July 21, 2017

How i helped start a Harvard riot in the 1950s

From our overstocked archives

Sam Smith - On a May late 1950s morning, the Harvard Crimson came out with a story that Cambridge city councilor Alfred E.Vellucci had announced plans to introduce an order asking the city manager to "confiscate" all of the university's lands because of the Harvard administration's "lack of cooperation" in solving the city's parking problems. Vellucci was quoted as saying that "I am going to fine every Harvard student who parks his car on the public street at night unless the university makes all its property available for public parking." Down at the college radio station, where I was news director, I assigned one of our reporters the job of calling Councilor Vellucci. He got an earful:

The citizens and taxpayers are sick and tired of supporting Harvard. The time has arrived when Cambridge should break away and let the state and federal government support the school. Our taxpayers are not able to do the job alone ... Our police department has to rush to the university every time the students start one of their foolish riots ... The fire department has to go in there on school fires. We have to put police officers on extra duty to handle the traffic situation after one of the football games ... Let the university become a state of its own like the Vatican in Rome and pay for its own fire and police departments.

Vellucci added: "John Lund, commander of the local Sullivan Post, American Legion, has told me every veterans organization in the city will support my bill." He went on like that for twenty minutes. We ran excerpts on the 11 p.m. news and student listeners began calling the station demanding to hear the full interview. It was not just the words; the Vellucci voice lent impetus to the message. It was the precise antithesis of a well-cultivated Harvard accent and even at its most irate had a buoyant quality tinged with the faintest hint of satire that in those amusement and issue-starved years of the fifties, tickled the student ear. These were not times when you worried about the impact of the media on events; there were no seminars on TV and violence, no breast-beating over whether the press covered a hostage situation correctly. There was, however, a lot of boredom and whatever else he might be, Al Vellucci was certainly not boring. I ran the whole interview at midnight and calls from those who tuned in during the middle of it were so numerous that I ran it again at one a.m. The next morning, the story was page one in the Boston Globe -- culled from the WHRB interview -- with a two column headline:


The Cambridge citizenry kept calm but not the students. It began, as those things often did, with a peculiarly unrelated and insignificant act the very next night. During a drunken argument in the offices of the college humor magazine over the relative merits of prose and poetry, someone (by some accounts Neil Sheehan, later a famed NY Times correspondent) threw a typewriter out of a window. The riot was on. Two thousand men of Harvard gathered shouting alternatively, "Hang Vellucci," "Vellucci for Pope," and "We want Monaco." Beer cans and water-filled bags were tossed about. Eddie Sullivan, the mayor of the city, showed up in his radio and siren-equipped Chrysler Imperial and attempted to quell the disturbance. He failed to get the attention of the crowd, part of which was busy letting the air out of all four of his tires. From one of the dormitories blared a recording of Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture. The cops sent reinforcements to Al's home but no one strayed from the campus.

The riot ended once half the students had marched into Harvard Yard, its gates were closed and the ones not trapped inside counted their losses and retired to their rooms or to Cronin's bar.

With what the city would come to realize was his normal tactical brilliance, Al Vellucci had succeeded in turning Harvard against itself. A few students were arrested, a few faced disciplinary action and by one a.m. it was over. Those of us in the WHRB news department went to sleep content in the knowledge that in twenty-four hours we had created a celebrity and a riot. Not a bad day's work for a few student journalists.

For the rest of my time at Harvard, Crimson reporter Blaise Pastore and I faithfully covered city council meetings, relaying every juicy quote and snipe at Harvard that Vellucci and his cohorts provided. Our mentors at the press table were a trio of sardonic and knowledgeable Irishmen from Boston's dailies, who loved delivering their sotto voce lectures to a couple of Harvard students as much as we enjoyed hearing them. The councilors were solicitous, especially Al, who recognized our symbiotic relationship. Harvard educated lawyer Joseph Deguglielmo, eschewing bifocals for two pairs of glasses stacked on his nose and forehead in the order required at any particular moment, explained the workings of a city government with great patience, once commenting that he was uncertain how to vote on a police pay increase because he had to keep in mind that each cop was probably receiving, in goods and cash, several thousand dollars more a year than his official salary. It was literally the end of an era. While I was covering the council, James Michael Curley, the former mayor of adjoining Boston, passed away. I had heard the last hurrah.

Mayor Sullivan bore no gudges towards me for his flat tires and was always willing to talk politics whenever I ran into him. One evening:

I met Eddie Sullivan after coming out of the movies. He was seated in his pale colored Chrysler Imperial listening to calls for the police radio. He waved to me and asked me to join him for a cup of coffee. Over the radio came a report: 'This lady sez some man exposed himself to her as she was walking home. 6 foot 2 inches, chino trousers [even the criminals wore them then], black hair.' . . 'Eddie talked of his recent nomination for Clerk of the County Court (margin 11,000), urban renewal and the good meal he had at the Lido. . . 

The Cambridge City Council was a real Massachusetts legislature, the sort of place where an Irish labor leader during a dispute over a contract could turn to councilor Hyman Pill and plead, "Look, we're all Christian gentlemen here." And Hyman just rocked back in his chair and smiled. It accepted the view that politics was not religion -- neither salvation nor perfection was the goal. It was democracy -- making the best of a confused and difficult situation. The members of the city council were ashamed of neither their beliefs nor of their compromises with them. The Cambridge city council was the best course I took at Harvard. I not only learned about city government but learned that it had a quality that would be unmatched by anything found later covering the White House or Congress.

45 senators choose Israel over Constitution

Independent UK - A bill that would criminalize boycotts against Israel has been signed by 45 US senators and 237 congressman.

The so-called “Israel Anti-Boycott Act” would impose fines of up to $250,000 on any US citizen “engaged in interstate or foreign commerce” who supports a boycott of Israeli goods and services.

This position runs counter to that of the United Nations, which claims Israel’s settlements in occupied Palestinian territory have “no legal validity”, and “constitute flagrant violation of international law”.

The American Civil Liberties Union (has argued that the bill would “impose civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies”, in a letter sent to members of the Senate.

“In short, the bill would punish businesses and individuals solely based on their point of view,” it wrote. “Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.”

FCC gets ten million comments on net neutrality

Trump won't even address the NAACP

Helping to secure his position as the most ethnic and gender prejudiced  president in over a half a century, Donald Trump has declined to speak before the NAACP. Even Ronald Reagan did.

Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr represented Russian spy agency for years

Reuters - The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. after his father won the Republican nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election counted Russia's FSB security service among her clients for years, Russian court documents seen by Reuters show. The documents show that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, successfully represented the FSB's interests in a legal wrangle over ownership of an upscale property in northwest Moscow between 2005 and 2013.

Federal judge refuses to allow Trump; to penalize sanctuary cities

Trump plans to damage American healthcare even if Obamacare survives

Politico - If a last-ditch repeal effort fails in Congress next week, all indications are the Trump administration will continue chipping away at the Affordable Care Act — if not torching it outright.

President Donald Trump, who regularly says Obamacare is dead, has already taken steps to undermine the law even as the legislative battle over repeal drags on. His administration has slashed crucial advertising dollars, cut the enrollment window in half, and regularly pumps out anti-Obamacare videos and graphics — actions sure to reduce the number of people who sign up.

Trump has plenty of other options to roll back a program covering roughly 20 million Americans. Those include ending enforcement of the mandate to carry insurance, imposing work restrictions and nominal premiums on low-income adults who qualify for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and letting states relax the law’s robust coverage rules.

Trump regime slashes $210 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs

Trump's personal lawyer takes lesser role

The Hill - President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, will no longer lead the legal team responding to the ongoing Russian investigations and has taken a reduced role, according to reports.

Ty Cobb will now take the lead in managing the team’s response to the ongoing federal probe into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Kasowitz, who has worked with Trump since the early 2000s, had represented the president in the Trump University fraud case.

Could Trump pardon himself?

Sam Smith - The Washington Post has an interesting article on who Trump can pardon. The mere existence of this article points out something that isn't getting enough attention, namely that while Trump has not been charged with criminal activity, no president has raised so many legal and ethical questions about his activities. The typical honest person, for example, would not be so vigorously attacking those who are, in full respect for the law, investigating what he has been up to. If he has nothing to be ashamed of, he has nothing to worry about.

One of the points that the Post makes is that while whether the President can pardon himself is debatable, his pardon powers are limited to federal offenses: "If Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner were charged with sticking up a bodega in Queens, Trump couldn’t do much about it."

We have noted the likelihood that the Trump scandals would turn away from Washington and Russia towards matters occurring in New York. If, for example, Robert Mueller finds some state or city based crime and hands the case over to the NY Attorney General, the pardon powers become futile.

Republicans out to slash food stamps

Center on Budget & Policy Priorities The budget resolution that the House Budget Committee approved yesterday requires the House Agriculture Committee to identify at least $10 billion in cuts over the next decade to nutrition and other entitlement programs under its jurisdiction.  Most, if not all, of them could come from SNAP (formerly food stamps).  Along with these cuts, which Congress would consider under the fast-track “reconciliation” process, the resolution puts forward a more complete fiscal plan — with far deeper SNAP cuts — that reflects the House GOP’s broader vision for the budget that would take several years to achieve.  The plan envisions a total SNAP cut of $150 billion (more than 20 percent) over ten years.

Another Trumpy skilled at damaging what he is appoiinted to protect

Intercept - Michael Dourson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, founded and ran a toxicology consulting firm whose work enabled DuPont to avoid providing clean water to people in West Virginia after the company contaminated the area around one its plants with a dangerous industrial chemical.

Microsoft attacks Putin hackers

July 20, 2017

How to handle something like the Trump regime

Ten tips from Turkey

Manafort owed big sums to pro-Russia interests

NY Times - Financial records filed last year in the secretive tax haven of Cyprus, where Paul J. Manafort kept bank accounts during his years working in Ukraine and investing with a Russian oligarch, indicate that he had been in debt to pro-Russia interests by as much as $17 million before he joined Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in March 2016.

The money appears to have been owed by shell companies connected to Mr. Manafort’s business activities in Ukraine when he worked as a consultant to the pro-Russia Party of Regions. The Cyprus documents obtained by The New York Times include audited financial statements for the companies, which were part of a complex web of more than a dozen entities that transferred millions of dollars among them in the form of loans, payments and fees.

Trump and Deutsche Bank: Follow the bouncing buck

NY Times - During the presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump pointed to his relationship with Deutsche Bank to counter reports that big banks were skeptical of doing business with him.

After a string of bankruptcies in his casino and hotel businesses in the 1990s, Mr. Trump became somewhat of an outsider on Wall Street, leaving the giant German bank among the few major financial institutions willing to lend him money.

Now that two-decades-long relationship is coming under scrutiny.

Banking regulators are reviewing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit, which caters to an ultrarich clientele, according to three people briefed on the review who were not authorized to speak publicly. The regulators want to know if the loans might expose the bank to heightened risks.

Separately, Deutsche Bank has been in contact with federal investigators about the Trump accounts, according to two people briefed on the matter. And the bank is expecting to eventually have to provide information to Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

More on that 8th guy at the Trump Tower meeting

As Politico reported, "The eighth attendee at a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top Trump associates and a politically connected Russian lawyer is a business associate of a top Moscow oligarch and was once the focus of a congressional money-laundering probe."

Former Senator Carl Levin -In 2000, as Senior Democrat on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I was looking into how foreign persons established US corporations with hidden ownership as a way to launder money through U.S. banks. Many states in the U.S., Delaware being a popular one, allow individuals to set up corporations without revealing the true owner. This allows individuals to set up shell companies -- companies that can function as a vehicle through which they can anonymously pass money and which can readily be used to launder ill-gotten gains.

I asked GAO to review shell corporations and how their bank accounts are set up. GAO came across the numerous corporations and bank accounts established by Irakly Kaveladze on behalf of people in Russia. As GAO reported, Kaveladze established some 2000 U.S. corporations and bank accounts for a number of them. The owners of those accounts then moved some $1.4 billion through those accounts. Kaveladze claimed he did all this without knowing for whom he was doing it. Based on the example of Kaveladze, who was in a sense the poster child of this practice, and other examples we uncovered over the years, we've been trying for decades to end the hidden ownership of American corporations. This has been a bipartisan effort, and there continues to be proposed legislation in Congress to do just that with the very strong support of the law enforcement community and the banks.

Kaveladze's conduct also helped us reinvigorate the requirement that banks know the true owner of their accounts, a policy that hadn’t been enforced over the years. It has recently been required by regulation.

Mueller looking into Trump business transactions with Russians

Bloomberg - The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe.

FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.

John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday he was unaware of this element of the investigation. "Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code," he wrote in an email.

Trump regime demotes climate scientist who spoke out

NPR -A former head policy adviser at the Interior Department is accusing the Trump Administration of reassigning him to a lesser position for speaking out about the dangers of climate change.

Joel Clement, a scientist who was director of the Interior Department's Office of Policy Analysis for much of the Obama Administration, was recently reassigned to work to an "accounting office," the agency's Office of Natural Resources and Revenue.

In an op-ed published Wednesday in The Washington Post, he wrote that he believes he was retaliated against for "speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities." He says that he's turning whistleblower on an administration that "chooses silence over science."

Trump regime using Obamacare funds to attack Obamacare

Daily Beast -The Trump administration has spent taxpayer money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it.

The effort, which involves a multi-pronged social media push as well as video testimonials designed at damaging public opinion of President Obama’s health care law, is far more robust and sustained than has been publicly revealed or realized.

The strategy has caught the eye of legal experts and Democrats in Congress, who have asked government agencies to investigate whether the administration has misused funds and engaged in covert propaganda in its efforts to damage and overturn the seven-year-old health care law. It’s also roiled Obama administration veterans, who argue that the current White House is not only abdicating its responsibilities to administer the law but sabotaging it in an effort to facilitate its undoing by Congress

Trump warns Mueller not to do his job

NY Daily News - President Trump cautioned the Justice Department’s special counsel from straying too far from his Russia probe.

When asked if Robert Mueller would be crossing a “red line” by investigating Trump’s personal finances, the President adamantly defended his business dealings in a meandering interview with the New York Times.

“I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia,” Trump said Wednesday, then appearing to dare Mueller to try examining his financial filings.

Public moving towards governmment funded healthcare

Christian Science Monitor - Americans aren't enthralled with "Obamacare" and they definitely don't like the Republican plans offered in Congress, so what does the public want the government to do about health care?

A new poll suggests the country may be shifting toward the political left on the issue, with 62 percent saying it's the federal government's responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage, while 37 percent say it is not.

The survey findings from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicate a change in public attitudes over the past few months, as concerns mounted about GOP legislation estimated to leave tens of millions without coverage.

Trump using bank lawyer to kill bank regulatons

Intercept -President Trump and Republicans in Congress have broadcast their every intention to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president’s budget attempted to defund it and leading Republicans have called for its director to be fired and replaced with a more Wall Street-compliant regulator.

But much like the bulk of Trump’s agenda, that assault remains in the aspirational phase, and the agency continues to do its work. Earlier this month, the CFPB released a major new rule, flat-out barring financial institutions from using forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts to stop class-action lawsuits.

Now, Trump has sent out his lead attack dog to overturn the arbitration rule – a former bank lawyer who has used the very tactic CFPB wants to prevent.


July 19, 2017

Help the editor: Need best public relations and/or psycholgical approaches to someone like Trump

Have seen lots of stories about how good Trump is at PR and what a nut he is, but can't find any good stories on how to deal with these problems. Send good links to here

Republicans still want healthcare action that would kill more Americans than the Vietnam War

Update here

Healthcare vs. Vietnam stats

Inside Trump's assault on fair voting

Trump names casino consultant to Russian government corporation to State Department

Daily Beast - When Jonathan Galaviz left his job at a casino consulting firm to go work for the Trump State Department, he didn’t have any concerns about job security. The firm—which consults for at least two Russian state entities, according to its website—proudly announced that Galaviz would be back after his stint at State. Galaviz himself consulted for a Russian government corporation on casino gambling. Until Tuesday afternoon, the company’s website listed Galaviz as its chief strategist.

Trump Tower gets $130,000 a month in rent from US military

Independent, Uk - The US military has a lease with Trump Tower in New York City to rent a space for $130,000 a month, where Donald Trump has a residence but has yet to spend a single night since becoming President. Lease documents were obtained by the Wall Street Journal that showed an 18-month lease at $2.39 million for a 3,475 square foot space from 11 April 2017 to 30 September 2018, making it one of the most expensive rental properties in Manhattan.

Republican state of New Hampshire decriminalizes marijuana

The Hill - New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed a new law decriminalizing marijuana, making the Granite State the 22nd in the nation to eliminate the possibility of jail time for those convicted of simple possession.

The measure passed the Republican-led legislature with huge majorities in May and June. When it takes effect in about two months, the new law will reduce fines for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from $2,000 to just $100 for a first or second offense.

Poll: Hillary Clinton less popular than Trump

According to the latest Bloomberg National Poll, Trump has a net favorability of 41% whereas Clinton has a net favorability of 39%. If Democrats are to escape the political wilderness, they will have to leave Clinton and her brand of politics in the woods.

July 18, 2017

High school students with A average grows, but SAT scores stay the same

USA Today - Recent findings show that the proportion of high school seniors graduating with an A average — that includes an A-minus or A-plus — has grown sharply over the past generation, even as average SAT scores have fallen. In 1998, it was 38.9%. By last year, it had grown to 47%.

Meanwhile, their average SAT score fell from 1,026 to 1,002 on a 1,600-point scale — suggesting that those A's on report cards might be fool's gold.

Sessions plans to increase the amount of goods police steals from unproven criminals

Independent, UK - Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he will be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.

Asset forfeiture is a highly controversial practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities, and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

Additionally, many states allow law enforcement officers to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterise as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: in 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.

Since 2007, the DEA alone has taken over $3 billion in cash from people not charged with any crime, according to the Justice Department's Inspector General.

Voice of Kermit the Frog fired after 27 years

Trump's LA golf course losing business

Democrats lead Trump in polls

The Hill - President Trump trails former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and three Democratic senators in a new poll from a Democratic firm testing possible 2020 matchups.

The survey of registered voters, conducted by Public Policy Polling, found Trump trailing by wide margins against Sanders — 52 percent to 39 percent — and Biden — 54 percent to 39 percent.

The poll also found Trump losing in hypothetical matchups against Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), although by smaller margins.

Trump trails Warren by 7 points, 42 percent to 49 percent; Booker by 5 points, 40 percent to 45 percent; and Harris by 1 point, 40 percent to 41 percent.

Trump's proposed mass health manslaughter more deadly to Americans than Vietnam war

This is something we published back in May, but is on point again with Trump calling for repeal of Obamacare.  To put these estimates in perspective, depending on which one you use, repeal of Obamacare could result annually in 41% to 75% of the total number of American troops killed in the Vietnam War, most of which occurred over a nine year period. 

The most Americans, 16,899,  were killed in Vietnam in 1968. By comparison, repeal of Obama care would kill between 1.4 and 2.6 times as many every year.

 Calling the GOP repeal of Obamacare an act of mass manslaughter is hardly an exaggeration. For example, one definition of the crime includes;

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when one person, while committing an unlawful or reckless act, unintentionally kills another.
There's no question but that the GOP Don't Care Bill is a reckless act and there is no question that, should it be passed in both houses, it would kill thousands of people. Whether this is intentional o the Republicans' part is an arguable point, but manslaughter is a reckless consequence rather than a purposeful act.

Passing such a bill now  is dramatically different than if there wasn't any Obamacare. It has the same effect, say, of quietly removing the brakes on thousands of people's cars. And there is a strong argument that it is a criminal act.

How many people will be killed as a result is debatable, but here are some of the estimates:

DC allows death with dignity prescriptions

WTOP - Doctors and pharmacies in the nation’s capital are now allowed to prescribe life-ending medications to terminally ill patients.

The Death with Dignity Act of 2016 became law with the signature of Mayor Muriel Bowser in December of 2016. Now the Bowser administration has announced the implementation of the law in the District.

The city said the law allows terminally ill D.C. residents over the age of 18 to legally obtain a physician’s prescription for medications to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner.

For a person to elect to end his life legally in the District, the individual must work with doctors and pharmacies licensed in D.C. that are willing to prescribe and dispense the lethal medications.

For doctors and pharmacies, participating in the Death with Dignity program is voluntary.

The city requires patients to make two oral requests to end their life to a doctor, with 15 days between each request. A written request on a city form must be given before the second oral request.

Tales from the attic: A mountain disaster too close to forget

A friend has sent me a long, recent story from the Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News site, Philly.com  about one of Canada's worst mountain disasters that occurred 62 years ago. The reason he sent it to me was because one of the seven boys killed went to my school and was a member of Boy Scout Troop 188, where my  friend's father was scoutmaster, and where one of those partly responsible for the disaster, Donald Dickerson, was an assistant scoutmaster. I was a member of Troop 188 and wrote later about the troop and the incident:

In the 1950s I joined Boy Scout Troop 188, specifically the Rattler Patrol. I initially regarded the Scouts as training for a life of adventure, but I was soon disabused of this notion by a more knowledgeable member who pointed out that with my interest in writing and his political clout, I could easily become troop scribe, thus achieving instant status without the tedium of earning merit badges. It was, he correctly pointed out, the troop council, and not the goody-goodies with all their badges, who actually ran the place.

I readily joined his political machine and never rose above second class. I was more than content to be a member of something and, for a few hours a week, to hang out with other boys engaged in normal boylike activities. My most notable outdoor achievement was to lead a three-hour hike that mystically and unintentionally brought us right back to where we started without ever having viewed our assigned destination. I also learned that the outdoors was more uninviting than I had envisioned -- the ground was hard, the food marginal, and even a spring night could be cold.

This view would be strengthened shortly after I graduated from Germantown Friends School, when our ex-Marine assistant scoutmaster helped lead a group of boys, aged 13 to 16, to Canada’s Banff National Park in order to climb the 11,656 foot Mt. Temple. The hikers were ill-trained and ill-equipped (some made the climb in sneakers) and the mountain was one of the toughest in the region. Only a year earlier, four Mexican climbers had died in an avalanche four and half miles from where my scout leader and his squad were hiking.

The group made it to within 2000 feet of the summit before deciding to turn back. Then, according to an AP story:
"As they started down, a mass of snow and rock roared upon them, tossing them 300 feet down the slope. One died instantly, rescuers said. Three others succumbed to multiple injuries and exposure to the bitter weather last night before search parties could reach them."
Seven students died, two others, along with the two leaders, were injured. Our assistant scoutmaster, Don Dickerston, responded to press criticism saying, "How do you equip for an avalanche?"

[According to the Philly.com story, Dickerson's wife "learned about his role in the tragedy only after he died and she discovered old news clips hidden in a box in the basement. Dickerson died of emphysema in 1974 at age 48. In retrospect, she believed, 'it was a tragedy that brought an early death to my husband. He felt guilty.;"]

Listverse, which included it in a collection of 10 tragic mountain accidents reported:
On July 11, 1955, in one of Canada's most tragic mountaineering accidents, seven American male teenagers were killed on the southwest ridge route....They were clad in only light clothing and there was only one ice axe in the group. Some wore baseball cleats for better friction, and they were tied together on a manila rope.

At 4:00 p.m. they reached 2,750m and gathered to assess the situation, as the warm summer day had caused several nearby avalanches. After talking it over, the boys decided to start back down. A few minutes later a large avalanche thundered down towards the group. One of the boys dug in his ice axe and the rope went taut before it broke. Ten boys, ages 12 to 16 were swept 200 m down the snowfield and through a bottleneck, smashing into the rocks along the way. Before the day was over, seven of them would be dead in one of the worst avalanche accident in Parks Canada history.

July 17, 2017

Trump health klll in big trouble

CNN - Hours after the Senate was gaveled back into session, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was handed devastating news Monday evening: Two more defections on his health care bill that could doom the entire effort for the foreseeable future.

The dramatic simultaneous announcement from Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah means McConnell officially does not have the votes to even begin debate on his legislation to overhaul Obamacare.

In announcing their opposition to the bill, Moran and Lee said they would vote "no" on the motion to proceed -- a vote that McConnell had hoped to hold this week but was already forced to postpone due to Arizona Sen. John McCain's absence from Washington.

EPA chief laughs about killing agency

Mother Jones - Even though Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail to “get rid of” the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form,” it’s rare for his EPA administrator to go around and admit that’s just what they’re doing.

Usually, EPA chief Scott Pruitt sticks to a familiar set of talking points during his interviews, insisting he is refocusing the agency’s core mission defined by Congress to protect air and water. Yet he confirmed environmentalists’ worst suspicions on a conservative Birmingham-based radio program on July 6, when he responded to praise from co-host Andrea Lindenburg. “I like what Donald Trump has done here as president,” she said. “He took a guy who wanted to get rid of the EPA—dismantle it—and put him in charge of it.”

Pruitt replied with a chuckle: “Ha. That’s right.” The former Oklahoma Attorney General launched 14 lawsuits against the Obama administration’s EPA before his appointment.

Pruitt [said] that the EPA has taken “over 22 significant regulatory actions” in his first four months, referring to the EPA’s dozens of delays and reversals of Obama-era water, air, and climate regulations. The Trump administration plans to reduce the agency’s workforce by more than 3,000, to its lowest level in recent history, through budget cuts, early retirements, and buyouts.

Federal judge rules filming farms is protected right

Truth Out - In a major victory for animals and supporters of free speech, a federal judge has ruled that Utah's law making it illegal to film what happens at farms and slaughterhouses is unconstitutional.

These laws -- which have become known as ag gag laws -- are blatant attempts to hide what's happening on farms and criminalize anyone who attempts to bring the truth to light. They started popping up in the early 1990s, when North Dakota, Kansas and Montana all passed legislation that make it illegal to enter facilities that are closed to the public, or to take photographs, or audio and video recordings.Since then, attempts to pass similar laws have been tried and defeated in a number of states, but a few have unfortunately succeeded in passing various versions of them.

McCain's recovery may take longer than he indicated

Daily Beast - Concerns have arisen over Sen. John McCain’s health after the lawmaker underwent a craniotomy this weekend, with medical experts saying the recovery time for his surgery may delay his return to Washington by a few weeks. While the Senate awaits his return to consider a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, neurosurgeons interviewed by The New York Times said the recovery time for such a procedure is usually several weeks—not one week, as a statement from McCain’s office implies. “Usually, a blood clot in this area would be a very concerning issue,” Dr. Nrupen Baxi, an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, told the Times. Other surgeons interviewed said the recovery time may depend on the cause of the clot, which could have been a stroke, a blow to the head, or brain changes tied to aging. McCain’s office has not provided details on what caused the blood clot but said the senator is in “good spirits” after undergoing a “minimally invasive” craniotomy.

New report slams solitary confinement for mentally ill

Naked Capitalism - The Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice (DoJ) issued a shocking report last week, detailing the continued use of solitary confinement to house mentally-ill inmates– despite a 2014 policy change that was touted as getting such prisoners access to appropriate mental health care.

Prisoners are being held in solitary confinement for too long– in contravention of the Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) own guidelines– denied medical treatment, and in some prisons, held in confinement cells of 58.5 square feet (well below the American Correctional Association’s minimum recommendation of 80 square feet), according to a Jurist report,

Michael Pence, the vice liar in chief

Salon - Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence delivered one of the most obvious lies about the embattled, possibly doomed [healthcare] legislation. Speaking to the National Governors Association, Pence said, “When it comes to Medicaid, not only does the health care bill expand state flexibility, it ensures that every state in America has the resources you need to take care of your most vulnerable.”

He also tweeted the following message — twice: “Let me be clear: The Senate health-care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.” And he added, “We’re saving Medicaid for the sake of our most vulnerable and providing all Americans with access to high-quality, affordable health insurance.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” program and said, “We’re going to be able to cover more individuals on this bill than are currently covered.”

None of that is true. None of it. The Congressional Budget Office will hand down its verdict on the latest version of the bill sometime on Monday, but it’s not expected to significantly revise the numbers revealed in previous scorings of the Republican health care legislation, either the House or Senate versions. In the June report based on the more moderate Senate version, we learned that 3.3 million Americans — disabled people, children and senior citizens, mostly — would have their Medicaid coverage stripped away due to Trumpcare’s $774 billion cuts to the program, including the phase-out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. That’s 3.3 million people out of a total 22 million people who will have their health insurance stolen from them by President Trump and the GOP. Twenty-four out of the 31 Medicaid-expansion states would roll back coverage to pre-ACA levels.

In other words, and to repeat, Pence lied to America’s governors and, of course, to the American people when he preposterously guaranteed that Trumpcare “strengthens” and “secures” Medicaid. Nor does it save Medicaid, as Pence promised. In reality, it’ll do exactly the opposite. Likewise, Secretary Price lied when he confoundingly promised that Trumpcare will cover more people. Not only will 22 million more people lose their coverage, according to CBO estimates, but Americans on the periphery of the system — those with pre-existing conditions and the like — will be forced onto pointless, dodgy plans with massive deductibles that cover virtually nothing.

As I’ve been saying for months now, this “repeal and replace” strategy is turning out to be nothing more than a repeal. A “replacement,” on the other hand, suggests something comparable or at least vaguely similar. Trumpcare fails on that front, too, and the Republicans aren’t even trying to create a lateral alternative to the ACA, chiefly because modern conservative ideology is incompatible with creating affordable, universal health care. It can’t be done.

So there are a pair of reasons for the GOP’s shockingly transparent lies about this bungled and botched legislation.

First, Republicans understand that the Obama administration didn’t do enough to educate the public on how health care works or the benefits of the ACA. Health care, as Trump once said, is complicated — though almost everyone except the president already knew that. Consequently, for its first several years, few Americans understood the full scope of Obamacare, allowing the GOP to fill the gaps with lies and disinformation — making the ACA all about the Healthcare.gov website and the marketplaces.

Notice how Trump never mentions the historically successful Medicaid expansion, nor does he talk about the consumer protections, such as the elimination of lifetime or annual limits. He also doesn’t talk about the essential health benefits: the array of mostly preventative treatments that must be covered, whether by marketplace plans or employer-based coverage. He doesn’t mention these things because they compose roughly two-thirds of the ACA and they’re, to repeat, hugely popular and thriving.

Second, the Republicans aren’t talking to you, or to any anti-Trump voters of either party. The GOP’s messaging, and especially the White House’s messaging, is aimed squarely at the 35 percent: the cult-like voters who will support Trump until the bitter end. Trump’s base. This is their micro-targeted “moneyball” gambit. Trump and the GOP are betting they can retain their current majorities, as well as the White House, by exclusively marketing to the 35 percenters who will believe literally anything their Scientology-like auditors tell them.

Whether the message is that it’s perfectly normal to conspire with a hostile foreign government while it attacks and invades American sovereignty, or whether it’s that the ACA is “imploding,” the pro-Trump loyalists will believe anything they’re told. We can fact-check all we want and it simply doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter, reality doesn’t matter, and for Trump and his disciples, words have no meaning. As long as the 35 percent, with their “MAGA” hats and “fuck your feelings” T-shirts, are energized, the Republicans can hang onto their seats.

If Trump's tax plan goes through, America would rank 59th in country tax fairness

Guardian -Donald Trump’s tax reform plans would, if enacted, increase the gap between rich and poor Americans and see the US slip below Greece on a new global index of inequality.

According to the Commitment to Reducing Inequality index, developed by researchers at  Oxfam and Development Finance International, the US already distinguishes itself among wealthy countries by doing “very badly” at addressing inequality. Which countries are the most (and least) committed to reducing inequality? But it would fall a further six places from its ranking of 23rd overall if Trump’s tax reform effort is successful, with the US’s specific rating on tax policies plummeting 33 places from 26th to 59th – just below Peru, Chile and Sri Lanka.

July 16, 2017

American notes

Finding new homes for the moral and the decent
Brain drain: the hazards of grad school politics
Normalizing failure
The war that never ended
When wrong becomes the norm
The collapse of the First American Republic
The end of treason
Top Rot
Love of trains
Elite emmigration
American beconing a corporate colony
How to get along with other Americans
What's new with me
Backing off of hate
Coming of age with "On the Road"
Eternal fundamentals of leadership (Rev. 8/14/11)
Football and American empire
Why hip is no longer hip
In technocracy we trust
Freedom as a local option
What's a humanities?
Global dumbing: the politics of entropy
Practicing anthropology without a license
The war of the terrified
Factories of fame
Notes on the end of the First American Republic
Notes from a lousy time
Why everything's so hard today
Quiet storm: blowin' in the wind of cultural decay
On the care and feeding of theories
Learning from Orwell & Mussolini
How minorities change America

TV news climate change coverage lowest since 2009

Think Progress - In 2016, the major networks’ coverage of climate change dropped by two thirds compared to 2015. In fact, climate coverage last year was close to its lowest levels since 2009, according to a new analysis by Media Matters of the evening and Sunday news programs that air on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This drop is despite historic wildfires, extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew, and month after month of record-breaking global temperatures.

More including charts

Sessions wants to bring back failed DARE drug program

Federal court rules against governmemnt body allowing only Christian invocations

Huffington Post - A federal appeals court ruled that a government prayer practice in North Carolina was unconstitutional because a local board of commissioners only allowed its elected representatives, all of whom are Christian, to deliver religious invocations.

For years, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners has opened its twice-monthly meetings with a prayer delivered by one of its five members. The prayers are “invariably and unmistakably Christian in content,” according to the ruling, and a review of recorded meetings showed that 97 percent of the invocations mentioned “Jesus,” “Christ” or the “Savior.” Prayers also occasionally implied Christianity was superior to other faiths, or proselytized by asking attendees to accept the Christian faith.

July 15, 2017

Trump hires lawyer with background in corruption cases

NPR - President Trump has hired a former federal prosecutor to assist in how the White House handles its response to the expanding Russia probes.

Ty Cobb, whose legal expertise lies in white-collar crime and congressional investigations, will be "in charge of overseeing the White House legal and media response" to the investigations, according to Bloomberg News.

A bio on the website of Cobb's former firm, Hogan Lovells, says that "Clients managing crises, allegations of corruption, and other critical matters turn to Ty to guide them."

New York City's Russian mafia and Donald Trump

Fortune, May 17  - Donald Trump said in a recent interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, "I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant — which I owned for quite a while — I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia."

The reality, however, is that Trump couldn’t be more wrong. The President has deep Russian connections that far exceed what he admitted to Holt.

In a 2007 deposition that Trump gave as part of his unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against reporter Timothy O’Brien, he describes efforts to launch real estate ventures in Russia through Bayrock Associates, a shady Russian-connected outfit. Bayrock had partnered with Trump on at least four major but failed American projects: the Fort Lauderdale Trump Tower, the Trump Ocean Club in Fort Lauderdale, the SoHo condominium-hotel in New York, and a resort in Phoenix.

Bayrock had its office on the 24th floor of Trump Tower, and its 2007 glossy brochure featured a photo of Trump and Tevfik Arif, a principal Bayrock partner, who served for 17 years in the Soviet government before emigrating to the United States. It called the Trump Organization a “strategic partner,” and listed Trump as their primary reference.

Felix Sater, a Russian-born managing director at Bayrock, was convicted of assault in 1991. Then, in 1998, federal prosecutors convicted Sater of fraud, for running a $40 million penny stock fraud in collaboration with the New York and Russian Mafia. In return for a guilty plea, Sater reportedly agreed to work as a government informant.

New Republic -In “Trump’s Russian Laundromat,” veteran journalist Craig Unger details how the Russian mafia has used the president’s properties—including Trump Tower and the Trump Taj Majal—as a way to launder money and hide assets. “Whether Trump knew it or not,” writes Unger, “Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump’s business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.”

Based entirely on the extensive public record, the piece offers the most comprehensive overview of the deep debt that the president owes the Russian mafia. “The extent of Trump’s ties to the Russian mafia—and the degree to which he relied on them for his entire business model—is striking,” says Eric Bates, editor of the New Republic. “After reading this story, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the president continues to exhibit a deep loyalty to the world of shady Russian operatives who have invested vast sums in his properties.”

USA Today, March 28 -  To expand his real estate developments over the years, Donald Trump, his company and partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet republics — several allegedly connected to organized crime, according to a USA TODAY review of court cases, government and legal documents and an interview with a former federal prosecutor.

The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.

Among them:

• A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.

• An investor in the SoHo project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.

• Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.

• A former mayor from Kazakhstan was accused in a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles in 2014 of hiding millions of dollars looted from his city, some of which was spent on three Trump SoHo units.

• A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.

Trump's Russian connections are of heightened interest because of an FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russian operatives to interfere in last fall's election. What’s more, Trump and his companies have had business dealings with Russians that go back decades, raising questions about whether his policies would be influenced by business considerations.

The new GOP health bill

Ballotpedia - The Senate released a revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The bill included the following changes:
  • Any individual may purchase a catastrophic health plan (under the ACA, this was restricted to individuals under 30 or those who meet a hardship exemption).
  • Tax credits could be used to purchase catastrophic plans.
  • An additional $70 billion between 2019 and 2026 would be provided to states for individual market stabilization.
  • The ACA's 0.9 percent payroll tax for Medicare would be retained.
  • The ACA's 3.8 percent tax on investment income would be retained.
  • Withdrawals from health savings accounts could be used to pay health insurance premiums.
  • A total of $45 billion would be provided to address the opioid epidemic.
  • Individual health plans in effect after January 1, 2019, would be required to enforce a six-month waiting period on coverage for individuals who could not prove that they'd had continuous health insurance for the previous 12 months.
  • Health insurers could offer plans off the exchanges that do not comply with ACA standards if they also offer one gold-level and one silver-level ACA compliant plan on the exchanges.
  • A fund would be established that reimburses health insurers for the cost of covering high-risk individuals.
According to The New York Times, Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) remained opposed to moving the bill to the floor for debate. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) said it was unclear to him if the bill was an improvement, and Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) expressed concern over the Medicaid provisions, which were largely unchanged in the revised bill. An analysis of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office is expected early next week.

DC government censors our news

Here an email we got from the DC government:
Your recent message for xxx.xxx titled UNDERNEWS JULY 14 contains unacceptable words or phrases. Please contact OCTO Citywide Messaging for assistance or re-word your message.
The word: "bitch." The source: Trump's lawyer

Bike lanes increase Brooklyn home values

Planetizen - New bike lanes in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick started raising property values within a year."Sale prices for buildings on streets with freshly painted bike lanes jumped 16 percent in a matter of months, compared with prices throughout the entire neighborhood that dipped slightly during the same time," reports Gwynne Hogan. Those figures come from a study completed by Adrew Lax, an independent real estate analyst.

"Purchase prices for homes and commercial buildings along Cornelia Street, Hancock Street, Knickerbocker, Jefferson and Irving avenues, which all got bike lanes in 2016, increased from an average of $348 per square foot in the second half of last year to $402 in sales through June this year," adds Hogan to explain the findings.

US healthcare ranks bottom of developed countries

Time- The U.S. health care system has been subject to heated debate over the past decade, but one thing that has remained consistent is the level of performance, which has been ranked as the worst among industrialized nations for the fifth time, according to the 2014 Commonwealth Fund survey 2014. The U.K. ranked best with Switzerland following a close second.

Although the U.S. has the most expensive health care system in the world, the nation ranks lowest in terms of “efficiency, equity and outcomes,” according to the report. One of the most piercing revelations is that the high rate of expenditure for insurance is not commensurate to the satisfaction of patients or quality of service.

A striking take-home from the report was a need for equity throughout the nation. “Disparities in access to services signal the need to expand insurance to cover the uninsured and to ensure that all Americans have an accessible medical home,” it said. A lack of universal health care was noted as the key difference between the U.S. and the other industrial nations.

Trump quietly hires 71 to deregulate government oversight

The Outline - According to a joint report from The New York Times and ProPublica, Trump has quietly appointed 71 individuals to “deregulation teams,” 28 of which are conflicted in some significant way.

From the Times article:
The appointees include lawyers who have represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups, employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules and at least three people who were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for.

At the Education Department alone, two members of the deregulation team were most recently employed by pro-charter advocacy groups or operators, and one appointee was an executive handling regulatory issues at a for-profit college operator.

Drivers spend 17 hours a year looking for parking spaces

USA Today - Motorists spend an average of 17 hours a year searching for spots on streets, in lots, or in garages, according to a report ... by INRIX, a leading specialist in connected car services and transportation analytics.

Overpaying — caused by drivers' inability to estimate how long they need to park or forking over extra at a garage to avoid the risk of getting a parking ticket — costs Americans more than $20 billion a year or $97 per driver, the report estimated.

July 14, 2017

Best and worst places

Best based on ratings, incidents & practices in past year

San Francisco
Washington DC
Portland OR
Worst based on ratings, incidents & practices in past year

West Virginia
South Carolina
New Orleans