Wednesday, February 28, 2018

MSNBC and CNN took the NRA’s bait on arming teachers

Outlandish ideas are a gun rights strategy to deflect from real policy.

By Alvin  Feb 26, 2018, 11:50am EST

Gun rights activists proposed last week that one way to prevent school shootings is to arm teachers. President Trump gave his support to the idea in a speech last week.

To some media analysts, it was clear what was happening: This was how gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association were countering the teenagers who survived the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and were getting traction in the media with their pro-gun control message. As David Karpf, a scholar of political communication at George Washington University, tweeted:
Replying to @davekarpf
So that brings us back to "arm the teachers." THE WHOLE POINT of this garbage proposal is to deflect and delay. Rather than being forced to defend the gun show loophole and their opposition to the assault weapons ban, they need us to talk about *something else.* (7/?)
7:33 PM - Feb 22, 2018
793 people are talking about this
Usually, the NRA can wait for our attention to turn away from gun control. But teenage activists have dominated the news cycle and kept America’s attention on the issue.

So Karpf argues that this proposal to arm the teachers could be an NRA strategy to get us talking about something else.

In other words, the NRA and gun rights advocates were essentially starting a bigger fire elsewhere so the conversation would move away from the fire they really cared about.

So did it work?

CNN and MSNBC took the bait
On CNN and MSNBC, a relatively large portion of the coverage over the weekend was on arming teachers — significantly more than on Fox News.

Karpf tweeted that he thinks the best response is to quickly point out how ridiculous this proposal is and move on.
Replying to @davekarpf
The best response to this gambit is to ridicule-then-pivot.
"That's a stupid and unserious proposal, & we know they don't mean it because they haven't introduced it as actual legislation. There are real bills that congress can pass right now. Let's finally talk about them. 9/?
7:39 PM - Feb 22, 2018
563 people are talking about this
It doesn’t appear that this happened.

Gun rights activists were able to convince the public and these networks that arming teachers was a topic worth covering. It was tempting bait because it was exactly the kind of absurd proposal that paints gun rights activists as irrational.

Fox News didn’t stop covering gun control. It just reframed the debate.
There were several points in the days leading up to this weekend when Fox News focused more on gun control than the other networks.

This was the perfect opportunity for the network to reframe the narrative and go back to covering the gun debate using the old model: by focusing on its interpretation of the Second Amendment and doing mental gymnastics to find solutions that have nothing to do with actual gun control.

It started with Fox News repeatedly playing a portion of President Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last Friday:

Don’t be complacent. Because if they get in, they will repeal your tax cuts. They will put judges in that you wouldn’t believe. They will take away your Second Amendment, which we will never allow to happen.

By the way, if you only had a choice of one, what would you rather have? The Second Amendment or tax cuts? Go ahead! [Trump points to audience.]

Second Amendment! [cheers]

Then Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who had signaled a willingness to push for new gun control measures in his state, made repeated appearances on the network, saying he wants to balance the Second Amendment with protecting kids, eventually saying he’s not interested in banning any weapons but rather banning certain people from getting guns.

And several talking heads, including former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, appeared on the network to say:

The Second Amendment is not going away. So I tell my Democratic friends: The Second Amendment is there for a reason — the right to bear arms to protect us from your ancestors, if you don’t mind me saying so. [Pointing to host Steve Hilton, who grew up in the United Kingdom but is of Hungarian descent.]

We can see this turn in the data, where a decent portion of the gun control conversation on Fox News shifts to gun rights and the Second Amendment:

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Why humans are cruel

A psychologist explains why humans are so terrible to each other.

By Sean  Updated Feb 26, 2018, 9:44am EST

Why are human beings so cruel to each other? And how do we justify acts of sheer inhumanity?

The conventional explanation is that people are able to do terrible things to other people only after having dehumanized them. In the case of the Holocaust, for example, Germans were willing to exterminate millions of Jews in part because Nazi ideology taught them to think of Jews as subhuman, as objects without the right to freedom, dignity, or even life itself.

Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale, thinks this explanation of human cruelty is, at best, incomplete. I spoke to him about why he thinks its wrong to assume cruelty comes from dehumanization — and about his grim conclusion that almost anyone is capable of committing staggering atrocities under the right circumstances.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

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The dysfunctional Republican Congress passed a massively error-ridden tax law

By Joan McCarter 
Monday Feb 26, 2018 · 11:55 AM EST

No, you can't do your taxes on a postcard. That's just the beginning of the problems with the law.

What happens when one congressional party refuses to legislate normally, within the established rules and processes? A mess. That's what the new tax law is, and it is entirely attributable to the fact that Republican leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, decided they would do the bill without any Democratic input and furthermore without hearings, without committee meetings, without a actual bill writing and revising process, and without real amendments. They ended up with a law full of serious glitches.

One inadvertently denies restaurants, retailers and others generous new write-offs for things like remodeling.

Another would allow wealthy money managers to sidestep a crackdown on lucrative tax breaks that allows them to pay lower taxes on some of their income than ordinary wage earners. A third creates two different start dates for new rules that make it harder for businesses to shave their tax bills.

There are dozens of other snafus, hitting everything from real estate investments to multinational corporations to farmers. […]

"This is not normal," said Marty Sullivan, chief economist at the nonpartisan Tax Analysts. "There's always this kind of stuff, but the order of magnitude is entirely different."

These aren't just the typical typos you see in major legislation, and many aren't things that can simply be fixed with technical corrective legislation. Some of it requires actual rewrites, and this time, Republicans need Democrats to do that. Republican Sen. John Thune (SD) wants to make these fixes in the next big must-pass spending bill in March, the one to avoid the next possible government shutdown. But Democrats aren't anxious to help out, remembering the refusal of Republicans to allow any technical fixes to the Affordable Care Act, the last massive piece of legislation to get through Congress.

If Republicans want to make fixes, Democrats say, they're going to have to open the new law up to major reworking. "We’re not going to say to Republicans, 'Oh tell us what you want to do," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Finance Committee member. "We want to make the bill better, not just correct whatever technical fix is needed." As for House Democrats, the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neil, says "We're not going to willy nilly into this with, all of a sudden, a technical corrections bill that has not been sufficiently aired. […] There needs to be an acknowledgment that this was done in haste and that there were many mistakes."

There's no reason at all for Democrats to help Ryan and McConnell out here, especially not without getting something in return. From the Dream Act to Obamacare fixes, there's a lot that could be trying to extract here.


The Olympics end with fond memories and an increasingly uncertain future

There has to be a better way.

FEB 26, 2018, 8:38 AM

Between Mirai Nagasu’s triple axel, Chloe Kim and Shaun White’s snowboarding halfpipe triumphs, the U.S. women’s hockey team’s historic gold medal, and absolutely everything about Canadian ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the Pyeongchang Olympic Games will not soon be forgotten.

But, now that the medals have been awarded and the delightful K-pop infused closing ceremony has finished, it’s time to step back and look at the big picture. Could you call the Pyeongchang Games a success? Sure, if you want to. (It’s hard to consider any event that bestows upon us an Adam Rippon-Gus Kenworthy bromance a failure.)

But that doesn’t mean the legacy of these Olympics is going to be a positive one. Pyeongchang, its surrounding province, and many of the Olympic athletes that competed there, are soon to be forgotten by most of the world, and left on economically precarious footing. And, ultimately, the 2018 Winter Games did absolutely nothing to change the trajectory of the overall Olympic movement, which is facing an uncertain future.

So, while it was wonderful to see the legend of Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen grow, and as much as I enjoy the fact that the United States is now a curling country, the lasting impression from Pyeongchang is more one of desperation than celebration.

Pyeongchang faces massive debt
Minus the norovirus outbreak, by all accounts Pyeongchang was a model Olympic host. But after the Paralympics next month finish, and all the athletes and tourists depart, the city will be left with a massive bill, useless venues, and happy memories from millions of new friends they will never see again.

According to the Associated Press, the problems the city faced before the games remain — the city is still poor, its population is still rapidly aging, and many business actually saw a decrease in tourism during the Olympics. Turns out heavy snows and rough winters still make it a not-so desirable tourist destination.

Now, the province is left with debt in the billions (which it has no clue how to repay), and the cost of maintaining the facilities the Olympics left behind could end up outweighing any income that  could potentially come from tourism or hosting future events. That is not an equation for prosperity.

Many athletes will struggle after the games end
The economic fallout from hosting an Olympics is thoroughly scrutinized every two years, but one thing that isn’t talked about much is what happens to the athletes after the Games are over. Sascha Cohen, the last U.S. women’s figure skater to win a medal in the Olympics — a silver back in 2006 — wrote an OpEd in the New York Times about how hard it is as an elite athlete when your careers are over.

“The challenge of adjusting to post-Olympic life is something that I, like most Olympians, was poorly equipped to face.”

“The challenge of adjusting to post-Olympic life is something that I, like most Olympians, was poorly equipped to face. How do you deal with being a has-been at 21?” said Cohen, who retired at 25 when she failed to make the 2010 Olympic team. She said at first, retirement felt like a vacation. But soon she realized how unprepared she was for the real world.

“Like many Olympians, I was home-schooled and received a subpar education. I didn’t go to college until I was 26,” Cohen said. “I hadn’t attended school since the seventh grade, and getting up to speed academically after all that time away was daunting. When I did my first summer internship I was 29; the other interns were a decade younger.”

This experience is hardly unique to Cohen. Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time, has talked in detail about the deep depression he suffered after finishing his Olympic career. And most Olympians aren’t nearly as decorated as Phelps and Cohen, and haven’t been peppered with endorsements.

Thankfully, the Olympics did away with amateurism, so athletes can make money from sponsors and from their national federations. But most of that money is tied directly to performance (such as medal bonuses), so if an athlete has one off competition in the Olympics, they might have to wait another four years for a chance to make significant money again.

While the governing organizations such as the IOC and the USOC — not to mention broadcasters such as NBC — are raking in millions upon millions, the truth is, most Olympic athletes are just scraping by. And after the Olympics are over, and the attention of the world moves onto the next big sporting event, they’re left with very little guidance about what happens next.

The Olympics are struggling to find future suitors
The Pyeongchang Games are over, but the Olympics will remain in Asia for the next four years; the next Summer Games are in Tokyo in 2020, and the next Winter Games are in Beijing in 2022.

Human Rights Watch is already focused in on Beijing, due to the heinous human rights abuses that went down before the 2008 Games in the same city.  There is not much reason to hope that things will be better this time around; the human rights situation in China has only gotten worse over the last decade.

It’s becoming more and more difficult each passing year for the IOC to find hosts for the Olympics. Citizens aren’t as easily manipulated by infrastructure plans and empty promises of an economic boost. While the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games have already been awarded, to Paris and Los Angeles respectively, anti-Olympics activists in L.A. are still working to get that bid overturned.

And the IOC is still struggling to find a host city for the 2026 Winter Olympics. It’s no wonder that cities aren’t scrambling to spend upwards of $100 million just to bid on a chance to host the Olympics, like Chicago did back in 2010. Even presumably successful Olympics have left behind scars of debt and displacement — take London for instance, where the Olympic Park built for the 2012 Games is  reportedly expected to lose $45 million annually for the next four years.

The Olympics are a wonderful thing, but unfortunately, the IOC is a corrupt conglomerate that shows no sign of growing a heart any time soon. Drastic reform is the only responsible way forward. There has to be a way to hold the Olympics without leaving countries reeling with debt when the games go away, while allowing the athletes that make this all possible to be supported, during and after their Olympic careers.

That’s my Olympic dream, and it wasn’t extinguished on Sunday along with the Olympic torch in Pyeongchang.


The Supreme Court just forced Trump to protect Dreamers

By Taylor Dolven Feb 26, 2018

The Supreme Court of the United States just offered a win to so-called “Dreamers” when the justices decided Monday not to hear an appeal from the Trump administration about ending the program that protects them.

The court’s decision keeps the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in place for now and allows immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to continue to apply for work permits and protections from deportation. There's an estimated 800,000 young Dreamers in the U.S., many of whom have been here for more than 10 years and know nothing or little of their parents' native country.

The Trump administration announced in September that it would be ending the Obama-era DACA program entirely by March 5, just over a week away.

The Supreme Court’s decision sends the case back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which will consider whether a federal judge’s injunction to keep the program in place while Trump’s repeal of the program is tested in court is legal.

Multiple individuals protected by DACA, the University of California, and several states first sued the Trump administration over the repeal last September. They argued the move was arbitrary and motivated by discrimination. In January, Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court in Northern California ruled that the Trump administration must “maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis” while the case plays out in court and that the repeal was based on the “flawed legal premise” that the Obama administration did not have legal authority to implement the program in 2012.

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The Weekly List

FEBRUARY 24, 2018
Week 67

Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.

On a holiday week with Congress out of session, gun control and the Mueller probe dominated the headlines and the country’s attention. The youth-led activism on gun control sparked by Parkland students has been compared to the successful youth movement against the Vietnam War. The Trump regime was caught flat-footed on the issue, left to parrot NRA talking points; while one White House described the mass shooting as a “reprieve” from a series of negative news and scandals starting in Week 65.

The Mueller probe made news this week with new indictments, and the probe’s fourth and fifth guilty pleas. A comparison of public knowledge on where the probe was headed was made to the “tip of the iceberg,” as charges against a previously unknown Dutch man whose father-in-law is a Russian oligarch came Tuesday. Trump’s White House continues its high-drama chaos with continuing threats of firings and actual resignations, and amid controversy over access to highly classified materials.

  1. On Saturday, at the Munich Security Conference, US lawmakers from both parties and top national security officials told Europe’s foreign policy elite to ignore Trump’s tweets, Trump’s main mode of communication.
  2. On Saturday, in the opening of her show, Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro slammed the FBI again, this time over the Parkland shooting, saying “The FBI needs a complete overhaul, a complete cleansing.”
  3. On Sunday, Rep. Trey Gowdy defended Mueller on “Face the Nation” after the indictments, saying “Russia is not our friend,” adding about Mueller, “This is exactly what we wanted him to do.” Other Republicans have been silent.
  4. WAPO reported Trump spent the weekend at Mar-a-Lago stewing, watching cable news and calling friends to vent. On Saturday and Sunday Trump skipped golf, reportedly to honor the Parkland victims.
  5. Starting after 11 p.m. Saturday night and continuing through midday Sunday, Trump sent a series of 10 tweets lashing out at the Russia probe. The tweets were laden with false statements, profanity, and misspellings.
  6. Trump seized on Mueller’s Russian indictments and Rod Rosenstein’s statement that there is “no allegation in the indictment that any American had any knowledge” of Russian election interference in this indictment to yet again claim he was exonerated.
  7. Trump tweeted he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election.” This is false. Trump has called Russian meddling a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” ginned up by Democrats numerous times before and after taking office.
  8. Trump also criticized H.R. McMaster’s incontrovertible statement tweeting McMaster forgot to add the 2016 results were not impacted, and “the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems.”
  9. Trump tweeted that he had “never gotten over the fact” that Obama “was able to send $1.7 Billion Dollars in CASH to Iran,” which Trump complained no one in Congress, the DOJ, or FBI is investigating.
  10. Trump lashed out at Rep. Schiff, tweeting “Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control” is now blaming Obama for Russian meddling as an excuse for why “Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election.”

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Russia hacked the Olympics and tried to make it look like North Korea did it

And the International Olympic Committee could reinstate Russia as soon as this week.

By Emily Stewart  Feb 25, 2018, 9:01am EST

Russian military spies hacked hundreds of computers at the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea — and tried to make it look like North Korea was the culprit, according to a new report. It is likely retaliation against the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for banning Russia from the Olympics because of a widespread doping scheme it used to cheat in previous competitions.

The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima reported on Saturday evening that the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, accessed as many as 300 Olympics-related computers earlier this month, according to two US officials. To cover their tracks, and to pin any suspicions on North Korea, the hackers used North Korean IP addresses, among other tactics.

Officials in Pyeongchang had already acknowledged that the Winter Games were hit by a cyberattack during the February 9 opening ceremonies but hadn’t said who did it. That night, there were disruptions on the internet, broadcast systems, and the Olympics websites. Per the Post, many attendees weren’t able to print their tickets for the event, which left seats empty.

The GRU accessed South Korean routers in January and sent out new malware on the day the Olympics started, which might have allowed them to collect intelligence or attack networks. Soon after the Games began this month, a Russian cyber-spying group linked to the GRU, “Fancy Bear,” released a set of stolen emails purportedly belonging to international sports officials. The same hackers did something similar in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, when they released the drug testing files for multiple athletes, including tennis player Serena Williams and gymnast Simone Biles.

Among US officials, there’s concern that the GRU might attempt to hack the Pyeongchang closing ceremonies on Sunday. One told the post that they are “watching it pretty closely” but that it is “essentially a Korean problem.” The official said the US will help out as requested.

The IOC could decide to reinstate Russia as soon as next week, but the country isn’t exactly helping its case

The IOC in December announced it was banning Russia from competing in Pyeongchang as punishment for a widespread, government-run doping scheme that allowed it to cheat in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

It determined that some athletes from the country — 169 in total — would be able to take part in the Olympics, but under the designation “Olympic Athlete from Russia.” (If you’re confused on why you’ve been seeing OAR everywhere, that’s why.) The athletes were barred from wearing Russia’s colors and displaying the Russian flag, and if they won a gold medal, Russia’s anthem couldn’t be played. No officials from Russia’s Olympic federation were allowed to attend the Winter Games, and any medals won won’t go towards Russia’s medal count in the history books.

Russia hasn’t exactly behaved better this time around. Aside from the GRU’s hacking, a handful of Russian athletes have been caught doping in Pyeongchang, including bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva and curler Aleksandr Krushelnitckii. Krushelnitchkii and his partner, Anastasia Bryzgalova, had to forfeit the bronze medals they won at the Games.

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Religiously speaking

News, opinions, tweets and more 2.28.2018 #2

News, opinions, tweets and more 2.28.2018 #1

Posters 2.28.2018