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What Do We Think Of The Jussie Smollett Hoax? What Does It Mean? Impact?


      CHICAGO (Reuters) - Actor Jussie Smollett paid two brothers to stage a racist and homophobic attack on him and pose as supporters of President Donald Trump because he was unhappy with his pay on the hip-hop TV drama “Empire,” Chicago’s police chief said on Thursday.

      Smollett, who is black and openly gay, was arrested on Thursday and charged with lying to police about the supposed attack on Jan. 29. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson was visibly angered as he condemned Smollett’s actions.

      Police did not spell out how the 36-year-old actor hoped to boost his salary by staging such a hoax.

      “Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Johnson told a news conference, adding that the actor paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the supposed hate crime.

      “This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with this salary. He concocted a story about being attacked,” Johnson said. “We gave him the benefit of the doubt.”

      Police did not say how much Smollett is paid for his role on “Empire.” If convicted, he could face a prison sentence of one to three years.

      A judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered Smollett to surrender his passport. The actor, who turned himself in early on Thursday, was released from jail after paying 10 percent of the bail amount as stipulated by the judge.

      Smollett had claimed that two masked men struck him and put a noose round his neck while shouting “This is MAGA country,” referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. It was initially reported that an unknown substance was poured over him, but Johnson on Thursday said that was unclear.

      The Smollett case touched off a furor in the United States as it tapped into increasingly heated political divisions since Trump’s 2016 election. Critics of the president have said his rhetoric has fueled racism and violence, while his supporters say the press has been too quick to embrace any news that appears to cast Trump and his supporters in a bad light.

      Johnson told reporters that Smollett had first tried to gain attention by sending himself a threatening letter filled with “racial, homophobic and political language.”

      “When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud,” the police chief said.

      Prosecutors said one of the brothers had supplied Smollett with “designer drugs” in the past.

      Near the end of the 48 hours in which police are allowed to detain potential suspects without charging them, the brothers “decided to confess to the entirety of what the plot was,” Johnson said. They became cooperating witnesses and were released two days later without charges.

      Since the alleged attack, Smollett had received support on social media, including from several celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates. Others were skeptical of the incident, which Smollett said occurred around 2 a.m. on a Chicago street during one of the city’s coldest weeks in recent history.

      In an interview with “Good Morning America” last week, Smollett said he was angry that some people questioned his story, and he suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.

      Johnson called for Smollett to apologize to the city and said he was worried that real victims might now be reluctant to come forward.

      “My concern is that hate crimes will now be publicly met with a level of skepticism,” the police chief told reporters, adding that the city had bigger problems.

      “I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention,” he said.

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      Pundit Post

      2020 Democratic Candidates Are Pushing For More Progressive Tax Proposals


          Times have changed! It used to be that making taxes more progressive was considered just a crazy left wing idea. No more.

          Ever since I can remember, Republicans have run their campaigns on reducing or claiming that they would reduce taxes. As we have seen, what they really do is reduce them for the very wealthy, while the middle class bears the "16 ton" tax burden.

          At the same time, any Democrat who proposed a more progressive tax policy was seen as a falling off the edge leftist with crazy ideas; but wow, how that has changed. Since voters have seen how Trump’s tax plan has actually worked out, many are wide open to looking at ways to make the economic stagnation and Right Wing tax pain stop.

          Today, Democrats and Republicans appear to be farther apart on taxation than ever. Candidates who are competing for the Democratic nomination for President of the United states are pushing some of the most progressive tax reforms Americans have seen in years.

          As a result, the campaigns seem to be shaping up into what tax plans each candidate is promoting, and how each plan is going to be financed.

          PBS has given us a snapshot of where 7 of the Democratic candidates stand in regards to the Republican tax cuts.


          2/18/19. PBS

          While there’s widespread consensus among 2020 Democrats that taxes on the wealthy should go up, there’s disagreement on the details and no two proposals look exactly alike, a sign that economic policy could dominate the Democratic primaries.

          “The whole window has moved,” said Morris Pearl, the chair of Patriotic Millionaires, an organization that supports more taxes on the wealthy. “It used to be that making taxes more progressive was considered the crazy left wing. Now that we have some very progressive plans in the left wing, restoring things to where they were two years ago ["before the Republican tax cuts] seems a middle of the road plan.”

          Image result for pictures of Elizabeth Warren

          Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has proposed a 2 percent annual “wealth tax” on Americans who have more than $50 million in assets, and a 3 percent tax on those with a net worth of more than $1 billion. That tax would be on top of any income taxes they already pay.

          Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, who announced his 2020 presidential campaign Tuesday, wants to increase the federal estate tax to 77 percent on the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans

          Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is sticking by the tax plan she proposed last fall. It would give middle-income households cash payments of up to $6,000 a year per family. The payments would be offset by repealing the 2017 GOP tax cuts and creating a fee on large financial institutions.

          Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., meanwhile, has proposed a bill that would create savings accounts for every American child, paid for by an increase in the capital gains and estate taxes.

          Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. - denounced the Republican tax cuts

          Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii,.- criticized the Republican tax cuts.

          Julian Castro, a former Obama administration cabinet official, has said he supports raising the corporate tax rate to make sure companies “pay their fair share.”


          The idea of raising taxes on the wealthy has gained ground with liberal voters — and unsurprisingly, Democrats overall are twice as likely as Republicans to say tax rates should be raised for corporations and high-income earners, Pew Research Center surveys show.

          There are also signs that the 2017 tax overhaul sharpened the partisan divide over taxes.

          The law doubled the standard deduction for individuals, gave tax write-offs to businesses that invested in the U.S., reduced the corporate income tax rate form 35 percent to 21 percent, and created a 20 percent deduction for small business owners who pay their taxes as individuals instead of through their companies.

          Republicans said the overhaul was a tax cut for the middle class and argued it would spur economic growth, but Democrats, and a number of nonprofit organizations, have labeled it a tax cut for the wealthy and some studies have shown companies are investing less in research and workers than GOP lawmakers predicted.

          Only 8 percent of Democrats approve of the law, according to Gallup, compared to 76 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of Independents.

          The polling underscores why raising taxes on the wealthy could help draw votes in the Democratic primaries. But the 2018 midterm elections proved that focusing too much on taxes could be risky.

          Only 11 percent of voters said tax cuts were an important issue in the midterms, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. At the same time, about 60 percent of respondents said they preferred reversing the tax cuts to reducing government spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

          Americans trust Republicans about as much as Democrats when it comes to taxes.

          Now, 2020 White House hopefuls need to figure out how to thread that needle, Democratic strategists said.


          (lightly edited; images added.)

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          Pundit Post

          Is Elizabeth Warren Making Child Care A 2020 Progressive Litmus Test?



              “It’s something that’s often been described as family policy, but we have growing evidence that child care is an economic necessity.”

              Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks at an organizing event on February 17 in Las Vegas.John Locher/AP


              Senator Warren’s proposed child care plan took me by surprise. As many times as families - and especially single parents - have spoken up about how costly early child care is, and how it often means living at poverty level no matter how hard parents work, even though Democrats talk about it, this issue has mostly been given short shrift by politicians. But now, Americans have a Presidential candidate who has made it one of her priorities.

              Warren’s plan is comprehensive, well thought out, and covers children until they are of school, age. The way this plan is funded is from what Warren calls the “ultra millionaire tax.”

              According to reliable studies, lack of adequate child care depresses economic growth and hampers child development - our nations future workers - so even those who are not interested in helping American families and their children would see a benefit from our nation allowing for adequate universal child care, but unfortunately, America has fallen behind on this issue as on others such as heath care and infrastructure.

              In the past we’ve seen candidates such as Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders propose ideas for child care, but Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan is the first universal child care plan to be proposed, and this is the first time Americans have seen anyone “coming out the gate” with a child care plan. As a result she is likely to get plenty of flak from RW commentators and Trump operatives.

              Warren’s proposal could be the start of something big! Other Democratic candidates might consider this important enough to flesh out their own plans. I look forward to what might happen next!

              Kara Voght gives us the story - from Mother Jones. 2/21/19

              Senator Elizabeth Warren with her family


              The early days of the 2020 Democratic primary have been defined by candidates rushing to embrace progressive policy ideas, with a string of candidates throwing their support behind leftist ideas on issues like climate change, tax policy, and health care. On Tuesday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren added a new category to that leftward shift, releasing a proposal for universal child care, a commitment most of her fellow 2020 hopefuls have not yet made.

              Warren’s new plan is a more fully fleshed-out and aggressive plan than what Democrats have proposed in the recent past. Under her proposal, the federal government would administer a network of existing locally run day care facilities for children who would be eligible to attend between birth and the time they start school. No family would pay more than 7 percent of their income for public child care, and families below 200 percent of the federal poverty line would pay nothing at all. According to an economic analysis conducted by Moody’s Analytics and provided by Warren’s office, the deal would give 12 million children access to child care—6.8 million more than currently receive formal child care. The revenue necessary to fund the program, which would cost an estimated $700 billion over 10 years, would come from an “ultra-millionaire tax” Warren has proposed on the richest 0.1 percent of Americans.

              “I am so tired of hearing what the richest country on the face of this Earth just can’t afford to do,” Warren told a crowd in Los Angeles on Monday evening as she previewed her plan. “Invest in our babies, invest in our toddlers, invest in our preschoolers—that’s an investment that will pay off for generations to come.”

              Child care as a Democratic campaign plank is nothing new. During the 2016 race, both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton backed universal preschool and advocated affordable child care: Clinton proposed capping a family’s child care expenses at 10 percent of its household income, while Sanders shared Warren’s aspiration for government-backed universal care. But tackling child care has largely languished at the bottom of candidates’ wishlists, lacking either the airtime or details necessary to make it a major campaign issue. Clinton didn’t unveil her child care proposal until May 2016, only two months before the Democratic primary; Sanders, meanwhile, never filled in the specifics on his platform.

              Both the scope and timing of Warren’s proposal set her apart from her 2016 predecessors—and the rest of the 2020 field. “This is the first time we’ve seen someone coming out of the gate with a child care plan,” says Katie Hamm, the vice president of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy wing of the liberal think tank that provides policy advice to elected officials. CAP gave feedback to Warren’s staff on her proposal.

              There’s been a struggle to get lawmakers to line up behind a universal plan. The most recent Democratic legislative effort, spearheaded by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in September 2017, similarly focused on access to quality child care and capped what families would pay, but higher-income families would not be eligible to participate. The last president to gain traction on the idea was Richard Nixon, whose White House worked with congressional Democrats to craft a proposal that, like Warren’s, would have established a national network of federally funded child care centers and subsidize costs based on family income. The bill passed both chambers of Congress, but Nixon ultimately vetoed the measure because of concerns about the “family-weakening” implications that “communal” approaches to child-rearing might have. (Nixon aide Pat Buchanan put it more bluntly, suggesting the policy would lead to the “Sovietization of American children.”).

              The characterization stymied future efforts, though it’s not one most 2020 Democrats worry about—especially in a campaign largely defined by candidates’ willingness to move to the left on economic issues. In fact, economic gains played a prominent role in Warren’s unveiling, as she drew attention to how federal investment in the issue could be a big boost to child care workers, working parents, and the economy at large. “More than a million child-care workers will get higher wages and more money to spend,” Warren said in a blog post accompanying the release. “More parents can work more hours if they choose to, producing stronger economic growth.”

              Indeed, the child care industry has its hand in economic stagnation: A CAP analysis of data from the National Survey of Children’s Health found that nearly 2 million parents of children under five left, turned down, or changed jobs to address a child care conflict. (Child care costs more than in-state tuition for public universities in many states.) Meanwhile, the median hourly wage of a child care worker, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $10.72—just a hair above the federal minimum wage.

              That emphasis also distinguishes Warren’s proposal from past child care pushes, Hamm says, which have often focused more on the benefits to children and the families seeking support. “It’s something that’s often been described as family policy, but we have growing evidence that child care is an economic necessity,” Hamm explains. “It not only addresses family economic security, but it also contributes to macroeconomic growth.”

              For Warren, elevating the issue is personal. In her blog post, the senator described the struggle she faced balancing her full-time job as a law professor with raising two little kids as a single mother. When babysitters and day care centers failed her, she contemplated quitting her job until her 78-year-old aunt moved in to take care of the kids. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have an Aunt Bee of their own,” she writes.

              And for other candidates, the issue has been personal too. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a mother of two children, has been a vocal proponent of affordable child care since she was first elected to federal office more than a decade ago. Sen. Kamala Harris, a stepmother to two, talked about the need for affordable child care in her opening pitch to voters when she announced her candidacy in Oakland last month. But while these candidates and others have joined Warren on the left of some economic concerns, child care isn’t yet one of them. Harris and Gillibrand have stated support of universal preschool, but have not proposed policy as sweeping as Warren’s. Sanders, who officially entered the 2020 fray Tuesday, vowed to go as far as Warren, but has not put forward a proposal.

              But just as faint cries for a public option turned into broad support for Medicare-for-all, there’s a chance Warren’s early move could force the hand of others, turning child care into a 2020 progressive litmus test, too. “A lot of issues have been discussed early on in the campaign, and it will be really important if all candidates talk about child care early on, too,” Helen Blank, the director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center, tells Mother Jones. “We’ll no doubt see many proposals as candidates make a commitment to this issue.”


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              Pundit Post

              Trump's War On California


                  The following, rather lengthy, article captures very well how our state is thriving and why Donald Trump hates it. The political divide is as basic as the Republicans claim that "Democrats want to turn America into California", which they consider a nightmare scenario.

                  Despite the state's problems, from the shortage of affordable housing, to drought, flooding and wildfires due to climate change, California has nonetheless grown to the world’s fifth-largest economy, up from eighth a decade ago.

                  "If it’s a socialist hellhole, it’s a socialist hellhole that somehow nurtured Apple, Google, Facebook, Tesla, Uber, Netflix, Oracle and Intel, not to mention old-economy stalwarts like Chevron, Disney, Wells Fargo and the Hollywood film industry."


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                  Pundit Post

                  Opinion: The Catholic Church Is Breaking People’s Hearts


                      The Church fires gay workers, vilifies gay priests and alienates parishioners who can’t make sense of this.

                      Shelly Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave by the Catholic school where she worked because she is married to a woman.CreditCreditRobert Scheer/IndyStar, via USA Today Network
                      This column by Frank Bruni caught my eye because of its boldness. Having been raised Catholic (baptized, first communion, confirmation, and 7 years of schooling) I have long been critical of the church’s stand on LGBT, contraception, child abuse, pedophilia and subsequent cover ups, the Patriarchal hierarchy, forced birth, bigotry and other forms of discrimination; but having been a part of that cultureI I also saw much to commend and have loved many of the church’s people.

                      Although I long ago left the Catholic church, and have joined no other since I appreciate Humanism rather than the supernatural, I have retained my friends and family who believe in their religion(s) including Catholicism and Mormonism, and I have often wondered how they balance such things as Bruni’s article speaks to with their ability to continue to support their Church.

                      Anymore, for me, Republicanism and the Catholic Church tend to go together more than they ever have. The time of the Catholic Kennedy’s has long disappeared, as Right Wing indoctrination swallows up so many Catholic believers; and the Catholic Bishops are a powerful lobby. Their presence is strong in our government.

                      Bruni’s column is mostly about the church’s discrimination toward gay people, and points to a specific case, but everyone knows of others. Although it is a long column, I have printed it in full to honor those who are torn between their church, their beliefs and their love for family and friends who are gay.

                      I often ponder how difficult it must be for believers who have gay family members to continue believing and supporting their church. Bruni tells us it is breaking their hearts.


                      Pat Fitzgerald, 67, has long loved being a Catholic, and the part he loved maybe most of all, for the past quarter-century, was his role as a spiritual mentor at retreats for students at a church-affiliated high school in Indianapolis, where he lives.

                      But he has been told that he’s not wanted anymore. His crime? He publicly supported his daughter, a guidance counselor at the school, after its administrators moved to get rid of her because she’s married to a woman.

                      Catholic Schools face changing times and changing parishioners beliefs


                      The school’s treatment of Shelly Fitzgerald, 45, was a big local story last summer that went national; she ended up on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in September. It was one of many examples of Catholic institutions deciding almost whimsically to exile longtime employees — not priests or nuns but coaches, teachers, counselors — who had long been known to be gay but were suddenly regarded as liabilities.

                      Maybe they had quietly married their partners, formalizing those relationships and inadvertently drawing attention to themselves. Maybe some homophobic parent or congregant had belatedly learned about them and lodged a complaint. That’s what happened to Shelly Fitzgerald, and her 14 years of fine work at Roncalli High School no longer mattered. Only her 2015 marriage to her longtime partner did. She was told that she could stay on if she dissolved the union. She said no thanks and was kicked off school grounds in August.

                      The aftershocks still complicate the lives — and faith — of people around her: her students, their parents, her dad. On Facebook last month she posted a letter from him to the Roncalli community in which he explained that he’d just been disinvited from future retreats but thanked everyone for being such supportive friends over the years.

                      “Today my heart is broken,” he wrote, adding that the retreats he’d participated in — more than 40 in all — were “the most beautiful and holy settings I have ever witnessed.” He alluded only vaguely to his daughter’s case. “To people on both sides of this ongoing issue,” he wrote, “I hope you can find peace.”

                      But there’s no peace for the Catholic Church here. It’s too mired in its own hypocrisy. The tension between its official teaching and unofficial practice — between the ignorance of the past and the illumination of the present — grows tauter all the time.

                      Fired gay teachers claim discrimination from their Catholic Church’s hierarchy.


                      Most Catholics support same-sex marriage, in defiance of the church’s formal position, and many parishes fully welcome L.G.B.T. people. Yet there are places, and times, when the hammer comes down.

                      Church leaders know full well that the priesthood would be decimatedif closeted gay men were exposed and expelled. Yet the church as a matter of policy bars men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” and considers gay people “objectively disordered.”

                      Catholics are supposed to show compassion. Yet Shelly and her dad were shown anything but.

                      She has been on administrative leave since August, and last month her lawyer, David Page, filed a charge of discrimination against the school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It has up to 180 days to respond.

                      On Tuesday morning he showed me paperwork for a second charge of discrimination that he said he would be filing imminently; it cites what happened to her father as an unlawful act of retaliation meant to dissuade Shelly from pressing her case.

                      Pat Fitzgerald, uncomfortable with media attention, declined to speak with me, preferring to let his daughter do the talking. “His struggle comes from caring about Roncalli and being in conflict with what they’ve done to me,” Shelly told me. In October he attended a protest against the church’s treatment of L.G.B.T. people. His sign said, “Please treat my daughter Shelly kindly.”

                      There is, by many accounts, profound anger and hurt at Roncalli. As it happens, Shelly was one of two directors of counseling there; the other, Lynn Starkey, 62, is in a same-sex civil union and in November filed her own charge of discrimination with the E.E.O.C., claiming a “hostile work environment” in the aftermath of Shelly’s departure. For now she remains on the job.

                      Many students started an L.G.B.T. advocacy group, Shelly’s Voice, that also attracted parents and other adults in the community. A related Facebook page, Time to Be a Rebel, has more than 4,500 members.

                      But one parent told me that students who question Shelly’s dismissal fear repercussions. “Seniors are being told that if they speak out, they take the chance of not being able to graduate,” the parent, who spoke with me on condition of anonymity, said.

                      Related image

                      Catholic resistance T shirt


                      According to posts on the Facebook page, a small cluster of Roncalli students were invited last month to a lunch with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis, only to have him stress that homosexuality is a disorder and its expression sinful. One student called it an ambush.

                      For comment on all of this, I contacted the Roncalli principal, who referred me to a spokesman for the archdiocese. The spokesman sent me a statement that said that Pat Fitzgerald’s exclusion from student retreats reflected the “continuing attention surrounding his daughter’s suspension” and “his own participation in public protests over Catholic Church teaching.” He was still welcome at Masses, the statement said.

                      In regard to Shelly’s suspension, a past statement from the archdiocese reiterated what the Catholic Church has said in similar cases: Employees of Catholic schools are expected to live in compliance with church teaching. But is that legally enforceable?

                      Shelly’s E.E.O.C. complaint tests where federal civil rights law covers sexual orientation, a matter on which courts in different areas of the country have disagreed. Also, the Catholic Church has attempted to claim a “ministerial exception” from nondiscrimination laws that conflict with religious tenets, but there’s continued dispute about whether this applies to workers, like Shelly, who aren't in the clergy.

                      Shelly pointed out that the Catholic Church isn’t generally going after teachers who flout its rules by using birth control or divorcing or having sexual relations outside marriage. “They’re going after L.G.B.T. people,” she said. “They’re going to die on this hill.”

                      And they’re going to hurt people — like Shawn Aldrich, who attended Roncalli, just as his parents and his wife and her parents did. He has two children there now. What has happened to Shelly astounds him.

                      “She was phenomenal at her job,” Aldrich told me. “So why are we dismissing her?” He knows what church leaders say about homosexuality but noted, “It’s our church, too.” Besides, he said, “All of us are made in God’s image.”

                      He and his wife plan to end their family tradition. They won’t send their third child, now in seventh grade, to Roncalli. “And that breaks our hearts,” he said. “That absolutely breaks our hearts.”


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                      Pundit Post

                      Sixteen US States Sue Trump Over His Emergency Declaration



                          U. S. Representative Xavier Becerra - a leader for the coalition of lawsuits against Trump’s power grab.


                          I am just sick to death with hearing about Trump’s obsession with his damn wall. Many Americans have said the same. Still, he continues, and as a result of his pretending that there is an emergency to get his dumb wall, sixteen of our States have gotten together to sue the hair off his head.

                          Since even he has made it clear that he doesn’t believe there is any emergency, these sixteen states have a great case!

                          Mr Trump said he had not needed to declare the emergency but had done so in the hope of obtaining the funds for the wall more quickly. Analysts say these comments could undermine his legal arguments.

                          It would seem that Trump doesn’t have as much power as he has continually sought to have. His bid for most tyrannical president ever has succeeded in convincing many of us (maybe most?) in the country - and among developed nations - that he is making a bid to be America’s first dictator.

                          Right now, he is making a power grab for our tax money to build a wall that he insisted would be financed with Mexico’s money. Some believe it is also a land grab.

                          That the Republicans in Congress have continually supported Trump’s authoritarian regime does not bode well for our country or for them. They have shown us their hand, and it is a losing one!

                          Congress can “terminate” his bid for calling his wall obsession an emergency, but will they? McConnell is on record as a supporter of trump’s emergency declaration to use his emergency powers to spend billions of dollars on his abominable wall.

                          In the mean time, Trump is being sued by his own country (15 of the 16 states are fortunate to have Democratic administrations) . . . . perhaps for Trump this is just another law suit in a long string of law suits currently facing Trump. He seems to be hoping this issue will end up in the SCOTUS where he has stacked the court with RW justices.

                          Trump has declared a fake national emergency to get money to pay for his wall.


                          The following are excerpts from a BBC report.


                          Mr Trump made the [emergency] declaration on Friday to bypass Congress after it refused to approve [his requested money] for the wall.

                          The states say they want to block his "misuse of presidential power".

                          The Democrats oppose funding Mr Trump's barrier, a key campaign pledge, and have vowed to contest his plan.

                          The president's announcement came after he signed a spending bill to avoid another government shutdown that granted him only $1.375bn for new border barriers.

                          Why is Trump being sued?

                          The lawsuit filed on Monday seeks to stop Mr Trump acting on his emergency declaration to build the wall, saying the president does not have the power to divert funds approved by Congress to pay for his project.

                          It says Mr Trump's decision is "unconstitutional and unlawful" and that "by the president's own admission" an emergency declaration is not necessary.

                          "We're suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

                          Joining California in the lawsuit were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Michigan.

                          The states - all of them but Maryland governed by Democrats - say the lawsuit aims to protect their residents, natural resources and economic interests. They argue that Mr Trump's order to divert funds would cost them millions of dollars.

                          Mr Trump accepted that he would be sued for the move, and predicted that the case was likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

                          Experts say the largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire, and that most drugs are trafficked into the US through ports of entry.


                          What is a National Emergency?

                          The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Declaring it gives the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process.

                          Mr Trump could be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

                          The president said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall, still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the barrier along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

                          The emergencies act contains a clause that allows Congress to terminate the emergency status if both houses vote for it - and the president does not veto.

                          With a comfortable majority in the House, Democrats could pass such a resolution to the Senate. The Republicans control the Senate, but a number of Republican senators have been vocal in their unease about the president invoking a national emergency in this case.

                          The resolution would however still require Mr Trump's signature to pass, allowing him to veto it. A supermajority in both houses of Congress - currently in a weeklong recess - is needed to overturn a presidential veto.


                          See also https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/18/us/politics/nat...

                          "Two cases had already been filed after Mr. Trump’s announcement on Feb. 15 — one by the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen, representing several Texas landowners and a Texas environmental group, and the other a case jointly brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Legal Defense Fund."

                          "At least two other lawsuits are expected to be filed later this week. The American Civil Liberties Union has announced its intention to file a case, but has not yet publicly identified its client. The other case will be brought by Protect Democracy, another watchdog group, and the Niskanen Center, a center-right policy institute, on behalf of El Paso County and the Border Network for Human Rights."

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                          Pundit Post

                          A Review Of Yabberz By A "New" Member: What Do You Think?


                              Why Yabberz is better....

                              I invited a friend from another blog to join us here....several times.....finally my nagging got to her and she reluctantly (to make me shut up) did so.

                              She is a blog meister. I have been asking her for feedback. I got this note from her last night.

                              "Murph, thanks for being such a Pain in the Butt (just joking...kind of). I have been at Yabberz for a while now and I love it. Why? Let me tell you.

                                    • It's easy to post here. One stop shopping. You can do all your editing from one screen. And there are a lot of options.
                                    • It's easy to import images and texts.
                                    • It's easy to edit after you post.
                                    • It's easy to respond to the posts of others.
                                    • It looks good.
                                    • The members really do control what is being talked about. They post the starter articles and they keep them alive with points, sharing, and ongoing replies. And members who post the best stuff are highlighted with "Pundit" status (by the way how do I get to be one of those?)
                                    • Articles that move off of "the front page" can be put back there by new activity around the article or by action by the publishers here. I have seen articles that were dead for a week pop back up and get a whole new cycle of life.
                                    • Sharing and Sponsoring really promotes the best stuff.
                                    • The tone is outstanding. Facebook could learn a thing or two from the people who run this place. Those who do not play well with others are kicked out of the sandbox. Those who follow the rules, honor the contract, work with the mission, get the point of a site like this...get to stay. Simple. Respectful, honest dialogue with a minimum of meanness and flaming. Love it.

                                    I could say more but I am spreading the word. I want friends I post with as part of this place. There are five things the site needs.

                                    • $$$$ Support from the Members. You have told me that you contribute monthly to the site. I am willing to do so as well. Membership is worth getting to support the effort here but I know that Membership Programs are more attractive when they come with "privileges". There are also levels of membership in some places. I don't know what those would be but it's worth thinking about. From what you tell me Melissa and Mike Horton, the publishers here, are carrying the site as a public service (and that too should be publicized).
                                    • Fixing some small glitches in functionality like the ones you pointed out to me.
                                    • Getting e mail notification whenever you get a "chat message." The system would be better used if people got quick notification. I am on a site that actually forwards member messages to your preferred e mail automatically. That is great.
                                    • Polling like another site we know very well allows. Just copy their system. I love responding to polls even when I don't have anything to say. I think it promotes engagement overall.
                                    • A "in praise of" page....what our long time members are saying about Yabberz that would encourage new members and provide a means for new members to contact veterans.
                                    • AND...lastly....following is what makes this place work. I have a radical idea....You told me that the editor here has a system that automatically attaches new members to your pundits (which someday I hope to be)...that is great. Here is another idea. Whenever you respond to a post if you give it points you automatically follow and are followed back. Build up the networks of people here.

                                  I am sure I will other thoughts...you know me.....gabbbbbbyyyyy. Yeah, you can post it....and take the heat if there is any. HA HA HA!

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                              Pundit Post

                              Majority Of VA Blacks Say "NO!" To Guv's Resignation: Alternative Is Worse


                                  Black Virginians Choose:

                                  Don't Let Impractical Idealism

                                  Get in Way of Very Practical Realism

                                  At a meeting this weekend with a group of Democratic activists talk over lunch turned to the mess in Virginia where the Governor and Attorney General, both white, are embroiled in a "scandal" related to their appearances in "black face" as university students.

                                  I was very surprised that of the 13 black members of our group only 2 thought that resignation was an appropriate response. Most of my white colleagues thought resignation was the correct action. Our Hispanic members split 50/50

                                  A friend, a black woman who has been an activist for 50 plus years, was clearly amused at my surprise. Near the end of the discussion she smiled at me and said: "Honey, like in so many things, you white folks, good progressive white folk mind, react to things like this in ways that are just not realistic and that would do more harm than good. Look to what Virginia's black folks have to say." So I did.

                                  In polls conducted the first weeks after the stories broke it is clear that most African Americans in Virginia agree with the black members of the group to which I belong. According to a recent Washington Post-Schar School poll....

                                  Later polling and surveying is showing that the trends away from demanding resignation are continuing and widening in all groups except for Republicans. How come?

                                  Their reluctance to see Northam step down isn’t support for him as it is a rejection of the alternate scenarios that would follow his resignation

                                  ‘Black Virginians are neither taking their cues from political elites nor sacrificing the pragmatism that characterizes the black electorate.’
                                  Virginia politics is a mess no dout. Calls for Governor Ralph Northam’s resignation following the revelation that he donned blackface in college are now joined by a threat to impeach second in line to the governorship Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who is facing sexual assault accusations. Meanwhile, Attorney General Mark Herring, third in line for the governorship, has also admitted to wearing blackface as an undergraduate.

                                  Here is the problem. The removal of these three Democrats would cede state leadership to Republican legislators and result in an conservative reactionary stepping into the governorship. So not only do questions of morality and criminality hang in the air, so does partisan control of the state which would adversely affect issues vital to Democrats, and, in particular, black Democrats.

                                  Amid the chaotic scene that’s attracted national attention, however, one group seems pretty clear-eyed about it all: black Virginians, and they seem to know what matters the most to them.

                                  Why do black Virginians appear so supportive of Northam? After all, a majority of them were offended by the blackface photo and disapproved of his response to the incident. And black political elites, ranging from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus to 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, initially demanded that the governor resign.

                                  But in keeping with what we know about black political behavior, black Virginians are neither taking their cues from politicians nor sacrificing the pragmatism that characterizes the black electorate. Instead, they are seizing the opportunity to attempt the transformation of a racist incident into a higher likelihood of getting their policy demands prioritized – or, at least, avoid losing gains made to date.

                                  As such, black Virginians’ hesitancy to see Northam step down is not so much support for him as it is a rejection of the alternate scenarios that would follow his resignation. Should the governor resign now, the uncertainty around the political careers of Fairfax and Herring suggests that the Republican Speaker of the House of Delegates would soon become governor. But in the 2017 election, only 12% of black voters cast a ballot for a Republican governor. Accordingly, the surest way to ensure their vote is heeded and that a Democrat occupies the executive mansion is to leave Northam in place. Of course the GOP sees it differently....when it comes to Dems at least....

                                  Further, due to a tie in a 2017 state legislative race, Republican control of the Virginia House of Delegates was determined by literally pulling a name out of a bowl. The only reason it came to that was because of gerrymandering by the GOP that had controlled the Assembly during the census years, which prevented a 9-point Democrat statewide win from gaining control of the general assembly.

                                  Black Virginians, who comprise 20% of the electorate, are well aware of this since a federal court recently determined that the state’s legislative districts were drawn to discriminate against black people. The US supreme court has taken up the issue, and Republican House Speaker Kirk Fox – who would become governor should Northam, Fairfax, and Herring all step aside – is leading the fight to keep the districts as they are.

                                  Taken together, a quick look south provides a sense of what could happen should the current version of the Republican-controlled General Assembly determine the leadership of the executive branch. Black Virginians recognize that their state may be on the precipice of adopting the troubled politics of neighboring North Carolina, where a Republican-led government repealed the Racial Justice Act, permitted the elimination of legal representation for poor and minority clients provided by the University of North Carolina, and sought to implement strict voting requirements that a federal court determined was crafted specifically to “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

                                  Compared to the sort of racially discriminatory laws and executive actions that could lie ahead, black Virginians would much prefer a Democratic governor who wore blackface decades ago and expresses contrition today along with plans already implemented and ones to come that move their agenda forward.

                                  Black Virginians abiding Northam’s tenure is also a reaction to the racist violence and rhetoric to which the state has a front row seat. In the lead up to the state’s gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, Republican candidates were running ads meant to capitalize on racial fear and resentment – ads that Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie regretted after losing but tacitly endorsed while running. Black Virginians, with the tragedy in Charlottesville still fresh in their minds, rejected President Trump’s insistence there were “fine people on both sides” after violence occurred during a white nationalist march.

                                  Capturing the bloc’s pragmatism, one black Virginian recently told an Associated Press reporter that he believes there are many more state legislators who have worn black face. “Virginia is still a racist state. It hasn’t changed much,” he said. “Look at the president and all he has done. I haven’t forgiven the president, but he’s still in office, so why should they resign? If anything, standing by the Governor and the Attorney General gives our side more leverage."

                                  By rejecting Trump-style campaigning and anchoring their preferences in political realism, black Virginians are helping shape the expression of, and responses to, racism in state politics.

                                  Perhaps the greatest incentive for black Virginians’ wanting Northam to stick around is so that he can make good on his promises. High black voter turnout helped put him in office, and this blackface episode further indebts him to the black populace. If he has any designs on completing his term, rehabilitating his image, and creating a positive legacy, he will need to deliver on black policy demands.

                                  And it appears Northam got the memo – he intends to spend the rest of his term focused on racial equity, specially citing the need for affordable housing, maternal mortality, more equitable funding of black colleges, removal of Confederate monuments, transportation equity, removing onerous ID demands for voters and a listening tour to hear black Virginians’ policy preferences. The opportunity to make headway on these issues is more important to black Virginians than penalizing Northam for a moral shortfall that took place many decades past in a cultural milieu that accepted such actions as "humor."

                                  Ultimately, most black Virginians seem to have made the practical calculation that’s characteristic of black Americans writ large: the chance to make tangible, incremental gains with an imperfect politician is preferable to exacting harsh political and social sanctions to prove a point about the unacceptability of past racist behavior, particularly if black interests could be further harmed as a result.

                                  At a time when much of the state government is in flux, black Virginians have been steady as ever.

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                                  Pundit Post

                                  A Great Cartoon: And So Apropos


                                      Per the Daily Kos



                                      Oooo, a storyboard! Let me try my hand at translating (for the thinking impaired).

                                      White flight happened.

                                      White flight lead to self-segregation.

                                      Self-segregation created a cause and a need for it to be protected, and out of that grew a culture of fear.

                                      The culture of fear elected Donald J. Trump oval office resident, instead of bringing us together, the nation became further divided into sects.

                                      Finally we see a red ball cap emblazoned with words representing the wearers nationalistic demands, as well as certifying his cult member status. Any one who disapproves of the ways or beliefs of the cult are considered an alien and unwanted, a threat to the cause. "We do not co-mingle with your kind", the hat may as well say. However, contrary to the cap wearers belief, it is he/she whom is the alien; as they are alien to these times.

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                                      Pundit Post

                                      Drunk On Hero Worship My Neighbors Loved Trump's Rose Garden Rant: WHY?


                                          I spent the morning at my local watering hole...a quasi bar/grill/coffee shop...that serves my far flung rural neighborhood. Today the place was quite a bit more crowded than usual for a weekday morning. Why? The PRESIDENT was going to declare a NATIONAL EMERGENCY and HIS PEOPLE were there to make their support clear. There were about 50 people. Retirees, farmers. the unemployed, and the self employed. They hoped to see the free-wheeling, unbound CAMPAIGN TRUMP and that is what they got.

                                          If you saw the event you know how insane it all was. He dodged his own announcement and then undermined the logic of it. He made wild claim after wild claim. He cited events (like generals who said keep their budget building funds, being told by Pres. Obama that he nearly went to war with N. Korea, and much more) that never happened. He was antagonistic and insulting to his predecessors, the Congress (both parties), and the press.

                                          AND THE CROWD CHEERED at the watering hole.....CHEERED, CHATTERED AND CHOMPED AWAY at this "unbelievably great speech." I sat at a back table and there a few others in the room who appeared to be doing what I was doing....skeptically watching the performance and then taking in the crowd.

                                          How does one explain this?

                                          What is The Psychology Behind Donald Trump's Unwavering Support

                                          Research explains why the support holds up despite shocking behavior.

                                          Trump appears to be almost totally bulletproof.

                                          For the supporters of Trump in their eyes, The Donald can do no wrong. Remember t his claim uttered by Trump in his campaign (in a way that indicated that even he found the phenomenon unbelievable): "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's, like, incredible."

                                          Senator John McCain, who was a regular target for Trump during his campaign, had a simple explanation for his unwavering support. “What he did was he fired up the crazies.”

                                          What is the psychological and neurological science behind this?
                                          What is going on in the brains of the Trump Basers that makes them so blindly devoted?

                                          1. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Trump as Font of Wisdom
                                          Some believe that many of those who support Donald Trump do so because of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, that caravans of violent, drug dealing gang members are heading for the border to pour into the U.S. or that the economy is the best it ever has been and that he is the aker of that economy, they simply take his word for it.
                                          The seemingly obvious solution would be to try to reach those people through political ads, expert opinions, and logical arguments that educate with facts. Except none of those things seem to be swaying any Trump supporters from his side, despite great efforts to deliver this information to them directly.

                                          The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed;
                                          a) It’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed. This creates a double burden. First, they have to come to the realization that they lack knowledge. They generally lack the capacity to do this. Essentially, they’re not smart enough to realize they’re dumb.
                                          b) By and large they are also under the illusion that they have sufficient or even superior knowledge than those who are trying to get them to see another point of view.
                                          c) They also have identified THE SOURCE of TRUTH as a particular HERO who has been called to lead them to better place based on his/her wisdom and vision.
                                          d) The result is a multi-layered filter through which they observe the world.
                                          then they have no reason to defer to anyone else’s judgment. This helps explain
                                          Out of immense frustration, some of us may feel the urge to shake a Trump supporter and say, “Hey! Don’t you realize that he’s an idiot?!” No. They don’t. That may be hard to fathom, but that’s the nature of the Dunning-Kruger effect — their ignorance is completely invisible to them and your challenges are further proof that it is you who is stupid.

                                          2. Neurological Hypersensitivity to Threat: Trump as Savior
                                          A lot of the behavior of those backing Trump appears to be wired into their brain function! Scientific studies have shown that the "conservative" brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.
                                          So how does this help explain the unbridled loyalty of Trump supporters? These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Mexican immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with remarks that would normally be seen as highly offensive.

                                          3. Terror Management Theory: Trump as Prophet of Doom
                                          A well-supported theory from social psychology, called Terror ManagementTheory, explains why Trump’s fear mongering is doubly effective.
                                          The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitably of one’s death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural world views — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value and provide the first line of defense against "the enemy."
                                          Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their world views and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.
                                          Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

                                          By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn’t lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

                                          4. High Attentional Engagement: Trump as Spellbinder
                                          According to a recent study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates,
                                          • Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged.
                                          • While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long,
                                          • Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with.
                                          • His showmanship and simple messages clearly resonate at a visceral level.
                                          Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

                                          5. Embracing Chaos for Change: Trump as Provocateur/Agent
                                          And then there those who are intelligent people who know better, and are supporting Trump to be rebellious, to introduce chaos into the system, or to broaden their power, or increase their wealth. Or they may have such distaste for the establishment and Hillary Clinton that their vote for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington.

                                          So what can we do to potentially change the minds of Trump loyalists?
                                          Cognitive neuroscientists have said that there may be nothing we can do. The overwhelming majority of these people may be beyond reach, at least in the short term. Fortunately, it appears that those who fall into the cadre of those most likely to follow Trump are, for the time being anyway, still a minority of the overall population.

                                          The best that can be done is to motivate everyone else to get out to the booths and check the box that doesn’t belong to a narcissistic nationalist or his supporter who have the potential to damage the nation beyond repair.

                                          For More Info See: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/magazine/archiv...

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