Thursday, May 24, 2018

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

The NFL is trying to head off any kneeling controversies this fall with new league rules requiring all players to stand if on the field for the national anthem, and precisely nobody on the left or the right is happy about it.

At their spring meeting on Wednesday, NFL owners caved to President Donald Trump’s relentless criticism of players protesting racial inequality and police brutality during the national anthem, approving a new policy to fine teams if players or staff refuse to “stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem.”

According to a new rule unanimously approved by owners (San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York abstained from voting)*, team personnel are no longer required to stand on the field during the national anthem. In other words, the league would like players who plan to protest to do so in the locker room, out of sight—or else likely face the backlash from their organizations.

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. He noted: “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case.”

The league’s new rule is aimed at stopping a movement that began with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Kaepernick’s silent kneeling during the anthem set off a wave of demonstrations and activism among players and drew the ire of the president, who criticized owners for not punishing players.

At a league meeting in October, owners seemed hellbent on figuring out how to prevent Trump from blasting the league again. “The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America,” said New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, according to audio obtained by the New York Times. Kraft, whose Kraft Group contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee, called the president’s rhetoric “divisive” and “horrible.”

The new policy allows teams to come up with their own rules for players who fail to comply, leaving open the possibility that teams could fine players, coaches, and other personnel for not abiding by the rule. At least one owner, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Art Rooney II, says he thought that other types of protests, like raised fists or linked arms, could also fall under the league’s new policy.

The NFL players’ union noted in a statement that it wasn’t consulted before the policy was put into place, and that it would “challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

The new policy is already a disaster.

The New York Jets say they won't enforce the rule, Jets owner and chairman Chris Johnson says he'll pay any fines for players that kneel and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York abstained from the vote saying he wants to hear more from players.  The players weren't consulted at all and the players' union is furious.

“The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’ NFL players have shown their patriotism through their social activism, their community service, in support of our military and law enforcement and yes, through their protests to raise awareness about the issues they care about.

“The vote by NFL club CEOs today contradicts the statements made to our player leadership by Commissioner Roger Goodell and the Chairman of the NFL’s Management Council John Mara about the principles, values and patriotism of our League.

“Our union will review the new “policy” and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement.”

At a brief press conference after the release of the statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there was “incredible engagement” with players about the anthem issue and said any response to the union would come in direct conversation with them. He was also asked who would be the arbiter of what it means to “show respect” and said the “general public has a very good feel” for what that is without delving into a detailed discussion of what that might mean beyond kneeling.

It's a mess.  Trump and the deplorables will "claim a win" and they right will continue to attack black NFL players and those who support them, and this policy is tantamount to First Amendment censoring, so the NFL really does deserve what's coming to it.  I don't feel bad for the billionaire owners at all, they literally voted to do this to themselves.

It was never about the "disrespecting the flag".

"Maybe you shouldn't be in the country."

Guy in the White House suggesting that residence and citizenship be taken from those people for protesting is something authoritarian dictators do, and yet this will slide right by as Trump continues to push us towards a fresh new hell where the majority of Americans agree with him and that maybe he should follow through.

Maybe the players union can put a stop to this, maybe they can't, but if Commissioner Roger Goddell could have made the worst possible policy here, he did it this week.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Last Call For It's Mueller Time, Con't

At this point, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen should probably be shopping for orange jumpsuits as his business partner in New York has just flipped and is cooperating with prosecutors.

Under the deal reached with the New York attorney general’s office, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. 
The broadened scope of Mr. Freidman’s cooperation may prove worrisome not only to Mr. Cohen, who is the target of a continuing federal investigation, but also Mr. Trump. 
The president’s lawyers are already resigned to the strong possibility that the inquiry into Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors. That likelihood may now be greater, with Mr. Freidman potentially sharing what he knows with federal prosecutors in New York and the special counsel.

Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen’s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions. 
Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, declined to comment on Tuesday. 
President Trump’s lawyers sought to distance their client from the case.

Like jujitsu, it's all about leverage. Get an advantage against your foe's weak spots, and you can turn that into a move that brings them crashing down.  Friedman flips Cohen, and Cohen turns on Trump...and that's the ball game.

Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison. 
Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he will avoid jail time and receive five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding. 
Later Tuesday, Mr. Freidman texted a New York Times reporter about the article that had been published about his guilty plea, calling it “shameful” and comparing it to a tabloid story. “Michael is dear dear personal friend and a passive client! That’s it!” he wrote. “I am humbled and shamed!” he said, adding that the guilty plea represented “me taking responsibility for my actions.” 
“I had been an officer of the court in excess of 20 years and now I am a felon!” he wrote. “I hate that I have been grouped in this runaway train that I am not a part of!” 
But asked if he was cooperating with the authorities, Mr. Freidman would not respond.
After Mr. Freidman’s guilty plea, his lawyer, Patrick J. Egan of Fox Rothschild, declined to comment. But earlier this year he said his client “considers Michael a very good friend and a great client.”

This guys was facing the rest of his life in the slammer, and he's getting probation and a pocket change fine because of what he has on Cohen.  And Cohen, if he's got an ounce of common sense left in his skull, will look to use what he knows as leverage to avoid a similar multi-decade stay in substandard federal housing.

And that leaves Trump, high and dry.  If Manafort and Flynn somehow don't bring Trump down, Cohen definitely will, as the evidence of Cohen's wrongdoing continues to pile up.

Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved. 
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law. 
The meeting at the White House was last June. 
Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House. 
Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks". 
This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help. 
He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000. 
There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.

Now, how happy do you think Donald is going to be there when he realizes Cohen made 400 grand and didn't cut him in on the finders' fee?  What else is Cohen doing that Trump didn't know about?

Stay tuned.

The Path For McGrath

Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath was victorious yesterday in her primary against Louisville Mayor Jim Gray, and as Mother Jones election correspondent Tim Murphy reports, the reason is because she was able to sweep all the rural counties along the Bourbon Trail.

In the end, it happened just like Amy McGrath said it would. When I asked the recently retired Marine Corps fighter pilot last month why she thought she had a shot at winning the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th Congressional District, she pulled out a map and started highlighting the counties surrounding Lexington, the district’s population hub. 
“We’ve got to get somebody that can get these counties back—I can do that,” she said. “Everywhere I go, all these counties are hugely patriotic—huge fans of military and service—and there’s an instant connection there. I’m not gonna be able to win them all, maybe, but people are listening to me in ways that they’re not going to listen to Jim Gray.” 
Gray, the mayor of Lexington, was her seemingly formidable opponent. The wealthy, popular, former US Senate candidate had been encouraged to run—much to McGrath’s frustration—by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, DC.

But McGrath’s campaign believed turnout would spike in the rural counties because of local races for offices like jailer and judge. So she invested heavily in rural field offices, billboards, and advertisements in small-town weekly newspapers. She mailed out a 32-page economic plan that leaned hard on the rural development—everything from broadband access to turning tobacco into a bio-fuel. When the results came in on Tuesday night, McGrath won her primary by 8 points, winning everything but Lexington. 
And then something funny happened. McGrath, who had spent much of the last six months trashing the DCCC, was suddenly being promoted as one of the organization’s rising stars. DCCC chairman Ben Ray Lujan, a New Mexico congressman, heralded McGrath as “battle-tested in more ways than one” and stated that “there is no question that Amy can flip this district.” It pushed out an internal poll showing McGrath leading the Republican incumbent, Andy Barr, by 15 points. 
This is how Washington-based campaign committees say, “Uh…sorry?” 
It was a pretty good metaphor for how the much-hyped Democratic civil war has gone so far this year. In races across the country, outsider candidates have turned the DCCC into a piƱata, accusing the national organization of butting into primaries and picking winners and losers. But it’s not always so clear cut.

It's not, but there's two factors here: one, McGrath is yet another Democratic veteran running on their service record, in McGrath's case, as America's first female Marine F-18 combat fighter pilot.  Veterans do well in rural America, especially in the Midwest, and the one thing Democrats have done well this cycle is recruit veterans from all walks of life and all branches of the Armed Services.

Second, the DCCC is still terrible and Ben Ray Lujan is only slightly less incompetent than Steve Israel was before him.  McGrath should steer clear of letting them try to run her campaign, because they will definitely try to take over.  She knows what she's doing, and she knows how to win in this district.

I only wish she was running in KY-4 instead of Seth Hall, but I'd take a moldy ham sammich over Thomas Massie at this point.

Primary Motivations, Con't

Last night's primaries made for some interesting results here in Kentucky, with two big national stories.  First, in KY-6, Amy McGrath easily defeated Lexington Mayor and former Senate candidate Jim Gray, winning every county in the district except for Gray's home of Fayette.

Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath surged to victory over Lexington Mayor Jim Gray Tuesday in the Democratic primary for Kentucky's 6th Congressional District, setting up a November election that will attract national money and attention as Democrats try to make Kentucky part of a possible blue wave in 2018.

"Can you believe this?" McGrath asked the crowd at her victory party in Richmond. "What happened tonight was amazing. I couldn't be more humbled and more honored to be standing here tonight as your nominee."

She is a candidate who fits the Democratic moment. The former fighter pilot — the first woman Marine to fly into combat in an F-18 — is a political newcomer at a time Democrats across the country are looking for a fresh response to the 2016 election of President Donald Trump.

There are no women in Kentucky's congressional delegation.

Gray was widely perceived as the front-runner when he entered the race last December after months of encouragement from national Democrats. That encouragement was quickly used by McGrath’s campaign to paint Lexington's first openly gay mayor as the establishment candidate, a definition he was never able to shake.

Andy Barr, R-Lexington, coasted to victory over his primary opponent, Chuck Eddy, a self-defined moderate Republican who ran a limited campaign, setting up what’s expected to be a competitive and expensive general election in the fall.

A truly competitive House race in Kentucky is pretty amazing stuff, especially in an R+9 district.  It won't be an easy battle for McGrath but I honestly think she has a real shot, especially if Lexington turns out to support her.

As far as the General Assembly, looks like Kentucky will be getting a new House Majority Leader either way.

As upset teachers across Kentucky Tuesday tried to flex their political muscle, Rockcastle County High School math teacher R. Travis Brenda narrowly defeated House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell of Garrard County in one of the most-watched races for the state House, according to unofficial results.

Brenda tried in the Republican primary election for the 71st House District seat to capitalize on teacher anger against legislators who backed a controversial pension bill in this year's law-making session. It was Brenda's first bid for public office.

Shell, a farmer who has occupied the seat since 2012 and had the backing of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell as a potential rising star in the GOP, played a prominent role in handling the pension bill in the legislature.

The measure sparked a backlash of frustration by thousands of teachers who held protests at the Capitol.

An ebullient Brenda said Tuesday night that Shell called him about 8:10 to congratulate him. "He was very gracious," said Brenda.

Brenda said he had to thank God fiirst and then all his supporters. He said he not only got help from teachers but from state workers who were upset with the legislators and Gov. Matt Bevin "for what they did on the pension bill."

Shell, who was pondering a bid for House speaker next year, could not be immediately reached for comment.

I'm sure Shell will be back in the future, the guy is only 30 and has a long career ahead of him in the state of trying to make people miserable.  But the teachers won a round here and took Shell out for now, and that's got to give a lot of lawmakers who voted for Matt Bevin's awful pension and tax plans pause.

The Democrat in the race is Mary Renfro, by the way.  Here's hoping she comes out on top.

Here in my neck of the woods, Democrat Seth Hall will be taking on national embarrassment Thomas Massie.

Northern Kentucky's congressman, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Garrison, hasn't faced much opposition since he first won election to Congress in 2012.

The closest the Democrats came to defeating Massie was in 2012 when Bill Adkins got within 27 percentage points.

Democrat Seth Hall hopes to do better in this solidly Republican district. He beat Bellevue resident Patti Piatt and Trimble County resident Christina Lord in the Democratic primary on Tuesday. Hall had 41 percent of the vote and a comfortable 1,000-vote lead over Piatt with 515 of the 531 precincts reporting among the 20 counties of 4th Congressional District.

Hall's victory may have come as a surprise to many Northern Kentuckians who backed Piatt. She ran a very visible campaign on social media and with mailers.

Piatt won the three Northern Kentucky counties but lost most of the rural counties. The 4th District extends from a western tip of Jefferson County in the west and goes east to Lewis County.

"We were in all the districts," Hall said. "Patti spent most of the time in Northern Kentucky. We worked every county."

Hall hails from La Grange, located outside Louisville. He served as a member of the Democratic National Committee and as treasurer for the Oldham County Democratic Executive Committee, according to the Henry County Local paper.

He has his work cut out for him. President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 39 percentage points in the district.

"Our people are going to be organized," Hall said.

It may not be enough.  This is an R+18 district that loves, loves, loves Donald Trump.  Even I hold no illusions that a blue wave will be enough to wash Massie away.

But if there were ever a year where a Democrat could get lucky, this is it.  I'll be phone banking for Hall this year and knocking on doors.

I hope you get involved in your district too, even if it's blood red like mine.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Last Call For The Blue Wave Rises, Con't

Remember the jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis that Trump said he would save?  Those jobs are going to Mexico now and the people who voted for Trump are just another batch in a long line of people The Donald has stiffed over the years.

Last night, at Sully’s Bar & Grill, which sits across the street from the Carrier Corporation’s furnace plant, on the west side of Indianapolis, and serves as the de-facto company bar, two of Carrier’s soon-to-be-laid-off longtime employees had a drink and talked about how they got there. Today, the profitable H.V.A.C. company, owned by United Technologies Corporation—a federal contractor whose climate, controls, and security division, of which Carrier is a part, reported three billion dollars in operating profit in 2016—is letting go of more than two hundred employees in its second and final wave of Indiana-based layoffs, which began last July. In total, the company will be laying off more than five hundred employees as it moves manufacturing jobs to Monterrey, Mexico. Many of those employees voted for Donald Trump, who made saving Carrier’s “big, beautiful plant” one of his most repeated campaign promises. It was part of his broader preĆ«lection claim that “A Trump Administration will stop the jobs from leaving America.” 
That promise is the main reason that the soon-to-be ex-Carrier employees Renee Elliott and Duane Oreskovic voted for Trump, they told me yesterday. Elliott, a divorced mother of two who will turn forty-five next week, and Oreskovic, who is thirty-eight and single, both earned nearly eighteen dollars an hour making A90 furnaces at Carrier, where they worked their way up from entry-level jobs over the past five years. Neither possesses a college degree, and their jobs afforded them middle-class lives: Elliott is paying a mortgage on a house in Indianapolis, and Oreskovic said that he “could go out and enjoy myself when I wanted, play some pool.” When Carrier announced the planned layoffs, in February of 2016, on what many employees soon began calling “D Day,” their financial futures suddenly came into question. Then, in the run-up to the election, Trump seemed to offer a solution, with his tough talk about stopping the flow of American jobs to other countries, including Mexico. 
We took him serious,” Elliott said, tearing up as she sat in a booth at Sully’s, “because he did seem to be an entrepreneur. He knew this offshoring shit was gonna go down, and ‘I’m not gonna stand for it’ is the way he made it sound. Hillary never said a word to us or about us. Obama never flew Air Force One to our facility, like he did to one in Elkhart, Indiana, when he was campaigning. I thought, This man is not gonna be anybody’s puppet.” Elliott went on, “It was an easy vote for me. Not just because of ‘The Apprentice.’ We believed in him here at Carrier. The vast majority of us. It was Trump deluxe in there. I told people, ‘He’s gonna find a cause somewhere. He’s gonna be a savior.’ Little did I know the cause was gonna be us.” 
Hundreds of Carrier jobs will remain in Indianapolis, but Elliott and others argue that those jobs—many of them office-based, not on the manufacturing line—were never in jeopardy. “Trump saved some jobs,” Elliott insisted. “He didn’t save mine, but he did save some.” She sighed. “Just don’t bullshit us. We never thought the office personnel was going anywhere, anyway. They’re not making units. We are. We’re the ones that made the $9.7 billion that they collected.” She went on, “We can understand companies having to go overseas if they’re losing money. We get it. But Carrier is the top A.C.- and furnace-making company in the nation, getting money hand over fist.” 
Elliott, who plans to file for unemployment insurance, doesn’t think that anything can save her job now, at what she called “the eleventh hour.” Still, she said that she wouldn’t be silent about “the two hundred and sixty-one families affected this week.” And the area businesses, too. “The Chinese restaurant on the corner,” she said. “The Quick Stop. This place, Sully’s. After a shift, especially on the nights, it looks like a ‘Gin and Juice’ video, a Snoop Dogg video here: we’re all outside shooting dice, playing cards, drinking, visiting, commiserating. We were really a family. It’s not just that I’m a lost paycheck away from homeless now. I will never find a job like this one again.”

Let's be honest here, after 25 years of FOX and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Alex Jones telling these folks that Hillary Clinton was the root of all their problems, they never were going to vote for her.  At most, they were going to sit out 2016, and there's a pretty good chance they'll sit out 2018 and 2020 as well.

The Dems have to make the case that they have something to offer folks like Renee Elliott.  These are the kind of people I work with every day at my job, but it's nearly impossible to get that message through the noise right now.  It's terrible of me to say that it's better for them to sit out then vote GOP, but that's not going to fix the problem.

Like I keep saying, maybe they're not all deplorables, but Trump's racism sure wasn't a dealbreaker, and for the life of me I don't know how to reach them.

The truly awful part is I'm not sure if I do want to reach them.  That makes me a Machiavellian monster, I know, but these folks showing up and our side not showing up has really, really destroyed this country.  We see the evidence of it.

All I can do is vote and encourage you to get others to vote as well I guess.

I don't know.  I really don't.

In The Nixonian Moment

Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

On Sunday, via Twitter, Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which appears to be closing in. 
Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did not, until Sunday’s tweet
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Rather than push back and defend the rule of law, Justice tried to mollify the president by at least appearing to give him what he wants. The Republican leadership in Congress has been silent as a mouse. This is how uncrossable lines are crossed.

And it gets worse, not only did Trump meet with Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray to directly order something be done about the investigation into his own campaign, he basically ordered that the FBI and DoJ turn over information on the investigation to Republicans in Congress.

The White House brokered an agreement on Monday with intelligence and law enforcement officials that will allow Republican congressional leaders to view some of the most highly classified information related to the Russia investigation, administration officials said. 
For months, a small group of lawmakers close to Mr. Trump have been in a pitched fight with the Justice Department over access to some of its most delicate case files, including documents detailing the scope of the Russia investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel. 
They have trained their focus most recently on access to documents and information related to a secret informant used by F.B.I. agents to gather information from Trump associates who were overseas during the 2016 presidential campaign. Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, has threatened to hold Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who is overseeing the Russia inquiry, in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him if he does not hand over the material. 
Until Monday, intelligence and law enforcement officials had strenuously resisted both demands, saying that the information was highly sensitive and that it was not appropriate to turn over the unredacted material to Congress, where they fear it could potentially become public or be used to undermine Mr. Mueller’s inquiry. They raised some of their concerns in a letter and then in a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago with Mr. Nunes.

It was not clear after Monday’s meeting how much of that information will now be shared with lawmakers and in what form, or who it will be shared with and in what venue. Democrats have typically been given the same access as their Republican counterparts to delicate files related to the case, but officials on Capitol Hill said they had been given few firm details on the apparent agreement.
White House officials said they expect the disclosure to happen quickly, most likely before the end of the week.

This is flat-out banana republic time, guys.  All I can say is I hope that Rosenstein playing along is a sign of his confidence in how ironclad the Mueller probe is, because we already know Rep. Devin Nunes will leak anything and everything he's shown.

The real problem is WH Chief of Staff John Kelly getting to see all this information.  That's basically letting the mafia don's consigliere sit in on the case meeting between the RICO unit and the DA.  It's full-on nuts, and Republicans are going along with it.

These are dark times this week.  I expect they will only get far worse.

Never Saw Gorsuch A Mess

And we have our first major Supreme Court decision authored by Justice Merrick Garland Neil Gorsuch and it's a doozy, one that essentially ends employee class-action suits and as Think Progress's Ian Millhiser explains, basically legalizes employer wage theft.

The Supreme Court held on Monday that employers can force their employees to sign away many of their rights to sue their employers. As a practical matter, Monday’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewis will enable employers to engage in small-scale wage theft with impunity, so long as they spread the impact of this theft among many employees. 
Neil Gorsuch, who occupies the seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year until Donald Trump could fill it, wrote the Court’s 5-4 decision. The Court split along party lines. 
Epic Systems involves three consolidated cases, each involving employment contracts cutting off employees’ rights to sue their employer in a court of law. In at least one of these cases, the employees were required to sign away these rights as a condition of starting their job. In another, existing workers were told to sign away their rights if they wanted to keep working. 
Each contract contained two provisions, a “forced arbitration” provision, which requires legal disputes between the employer and the employee to be resolved by a private arbitrator and not by a real court; and a provision prohibiting employees from bringing class actions against the employer. 
Writing with his trademarked smugness, Gorsuch presents Epic Systems as a simple application of a legal text. “The parties before us contracted for arbitration,” he writes. “They proceeded to specify the rules that would govern their arbitrations, indicating their intention to use individualized rather than class or collective action procedures. And this much the Arbitration Act seems to protect pretty absolutely.”

And of course, the real losers here are women and workers of color suffering from corporate wage theft.

Epic Systems means that employers who cheat a single employee out of a great deal of money will probably be held accountable for their actions — though it is worth noting that arbitrators are more likely to favor employers than courts of law, and that they typically award less money to employees when those employees do prevail. The biggest losers under Epic Systems, however, will be the victims of widespread, but small-scale, wage theft. 
The lesson for employers, in other words, is to go ahead and cheat your workers. Just make sure you spread the theft widely among as many employees as possible, and that you don’t take too much from any one person.

Your employer is now free to force you to sign away your rights to class-action lawsuits -- and a host of other protections -- as a direct result of this decision.  You'd better believe your boss is coming up with a way to do just that, if they haven't already.

But her emails, they told us.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Last Call For Mine Craft

Word out of West Virginia is that convicted mine safety scofflaw Don Blankenship isn't done with his Senate run after losing the GOP primary to AG Patrick Morissey earlier this month, a possible third-party run could split the vote and allow Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to stay in Congress.

West Virginia coal baron and former prisoner Don Blankenship announced on Monday that he plans to launch a long-shot third-party Senate bid after finishing a distant third in this month’s Republican primary. 
Blankenship said he would run in the general election as the Constitution Party nominee. But he would need to overcome a “sore loser” law in West Virginia that prevents failed candidates in a main-party primary from refiling to run in the general election under another party’s banner.

Blankenship said he’s prepared to challenge that law in court if needed. If he’s successful, his move that could hurt the GOP’s prospects of unseating Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin in November. 
“It is especially appropriate for me to be nominated by the Constitution Party given its staunch and uncompromising commitment to upholding the United States Constitution,” Blankenship said. 

That sore loser law makes it pretty clear that Blankenship can't actually run, but if he wants to waste millions in court on the battle and run ads attacking Morrissey, well, I'm not going to stop him, no sir.

Blankenship, who spent millions out of his own pockets to fund his Senate campaign, hinted that he was ready for a legal fight. 
“Although the establishment will likely begin their efforts against us by mounting a legal challenge to my candidacy, we are confident that — if challenged — our legal position will prevail, absent a politically motivated decision by the courts,” he said. 
The coal baron also said that the establishment was “determined to keep me — the most anti-establishment candidate in the nation — out of the United States Senate,” and that “the press and the establishment have colluded and lied to convince the public that I am a moron, a bigot, and a felon.”

It's a conspiracy, you see.  All those votes against him were a fraud or something.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Will Bunch provides a pretty good summary of where we are on the Trump Regime's collusion front in light of this weekend's blockbuster from the NY Times.

Part 1: The Art of the Steal: With the GOP nominee behind in the polls for much of 2016, Team Trump seemed willing to listen to offers of help from any and all comers, morality or election laws notwithstanding
. In June 2016, having secured the nomination, Don Jr. gladly convened a Trump Tower confab with Russians who claimed to have dirt on Clinton. It didn’t produce any overt deal on collusion because it didn’t need to. Just days after Team Putin learned that Trump’s people were open to help and wouldn’t rat them out to the FBI, the flow of illegally hacked Democratic documents — the 21st-century version of breaking-and-entering at the Watergate — began. 
Now we know that Nader, on behalf of Saudi and UAE princes, came to Trump Tower about six weeks later with a similar deal. We don’t know to what extent, if any, that the Israeli ex-spy Zamel’s firm called Psy-Group — whose motto is “shape reality” — helped Trump. But it’s well known that Cambridge Analytica, owned by American hedge-fund billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer, was paid by the Trump campaign to do the same kind of psywar work. Just this week, whistleblower Christopher Wylie told a congressional committee that CA ran a voter-suppression effort aimed at convincing blacks to stay home on Nov. 8, 2016 — updating Selma for the digital age. Trump’s subsequent victory may have been the greatest moment of “shap(ing) reality” in world history.

Part 2: Cashing in the Chips. Winning the presidency should have been its own reward, but that’s not how the childish Gambinos now in charge of a global superpower conduct their family business
. As noted above, Russian oligarchs tied to Putin funneled millions to the Trump inauguration and one firm backed by a pro-Putin billionaire hired the president’s personal lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, who was peddling his access to Trump all around Washington. You also have the curious activities of Nader (a peach of a fellow who’s been convicted of both child porn and child sex-abuse charges in the past), who helped a key Trump fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy (also a convicted felon and recent deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee), win $200 million in UAE private security contracts. If Broidy’s name sounds familiar, he’s the guy who also funneled $1.6 million through fixer Cohento win the silence of a possibly impregnated Playboy model. Broidy said he had an affair with the woman. Some speculate a different scenario. Whether wheeler-dealers like the Nader-linked, UAE-funded Broidy were backing high-ranking people in the same fashion that Cohen paid off Trump mistress Stormy Daniels should be fertile ground for special counsel Robert Mueller. 
As long as Trump and Jared Kushner continue to hold onto their business holdings while leading U.S. foreign policy, this cloud will remain. Did Trump voice support last week for ending American sanctions on the Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp. because it would benefit their U.S. subcontractors, or because a Chinese fund is investing $500 million in an Indonesia theme park that should dramatically boost the value of a related Trump Organization development? Then there’s the matter of Qatar, because in recent months it has become clear that the Gulf state is again in the Trump administration’s good graces, and the strategic alliance has been renewed as if last spring’s blowup never happened. Is that because it’s a more sensible policy — or is it because a firm called Brookfield Asset Management that is backed heavily by Qatari funds is near a deal to bail out Kushner’s 666 Fifth Ave? Is it any wonder that so many longtime key allies of the United States wonder if they can trust Trump’s America? 
Part 3:The Big Payback. It’s impossible to dispute that these countries that made offers to help Trump win the election have continuously benefited in terms of policy — beginning as early as the summer of 2016, when Trump allies changed the GOP election platform to take a less confrontational stance toward Russia in its conflict with Ukraine. The determination not to impose new sanctions on Russia or, under great pressure, to announce largely toothless penalties — despite the clear-cut evidence that Russia meddled in our election — has been a continual storyline of the Trump presidency. 
The revelations about possible Saudi and UAE meddling take things to a much higher level. The Trump administration has walked in lock-step with the Saudis and their dynamic, de facto leader Prince Mohammad bin Salman (“MBS”), supporting the young prince’s so-called reform agenda that’s involved jailing and abusing his enemiesas well as advocates for women’s rights, 2017’s move on Qatar, and his brutal military campaign in Yemen, which has caused massive civilian casualties. People are dying because of policy decisions that are tainted by Trump corruption, and it may be getting worse. The anti-Iran agenda of the Saudis, UAE and Israel (which has close personaland business ties with Kushner) has hovered over Trump’s killing of the Iran nuclear deal, which not only makes it more likely that Iran will get the bomb more quickly but has dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the powder keg region
It never should have gotten to this point. The political pundits are still busy debating whether Trump impeachment is a good fall political strategy for the Democrats or a losing hand. But things have already moved way beyond that. If we’re at the point where we can tolerate soliciting foreign governments for help in a presidential election, using stolen data, reality-bending psychological warfare and voter suppression of blacks to win, a president and his son-in-law senior adviser profiting from deals while sitting in the White House, slush funds to pay off mistresses and God knows what else, and then making life-or-death decisions based on all of these utterly corrupt things, then the United States is not a country anymore. How much worse does the worst political scandal in American history have to get before the people who actually can do something wake up and do something?

As I've said, all possible roads to remedy the Trump problem begin with a Democratic-controlled Congress, otherwise Trump will continue to be enabled and defended by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Should Republicans keep the House, Trump will be defended by the even worse Kevin McCarthy instead of Ryan.

And as Chuck Pierce says, this is now the Constitutional Crisis Moment™ we've been dreading.

The president* has proceeded to up the ante. Over the weekend, on the electric Twitter machine, he hereby demanded that the Department of Justice launch an investigation into whether or not the Obama administration had used the FBI to submarine his campaign, a contention that would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. (It appears that, rather than be accused of political shenanigans, the Bureau kept the investigation into the Trump campaign on the down-low, a consideration that was not afforded the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton.) 
This outburst was clearly designed to put the DOJ, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, into an impossible small-p-political position. (Rosenstein handed off the request to the DOJ’s inspector general, which was the smart rope-a-dope play under the circumstances.) More to the point, it brought the president* right to the brink of a serious constitutional cataclysm. He is hereby demanding that the DOJ conduct an investigation of a political rival for purely political purposes. This is what Nixon did. This is why John Mitchell went to federal prison. And it is right there, in the open, on the electric Twitter machine. The Watergate crowd at least had the common decency to use code names. 
Thus, the week begins ominously. We can only hope it ends the same way because, if it doesn’t, if there is not a constitutional crisis, ongoing and loud, at the end of the week, then we have determined through our system of government, and through our elected representatives, that we are willing to tolerate foreign bribes doled out to our president*’s pets, foreign sabotage of our national elections, and American foreign and domestic policy sold out to the highest grifter.

Ultimately, it's up to us to stop Trump and the GOP.  This week is now the beginning of the endgame, for better or for worse.  If, as Pierce warns, this week passes without the clarion call that something is badly wrong in our country, then we no longer have one.

There's always the very real chance that November will be far too late to do anything at this rate.  America may not survive another five months and change of Trump. The damage has already been phenomenal.  It's getting close to being fatal.

Trump took money from foreign powers to buy foreign policy in exchange for money, period.  He needs to go to prison, let alone be removed from office.  But this remains a political issue, not a criminal one.  And until that changes, Trump will remain in power.

The Dotard Strikes Back

Donald Trump doesn't like being made fun of, he has no tolerance for it, and after last week's move by North Korea to squeeze the US for more concessions on nuclear talks, Trump is finally realizing that he's been played from the beginning and is looking for a way out.

President Trump, increasingly concerned that his summit meeting in Singapore next month with North Korea’s leader could turn into a political embarrassment, has begun pressing his aides and allies about whether he should take the risk of proceeding with a historic meeting that he had leapt into accepting, according to administration and foreign officials.

Mr. Trump was both surprised and angered by a statement issued on Wednesday by the North’s chief nuclear negotiator, who declared that the country would never trade away its nuclear weapons capability in exchange for economic aid, administration officials said. The statement, while a highly familiar tactic by the North, represented a jarring shift in tone after weeks of conciliatory gestures.

On Thursday and Friday, Mr. Trump peppered aides with questions about the wisdom of proceeding, and on Saturday night he called President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to ask why the North’s public statement seemed to contradict the private assurances that Mr. Moon had conveyed after he met Kim Jong-un, the 35-year-old dictator of the North, at the Demilitarized Zone in late April.

The president’s conversation with Mr. Moon, which was first reported by The Washington Post, came just three days before the South Korean leader was scheduled to arrive in Washington to meet with Mr. Trump on Tuesday. It was a sign of Mr. Trump’s discomfort, some officials speculated, that he could not wait to discuss the issue until Mr. Moon arrived for his meetings here, though there is no indication that the president is considering pulling out of the North Korea talks.

Mr. Trump’s aides have grown concerned that the president — who has said that “everyone thinks” he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts — has signaled that he wants the summit meeting too much. The aides also worry that Mr. Kim, sensing the president’s eagerness, is prepared to offer assurances that will fade over time.

Moreover, Mr. Trump’s decision this month to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal raises the stakes for the North Korea negotiation. If he emerges with anything less than what President Barack Obama got, which in Iran included the verified shipment of 97 percent of all nuclear material out of the country, it will be hard for Mr. Trump to convince anyone other than his base that the negotiation was a success.

This is a very polite way of saying that Trump has no idea what he's doing here, that he's in well over his head, and that when all of this is over he'll have nothing to show for it. Anyone could have told you that.

He'll be a loser and a failure. Again, common knowledge.

That's when things get ugly.  That too should come as no surprise when Trump eventually turns to military action and lashes out.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Trump Cards, Con't

So, I've got a question about this.

Is, I dunno, "using the Oval Office to publicly demand details of an ongoing investigation into your campaign" count as obstruction of justice yet?

Asking for an orange acquaintance.
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