Drinking from the Firehose: Politics Issue

Recent articles on political topics that we found insightful, hopeful, or alarming — and sometimes all three


How The Racist Backlash To Barack Obama Gave Us Donald Trump
Daniel Marans
HuffPost, 3.10.2017
How The Racist Backlash To Barack Obama Gave Us Donald Trump | The Huffington Post
“Remember when pundits hailed the election of Barack Obama as the beginning of a “post-racial” America? After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, it seems like a distant memory. But in 2008, it was the prevailing wisdom among political commentators.  ❖  Cornell Belcher, a long-time Democratic pollster who worked on both of Obama’s presidential campaigns, started seeing through the mirage of racial harmony well before Trump’s election made it obvious. In Belcher’s book, A Black Man in the White House: Barack Obama and the Triggering of America’s Racial-Aversion Crisis, released weeks ahead of Trump’s election, he presents years of research showing that white resentment grew steadily under Obama….”


What Trump’s Budget Says About His Priorities
Ben Casselman
FiveThirtyEight, 3.16.2017
“President Trump on Thursday released the outline of his first federal budget, which would boost spending on defense and border security while slashing almost everything else. It’s important to understand what this “skinny budget” is not: an actual accounting of how the government will spend taxpayers’ money. That’s up to Congress to decide, and already many provisions of Trump’s budget appear to be dead on arrival. Rather, it’s best to think of the president’s budget as a statement of priorities….”


Stephen King on Donald Trump: “How do such men rise? First as a joke”
Stephen King
The Guardian, 4.1.2017
He’s written novels with eerily similar plotlines – but how did Trump become president? The only way to find out: inject a panel of fictional voters with truth serum…


The Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Sexism, Sanders, and the Millennial Feminists
Susan Bordo
The Guardian, 4.2.2017
“Many books have been written about the way racial differences among feminists both divided and pushed feminist thinking and practice forward over the past several decades. In the 2016 election, however, it was not race but generation that was the dynamic factor among left-leaning women. Women like me, who experienced many cultural battles in the “gender wars” firsthand – from the first scornful comments that journalists had heaped on “women’s libbers”, to the public shaming of Anita Hill, to the renewed threats to bodily rights that we thought we had won decades earlier – brought to the 2016 campaign a personal knowledge of the fragility of feminist accomplishments and an identification with Hillary that was deeper and longer than any current headlines….”


Six Degrees Of Trump Opposition
Percy Bacon, Jr.
FiveThirtyEight, 4.3.2017
“You can tell how much trouble Trump is in by how many groups are lined up against him.Many of the early struggles of Donald Trump’s presidency appear to be self-inflicted: a leader with little experience in government or politics, an administration with significant internal divides and a set of policy goals — such as rolling back the Affordable Care Act and blocking travelers to the United States from certain countries — that are complicated to execute.But there is another huge factor affecting him: his opposition….”


How to set up a VPN in 10 minutes for free (and why you urgently need one)
Quincy Larson
freeCodeCamp, 3.27.2017
How to set up a VPN in 10 minutes for free (and why you urgently need one)
“Thanks to a decision by Congress, ISPs can sell your entire web browsing history to literally anyone without your permission. The only rules that prevented this are all being repealed, and won’t be reinstated any time soon (it would take an act of congress). ISPs can also sell any information they want from your online activity and mobile app usage — financial information, medical information, your children’s information, your social security number — even the contents of your emails. They can even sell your geolocation information. That’s right, ISPs can take your exact physical location from minute to minute and sell it to a third party.You might be wondering: who benefits from repealing these protections?”


Aero Porcus

Our local patron saint of Journalism, Tom DiStefano, writes:

Today I wish to invoke the patron saint of lost causes. I couldn’t remember what saint that is, he or she has apparently been forgotten. But I looked it up and there are actually four of them: St. Jude the Apostle (the best known), St. Rita of Cascia, St. Philomena and St. Gregory of Neocaesarea.

My skeptical side sees a move in the state legislatures as a lost cause, but my hopeful side sees, well, hope. State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from the East Side of Pittsburgh, has introduced a series of election reform bills, co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.

My skeptical side calls these bills by the legal term (I just made up) Aero Porcus – when pigs fly, you will see these bills signed into law. Still, it is good to push for these bills, to pressure legislators to back reforms and to let people know these bills exist and that our legislature is ignoring them and the will of their constituents.

House Bill 945 – Same Day Voter Registration

Thirteen states and DC have it. In 2012, voter turnout increased over 10% in states where it existed. Voters simply register at their polling place on election day, showing a photo ID. There have been no documented incidents of voter fraud due to same day voter registration. (18 cosponsors, all Democrats).

HB 946 – Early voting

Over 30% of votes in last two Presidential elections were cast by early voting; 37 states and the District of Columbia allow it. This bill would authorize early voting 15 days before the election at early voting sites set up by the county boards of election. (20 cosponsors, 19 Democrats and one Republican.)

HB 947 – Resign to Run

Any federal, state, county or municipal official must resign prior to running for an elected office that begins before the end of their current term. This avoids the additional cost of some special elections. The bill also bars individuals from running for more than one office in the same election year. In general, it means one less advantage for incumbents. (4 cosponsors, all Democrats).

HB 948 – Limiting a Legislator’s Outside Income

This bill prohibits members of the General Assembly from receiving more than 35% of their base salary as a legislator from outside sources.

Full-time legislators are paid for full-time service, and should devote all their time to being a legislator, DeLuca argues. Influences and time demands from other jobs mean legislators aren’t serving their constituents. don’t serving our constituents. (6 cosponsors, 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans.)

HB 949 – Outside Income Disclosure

This requires legislators filing a statement of financial interest to list not only the source of any outside income, but also the amount within specified ranges. This helps reveal real or perceived conflicts of interest, improves transparency, and limits the influence of wealthy individuals, corporations and special interests. (13 cosponsors, 10 Democrats and 3 Republicans.)

HB 950 – Sick Day Campaigning

This prohibits public employees from using sick time to campaign. Legislators are known to order or allow their staffers to do this. It closes a little loophole that had taxpayers supporting re-election campaigns. (12 cosponsors, 7 Democrats and 5 Republicans, including our neighbor Cris Dush.)

HB 951 – Stand Back

This increases distance campaigners must be from a polling location from 10 feet to 35 feet. DeLuca says this will help prevent any unwanted confrontations or voter intimidation. (4 cosponsors, 3 Democrats and Republican perennial gadfly Russ Diamond.)


DeLuca introduced all of these bills March 23 as a package of reform legislation. All were referred to the House State Government Committee where they will die unless people make a big stink and demand their passage.

To read the full text of these bills and to follow their progress (or lack of it), go to www.legis.state.pa.us, click on the Legislation tab, and type HB (bill number) in the top left search box.

Following the Money to a Trump Presidency

The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency
The New Yorker.com

Jane Mayer, a writer for The New Yorker magazine, has done some terrific reporting on money trails and politico-financial cabals. Her work on the Koch brothers led to her 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. While she was working on the story, back in 2010, she found herself the target of a smear campaign mounted by associates of the Koch empire — which she managed to survive.

This week’s New Yorker has another Mayer article, this time on the dark money contributions of shadowy billionaire Robert Mercer and a network of dark-side political operatives and media outlets that — with a little help from Vlad “The Derailer” Putin and the director of the FBI — put Trump in the White House. Mayer draws a very clear connect-the-dots picture of the way the key players (the Mercer family, Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, Kellyanne Conway, among others) aligned forces to change our world.

What’s remarkable to me is how little Trump himself had to do with the actual masterminding of his own election. Trump does crowds, and brilliantly; these people did the long-range strategy that created the crowds and put him in front of them. Trump is the lumbering, impervious tank the infantry shelters behind as they advance on the enemy — but in this case, the infantry are the masters and the enemy is us. The upshot: Trump is now President, and these people surround him in the People’s house.

Anyway, you might give it a read, if you haven’t already…