What Kim Jong Un And Donald Trump Will Be Bargaining For

[ Posted Thursday, May 10th, 2018 – 17:26 PDT ]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to meet with Donald Trump next month in Singapore, which will be a historic summit meeting. This meeting will in fact be unprecedented, as no North Korean leader has ever previously sat down with a United States president. Predicting what will come out of this meeting is really anyone's guess, since both leaders can be described as mercurial (and even that's being polite to both of them, really).

Donald Trump has already convinced himself he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for even making the meeting happen. Well, perhaps... and then again, perhaps not. Unlike Trump, the rest of the world (and, assumably, the Nobel prize committee) will have to wait to see what actually comes out of this meeting before making such a determination. Nothing is guaranteed, in other words. The meeting could fizzle, and not produce much of anything.

One has to wonder exactly what Kim Jong Un is up to, because so far the impetus for this meeting has all come from him. After spending a year being as belligerent as possible, with multiple nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile test-firings, Kim suddenly decided to reach out to Trump. This turnaround seems planned and stage-managed by Kim, so it's worth exploring what he hopes to get out of his sudden burst of diplomacy.

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Ohio Takes Half-Step On Redistricting Reform

[ Posted Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 – 17:24 PDT ]

Last night, Ohio took a half-step towards the goal of ending political gerrymandering by removing politicians from the process of redistricting House seats after every decennial U.S. Census. The ballot initiative that passed in last night's primary election is somewhat convoluted, but will at least provide some sort of brake on rampant gerrymandering for purely political purposes. It may only be a half-step (or, if you like baked metaphors instead, half a loaf), but it certainly is a half-step in the right direction.

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Primaries To Watch

[ Posted Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 – 17:00 PDT ]

We are now exactly six months away from this year's midterm congressional elections. Today, four states are holding their primaries: Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. This means the 2018 election season can be said to have already begun in earnest. There are two races everyone will be watching tonight, one on each side of the aisle. The Senate GOP primary in West Virginia is the more important of the two, but the Democratic governor's race in Ohio is also going to garner some attention.

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The Politics Of The Price Of Gas

[ Posted Monday, May 7th, 2018 – 16:23 PDT ]

President Donald Trump announced today that he'll be revealing tomorrow afternoon whether he will be pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal or not. Predictions about what he's going to do have been ramping up, but nobody really knows what Trump will actually announce. But if he does decide to pull out of the deal, it could have major political implications in the midterm elections in one important respect: the price of a gallon of gasoline in America.

Gas prices fluctuate. A major part of this fluctuation is the unbridled greed of the oil companies and producers. This is not tied to politics (at least not domestic American politics) much, if at all. So ascribing political reasons for a spike in the price of gas is a dubious exercise at best, at least among economists. However, the electorate has very few actual economists within the ranks of the voters.

Probably more than any other day-to-day pocketbook issue, the price of gas hits home to anyone with a gasoline-powered vehicle. It's something to gripe about when the price goes up, because every couple of weeks it stares you in the face once again, at the pump. You can't avoid it, in other words, and neither is it buried inside some other expense (like your electricity bill, for instance). It's front and center, and if the price is 15 cents more per gallon than the last time you filled up, you notice it.

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Friday Talking Points [483] -- That's Your Stink, Mr. President, That's Your Swamp

[ Posted Friday, May 4th, 2018 – 17:18 PDT ]

Before we get to the fresh lies emanating from the Oval Office this week, we have to begin with a look back. Because not only has President Donald Trump now hit the milestone of lying over 3,000 times while in office, but apparently it's getting too much for even Fox News personalities to take.

Over the past 15 months, we've occasionally seen lists compiled of Trump's biggest whoppers, but these are usually posted as comments to other articles by fervent opponents of the president. That's where we've run into them most, at any rate. Which makes the following list all the more extraordinary, because not only is pretty comprehensive, it was broadcast by none other than Neil Cavuto, on his Fox News show. In other words, Donald Trump might just have had to sit through it. When even the Foxlandia cheerleaders are pointing out the mountain of lies Trump's been telling, you know we've reached some sort of tipping point (thanks, Rudy!).

We did a cursory search for a transcript of the Cavuto diatribe, but could not find one. So instead we present this summary list, compiled by Salon. Cavuto opened his show by first addressing the bombshell news that Rudy Giuliani revealed this week, that Donald Trump did indeed reimburse his fixer Michael Cohen for that $130,000 hush money payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels. Then Cavuto really gained steam, and began to list all the lies Trump has so far told -- all of which are easily disprovable. Here's the list, from the article:

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Rudy Thursday

[ Posted Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 – 17:04 PDT ]

I have to begin with my apologies to Mick Jagger and the gang for today's title. Mea culpa. But today certainly has been all about Rudy, so it seemed appropriate even if the reference was a bit weak. Although the lyrics: "When you change with every new day / Still, I'm going to miss you" may indeed wind up being applicable to Rudy Giuliani, or maybe even his new boss. One can always hope, right?

Last night, President Donald Trump's new lawyer went on Fox News to admit that both Trump and everyone around him have been flat-out lying all along about the payment of $130,000 in hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. This bombshell was almost casually dropped, appearing to catch even Sean Hannity by surprise. Other people it also apparently caught by surprise: the entire Trump legal team, and everyone else who works in the White House. But not, notably, Donald Trump himself. Rudy would never have taken it upon himself to change Trump's story in such dramatic fashion without Trump's prior approval, so I do take Rudy at his word that he had gotten Trump's approval to do so in advance.

So, Trump lied. It's still debatable whether it was a lie of omission or a lie of commission, but what is beyond doubt is that Trump did indeed lie. So did everyone else surrounding Trump and his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen who was asked about the payoff. Trump did indeed reimburse Cohen and, according to Rudy, also included enough on top to cover any possible taxes as well as a tidy profit for Cohen. Giuliani said this money was paid over time, through $35,000 monthly fees paid from Trump to Cohen. Giuliani even dropped a possible total number in one interview, after being asked how many payments it took: "Do the arithmetic, right? $35,000 a month, probably starting in January or February. By the time you get to $250,000, it's all paid off." So apparently the legal fee for paying the hush money was a cool $120,000 -- nice work, if you can get it.

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Some Marijuana Questions For Dianne Feinstein

[ Posted Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 – 16:22 PDT ]

California's senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, has had a change of heart, it seems. It was reported late yesterday that Feinstein announced in an interview that she no longer opposes legal marijuana. No doubt that the fact that she's up for re-election this year in a state that already legalized recreational adult use of marijuana and the fact that she's drawn a progressive primary challenger both have a lot to do with her sudden epiphany. Feinstein has been, to date, one of the most strident anti-weed voices around, though, so this is big news no matter what her reasons truly are.

However, Feinstein's War On Weed record cannot be erased, no matter what her current position may be. Eight years ago, California had a ballot initiative that would have legalized recreational marijuana. But Proposition 19 failed to pass. Partly, this was due to the fact that the "No On 19" side was better organized and aired better television commercials. Dianne Feinstein chaired the "No On 19" effort. Six years later, Proposition 64 did pass, and once again Dianne Feinstein was chair of the "No" group. She took a very hands-on approach, in other words, while plenty of other Democrats were content to sit on the sidelines and see what the voters wanted to do. Some Democrats actually showed leadership on the issue -- the "Yes on 64" effort was led by Gavin Newsom, who could be California's next governor. But Feinstein's attitudes towards marijuana had been set in stone way back in the 1960s and -- until yesterday -- have not changed one iota. She's not just been against marijuana legal reform in the abstract, she's taken a very hands-on and active part in demonizing the idea.

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A Made-Up, Phony Crime That Never Existed

[ Posted Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 – 16:47 PDT ]

Yesterday I wrote about a politician committing what's known as a Kinsley gaffe (i.e., a politician accidentally telling the truth in public). Today, we have Donald Trump, who seems to have randomly stumbled upon a truth, by accident, with no actual intent whatsoever -- much like a broken clock will tell the right time twice a day, in fact. Of course, even this requires a generous reading of Trump's tweet, but that doesn't make it any less amusing.

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Rubio Admits The Truth About GOP Tax Cut

[ Posted Monday, April 30th, 2018 – 16:55 PDT ]

Senator Marco Rubio just let the cat out of the bag. In traditional "Kinsley gaffe" fashion (defined as a politician accidentally telling the truth), Rubio admitted what Democrats have known all along -- that the Republican tax cuts were primarily designed to help Wall Street, not Main Street. Here is the relevant quote, from a recent interview Rubio gave to The Economist: "There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they're going to take the money they're saving and reinvest it in American workers. In fact they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker." That's a pretty sweeping indictment not only of the sole item on the Republican agenda that the GOP Congress has managed to pass, but also on the sole plank in the Republican platform for the 2018 midterm elections (which will take place almost exactly six months from now).

Rubio's admission is a stark contrast from how the rest of his party is attempting to sell the tired old snake oil of trickle-down economics. When the tax cut bill was being debated in Congress, the White House made a jaw-dropping promise that wages for the average American worker would immediately increase by $4,000. Needless to say, they haven't. Workers have noticed this fact, too. Tax cuts are usually quite popular with the public, but not this time around. A recent Gallup survey showed only 39 percent support for the GOP tax cuts, while a majority of 52 percent disapproved of them. And yet this is all the Republican Party has to run on in November, because it's all they've really accomplished in Washington (despite controlling both houses of Congress and the White House).

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Friday Talking Points [482] -- Democratic Party Approaches Tipping Point On Legalizing Marijuana

[ Posted Friday, April 27th, 2018 – 17:52 PDT ]

Last week, we were admonished for celebrating 4/20 in a manner that was too subtle by half. We subtitled last Friday's article: "Dazed And Confused," and began with: "We don't know why that headline sounded like such a good idea on today, of all days. [Ahem.]" But the rest of the article didn't really have much to say about the issue of marijuana. So today we are going to correct that lack, as you can tell by this week's subtitle.

We wrote an article back in January which predicted that marijuana legalization had passed a "tipping point" with the public. No matter how hard the War On Weed warriors fought back, the growing swell of public support for legalization would ensure that America's second Prohibition would come to an end, the article predicted. We wrote this right after Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational adult use of cannabis through its legislature (rather than through the direct democracy of a ballot initiative). This law was signed by a Republican governor, it's worth pointing out. But we were only cautiously optimistic that national politicians would be part of the process this year:

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