US & Texas Political News

Open thread for night owls: In Brooklyn, you can now sell solar power directly to your neighbor
May 25, 2017

At Nexus Media, Jeremy Deaton writes—In Brooklyn, you can now sell solar-generated electricity directly to your neighbors

In Brooklyn, you can buy honey collected from an urban bee hive. You can buy lettuce grown atop an old bowling alley.

And now, you can purchase free range, gluten free, fresh, organic solar power right off your neighbor’s roof.

BladeRunnerOwlBadgeTEXT.jpg

Brooklyn startup LO3 Energy is revolutionizing the way homeowners buy and sell electricity. They are making it possible to auction rooftop solar power directly to your neighbors, creating a market for home-grown clean energy.

To understand why this is such a big deal, let’s take a look at the way power utilities have historically operated. Traditionally, a centralized utility would sell electricity to numerous homes and businesses. There was one seller and many buyers.

Rooftop solar has disrupted that model. Now, in many parts of the country, you can install solar panels on your roof, generate your own power and sell the surplus power back to the grid. In this model, both you and the grid buy and sell power.

LO3 Energy goes one step further, allowing consumers to sell power directly to each other. [...]

TOP COMMENTSHIGH IMPACT STORIES

QUOTATION

“There are so many ways for those in power to control someone who strays. They jealously guard their power and use it to make sure that they call the shots; they are the ones who benefit from the system. Another lesson that I learned is that if you decide to operate on the basis on your conscience, rather than your political advantage, you must be ready for the consequences and not complain when you suffer them. There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price.”
                    ~
Shirley Chisholm, Unbought and Unbossed, 1970

TWEET OF THE DAY

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BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2004Gooper can’t handle the burden: 

We already knew this, but it's nice to get confirmation anyway.

"It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government," says Hastert spokesman John Feehery...

Given that 60+ percent think the country is going in the wrong direction, and that every decision made the last four years has been made by Republicans, we know that they can't handle the task.

So it's time to give Democrats a shot.

Incidentally, what Feedery is really trying to say is that it's tough to place blame on Democrats for the Republicans' shortcomings when they control all three branches of government.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin and Joan McCarter chronicle the progress of Trumpshambles from the Middle East into Europe. Trump leaks more NatSec secrets. The budget is out: half of it is cut and the other half is missing. John Boehner, from retirement, finally averts a shutdown.

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Fox News reporters say GOP candidate grabbed reporter by the neck, slammed him to the ground
May 25, 2017

The eyewitness accounts of Greg Gianforte’s violent assault of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs continue to paint an increasingly unsettling picture. From Fox News field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Railey:

During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte's face and began asking if him if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of "I'm sick and tired of this!"

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. He then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

There is NO question, based on the eyewitness accounts and the horrifying audio, Greg Gianforte committed a violent assault on Ben Jacobs, a member of the free press. He does not belong in the United States Congress. He belongs in jail. 

A look at members of the media who make things up—and the fools who believe them
May 25, 2017

Last night, Fox News’ Sean Hannity announced he was going to stop talking about the bullshit Seth Rich murder conspiracy “for now.” Embraced by right-wing idiots looking to deflect away from all the news about Russia and a few sad and pathetic leftists who’ve come to believe the DNC is the focal point of all evil in the universe, the Rich story has, like Pizzagate before it, been a premiere example of how fake the fake news can get, as well as how things like this spread and are believed by those who want  to believe it. And it didn’t hurt that it was pushed along by a joke of a news operation, which is better known nowadays for sexual harassment than its adherence to values and integrity.  

For those unfamiliar, prestigious conservative assholes like Hannity, some Republican lawmakers, consummate villain Newt Gingrich, and so-called progressives that rail against Democrats (like Caitlin Johnstone), have been pushing a conspiracy theory which alleges DNC staffer Seth Rich was the source of WikiLeaks’ release of DNC emails, without a single shred of evidence. This is important, since according to this theory, if Rich was the source of the emails, then in their narrow little minds it disproves the notion the DNC was hacked by Russian interests or any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. 

Add on to this the fact Rich was murdered in the early morning hours of July 10, 2016, in what local police have described as a likely botched robbery. However for Hannity, Gingrich, and other assorted right and left-wing kooks, innuendo and fantasy have concocted a version of events in which the DNC had Rich murdered to stop his righteous attempt to expose DNC corruption and Empress Hillary Clinton’s reign of terror.

Needless to say, there is nothing factual to support this. No legitimate news organization or branch of law enforcement has found anything which lends any credence to any of it. In fact, the family of Seth Rich has disputed these assertions and asked for the respect of their loved one

But for the fools who like fake news and are happy InfoWars is getting press passes at the White House, the lack of evidence is only further proof of the government’s and the mainstream media’s evil plot to do evil. Instead, their “concerns” are based on ambiguous tweets from hackers and every bad thing they believe about the DNC and Democrats in general, with the supreme purveyor of current fake-ness, Fox News, giving these idiots a lifeline with a story that was published last week, claiming evidence supporting some aspects of the conspiracy theories.

A private investigator named Rod Wheeler, who had been paid by a conservative donor to investigate the murder, at first asserted and then retracted his claim that Rich’s laptop was in FBI custody and contained evidence of a WikiLeaks connection. Neither allegation was true, according to Rich’s family, and none of it has confirmed on any level by an official in any capacity to know. 

Yesterday, Fox News retracted the story, but that hasn’t stopped many of the blowhards from blowing. And today, another facet of the story blew up in the face of the conspiracy theorists.

Horrifying: Audio of Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulting reporter Ben Jacobs
May 25, 2017

The Guardian has now posted audio of Montana Republican Greg Gianforte assaulting one of its reporters, Ben Jacobs, after Jacobs tried asking a question about the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of the GOP’s Obamacare repeal legislation at a Gianforte “meet-and-greet”:

Jacobs was taken to a local hospital. Police have arrived on scene and are questioning witnesses, but Gianforte has left the area. His campaign has, however, released a statement:

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A transcript of the encounter is below:

Rep. Katherine Clark grilled Betsy DeVos on...
May 25, 2017


Rep. Katherine Clark grilled Betsy DeVos on whether she would allow federal money to go to schools that discriminate against LGBT students. http://bit.ly/2qh3v7g

What the holy hell? Republican candidate in Montana's special election just assaulted a reporter
May 24, 2017

Tomorrow is the election for Montana’s lone House seat and tonight the Republican candidate in the race allegedly assaulted a reporter from The Guardian. Really.

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Well. Uh. Not much to say about this … except, the election is tomorrow so let's help GOTV for Rob Quist. Now!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 · 11:46:53 PM +00:00 · Hunter

Reporter Alexis Levinson was there, and describes what she witnessed in this Twitter thread.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017 · 11:51:04 PM +00:00 · Hunter

Levinson says Gianforte is now “leaving the event without speaking.”

Thursday, May 25, 2017 · 12:08:34 AM +00:00 · Hunter

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Let’s change that....
May 24, 2017


Let’s change that. http://emilyslist.org/run-to-win/

Welcome to the 500th edition of the Spotlight on green news & views
May 24, 2017

Yes, this is the 500th edition of the Spotlight on Green News & Views. Previously known as the Green Diary Rescue, the spotlight usually appears twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here is the May 20 Green Spotlight. More than 26,930 environmentally oriented stories have been rescued to appear in this series since 2006. Inclusion of a story in the Spotlight does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.

OUTSTANDING GREEN STORIES

ClimateDenierRoundup writes—Zinke Hides from Greens & Trump Hides Lobbyists, but There’s No Hiding Industry Influence at EPA: “Not only is Trump hiring lobbyists despite his own ban on doing so, but now the administration is trying to keep those decisions secret so the public doesn’t even know what swamp creatures have been hired. The Office of Government Ethics requested the information (something Obama made public automatically) and the Trump administration has responded with a letter that amounts to: Nah. Fortunately, there are always other ways to suss out industry influence, and if this administration is anything, it’s not subtle. This unabashed industrial influence is highlighted by Hiroko Tabuchi and (again) Eric Lipton in a Saturday NYT story updating the tight relationship between Devon Energy and Scott Pruitt. Less than a week after Pruitt’s swearing in as head of the EPA, Devon sent the EPA a letter saying that it was reconsidering settling a case to pay a six-figure fine and install pollution reduction equipment. Instead, it wanted to reopen negotiations, pay a measly $25,000 and scrap plans to clean up its act.

A Siegel writes—When it comes to boxed vs bottled water, choose the tap ...The reality is, humanity has a bottled water problem. Seriously, people, who in their EFFing mind thinks that moving water from Fiji in a glass bottle to your restaurant table has anything to do with a sustainable future?   So, let's be clear, bottled water is a disaster in its scope and reach (even as there are legitimate spaces for its work/use: think for a moment Flint, Michigan ...) -- damaging the environment, diverting meaningful resources from productive use, etc […] In other words, if you MUST buy a packaged water product, sure, "Boxed Water is Better" is almost always true, but really question the need to shovel out your limited financial resources for packaged water as opposed to simply turning on the tap and paying 1/100th or 1/1000th the price (financially and environmentally) for that glass of ‘water, cool, clear water’.

Statement on Trump Care
May 24, 2017

Today the the Congressional Budget Office 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions omitted Russian meetings when applying for his security clearance
May 24, 2017

Campaign Action

You would think that in the frenzy surrounding Michael Flynn and oh-by-the-way Jeff Sessions and their Russian contacts, Team Trump would have begun to be a bit more careful in their testimony and written statements from then on. You'd be wrong, because CNN learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was no more thorough in disclosing those Russian meetings on the paperwork needed to obtain his new security clearance than he was in his original Senate testimony.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not disclose meetings he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance, the Justice Department told CNN Wednesday.

Sessions, who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year, didn't note those interactions on the form, which requires him to list "any contact" he or his family had with a "foreign government" or its "representatives" over the past seven years, officials said.

The Justice Department explanation for these glaring omissions on a government form intended to give intelligence officials some basic information on potential security issues is that the FBI itself told them meh, no big deal.

Sessions initially listed a year's worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security clearance form, according to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores. But she says he and his staff were then told by an FBI employee who assisted in filling out the form, known as the SF-86, that he didn't need to list dozens of meetings with foreign ambassadors that happened in his capacity as a senator.

Um, ok. The expert contacted by CNN vigorously disputes this, by the way, and there doesn't seem to be a legal loophole there for "unless you meet with foreign officials all the time and would find this too much a bother," but there it is.

NYT: Top Russian officials discussed how to exert influence over Trump aides last summer
May 24, 2017

New reporting from the New York Times posted Wednesday provides more context for former CIA director John Brennan's testimony Tuesday that he saw intelligence that warranted further inquiry by the FBI. NYT writes:

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia. [...]

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is ongoing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. 

During testimony Tuesday at a House Intelligence hearing, Brennan said he was alarmed by the information he was seeing and described a hypothetical slow drift toward treason that makes even more sense in light of the above reporting.

"Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he said.

The more we learn about what the intelligence community knew even as American voters were kept totally in the dark, the more obvious it becomes that our institutions, however well intentioned, failed us. When the Trump-Russia investigation is over and everything is out, no matter what the findings, the lack of transparency and reporting on the topic in the midst of the election will be debated for years to come.

CBO scores Zombie Trumpcare: 23 million uninsured in ten years, but the House doesn't have to revote
May 24, 2017

Campaign Action

The Congressional Budget Office has released its score of Zombie Trumpcare, slightly revising the number the bill would make uninsured by 2026 as compared to current law—Obamacare—from 24 million to 23 million, which adds up to 51 million total uninsured by that year including those who would remain uninsured even under current law. They estimate it would reduce the federal deficit over the next 10 years by $119 billion, $32 billion less than the savings estimated for the original Trumpcare bill. That savings means that the House won't have to revote and can send the bill on to the Senate, which is doing its own thing anyway.

As far as the stability of the insurance markets and premium increases, they predict prices would come down for healthy people because the sick people would be driven out of the individual market.

CBO and JCT expect that, as a consequence, the waivers in those states would have another effect: Community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive nongroup health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all—despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums. As a result, the nongroup markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs. That instability would cause some people who would have been insured in the nongroup market under current law to be uninsured. Others would obtain coverage through a family member’s employer or through their own employer.

Those state waivers could reduce premiums compared to the original Trumpcare: a 64-year-old making $26500 in a waiver state could see the annual go from $16100 to $13600. Which would seem like a lot of money saved, unless you looked at current law—Obamacare—where the annual premium is $1,700. So, yeah.

And more not so good news about those waivers. They estimate that about one-sixth of the population lives in states where markets would start to become unstable in just three years, in 2020, because those states "would obtain waivers involving both the EHBs and community rating and that would allow premiums to be set on the basis of an individual’s health status in a substantial portion of the nongroup market." Meaning, again, those with pre-existing conditions could be out of luck.

Betsy DeVos: If parents want to discriminate against LGBT kids, they can have federal money to do it
May 24, 2017

Confirmed: Betsy DeVos would send federal money to schools that explicitly discriminate against LGBT students … or any other group, as long as an individual state embraced that form of discrimination. In a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. Katherine Clark highlighted the example of Lighthouse Christian Academy, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in vouchers from the state of Indiana despite refusing to enroll students from families where there is “homosexual or bisexual activity” or who are “practicing alternate gender identity.” Clark’s question: Would DeVos block federal dollars from going to schools that discriminate? And DeVos repeatedly refused to say that she would, making very clear that she places “choice” above equality or non-discrimination. 

According to DeVos, “For states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that.” In other words, as far as Betsy DeVos is concerned, states can use federal dollars to support schools that discriminate. Because to her, privatization is more important than non-discrimination.

Clark, who appeared baffled, pressed DeVos on whether she could see any situation in which she would overrule a school requesting federal voucher money ― if the school discriminated against students based on sexual orientation, race or special needs, for example.

“The Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board,” DeVos said. “But when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their students….”

“This isn’t about parents making choices. This is about use of federal dollars,” Clark interrupted. “You would put the state’s flexibility over our students.”

“I think a hypothetical―” DeVos said.

“It’s not a hypothetical,” Clark snapped. “It’s a real school.”

“The bottom line,” DeVos concluded, “is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children’s schooling and education decisions.” And she’s willing to send federal money to equip parents to make the choice to keep their kids away from LGBT kids or special needs kids or kids of other races. She’s not just saying that bigoted parents can use their own resources to live their bigoted ideals—she’s willing to actually give them money to do it with.

Comey was duped by the Russians into bypassing the Justice Department and attacking Clinton
May 24, 2017

As it stands today, former FBI Director James Comey may just provide the key testimony that points the Trump regime toward the exit. That’s fine. But it shouldn’t be forgotten how we came to this point in the story.

From his ludicrous, finger-wagging press gaggle in announcing Clinton’s innocence, to his ham-fisted intrusion into the final act of the election, Comey has felt compelled to insert Jim Comey, straight-shooter, into every moment. As a result he’s caused serious harm to the FBI, to the election, and to the nation.

That’s me. Quoting me. In a reminder that no one, but no one, provided more fire-free smoke to the 2016 election than James #$@% Comey.

Why did Comey behave in a way that broke the rules of his own department as he rode his high horse directly across the bodies of Hillary Clinton, Loretta Lynch, and Barack Obama? Because, according to The Washington Post, he was fooled by fake news put out by, you guessed it, the Russians.

The Russian document mentioned a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity.

Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

The Russian document was real enough. The email that it mentioned between Lynch and Clinton? Never existed.

GOP lawmakers who wanted to get tough on 'careless' handling of intel are fine with Trump's missteps
May 24, 2017

After former FBI Director James Comey accused presidential candidate Hillary Clinton of being "extremely careless" with sensitive intelligence last year, congressional Republicans were so concerned they jumped to action—introducing a bill to strip security clearances for "carelessness with classified information.”

The legislation didn't actually go anywhere. Apparently, GOP lawmakers were just putting themselves on record about what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior. But it turns out what they really meant is that carelessness is only a problem when Democrats—and perhaps, Hillary in particular—do it.

But as for Donald Trump fumbling intel from a key ally to an adversarial government, giving pause to all our allies in terms of future information sharing? Meh. It was legal, they say—the president doing it makes it all okay. And why jump to conclusions before the investigations are over (cuz Trump's proven so trustworthy all along)? Bottom line: Let's not get too jumpy over national security. A little slip here, a little slip there, everywhere a slip slip. No biggie.

Jennifer Bendery at Huffington Post tracked down GOP co-sponsors of the original bill.

“The president’s ability to communicate whatever he wants to, without it being a breach of the law, is very clear,” said Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). “An employee has a very different function.”

Asked if he considers it “extremely careless” that Trump leaked classified intelligence to Russian officials,” Scott dryly repeated, “I don’t think the president broke the law.”

“Call Alex in my office,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the bill’s author.

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said the bill applies to all federal employees except the president. Rounds said he still trusts Trump with classified information, but conceded that Trump’s missteps on this front could be diminishing his political capital.

“It never helps,” he said. “It never helps.”

Here's another great response courtesy of GOP Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas:

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