Nel's New Day

July 16, 2016

Congress Takes Seven-Week Vacation

Congress hobbled out of town two days ago for a seven-week recess, one of the longest in its modern history after they filed a resolution to impeach the IRS commissioner, John A. Koskinen, who had nothing to do with the issue of asking political Tea Party PACs to show that they weren’t political. Another witch hunt was the committee to destroy Planned Parenthood and anyone who had any relationship—no matter how intangential. Thus far, its efforts have been as unproductive as the multi-million-dollar effort to find an involvement between Hillary Clinton and the deaths at Benghazi, Libya.

Two bills – both bad jokes – were sent to the president for signing: genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and opioids.

The bill to “label” foods with GMO ingredients was designed to stop states from taking action on this issue after the federal government had refused to deal with it. The so-called “label” is a small square code that must be scanned with a smart phone for a person to get information. An option for small food companies is printing a website URL or phone number where customers can request information about the GMO content. Not all ingredients must be identified, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture gets to pick which ones. For example, refined products such as soy oil or sugar from beets might be exempt because they are made from GMO crops but the final product supposedly doesn’t contain GMO material. Corn, an ingredient in a great deal of food products, may also be exempted from the labeling requirement.

The Agriculture Department also determines the quantity of GMO material before requiring identification, leaving many products with GMOs unidentified with a high threshold. In addition, penalties for noncompliant companies are minimal or none, and the bill prevents any states, including those that have already passed labeling laws, from regulations requiring actual information on food labels.

The bill is largely thanks to Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who have received more than $2.1 million in campaign contributions this cycle from agribusiness donors. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fast-tracked the bill with no amendments or debate by pasting the content into the empty shell of a bill that had already been passed by the Senate, but not enacted into law. The act was passed by a vote of 63-30.

The FDA pointed out a number of loopholes, and labels won’t start appearing for at least two years. Nicknamed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” (DARK Act), the bill is in opposition to the 90 percent of people in the nation who want clear labeling for GMOs.

The second bad joke in recently passed bills addresses the painkiller overdose epidemic. The bill that was passed and sent on to the president includes a pain management task force, research, better access to treatment options and drug rehabilitation instead of incarceration. The bill, however, doesn’t provide any funding. President Obama had proposed $1 billion, and Democrats tried to get $920 million in funding. The GOP rejected both.

The rising death tolls from overdoses of painkillers came from the pharmaceutical industry pushing higher and higher levels of prescribing opioids for even minor pain. Thirteen years ago, Purdue Pharma gave doctors 34,000 coupons for free OxyContin prescriptions along with OxyContin “fishing hats, stuffed plush toys, coffee mugs with heat activated messages, music compact discs, [and] luggage tags.” Within ten years, the prescriptions for opioids almost tripled from 1991. Pharma-paid doctors changed pain guidelines to favor opioids.

The bill allows greater access to buprenorphine, a medicine treating addiction, from 100 to 275 patients at a time. Nurses and other medical professionals can also administer the drug. Corporations will now make money from buprenorphine, as addictive as opioids, that gives a high as does OxyContin. While Congress rewards pharmaceutical companies with more money for another addictive drug, it ignores the fact that deaths from painkillers are down 25 percent in states with medical marijuana.

The House passed a $32 billion spending bill for the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency that rolled back regulations on coal-fired power plants, but it’s only the fifth of twelve funding bills for Cabinet agencies. It passed, also on party lines, a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran and the Conscience Protection Act, which prohibits the government from discriminating against health care providers who do not want to perform or cooperate in abortions.

The House “celebrated” the one-month anniversary of the massacre at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando (FL) where 50 people died with a hearing on anti-LGBT legislation to allow anyone to avoid federal protections for LGBT couples and families with an excuse of religious liberty. Those who discriminate would have no legal repercussions, financial or otherwise, for refusing to provide spousal tax, medical, or educational benefits, to same-gender couples. The measure is similar to a Mississippi law overturned by a federal judge  because it would in reality hurt religious liberty by favoring certain beliefs over others. As of April 2016 over one hundred active bills across 22 states legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

The House’s approval of its financial services appropriations bill repealed a law passed by Washington, D.C. that protects workers from employer retaliation over reproductive health choices such using birth control, getting a baby, or obtaining an abortion. Congress has control over the city’s laws and budget because it does not have state status.

That’s what Congress “accomplished.” Their failures? A major one is that ignoring the Zika virus epidemic. When a few cases of Ebola came to the United States in 2014, lawmakers went to pieces and approved $5.4 billion in emergency funding. Yet Florida has over 300 Zika cases reported, among the almost 1,200 cases confirmed in continental U.S. Pregnant women infected with the virus can carry fetuses with a number of birth defects, including microcephaly that causes abnormally small heads in fetuses. Caring for each microcephalic child can cost between $1 million and $10 million.

As of June, seven babies had been born in the U.S .with Zika-related birth defects. A baby was born with microcephaly in Texas on the day that Congress left Washington for the rest of the summer. Zika is also linked with Guillain-Barré syndrome with possible permanent nerve damage and paralysis.  The virus is transmitted either by mosquito bites or through sex and extremely difficult to track because 80 percent of infected people do not exhibit symptoms.

The Zika virus is a public health crisis in the nation, and Congress disappeared from Washington for seven weeks, perhaps hoping that the mosquitoes will be dead by the time they get back. A bill would provide emergency resources for vaccine development, mosquito control efforts, and other research into containment and prevention. House Republicans refused to move the bill forward without restricting abortion, overturning clean water regulations, defunding part of the Affordable Care Act, and undoing the ban on flying the Confederate flag at federal cemeteries. Republicans insisted on blocking Planned Parenthood funding in Puerto Rico to fight the virus, and Democrats voted against the measure.

House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to get out of town before Democrats could stage another sit-in to demand votes for gun safety measures. He had promised to put an NRA-approved gun bill on the floor but called it off after protests from GOP conservatives. Senate Republicans had previously blocked a bill to keep people on the federal terrorist list from buying guns. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, “This is going to be a long, hot summer for people who aren’t going to be able to take nice long vacations, people who are in our streets fearing for our children, people wondering why Congress has failed.”

The Senate has not moved on a new Supreme Court justice and done little for other judicial approvals. A $575 billion Pentagon funding bill failed because of concern that it would boost defense while freezing domestic programs and unravel the hard-fought budget deal from last year reversing caps on both Pentagon and domestic budget lines. No resolution means that September may bring a stopgap  spending measure to stave off a shutdown.

Lawmakers, mostly in the House, have already been debating whether to write a short-term government spending measure that runs into December or a six-month stopgap measure that would expire in March under a new Congress and president. The last two election years for presidents saw funding bills pushed into March following the election.

The GOP House “celebrated” the one-month anniversary of the massacre at the LGBT nightclub in Orlando (FL) where 50 people died with a hearing on anti-LGBT legislation to allow anyone to avoid federal protections for LGBT couples and families with an excuse of religious liberty. The bill would permit those who discriminate to have no legal repercussions, financial or otherwise, for refusing to provide spousal tax, medical, or educational benefits, to same-gender couples. The measure is similar to a Mississippi law overturned by a federal judge  because it would in reality hurt religious liberty by favoring certain beliefs over others. As of April 2016 over one hundred active bills across 22 states legalized discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

Maybe it’s a good thing that congressional members left town.

July 15, 2016

July 13, 2016

GOP Platform—From the Party of Small Government

Filed under: Politics — trp2011 @ 10:14 PM
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The GOP is still working on its platform, but drafts of amendments already reveal its direction. Their stated philosophy is to shrink the government so much that it would fit in a bathtub, but the platform thus far shows that they can’t even fit it into an Olympic-size swimming pool. Here are highlights of the two planks, “America’s natural resources, energy and environment” and “Great American families, education, healthcare and criminal justice”:

  • Pornography is a “public health crisis.” The GOP claims that they want to make children safer, but the public health crisis of gun violence was not addressed.
  • Planned Parenthood is condemned, and Supreme Court vacancies are to be filled with “committed judicial conservatives, like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, so that the Court can begin to reverse the long line of liberal decisions—from Roe to Obergefell to the Obamacare cases.” The anti-abortion policy remains the same—no consideration for rape, incest, or the life of the pregnant woman.
  • The use of Title IX to support survivors of campus sexual assault and trans students is condemned. The GOP “salutes” the state governments who are suing the federal government in these areas.
  • Marriage should be between a man and woman. Despite a Supreme Court ruling which established the constitutional right of same-gender couples to marry, the GOP demands a “reversal whether through judicial reconsideration or a constitutional amendment returning control over marriage to the states.” The committee rejected an amendment to have a “thoughtful conversation” within the GOP on marriage equality from an openly-gay platform committee although DC delegate Rachel Hoff begged the committee members to “include me and people like me.” She was told that she could still join the party even if it wouldn’t recognize her marriage. Only 37 percent of people in the U.S. oppose same-gender marriage. The platform also calls for overturning the Supreme Court marriage decision through a constitutional amendment and appointing judges “who respect traditional family values.”
  • Children raised in “traditional” homes are “healthier.” The GOP ignores research that this statement is flat wrong. Outcomes for same-gender couple’s children—including health, emotional difficulties, and coping and learning behavior—is not different from those for children of different-gender couples. Although the GOP doesn’t give children the right to clean air and water, they “have a natural right to be raised in an intact biological family.”
  • Early childhood education should be prevented. A GOP committee member explained that it “inserts the state in the family relationship in the very early stages of a child’s life,” and conservatives have called pre-K education a “godless, socialistic” institution.
  • All government intervention in parenting is to be eliminated. Parents can discipline children any way they wish, including beatings, locking them in cellars, and raping them. Parents can withhold vaccines from children, kill them through religious beliefs, and refuse to educate them because End Times are coming. Texas already legalized parents’ right to deny children an education.
  • Food stamps are unconstitutional. Even for children.
  • Parents can force their LGBT children to undergo “conversion therapy.” Several states have passed laws preventing forced therapy to “take away the gay,” and President Obama has called for a ban on “conversion therapy.” Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that this practice, especially on young people, is not medically or ethically appropriate, instead causing great harm to the subject. (The committee entirely avoided the use of “LGBT” while endorsing discriminations against the community.)
  • State laws should limit which restrooms transgender people could use.
  • Education needs “a good understanding of the Bible.” The GOP wants students to have the option of taking biblical literature in public schools because this “good understanding” is “indispensable to the development of an educated citizenry.” The Bible should also be taught in public schools as American history to keep students from getting “the wrong version” of events. No reference was made to the other 10,000 religions of the world, many of them in the United States. One delegate said that churches should teach the Bible instead of schools, but that position lost. At least one-fourth of people in the U.S. are not Christians.
  • Coal is a “clean” form of energy. The platform uses the same language as coal’s lobby group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). Burning coal creates a large quantity of heavy metals, pollution that endangers the environment and health.
  • Campaign contributions should be unlimited and concealed“[Republicans] support repeal of the remaining sections of McCain-Feingold, support either raising or repealing contribution limits, and oppose passage of the DISCLOSE Act or any similar legislation designed to vitiate the Supreme Court’s recent decisions protecting political speech in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”
  • Military women should be barred from combat. 
  • A physical wall should be built along the entire U.S. border with Mexico.  
  • A ban on AR-15 assault rifles or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazine clips is not acceptable.  
  • People from “terror-sponsoring” countries should receive “special scrutiny” before entering the United States.
  • The power grid must be protected against magnetic pulse attacks. Some of the language in this declaration comes from fictional sources.
  • Congress should turn federal lands over to the states. That way states can sell all the land to private parties.
  • The United States should support Israel against Palestine. There should be “no daylight” between the U.S. and Israel; any mention about a two-state solution between those two countries was removed from the platform.
  • GOP delegates should not be allowed from identified areas such as parts of California, Hawaii, Florida, Ohio or New York. Okay, this was a proposal that might not have been passed. But the other crazy positions above are up for consideration during the convention.

Republicans brag about being the party of Abraham Lincoln. The GOP of 150 years ago expanded federal power by funding the transcontinental railroad, state university system, and homesteading in the West while creating a national currency and protective tariff. After the Civil War, Republicans passed laws granting protections for blacks and advancing social justice. That party was left in the dust; now the GOP embraces racism, xenophobia, and misogyny in the name of freedom and liberty. It’s an oligarchic, theocratic party seeking apartheid and obsessed with sex.

The GOP platform of 1956 supported equal pay for equal work, union expansions, trust-busting and anti-monopoly laws, the United Nations, correction of inequities in taxation, and national parks. It also recommended desegregating the schools, expanding  a “soundly financed system of transportation,” strengthening Social Security, and providing a national health care plan. Achievements cited “the highest wages and the highest standard of living ever enjoyed by any nation.”

The GOP platform of 1956 bragged about raising wages “substantially” during Eisenhower’s first term as well as increasing the minimum wage and extending Social Security benefits. Its intent was to “protect the working standards of our people.” “[Since the 1952 platform] unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.” Because the Republicans of 1956 considered “that the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of the people is as important as their economic health,” it had “created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare as the first new Federal department in 40 years.”

In addition, “the Republican Party supports an immigration policy which is in keeping with the traditions of America in providing a haven for oppressed peoples, and which is based on equality of treatment, freedom from implications of discrimination between racial, nationality and religious groups, and flexible enough to conform to changing needs and conditions. That 1956 platform also stressed the importance of resources’ conservation across the United States.

“America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper,” and “government must have a heart as well as a head,” according to 1956 Republicans.  “We recommend to Congress the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women.”

Much of the current platform has been directly crafted by Tony Perkins, the president of the conservative religious Family Research Council; Kris Kobach, Kansas AG who wrote restrictive voting legislation and open gun rights for the country; and other ultra conservatives.

“The Republican Party’s platform is taking a turn for the right,” reads the lead sentence from a Time article by Zeke Miller. It’s actually in the ditch. The “autopsy” purchased by the GOP after the presidential loss in 2012 recommended inclusion of women and minorities, but the proposed platform promotes hatred, racism, religious bigotry, and exclusion. As Republicans express a fear that a handful of Muslims in the U.S. (0.8 percent of the population) will force Sharia law on everyone, they project their far-right evangelical Christian law from the Old Testament on the entire population, no matter what religion they follow.

The platform is not a done deal. The 2,475 delegates will have a vote on it during the GOP convention. It may make for interesting television watching.

People reading about the GOP platform may say that nobody pays attention to party platforms. They do, however, reflect the thinking of the party leadership—and this platform is insane. That makes the GOP crazy.

July 8, 2016

We Need to Save Both Blacks, Police

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-NY) husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, the same horrific event that seriously wounded her son. Elected to Congress four years later, she fought for gun safety legislation. Not until 2007 did she succeed—in a small way. During the last session before winter holiday recess that year, Congress passed a law requiring federal agencies to keep up-to-date records on people who might be disqualified from purchasing guns such as those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, and those with documented mental health issues.  Other than a vote to renew a ban on plastic firearms in 2013, that’s the last gun safety legislation that got through Congress. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have died because of firearms, and the number of mass shootings are drastically increasing.

After the 50 deaths from a shooter in an Orlando nightclub on June 12, House Speaker Paul Ryan still refused to bring any gun safety bills to the floor. Fed up with continued inaction on the public health issue of deaths from guns, a majority of the House Democrats began a 25-hour sit-in on the chamber floor on June 22. At this time, Ryan has said that “all options” were being considered to discipline sit-in participants for their protests.

Ryan also promised to bring a gun bill approved by the NRA for a vote but then pulled it. He said, “We’re not going to rush it…. We’re going to get it right.”That was the day after two black men were murdered by police officers and the same day that a sniper murdered five Dallas (TX) police officers and wounded nine other people, seven of them police officers. The same week Ryan changed his mind, family members killed each other, and there were a variety of “smaller” mass shootings.

After a 15-hour filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), the Senate voted on four bills–two of them supported by Democrats and the other two that would make no change. All four of them failed when the GOP voted against change and the Democrats refused to support do-nothing bills.

This past week, President Obama has been forced to make two painful speeches about horrific gun deaths—the first one after police killed two black men and the next after the deaths of five law enforcement officers in Dallas. During the second speech, he said that at some point people will need to think about the “powerful weapons” that help these deadly shootings. He said this after he expressed his horror at the “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement” and his support for law enforcement. He will cut short his diplomatic mission to Europe intended to smooth over foreign relations after the British Brexit fiasco in order to visit Dallas.

The president was immediately attacked for getting “political” (Ben Carson) because people need guns to “defend themselves from an overly aggressive government.” Another former GOP presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee, wanted the president to emulate President Ronald Reagan’s speech after the Challenger disaster as if killing police and space shuttle disasters are the same. Actually, Reagan supported a universal background check, a seven-day waiting period before buying guns, and a ban on assault-weapons.

Since 2000, an average of 50 police officers have been deliberately killed each year. In contrast, the first six months of 2016 saw police kill 532 people, many of them unarmed, mentally ill, and people of color. About half of them were white, but black people and Native Americans are killed at higher rates than any other ethnic group. For example, 31 percent of people killed by police in 2012 were black although blacks comprise only 13 percent of the population.

The vast majority of these officers who killed people will receive minor or no punishment; not one officer was convicted of murder or manslaughter in 2015 when the police killed 1,200 people. An example is Freddie Gray, apprehended on April 12, 2015 because he allegedly possessed an illegal switchblade. He was alive when he was put into a van with no seatbelt; when the van arrived at the station, he was in a coma from a spinal injury that led to his death seven days later. Thus far, three of the six police officers involved in Gray’s death have been exonerated despite evidence to the contrary.

The most recently publicized death of a black man shot by a police officer was that of Philando Castile. He legally owned a gun and had a concealed carry permit, issued by Minnesota, for the gun. When the police stopped him for a broken tail light, he said that he had a permit. The police officer ordered Castile to show him his ID, Castile reached for his wallet to get it and was instantly shot dead. Castile, 32, had worked for the St. Paul Public Schools for 13 years, becoming a kitchen supervisor two years ago. He was shot and died in front of his girlfriend and the girlfriend’s four-year-old daughter. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in his speech that the killing was at least in part because of Castile’s death.

The NRA, pushed into a statement two days after Castile’s killing, said only that there should be an investigation. The organization most likely wants to avoid controversy about black men who are killed while carrying guns because studies show the relationship between white identity and opposition to gun control. The NRA said nothing about the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge (LA) the day before Castile’s death after Sterling was thrown on the ground by two police officers because he was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. He didn’t draw his gun, but he was killed when the police shot him multiple times.

Sterling’s and Castile’s deaths set off protests, mostly peaceful and without incident, throughout the nation. Even the one in Dallas (TX), with about 800 protesters, was peaceful. After they started to disperse, a lone sniper, an Army veteran with an honorary discharge who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, killed five police officers and wounded seven other people with an assault weapon. The sniper was killed by the police with an armed bomb-disposal robot.

Only one person was involved in the killing although the police announced other suspects. They even posted his photo online asking people to help them find the suspect and left it there for almost 24 hours after he had turned himself in and they decided that he had nothing to do with the killings. His only crime was being a black man with a gun (although open carry is legal in Texas), but he’s now getting thousands of death threats.

In Portland (OR) a well-known Trump supporter pulled a gun on protesters, threatening them with it. He is well known for stalking and harassing people, filming them at leftist protests to put the video online with their names and addresses. The man had a round in the chamber of his gun that he used to sweep the crowd in front of him. He also had five other magazines of ammunition with him. Some of the protesters tried to calm him down and offered to take him out for coffee. As the incident ended, over a dozen police officers arrived in two trucks, and arrested him along with another man.

The Bahamas has issued a travel advisory for the United States, warning young men “to exercise extreme caution” in their “interactions with the police.”

A problem with passing legislation to make the country safer is the low bar for electing members of Congress. House Rules Chair Pete Sessions (R-TX) had earlier claimed that the Pulse nightclub, the location of the recent mass shooting, was not a “gay bar” although it described itself as the “hottest gay bar in Orlando.” Now he expresses concern that the Dallas police officers “let their guard down.” Perhaps we can’t expect much from a person who said in 2009 that House Republicans would look at “the Taliban” as a tactical model to take over Congress and that “everything we do in this body should be about messaging to win back the Senate.”

This philosophy aptly explains the reason behind the gridlock in the U.S. government reinforcing continued deaths from guns. It is guaranteed that Congress will hold a moment of silence for the five Dallas police officers killed this week. It’s probably also a guarantee that they won’t be commemorating the untimely death of Philando Castile—and the other people killed unnecessarily by the police.

“Black Americans shouldn’t be killed in routine traffic stops, and police shouldn’t be killed while protecting and serving their communities.”

Elizabeth Warren’s tweet succinctly provides the goal; now Congress needs to live up to it. They probably won’t.

July 6, 2016

‘Political Correctness’ – Just Being Nice

“Political correctness” is a term initiated in the 1793 Supreme Court case Chisholm v. Virginia upholding the rights of people to sue states. Justice James Wilson wrote in his opinion that people, rather than states, hold the most authority which makes a toast given to the United States” is not “politically correct.” He preferred the greater accuracy of “People of the United States.”

For almost 200 years, the term was largely obscure until conservatives co-opted the term in the 1980s for their personal political gain by using the phrase for a leftist conspiracy that infiltrated the higher education system. For decades, people argued about being “politically correct” in teaching and language in university classes.

In the 2016 presidential campaign, political correctness was highlighted in the first GOP debate after Fox network Megyn Kelly asked Donald Trump about his verbal sexist attacks against women. He was ready with an answer:

“I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”

The audience applauded, and other GOP presidential candidates adopted the tactic. Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum wrote:

“The term “political correctness,” particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a Swiss army knife—it is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. It’s a “get out of jail free card” for bigotry, sexism and lying.”

Dr. Warren Blumenfeld wrote:

“The political Right coined the terms ‘political correctness,’ ‘politically correct,’ and ‘PC’ as pejorative rhetorical ploys to intimidate, discredit, and outright dismiss the statements, policies, and actions of the progressive Left generally, and more specifically, to inhibit anyone from thinking critically and challenging societal inequalities.”

Trump and his surrogates use the term the most. The candidate complains that he can’t even use the word “thug” without criticism. Corey Lewandowski has been fired from Trump’s campaign but still defends the candidate, describing the accusation of anti-Semitic content of Donald Trump’s tweet using the Star of David, Hillary Clinton, images of $100 bills, and the word corruption “political correctness run amok.”

In the past, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), former GOP presidential candidate, blamed political correctness on 9/11 and used it for collecting email addresses. Ben Carson tweeted that we should “#StoPP funding political correctness and Planned Parenthood.” Asked what they have in common, he said that “political correctness” is making people amoral. Carson also said tried to connect political correctness and his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees. Criticized for saying that a Muslim should not be president, a statement that violates the U.S. Constitution, Carson said, “Political correctness is ruining our country.”

The opposition to political correctness (aka civility) is supported by 68 percent of people in the U.S.—81 percent of Republicans. Even 62 percent agree that “a big problem this country is being politically correct.” GOP candidates know these high figures and play on them in order to avoid any difficult topics. It’s all in the repetition.

In today’s News-Times (Newport, OR), Gilbert Schramm provides his take on “political  correctness”:

Like most Americans, I was horrified by the shooting in Orlando—and by Trump’s response. He immediately tweeted, “We can’t afford to be politically correct anymore.” Wait, “political correctness” wasn’t the cause of the shooting; political incorrectness was the cause.

Obviously, if you subject any group to unrelenting bigotry and hate-speech, some unstable person will eventually act on the lies and hatred they have been fed. It doesn’t really matter whether the hatred in Orlando came from a radical Christian, Jew, or Muslim, extremist fundamentalists from all three religions can have equally ugly attitudes about the LGBT community.

To truly understand Orlando, you need to understand the systematic conservative attack on the term political correctness. Nothing defines what the modern Republican Party has become more clearly than its misuse and abuse of this term: Trump and his supporters take an obscene pride in mocking it.

This is truly puzzling. In general usage, “ correct” means right, and “incorrect” means wrong. Why do they reverse our traditional values and language and pretend that the term is an insult?

Through American history, as progressives fought for women, religious, ethnic and racial minorities, they developed new language that reflected their concern for equal rights. The whole idea of political correctness was to improve communication, to reduce conflict, and to be more civil. Not a bad idea.

In creating a better language to express American values, there was sometimes a silly notion that re-labeling problems simply made them go away. Some bigots may have used the new terms insincerely. Some good people may have been unfairly criticized for not keeping up with the changing language. But true progressives not only amended their language, they did other concrete things to rectify the scars caused by institutional racism.

Affirmative action was necessary to help correct the deep institutional disadvantages left by centuries of racism. The GOP has been attacking affirmative action for years by arguing that it constituted “reverse racism.” This is an absurd argument. Its very existence proves that those who use it don’t truly understand the lasting damage left by the real racism.

Then there is the term “colorblind.” Just recently, a Trump spokesman complimented Trump for being “colorblind.” Colorblindness is not vision enhancement; it is a vision deficit that removes a whole dimension of nuance.

So when you hear terms like political correctness, reverse racism, or color-blindness, you are hearing someone who doesn’t understand racism, bigotry, or gender bias at all, and who likely doesn’t care. Yet in spite of conservative efforts to turn the truth upside down, being politically correct (right) is better than being politically incorrect (i.e., just wrong and offensive).

The Trump attitude that “correctness is a bad thing has now spread from opinion to facts. His casual attitude towards facts is noteworthy—in most of what he says he just doesn’t have much use for the truth. For him, it’s right to be wrong.

Trump’s abuse of the term political correctness may have more to do with the “political” part than with correctness. After all, he has won so far by disclaiming any past experience as a politician. Republicans believe that the existence of governments is only excused by the fact that total anarchy is just a tad bit worse. Progressives, on the other hand, feel that government can play a positive role. History has repeatedly proven the progressives to be right.

If GOP conservatives don’t believe that government can make life better, they should leave governing to those who know it can do some good.

Meanwhile, they should stop turning the truth (and our very language) upside down. Corruption of language leads to corruption of thought. That corruption makes it possible to believe that suppressing the vote protects democracy, that there is something called “legitimate rape,” that more guns will make us safer, that gun-free zones attract violence, and other GOP nonsense.

Whatever mild annoyance has been caused by politically correct language, the carnage in Orlando is a stark example of the alternative.

Republicans brag that Donald Trump is honest because he says what he thinks. They seem to admire him for calling undocumented Mexicans “rapists” and stating that sex appeal is responsible for a woman’s success. Zeba Blay wrote:

“To yearn for the opposite of the ‘politically correct’ is simply to yearn for the ability to be comfortable, to maintain the right to trivialize issues that affect people’s lives…. Using “politically correct” as an insult or dismissal is emblematic of an inability to approach difficult conversations with the complexity they demand. Being uncomfortable or annoyed is not a good enough reason to dismiss every conversation that hinges on social justice, as if actual social justice were the worst thing in the world.”

Political correctness is accepting Spanish-language messages on service lines, not telling racist jokes at work, and being less demeaning to women. It’s a way of showing sensitivity toward others, especially those who have been invisible or expected to be submissive. Conservatives don’t like it because it’s hard work. They just want to say what they think—and what they think can be very unpleasant.

Noted author and illustrator Neil Gaiman said, “I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase ‘politically correct’ wherever we could with ‘treating other people with respect’, and it made me smile.” It makes me smile too.

July 5, 2016

Repetition Builds Trump, Tears Down Clinton

“The system is rigged,” cried Donald Trump, GOP presumptive presidential candidate, after FBI Director James Comey announced that prosecutors have no case to take Hillary Clinton’s infamous email problems to court. Trump tweeted, “General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very unfair!” Petraeus’ “trouble” came from his deliberately sharing classified information with his mistress; Clinton’s problems came from her using that a private server  that never sent out classified information. The emails that keep showing “classified” came from reclassifications after Clinton sent them to others.

Trum followed that claim by accusing Hillary Clinton of bribing Attorney General Loretta Lynch following a report that said Clinton would consider keeping Lynch if she’s elected president. Today Trump called the FBI decision a bribe for Loretta Lynch because Clinton would keep her in the attorney general position for another four years.

FBI Director Comey’s personal criticism of Clinton, calling her “extremely careless,” has been fodder for the Republicans. He broke standard custom of law enforcement in his announcement that the investigation is ended without filing any charges when he took an extra step of verbally censuring the exonerated person. Comey’s accusations of the Clinton’s server also being possibly hacked was also unsubstantiated.His behavior is not exactly shocking: the FBI director is a Republican who served as a top official in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department.

Trump has company—of course—among other Republicans in crying foul. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants Clinton to be prosecuted, showing that FBI facts don’t hold any weight with him. Sen. Ted Cruz questioned Comey’s integrity. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Judiciary Committee chair, has written Comey, demanding the answers to eight questions by July 11. Among them is whether Clinton was treated differently than others regarding mishandling classified information. Actually she was treated differently because she was investigated; no other official has been investigated for using private email accounts including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both of whom served GOP presidents or Vice-President Dick Cheney for using destroying emails.

For over 30 years, Clinton has suffered from bad press and the belief that she could be dishonest, based on the media repetition combined with an emotional charge. As Todd Gitlin wrote on Moyers & Company, “Repetition and charge. Repetition and charge.” A term connected with an emotion triggers that emotion with specific thoughts. Benghazi. Clinton’s emails. Both those immediately bring an emotion that’s completely disconnected with facts. They are a one- or two-word soundbite with no explanation.

The House could find no blame in Clinton’s treatment of the attack on Benghazi. The FBI could not find anything in Clinton’s emails for prosecution.  Whitewater, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, Vance Foster—all these bring up negative emotions although the facts don’t support this response.  They’re like the false accusations of President Obama’s not being born in the United States and being a Muslim. Among Republicans, 53 percent think that the president was born in Kenya, and another 43 percent think that he is a Muslim.

The media focused so intently on the FBI decision about Clinton’s emails that it initially ignored the story of Donald Trump tweeting an image of Clinton’s photo atop hundred-dollar bills beside a red Star of David superimposed with the caption “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.”  After social media respondents condemned Trump’s image, it was replaced within a few hours by a circle placed over the Star of David.

Trump star 2

At first, the media tried to ignore the story. Nine hours after the story of the tweet broke, ABC, NBC, CNN, and NBC were all low-key on their websites, and Fox didn’t mention it at all while focusing on the FBI’s investigation of Clinton. The buzz within the independent media forced a sanitized version of the story in more mainstream media. Trump claimed it was no big deal and tweeted about the indifferent media, “Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!” As for calling the image a “sheriff’s star,” these law enforcement symbols have circles at the end of the points and a large circle around the outside.

The mainstream media decided to pursue the program of the star with surrogates to explain (aka defend) the problem. Appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, RNC Chair Reince Priebus claimed that the image was pulled randomly from Microsoft Paint by the campaign staff. Trump’s former and fired campaign manager, followed the same party line on CNN when Brianna Keilar asked him why Trump keeps making mistakes. Finally pressured into explaining after repeated questions, Lewandowski spouted:

“The bottom line is this is political correctness run amuck. If this was a star next to Hillary Clinton that didn’t have the cash behind it, no one would be questioning this. This is the mainstream media trying to read into something.”

So if there were no money and the star didn’t have six points instead of five and the message wasn’t about corruption, it would have been okay? House Speaker Paul Ryan did admit that the tweet was anti-Semitic. “Candidates should know that,” Ryan said and added that Trump has “got to clean up the way his new media works.” By blaming Trump’s “new media,” Ryan can continue his position that he’ll vote for Donald Trump for president.

The attempt to claim the innocence of the star design dissipated somewhat after it was revealed that white supremacist groups have been circulating and promoting the image. The image follows a well-known anti-Semitic trope of Jews as corrupt money-grubbers out to secretly control the government. Even after that discovery, however, Trump refused to speak out against the hate groups that he hopes will support him. Trump has had a pattern of retweeting messages from neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the goal of “white genocide” from “at least 75 users who follow at least three of the top 50 [most influential] #WhiteGenocide influencers,” according to Ben Kharakh and Dan Primack at Fortune.com. One neo-Nazi said, Trump is “giving us the old wink-wink.” The mainstream media has frequently supported Trump’s racist and bigoted campaign.

This U.S. media soft-pedaling may be comparable to the coverage of Adolf Hitler when he campaigned in the early 1930s and the approval of Hitler in the United States at the same time because he opposed President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Christian Science Monitor praised Nazism at that time because of its unequaled “capacity for organization.”

Trump already follows the Nazi pattern of media treatment. The presumptive GOP presidential candidate has removed press credentials from over a dozen news organizations, starting with the prestigious and conservative Washington Post, and accusing them of “inaccuracy.” Trump said that “journalists are among the worst people I know” and calls specific journalists “sleaze.” Journalists who challenge him are isolated for criticism.

Meanwhile reluctant supporters of Donald Trump are waiting for him to become, as he promises, “presidential.” A January 30, 1933 editorial in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin stated that “there have been indications of moderation” on Hitler’s part; on January 31, 1933, the Cleveland Press said, “Appointment of Hitler as German chancellor may not be such a threat to world peace as it appears at first blush.”

Trump repeatedly shows his admiration for murdering dictators. He has used Saddam Hussein, “the Butcher of Baghdad,” as a model for fighting terrorism. In talking about killing terrorists, he said, “[Hussein] did that so good.” [Trump skipped that part about Hussein killing tens of thousands of innocent people under his rule.] Earlier in his campaign, Trump lauded North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un for taking out his rivals and said the world would be “100 percent better” if dictators like Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi were still in power. The candidate also used the recent murder of 49 people in Orlando to call for the exclusion of Syrian refugees although the shooter was a natural-born U.S. citizen of Afghani descent.

Almost four years ago, the RNC autopsy after Mitt Romney’s loss for the presidency included the strong recommendation that the party become inclusive in order to survive. Donald Trump has thus far alienated people of color, indigenous people, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and Muslims. The weekend before Independence Day, he added Jewish voters to the list.

Trump gathers his followers in the same way that Hillary-haters work against Clinton—repetition. He retweets authoritarian racism because he’s an authoritarian racist. Constant retweets of white supremacist memes and twitter accounts win over his racist supporters. The more he repeats these hateful, bigoted statements, the more the crowds cheer him. These are the people going with their guns to Cleveland in less than two weeks to make sure that he becomes the GOP presidential candidate at the Republican convention. Just like in Germany.

July 4, 2016

Voting Restrictions: Independence Day 2016

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 3:11 PM
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It’s Independence Day, and gun owners will be proclaiming their freedom to own as many guns as they want with no restrictions because of the Constitution. Conservatives believe in an unfettered Second Amendment but refuse to accept the rights of people to vote. Although five amendments deal with voting, states can still limit voting rights, and five million people may not be able to cast their votes in the next presidential election because of these restrictions. The difference between freedom to vote in red and blue states has created a two-tiered system for the people of the United States.

In the past decade, more and more GOP-controlled states have passed restrictive laws to keep minorities, people in poverty, and women from casting their votes with the hopes that this will increase the number of Republican elected officials. With the 2010 election of Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP legislature, Wisconsin, a progressive leader in the nation during the 20th century, passed laws mandating voter IDs, cutting early voting from 30 days to twelve, eliminating night and weekend voting, banning straight-ticket voting, tightening residency requirements, and increasing difficulties in voter registration and absentee voting. The non-partisan agency to oversee state elections and educate the public about voter-ID laws is gone. Wisconsin is an example of how the abolishment of freedom to vote in the nation’s red states makes them redder.

In contrast, neighboring Minnesota, with highly similar geography, demographics, and cultural history, went in the opposite direction. Its residents elected Democrat Mark Dayton as governor in 2010 and a Democratic legislature two years later. The state raised taxes on the wealthy, invested in public education, expanded health care, and boosted unions as Wisconsin followed the opposite path toward Alabama and Mississippi status. Minnesota now has faster job growth, higher wages, lower unemployment—and the freedom to vote. Despite a beginning popularity for voter ID, the population defeated this ballot initiative in 2012 with 54 percent of the electorate and changed its caucus system to the more inclusive presidential primary.

The craziness with voter IDs was launched after the Supreme Court declared them constitutional in 2008. Liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, now retired, wrote the majority opinion but now calls it a “fairly unfortunately decision.” In a discussion with Justice Elena Kagan, he talked about whether judges should base their decisions on the information provided them or add research they conduct on their own. Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the 7th Circuit Court opinion based on the idea that voter IDs will not negatively impact minorities and poor people also now says that the decision was wrong and that the photo-ID requirement is “now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”

Over 80 percent of the 22 states passing new voting restrictions since 2010 are under GOP control while five Democratic states such as Oregon and California reformed its systems with automatic voter registration. Those who doubt that the GOP want to restrict voting rights in order to win more races should listen to the arguments of people who passed these laws. Wisconsin’s then-State Sen. Glenn Grothman said, “What I’m concerned about is winning. We better get this done while we have the opportunity.” A ruling should be announced in late July.

Now a U.S. representative, Grothman (R-WI) said that he thinks the voter ID law will help Donald Trump win Wisconsin this November. The county clerk of Waukesha County, a Milwaukee suburb that is 95 percent white and staunchly conservative, insisted that early voting gave “too much access” to Democratic voters in Milwaukee and Madison. In a search for voter fraud in Wisconsin, only three were found—two of them by Republicans and none that could have been stopped by voter IDs or curtailment of early voting.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), now head of the conservative Heritage Foundation, explained that the GOP has fought to keep the restrictive laws “because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.

Technically, poll taxes, requiring voters to pay to vote, are illegal, but the presidential swing state of Ohio is considering privatizing part of elections by taxing polls left open because of Election Day emergencies such as a natural disaster. A bill approved in May would have forced people to put up a cash bond if they petitioned a court to extend voting hours for a few hours. Only the people who paid for the bond would be allowed to vote after hours. In the past, local Ohio courts have ruled that unforeseen emergencies, such as a software glitch that temporarily wiped out poll books and a huge car wreck that cut off a county’s main highway, called for keeping the polls open longer to keep waiting voters from being disenfranchised. Gov. John Kasich did veto the bill which followed a federal ruling that cuts to early voting hours are unconstitutional. Yet a judge just upheld Ohio’s purging almost two million voters from the rolls during the past five years.

Lawsuits across the country are fighting back against restrictive voter laws. A federal court is determining whether Wisconsin laws are constitutional where black voters are more than five times as likely to need free IDs and far more likely to be denied. Two women died during the over six-month wait after the application. The ID itself is technically free, but there are costs for transportation to the DMV office, time off from work to go through the process, or the documents necessary to qualify for an ID. A ruling should be announced in late July.

A lawsuit filed against Alabama used the example of a high schooler who can’t vote because she lacks a driver’s license. She can’t get a state-issued voter ID at the DMV because the nearest one is open only one day a month and there is no public transportation to one requiring a 40-mile roundtrip.

A lawyer supporting the Texas law said that geographical obstacles are the “reality to life of choosing to live in that part of Texas.” Other lawsuits oppose voter ID laws in Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina. Texas voter ID stays in effect while the entire 5th Circuit Court rehears a case determined by a three-judge panel to be discriminatory but not intentionally.   Some states have lost lawsuits and declined to appeal, for example Pennsylvania in 2014.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who took the lead in disenfranchising voters, had a setback when U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirements likely violate a provision in the National Voter Registration Act that requires only “minimal information” to determine a voter’s eligibility. She ordered Kansas to register thousands of voters whose paperwork is on hold because they did not comply with the requirement. Another judge backed up this opinion, but Kobach, who is in charge of registering voters, is ignoring the court’s rulings.

Kobach is so dishonest that Kansas has different information in voter registration guides in English and Spanish. Spanish-speaking people were told that they had six days longer to register and vote than Kansas law. The Spanish version also fails to list passports as a document that can be used for first-time voter registrants.

Gerrymandering is another difference between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Republicans controlled Wisconsin’s redistricting process for the first time in 50 years after the 2010 census and manipulated boundaries to maintain GOP power for at least the next decade. In 2012, Obama won Wisconsin by seven points, but the GOP won over half of the state legislature. Only 10 percent of legislative seats are now considered competitive, leaving the GOP an airtight majority.

At this time, the 7th Circuit Court is hearing a case about redistricting in Wisconsin that was developed in secrecy behind a private law firm’s closed doors. No one except GOP legislators was permitted to see the plan until a few days before it was rushed through the legislature with only one hearing.

Expert Michael Li called the Wisconsin case “the most significant gerrymandering challenge in 30 years” and predicted that it will go to the Supreme Court. He added that Justice Anthony Kennedy has shown a strong interest in the case. In his closing statement May 27 to the judges in defending the GOP electoral map, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Brian Keenan insisted that this is what democracy looks like. “This is actually democracy,” Keenan stated. “The Republicans won the 2010 election. The Constitution gives them the right to [draw district lines].”

Republican-imposed plans in a number of other states—including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas—can be affected by Wisconsin’s redistricting ruling. The Supreme Court has now agreed to hear gerrymandering lawsuits from North Carolina and Virginia. State Rep. David Lewis, chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, told fellow legislators that one of the seven criteria for drawing new districts was “partisan advantage” that that it is not against the law. A federal three-judge panel upheld the districting, citing a previous U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that politics used in redistricting is constitutional “so long as it does not go too far.” In the past, Kennedy has voted with the conservative majority, but without a replacement for Antonin Scalia, the decision could be a 4-4 split.

For the first time in 50 years, people do not have the protection of the Voter Right Act as they try to select a president. Studies show that stricter voter laws have depressed voter turnout, especially among minority groups. It also cuts back turnout among younger, newly registered, and black voters. The confusion of whether people have the correct ID also cuts back on the voting. A small number of voters can skew the results. In 2008, Barack Obama won North Carolina by 14,177 votes; in 2012, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 92,004 votes. Now the state has the most restrictive voting laws which reduced 2014 turnout by at least 30,000 voters. A federal judge has upheld North Carolina’s voting restrictions, but an appeal may overturn it.

This is what voting in the United States looks like on Independence Day 2016. Be grateful if you can vote. I’m extra grateful because I live in the first state in the nation with mandatory vote by mail, meaning no lines and a paper trail for all the votes. Washington and Colorado have now followed this practice. Oregon also started automatic voter registration followed by California, Connecticut, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile the red states are spending millions of dollars defending their unconstitutional laws.

July 1, 2016

Phoenixgate: Only Clinton Can’t Use Private Emails

 

On the presidential campaign trail, New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said,”I turned over my email, both professional and personal, to all of the investigators who asked for them. And said, ‘Look at whatever you want to look at.'”  No, he didn’t. He slammed Hillary Clinton about using a private email account and asked his audience to imagine what would happen if he had done the same thing while being accused of closing the George Washington Bridge. Court documents show that he did exactly that. Christie’s personal email account he shared with his wife, Mary Pat, was never searched although he used it for government business.  Christie’s cellphone that he used during Bridgegate is also missing. And New Jersey taxpayers paid Christie’s lawyers $13 million to hide all this information. Christie is no longer a presidential candidate, but he’s in the top tier to be Trump’s VP.

Ten years ago, a judge ordered Donald Trump’s casino operation to turn over emails from 1996 to 2001. He was told that they had been erased. Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld had a “concern about credibility” in this claim because of Trump’s high-speed Internet provider, and defendants in the case brought by Trump said this was destruction of evidence. The charge was never resolved because  the case was settled before a court decision. Now Trump wants Hillary Clinton to “go to jail” even after she turned over all the business-related emails in her private server. Ten years later, Streitfeld, now retired, said that he remembered the claim because he was “incredulous that an organization of that significance doesn’t do email.” Both Trump and Clinton used private servers, but Trump’s emails permanently disappeared.

While governor of Florida, presidential candidate Jeb Bush used a private server for emails and didn’t release them until he was forced to do so, seven years after he left the office despite Florida law that he release them immediately. Like Clinton, Jeb Bush made personal decisions about what should be released, choosing not to share some related to “politics” and “campaign donors asking for favors”—topics relevant in a presidential campaign.

Many politicians use private addresses through commercial servers, more accessible to the public than private servers.  although they may not have private servers. During their time in office, presidential candidates Bobby Jindal (LA) and Rick Perry (TX), used private email accounts when they were governors. Mitt Romney, another presidential nominee, and his top aides used private email accounts for state business despite warnings against the practice from his own administration. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called Clinton’s use of private email an “outrage” after being part of a fund-raising controversy about his running a secret email network for his inner circle of advisers when he was Milwaukee County executive. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), past and perhaps future presidential candidate used his personal email to conduct business and then deleted the emails.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell used a private email address while in office, as did Condoleezza Rice, although she did not email extensively. Even Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), chair of the Benghazi Committee that highly criticized Clinton for her email situation, used a private address rather than a government one.

During the George W. Bush administration, as many as 22 political advisers to the president, including Karl Rove, used RNC email accounts for White House-related business. Because the RNC automatically purged emails after 30 days, as many as five million emails may have been lost from the White House’s official server.

The White House has no archived emails for many of its  offices, including president and vice president, for 473 days  between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by a congressional Democrat. All these days with missing emails were when VP Dick Cheney or his staff were in the news,, especially the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame and Cheney’s secret dealings with oil and gas executives who were directly influencing national energy policy.

As Clinton emails continue to dribble out and fascinate people, the GOP—which ignored all Republicans who concealed their own business emails—now claims to have another “smoking gun” against Clinton. When I heard about this mysterious “secret meeting” yesterday, I wondered what was said. Googling the GOP fury about the meeting, I discovered nothing. Actually, that’s what is known about what was said by this supposedly nefarious duo. Steve Benen describes the situation far better than I do:

When news reports surfaced yesterday about a private meeting between Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton, Republican outrage went from 0 to Hair-On-Fire with remarkable efficiency. It wasn’t long before Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) actually called for an independent prosecutor to investigate the “controversy.”

Given the apoplexy, one might have assumed that Lynch and Clinton arranged some kind of secret meeting in an undisclosed location to plot some nefarious scheme. The truth–the two crossed paths at an airport–appears to be far less interesting.

Ms. Lynch said at a press conference that the Clinton meeting was unplanned. Mr. Clinton was apparently waiting to fly out of the Phoenix airport when Ms. Lynch’s plane coincidentally landed there. The former president then walked over to the attorney general’s plane to speak to Ms. Lynch and her husband.

“Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren. It was primarily social and about our travels,” Ms. Lynch told reporters in Phoenix on Tuesday.

I realize there’s nothing the political world loves more than a Clinton “scandal,” but as an objective matter, it’s tough to get worked up about a casual chat at an airport between a president and an A.G. If your first reaction to Bill Clinton talking about his grandchildren is, “I hear Ken Starr is unemployed, so let’s give him something to do!” you might be a little too eager to exaggerate the significance of harmless social interaction.

The trouble is, the political world remains deeply invested in the idea that Hillary Clinton’s cabinet-level email server management is one of the most important issues in the country right now. Folks hear about Bill Clinton saying hello to Loretta Lynch, and their first reaction is to assume that this was an effort to prevent an indictment.

But that’s silly. For one thing, an indictment is ridiculously unlikely. For another, if Bill Clinton intended to launch some kind of back-channel pressure campaign to interfere with an investigation, he’d probably take steps less overt than a public chat at an airport.

The obvious explanation may sound naive, but it’s also the easiest to believe: the former president wanted to say hello to a prominent official he knows so he could talk about his grandkids. He wasn’t considering “media optics,” because as far as Clinton is concerned, there was no reason to care – why would anyone make a fuss about something so innocuous?

Nevertheless, the Attorney General will reportedly announce today that she will remove herself from any decision making role in the email matter, and will “accept whatever recommendation career prosecutors and the F.B.I. director make.”

And with Benghazi conspiracy theories having been discredited again this week, the far-right suddenly has something new to obsess over for a while.

The day after Clinton testified for 11 hours before the Benghazi committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell—yes the same Republican who is Majority Leader—said about Clinton, “She’s an intelligent and capable person, no question about it.” He added that he worked well with her in the Senate and could work with her as president.  About Trump, McConnell says that the candidate needs to change to be a “credible candidate.” Arguments against Clinton have nothing to do with her honesty and integrity. All the GOP has left against “an intelligent and capable” person who has more experience for the presidency than any other candidate during the past 260 years is a chance social meeting at a Southwest airport.

The GOP demonstrates their desperation when they believe that two leading politicians would have a secret meeting on the airport tarmac in full view of everyone. Just call it Phoenixgate.

In an aside, is it not curious that all the men who used private email accounts and destroyed the emails get a walk for doing so while a woman is held far more than accountable?

 

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