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A Day Without Lies!

Amazingly, Donald Trump just made it through an entire day without lying:

Donald Trump has been president for 41 days, and he finally put up a goose egg: no factual errors or misleading statements for a full day, midnight to midnight, according to The Washington Post’s great Fact Checkers, Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

All he had to do, it turns out, was say almost nothing.

They go on to say that Trump made only a single tweet on Wednesday, which was two words: “Thank You”, and that he made virtually no public comments either. They also have to make the caveat that the day before that was arguably his worst factual day as president. On Tuesday, the same day he addressed Congress, Trump made 26 claims that were either lies or misleading. As president, Trump has racked up 190 such claims.

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Russian Trouble

Trump’s National Security Advisor had to resign because he lied about contacts with the Russians. Now it looks like Trump’s Attorney General also lied about contacts with the Russians. After all the noise from Republicans about how Hillary Clinton should be in jail, not to mention impeaching Bill Clinton for lying, it will be interesting to see how they deal with Sessions lying under oath.

The best summary of what is going on comes from one of my favorite websites, Electoral Vote. Here is their report in its entirety:

Sessions Looks to Be in Deep Trouble

When Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was nominated by Donald Trump, he—like all nominees—was required to submit extensive supporting paperwork. Included therein was this question:

Several of the President-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?

Sessions’ one-word answer was, “No.” Then, during his confirmation hearings, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked what Sessions would do if he learned that members of the Trump campaign had communicated with the Russian government during the course of the campaign. Sessions’ reply:

I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.

We now learn, thanks to reporting from the Washington Post, that the latter answer (and, quite possibly, the former) was not truthful. In fact, Sessions met at least twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who—his official title notwithstanding—is thought by some people to be one of the Kremlin’s foremost spies and spy recruiters. Those meetings took place in July and September; Sessions was well-ensconced as a Trump supporter and surrogate by the time of the first, and remained so at the time of the latter.

Sessions was, apparently, blindsided by the Post’s revelations, and over the course of the day on Wednesday, managed to sputter his way to several different responses. At one point, he called the story “false;” at another he said that he answered Franken in the manner that he did because he did not consider his conversations with Kislyak to be “relevant” to the committee’s questions. Eventually, Sessions settled on what looks to be his primary defense: That he did have the meetings with Kislyak, but that they were conducted as part of the then-Senator’s job as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and that no election-related matters were discussed. This explanation does not appear to stand up to scrutiny; the Post contacted the 26 members of the Committee, and each of the 20 who had responded as of Wednesday evening—including Chairman John McCain (R-AZ)—said they had not met with the Russian ambassador, and had no particular reason to do so.

Put bluntly, then, Sessions has perjured himself. Again, note his response to Franken: “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Not, “I did not discuss the election with the Russians,” nor, “I spoke to them, but only about the business of the Senate Armed Service Committee.” Even if he’s telling the truth about the content of the meetings (questionable), and truly thought they were not germane, he surely knows that it’s not his privilege—as someone giving testimony before Congress—to decide what is and is not relevant. And If Sessions is guilty of perjury, then he is therefore guilty of a “high crime and misdemeanor,” and so is subject to impeachment and removal from office. This was established, quite definitively, in the case of Bill Clinton, who was impeached for playing precisely the same sorts of word games (albeit in order to cover up for some extracurricular fun, as opposed to a possible conspiracy to manipulate a presidential election). During Clinton’s impeachment, one Republican senator was particularly insistent that, “I have no doubt that perjury qualifies under the Constitution as a high crime. It goes to the heart of the judicial system.” That Senator, of course, was Jeff Sessions.

Of course, politicians on both sides of the aisle are not so great about being consistent when the shoe is on the other foot. So while, by all evidence, Sessions should be impeached (or resign, which is what the Democrats are calling for), that doesn’t mean it will actually happen. Even if he keeps his job, however, it is now entirely impossible for a Sessions-led Justice Dept. to impartially investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. If he is allowed to not only keep his job, but also to run the investigation (as opposed to having an independent prosecutor appointed), then it will be corruption of a sort that we’ve not seen for a very long time, if ever.

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Obamacare?

Donald Trump says “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated“. Seriously? Well, John Oliver knew. And not only that, he will be happy to explain why it is so complicated. What’s really ironic is that a large part of the complications are because Republicans have been lying about the ACA for a very long time.

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Military Welfare

Donald Trump’s proposed budget will increase military spending by $54 billion, while slashing the State Department (and almost certainly lots of other things).

But we already spend an insane amount of money on the military:

Even without the Trump bump, that’s four times more than the #2 country. In fact, the entire world (not counting the US) spends a grand total of around $950 billion. Trump’s proposed increase alone is almost equal to Russia’s entire military budget.

But what’s really ironic about this is that Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to significantly reduce our military commitments to other countries (including to NATO), so military spending should be going down.

Not only that, but a hunk of our current military spending is for tanks, aircraft, and ships that the Pentagon says it doesn’t even need. Why? Because it makes money for companies, who turn around and donate lots of money to Congressional campaigns.

Perhaps that is the answer to this riddle — the increased military spending is merely corporate welfare. After all, George W Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney was the former CEO of Halliburton, and starting the war in Iraq resulted in around $40 billion in contracts for his former company.

Trump says it is all about making us safer, but does anyone really believe that spending such huge amounts of money on weapons (including nuclear weapons) is going to make us safer?

Besides, I don’t think Trump cares whether we are actually safer. If he did, he wouldn’t destroy the State Department.

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Believe Me!

If you watch Donald Trump give his speech to Congress tonight, just remember the words of Jon Stewart:

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Immigration Fake News

Build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants from Mexico? Block refugees from entering the US? Ban even visitors from Muslim countries?

And that’s just what the Trump administration says they want to do. It doesn’t include recent incidents like the son of legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali being detained for hours when entering the US at a Florida airport (after speaking at a Black History Month event in Montego Bay, Jamaica), even though he was born in Philadelphia and lives in Florida, had his US passport with him, and has no criminal record.

His mother, who was traveling on the same flight, was allowed through after she showed immigration officials a photo of herself with her late husband. However, Muhammad Ali Jr. was questioned for two hours, and asked repeatedly “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?” To give you an idea of how disgusting this is, can you imagine if an American citizen returning to the US was detained for hours and repeatedly asked “Are you a Jew?”

So, why are we thinking of spending tens of billions of dollars to build a 2000 mile long wall, hire 5000 more border agents and 10,000 more ICE agents, build more prisons to hold people we round up, not to mention the money that will be spent on lawsuits because of little details like the fact that our constitution prohibits discriminating against people based on their religion. Are we facing some kind of existential crisis? Are we in immediate danger from immigrants, either legal or illegal?

The answer is a resounding no. The immigration crisis is a myth.

First, let’s look at illegal immigration. Beginning in 2008, the US saw a dramatic outflow of illegal immigrants caused by the recession. Yes, that’s right, undocumented aliens from Mexico returned home (Mitt Romney might even say they “self deported”). Even after the recession ended, we are still seeing a net outflow of undocumented aliens. So if the border wall does anything at all (which it won’t — around half of illegal aliens entered the US with a visa and just didn’t leave, and there are already many tunnels underneath existing border walls) it will be to keep these undocumented workers inside the US.

Even if you thought there was an illegal immigration problem in the early 2000s, we already pretty much solved that problem through increased deportation, and (most significantly) making it much harder to hire illegal aliens.

As for Trump’s Muslim ban, it is plainly ridiculous. Trump’s ban only affected seven countries, and we haven’t had any successful terrorist attacks by anyone from any of those countries in decades (since before 9/11). We have had terrorist attacks by citizens from other countries, but the ban was not applied to them. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and the UAE. Could it be because Trump has business interests in those countries?

In fact, the Trump administration asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide evidence that people from the seven countries in his ban pose a terrorism threat, but the DHS found that the threat was minimal.

Not only that, but unconstitutional restrictions against Muslims are more likely to cause problems than solve them. They will further isolate us from our friends an allies in the rest of the world, and inflame already simmering hatred.

In conclusion, Trump’s proposed actions against immigrants and visitors from other countries are expensive solutions in search of a problem. When did we forget that we are a nation of immigrants, and start blaming people from “other” countries for any and all of our problems?


© Jim Morin

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Can’t Take the Heat?

Donald Trump has tweeted that he will not attend the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Trump has not fared very well at past events, becoming the butt of too many jokes for his ego to tolerate.

The last time a president skipped this dinner was back in 1981, when Ronald Reagan didn’t show up because he was recovering from being shot. But he called in anyway. Indeed, every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended at least one of the dinners.

What makes this ironic is that now that the president won’t be there, the speakers will make fun of him even more.

Even his tweet is encouraging hilarious responses. One response suggests that Alec Baldwin should replace Trump at the dinner. Baldwin does a mean imitation of Trump on Saturday Night Live.

UPDATE: More and more people are calling for Alec Baldwin to attend the WHCD as Trump.

In the same way that Stephen Colbert skewered conservatives by acting like one, I think the best way to play this would be to have everyone make the dinner be Donald Trump’s wet dream, praising him and fawning over him and his alternative facts the way Stephen Colbert (in his conservative persona) would.

And finally, I pray there is a chance we could talk Jon Stewart into being host of the event. That would be my wet dream.

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Late Night Political Humor

[Jokes from Jan. 30, 2017]

“President Trump on Friday signed an executive order that bans citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, bans refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. There were demonstrations in just about every major city yesterday. People went to the airport to protest. That’s when you know people are mad: It’s Sunday, they have no travel plans, and they go to the airport.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Here in New York thousands of people showed up at JFK airport over the weekend to protest Trump’s immigration ban. People who were actually at the protests said, ‘This is awful’. While people at LaGuardia were like, ‘You think you got it bad. We’re at LaGuardia.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“This weekend the nation’s airports were filled with people protesting president Trump’s Muslim ban. It was the largest collection of angry people at an airport since every United Airlines flight.” – Conan O’Brien

“There was a hash tag, #DeleteUber, trending over the weekend. People were upset because in New York when taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with the protesters at JFK airport, Uber at the same time announced they were lowering prices at JFK. Some people thought it seemed like they were trying to profit from the strike. Which I don’t know, I highly doubt the company that charges you $300 to get home on New Year’s would be focused on money during a time like that.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Travelers from the seven restricted countries, most of them got on a plane, had no idea they would be stopped, were detained by immigration, including a 5-year-old boy who was detained for hours while his mother, who was born in Iran, waited at the gate for him. And that meant lucky Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, had the unenviable job trying to explain how detaining a 5-year-old helps keep the country safe.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Fortunately the White House press room is on the ground floor, which is good because that way Sean won’t hurt himself when he eventually jumps out the window.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“And at Dulles Airport, a 5-year-old Iranian boy was detained for hours and kept from his mother. Or as Kellyanne Conway calls it, ‘alternative daycare’.” – Stephen Colbert

“During an interview yesterday, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway compared Donald Trump to Jesus. That’s right, two guys who started out by inheriting their father’s business.” – Conan O’Brien

“President Trump said yesterday that his ban on visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations is ‘not about religion’ but about ‘keeping our country safe’. Though if you really wanna keep Americans safe, quit making them walk in the street.” – Seth Meyers

“If Donald Trump — think of this — if he stops all the immigrants from coming into the country, where’s he going to find his next wife?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“This guy is the Usain Bolt of executive orders. The latest is the order banning any refugees from entering the country for 120 days. Now, keep in mind, there are currently more refugees than at any time since World War II, and Trump just slammed the door. Explains why the poem on the Statue of Liberty now reads, ‘Don’t let it hit ya where the good Lord split ya.'” – Stephen Colbert

“So this is our first show of the Trump administration. You ever regret going on vacation? ‘Take the week off’, they said. ‘America will still be here when you get back’, they said. ‘How much could he do in a week?'” – Stephen Colbert

“You’ve got to give the guy credit. He can really get a lot of stuff undone. From Obamacare to climate change to torture, he’s already moved the country back to 2004. If this keeps up, pretty soon, I’m going to launch ‘The Colbert Report’.” – Stephen Colbert

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel this weekend reportedly had to explain the Geneva Refugee Convention to President Trump during a phone call. She also had to explain to him not to push the buttons while they were talking.” – Seth Meyers

“After Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer got emotional while protesting Trump’s travel ban, Trump accused him of fake crying. Then Melania said, ‘Trust me, he doesn’t know when someone is faking it.'” – Jimmy Fallon

“The CEO of Starbucks has pledged to hire 10,000 refugees. So if you think they’re writing your name incorrectly on the cups now…” – Conan O’Brien

“When asked why, the CEO said Starbucks has always been the place for people with nowhere else to go. Yeah, just with your laptop. There are people that have been in there for nine years. Writing a single screenplay.” – Conan O’Brien

“While all this was happening, Donald Trump was hosting a screening at the White House of the movie ‘Finding Dory’, which ironically is a movie about a fish trying to find her parents. To his credit he was so moved by the film, he lifted all travel restrictions on clownfish. So that is good.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Yesterday Donald Trump spent the afternoon at the White House watching ‘Finding Dory’ with his family. Apparently in this version Dory couldn’t be found because she was being detained at the airport.” – Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday at the White House, Trump hosted a screening of the movie ‘Finding Dory’. Trump said he actually related more to ‘Finding Nemo’ because that was about an orange-and-white cartoon.” – Jimmy Fallon

“They asked Trump about the movie and Trump said, ‘I was amazed by Dory’s long attention span.'” – Conan O’Brien

“Trump spoke with a number of foreign leaders over the weekend, including the president of Mexico, the prime minister of Germany. He also spoke with Vladimir Putin for about an hour. Putin wanted to know if Trump liked the gift he got him. Donald told him, yes, he was enjoying the presidency very much.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“You know how over the course of his time in office, over four years or eight years, the president gets old and his hair turns gray? During this administration, instead of him, that’s going to happen to all of us.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“California Gov. Jerry Brown said if he has to he will fight Donald Trump in court on climate change. Experts say it will be the landmark case of Brown v. Orange.” – Conan O’Brien

“Former President Obama released his first public statement today since leaving the White House. And I have it here… just let me read it to you in full… ahem… ‘Oh HELL no!'” – Seth Meyers

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Suicide Down

Two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down laws against same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Before that ruling, 36 states (plus the District of Columbia and Guam) already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This disparity allowed scientists to study the effects of the change, and the results showed an interesting benefit.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins compared suicide rates over time in states that legalized gay marriage, with states that did not. What they found is that states where same-sex marriage remained illegal did not see much change in suicide rates, but in states that legalized same-sex marriage there was a seven percent drop in attempted suicides.

That might not sound like a big number, but it means 134,000 fewer suicide attempts. Suicide is the second-most-common cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the US. Other studies have shown that non-heterosexual students are more than two to seven times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual students.

That is a lot more deaths than are attributed to terrorism. Legalizing same-sex marriage was a good step, but even more suicides could be prevented by eliminating other laws that stigmatize gay people, such as laws that don’t allow same-sex couples to adopt children or laws that allow religious exemptions from nondiscrimination policies.

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No Drama Obama?

Holy Freedom Fries!

France is currently in the middle of of their presidential election, and it is full of drama. The conservative front-runner was recently implicated in a corruption scandal, which has created openings both on the far right (nativist Marine Le Pen) and the left (radical centrist Emmanuel Macron). But voters are unhappy.

And some of those voters are trying to find a “white knight” to come in and rescue them from this mess. Except that their knight is actually black. And he isn’t even French. It is Barack Obama.

In the past week, posters have gone up around Paris with the slogan “Obama17” and “Oui On Peut”, which is French for “Yes We Can”.

They also have a website, urging voters to sign a petition to draft Obama. They hope to get a million signatures from people who promise to vote for him.

Here’s some of the (translated) text from their site:

The French are ready to make radical choices. That is good because we have a radical idea to propose to them.

After five years and faced with the announced failure of the next presidential election, we think it is time to move to the 6th Republic to get France out of its lethargy.

To launch this 6th Republic, we wish to strike a blow by electing a foreign President at the head of our beautiful country.

Barack Obama completed his second term as President of the United States on January 21 — why not hire him as President for France?

Our goal is simple, to collect before the 15th of March, 1 million voting promises to convince Barack Obama to run for the presidential election of May 2017.

– Barack Obama has the best resume in the world for the job.

– Because it is still possible to vote for a President and not against a candidate.

– Because at a time when France is about to vote massively for the extreme right, we can still give a lesson of democracy to the planet by electing a French President, a foreigner.

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Flagging Trump’s Russian Connections

On Friday, Donald Trump gave a speech at CPAC. But before Trump spoke someone wearing a suit passed out Red, White, and Blue flags with Trump’s name on them. People began waving them.

Except, the colors were not in that order, they were White, Blue, and Red. Apparently unbeknown to the attendees, that is the Russian flag. They were waving Russian flags for Trump. At Trump.

Conference staff were alerted and went around confiscating the flags.

And one reporter spotted someone wearing a “Make Russia Great Again” T-shirt.

This is especially significant now, given the new revelation that the White House sent a request to the FBI to publicly knock down media reports that Trump campaign staffers were in frequent contact with Russian government officials. The FBI refused. The White House is not allowed to intervene in FBI investigations.

UPDATE: The pranksters who pulled this off reveal themselves. Pretty funny.

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Making Private Prisons Great Again

Private, for-profit prisons have failed. They cost taxpayers more than public prisons, are less safe for prisoners (the one private prison in Idaho has 4 times the number of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults than the seven public prisons in the state combined), have had repeated scandals (including one where judges were bribed by the prisons in exchange for harsher sentences on juveniles in order to increase the need for more prisons), and spend tons of money lobbying state and local governments to pass harsher sentences (like three strikes) and criminalizing more things.

The fundamental problem is that as a for-profit corporation, private prisons have to be profitable. There is double the incentive to not rehabilitate prisoners because the cost of rehabilitation programs reduce current profits, and a rehabilitated former prisoner is no longer a source of future profits. You end up with a system that is rewarded if they produce more criminals!

The Obama administration was trying to phase out private prisons, but it should come as no surprise that the Trump administration has just reversed that. In addition, “the use of private prisons is expected to surge under President Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigration.”

Just in case there was any doubt about the racist intent of this, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that the Justice Department (under racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions) will step up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, even in states that have legalized recreational use. Over half the inmates in federal prisons are there for drug offenses, with the majority of those for marijuana. And minorities (especially blacks) are many times more likely to be arrested for marijuana use than whites.

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Nobody Knows

Nobody knows the reason Trump needs to lie and say stupid things so much.

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Left-wing Fascists?

Speaking of Ironic Reversals, today the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) opened, and one of the first speeches tried to blame the “alt-right” on the left. The speech was made by Dan Schneider, the executive director of the the American Conservative Union, which runs the CPAC conference.

The alt-right is a small, far-right movement that seeks a whites-only state, promotes white nationalism, is critical of ethnic (Black, Hispanic) or religious (Muslim, Jewish) minorities, and believes in nativism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and even neo-Nazism. Sound familiar?

But Schneider called the “alt-right” a “left-wing fascist group”, and claimed that it is “a sinister organization that is trying to warp its way into our ranks.” Schneider argued in his speech that the “alt-right” is philosophically left-wing because it departs from his definition of conservatism where “the individual” is sovereign. He tried to link fascism to the left by saying “Fascists tend to want big government control.”

Now, while fascist governments are usually totalitarian, this ignores the fact that not all totalitarian governments are fascist.

If you accept Schneider’s logic, then one could also say that conservatives, who overwhelmingly support Donald Trump, are part of the alt-right because Trump’s top advisor is Steve Bannon, who while running Breitbart News described it as “the platform for the alt-right“. Not to mention that after the surprise outcome of the presidential election, the alt-right had a victory party where the person who invented the term “alt-right” spoke, and he closed his speech with “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory”. The crowd responded with Nazi salutes and “sieg heil”-like chants.

So, if conservatives are against the alt-right, does that mean that they will fight against Donald Trump and his alt-right advisors? Or is this just more doublespeak?

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Ironic Reversals

I guess 1984 just happened 33 years late. Because, evidently, now 2 + 2 = 5.


© Jen Sorensen

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