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Trump's Ploy: Play the Victim of a Deep-State Conspiracy

January 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

The president and Lou Dobbs prepare for the “cleansing” of the Justice Department.


President’s Trump’s impromptu remark that he is willing to speak “under oath” with special prosecutor Robert Mueller can be read as a sign of his “preternatural confidence,” or proof that he is a “nightmare” client. But that would miss the point.

The reckless offer—quickly walked back by his attorney Ty Cobb—also has a practical purpose: to flesh out the anti-Mueller conspiracy theory being hyped by Lou Dobbs, walked backby Sen. Ron Johnso,  and echoed bythe bot-assisted #ReleaseTheMemo chorus that proclaims Trump the target of a deep-state “secret society” in the FBI.

“I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,” Trump said, about talking to Mueller, only to be corrected hours later by his attorney.

‘He’s ready to meet with them,” Cobb said, “but he’ll be guided by the advice of his personal counsel.”

Bluster or Blunder?

It's tempting to focus on Trump’s possible performance as a witness. One lawyer who took a deposition from Trump forced him to admit 30 lies. Cobb preemptively expressed the hope that Mueller would not set a “perjury trap.”

Loose talk from Trump could strengthen the case that he obstructed justice, already a focus of Mueller’s investigation. Presidential perjury might even find its way into a bill of impeachment. Trump supporters on Twitter and Fox News warned him not to make good on the offer.

It’s also tempting to say the GOP’s conspiracy theories are “loony.” The Republican charges of a “secret society” inside the FBI are based on a single text sent by an FBI lawyer, who has since been removed from Mueller’s team. The text has “no apparent tie to other messages sent before or after it.”

The insinuation that FBI director James Comey sought to block Trump’s election is ludicrous. When Comey resurrected the non-issue of Hillary Clinton’s email server on the eve of the 2016 election on the flimsiest of pretexts, Trump defended him for what he said was an overdue action.

 

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A 'Pivotal Player' at Trump's Health Department Previously Promoted Harmful 'Ex-Gay' Conversion Therapy

January 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Eric Hananoki, Media Matters

Shannon Royce has a history of promoting anti-LGBTQ groups and causes.


Shannon Royce, who has reportedly emerged “as a pivotal player” at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), previously suggested that so-called conversion therapy was an antidote to marriage equality and worked for anti-LGBTQ hate groups that have promoted the dangerous and widely discredited practice.

Politico reported on January 22 that Royce, the director of HHS’ Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, has become “a pivotal player” at the department and has been part of a group that's “spent months quietly planning how to weaken federal protections for abortion and transgender care.” The publication added that she has also helped spearhead “a vast outreach initiative to religious groups.”

During a November appearance on a right-wing radio program, Royce suggested that she wanted to increase partnerships with groups that were “considered hateful” under President Barack Obama’s administration, including organizations that are against same-sex couples getting married and adopting children.

Royce has a history of promoting anti-LGBTQ groups and causes, including the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy. The Human Rights Campaign has written that conversion therapy, sometimes known as reparative therapy, is “a range of dangerous and discredited practices that falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades, but due to continuing discrimination and societal bias against LGBTQ people, some practitioners continue to conduct conversion therapy.” The American Psychiatric Association has found that the potential risks of the so-called therapy “include depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior.”

Royce talked to The New York Times Magazine in 2005 about same-sex marriage and told reporter Russell Shorto that “the ex-gay movement is a very important part of the story”:

The solution to the problem of the gay lifestyle in this view is, of course, Christ. The reparative therapy or “ex-gay” movement has been repudiated by major health and mental health organizations for its assumption that homosexuality is a defect to be repaired — indeed, in May members of the American Psychiatric Association recommended that the organization support gay marriage in the interest of promoting …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Big Bird Narrowly Escaped Death on the Challenger Mission

January 26, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Big Bird from Sesame Street, 1969. (Credit: Henson Associates/Everett)

On the morning of January 28, 1986, a nation of viewers gave a collective gasp. Space Shuttle Challenger, the crown jewel of NASA’s ambitious shuttle program, had just exploded, leaving a telltale trail behind as it disintegrated into thin air. The disaster prompted an outpouring of national grief and raised serious questions about the safety of space flight.

But if it weren’t for a historical fluke, something else may have been lost that day—Big Bird.

Big Bird from Sesame Street, 1969. (Credit: Henson Associates/Everett)

A beloved character from Sesame Street may seem like an unlikely passenger on a space bound mission, but the puppeteer inside the yellow feathered suit, Caroll Spinney, had actually been invited to join the Challenger mission.

“I once got a letter from NASA, asking if I would be willing to join a mission to orbit the Earth as Big Bird,” recalled Spinney in 2015, “to encourage kids to get interested in space.” In another interview, Spinney told the Chicago Sun-Times he was the first civilian asked to go up in the space shuttle.

The story may sound outlandish, but it was true. Taking civilians to space on the newly developed space shuttle, it was thought, was a chance to get the general public excited about space travel (and to justify NASA’s massive spending on the shuttle). In the early 1980s NASA developed the Space Flight Participation Program to do just that.

The program was designed to launch ordinary civilians into space, and included a proposal to send journalists, teachers, and celebrities along as well. Applicants included 42 network broadcasters, including major stars Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw.


Caroll Spinney, more famously known as Big Bird on Sesame Street. (Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Spinney never applied for the program, but NASA reached out to the creators of Sesame Street with a proposal to send him into space in the early 1980s. By then, his puppet was a worldwide celebrity. Spinney, who got into puppeteering when he was a child, had been part of Sesame Street since its inaugural season, performing both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.

Played by Spinney like a massive, joyful six-year-old, Big Bird became a …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Some Students Fail

January 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Jill Richardson, OtherWords

Students living on the margins face added challenges.


Another semester is about to begin at the community college where I teach.

Some of my students come from middle-class backgrounds. They went to excellent high schools, enjoy financial and emotional support from their parents, and have what it takes to excel in college.

Others went to failing high schools that failed to get them college-ready. Some grew up in poverty and even faced homelessness or hunger — or still suffer those hardships now. They may or may not have loving, supportive parents.

Many of them are adults who live independently and support themselves. Others live at home but help support their parents or care for younger siblings.

At the end of the semester, I must give them all a grade.

Many students fail. Others pass but with a C.

And I know, when I give them these grades, that future colleges and employers will look upon the grades as a mark of my students’ abilities. A low grade must mean either you’re not intelligent enough to do well, or you didn’t work hard enough.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, in her book Paying the Price, shows that this isn’t true. For poor students, a low grade often doesn’t reflect a lack of hard work, intelligence, or responsibility. It reflects that humans can only be pushed so far until they hit a breaking point.

When students are homeless, hungry, working part or full-time, or taking care of siblings or elderly relatives or their own children, there just isn’t enough time left in the day to spend enough time on school work to do well.

The problem can be even trickier for students who, through no fault of their own, had the misfortune to attend a substandard high school.

It’s common for students to work two jobs in addition to attending school, or to lack the money to purchase the textbook. They don’t necessarily have the time or ability to come for tutoring or attend office hours. Some come from as far as two hours away by bus, and each trip to campus involves four hours of transportation time.

Why do we live in a …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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What a Lifetime of Experiences of Sexual Abuse and Violence Has Taught Me

January 26, 2018 in Blogs

By Antje Ulrike Mattheus, Common Dreams

Support ourselves and others, speak up and organize for change.


West Germany, 1958 — I am three years old. My mother tells me never to take candy from a stranger. But strangers with candy have not been a problem.

1959 — I sit under our table and play between the feet of women: friends and relatives. They talk about war and rape; name women who were raped during the war and in the chaos afterwards. I always knew the meaning of rape.

My mild-mannered mother hates her father, whom I never met, and she never reconciles with him after being sent to live with her uncle’s family at the age of 12, or was it 14? He abused her mother and I suspect Mutti was not untouched.

As a child I read stories, I watch movies about war and Holocaust. So much killing, so much rape. I am terrified. When will they come for me? When will I be called to help a neighbor? Will I survive? And if I do, what will be left of me?

I rehearse scenarios. What to do when I am in a concentration camp … when the Vikings and Mongols come back? I learn to fight. I fight with boys. I take Judo classes. I train to be perfect at running, hiding, climbing, being still, swimming, diving, conniving. Hiding under water is such an important skill. A reed can be used as a straw. I am angry. (Even now, I am still angry.)

1960s — I am scared of our neighbor whose two daughters are my friends. I avoid being near him. One time I throw up in his car. I am sorry, but I’m also gleeful because I’m getting back at him for driving too fast. Later I learn that he embezzled from the Red Cross and from “two old ladies,” whoever they are. I also hear later from village gossip that his youngest daughter, a heroin addict, “ran off to the city.” The eldest daughter tells me that her sister was sexually abused by their father. I am not surprised.

1968 — I am 13 and the catcalls are coming …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Jeff Deist: Beyond the Wall

January 26, 2018 in Economics

By Mance Rayder, Jeff Deist

Mises Weekends with Jeff Deist

By: Mance Rayder, Jeff Deist

Jeff Deist joins his friend “Mance Rayder” to discuss the political and economic state of the union, the endless fractures within libertarianism, a different way to look at immigration, and how Rothbard's fans and detractors alike benefit from reading him.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Presidential Feuds With the Media Are Nothing New

January 26, 2018 in History

By Ryan Mattimore

Thomas Jefferson. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Two weeks into his presidency, The New York Times ran an article detailing how President Donald J. Trump was wandering the halls of the White House in his bathrobe, looking for the light switches. The paper, “in its efforts to cover a presidency that it openly saw as aberrant, had added to its White House beat something of a new form of coverage,” author Michael Wolff notes in Fire and Fury. So does this, as President Trump complains, make him the most unjustly treated President in history?

Each American President has had their own unique relationship to the media. Some used it to their advantage, others spent their terms butting heads. A respect for the highest office in the land has traditionally encouraged restraint in reporting gossip or paparazzi-style intrusion. But from the very earliest days of America’s founding, that line has often been crossed.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson. (Credit: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)

America’s third president was decidedly pro-press, unless the press was covering him. During his tenure as the U.S. minister to France he wrote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” It’s writings like these that have enshrined Jefferson as a champion of the free press. However, this assessment isn’t the whole story.

During his presidency he became critical of what he saw as the partisan nature of the press and began airing his grievances in personal letters stating, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” For some context, newspapers of the early 19th century in the U.S. frequently printed pieces with overt bias and plagued politicians with personal attacks.

During Jefferson’s campaign against John Adams, both men used the press to levy insults at each other. Jefferson-allied papers accused President Adams of being a hermaphrodite and a hypocrite, while Adams’ camp attacked Jefferson’s racial heritage, accusing him of being “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father” as well as an atheist and libertine. But though Jefferson’s relationship with the press was complicated, he was still a staunch advocate for press freedom, stating “the only security of all is in a free press.”

Theodore Roosevelt

<figure id="attachment_201645" class="wp-caption …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How the Nazis Tried to Cover Up Their Crimes at Auschwitz

January 26, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

The entrance to the German concentration camp of Auschwitz. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

It was a frigid day in occupied Poland, and for all Shmuel Beller knew, it could be his last. As Russian forces advanced toward Auschwitz, Beller and other prisoners had been told by their captors that they had to leave the death camp. So he ran into one of the storage facilities and rifled through a pile of clothing—the belongings of some of the 6,000 Jews gassed each day at the camp. Finally, he found what he was looking for: a pair of leather shoes.

Beller was one of 60,000 prisoners who were forced on what is now known as the death march of Auschwitz—part of the Nazis’ mad scramble to escape Allied forces in January 1945. As Russian and American forces closed in, the Nazis attempted to dismantle the camps and hide their crimes. But nothing could obliterate the dark truth of the death camp where they’d murdered 1.1 million people.

The entrance to the German concentration camp of Auschwitz. (Credit: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Over the weeks that ensued, most of the remaining inmates of Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazis’ more than 400,000 camps and incarceration facilities, were marched to other camps near and far, walking tens and sometimes even hundreds of miles. Along the way, Beller saw Nazi guards murder prisoners who tried to escape and shoot those who lagged—including women and children so exhausted from starvation and the brutal conditions they could no longer go on. As he marched on, his feet protected by the shoes he’d grabbed before leaving Auschwitz, he saw ordinary Germans standing along the road, watching the prisoners go by.

“We walked through fields of ice, snow and blizzards,” Beller later recalled as part of the Shoah Foundation oral history program devoted to preserving testimony of Holocaust victims. “Unbelievable.”

The last days of Auschwitz, which was opened by the Nazis in Oswiecim, Poland, in 1940, were marked by chaos, cowardice and an attempt to destroy what was once one of Nazi Germany’s most efficient tools in the quest to eradicate European Jews. By late 1944, as the Allied forces of World War II wrested much of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Central Banks Put a Safety Net Under Financial Markets

January 26, 2018 in Economics

By Thorsten Polleit

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By: Thorsten Polleit

Most early business cycle indicators suggest that the global economy is pretty much roaring ahead. Production and employment are rising. Firms keep investing and show decent profits. International trade is expanding. Credit is easy to obtain. Stock prices keep moving up to ever higher levels. All seems to be well. Or does it? Unfortunately, the economic upswing shows the devil’s footprints: central banks have set it in motion with their extremely low, end in some countries even negative, interest rate policy and rampant monetary expansion.

Artificially depressed borrowing costs are fueling a “boom.” Consumer loans are as cheap as never before, seducing people to increasingly spend beyond their means. Low interest rates push down companies' cost of capital, encouraging additional, and in particular risky investments – they would not have entered into under “normal” interest rate conditions. Financially strained borrowers – in particular states and banks – can refinance their maturing debt load at extremely low interest rates and even take on new debt easily.

By no means less important is the fact that central banks have effectively spread a “safety net” under financial markets: Investors feel assured that monetary authorities will, in case things turning sour, step in and fend off any crisis. The central banks’ safety net has lowered investors' risk concern. Investors are willing to lend even to borrowers with relatively poor financial strength. Furthermore, it has suppressed risk premia in credit yields, having lowered firms’ cost of debt, which encourages them to run up their leverage to increase return on equity.

The boom stands and falls with persisting low interest rates. Higher interest rates make it increasingly difficult for borrowers to service their debt. If borrowers’ credit quality deteriorates, banks reign in their loan supply, putting even more pressure on struggling debtors. Also, higher interest rates cause asset prices – stock and real estate market prices in particular – to come down, putting the banking system under massive strain. In fact, higher rates have the potential to turn the boom into bust.

The US Federal Reserve (Fed), at the beginning of the 21st century, hiked interest rates, putting an end to the “New Economy Boom.” Stock markets collapsed. As a reaction, the Fed delivered hefty interest rate cuts – and triggered an unprecedented credit boom that burst in 2007/2008 and developed into a global economic and financial crisis. Then, the Fed lowered interest rates to record …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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The Sessions War on Marijuana

January 26, 2018 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks

Jonathan Blanks

Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded
Obama-era Department of Justice guidance regarding state-legal
marijuana (or “cannabis”). The so-called Sessions Memo
overruled five other memos, most notably the “Cole
Memo” that de-prioritized enforcement of the federal
prohibition against marijuana in states that have legalized
cultivation and distribution recreationally. None of the memos have
the force of law—that is, they neither prohibited
prosecutions nor required U.S. Attorneys to change their
decision-making in states that have legalized marijuana
distribution or consumption. The Sessions Memo does, however,
represent a change in priority and encourages the affected U.S.
Attorneys to bring forward prosecutions that had been discouraged
by the five memos that showed deference to state laws. So although
the Sessions Memo did not actually alter any law, state-legal
marijuana merchants and distributors face a greater chance of
prosecution with the new federal position on legal weed.

The change in federal policy likely stems mostly from
Sessions’s longstanding personal disdain for marijuana,
rather than from either the White House or Congressional
Republicans. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump voiced strong
support for leaving cannabis policy liberalization to the states.
And while Congress has been resistant to making bold moves in
federal marijuana policy, the Republican-controlled House has
defunded prosecutions of state-legal medical marijuana
distribution, effectively prohibiting such prosecutions (without
actually legalizing medical marijuana), since 2014.

This de facto ban on state-legal medical prosecutions
was made possible by the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment,
initially known as Rohrabacher-Farr when it was adopted in 2014,
which is a rider to the yearly appropriations bill. Because it is
not a stand-alone law, it has to be amended to every budget
appropriation. The current appropriation expires February 8, and
there is no guarantee that it will be attached to the final budget
for this year. Given the clear position of the AG and the partisan
wrangling over this year’s budget that has already led to a
government shutdown, the future of the popular amendment is
uncertain.

If the amendment is indeed not renewed in the forthcoming budget
deal, the Sessions Memo could have a much broader effect. Only
eight states have legalized and taxed cannabis for recreational
purposes, while another 21 other states have medical marijuana
regimes. While medical marijuana patients will not be targeted by
the DOJ, they may put at risk of losing access to their
medication.

Medical cannabis is used to treat a variety of ailments,
including chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced appetite suppression,
and epileptic seizures. There is statistical
evidence, though not conclusive, that access to marijuana may have
an effect on opioid mortality as well. A study published in 2014 in
the Journal of American Medicine noted that in states
which gave residents legal access …read more

Source: OP-EDS