Wednesday, August 16, 2017


According to Jim Acosta, the White House is issuing a memo urging surrogates to say both sides acted inappropriately in Charlottesville.



Monday, August 14, 2017


From the talented dude at The Daily Don ...

Forgive me for not being impressed with Donald Trump finally deciding to condemn the KKK and white supremacists during their race-hate filled march in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. His previous rhetoric and hate-filled encouragement has helped create the environment for the racist idiots and cultural snowflakes we saw in Charlottesville to feel emboldened.

In fact, Trump has been calling for a return to the good old days, when people of color knew their place, and women made the sandwiches, for some time now ...

The mayor of Charlottesville has more than a few things to say about what happened in his city, which you can access by clicking here.

- Mark

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Jonathan Pie gives another epic "off the air" performance, outlining Donald Trump's failed week. Fair warning, while it's theatrics at it's finest, the language is strong in spots, and might be offensive for some ...

- Mark

For more on Pie's work, click here.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Via the Bakersfield Californian we get this op-ed from Steve Schilling, CEO of Clinica Sierra Vista, a California based non-profit health care organization that provides health care to low-moderate-fixed income patients in the region.

McCarthy's words about 'imploding' ACA are literally unbelievable

  • By Steve Schilling

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, seeing an opportunity to score political points with his party’s hard-right base, recently resorted to scare tactics after the announcement that Anthem is pulling out of the Covered California exchange in Kern County. After reading McCarthy’s grave predictions that the Affordable Care Act “is collapsing,” the 5,000 county residents covered through Anthem could be forgiven for panicking.
But don’t panic and certainly don’t listen to McCarthy. He’s just reciting a tired list of talking points.
The only thing changing for the 5,000 Anthem patients in Kern is the name of the company on their insurance cards. They’ll still get the care they need, the care all Californians are entitled to, no matter what fiction he feeds his constituents or his true intended audience: the party brass in Washington (of which he is a part) and President Trump.
The exchange is working wonders in California, giving coverage to millions of people who for too long have used emergency rooms and other urgent care “solutions” as their only access to medical treatment. McCarthy disingenuously blames the Affordable Care Act for instability in the market while creating the very turmoil he condemns: “None of this can be blamed on Republicans because nothing in Obamacare has been changed in the law,” McCarthy told The Californian.
But plenty can be blamed on the Republicans.
President Trump’s irresponsible comments about allowing the ACA to “implode” plays politics with the lives of millions of Americans, many of whom voted for him. And when Republicans got their turn at bat in the health-care ballgame, they introduced bills that would end coverage for millions, bankrupt those with pre-existing conditions, and allow an opt-out for the young and healthy – a demographic essential to keeping costs down – meaning the very people who need health care the most would have to pay through the nose to get it.
That’s the verdict of most Americans, and even most United States senators. When your party owns Congress and the White House and you still can’t pass health-care legislation, that means the legislation isn’t worth passing.
But McCarthy is right about one thing: Anxiety in the insurance markets is real. The source of the anxiety, though, does not stem from the Affordable Care Act but from the “repeal-and-replace” chorus we’ve been hearing from McCarthy and his colleagues for seven years. Anthem Blue Cross President Brian Ternan said as much, in explaining his short-sighted decision:
“The market for these plans has become unstable. And with federal rules and guidance changing, it’s no longer possible for us to offer some of those plans.”
Meanwhile, though they’re pulling out of Fresno, Kern and a few other markets, Anthem – whose profit growth from government business is so robust that it beat recent Wall Street projections - is choosing to remain in 28 of the state’s 58 counties.
Anthem’s competitors in Kern – Health Net, Kaiser and Blue Shield – are more than happy to step in, taking the long view that the Republicans and the Trump administration won’t have the political currency to abandon the Affordable Care Act. And when the market stabilizes after the rhetoric dies down, Anthem will realize it served up its Kern customers to its competitors on a silver platter.
As for McCarthy, he recently told The Californian he hasn’t given up on a health care bill. Really? What are his ideas? Besides voting for the House’s American Health Care Act — a tax break for the wealthy that would strip millions of their health coverage — it isn’t clear what our congressman has in mind.
Perhaps he should spend more time meeting his 100,000-plus constituents benefiting today from the ACA and less time memorizing a list of party talking points.

Steve Schilling wrote an equally compelling article taking on conservative Obamacare lies, for the Bakersfield Californian, which I posted here.

- Mark

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

COULD YOU IMMIGRATE TO DONALD TRUMP'S AMERICA? Probably Not ... But What's Worse is We May Be Witnessing the Ugly Rebirth of Eugenics in America

Would you qualify to apply to immigrate to the United States under the GOP's, and Donald Trump's, proposed immigration policy? 

Check out the immigration scorecard - put together by the good people at Time Magazine - which scores your eligibility to apply, according to proposed congressional legislation (click on this link if you want Time's interactive to tally your score for you).


To give you an idea of how unfair and out of touch this type of scoring is check out my score ...


So, yeah, I might qualify to apply under the proposed new system. But take away my Ph.D. and my 20+ years salary in the California State University system and I'm on the bubble, or out. 

But let's be clear. Qualifying to apply doesn't mean I would get in to America if I applied. It only means I could apply. Other less "desirable" characteristics could disqualify me. My blog alone would probably sink me in Trump's America. 

Let's be blunt about this. What we're seeing in America, under the cover of a clever but draconian immigration policy, is the reemergence of "the science" of eugenics. It's easy to make this case because the proposed immigration policy, without saying so directly, is designed to stem the flow of "undesirables," which include those with no money, no education, no Nobel prizes, or no Olympic gold medals. 

Heart, drive, family, artistic talent, initiative, a passion for the American Dream, etc. mean little to nothing in the proposed immigration program

For those who need a primer on eugenics, know that it's a pseudo science that believes you can improve a populations stock through controlled breeding. The goal is to produce, over the long term, desirable genetic characteristics within a population that will help make the region, or the nation-state, genetically superior to other regions or populations. 

Winning family of a Fitter Family contest stand outside of the Eugenics Building
(where contestants register) at the Kansas Free Fair, in Topeka, KS (c. 1929).

And, yes, the school of eugenics, which was embraced and practiced in the United States, was disgraced and ignored only after it was perverted by the Nazis. 

If you're interested in the clever but not-so-disguised eugenics policy of the Trump administration, what's presented below provides some background on the ugly history that helped bring eugenics to the United States in the early 20th century, and today.

The school of eugenics has a long history and, for my purposes, begins with the charlatans and fake science that gained popularity with the junk scholars of the 19th century.

Among the many intellectuals who helped breathe life into the notion that your position in life was determined by hard work and initiative alone were popular academics, like William Graham Sumner and Herbert Spencer. In fact, while many believe that Charles Darwin coined the term "survival of the fittest" it was actually Herbert Spencer who gave life to the phrase, which perverted Darwin's work. 

Still, it would also help win Spencer praise and monetary support from America's wealthiest tycoons, whose status and position in life were justified by Spencer's work.

For his part, William Graham Sumner helped convince America's richest that they not only deserved their place in society, because of the hard work that they did, but that "a drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be, according to the fitness and tendency of things ..." 

These observations were tied to laws of nature, according to Spencer and Sumner, and should not be tampered with with pesky rules and regulations. For them, the natural order of "divine right and privilege" we saw during the Feudal Order had been replaced by the natural order of "success or failure" in America. Drunks in the gutter, like other social misfits, deserved all the scorn and ridicule heaped upon them because they were nature's losers. 

Still, benevolence and chivalry were not entirely dead. 

Because women had a "natural" place in the society, the state didn't have to concern itself trying to educate their delicate minds. For William Graham Sumner, the state had only one objective when it came to women: protecting their honor. Joining his contemporary in this thought, Herbert Spencer was so adamant about maintaining the proper place of women he believed society's softer gender should not be allowed to be educated because,
... such brain forcing could lead to nervousness, anaemia, hysteria, stunted growth and excessive thinness.
But this wasn't the worst of it.

Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) made a name for himself building phrenology, a controversial field of study in 19th century (made popular by Leonardo DiCapario in Django).

The experts in the field argued, to an increasingly wide audience, that you could determine the emotional and personal characteristics of an individual by looking at and exploring the contours of the human skull.

According to Gall the mind is composed of multiple and distinct faculties. Each one determines traits and characteristics, from individual benevolence to violence. As a result, the size of each "faculty" in the brain is important because each faculty pushes and shapes the skull in such a way that by measuring skull patterns a good phrenologist could determine whether someone was predisposed towards charity, spirituality, kindness or aggression. 

More simply, with the proper training and tools, the surface of the skull was viewed as a good index for reading individual aptitude and personal tendencies.

Over the course of the 19th century phrenologists were able to determine - scientifically, of course - that certain ethnic groups were predisposed towards violence, while others were geared for success as the shape of their skulls made clear. 

As you can imagine, Western European skulls emerged with the most aptitude and benevolence skull spots (bumps?), while slaves, Eastern/Southern Europeans, Asians, and other groups were deemed to have skull shapes that kept them out of the highest levels of civil society, education, and far away from success.
This pseudo science was embraced by many who were looking for scientific justification for their capabilities and acumen in the business world. Similarly, phrenology was supported by those who wanted to justify slavery (their skulls weren't shaped for creativity and genius), and those simply looking to reaffirm their life of leisure in the country club (skull space for genius and benevolence allowed them to enjoy leisure).
But the distorted teachings of these "junk scientists" didn't end with phrenology. There would be an even uglier spin-off, which helped justify emerging social hierarchies, and the status quo in America. 

This school of thought was eugenics.

Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was one of the first scholars to give scientific racism intellectual heft. Agassiz argued that each race on earth were separate creations that were started in diverse geographic zones (called polygenism). These distinct beginnings, according to Agassiz, endowed each race with different and even unequal attributes. 

For this reason, Agassiz argued, each species can be tied or classified by specific climate zones, just like animals and plants. One of Agassiz's great "discoveries" came when he proved the superiority of European stock over all others.

Agassiz's spectacular findings should not have come as a surprise to anyone. As a European, it was only natural that he (or someone like him) would make this discovery.

As you can imagine, Agassiz's life work was very popular in the American South, where slave owners were looking for reasons to justify slavery and racism (from a Christian perspective, of course; Agassiz was a Christian).

But the eugenics legacy didn't end with simply establishing the superiority of one ethnic groups genetic make-up over another.

The real genius behind eugenics was when policymakers started to buy into the idea that certain genetic groups were predisposed to certain behaviors, and believed that they could purify society by removing or neutralizing these undesirable elements. To do this many states in America began to sterilize habitual criminals, lunatics, schizophrenics, and others who had been officially labeled social misfits.

And, if you're wondering, yes, this is where the Nazis got many of their ideas.

The irony in all of this is that while many of these 19th century "scientists" drew from Charles Darwin (who was a real scientist) most, if not all, of their work would have been rejected by Darwin on scientific grounds.

Unfortunately, though, the damage had been done. It's still being done. 
Only this time it's being done under the color of a draconian immigration policy that pretends to be "merit based" - just as Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner would have preferred.

- Mark

* The section on eugenics is drawn from an earlier post, and will appear in next book.

* Hat tip to Leonel for the Time/Immigration link.


The Washington Post has an article on the "overwhelmingly white White House intern class photo, and why it matters" here ...

This issue is not new for Republicans in Washington, and around the country. Last year Speaker Paul Ryan posted the selfie below of himself with a group of Capitol Hill interns in the background. Does anything stand out? 


One of the reasons racial diversity matters is that democracy is about voice, and inclusion. According to this Brookings report, 44.2% of today's millenials (18-34) are NOT identified as white. This means Paul Ryan and Donald Trump's intern groups are not representative of modern America.

Now, one could make the argument that there are simply no qualified interns of color, or that the GOP has a diversity problem. You be the judge on that one. 

No wonder Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions want to turn Affirmative Action on its head, and start pursuing reverse discrimination cases for white applicants who don't get into the college of their choice. The demographic story behind Donald Trump's White House and Paul Ryan's Capitol Hill intern groups makes one thing very clear: white Americans simply can't catch a break. [**cough**cough]

Sigh ...  

- Mark

Monday, August 7, 2017


In an effort to expose how much of a double standard the GOP has when it comes to politics, and reality, Bill Maher hired a Barack Obama double (Reggie Brown) to read actual Donald Trump quotes.

While getting people to see what "white privilege" in America looks like, the broader idea is to demonstrate that, when it comes to governing, Republicans have no real standards, or shame ...

- Mark

Sunday, August 6, 2017



Narrated by Orson Welles, "Sentinels of Silence" is one of the most impressive and spectacular 15-minute documentaries on Mexico's pyramids you'll see ...

- Mark


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday, August 4, 2017


So the Trump administration wants to use the Justice Department to investigate civil rights abuses of white kids who don't get into college. Donald Trump effectively wants to flip affirmative action on its head, because Anglo-Americans are getting a raw deal (I'm guessing) in America when it comes to access to higher education.

Well, OK.

Look, if we're going to take a look at preferential treatment then let's be be fair, and consider all forms of preferential treatment.

This article from Vox, "As Trump takes aim at affirmative action, let's remember how Jared Kushner got into Harvard," starts us down that path.

This clip from the article pretty much sums up the primary point of the Vox article ...

Jared’s father handed Harvard (a school he did not attend) a big pile of money just as Jared was starting to apply to colleges. Around the same time, Jared’s dad got his US senator to contact another US senator to arrange a chat with Harvard’s dean of admissions.
Happily for the Kushner family, Jared was then admitted. But several officials at Jared’s high school outright told Golden that they found the choice puzzling, since his grades and academic record really didn’t seem to merit it:
In 1998, according to sources familiar with the gift, the New York University alumnus [Charles Kushner] pledged $2.5 million to Harvard, to be paid in annual installments of $250,000. ... At the time of the pledge, Kushner’s older son, Jared, was starting the college admissions process at the Frisch School, a Jewish high school in Paramus, New Jersey. A senior in 1998-99, Jared was not in the school’s highest academic track in all courses, and his test scores were below Ivy League standards. Frisch officials were surprised when he applied to Harvard — and dismayed when he was admitted.
“There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,” a former school official told me. “His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not” ...
... Margot Krebs, who was director of Frisch’s college preparatory program at the time, said, “Jared was certainly not anywhere near the top of his class ... 

There's more, much more, from the Vox article, which you can access by clicking here.

Finally, if you're interested in reading more about preferential treatment, "legacy admissions" and access to institutions of higher education, click here ("Jared Kushner Isn't Alone: How Wealthy Families Manipulate Admissions at Elite Universities"), here ("At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count for More Than Was Previously Thought"), and  here ("Legacy Admissions Policies Were Originally Created to Keep Jewish Students Out of Elite Colleges"). You can also find some good data, and discussions, on college admissions by clicking here (Quora).

- Mark



The episode below is funny, sadly pathetic and, unfortunately, all too common. Whatever you want to name it ('mansplaining' seems to be the favorite, for the moment), the great tragedy here is that the idiots who do this stuff won't see it when they read it. From the FB page of Lara B. Sharp ...

Scene: Pool, balding man, maybe 65 or 70 years old, with blue, bloodshot eyes, drinking from a bottle of Ensure, wearing designer swim trunks, which are half hidden under a huge, extremely brown, beer belly.

Him: What's that you're reading, young lady?

Me: It's a book.

H: What's it called?

M: 'Men Explain things to Me', by Rebecca Solnit.

H: What's it about?

M: It's a book about how men explain things to women and...

H: Oh, so it's a book about men mentoring women!

M: No, not exactly. Not at all, actually... It's actually about how men...

H: What do you do, young lady? Do you work, or do you have kids?

M: Umm, I write.

H: Oh, you're a writer?

M: Well, I write...

H: Who do you write for, young lady? Women's magazines?

M: Umm, no. I write for Myself. And, I'm 47.

H: You're freelance?

M: Extremely.

H: What genre, young lady?

M: Memoir, mostly.

H: You write about yourself? I guess most women do! What's your book called, young lady?

M: I'm 47. What's my book called? It's called... umm... Facebook. I mean, I really just write on...

H: Are you looking for a man to mentor you?

M: Whut?

H: I can really help grow your book. I can help you. As your mentor!

M: You can help me grow my... book? As my... man mentor? This book isn't about that. It's a book about...

H: Absolutely! I'd be happy to mentor you! I'm retired. I've got plenty of time to mentor a young lady.

M: Oh, right... Retired? What are you retired from? Publishing?

H: Publishing? No, heavens no. I owned a chain of corner stores.

M: Corner stores, huh? Fascinating. So, how is that... I mean... OK, so... But, publishing is... I mean... Soooo... Did you, like... sell magazines, in your corner store?

H: No, no magazines. We sold cigarettes, potato chips, cola, lotto cards, candy bars... milk... dog food... toilet paper... It was a family business. My dad started it before I was born.

M: Right... Cool... Cola... So... Is that the only career you had? You went directly into the family business?

H: Yeah, started working in there when I was a kid, took over the stores, sold them, and retired. Did pretty well for myself, young lady!

M: I'm 47 years old. So, OK... Because I'm a writer, I'm just gonna take a few notes on my phone, while we talk... I don't want to forget anything important that you might say... Because you're my male publishing mentor... So, you spent your life in the family business, owning corner stores, and you didn't even sell magazines, but you can mentor me in the Publishing industry?

H: Well, young lady,  selling magazines in a corner store has nothing to do with the Publishing industry. Consider that your first lesson!

M: You're absolutely right. (Holds up 'Men Explain things to Me') And, this is extremely relevant to you. You should read it. Mansplaining is...

H: Oh, no... Thanks, young lady, you can keep your book. I've never been much of a reader...

M: OK, right, not a reader... well, I'm going do some writing now. Because you've mentored me, and it has really inspired me.

H: Fantastic! What are you going to write about?

M: I'm going to write out this entire conversation, from my notes, and to the best of my recollection. I do that a lot. Then, I'm going to put it in my... Facebook... Book.

H: OK, great! Let me know if you need any more of my help!

M: You've already been really helpful. Thanks for mentoring me!

H: You write really fast.

M: Yeah, I use both thumbs!

H: Did you go to typing school?

M: Yeah, I went to a special thumb typing School. Because I'm a writer.

H: Yeah, I can see that you're a very good writer. You're also a very attractive, very sweet young lady.

M: Do you really think so?

H: Call me. I'll take you to dinner. I'll get your writing career on track!

M: Yeah, maybe you can get my Facebook in all the local corner stores... Next to the cola.

H: Sure! I can do that! I've got a lot of connections. I can do anything! Call me! You should put a photo of yourself in that bikini on the cover of the book! I bet you didn't even think of that! OK, don't work to hard, young lady. That's your first mentoring lesson from me, young lady! Don't work to hard! And, don't think too hard!

M: Don't worry. I won't. I won't work hard or think hard, at all. I never do... Thankfully, I don't really have too...

H: Call me! Number is in the card... Don't forget! Put that in your notes, young lady!

M: It's already in there. Believe me, I'm not going to forget anything from this conversation. I've written it all down! Thanks again, for mentoring me.

H: You're a good girl! You know, this pool is usually just full of nothing but old ladies. Not young girls, like you.

M: I'm 47 years old.

H: OK, I've got to go... Call me! Oh, what's your name, darling?

M: Gloria Steinem.

H: OK, Gloria, call me, I'll take you to dinner! I'm going to think of a new last name for you. Something less Jewish sounding. It'll be better for your career! We can talk about at dinner! Be a good girl, Gloria!

M: How about Betty Friedan?

H: No... I'll come up with something better than that... You look like a Chrystal or a Lacey to me... A good name is very important... Did you just write that down?

M: Yes, I've just written that down.

H: Good girl! Call me! For dinner! I'm your mentor, so you have to do what I say. Haha! Don't worry, I'll come up with your name. And, don't worry about the photo, because I have a good camera. Have a nice afternoon!

M: Oh, yeah, the bikini photo! OK. You betcha! Umm... John Williams. Great name! I've got your card... Wait, no email?

H: Nope, no email! First rule of business... Never put anything in writing! I do everything by phone. Write it down, young lady! Never put anything in writing! Call me!

M: But, I'm a writer.

H: Yeah, so write it down! We gotta get that photo done right away! Call me!

M: Yeah, the bikini photo... Well, I'm sure you know all about photography... Buh bye, John... Thanks again, for all of this great material. I've written it all down!

H: Good girl... Call me! Don't worry, Gloria, OK?! I know how to take care of everything, young lady!

M: Yeah, I understand... You can explain everything to me... About, everything! I got it... And, I'm totally going to be a good girl... Bye... !!!

(Writes out the entire conversation from the iPhone Notes app, onto her Facebook page, using Both Thumbs. Orders herself some absolutely HUGE 'noise resistant' headphones, from Amazon. Throws herself, head first, into the deep end of the pool.)

- Mark

Hat tip to David for the link.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

WEEKEND READING (Aug. 4, 2017)

With no more income from album sales, a 69-year-old rock legend has to go back on tour (Quartz).

The ugly history of Stephen Miller's 'cosmopolitan' epithet (Politico).

Ken Ham's ark encounter is child abuse (Patheos).

Martin Shkreli found guilty of securities fraud (Washington Post).

These nine states will require passports for all domestic air travel starting in 2018 (Inquisitr)

Disable woman beaten bloody by TSA agents after becoming confused and afraid at checkpoint (Raw Story).

He went to tell ICE to tell agents he had gotten into college. Now he and his brother have been deported (Washington Post).

Immigration agents showed up at labor dispute proceedings. California wants to kick them out (LA Times).

Trump supports plan to cut legal immigration by half (NY Times).

Five lies that are ricocheting around the right-wing media bubble (Bill Moyers & Company).

Nobel laureate economists say free market competition rewards deception and manipulation (Evonomics).

What happens when you believe in Ayn Rand and modern economic theory (Evonomics).

Trickle-down economics is not true capitalism (Evonomics).

Elon Musk says people should receive a universal income once robots take their jobs (Independent).

Mexican migrant workers came to California to pick grapes. Now they own wineries (Washington Post).

Australian journalist demolishes Trump at G-20: 'Biggest threat to the west' (The Guardian).

I'm a climate scientist. And I'm not letting trickle-down ignorance win (Washington Post).

EPA launching program to challenge climate science (PBS News Hour).

Trump budget director callously accuses working poor of "theft" and "larceny" (Shareblue).

Jeff Sessions wants to stop leaks by jailing journalists (Mother Jones), and Jeff Sessions floats media subpoenas as part of crackdown on leaks (HuffPost).

Mr. Trump: By demonizing the press, you threaten democracy. Maybe you want that (Sacramento Bee).

Poll: Majority of Republicans now say colleges are bad for America (TPM).

These Coloradans say earth is flat. And gravity's a hoax. Now, they're being persecuted (The Denver Post).

New Florida law lets any resident challenge what's taught in science classes (Washington Post).

"Here's a little economics lesson": Rick Perry fails to explain [confuses] supply and demand (Politico).

Hobby Lobby fined $3m, agrees to return smuggled Iraqi artifacts (NBC News).

The criminal president (NY Times)?

Why join the NRA? To defeat liberal enemies, apparently (The Guardian).

Secret Service booted to the sidewalk after Trump Tower rent dispute (HuffPost).

Republicans call Obamacare a 'failure.' These 7 charts show they couldn't be more wrong (LA Times).

As GOP moves toward repeal, a government report shows Obamacare is working well (LA Times).

One Mexican town revolts against violence and corruption. Six years in, its experiment is working (LA Times).

Life saving advice from a black woman held at gunpoint by police (The Undefeated).

Gov. Brown unveils plan for global climate summit, further undercutting Trump's agenda (LA Times).

Jim Plunkett's painful journey: 'My life sucks' (The Mercury News).

- Mark

PRE-WEEKEND READING (August 2, 2017)

Those calls [from the Boy Scouts and Mexico] to Trump? White House admits they didn't happen (NY Times).

Seth Rich lawsuit claims White House colluded with Fox News to fake story on DNC staffer (Financial Times).

My party is in denial about Donald Trump (Senator Jeff Flake / Politico).

Yale historian warns Trump's rise perfectly mirrors frightening ascent of Fascism and Nazis in the 1930s (Raw Story).

Trump, GOP senators unveil measure to cut legal immigration (The Hill).

U.S. citizen who was held by ICE for 3 years denied compensation by Appeals Court (NPR).

ICE just unveiled its chilling new anti-immigration hotline (Splinter).

Trump's breathtaking surrender to Russia (Washington Post).

The week Donald Trump lost the South China Sea (Foreign Policy).

How the Trump administration broke the State Department (Foreign Policy).

Hackers take control of voting machines in 90 minutes (The Telegraph).

Snowflake-in-Chief Trump threatens to sue political cartoonist who featured his image (Reverbpress).

Guarding Trump's Mar-a-Lago club cost taxpayers $6.6 million (The Hill).

Germany is quietly building a European army under its command (Foreign Policy).

Entrepreneurs don't have a special gene for risk - they come from families with money (Quartz).

A clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand seduced young minds and helped turn the U.S. into a selfish nation (Raw Story).

Why Roman concrete still stands strong while modern version decays (The Guardian).

Health insurance industry rakes in billions while blaming Obamacare for losses (Consumer Affairs).

Why the myth of meritocracy hurts kids of color (The Atlantic).

Here's how much members of Congress pay for their health insurance (CNBC).

These Americans hated the health law. Until the idea of repeal sank in (NY Times).

Trump's Russian laundromat (New Republic).

What do the Russians 'have' on the Trump family? Fear (Esquire).

Ex-NSA analyst warns Putin's latest moves show Trump is 'expendable' - and GOP should worry too (Raw Story).

House Democrats want to know why a major Russian money-laundering case was abruptly settled (Business Insider).

In landmark move, GOP congress calls climate change 'direct threat' to security (Foreign Policy).

The Larsen C Ice Shelf collapse is just the beginning - Antarctica is melting (NatGeo).

Donald Trump's Triumph of Stupidity (Spiegel Online).

Rewriting history and the pursuit of ignorance ... or 'Stop trying to rewrite history: America is NOT a Christian nation' (The Hill).

He thinks the Grand Canyon proves Noah's flood was real (Daily Beast).

Geologist believes Grand Canyon was caused by Noah's flood - so he's suing the Park Service to prove it (Raw Story).

Creationist has an all-new embarrassing excuse for his theme park's dreadful attendance (Alternet).

Bad news for automakers: The average U.S. household can't afford a new car (The Fiscal Times).

The Russian hack absolutely affected the outcome of the 2016 election (HuffPost).

Private prison corporation wrote Texas bill extending how long immigrant children can be detained (The Intercept).

I know why poor whites chant "Trump, Trump, Trump": From the end of slavery to the rise Donald Trump, wealthy elites have relied on the loyalty of poor whites ... (STIR Journal).

KHSD to pay $670,000, train staff, to settle suit alleging minorities targeted for suspension and expulsion (Bakersfield Californian).

- Mark


Via Visual Capitalist, we get a breakdown of how Americans get healthcare coverage ...

- Mark

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


While everyone was busy watching Survivor White House this past week, financier Bill Browder gave what can only be called bombshell testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26th. Below are five developments that, pieced together by Browder, make it clear Donald Trump is in over his head.

For those who see the many moving pieces, Browder's testimony also goes a long way to explain why President Trump wants sanctions against Russia lifted, and why America may have its first Manchurian president.

* THE RUSSIA STATE IS A CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE: Browder effectively described Russia's government as a criminal enterprise that "operates in the shadows using corruption, blackmail, torture and murder - all led by Vladimir Putin" adding, "Effectively the moment that you enter into their world, you become theirs." The Mikhail Khodorkovsky story below is especially chilling.

* THE STATE PROTECTS PUTIN'S INTERESTS: Browder was a successful businessman in Russia, until he and his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, uncovered evidence of a huge $230 million corruption scandal. When he and his attorney, Magnitsky, reported the theft to the Russian authorities they "waited for the good guys to get the bad guys," only to learn "that in Putin’s Russia, there are no good guys." They also learned, eventually, that Putin and his network were the source of the corruption.

* BLACKMAIL & MURDER ARE TOOLS OF THE STATE:  After reporting the $230 million corruption scandal, instead of seeing an investigation Browder was accused of tax evasion and barred from reentering Russia. His attorney, Sergei Magnitsky was jailed, and is believed to have been beaten to death in 2009.

* THE MAGNITSKY ACT INFURIATES PUTIN: The Magnitsky case illustrated how corrupt and immune from retaliation the Putin network were/are. After passing in the House of Representatives (364-43) and the Senate (92-4), the Magnitsky Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2012. The Magnitsky Act freezes assets and bans visas for those who participated in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, as well as other Russians involved in human rights abuse cases. Putin was infuriated.

 * THE ROOTS OF PUTIN'S IRE: Vladimir Putin responded to the Magnitsky Act in several ways. First he put a stop to the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. But it wasn't babies that Putin cared about. It was the threats to his position and power that worried him. With much of his ill-gotten gains in western banks and financial institutions (because the rule of law is still respected and maintained), the Magnitsky Act meant that Putin's assets could be frozen. What really upset Putin, according to Browder, is that the Magnitsky Act meant that his network abroad could no longer operate with the impunity and freedom that Putin promised. His global playground now has restrictions, which he wants Donald Trump to remove.

The full text of Bill Browder's July 26th testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee is attached below. Grab a cup of coffee, and get something to eat. This reads like the heart of a spy novel.


Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein, and members of the committee, thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify today on the Russian government’s attempts to repeal the Magnitsky Act in Washington in 2016, and the enablers who conducted this campaign in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, by not disclosing their roles as agents for foreign interests.
Before I get into the actions of the agents who conducted the anti-Magnitsky campaign in Washington for the benefit of the Russian state, let me share a bit of background about Sergei Magnitsky and myself.I am the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management. I grew up in Chicago, but for the last 28 years I’ve lived in Moscow and London, and am now a British citizen. From 1996 to 2005, my firm, Hermitage Capital, was one of the largest investment advisers in Russia with more than $4 billion invested in Russian stocks.
Russia has a well-known reputation for corruption; unfortunately, I discovered that it was far worse than many had thought. While working in Moscow I learned that Russian oligarchs stole from shareholders, which included the fund I advised. Consequently, I had an interest in fighting this endemic corruption, so my firm started doing detailed research on exactly how the oligarchs stole the vast amounts of money that they did. When we were finished with our research we would share it with the domestic and international media.
For a time, this naming and shaming campaign worked remarkably well and led to less corruption and increased share prices in the companies we invested in. Why? Because President Vladimir Putin and I shared the same set of enemies. When Putin was first elected in 2000, he found that the oligarchs had misappropriated much of the president’s power as well. They stole power from him while stealing money from my investors. In Russia, your enemy’s enemy is your friend, and even though I’ve never met Putin, he would often step into my battles with the oligarchs and crack down on them.
That all changed in July 2003, when Putin arrested Russia’s biggest oligarch and richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Putin grabbed Khodorkovsky off his private jet, took him back to Moscow, put him on trial, and allowed television cameras to film Khodorkovsky sitting in a cage right in the middle of the courtroom. That image was extremely powerful, because none of the other oligarchs wanted to be in the same position. After Khodorkovsky’s conviction, the other oligarchs went to Putin and asked him what they needed to do to avoid sitting in the same cage as Khodorkovsky. From what followed, it appeared that Putin’s answer was, “Fifty percent.” He wasn’t saying 50 percent for the Russian government or the presidential administration of Russia, but 50 percent for Vladimir Putin personally. From that moment on, Putin became the biggest oligarch in Russia and the richest man in the world, and my anti-corruption activities would no longer be tolerated.

The results of this change came very quickly. On November 13, 2005, as I was flying into Moscow from a weekend away, I was stopped at Sheremetyevo airport, detained for 15 hours, deported, and declared a threat to national security.
Eighteen months after my expulsion a pair of simultaneous raids took place in Moscow. Over 25 Interior Ministry officials barged into my Moscow office and the office of the American law firm that represented me. The officials seized all the corporate documents connected to the investment holding companies of the funds that I advised. I didn’t know the purpose of these raids so I hired the smartest Russian lawyer I knew, a 35-year-old named Sergei Magnitsky. I asked Sergei to investigate the purpose of the raids and try to stop whatever illegal plans these officials had.
Sergei went out and investigated. He came back with the most astounding conclusion of corporate identity theft: The documents seized by the Interior Ministry were used to fraudulently re-register our Russian investment holding companies to a man named Viktor Markelov, a known criminal convicted of manslaughter.
After more digging, Sergei discovered that the stolen companies were used by the perpetrators to misappropriate $230 million of taxes that our companies had paid to the Russian government in the previous year.I had always thought Putin was a nationalist. It seemed inconceivable that he would approve of his officials stealing $230 million from the Russian state. Sergei and I were sure that this was a rogue operation and if we just brought it to the attention of the Russian authorities, the “good guys” would get the “bad guys” and that would be the end of the story.
We filed criminal complaints with every law enforcement agency in Russia, and Sergei gave sworn testimony to the Russian State Investigative Committee (Russia’s FBI) about the involvement of officials in this crime.
However, instead of arresting the people who committed the crime, Sergei was arrested. Who took him? The same officials he had testified against. On November 24, 2008, they came to his home, handcuffed him in front of his family, and threw him into pre-trial detention.
Sergei’s captors immediately started putting pressure on him to withdraw his testimony. They put him in cells with 14 inmates and eight beds, leaving the lights on 24 hours a day to impose sleep deprivation. They put him in cells with no heat and no windowpanes, and he nearly froze to death. They put him in cells with no toilet, just a hole in the floor and sewage bubbling up. They moved him from cell to cell in the middle of the night without any warning. During his 358 days in detention he was forcibly moved multiple times.They did all of this because they wanted him to withdraw his testimony against the corrupt Interior Ministry officials, and to sign a false statement that he was the one who stole the $230 million—and that he had done so on my instruction.
Sergei refused.
In spite of the grave pain they inflicted upon him, he would not perjure himself or bear false witness.After six months of this mistreatment, Sergei’s health seriously deteriorated. He developed severe abdominal pains, he lost 40 pounds, and he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and gallstones and prescribed an operation for August 2009. However, the operation never occurred. A week before he was due to have surgery, he was moved to a maximum security prison called Butyrka, which is considered to be one of the harshest prisons in Russia. Most significantly for Sergei, there were no medical facilities there to treat his medical conditions.
At Butyrka, his health completely broke down. He was in agonizing pain. He and his lawyers wrote 20 desperate requests for medical attention, filing them with every branch of the Russian criminal justice system. All of those requests were either ignored or explicitly denied in writing.
After more than three months of untreated pancreatitis and gallstones, Sergei Magnitsky went into critical condition. The Butyrka authorities did not want to have responsibility for him, so they put him in an ambulance and sent him to another prison that had medical facilities. But when he arrived there, instead of putting him in the emergency room, they put him in an isolation cell, chained him to a bed, and eight riot guards came in and beat him with rubber batons.That night he was found dead on the cell floor.Sergei Magnitsky died on November 16, 2009, at the age of 37, leaving a wife and two children.
I received the news of his death early the next morning. It was by far the most shocking, heart-breaking, and life-changing news I’ve ever received.Sergei Magnitsky was murdered as my proxy. If Sergei had not been my lawyer, he would still be alive today.
That morning I made a vow to Sergei’s memory, to his family, and to myself that I would seek justice and create consequences for the people who murdered him. For the last seven and a half years, I’ve devoted my life to this cause.
Even though this case was characterized by injustice all the way through, the circumstances of Sergei’s torture and death were so extreme that I was sure some people would be prosecuted. Unlike other deaths in Russian prisons, which are largely undocumented, Sergei had written everything down. In his 358 days in detention, Sergei wrote over 400 complaints detailing his abuse. In those complaints he described who did what to him, as well as where, how, when, and why. He was able to pass his hand-written complaints to his lawyers, who dutifully filed them with the Russian authorities. Although his complaints were either ignored or rejected, copies of them were retained. As a result, we have the most well-documented case of human rights abuse coming out of Russia in the last 35 years.
When I began the campaign for justice with this evidence, I thought that the Russian authorities would have no choice but to prosecute at least some of the officials involved in Sergei Magnitsky’s torture and murder. It turns out I could not have been more wrong. Instead of prosecuting, the Russian authorities circled the wagons and exonerated everybody involved. They even went so far as to offer promotions and state honors to those most complicit in Sergei’s persecution.
It became obvious that if I was going to get any justice for Sergei Magnitsky, I was going to have to find it outside of Russia.
But how does one get justice in the West for a murder that took place in Russia? Criminal justice is based on jurisdiction: One cannot prosecute someone in New York for a murder committed in Moscow. As I thought about it, the murder of Sergei Magnitsky was done to cover up the theft of $230 million from the Russian Treasury. I knew that the people who stole that money wouldn’t keep it in Russia. As easily as they stole the money, it could be stolen from them. These people keep their ill-gotten gains in the West, where property rights and rule of law exist. This led to the idea of freezing their assets and banning their visas here in the West. It would not be true justice but it would be much better than the total impunity they enjoyed.In 2010, I traveled to Washington and told Sergei Magnitsky’s story to Senators Benjamin Cardin and John McCain. They were both shocked and appalled and proposed a new piece of legislation called The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. This would freeze assets and ban visas for those who killed Sergei as well as other Russians involved in serious human rights abuse.
This was particularly heinous because of the effect it had on the orphans. Russia did not allow the adoption of healthy children, just sick ones. In spite of this, American families came with big hearts and open arms, taking in children with HIV, Down syndrome, Spina Bifida and other serious ailments. They brought them to America, nursed them, cared for them and loved them. Since the Russian orphanage system did not have the resources to look after these children, many of those unlucky enough to remain in Russia would die before their 18th birthday. In practical terms, this meant that Vladimir Putin sentenced his own, most vulnerable and sick Russian orphans to death in order to protect corrupt officials in his regime.
Why did Vladimir Putin take such a drastic and malicious step?For two reasons.
First, since 2012 it’s emerged that Vladimir Putin was a beneficiary of the stolen $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed. Recent revelations from the Panama Papers have shown that Putin’s closest childhood friend, Sergei Roldugin, a famous cellist, received $2 billion of funds from Russian oligarchs and the Russian state. It’s commonly understood that Mr. Roldugin received this money as an agent of Vladimir Putin. Information from the Panama Papers also links some money from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky discovered and exposed to Sergei Roldugin. Based on the language of the Magnitsky Act, this would make Putin personally subject to Magnitsky sanctions.
This is particularly worrying for Putin, because he is one of the richest men in the world. I estimate that he has accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains from these types of operations over his 17 years in power. He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.
The second reason why Putin reacted so badly to the passage of the Magnitsky Act is that it destroys the promise of impunity he’s given to all of his corrupt officials.
There are approximately ten thousand officials in Russia working for Putin who are given instructions to kill, torture, kidnap, extort money from people, and seize their property. Before the Magnitsky Act, Putin could guarantee them impunity and this system of illegal wealth accumulation worked smoothly. However, after the passage of the Magnitsky Act, Putin’s guarantee disappeared. The Magnitsky Act created real consequences outside of Russia and this created a real problem for Putin and his system of kleptocracy.
For these reasons, Putin has stated publicly that it was among his top foreign policy priorities to repeal the Magnitsky Act and to prevent it from spreading to other countries. Since its passage in 2012, the Putin regime has gone after everybody who has been advocating for the Magnitsky Act.
One of my main partners in this effort was Boris Nemtsov. Boris testified in front of the U.S. Congress, the European Parliament, the Canadian Parliament, and others to make the point that the Magnitsky Act was a “pro-Russian” piece of legislation because it narrowly targeted corrupt officials and not the Russian people. In 2015, Boris Nemtsov was murdered on the bridge in front of the Kremlin.Boris Nemtsov’s protégé, Vladimir Kara-Murza, also traveled to law-making bodies around the world to make a similar case. After Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Russian Investigative Committee, was added to the Magnitsky List in December of 2016, Vladimir was poisoned. He suffered multiple organ failure, went into a coma and barely survived.
The lawyer who represented Sergei Magnitsky’s mother, Nikolai Gorokhov, has spent the last six years fighting for justice. This spring, the night before he was due in court to testify about the state cover up of Sergei Magnitsky’s murder, he was thrown off the fourth floor of his apartment building. Thankfully he survived and has carried on in the fight for justice.
I’ve received many death threats from Russia. The most notable one came from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2013. When asked by a group of journalists about the death of Sergei Magnitsky, Medvedev replied, “It’s too bad that Sergei Magnitsky is dead and Bill Browder is still alive and free.” I’ve received numerous other death threats from Russian sources through text messages, emails, and voicemails. U.S. government sources have warned me about a planned Russian rendition against me. These threats were in addition to numerous unsuccessful attempts that the Russian government has made to arrest me using Interpol or other formal legal assistance channels.
The Russian government has also used its resources and assets to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act. One of the most shocking attempts took place in the spring and summer of last year when a group of Russians went on a lobbying campaign in Washington to try to repeal the Magnitsky Act by changing the narrative of what had happened to Sergei. According to them, Sergei wasn’t murdered and he wasn’t a whistle-blower, and the Magnitsky Act was based on a false set of facts. They used this story to try to have Sergei’s name taken off of the Global Magnitsky Act that passed in December 2016. They were unsuccessful.Who was this group of Russians acting on behalf of the Russian state? Two men named Pyotr and Denis Katsyv, a woman named Natalia Veselnitskaya, and a large group of American lobbyists, all of whom are described below.
Pyotr Katsyv, father to Denis Katsyv, is a senior Russian government official and well-placed member of the Putin regime; Denis Katsyv was caught by U.S. law enforcement using proceeds from the crime that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered to purchase high-end Manhattan real estate (the case recently settled with the Katsyv’s paying $6 million to the U.S. government). Natalia Veselnitskaya was their lawyer.
In addition to working on the Katsyv’ s money laundering defense, Ms. Veselnitskaya also headed the aforementioned lobbying campaign to repeal the Magnitsky Act. She hired a number of lobbyists, public relations executives, lawyers, and investigators to assist her in this task.Her first step was to set up a fake NGO that would ostensibly promote Russian adoptions, although it quickly became clear that the NGO’s sole purpose was to repeal the Magnitsky Act. This NGO was called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation (HRAGI). It was registered as a corporation in Delaware with two employees on February 18, 2016. HRAGI was used to pay Washington lobbyists and other agents for the anti-Magnitsky campaign. (HRAGI now seems to be defunct, with taxes due.)
Through HRAGI, Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intelligence officer naturalised as an American citizen, was hired to lead the Magnitsky repeal effort. Mr. Akhmetshin has been involved in a number of similar campaigns where he’s been accused of various unethical and potentially illegal actions like computer hacking.
Veselnitskaya also instructed U.S. law firm Baker Hostetler and their Washington, D.C.-based partner Marc Cymrot to lobby members of Congress to support an amendment taking Sergei Magnitsky’s name off the Global Magnitsky Act. Mr. Cymrot was in contact with Paul Behrends, a congressional staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee at the time, as part of the anti-Magnitsky lobbying campaign.

Veselnitskaya, through Baker Hostetler, hired Glenn Simpson of the firm Fusion GPS to conduct a smear campaign against me and Sergei Magnitsky in advance of congressional hearings on the Global Magnitsky Act. He contacted a number of major newspapers and other publications to spread false information that Sergei Magnitsky was not murdered, was not a whistle-blower, and was instead a criminal. They also spread false information that my presentations to lawmakers around the world were untrue.
As part of Veselnitskaya’s lobbying, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, Chris Cooper of the Potomac Group, was hired to organize the Washington, D.C.-based premiere of a fake documentary about Sergei Magnitsky and myself. This was one the best examples of Putin’s propaganda.
They hired Howard Schweitzer of Cozzen O’Connor Public Strategies and former Congressman Ronald Dellums to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill to repeal the Magnitsky Act and to remove Sergei’s name from the Global Magnitsky bill.
On June 13, 2016, they funded a major event at the Newseum to show their fake documentary, inviting representatives of Congress and the State Department to attend. While they were conducting these operations in Washington, D.C., at no time did they indicate that they were acting on behalf of Russian government interests, nor did they file disclosures under the Foreign Agent Registration Act.
United States law is very explicit that those acting on behalf of foreign governments and their interests must register under FARA so that there is transparency about their interests and their motives. Since none of these people registered, my firm wrote to the Department of Justice in July 2016 and presented the facts.
I hope that my story will help you understand the methods of Russian operatives in Washington and how they use U.S. enablers to achieve major foreign policy goals without disclosing those interests. I also hope that this story and others like it may lead to a change in the FARA enforcement regime in the future.Thank you.

While Browder's testimony reads like a great spy novel it also helps explain why, as I pointed out last year, President Trump doesn't want to release his tax returns. Because western financial institutions won't lend to the bankruptcy-riddled Trump, he has to go elsewhere to get the money he needs. He knows that his tax returns will reveal how deep he is into the Russian oligarchs.

They just might also show how compromised he is to Russians, and Vladimir Putin. 

Worse, the tax returns might even tell us why Donald Trump ran for president in the first place: to keep the Russians from closing in on him, and his debt-driven financial empire.

So, yeah, contrary to what many of his supporters want to claim, this has always been about Trump, and not service to America.

- Mark