court last month regarding the expansion of overtime rules for non-salaried employees, many of whom happen to be single mothers.  A few businesses had already rolled out the changes, including raises for some and converting others to hourly, in anticipation of the law's implementation on December 1.  A number of employers cheered the ruling striking the order down.

Which brings us to the soon-to-be Labor Secretary, fast-food magnate Andrew Putz-der.

Puzder, who is chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which includes fast-food chains such as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has sharply criticized Obama’s efforts. The overtime rule would affect many low-paying transient jobs such as those in retailing or the fast-food business.

Putz-der has a lot less going for him as well.  As you might have guessed, he thinks raising the minimum wage is a bad idea.  As he does the previously-referenced overtime rule and also the Affordable Care Act.  But he's a big fan of women in bikinis selling his hamburgers.

Commercials for Carl’s Jr. feature scantily clad women, which has drawn criticism, the New York Times pointed out, from women’s groups and religious activists. The aim of these ads, according to Entrepreneur magazine, is to attract “hungry young guys.” And it’s an approach that Puzder enthusiastically endorses.

"If you don't complain, I go to the head of marketing and say, 'What's wrong with our ads?'" He told Entrepreneur in 2015. "Those complaints aren't necessarily bad for us. What you look at is, you look at sales. And, our sales go up."

In his career before fast food, he helped write a landmark anti-abortion bill that became law.

Puzder was an attorney in St. Louis in the '80s and '90s, when he helped draft a law that placed strict restrictions on abortion access in Missouri, according to the biography on his blog. The law banned the use of public employees and public facilities in performing abortions. The executive director of an abortion clinic in St. Louis sued to overturn the law, according to the New York Times. The suit ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the restrictions, marking it the first time the court allowed states to enact restrictions on abortion, the Times reported.

He does seem to want to work toward solutions, for what that's worth.

Puzder later teamed up with the very man who sued to overturn the law he wrote. Together, Puzder and B. J. Isaacson-Jones, then executive director of Reproductive Health Services, established the Common Ground Network. The organization, which is now nationwide, seeks to find ways for pro-choice and pro-life advocates to work together, including promoting adoption and limiting unwanted teen pregnancies, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But his reputation as a wife-beater, taken together with the reports above, IMO cements him firmly as a misogynist.  The local newspaper had the story ...

Andrew Puzder, the St. Louis attorney who rose to become CEO of Carl's Jr. and now stands as Donald Trump's pick to be Secretary of Labor, was accused of abuse by his first wife in the 1980s — with police twice summoned to the couple's home.

The allegations were first aired in the couple's 1989 divorce. The abuse allegations in the divorce filings then became the subject of a July 26, 1989, Riverfront Times cover story.

Again FWIW, he denied the allegations and his ex-wife has recently walked them back, claiming they have resolved their differences and have a convivial relationship today.

Of all of Trump's shitty Cabinet selections to date, this one might be the worst.  Working men and women are quite likely to suffer the most over the next four years.  I wonder if they will wake up and smell the coffee.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Trump's cabinet: breaking all the rules

Including some rules of Trump's.

This morning's Vox Sentences saves me a lot of linkage work.
  • The most orthodox, from a Republican standpoint, is Trump's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who hates pretty much everything the EPA has done for the past eight years. [Vox / Brad Plumer]
  • Trump's pick for the Small Business Administration, likewise, is a big GOP donor and former Senate candidate. Of course, she's also the co-founder and former CEO of the pro wrestling association WWE, which Trump was affiliated with for a long time, so it seems a little weird. [Reuters / Steve Holland]
  • Conversely, it seems totally reasonable that Trump would nominate Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as his ambassador to China ... until you realize Branstad wants closer ties with China and Trump has all but promised them a trade war. [Vox / Zack Beauchamp]
  • (The conflict will presumably be up to Trump's as-yet-unnamed secretary of state to resolve — and, yeah, naming ambassadors before a secretary of state is kind of weird in its own right.) [Politico / Louis Nelson]
  • And then there's retired Gen. John F. Kelly, former head of US Southern Command, who has not officially been confirmed as Trump's secretary of the Department of Homeland Security but has been reported as the pick so widely that it's basically official. [Military Times / Andrew deGrandpre]
  • Kelly, like the other ex-generals in Trump's Cabinet, has a reputation as a tough talker. But he doesn't appear to see the problems facing the US as the sort of thing that can be, ahem, walled off — which could create conflicts within Trumpworld. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • (Trump's rumored deputy homeland security secretary, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, is a much more orthodox immigration hawk.) [Washington Examiner / Gabby Morrongiello]
  • And in case you're wondering, picking three ex-generals for Cabinet-levels positions where they're supposed to represent the civilian face of national security is definitely not normal. [TPM / Josh Marshall]

They didn't mention Tom Price for HHS or Ben Carson for HUD, but hey, it's been a busy week for all of us.  These new picks are almost capable of eclipsing his first ones, detailed last week here.

In another indication that Trump really does not care who he pisses off, Mitt Romney has indeed moved to the top of the pile for secretary of state.  Which beats the hell out of Rudy Guiliani and David Petreaus, I guess.

Just documenting the atrocities is hard work.

Update: Let's add fast-food magnate and now Labor Secretary-designate Andrew Puzder, who wants to replace all his workers with robots. And via Public Citizen...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The December 7th anniversary nobody celebrates

It's pretty horrible.

The last reported instance of white Texans burning an African American at the stake occurred eighty-three years ago today, December 7, 1933, near a black neighborhood in Kountze, Texas.

On Saturday, December 2, a 30-year-old white woman named Nellie Williams Brockman left her and her husband’s farm and headed to a department store in Kountze by truck. Somewhere along the way she ran into trouble and was apparently shot. They found her body next to the truck and both the vehicle and her corpse were partially burned.

After Brockman’s body was discovered, a few folks claimed they had seen a shotgun-carrying black man head into the woods not far from where the crime was committed. Local law enforcement officials mounted an intensive search for the suspect, utilizing platoons of armed volunteers and keen bloodhounds, but turned up nothing.

A few days into the manhunt, the Kountze Police Department became interested in an African American man named David Gregory. According to the San Antonio Express, Gregory, a preacher’s son, only became a suspect after a anonymous “tip”: “Cloaking their investigation in secrecy, officers said the tip was of such nature that to divulge it would greatly jeopardize chances of apprehending the fugitive.”

The Galveston Daily News indicated that the tip came after Gregory was suspected and that its source was one of the suspect’s aunts. Whatever the case, when Gregory learned that he was a suspect, he disappeared and at least six African American men (including Gregory’s brother) were arrested in an attempt to determine his location. The News suggested that the informer placed Gregory at an African American church in the small community of Voth (now part of the northwest section of Beaumont, just east of U.S. Hwy 96 and the Pine Island Bayou).

On December 7, Hardin County Sheriff Miles D. Jordan, Sr., Deputy Sheriff Ralph B. Chance, Jefferson County Sheriff W.W. “Bill” Richardson and Deputy Sheriff Homer French headed to Voth and discovered Gregory at the described church, apparently concealed in the belfry. When they asked him to come down he refused and “flourished” a pistol (not a shotgun, the weapon the black suspect was reported carrying near the crime scene). Deputy Chance subsequently felled Gregory with a shotgun blast, the buckshot tearing into Gregory’s face and neck and rendering him unconscious.

Sheriff Jordan et al took custody of Gregory and immediately transported him to a Beaumont hospital. He was in critical condition and received emergency treatment, but the doctors indicated that he probably wouldn’t survive until morning. 

The story gets even worse from there, and I'll leave it to you to finish.  Here's the author's last few paragraphs, which are worth considering in this new era we're heading into.

It is important to recall this history because folks that look like me—white folks—got away with it. Folks who burned dozens of black men at the stake. Folks who committed racial expulsions and perpetrated wholesale massacres.

Today, we approve of voter suppression and summary execution and elect governors who hunt at places with names like Niggerhead Ranch. We have the upper hand and we maintain it assiduously. We feel it’s our birthright. And as our privilege and pseudo-superiority are increasingly questioned and challenged, we claim we’re being put upon, or wrongfully vilified. We consider criticism of our entitlement an act of subversion and sedition.

White fragility has its roots in white monstrosity. And since we white folks have never had to acknowledge much less atone for our catalogue of inhumanities here in Texas—particularly involving persons of color—ignorance must prevail. We feel our entire way of life depends on it.

E.R. Bills isn't talking about himself or even me, but really ... he is.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

#DAPL: It ain't over

Sorry about raining on the victory parade.

It helps in understanding the next move in what is now a waiting game if you distill it down to this: America is an oil company with two standing armies; one foreign and one domestic.  The national one is the legion of police from around the country who are on the scene, earning overtime and travel perks while they spray water cannon in freezing temperatures on people, blow up a woman's arm with a grenade, and bring associated hell on the protestors at Standing Rock.  It's a wide-open window into our police state.

Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities in 10 different states (including North Dakota) have poured into Standing Rock, according to the Morton County Sheriff's Department, the local law enforcement agency.


Per DeSmog Blog, Standing Rock is one of the few times that EMAC (the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, see the very first link for more) has been called upon to respond to social activism. In April 2015, during Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death while in police custody, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and sent out an EMAC request. About 300 state troopers from Pennsylvania and another 150 from New Jersey responded. The city racked up an estimated $20 million in extra policing costs.


The increased law enforcement presence at Standing Rock has coincided with mounting concerns over police brutality. The deployment of military-grade equipment, including land-mine-resistant trucks and armored personnel carriers, as well as the use of pepper spray, rubber bullets, and alleged strip searches led Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault II to ask the Justice Department to investigate civil rights abuses. [...] Some of the police details that have arrived in Standing Rock are among the largest recipients of military transfers from the federal government, according to an In These Times investigation. The South Dakota Highway Patrol has received $2 million worth of military equipment since 2006. The Lake County Sheriff's Office in Northwest Indiana obtained $1.5 million worth of military equipment over the same time period. The Pennington County Sheriff's office in South Dakota, the Anoka County Sheriff's office in Minnesota, and the Griffith Indiana Police Department have all received assault rifles through military equipment transfer programs as well.

Much more at the article, which concludes with how communities are beginning to push back against these abuses of authority and blank checks from taxpayers for their local peace officers (*coughBScough*) to go on a mayhem vacation.

Now then, on to the generals politicians directing this assault, one of whom is ND Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.  Bold emphasis mine:

“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe. This administration’s delay in taking action -- after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision -- means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful (sic; notice the conflicting accounts about fires being set, and associated water cannon usage) and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located -- I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.”

Read only the first bullet point in this lengthy piece for more about the violence and tactics used by authorities.  Heitkamp, a very conservative Democrat, was referenced in this post last week as she interviewed for a job in the Trump administration.  If she remains in the Senate, my prediction is that she will change parties in order to hold her seat in 2018.  Trump, as you may already know, supports DAPL and may own stock (Bloomberg says so, but Snopes says 'unproven' -- Update: Confirmed just after post time, he's sold out) in Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company owned by Dallas billionaire Kelcy Warren, who's donated heavily to Trump and other Republicans, specifically Texan ones, in this cycle.  I wonder if any of this came up in Trump's conversation with Al Gore yesterday.

Two more things:  Activists contend that ETP will dig the pipeline under the Missouri River and just pay the fines, and ETP says they will see the project through to completion (a necessary assurance for stock- and stakeholders).  And if you want to see how corporate media reports this story, read this.  Either way the pipeline will happen, even if it has to wait for Trump to be inaugurated in six weeks.

Despite the celebrations taking place at the site of protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), experts say the recent decision to stop the pipeline could be reversed by the Trump administration or the next Congress. "Legally, this is an action that can be overturned easily," says Sharon Buccino, an attorney and director of the Land and Wildlife program at the National Resources Defense Council.


(A)ccording to Deborah Sivas, a professor of environmental law at Stanford University, there are multiple ways the pipeline might still be completed legally in its current location. The Republican-led Congress could vote to clear the way for ETP to drill under the Missouri River by passing an appropriations rider. Then the company would no longer need an easement from the Army Corps to comply with the Clean Water Act, and could thus complete the pipeline. "Trump could sign off on it in week one," Sivas says. "All it takes is one sentence."

Or Trump could go a slightly more patient route and still achieve the same result.

Alternatively, according to Buccino, Congress could exclude public input from the environmental impact statement ordered by the Army Corps, excluding Standing Rock Sioux tribal members from participating and thereby sidestepping complaints that the project desecrates sacred burial sites. Such actions would likely be subject to public criticism, she acknowledges. Buccino also points out that Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Army Corps official who made the announcement, was appointed by President Barack Obama and will leave her position in January. Donald Trump and his administration officials could exert pressure and guidance on the Army Corps' commanders to reverse their decision.

A battle was won, but the war is still lost.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

With the first December blog post roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance plans to send half its members to Mexico unless it gets a tax break.

Off the Kuff takes a deeper look at the judicial races in Harris County to get a better sense of the partisan mix this year.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos notes that Trump’s promise to drain the swamp by packing it with billionaires, bigots, homophobes, Islamaphobes, climate change deniers and white supremacists is not helpful to his working class voters. In fact, with this crew in place, Trump promises to stiff his base. Welcome to Trump’s United States of Texas.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is still processing Donald Trump, the racist, misogynistic con man as president-'elect' while Greg Abbott acts out the white nationalist agenda here in Texas.

Socratic Gadfly, in the third of a series of posts on the Jill Stein presidential vote recount snarks on Greg Palast while taking a serious look at recount and Green Party issues.

In evaluating the Trump Cabinet picks to date, PDiddie at Brains and Eggs discovered there was also a much deeper hole than initially perceived that the Democrats have dug themselves into ... and must dig their own way out of.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reports that Denton County's former elections adminstrator has been rehired as their new one, after holding the same post in Tarrant County and following the retirement of the current one, prompted by a slew of voting irregularities there.

Dos Centavos advances an upcoming panel discussion at Rice University on the evolving nature of Mexico-US business relations under the Trump administration.

Texas Freedom Network assembles the quotes of the week from around the state.

Neil at All People Have Value says he does whatever graffiti instructs him to do. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas news outlets.

The Dallas News hears that Louie Gohmert is still a little raw after getting scalded about his balcony barbecue operation.

The SAEN reports that Bexar County Democrats want their new party chair, Manuel Medina,  to run for mayor of San Antone.  (Clue to Texas Dems: this might be the star you're looking for.  He's got all the $$$ sources, situational ethics, and identity politics you like to see in your candidates.)

Grits for Breakfast indicates that the first Waco Twin Peaks biker trial is slated to begin in January, and also complains about the falsehoods associated with crime being reported as fact.

Lawflog laughingly noted the TABC officials who served liquor illegally at their recent conclave.

The Texas Election Law Blog comments on vote "fraud" and recounts in our post-truth atmosphere.

The TSTA Blog highlights the problems with private school vouchers.

The WAWG Blog answers the question: "Why privatize Social Security?"

The Texas Living Waters Project asks what steps your utility is taking to conserve water.

Katie Singh lists some Texas organizations that could use your support.

BeyondBONES asks for your assistance in helping the scientists of tomorrow.

And CultureMap Houston lists some Hill Country Christmas holiday events in Gruene, Fredericksburg, Johnson City, and Wimberley.

Friday, December 02, 2016

From bad to worse for Democrats

Before we run down the Donkeys' latest self-inflicted wounds, let's review the newest plates and stemware in the Cabinet.

-- We've covered Beauregard, Mad Dog, Flynn, Pompeo, and Mnuchin already; some of the other appointees, like Nikki Haley, aren't really worthy of their own post (a fuller list of Trumpeteers, picked and rumored, is here).  The last big one, Secretary of State, is still being juggled by President-elect Barking Yam, with Mitt Romney, David Petraeus, and Rudy Giuliani starring as the bowling pins (although there is at least one more).  There's a poll you can take here, and Cypher Lewandowski, Trump's former mole at CNN, floated Jon Huntsman and refloated John Bolton.

-- As if Democrats weren't in deep enough shit of their own excretion as it is ...

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat of North Dakota, is paying a visit to Trump Tower on Friday, and Senator Chuck E. Schumer of New York, the incoming minority leader, is having heart palpitations.

“I appreciate the president-elect inviting me for a meeting. ... Whatever job I do, I hope to work with the president-elect and all of my colleagues in Congress on both sides of the aisle to best support my state.”

To Democrats, that last line can mean two things, neither of them good. If she is in line for an administration job, her Senate seat would turn Republican. If not, she seems to be indicating she is a possible vote for the Trump agenda.

And no matter what, her seat is up in 2018 — in a state that went to Trump with 62 percent of the vote.

... and ...

The decision by Gov. Jerry Brown of California to name Representative Xavier Becerra to be the state’s attorney general has set off another round of finger-pointing among Democrats — and opened a crucial post in the Trump era.

Becerra, like Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland before him and former Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois (now the mayor of Chicago) before them, had risen as far as he could in the House leadership. Becerra faced a blockade of older members of Congress, like Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Steny H. Hoyer, and James E. Clyburn, in the top ranks.

Unlike Van Hollen, who was elected to the Senate last month, Becerra opted against running for his state’s open Senate seat, but he has found his own way to statewide office.

Becerra was in line for a huge consolation prize in the House, however. The veteran Representative Sander M. Levin of Michigan had just stepped aside as the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee — and he recommended the telegenic Californian for the post.

That would have put Becerra on the front lines as Trump tries to repeal the Affordable Care Act, cut taxes, overhaul the tax code and possibly convert Medicare into a system that offers fixed sums to seniors to buy private health plans.

Instead, it looks as if that role will go to Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, who may be less camera ready but is actually better versed on the intricacies of tax policy.

This is the problem associated with re-electing Pelosi minority leader; there is a blockage that exists because the Old Guard won't give way to the Young Turks, and so ego fills another vacuum elsewhere.  That's no way to build a bench.

-- In another signal to progressives that they should just go away, there's a smear campaign being waged against Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who is -- despite the puzzling and incorrect first sentence below -- in a real battle with Howard Dean for the right to chair the DNC.  Update (12/3): Dean's sudden pullout only makes the contest murkier.  Update II (12/4): Glenn Greenwald explains precisely how the smear makes the DC inside game so repugnant.

So far Representative Keith Ellison’s drive to be the next Democratic National Committee chairman has gone swimmingly, with no strong competition in sight.

But CNN went where other outlets have feared to tread, printing old writings of Mr. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, in defense of the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and other contentious black activists.


Ellison long ago renounced his associations with the Nation of Islam, and has had Jewish groups defend him. But the report could prove troublesome, to say the least.

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been mildly supportive, reacted strongly.

“Ellison’s remarks are both deeply disturbing and disqualifying. His words imply that U.S. foreign policy is based on religiously or national origin-based special interests rather than simply on America’s best interests. Additionally, whether intentional or not, his words raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government, a poisonous myth that may persist in parts of the world where intolerance thrives, but that has no place in open societies like the U.S. These comments sharply contrast with the Democratic National Committee platform position, which states: ‘A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States because we share overarching strategic interests and the common values of democracy, equality, tolerance and pluralism.’ ”

Shades of the over-reaction to Bernie Sanders' writing about rape.  This is a 'damned if they do or don't' conundrum with respect to Ellison's bid for chair: it will be "Muzlins eevil" all day and all night from the right if they pick him, and f'n Dean and his corporate lobbyist baggage killing them with whatever is left of the left base if they don't.  Perhaps there will be room for a consolidation candidate like SC Dem party chairman Jamie Harrison to break through, but we won't know for sure until next year, when the election is held.

Part of the liberal electorate's continuing angst has to be the slow realization that it is a tremendous waste of time to keep holding on with a decrepit political party that cannot figure out how to beat the sorriest lot of Republicans since Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Abu Gonzalez, etc., ad nauseum.  Future episodes of The Blame Game aren't going to improve this.

Remember all those people who said the GOP was imploding?  They must be miserable.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

And starring Steve Mnuchin as Hank Paulson

The FNG at the Treasury Department does not seem to be very good at math (or perhaps it's speaking truth he's bad at).

Newly designated for Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that Donald Trump's tax plan would contain "no reduction" in taxes for the rich. Yet an independent analysis of the president-elect's plan suggests that most of the benefits would, in fact, go to the top earners.

Shortly after confirming that he had been chosen for the role of Treasury secretary, Mnuchin told CNBC that the president-elect's cap on itemized deductions would offset all the other cuts high earners would receive.

"There will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class," Mnuchin said. "Any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that pay for it. "

But the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center said Mnuchin's comments don't square with Trump's plan. In an analysis that included the deduction caps, which include benefits from charitable giving and mortgages, the center found that those changes aren't large enough to offset lower income tax and capital gains rates for the top earners.

A dive into the numbers follows, and then this.

That's not to say that Trump's plan won't stimulate the economy or investment. And there is no doubt that Trump's plan lowers taxes for almost every type of taxpayer in America.

But Mnuchin may have overstepped the law of numbers when he said the wealthy will get no tax break.

Let's overlook that 'draining the swamp' campaign promise; I thought rich guys were supposed to be smart?  Since CNBC isn't on the WaPo list of fake news sites, and certainly can't be condemned as 'librul mediuh", I wonder when the Republicans will re-start the whining about budget deficits.  I'd put the over/under at somewhere between two years and four years, depending on how the 2018 midterms go for them.

Seeking Alpha also references the across-the-board tax cuts, as well as "killing many aspects" of Dodd-Frank and a maximum corporate tax rate of 15%.  I'm no economist but that scenario is a guaranteed money-loser.  Mnuchin made a shitpile of profit cleaning up after the Great Recession of 2008, specifically with his purchase of a California bank that earned the moniker 'foreclosure machine', so it stands to reason that he's the kind of guy who wants to go back to the days of the arbitrage gunslingers.

Let's schedule a watch party for Trump, Mnuchin, and some of their sycophants among the Wall Street gang to see Too Big to Fail and The Big Short.  I'll pop the corn.

Update: This is that guy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The president-elect is a Twitter troll, and other shattershots

-- In this post-truth environment we're now living in, it helps to find something to keep you grounded and centered.  Even if that happens to be, you know, a bottle of Scotch.  I have to limit myself personally to about one or two drinks weekly because of my sundry health conditions, but drinking to forget how the world is changing for the worse, and so rapidly, is not something I'm going to criticize anyone over.  I tend to look for solutions to problems as a first reaction to their presenting themselves, and this sounds like a good one to me.

This week, in a volley of angry tweets, Donald Trump ridiculed the “badly defeated ... Dems,” claimed he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” and said anyone who burned the American flag should lose their citizenship or spend a year in jail. Trump’s outbursts set off alarms. How could he believe such nonsense about voter fraud? Why would a man who had just been elected president gloat, threaten protesters, and insult half the country? What’s going on in his messed-up head?

To understand Trump, you have to set aside the scripted speeches he gave before his election and the canned videos he has released since. You also have to set aside the caricature of him as a Klan-loving, Nazi-sympathizing woman hater who will deport every immigrant he can find. Instead, look at the four interviews he has given since his election: to the Wall Street Journal, 60 Minutes, the New York Times, and a group of TV anchors and executives. In these exchanges, all of them conducted outside the behavior-warping context of the campaign, you’ll see how squishy he is. Trump did run a despicable campaign, and he’s a menace to the country and the world. But it’s not because he’s a strongman. It’s because he’s a weakling.

Mwahahahaha.  Will Saletan, a writer I've enjoyed for decades, goes on to list twelve shadetree-psychology points to make when influencing the f'n new guy in the White House.

That’s how you move Trump. You don’t talk about ethics. You play the toughness card. You appeal to the art of the deal. You make him feel smart, powerful, and loved. You don’t forget how unmoored and volatile he is, but you set aside your fear and your anger. You thank God that you’re dealing with a narcissist, not a cold-blooded killer. And until you can get him safely out of the White House, you work with what you have. People in other countries have dealt with presidents like Trump for a long time. Can we handle it?
Yes, we can.

There will be ample time for protests that make a difference over the next four years -- such as turning Dump Tower into a living hell and thus forcing his neighbors to sell at below-market and move out -- but for now, don't give up your Twitter account, no matter how cesspoolish it may get.

-- There's differing opinions as to whether Trump is indeed an infantile narcissist who should be ignored every time he cries out for attention, or whether he should be taken deadly seriously (this is the "normalizing' quarrel).  I believe he is conducting a distraction for the most part, especially when it burps out on Twitter at 4:30 in the morning, like a colicky baby might.  But as to which avenue of pushback to choose: pick one and get going.  (There's nothing that limits you to one of those directions permanently, either.)

For example, today's "ha ha, look what Twitter says" is about Trump's having Mitt Romney over for dinner last night, despite the fact that Kellyanne Cryptkeeper went public last Sunday with the 'Bagger base's irritation over Romney being considered for anything beyond the main course of the meal.  This distraction has been going on for a week already.

-- The corporate media is still addicted to fake news.  Liberals still love it, too.  (The critique at the Slate link of Jill Stein and #Recount2016 hopefully can mollify my pal Gadfly, as he is just a bit too angry about ... well, everything it seems, regarding the recount.)

-- This is a good explainer about whether, and how, Medicare lives or dies over the next two and maybe four years.  I was reminded as I read it that that the Affordable Care Act was birthed the very same way, with the Republicans and Democrats having traded places.

Put me down for an early bet that Medicare survives much as it currently exists due to the shifting and shiftless nature of our fascist overlords.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#Recount2016: The latest *Updates below

A technician prepares voting machines to be used in the presidential election 
in Philadelphia. Courtesy AP/

Pennsylvania will have to be sued in order to recount their votes, and the situation is something more than a little complicated.

“Petitioners have grave concerns about the integrity of electronic voting machines used in their districts,” the suit stated.

Though Monday’s petition was filed by 100 Pennsylvania voters, as required by the state’s election law, it is part of Stein’s effort to challenge results in three states that were critical to deciding the presidential election.

Stein’s camp filed a recount petition last week in Wisconsin, and is expected to do so this week Michigan. Clinton lost each of the state by fewer than 100,000 votes. She lost Pennsylvania by about 71,300 votes.


(Pennsylvania), where Mr. Trump holds a lead of 70,638 votes, or 1.1 percent, allows any three voters to petition to recount their local precinct. But despite a call on Sunday from Ms. Stein on Facebook for thousands of Pennsylvanians to file the paperwork, in many cases the deadlines have come and gone, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.

There are more than 9,000 voting precincts in Pennsylvania. Wanda Murren, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said she was aware of petitions in only a handful of the state’s 67 counties.

The Stein campaign said that as of Monday, voters had filed recount petitions in 120 precincts, including more than 70 in Philadelphia, where the county has not yet certified the vote and petitions can still be accepted, according to Ilann Maazel, a lawyer for the campaign.

The Wolverine State seems a little cleaner ...

In Michigan, a candidate can request a recount by citing fraud or errors, said Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Michigan secretary of state. But other candidates, like Mr. Trump, could potentially object to such a request by appealing to the Board of State Canvassers.

At a meeting on Monday, where the canvassers certified the election results, a representative for Ms. Stein said her campaign planned to request a complete hand recount by a deadline on Wednesday. The campaign would need to pay estimated costs of $800,000, and a recount could start as early as Friday.

... and the Badger State proceeds apace.

To begin the recount in Wisconsin, the state must receive payment of $3.5 million by Tuesday afternoon to cover the estimated costs, the Wisconsin Elections Commission said on Monday. The commission approved a schedule, which includes county clerks and canvass members being briefed on procedures on Wednesday morning, with the recount beginning Thursday and being completed by Dec. 12 and certified on Dec. 13. The Electoral College votes on Dec. 19.

Ms. Stein asked that the recount of ballots be done entirely by hand, but the elections commission rejected that request. It instead allowed counties to determine whether the ballots should be counted manually or with tabulating equipment. Ms. Stein said on Monday that she would sue to demand the hand count.

Rather then mention Trump's false and inflammatory Tweet, which as usual got more media attention that it deserved -- though thankfully most called it what it is: a lie -- let me point out that the recount effort has produced its own divisions in the Green Party, starting with this statement by Stein's running mate, Ajamu Baraka.

I believe that Dr. Stein sincerely believed that she had an obligation, grounded in her commitment to the principle of election integrity, to mount a challenge to the results in those three states. And while I don’t share that position for reasons that I am not going to try and elaborate on here on Facebook, the notion that her decision was made for any other reason than that is a position that I cannot support. There are many in and outside of the Green Party who support the campaign’s decision to call for a recount. But there are also many Green Party activists and supporters who are opposed to that decision.

It is unfortunate that after waging a courageous campaign to build an independent, principled political opposition to the two racist, capitalist/imperialist parties, the recount effort has resulted in serious questions regarding the motivations of the recount that threatens to damage the standing and reputation of the Green party, its supporters, and activists.

A statement released by several long-time Greens also objected to the recount.  A portion:

There are significant electoral reforms needed to make elections more democratic and more representative of the people. While we support electoral reforms, including how the vote is counted, we do not support the current recount being undertaken by Jill Stein.

The decision to pursue a recount was not made in a democratic or a strategic way, nor did it respect the established decision making processes and structures of the Green Party of the United States (GPUS).  The recount has created confusion about the relationship between the Green and Democratic parties because the states chosen for the recount are only states in which Hillary Clinton lost. There were close races in other states such as New Hampshire and Minnesota where Clinton won, but which were not part of the recount. And this recount does not address the disenfranchisement of voters; it recounts votes that were already counted rather than restoring the suffrage of voters who were prevented from voting.

As a candidate, Dr. Stein has the right to call for a recount. However, we urge the GPUS to distance itself from any appearance of support for either Democrats or Republicans. We are well aware of the undemocratic actions taken during the primaries by the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Greens cannot be perceived to be allied with such a party.

Signatories included Chris Hedges, Cindy Sheehan, Cynthia McKinney, Rosa Clemente, and even Stein's field director for her 2016 campaign, Adrian Boutureira Sansberro.

So to be clear, Stein (and David Cobb, her campaign manager and 2004 presidential nominee, along with other GP leaders like Ben Manski) took the initiative -- in defiance of a GPUS steering committee vote that went against them -- to pursue the recount, beginning with its stunningly successful fundraising appeal.  What all this means for Green unity going forward is an open question, particularly if Stein pursues elective office again, and a story likely to be reported almost exclusively in this space.

More from Brad Friedman's podcast yesterday and his interview with Richard Hayes Phillips, an author and election fraud investigator of long-standing repute.  Here's an excerpt:

... (Hayes Phillips' detailed report concerns) the unusually large apparent voter turnout numbers in many rural WI municipalities and the difficulty citizens have in verifying and overseeing those numbers. As Phillips explains, there are horrible public reporting requirements for both results and for same-day voter registration provisions in the state.

"At a minimum, the problem is a lack of transparency ... We have no way of knowing how many registered voters there are [in WI]. If you don't know how many registered voters there are, you don't know if too many ballots were cast." His report finds that, based on the latest state-reported voter registration numbers, there were "193 towns with turnout of 90% or better, 25 towns with turnout of 95% or better, and 7 towns with turnout of 100% or better." Those exceedingly high turnout numbers are likely lower in reality, due to same-day registration in WI, but the lack of reporting requirements for those numbers is "unacceptable".

"This is the period of time during which we must analyze those numbers to decide whether or not to challenge the election, and we don't have reliable numbers to use!" Philips, who personally examined tens of thousands of ballots and poll books and much more in Ohio after the disputed 2004 election there, resulting in his book Witness to a Crime: A Citizens' Audit of an American Election, says WI's turnout numbers remind him of a number of counties where he found fraud in Ohio, where there was some 80% turnout reported.

(Hayes Phillips observes) that there are almost no ballots to actually count in PA. "The five biggest cities in Pennsylvania that have no paper record of anybody's vote, except for absentee ballots, which only amount to 1 or 2% of the ballots," he says. "My God, if Wisconsin and Michigan which are very close were to actually flip and fall to Hillary Clinton's column, we will face a constitutional crisis, because this whole election will come down to Pennsylvania and the vote cannot be verified. I want America to know this."

Also hearkening back to Ohio in 2004, Phillips notes that there are tens of thousands of ballots with no vote at all for President in MI --- even near Detroit --- according to the state's unverified optical-scan tabulators. It's impossible to know how people voted, unless paper ballots are actually counted by human beings, he confirms. "Who knows who these ballots are actually marked for?"

"I'm not a shill for Hillary Clinton. I didn't even vote for her. But I want everyone's vote to count," he argues. "I want the winner to win and the loser to lose."

I'm not a purist, and I have no interest in seeing Hillary Clinton prevail, and I don't think she will.  Simply put, the integrity of our elections must be able to withstand scrutiny, or the United States is just another banana republic.  Or Christian caliphate, if you prefer.

Update (11/30): More from Bradblog.  And Rocky de La Fuente has paid for a small sample recount in Nevada.  If that sampling shows some inaccuracies, then the state will order a full recount.  And here's a more recent interview with Bonifaz detailing the mechanics of the recount.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is more familiar with the word "emolument" than ever before as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff looks at statewide judicial race results by State Rep district in Harris County.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos agrees with Donald Trump. The election is rigged. On his behalf. Thanks to the Electoral College. Why I refuse to sit down, shut up and get over it.

Ted at jobsanger also joins the cacophony of whining about the EC.

Socratic Gadfly takes a critical look at Jill Stein's vote recount push, and while noting it's noble, finds a number of problems, mainly with the likely Clinton-loving professor who pushed for it in the first place.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is appalled that Henry Cuellar is one of 18 Democrats in the US House refusing to denounce Stephen Bannon, the white nationalist who is Trump's pick for chief strategist.

Texas Vox invites everyone to the ninth annual Austin Green Holiday Party, sponsored by 17 environmental groups, on December 8 at Barr Mansion.

The Lewisville High School theatre department will present "The Laramie Project", a retelling of the life and death of Matthew Shepard, December 1-3, according to the Texan-Journal.

The death of Fidel Castro was the latest of seminal 2016 moments, but no more so than for Mrs. Diddie, whose stories of leaving Cuba in the arms of her parents in 1962 were retold for another generation by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value went to Galveston on Thanksgiving Day and posted a nice picture of the beach. APHV is part of


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Kevin Diaz at the SAEN, via Sayfie Review Texas, reports that US Rep. Kevin Brady will be Congress' and the Trump administration's point man in replacing the Affordable Care Act.

The Rivard Report calls our attention to a few more education bills filed in the Texas Senate for next year's legislative session.

Space City Weather remembers the November 1992 tornado outbreak in Southeast Texas.

The Bloggess explains her strategy for surviving family get-togethers.

The Texas Election Law Blog reviews the case for a presidential recount.

Grits for Breakfast marvels anew at the way some members of our Court of Criminal Appeals operate.

The TSTA Blog calls the A-F campus grading system "shameful".

In her first-ever concert in Texas, CultureMap Houston heard Barbra Streisand mix in some thoughts on barbecue and politics between songs.

And returning after a year-long hiatus, Fascist Dyke Motors reveals that she shot William Burroughs.