Category Archives: AZBlueMeanie

Kabuki theater: budget vote-a-rama in the Senate today

The U.S. Senate is voting on the GOP’s budget resolution today, which is really not about the budget at all, but rather, rigging the procedural rules in the Senate so that the GOP can vote on its so-called “tax reform” (tax cuts for Plutocrats) bill at some point with a simple majority vote of 50 senators plus the Vice President, and bypass the Senate cloture rule of 60 votes to forestall a Democratic filibuster through adoption of reconciliation rules.

The Senate’s budget process allows votes on any politically charged issue during a so-called vote-a-rama session. This is  all Kabuki theater to get senators to take votes on amendments to be used in campaign ads against them later.

Roll Call reports, When the Budget Resolution Isn’t About the Budget:

When Sen. John McCain removed the suspense by announcing he would vote for the budget resolution moving through the Senate, the Arizona Republican made clear the ridiculousness of the exercise.

At the end of the day, we all know that the Senate budget resolution will not impact final appropriations,” he said in a statement. “To do that, Congress and the White House must negotiate a budget agreement that will lift the caps [sequestration] on defense spending and enable us to adequately fund the military.”

McCain said he was supporting the budget resolution because it includes instructions that provide the path forward for overhauling the federal income tax code without the risk of filibusters, rather than because of the funding levels it would provide.

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Strike three for Trump’s Muslim travel ban

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed and remanded to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals the legal challenge to President Trump’s March 6 executive order, i.e., the “Muslim travel ban.”  The court gave instructions to dismiss the case as moot – that is, no longer a live controversy, because the part of the ban challenged expired during the pendency of the appeal. The justices did not act on Trump v. Hawaii, the challenge that it had agreed to review along with the Fourth Circuit case last June. The Hawaii case challenges a provision of the March 6 order that is still in effect, but will expire later this month (this means that the justices could also dismiss this case). Justices end 4th Circuit travel-ban challenge (SCOTUSblog).

The Trump administration issued a third iteration of its travel ban during the pendency of these appeals at the Supreme Court.

The third iteration of the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban took strike three looking yesterday (it is baseball playoffs season) in the U.S. District Court for Hawaii, again. Federal judge blocks Trump’s third travel ban:

A federal judge on Tuesday largely blocked the Trump administration from implementing the latest version of the president’s controversial travel ban, setting up yet another legal showdown on the extent of the executive branch’s powers when it comes to setting immigration policy.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii is sure to be appealed, but for now, it means that the administration cannot restrict the entry of travelers from six of the eight countries that officials said were unable or unwilling to provide information that the United States wanted to vet the countries’ citizens.

The latest ban was set to go fully into effect in the early hours of Wednesday, barring various types of travelers from Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Watson’s order stops it, at least temporarily, with respect to all the countries except North Korea and Venezuela.

In a 40-page decision granting the state of Hawaii’s request for a temporary restraining order nationwide, Watson wrote that the latest ban “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor.”

Watson also wrote that the executive order “plainly discriminates based on nationality” in a way that is opposed to federal law and “the founding principles of this Nation.”

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The role of social media propaganda in the rise of the Oligarchy

Jonathan Taplin, Director Emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California, writes at the Political Animal blog, Why The 1 Percent Needs Google and Facebook:

When Charles Koch founded the Cato Institute in 1974, his mission (in words from Cato’s journal) was “protecting capitalism from government.” That meant the end of public education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as cutting taxes on the rich and government regulations on business. It was a tall order—but now, for the first time in 44 years, Koch and his billionaire libertarian friends [now rivals] Robert Mercer and Peter Thiel are within sight of their goal of building a true oligarchy (Aristotle’s “rule by the rich”). The current Trump tax cut will deliver billions of dollars into the pockets of the Kochs, the Mercers, the Trumps, and their heirs. Creating a political economy in which the wealthy minority rule over the middle and lower class majority is a hard task. It requires mechanisms that suppress voting and mechanisms for propaganda that convince middle class voters that cultural divisions are more important than economic equality. In both these tasks, Google and Facebook have been a key to the success of the 1 percent.

The role of the internet in propaganda and voter suppression is a two-pronged attack. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World foresaw our current dilemma—Huxley’s assertion was that technology would lead to passivity. The ease with which we could consume mind-numbing entertainment and distractions would ultimately rot our democracy [as bread and circuses did to the Roman Empire]. And this is exactly what may be happening. In the 2016 presidential election, 94 million citizens who were eligible to vote declined to exercise that privilege (compared to the 136 million who voted), according to the United States Election Project. And a much larger percentage of millennials are nonvoters. As Kevin Drum reported in Mother Jones, “In 1967 there was very little difference between the youngest and oldest voters. By 1987 a gap had opened up, and by 2014 that gap had become a chasm.” Beyond the extreme apathy, Republican legislatures in many states have instituted far more restrictive voter ID laws, which have also contributed to lower voting rates. But Steve Bannon wasn’t content to leave voter suppression to chance. One of his brilliant moves was to circulate memes on Facebook targeting only African American voters with the text: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” By all accounts it was a successful voter suppression strategy.

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Follow the money: Robert and Rebekah Mercer

There has been a substantial amount of reporting in the past week or so on Stephen Bannon, the white nationalist crypto-fascist editor of Breitbart News and Trump adviserand his war on the GOP establishment.  At the entirely misappropriately named Values Voter Summit, Bannon declares ‘war’ on GOP establishment. He told Fox News’ propagandist Sean Hannity earlier in the week that he was declaring “war” on the Republican establishment.

The media mythologizing Bannon as the alt-right Svengali to Donald Trump is misplaced. Bannon would be “Stephen who?,” a political nobody, but for the “wingnut welfare” (the lavishly-funded ecosystem of right-wing billionaire-financed think tanks and media outlets) financial backing of far-right extremist billionaires Robert and Rebekah Mercer. Some say Bannon is their Svengali.

When the media focuses on the vicious barking dog, they ignore the owner holding the dog’s leash to the peril of the country. When the media reports on Stephen Bannon, it has an obligation to also report on Robert and Rebekkah Mercer in the same breath, exposing them to the bright light of public scrutiny that they seek to avoid.

Jane Mayer of the New Yorker did a deep-dive investigative report into The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency back in March (excerpts):

People who know [Robert Mercer] say that he is painfully awkward socially, and rarely speaks. “He can barely look you in the eye when he talks,” an acquaintance said. “It’s probably helpful to be highly introverted when getting lost in code, but in politics you have to talk to people, in order to find out how the real world works.” In 2010, when the Wall Street Journal wrote about Mercer assuming a top role at Renaissance, he issued a terse statement: “I’m happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody.” According to the paper, he once told a colleague that he preferred the company of cats to humans.
Several people who have worked with Mercer believe that, despite his oddities, he has had surprising success in aligning the Republican Party, and consequently America, with his personal beliefs, and is now uniquely positioned to exert influence over the Trump Administration.

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Political Calendar: Week of October 15, 2017

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Political Calendar for the Week of October 15, 2017:

Continuing Event: Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, El Presidio Park and Jacome Library Plaza, Tucson, AZ. Southern Arizona’s diverse folk and ethnic communities are celebrated with performances and demonstrations, food vendors, and more at this family-friendly festival in downtown Tucson. Admission: Free for spectators. For more information see Tucson Meet Yourself.

Monday, October 16, Noon: Democrats of Greater Tucson luncheon, Dragon’s View Restaurant (400 N. Bonita, South of St. Mary’s Road between the Freeway and Grande Avenue, turn South at Furr’s Cafeteria). New price: buffet lunch is $10.00 cash, $12 credit; just a drink is $3.50. Featured speaker is Dr. Randy Friese (LD 9) on his reelection campaign and legislative issues. Next Week: January Conteras, candidate for attorney general.

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Cartoon of The Week

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