January 15-17, 2018
Any chance of this being a weekly blog effort has been annihilated by the flow of news these last few weeks. Who needs sleep?
Nothing has officially changed since the last mention of Net Neutrality, except that where before it was assumed that there were 50 votes supporting the Senate bill with Sen Collins (R - ME) defecting, the Democrats have now confirmed that they are a single vote away from passing the bill. Again, it is extremely unlikely to pass the House or to be signed into law by Trump, but it's going to be a powerful political tool in the mid-terms.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that high staff turnover is a sign of a troubled, unsuccessful administration (or business, for that matter). And this administration is breaking records. They just can't stop winning!
The Trump Administration has seen 36% turnover of top-level staff members during their first year in office. This is compared to 9% for Obama, 6% for George W. Bush, and 11% for Clinton. You have to go back to Reagan to reach even a 17% turnover. Trump hires the best people. Top men.
DACA DACA DACA
Whenever you see the acronym DACA from now on, I want you to think DACA DACA DACA and hear the Pac-Man sound in your head. It should eat into your brain like wormses, just like it does mine. You can imagine that Jeff Sessions is Pac-Man and each of the energy pellets is a child with large, sorrowful eyes being deported. There are no ghosts (9th Circuit Appellate judges) in this metaphor because the DOJ has asked the Supreme Court to allow the administration to dismantle the program.
Phil Murphy has been sworn in as the governor of New Jersey and it's a bigger deal than many may be aware. As there is a democratic majority in the state legislature, Murphy has a rare opportunity to push a progressive agenda in an influential state.
"To my partners in the Legislature: I ask you to send me the bills, among others, to reaffirm our support for women's health and Planned Parenthood; to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour; to promote equal pay for women; to give every worker the peace of mind of earned sick leave; to tear down barriers to voting; and, to strengthen our gun laws," Murphy said.Murphy also vowed to legalize marijuana in the state. I suspect we'll be hearing his name a lot in the next few years.
Things are not looking good for last minute efforts to prevent a government shutdown. Republican congressmen emerged from a private meeting late last night without the votes needed to pass a bill.
The holdouts seem to be members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. The democrats are refusing to play ball without a DACA agreement, which took a big step backwards this week.
I had a very dismaying conversation with a friend recently, who seemed to believe that all news was 'fake news' from one point of view or another. I had to press hard to elicit an admission that there are objective facts in news stories.
A recent survey from the Gallup-Knight Foundation found that 42% of Republicans (compared to 17% of Democrats) consider accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be "fake news."
This is perhaps the most dangerous trend in modern thinking. The adage that one is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts seems to be losing traction in this hyper-partisan, binary age of false dichotomies. Any fact that violates your ideological world view can be rejected as fake. And then you can crawl back into the warm cocoon of the Facebook echo chamber to be told that you're right about everything.
Sex, Lies, and Marshmallows
Finally, I feel like I can deliver the kind of science news story that will make you want to read this blog no matter how much you hate the political content.
Scientists taught seven capuchin monkeys to use currency. The results are fucking awesome.
Shit Trump Says
Uh, nope.Unemployment for Black Americans is the lowest ever recorded. Trump approval ratings with Black Americans has doubled. Thank you, and it will get even (much) better! @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2018
In what should be a surprise to absolutely no-one, the rationalization that several Republican are using to deny that Trump described several foreign countries as shitholes, is that they heard him say 'shithouse' instead. Therefore, they can honestly go to the media and deny that Trump ever said the word 'shithole.' This is the world we live in.
The Russia news this week is all about Bannon. And it's been pretty exciting.
On Tuesday, Bannon met with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors for a hearing. The first news that trickles out was that Bannon refused to answer many of their questions. Bannon was subpoenaed on the spot by the Committee, but he continued to refuse to answer questions.
Soon, it was revealed that he had been directed by the White House not to answer certain questions. Finally, this morning, we learn that Bannon's attorney was in contact with the White House during the hearing, receiving instructions in real time regarding whether he could answer any given question.
Unrelated to the HIC hearing and their subsequent subpoena, the news broke just before that hearing that Bannon has been subpoenaed by a grand jury in the Mueller investigation.
When testifying before a grand jury, witnesses are not allowed to have their attorney present in the room. The attorney can be outside and consulted, but not in the room as part of the interview process. They are also not immediately entitled to a transcript of the interview.
Regardless, it has just been announced that Bannon has agreed to an informal interview, so perhaps the grand jury subpoena was simply a matter of leverage. It is noteworthy that Bannon shares an attorney with former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House Council Don McGahn.