Category Archives: National

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Beyond the human price of Donald Trump’s promise to deport undocumented immigrants, there will be an economic price to pay. It is estimated that one quarter of Vermont’s farm labor force could be impacted by the new administrations anti-immigrant policies.

When milking crews and field workers are forced to leave the country, who will do the work of feeding America?

The conversation has already begun between the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Department of Corrections around the possibility of deploying a prison workforce to ensure that there are sufficient hands available to get the job done.

In Vermont, such a workforce probably stands a better chance of experiencing fair treatment and reasonable compensation than in more regressive states. In most states where prisoners have been made to work on farms to replace lost migrant help, the experience has been less than satisfactory, as the captive laborers tend to lack the work ethic, skill and efficiency of the immigrant workforce they replace, and compensation, such as it is, goes mostly to prison operators.

Paid or unpaid, such an arrangement would amount to slave labor supporting a cornerstone Vermont industry.

It’s too easy to rationalize away fair labor practices and compensation for people who have broken the law, no matter how minor their offense might have been.

We already have the highest incarceration rate of any advanced nation, reflecting a draconian inclination that does not become us. Rather than working to reduce prison populations as most people agree should be done, if states begin to rely on prison labor for their food supply, we might actually see a systemic reluctance to pursue alternatives to imprisonment.  Furthermore, when prison labor is charged with animal care, the results can be unsettling:

In March 2012, officials in Sutter County, California discussed ending prison work crews for a different reason. For decades, prisoners have been used to feed dogs and cats, clean their cages and even assess their health at the county’s animal shelter. Over the past five years multiple reports have cited shortcomings with the use of prison labor because prisoners, who are not trained in veterinarian care, have caused problems at the shelter by making mistakes and distracting employees….A 2007 grand jury report found that prisoners were partially responsible for an “abnormally” high number of animal deaths at the shelter.

This is of special concern in Vermont where dairying represents a significant portion of our farm labor needs.

During a forum on labor rights in Columbus, Georgia on April 4, 2012, Richard Jessie, second vice president of the Columbus NAACP, noted that “Our prison workforce is an enslaved workforce basically.” Commenting on the money the city saves by using prisoner work crews, which is reportedly $9 million to $17 million annually, he added, “We use slave labor to do much of the work that could and should be paid jobs.”

A prison workforce should not be Vermont’s fall-back plan for addressing labor shortages down on the farm. Efficiently maintaining our food supply requires physically challenging labor and more than a small amount of commitment to the work. An immigrant workforce has traditionally provided these qualities in exchange for relatively modest compensation.

Our entire food system has been built on those expectations and Americans would be very foolish to abandon the effort for meaningful immigration reform that would support their continued participation in our economy. If we begin to erode that compact now with an “emergency” use of prison labor, we may never be able to rebuild a timelessly valuable labor system again, and, given the regressive inclinations of the Trump contingent, could even live to see defacto slavery return to America.

Prison labor is not the answer.

Trump White House: “…it’s like a finely tuned machine”

yearightDonald Trump answered questions from the press for over an hour Thursday after announcing who his newest nominee for Secretary of Labor will be. His first nominee, a former fast-food executive  had withdrawn his name from consideration, due to lack of support from all Democrats and many Republicans in the Senate.

Trump  fielded questions after more than a week’s worth of administrative madness and chaos at his White House. You can review the eight craziest moments in his press conference here. His performance lasted for over an hour, he dodged questions, attacked the press repeatedly, and several times insisted his White House was running like “a fine-tuned machine.” 

And Donald Trump set another record this week; a new low approval rating. A PEW Research poll reported Thursday had his approval at 39 percent, another historic low for presidents in their first weeks in office.

To cap this off Trump is skipping out of town this weekend, taking his reality show on the road. As if needing to reassure himself, he will be dashing off to do a campaign-style rally-performance for Donald-friendly crowds in Florida. He’s leaving his “finely tuned” machine in Washington to hum along on its own.

Donald may simply need time to refocus his vision and get ready for the next week’s challenges. TrumpsidedownHowever, given Trump’s fiascos to date, it would be no surprise if a visit to the upside-down house in Orlando, Florida was on tap.

UPDATED: Sununu, Trump and their zombie lie

[UPDATE: NH Governor Sununu issued a statement to WMUR today: Gov. Chris Sununu said Monday (February 13, 2017) he is unaware of widespread voter fraud in the Granite State, but he said he wants to work with President Donald Trump’s administration to “learn of any evidence they may have.”

However, here’s what Sununu “knew” about his state in October 2016 and what he told to a Boston radio station “There’s no doubt there’s election fraud here.”]                 

This latest GOP nation-wide outbreak of voter fraud lies originated right next door in Vermont’s upside down doppelganger, New Hampshire. ZedLiesThat state’s new Republican  Governor Sununu created a vote fraud lie last year that will not die. And that zombie lie is now it is serving Donald Trump and the GOP well.

While in a close race for governor Chris Sununu (son of a former NH Governor and White House chief of staff to George HW Bush) made some totally false charges on talk radio, claiming, “We have same-day voter registration, and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them [the others!] in all over the place,”

Sununu quietly walked back this lie… a bit, but he started the infection and he has kept up a voter fraud  drumbeat and still promises someday to “tighten-up” what he says, contrary to evidence, are “lax” voting regulations. Zombie lies over vote fraud are GOP-wide, with currently more than dozen Republican-led state legislatures at work passing legislation making it harder (for some) to register to vote.

And now President Trump who sees voter fraud everywhere opposition votes are counted boosted Sununu’s earlier lie this past week.

President Donald Trump reportedly brought up even more baseless claims of voter fraud on Thursday, during a closed-door meeting with several senators. […] Trump and 10 senators originally meant discuss Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Present at the meeting was former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has handled Gorsuch’s confirmation process for the White House.

[Ayotte’s narrow loss and Hillary Clinton’s 3000-vote win in the state], Trump reportedly said, were due to “thousands” of people who were “brought in on buses” from Massachusetts to vote “illegally” in the state.  

Never mind that no evidence exists of a small fleet of buses,that would have been needed to carry “thousands” of voters from Massachusetts; that’s what the President of the United States asserted!

At the White House meeting President Trump’s version of the zombie lie was greeted with “an uncomfortable silence.” Sadly, reports don’t indicate the any specific reaction from attendee Kelly Ayotte, who narrowly lost her NH Senate race to Democrat Maggie Hassan. But we do know and probably haven’t heard the last about Donald Trump’s ongoing sensitivity about his popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton.

Uncomfortable silence and falsehoods not withstanding, Vice President Mike Pence has been ordered by Trump to form a commission to investigate alleged voter fraud. If ever it takes shape, Vice President Pence’s commission on imaginary voter fraud might want to interview New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu for starters, because if Pence only knew what Sununu knew* he might know enough to kill his zombie lie.

[*see  Calvin Trillin: ‘If you knew what Sununu’]

Donald Trump’s Terrible Awful No Good Very Bad Day

There have been many days that prompted bloggers to adapt the popular children’s book title to frame the immediate chaos around Donald Trump’s political misadventures; but today of all days seems to cry out more than most for that redundant banner headline.

Leaving aside the trail of stinking piles drying in his wake every day, today might one day be remembered as the day that his epic losing streak began.

This morning, like so many Americans (and as I have done every morning since the inauguration), I reflexively turned on the news even before the coffeemaker in order to find out what new region of Twitter hell Donald Trump had taken us to overnight. Despite his best efforts to gin up international tensions, nuclear war hadn’t yet broken out, so I settled into my kitchen chair with a sigh  and a steaming cup of relief. It was going to be a pretty good day after all.

Mr. Trump’s immediate national concern seemed to be his adult daughter’s broken heart at being told by Nordstrom that they could no longer carry her line of merchandise because sales had been so poor over the last quarter. Never one to underplay a family slight, Mr. Trump had tweeted how “unfair” Nordstrom’s decision was; that it obviously was politically motivated, and that his daughter is such a good person who is always trying to get him to do “the right thing.” Then, for good measure, he tweeted it again to the vast readership of his official @POTUS feed.

Even though, for some reason, this gross exercise of  conflict of interest doesn’t set him up for immediate consequences, it does add to the growing file of transgressions that may ultimately be his undoing. Furthermore, Nordstrom probably has a pretty good case for a lawsuit.

Apparently Ivanka hasn’t been very successful at getting Dear Ol’ Dad to do the “right thing”, either.

The new twist this morning was that shameless Trump sycophant and consigliere Kellyanne Conway had taken it upon herself to ‘right’ Nordstrom’s ‘wrong’ by appearing on Fox news to give impromptu commercial endorsement for the First Daughter’s products and exhort the faithful to go forth and buy Ivanka’s crap.

Like so many of Trump’s closest advisors, Kellyanne’s qualifications for the job must be seriously questioned. Supposedly she is a lawyer, and yet, she seemed to be totally unaware that what she was doing in hawking Trump family merchandise on TV represented an immediate and gross conflict of interests, a breach of White House ethics, and a set-up for worsening optics on the general issue of conflicts within the Trump administration.

It seemed that what Kelly Anne had crossed was an ethics bridge too far even for the Donald, because it wasn’t long before the word came out that counsellor Kelly Anne had herself been “counselled.” What exactly this means is unclear, but it seems to suggest some acceptance of responsibility was finally being broached within the administration, if only by a side flunky.

But we had to wait until evening for the best news, when the 9th Circuit Court Decision came down as a sweep in favor of the plaintiffs. A crushing defeat for King Donald!

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and there are a few more innings to be played in the game of anti-American immigration policy; but tonight we can pause in the battle for a little celebration, knowing that it’ must be somebody’s job at the White House tonight to sit on Donald and restrain his little fingers from unleashing a Twitter storm of unintended consequences.

Recent Trump poll: “…basically everything he’s doing is wrong.”

Public Policy Polling has released the results of their most recent poll on the Donald Trump Presidency after his first 14 days. And it’s not good, some might say: It’s a total disaster! Sad!  Public Policy Polling summarizes that the reason is that: “voters think basically everything he’s doing is wrong.” Full results PDF here

whuhtrumpForty percent of voters would like to impeach him, and incredibly that number is up from 35% in just the past seven days.  Only 48% of voters say that they would be opposed to Trump’s impeachment.

On issues other than impeachment the numbers show: 52% of voters think that Trump’s executive order on immigration was intended to be a Muslim ban, to only 41% who don’t think that was the intent. And the idea of a Muslim ban is extremely unpopular with the American people- only 26% are in favor of it, to 65% who are against it.

Trump’s key advisor, and some say the brains of the gang, Steve Bannon, has very low approval with only 19% of voters seeing him favorably and a solid 40% with a negative opinion of him. The placing of Bannon on the National Security Council by Trump is not considered wise, even among Trump supporters. And 40% of those believe the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence belongs on the NSC more than Bannon.

If Trump is smart (an ongoing debate) and heeds poll results, he will back off attacks on the National Park Service. Smokey the Bear ResistsShortly after Trump’s Inauguration, an official at the National Park Service was reportedly blasted in a phone call from by President Trump himself. This after the Park Service had published images online of Donald’s embarrassingly small turnout on his big day.

PPP found 68% of voters have a favorable opinion of the National Park Service, to only 9% with an unfavorable opinion of it. Only 30% of voters approve of censoring the Park Service’s social media accounts, to 52% who disapprove of that. [Freedom loving] Trump voters do support censorship of Park Service social media accounts, 59% to 12%.

In other areas, Trump supporters seem to be truly in an alternative universe:huhpolling2Trump voters also continue to refuse to believe in the sincerity of those protesting him. 48% think the folks who protested at airports across the country last weekend were paid to do so by George Soros, to only 31% who think the protesters weren’t paid. Trump voters thought the women’s marchers were all paid by Mr. Soros as well so clearly the Trump administration is going to be very expensive for him.

So, if you attended any marches recently, keep an eye out for that Soros check in the mail. They probably get mailed right after Trump supporters get their Publisher’s Clearing House million dollar prizes. The ones Donald promised them.

Naval Special Warfare Group 2: Letting their freak flag fly

Wow, here’s a creepy little news flash. Those who are inclined to see conspiracies should probably read no further.

A convoy of unmarked U.S. military vehicles flying a Trump flag was spotted (and videotaped) near Louisville Kentucky earlier this week. Defense officials, when first asked about the disturbing sight, said they believed the vehicles were military surplus.636213881632417527-trumptruck But now a U. S. Navy spokeswoman has admitted the vehicles, which were unmarked for security reasons belong to the Navy — yes, ours!

And this was not just some low-level band of sailors tooling around in jeeps with a Donald Trump flag on the antenna, but it was a multi-vehicle convoy of Naval Special Warfare Group 2 stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia flying Trump’s “colors.” This Naval group is made up of the serious ones with the black balaclavas, Seal Teams. Seal Teams are specialists in unconventional warfare, direct actions, counter-terrorism, special reconnaissance and personnel recovery.

The Navy has now acknowledged this was inappropriate and unauthorized. However the spokeswoman was not sure of what penalties this violation might carry. An investigation into the violation of regulations was promised.

Military regulations say personnel should avoid implying Department of Defense sponsorship or endorsement of any “political candidate, campaign or cause.”

Some motorists said they were alarmed by military units flying the flag of a national leader rather than the country, which they said is reminiscent of a fascist government or banana republic.

I hope there are some follow-ups on this . But, just for grins here’s a little thought experiment for now: imagine the same story but replace the Naval Warfare Specialists’ Trump flag with an Obama flag. Got that picture?  Okay now imagine those headlines.

But I am so old I recall a fearful Texas Governor Abbot panicked and deployed the Texas National Guard over nothing more than foolish right-wing promoted rumors that Obama might be planning an invasion.No Obama flags were ever sighted in Texas -I wonder what scared them Texans so. obama

Question of the Day and a suggestion

QOD4DsOkay, then here’s the question today for Democratic office holders: How many people supporting Democratic policies need to get out in the streets before you raise some hell against the GOP in Congress?

I read today that Rex Tillerson (R/ExxonMobil) will be gliding into his post as Trump’s Secretary of State. And that despite years of GOP procedural stalling in the Senate led by Mitch McConnell and a “stolen” supreme court seat that could have been Obama nominee Merrick Garland’s. President Trump’s cabinet of horror picks may eventually even have some Democratic support. Therefore my thinking is that the number of people needed in the streets for Democratic office holders to show some backbone may well exceed the hundreds of thousands that already turned out for recent demonstrations

But, perhaps one of the polling/statistics wonky number gurus that so successfully reassured us that Hillary couldn’t lose to Trump could work up a useful workable formula to calculate what it would take. It might be helpful for them to design a standardized ratio showing the number of demonstrators per individual senator needed for that office holder to confidently take a stand.

Call it: the People in the Street (PITS) to Senator/Congressman Backbone (SCB) analytical formula. The rating could be formulated to be individualized and broken down by state by individual Senators and for Congressmen by district.  For example Senator “X” from a majority “red” state might need a higher ratio of demonstrators in the street.

I imagine in a safe “Blue” state, for a recently re-elected  Senator or Congressman,  the scientific ratio might be as low as 500-1,000 PITS to achieve 1 SCB. This would mean  500-1,000 demonstrators would be all it would take for a liberal-leaning Senator to show some spine and vote no or even filibuster a Trump nominee. A “Red” state Senator coming up for re-election would need double or even triple the number of people in the streets, perhaps as high as 3,000 or 5,000 PITS to gain one SCB.

I’d bet Five Thirty Eight and Nate Silver or maybe The Princeton Election Consortium might tackle it now that the election has ended. Well, maybe after the Super Bowl and Oscar predictions.

Until that formula is available I have to nod in agreement with Charlie Pierce, who says: Filibuster the Damn Supreme Court Nominee! But imagine, as Pierce dreams, the great feeling of satisfaction it would give to the Democratic base to have Neil Gorsuch get left twisting in the wind the way Merrick Garland did. What chance would you give that happening – a thousand to one odds?

And… keep those feet to the fire

Following the Women’s Marches held all over the country (and world) the day after Trump’s inauguration, a lot of the discussion was about what comes next. Some of it ran something like this: “Glad to see you all out demonstrating, but don’t forget, come  November,  get out, knock on doors, and help elect us.”

A good and not unexpected reminder from party organizers to be sure. But elected officials are finding another feature in the big march’s aftermath – their own feet may be more quickly held to the fire.fttf

One example took place in Rhode Island, and the feet in question belong to Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He, along with 13 other Democratic Senators (see link here) voted to confirm Congressman Mike Pompeo as Donald Trump’s CIA director. Days later over a thousand people showed up at Senator Whitehouse’s regular town hall meeting in Providence to protest his yes vote.

Pompeo has notably close ties to conservative billionaire puppet masters Charles G. and David H. Koch. Their company, Koch Industries, and its employees have contributed $357,000 to Mr. Pompeo since 2009. And the New York Times has called him “… one of the most overtly partisan figures to take over the C.I.A.”

The AP reported: Senator Whitehouse has hosted dozens of such events, starting from when he first ran for Senate in 2006, but they are typically sleepy affairs.

The video shows people in the crowd angrily shouting and jeering as Whitehouse speaks, and Whitehouse telling them he understands many people disagree with his vote.

“You can’t normalize these appointments!” one person yelled. And; “Take responsibility! Be accountable! You work for us” And others spoke the obvious question for any Democratic office holder:“Why would you vote yes for any of them?”

Following the meeting it was confirmed that Whitehouse admitted he may have been wrong to vote in support of Pompeo. And in a statement released Monday he said: “While Pompeo would not have been his choice, he knows the intelligence community well and “can be a check on dangerous impulses from the Trump White House.”

Senator Whitehouse and others likely shouldn’t expect “sleepy” town hall gatherings to return in the near future.

And closer to home, it’s worth wondering what effect the thousand of marchers that showed up recently in Montpelier had on our new Governor Phil Scott. Maybe Republican Scott was reminded how blue Vermont is. It seems he embraced his better instincts quite readily. And after briefly mentioning a “time-out” and flubbing his response on the Syrian immigration issue during his campaign he is now opposing his party’s President on the immigration ban more vocally than he might otherwise (not) have done.

ACLU to Donald Trump: “I hope he enjoys losing…” (Updated)

[Update: Congressional Democrats’ reaction below, at end of diary.]

That’s the ACLU’s national political director Faiz Shakir speaking about his organization’s success at temporarily halting Trump’s immigration ban.

Here is ACLU’s Shakir comment in full“I hope Trump enjoys losing. He’s going to lose so much we’re going to get sick and tired of his losing,”

On his seventh full day in office (a Friday, also Holocaust remembrance day) Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting refugees and migrants entering the United States from seven mostly Muslim nations. Notably, none of these seven countries have business ties to Trump’s private businesses.trumpshortfinger

Quickly, it became clear how sweeping Trump’s directive was: […] administration officials confirmed that the sweeping order also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed. Also subject to being barred entry into the United States are dual nationals, or people born in one of the seven countries who hold passports even from U.S. allies, such as the United Kingdom.

Spontaneous demonstrations against Trump’s Muslim ban at many U.S.International airports quickly started and grew in size over the day Saturday as confusion and fear mounted among immigrant travelers. At JFK more than a thousand people turned out to protest and Taxi drivers joined in, protesting the ban by refusing to take fares from the airport.

And finally, following a complaint filed by the ACLU in New York Federal Court against enforcement, a judge in Brooklyn granted a stay, temporarily halting the DHS from enforcing Trump’s immigration ban.

It was a first step, and more battles with the new administration will follow. But seven days in and it looks like the good guys gained a little — won one — against Trumpism.

UPDATE: Democrats react to Trump’s order-

By Sunday afternoon, nearly every congressional Democrat had condemned the executive order, including Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who faces a 2018 reelection campaign in a state Trump carried by 35 points. None defended it, but several remained silent. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, cautioned that Democrats can only do so much to try to stop Trump, given their diminished powers on Capitol Hill.

Perjury could save the nation.

Sunday musings in a flu and Robitussen-induced fog:

Congressional Republicans have all the power to stop Donald Trump’s march to catastrophe, but recognizing that they have been effectively castrated by fear of populist revolt from their base, we are left frantically looking for a “Plan B” before the Doomsday Clock strikes twelve.

Apparently our best legal opportunity to curb the insanity is to get him into court for any reason and force him to testify under oath. This has been suggested repeatedly in the media but, IMHO, hasn’t gotten nearly enough traction.

The man appears incapable of distinguishing truth from fiction and it is unlikely that he can restrain himself from at least one boldface lie in the course of any sworn testimony, no matter how brief.

Therein lies the easily pulled lynchpin to impeachment.

I would guess that, by the time he lies under oath, at least half of all congressional Republicans would leap at the chance to push him toward the exit sign if given that opportunity through a simple impeachable offense such as perjury.

They’ll know, of course, that they will still have Mike Pence (God forbid!) to do their rightwing bidding…but Pence is considerably less likely to launch a missile strike on a whim.  We might actually survive to to see another election.

The beauty is that Donald Trump has done so many nasty and double-dealing things to so many people over the course of his personal and business history that the opportunities for court-ordered depositions abound.

What the public and the media must do is find some way to reassure his myriad victims that they have the opportunity to do the country a great service simply by dragging his ass into court.

Donald Trump will inevitably do the rest. He is programmed to lie even about trivial things. He simply can’t help himself.