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HUGE: Democrats flip Kentucky seat Trump won by 49 points, making this the 37th red-to-blue pickup

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 20:31

Break out the bourbon—Democrats just won their 37th red-to-blue state legislative flip of the cycle. This latest win came in Kentucky, where former state Rep. Linda Belcher (not to be confused another important Linda Belcher) defeated Republican Rebecca Johnson 68-32 percent in the 49th state House District.

This seat went for Donald Trump in a 72-23 landslide in 2016, making Belcher’s win tonight an astonishing 86-point swing. Belcher herself lost this seat 50.4-49.6 percent in 2016 after flipping it from red to blue by a 53-47 margin in 2014. (She’d previously lost HD-49 in 2012 after serving two terms.) The Republican who ousted Belcher in 2016 was Dan Johnson, the self-styled “Pope” of the controversial Heart of Fire church.

Dan Johnson’s tenure as a state representative ended abruptly on Dec. 13, when, just a day after refusing to resign amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a 17-year-old in his home after holding one of his infamous church parties, he committed suicide. His widow, who continues to proclaim her late husband’s innocence, stepped forward to run for the seat.

The surviving Johnson has worked in her husband’s church for the past 30 years, and she’s intimately tied to Heart of Fire’s long history of legal troubles—everything from illegal sales of alcohol to multiple liens and judgements against the church. Also like her husband, she’s known for controversial posts on Facebook, and she was a no-show for the only debate of the race with Belcher.

Belcher had already planned to seek a rematch with Dan Johnson before his sudden death triggered this special election. She was one of at least 28 current and former teachers lined up to take on incumbents in November 2018, so she was ready to hit the ground running when the campaign timeline shifted.

If Republicans can’t hold onto seats like this in deep red states like Kentucky, they’re a special kind of screwed in November—at every level of the ballot.

Categories: Politics

Cartoon: Shut Up and Dribble

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 18:50

www.patreon.com/keefknight

Categories: Politics

While Douglas students watch and Florida sheriffs plead, Florida House rejects gun bill

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:18

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Florida's sheriffs, in "workshops, convened by governor, hope to influence Legislature" pleaded for help in combatting gun violence. They want "more school resource officers, better background checks of gun buyers and giving police power to temporarily seize firearms from people committed under the Baker Act."

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said a Florida resident can be involuntarily committed "15 times within the last month" and still legally buy a semi-automatic assault rifle like the one used in last week's massacre at a Broward high school.

Gualtieri said it's "wrong, it's erroneous, it's false" that if confessed mass murderer Nicolas Cruz had been Baker Acted, he couldn't get a gun. Those weapons should be confiscated by police while safeguarding a patient's legal rights, he said.

Meanwhile, here's what happened in the Florida legislature.

On their first full day lobbying Florida lawmakers in Tallahassee to change the state's gun laws, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School quickly learned change does not happen very fast in government, if at all.

With Douglas students in the gallery Tuesday, the Florida House voted down a motion to take up a ban on assault weapons such as the AR-15 used by Nikolas Cruz when he killed 17 people at the school on Valentine's Day.

The legislation included raising the "firearm possession age from 18 to 21 and banning bump stocks." It failed, 36-71. No wonder it's called the Gunshine state.

Categories: Politics

Sanders conducts first briefing in a week, speeds through Russia, shooting and nonsense

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:16

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, after delaying for over an hour and a half, rushed onto the stage and began reading a statement on the shooting at Parkland, Florida, at “Flight of the Bumblebee” speed. The statement included information that Trump spent time with shooting victims—though Trump’s visit was about as long as Sanders’ chipmunkified intro. She finished up with the standard statements on how they support law enforcement. Thoughts. Prayers. All that jazz.

She then announced that Trump would have a series of “listening sessions,” that would include students and parents from schools that had experienced shootings, schools that hadn’t experienced shootings, local politicians, state politicians, and law enforcement—all of which will take an undisclosed number of weeks.

When the QA session began, the first question was why Trump continued to insist that Russia had not meddled in the election. Sanders insisted that Trump “has acknowledged it multiple times before. During the transition. At a press conference in Poland, and … in Poland.” She also insisted that Trump hasn’t said that Russia didn’t meddle—despite almost countless examples of Trump saying exactly that. Sanders insisted that what Trump said was that the Russian interference didn’t have an impact, and that it was “very clear” that the Trump campaign didn’t collude—both of which are statements unsupported by a single lick of evidence, but which Sanders was careful to repeat multiple times.

When asked about sanctions, Sanders launched into her claim that Trump … “Has been tougher … far tougher on Russia than Obama.” How exactly, Sanders cited the budget Trump sent out that had more money for defense “which Russia won’t like” and increased shipments of US energy to Europe “which Russia won’t like.”

She also insisted that Trump had imposed sanctions … in the sense that he hadn’t repealed the sanctions put in place by Obama. And that he’s taken away property … in that he hasn’t given back the properties that Obama took from the Russians. Which proves that Trump “Has been tougher on Russia in one year than Obama was in eight.”

Asked again why Trump hadn’t imposed the sanctions passed by Congress, Sanders improbably said that it wasn’t that simple, they couldn’t impose sanctions, because Russia hadn’t done anything wrong—this two minutes after acknowledging that Russia had interfered in the election, which was the subject of the sanctions.

Categories: Politics

Florida Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to weaken state gun laws are now complicating his Senate ambitions

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 17:07

Poor Florida Gov. Rick Scott. After a string of horrific mass shootings in his state, in response to which he has done nothing, his continued efforts to protect the interests of the NRA over American citizens now threatens to harm his political ambitions. How very sad for him.

Scott has consistently opposed longer waiting periods for gun purchases, but even fellow Republicans were shocked to learn that accused mass murderer Nikolas Cruz, 19, legally bought a semi-automatic assault rifle and extended magazines over the counter — even though he’s not old enough to buy a beer. [...]

Former Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted that 18-year-olds should not be able to buy semi-automatic weapons, but Scott has been silent on that question.

Suddenly, the NRA’s A-plus rating looks like an albatross, a potential drag on Scott’s expected run for the U.S. Senate.

Scott's A+ NRA rating comes from an extraordinary string of actions to weaken Florida gun laws, including new restrictions barring Florida doctors from even asking their patients about their guns. He was out mewing the appropriate concerns after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, but in the face of widespread student fury after Parkland he's in hiding. He refused the CNN invitation to appear at a Wednesday town hall, thus dodging what was likely to be an unfriendly crowd, but he has poked his head up to demand new FBI Director Christopher Wray, a thorn in the side of Donald Trump, resign for not stopping the mass shooting in Rick Scott's own jurisdiction.

What a profile in courage. But while this mini-garbage fire attempts to inoculate himself against years of efforts to undo even the most basic and publicly uncontroversial gun restrictions, the rest of us can donate to Senate candidates who might show a bit more spine on the issue: Namely, Senate candidates who are not named Rick Scott.

Click here and donate $3 or more to help Democratic candidates win their 2018 races and take back the Senate.

Categories: Politics

Quinnipiac poll: Support for gun control tops 2-to-1, the highest ever

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:25

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A new poll from Quinnipiac University finds the highest level of support ever in a Q poll for gun control measures. The national poll of voters was conducted February 16-19, in the immediate aftermath of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

American voters support stricter gun laws 66–31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50–44 percent support among gun owners and 62–35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58–38 percent support among white men.

Today's result is up from a negative 47–50 percent measure of support in a December
23, 2015, survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll.

Stricter gun control would do more to reduce gun violence in schools, 40 percent of voters say, while 34 percent say metal detectors would do more and 20 percent say armed teachers are the answer. […]

"If you think Americans are largely unmoved by the mass shootings, you should think again. Support for stricter gun laws is up 19 points in little more than 2 years," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

"In the last two months, some of the biggest surges in support for tightening gun laws comes from demographic groups you may not expect, independent voters, men, and whites with no college degree."

  • Support for universal background checks is nearly total—97 to 2 percent, including 97 to 3 percent among gun owners.
  • Support for an assault weapons ban is massive—67 to 29.
  • Mandatory waiting periods for purchasing guns checks in at 83 to 14.

More than two-thirds of voters, 67 percent, say it is too easy to get a gun in this country while 59 percent say the NRA's answer—guns for everybody—would make everyone less safe. Almost as striking, and this aligns with the 53-38 percent advantage Democrats have in the poll, 75 percent say Congress needs to do more. That's up 8 points from when they last asked just in December 2017. The response to this question, "Is being the victim of a mass shooting something you personally worry about or not?" is sobering.

Categories: Politics

New indictment raises question: Was Republican lawmakers' inaction in 2016 criminal?

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:23

Every disclosure made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller grows public knowledge. Apparently, though, much of what’s coming to light was already known to Congress—even before the election. That’s a problem, not just because of the effects of GOP lawmakers’ failure to act on knowledge of Russian plots, but for the senators themselves, who appear to have crossed a legal line.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent makes a good point about the significance of the most recent indictment on Friday of London-based lawyer Alex van der Zwaan.

Before, we didn’t really have any idea just how extensive a case for Russian meddling was presented to GOP lawmakers. But now we have a much clearer sense of just how elaborate the Russian scheme really was — and a much clearer sense of the degree to which it was aimed at tipping the election to Trump. Indeed, the Mueller indictment doesn’t touch the role of WikiLeaks and the cybertheft aimed at top Democrats, which suggests that it only scratches the surface of what is known.

All this makes it more likely that a credible, detailed case was presented to GOP lawmakers in those meetings — not just of the scope of the Russian plot but also that its aim was to help install Trump in the White House, as part of a “strategic effort to sow discord in the U.S. political system,” as the indictment puts it. And so, Trump’s new spin in the face of the indictment — that it reveals Obama’s failure to act in the face of the threat — also invites more scrutiny of their conduct in the face of that threat.

Why would it matter that Republican legislators knew of Russia’s plan to influence the presidential election and direct its outcome? When representatives and senators take office, they, like other federal employees, take an oath:

An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.” This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

Categories: Politics

80 percent want Dreamers on path to citizenship, nearly 60 percent will blame GOP for inaction

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:22

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Eight out of 10 Americans across party lines want undocumented immigrant youth on a path to citizenship, and 58 percent say it’s Republicans who will be “most responsible” if Congress fails to pass legislation ensuring it, according to a new Quinnipiac University national poll. This isn’t a controversial issue. What is controversial is that the Republican Congress won’t listen to them and allow a vote on the bipartisan DREAM Act:

American voters support 80—16 percent allowing undocumented children brought to the U.S. as children, so-called "Dreamers," to remain and eventually apply for citizenship. Every listed group supports Dreamers by wide margins.

Voters think 63 - 27 percent that Trump wants Dreamers to be deported. Only Republicans think Trump wants Dreamers to remain. And voters think 55—32 percent that Republicans in Congress want Dreamers deported. Again, only Republicans think their leaders want Dreamers to remain.

Voters think 85 - 8 percent that Democrats in Congress want Dreamers to stay.

More than, 20,000 DACA recipients have already fallen out of status since Donald Trump had Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III announce the end of the program last September. Ultimately, 800,000 DACA recipients will be at risk of being torn from the only country they’ve ever known as home if Congress fails to pass permanent protections, and Americans will know who is to blame if that happens.

Categories: Politics

Olympic biathletes: 'Our country needs to change' on guns

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:11

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Members of the United States Olympic biathlon team, currently competing in PyeongChang, are not messing around when it comes to calling for America to change its gun laws.

“I support an assault weapons ban,” [Lowell] Bailey said. “I really do. Our county needs to wake up. Our country needs to change. There’s just no excuse. I compete against all of these other World Cup nations — Germany, Norway. How good are they on the range? They’re great at rifle marksmanship. Do you know how strict their gun controls law are? It’s a travesty America hasn’t changed and continues to go down this path. It just makes me want to cry.” [...]

“Not only am I a biathlete, but I’m also an avid hunter,” U.S. biathlete Tim Burke said. “If locking up all of my sports rifles and my hunting rifles meant saving one life, I would do it.”

These are athletes whose very careers revolve around guns; they, like many other avid gun enthusiasts, have no patience for the NRA-sponsored notion that Americans need to be able to purchase and wander around with weapons intended to inflict mass casualties quickly.

“We’re a sport that uses a .22 caliber rifle,” Bailey said. “A .22 caliber rifle with a bolt action that shoots a single round is a much different thing than an AR-15. In my opinion, there’s just no reason for assault rifles to be in the hands of ordinary citizens.”

We should listen to gun owners, say the pundits. We should listen to the shooting enthusiasts. Well, we are. And a great many of them, the ones who treat firearms as tools of sport and of war, rather than imagining themselves as lone warriors who need the immediate need to kill an unspecified number of their fellow Americans if they ever wake up one morning and decide that somebody around them needs killing, do not buy the NRA line.

So what now? Are these American experts allowed a seat at the table, or will there be a new conservative reason why they, like the survivors of this latest shooting, are illegitimate voices as well?

Categories: Politics

Midday open thread. Gingrich says: Arm the teachers; Musk gets Hyperloop OK; 'Black Panther' soars

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 16:00
258 days until the November election

••• •••

Today’s comic by Jen Sorensen is School of Glock:

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - School of Glock

After 16 years in Afghanistan, U.S. still coddles the murderous warlords it funds:

The war in Afghanistan will cost the United States approximately $45 billion this year, according to Pentagon estimates. About $5 billion of that will go towards paying the budget of the Afghan security forces. A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) last month revealed that the United States is unable or unwilling to stop funding units that engage in torture, summary execution, and other serious human rights violations, despite Congress’s efforts to restrict that aid.

A dramatic illustration of this is the case of Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq, the chief of the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Kandahar. Raziq is a valuable enough ally for the U.S. military to be photographed with threestar U.S. generals when they come to Kandahar, and he and his forces have received millions of dollars in U.S. aid in the last decade. But there are credible allegations of his involvement in murder and torture of detainees that date back to 2006 and continue to today.

Newt Gingrich says every school should arm 6-8 teachers to prevent massacres.

• It’s more dangerous to cross a street if you’re black:

Sure, walking means fewer emissions and a healthier you. But have you ever spent an annoying amount of time trying to cross a busy street? For black people, the wait is usually even longer.

Recent studies show that drivers’ racial bias lengthens wait times for black pedestrians. Along with poor infrastructure, bias could explain why black Americans and other people of color have significantly higher rates of pedestrian deaths. Watch the video to learn more.

MIDDAY TWEET

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Elon Musk’s company gets okay to dig Hyperloop tunnel under Washington, D.C.

Investors got scammed by too-good-to-be-true cryptocurrency companies:

The Commodities Futures Trading Commission, an independent U.S. government agency, joined the chorus of cautionary voices on what it called thinly trade alternative virtual currencies.

"Pump-and-dump schemes long pre-date the invention of virtual currencies, and typically conjure the image of penny stock boiler rooms, but customers should know that these frauds have evolved and are prevalent online,” CFTC spokeswoman Erica Elliott Richardson said in a statement Thursday. She called on consumers to “avoid purchasing virtual currency or tokens based on tips shared over social media.”

Countries made modest vows to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But they are failing to meet even those goals: 

Global emissions of carbon dioxide are rising again after several years of remaining flat. The United States, under President Trump, is planning to withdraw from the Paris accord and is expected to see emissions increase by 1.8 percent this year, after a three-year string of declines. Other countries, too, are showing signs they might fail to live up to the pledges they made in Paris.

In short, the world is off target.

“It’s not fast enough. It’s not big enough,” said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in England. “There’s not enough action.”

‘Black Panther’ shatters box-office records:

The numbers are in and "Black Panther," directed by Ryan Coogler, is a wild and historic success. The film starring Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, which is also Marvel's first film directed by an African-American, had the fifth biggest opening weekend of all time, bringing in a projected $235 million domestically over the four-day weekend. Official numbers will be released later today.

But beyond the film's groundbreaking numbers and obvious popularity (nationally and abroad), it points to the power and importance of black creatives telling stories of all kinds and validates the, often maligned, commercial potential of black-led films.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, compromise is in the air! The PA courts hand down a new Congressional map. It’s fair, so Republicans say it’s not. David Brooks invites gun nuts to the Applebee's salad bar. Pizzagate was projection. Again. Got time to spare? Impeach Clarence Thomas.

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Categories: Politics

Without a DACA fix from Congress, as many as 5,000 teachers in California could face deportation

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 15:42

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The day after the 2016 presidential election was a devastating day at San Jose’s Hoover Middle School, where nearly 80 percent of students are Latino. “Students were crying,” said teacher Cristian Aguilar. “Parents were calling me … because whether or not they were born here, they still felt threatened.” Comforting his students and their parents was a big enough worry for Aguilar, but he also had his own future to worry about, as one of 5,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who work as educators in California:

Aguilar was 10 when he crossed the border from Mexico with a brother in order to join his parents, who had been drawn here by the promise of a better life. Despite growing up without the legal rights and expectations taken for granted by birthright Americans, he quickly distinguished himself as a math prodigy after a bilingual teacher recognized his ability and tutored him, in Spanish, after school.

“It wasn’t until junior and senior year that I really found out what that meant, being undocumented,” he recalled.“Not being able to drive; not being able to apply for financial aid when it came to college applications. … I started noticing the discrepancies between my peers’ and my education.”

Despite having the grades and being accepted by California State University, Stanford University, and the University of California, he settled for De Anza, a two-year community college in neighboring Cupertino. That’s when fate and Sacramento Democrats intervened with the introduction of 2011’s California Dream Act, which extended state financial aid to undocumented students at public universities and colleges. As battle lines formed over the contentious measure, Aguilar threw himself into the political fight, organizing students throughout Northern California as part of a campus immigrant-rights group that also lobbied the legislature.

Though the new law paved his way into UC Berkeley, it was the 2012 implementation of DACA by the Obama administration and Aguilar’s winning of temporary legal status that enabled him to set his sights on giving back to his community. 

“That's when I knew I wanted to be there for students, especially other students of color, who have been marginalized and who have been under-represented for so long,” he said. “Knowing [first-hand] the difficulty of being part of an educational system that really pushed us out—students who ‘don’t belong.’” Aguilar is exactly the kind of educator who can help change lives, especially for young students of color. But instead, Aguilar and 800,000 other DACA recipients could be torn from their homes, offices, classrooms and the only country they’ve ever known as home.

Categories: Politics

National Review weighs in on Parkland survivors: 'We shouldn't let young people make policy'

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 15:04

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The National Review has now weighed into the conservative argument over whether the teenage survivors of the nation's latest school shooting should shut up and just how much they should shut up.

Because all modern conservatives are conspiracy theorists—it has become the central feature of the movement, at a time when things like morality and ethics and email management protocols have been rendered fully transactional, to be traded away the first time a president needs to dodge responsibility for porn star sex or a candidate for past child molestation or an entire administration's blatant disregard for ethics laws that were sacrosanct up until the point Any Republican won, the National Review take is, of course, that the student survivors of the Parkland shooting are merely pawns of evil leftist adults.

Leftists are parading traumatized teens to make an emotional plea about gun control. But we shouldn’t let young people make policy.

The extended version presented is that the left outrageously wants teenagers to be able to choose gender transition surgery but doesn't want them to be able to purchase guns, and how hypocritical is that, but the truth is that we shouldn't be listening to the opinions of young shooting survivors because they're young and emotional and "innocent" so why the hell are they still talking and why are news networks showing it.

Children and teenagers are not fully rational actors. They’re not capable of exercising supreme responsibilities. And we shouldn’t be treating innocence as a political asset used to push the agenda of more sophisticated players.

Now, despite how this looks, this is actually a deeply funny conservative take, if you are the sort of person who no longer presumes any current conservative thinker in the marketplace today has any intention of making a sincere argument. And the reason this is deeply, deeply, deeply funny is because this National Review piece was written by ... Ben Shapiro.

Categories: Politics

State officials don't have the information they need to safeguard the 2018 election

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 14:19

The indictments handed down last week by Robert Mueller in Russia's 2016 election interference are putting the next election—less than 9 months away—into sharp focus. The entire team of intelligence chiefs unanimously say that Russia is actively working to interfere in the 2018 election. But a number of state elections officials are sounding the alarm that they are not getting the information they need to conduct a valid election.

They say the federal government is not sharing specifics about threats to registered voter databases, voting machines, communication networks and other systems that could be vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.

In some cases, the election officials say they have no legal access to the information: After a year of effort, only 21 of them have received clearance to review classified federal information on election threats. […]

Some state leaders said they were disappointed over a classified briefing [at a meeting of the National Organization of Secretaries of State] they received on Friday on the threat posed by Russia, saying that senior intelligence officials left a great deal unclear, including the precise nature of the threat and exactly why state officials were being left in the dark.

"I would have thought that behind closed doors yesterday would have been the time to say, 'This is why this stuff has to be classified,' and I heard none of it," Mac Warner, the Republican secretary of state in West Virginia, said on Saturday at a discussion of security preparations for the 2018 election season. "The phrase 'rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic' comes to mind."

Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security officials admit they aren't working up to snuff here. "That's the No. 1 goal for us—to make sure you get what you need," one official, acting undersecretary for national protection Christopher Krebs, told them. "A year ago, I don't think we had that self-awareness and humility, but things are a little bit different now." Okay, so now they have self-awareness and humility. They've got precious little time to develop actual competence.

Categories: Politics

Nearly a month after getting detained by ICE, Kansas dad only able to see his family through windows

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 14:11

It’s been nearly a month since Syed Ahmed Jamal, a Kansas professor, was swept up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in front of his wife and children. In the time since his arrest, he’s been transferred five times, and was at one point pulled off the flight that was deporting him. Jamal hasn’t seen his family since the day he was arrested, and when he was transferred yet again—this time to a Missouri jail—they thought they’d finally get a chance to hug him. But, apparently unaware that jail rules required them to arrive a half-hour early for the meeting, they only got to wave to him through a window:

With no chance to share words Sunday, they waved at each other, with the children in tears. Jamal’s youngest child, 7-year-old Fareed, pushed his forehead against the glass. When they stepped away, he was taken into the arms of his older brother, 14-year-old Taseen.

“He’s devastated; his kids are devastated,” Jamal’s attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, said afterward. “It’s a human tragedy for someone who is not a criminal.”

Sharma-Crawford said she had made three phone calls to jail staff this past week to arrange the visit for Jamal’s wife, their three U.S.-born children and Jamal’s brother. Each time, jail staff confirmed the visit would be at 1 p.m., she said, but not once did anyone advise her that they needed to arrive by 12:30 p.m.

”The jail staff made the closest interview room available for Jamal’s meeting with his attorney so that his family could at least see him across the two sets of windows,” report The Kansas City Star’s Joe Robertson and Ian Cummings, and jail officials say inmates are informed of the policy and it is outlined on their website. “It’s outrageous,” Jamal’s attorney said about the family’s failed visit. “His children have waited a month to see him. What civilized society does this to children?” Indeed, “outrageous” can describe just about anything regarding this case and the others making headlines for their senselessness and ICE’s cruelty.

Categories: Politics

Parkland students give GOP lawmakers a lesson in moral leadership

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 13:18

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A hundred Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students boarded buses Tuesday to deliver a simple message to the GOP-controlled state legislature 400 miles away in Tallahassee: You're either with us or you’re against us

The quickness with which these students are mobilizing, their social media savvy and their message has caught conservative activists and Republican lawmakers flat-footed. They don't want hopes and prayers, they want action. Every minute wasted is another failure in leadership and another life on the line. As Stoneman Douglas senior and shooting survivor Emma González said when she called "BS" on lawmakers' inaction in her impassioned speech over the weekend:

Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see. [...] if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it's time to start doing something.

Compare that to GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan's business-as-usual humdrum responses last week following Wednesday's shooting.

"This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings...

"This is not the time to jump to some conclusion not knowing the full facts...

"Right now, I think we need to take a breath and collect the facts...

Bullshit, says González and her peers. Did the kids at Stoneman Douglas have a moment to "take a breath" while they were being shot at? No. And neither will the next victims of a mass shooting in Anytown, USA.

This is what urgency looks like. This is what moral leadership looks like. This is what the beginning of a movement looks like.

Categories: Politics

Ignore the conspiracy theories and attacks. Here's how real Parkland's student survivors are.

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:46

As the far right swarms, seeking to discredit the activism by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, it’s not hard to see the reality. The conspiracy theory has it that George Soros is somehow involved; the reality is that these are teenagers grappling with unimaginable horror but also finding their voice and using it. They’re getting organized, and showing discipline that many adult groups should envy:

Kasky began a group text with a few friends that has since ballooned to include as many as 19 participants. Someone built a website, while another person designed a logo. “I’ve been there [in the group chat] since basically hour one,” said Whitney. “Cameron just felt really inclined to make a specific movement. You can’t just make change. You have to be organized.” [...]

By Sunday night, as their names and movement trended worldwide, the teens regrouped in a makeshift “headquarters” in a living room. Some of the students hold leadership positions at their school, so they’re used to planning committees and meetings. (As people online tweeted that González should run for president, she joked that she already is president — of her school’s Gay–Straight Alliance.)

Although the room was big, the students worked closely together on a rug, making decisions communally. When media outlets rang to schedule interviews, the calls were sometimes put on hold so the group could plan and schedule collectively, as if they’d been doing this for years.

But they’re also kids who’ve been through something that no adult would envy:

John Barnitt, 17, could still recount seeing classmates “dropping their backpacks and kicking their flip flops off to run faster way from the crime scene.” It was only when he found his mom, who was waiting with what he described as “eager, tear-filled eyes,” that he felt safe.

Like the other organizers, Kasky said that the activism was his method for coping with the grief. “Unfortunately the bad feelings and the reminders of everything that’s happened are coming at all the wrong times,” Kasky told BuzzFeed News.

These kids’ authenticity is what makes them so powerful, which is why Republicans are trying to cast doubt on that authenticity. But it’s there for all of us to see and hear, and shame on anyone who won’t listen.

Categories: Politics

Trump claims he's been tougher on Russia than Obama, 'Total fake news!'

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:29

Donald Trump has his mind on Russia again Tuesday morning, Bolstered by a series of quotes provided in his real morning briefing—the one that comes while he watches Fox & Friends in his PJs—Trump was able to engage in his favorite pastime: Comparing himself favorably to President Obama.

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Shall we? How about we start with the fact that Barack Obama responded to Russian meddling by gathering legislative leaders and suggesting tough action. Action that was blocked by one man in particular.

In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence, according to officials present.

Even without the support of Republicans in Congress, President Obama took what action he could, seizing two Russian diplomatic compounds and expelling 35 Russian diplomats. It also happens that Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act—the sanctions against Russian oligarchs that was part of that Trump Tower discussion between Trump’s campaign and a team from Russia.

And now … Trump. Congress overwhelmingly passed sanctions against Russia all the way back in July, with just two senators and three members of the House voting against. By October, Congress was complaining that Trump still hadn’t issued any sanctions, and wouldn’t even tell them why. Trump continued to sit on the sanctions past deadlines in November. And December. Then in January, Trump finally acted.

The Trump administration informed lawmakers Monday that new Russia sanctions called for in a bipartisan bill passed last year are not necessary yet because the measure is already "serving as a deterrent."

Oh yeah. Trump did … nothing. Nothing is extremely “tough.”

Categories: Politics

Former congressman spreads conspiracy theory: Parkland students 'hijacked by left-wing groups'

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:01

The gun-hugging far right has been rocked back by the powerful moral voice of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, so it’s falling back on what it knows best: vicious attacks. On the teenage survivors of a mass shooting. Right-wing pundits have gotten an assist from Donald Trump Jr., and now CNN has put former Republican Rep. Jack Kingston on the air to be just this vile:

Kingston attacked the students as mere stooges for “left-wing groups who have an agenda” during an appearance on CNN Tuesday morning. Kingston added he believed George Soros was actually orchestrating the students’ activism.

Kingston’s claims were met with disbelief by Alisyn Camerota. “Jack, I’m sorry. I have to correct you. I was down there. I talked to these kids. These kids were wildly motivated,” Camerota said.

Kingston never should have been given the platform to spew his nastiness, but three cheers for Alisyn Camerota for throwing it back in his face. Kingston took the same line on Twitter:

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Categories: Politics

Poll: Trump, Congress not doing enough (anything?) to stop mass shootings

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:33

Most Americans, by far, see Congress and Trump as useless when it comes to doing anything to prevent mass shooting, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The polling, you won't be surprised, shows a strong partisan divide, and show Americans falling for the "mental health" excuse Republicans have been peddling for years.

More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of problems identifying and addressing mental health issues than inadequate gun laws. […]

A 77 percent majority says Congress is not doing enough to prevent mass shootings and 62 percent say the same of Trump, according to the poll. At least half feel “strongly” that Congress and the president have not taken adequate action. Majorities across party lines express frustration with Congress, while views of Trump are more divided. More than 8 in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents say the president is not doing enough. More than 6 in 10 Republicans say Trump is taking sufficient action to prevent mass shootings, although more than one-quarter of fellow partisans, 28 percent, say he is not.

The polling questions create a binary for respondents—gun control versus mental health screening and treatment as the solution. The response is lopsided, with 77 percent saying "they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting" whereas 58 percent think it could "have been prevented by stricter gun control laws." When asked in general, not specific to Parkland, whether "mass shootings in this country are more a reflection of (problems identifying and treating people with mental health problems) or (inadequate gun control laws)" 57 percent say mental health, opposed to 28 percent saying inadequate laws.

That's what decades of NRA propaganda gets you—a populace that largely believes laws won't make a difference. It's also a result of a decades-old ban on research into gun violence. We can look to studies on the effectiveness of gun laws or mental health by looking at other countries (Australia, for example) but the government charged with protecting us can't do the research here because Congress won't let it.

Categories: Politics

Now that the Trump White House has enjoyed its mass shooting 'reprieve,' back to Rob Porter

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 11:11

Before Rob Porter was a scandal so bad some in the White House welcomed a mass shooting as a “reprieve” from the bad publicity, he was quite the golden boy. His ex-wives and at least one ex-girlfriend knew the truth, and a few coworkers caught glimpses of his anger problem, but his career was going from high to high and even now there are plenty of people who will tell the New York Times positive things about him—apparently domestic violence doesn’t always provoke reconsideration of a view of someone as “an upstanding guy driven by morals.” But Porter sure has given the White House a lot to move on from, and signs aren’t good that it’s happening effectively:

His resignation, on Feb. 7 after two ex-wives accused him of abuse and photos surfaced of one with a black eye she said he had given her, prompted scrutiny over White House aides’ clearances. Some, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, may now have their access to closely held materials revoked as investigations into their backgrounds continue.

What are the odds that Donald Trump allows precious Jared to lose his access?

Mr. Porter has denied abusing his ex-wives, and has instead suggested that the women have not shared the whole story. Several of his friends and former colleagues in Congress and in the White House share this belief. Mr. Porter has also privately told people that he believes the security clearance debacle says more about the dysfunction at the White House than it does about his behavior.

Yes, Porter is apparently so charismatic that people—conservative Republicans invested in his career, anyway—will believe his laughable claims about how his ex-wives got black eyes or got their windows broken. Then again, we’re talking about people who would go on to welcome the reprieve offered by 17 people killed in a school shooting, so believing the lies of a wife beater suddenly doesn’t seem so outlandish.

Categories: Politics