In Ohio, a struggle for the [white] soul of the Democratic Party is playing out

❝ On a sweltering evening in a rural corner of Ohio, the struggle for the soul and identity of the Democratic Party is playing out over wine, meatballs and recriminations about Hillary Clinton’s defeat in last year’s presidential election.

Joe Schiavoni, the former top Democrat in the Ohio state senate, is talking to a crowd at a fundraising event for his fledgling bid to become their next governor. He believes leaders of his party in Washington have lost touch with voters. It’s a familiar refrain among Democrats in a state that helped catapult Republican Donald Trump into the White House in November…

In Ohio, as in other politically competitive “swing” states that Democrats won in 2012 but lost in 2016, Democrats are struggling to come up with a clear message and identity to win back the voters they lost.

❝ Listening to voters is the key to moving forward, some three dozen Democratic Party members across Ohio said in interviews. But there was little consensus on how to win over those voters.

Many of those interviewed said the party’s national leaders have not learned the lessons of last year’s defeat, when many voters rejected the party as too elitist and out of touch with working Americans.

This Reuters article apparently reflects the views of the official Democrat Party – as far as I can see. There is NO mention whatsoever of Black people or Hispanics. Either the party presumes automatic votes or hasn’t looked at anything other than the white chunk of Ohio’s working class.

❝ Angered by last year’s defeats up and down the ballot in Ohio, a group of political consultants circulated a memo to every member of the state party’s executive committee in December.

The memo, which has not been previously reported, lambastes the party leadership for the “electoral carnage” of 2016.

This memo at least acknowledges the inherent racism of ignoring questions affecting Black workers and the Black community in Ohio. It makes no mention of Hispanic workers or community.

11% of Ohio registered voters are Black. Almost 2% are Latino. That’s a lot of folks to take for granted.

Girl Scouts versus Trump

❝ In an extraordinary rebuke of the President of the United States, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. have obtained a restraining order against Donald J. Trump.

The order, which the Girls Scouts were granted on Monday night, prevents Trump from coming within three hundred feet of any gathering of the Scouts’ organization.

❝ Carol Foyler, a Girl Scouts spokesperson, said that while the G.S.U.S.A. sought the restraining order “out of an abundance of caution,” the girls themselves were “in no way, shape or form” afraid of President Trump.

“They’re prepared to deal with bobcats and bears,” she said. “They can handle a malignant narcissist.”

❝ Trump wasted little time responding to the Girl Scouts’ action, lashing out at the organization in a blistering early-morning tweet storm.

“Failing Girl Scouts bad (or sick) guys,” Trump wrote. “Mints, cookies terrible. Sad!”

Good satire, successful satire depends on getting really close to the truth. The scumbag in the White House, our proto-fascist so-called president, fits into this piece by Andy Borowitz like the stink of old dead fish on melted ice.

The Protocols of Trump


beastrabban.com

❝ It is an odd quirk in the history of logic that the blameless Cretans should have given their name to the famous “liar paradox.” The Cretan Epimenides is supposed to have said: “All Cretans are liars.” If Epimenides was lying, he was telling the truth – and thus was lying.

❝ Something similar can be said of US President Donald Trump: Even when he’s telling the truth, many assume he is lying – and thus being true to himself. His trolling is notorious. For years, he claimed, with no evidence other than unnamed sources that he called “extremely credible,” that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent. During the Republican primary, he linked his opponent Senator Ted Cruz’s father to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He has promoted the quack idea that vaccines cause autism, and has masterfully deployed the suggestio falsi – for example, his insinuation that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to cripple the American economy.

❝ There has always been a thriving market for fake information, forgeries, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories. “History is a distillation of rumor,” wrote Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century…Modern history provides us with some famous examples. The Zinoviev letter, a forgery implicating Britain’s Labour Party in Kremlin-led Communist sedition, was published by the Daily Mail four days before the United Kingdom’s general election in 1924, dashing Labour’s chances.

Perhaps the most famous such forgery was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Possibly manufactured for money, The Protocols purported to be evidence of a Jewish plan for world domination…it became the foundation of the anti-Semitic literature of the first half of the twentieth century, with horrendous consequences.

❝ So what is new? The attention being paid to fake information today arises from the hugely expanded speed with which digitally manufactured information travels around the world. In the past, one had to be able to hoodwink more or less reputable news outlets to plant fake stories. Now misinformation can go viral through social media, like a modern Black Death.

The important question is how this will affect democracy. Will the unprecedented ease of access to information liberate people from thought control, or will it strengthen it to such an extent that democracy simply drowns in a sea of manipulation?

Skidelky has no conclusive answer, RTFA for his analysis – and warning.

Professional analysts respond to Republican incompetence and cowardice


Don’t omit avarice

❝ Top Republican legislators have spent months now attacking the Congressional Budget Office. House Speaker Paul Ryan derided the agency’s Obamacare numbers as “bogus,” speaking to reporters at an event in Massachusetts Thursday.

The CBO directors are fighting back. All eight signed on to a letter Friday to raise a “strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency.”

❝ The letter continues:

Relying on CBO’s estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress  —  and the American people  —  very well during the past four decades. As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress’s decades-long reliance on CBO’s estimates in developing and scoring bills.

❝ This is the first time, I’m told, that all eight former directors have signed on to a joint letter. The group includes those appointed by Republicans and Democrats

❝ The CBO directors don’t expect to become a regular presence in the fight over the office’s numbers. One reason there was some hesitation to put out the letter is that they didn’t want to commit to an ongoing feud with Congress — but felt the attacks had become fevered enough to warrant a response.

As the former CBO director I spoke with put it to me, “We believe in the norms of our political system. And we believe, strongly, that the CBO is one of those norms.”

Like many nations, the United States can count on the dedication and professionalism of virtually the whole of our civil service. Most could earn more in private industry. The concept of serving your country is meaningful to most civil servants as it is to our military lifers.

Which is different from the sort of lifers we encounter all too often in Congress. Not all. But, too many.

Sting: Fake Coppers Scored $1.2 Million in Weaponry From The Department of Defense


Chris Hondros/Getty Images

❝ When you think of a federal sting operation involving weaponry and military gear, the Government Accountability Office doesn’t immediately jump to mind. The office is tasked with auditing other federal agencies to root out fraud and abuse, usually by asking questions and poring over paperwork.

❝ This year, the agency went a little more cowboy. The GAO created a fictitious law enforcement agency—complete with a fake website and a bogus address that traced back to an empty lot—and applied for military-grade equipment from the Department of Defense.

And in less than a week, they got it.

❝ A GAO report issued this week says the agency’s faux cops were able to obtain $1.2 million worth of military gear, including night-vision goggles, simulated M-16A2 rifles, and pipe bomb material from the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which supplies state and local law enforcement with excess materiel. The rifles and bomb equipment could have been made functional with widely available parts, the report said.

They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, director of the GAO’s defense capabilities and management team, which ran the operation. “It was like getting stuff off of Ebay.”

Modern communications technology surely makes it easier to screw up. If you’re a screw-up.

Why I get most of my news coverage from Bloomberg TV

Yes, I enjoy “magazine pieces and panels on MSNBC. Also watch Sky News and the Canadian Broadcasting Company via apps on our Apple TV. And I wish Al Jazeera America was still around. But, the sidebar and crawl on Bloomberg – and onscreen staff segments – keep me up-to-date with our world better than any of the “all-American” networks.

True, also, of a number of online sites – from The Big Picture to VOX.

Some Antibiotics in First Trimester Raise Risk of Major Birth Defects

❝ Several common types of antibiotics were linked both to major congenital and to organ specific malformations in infants when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, a retrospective Canadian cohort study found.

❝ Exposure to antibiotics, such as clindamycin, doxycycline, quinolones, macrolides and phenoxymethylpenicillin, increased the risk of these birth defects, reported Flory T. Muanda, MD, of the University of Montreal, and colleagues.

However, there was no increased risk of major congenital malformations linked to exposure to amoxicillin, cephalosporins, or nitrofurantoin, the authors wrote in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology…

❝ Researchers examined data from the Quebec pregnancy cohort, an ongoing population-based cohort with data on all pregnancies covered by Quebec Public Prescription Drug Insurance from 1998 to 2008, comprising about 140,000 infants.

Be aware.

❝ They concluded that, despite the small absolute risks associated with these birth defects, “physicians should consider prescribing safer antibiotics for the treatment of maternal infections when possible.”